Alright, I promised I’d get out a PvP analysis on Ember NINETALES, since Vulpix evolved during this weekend’s GO Battle Day (graphic credit: ThePokeGOHunter) learns that Legacy move (if evolved between 11am and 2pm, according to reports). Do you want it? Let’s take a quick look. And I do mean QUICK, as much of this previous week was sucked up studying for an important professional certification test (which I thankfully passed on Friday… whew! 🥵). But enough about me… let’s heckin’ gooooooo!
…well, after our Bottom Line Up Front:
- Ember Ninetales compares favorably to Fire Spin Ninetales overall. Sometimes it is a slight upgrade or downgrade, or even just a sidegrade, but it’s never too far off.
- Ninetales in general is arguably the best true Fire type in Great and Ultra Leagues besides the Flyers (Charizard and Talonflame). NOT being Flying comes with some obvious disadvantages, but also notable advantages as well. In my estimation, Ninetales is an underrated PvP Pokemon.
- I DO recommend getting Ember Ninetales while you can during GO Battle Day. It’s never really so clearly better than Fire Spin that I would want to spend Elite TMs on it, but if you can get it basicallt for “free” like this… yeah, do it! And keep in mind that, as a fast move, you can evolve even Shadow Vulpix stuck with Frustration and still get Ember. (Just wait until the next GO Rocket Takeover to get rid of Frustration, of course.)
Alright, now the analysis!
KANTO NINETALES IN A NUTSHELLNinetales Fire
Keeping the stats and all super simple: it has the exact same stats as Alolan Ninetales, which I imagine most of you PvPers are familiar with. Other close comparisons in terms of Attack and overall bulk include Tapu Fini, Hakamo-o, Gliscor, and Guzzlord. So it’s decently tanky… much moreso than, say, Charizard or Typhlosion or Talonflame. In fact, about the only PvP-viable Fires that out-tank Ninetales are Alolan Marowak and Magcargo. So that’s nice!
Fires get a bad rap as a poor defensive typing, but they’re really not awful. Mono-Fires like Ninetales have three rather famous vulnerabilities (Water, Ground, and Rock), but actually carry twice as many resistances, to Grass, Bug, Fairy, Ice, Steel, and of course, other Fires. Yes, Waters and/or Grounds especially make up a good slice of both the Great and Ultra League metas where Ninetales wants to roam (it doesn’t get nearly big enough for Master League), but overall, Fire is really not nearly as bad a typing as some assume it to be.
Now the main discussion: the moves! I’m actually going to go in reverse order from my standard breakdown and start with the charge moves before circling back.
NINETALES – CHARGE MOVES:
- Weather Ball (Fire) – Fire type, 55 damage, 35 energy
- Psyshock – Psychic type, 70 damage, 45 energy
- Overheat – Fire type, 130 damage, 55 energy, Reduces User Attack -2 Stages
- Returnᴸ – Normal type, 130 damage, 70 energy (purified only)
- Heat Wave – Fire type, 95 damage, 75 energy
- Solar Beam – Grass type, 150 damage, 80 energy
Just as with its Alolan cousin, Ninetales flittered around on the edge of PvP viability until it was gifted Weather Ball about two years ago. That move alone shot its viability upwards, to the point that you have surely seen it in Great and perhaps even Ultra League at some point. (It’s actually ranked higher than any Fire besdies Charizard and Talonflame in Ultra League.)
As for its second charge move, there are actually three viable options. Solar Beam used to be the odds-on favorite for its ability to nuke its three toughest counters (Waters, Grounds, and Rocks) into oblivion out of nowhere. Many early Silph Arena Cups especially were won with a Ninetales Solar Beam outta nowhere. But other than the fact that it can still flip matchups like bulky Jellicent in Ultra League, Solar Beam has generally been replaced by Psyshock for handy and much cheaper coverage, or Overheat for a potent nuke that obviously leaves Ninetales without coverage but blasts away a number of other things, generally being more impactful than Solar Beam ever was. (You’re much more likely to see the Solar Beam surprise come from Typhlosion these days than you are from Ninetales, and it DOES pair nicely with Typh’s Incinerate… but I digress.)
Okay, the main main discussion now: the fast moves.
NINETALES – FAST MOVES:
- Fire Spin (Fire, 3.0 DPT, 3.33 EPT, 1.5 CoolDown)
- Feint Attack* *(Dark, 3.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.0 CD)
- Emberᴸ* *(Fire, 3.5 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.0 CoolDown)
Most Ninetales (at least to this point) have run with Fire Spin, a fine PvP move. As I often say, an “average” PvP fast move has a sum of 6.0 when you combine the Damage Per Turn (DPT) and Energy Per Turn (EPT). For example, Ninetales’ Feint Attack, which is basically a Water Gun/Bug Bite/Lick/Tackle clone with exactly average 3.0 DPT and 3.0 EPT. Fire Spin is slightly above average with 3.0 DPT but 3.33 EPT, giving it a slight edge over those other moves.
But Ember, at least on paper, is even better. It generates only the average 3.0 EPT, but deals 3.5 DPT, 17% above the average. Of course, you’ll reach your charge moves a little slower than Fire Spin… but how much slower is that, really? Let’s check!
Starting at 0 energy, the race to the first Weather Ball is basically a tie, with Ember (6 energy per Ember) getting to 36 energy after six fast moves (and 6 seconds/12 PvP turns) and Fire Spin (10 energy per Fire Spin) getting to 40 energy after four fast moves, which also comes out to 6 seconds/12 PvP turns (since Fire Spin has a cooldown of 1.5 seconds/3 PvP turns, as opposed to Ember’s 1.0 second/2 turns). After that, though, Fire Spin will win the race to subsequent Weather Balls thanks to leftover energy. After that first Ball, Fire Spin Ninetales has 5 spare energy, so three more Fire Spins will get it to exactly 35 energy to fire off another Weather Ball, whereas Ember has only 1 leftover energy and therefore has to churn out 6 more fast moves to build enough energy (37 now) for another Weather Ball. It won’t be until the sixth Weather Ball that Ember Ninetales can utilize leftover energy to get to Weather Ball one fast move sooner, which will basically never actually happen. At least with Weather Ball, it’s advantage Fire Spin.
And that’s actually true otherwise too. Fire Spin gets to Psyshock faster… five of them (15 turns) to hit 48 energy, whereas Ember requires 8 (16 turns) to also get to 48 energy. And yes, Fire Spin will win the race with all subsequent Psyshocks as well.
Okay, I think we can stop that exercise. Not surprisingly, Fire Spin’s energy advantage DOES matter. But what about the overall picture? The key question I am sure you entered this analysis with, looking for an answer: how does Ember Ninetales actually perform as compared to Fire Spin?
The very short answer is: it’s a viable sidegrade. Neither Fire Spin nor Ember are clearly better… both have their uses.
As I am unfortunately shorter on time than I’d like to be (the event starts for our New Zealand and Oceania friends in just a couple hours from the time of this writing!), I’m going to keep this mostly to comparisons in the standard and by far most common and indicative 1v1 shielding scenario. Starting, of course, with Great League.
NINETALES IN GREAT LEAGUE
So here’s Ninetales today, With Fire Spin, Weather Ball (of course), and Overheat for closing power. You can clearly see the dropoff that comes with other charge moves, even other closers like Return or Solar Beam. The sheer power of Overheat is generally just the best way to go in Open play. Anyway, it’s no Charizard or even Talonflame, but it’s really not that far behind. Yes, it loses advantages those Flyers have over Fighters (losing to things they generally beat like Medicham, Scrafty, and Toxicroak) and Grounds (losing to Diggersby and Alolan Marowak and its Bone Clubs, whereas the Flying Fires typically win) and also things like Altaria and Lickitung. But between its lesser vulnerability to Rock and/or its greater bulk, Ninetales can beat things those Flyers really struggle with (and often fail entirely against) like Registeel, Umbreon, Dunsparce, and Froslass. And course, in formats with Electrics and such, Ninetales has FAR less to fear.
How does Ember stack up? Well, in this very first comparison, admittedly not particularly well. While the additional damage of Ember does snag a unique win versus Defense Deoxys, the lesser charge move pressure generally leads to losses against Vigoroth, Trevenant, and Walrein, all of which Fire Spin can often outrace.Ninetales (Shadow) Fire
But I do have good news: Shadow Ninetales is a much closer comparison. Here’s Shadow with Fire Spin, which is basically the same as regular in overall record, though I lean a bit towards Shadow as it can beat Medicham, Toxicroak, Lickitung, Talonflame, and even Galarian Stunfisk (!!!) that non-Shadow generally cannot, whereas non-Shadow instead outlasts Mandibuzz, Umbreon, Vigoroth, and Sableye.
Ember is very close, particularly with good PvP IVs (aka higher bulk), as high IVs gains Sableye, as well as Umbreon, Alolan Marowak, and Mandibuzz that even average IVs can take down. While non-Shadow with Ember was more of a downgrade, here we have a clearer “sidegrade” situation.
And the news is better in Ultra League….
So again, starting with our barometer: Fire Spin Ninetales versus the core meta. And it’s uh… not great, not terrible. The gap between it and something like Charizard is a bit wider, but it’s a passable performance… better than other landlocled Fires like, say, Typhlosion.
Anyway, Ember is now better overall. While Fire Spin can outrace Empoleon, Toxicroak, and (most impressively) Galarian Stunfisk, Ember goes out and instead burns through Walrein, Dubwool, Scrafty, Mandibuzz, and Cofagrigus. Shadow or not, it already burns through the Fairies (besides Fini), Steels (aside from the aforementioned G-Fisk and Empoleon), and Grasses and Bugs, as well as many neutral matchups like Drapion, Cresselia (well, not quite neutral since Ninetales resists Cresselia’s common charge moves 😅), Greedent, and Alolan Muk. Yes, the Flying Fires are still overall better, but Ninetales again has advantages they don’t, doing much better versus stuff like Walrein and Registeel (thanks to NOT being Flying) and Drapion and A-Muk (thanks to its still-superior bulk).
As for Shadow Ninetales, Ember again compares favorably to Fire Spin, though this time as a clearer sidegrade rather than upgrade. Fire Spin is better at outracing Trevenant, Nidoqueen, and — in a flip from the non-Shadow results — Drapion, A-Muk, and Walrein. Ember is instead better able to overpower DDeoxys, Obstagoon, Greedent, Galarian Stunfisk, and even Charizard despite dealing nothing but resisted damage! And speaking of Charizard, note that Shadow Ninetales with either Fire fast move now matches Charizard’s win/loss record… that’s nice to see.
So where does that leave us? Well, as mentioned in the BLUF, I think Ember Ninetales is worth having in your PvP arsenal. If I had to rank them in terms of priority, I’d say Ultra League is a higher priority than Great League, with non-Shadow (thankfully, since it’s cheaper) probably being the best option there. If you DO build a Great League Ember Ninetales, than I think Shadow is the way to go, just as when hsineerg (AKA Cindy, wife of long-time PvP streamer/coach/teacher/sensation Kieng) won the Vancouver Regionals on the back of… Shadow Ember Ninetales. (There are LOTS of exciting Shadow Ember Ninetales plays in the hours before that, that’s just the LAST match and a great example of how even Shadow Ninetales is tanky enough and Ember/Weather Ball still fast enough to perform at a high, high level.) That’s right, folks… Shadow Ninetales with Ember is already a proven winner on the highest of stages.
Okay, maybe not as quick or as short as I promised 😅, but we’re done! Good luck on your GO Battle Day for those planning to battle it out, but even if you’re not, make sure to take the opportunity to get some Ember Ninetales while you can!
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with regular analysis nuggets or Patreon, if you’re feeling extra generous.
Happy battling and evolving! Be safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time!