GO Battle Weekend: New Shadows in PvP

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Hello again, Pokéfriends! Busy times lately with GO Fests, Pokémon GO anniversaries, and events galore. But don’t let your hair down as we enter the weekend, because it comes bringing new Shadow implications. Yep, coming right in the middle of the current Pokémon GO Anniversary Event, we have a unique GO Battle Weekend Event, bringing the ability to remove Frustration, evolve our starters for their traditional (usually exclusive) Community Day moves, and of course, new Shadow Pokémon!

Just yesterday I posted a guide to which starters to prioritize evolving (Shadow and non-Shadow versions of all fifteen of them), and I’ve published various guides on the best Shadows to un-Frustrate too. If that’s the sort of info you’re looking for, be sure to check those out, and good luck!

But in the here and now, we’re moving forward, and that means a review of the NEW Shadow Pokémon arriving this weekend. Let’s throw out our customary Bottom Line Up Front and then just dive right in!

B.L.U.F.

  • The big winner here is LUXRAY. At worst, Shadow Lux is a viable sidegrade. At best, especially in Ultra League, this is yet another big shot in the arm that Luxray may need to push it into full-on meta threat, albeit one that requires special handling and good timing with baits. But the sky is the limit now.
  • Shadow Latios fits in Great League! Unfortunately that may be the nicest thing I have to say about it. It’s a disappointment in Master League where you would hope it would excel. Still, get one and keep it under 1500 CP for now, and don’t forget to un-Frustrate it if you can do so in time!
  • Swanna has always been the ugly little duckling of Flying Water types. Unfortunately that remains so even as a Shadow (it’s the moves), but Ducklett gets a potential Little League boost that basically nobody asked for. 😅 Yay?
  • Purrloin (not Liepard, but Purrloin*) is the biggest highlight of the rest… which probably speaks volumes, no?
  • To reiterate: LUXRAY! It’s not ALL bad, folks. Read on!

IT’S BEEN AN EON

Latios (Shadow) DragonPsychic

Feels like forever ago since we first saw Giovanni with Shadow Latias in tow, doesn’t it? Somehow it’s only been three months, but it feels like the wait for the more PvP and PvE relevant Latios has been forever.

Well that wait is over… SHADOW LATIOS arrives July 9th! (The day before this author’s birthday, as it turns out… maybe I can get it in time? 🤔) As with other Shadow Legendaries, we’ll be getting it by beating Giovanni, which means it will be well under 1500 CP when you catch it. As Latios is one of the harder Legendaries to fit under 1500 CP through normal means (requiring a Research Breakthrough/Level 15 Latios AND crazy low IVs via trading… like 4-5-5 kind of low!), this means a lot of people will be getting their first Great League Latios. Is that something to celebrate?

Well, here’s the good news: Shadow Latios is slightly better overall than regular Latios in Great League. But uh… it’s still not overly impressive by the numbers. Granted, there’s some really good wins in there, like Medicham, DDeoxys, Toxicroak, Talonflame, Galvantula, Politoed, the Mud Boys, Venusaur and Meganium, and some pleasant surprises (with Latios being a Psychic-type and all) like Alolan Marowak, Drifblim, and Scrafty. There’s just not enough of those sort of wins. And really, it’s more appropriate to call it a “sidegrade” rather than upgrade as compared to non-Shadow Latios, with many of those wins I listed (Medi, Scrafty, Blim, Galv, A-Wak, as well as U-Stunfisk) being unique to Shadow, but regular Latios capable of instead beating some big names of its own, including Cofagrigus, Froslass, Pelipper, Vigoroth, and the newly popular Shadow Ember Ninetales. If you REALLY want Latios in GL, here’s your ticket without any trade luck required. But uh… I don’t see it coming up much, to be honest.

Ultra League is a similar mixed bag. Shadow Latios has the extra punch to take out Cofagrigus, Ferrothorn, Jellicent, Obstagoon, Shadow Politoed, Poliwrath, Shadow Snorlax, and Swampert, but lacks the bulk of regular Latios, which is able to outlast Dragon Breath Charizard, Dragonite, Empoleon, Altered Giratina (with Dragon Breath), Meganium, and (non-Shadow) Politoed instead.

Surely this should be impactful in Master League then, right? After all, Latios is already viable there. Well I’m very sorry to report that, no, somehow Shadow Latios is actually worse. While it IS able to overpower Melmetal, Gyarados, and Altered Giratina through sheer force of will, it drops Dragonite, Dragon Tail Garchomp, Groudon (with Mud Shot, mind you!), Snorlax, and Zarude in the process.

So overall, I am sorry to say that Shadow Latios looks to be a bit of a bust in PvP. Considering it doesn’t really get better the higher you go, personally I would recommend leaving the one you get under 1500 CP in hopes that maybe the meta breaks in its favor in the future. It does not seem to be worth building up beyond that anyway. And as one final nail in the coffin of maxing a Shadow Latios, with its lackluster PvE Psychic AND Dragon moves, even Mega Latios isn’t all that great for PvE purposes. Shadow Latios won’t be either, sorry.

A RAY IN THE DARKNESS

Luxray (Shadow) Electric

If there is one clear winner in this batch of Shadows, it’s LUXRAY. Back in November it gained notable PvP viability after its Community Day as the first recipient of Psychic Fangs. Recommend reading that piece if you missed it originally, as it helps set up the rest of this analysis, but in short summary: Psychic Fangs gives Luxray the spammy bait move it needed to set up Wild Charge as an incredibly scary closer… as scary as Magnezone with its Mirror Shot/Wild Charge combo, if not moreso!

And while Luxray is already a glass cannon, and obviously even moreso as a Shadow, with those awesome charge moves and high energy fast moves making it all hum, Shadow Luxray looks no worse than a sidegrade — and is likely an overall upgrade — over non-Shadow Lux in Great League. The extra punch of Shadow adds on potential wins versus Altaria, Lickitung, Galvantula, Registeel, Umbreon, Bastiodon, and even something an Electric really shouldn’t be beating: Trevenant! (And that’s without EITHER of Luxray’s Dark moves!) There are, of course, tradeoffs, with Shadow Lux lacking the bulk to outlast Wigglytuff, Alolan Ninetales, Shadow Machamp, Cresselia, or — most disappointingly — Walrein, but Shadow Luxray is clearly a potent option despite those flaws.

And if that caught your attention, wait until you see Ultra League. As I again noted in November’s spotlight article, Luxray’s highest ceiling typically relies on getting good baits and then crashing in with Wild Charge, and it can fall apart at a bit if those baits don’t all work out. So tread with caution, but the potential is there for Shadow to even further break out. Feast your eyes! 👀 While there are again a couple losses that come with Shadow Luxray’s slashed bulk — specifically Galvantula and Greedent — the gains are MORE than worth it, with Registeel, Cresselia, Armored Mewtwo, Umbreon, Scrafty, Sirfetch’d, Shadow Snorlax, Cofagrigus, Clefable, and Poison Jab Alolan Muk all entering the (potential) win column. I say “potential” because, of course, this is all assuming the baits go properly and you catch them with that big Wild Charge afterwards. And in fairness, Shadow Lux looks much more “average” in 2v2 shielding or surprisingly even with shields down. But if you liked Luxray before, you’re liable to love its dark side even more. If there is one Shadow to hunt down from this new crop, Luxray would be it!

BLACK SWANNA

Poor SWANNA.

Water/Flying types like it have seen great success in PvP, with Pelipper and, to a lesser degree, Mantine making a big splash in Great League, Gyarados carving out a slice of Ultra and especially Master Leagues, and even Swanna’s pre-evolution Ducklett becoming a menacing bully in Little League. But then here’s Swanna, something which SHOULD be able to find similar success but is left with the short straw. Why? As with so many other should-be-great Pokémon in PvP, it’s all about the moves.

In fairness, Swanna doesn’t have BAD moves. Air Slash and Water Gun are perfectly serviceable fast moves, and Mantine operates fine with the Bubble Beam and Ice Beam that Swanna has. All this alongside the same closing move that works for Pelipper: Hurricane.

But the problem is, more than anything, those fast moves. While Mantine and Pelipper have Wing Attack (2.5 DPT, 3.5 EPT) to get to their charge moves with above average speed, Swanna can do no better than the average 3.0 Energy Per Turn with either its fast moves. (Both Water Gun and Air Slash are completely average with 3.0 EPT and 3.0 DPT.) Even that might work if it had the Weather Ball spam of Pelipper, or the Aqua Tail spam of Gyarados, but it doesn’t. It’s left trying to bait with Bubble Beam and close with an Ice Beam or Hurricane that both come painfully slowly compared to Swanna’s fellow Flying Waters. Heck, even Ducklett gets to have Wing Attack… why not Swanna? It learns Wing Attack naturally — not even through TM or breeding hijinks, but just through normal leveling up! — in MSG, and has access to far more exciting moves like Surf, Scald, Feather Dance, Sky Attack, Fly, Brave Bird, fast move Gust, and more. But it really gets the shaft in GO. Just giving it Wing Attack would make it somewhat interesting in PvP, not to mention pulling the trigger on a more exciting charge move or two as well. It has stats in the same neighborhood as Gyarados and Pelipper, it just doesn’t have the moves it needs. Because with what it’s got, that’s a no, dawg. Fails to beat things like Talonflame, Toxicroak, Vigoroth, Walrein, Nidoqueen, Azumarill and others that Pelipper, for example, CAN.

The good news is that the new Shadow version IS an improvement. The bad news is… well, that improvement is extremely minor. You pick up Toxicroak, Venusaur, and Talonflame, things you would expect a Flying Water to beat, but you do also drop Scrafty and Drifblim in the process. Two steps forward, one and three quarter steps back? 😕

Perhaps the reason to celebrate this new Shadow is, for once, NOT with the final evolution, but with the beginning. DUCKLETT has, of course, been a terror in Little League. So it should be no surprise that Shadow Ducklett looks to have great potential too. On paper it looks like a small downgrade, but hold that thought, because this is very much a case of quality over quantity. Non-Shadow Ducklett beats Scrafty, Shadow Stunky, Drifloon, and Shadow Oddish (Shadow Duck tends to lose to all four), but all with 5 or less HP remaining, meaning a little blip anywhere along the way and/or the right IV combination for breakpoints or bulkpoints to come into play, and those could all easily flip to losses. Shadow Ducklett, by contrast, picks up wins against three BIG names — Chansey, Ice Shard Seel, and big bad Galarian Stunfisk — and all are wins where the Dark Duck walks away with 25+ HP leftover. No close wins there… it beats them while the opponent is no closer than halfway to the charge move they’d need to beat Ducklett. It’s quite possible Shadow Duck may even supplant normal Duck on several Little League teams moving forward, so be ready to see it when Element Cup returns in August! (And probably in Little Cup Remix later THIS month too!)

ISLAND OF MISFIT SHADOWS

The rest of these are unfortunately either not very PvP relevant, don’t improve in any great way as a Shadow, or more often than not, both. I still want to review them briefly, just in a quicker bulletized list….

So we finally get SHADOW GEODUDE, and that means Shadow GRAVELER and GOLEM. Especially for the latter, yes, Shadow is an improvement over the non-Shadow variety, and in multiple leagues (again, as compared to non-Shadow). It’s just that the improvement is very minor and still leaves them far outside of the meta, beyond even viable spice, really. I LOVE the whole Geodude line, but their double vulnerability to popular Water AND Grass types (while also being mostly powerless versus Grounds and Fighters and others) is just too much to overcome in Pokémon GO PvP. The Alolans will have to carry on their good names for them, even with the Shadow treatment. I was hopeful for this one, but alas. 😔

Watchog (Shadow) Normal

I mean, do I really HAVE to talk about WATCHOG? What, it’s contractual? But I don’t HAVE a contract, man… I’m freelance! Oooooooh FINE. ahem Yeah, even as a Shadow, did you really expect Watchog to be PvP-viable, folks? Because — sorry, Watchog fans — it just isn’t. Nor is Shadow Patrat in Little League. Sorry! Let’s just move on….

Purrloin (Shadow) Dark

PURRLOIN is at least a little interesting in Little League already, and while Shadow Purrloin is actually a bit of a downgrade (gaining Altaria and Wooper but losing a lot: Barboach, Dratini, Nidoqueen, Umbreon, and Shadow Vulpix), there’s still good news here, as purified Purrloin with Return fits RIGHT in at Level 25 (purified default level) and presents an interesting sidegrade that can add Abomasnow to its list of wins, with really no drawback. Something to consider, perhaps?

Liepard (Shadow) Dark

Good thing about Purrloin, as its evolution LIEPARD unfortunately remains a bit of a mess. Shadow Liepard DOES gain wins over Froslass and Cofagrigus (and no new losses) as compared to non-Shadow, but it just doesn’t have a place in PvP. It’s an odd, glassy Charmer that aspires to be Granbull without the charge move pressure that Granbull brings. It just doesn’t work. (And Snarl Liepard is much messier, trust me.)

And speaking of weird little messes, we finally arrive at AMOONGUSS and FOONGUS. They’re very strange Grass types, lacking any Grass (or even Poison!) fast moves and instead relying on Feint Attack to power out an ecclectic mix of Grass, Poison, Dark, and/or Normal charge moves. They’re rather bulky, but it just doesn’t really work, and somehow, the Shadow versions are actually worse. (Normal Amoonguss vs Shadow AmoongussNormal Foongus vs Shadow Foongus) I love the odd design of these guys and the new shiny is sweet, but these are not the secret breakout PvP stars you’re looking for. Yet again: sorry! 🍄

DIMINISHING RETURNS

This article has already run kinda long, but folks always wonder (and I want to answer): what of the potential of purifying these new Shadows and running them with Return? I can keep the answer mercifully simple: none of these Pokémon really want it. Most are flat out worse—MUCH worse, in most cases—trying to shoehorn Return in there. Latios still prefers Luster Purge (or even Psychic {the move}) and HAS to keep Dragon Claw. Luxray simply doesn’t work without both Psychic Fangs and Wild Charge… Return blows it all up (no matter which way you try to fit it in). Swanna is already trapped behind expensive charge moves, and Ducklett is a bit worse with Return… and is hard to fit in Little League at Level 25 (purified level) anyway. (That example used 4-4-4 IVs and BARELY gets under 500 CP.) And the others are already kinda bad, but ALL worse with Return in the mix (aside from the aforementioned Purrloin). Nope, nope, and more nope.

Alrighty, that’s it for now, though I am still working up a quick PvP analysis on the elemental monkeys now that Simisear is available worldwide and Simipour and Simisage seem destined to follow. But until then, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon.

Continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last nearly two years of PvP play, and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. And as always, thank you for reading… I appreciate your attention and encouragement.

Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and good luck during this dark weekend! 🌑

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