Meta Shifts and Surprises: What GBL Season 17 Brings To The Tournament Circuit

Good day, Pokémon Trainers! GO Battle League Season 17 has brought some much-needed updates to Pokémon GO’s PvP roster. And there has been no shortage of speculations and analyses of how these changes will shake up the meta. Many are testing out some previously ignored Pokémon or strategies to see who are the biggest winners and losers of the new season.

But perhaps one of the best indicators of what actually does and doesn’t work in the current meta is the official Play! Pokémon Pokémon GO tournament circuit. Where Trainers from around the world compete for the eventual title of World Champion. As such the stakes are high and trainers are incentivized to quickly get a sense of the best strategies each season.

With that being said the 2024 season of this official tournament format is already underway and the last two regionals for this year are done and dusted. And I thought it’d be interesting to see the early trends in the tournament season in hopes of getting an idea of what the future of GO Battle League and Pokémon GO PvP, in general, might look like. 

Bird Migration Season Battle icon

So it’s common knowledge that birds migrate to the South for the Winter. And I happen to live in one of those countries in the South. I thought that was worth mentioning because it seems Flying types have migrated back into the official tournament circuit as well. It feels like it was just yesterday when the infamous Sky Attack nerf happened. The result of which was that the top meta mainstays, Noctowl and Altaria completely disappeared. With only Gligar taking their place thanks to a double buff to Dig and Aerial Ace. There were Pelipper and Mandibuzz too, but they were more niche and/or played differently from the flyers of Yore.

And Gligar had its issues as well. Being 2x weak to Ice. But this was all last season, things are different now. Talonflame’s Incinerate got buffed, and Skarmory’s Steel Wing is doubled buffed with both damage and energy generation. Things were a bit different in Stuttgart and San Antonio though. In general, flyers felt a little less relevant in Stuttgart, though Skarmory had a strong showing on Day 1. While the WaterFlying types that had some play last season like Pelipper and Mantine were more relevant on Day 2. San Antonio made a better case for the flyers. Gligar, Skarmory, Talonflame, Altaria, and even Pidgeot were there and going strong. 

The ramifications of these flyers go beyond just Flying types though. The fact that Talonflame and Skarmory melt Ice types means they are somewhat gone now. And Grass types are not having a good time either. I fully expect Gligar and Skarm to continue to be relevant going forward. On the other hand, Talonflame will be more of a spice pick thanks to all the Water types and the slow fast attack. Altaria is looking strong once again as well, despite the Sky Attack nerf. Dragon types in general feel more useful now thanks to all the buffs to elemental types. While Guzzlord and Dragonair are popular picks as well, Altaria feels the most exciting thanks to its bulk and Flying typing.

Water, Water Everywhere Battle icon

Even more than the Flying types what became rather quickly apparent about the new meta is the strong presence of Water types. It’s common knowledge that Water is the most common type in Pokémon. And now it feels the same way for the tournament circuit as well. This is due to a combination of some much-needed move updates and a shakeup of the meta.

The biggest winners are definitely Whiscash and Poliwrath with the new Scald update. We’ll talk about Poliwrath in the next topic. But as for Whiscash, it didn’t have Scald in its kit before, to begin with. And now not only does it have access to it but Scald does more damage now AND has a higher chance of debuffing your opponent’s attack stat. This seems to have made Whiscash the de-facto WaterGround type “mudboy” of choice. Beating the previous favorite Swampert in terms of usage in both Stuttgart and San Antonio. This is no doubt in part due to its relatively more bulk and super spammy kit.

A different type of buff is found in Azumarill. Azumarill was a mainstay in the early tournament circuits thanks to its massive bulk and WaterFairy typing. But after its fast attack of choice Bubble got nerfed, it became less relevant but never truly gone. And now Bubble has been buffed again in terms of damage and this bulky bunny is back in business. Being the second most popular pick on San Antonio day 2. One thing I find interesting is that with fewer Ice types going around, it seems Water types have picked up the mantle for ice coverage. With Poliwrath having a choice between Icy Wind and Ice Punch and Azumarill running Ice Beam.

Last but not least is Lanturn. When this season’s moves updates were first published people rightfully expected the WaterElectric Lanturn to be very strong this meta. Though while this might be true for the GBL “Blind Format”, Lanturn’s presence in both regionals felt rather limited. It seems people have chosen Charjabug as their Electric type of choice. Probably due to the increase in Ground type mons and too many water types present already.

The New King Of Fighters? Battle icon

So let’s not beat around the bush. The biggest moveset change this season is without a doubt Medicham’s nerf to Psychic. It already received a nerf to Psychic last season. But it was not enough. In fact, Medicham became even more prevalent due to a lack of counters. And it frequently started to see 80-100% in usage. So Psychic‘s damage output got nerfed yet again and now it seems to finally have had an effect. Medicham is no longer the only Counter user!

This isn’t to say Medicham has disappeared completely. It had the second highest usage on Stuttgart day 1 and was in the top 12 on San Antonio day 2. But it definitely has lost some of its overwhelming presence in the meta without Psychic‘s coverage potential. What this means is that other Counter users finally have a chance to shine. So let’s look at them, shall we?

Poliwrath definitely feels like it has the most potential and had the strongest presence in the tournaments. It was the third most used on Stuttgart and fifth on San Antonio Day 2. And it makes sense. While it is the most fragile of the three Medi alternatives, it’s also the only Fighting type. Meaning it gets STAB advantage with its community move Counter. And that’s along with the aforementioned Scald buff.

Defense Deoxys feels like a solid second-best. It has Medi’s Psychic typing but not Fighting. And it was popular even before the Medi nerf as a counter to Medicham. However, it does have more trouble with Lickitung as a pure Psychic type with its psychic charged attack of choice double debuffing DDeoxys’s attack.

And lastly, Vigoroth, while managing to reach day 2 in San Antonio, I have my doubts for. It’s a fantastic Pokémon that recently got a decent secondary charged attack in Rock Slide. But as a pure Normal type it directly struggles against the other Counter users.

Lickitung and Charjabug Battle icon

So I’m going to be briefer and more specific about this last topic. This has less to do with a specific Pokémon and more to do with upcoming trends in playstyle. And this trend entails combining Pokémon that are considerably risky to use with Pokémon that are very bulky and do well neutrally.

Lickitung and Charjabug I feel are the best examples of this. Both of them saw very high usage in both Stuttgart and San Antonio. And they are easy to explain as well. Charjabug with its community day fast attack Volt Switch gets to its charged attacks very very quickly. But as it is a four-turn fast attack, it is easy to play around. Whereas Lickitung being a bulky Normal type has only one weakness in Fighting. And with the Ghost type Lick it can do well against fighting types as well.

Other Pokémon that fall under the same umbrella as Lickitung include Cresselia and Azumarill. While on the risky Charjabug side, there’s the strong but frail Poliwrath and even Gligar as well.

Stray Thoughts And Predictions Battle icon

Here are some rapid-fire thoughts and speculations before the closing remarks.

  • It seems Steel types are back as Galarian Stunfisk and Registeel had a strong presence in the regionals. And Skarmory as a newcomer.
  • Though with Registeel, its performance may have been the result of Doonebug97‘s impressive performance in San Antonio. Where Doonebug97 played Registeel and Skeledirge with absolute perfection.
  • Speaking of Skeledirge, I don’t think it will be a mainstay in the current tournament meta. Though I thought the starter Serperior was spicy early last season, so who knows?
  • I strongly believe Poliwrath will be the main Counter user of choice with DDeoxys being a close second. I don’t fully expect Medicham to disappear either.
  • Buffs and Debuffs seem to be a theme for the season. With many popular moves having such secondary effects.
  • With that in mind, a single Pidgeot did have an impressive showing at San Antonio. And Pidgeot does have the opponent debuffing Feather Dance and self-debuffing Brave Bird. So could the Ultra League darling become the FlyingNormal type favorite in GL formats as well?
  • There also seem to be more avenues for choices in this meta. As multiple Pokémon can play similar roles.

Conclusion Battle Friend icon

And there you have it. Last season definitely brought a substantial update to the meta. But this season truly made the adjustments for a proper meta-shakeup. The change was so drastic in fact, that I had to wait until San Antonio because I felt like I couldn’t make much of an analysis based on Stuttgart alone. So I believe a lot of what this meta will look like going forward is still on the wall and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!

Goodbye for now, Pokémon trainers. Priom-out!

Author & tags

Pokémon fan since as early as object permanence allows. Me and my Pokébuddy, PoppyGO are here to hopefully help you with all of Pokémon GO's going-ons!

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