Meta Shifts and Surprises: What GBL Season 18 Brings To The Tournament Circuit

Good day, Pokémon Trainers! GO Battle League Season 18 has brought some 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, we’re more than one month into the meta. So why look at it now? Well, while there was an officially streamed Play! Pokémon tournament in Utrecht. It coincided too closely with the new meta shakeup. As such, the new moves for Pokémon were not allowed. Thus, we had to wait until the recent Vancouver regionals to get a proper taste of what the future of GO Battle League and Pokémon GO PvP, in general, might look like. 

Whiskers Away? Battle icon


So, last season Whiscash got a rather significant buff. It got the charged attack Scald. This change had a huge impact as Whiscash became THE mudboi of choice for PvPers both in Play! Pokémon and the GO Battle League. Whiscash already had a respectable stat spread, Mud Shot, and Mud Bomb. However, it was limited by a lack of solid Water type damage. As it preferred to run the high-energy, and non-STAB Blizzard along with Mud Bomb instead.

However, that all changed when Whiscash got Scald. Now it has solid Water damage that requires less energy than Blizzard. AND Scald also has a 50% chance to debuff your opponent. So now Whiscash has the ability to completely change the tide of battle with a successful debuff or two.

This was all last season though. This season people were expecting some sort of nerf to Whiscash because of its immense prominence with very little downside. But that did not happen. Whiscash still has its entire kit. Yet, despite all this Whiscash didn’t have that much of an impact in Vancouver?

Credit where it’s due, it did have a respectable 49.3% usage rate on day 1. Yet wasn’t even a part of the top 12 Pokémon usage day 2. I personally like to believe that it’s a part of a gentleman’s agreement to see the fish gone. But perhaps more realistically, it’s just that people came prepared for it. The winning team had both Lickitung and Cresselia with Grass type moves equipped after all.

From Licking To The Moon Battle icon

In a similar fashion to Whiscash, Lickitung saw a decline on day 2 as well. The last two PvP seasons had Lickitung constantly in No. 1 in usage. And it was tied for No. 1 on Day 1 in Vancouver as well, being tied with Gligar. Yet, it fell to 9th place on day 2 in Vancouver. I believe the central reason for this is Cresselia.

Cresselia became much more readily available for the Great League thanks to the Sinnoh GO Tour and its prelude the “Road to Sinnoh” event. Cress plays a similar role to Lickitung as a very bulky Pokémon that has Grass type coverage and can act as a fantastic safe-swap. They even have wins against similar Pokémon as well.

So, that matched with its higher overall stat product and the fact, that Psychic does neutral damage to more of the meta than the Ghost type Lick fast attack of Lickitung, is perhaps why Cress is taking Licki’s place. That doesn’t mean Lickitung is going anywhere though. In fact, they can coexist. As the winner of the Vancouver regionals LylesjeffIII not only had both Cresselia and Lickitung in his team but also used them together in the same battle!

The Eminence in Shadow Battle icon


Gligar seems to have taken its place as the face of Flying types right after the end of the 2023 Play! Pokémon season. But one aspect of Gligar has been a point of contention as soon as its reign began: Whether regular or shadow Gligar is more preferred.

The last time I talked about Gligar it really did seem regular Gligar was winning out. Being the preferred form for trainers to use in tournaments. But now it seems shadow Gligar is winning out with a whopping 62.5% usage rate on day 2. And those numbers don’t lie either, shadow Gligar had an absolutely impressive showing on day 2. Being a pivotal part of both the winning and third-place finishing teams.

As to why the shadow form is preferred now, I believe it’s because of the meta surrounding it. Shadow Gligar has marginally better matchups against Cresselia and Altaria, which the regular form typically loses against. With that being said, regular Gligar is still very solid and there was a greater spread between the two on day 1.

See ya later, Feraligatr? Battle icon


So, perhaps the two Pokémon to get the biggest buffs this season are Empoleon and Feraligatr. Between them, Feraligatr definitely felt like it had more of a place in the Play! Pokémon circuit. Empoleon just loses to too many of the meta mons for the show 6 pick 3 format. However, Feraligatr had more potential. Especially since it got access to Shadow Claw, one of the best moves in the game.

And while the 8th place finisher BlobbNA did have a Feraligatr on his team, it was really the only Feraligatr to make much of a splash. I can’t give a proper answer as to why until the tournament circuit moves forward. But if I were to make a conjecture, it’s the fact that it loses to a lot of the other Water types in the meta. And as a Water type it also loses to everything those other Water types lose to as well.

Conclusion Battle icon

And there you have it. This season’s updates definitely feel more muted. There isn’t really that one unique new meta Pokémon or surprise pick that’s taking the championship circuit by storm. Rather this feels like a fully “mature” version of the previous meta. I, along with many other people based on Vancouver’s live chat, believe that this has been one of the most skill-focused meta to have developed in a while.

I mean, just look at the usage stats for day 2. There isn’t a single Pokémon that is wholly dominating in their own playfield. There are multiple flying types, multiple counter users, and multiple bulky safe swaps. There’s a whole slew of successful Pokémon from multiple previous metas accounted for. And this isn’t even taking into account unique picks like LylejeffsIII’s Shadow Sableye and Poliwrath, the multiple Abomasnows, and xXRubixMasterXx’s Shadow Alolan Sandslash which seems to have returned after an Ice type drought.

There are certainly more avenues for building your own personalized teams and victory depends on multiple skill factors. So I cannot wait to see what comes next. EUIC is just around the corner and I will definitely be tuning in! 

Goodbye for now, Pokémon trainers. Priom-out!

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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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