From the shadows, they come….

So let’s not beat around the bush. I said a few days ago I was going to try and give folks a field guide to what Shadow Pokémon to prioritize TMing Frustration away from during the current A Looming Shadow Returns event (running currently until November 13th 10am local time). We get several days to TM away Frustration and make our Shadow Pokémon usable. (Eat it, Professor… who needs purifying anyway? 😈) Well here’s the promised guide!

With over 200 Shadow Pokémon currently available in Pokémon GO, obviously I can’t hit everything. But I going to try and highlight some of the top options with some detail (and my customary simulations from PvPoke) — the ones you really REALLY want to make sure you prioritize TMing during this event, even if you don’t have the resources to build them up yet — and then just bin some other things to hit up as you’re able.

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Couple quick caveats:

  • Anything marked with a money bag (💰) will also require an Elite TM to get an exclusive charged or fast move if you plan to use them in PvP. Plan accordingly.
  • I’m not going to take a lot of time doing PvE analysis, but I will mark those that are particularly good for raiding with a ⚔️.
  • In the interests of time and my own fragile sanity, I am going to stick with just 1v1 shielding for simulations I show in this writeup. Doesn’t mean I didn’t also check shieldless and other shielding scenarios, just that I didn’t want to load this thing with more simulations than are necessary to give you a good idea of the good (and bad) that comes with being a Shadow.
  • While I have been doing PvP analysis longer than almost anyone else in the business, I am human, and also old. 😅 It is very possible I am a bit off-base with some of these, either under- or overvaluing some of this stuff, but I welcome you to (kindly, please!) point out anything you think I left out or spoke about in error. As always, I do this to help folks learn and get on their feet and hopefully forge ahead to discover new things for themselves. Especially with so many Shadow Pokmon in the game now, it’s almost impossible to strike the right level of comprehensiveness on this topic. Please, feel free to add to the discussion in comments, because that’s what this should be: a discussion!

All that aside, we ready? Good, then let’s goooooo!

MUST HAVES

These Pokémon should be your highest priority. If you’re low on Charge TMs, do these first. In many cases, they are upgrades (or at worst, very viable and interesting “sidegrades”) to the non-Shadow versions in one or more leagues. Once again, if you do nothing else during this event window, TM Frustration away from these!

NIDOQUEEN

Nidoqueen (Shadow) PoisonGround

Great League Priority: VERY HIGH

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Azumarill, Cresselia, Mandibuzz, Meidcham, Cofagrigus, Umbreon (Last Resort), Trevenant, Ferrothorn, Venusaur

Key GL Losses: Toxicroak, Alolan Marowak, Sableye, Shadow Victreebel

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Key UL Pickups: Giratina-A (Shadow Claw), Defense Deoxys, Empoleon, Charizard (Fire Spin), Gallade, Lugia, Scizor

Key UL Losses: Giratina-O, Cresselia, Jellicent (Hex), Abomasnow, Escavalier, Gyarados (Dragon Breath)

This one probably comes as no surprise, but the numbers really speak for themselves, don’t they? Shadow Nidoqueen is an overall big upgrade in Great League and a sidegrade, at worst, in Ultra League. There’s really no reason NOT to TM one or two (or more!) of these while you can. You CAN run her with just Poison Fang, but Earth Power (or Stone Edge, if you’re feeling spicy) get some key pickups she can’t do with Fang alone. Even if you don’t intent to invest in them–or have grown more hatred for Nidoqueen of late than you ever thought possible–TM a few while the opportunity is there.

MACHAMP ⚔️

Machamp (Shadow) Fighting

Great League Priority: VERY HIGH

Ultra League Priority: MODERATE

Master League Priority: MODERATE

Key GL Pickups: Altaria, Skarmory, Tropius, Venusaur, Serperior, Whiscash, Sableye

Key GL Losses: Swampert

Key UL Pickups: Skarmory, Alolan Muk (Poison Jab)

Key UL Losses: Galvantula

Key ML Pickups: Ho-Oh, Therian Landorus, Groudon (Dragon Tail), Zacian (CC/WC)

Key ML Losses: Swampert, Machamp, Magnezone

No real surprises here either… Machamp has been going strong as a Shadow basically since Shadows became available. Great League is by far the best place for it to stand out as compared to non-Shadow, but it’s a very viable sidegrade in Ultra and Master too if you have candy and dust to burn. Also note that while Cross Chop is usually preferred in Great and Ultra Leagues, Close Combat is usually the way to go in Master League, if you didn’t know that already.

SWAMPERT (Earthquake) 💰⚔️

Swampert (Shadow) WaterGround

Great League Priority: MODERATE

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: MODERATE

Key GL Pickups: Cofagrigus, Lickitung, Pidgeot, Scrafty, Ferrothorn

Key GL Losses: Azumarill (IB/PR), Diggersby, Haunter, Sylveon, Munchlax

Key UL Pickups: Obstagoon, Umbreon, Sirfetch’d, Shadow Politoed, Armored Mewtwo, Skarmory

Key UL Losses: Altered Giratina (Shadow Claw), Drifblim, Cofagrigus, Alolan Ninetales (Powder Snow)

Key ML Pickups: Zamazenta

Key ML Losses: Groudon, Garchomp (Mud Shot), Mamoswine

One of the most popular Shadows, and certainly one of the cheaper ones to build, but the actual results are somewhat mixed. I would say that a good Shadow Swampy is worth building for whatever league you need it in, but only in Ultra can it really be called an upgrade, and even that’s arguable with some of the big names on that list of new losses. Master League seems least worth it… in addition to the new losses, it struggles more than non-Shadow in all shared wins, coming out with less HP remaining in all shared matchups besides Landorus, Excadrill, and Machamp, and often double digits less. TM a hundo or near hundo one, sure, but I wouldn’t build it up now, personally.

All those sims are with Earthquake, by the way. I did check Sludge Wave and it’s generally a downgrade in all three leagues.

ABOMASNOW

Abomasnow (Shadow) IceGrass

Great League Priority: VERY HIGH

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Hypno (plus Shadow), Lapras, Galarian Stunfisk, Toxicroak, Umbreon, Cofagrigus, Greedent

Key GL Losses: Jellicent, Lickitung, Dewgong

Key UL Pickups: Shadow Nidoqueen, Umbreon, Poliwrath, Gallade

Key UL Losses: Galarian Stunfisk, Cresselia, Lapras, Empoleon, Ferrothorn, Cofagrigus, Greedent

Getting a good Shadowbama in Great League should be one of your top priorities… it’s not a straight upgrade, but MAN that list of new wins is hot. 🔥 Ultra League, though… it’s a sidegrade, with some really good AND really bad points for either side.

VENUSAUR 💰⚔️

Venusaur (Shadow) GrassPoison

Great League Priority: MODERATE

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Bastiodon, Medicham, Obstagoon, Cofagrigus

Key GL Losses: Galarian Stunfisk, Jellicent, Umbreon, Pelipper, Shiftry

Key UL Pickups: Shadow Nidoqueen, Umbreon, Galvantula, Melmetal

Key UL Losses: Shadow Machamp, Toxicroak

And here we have sort of the opposite: Great League Shadow Venusaur is a slight overall downgrade (though beating Bastiodon is always a good feeling), but even I was surprised to see the good showing Shadow Venu puts in for Ultra League. You lose a couple of the prominent Fighters, but otherwise the news is all good… very good considering who all is on that win list now.

BEEDRILL 💰

Beedrill (Shadow) BugPoison

Great League Priority: HIGH

Ultra League Priority: n/a

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Umbreon (Last Resort), Trevenant, Tropius (Air Slash), Sableye, Froslass, Politoed, Stunfisk

Key GL Losses: Registeel, Defense Deoxys, Lapras, Lickitung, Munchlax

It’s just a sidegrade, but it’s a good one. Giving up Registeel and DD that are part of what make Beedrill special hurts, but beating things like Umbreon, Froslass, Trevor, and Politoed will help you feel better.

LAPRAS (Ice Beam) 💰💰

Lapras (Shadow) WaterIce

Great League Priority: HIGH

Ultra League Priority: VERY HIGH

Master League Priority: HIGH, believe it or not!

Key GL Pickups: Venusaur, Tropius (Razor Leaf), Umbreon, Skarmory, Dewgong, Greedent, Galvantula

Key GL Losses: Hypno, Alolan Marowak, Shadow Nidoqueen, Cofagrigus, Trevenant, Pelipper

Key UL Pickups: Talonflame, Snorlax, Alolan Ninetales (Charm), Alolan Muk, Abomasnow, Sylveon

Key UL Losses: Meganium

The numbers kind of speak for themselves: Lapras is able to shrug off the 20% nerf to its Defense much better than most Pokémon and enjoys great success as a Shadow, especially in Ultra League. And if you have a REALLY good one, did you know Lapras actually has play in Master League too? Shadow Lapras especially, as it picks up wins non-Shadow cannot get versus Origin Giratina, Excadrill, Swampert, Zekrom, and Zacian!

FLYGON (Dragon Tail) 💰

Flygon (Shadow) GroundDragon

Great League Priority: MODERATE

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Hypno, Drifblim, Shadow Machamp, Pidgeot, Umbreon, Cofagrigus, Whiscash, Serperior, Meganium

Key GL Losses: Shadow Hypno, Jellicent, Lickitung, Swampert, Obstagoon, Pelipper, Munchlax, Shiftry, Ferrothorn

Key UL Pickups: Galarian Stunfisk, Swampert, Talonflame, Jellicent, Altered Giratina (Dragon Breath), Dragonite, Defense Deoxys, Armored Mewtwo, Registeel

Key UL Losses: Machamp, Scrafty, Venusaur, Shadow Snorlax

Dragon Tail Flygon is THE way to go now, if you hadn’t heard. Shadow Flygon is an intriguing sidegrade in Great League, but the real story is Ultra League, where Shadow Flygon is definitely underrated these days. This is a sneaky good one to pick up and even build in the here and now if you’re looking for secret sauce in Ultra.

DRAGONITE ⚔️

Dragonite (Shadow) DragonFlying

Great League Priority: HIGH

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: MODERATE-HIGH (especially for raids)

Key GL Pickups: Defense Deoxys, Drifblim, Galvantula, Greedent, Haunter, Jellicent, Alolan Marowak, Medicham, Pidgeot, Whiscash, Stunfisk (w/ Dragon Tail)

Key GL Losses: Shiftry, Vigoroth, Trevenant (W/ Dragon Tail), Venusaur (w/ Dragon Tail)

Key UL Pickups: Shadow Dragonite (Dragon Breath), Alolan Muk, Shadow Snorlax, Obstagoon, Poliwrath, Umbreon, Cofagrigus, Galvantula

Key UL Losses: Altered Giratina (Dragon Breath), Snorlax, Empoleon

Key ML Pickups: Altered Giratina (Shadow Claw), Gyarados (Dragon Breath), Mamoswine

Key ML Losses: Zekrom

The O.G. Dragon remains a PvP fixture all this time later, which is pretty astounding all things considered. The buff to Dragon Tail makes both Tail and Dragon Breath variants quite nice these days, with Breath being a bit better in Great League and Master League, and Tail pulling ahead in Ultra League — and I primarily simmed non-Shadow vs Shadow above following those trends — but both are perfectly viable with their own nuances throughout. Shadow Dragonite is pretty consistently an upgrade, especially in Great (Breath) and Ultra (Tail) Leagues, and only for Tail in Master League (where Dragon Breath actually dips in performance as a Shadow, the only time that Shadow is arguably worse, but still has merit). Between the cost and the small performance boost, I’d consider ML Dragonite a lower overall priority, but still worth TMing one, and do try and at least TM a couple GL and UL candidates while you can, even if you can’t build them up just yet… Shadow Dragonite is obviously a very hefty investment. ‘Nite is a known commodity in Ultra, but a GL Shadow ‘Nite is an underrated, high pressure generalist supreme.

DRAPION

Drapion (Shadow) PoisonDark

Great League Priority: MODERATE

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Altaria, Froslass, Mandibuzz (Snarl), Ferrothorn

Key GL Losses: Azumarill (IB/PR), Umbreon (Last Resort), Defense Deoxys, Lapras

Key UL Pickups: Altered Giratina (Dragon Breath), Lugia, Umbreon (Last Resort), Alolan Ninetales (Charm), Shadow Dragonite, Sirfetch’d

Key UL Losses: Gallade, Galvantula, Ferrothorn, Meganium

One of the more popular Shadow Pokémon of late, particularly in this year’s Halloween Cup (dang thing was everywhere), though generally the Shadow version shines brighter in Ultra League rather than Great League. Either way, it’s a more than acceptable sidegrade that probably isn’t going away soon (or ever) as a competitive PvP Pokémon.

SKUNTANK

Skuntank (Shadow) PoisonDark

Great League Priority: MODERATE

Ultra League Priority: MODERATE

Master League Priority: n/a

Key GL Pickups: Altaria, Jellicent, Sableye, Lickitung, Pidgeot, Ferrothorn, Munchlax

Key GL Losses: Umbreon (Last Resort), Vigoroth, Wigglytuff, Clefable, Scrafty, Mew, Haunter

Key UL Pickups: Defense Deoxys, Alolan Muk, Obstagoon, Poliwrath, Scrafty, Shadow Snorlax, Ferrothorn

Key UL Losses: Machamp, Greedent, Lugia, Cresselia, Drifblim, Dragonite, Snorlax

Pure sidegrades, with practically no variance in the number of wins, just what Skuntank does win. You can look over the lists yourself and decide if building one (or two!) is worth it, but yes, in a vacuum they are both interesting enough to be “worth” it.

SNORLAX

Snorlax (Shadow) Normal

Great League Priority: HIGH

Ultra League Priority: HIGH

Master League Priority: MODERATE-HIGH

Key GL Pickups: Lapras, Shadow Hypno, Swampert, Whiscash, Sableye, Venusaur, Stunfisk, Politoed, Sylveon

Key GL Losses: Hypno, Obstagoon, Registeel, Shadow Victreebel

Key UL Pickups: Dragonite, Gallade, Alolan Muk (Poison Jab), Scizor, Politoed, Melmetal, Sylveon, Clefable

Key UL Losses: Shadow Dragonite, Shadow Politoed, Armored Mewtwo, Lapras, Ferrothorn, Grunbull

Key ML Pickups: Dialga (Thunder), Altered Giratina (Shadow Claw), Garchomp (Mud Shot), Mamoswine, Zarude, Togekiss, Sylveon

Key ML Losses: Swampert, Rhyperior, Incarnate Landorus

Shadow Snorlax is almost universally better overall, but there is enough good going on for Shadow and non-Shadow that it’s good to have both where you can afford it. Snorlax in Master League is best in (though certainly not exclusive to!) Premier play, and in Ultra and even Great League, a good Shadow Snorlax has lots of play in limited formats especially (Cup, Remix, Premier, etc.) and should remain a staple of PvP for a long, long time to come. Snorlax is not cheap but is a pretty futureproof investment.

Okay, whew. That felt like a massive writeup already, and yet I also feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! But we’re far from done. I am going to shift to more of a bulletized format for the rest, but here are a bunch more recommendations. If you’re swimming in TMs, the next couple lists are all very worthy of getting unFrustrated. Let’s start with ones that are going to be particularly important come, say, a month from now….

COMMUNITY DAY STANDOUTS

At this point, we have every reason to believe that all Community Day Pokémon from the last year or two will be coming back for another go in December. Assuming we’re talking all Community Days from 2020 and 2021, that means the following should all be back for another chance to evolve for their Community Day moves, so free up the charge move slot in preparation by getting Frustration out of the way!

  • Abra (Alazkazam with Counter)
  • Seedot (Shiftry with Bullet Seed)
  • Weedle (Beedrill with Drill Run)
  • Magikarp (Gyarados with Aqua Tail) ⚔️
  • Charmander (Charizard with Dragon Breath)
  • Machop (Machamp with Payback)
  • Electabuzz (Electivire with Flamethrower)
  • Magmar (Magmortar with Thunderbolt)
  • Duskull (Dusknoir with Shadow Ball)

Out of those, I would try to prep good candidates for those I put in italics, and would consider the ones that are also bolded to be especially a priority (like Beedrill, which I already went into earlier). Charizard in particular is nasty with Dragon Breath pressure in Great and especially Ultra Leagues, and Shadow just brings more pain… I highly recommend that, Beedrill, and an Aqua Tail Shadow Gyarados or two if you can manage it. Counter Alakazam is really just spice, but it brings a whole lotta hurt and WILL matter in some future meta (Counter/Fire Punch/Shadow Ball is hot stuff). Bullet Seed Shiftry is a great alternative to Snarl, just a sidegrade but one that does some silly stuff like beat Umbreon and really pressure Mud Boys and such. And while Payback is generally better (IMO) on non-Shadow Machamp, Payback Shadow Champ is certainly viable (in Ultra especially) and a very nasty surprise when not expected. If you’re swimming in TMs and Machop candy, hey, why not? The rest (Electivire, Magmortar, Dusknoir) I wouldn’t worry too much about, but if you missed them the first time, this is your chance. You never know what the future may hold for them, right?

LEAGUE OF LEGENDS

Is that copyright infringement? Hmmm. 🤔 Oh well!

As you likely guessed, this is a shout-out to all the Shadow Legendaries we’ve been able to accumulate over time. IMO, these are ALL worth TMing away Frustration, even ones with horrid IVs. And I mean, even hoarders are only going to have, what, maybe a dozen of these? You can afford THAT many spare TMs, I hope! But if not, I’ll put them in rough order of best down to worst.

  • Mewtwo 💰⚔️ is so good in Master League that I devoted a whole article to it over a year ago. But if you still need convincing, then here you go.
  • Ho-Oh 💰⚔️ gets special standing because for most, it’s the only GL-eligible Fire Turkey you’re ever gonna have. This one is a no brainer. Here’s my full analysis if you want to know the details on why.
  • Lugia 💰 for similar reasons. I mean, my full analysis on this one is still warm, if you want to read up on it! Don’t forget to TM this one as soon as you get it, before the event window closes.
  • Zapdos 💰 is arugably better as a Shadow in Great (and maybe even Ultra) Leagues.
  • Articuno 💰 too, though it appreciates the bulk of being a non-Shadow too.
  • Moltres 💰⚔️ and the Gen2 Beasts (RaikouSuicuneEntei)… meh, you can probably do without, but again, it’s just four TMs! C’mon, you can do that, right?

POPULAR AND/OR HIGHLY RANKED, BUT….

The following are all highly ranked in PvP and generally popular builds as Shadow Pokémon, but after examining and/or using them myself, I’m not as impressed. I would still throw a couple TMs at these while the opportunity is there, because they ARE good PvP Pokémon in general, just moreso as non-Shadows, in my personal opinion… and backed up by the numbers: they’re usually downgrades overall as Shadows.

  • Sableye (fine enough, but biggest crime is not being able to utilize Return, leaving it with the underpowered Shadow Sneak or overpriced Power Gem)
  • Skarmory (scary looking, but has a harder time farming with it slashed bulk… requires shields being stripped away to outperform — or even match — the non-Shadow version)
  • Magnezone (higher pressure with shields down for sure, but generally underperforms non-Shadow)
  • Politoed (misses the extra bulk… landing an Earthquake with Shadow can be devastating, but generally dies before spamming its way there as readily as non-Shadow)
  • Poliwrath (just doesn’t work all that well, though maybe with Scald?)
  • Metagross 💰⚔️ (just for Master League, but generally a step back as compared to non-Shadow… Metagross is surprisingly fragile as is, and Shadow crumples alarmingly quickly)
  • Mamoswine ⚔️ (similar to Metagross, just for Master League, and seemingly better as a non-Shadow)
  • Golbat/Crobat (a decent sidegrade in Great League {Golbat} or Ultra League {Crobat}, but loses to as many big names as they gain as Shadows; would recommend still TMing, but not yet building, these as potential alternatives in the right limited formats, just believe them to be ranked artificially high)

NOT AS HIGHLY RANKED, BUT PROBABLY SHOULD BE!

  • Hypno is kind of a no duh, right?
  • Same with Shadow Victreebel. Grassholes may be on the decline, but if you’re gonna run them, you want them as Shadows. Do yourself a favor and TM a Shadow Gloom and/or Vileplume too. You’ll thank me later.
  • Shadow Gardevoir is typically THE Gardevoir to use as well in formats where you want her. And Gallade is a very viable and scary alternative to non-Shadow in Ultra League.
  • Scizor is already popular enough that you thought of it already, but if not, here’s your reminder. Scyther is interesting enough to be worth a TM too.
  • Mawile (regular and Shadow) are both ranked WAY low for the impact they have on certain metas (like Halloween Cup). Shadow is a sidegrade, at worst.
  • Forretress really should see more use in Great League.
  • I generally prefer non-Shadow, but lots of people swear by Shadow Dragonair. Very possible you have a Shadow Dratini with bad stats for Dragonite but GOOD ones for ‘Nair. If so, you know what to do.
  • Ampharos is a staple of Ultra Premier, and Shadow is a handy alternative to have in your storage.

IF YOU STILL HAVE EXCESS TMs….

Here’s a list of some stuff that could be fun as current (or future!) spice. I consider these all worth TMing away Frustration, but only if you still have them to spend after addressing all of the above. In rough order of PvP viability:

  • Sealeo (some people swear by this one, but I continue to favor Body Slam/Return purified Sealeo myself)
  • Hitmonchan (criminally underrated… check it out with Ice Punch/Close Combat sometime)
  • Venomoth (actually scary again with the Poison Fang buff… may be ranked too low, honestly)
  • Ninetales (generally worse than regular, but interesting enough to throw a TM or two at)
  • Tyranitar 💰⚔️ (not really better than non-Shadow, but the intimidation factor is real)
  • Probopass
  • Exeggutor (scarier on paper than in real life, but worth a TM, IMO)
  • Cradily
  • Tangrowth ⚔️
  • Arcanine (its day WILL come!)
  • Sharpedo (or Carvanha for Little League)
  • Gligar/Gliscor
  • Stunky (Little League)
  • Weavile
  • Honchkrow
  • Torterra

Whew, that ended up a lot longer than I anticipated! (How does that ALWAYS happen to me? 😅) I could go even longer, believe it or not, but we’re already two days into the TM Frustration window and I want this to get out the door so you all can start using this guide to help inform your TMing decisions. Hope it’s a help… good luck!

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Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you with your TMing decisions, and that you are able to get all the good Shadows you want in the coming days. Good hunting, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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