Hello again, Pokéfriends! The latest GO Rocket Takeover Event (the last for 2023?) has already begun for most all players, so we’re already behind on taking a look at the newest batch of Shadow Pokémon in PvP. So let’s throw up our customary Bottom Line Up Front and then just dive right in!
- Shadow Lugia remains an intriguing Legendary option, but the new Shadow Regigigas is a gigantic disappointment.
- Haunter and Gengar, as with things like Victreebel, are well-positioned to take advantage of the Shadow treatment, as they’re already built around maximum damage before falling. Shadow just allows them to do that to a more extreme degree.
- The dreaded Shadow Bastiodon is here, but don’t be TOO scared. It basically stays in the same range of effectiveness it already occupies, with the Shadow mostly just being a sidegrade.
- Perhaps the most exciting thing to come out of this batch is the one that was NOT announced: Shadow Sneasler! The Shadow is an upgrade to varying degrees, and this also gives many their first opportunity at running Sneasler in Great League!
- The rest are rather ho-hum. None are terribly worse than their non-Shadow versions, they just don’t really gain enough ground to matter any more than they do today.
Alright, on to the detailed analysis.
Shadow Regigigas: GIGGITYRegigigas (Shadow) Normal
I’ve led off past Shadow event analyses with the new Shadow Regi, so we’ll do the same this time with REGIGIGAS. And it’s going to be extremely quick.
Shadow or not, Regigiggity has no use right now in Great or Ultra League, and I don’t see it ever becoming relevant there no matter what Niantic does with its moves. The OG Regi trio come with big expensive charge moves, but with Lock-On — literally the highest energy generating fast move in the game — to power them out and pressure shields anyway. Regidrago falls away because it has no decent fast move, and now here we see the same with Gigas. It’s stuck with two bad choices: Zen Headbutt and its pathetic 2.67 Damage Per Turn and 2.0 Energy Per Turn (keep in mind that 3.0 DPT/EPT is merely “average”), or Hidden Power with its barely-better 3.0 DPT and 2.67 EPT. Yeah… it’s a bad day when Hidden Power is your best fast move, but here we are.
At least you can hope to roll for a good typing that way. Like, say, Ice-type, which is a fantastic typing in Master League in particular. In fact, it’s about the ONLY fast move Regigigas has that makes it even halfway interesting in PvP. And yes, if you happen to get a hundo (or at least near-hundo) Regigigas and it happens to have Ice-type Hidden Power, it’s an improvement over non-Shadow, with new wins versus Dragonite and Yveltal (but a loss to Charm Sylveon, for what that matters). But that’s still less than a third of the core meta, and misses out on many of the biggest names like Dialga, Groudon and Kyogre, Xerneas, Zacian, and many others.
Unfortunately I don’t see a lot of future potential for vast improvement, either. It can’t learn Lock-On in MSG, and in fact the only other fast moves it can learn are Rock Smash, Mud Slap, and Tackle, none of which help it. In other words, Regigiggity will always have a fast move problem, which means it will always struggle mightily to break out in any meaningful way… especially since the vast majority of its current wins comes only because of Ice damage from Hidden Power. This is a collector’s piece only… if even that.
Shadow Lugia: HACK A LUGIE 😮💨Lugia (Shadow) Psychic
SHADOW LUGIA is decidedly not new (I analyzed it back in 2021!), and not even technically part of this same event. (It doesn’t arrive in raids until Saturday.) But it IS absolutely worth a fresh look after the gutting nerf to Sky Attack. Does Lugia still bring the sauce?
First, let me point back to my analysis on this season’s move rebalance, as I talked about Lugia there. Just to plagiarize myself for a moment and set the stage by repeating a bit from that article:
More of a Master League option than anything, formerly in the Top 5, and now outside the Top 20. In the process, [Lugia] drops Excadrill, Gyarados, Palkia, and Xerneas, and escapes with less than half the HP it used to have in wins over Dragonite, Reshiram, Ho-Oh, Mewtwo, Ursaluna and others, still winning but by a MUCH smaller margin. I think it will still hang around, but for those who built it up in its heyday… you have my sympathies. Your big birb is very unfortunate collateral damage of an attempt to push Flyers down in Great League for… reasons?
Well I’m happy to say that Lugia does get a bit of its mojo back as a Shadow, even with the Sky Attack nerf. As compared to non-Shadow, you gain Togekiss, Xerneas, Gyarados, Mewtwo, and even Metagross despite it resisting all of Lugia’s damage. It is worth noting, however, that Shadow and non-Shadow are much closer in 0shield, and it is actually non-Shadow that pulls fully ahead in 2v2 shielding.
And now into some exciting non-Legendaries getting the Shadowfication (no, that is totally NOT a word I just made up) treatment, starting with perhaps our most exciting?
Shadow Haunter and Gengar: HAUNTEDHaunter (Shadow) GhostPoison Gengar (Shadow) GhostPoison
I often get questions like “are Shadow always better?”, and then followups (after I say no) like “are Shadows with high Attack or high bulk usually better?” and the like. And unfortunately the best answer I can give even then is that “it depends”.
Generally, things that are already highly reliant on high Attack and already lack in bulk do better as Shadows — see Victreebel, and to an extent things like Machamp and Dragonite — at least in Great League. As the name of their game is already piling on as much damage as possible before their shaky frames succumbs to their wounds, slashing their bulk even further is often less of a downside than the upside they get with further boosted Attack prowess. This is, of course, not always true, and the opposite with some bulkier ‘mons getting better as Shadows can prove to be the case as well. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about evaluating things as Shadows over the years, it’s that it is a consistently inconsistent study. Sometimes things you expect to exceed as Shadows just don’t, and things that really struggle as non-Shadows suddenly take off when Shadowfied. (These are very real and not at all JRE-invented words, I swear.)
All that to say: I was not totally shocked when both HAUNTER and GENGAR showed improvement when they underwent Shadowfication. They are the textbook definition of “glass cannons”, with Bottom 5 bulk and total stat product among things that have any viability whatsoever in PvP. (Seriously, about the only things you might ever actually see in PvP that are worse off than Haunter in particular are Sharpedo and… uh… Rampardos? Yeah, even that is a massive reach.) You won’t see them often in Open play, but both have made a name for themselves in various Limited metas and worth a look as Shadows.
Haunter has the fun toy of Ice Punch that can be fun in certain metas, but often you’re just going to be going for the throat with the all-STAB, all-“Shadow” moveset: Claw/Punch/Ball. (Though Sludge Bomb can be a good alternative to Shadow Ball, depending on the meta… it ALSO gets STAB.) And while its win total is lower than you’d like, it does rip through some massive meta names: Medicham, Shadow Swampert, Lanturn, Shadow Charizard, Venusaur, Steelix, Charm Alolan Ninetales, DDeoxys, Froslass, and more. With that list of wins, one could even justify bringing it to a Play!Pokémon tournament, if they dared!
So I’m happy to report that Shadow Haunter is mostly an upgrade. The all-Ghost version gains more meta names — Swampert, Azumarill, Dewgong, Pelipper, and Registeel! — while giving up only Water Gun Lanturn, Cofagrigus, and fellow Shadow Victreebel to do it. The loss of (one variant of) Lanturn stings, but look at those gains! That is definitely a marked improvement in effective performance.
The gains are apparent for Sludge Bomb Shadow Haunter as well, with gains that include Spark Lanturn, Swampert, Vigoroth, Scrafty, Pelipper, and Cresselia, versus losses (as compared to non-Shadow of only Shadow Victreebel and Cofagrigus (and again, much of the time, who cares about those two?).
Directly comparing the two real quick, the wins that Shadow Haunter with Shadow Ball gets versus Registeel and Dewgong are completely unique, and the win that Shadow with Sludge Bomb gets versus Scrafty is similarly unique. Shadow with either Ball or Bomb overcomes Pelipper and Swampert, and non-Shadow with either closer beat Cofagrigus and Shadow Victreebel.
Shadow Ball beats Cresselia, Spark Lanturn, and Steelix whether Shadow or not, and Sludge Bomb is alway able to beat Azumarill, Water Gun Lanturn, and Serperior, whether Haunter is Shadow or not.
But VERY long story short, both are better off as Shadows. Not a strict upgrade, but most definitely an upgrade.
Then there’s Gengar, which is very similar to Haunter, losing Steelix, but gaining Serperior, and holding all the other same meta wins and losses. It too improves as a Shadow, though not quite to the same degree as Haunter. New wins include Azumarill, Swampert, Registeel, and Dewgong (just like Haunter’s gains), as well as now beating Steelix. However, it loses that win over Serperior, as well as Wate Gun Lanturn, Shadow Vic, and Cofagrigus (again, just like Haunter).
Where Gengar stands out more is where Haunter dare not tread: Ultra League. Gengar is already a spicy option there, and it gets better as a Shadow, dropping only Gliscor, and gaining Jellicent, Cofagrigus, Shadow Charizard, and Galarian Stunfisk! Not too shabby. It’s also a great option if Ultra Premier ever returns.
So what’s it all mean, JRE? Haunter and Gengar are sneaky good, and only better as Shadows. Neither are a strict upgrade, but particularly for Haunter in Great League and Gengar in Ultra League, they are scarier than they’ve ever been before. Haunter in Great League picks up some awesome top-of-the-meta wins that add to an already underrated meta assassin résumé.
Shadow Bastiodon: ROCK AND OH NO!Bastiodon (Shadow) RockSteel
So Bastiodon is becoming Shadow-eligible.
…wait, Bastiodon is becoming Shadow-eligible?! Hide the children!
Surely ol’ mister bulky flatface getting higher Attack is terrible for Great League, right? Well, this may not be ALL doom and gloom….
Bastie is currently a menace in PvP, no doubt. The pure numbers don’t tell the whole story, as there ARE ways to blow it out (most Fighters, Grounds, and Steels do the trick), but it does tell a large portion of the story: not only does it smash through most things weak to Rock damage (Flyers, Bugs, Ices, Fires), but it wins a ton of neutral matchups (including versus other known tanks like Umbreon, Lickitung, Carbink, Azumarill, Cresselia and more) and neutralizes things that would normally be scary for Rock types (most Grasses and even many of the big name Waters). There are many players that love it… but even they will admit there are many, many more players that HATE it and find it unfun.
Well I have some good news for both of those groups of players. Bastiodon IS situationally better… but in the end, I think it’s most fair to call it a mere sidegrade.
In the standard 1v1 shielding scenario, Shadow Bastie actually takes a small step backwards, gaining a win over Shadow Victreebel but giving up more common Grass types Venusaur and Serperior to do so, as well as Cofagrigus. As with many bulky Pokémon, it would seem that Bastie has more to lose by shedding some of that bulk than it has to gain with its boosted Attack.
…at least, in 1v1 shielding. Told you Shadows can be consistently inconsistent!
In other even shield scenarios, Shadow Bastiodon actually looks like a straight upgrade, with new wins over Serperior and Shadow Gligar in 0v0 shielding, and over Jellicent, Cofagrigus, and Shadow Gligar again in 2v2 shielding. And those are both with NO new compensating losses.
And before I leave this section on Bastie, I would be remiss to not point out, as I always try to with Bastiodon analysis, the viability of rarely-seen Flash Cannon instead of Stone Edge, with the rationale that Smack Down already deals plenty of Rock-type damage (making Edge somewhat superfluous), and Flash Cannon will basically always win the mirror without a dropoff in performance. Sometimes you might have, say, Jellicent slip away (which resists both Flamethrower and Flash Cannon), but that’s rare. Many times in many metas, Flash Cannon is quietly an upgrade that nobody considers. So think about it next time you run your own Bastie out there… winning the mirror is a very nice perk.
So what’s it all mean, JRE? Bastiodon is already plenty annoying, and while it is situationally better as a Shadow, overall I’m going to label Shadow Bastiodon as just a sidegrade. A good one… an annoying one… but still just an alternative rather than a terrifying new monstrosity. You’ll still see it where you already did, and there are a handful of matchups to shake up your expectations a bit, but nothing too major. Bastiodon will keep on plodding along and stalling the game as it always has. Sorry! (Or alternatively, to you weird Bastiodon stans… congratulations, I guess?)
May as well cover fellow Smack Down user RHYPERIOR while we’re here. It features most prominently on the other end of the PvP landscape, not in Great League but all the way up in Master League. It’s lousy without shields, but as long as it has at least one to hide behind, it’s gotten pretty interesting again with the addition of Breaking Swipe and new wins that come with it like the Giratinas (and other Dragons like Reshiram and Zekrom), Ursaluna, Gyarados, and recapturing a win over Dragonite after ‘Nite got Superpower and turned the tables a while ago. How the turn tables….
Anyway, how does Shadow Rhyperior fare? Initial looks show a promising sidegrade that drops Excadrill, Incarnate Landorus, and unfortunately Dragonite, but gains Mewtwo and Dialga, which are fantastic pickups. However, the bad news starts to overcome after that, with backwards slides in other even shield scenarios, including now losing Diagla in 2v2 shielding. I think that overall, your Master League Rhyperior prefers to hold onto all the bulk it can get. That’s part of why it’s taken off again with the addition of opponent-Attack-nerfing Swipe, after all!
Now onto something more worthy of its own section header….
Shadow Sneasler: GESUNDHEIT!Sneasler (Shadow) FightingPoison
Well it’s not often that Niantic can genuinely surprise anymore. I had a very sneaky suspicion we’d be getting SHADOW SNEASLER during this event thanks to a hint from what remains of the PokeMiners (thank you forever, boys ), but to many its arrival comes as a complete shock. But boy oh boy, does it make the event much more interesting.
Shadow Hisuian Sneasel was accidentally released in raids on August 19th, and while it was quickly removed (as per Niantic Rule #1 of bug fix priority: No Fun Allowed 🙃), many scooped it up anyway. Rather than retroactively removing it from people’s inventories, they simply banned it from GBL. Problem is that non-Shadow Hisuian Sneasel and Sneasler were banned as well, and have been this entire GBL season thus far.
Well hopefully this is Niantic righting that wrong, and an unbanning is imminent, because now Hisuian Sneasel is out for realz, available from Fighting-type GO Rocket Grunts (at least during the current Takeover Event). Not only is this exciting because Sneasler in particular is pretty awesome in PvP, but for many, this may be their first Great League Sneasler! While it was briefly available in the wild during the Solstice Horizons event from June 16-25 this year, normally it’s only available in eggs and/or raids. Remember that hatch/raid-level Hisuian Sneasel is at Level 20, and a Level 20 Sneasler just does not fit at 1500 or less CP. (Even a 1-1-1 or 0-0-0 would have to be Level 18.5!)
And I have even better news: Shadow Sneasler seems to be all-around better than regular Sneasler in Great League. Take THAT, shenaniganers! (I’m just making up all kinds of words today.) Potential new wins include Venusaur, Defense Deoxys, Sableye, Diggersby, Lickitung, and Lanturn (with either Spark or Water Gun)! You do give up a few things with Shadow Sneasler’s reduced bulk (Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Sandslash, Shadow Victreebel, and sometimes Vigoroth), but overall this is definitely an improvement.
Sneasler would be a pretty awesome addition to Halloween Cup almost exactly halfway through its two-week 2023 stint too. It similarly has tradeoffs, but is also again an overall advantage for Shadow over non-Shadow, with new wins of Tapu Fini, Tentacruel, Nidoqueen, Alolan Marowak, Sableye, Runerigus, Cofagrigus, and Charjabug, matched up against far fewer new losses (Alolan Ninetales, Hisuian Qwilfish, Zweilous, Shadow Mawile, and Incineroar). But again, of course, the real win will be the ability to use Sneasler at all.
(And yes, Shadow Hisuian Sneasel is a new thing too, obviously, but lacking the Shadow Claw that Sneasler comes with, it’s just not as exciting.)
I’ll likely do a more in-depth analysis sometime down the road, but as a teaser, yes, Shadow Sneasler is viable in Ultra League (though it’s more or less a mere sidegrade there) and maybe even for a bold Master League player (with Shadow adding wins versus Swampert, Garchomp, Palkia, and Ursaluna). Spicy! 🌶️
Now come ON, Niantic. Let’s unban this thing and let us Snease to our hearts’ delight! 🤧
So what’s it all mean, JRE? Shadow Haunter/Gengar are exciting, but this might be THE biggest winner of the event for PvPers. I’m excited… are you?
Shadow Chandelure, Whiscash, Excadrill and Rampardos: 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….Chandelure (Shadow) GhostFire
- CHANDELURE has made some noise at times in PvP. It is not something you can expect to run into often, and many times when you do, you have something in your lineup that can handle it, or you can just gang tackle it and take advantage of its Haunter-esque lack of bulk and snuff it out before it runs roughshod over your entire team. But it does always have that potential to wipe out an entire team. I’ll spare you a ton of sims, but I DID run many, and will use the “trust me, bro” defense when I simply sum them up by saying that Shadow is a downgrade in Great League (where the slashed bulk and lack of a bait move like Haunter’s Shadow Punch is just too much to overcome), an improvement in Ultra League (though still very iffy overall), and a very slight improvement in Master League (gains Lugia and Ursaluna, but again, still very iffy).
- I am very happy to report, however, that this is one of those rare cases where it is the base form, LITWICK, that stands to reap more benefits. Shadow Litwick picks up three very key wins: Walrein (for Little Cups where it’s allowed), Galarian Stunfisk, and the cursed ruler of any Little format where it appears: Bronzor. It will sometimes drop a Vulpix here or there, but overall, Litwick just became much more interesting in Little League formats, particularly with really good IVs (which adds on Obstagoon and sometimes Golbat too).
- WHISCASH has fallen on rather hard times, despite the buff to Mud Bomb. It’s always played second fiddle to Swampert, but now even Quagsire has surpassed it with the addition of its own Mud Bombs and soon-to-be Aqua Tail after the next Community Day. (Oh, how I look forward to that analysis next week!) And they both have Shadow versions too! Well now Whiscash finally gets to catch up a bit with its own Shadow version finally here… but does it matter? Not that much, as ShadowCash does very little to distinguish itself from regular Cash. There actually ARE a fair number of differences — Shadow uniquely beats things like Azumarill, Diggersby, Sableye, Vigoroth, Noctowl, and Swampert itself, while non-Shadow holds down Froslass, Charizard, CharmTales, Cofagrigus, and Shadow Swampert — but it mostly comes out in the wash.
- One I’ve already gotten questions about is EXCADRILL, as it’s a popular and disruptive option in Master League especially. At first glance, ShadowDrill looks like at least a viable sidegrade, trading away new losses to Gyarados, Yveltal, and Rayquaza to instead now beat Snorlax, Ursaluna, and Melmetal. But that’s in 1v1 shielding, and in other even shield scenarios, it loses ground. 2v2 shield drops Lugia and Ursaluna and gains only Melmetal, and with shields down the drop is severe: minus Altered Giratina, Lugia, Gyarados, Palkia, Rhyperior, and Garchomp, and plus only Metagross and Reshiram. Going to have to unfortunately call this a shaky sidegrade or even overall downgrade in Master League. However! In Great League, of all places, ShadowDrill looks like an overall upgrade over non-Shadow, with new wins versus Venusaur, Umbreon, Sableye, and Registeel in 1v1 shielding, and (in order) Cresselia, Froslass, Water Gun Lanturn, Mandibuzz, Pelipper, Swampert, and Galarian Stunfisk with shields down! Obviously G-Fisk will reign as the supreme option whenever both are available, but it’s nice to see that Shadow Excadrill can step up in metas where it’s available and Stunfisk (a popular spot ban target) is not.
While I have been analyzing PvP metas and Pokémon for five years and nearly 500 articles (this one here is #496!), I am most definitely NOT the PvE expert you’re looking for. But my friend and colleague u/Teban54 is, and his awesome PvE analysis on these Shadows is out for your edification. In very short summary: Shadow Rhyperior and Shadow Rampardos become your best Rock-type raiders, Shadow Excadrill (utilizing Scorching Sands) enters Shadow Garchomp territory in effectiveness, and Shadow Chandelure pulls up next to Reshiram in the top tier of Fires (and becomes a top, but not THE top, option among Ghost/Dark raiders). Highly recommend checking his analysis out!
But for now, it’s time to close this analysis out. Hopeful that it’s a help to you as you hunt and raid! Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with regular GO analysis nuggets or Patreon.
Thank you for sticking with me, dear readers, through now four hundred and ninety six analysis articles. Still planning out #500, but next up will be an analysis on the exciting Wooper double trouble Community Day. Woo-hoo!
Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and beware what lurks in the shadows! 🌑 Catch you next time.