Skarmory’s Big PvP Resurgence: Return Of The King

🎼 Guess who’s back? ♪ Back again? ♬ Skarm is back, ♫ Beat your friends!

So a week ago, I managed to crank out the big overview of the GBL Season 17 Move Rebalance. At the time, we didn’t have the final stats of a few moves… things like energy costs, energy generation, and buff/debuff chance percentages were still undisclosed until the season actually began. For the most part, I and other PvP prognosticators like PvPoke guessed these various changes correctly, as we’ve been through enough of these now to have a decent sense of what Niantic really means with their cryptic messages like “greater chance” and “energy generation increased”.

But if there’s one thing Niantic is consistent at… it’s inconsistency. 😝

And so while everyone was anticipating a welcome but mild buff of Steel Wing‘s energy generation from its former 2.5 Energy Per Turn (EPT) — resulting in 5 energy for every use — to 3.0 EPT/6 energy each, Niantic came out and shocked us all by going above and beyond our hopes. They instead increased the overall energy by 2, raising the former 2.5 EPT all the way up to 3.5. Combine that with Steel Wing’s already-underrated 3.5 Damage Per Turn (DPT), and… well, just look where it stacks up against other PvP fast moves now.

Fast Move DPT EPT Cooldown (Turns)
Incinerate 4.0 4.0 5
Counter 4.0 3.5 2
Dragon Tail 4.33 3.0 3
Steel Wing 3.5 3.5 2
Poison Jab 3.5 3.5 2

I’ve gone into fast move stats many times, but to reiterate… an average PvP fast move is going to come in around 6 when you add the DPT and EPT values together. Easy examples are moves like Water Gun, Lick, Tackle, Bug Bite and others that have exactly 3.0 DPT and 3.0 EPT. They’re solid, but unspectacular. The better, more desirable PvP moves are ones that exceed that overall “score” of 6. This can be achieved two ways:

  • High damage/low energy moves like Dragon Tail (4.33 DPT and still average energy generation of 3.0), Charm and Razor Leaf (5.0 DPT, only 2.0 EPT, but still a robust overall value of 7), or even more modest moves like Confusion, Gust, and Dragon Breath (4.0 DPT while holding fast at 3.0 EPT)
  • High energy/lower damage moves like Water Shuriken (only 2.0 DPT, but a whopping 4.66 EPT… no wonder Greninja is all over the place!), Shadow Claw and Volt Switch (3.0 DPT, 4.0 EPT), and even Double Kick (subpar 2.66 DPT, but an excellent 4.0 EPT).
  • There IS a third category of above average moves: those with DPT and EPT that both exceed the average. But these are exceedingly rare (and all listed in that little table above), and can be counted on one hand, even if that hand lost a digit to the propeller of an actual steel wing. 😏 Until this season, the undisputed frontrunner was Counter, with 33% more damage than the average AND 3.5 EPT. But now, your new leader is Incinerate, with a crazy 4.0 DPT and EPT, perhaps held back (barely) only by having the slowest windup in the game (a 5 turn cooldown, which equates to 2.5 real time seconds for just ONE fast move!).

And now, trailing only those two moves, comes the new and MUCH improved Steel Wing (and clone Poison Jab). THAT is how good this move is now, folks: a Top 5 (or even Top 3, depending on how you look at it) fast move in PvP.

Skarmory, the KING OF THE SKIES

Skarmory SteelFlying

So it’s particularly worth noting there is currently only one single Pokémon in GO that gets the nice 20% STAB (Same-Type Attack Bonus) damage on top of that 3.5 DPT: SKARMORY, the primary target of today’s analysis.

Skarm has been well known in PvP since the very beginning, as the only Steel/Flying Pokémon in the game (until Celesteela’s release in the later half of 2022, and it has really never held a candle to Skarm in PvP anyway) with Top 50 bulk/stat product (and easily Top 10 among Flying types, equivalent to Mantine and known Flying tank Noctowl).

Its Steel typing allows it to take merely neutral damage from Ice and Rock damage that clobber other Flyers, and combing with Skarm’s Flying subtyping, leave it with 10 resistances (Dragon, Fairy, Ground, Normal, Psychic, Steel, importantly other Flying damage, and double resistances to Grass, Poison, and Bug) stacked up against only two single-level weaknesses (Electric and Fire). Almost regardless of moves, Skarmory has so much going for it that it would be hard NOT to be great in PvP.

And for a long, LONG time, that was exactly the case. The meta was ever shifting over the years, but Skarmory and its simple Sky Attack/Brave Bird combo were a staple, typically powered by fast move Air Slash which isn’t a great move by any means (with the completely average 3.0 DPT/EPT, but an awkward three turn cooldown unlike Water Gun and Lick and Tackle and such that have a single move cooldown), but at least generated energy faster than at-the-time 2.5 EPT Steel Wing.

About the only time you could expect to see Steel Wing Skarm was in the much-maligned Flying Cup, where it became THE best counter to meta-warping Aerodactyl thanks to Steel preying on Aero’s Rock typing (whereas most other things in the meta dealt normal or often even resisted damage to the Flying Fossil Pokémon).

Sometimes a brave soul try to spice things up with Steel Wing and its more consistent straight damage output in other formats (it had some solid niche use if it could get locked in on a Fairy, Rock, or even Ice type that way), but that was uncommon at best. An all-Flying moveset was the gold standard, and Skarmory remained a gold standard staple in PvP for years.

But then came the Season of Adventures Abound. Despite shaking off one nerf to Sky Attack way back in Season 6 that dropped Sky Attack’s original 80 power down to 75, Season 16 brought a seemingly fatal blow by also raising Sky Attack’s cost from 45 energy to 50.

As a certain PvP analyst noted at the time:

“I think Skarmory might be toast in fully competitive play now, dropping things like Walrein, Sableye, Toxapex, and sometimes even Lickitung. And others like Diggersby, Dunsparce, Pelipper, Vigoroth, and especially Medicham get WAY too close for comfort now (Medi bringing Skarm into remaining HP in the single digits!). Even Venusaur can now hang in long enough to drag Skarm down to only about 40 remaining HP, and that’s about as favorable a matchup as Skarmory could hope for. And Shadow is even worse, actually losing to Medicham now, as one glaring example. A staple of PvP from the very beginning, the sun may finally be setting on Skarm.”

And indeed, its usage (and rank) dropped like a stone. Long at the core of many highly competitive teams, Skarmory became a sad shadow of its former self and may as well have been pictured on milk cartons at tournaments.

I still say it’s in large part due to the Sky Attack nerfs that Medicham remained completely dominant at such tournaments, with the absense of Skarm being particularly culpable as, unlike basically all other Flyers, Skarm takes merely neutral damage from Ice Punch and actually resists Psychic (the move). Skarm could still win, but as noted above, it suddenly became a real struggle.

But that was then… and this is now. 😱 Yes, that’s nearly TWICE the number of wins it achieved last season… though I suppose it is worth noting that that compares this season’s Steel Wing to Air Slash. For perhaps a fairer comparison, let’s look at last season’s Steel Wing versus the new Steel Wing.

Since I can’t really show sims with old stats, however, I plugged in last season’s 2.5 EPT Steel Wing versus this season’s 3.5 EPT Steel Wing (being very careful to make sure they were matched up against THIS season’s same set of opposing Pokémon), and have some nice little pictures of how that looks in Great League in 0shield2shield, and most impressively, the common 1shield scenarios.

  • 0S and 2S improve by a relatively modest (though still impressive) 6 wins, but in 1v1 shielding, Skarmory’s win percentage grows by over 20% with new wins over things like Medicham (with any moveset except Power-Up Punch {getting a bait} and Dynamic Punch), Defense Deoxys, Sableye, Shadow Alolan Sandslash (it could already beat non-Shadow, but that now becomes a much firmer win too), Vigoroth (yes, even with Rock Slide), Quagsire, Pelipper, Trevenant (Air Slash is a different story, but SW used to falter here), and more.
  • Other new wins include stuff like Lickitung, Umbreon, and Mantine (0shield and 2shield), Dewgong, Mandibuzz, and Shadow Swampert (in 0shield), and Gligar in 2shield. It’s a remarkable improvement across the board, with some massive names now moving into the win column.

Now of course, Skarmory still has some big blind spots. Water types resist Steel Wing, and Electric types resist Steel and Flying damage, so Waters like Poliwrath, Jellicent, Mud Boys (sometimes a win, sometimes a loss, but heck, even Whiscash can win without needing Blizzard… the new Scald does the job fine as long as Whis has one shield to hide behind) are all a problem, and Lanturn is, of course, as hopeless a battle as you can stumble into. (You lose even the 2-0 shield scenario!)

And Steel Wing is also resisted by Fire types, though they rather burn through Skarmory anyway, and are on the rise themselves with buffs to Incinerate and Fire Spin this season. Enemy Steel types resist all of Skarm’s move, so things like G-Fisk, Registeel, and Bastiodon are still insurmountable.

Skarmory can beat them in some scenarios, but big bulky bois like Mandibuzz, Umbreon, and Lickitung still have paths to victory. But beyond them… Skarmory can tangle with most everything else now. It’s even BETTER than it was in the past now, without a doubt.

And while we’re leaving Great League behind for a little while, Week 2 of this season returns to Ultra League, where I know many players built themselves a maxed out Skarmory and then openly wept last season as their investment was dashed to pieces. I am happy to report to you, dear players, that Skarm is back in Ultra too, and again seems better than it ever was in the past.

New win potential includes Trevenant, Gyarados, and Tapu FIni (all even shield scenarios), Virizion, Golisopod, and Swampert (1shield and 2shield), Walrein, DDeoxys, Guzzlord, and Obstagoon (0shield and 2shield), Toxicroak, Greninja, and Dragonite (1shield), and even Cobalion and Altered Giratina with shields down.

If anything, the improvement in performance is even MORE significant than it was in Great League. Skarmory was a little niche before, but I’d say it earns its place among the Ultra League meta now and is worth building if you’re able. Yes, dangers still abound — plenty of Fires, even more Electics and Steels than in Great League, and still many of the same bulky bois that outlast it — but Skarmory is looking mighty interesting in Ultra now. All this despite not even hitting 2400 CP, much less 2500!

And don’t expect to sneak in to Ultra or any other format and catch people unawares. The jig is up in Great League already, with Skarmory absolutely surging since the first day of the season.

GO Battle Log is perhaps even more telling, with Skarmory usage not even on the chart last season…

…but it already slides in behind only Lanturn and the buffed Azumarill (and ahead of that jerk Medicham 😝) in this young season…

…and is the second most trending Pokémon by their metrics (behind only Azumarill).

Additionally, the majority of comments I got on my analysis of the season’s move rebalance, both on Reddit and Twitter, were about Skarmory and how good it was going to be again this season, even before anything started trending anywhere.

Yeah, the secret’s out. I wish I could have published this a week ago. But now, perhaps, you have a better appreciation for HOW good Skarmory is now. I don’t think it’s even controversial at this point to say that, at least for this season (who knows what nerfs or meta shifts the future may hold), Skarmory is better than it has EVER been before.

The King has returned.


While Skarm deserves the long analysis above, and is undoubtedly the biggest beneficiary in (current) Pokémon GO, that’s not the end of the story for Steel Wing.


Dragonite DragonFlying

DRAGONITE learns Steel Wing, and while it’s okay enough with it in higher CP leagues, I don’t see how you can justify NOT running Dragon Breath (or at least Dragon Tail). Getting a little too cute, I think.


Pidgeot NormalFlying

One that looks like it may perform far better than I expected is PIDGEOT. I think I still slightly lean towards Wing Attack for Open play, but I have always lamented that Pidgeot comes with basically no coverage… Steel Wing is literally the ONLY non-Flying move in its entire arsenal. And now that it generates only slightly less energy than Wing Attack, suddenly Steel Wing is looking mighty impressive on Pidgeot. 👀

Without the sheer speed of Wing Attack, you do drop a tiny bit in performance with losses like Mandibuzz, Mantine, Cresselia, and new hotness Skarmory with shields down, Azu, Poliwrath, and Shadow Swampert in 1shield, and Poliwrath, Whiscash, Vigoroth, Pelipper, AND Shadow Gligar in 2shield.

But the gains are quite nice too: notable Ice types Alolan Ninetales in 1shield and 2shield, A-Slash in 1shield, and Froslass in 2shield, Clodsire and Umbreon with shields down, and Carbink in 1v1 and 2v2 shielding. Basically, you give up a little bit of Pidgeot’s versatility to suddenly clap back some of its formerly hardest counters. Ice and Rock types have legit reason to tread carefully where before they could farm like crazy without any fear. Pidgeot’s got a new trick up its slee–uh, wing.

I WILL note, however, that Wing Attack still remains overall better in Ultra League, where you give up more (Cobalion, Poliwrath, DDeoxys, Mandibuzz and the like) than you usually gain with Steel Wing (basically Alolan Ninetales and some fringe stuff). You likely WILL see Pidgeot during Ultra, but they should play out just like they did last season… with Wing Attack.

Talonflame and Ho-Oh

Both TALONFLAME and HO-OH learn Steel Wing, and MAYBE if this change had happened last season, it would have been interesting. But there is NO way you want to run anything other than the massively boosted Incinerate now. Maybe in some weird Limited meta, it will matter, but for now it’s safe to move on….


Fletchinder FireFlying

As a quick aside though, for what it’s worth, FLETCHINDER may actually prefer non-STAB Steel Wing now over STAB EmberMaybe. We’ll check again when Little League returns in a few weeks.


Togetic FairyFlying

There are players out there that have built up TOGETIC in Great League since it got Fairy Wind (and buffed Aerial Ace), and it’s looking like a smarter and smarter idea, really. But did you know it can learn Steel Wing too as a Legacy move, and it looks just as interesting with it? Add on some Steel Wing wins you probably expect at this point in the article (Carbink, Alolan Ninetales), some losses that also shouldn’t surprise at this point (Shadow Swampert, Whiscash, Mantine, Jellicent), and then the surprises: new wins versus Vigoroth, Shadow Quag, Shadow Gligar, and even Azumarill. Togetic lovers, rejoice!


Braviary NormalFlying

And finally, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Steel Wing BRAVIARY, as it has always been locked behind Air Slash as its best fast move (just like old Skarmory, for the most part), which was always no bueno. It got a little better with Fly for the same reason things are looking way up for Staraptor this season: it no longer has to run double debuffing moves for maximum viability. But it also benefits from the Steel Wing buff, yes, for everyone who has been asking. The problem is… it’s just still not very good, sorry. You’re still better off with the other Flyers mentioned above, or heck, even the Staraptor I just mentioned.


Corviknight SteelFlying

One final one to mention: CORVIKNIGHT. I have long looked forward to it as “budget Skarmory” for Ultra League, seeing as how it doesn’t have to anywhere near maxed out to hit 2500 CP, and even with all-Flying moves, performs better than Skarmory anyway, thanks in large part to having Drill Peck, a fantastic PvP move. But if you think THAT looks good, just wait until we get Corviknight with Steel Wing. Over a 75% winrate in Ultra, and the same in Great League? 🥵 ! I don’t think anything that has Steel Wing in the here and now will prompt a future nerf, but Niantic may address that before we get our new Steely Bird Overlord. Just something to keep in mind.


It was awkward to fit in my now-standard B.L.U.F. this time, so going with more of an old-fashioned TL;DR this time, let me say it once more for those in the back: with buffed Steel WingSkarmory is perhaps the biggest riser in this season’s Great League meta (heck, PvPoke has it Ranked #1 now, and understandbly so!), and its performance in Open — and upcoming Limited — metas more than justifies it. This might be the best Skarmory has ever been. Enjoy the ride this season, folks!

Other Steel Wing users that may actually want it include Pidgeot (allowing it to directly address several notable Rock and Ice types without much of a dropoff in performance at all) and Togetic in Great League, and perhaps Fletchinder in Little League.

Got all that? Good, because it’s time to wrap up what was supposed to be a short analysis! Whoops. How does this always happen?! 😅

Alright folks, hope this was insightful, and good luck in Ultra League if you’re venturing into it this week! Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with regular GO analysis nuggets or Patreon.

Stay safe out there, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

Author & tags

PoGO/PvP Investigative Journalist, GO Hub and Silph Arena/Road Contributor, amateur cook, author of 'Nifty Or Thrifty' and 'Under The Lights' article series and #PvPfacts!

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