Ultra Beasts Inbound! A PvP Analysis on Blacephalon, Stakataka, and Naganadel

We got reports of more Ultra Beasts ripping through portals into our communities, folks! As the header image asks, how do they stack up in PvP? Worth grinding for? Well, let’s let our Bottom Line Up Front answer that and then get into the deets. Here we go!


  • Let’s not string this out: Blacephalon and Stakataka both enter the game too late to likely overtake other options already in use in PvP, and even big hyped-all-season Naganadel fails to overcome the one other Poisonous Dragon we already have.
  • Blacephalon may have the most promise of the three, as it’s roughly on the same level as Chandelure, which sounds good until you consider other Ghostly Fires like Skeledirge and Alolan Marowak in front of it, and that’s not to even mention the other Incinerate users out there too. If I were to consider building one of these up, Blacephalon would probably be it… but it’s far from necessary.
  • Stakataka is basically a worse Aggron, not to even mention stuff like Bastiodon and Probopass (if Staka ever becomes Great League eligible). Awesome design, but it is otherwise very flawed.
  • Naganadel has been teased for months now, but its typing and moves leave much to be desired. It doesn’t really have a place in PvP, and where eligible, Dragalge is flat out better.

Well isn’t ol’ JRE just a ray of sunshine! Sorry about that, just telling it like it is. If you’re still here after THAT rainy intro, come with me as we examine the facts and figures.

BLACEPHALON Stats and Moves

Blacephalon FireGhost

Ultra League Stats

Attack Defense HP
227 (224 High Stat Product) 115 (114 High Stat Product) 106 (109 High Stat Product)

(Highest Stat Product IVs {Best Friend Trade}: 5-14-14, 2496 CP, Level 27.5)

Master League Stats

Attack Defense HP
277 137 131

(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs; CP 3727 at Level 50)

We’ve had several Fiery Ghosts in the game already — Skeledirge, Alolan Marowak, Chandelure among them and all with a history of PvP success — but I think many still don’t understand how good a typing combination Fire and Ghost is. Yes, there are single-level weaknesses to Water, Ground, Rock, Dark, and Ghost, but look at all the resistances! There are nine of them, in fact: Fairy, Fire, Grass, Ice, Poison, Steel, and 2x resistances to Normal, Fighting, and Bug damage.

That strong overall defensive typing is certainly noticable with Skeledirge and Alolan Marowak, who have good bulk to go with it. But on the other end, we have Chandelure with poor bulk… and now Blacephalon which makes Chandelure look downright tanky in comparison. In Ultra League, Chandelure has about 13 more HP, and over 20 more Defense. In Master League, it’s “only” 11 more HP, but nearly 30 more Defense. Blacephalon’s overall stat product is so low that it doesn’t even make the list in Ultra League when sorting by stat product, putting it outside the top 700! This thing is made of wet tissue paper, folks. And I mean the single ply kind you find in the bathrooms of cheap restaurants, government buildings, and most middle schools. 🚽

Fast Moves

  • IncinerateFire type, 4.0 DPT, 4.0 EPT, 2.5 CoolDown
  • Astonish – Ghost type, 3.0 DPT, 3.33 EPT, 1.5 CD

Yes, Astonish is a better move these days, finally viable! But you know that given this choice, it HAS to be Incinerate. It’s a little awkward to use with that longest-in-the-game cooldown, but I mean, it’s 4.0 DPT and 4.0 EPT. It’s an abusive fast move that can shred things without even needing charge moves in many circumstances.

But of course, we DO have charge moves to consider, so let’s get right to them.

Charge Moves

  • Mystical FireFire type, 60 damage, 45 energy, Reduces Opponent Attack -1 Stage
  • Shadow BallGhost type, 100 damage, 55 energy
  • OverheatFire type, 130 damage, 55 energy, Reduces User Attack -2 Stages

Been a little while since we got a new Pokémon with only three charge moves, eh? We’re long past the days when that was the norm!

All three can work too, though considering Blacephalon’s glassy nature, you probably ALWAYS want Mystical Fire slotted in. Not only does its lower cost allow your best shot at stringing multiple charge moves together, but the nerf to the opponent’s Attack power means you’re essentially propping up Blace’s awful (complete lack of) bulk.

I can absolutely see the case for Overheat as charge move #2, and I won’t say it’s wrong. I am sure there are cases where it will gets wins that Shadow Ball cannot. But Shadow Ball, of course, provides great coverage and comes with no drawback at all. And when you’re sporting more Attack power than even things like Mewtwo, Thundurus, and Hoopa Unbound, does the lower on-paper damage of Shadow Ball REALLY matter, especially considering that Incincerate has already softened targets up first? Again, if you wanna run Overheat instead, go for it. But for my money, it’s Shadow Ball or bust, and I will be using it in most sims below.


Normally I’d break down the sims by League, but this is going to be relatively quick, so I’m just going to kind of mush it all together.

Because there’s a big problem Blacephalon has, and its name is Chandelure.

No, they’re not exactly the same. Both run off of Incinerate and Shadow Ball, but Chandie comes with the 50-energy Flame Charge that buffs its own Attack, while Blace comes with the 45-energy Mystical Fire that instead slashes the opponent’s Attack. Blace, in may ways, should have the advantage with 45 energy nicely setting up the 55-energy Shadow Ball (or Overheat). But for the most part, that’s just not the case.

Let’s start with the best realm for most big Legendaries/Mythicals/Ultra Beasts like this: Master League. Chandelure isn’t great, but Blacephalon is no better. There ARE differences — Blace beats Excadrill and Zacian, and Chandie instead overcomes Dialga and Ursaluna — but they’re basically the same.

And actually, that’s not even true. Chandelure has more upside… as a Shadow. It’s able to beat Excadrill too, leaving Zacian as Blacephalon’s only unique win, and manages to overcome Ursaluna, Snorlax, Yveltal, and Ho-Oh too. Speaking of which, it’s worth a reminder that Ho-Oh blows BOTH Chandelure and Blacephalon away, beating everything they can except Lugia, and carving out half a dozen wins that neither Ghostly Incinerate users can replicate.

Maybe Ultra League is kinder to Blacephalon?

At first, the comparison between Blace and Chandie looks favorable for Blacephalon, with a loss to Gliscor that Chandelure can beat, but exclusive wins versus Talonflame, Skeledirge, and even Tentacruel. But the Chandelure you want to be using in Ultra League is ShadowLure, and now Blacephalon is no better than a sidegrade, beating Talonflame, Skeledirge, and DDeoxys while Shadow Chandie instead takes down Pidgeot, Toxicroak, and Trevenant. Thanks to Mystical Fire, Blace does pull ahead a bit in 2v2 shielding, taking down Pidgeot, Poliwrath, Obstagoon, and DDeoxys (while ShadowLure instead has only Trevenant and Ampharos as unique wins), but with shields down, Shadow Chandelure is ALL upside, beating everything Blacephalon can PLUS Walrein, DDeoxys, and Altered Giratina (with Dragon Breath, that is).

And of course, they both still mostly pale in comparison to other established Fire types like TalonflameCharizard, and fellow Ghostly Fire type Skeledirge. All of those are just better and more versatile, and of course are available in Premier formats whereas Blacephalon would be on the outside looking in, making it an even shakier investment in my eyes.

So where does that leave us? I think there’s enough good going on to say that building up a Blacephalon for PvP is not a waste, but I think it’s probably fair to say that it’s unnecessary, and it arrives to GO behind several other, better options that exist in the game already. When even Chandelure is pacing or outright outclassing you, that’s not a great place to be.

STAKATAKA Stats and Moves

Stakataka RockSteel

Ultra League Stats

Attack Defense HP
154 (154 High Stat Product) 218 (219 High Stat Product) 120 (120 High Stat Product)

(Highest Stat Product IVs {Best Friend Trade}: 5-12-14, 2500 CP, Level 28)

Master League Stats

Attack Defense HP
192 263 143

(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs; CP 3724 at Level 50)

So if you’re wondering why no Great League stats here (or with Blacephalon, for that matter), the reason is simple: as they’re coming to us in raids, there’s simply no way to get them to 1500 CP or less. If that changes in the future, I’ll take another look, though I can tell you now that they’re not great even in that League. We’ll get to that on Stakataka more specifically in a bit.

The typing is well-worn territory, as others like Bastiodon and Probopass share the same Rock/Steel combo. It resists quite a bit: Dragon, Fairy, Ice, Psychic, and Rock, 2x resistances to Flying and Normal damage, and a 3x resistance to Poison. However, it also carries some well-known weaknesses, first to Water, but also double vulnerabilities to both Fighting and Ground, the banes of Bastiodon. All of that translates to Stakataka as well…

…but the bulk does not. Bastiodon is obviously one of the bulkiest ‘mons in PvP (trailing only evil incernate Chansey in Great League), and Probopass ain’t bad either, being within the Top 20 in bulk in GL, ahead of things like Lickitung, Steelix, Defense Deoxys, the Stunfisks, Araquanid, Alomomola and many more. Stakataka trails far behind them, having bulk more in alignment with things like Drifblim, Goodra, and Cloyster… not bad at all, but a BIG dropoff from the Bastiodons and even Probopasses of the world.

Cloyster is actually a very close comp, with nearly identical Attack, lowish HP, but HUGE Defense… Stakataka is in the Top 30 in Defense in Great League (or would be if it could fit there, of course) and Top 20 in Ultra League. So this isn’t a matter of being glassy like Blacephalon, just a noticeable drop from other Rocky Steels already performing in PvP.

Fast Moves

  • Rock ThrowRock type, 4.0 DPT, 2.5 EPT, 1.0 CoolDown
  • Take DownNormal type, 1.66 DPT, 2.66 EPT, 1.5 CD

Here comes another difference, and another wedge between Staka and the established Rock/Steel types. While Bastiodon (and even Aggron) get to run with Smack Down, Stakataka is stuck with Rock Throw, which deals the same damage as Smack Down but generates less energy. (2.5 EPT as opposed to Smack Down’s 2.66.) Probopass is also saddled with the inferior Rock Throw, though you’ll often find it running Spark instead for superior energy generation. Staka, however, doesn’t have a second fast move it can even run, with Take Down continuing to be inexplicably AWFUL in PvP. It’s Rock Throw or bust here!

Charge Moves

  • Stone EdgeRock type, 100 damage, 55 energy
  • BulldozeGround type, 80 damage, 60 energy
  • Flash CannonSteel type, 110 damage, 70 energy

Yay, just three charge moves again. But uh… here again we have unfavorable comparisons with the other Rocky Steels. Bastiodon at least gets Flamethrower for good (and affordable, at 55 energy) coverage. Probopass has a variety of intriguing charge moves across several typings. Even Aggron gets the same Stone Edge Bastie and Staka do, with some pretty awesome second move choices (Heavy Slam or Thunder for affordable-enough coverage, Rock Tomb for debuffing hijinks, or Meteor Beam for a great boomstick). Stakataka still gets Stone Edge, but after that? Ew. Flash Cannon isn’t a bad move, but you usually only see it with Registeel (and only rarely these days) or Ferrothorn, both of whom have great energy generation to bring it to bear early and often. The synergy between a 70-energy charge move and a 2.5 EPT fast move is… awkward, at best. Even the 60 energy for Bulldoze can be a stretch, especially considering how little damage it deals for that cost. And again a reminder that you’re talking noticeably less bulk here than with Bastiodon or Probopass, so that means less breathing room to rush to a big expensive charge move in the first place.

Add it all up, and a (theoretical, for now) Stakataka in Great League badly trails both Bastiodon and Probopass. Like, it’s not even close, with those two beating everything Staka can and adding a ton of new wins on top of it.

It’s so bad that even in Ultra League, where Probopass doesn’t even hit 2500 CP, it still dances circles around poor Stakataka. Laughingstock Aggron dunks on it even harder, beating everything Staka can and adding on Cresselia, Guzzlord, Umbreon, and Altered Giratina. This is AGGRON we’re talking about. I mean… ouch.

Even in Master League, where Stakataka exceeds Aggron by over 300 CP (and all other Steely Rocks all fall completely away), it doesn’t pull ahead, losing to things like Yveltal and Altered Giratina that Aggron can beat. About the only thing it really does better than Aggron is beating Reshiram in 1shield, Zekrom in 0shield, and Mewtwo (without Focus Blast, anyway) in 2shield. Otherwise, Aggron is at least the same, if not better, and costs significantly less. Remember that Aggron’s second move is only 10,000 stardust (as opposed to 100,000 for Staka) and the required XL Candy to max it out is something you may already have on hand. Or back in Ultra League level, of course, no XL is required at all and Aggron puts in a notably superior performance.

In short: barring a major move shakeup… heck, even that may not help! I don’t see a great path forward for Stakataka, if I’m being honest. The territory it wants to occupy is filled with far better and far more established options, even more so than Blacephalon trying to break into the Fire/Ghost niche. I don’t see a great reason to burn resources on it, which is a shame as its design is pretty dang cool.

That just leaves one….


Naganadel PoisonDragon

In the interest of time — and the fact that many analyses have already come out on Naganadel over the course of the season with POIPOLE being here for nearly three months now — I’m going to skip the full list of stats and moves and just cut to the chase.

What I will say by means of introduction is… it’s hard to figure out what Naganadel is supposed to be doing for you in PvP. It has good Poison moves, but one of the primary purposes of Poison is to slay Fairies, and it’s shaky there with its Dragon side making Fairy damage neutral instead of resisted… so while it can and does generally win those matchups, it takes quite a pounding in the process. It’s also a Dragon that is still weak to Dragon damage, as well as Ground and Psychic damage that are prevalent in Master League especially.

None of this is helped by the fact that it’s quite glassy. Not quite on Blacephalon levels, but way behind other established Poisons like the Muks, the Nidos, the Bats, the Dark/Poisons, fellow Ultra Beast Nihilego, and even things known for their glassiness like Roserade, Victreebel, and Sneasler.

Add it all up, and even with Naganadel being eligible in Great League (thanks to Poipole being a research reward, and thus at Level 15), it seems to be dead on arrival. It can beat a handful of Water, Electric, and Grass types thanks mostly to resistances (Water, Electric, Grass, and Fire on its Dragon side, and Poison, Fighting, Bug, and Grass again on its Poison side), but that’s really about it. At this level, it even loses to the big name Fairies! There’s not a ton of competition for the Poisonous Dragon niche, but the one that IS in place already, Dragalge, remains far better. And that goes for Ultra League as well, where Dragalge is close to full-on meta, but Naganadel just stinks up the joint. And no, running alternative charge moves like Dragon Pulse or Acrobatics (as opposed to the normally-recommended Sludge Bombdoes not help at all either.

Even in Master League, where Naganadel has a stranglehold on the Poisonous Dragon niche, there’s just not much it can do. It beats several of the Fairies, albeit in a war of attrition, as well as Kyogre, Zarude (for rather obvious reasons), and sometimes Yveltal. But that’s it. I mean, what do you want it for? Nihilego gets TWICE as many wins and practically nobody runs that. Do I suspect some brave soul will try out Naganadel in Master League anyway? Of course they will. But I also suspect they will immediately regret their life choices. This is just not a Pokémon poised (poipoised?) for PvP success. Dragalge can kinda sorta pull it off with FAR better bulk and a bait move that actually deals decent enough damage and provides some coverage (Aqua Tail) as opposed to Naganadel’s low-power Fell Stinger. Yes, Stinger makes each subsequent Poison Jab hurt more, but is it likely to live long enough to really capitalize on that? I’m not betting on it.

And in my opinion, neither should you, dear reader. Get it for the collection, maybe for PvE, and then invest your time and resources into something better instead. Like maybe the Necrozma Fusions coming up in my next analysis article…. 👀

Alright, that’s it for today. Wish it was better news, but hey… at least now you know, right?

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with regular GO analysis nuggets or Patreon.

Happy raiding, folks! 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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