The “Under The Lights” article series provides some deeper dives on Pokémon of particular interest in PvP. Today, that means expanding on my last major article with a special spotlight analysis on the original Pokemon big bird. That’s right, it’s time to put Pidgeot and its various fast moves… under the lights.
So after being forced to sit on the sideline all of last GBL season, Pidgeot is back in Season 9. Yes, it got nerfed a little bit, but it’s still very potent and very, very popular right now. So much so that out of everything from the recent move rebalance, from Weather Ball nerf to Megahorn’s big buff to Cofagrigus rising from the grave and everything in between, the #1 thing people pinged me on in replies to my rebalance article and in DMs in the days since has been on Pidgeot.
How good is it really? (Is it truly worthy of the title of Birb Jesus?!) Is it worth building for Ultra League? And the most common questions: what fast move should I use my Elite TM on? Can I even get away with NOT using an eTM?
I could do an article twice this length on ALL the various move combinations of Pidgeot, but I want to hit at the heart of these questions with a more direct analysis. So I’ll be looking to answer those big three questions:
- Is Pidgeot really THAT good?
- Is Pidgeot worth it for Ultra League?
- What fast move is “best” on Pidgeot, or do more than one have merit?
Let’s do this!
Great League Stats
|117 (115 High Stat Product)||114 (117 High Stat Product)||143 (145 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-14-14, 1498 CP, Level 27)
Ultra League Stats
|143 (152 at Level 50)||134 (142 at Level 50)||165 (176 at Level 50)|
(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs: CP 2129 at Level 40 / CP 2407 at Level 50)
Yes, this is mainly going to be a moveset analysis, but some quick notes on the stats and typing first:
- Pidgeot is reasonably bulky, with nearly identical stats to Golbat (Golbat has, on average, 1-2 more Attack and 3ish less HP than Pidge) and Abomasnow (Pidge has roughly 1 less Attack and 2 more Defense) and is slightly bulkier than things like Drifblim, Mew, Nidoqueen, Venusaur, Talonflame, and Vigoroth, and slightly less bulky than stuff like Obstagoon, Politoed, and Sableye. (all in GL for easier comparisons). They’re all in the same neighborhood, depending on IV spreads, and that’s not bad company to stand among.
- Normal/Flying is one of the most common type combinations in the entire franchise, but people still get tripped up sometimes on what that means as far as vulnerabilities and resistances. Let’s make this really simple: Flying types are vulnberable to Electric, Ice, and Rock damage, and resist Bug, Fighting, and Grass and double resist Ground. Pidgeot’s Normal subtyping is weak to Fighting and double resists Ghost, so take that list from above and move Fighting damage to neutral and replace it with the double Ghost resistance… and you’re done! To review, that means Pidgeot is weak to Electric, Ice, and Rock like most other Flyers, and resists Bug, Grass, and double resists Ground (again, like most other Flyers), with the only big change being Fighting is neutral, and Ghost is double resisted. Keep those last two especially in mind as we move forward.
Those are the important highlights. And now, to the moves!
- Gustᴸ – type, 4.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 2.0 CoolDown
- Wing Attackᴸ – type, 2.5 DPT, 3.5 EPT, 1.0 CD
- Air Slash – type, 3.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.5 CD)
- Steel Wing – Steel type, 3.5 DPT, 2.5 EPT, 1.0 CD
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Okay, here we go: ALL three Flying fast moves are viable. Yes, even Air Slash. You don’t HAVE to burn an Elite TM for Gust or Wing Attack if you don’t want to, and Pidgeot will still be a very potent PvP Pokemon. I want to stress that point up front, because it’s also the main impression I hope to build the case for with the rest of this article.
Now, that all said, Gust and Wing Attack ARE better moves, and you’ll see end up with slightly better results in PvP. Gust is, on paper, strictly superior to Air Slash, but it can be awkward to use in battle because of its very long cooldown.
It’s possible for the opponent to outrace you to a charge move or an extra fast move or two that sims won’t necessarily show because, in the actual heat of battle, you’re sitting there waiting for Gust’s animation and damage to finish registering while hammering away at the screen (presumably on the button to fire off a charge move) as the opponent beats you to the punch.
Conversely, sneaking in an “extra” Gust under the opponent’s charge move can sometimes flip things heavily in your own favor, as the damage and energy gain from that slow-to-windup Gust essentially “for free” can have a massive impact. Double edged sword.
Air Slash is outclassed by Gust on paper but has the advantage of lower cooldown time, making it a bit easier to use. And of course, it’s the only Flying fast move currently available on Pidge, so it’s the easiest to acquire on newly-built Pidgeots.
Wing Attack is the (comparatively) high energy move of the group. 3.5 Energy Per Turn isn’t anything crazy, but it IS noticably superior than Slash and Gust at racing to charge moves, and has been a fantastic PvP move on things like Golbat, Mantine, Gliscor/Gligar, and (Legacy) Charizard in multiple leagues.
And it’s also the move that really prompted this article in the first place, as my recent PvP analysis on the GBL Season 9 rebalance covered (among many other topics) Pidgeot’s return to GBL and the slight nerf to charge move Feather Dance.
In my analysis I looked at the most common Pidgeot: ones running Gust. Replies and DMs then blew up with questions on Wing Attack and even Air Slash as alternatives… and so here we are!
The one move nobody brings up is Steel Wing, and it’s understandable why. It’s actually NOT a bad move — you may recall Skarmory was very successful with it in Flyinf Cup and such in the past — just the inverse of Wing Attack with DPT and EPT literally swapped. The problem is that it lacks STAB and with its lower-than-other-options EPT, it kind of works against what Pidgeot wants to do. It’s on the outside looking in for this analysis.
- Charge Moves
- Aerial Ace – type, 55 damage, 45 energy)
- Feather Dance – type, 35 damage, 50 energy, Decreases Opponent Attack -2 Stages)
- Air Cutterᴸ – type, 60 damage, 55 energy)
- Brave Bird – type, 130 damage, 55 energy, Decreases Self Defense -3 Stages)
- Hurricane – type, 110 damage, 65 energy)
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Name a non-Sky Attack Flying move off the top of your head, and Pidgeot likely has it! The only Flying charge moves it lacks are Sky Attack and the rare Drill Peck and Fly. (Well, and Aeroblast, but that’s a special one just for Lugia.) As for the rest that it DOES have in its arsenal:
- Air Cutter is horrible. I keep expecting Niantic to buff it one day, as it’s exactly the kind of move you’d figure they’d suddenly make relevant, but it keeps being ignored. Until and unless it gets tweaked, nothing that has it wants to use it, and that goes double for Pidgeot.
- Aerial Ace is not much better, really… but it’s at least a viable, if extremely dull, charge move in PvP. Specifically with Pidgeot, it is now its cheapest charge move, and that can matter.
- Feather Dance is exclusive to Pidgeot (for now, at least), and of course comes with a devastating debuff that triggers 100% of the time it’s used. It used to cost the same low 45 energy as Ace, making it a fantastic bait move as well, but with its increased cost that’s a little trickier now. I’ll briefly review how that changed things for Wing Attack (and re-review what it does for Gust) shortly.
- Brave Bird and Hurricane are obviously the closers. BB comes much earlier and hits harder but comes with its own risk, as Pidgeot becomes very vulnerable after using it. Hurricane is much safer but costs 10 more energy and hits for 20 less damage, and is generally less preferred.
So first let’s knock out the big differences that came with the nerf to Feather Dance. I already mentioned how Gust was affected in the rebalance article, but to quickly review (and pluck those sections from the other article):
- In Great League, Pidgeot with 50-energy Feather Dance loses to Sylveon (which it used to be able to beat by firing off two Feather Dances, but it never reaches the second one now), and loses to a savvy Obstagoon that baits with a Night Slash and then closes it out with a follow-up Gunk Shot. That maneuver used to fall short as Pidgeot could reach a KO Brave Bird before it was too late, but now Pidgeot dies with 51 of the needed 55 energy for Brave Bird at the end, thanks entirely to 5 more energy going to the initial Feather Dance instead.
- In Ultra League, there is also a very slight drop, with Dragonite now slipping away. As with Sylveon in GL, this is because Pidgeot could win previously with two Feather Dances, but now, it falls maddeningly short (just 4 energy short!) of reaching a second and dies just before it gets there.
That’s really it, though… Gust Pidgeot is still left with a fantastic win rate versus the Great League (68%) and Ultra League (72%!) established metas, and it’s still a beast that will only rise in usage from here.
But how did the change affect Wing Attack? Let’s look!
- With shields down, there is only one new loss for WA/FD/BB Pidgeot after the cost of Dance was increased. In 0v0 shielding, Pidgeot used to beat Talonflame by firing two Dances, the first of which would enable it to survive Talon’s Brave Bird, and the second of which would finish Talon off. Now Pidgeot cannot do that, having only 49 energy when Talon is able to fire off Brave Bird for the (now non-nerfed) KO.
- However, even that loss is somewhat compensated for. In 0v0 shielding, WA Pidgeot and Gust Pidgeot used to both reach first charge move at the same time (BB for WA, FD for Gust). Now Gust cannot reach even FD before WA reaches BB for the blowout win. (Always was a win for WA, but that win is HUGE now.)
- In 1v1 shielding there are a trio of relevant new losses: Azumarill, Abomasnow, and Toxicroak. WA Pidgeot used to be able to fire off two Dances and one Brave Bird to beat Azu, but now dies with 49 energy towards the second and final Dance. Pidgeot used to beat Abomasnow by reaching two Dances before Aboma reaches three Weather Balls. But now, Pidgeot must win CMP to beat Aboma to the third WB, otherwise Aboma wins. Because of this, Pidgeot with decently high Attack IV still wins this in a race to that last charge move. And finally, versus Toxicroak, Pidgeot now dies if Toxi lands the Sludge Bomb… Pidgeot cannot reach a second charge move in time to survive. Obviously, it was previously able to reach two Feather Dances, but now just one.
- And in Ultra League, Pidgeot used to beat Umbreon in 1v1 shielding, but now cannot… if the Umbreon player is savvy. Pidgeot used to be able to reach 3 FD and 1 BB before Umbreon could reach Psychic or Last Resort (after a series of Foul Plays), with Umbreon falling short at 54 energy. (If Umbreon goes straight Foul Play, Pidgeot still wins with 2 HP… Last Resort or Psychic both deal 3 more damage than Foul Play, and that 3 HP makes all the difference.) Now if things go the same way, it is now Pidgeot that is left short, at 48 energy, 2 short of the last FD it needs to win. This one could swing either way depending on IVs, timing of charge moves, shielding decisons, and of course lag, but it’s much closer now than it used to be with 45-energy Feather Dance.
In Ultra League 0v0 shielding, by the way, I didn’t see any notable win/loss changes, so I’d say that WA Pidgeot handled the Dance nerf much better in Ultra than in Great League.
Moveset Analysis: Great League
So all that out of the way, where does Wing Attack Pidge stand now? Well in Great League, at least on the surface, it appears to actually be BETTER than even Gust in both 1v1 shielding (compared to Gust) and with shields down (again, as compared to 0v0 Gust). Conversely, in Ultra League it would appear that it is Gust that is slightly but consistently superior overall to Wing Attack. So what’s going on here?
Well, let’s start this as simple as possible: with some table results of what Gust, Wing Attack, and even Air Slash are able to beat in different shielding scenarios.
Let’s start in Great League with the common 1v1 shielding scenarios. Before we get into the differences, here is what ALL three of those fast moves can beat, one on one, when utilizing Feather Dance and Brave Bird as the charge moves:
Chesnaught, Clefable, Cofagrigus, DDeoxys, Diggersby, Drifblim, Ferrothorn, Haunter, Hypno, Jellicent, Lapras, Mandibuzz, A-Marowak, Medicham, Meganium, Munchlax, Pelipper, Politoed, Sableye, Serperior, Shiftry, Swampert, Tropius, Umbreon, Venusaur, S-Victreebel, Whiscash, and Wigglytuff.
I want to specifically point out all those Ghosts! Pidgeot’s Normal typing really saves it here, as even those with charge moves that deal big neutral or even super effective damage to Pidge (Jellicent with Ice Beam, Drifblim with Icy Wind, Haunter with Sludge Bomb, etc.) just can’t outrace it with all their Ghost damage being so ineffective.
Admittedly, some of these rely on Pidgeot getting a shield bait with Feather Dance and then closing it out with Brave Bird (though Pidgeot CAN still do quite well sticking with just Feather Dance too 👀), but the Ghosts are pretty solid wins thanks simply to that Normal typing , with no other fancy tricks required.
And note that, despite taking neutral damage from Fighters rather than resisting, it still handles (nearly) all of them fine as well, even Medicham with its scary Ice Punch/Psychic combo.
And as a reminder, all the above wins come even with lowly Air Slash, which should put to bed any questions about whether or not non-Legacy Pidgeot can be viable in PvP!
But there ARE several differences to note. Here they are:
|Pokémon Opponent (1S)||Air Slash Pidge||Gust Pidge||Wing Attack Pidge|
- Heavier fast move damage from Gust and Air Slash are the most reliable way to overcome Toxicroak, Altatria, and Azumarill.
- Faster energy generation from Wing Attack is the reliable way to outrace things with scary damage from charge moves, like Shadow Hypno, Sylveon, Vigoroth, and Obstagoon.
- Only Cresselia, Shadow Hypno, Obstagoon, Scrafty, Skarmory, Sylveon, and Vigoroth require one of the two Legacy moves. Air Slash can beat everything else on the lists above. And with great PvP IVs, even Air Slash can still overcome Shadow Hypno and Sylveon too. Again, to reiterate: while it’s a little bit worse, Air Slash Pidgeot is perfectly viable in PvP.
Now, that said, Air Slash does start lagging behind a little more with shields down:
|Pokémon Opponent (0S)||Air Slash Pidge||Gust Pidge||Wing Attack Pidge|
- Some 1v1 trends turned on their head: Toxicroak, Obstagoon, Shadow Hypno, and Altaria are completely opposite what they were before. In 1v1, those fell to higher fast move damage, whereas here, Gust and Air Slash lose and it is instead the energy race with Wing Attack that wins the day.
- Wing Attack also uniquely outraces CharmTales (preventing it from reaching that critical Ice Weather Ball), Pelipper (preventing it from reaching enough energy for Hurricane), and Swampert (limiting Swampy to one Hydro Cannon). And one I didn’t mention in 1v1 but will definitely mention now: Wing Attack consistently beats Skarmory, which is pretty amazing. In 0v0 shielding it reaches two charge moves to Skarmory’s one, and in 1v1 shielding, WA Pidge reaches three charge moves to Skarmory’s two. Gust and Air Slash cannot replicate these unless they already have a decent amonnt of energy built up. I would dare say that the Skarmory wins are Wing Attack’s most prominent, signature wins.
- Gust stands out most by beating tanks Drifblim, Umbreon, and Mandibuzz. Versus Blim, the combination of Gust damage and a single Brave Bird combine to finish Drifblim off before it can reach a second charge move, while Air Slash and Wing Attack both allow Blim to reach a second Icy Wind and slip away. Similarly, Mandibuzz and Umbreon each reach three charge moves against WA and AS, but Gust deals enough cumulative fast move damage to finish off Mandi and Umbry after they reach only two charge moves.
- As I mentioned, Air Slash falls a bit short here, but it still does enough to work in a pinch.
And now, let’s do the same dance in Ultra League!
Moveset Analysis: Ultra League
In 1v1 shielding at UL level, all three Flying fast moves (again paired with Feather Dance and Brave Bird) take out the following:
Fire Spin Charizard, Clefable, Cofagrigus, Escavalier, Ferrothorn, Gallade, Gengar, Origin Giratina, Granbull, Greedent, Gyarados, Jellicent, Meganium, Armored Mewtwo, Alolan Muk, Charm A-Ninetales, Politoed, Shadow Politoed, Poliwrath, Scizor, Sirfetch’d, Snorlax, Shadow Snorlax, Swampert, Sylveon, Togekiss, Toxicroak, Venusaur… and a partridge in a pear tree!
And the main differences, again in 1v1 shielding first:
|Pokémon Opponent (1S)||Air Slash Pidge||Gust Pidge||Wing Attack Pidge|
- Air Slash takes a tumble again. It still gives Pidgeot a winning record and is still viable, but with no real path to victory over staples like Altered Giratina, Machamp, Skarmory, Umbreon, Nidoqueen, Drifblim and a host of others, I think if you’re going to invest in a Level 50 Pidgeot, you may as well eat an Elite TM too to get it one of the Legacy fast moves. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?
- Wing Attack again excels at outracing high power and/or spammy things before they can land their killing blows, including Dragonite, Dragon wannabe Charizard (with Dragon Breath), Talonflame, Lugia and others.
- Gust has the best overall record at this level, with some key wins only it can achieve like Dragon Breath Giratina, Lapras, Shadow Machamp, Nidoqueen, and Umbreon. As in Great League, these are mostly in situations where only the combination of its high damage output and some help from charge moves are enough to land the killing blow in time.
And finally, with shields down:
|Pokémon Opponent (0S)||Air Slash Pidge||Gust Pidge||Wing Attack Pidge|
|Alolan Muk (Snarl)||Loss||Win||Loss|
|Alolan Muk (PJ)||Loss||Win||Loss|
- The fact that Air Slash cannot beat Machamp, Shadow Snorlax, Politoed (with Earthquake, no less) or even Origin Giratina is pretty damning. Again, if you build a Pidgeot for Ultra League, the Elite Fast TM is worth it.
- Wing Attack does its thing by outracing Abomasnow, DB Zard, Galvantula, Ferrothorn, Obstagoon, Gallade, Shadow Nidoqueen, Swampert and more.
- And Gust does its thing by outslugging the Charmers, regular Nidoqueen, Shadow Machamp, Lugia, Altered Giratina and more.
One more note before we wrap things up. I did NOT post all the results of 2v2 shielding, partly because it’s a scenario I don’t put as much stock in (it is, by far, the least common and also least helpful even-shield scenario in determining a Pokemon’s PvP relevance, in my experience), but also partly because it really tells the same story. Air Slash falls even further behind both Gust and Wing Attack… and the same is true of Ultra League (Air Slash vs Gust vs Wing Attack).
It IS worth noting that Gust is overall best in both leagues in 2v2 shielding, which makes sense considering the big fast move damage that it will deal over the course of those lengthier battles, but Wing Attack remains close and it realy comes down to a matter of preference which move you want to roll with.
In very general, perhaps even over-simplified terms: after looking everything over, I think it’s actually fair to say that Wing Attack has the slight edge in Great League, and Gust has a similarly small advantage in Ultra League.
In Great League, outracing things and busting down shields matters a little more for most teams, giving Wing Attack a little more success, whereas in Ultra League, battles tend to be more drawn out and Gust starts to pull away from the other fast moves the longer the battle goes.
But all that said, it really comes down to player preference and team composition whether Gust or Wing Attack works better for you. There is no one-size-fits-all, and really no “wrong” answer. Even Air Slash can work out fine for many teams, especially if you’re strapped for Elite TMs.
One thing is for certain: Pidgeot is indeed worthy of all the hype. Even with the slight nerf to its exclusive Feather Dance, it will still be dancing on MANY graves in this and likely many future season to come. Hallelujah!
Continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last nearly three years of PvP play, and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game.
And thank you for reading… I appreciate your attention and encouragement. Catch you next time, Pokéfriends… stay safe out there!