Hello again, fellow PvPers!
It’s here! After getting our first Pokémon from the Alola region way back in 2018, the rest are finally on their way! And with our first wave 🌊 comes all three starters, three other evolutionary lines, and our first Alolan Legendary. Exciting!
But how exciting is this wave from a PvP perspective? Weeeeeell… come with me and let’s see what we see.
First, as I did last time, let’s start with our TL;DR — or rather, our BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) — BEFORE we dive in!
- Out of the starters, I think it’s Primarina you want most, and it carves out a nice role in Master League formats especially as a Charmer with unique resistances. Incineroar is alright, but will be a little better with future Blast Burn, so evolve or hold as you see fit. As for poor, poor Decidueye… well, you’ll see. Niantic hates it.
- Midnight Form Lycanroc is spicy, but its (lack of) bulk somewhat holds it back despite a fantastic moveset. It’ll make inroads in PvP, it just has notable flaws that keep it in check.
- Tapu Koko is fine enough, just outclassed by existing options. I wish it had Wild Charge, but alas….
- The big winner of this wave is Kommo-o. Find a way to get candy for it however you can… it’s THE top priority during this event, immediately impactful in ALL leagues. It’s arguably the best Dragon now in Ultra and even Great Leagues, and at worst a solid addition to the Dragon lineup in Master League and elsewhere.
- Don’t worry so much about the rest for PvP, but good luck with the hunt!
Okay, NOW let’s dive in deep!
FITS AND START(ER)S
So let’s just preface this by saying that the starters are… uneven.
We’ll begin with the easiest of the three to analyze: DECIDUEYE. This came in as one of the most hyped Pokémon in all of Generation 7. Not because it was a superstar in MLG, but because fellow Grass/Ghost Trevenant had proven how great its typing could be in GO with halfway decent moves, and Decidueye had some tasty moves Niantic could use from MLG, including Shadow Claw (or Hex), Leaf Storm, Shadow Ball, and the awesome Leaf Blade. Heck, even other eligible moves like Grass Knot, Seed Bomb, or the new Acrobatics would be less exciting but at least make it decent, right? So finally we get it in the game, and… Niantic gave it basically its worst possible move spread. For fast moves, it’s stuck with the truly putrid, BADLY-in-need-of-a-buff-for-over-2-years-running Astonish and the potent but very low energy Razor Leaf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, look at the charge moves. Its ONLY Ghost move is Shadow Sneak (45 energy for only 50 damage 🤮), and then 55-energy Brave Bird and Energy Ball. In other words, it got literally the WORST Ghost and Grass moves in its entire MLG repertoire, and its only halfway decent PvP move lacks STAB, comes with a severe drawback, and costs 55 energy with a fast move that generates only 2.0 Energy Per Turn (tied for worst EPT in the game, by the way).
Did Decidueye stuff poor John Hanke in a locker as childen?! This moveset is so bad it seriously seems like a professional hit job or something.
Needless to say, the end result is bad. Like, really, REALLY bad. Bad enough that even Oddish — not Gloom or Vileplume, but freaking Oddish — outperforms Decidueye. I know that’s oversimplifying, but my point is that they have completely massacred something we were all looking forward to. (And Ultra League is even worse.) And no, Frenzy Plant won’t save it either. Decidueye is very sadly dead on arrivial. I can only hope that Niantic has a deviously clever bait and switch in mind at some point down the line, like a “oops, we meant to release it with THESE moves instead… April Fool’s!” type thing. Decidueye needs a complete overhaul to even sniff PvP viability.
Thankfully, it does get better from there. Similarly hyped INCINEROAR comes with a MUCH better fast move in Snarl, which ranks among the very best energy-generating moves in the game (4.33 EPT). That is literally the best fast move in GO that it could have gotten based on its arsenal in MLG. As for charge moves… personally, I was hoping for a Fighting move (it can learn Close Combat, Superpower, Cross Chop and others), but instead it gets only STAB moves with Flame Charge, Dark Pulse (could have had Crunch instead but oh well), and Fire Blast. Natural inclination would be to run with Charge and Pulse, but surprisingly, the seldom-seen-in-PvP Fire Blast seems like the way to go (gaining Skarmory, Registeel, and Drapion), and even doubling down by running not Dark Pulse, but both Fire moves (further gaining Mandibuzz, Meganium, Lickitung, and non-Last Resort Umbreon). Even still, while it’s a clear upgrade from the current Dark/Fire type in GO (Incineroar is notably bulkier than Houndoom), it obviously still has a lot of problems with the many Waters, Grounds, Rocks, Fighters, Fairies and others running around. Perhaps it can find more of a role for itself in Ultra League? At least there are more Ghosts and Steels and Ices and Psychics in that meta to pick on. All in all, Incinceroar is fine, and will likely find a spot in at least limited meta play. It got treated decently with its moves… could have been a little better, but also could have been a LOT worse. And unlike poor Decidueye, the future looks a bit brighter still for Incineroar.
But we’ve saved the best starter for last. Even though PRIMARINA seemed to have the least hype behind it heading into the big Alola in GO reveal, it may be the one that finds its way into PvP in the biggest way from the get-go. And it all starts with its fast moves. I was eyeing Prima a few days ago and noting that it basically had only had only Water Gun, Waterfall, and Charm to choose from among its MLG movepool. Several starters have Water Gun already, so I secretly hoped for the other two, and that’s what Niantic decided to go with. We have our first starter with Charm! Wait, why am I getting pelted with rotten fruit all of a sudden…?
Anyway, Primarina isn’t bad at all in Great League, though there is a glut of Charmers already there, and of course the mighty Azumarill already kind of owns the slot Prima would be wanting to fill. (Of course, you could be evil and run both as a brutal new ABB, but…. 😈) And it’s decent enough in Ultra League too.
But the REAL story is the splash that Prima may make in Master League, and not just in Premier Classic, but full on, no holds barred, Open ML play as well. Obviously, as a Charmer, the opponents can kiss their Fighters and most of their Dragons goodbye. But being part Water means that Prima also comes with a handy resistance to Ice (beating new and old Ice monsters like Mamoswine, Avalugg, and the terrifying new-and-improved Walrein) and Water (thus easily handling stuff like Gyarados, Swampert, and even Kyogre… without Thunder, at least). But perhaps best of all? Water also resists Steel, meaning that Prima is a Fairy that does NOT take super effective damage from Dialga’s scary Iron Head, and thus can Charm Dialga to death without fear from Iron Head or Draco Meteor. Even with Thunder, Dialga JUST BARELY escapes (with 2 HP!). (And in Premier Classic, at least, it’s the Charmer that can beat Fire types, too. And just wait until it eventually gets Hydro Cannon!)
So what’s the verdict?
Roughly in order, I would prioritize Primarina (for potentially all leagues, but especially Master… grind for those XLs where you can!), then Incineroar. And then, only if you have the time and extra balls, maybe a decent Decidueye. Until then, pour one out for the poor guy.
No need to necessarily wait for Primarina’s Community Day (it’s better with Hydro Cannon but, at least in Master League, is very competitive in the here and now even without it), but if you find a really good Incineroar candidate for GL or UL, consider holding off for Blast Burn… especially in Ultra League, where it’s enough of an upgrade to be worth it.
ROC AND ROLL ALL MIDNIGHT… AND PARTY EVERY MIDDAY
Great news: LYCANROC arrives packing some GREAT moves, especially the Midnight Form with Psychic Fangs, Crunch, Stone Edge, Rock Throw, and the ultimate dream: Counter!
But the not-so-good news is that Lycanroc doesn’t have great bulk or a very good defensive typing. As a pure Rock type, Lycan does resist Fire, Flying, Poison, and Normal damage, but it’s vulnberable to even more typings than that: Grass, Water, Ground, Fighting, and Steel, all of which are big players in Great and Ultra Leagues where Lycanroc would hope to make an impact. Combine that with passable HP but Defense that barely crosses 100 in Great League, and even with its awesome move package, it puts in only a pedestrian performance.
But again, there’s good to counterbalance the bad. Lycanroc (Midnight) does manage to beat most of the major Steels, with the unfortunate exception of Galarian Stunfisk (and Registeel if it happens to be running Flash Cannon in this Era Of Zap Cannon). It beats MOST of the major Darks, despite not resisting Dark damage like true Fighters do, though unfortunately can’t handle Scrafty like true Fighters can. It beats a LOT of the big Normal types, including Flyers like Pidgeot and Noctowl (and Skarmory, to circle back to Steels for a moment) that give Fighters fits, but as with Galarian Stunfisk, Diggersby holds it off. It beats most Ice types… but suffers an unfortunate loss to Lapras and its Surfs. It does a lot of things you’d want something with Counter to do… but there’s always a qualifier.
Thankfully there’s some truly unique things it can do as well. Lycanroc pretty easily handles Alolan Marowak, able to win going straight Stone Edge. It can take out Shadow Hypno as well, plus a wide array of Flyers, as mentioned before (including Pidgeot, Skarmory, Talonflame, Altaria, and even Pelipper), things you won’t be seeing Fighters handle.
I see Lycanroc as one that will be rock solid (oh, the puns, they hurt!) in certain limited formats. It has a future in PvP. Just not so sure about open formats.
And yes, that includes Ultra League, where it again DOES do some genuinely great things, but just seems on the wrong side of the cusp of greatness. Maybe in Premier Classic? At least it beats Lapras now.
And unfortunately, things are much less hopeful for Midday Form. Lacking Counter and Psychic Fangs, it has to settle for Rock Throw and either Drill Run or Crunch instead. Not awful, granted, but Midday Form has even less bulk than Midnight (roughly 10 less Defense and 5-10 less HP, depending on IVs and league) and it really shows. 😬 (And don’t even bother with Ultra League. 😬😬)
So what’s the verdict?
I do think Lycanroc (in its Midnight Form) will make a dent in PvP. Its crazy good moveset sees to that, despite below average bulk and typing holding it back. But it’s an uphill battle in many ways. The right team(s) will find a way to make it shine, I’m sure, but for now I’ll peg it as more of a potential Cup breakout candidate. Do see if you can land yourself a good one or two… it’ll have its moment at some point. (But don’t bother with Midday Form… it’s too tame.)
FRUITY LOOPS AND GUMMY SHOES
- I was very excited for TOUCANNON. Not only is it a simple but cool design, but it hit the game with the best possible fast move it has in MLG (Bullet Seed) and a couple of potent and unique charge moves (Rock Blast and the underrated Drill Peck). I had very high hopes… but then I looked at the numbers. 😫 Part of the problem is that it has even a bit less bulk than Lycanroc (roughly the same HP but now sub-100 Defense in GL). But part of it also is that it’s still one of many, MANY Normal/Flying types, so it’s weak to a wide array of things. The few things it DOES beat are some Grounds, Grasses, Waters, and a couple of Ghosts (owing to that Normal typing and its double resistance to Ghost damage). But it’s a small list wherever you look at it. This one hurts, I’ll be honest. MAYBE it can carve out some role in the right limited meta, but here’s a case where it got some of its better move options and still just fails to do anything with it. Shame.
- GUMSHOOS, as one of an even larger number of mono-Normal type Pokémon, came in with far less expectations, if we’re all being honest. It’s easy to point to the lackluster Bite being the likely culprit in a very lackluster performance, but that’s actually not it. Give it a decent fast move, like Quick Attack, and it’s literally no better. Heck, even with Snarl it’s still putrid. No, the problem is moreso its stats. Compare it to something like fellow Gen7 ‘mon Alolan Raticate and you’ll see there’s a HUGE difference. Gumshoos’ big problem is, like other above, moreso the stats than anything. Basically the same Attack as Lycanroc Midnight, and actually a good deal more HP, but very low Defense, equivalent to things like Haunter. It just doesn’t have the stats to compete in PvP, especially without a secondary typing to give it some kind of advantage. You’re much better off with something like Furret, which really tells you everything you need to know. Hunt Yungoos/Gumshoos for the nice shiny, but not for PvP usage.
- And one final fruity literal loop is Hawaii’s new regional COMFEY. Fun looking Pokémon, but uh… not really one for PvP, just for the collection. Florges has already been available worldwide and does everything Comfey wants to do much better, and in all three leagues. That said… uh… got any extras for ol’ JRE, my Hawaiian friends? 🥺 I’ll trade a caseload of your favorite spam for it! 😉 (Inside Hawaii joke there, for those who don’t know.)
So what’s the verdict?
Despite my initial excitement for Toucannon’s nifty moveset, these all look pretty much PvP irrelevant and mere dex filler material. Too bad.
CUCKOO FOR KOKO PUFFS?
Wow, two cereal references in the same article. 🥣 I… never imagined I’d be doing that. Hey look, ma, I made it! 🙃
So anyway, perhaps I should have, but I did not expect a new Legendary to hit as part of the first wave. But here we are, with TAPU KOKO dancing around in Tier 5 raids. Generation 7 was only the second one in the franchise with “Fairy” as an official typing, so Gen7 tried to make up for lost time by having FOUR Tapu ____ Legendaries that were half-Fairy. Koko is the first of them, a Fairy/Electric that would be more unique if not for little Dedenne beating it a generation earlier. Unlike little Deedee though, who is really just a Great (and perhaps LIttle) League piece, Koko has higher aspirations, setting its sights on land where Dedenne dare not tread in Ultra and Master Leagues. But how does it actually perform?
To understand that, we have to first look at the Pokémon itself. Koko is far less bulky than, say, Dedenne, with a high Attack heavily driving Tapu Koko’s total stat product. It has less bulk than things like Machamp, Gallade, and even things like Scizor. On the plus side, it thankfully got Volt Switch, which is a great start. However, the charge moves are a mixed bag. No Wild Charge (45 energy, which is the kind of thing you want for flimsier Pokémon like Koko), instead being left with Thunderbolt (55 energy) and Thunder (60 energy) as its only Electric charge moves… which means you’re likely looking at Thunderbolt as the best option. (I mean, it learns Thunder Punch in MLG, Niantic… couldn’t have done THAT, at least?) It did get one of its surprisingly few MLG Fairy moves, but the bad news is that move is the overpriced Dazzling Gleam (70 energy). Its only non-STAB charge move is a good one with Brave Bird, though that also costs 55 energy and obviously comes with a pretty massive drawback. To repeat: this is a low bulk Pokémon that has no charge moves costing less than 55 energy.
And yeah, the numbers aren’t brutal, but they’re not kind. Koko’s best numbers come with Thunderbolt and either Dazzling Gleam or Brave Bird, but neither are very impressive. Darks, Flyers, Waters, and some Dragons, as you’d expect, but none consistently. Drifblim, Charizard, Talonflame, and Togekiss tend to escape. So too do Politoed and Walrein, Origin Giratina, and of course Poisonous Alolan Muk. This is also a Fairy that loses to most Fighters and its fellow Fairies, as well as a host of others. It’s not useless, it’s just also not particularly useful in Ultra League.
But of course, most Legendaries are bound for Master League anyway. But uh… it’s not much rosier for Koko there either. It loses straight up to even Kyogre, folks, not to even mention Dialga, both Giratinas, Snorlax, Walrein, Melmetal, Zarude, the many, many Ground times clogging the meta, and several other big names. Yes, it DOES beat Zacian, and most all Flyers, and the Fighters now, and many not-otherwise-named-above Dragons. But that’s the extent of it, really. It’s a role player, at best, in ML Classic and for anyone that dares push it into Level 50, Open ML. It’s not completely crazy, but like… you can do better, I think. Like even Magnezone or heck, even Zapdos if you insist on building up a Level 50 Legendary.
So what’s the verdict?
You can do worse than Tapu Koko in PvP… but you can also do a lot better, and often cheaper, with other existing options in both Ultra and Master Leagues. I won’t tell you NOT to power it up, but I wouldn’t advise it, personally.
HONEY NUT KOMMO-Os
Eh, decided to go all out and try the cereal pun trifecta. You’re welcome. 😜
So KOMMO-O is one that flew under my initial radar, I’ll admit. Another Dragon with Dragon Tail and Dragon Claw…yawn. Of course, I missed what makes it special: it’s half Fighting, and while Niantic did not grace it with the awesome Counter, they did probably the next best thing by giving it Close Combat, a crazy powerful and cheap Fighting move that allows Kommo-o to mostly operate as a run-of-the-mill Dragon, but with a very mean left hook that it can unleash for only 10 more energy than Dragon Claw (and for literally TWICE the damage).
My colleague and big Dragon enthusiast MeteorAsh wrote an in-depth analysis on Kommo-o, but for now I’ll hit the highlights, because they are quite high!
- In Great League, Kommo-o could find a spot immediately, with an overall record identical to undisputed top Dragon in GL Altaria. Now there are some obvious differences between them, such as Altaria (being part Flying) being able to beat stuff like Toxicroak, Medicham, Trevenant, and Tropius that Kommo-o cannot handle, and Kommo’s Fighting side makes it vulnerable TO Flyers (and Psychics), leading to losses versus things like Mandibuzz, Noctowl, Hypno, and Drifblim that Altaria can handle, plus Ghosts like Jellicent and Cofagrigus. But the rest is all good news: wins Altaria could only dream of like Bastiodon, Registeel, Galarian Stunfisk, Umbreon, and even Froslass and Dewgong… the power of a good Fighting move. Add to that things like XL Lickitung and surprises like Talonflame and even Pidgeot, plus beating Altaria head to head, and Kommo-o looks primed to make a big splash right out of the gate. It enters GL sitting just outside the Top 20, and that could even go up a bit as time goes on. This is a very impactful arrival, right away. (Heck, even pre-evolution HAKAMO-O may have a future as a spice pick in GL!)
- And if you think that’s impressive, get a load of Kommo-o in Ultra League! PvPoke again has it ranked VERY high already, sitting at #15!, which puts it ahead of every other Dragon in the format. Seems crazy, but again, look at the numbers. It beats all the established Dragons except Dragon Breath Giratina-A, beats nearly all the major Grasses, Fires, Waters, Darks, Steels, Grounds… in fact, it might be easier to look at the list of losses. Half of them are Psychics and Fairies you would expect a Fighter (or Dragon, in the case of the Fairies) to lose to anyway, so no shame in those. (Especially since Kommo-o’s kryptonite is Fairy damage, which deals DOUBLE super effective damage.) Others on the loss list make perfect sense, like Gengar, Trevenant, and Cofagrigus that make Close Combat useless, and Walrein, Articuno, and Shadow Abomasnow (Kommo manages to beat non-Shadow Aboma) that prey on the standard Dragon weakness to Ice. Dragon Breath Gyarados is no big surprise (and no shame, as that beats many other good Dragons) either. And then it’s just Skarmory (Flying vs a Fighting type), Dragon Breath Charizard (again, same reasons as Gyarados), and Nidoqueen and Shadow Machamp, which tend to overpower things in neutral-on-neutral matchups like this. None of those show any kind of “flaw” or weakness in Kommo-o that other Dragons and/or Fighters don’t have to deal with anyway. And again, Kommo-o’s win list is much longer and more eye catching as a nearly-perfect melding between two of the best PvP typings. Being a Fighter than can beat things like Gallade, Talonflame, Jellicent, Charizard, Toxicroak, and Giratinas AND a Dragon that can smack down Registeel, G-Fisk, Melmetal, Scizor, Umbreon, Abomasnow, Escavalier and others like them is quite an exciting and powerful addition to the meta. Kommo-o WILL shake up Ultra League… once we all somehow get enough candy to make one!
- That just leaves Master League, the league most dominated by Dragons already. Yes, Kommo-o DOES beat Diagla, albeit JUST barely. And it beats nearly all the other Dragons too (Palkia and Dragon Tail Dragonite being the only notable exceptions), and much more besides: most all Grounds (Mamoswine and DT Groudon are obviously a problem), Waters (DB Gary and aforementioned Palkia being the only escapees), Steels (only Metagross causes any real heartburn, as it does for most Fighters), Darks, Electrics, and fellow Fighters. It even manages to overcome Avalugg AND Walrein at this level! The loss column is again more than half made up of Psychic and Fairy types, Ho-Oh, and uh… the small handful of others I already mentioned (DB Gary, DT Groudon, Palkia, DT Dragonite, Mamoswine, Metagross). And uh… that’s it. Unless it hard counters, or has a distinct advantage (a non-Dragon with a Dragon fast move, for instance), Kommo-o can wrestle it to the ground. And that most definitely goes for Premier Classic too, where the win column is quite literally TWICE as big as the loss column, the latter being made up entirely of Fairies, Dragons, Ices, DB Gary, Gengar, Metagross… and that’s all.
So what’s the verdict?
Make no mistake about it: Kommo-o arrives as the most immediately impactful Pokémon in this Alolan batch, and in all three leagues. Build a good one as early — and as often! — as you can. Maybe one day it will get its own Community Day and/or a move shakeup, but it is MORE than good enough to use right here and now. It’s hard to even decide which league to prioritize, as Kommo-o makes a big splash in all of them! Good luck with the grind, because THIS is THE one to grind for as much as possible for however long we can.
Already did our TL;DR up front, so that’s it… we’re done!
Until next time (Community Day analysis, perhaps?), you can always find me on Twitter for regular PvP analysis info, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!
Good luck on your hunt, Pokéfriends. Catch you next time, and stay safe out there!