Yveltal & Shadow Honchkrow in PvP: Descending Darkness!

So forgoing the fancy intros, here’s how this article came together….

Yes, I’ve been looking at Yveltal for PvP, especially after the bitter disappointment that was Xerneas (and its complete lack of a viable fast move). But I didn’t trust it… not until it actually was released. I was sure that Niantic was going to mess around with its moveset, nerf it just before release, and so I busied myself with other things. But lo and behold, it survived with a really nice movepool, so I started doing some initial analysis. There was no huge rush for me, as GO Hub and others have already done a breakdown on Yveltal in Master League, so I was taking my time.

Then two things happened. First, I started looking at Yveltal in a way many others had not… in Ultra League, and with some alternative movesets than the standard recommendation. And I started liking what I saw. And the second thing is that, after analyzing all the new datamined Shadow Pokémon coming to the game, Niantic thankfully did drop (most of) them, but also threw a curveball by releasing Shadow Murkrow for the first time. And that requires its own analysis, don’t you think?

So now we had a full blown article cooking, covering TWO impactful Dark Birds. And that, my friends, is what brings us here today. So let’s get analyzing!




Dark and Flying

Ultra League Stats

Attack Defense HP
169 (167 High Stat Product) 129 (131 High Stat Product) 169 (171 High Stat Product)


(Highest Stat Product IVs: 2-12-15, 2498 CP, Level 24.5 {Great Friend Trade} | 6-15-14, 2500 CP, Level 24 {Ultra Friend Trade}

Master League Stats

Attack Defense HP
209 (223 at level 50) 158 (168 at level 50) 206 (219 at level 50)


(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs; CP 3781 at Level 40; CP 4275 at Level 50)

We’ll start with the Legendary that’s been blowing up my inbox since dropping… lotta folks asking me to analyze Yveltal, so that’s where we shall begin. But there are plenty of similarities between it and Honchkrow, the evolved form of Murkrow, so I’ll be comparing the two throughout, starting right here with the typing and stats. Both are Dark Flying types, a typing combination that has just two real interactions (albeit important ones): Flying negates the standard Dark weaknesses to Fighting and Bug, so attacks of those two types deal only neutral damage to this pair of birds. Other than that, they come with all the good (resistances to Dark, Ghost, and Psychic moves thanks to their Dark half, and to Grass and 2x to Ground thanks to their Flying side) AND bad (vulnerable to Electrics, Ices, Rocks, and Fairies) of being Dark Flyers.

As for stats, Yveltal is neither bulky nor glassy, clocking in somewhere between Swampert/Giratina Origin (for just two examples of things considered a little squishy, but both bulkier than Yveltal) and Dragonite/Mewtwo/Machamp and others who are flimsier than Yveltal. And it is FAR bulkier than other Dark options like Darkrai in Master League and, yes, Honch in Ultra League. Alolan Muk outbulks it, and of course XL Umbreon and XL Mandibuzz, but those last two cost an arm and both legs to build up to Ultra League level, and none can hang at Master League level. There it’s basically been ONLY been Darkrai as a true Dark option to this point, and it’s only okay (and that may be a little kind… heck, it can’t even beat Lugia!).

You may be asking yourself “what’s so great about Darks anyway, JRE?” Most of it is the resistances… built in resistance to Ghosts AND Psychics AND other Darks is pretty great. And yes, Dark is critically, famously weak to Charm and Fighting damage, but heck, so are a lot of things and that doesn’t really hold them back. But the other things that is particularly nice about Darks is that their Dark damage moves are resisted only by those hard counters (Fairies and Fighters) and opposing Darks. There is a very wide swath of things that do NOT resist Dark, making it a nice all-arounder as long a you have good answer to Fairies or Fighters that do show up.

Anyway, enough rambling. Let’s look at what tools Yveltal has at its disposal….

Fast Moves

  • Snarl Dark type, 1.67 DPT, 4.33 EPT, 1.5 CoolDown
  • Sucker Punch Dark type, 2.5 DPT, 3.5 EPT, 1.0 CoolDown
  • Gust Flying type, 4.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 2.0 CoolDown

Snarl is pretty standard fare, being the same fast move that powers all the Darks you already know and care about in PvP like Umbreon, Alolan Muk, Mandibuzz, Weavile, Darkrai, and even things like Shiftry down in Great League. Sucker Punch is a decent enough move, but let’s face it: Snarl is what makes a lot of things tick, and that should be no different here.

There IS a very interesting and unique alternative though, with STAB Gust, AKA the move that put Pidgeot back on the PvP map. It’s a punishing move… the simple listing of DPT and EPT don’t really do it justice. Each time Gust connects, it rips a very noticable chunk of the opponent’s HP away. Combined with Yveltal’s above average Attack stat, consider this: in a theoretical Great League scenario, each Yveltal Gust deals 16 damage to a neutral target (I chose Snorlax, in this case), while Hypno’s big Confusions (listed as higher damage and the same cooldown as Gust) deal “only” 13 damage each. I know, I know… Hypno has nowhere close to Yveltal’s Attack, so it’s not really  fair comparison, but my real point is that you know from recently surviving Retro Cup how Hyno’s Confusions HURT. Well, Yveltal’s Gusts hurt a lot more. Just trying to give a frame of reference!

Anyway, we’ll look at Snarl AND Gust moving forward, as they really turn Yveltal into two different Pokémon depending on which way you go. But to see the full picture, obviously we need the charge moves!

Charge Moves

  • Dark Pulse Dark type, 80 damage, 50 energy
  • Psychic Psychic type, 90 damage, 55 energy, 10% Chance to Decrease Opponent Defense -1 Stage
  • Hurricane Flying type, 110 damage, 65 energy
  • Focus Blast Fighting type, 140 damage, 75 energy
  • Hyper Beam Normal type, 150 damage, 80 energy

So at 50 energy and with STAB, Dark Pulse is a move you are basically ALWAYS going to want on Yveltal. On paper, Psychic is arguably better, dealing 10 more damage for only 5 more energy and the chance of debuffing the opponent. However, that’s ONLY on paper. In practice, Dark Pulse deals more damage to neutral targets thanks to STAB, usually on the order of 4+ more damage. There’s no debuff chance, but getting more damage for less energy makes it the easy winner between the two.

Especially considering that, at 50 energy, Dark Pulse is actually Yveltal’s cheapest charge move. After Psychic, everything else costs 65 energy or more! Thankfully, that’s not so much of an issue with Snarl. Going back to the Snorlax example again, consider that Yveltal can reach even its most expensive charge move before Snorlax can reach Earthquake, a move that costs 15 energy LESS (and can reach as many as THREE Hyper Beams, tied for the most expensive charge move in the game, in that particular battle). You can think of it along the same vein as something like Registeel, which has nothing *but* closing charge moves but still gets to them frequently enough for them to feel far cheaper than their listed cost thanks to its own strong energy gains from its fast move.

But which big closer to go with? Despite me showing it in the example above, Hyper Beam is NOT the way to go… as a Normal move, it is super effective against exactly nothing. For five less energy, you can use Focus Blast, which IS super effective against several very meta relevant things (Normals, Steels, Rocks, Ices, AND opposing Darks), giving Yveltal some nice coverage. Or you can go with Hurricane as a direct answer to Fighters and Bugs that can still give Yvette trouble, and at least a big fat move that is unresisted by Charmers (similar to how Dragonite relies on Hurricane to try and turn the tables on Togekiss in Master League).

Ultra League Analysis

So let’s finally start putting together some real numbers. My new colleague MeteorAsh at GO Hub already looked a bit at Yveltal in Master League and while I’ll cover that a little bit too, I want to focus first on Ultra League. Most people see Yveltal and automatically start stacking it against the Master League meta, as happens with most new Legendary releases, and for good reason: most Legendaries are best suited stretching their wings in a league where CP is uncapped, as most of them achieve really *high* CP and achieve top performance when maxed out among other titans of PvP. That IS true of Yveltal as well, but yes, it DOES look like it has play in Ultra too, and in a couple different configurations.

There are two that achieve Yvel’s high water mark as far as straight wins and losses go: Snarl/Dark Pulse/Hurricane and Gust/Dark Pulse/Focus Blast, but they get there in different ways. First, the similarities: both beat the following in standard 1v1 shielding (in alphabetical order): Drifblim, Ferrothorn, Gallade, Gengar, Giratina-A (with Shadow Claw), Giratina-O, Armored Mewtwo, Poliwrath, Toxicroak, and Venusaur. A decent mix of some Ghosts, Grasses, and Fighters, with Mewtwo thrown in. Not too shocking considering the combination of Flying and Dark damage that come with either moveset.

From there, here are the differences:

  • Snarl/DP/Hurricane is able to outrace Cresselia’s Moonblasts, and the big neutral damage output of Escavalier, Scizor, and Dragon Breath Charizard. It’s more of an “all-arounder” moveset.
  • Gust/DP/Focus Blast is a bit more of a specialist. It uses blows away Alolan Muk and, thanks to the Focus Blast nuke, Registeel as well, and bullies Machamp (regular AND Shadow) with Gust. It can beat Machamp *with Gust alone*, needing only six to take out regular Champ and only *five* to slay Shadow Champ… though with a catch. While even a run-of-the-mill IV Yvette can take out a hundo Shadow Champ this way, ironically a Machamp with just a little bit more Attack actually hits a breakpoint with Counter and JUST manages to hold on for the win. You can counteract *that* by running your own Yveltal with high Attack and come out MUCH better (Shadow Champ never even reaches a second Cross Chop now), and encouragingly, still win ALL the same core meta matchups it did with more idealized (AKA lower Attack) IVs. Food for thought!

In short, Snarl-driven movesets obviously revolve around getting to more charge moves faster, so have advantages against things where those charge moves just overpower and outrace things. Gust movesets revolve… well, around Gust, and prey on things weak to Flying damage.

Note I left out Focus Blast from that summary… because really, you can run it alongside Snarl and still get special wins like Registeel, just as you did with Gust. The danger of that is somewhat obvious in the lower number of wins, however… now the Fighters (Machamp, Gallade, Poliwrath, and Toxicroak) all escape, as does even Venusaur. Ironically, this focus on baiting with Dark Pulse and closing with Focus Blast DOES bring in unique wins like Empoleon, Obstagoon, and Snorlax, but the tradeoff really does not seem worth it. Yveltal is left very exposed to some big, BIG names, including Fighters that many players are likely to swap in as soon as they see something Dark. Also notice the lack of Alolan Muk in the win column, as it’s actually NOT Focus Blast that clinches the win for Gust/FB Yvel, but rather it’s more Gust itself. ALSO food for thought!

Alright, so for Ultra League, my general recommendations are either Snarl/Hurricane or Gust/Focus Blast, both with Dark Pulse for general damage and/or baits to set up the closing moves. Either seems viable depending on what your team needs/weaknesses might be, but to give a special shout-out to Gust… it’s quite nice being a Dark that does the standard Dark things AND being able to rather easily smack aside Fighters. That is a pretty unique résumé!

Master League Analysis

Now as I said, I don’t want to steal the thunder of those who have already looked at Yveltal in Master League. Yes, it’s good, FAR better than Darkrai by almost any measure and easily the best Dark type in Open Master, with all the good that comes with being a Dark. Heck, all you have to do is look at the newest Master League rankings to see that Yvette should make an immediate impact, and is indeed the highest ranked Dark type period. But there’s still something to discuss, because once again, there are a few different ways to trick out your Yveltal ride.

PvPoke recommends Gust/Dark Pulse/Focus Blast as the best, default moveset. My friends at GO Hub analyzed Snarl/Dark Pulse/Hurricane. And those are both fine movesets, and good analysis. Either of them beat the Fighters (Machamp and Conkeldurr) that, again, are likely to be called upon to deal with Yveltal. The sheer power of Gust overwhelms Kyogre, which Snarl just can’t really do regardless of charge moves, and Snarl paired with Hurricane is a again a good all-around moveset just as it was in Ultra, taking out things like Palkia and Landorus by smacking them with big, unresisted damage.

But there is one more moveset that most seem to miss that I want to throw into the mix: Snarl/Dark Pulse/Focus Blast. I know, I know… I recommended *against* that in Ultra because it can’t tough the Fighters. And okay, you got me… the same is true here. Those other movesets could take out Champ and Conk, and this moveset cannot. But hear me out, because what it can do that those other sets *can’t* is beat Dialga, Melmetal, and Rhyperior… and obviously has the best shot at also turning the tables on stuff like Magnezone and Mamoswine that are weak to Fighting damage too. It HAS to be Snarl, though… Gust is too slow to Blast away Melmetal, Dialga, or Rhyperior (who also all resist Gust, of course). Master League is a meta largely shaped by big Steels, and so carrying Focus Blast as a big stick has some real merit, even if it means leaving Yveltal vulnerable to Fighters (and with NO answer to Charmers) to get there.

My colleagues are spot on with their recommendations… I just wanted to make one more. 😉 Because, to reiterate, Yveltal is *absolutely* going to make an impact in Master League from here forward. Count on it.


Honchkrow (Shadow)

Dark and Flying

And now, time for the other Dark bird… the one that just got even MORE shadowy during this event.

Great League Stats

Attack Defense HP
151 (147 High Stat Product) 68 (71 High Stat Product) 145 (145 High Stat Product)


(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-15-15, 1495 CP, Level 20.5)

Ultra League Stats

Attack Defense HP
193 (190 High Stat Product) 91 (92 High Stat Product) 183 (187 High Stat Product)


(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-15-15, 2499 CP, Level 38.5)

So the biggest problem with Honchkrow should be immediately obvious, but if not, let me spell it out… having under 100 Defense is generally considered not good for Great League. Honch doesn’t even break 100 *in Ultra League*. Yes, it has decent enough HP, but with Defense that low, its bulk is roughly comparable to a wet Kleenex. In a windstorm. With hail.

You get the point. Honchkrow hits like an absolute TRUCK, with an Attack stat *just* behind the likes of Alakazam and Gengar, and ahead of Machamp, Scizor, Gallade, Swampert… even Mewtwo. 👀 That’s saying something!

So if you can keep it alive long enough for Honchkrow to get a charge move through, it’s gonna HURT. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself… what *fast* moves are we working with here?

Fast Moves

  • Snarl Dark type, 3.0 DPT, 2.5 EPT, 1.0 CoolDown

Sooooo… Snarl it is. Peck is just a bad, bad move in PvP. Low power Snarl may seem counterintuitive with something with such high Attack, but really, it’s the perfect move for it, allowing it to overcome its frailty by racing quickly to charge moves. Like the following….

Charge Moves

  • Sky Attack Flying type, 75 damage, 45 energy
  • Dark Pulse Dark type, 80 damage, 50 energy
  • Psychic Psychic type, 90 damage, 55 energy, 10% Chance to Decrease Opponent Defense -1 Stage
  • Brave Bird Flying type, 130 damage, 55 energy, Decreases Self Defense -3 Stages

The middle two bring back shades of Yveltal… but generally, you actually don’t want Dark Pulse or Psychic here. With Yveltal, Dark Pulse was basically a necessity as Yvette’s cheapest move and its only prayer of ever getting a true bait. Honch doesn’t have that problem, as it has the much cheaper Sky Attack. If it seems a little low in the damage department, don’t fret… this isn’t some low Attack ‘mon like Altaria weilding Sky Attack. Honchkrow’s Sky Attack is enough to OHKO things like Toxicroak, Shadow Machamp, Shadow Victreebel, and Haunter in Great League, and Gallade, Blaziken, Sirfetch’d, and Shadow Machamp again in Ultra League. Just one single Sky Attack from Honch with no additional fast move damage or anything kills them dead in one hit.

With that in mind, Brave Bird may seem like overkill. And if all goes well, it WILL be and you can just stick to Sky Attack and avoid slashing Honch’s Defense down to wet-tissue-in-a-gravel-filled-wind-tunnel levels. But you have to like having a weapon at your disposal that can OHKO things like Venusaur, Tangrowth, Scrafty, Meganium, Scizor, Galvantula, Abomasnow, Tropius, Talonflame, Froslass… and the list goes on. Yeah, there isn’t much that does not outright resist Flying damage that CAN survive a Honchkrow Brave Bird to the face. You HAVE to respect Honch with shields or risk absolute disaster. If you’re asking in your head “can I tank this?”, and they have the energy for BB, assume the answer is “no!” and respond accordingly.

Great League Analysis

So with Sky Attack and Brave Bird established as our baseline, here’s Honch in Great League. (And just for the sake of comparison, here’s the best it does without SA/BB, losing to Mandibuzz, Umbreon, Sableye, Tropius, Ferrothorn, and Whiscash that SA/BB can beat.) Honchkrow brutalizes all the major Ghosts (even Froslass!) and most Psychics as you would expect your Dark type to do, even with the vast majority of that damage being neutral Flying damage. It whallops most all Grasses as you would expect your Flying type to do. And like Yveltal, it can turn the tables on several Fighters (Medicham, Toxicroak) thanks to its Flying half, and handles stuff like Diggersby, Swampert, and Talonflame, and even manages to tie Altaria. So now the question you’ve been wondering: how does the new Shadow Honchkrow do? Let’s look at the numbers. As you would expect, there is good and bad.

The good: Shadow Honch can pick up new wins versus Vigoroth, Mantine and Pelipper, and one of very few Psychics that outdueled it before: Cresselia. In the cases of Vigoroth and Pelipper, double Sky Attack does the trick (the second one KOs), but Mantine and Cresselia require a big Brave Bird to close it out before they reach their super effective Ice Beam or Moonblast, respectively.

Now the bad: Shadow Honch loses its edge (and its life!) against Froslass, Toxicroak, and Swampert, can no longer tie Altaria, AND also loses to Shadow Victreebel, Umbreon (who can win without ever using Last Resort), and even Haunter (with all Ghost moves!) despite resisting all their moves. Yeah… being super glassy will do that for ya.

So very much a case of tradeoffs. Those new wins are great, but a Flyer that loses to Victreebel, for example, is indicative of a flawed Flyer.

Ultra League Analysis

But then there’s Ultra League, where deficiencies in bulk can be better masked. Yes, Honchkrow is already viable there, whether in open or Premier Cup. It’s not wholly dominant or anything, but it does its job well: beating the vast majority of Psychics, Ghosts, Grasses, Bugs, Grounds, and even Fighters, plus bonuses like Dragonite (regular and Shadow), Talonflame, Charizard, Snorlax, Gyarados, Mandibuzz XL, and Scrafty XL. And Shadow Honch?

Unlike Great League, Shadow Honch looks like an upgrade overall at Ultra League level. It now overwhelms Shadow Machamp, Obstagoon, Alolan Muk, Drifblim, and Altered Giratina (with either fast move) in Open UL, plus Altaria XL, Umbreon XL, Politoed, and Shadow Snorlax in Premier Cup.

There IS downside, but not too severe. Shadow Honch loses to Fire Spin Charizard, Shadow Dragonite, Snorlax, and Mandibuzz XL that regular Honch beats… and that’s it. All other wins that regular Honch can get, Shadow Honch can too. For the record, that’s a total of nine new core meta wins (with Open and Premier combined) against only four new losses. Like I said, upgrade!

And to loop back and compare to Yveltal, the only core meta thing Yvette beats that Shadow Honchkrow does not in Ultra League is Cresselia (that darn Moonblast!). Conversely, Shadow Honch beats Dragon Breath Giratina-A, Dragonite, Talonflame, Obstagoon, and Swampert, *none* of which Yveltal can normally take out. And Yvette situationally loses to Shadow Champ and Alolan Muk too (as discussed above), where Honch always has the edge over them. It’s not crazy to say that, as much as I tried to hype up Yveltal (and DO still believe in it) in Ultra League, Honch is riskier but has a much higher ceiling.


So finally, for those who skipped here to the end, here is your TL;DR:

Yes, Yveltal is quite good in Master League. I don’t think it’s any fluke… expect it to be player from here on out for those that can afford to build one. But while you amass the candy (and XL candy!) to make that happen, you can rock it in Ultra League as some decent spice that carries on the typical Dark jobs well while potentially turning the tables on many of its would-be Fighting assassins. Snarl/Hurricane or Gust/Focus Blast seem to have the most potential in Ultra, alongside the basically mandatory Dark Pulse.

Shadow Honchkrow was a sneaky new add by Niantic, not appearing in any recent datamining and thus sneaking up on many players… and this writer! 🙃 It looks to be a slight downgrade overall in Great League, where the hit to its already barely-there “bulk” holds it back, but in Ultra League it is better able to shake that off and makes for a nice upgrade and a suddenly potent player in the Open and Premier Ultra metas. And while it has to be built up to the mid to upper 30s, no XL is required, so that’s nice! If you get a good Shadow Murkrow, Ultra is where you should consider using Shadow Honchkrow, IMO.

That’s all for today! Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon with its tie-in Discord server you can access to get straight through to me for personalized answers to your questions.

Thanks for your faithful readership, Pokéfriends… I appreciate your attention and encouragement. Catch you next time, and good luck grinding over the next week!

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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