looming over October are particularly spooky this year....
Hello again, fellow travelers! It's that PvP article guy (LXP, Community Day moves, and other moveset shakeup discussions and such), coming to you with my now THIRD article of the week! 👀 And what a week it’s been, with Master League returning to GBL, new Pokémon (and ones very relevant to PvP) being released into the game, AND now several new Shadow Pokémon
to discuss! (Thanks to the awesome PokeMiners
for digging up the info and giving a little heads up before they arrived.) They do not all have PvP impacts, but there are a couple that decidedly DO, including in some near-term PvP formats. So let’s not waste any more time... time to take a look!
(Flying) Rock Monster
🎼 At a Flying Cup party
♬ Already invested deep
🎶 But a shadow starts to creep
♫ It was a rock monster!
So our first contestant is AERODACTYL
, now available (sometimes) from the “let’s rock and roll!” lineup. (Not for ME, mind you... I keep getting Larvitar instead. 😩) Aero is a ‘mon that seems to have so much potential with its unique Rock/Flying typing and pretty good movepool. But it lacks any Flying moves whatsoever, and that intriguing typing seems to have more holes than Swiss cheese. If it’s a format where Aerodactyl wasn’t relevant before, being a Shadow is very unlikely to help.
That being said, Aerodactyl seems to be one of those somewhat rare cases where the Shadow version is essentially a straight upgrade in Great League. The ONLY drawback I see is a new loss to Munchlax
, dying before reaching a second Rock Slide
, while regular Aero gets there for the win
. But beyond that it’s all improvement over regular Aerodactyl
, with every other win not only retained but improved upon
, and new wins showing up for Shadow Aero against Abomasnow, Lapras, Mantine, and Skarmory, all VERY relevant in the Great League scene. That being said, a 28% win rate against the GL core meta isn’t going to wow anyone. Like I said before, Shadow Aerodactyl isn’t going to suddenly surge where regular Aero doesn’t already make at least SOME waves.
Of course, there is one upcoming meta where Aerodactyl already looked to be making a big splash: Flying Cup
. Aero already looked poised to be top dog in the meta
, its typing finally being less of an issue and the meta being ripe for it to prey on nearly everything as a super-rare Rock chucking monster. Looking at not just the core meta, but the entire format
, there are only eight things that beat it head to head with shields in play: Steel Wing Skarmory (normal and Shadow), Gligar (normal and Shadow), Gliscor, Waterfall Gyarados, Mantine, and the new Shadow Jumpluff. That’s it… Aerodactyl beats the other sixty five
‘mons in the format.
Now, imagine that loss list being even smaller. Because with Shadow Aerodactyl
, it’s cut in half
. Now the only things that reliably beat Aerodactyl with at least one shield are Gligar, Jumpluff, and regular and Shadow Steel Wing Skarmory... and nothing else. Holy smokes, folks. That’s not a mere wave... that’s a freaking tsunami.
And perhaps the even better news? Unless we happen to get a last minute Rocket event where we can again TM away the normally-locked move Frustration
, we’re going to be stuck with these new Shadows having only one useable charge move for a while (and only, of course, if we buy a second move!). That probably sounds like BAD news, but that is not so for Aerodactyl, because the only charge move it needs or wants in Flying Cup is Rock Slide, so it’s okay that it’s stuck toting around Frustration too since it doesn’t need any other move that could go in that slot anyway. Heck, you can arguably get by with Frustration as your ONLY charge move, as Rock Throw
does most (if not all!) of the work anyway, as you can see in some of those sims. That’s right... you may be able to get by doing nothing but spamming fast moves, and maybe throw the occasional Frustration to try and bait shields with basically nothing to lose, since you don’t normally need charge move damage anyway! You can level up a fresh-caught Shadow Aero and invest nothing at all into charge moves and be done and ready, as the Team GO Rocket lady says, to rock and roll right off the bat!
Last thing is a quick peek into Ultra League... and yeah, while Shadow Aero
is again a strict upgrade of regular Aero
, adding wins over Abomasnow and Alolan Muk without taking on any (core meta) new losses, neither do enough to merit serious consideration. Move along, move along.... So what's the verdict?
Shadow Aerodactyl isn’t likely to take anything new
by storm, but it IS pretty much a strict improvement on regular Aero, and that means it’s even more dominant in Flying Cup. This is one to target for that reason alone and is worth hunting down if you intend to play in that one-day meta. I continue to hope for another Cup format down the line where Aero will justify our investment, and Shadow can only help give me more (false?) hope....
Sorry in advance, Dean Martin... cover your ears!
♫ When Moonblast hits your eye
♬ And you still just won't die
♪ That's Skarmor-é!
♫ When the Grasses all cry
♬ Fairies and Dragons whine
♪ That's Skarmor-é!
So there are few better known commodities in PvP than Skarmoré... er, SKARMORY
, that is. It's been a Great League staple from the very first Silph Arena Cup nearly two years ago and in each season of GBL thus far, and that's unlikely to change. It is truly unique as the only Steel Flyer we'll see until at least Generation 7 (so, sometime in 2023?), and therein lies many of its strengths. Steel mitigates Flying's typical weaknesses to Ice and Rock, and Flying gets rid of Steel's vulnerabilities to Fighting and Ground, leaving Skarmory vulnerable only to Electric and Fire overall, while it resists Fairy, Dragon, Flying, Psychic, Steel, Normal, and Ground, and DOUBLE resistances to Grass, Bug, and Poison damage. Add that all up and you get a Pokémon that is terribly oppressive against Grasses, Dragons, Charmers, most Psychics and Fighters and Muds, and even tanky staples like Lapras. Yes, it crumples quickly to any Fire or Electric damage, and with its own Flying moves being resisted by Steels and Rocks it loses to the majority of them as well. But there is a lot more good with Skarm than bad, and it can easily run over unprepared teams all by itself... and that's probably happened to ALL of us at some point by now. And no matter what new Pokémon and moves are released moving forward, Skarmory will always retain its inherit advantages and keep on plugging away.
If anything, Skarmory has only gotten better with age, with the buff to Brave Bird
finally giving it a second charge move that has uses beyond the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency Flash Cannon
But enough stats... let's get to some sims and comparisons. Here is the typical Skarmory performance in GL today
, and over here is Shadow Skarmory's performance
. They look really close, right? Well not exactly, as it turns out. As is the case with many Shadow 'mons, turns out Shadow Skarmory is not a big upgrade OR downgrade, but really just a side-grade. The overall performance looks about the same on the surface, but there are a number of key differences:
- Regular Skarmory (roughly 105 Attack, 165 Defense, and 120 HP) is able to beat Sableye, Scrafty, Froslass, and Drifblim, while Shadow Skarmory cannot. (It's just too flimsy with the reduced Defense as a Shadow form to survive the high neutral damage from those opponents.) Regular Skarmory also shows an odd win over a carbon copy Skarmory, but of course that is very IV dependent and should instead really be viewed as a tie.
- [Shadow Skarmory]() (very roughly 125 Attack, 140 Defense, and 120 HP) instead uniquely takes out Azumarill (able to kill it before Azu can reach a needed Hydro Pump), Mantine (who only has time to reach two charge moves as opposed to getting to three vs regular Skarm), Obstagoon (who similarly reaches one less charge move), Munchlax, and potentially Dewgong (though note that Gong CAN still win by going straight Icy Wind).
And in shared wins, sometimes regular Skarmory does better (AKA emerging with more remaining HP), including against Abomasnow, Lapras, Hypno, Meganium, Whiscash and others, and sometimes it is instead Shadow Skarmory that escapes with more HP left over, such as against Toxicroak, Victreebel, Shiftry, Cresselia and others. And sometimes there is virtually no difference, as with Vigoroth Tropius, and the Charmers. (None of those lists are exhaustive, just examples.) So like I said, Skarmory is not really "better" or "worse" as a Shadow, just different. Study its matchups well if you're considering springing for one.
A few more formats to consider:
- In Flying Cup, we're once again looking at a sidegrade situation here with Air Slash Skarmory. Shadow Skarm beats Articuno, Mantine, and Steel Wing Skarmory, while Original Recipe Skarm instead takes out Shadow Articuno, Gyarados, and Aerodactyl. That last one in particular, while just barely a loss, is probably a dealbreaker.
- However, as mentioned in my full Flying Cup analysis article, I think Steel Wing is actually the way to go for this format only because of how reliable it is against Aerodactyl (and Articuno, Togekiss, and a couple others). And in that configuration, regular Skarm and Shadow Skarm are much, much closer. Even the one additional loss that shows up there for Shadow Skarm is actually a win if you play it the same that regular Skarmory does. Once again, there are some matchups that swing a bit more favorably one way or the other (in terms of remaining Skarm HP), but either version of SW Skarm has the same win/loss record against the Flying core meta. I lean SLIGHTLY towards regular Skarmory due to usually emerging a little more unscathed from wins, but it's all well within the margin of error and both are pretty equally viable, unlike the clear advantages Shadow Aerodactyl has over its less smoky original version.
- In the ongoing Silph Arena meta, Sunrise Cup... yep, sidegrade again. We've actually already talked about all the differences, I think: original Skarmory uniquely wins Shadow Articuno and Drifblim and is a bit less shaky in the mirror, Shadow Skarm instead has an easier time beating Mantine, Obstagoon, and non-Shadow Articuno (making it very difficult for Artie to reach a necessary third Icy Wind). I don't know that I'd build a Shadow Skarm just for that format, but it will certainly find a home on some teams better than regular Skarmory.
- I've seen some mad lads even run Skarmory out there in Ultra League. On record alone, it's actually not that crazy. But here the slashing of its defense as a Shadow catches up to it more. It DOES notably pick up wins over Drifblim and Alolan Muk, which is nice to see, and more efficiently defeats stuff like the Charmers, Abomasnow, and even Dragonite. But the bad outweights the good overall, as it now loses to Machamp, Gallade, Toxicroak, and Snorlax with their neutral-damage-dealing Fighting moves overwhelming Shadow Skarm before they succumb to the Flying damage coming back their way. If you like Skarmory in UL, keep at it, but save your dust and stick with the non-Shadow you already have.
...And The Rest
Many of you are probably too young to remember a little show called Gilligan's Island
. I'm not THAT old that I was around when it was on, but I saw a lot of reruns growing up and enjoyed the show probably more than is healthy. (I'm still more of a Mary Ann guy than Ginger, but anyway....) Well before I ramble on too much, the lyrics to the catchy theme song originally mentioned MOST of the characters before ending with "and the rest", before later being changed to "...the Professor and Mary Ann" so that ALL characters were mentioned by name, which was nice. (Take THAT, Ginger!)
Why did I just waste your time with that? Well, because "all the rest" I want to spend a little time on in this article basically ARE "the Professor" (Slowbro/Slowking) and a cute little country girl like Mary Ann (Jumpluff). It fits... kinda. 🙃🤷♂️ Alright, enough of the three hour tour of how my twisted mind works and on to actual analysis....
Mary Ann... er, JUMPLUFF
first. I've actually seen Pluff make an appearance here and there in GBL Great League, and while it's not a world beater, you could argue that using it there is far from a hairbrained idea
. I call it "Tropius Lite", and that's a good way to look at it: Tropius for those who cannot actually GET Tropius. And it does much of what Trop does, really. Between its Razor Leaf
and Air Slash
variants, Tropius gets Defense Deoxys, Hypno, and Sableye that Jumpluff cannot, but the plucky little Pluff can do everything else Tropius can, including beating RL Trop head to head. It's really not bad at all... just skim that list of wins I linked to sometime.
Anyway, there are two points to consider here. First, of course, is Shadow Jumpluff
. As with Skarmory (and many other Shadows), this is sort of a sidegrade again, with new losses to Scrafty, Shiftry, Galarian Stunfisk, Wigglytuff, and Umbreon (though that last one was super close already
, in fairness), but a pickup of Mew, Ferrothorn, Galvantula, and Defense Deoxys.
But the other thing I'm curious to watch in future metas... purified
Jumpluff. Why? Because the fast-charging Bullet Seed
paired with Return
intrigues me. Now on the surface, it seems like a downgrade
from regular Pluff, losing Cresselia and Whiscash and a couple others, but on the flipside it gains Hypno and wins some of its matchups more soundly than it does without Return. If you find one that has so-so IVs as a Shadow but really good IVs if purified, hold on to it... I think it might be worth something in the right meta down the line.
And then there is what's really the opposite
of a professor: SLOWBRO
. Now while Shadow Bro
IS a slight upgrade of regular Bro
in Great League, neither are really very good. More interesting is Ultra League, where the overall record still isn't great
, but Bro has made a name for itself this GBL season as a favorite of some streamers and YouTubers as a solid way to counter things weak to Confusion
while still holding up well against things like Lapras, Charizard, Articuno, Charmers, and Armored Mewtwo, and also toting Ice Beam
as a nice all-around coverage move, good enough that Slowbro can even knocking off things like Giratina
if given the chance (and many Dragons and Grasses and such in general if they're caught not shielding). But unfortunately, Shadow Slowbro falls apart
on the Ultra League stage. The one positive is that it can rather remarkably pick up Empoleon, but it loses now to Giratina, A-Mewtwo, Clefable, Togekiss, and even Charizard. You may be better served purifying your Slowbro
and running Ice Beam with Return
instead, with which you at least get the normal Slowbro performance and a weapon that may surprise the heck out of an opponent when they smugly choose to let an expected Ice Beam or Psychic
And no, Shadow is really no improvement for SLOWKING
either, if you were considering it. King has Fire Blast
going for it and basically operates as a slightly different Slowbro
as a result, but the Shadow version
is again just a bit worse. Shame.
And then there are the others:
- Our bivalve buddy CLOYSTER is just clinging to the edge of viability in Great League already. As a Shadow, it looks like a smal slide backwards, but devil's in the details. True, it loses to Swampert, and then also Froslass, Munchlax, Galvantula, Sableye, Shiftry, AND Skarmory, but all of those were wins with only about 10 or often less HP remaining anyway. The gains are interesting too, with new wins against Venusaur and Umbreon, and then also Cresselia, Dewgong, and even Azumarill (!!!), which are all again very close wins (less than 10 HP). So interesting for sure, but still on the borderline of useability. Up in Ultra League, Cloyster is again frustratingly close to viability without quite getting there. Wins against all the Dragons, Flyers, most Charmers, Lapras, A-Muk, Swampert, and Abomasnow are very nice, but that's where the success ends. Shadow Cloyboy flips that holdout Charmer Granbull from a tie to a win, and also picks up Charizard, but slides back by losing to Clefable, Abomasnow, Swampert, and even Origin Giratina. Probably better to stick with its more solid niche as a non-Shadow, it would seem.
- URSARING does get (mostly) better as a Shadow, gaining Registeel, Dewgong, Venusaur, Skarmory, Alolan Raichu and a couple other notable names over its non-Shadow original, but it also now loses Galarian Stunfisk, Shadow Hypno, Altaria, Drifblim... and still doesn't have anywhere close to an encouraging win rate. Better, but still a hard pass, I think.
- KABUTOPS is also a slight gainer as a Shadow versus non-Shadow 'Tops, but even in Silph metas over the last two years, it has yet to break out and this is certainly not enough to push it over the... well, top. Same story in Ultra League. Cannot recommend it, and I LIKE Kabutops!
- I won't even waste your time linking to AIPOM or AMBIPOM. If you're considering them... why do you hate winning? 😂 No no no... don't do it.
And that's actually all of them... whew! So now just a very quick TL;DR
for those of you who like to skip ahead:
- Shadow Aerodactyl is pretty much a straight upgrade, though Flying Cup is probably the only place where Aero will remain relevant anytime soon. It picks up wins over Gyarados, Gliscor, and Mantine and beats everything else regular Aerodactyl already did in that meta. And unlike the others in this article, you don't have to wait for an opportunity to TM Frustration away, as it can operate with just Rock Slide (added as the second move) or arguably even with JUST fast moves and lose little to no ground. This is the easiest plug and play option in this entire writeup and the one I recommend hard pursuing the most.
- Shadow Skarmory is neither better nor worse, just different. If you want to see all the matchup differences, scroll up. There is a decent sized list.
- Mostly the same with Jumpluff. The Shadow version and the purified version with Return are both viable and different flavors of a 'mon that is already a tad underrated anyway. Worth looking for a good one.
- Slowbro/Slowking really don't stand to gain much from being Shadows, and in Ultra League where they have any real play at all, Shadow is a downgrade. Not one to prioritize for PvP purposes, IMO. The same can also be said of Cloyster, the most promising of the rabble left over.
- The others are all pretty much worthless in PvP, even moreso than the Slows. Showoffs only.
Alright, thus concludes my THIRD and probably final article of the week. Hopefully you made it to the end and maybe learned something along the line. I sincerely hope you did, and that your time reading through was worth it!
For more PvP tidbits, you can find me on Twitter
for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon
(with my own private server, if you're interested in that). And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I'll try to get back to you!
Hopefully your hunt for these new Shadows has been more fruitful than my own. (I don't WANT another Shadow Bat, lady! Give me my Skarmory!!) But as you search, please be safe out there, Pokéfriends.
Thanks again for reading, and catch you next time, when we finally get to that spooky Halloween Cup meta 🎃, and likely the Silph November meta as well!
EDIT: Added Cloyster, a bad oversight. Sorry about that! Thanks to u/Mieczyslaw010
for the reminder!