Pokémon GO has expanded to include species from all 9 generations over the past several years. With each generation comes new meta-defining standouts, moves, mechanics, and so much more, and there is always a good level of excitement when a Pokémon makes its Pokémon GO debut. However, not every newly introduced Pokémon lives up to the hype. There are several that miss the mark of viability in one way or another. Today I thought it would be interesting to go over some of these so-called “losers”, specifically those that suffer from a poor or underwhelming move pool, along with ways in which they could potentially be improved in the future.
A note about Xerneas
When I started writing this article, Xerneas held the number 4 spot on this list. This was largely due to its lack of a STAB Fairy fast move. Xerneas is unable to learn any of the current Fairy fast moves in the main series. I had suggested that they introduce its signature move, Geomancy, as way to solve this issue. Of course, three days after writing the first draft, it was announced that Xerneas’s movepool would be updated to do just that.
This isn’t meant to be an “I told you so” moment, more so to demonstrate the point that many of the suggestions made for movepool updates in this article are entirely feasible and not out of the question in the slightest. Niantic has proven that they’re not opposed to a movepool shakeup every now and then, even if it means totally shaking up the meta. On that note, let’s dive in with the first member of this list.
#5: Landorus (Therian)
A legendary Pokémon may come as a surprise, but we have Landorus (Therian) at the #5 slot. Landorus has a reputation as a powerhouse, dominating the main series VGC scene with every format it is legal in. In Pokémon GO, it still ranks as one of the strongest Ground attackers, sometimes even outperforming other Ground attackers thanks to its secondary typing. It also maintains a strong presence at the top levels of Master League PVP. So the question you may be asking is, “Why is Landorus on this list?”
The answer to this question lies not in what Landorus is, but what Landorus could have been. Many of the more recently introduced Pokémon actually have their code added into the game long before release, and dataminers are able to access and share this information with the community with each update. The initial datamine for Landorus-T’s movepool was much different to the movepool we received upon its debut. Here is a before and after comparison of its movepool:
|Fast Moves||Charged Moves|
|Fast Moves||Charged Moves|
As you can see, Landorus-T’s movepool upon release is far from useless. Mud Shot is always a plus for any Ground Pokémon, and Stone Edge Rock and Superpower Fighting provide nice coverage for PVP. However, its hard to ignore what Landorus could have been. It had everything it needed to secure its place as the #1 non-mega, non-shadow Ground attacker with Mud Shot and Earth Power. Additionally, it could have had some niche as a Rock attacker with Rock Throw and Rock Slide.
While the difference may be marginal, Earthquake and Stone Edge are direct downgrades from Earth Power and Rock Slide, respectively. The combination of Mud Shot/Earth Power/Rock Slide would have helped Landorus dominate the Master League format. With its current movepool, Landorus often chooses to give up its Ground move in favor of the coverage move Superpower Fighting. It’s very risky to run two high-energy cost moves, and Superpower covers most of the same types as Earthquake, swapping the matchup against Electric types that Landorus resists anyways for super-effective damage against Normal Ice and Dark while maintaining effectiveness against Rock and Steel types.
Meanwhile, in PVE, Earth Power is preferred over Earthquake in most situations. While the differences are again marginal, it is often better to get off one more Earth Power rather than being halfway charged for Earthquake before fainting.
Landorus (Therian) is far from a bad Pokémon, but seeing what it lost before it even had a chance to shine has definitely earned it a spot on this list.
Hawlucha recently made its debut as a regional Pokémon in Mexico, so it’s likely that many Trainers haven’t even managed to get their hands on one yet. Hawlucha boasts its powerful signature move Flying Press, which had the unique property of being both a Fighting and move upon its introduction in X and Y. While it is only a pure Fighting move in Pokémon GO, it is extremely powerful, and combined with a respectable 195 attack stat meant that Hawlucha was looking to see some play in the meta.
For a more in-depth analysis on Hawlucha’s shortcomings, refer to this incredible article from JRE47 here. However, its nerfs can be summed up pretty easily.
- lost Wing Attack
- lost Sky Attack
Hawlucha fell victim to the same scenario as Landorus-T in that it received a movepool change just before its release. If you’ve played any amount of PVP over the past few months, then you’ll be familiar with Wing Attack’s dominance in every league. Poison Jab Poison is now its only viable fast move, and while it’s not a bad move by any means, it pales in comparison to Wing Attack. Additionally, Sky Attack is a direct upgrade over the somewhat lackluster Aerial Ace that Hawlucha is now stuck with.
Unfortunately, a buff to Hawlucha is unlikely. This is largely due to its status as a regional Pokémon. Having such a dominant Pokémon only accessible by such a small group of Trainers would not be good for the overall health of the meta or the game in general. It’s unfortunate, but the first dual Fighting type will likely go down in history as a PVP spice pick at best.
I’m sure many of you were expecting this one. Slaking may be the “king”, so to speak, of Pokémon with astoundingly high stats, yet it seems to fall short in almost every sense of usability. Maxing out at 4431 CP at level 40 and a whopping 5010 CP at level 50, Slaking is extremely impressive on paper.
Despite its impressive stats, however, Slaking sees almost no usage due to its moveset. Slaking’s only fast move is Yawn Normal, a move dealing 0 damage. It has access to a good variety of charged attacks, bolstered by its Community Day move of Body Slam Normal. However, its completely useless fast move holds it back from any sort of viability. At best, it can be used as a tanky gym defender. For this use, Play Rough Fairy is preferred, as it will force the gym attacker’s recommended team to fill out with Steel types to resist, or will at least make it more difficult for them to punch their way through with their Fighting types.
It’s pretty easy to see how Slaking could be improved. Literally any other fast move in the game would be an improvement over Yawn. The best case scenario would be Counter Fighting, which would make Slaking a monster in PVP with Body Slam and Play Rough/Earthquake. However, Tackle Normal would be a much more realistic option, and would still allow Slaking to see some use as a neutral PVE attacker and would have some niche usage in PVP.
Unfortunately, Slaking’s viability in Pokémon GO is strictly based off its performance in the main series. Slaking was introduced in Generation 3 in the Hoenn region. This was the generation where Pokémon abilities were introduced. In order to showcase this new mechanic off, trainers would have to face off against a Slaking, which was Gym Leader Norman’s ace in your battle for the fifth gym badge. Slaking’s main series base stat total is tied at an astounding 670 with Groudon and Kyogre, the box art legendaries it debuted with!
In order to balance this out, Slaking’s ability, Truant, prevents it from using a move every other turn. Because of this, while Slaking could hit like a truck and could take a good amount of hits in return, but only being able to do so every other turn prevented it from ever seeing any usage outside maybe a playthrough team.
Yawn is Niantic’s way of simulating Slaking’s Truant within Pokémon GO. It’s actually pretty impressive how they managed to accurately represent a Pokémon’s ability in a game where abilities do not and probably will not ever exist. Unfortunately, this means that Slaking will likely never get a moveset update. It will be relegated to gym defense for the foreseeable future.
The three picks we’ve discussed so far have definitely qualified as losers in some way, but each of them have maintained some level of viability. Here is where we cross the like into Pokémon that are bordering on useless.
I still remember the hype when Noibat was released. I remember seeing one spawn at the edge of my map and desperately trying to reach it before it despawned. The hefty 400 Candy evolution barrier was certainly daunting, but thanks to its Community Day, many more Trainers had easy access to the Sound Wave Pokémon.
However, the pride in finally grinding out the required resources quickly vanishes as we take a look at Noivern’s moveset.
|Fast Moves||Charge Moves|
*Denotes a Legacy Move, only obtainable via Elite TM.
At first glance, it doesn’t look too bad. However, a closer look shows the cracks beginning to form. Draco Meteor is a great move, but there isn’t a Dragon fast move to pair it with. Its Community Day move Boomburst is just… not it. It has great base damage, but it lacks STAB with Noivern, and Normal moves don’t deal super-effective damage to anything. This leaves its moveset. Air Slash and Hurricane make for a decent combo, but now we have to take a look at another downside of Noivern: its cost.
When we think about 400 Candy evolutions, Magikarp is probably the first one that comes to mind. The grind for Gyarados rewards you with a beast in both PVP and PVE, along with a Mega Evolution that shoots it to the top of the rankings.
While the others may trail behind a bit, they each make the 400 Candy grind worth it in their own way. Altaria is incredible in PVP and also has a Mega. Volcarona has already topped the charts as both a Fire and Bug type attacker (although many Trainers may still be searching for one). Melmetal is a PVP powerhouse in all three leagues. Bewear, Golisopod, and Wailord admittedly have little to no impact on the meta. However, their pre-evolutions are easily found in 2KM eggs or the wild (depending on biomes), and additionally, they only require 1KM to earn a Candy as your buddy.
Noivern sees none of these benefits. It is extremely rare (outside of its Community Day appearances), and is featured only in 10KM eggs. It requires 5KM walked to earn a single Candy. Even once you get it, it won’t be doing much for your roster. It’s stats are not suited for PVP. There are numerous Dragon types, and Noivern sits near the bottom of the list. Its best attribute is its type moveset, but even here it is outclassed by the likes of even Staraptor, Unfezant, and Toucannon, all of which are available at a fraction of the cost.
What could be done to improve Noivern’s movepool? The biggest improvement would come from adding a Dragon fast move. It gets access to Dragon Tail, a move that has seen success with plenty of other Pokémon. Additionally, giving it some lower cost charged moves definitely wouldn’t hurt. It gets access to Dragon Claw, as well as coverage moves such as Flamethrower, Shadow Ball, X-Scissor, Body Slam, and so much more. While it still wouldn’t be great in PVP, these moveset additions may help it see some play in some limited-meta cups down the road.
Long story short: as it stands right now, grab one for the Pokédex and maybe a shiny from its Community Day, then move on. There’s potential, but for now, it’s just a nice trophy.
And now we reach the #1 slot and the inspiration for this list. The fossil from the Unova region boasts an astounding 292 attack stat. For context, this is tied with Mega Aerodactyl and the only non-mega, non-shadow it falls behind in attack is Ramparados. In the main series, Archeops’s base stat total outclassed even some megas and legendaries! It was balanced by its ability Defeatist, which halved its offensive stats when it dropped below half health. However, I have a lot of fond memories of tearing through Black and White with one. It may be useless under half health, but you can’t lose any HP if you knock out your opponent in one hit!
Defeatist is often compared to Slaking’s Truant, which we’ve seen represented in Pokémon GO with Slaking only having access to Yawn as a fast move. I’m not sure if Niantic was attempting to simulate Archeops’s ability in a similar manner, but if this was the case, then I think they took it a bit too far. Archeops was still useful most of the time, despite its ability. This is not the case in Pokémon GO:
So uhh… yeah, I got nothing.
There is a distinct lack of dual STAB for either its Rock or typing. It admittedly has the makings of a strong PVP moveset, with Wing Attack/Ancient Power and one of its coverage moves. However, Archeops’s stats are not suited for PVP whatsoever, with lackluster bulk to balance its sky-high attack stat. These stats are much more suitable for a PVE attacker, similarly to Ramparados. However, as you can see, Archeops is not equipped with any moves that would make it anywhere near viable in raids. This is why you never see it anywhere on the recommended raid counters, despite having stats comparable to Ramparados.
It’s pretty easy to see what would help Archeops improve. Pretty much any Rock fast move or charged move would help it see usage. It gets access to Rock Throw and Acrobatics, which would easily solve this issue. If they really wanted to be nice, they could toss Rock Slide or Sky Attack on as well to cement Archeops amongst the roster of glass cannon attackers. However, for now Archeops’s only achievement is the title of biggest loser at the top of this list.
So there we have it. 5 of the biggest losers in Pokémon GO. It honestly pains me to have given them this title, as I have used them all at some point and am a fan of almost all of them (I’ve played too much VGC to hold anything but ill-will towards Landorus-T). Hopefully Niantic will give some special attention to these mons in the next movepool shakeup, namely Noivern, and Archeops. These 5 are far from the only losers in Pokémon GO. Stay tuned for a potential part two!