Mega Evolution is a great mechanic in the mainline Pokemon games, even if it paved the way for disappointing gimmick after disappointing gimmick in the years to come. Kaiju Pokemon – sorry, I mean Dynamax – in football stadiums seems cool (and is one of the better shticks), but doesn’t work as well as Megas, and sometimes feels like fleeting set pieces for gym battles and little else. None of the Gigantamax designs are as good as Megas either.
If you asked Pokemon fans which generational gimmick they would prefer to come to Pokemon Go, the vast majority would say Megas. Aside from being the most popular, it makes the most sense when taking into account Pokemon Go’s gameplay. Dynamax might work for Raids, but Z-moves would be an unnecessary complication for the simple battling methods in both PvE and PvP. Megas are a simple concept, and have been integrated well.
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One thing to note about Pokemon Go’s Megas, however, is that they haven’t been usable in PvP battles. The Go Battle League is the only way to fight other players and has strict rules on which Pokemon can enter. Only Pokemon below 1,500CP can fight in the Great League, for instance. The Holiday Cup, when it was available, further limited you to Grass, Ghost, Electric, Flying, Ice or Normal-types. The Master League, on the other hand, lets you use your most powerful Pokemon, so it’s commonplace to find Legendaries powered all the way up to Level 50. But still, no Megas.
That is, until this weekend. Mega Go Battle Day offered grand rewards to players who participated, and allowed Mega Pokemon to be used in PvP for the first time. I’m not going to lie to you, though, it was a bit of a mess.
Like every PvP game, Pokemon Go has a metagame. All Pokemon are created equal, but some are more equal than others, you get the picture. Melmetal is very good in Master League. Rattata is not. That one should be obvious, but neither are Registeel or Azumarill, which dominate Great League, nor are Ultra League staples Stunfisk or Walrein. Every League and Cup has a different meta, and the Mega Go Battle Day was no different.
I played a few sets of Master League just to see how my Megas fared and immediately realised the problem. I’d brought Mega Gengar, mostly because of its excellent shiny, and faced five Mega Gyarados in a row. I’d accidentally brought a Pokemon weak to the most meta Pokemon in the league, so I switched it out for my own Mega Gyarados. If I came up against any other Megas, I would win. If I came up against other Mega Gyarados, it was usually 50/50. It’s just that good.
I tried to work out what made Mega Gyarados so good. Obviously it’s one of the easier Megas to obtain, with Magikarp candy being flung about willy nilly in most events. I’m flush with the stuff, and still have 1,600 lying about after maxing out both a Shadow and a potential Mega as high as my level allows. Magikarp has also had a Community Day, meaning a lot of people have a Gyarados with good IVs, and the candy to power it up. I saw one Mega Latios which cleaned up shop, but it’s expensive to get enough XL candy to power any Legendary up to level 50. Raids cost cold, hard, cash; Magikarp don’t.
Mega Gyarados’ Dark-typing also hard counters Latios, as well as much of the pre-Mega Master League meta. Mewtwo? Psh. Giratina? No problem. I ended up running my Mega Gyarados alongside two Mega Gyarados counters, because I knew that my own snakey boi could deal with anything else my opponents would throw at me. Mega Gyarados, Melmetal, and Togekiss was a practically unbeatable combination, but I felt a bit dirty playing so closely to the meta.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that Megas in Pokemon Go don’t take a turn to Mega Evolve. This always added an element of risk to battles in Gen 6, as glass cannons like Pinsir, Scizor, Blaziken, or to some extent even Gyarados had to stay on the field for a turn before they could evolve into their more powerful state. There’s no such balance in Pokemon Go, and PvP suffers for it.
What’s the answer? I don’t know, to be completely honest. Niantic doesn’t tend to get too hands-on with meta balance, so I can’t see them simply nerfing Mega Gyarados. Reduce the CP of Megas in PvP, perhaps? Attacks already do different damage based on whether you’re fighting in a Raid or against another player, so a CP debuff would make sense too.
I’ve got nothing against Gyarados, I promise, I just want some variety in my battles. I’m sure some people will tell me just to go back to Great League. With its more varied meta and lower barriers to entry, maybe I will.
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