The Pokemon GO Battle League is here, an update where you can battle other trainers across the globe and earn various rewards and show off how prepared you are with Great League Pokemon, since Master League and Ultra League are coming soon! The new GO Battle League (shortened to GBL) is a way for you to challenge other players via a matchmaking system. If you win, you can earn a bunch of rewards, including stardust, charge and fast TMs, rare candy and Pokemon encounters. We also have the debut of Scrafty, the weird lizard Pokemon with baggy trousers.
Sounds great, right? Well, I don’t know.
The first thing I have to mention is that you’re limited to 15 battles a day. The first 5 battles are completely free, after that, you have to walk 5km to get the next set of battles (although this isn’t per day, it carries over, like walking a buddy). This is pretty good if you can walk a lot and even if you can’t, you can still battle occasionally. I do find it weird how PvP in general is tied to walking, not just the ranked mode or the rewards. As it stands, there is no way to practice against random or matchmade players without using your five battles obtained by walking, and those five matches are also tied to the rewards you can earn and ranked matchmaking. You’re not going to want to waste those battles trying out new things, meaning a meta is almost certainly going to swiftly emerge.
Alright, there’s enough Pokemon that a meta will at least have more than 3 Pokemon in it, but still, metas aren’t great and, outside of the Great League, you’re less likely to have Pokemon that are ready for PvP. I mean, I play constantly and I barely have a team for Great League, I have a mishmash of Pokemon for Ultra League and I have absolutely fuck all for Master League aside from a Groudon. There’s also the cost of candy for second moves and the annoying use of TMs that’s required to make Pokemon ready for PvP as well.
The rewards are also a bit hit and miss, because they’re based on how many of those five battles you win at a time, resetting after you’ve done your five battles.
The rewards for winning are currently: stardust, a random TM, a rare candy, a Pokemon encounter and more stardust. To get the Pokemon encounter, you need to win 4 of your 5 battles. If you do your 5 battles, only win 1-3 and then start another set of 5 battles, you need to still win 4 battles. At ranks 1-3, the Pokemon encounter will be a Snorlax, Machop, Snivy, Tepig or Oshawott (with the first encounter being a guaranteed Snorlax), and the Pokemon changing after rank 4 (where your first counter is a guaranteed Scrafty).
You can also gamble a Premium Raid Pass for better rewards, and Premium Raid Passes have been renamed to Premium Battle Passes now. Funnily enough, this doesn’t do much, it just changes the order, meaning you have to win only 2 out of 5 battles to get the Pokemon encounter rather than 4 battles. I want to say it’s not worth it, but this really depends on how good you are at PvP and how reliably you can win 4 out of 5 battles, which will be harder and harder as you increase in rank. So basically it’s pay to get better rewards. Or, if you can’t reliably PvP at all, it’s pay to ever see Scrafty ever unless it appears in eggs or the wild later on.
If you lose though, you get nothing. Which is surprising, since casual PvP against friends still gives you a participation reward.
As for the fights themselves? Well, matchmaking is actually pretty quick, I’ve only ever waited about 10 seconds so far. Being good at PvP relies on a few things: getting your charge attacks out quick enough to destroy the opposing player’s shields (so you will want something somewhat fast-attacking like a Latias, Gyarados or whatever), being able to second-guess what moves a Pokemon will have (for example a Houndoom of mine got destroyed by a Registeel with Lock On and Focus Blast), and the range of types that your three Pokemon cover. You can’t expect to be able to resist all 18 types, but you can cover the majority of them with some well-placed picks. From what I’ve seen, Latias is pretty damn common, as are dragon-type moves, but it’s been a real mix and match so far as everyone’s low level. This WILL change though as more people gain access to GBL and rise through the ranks.
Pro tip though: I’d recommend using a good Wi-Fi connection to do these battles. I tried a few battles in a few places (namely my notoriously spotty 4G data and while in my room, which has a shit connection to the rest of the house’s Wi-Fi) and I got quite a few Weak Connection messages. I’m not sure what that means but in some matches, which have been right down to the wire when it comes to charge moves and swapping in and out, you do need a good connection to pull through.
So, is the GBL any good? It’s alright. Is it something I expect to play once I have all the rewards I want? Eh, I don’t know. The challenge is nice but the fact that I can’t reliably practice or try things out is a bit annoying. And although I don’t actually mind the walking 5km between 5-battle sessions, I’m not a fan of how the reward system works.
Still, things might change. In the mean time, I need to get more Charge TMs because I wasted all 12 of mine trying to get Surf on two of my Kyogres.