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Season 4 has begun and, unlike previous seasons, it saw a balance patch with its release. In a meta previously dominated by Lucario, Hoopa and Talonflame, how will balance patch 1.5.1.2 mix things up among the top players?

S Tier:

  • Greninja – 22% (+17.5)

A Tier:

  • Hoopa –13.5% (+2)
  • Lucario – 11.5% (-5)

B Tier:

  • Trevenant – 5.5% (+4.5)

C Tier:

  • Blastoise – 4.5% (-1.5)
  • Garchomp – 4% (+2.5)
  • Slowbro – 3.5% (+1.5)
  • Cinderace – 3.5% (+2.5)
  • Blissey – 3% (+/-)
  • Cramorant – 3% (+2.5)
  • Aegislash – 3% (+3)
  • Greedent – 2.5% (-6.5)
  • Machamp – 2.5% (+0.5)
  • Pikachu – 2.5% (+1.5)
  • Gengar – 2.5% (+2.5)

D Tier:

  • Ninetales – 2% (-5)
  • Absol – 2% (+/-)
  • Talonflame – 1% (-6.5)
  • Decidueye – 1% (+/-)
  • Duraludon – 1% (-1)
  • Mime – 1% (-1.5)
  • Charizard – 1% (+/-)
  • Tsareena –1% (+1)
  • Zeraora – 1% (+1)
  • Sylveon – 1% (+1)
  • Wigglytuff – 0.5% (-5.5)
  • Eldegoss – 0.5% (+0.5)

Azumarill (-0.5), Crustle, Dragonite (-3), Gardevoir (-2), Mamoswine (-1), Snorlax (-1) and Venusaur (-3) all saw no noticeable play among top players.

Below are the four-week moving averages for the top 10 Pokémon:

Main Pokémon chosen by top 100 players in the current Pokémon UNITE meta. | Provided by Maxwell Kappes

Winner: Greninja

For a long time Greninja’s unite move has had the longest cooldown in the game. Patch 1.5.1.2 reduced the cooldown by about 20%, putting it closer to the average. This alone isn’t putting Greninja at the top of the heap though: it’s the changes to how UNITE calculates experience.

Passive experience gain and experience gain from wild Pokémon has been decreased, while experience gained from defeating other players has increased. This has been allowing junglers to snowball quickly. If they are able to win the battle for 8:50 bees in the lane of their choice, it allows them to quickly build a formidable level advantage.

This experience change will be fixed on Friday. Maybe this change will bring Greninja down to earth, or maybe it won’t. For now, due to Greninja’s formidability early game, it is seeing a much larger jump in play than other junglers.

Loser: Wigglytuff

Wigglytuff just saw its usage rates tumble despite being untouched directly in the last patch. Instead, Wigglytuff’s loss is based around the nerfing of a particular item: Score Shield. The item used to generate a shield equal to 10% of your health whenever you tried to score with a six second cooldown in the event the shield breaks. This shield would only be broken after all other shields your Pokémon had were broken.

The entire score comp revolved around this item: exploiting it with Buddy Barriers (which also saw a nerf) and moves like Wigglytuff’s unite, which generated shields for the entire team. The shield cooldown has been increased dramatically to 20 seconds. Not only that, but the shield is now the first one broken instead of the last. This means an opposing Pokémon only needs to break through your Score Shield and no other generated shields.

Wigglytuffs usage has been highly tied to the score comp. It serves as a bottom lane defender with a unite move that could generate large shields for allies, allowing teams to make large end game scores. Without Score Shield to exploit, Wigglytuffs place in the meta is seriously under threat for the first time in a while.

Winner: Trevenant

Trevenant’s release was a nothing burger. It has seen almost no play, with top player usage primarily though sheer force of meme. Its crowd control abilities aren’t outstanding for a defender, relying primarily on its respectable sustain. It received some buffs previously, but they did little to increase its usage. This latest round of buffs addressed its major problem, though: a weak early laning phase.

Branch Poke saw an increase to damage output, increased effect on opponent and added recovery to Trevenant to boot. Not only did Trevenant suddenly become an early game sustaining force, but it saw a buff to Curse and Pain Split along with a cooldown reduction for its unite move. Trevenant is now hitting harder and staying in the fight longer, two things you want from a defender.

Loser: Talonflame

Talonflame is another casualty of the game weakening score comp teams. Where Wigglytuff was the premier bottom lane defender for the score comp, Talonflame was the premier jungler. Unlike Wigglytuff, though, Talonflame also received direct nerfs to Brave Bird and its unite move. With lower damage, higher cooldown and the nerf to Buddy Barrier, Talonflame’s unite move just isn’t doing the same work it used to.

This isn’t the first time Talonflame faced nerfs either. At the outset of the game, it was one of the weakest Pokémon and required several buffs before seeing high level play. From there, Talonflame became a niche pick with consistent usage among top players. After a while, though, nerfs began to set in, and this may be the one to finally bring the bird down to Earth.

Winner: Cramorant

Cramorant has been the Pokémon most frequently nerfed for no good reason. When Unite released, Cramorant and Ninetales were the premier lane attackers. However, they saw their usage drop through a combination of nerfs and a changing meta. Ninetales received some love recently and saw its numbers rebound, and now it’s Cramorant’s turn.

Air Slash got a minor buff with an increase in the number of projectiles. The real star is the buff to its unite move, which saw a decrease in cooldown coupled with an increase in damage. The unite move did a lot of work for Cramorant in the early meta, so seeing it buffed could be what the bird needs to start seeing play again.

We have achieved #JusticeForCramorant.

Loser: Azumarill

Azumarill is not very good. Fun yes, good no. Its release was a disappointment, seen initially as something that could really spice up the meta and even force a reversion from the 1-1-3 team comp to a 2-1-2 due to Huge Power. That never happened.

One cool thing about Azumarill was the way Aqua Tail bypassed shields. It doesn’t do that anymore. It’s unite power recharges quickly, allowing it to dive on other players for massive damage. But without a Buddy Barrier, the health reduction in the unite move is more noticeable and players quickly dispatch Azumarill in combat. Hopefully it gets the Trevenant treatment in an upcoming patch and sees a substantial buff so it can do what players expected of it.

Methodology: This data is collected using both the rankings tab in Pokémon UNITE and the Pokémon UNITE API. A Pokémon is considered a “main” of a player if is it the most played Pokémon in their most recent 16 ranked matches. In the event of a tie or near tie the data will reflect that. If more than two Pokémon are tied, the 32 most recent matches will be considered instead.