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A PvP Analysis on the November Community Days
So as has become standard practice, today I going to look at the upcoming Community Days--as we have TWO this month!--anfd examine the Pokémon and their new exclusive moves from a PvP perspective. I actually started doing this back before Aeroblast's stats were released, and then that took precedence, and then the Little and Kanto Cups were announced and THOSE took precedence, and then the GBL Season 5 move shakeup was announced and THAT took... well, you get what I'm saying. 🙃 I still have Kanto Cup to examine, but the first Community Day is now upon us, so I feel obligated to finish this off before I get more fully into that.
For those reasons--plus the fact that these Pokémon are not drastically better with their new moves, as you'll soon see--I'm going to keep this rather brief and to the point. I may spend more time breaking down the 'mons themselves than I do covering the actual exclusive moves! 😂 Let's get to it....
Attack: 144 (142 High Stat Product)
Defense: 98 (101 High Stat Product)
HP: 109 (111 High Stat Product)
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 1-15-15, 1499 CP, Level 18)
Attack: 186 (183 High Stat Product)
Defense: 128 (130 High Stat Product)
HP: 139 (143 High Stat Product)
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 1-15-15, 2500 CP, Level 30)
(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs)
Electivire will be the first to arrive, with Electabuzz Community Day this coming Sunday, November 15th, from 11am to 5pm local time.
So, let's briefly review the actual Pokémon, establish the baseline before we see what's changing. Electivire is sort of a known commodity in PvP already, having carved out a small following in Master League and occasionally in Ultra League as a hard-hitting, high-pressure Electric with a potent non-Electric weapon in its back pocket. (More on that in a minute.)
As a pure Electric type (don't see a ton of those in PvP play), Electivire has just one weakness, to Ground types. It resists Flying, Steel, and opposing Electric damage. And as with many Electric types, 'Vire doesn't have much junk in the trunk, with below average Defense and HP, with its overall stat product driven heavily by its high Attack. That Attack is higher than Ho-Oh, higher than Rhyperior, higher than Machamp and Conkeldurr, higher than Mamoswine, higher than fellow Electrics Raikou and Magnezone, higher than even Gyarados. It is very much a "glass cannon" type. Thankfully, it has moves that match up very nicely with that role....
Thunder Shock (Electric, 1.5 DPT, 4.5 EPT, 1.0 CD)
Low Kick (Fighting, 2.0 DPT, 2.5 EPT, 1.0 CD)
In the interest of time, let's make this easy: it is Thunder Shock you want. Not only is Low Kick of a typing counterproductive to what you want Vire to do, but it's a terrible, terrible move. Thunder Shock or bust.
ᴱ - Exclusive (Community Day) Move
Thunder Punch (Electric, 55 damage, 40 energy)
Ice Punch (Ice, 55 damage, 40 energy)
Wild Charge (Electric, 100 damage, 45 energy, Decrease Self Defense -2 Stages)
Flamethrowerᴱ (Fire, 90 damage, 55 energy)
Thunder (Electric, 100 damage, 60 energy)
So again, let's try to keep this simple. Ice Punch is really what has put Electivire on the PvP map. That may seem odd, since Electivire's Electric moves have the same coverage against Flyers, but Ice Punch gives Vire additional options against things that take neutral or resisted damage from Electric but not from Ice, including (but certainly not limited to) Flyers like Dragonite and Gliscor that are double weak to Ice and the many Grounds, Grasses, and others that neutralize Electrics in general. Ice Punch can turn the tables in those otherwise unfavorable matchups while still taking on the role that Thunder Punch used to carry: baiting shields to set up a closing Wild Charge.
In Ultra League, that translates to a solid performance that holds up pretty well even with shields down. Basically everything Flying and/or Water (that isn't a Mud Boy) goes down, as well as some surprising results such as the Charmers, Obstagoon and Shadow Machamp, Gengar, and Alolan Muk. And while I generally don't show off sims where you have a shield advantage, as those are hard to reliably engineer, the 1v0 shield scenarios show the crazy things that Ice Punch can beat if it is NOT shielded, including both Giratinas, Ferrothorn, and Venusaur.
Up in Master League, Electivire is passable in open, but where it really has a chance to shine is in ML Premier Cup, with juicier targets to pick on. And the results are similar to Ultra League overall: Waters and Flyers, with a sprinkling of the top Fighters and Gengar and then stuff like Magnezone, Scizor, Snorlax, and even Metagross (where that Electric resistance to Steel saves the day). And as you can see here, choosing NOT to shield spells disaster for even things like Dragonite and Garchomp and even Smack Down Rhyperior, none of which a pure Electric type has any business winning. But Electivire can, and that is the sometimes-hidden strength of Ice Punch: even things that laugh at other Electrics HAVE to respect it with shields.
All that to set up the bad news: new Community Day move Flamethrower just doesn't seem to have enough going for it to find a place on competitive Electivire. It's much slower than Ice/Thunder Punch--even slower than Wild Charge!--so you're not going to be able to use it for baiting. And while it theoretically provides coverage against Grasses (and Steels and some other things), it gives up any pressure Vire can bring to bear against Dragons and Grounds and such, and is a worse overall coverage move even against the Grasses because of how much slower it is than Ice Punch.
But let's look at the actual numbers. Flamethrower combined with Wild Charge gets wins over Escavalier and Registeel, but Wild Charge alone can get all those others by itself. Compare that with Ice Punch/Wild Charge, which misses out on Escavalier but can still beat Registeel--as well as Articuno, Lapras, and Armored Mewtwo--thanks at least in part to the baiting potential. Now while Flamethrower is a bit superior to Ice Punch with shields down, again, that can be hard to engineer properly, and the wins that Flamethrower picks up (Ferrothorn, Abomasnow, Escavalier, and Registeel) have to be measured against what it CAN'T do that Ice Punch can (Dragonite and Alolan Muk, and any real threat against Dragons and/or Grounds). Flamethrower has a place, I suppose, but it makes Vire into a different sort of theat, and certainly not as much of a threat to shields. Of course that immediately begs the question "why not both?", to which I provide this as an answer. Not too surprising, but yes... you really don't want to give up Wild Charge either.
And so back to Master League, where even in its ideal spot in Premier Cup, the troubles are immediately obvious. No more wins over Conkeldurr or Snorlax or even the things you would think Flamethrower would help with most: Metagross and Magnezone. In each of those matchups, while Flamethrower still lands and does BIG damage, that is STILL not enough to get the win. Ice Punch can get there by baiting away a shield and then setting up a killer double Wild Charge.
Now I don't want to completely belittle this move. Flamethrower IS a fine move, and Fire does do some good things for coverage. Look at Zebstrika with Flame Charge, for instance. If Electivire was still stuck with all Electric moves (Thunder Punch and Wild Charge, for example), Flamethrower would probably have an easier time finding a place. But the simple fact of the matter is that Electivire already HAS the coverage move it wants with Ice Punch, and it needs that and Wild Charge more than it needs Flamethrower.
I would still hunt down one or two good ones, because with all the move shakeups we get in this game, you never do know. But based on what we have right now, I don't see it doing enough to earn a spot. And yes, that includes Great League too, where not even Ice Punch can overcome Vire's extreme frailty down at that level.
Maybe there's more promise in basically doing this in reverse? Because that's what we have with the next Pokémon....
Attack: 141 (140 High Stat Product)
Defense: 103 (103 High Stat Product)
HP: 108 (111 High Stat Product)
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-10-15, 1498 CP, Level 18)
Attack: 183 (180 High Stat Product)
Defense: 135 (136 High Stat Product)
HP: 137 (142 High Stat Product)
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 1-15-15, 2499 CP, Level 29.5)
(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs)
Unlike Electivire, Magmortar has not been able to establish itself in PvP. While it does have (slightly) better bulk than Vire, being a pure Fire type means you're weak to common Water, Ground, and Rock moves with no moves that can really answer back (as we'll see). While pure Fires like Mortar DO resist quite a bit--Grass, Bug, Fairy, Fire, Ice, and Steel--it's hard to overcome its fatal flaws, as Waters and Grounds especially are well entrenched across all three PvP leagues.
As I already hinted, current moves are not a big help....
Fire Spin (Fire, 3.0 DPT, 3.33 EPT, 1.5 CD)
Karate Chop (Fighting, 2.5 DPT, 3.5 EPT, 1.5 CD)
Now once again, the fast move of choice is rather obvious--it's Fire Spin--BUT the alternative is actually an okay move too. Karate Chop gets a bad rap in PvP because, well, it's not the overpowered Counter, which generates energy at the same rate but deals 4.0 DPT compared to Chop's mere 2.5. But that aside, Chop is a clone of moves Wing Attack, Quick Attack, and Sucker Punch, all of which are more than serviceable in PvP. Karate Chop is NOT a bad move, it's just stuck under the looooooong shadow cast by Counter. You do want Fire Spin, but I will at least mention Chop again.
ᴱ - Exclusive (Community Day) Move
Brick Break (Fighting, 40 damage, 35 energy)
Fire Punch (Fire, 55 damage, 40 energy)
Psychic (Psychic, 90 damage, 55 energy, 10% Chance to Decrease Opponent Defense -1 Stage)
Thunderboltᴱ (Electric, 90 damage, 55 energy)
Fire Blast (Fire, 140 damage, 80 energy)
So just as Electivire gets Thunder Punch, Magmortar gets its own Fire Punch, but it also has an even faster move with Brick Break, which doubles as something that can provide at least a little coverage against Rocks... maybe? These two moves are what it wants in Great League, but are not enough to make it a real option, so again we're going to focus on the higher leagues.
In Ultra, where a higher CP masks Mortar's low bulk a bit better, it now wants one of its bigger moves, probably Psychic, which looks like this. Still not great, but not terrible... it at least beats the Grasses, Steels, Ices, and Fairies you would expect, and Psychic leads to a couple unexpected wins. And up in Master League, as with Vire, it is really only in Premier Cup that Mortar finds any footing, and it's still a niche type role as something that can again terrorize Steels, Fairies, and Ices, while Psychic actually allows it to beat most of its fellow Fire types, including Charizard and Typhlosion. So not a terrible niche, really.
Now its new Community Day coverage move is the inverse of Electivire, as it gets Thunderbolt. Unlike Vire, Bolt is NOT a downgrade, at least stats wise, as it's still much better than Fire Blast on paper, and has the exact same stats as current "coverage move" Psychic. So you're not losing out on speed, just changing up the typing of Mortar's coverage. Does it help?
Mmmmm, yes and no. Flamethrower on Electivire has some decent edge cases, but seemed like an overall downgrade. Here, I think it's fair to say that Thunderbolt is really more of a sidegrade for Magmortar. Back to Ultra League, where Bolt picks up a nice win over Charizard, where Psychic instead beats Toxicroak due to the (double) super effective damage of that type of move. Thunderbolt also not surprisingly makes a win over Articuno easier, but Mortar can win that a little slower with Fire Punch overall anyway.
And since I said I'd mention it again, while I don't necessarily recommend Karate Chop, it is worth pointing out that combined with Fire Punch and Thunderbolt, the combination somehow manages to beat Lapras. Not one you may ever see, but if that happened, it would be incredibly satisfying for the Magmortar player, no?
Anyway, back to Fire Spin and to Master League, Thunderbolt actually looks like it may BE a slight downgrade as compared to Psychic (the move), with the latter uniquely beating Conkeldurr (though Bolt DOES make a win over Togekiss much, much more comfortable).
But end of the day... no, Thunderbolt does not solve Magmortar's Water problem (some can shrug it off still without needing to even shield!), and leaves Magmortar in an awkward place. Thunderbolt is fine, but it's really no better than what it already has. This isn't going to bring it up to sudden prominence at any CP level.
So there you go. Basically a really long way of saying: these are two Community Days where you can mostly not worry about the PvP implications and just enjoy grinding for good Electabuzzes and Magmars and enjoy the benefits that come with the hunt. Get some good shinies, evolve one or two of each for potential FlamethroweThunderbolt buffs in the future, and don't worry about F.O.M.O. for once.
And so... that's it! I hope this analysis was still helpful to you. They aren't ALL winners all the time, but at least now you hopefully understand the WHY with these two.
Until next time (Kanto Cup article in progress!), you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon and its tie-in Discord server you can access to get straight through to me for personalized answers to your questions.
Continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last nearly two years of PvP play, and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. And of course to PvPoke as always for being THE content creator the rest of us just orbit.
And thank you for reading... I appreciate your attention and encouragement. Catch you next time, and stay safe out there, Pokéfriends.
Dragon Breath Charizard (Charmander Community Day 2.0)
It's that time again! As we've done before with Beedrill, Gengar, and Gyarados I want to take a close look at this month's Community Day spotlight Pokémon and examine its merits in PvP. And I'm pleased to say that like those others, this month's recipient of an exclusive move stands to reap benefits in GBL and general PvP play. It's time to take a closer look at Dragon wannabe Charizard and its special, rarely-seen-outside-of-actual-Dragons move Dragon Breath!
Attack: 135 (132 High Stat Product)
Defense: 107 (111 High Stat Product)
HP: 115 (117 High Stat Product)
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-15-13, 1500 CP, Level 19.5)
Attack: 174 (170 High Stat Product)
Defense: 142 (142 High Stat Product)
HP: 146 (153 High Stat Product)
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-13-15, 2500 CP, Level 35)
(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs)
So as we always do, let's begin with the typing. Fire/Flying is a combination only seen on three Pokémon (as of Gen 5), and the other two are Legendaries. The good with the combo: Fire removes the standard Flying weakness to Ice, and between the two Charizard has a surprising seven resistances: Fighting, Fairy, Steel, Fire, and Ground (Fire is weak to Ground, but Flying double resists, so that works out to an overall resistance) and a double resistance to both Grass and Bug. But that bad is a killer double weakness to Rock, as well as glaring holes against Water and Electric.
Now, about those stats. Well, clearly Zard is of the Attack-oriented variety. It's not a glass cannon like Shiftry or Haunter or the like, but its "bulk" trails behind even things like Swampert and Gyarados, and it tracks almost exactly with Machamp (in Great and Ultra Leagues, anyway). Charizard, like those others I mentioned, is a 'mon that you want to simply use as a beatstick, dealing as much damage as you can before it faints. Not that I'm telling you something you don't already know about Zard! Just reiterating what we all already know with the numbers that back it up.
And now a quick look at the moves with which Zard can throttle things... including its now TWO Exclusive, Community Day moves.
ᴸ - Legacy Move; ᴱ - Exclusive (Community Day) Move
Fire Spin (Fire, 3.0 DPT, 3.33 EPT, 1.5 CD)
Air Slash (Flying, 3.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.5 CD)
Emberᴸ (Fire, 3.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.0 CD)
Wing Attackᴸ (Flying, 2.5 DPT, 3.5 EPT, 1.0 CD)
Dragon Breathᴱ (Dragon, 4.0 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 0.5 CD)
So again, probably few surprises here at this point when it comes to Charizard... it's just such a well known PvP staple by now that there isn't too much to really say. Ember is Legacy, but strictly worse than Fire Spin, the preferred non-Legacy move that is also strictly better than Air Slash save for typing, which in turn is typically inferior to the OTHER Legacy move Wing Attack, which with its superior energy generation, has made a name for itself as arguably just as good a move overall as Fire Spin. Whew... got all that? If not, here's the summary: Fire Spin good, Wing Attack good too, Air Slash niche, Ember... why? We'll take another peek at some of these once we incorporate the charge moves.
But first, the new kid on the block, and the reason most of you are here: Dragon Breath. It is far from a new thing in PvP--it currently makes things like Altaria, Dragonite, Zweilous, Kingdra, Dialga, and often Gyarados work--but it IS relatively new to non-Dragons, with Gyarados being the ONLY non-Dragon Pokémon with access to it... until now. Gyarados is known for being able to bring the pain to Dragons without taking super effective damage in return (since Dragon moves are super effective against Dragons but neutral, at best, against everything else, including Gary), and now we have another with Charizard. And unlike Gary, who has STAB Waterfall that can exceed Dragon Breath's damage output, Dragon Breath gives Charizard a new high bar for fast move damage. Looking at a neutral target--we'll choose Machamp, since we've mentioned it already--comparing STAB Fire Spin to Dragon Breath, note that each Fire Spin deals 10 damage and each Breath deals 4. Then keep in mind that FS has a cooldown of 1.5 turns, whereas Breath has a cooldown of only 0.5, so you get three Breaths in the exact same amount of time as a single Spin. So adding that up, that means Breath deals 12 damage (4+4+4) in the same 1.5 turns it takes for Fire Spin to deal 10. Now against Machamp, that doesn't matter (in this Zard-fast-move-only example), since Champ can get to a Rock Slide either way for the win. (Remember that fatal weakness to Rock?) However, look at Shadow Machamp. With Fire Spin (now dealing 12 damage each), Shadow Machamp again reaches that Rock Slide for the win, but this time, Dragon Breath kills it! It deals 5 damage each now, meaning 15 in the same amount of time it takes Fire Spin to deal only 12, and that extra damage adds up to be enough to kill Machamp before it can reach that killer Rock Slide. Farm city!
That's just one sign of the impact Breath could make. Let's add in the charge moves and then look at the full picture!
Dragon Claw (Dragon, 50 damage, 35 energy)
Blast Burnᴱ/ᴸ (Fire, 110 damage, 50 energy)
Flamethrowerᴸ (Fire, 90 damage, 55 energy)
Overheat (Fire, 130 damage, 55 energy, Decrease Self Attack -2 Stages)
Fire Blast (Fire, 140 damage, 80 energy)
So before we get to the whole suite of Fire moves (Flying charge move when, Niantic?), let's spend a minute on Dragon Claw. Because like Gyarados, Charizard is a non-Dragon that can have useful Dragon fast AND charge moves. But unlike Gyarados' slow finisher Outrage (we don't talk about the travesty that is Twister), Charizard's move are all about that spam. Dragon Breath by itself only goes so far (though you gotta like being able to still roast Grassholer offender #1, Shadow Victreebel, as well as troublesome Haunter and Zweilous). But add on Dragon Claw and you start to see some very nice things. Beating Altaria is HUGE... Gary can't do that, even if it gets the perfect bait. As compared to Fire Spin/Dragon Claw, the extra damage output also beats down Zweilous, as mentioned, as well as Vigoroth and Cresselia. In the case of Cresselia, Zard actually becomes a very attractive Cress counter, resisting the standard Grass Knot AND Moonblast and now hitting it for steady, high neutral damage. Wing Attack Zards of course also hit for neutral damage, but the damage output isn't high enough to do the job. Cress is a very exciting pickup, as Zard has never been able to beat it (or Altaria, or Zweilous) before. Do be cautious though, as Futuresight spoils it. Those gains are counterbalanced by Fire Spin/Dragon Claw being able to overcome Ferrothorn and Registeel, obviously on the strength of super effective Fire Spin damage. DB Zard DOES still beat Grasses like Venusaur, Abomasnow, and Shiftry, but the results go from blowouts with Fire Spin to much closer results with Breath.
And these trends continue in the other Leagues, not surprisingly. As an example, in Ultra League, Fire Spin/Claw beats Fire-weak Escavalier, Scizor, and once again Registeel, and its slightly better energy gain also means it beats Gengar by reaching two Dragon Claws, while Dragon Breath only gets to one Claw and subsequently falls just short. Breath tries to make it up with a sweet pickup of Origin Giratina (and with really good IVs, potentially Altered Giratina too!), plus Dragonite, and also Poliwrath, Typhlosion, and opposing Charizards thanks to dealing big neutral fast move damage rather than resisted Fire Spin damage. And once again, while Breath holds most of the Grass wins, it does lose Abomasnow (regular and Shadow), though holds (barely) Ferrothorn (winning with over 120 HP remaining with FS, but with less than 10 when winning with DB), and holds onto Venusaur, Shiftry, Sceptile and others, though with around 40 less HP as compared to Spin.
Much of that, of course, can be remedied by introducing some Fire to the equation. Fire Blast ain't it, being far too slow and comparatively underpowered for the cost, and while there was a time that Flamethrower had a real case going for it, these days it is strictly inferior to former Community Day move Blast Burn AND the improved Overheat, which are the two moves we'll be looking at moving forward.
So starting in Great League, and going with known commodity Fire Spin to start, Blast Burn and Overheat are almost indistinguishable, at least in 1v1 shielding. Like, literally identical across the board with just a 4-5 HP difference in a number of matchups you could count with one hand (even if you lost a finger or two to an overgrown sewer rat). Of course, Overheat comes with a big self-nerfing drawback, so Blast Burn gets the slight edge there... and Blast Burn pulls away from Overheat a bit with shields down, more easily beating Toxicroak, Sableye, Drifblim, and Ferrothorn thanks to being a slightly cheaper move than Overheat. The difference is only 5 energy, but that difference can make ALL the difference sometimes. And on that note, the difference in energy gain between Fire Spin and Legacy Wing Attack makes a difference against Defense Deoxys, which Wing Attack alone can outrace, though the typing and/or increased damage of Fire Spin takes out Froslass, Ferrothorn, Drifblim, and new hotness Galvantula, so Spin still generally gets the edge in Great League.
Charizard typically finds its greatest success (and usage!) in Ultra League, and looking at how FS/DC/BB and FS/DC/OH do, it's pretty easy to see why. Blast Burn can eke out a win over Cresselia, and Overheat can more easily overcome Drifblim, but otherwise they track extremely closely to each other. Things are also very tight between them in shieldless matchups, with Blast Burn getting the very slight edge by again uniquely beating Cresselia, and also Poliwrath, whereas Overheat falls a little short with those two, but gets Alolan Muk as a pretty good consolation prize. Wing Attack Zard seems to work best with Overheat, shedding wins against Drifblim and Gengar to instead defeat Fires (Typhlosion and the mirror), Fighters (Shadow Machamp and Poliwrath), and get a super close win over Cresselia (the one that FS/OH lost that FS/BB won, remember). Fire Spin is about the same or even slightly better in shieldless scenarios, in general. But overall, the case for Wing Attack Zard is much better in Ultra than it was in Great League.
And finally, up in Master League, the raw power of Overheat gives it 1v1 shield wins over Groudon and Dialga that Blast Burn just can't match. (They're both equally mediocre with shields down.) And Wing Attack just doesn't hold up.
So that was all just setting the table, seeing where we start. Now it's time to actually discuss the soon-to-be-Community Day 2.0 move. What does Dragon Breath do for Zard?
Back down to Great League to start, keeping in mind our barometer (with Fire Spin). Dragon Breath looks like a step backwards, but that's not entirely true. The direct gains over just Dragon Breath/Claw alone (here's a refresher on those results, since it's been a while!) are Registeel, Tropius, and Skarmory (hurray for the return of Fire damage!), as well as Obstagoon, Munchlax, Wigglytuff, Clefable, and even big beefy Umbreon. It appears that Zard loses Abomasnow and Froslass, but that's not actually true if you play it right... Lass and Aboma counterintuitively go down easier if you forgo super effective Fire damage and just spam heavy, neutral Dragon Breaths and Claws, so add those to the win total and things don't look so bad, with the same win total as you achieve with Wing Attack, just some slightly different names in the win/loss columns (Altaria, Zweilous, Umbreon wins with DB; DDeoxys and Hypno--regular and Shadow--wins with WA). I will point out that with shields down, the lower energy gains of Dragon Breath as compared to Fire Spin and Wing Attack DOES hamper it. But even still, yes, I think there's enough there with Dragon Breath to say I recommend building a DB Zard for Great League play, especially if you participate in Silph or even GBL limited "Cup" metas, as there is more potential for the uniqueness of Dragon Breath Zard to break out at some point. Great League isn't the best spot for Zard overall, but DB does enough good things that it's worth building one now, when you can do it without needing any Elite TMs (since you can run with Overheat rather than Legacy/Exclusive Blast Burn and seemingly be just fine). Even if you bench it for a while, better to have it and not need it than the other way around.
For those playing in The Silph Arena's ongoing Sunrise Cup, unfortunately I don't think that is a meta that wants Dragon Breath. As discussed already, it beats Altaria, which certainly isn't nothing, but every other win it gets, you can get with Wing Attack (Ninetales, Victini) or Fire Spin, which adds on Abomasnow, Articuno, Ferrothorn, Linoone and others. Both Spin AND Wing Attack are just better in that particular meta, so don't plan on swooping in with any late month surprise savior after Community Day takes place.
I'm gonna save Ultra for last and zip up to Master League next, as Zard is fringy at best at that level (here is a reminder of what it looked like with Fire Spin). And Dragon Breath... well, doesn't look any better, sadly. You pick up a win over Zekrom, both lose ground in all other wins shared with Fire Spin (15 less remaining HP versus Dialga, 20 less vs Togekiss, and about 80 less against Heatran and Metagross!), as well as giving up wins against Conkeldurr (due to slower energy gains) and Mamoswine (due to the super effectiveness of Fire Spin). Even in Premier Cup, while Dragon Breath again gives Zard an edge against other Fires (beating Typhlosion and the mirror), it loses to Conk and Mamo, as mentioned, as well as Gengar and Shadow Metagross... Fire Spin wins all of those. Dragon Breath Zard cannot even beat Dragonite (loses CMP throughout) or even Garchomp. Zard just doesn't hit a high enough CP to keep up. Now MEGA Charizard could be an entirely different story, and yes, it is still worth building a big fat Zard with Dragon Breath for potential future Mega evolving. But of course, the Megas are all very busted in PvP right now in general, so who knows if Mega Charizard with Dragon Breath will ever achieve the very lofty heights it has the potential of without being nerfed out the wazoo... if it's ever allowed at all! Don't bank on that... but don't miss out on the chance to prep one--just in case--either! If nothing else, it would make a very cool raid piece, no?
But finally... FINALLY!... we come to the last bit: Ultra League. Still awake? Because this is where you want to sit up and pay attention, as I believe Ultra League is where Dragon Breath Charizard could find its greatest success. Ultra is where Zard already HAS its best success, after all!
First, let's look high level. As a reminder, Wing Attack has some nice things going for it that make it preferred by some players over Fire Spin (or even Air Slash, for that matter). And now, enter Dragon Breath. Check it out... same high bar of wins that was set with Wing Attack! But what does that actually mean?
Let me explain. ...no, there is too much. Let me sum up:
- Fire Spin, despite looking like the clear loser, is the only way Charizard reliably roasts Drifblim and Gengar. It is also the best way to melt down Registeel, Scizor, Escavalier, regular and Shadow Abomasnow, and generally anything Steel or Ice.
- Wing Attack's niches, remember, are beating opposing Fires (Zard, Typh), Fighters (Poliwrath, Shadow Champ), and outracing Cresselia, while still doing fine against the Grasses just as well or only slightly worse than Fire Spin.
- Dragon Breath shares Wing Attack's niche versus Fires (beating Zard and Typh just as effectively as WA) and being uniquely capable of punishing Dragons (beating Dragonite and potentially both Giratinas, as pointed out earlier). Its big neutral damage also gives it and it alone wins over Feraligatr and Armored Mewtwo (even if it has Rock Slide, which is pretty amazing!). It also still manages to beat Poliwrath as Wing Attack does, but is a little too slow overall to guarantee Shadow Machamp (which WA gets).
Fire Spin can eke out wins against Snorlax (which is significant) and Lickilicky (which is... less so significant). It shares a win with Wing Attack against Clefable that Dragon Breath doesn't get, and shares a win with Dragon Breath against Alolan Muk that Wing Attack doesn't get.
Wing Attack shares that win against Clefable, again beats Poliwrath, is the only way to beat Armored Mewtwo (assuming no Rock Slide) this time (being the only move fast enough to reach TWO charge moves), and shares a win with Dragon Breath against Dragonite that Fire Spin cannot touch.
And finally, Dragon Breath quickly catches the eye, having three more wins in shieldless head-to-heads than either of the other two fast moves. Beyond the wins it shares with Wing Attack (Dragonite AND Poliwrath) and Fire Spin (A-Muk), it is the only move that consistently can beat Charizard, Typhlosion, and both Giratinas... and Altered G is far less IV dependant this time. So as long as you're okay with giving up Clefable and A-Mewtwo, Dragon Breath seems to be the clearcut best of the three with shields down in Ultra League, AND earns its place with shields in play as well.
Whew! That was a LOT of information, I know, and I do sincerely apologize for hitting you between the eyes with that fire hose. But when I say "comprehensive", I mean it. 😅
So if you're still with me--or if you skipped the article to just get straight to the TL;DR--let me once again sum up:
- Dragon Breath Charizard doesn't do anything special in Master League, where Zard is borderline viable anyway if we're being honest. However, I still recommend building a good one if you can, because Mega Charizard could make great use of it, and REALLY tears it up in Premier Cup.
- Dragon Breath is a viable alternative for Charizard in Great League, getting some fun wins like Zweilous and Altaria that Zard just cannot achieve otherwise. Fire Spin still reigns supreme, but DB has some nice niche uses and could break out in a limited Cup format down the line.
- But if you do nothing else during this month's Charmander Community Day 2.0, build a Dragon Breath Charizard for Ultra League. It becomes a sneaky good Dragon counter (including the Giratinas!) while still holding down most of the wins you care about, even the Steels, and gets some unique wins like Armored Mewtwo and Feraligatr in the 1 shield, and opposing Fires with shields down, while also borrowing some of the best of Wing Attack variants (Poliwrath and those Fires) and even poaching some of Fire Spin's standout wins (Alolan Muk being the best example). It's the best move of all with shields down, and just might emerge as THE preferred fast move for Ultra League Charizard, especially in open UL. I will reiterate: GET ONE WHILE YOU CAN.
- And one final point: in almost all cases, Overheat is just as good as Blast Burn, and is often even better with shields down. I DID highlight (up in the article above) a small handful of spots where the relative speed of BB is better, but I really think you can save yourself an Elite Charge TM, stick with Overheat, and not end up missing Blast Burn much at all. If you have a small stockpile of eTMs, then sure, go for it... it IS nice to not self-nerf your Zard when you can avoid it. But if not, don't fret... you should be just fine!
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon and its tie-in Discord server you can access to get straight through to me for personalized answers to your questions.
Continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last nearly two years of PvP play, and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. And thank you for reading... I appreciate your attention and encouragement. Catch you next time!