May 2nd, 2019, we saw Sinnoh’s Lake trio go from being the first wild-caught Legendary Pokemon to the first true regional legendary Pokemon, joining raids as Groudon retired from its celebratory earth-day romp across the globe. It has been confirmed that Azelf is exclusive to the Americas, Uxie is taking Asia, and Mesprit is comfortably sitting in Europe. On the surface, this seems like a simple rehash of the “wandering” legendary Beasts from Gen 2, which switched regions every month in order to emulate their trademark encounter method in the main series, but it has indeed been confirmed from a reliable source that these three Pokemon are intended to not rotate regions. This change is something of a double-edged sword, as it does make the game a bit more interesting in that it gives value to what most players were expecting to be a three-month slog similar to the Regi trio, but it also sets a precedent that could be worrisome for the future of Pokemon GO.
In this article, we hope to compare and contrast the pros and cons of this choice, and attempt to forecast the future of the Lake trio, as well as the game itself, We will be looking at potential benefits that this expansion to the status-quo may bring, as well as pitfalls that Niantic needs to watch out for when walking what could very well become a place of contention for the fanbase of Pokemon GO.
The Lake Trio
“It makes the game more interesting to have regionals! They have real value now!”
While overlooked by many long-term players who have just a few missing Pokemon, this is a valid point. Since its inception, Pokemon has been one-part battling, one-part collecting. Here in GO, some players focus on their Pokedex as the main goal while others focus on PVP, raids, shiny hunting, etc. Given the absolute regional rarity of two out of three members of the Lake trio in any given area, it actually gives them an intrinsic value that other legendaries lack. Most of us who are planning on attending GO fest are already planning to see if we can trade for the missing members of our trio, and that is something worth considering. How much more exciting would a Pokemon like Suicune be if it had only been available in New Zealand? Despite being basically useless, it would make it an inherently valuable Pokemon. The same logic follows here.
“At least we don’t have a 3-month period of nearly identical legendaries!”
Many raid-centric players are actually heaving a sigh of relief on this point. Last year we had the Regi Trio; three Pokemon who were defensive titans, meaning it took a fair number of players to take down. They were largely similar, typing aside, and served no real purpose at that point in the game. In fact, a player could make a team of Machamp on the first day of release and use nothing but that for the full three month period. Most players saw them as a dex filler legendary and nothing more. In fact, many players who didn’t catch them early on would find it difficult to call in a raid-group to take that month’s Regi, due to how done people were after the first week or so, much less form a raid-train to hit multiples. And this got worse with time; by the time the last of the trio was released, virtually everyone was just through with them and wanted to see a change. By making the Lake Trio regional, Niantic was able to condense three highly similar Pokemon into one release window. On top of that, the Regi trio had at least a bit of variation in counters, had these three been released back-to-back, we would have had an entire season of using the exact same team. If this evaluation is right, then it actually means that Niantic’s silence isn’t necessarily due to their ignoring the fans, but rather it may be that they actually are listening.
“At least Niantic is doing something new!”
The Lake Trio have the aforementioned distinction of being the first wild-caught Legendary Pokemon and the first regional Legendary pokemon. This in-and-of-itself is historic for a game that has grown somewhat stagnant in its formulaic release schedule. This is the first shake-up to the way that we receive legendary Pokemon since they were released as research breakthroughs last year, and it does let us know that Niantic isn’t content to just sit on their existing formula. This gives us hope that maybe we’ll see something new and refreshing in the future! Remember when Generation 2 was first released? Finding or hatching a Larvitar was a huge deal and something to be excited over. Now it’s little more than an eyebrow raise and an IV check for most of us. The ability to find something unique and rare such as a wild legendary like was made possible with this update or someone willing to trade that regional legendary returns some spark of excitement to a game. One that many of us now find to be devoid of the spark that it used to have.
“They’re basically all three the same pokemon, so we got them out of the way!”
Among every legendary grouping from the Legendary Birds in generation 1 to the Tapus in generation 7, we always see some definite variation. The legendary beasts were all very different, the Swords of Justice in Gen 5 all serve different purposes and have different typings despite sharing Fighting-type, and even the aforementioned Regi trio had different types to shake the game up a bit. The Lake Trio are basically all less interesting clones of Mew from an objective standpoint. Of any grouping of Legendary Pokemon in all generations, they are the most similar. As such, getting them out of the way is a benefit, and making them regional is not a huge loss. True, Azelf is good in raids, but it’s outclassed by Mewtwo. Uxie is good for the Great League in PVP, but other pokemon like Cresselia can cover most of its niche. Really, from this perspective, it’s not a great loss to have this specific trio regional.
“If they did it with these Pokemon, they’ll do it with more!”
This is probably the heaviest issue that this new change brings. The loss of two members of the Lake trio per region isn’t the worst, but what if this continues into the future? Following this logic, we may see the Swords of Justice (Cobalion, Virizion, and Terrakion, possibly Keldeo despite being a Mythic) split across the globe as well. This could be potentially devastating for many players. Just to take one of these Pokemon; Terrakion in particular, if given a good moveset, is projected to be the top Fighting-type for all generations currently released, as well as a top contender for Rock-type. Now imagine everything goes right for Terrakion and it becomes what we’re hoping for, and then it’s exclusive to one region. Most of the world will be denied the ability to catch and use this monster, which changes the metagame for most of the planet. On top of this, let’s take a look at the existing case of Tropius. Tropius is a Grass/Flying-type Pokemon that is region-locked to Africa. In general, this seems like a non-issue; it’s a dex-filler like Mr. Mime or Tauros, right? Well, in the PVE meta, yes. But in PVP, it’s one of the top Pokemon for the Great League, which means anyone in any other region that happens to have one is at a massive advantage. This shifts the meta and gives huge advantages to players who have the luck to find someone willing to trade or those who are fortunate enough to visit the region in question in order to catch it themselves. It unbalances the table, which is going to be more and more of an issue if Niantic begins to push the PVP meta harder in the future. While it’s true that this may very well be an isolated incident that was done due to how similar these three Pokemon are, the lack of transparency and communication from Niantic makes this change somewhat troubling and worrisome for what is to come. Now, this is admittedly a bit of a stretch and a little bit of sensationalism, as t seems as though Niantic split the trio up because they’re so similar, but it is still a conversation worth posing to Niantic in order to let them know that we don’t want this trend to continue.
“X is a personal favorite, and now it’s impossible for me to get it!”
Someone, somewhere, is looking at a member of the Lake trio and feeling despair. One of the three is this person’s favorite Pokemon, and it’s literally an ocean away. Now, this could very well be said of any regional Pokemon, but Legendary pokemon tend to hold a special place in the hearts of players. Up until now, we’ve had hope that we’d be able to eventually have all of the legendary Pokemon in the game, but now that is a little less certain. While it is unlikely, it’s possible that any of our favorite Legendary Pokemon could become regionals, impossible for 95% of the player-base in a given country to ever obtain due to the constraints of life. This is definitely a worrisome proposition looking forward, as it doesn’t just strip utility potential from the game, it also strips away the enjoyment. I for one have raised a Ho-Oh in GO out of pure love for the Pokemon, but what if they had announced that it would be regional? I would have lost no utility in gameplay, as I virtually never use it, but I would have a phoenix-shaped hole in my heart, as I would likely never be able to have the Rainbow Pokemon for myself. And again, given the lack of communication on Niantic’s part, there’s a seed of doubt in many players for their yet-released favorite Legendary Pokemon.
“X is good in the PVP/PVE scene! It’s unfair that it’s regional!”
As already alluded to before, this is a huge issue. As we stand now, Azelf is the second best Psychic attacker in the game, sitting right behind Mewtwo. Uxie is a fantastic choice for the Great League according to PvPoke thanks to its more defensive stat-build. Mesprit, meanwhile, has no real niche in the game. Since Azelf stands in second place to Mewtwo, which the majority of players have due to its prolonged EX-raid period and its release as a full raid boss, it’s not a huge advantage for most players. Uxie has a unique niche in the Great League that isn’t fully filled by other Pokemon, meaning it is probably the most valuable of the trio assuming you’re interested in the Great League. Mesprit, as stated, is the odd-mon-out. This gives the United States a slight edge in future of raids, Asia an edge in any Great league play and Europe the all-around short end of the stick. This definitely unbalances the regions, and will likely become an issue if Niantic pushes the Great League of PVP into the forefront moving forward.
“Their candy is all different, so even if we trade for one that we want later, we’re almost going to have to spend a fortune in rare candy to raise it!”
This is a slightly more niche point, but a valid one nonetheless. Let’s say that you’re in Europe and you tend to focus on the Great League PVP meta. You go through a month where you farm Mesprit, and then a friend of yours comes back from somewhere in Asia and trades an Uxie to you. This is a fantastic advantage, except for the fact that you’ve never had a chance to farm candy for it, putting you behind in your plans to raise it. Your only options are to trade for more, walk it a painful distance to farm more, and/or drop a bunch of rare candy on it. In the case of every other legendary release, including EX raids, we’ve had at least some semblance of a chance to farm a bit of candy to ease this load. Either way, the resource burden is definitely substantial for anyone who intends to raise a member of this trio that isn’t native to their region.
“This is temporary, they’ll rotate eventually”
This is a distinct possibility. Right now it’s been confirmed that the Lake Trio is going to stay region-locked. Unfortunately, we don’t have public confirmation from Niantic yet, but it seems that issues such as this rarely are addressed directly in a timely manner. So, for now, it’s best to assume that they are indeed regional. However, this could very well change in the future. Six months down the line, we may receive a notification that tells us that they’re back, and have changed locations. This would be somewhat exciting, as it would break the status quo and give us renewed hope.
“They’ll be special rewards in breakthroughs or events”
This is another possibility. We’ve seen challenges in the past, so maybe Niantic is planning on having a challenge that will unlock the Lake trio in global raids? That would actually make them somewhat exciting to see, as it would be similar to when Kanto regionals were hatching from 7k eggs; we wouldn’t be sure if they’d return, so they would retain that feeling of value without actually having much intrinsic value themselves.
“They’re not regional at all and will rotate later”
Admittedly, this is a small possibility. As of now, we don’t have official firsthand confirmation from Niantic to the public as to the future of these Pokemon. If this is how the situation turns out, then kindly disregard this article.
“Niantic is going to release remote trading”
This is a definite fix, but not terribly likely in my estimation. Remote trading would instantly fix all of the aforementioned problems, but at the same time, it would make the last tantalizing bits that most of us are missing, the regionals, little more than a deal made on a message board. Niantic seems reluctant to allow this, and even if they did it’s likely that they’d restrict not-yet-owned Pokemon from remote trading, so I wouldn’t count on this as a future fix. Still, it’s possible.
One fact is for sure; giving us region-locked Legendary Pokemon was unexpected, and it gives Niantic an ace up their sleeves for future content. If played right, this could make for an interesting way to bring a spark of excitement and adventure back into Go, and if played wrong it could even farther drive a rift between Niantic and the player base. As of now, it’s impossible to tell which direction this scale of content will tip. Does this update bring uncertainty to the future? Definitely. Is uncertainty inherently bad? Despite the fact that most of the player-base doesn’t care for it, it’s also the catalyst of surprise. Remember catching/hatching/trading for your first 100% or shiny? That was an uncertain outcome, yet that roll of the dice of it is what made it memorable. We just have to hope that Niantic uses this new change to bring exciting futures and not restricted hopes.