While competitive players continue to plumb Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s strategic depth and tease out its tactical wrinkles, one creature has gotten a shocking amount of playtime over the last month: Murkrow. The unevolved flying dark type isn’t a heavy hitter and its stats are absolute trash, but it does have a unique advantage over every other Pokémon in the game that’s sent it straight to the top of the competitive charts.
Browse social media, hang out on the Smogon message boards, or climb the ranked ladder and you won’t be able to escape Murkrow. The tiny black bird first introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver is finally back in the spotlight, and former Pokémon World Champion Wolfe “WolfeyVGC” Glick explained the reasons why in a recent TikTok:
The first is Tailwind, a move the Gen 2 bird has had from the jump, but which is supremely important in the current landscape, providing all other Pokémon on the team bonus speed for four turns. The second is Prankster, a passive ability that lets Murkow’s non-damage-dealing moves, like Tailwind, take increased turn priority during battles, thus allowing it to strike first. In Scarlet and Violet’s Gen 9, Murkrow is the only Pokémon who has both, guaranteeing a match-defining speed boost on turn one.
But why Murkrow and not its evolved form of Honchkrow? Well, Murkrow’s evolved form loses Prankster in exchange for the damage-oriented passive ability Moxie, ruining the whole strategy. Plus, players can mitigate some of Murkrow’s drawbacks by equipping the held item Eviolite which boosts the normal and special defense of Pokémon who aren’t fully evolved.
“Don’t get me wrong, the combination of Prankster is really good but it isn’t the only reason that Murkrow is popular,” WolfeyVGC added in his recent TikTok. “Murkrow also gets the attack Haze which removes all stat changes from the battlefield. This is relevant because one of the most powerful new Pokémon added is Dondozo who has a way to boost all of its stats by 2.” Haze completely nullifies that, making Murkrow a perfect counter to Dondozo in addition to being a major utility pick for boosting the rest of your team.
That’s been enough to make Murkrow the second most picked Pokémon in competitive play for December, just one percentage point behind all-star crypto coin mascot Gholdengo. As WolfeyVGC wrote in a Twitter thread a couple of weeks ago, Gholdengo’s dual ghost/steel type make it a great defensive pick, while special ability Make it Rain does a ton of damage.
The Swords-Dance-wielding Garchomp and Bulk Up defensive tank Annihilape are also top contenders, as is Hydreigon who can finally use the new games’ Terastalization mechanic to mitigate its traditional 4X weakness to Fairy-type moves. The mushroom bug Amoonguss, meanwhile, has been tearing things up thanks to Rage Powder which forces opponents to target it rather than buff themselves.