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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Nov 18, 2019: Nifty Or Thrifty: Timeless Cup

Author: JRE Seawolf

“Nifty or Thrifty” is a series which author JRE Seawolf started on the Arena subreddit to analyze the Cup meta – specifically through the lens of which Pokemon may be worth powering-up and purchasing 2nd charge moves for and which “budget picks” are available at less cost who can still perform well!

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series serves a few functions. First, it gives a first blush, comprehensive look at the meta for the upcoming Timeless Cup, particularly from the perspective of which ones are likely worth the cost of leveling up and adding a second charge move (nifty) and which ones would probably work out fine without heavy investment (thrifty), including some alternatives to the more expensive options. For those on a stardust budget–and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future–it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it. We all want to field competitive teams of six, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps instead channel our inner scrooge?

Since the meta is brand spankin’ new, I have tried to whittle down without leaving too much out, but as per usual with these, it’s likely to be a long read, just to warn you up front! But I’ll  try to keep it entertaining, too. 😃

Before we dive in, let’s quickly define what makes Timeless tick. As described on the main Timeless Cup page, Timeless Cup includes all of Generation 1-4, with  the following exceptions:

  1. Fairy, Fighting, Flying, Normal, Psychic, and Steel types are all specifically banned. This includes Pokemon with multiple typings that include one of those banned typings.  (Azumarill, for instance, which is half Fairy.)
  2. All Legendaries, Mythicals, Alolans, and Galarians are also specifically banned.
  3. Each team must contain one–but ONLY one–Starter among the six Pokemon selected. Starters with a banned typing are exempt from Rule #1, so Charizard (Fire/Flying) and Blaziken  (Fire/Fighting) ARE permitted.

And that’s it! Everything else in the first four generations is allowed… over 175 Pokemon in total. 👀

But obviously, we’ll be paring that down. First off, there’s the one starter rule to consider. Since they’re such an integral part of your team, I’m going to start with them before I get into  “Nifty” or “Thrifty” proper. They’re really BOTH, especially since their second charge moves are all (rather famously) only 10,000 stardust and 25 candy you likely have mountains of.

THE STARTERS

Venusaur

Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

The PvP beast is back. Venusaur was in the upper echelons of every Season 1 Cup that included it. In Twilight Cup, it was a great Azumarill/Fairy counter and solid generalist. In Regionals,  it’s still listed as a Top 12 option on PvPoke and saw that level of usage too, and it was easily in the Top 10 in both Rainbow and Jungle Cups for its ability to shred Waters and overcome meta definers like Vigoroth and Wigglytuff… and of course, its unique ability to overcome basically every other (non-Flying) Grass thanks to speedy Sludge Bomb.

And that all continues here. Venusaur still destroys all the many Waters (the only one it can’t reliably finish off is Ice Shard Lapras, which doesn’t even need another charge move than resisted Surf) and Grounds and Rocks, and still overcomes all its fellow Grasses, the only exceptions being Sandy and Planty Wormadams. As a bonus, all Dragons but  the pure Dragons Shelgon and Dragonair fall before it as well (since they’re part Ground or part Water, and Venusaur resists and beats down all eligible Electrics too. It even beats down most of the generalist Ghosts, tying new- fangled Return Banette and Haunter and even Icy Froslass, and losing only to Fire Punching Dusclops. You need to keep Venusaur (and other Grasses!) away from Bugs and Fire, of course, and Ice and Poison can be problematic too, but Venusaur–as it often does!–bullies a big chunk of the format. It will undoubtedly be an extremely popular pick as people’s starter.

But there is a significant dropoff if you don’t have Community Day move Frenzy Plant. If you can’t get it, pre- evolution Ivysaur represents a very small downgrade to Venusaur, operating with nearly identical moves, or Ivy can even perform at that same level with another very unique move combination instead.

Other alternatives include Meganium (though it also requires CD move Frenzy Plant), which as a pure Grass trades some  of Venusaur’s anti-Grass wins for an improvement against Fires and Poisons thanks to Earthquake, and Speptile, simmed there with double Grass charge moves but also potentially sporting Earthquake, Aerial Ace, or Dragon Claw, carving out several niches.

Others like Bayleef and Torterra and Grovyle are probably best left out this time, though. If you could use two starters, they would be more interesting, but you really want to run  with one of the top-flight options above if you are devoting your starter slot to a Grass.

Now on to the starters that directly answer Grass….

Charizard

Blast Burnᴸ & Dragon Claw

As fun as the double Legacy Wing Attack/Flamethrower variant was in Rainbow Cup, here it’s a clear step down from the more modern (and more potent) Fire Spin/Blast Burn  version. Charizard is a direct and reliable answer to every single Grass type (even the ones that would have a shot at beating it like Cradily and Ludicolo), not just winning, but typically winning BIG. It’s the only starter that double resists Grass (as well as one of Grass’s primary counters: Bugs), so if you decide to go this route with your starter rather than going with something like Venusaur, you’ve got a big advantage already over many opposing teams. (Which is a huge reason why Silph opted to allow Charizard in as the only Flyer in the format as well.) And of course, Charizard roasts Bugs and most Ice types too, and deals big chunks of damage with its own overpowered Community Day move and spammy Dragon Claw as well. Much as Venusaur is king of the  Grasses, so is Zard the clear ruler of the Fires, in this Cup more than any before.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY game in town. Especially if you can’t GET Blast Burn Charizard, consider that Typhlosion (with Blast Burn, though) and even Charmeleon (potentially even with Return) are listed as Top 20 options among Timeless Cup Pokemon overall. There’s also Blaziken, listed right at #20 at the time of this writing, skirting around the Fighting ban to get in as the only Counter user in the whole format, and its pre-evolution Combusken,  which could make some noise with Flamethrower and the spammy Rock Slide. Infernape and Monferno though…not so much.

Swampert

Hydro Cannonᴸ & Earthquake OR Muddy Water

Venusaur’s overall win rate is the highest among starters in Timeless Cup. Say hello to Number 2. Yes, Water is likely to be the least popular type of starter in Timeless Cup, especially considering how hard its best representative–yes, Swampert–loses to a heavy Grass assault. Ouch. That being said, Water is obviously a fantastic counter to any Fires that show up (starter or otherwise), and it has  almost unparalleled neutral coverage between its potent Water and Ground moves. Water may be the third wheel of starters this month, but Swampy is very much worth it if you’re brave and/or  crazy enough to try. Grass hurts it bad, but very little else does. Of the 46 losses it suffers in 1v1 shielding overall, thirty two are Grasses. That means there are only a really fat baker’s dozen non-Grass things that Swampert cannot go toe to toe with. That is awfully tempting….

Its potential replacements, however, are admittedly less so. Blastoise and Marshtomp are solid enough replacements, but it really drops off after that. Croconaw is even better than Feraligatr (yes, with Hydro Cannon), and Prinplup is better than Empoleon, which I found interesting, but really, none of them are on the same level as Swampy (and MAYBE Blastie and Marshie).

Of course, the starters are not the only Grass, Fire, and Water options available, so we’ll be getting back to those typings as we move forward. There are other, non-starter options that may  be your best alternative over the second and third string starters… and that’s a good thing since, again, you’re limited to just ONE of the above options total. Team building this month is going to be about settling on which starter you want and then building the rest of your team around it… and again, that seems like a good thing to me!

NIFTY

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

Typically I am going to recommend anything here be double moved, because they all benefit and the cost is so (comparatively) cheap to do so. This category is really where “nifty” and “thrifty” meet in the middle.

Obviously, the majority of the Pokemon in this category have already been covered with all the starters above. But there are other cheap diamonds in the rough. Let’s see what else we got in this thrifty lover’s category!

Beedrill

X-Scissor & Sludge Bomb

The hero of the dust-poor in Jungle Cup is back, doing what it does best: acting as a top-notch Grassassin. Seriously, just look at the top of that list! Beedrill beats every single Grass type in the entire Cup (with the lone exception of rocky Cradily, destroying Venusaur and Meganium and Razor Leafers alike, double resisting their Grass moves and resisting Poison moves as well. It can also conveniently beat many of the Waters (including Kingdra, Blastoise, and Lanturn) and anti-Waters (not just the Grasses, but most of the Electrics as well. Granted, Beedrill’s usage is rather specific, but it does what it does with lethal efficiency like few other things can. If Venusaur does indeed rise up as the starter the majority of players select, Beedrill could (and likely should) rise right alongside it.

Raichu

Wild Charge & Brick Break

Speaking of the Electrics, they really represent the only real alternative other than Grass for dealing with Waters. Unfortunately Swampert and Marshtomp actually RESIST Electric attacks, but Lapras and Blastoise and the rest sure don’t. Raichu is a scrappy and cheap option among Electrics as always, and in addition to taking down many prominent Waters, it also picks on many of the Fire types as a bonus. Not just the somewhat obvious Flying Charizard, but also Typhlosion and Blaziken and all the others besides Ninetales and Sunny Castform, who can match its fast move spamminess with their own. It can also outslug some other prominent things like Venomoth, but if you’re bringing Raichu or any other Electric, it’s to deal with Waters and sure-to-be top Fire pick Charizard (and many of its fiery friends). And Raichu does that as well as any other Electric not named Lanturn, so if you’re going that route, you can save a lot of dust by just “settling” for good old ‘Chu.

Magcargo

Stone Edge & Overheat

Again, this 10k option has some very specialized roles. It double resists Fire, and also resists Bug and Poison and Ice, which greatly explains where it excels. It actually beats all its fellow Fires except Counter Blaziken, particularly bullying Charizard. (Mr. Cargo is actually the #1 Zard counter.) I won’t bore you with a ton of sims–the core meta link there shows them all anyway–but suffice to say that no Fire, Bug, or Ice wants to face Mr. (or Mrs!) Cargo. It managed to carve out a role in Rainbow Cup, and with Forretress removed and Ice and things like Haunter and Skuntank in, Maggie could do some good (albeit niche) work again. Maybe. It’s still the Fire type that cannot reliably beat the majority of the Grasses, and gets blown away harder than most against Waters (cursed double weakness!), which is not a great place to be.

Octillery

Acid Spray & Gunk Shot

Okay, I admit I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel a little bit now. But there is some good here. First off, Mud Shot as the fast move. Acid Spray for the rabid Sprayer players out there. And some legit good wins, including Lapras, Blastoise, Drapion, Ninetales, all three Castforms, and even trades with Charizard and Venomoth, and others. Admittedly it’s really only in here at all because it’s so cheap, but it’s not the worst idea in the world to try it out.

Swalot

Acid Spray & Gunk Shot OR Sludge Bomb

This must be another niche option that… whoa whoa, wait a minute. That’s not niche! That’s not niche at all!. Beats down every Grass but Sceptile, every Dark type (including both Dark/Poisons, the Castforms, Kingdra, Muk, Beedrill, Lapras…. and the list goes on. And with high stat product IVs, it really gets ridiculous, with potential wins over Sceptile now and also even Dragonair! One big caveat, though: as with most Sprayers, Swalot relies pretty heavily on shield baiting. If not successful, it’s still an effective Grassassin, but not much else. But still, what potential! And yes, this is the proper category… that second move costs only 10k dust, and one with good and proper Great League IVs and CP is under Level 30, so it’s relatively easy to build one from scratch without much (if any) leveling too. Huzzah! 🙌

Whiscash

Mud Bomb & Blizzard

Yep, it’s still solid, and yep, it’s still cheap too. And since it is decidedly NOT a starter, it’s your best Mud Boy option again, assuming you decide not to run with Swampert in your sole starter slot. (Wow, say that last part three times fast. 😵) Does all the typical Mud Boy things: extinguish Fire even if Flying), bury anything and everything Poison (four separate links there, FYI), exterminate Bugs, and even choke out the Dragons… but of course, also die out to anything leafy or viney. That last point aside, the Mud Boys loom large again, and Johnny Cash is right up there among the best yet again as well. Maybe Swampert isn’t so necessary after all. 🤔

Sudowoodo

Rock Slide & Earthquake

Wait wait wait… Sudowoodo’s second move costs 75,000 dust, not a mere 10k! Right and wrong. Sudowoodo’s second move costs 75k, yes, but baby Bonsly‘s second move costs only 10k. That’s right… it’s the famous Baby Discount™ in play here! Save yourself a boatload of dust and give Bonsly a second move before walking and evolving it, because as one of the very few Counter users in the format, and with excellent charge moves as well, Sudowoodo looks really good here… potentially, at least. Clobbers the Fires, Poisons, Ices, Bugs, and more. And it’s the only thing in the Cup that could give Ludicolo a run for its money in dancing points. You KNOW you want to see it shimmy and shake… don’t hold back!


50,000 Dust/50 Candy

The 10k moves are pretty easy to justify, but here is where the real decision making starts to come in to play. 50,000 dust is not something easily tossed away. There are many eligible ‘mons in Timeless in this category that are potentially worth it, and here they are!

Starting with the eligible Grasses and Fires and Waters, in the same order as the starters above….

Victreebel

Leaf Blade & Sludge Bomb/Acid Spray/Leaf Tornado

Ah, the Razor Leafers. Scourge of the sagebrush Water starters. The terror of Tucson the Mud Boys. A bladder full of hot air venom. (Come on, who gets the quote? 🔫) Anyway, the Razor Leafers are good at what they’re always good at: destroying Waters–and the Mud Boys especially–faster than anything else in the game. Victreebel can finish off Swampert, for example, with [just five Razor Leafs, so fast that it can’t even squeeze off a Hydro Cannon. (And at least with Vic having high stat product IVs, Whiscash barely does any better, just barely getting off a Mud Bomb before dropping to the next Razor Leaf.) And while it looks a bit tepid against the core meta aside from the Waters and a smattering of other things, it cleans up a large percentage of the overall meta. If it doesn’t specifically resist Razor Leaf, whatever Vic faces is going to feel some serious pain. Vic has the best charge move options of all the Leafers, with Leaf Blade being the perfect pairing with the slow-charging Razor Leafs, and Sludge Bomb, Acid Spray, AND Leaf Tornado all having their uses and all cheap enough to realistically reach too. Vic gets top billing among the Leafers.

In the interest of space, I will sum up the other Razor Leafers together. Gloom and Vileplume are both solid (both in terms of performance and in bulk), with Gloom getting the slight edge since it can fit in Great League with Return as a second move… otherwise, they’re both really just worth running with Sludge Bomb, as other charge moves are just too slow to come. Bellosoom also conveniently fits nicely in Great League at Level 25 (with average IVs), so can also benefit from Return and sports Leaf Blade as well… but lacking a Poison subtyping, it is more susceptible to Poison attacks than the other Grass/Poisons already listed. Shiftry is also an option, if you so wish, though its Dark subtyping doesn’t really do a ton for it here. I suppose it it worth noting that it can ALSO neatly fit in Great League at Level 25 (or below) with Return, though it requires some poor-ish IVs (like the 3-7-7 in that link). And the rest really aren’t worth discussing, IMO. OH, well with one notable exception:

Ludicolo

Ice Beam & Hydro Pump

Return Ludicolo when, Niantic? Oh well, at least we got Ice Beam. While Ludicolo doesn’t really set itself too much here, it is notable that its Water sub-typing makes it stand up better to Fire. Doesn’t really flip any of them to wins, unfortunately, but it is notable should Ludi get caught in a bad spot. I almost put the dancing pinapple boy in the thrifty (one charge move only) group, but you know what? While it may not get to it often, Hydro Pump is a better-than-average trick to have up a Razor Leafer’s sleeve and, IMO, worth the add. The animation that comes with Ludicolo using it is worth the dust in and of itself! 🍍

Cradily

Grass Knot & Stone Edge

Ah, the Grass that… isn’t. It still has Grass Knot to take care of (most) Waters, but with Infestation and Stone Edge, Cradillydilly functions much differently from other Grasses… or anything else, for that matter. Just look at its funky win spread against the core meta. Ninetales? Beedrill? Dustox? Charizard?! Well, don’t bring Cradily as your Charizard counter–or at your sole Grass–but DO consider bringing it to throw your opponent completely off their game. Because, uh, Grasses shouldn’t be able to do stuff like that.

Ninetales

Psyshock & Solar Beam/Flamethrowerᴸ

The best Fire type besides the big starters? It’s not Torkoal, or Sunny Castform… it’s Ninetales. In fact, Ninetales actually performs very similarly to Charizard, the gold standard of Fires here. Ninetales beats Ice Fang Drapion, while Zard beats the Infestation variant. Ninetales also beats Muk and Kingdra and ties Lapras, none of which Zard can reliably replicate. What Zard DOES do is deal with other Fires better, and while both beat the Grasses and Bugs, Zard does so more convincingly thanks to its double resistance to their Grass and Bug attacks. So while I certainly won’t say Ninetales is better, I think it’s fair to say that Ninetales may be your best Fire option if you can’t/don’t run with Blast Burn Charizard. That Psyshock spam still wrecks stuff like it did in Rainbow Cup, and the threat of Solar Beam (even if you bluff it and have Flamethrower instead) is real and terrifying.

One again, going to lump the other viable Fires together. Torkoal also carries Solar Beam, along with Earthquake, and is very tanky. It’s solid but cannot quite keep up with Zard and Tails. Same with Houndoom, which seems equally viable with improved Snarl or Fire Fang, though towing the line with 19 wins AND 19 losses is a bit concerning. Arcanine lags slightly behind but has several viable movesets… it will likely get its own “Under The Lights” treatment in December. Everything else lags even further behind THAT and is probably best left at home (aside from Sunny Castform, which we’ll cover in the 75k section later).

Quagsire

Here we go again….

That’s right: QuagTalk is back. 🎙 All three Mud Boys are very close in overall performance, though only Quag has this sort of potential thanks to Acid Spray hijinks. Of course, that’s all assuming perfect baiting, so…. The only think I think I can definitely say is that, yes, Quag is still extremely solid, and I think Earthquake is the only for-sure move you want. After that, it’s up to you; Spray, Stone Edge, and Sludge Bomb all have merit here, just like in Rainbow Cup.

Politoed

Surf & Blizzard OR Earthquakeᴸ

An honorary Mud Boy after proving itself in Rainbow Cup, with Mud Shot generally outshining Bubble. And while Legacy Earthquake is generally the best finishing move to pair with super spammy Surf, it turns out that Blizzard really does just about as well here. Earthquake gives it a distinct edge over other Waters like Lapras and Lanturn and Blastoise, while Blizzard puts the powerful Dragons of the format on ice.

Lanturn

Thunderbolt & Hydro Pump

Always a solid option when available, but its Electric side doesn’t do a whole lot for it in this meta, as most of the Waters you’d really want to target down outlast it. It still clocks in as perhaps the best, bulkiest Water Gunner though, and that certainly has its place! Lanturn is a legit consideration for your Water should you not go with a Water starter.

Kingdra

Outrage & Hydro Pump OR Blizzard

As per usual, Kingdra wins some things big but loses several big too. It is brutally effective against the Fires and beats the other Dragons, as well as the top Ghosts and some prominent Waters (it helps that it double resists Water attacks)… but that’s about the extent of it. Solid if you’ve already built one, but perhaps one to consider holding off on if you haven’t already invested.

Sealeo

Body Slam & Aurora Beam OR Water Pulse

A surprise star in past Cups, Sealeo again seems to have plenty of potential in Timeless too. And no, that sim with Water Gun over Powder Snow is not a mistake. It would seem both are viable this go-round, with Water Gun doing better against the Mud Boys, other Ices, and–not surprisingly– Fire, while Powder Snow instead picks up things like Skuntank, Venomoth, and the Dragons.

Tentacruel

Acid Spray & Sludge Wave OR Hydro Pump

Lotta good Water options, eh? Tentacruel is yet another Water-that-plays-as-something-else. It’s a Poison type primarily, and actually sims best with all-Poison moves (though yes, once again inflated a bit by nigh-perfect shield baiting hijinks with Acid Spray). But still, this is a Water type that can beat Fires, other Waters and Ices, PLUS all the other prominent Poisons and Bugs and even a number of the good Grasses, and even prominent Dragons. Tentacthulhu requires special care and feeding (and practice time!), as always, but once you get a feel for it, there’s really nothing else that can do all that it does. 

There are other intriguing Waters that will probably merit their own deeper dive articles at some point–Crabhammering Kingler and Crawdaunt, Swiss army knife Golduck, and a couple more yet to come in the 75k section. But those above seem to be the most solid performers in the 50ks, and if you played throughout Season 1, you likely have at least a couple of them ready to go already, which is always nice!

Skuntank

Crunch & Flamethrower/Sludge Bomb

Continuing with the Poisons, a peak into the inside of Team Silph planning: Dark was one of the excluded typings up until the last minute. The biggest reason it was added in was to allow Skuntank and Drapion to impose their will on the format. That means another potent check to Grasses, but also a check to Ninetales (blunting Psyshock) and Charizard, as well as some other things like Kingdra and Shelgon, and other things that rely on moves that Stank resists, like Venomoth’s Confusion and Banette’s Ghost moves. Skuntank is a Grassassin first and foremost, but just as it was a premiere generalist in the still-raging Ferocious Cup, it has reach across a decent swath of the overall meta as well.

Muk

Thunder Punch & Dark Pulse

Still not sure how Muk is supposed to perform a Thunder Punch (maybe that’s all battery acid?), but it helps it helps here, primarily by allowing it to tie Lapras and be one of the few things that can break up cores revolving around some combination of Lapras, Venusaur (or a substitute Grass), Dragonair, and/or Charizard. Thanks in large part to TP, Muk can–rather uniquely–beat them all. (See also: Swalot.) Note that Acid Spray is NOT recommended here. It’s certainly viable, but Dark Pulse is a move that hits pretty hard for the cost and is widely unresisted (only the handful of Dark types do here, since Fighting and Fairy weren’t invited to the party), and it is my recommendation for the second move to add in this format.

Seviper

Crunch & Poison Fang

Not going to spend a ton of time here, but yes, Seviper may actually be legit viable here. It’s an effective Grassassin that can also take down Zard/Blaze/Typh, Lanturn, and Shelgon and Dragonair. Poison Fang baiting games are rather key, but at least early in the month, folks may not be able to immediately call the moveset for something like Seviper to mind and not know when best to shield or not. There’s a surprise element that may fade as the month goes on, but Seviper is a spicy pick that is more than just showing off. It could actually work.

Haunter

Shadow Punch & Dark Pulse OR Shadow Ballᴸ

So what is Haunter here? A glass cannon? A generalist? Yes. Haunter sweeps aside a widespread variety of things, including top starter options from all three primary typings like Venusaur, Charizard, AND Blastoise, as well as Quagsire, Meganium, Muk, Ninetales, Glalie, Victreebel, Lanturn, and even a tie with Dragonair. And here is perhaps the most amazing part… check the moves on that sim I linked to. That’s right… look ma, no legacy Shadow Ball! Yes yes, Ball is more than viable, bringing in wins against Lapras and Stank that Dark Pulse has trouble replicating, but Pulse is right there too (just as it shockingly was in Sinister Cup too, bringing in its own unique wins against Venusaur and Meganium and Blastoise and Sunny Castform that Shadow Ball does not. You gotta shell out for the second move here, as Shadow Punch is critical for baiting or sometimes just outracing and spamming, but the good news is that you do NOT necessarily have to chase down a rare legacy Haunter. Build a new one with good PvP IVs, slap Pulse on it, and shock and awe your tournament!

Banette

Shadow Ball & Return

Speaking of shock and awe, how about purified Banette bursting onto the scene halfway through Sinister Cup, huh? The secret’s out of the bag now, but that doesn’t make Banette any less potent. It does a pretty good Haunter imitation, hitting hard against a similarly diverse field, including pulling in consistent wins that Haunter can’t match like Lapras and Dustox. That being said, Haunter hits harder and faster and is better overall… Banette has to settle for mere ties with things like Venusaur and Meganium, for instance. But if you were already lucky enough to get a Return Banette at Great League size for Sinister, here’s your next legit opportunity to put it to good use!

Froslass

Avalanche & Shadow Ball OR Crunch

One of the few non-Grass things that can pretty reliably take down Swampert. If that doesn’t get your attention, consider Lass can also beat or at least tie all the major Grasses and Dragons, as well as Skuntank and Beedrill and all the major Confusion Bugs. Shadow Ball and Crunch both perform very similarly, but Avalanche is the heaviest and most frequent hitter. 

Glalie

Avalanche & Shadow Ball OR Gyro Ball

Consider Glalie kind of a mix between Lapras (Ice Shard) and Froslass (with a very similar charge move set). Putting them together leads to this, the best non-Water Ice type in Timeless Cup. Beats nearly all the Grasses (ironically, the juiciest target of all, Venusaur, can outslug it), all the major Dragons and Poisons and Bugs, and Whiscash and Swampert for good measure. Glalie may not look like much, but he could be quite solid (in every sense of the word!) in December.


75,000 Dust/75 Candy

Start the breathing exercises, because now we’re getting into some expensive decisions. Squeeze that stress ball as we push forward….

Dragonair

Aqua Tail & Return/Wrap/Dragon Pulse

It would be a criminal offense to NOT point out how dominant Dragonair looks in this meta. Seriously, just look at it. 👀 Aqua Tail is a must, but as for the second move… they are all amazingly close overall. Just take those sims (currently with Return) and change it to Dragon Pulse and even Wrap. Yes, Wrap. I didn’t really believe it at first either, but it’s true. In general, I still lean Return  because of the reduced leveling up costs (and even the second move cost drops to “only” 60,000 dust), but of course if you already have one close to 1500, a purified ‘Nair may not end up being much of a savings at all….

Anyway, move decisions aside, Dragonair tears up the Grass and Fire starters, though the Waters tend to overcome it. As a Dragon it obviously also hates Ice (including things like Ice Fang). Beyond that, most neutral damage matchups end up in its favor just because Dragon Breath is so powerful and the charge  moves are mostly very spammy. (There ARE exceptions, of course.  ‘Nair will surely be one to watch out for (and PREP for) in December.

Shelgon is solid enough too, but inferior to ‘Nair. But if you build one for Ferocious Cup or something,  then yes, consider it a budget replacement option here!

Flygon

Dragon Claw & Earthquake OR Stone Edge

With Mud Shot as the fast move, Dragon Claw comes so often it almost feels like a fast move itself. Earthquake is better than CD move Earth Power and its most reliable second move overall, but Stone Edge allows it to punish Ices that try to farm it down and turns the tables on Glalie and Froslass, which isn’t nothing. Flygon rolls over Fires, Ghosts,  Bugs, Poisons, and things like Swampert and even many of the big  Grasses too. It’s a viable and pretty flexible option in December.

Drapion

Aqua Tail & Crunch

Drap has always had a bit of a tough time separating itself from the other Dark/Poisons, partly because of its fast move options and partly because its second move is the most costly. But now  it has only one other D/P to worry about (Alolan Muk can’t be used here), and it finally has a fast move that really gives it a niche: Ice Fang. That gives it the rather unique ability to punish Grasses, Dragons, Bugs, Ghosts, other Poisons, and  even perform pretty well against Fire. Drap has always been a safe investment from the get-go, but even moreso now.

Spiritomb

Ominous Wind & Shadow Ball

Well here we go again… the spirit of Sableye, since Sable itself is banned just like it was in Nightmare Cup. Spiritomb trails Haunter and Banette and even Froslass among Ghosts in this  meta, but unlike them, it has only a single vulnerability, and it’s to something that is banned in this Cup (Fairy). That means it very often finds itself in neutral damage vs neutral damage  battles, so it has a varied spread of wins, including all the major Bugs and things like Ninetales, Shelgon, Muk, Sealeo (where Tomb’s resistance to Body Slam helps), Kingdra, and one that catches the eye: Swampert  (and Whiscash, for that matter). I don’t know that I’d build around it or anything, but Spiritomb looks like it is,  perhaps, once of the better “safe switch” options in the format, as it can hang in there against a number of relevant things.

Milotic

Surf & Blizzard OR Hyper Beam

Either fast move is viable, as well as either non-Water charge move, really. Surf is the one must, as Milotic’s high bulk allows it to hang in there a long time and throw a lot of Surfs out there. Milotic is very solid and has just been waiting for her chance. (Did you realize this is the first Cup where it’s been eligible?) She ain’t cheap, especially if you understandably level up a shiny research rewards one from a while back, but Milotic should be a solid Water option in this and any other Cup where she appears moving forward.

Relicanth

Aqua Tail & Ancient Power

Must avoid Grass, first and foremost. With a double weakness, Grass will rip through ‘Canth as fast as the Mud Boys. But it makes very short work of all the Fires, Bugs, Poisons, and Ices (yes, including Lapras in the format. That definitely counts for something. Relicanth is a solid Water option should you not roll with a Water starter, arguably on the same level as the Mud Boys themselves as a solid all-arounder (with the same unfortunate fatal flaw). 

Kabutops

Stone Edge & Ancient Power

Why isn’t this in the Legacy Considerations section with Fury Cutter? Because believe it or not, Mud Shot is just as good, if not better. (See Fury Cutter.)  Specifically, Mud Shot can overcome Dragonair and Shelgon, whereas the only advantage FC has against the core meta is against Blastoise. ‘Tops also effectively beats down Fires, Ices, Bugs,  and Poisons, and sports the fastest Stone Edge in the format along with super spammy (and potentially match flipping, if the boost triggers) Ancient Power. But again, stay FAR away from Grass. It gets ugly really, really fast.

Omastar

Ancient Power & Rock Blast/Rock Slideᴸ

Really, any combination of the Rock charge moves is viable. The best currently available is Rock Blast/Ancient Power, and it does everything you need it to, again topping Fire, Ice, Bug, Poison, as well as Haunter, Lanturn, Kingdra, and a few others. (But not the Dragons, like Kabutops can.)  Legacy Rock Slide is a hair better overall, but it’s a miniscule difference. And impossible-to-find Legacy Rock Throw is worse, so you don’t have to worry about that, at least. Both Rock Boys are viable, along with the Rock Fish Relicanth.

Castforms

Weather Ball & Solar Beam (Sunny)/Thunder (Rainy)/Blizzard (Snowy)

Weather Ball is the key to making these little guys work. It’s SUCH a good move. The only downside is that, being in this category, you know their second move isn’t cheap. Theoretically,  Sunny and Snowy reach their highest win percentage without anything other than Ball, but carrying the threat of Solar Beam to nuke Waters/Grounds/Rocks and Blizzard to provide a crushing blow  certainly have their uses. Rainy really wants Thunder though, as it leads directly to wins over big potent Water/Ices Lapras and Sealeo.

However you slice it, all the Castforms are among the best options of their types. It IS a shame their second moves cost so much, but they are worth it. And I also firmly believe they are all pretty safe investments for future use, too… Rainy especially. It’s a spammier Lanturn, and we all know how many metas that has made a dent in already.


100,000 Dust/100 Candy

With all Legendaries and Mythicals banned… there aren’t any! Rejoice at the savings. 🤑


Feelin’ Lucky?

New section since last month, here I list stuff that may look relatively cheap looking at just the cost for a second charge move (or not even requiring a second move at all!), but due to  stats, have to be at or very near Level 40 to really be viable. Obviously that’s a steep cost in candy AND dust, so if you want to use these, give strong consideration to looking for them in a  Lucky trade. Good luck!

Dustox (Max CP: 1224)

Silver Wind & Sludge Bomb

Yes, the second move is a cheap 10,000 stardust, but you absolutely have to max it out for Dustox to be work. Its role is limited, but it is very effective at what it does: slaughter Grasses (and any non-Dark Poisons too). I don’t advocate for building a Dustox from scratch just for this meta, but  if you already have one, yes, you can use it again here. Just keep in mind its limitations outside of its key (and important!) roles.

And I think that’s it! Whew.


THRIFTY

I’ve tried to highlight above a number of Pokemon that can forgo a second move if your budget is tight, but there are a couple more to highlight specifically:

Tyranitar

Crunch

Fast move Smack Down is the real reason to bring Tyranitar, swatting down Fires (and Charizard particularly hard, not surprisingly), Bugs, Ices, Ghosts, and Poisons Skuntank and Muk. You need to carry one charge move, so  make it Crunch to give you something reachable that can deal at least neutral to things that resist Rock. But Stone Edge is just overkill, really. T-Tar functions just fine without it.

Wormadam (Planty or Sandy)

Bug Buzz

Confusion is what makes these bugbags tick. And the only charge move that really does work for them is Bug Buzz. Planty‘s Energy Ball is pretty bad and doesn’t increase its performance against Waters, Sandy’s Bulldoze is interesting on paper but also doesn’t really add any new wins (and Sandy isn’t too great anyway. Consider  Plantydam a budget Venomoth/Dustox, which is good since it’s generally the easiest Wormadam to find in the wild.

Cherrim

Razor Leaf

Yeah, it doesn’t need a charge move. They’re all slow to come and won’t make any real difference. You can easily find a Cherrim right at Great League size without even needing to find a  weather-boosted one, so this is as cheap a plug-and-play Razor Leafer as you can get. If you DO want to go with multiple moves though, it IS only 10k for the second move addition. Just saying.


Legacy Considerations

I’ve touched on some Legacy moves already, but there are a couple of ‘mons that really only enter the discussion with certain Legacy moves:

Lapras

Surf & Skull Bash/Ice Beamᴸ

The key move here is the fast move: Ice Shard, which is a Legacy move. It is absolutely critical to running Lapras in Timeless Cup. With it, Lapras can beat all three Gen1 starters, and I’m preeeeeeeetty sure the only other thing that can really make that claim is Dragonair. It’s even more  impressive here though, as it’s weak to Grass but can beat down Venusaur anyway, and it can beat Swampert as well (which Dragonair has a MUCH harder time with). And that’s not even  mentioning all the various Ice and Dragon and Bug and Poison and muddy things Lappie washes away as well. If you DON’T have Ice Shard, all is not completely lost, as Lapras still looks solid without it… but it loses any realistic chance of beating any Grasses, which is one of the biggest things going for  it with Ice Shard. Thankfully the market is pretty full of Ice Shard/Ice Beam Lappies after its raid day a while back, so if you don’t have one, start searching before you SHOULD be able to  land one more easily than many other Legacy ‘Mons.

Venomoth

Silver Wind & Poison Fangᴸ

Probably thought I forgot about ol’ Mothra, eh? I’ve mentioned it throughout the article, but I waited until this section to highlight it, because yes, it really does still want legacy Poison Fang. I mean, it CAN work with other moves instead, but without Fang to help set up Silver Wind and get in Moth’s only source of Poison type damage, you’re still missing out. (I’m still missing out too, as this is one Legacy I have yet to lock up.) And interestingly, this is the first time that the DOUBLE Legacy moveset (adding in Bug Bite over the customary Confusion) is a legit option.  It still maintains its Grassassin role (beating all the Grasses you care about, and actually beating the non-Poison Grasses much more effectively), and while it gives up wins against Poisons like Dustox and Haunter and Muk (and Fighters like… well, Blaziken is the only one, I guess!), it picks up wins over Drapula and Skuntank in exchange. So either fast move does the anti-Grass job, and what you want your Moth to be able to do beyond that is up to you!

Golem & Graveler

Mud Shotᴸ (Fast Move)

These two actually do very okay with Rock Throw, squashing Bugs and Fires and Ices galore (and Ghosts and Poisons  too!). But if you happen to have one still sitting around with Legacy Mud Shot, look out! Yes, it it absolutely critical that they steer clear of Water and Grass, having a very unfortunate double vulnerability to both, but outside of that they stand toe to toe with nearly everything else in the core  meta. If you can stomach the occasional blowout it will suffer to things that are wet and/or leafy, you could potentially tear it up with these rocky boys in December. Lots of moveset combinations–legacy and modern–to play around with (I smell an “Under The Lights” spotlight article in their future!), so go wild! It’s only 10,000 dust for a second charge move.


In the interest of time and space, I have opted to skip the Didn’t Make The Cut section, so if it’s not listed, it…well, didn’t make the cut. Sims and/or stats were not kind to those not  on this list–there are better options somewhere up above–but do feel free to ask if you think I missed something obvious!

Otherwise… that’s a wrap! As with all my articles, take all of this with a big grain of salt. I’m not trying to persuade you one way or the other, and of course everybody’s dust situations  are different. But if you don’t have a dust pool/vault resembling that of Scrooge McDuck, then perhaps this can help you balance the cost of where to be thrifty with your hard-earned dust (and  candy!).


Before I go, I want to extend my thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last several months and helped teach me to be a  better player and student of the game. And my thanks to all of you, for your own encouragement and support throughout Season 1 and now into Season 2.

May your December walk down memory be as sweet as when you picked your first Pokemon, however long ago that was. Enjoy what should be a very diverse and enjoyable meta!

If you have questions or comments, please let me know on the Nifty or Thrifty Reddit thread!

JRE has been playing Pokémon GO since the beginning, but never imagined he’d get so into PvP. In starting his own research, deep into the Silph Arena metas, he decided to share his findings so other players could benefit, which turned into full fledged articles, which multiplied like rabbits. He’s now been writing multiple regular article series since Tempest Cup, focused on advanced matchups and budget friendly but still viable alternatives for veteran and rookie players alike. He likes powering up oddball Pokémon, reading a good book, spending time with his kids, dad jokes, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

You can follow him on Twitter: @JRESeawolf or reach out on Discord: JRESeawolf#8349


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