Nov 4, 2021: Nifty Or Thrifty: Brawler 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!
Hope you enjoyed the simplicity of Lunar Cup to kick off Season 3 of The Silph Arena… because we’re already mixing things up. You could say that your team building decisions may be a bit weightier this month, as Brawler Cup is very far from the typical meta. The Silph Arena has sorted Pokemon into categories before based on color, based on region, even based on number of legs and whether or not they have tails, but THIS month, Pokemon are being divvied up based on their official weight, and you must pick one from each brawling weight class. (For more details on what makes up Brawler Cup, just check out the Arena homepage for Brawler Cup.)
So where do we start in analyzing a meta like this? Obviously a traditional analysis of what’s “nifty or thrifty” won’t do. Instead, we’re going to eat this elephant one bite at a time, running through each of the six weight class slots, from lightest all the way up to the heavyweights, looking at what the likely top options are, as well as some alternatives (with an eye on thriftiness) and some nice spice. Because I won’t be following the standard run through 10k/50k/75k/100k second move unlock options, I will just denote how expensive they are overall (keeping in mind second move unlock and cost to build to Great League size) with one (for most thrifty) up to five (for most expensive) 💸s. That’s worked well enough in the past for similar metas like Prismatic Cup, so we’ll try it again here!
SLOT 1 – BANTAMWEIGHTS
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
More than any of the six slots, the Bantamweights have no real clear frontrunner, or arguably even a Top 5. There are several directions you can go: high pressure spammy types, Charmers, tanks, or the format’s most interesting Mythicals. I’ll still pluck out what look to be the overall best picks here, but the gap from “best” to “worst” here is a notably smaller margin than any other slot to follow. Have some fun with this one!
SNOWY: Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Blizzard
RAINY: Water Gun | Weather Ball (Water) & Thunder
SUNNY: Ember | Weather Ball (Fire) & Solar Beam
Any of the three Elemental flavors work pretty well here. SNOWY is obviously great versus relevant Dragons (‘Nite, ‘Nair, Goodra, Dragalge, etc.), Grasses (Venusaur, Aboma, Trop, Ferro, etc.), Flyers (Bat, Blim, Pelipper, Lugia, Pidgeot, etc.), and Grounds (Diggersby, Fisk, Whiscash, etc.), and then just flat outtanks things like Charmers, Ghosts (Grigus, Haunter/Gengar, Sable), and stuff like Magnezone, Drapion, Snorlax, Beedrill, Qwilfish and many others. Snowy has by far the widest reach in terms of role-based (Ice damage) wins and neutral wins as well. RAINY is obviously best in an anti-Fire/Ground/Rock role, and obviously brings pain to Flyers and opposing Waters with Thunder, with bonus wins over stuff like Snorlax, Escavalier, Jirachi, Melmetal, Trashadam, Lugia, Sableye and others. SUNNY is overall weakest but supplies a solid Fire type if you need one in an unusual team slot… it does do about everything you could ask of a Fire type, just not a ton beyond that role. It’s nice to be able to snag three good specialists/generalists like this in such an openly contested slot!
WORMADAM (TRASH) 💸💸💸💸
Confusion/Bug Bite | Iron Head & Bug Buzz
The overall record may not immediately jump out at you, but make no mistake: Trashy is a great little tank and tough out. Even better is that you can utilize it in a couple different ways depending on team need. Confusion (as simmed above) is pretty rare in this meta, and with it Trashy thrashes some prominent Poisons (Haunter, Gengar, Golbat) and overpowers things like A-Grav, Gyarados, and Gligar too. But as an alternative, you can run Bug Bite and instead chomp through Darks and Psychics like Jirachi and Bronzong (really the only other viable Confusioners here) and Obstagoon, plus stuff like Snorlax, A-Slash, and Flygon. You can do a LOT worse as a tanky generalist/safe swap.
Confusion | Doom Desire & Psychic
In some ways very similar to Trashadam, but with several key differences. Jirachi is half-Psychic rather than Trashy’s half-Bug, giving it inherit advantages against Fighters (Machamp, Hariyama) and less vulnerable to Flying (resisting rather than taking neutral damage like Trashy), leading to wins versus Tropius, Pelipper, and Lugia. The biggest downside is being full-on weak to Ground (Trashy takes neutral), so Jirachi struggles versus stuff like Whiscash and Flygon, and also being weak to Dark and Ghost means that things like Froslass, Drapion, Obstagoon, Zweilous, and Snorlax become problems as well. Jirachi has a higher win rate than Trashadam, but I pushed it down one “tier” because of the likelihood of encountering some of those things it’s weak to (that Trashy handles better), but make no mistake: Jirachi IS a strong contender in Slot 1.
Confusion | V-Create & Overheat/Psychic
Another prominent Mythical, and the numbers kind of speak for themselves. V-Create can do some crazy things when combined with Overheat or Psychic, making Vic a Fire that can beat Whiscash, Stunfisk, and Dragalge, and a Confusioner that can beat Obstagoon and Melmetal, among many other impressive wins. Just give that win column a gander, and if you have a good Victini… well, you know what to do, trainer!
Shadow Claw | Shadow Punch & Shadow Ball/Sludge Bomb
If you don’t know what else to use this slot for, you can do a lot worse than settling for one of the best beatsticks in the game. Haunter isn’t the best at anything in particular, but what it does it continues to do well: generate high pressure on anything that doesn’t outright resist Ghost damage (and potentially leverage Sludge Bomb for things that do, though outside of Wigglytuff you’re really much better off with Shadow Ball). Haunter could be a great way to round out many teams… it’s incredible bench pressure, if nothing else.
It’s ranked a bit low, but I like WHIMSICOTT here. It doesn’t quite match the win total of some of the more prominent Charmers, but its extra resistances are quite nice, giving it wins against things where other Charmers stuggle, including (but far from limited to) Politoed, Lanturn, Rainy Castform, Quagsire, Stunfisk, Ferrothorn, and even Steelix (resisting all of its typical moves, including normally-threatening Earthquake). It may not have the inherant advantages others do like resisting Ghosts (Wigglytuff) but Whimsie might actually be a great fit for many teams.
Ranked higher is SLURPUFF, and while it can better handle things Whimsie is weak to like Ices (Froslass, Drifblim) and Flying (Mantine) and it beats Whimsicott head to head, I’m just not feeling it. There’s nothing really special about Slurpie… it’s just kind of there.
Poison Sting | Aqua Tail & Sludge Wave/Ice Beam
Currently flexing all that it can do in GBL’s Halloween Cup (at the time of this writing), Peter Qwil is in many ways everything you’d look for in a wildcard: spammy, flexible, and pretty cheap to try out. In this particular meta, it’s mostly a solid counter to Fires, Charmers, Fighters, many Waters/Ices, and even the majority of Grasses… and that’s actually a pretty decent chunk of the meta. If you’ve come to love Qwil to this point, you may already have your Bantamweight champion.
BEST OF THE REST
GREEDENT 💸 looks like it should weigh more, doesn’t it? But alas, it doesn’t, so you can deploy its chunky spam here if Slot 1 is still up in the air for you. I’m already seeing a lot more buzz on this one than several of the picks above, and it’s entirely possible I am undervaluing Greedy a bit…. JUMPLUFF 💸💸💸 is basically Tropius Lite, and the “lite” takes on new meaning in this meta…. I’m not sure this is the Cup for Grassholes, but SHADOW GLOOM 💸💸💸 is one of the better candidates if that’s your thing.
SLOT 2 – FEATHERWEIGHTS
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Still a bit of an open slot, with several different directions you can go (and correspondingly, several very solid Pokemon to pick from… this slot is HIGHLY contested!), but unlike the Bantamweights, there are some pretty clear frontrunners that folks will naturally gravitate to. Let’s examine them, as well as some spice that can be found for those that march to the beat of their own glorious drummer.
Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Blizzard
Cash usually shines brightest in formats where Swampert is banned… and guess what? Swampert is banned, so Whiscash gets to do its thing. The overall win record isn’t eye-popping, but Cash is ranked within the Top 5 in this meta for a reason: it’s a key piece of multiple cores in metas like this one, and one that busts up many cores as well with its spammy dismantling of Steels, Fires, Grounds, Poisons, and Bugs, while also having the ability to strike down Flyers, Dragons, and others with righteous fury via a big Blizzard from the heavens. It’s not so much the sheer number of wins Whiscash gets, but rather the very high quality of what it can outlast in battle. It’s the de facto top choice in Slot 2 and the one you can probably expect to see the most.
Incinerateᴸ | Flame Charge & Brave Bird
But Whiscash is of course far from the only solid pick among the Featherweights. If you’re looking for sky high win potential, look no further than Talonflame. Of course, just as Whiscash’s suppressed win line isn’t the full story, the crazy list of wins doesn’t tell the full tale of Talon either, with many of those wins only coming if you get the bait with Flame Charge and then close it out with a followup Brave Bird… wins like Whiscash, A-Wak, Mantine, Pidgeot, Greedent, and Kingdra. Still, even with JUST Flame Charge, Talon is clearly well deserving of attention and plenty of respect.
Shadow Claw | Foul Play & Returnᴸ
Saving the best for last? Sable doesn’t have the crazy high number of wins like Talonflame, nor bust up as many cores as Whiscash, but it can break up THE core that may be the best of all: Cofagrigus and Vigoroth, one that the Meta Team discussed as a new and exciting core. And that in addition to all else it can run over: Psychics, Bugs, Fighters, Ghosts, and a host of others. Don’t mistake Sableye being listed last among the top picks in this slot to mean it’s the “worst” of the best… it may very well be THE best of all.
Fire Spin | Weather Ball (Fire) & Overheat/Solar Beam
Ninetales used to be a relatively secret weapon, but those days are long gone. Now everyone knows Tails is good, but most continue to run it with the #GetBeamed potential of Solar Beam, while I continue to recommend Overheat, with which it can pick up wins versus Sableye, Toxicroak, Obstagoon, Pidgeot, Golbat, Drifblim, and oh look: Vigoroth and Cofagrigus! Ninetales’ only downside it being slightly less dynamic than Talonflame, and you can’t have both.
Thunder Shock | Mud Bomb & Discharge
If Ninetales is the alternative Talonflame, then Stunfisk is the alternative Whiscash. Well, kinda. Technically Fisky is even a bit better overall, though it fails to beat some of the bigger names that Cash gets like Diggersby, Froslass, Snorlax, Zweilous, and Cofagrigus… and it beats Stunfisk head to head. Fisky is obviously fsr superior versus Flyers and Waters like Talonflame, Lugia, Pidgeot, Mantine, Pelipper, Gyarados, Politoed, and Empoleon, and also knocks out Trashadam, Shadow Champ, Obstagoon, and Galvantula that Whiscash cannot.
Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball
Okay, saying Blim is a Sableye alternative would be going a bit far. But it IS the best Ghost in this slot behind Sable and a very solid option overall. There are actually a LOT of relevant targets for Icy Wind in the meta, and between that and the fact that it makes for another nice Vigrigus breaker, Drifblim makes a strong case for your Slot 2 vote. The Featherweights are STACKED, aren’t they?!
Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge
Again to my point, the fact that Galvantula shows up this deep into Slot 2 and with this record and it doesn’t seem at all like a snub tells you about everything you need to know about how competitive this slot is, doesn’t it? If you HAVE to have a solid Water, Flying, and Grass counter that also handles most Darks and Fighters too, don’t worry about how low Galv is ranked (coming in below even many of the “spice” options I’m reviewing next). It is underrated only because of so many other good options sharing the same slot.
Bullet Seedᴸ/Poison Jab | Weather Ball (Fire)ᴸ & Leaf Storm
There are actually two varieties you can build, and they’re both good but quite different. Bullet Seed is obviously better versus Waters (Lapras, Dewgong, Politoed, Sealeo, Qwilfish), Grounds (Diggersby, Excadrill, Steelix), and Rocks (Probopass), but also outraces things like Sableye, Froslass, Abomasnow, Vigoroth, Snorlax, and Toxicroak with its high energy generation. Poison Jab instead takes on a big anti-Grass role, beating all the meta ones except Abomasnow, and interestingly things like Mantine, Shadow Machamp, Lugia, Heracross, Dragonite, and Beedrill as well.
Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough
This slot is loaded, obviously, but yes, Wiggly is worth your consideration if you intend to run a Charmer. That bulk and Ghost resistance continue to put it a cut above the others, and remember that some things are best faced down with Charm alone (specifically gaining Rainy Castform and Lugia that way.
There’s a couple other Charmers here too, like SYLVEON and AROMATISSE, but… yeah. I don’t see any reason to use them over the better and cheaper Wiggly, if you use a Charmer at all. There IS one other Fairy you may want to consider, however….
Fire Fang | Power-Up Punch & Iron Head/Play Rough
Decidedly NOT a Charmer, but this meta looks to be a good match for Mawile’s particular set of skills. If you’ve been playing GBL’s Halloween Cup you’ve surely built up a healthy respect for this one, and that respect should carry through here. Not sure how many people will use their only Slot 2 pick on Mawile, but somebody will, so have a plan! (And FYI: Play Rough, simmed above, is able to beat Dragalge, while Iron Head more easily outraces Pidgeot and, ironically, Obstagoon.)
BEST OF THE REST
SHADOW VICTREEBEL 💸💸💸 always provides big pressure, but is this slot really worth that? Not in my mind, but sure, knock yourself out…. DRAGONAIR 💸💸💸 continues to rank well in formats like this, but both regular and Shadow continue to look merely okay to my eyes. As a generalist, you can do a lot worse, but I’m not sure this is the slot where you want a mere generalist, is it?…. I expected LANTURN to look a little better than it does. I mean, it’s still fine, but there’s a ton of competition in this slot already, and Rainy Castform fills the same role in the much less contested Bantamweight slot. Just sayin’…. ALOLAN RAICHU seems to deserve much better than barely ranking within the top 200 in the format, doesn’t it?…. I don’t know how many folks have actually tried to build one, but XL NIDORINA continues to be well worth the investment, with both Sludge Bomb (for Flyers, Vigoroth, Greedent, and Zweilous) and Dig (for Poisons and Steels like Melmetal, Qwilfish, Probopass, and Haunter) working well here. Nidorina has impressed in basically every format she’s been eligible in since the Poison Fang and Poison Sting buffs and is a legit safe investment.
SLOT 3 – WELTERWEIGHTS
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
This may be the first slot where there are very clear best of the best options that many teams will build around (see Top Picks below), but that doesn’t mean they’re the ONLY way to go. Not even close, actually. Slot 3 is arguably the deepest in the whole format, and will be the longest section in this whole article too. Let’s see what we’ve got….
Mud Shot | Fire Punch & Earthquake/Hyper Beam
So I’ll just state this right up front: Diggersby is ranked #1 in Brawler Cup (at the time of this writing) and I’d also rank it #1 in terms of discussion time among the Meta Team as the format came together. We were debating whether or not to ban Diggs until VERY late in the game, basically right up to announcement time. It’s not just the numbers it can put out (because they’re good but not insane), but more a concern with the haves versus have-nots with XL Diggs. But after much internal debate, we decided to leave it in. Non-XL Diggs is still very close, only losing Toxicroak and Greedent that XL can beat… and perhaps more importantly with a Pokemon that many teams will be running, non-XL Diggs wins CMP versus most XL Diggersbys and therefore wins the mirror. Perhaps the larger question is this: Earthquake or Hyper Beam? Yes, Quake more easily beats Escavalier and Empoleon, but look at the new wins with Beam: Golbat, Gyarados, Shiftry, Dragonite, and even Vigoroth. Not bad, right?
Counter | Body Slam & Bulldoze
Speaking of the irritated ape, it’s solidly ranked right behind Diggs in Slot 3. It’s not even so much the number of wins — though the numbers are solid — but more that its half of one of the best cores in the format: “Vigrigus”, as I took to calling it, alongside Cofagrigus (from Slot 4). My Meta Team colleagues PolymersUp and Tangent pointed out how they cover each other’s weaknesses extremely well, though Viggy of course does more than enough to make teams of many shapes and sizes (and weights!). Short of opposing Fighters and Ghosts, there isn’t much that Vigoroth can not at least smack around pretty good on the way out.
Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Drill Runᴸ
I debated about whether Beedrill belonged up here among the top tier or down in alternatives, but you know what? Especially as a Shadow, I can’t ignore a record like this. And it’s one of the best all-time budget options too! Threatening Fighters, Fairies, Grasses, and many Steels, Waters, and Dragons, and even stuff like Froslass and Talonflame and Snorlax and Dragalge and Sableye and Snowy Castform, what’s not to like? I mean, aside from muscling Diggersby and Vigoroth and others aside to get on teams in the first place….
ALOLAN MAROWAK 💸💸
Fire Spin | Bone Club & Shadow Boneᴸ/Shadow Ball
It kind of kills me to bump A-Wak down to mere “alternative”, but not everything can be a “top pick”. But that does not at all mean that it’s not still very, very good, handling a mix of Fighters, Steels, Fairies, Bugs, Grasses, Psychics, Ices… you know, its standard large slice of the meta. But can it claw through the potent picks above it? It certainly will for some teams!
Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball
Out of the frying pan, into the… cooler? Similarly to A-Wak, Froslass probably earns the right to be labeled a top pick, it’s just a congested path to the top. There is plenty of good to say about Lass, but it is a little concerning how it loses to many of the top picks in each of the weight classes. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself to justify having it down here….
Counter | Drill Run & Megahorn
There’s nothing else that does what Escav can do… nothing. And it needs no introduction at this point, so I’ll skip the boring analysis that you probably already know and get to the heart of it. The question you have to ask yourself is simple: is Escav’s unique winlist something YOUR team needs? If so, don’t worry about where it’s ranked… go for it. But if not, take a second look at Slot 3 and see what fits your team better. Seems simple, almost too simple, but that’s really what it comes down to with stuff like Escavalier.
Wing Attack | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane
Have I mentioned yet how Slot 3 is loaded? Yeah, when stuff like this ends up with half a dozen other things in front of it and that actually makes sense, that’s a sign. Anyway, continuing to be good versus Fighters, Grounds, Bugs, Fires, and even many Grasses and Waters and a host of others, there’s nothing at all with reaching this “low” for Pelipper. It’s plenty good enough to carry teams to victory.
It’s not often that POLITOED takes second billing to anything, but I do think it’s a very slightly worse Pelipper in a slot that’s already tough to go with either. The Flying side of Pelipper is just a good fit for this meta, doing a lot more good than harm. Toed is fine, don’t get me wrong, but if I had to pick one, it’d be Pelipper.
Gustᴸ/Wing Attackᴸ | Feather Dance & Brave Bird
Another fantastic option that finds itself down here only because of the risk factor: if baits fail, Pidge can go from hero to zero really quickly. The truth lies somewhere between the highest highs and the lowest lows. If you’re really comfortable piloting Pidgeot already, this could be a sneaky good pick… but don’t waltz in without flight time with Pidgeot, blinded by the numbers alone, and expect a cakewalk. This is one that takes some finesse.
Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb
Oh jeez, Toxi’s down here too?! Hey, it could be worse… I was this close to shoving it into the mere spice section, I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. But I mean, Toxicroak is merely okay here, looking absolutely brilliant at times, but flopping badly in plemty of others. It’s certainly usable in Brawler Cup, but ironically, Fighters are not a huge part of this meta, and that actually hurts Toxicroak too as it’s usually the Fighter-that-beats-other-Fighters. It’s uniqueness goes a bit to waste in Brawler.
Counter | Night Slash & Gunk Shot
For example, other than one true Fighter we’ll get to in Slot 5, the two best “Fighters” in Brawler Cup aren’t actually Fighters at all: Vigoroth, and now Obstagoon. Viggy does well thanks to the neutral spammy damage of Body Slam and its Normal typing, while Goonie does it thanks in large part to Night Slash and its Dark nature giving it an important edge versus Ghosts, sort of like how Wigglytuff is the best Charmer thanks to also resisting Ghost damage. By the way, did you know that the Welterweights are jam-packed with really good options? Oh, I guess I did mention it a time or twelve. Whoopsie!
SHADOW GARDEVOIR 💸💸💸
Charm | Shadow Ball & Synchronoiseᴸ
There’s always that one player that insists on bringing Shadow Gard no matter what. And it’s not entirely crazy. If Gard were in Slot 1 or something, I’d actually have her up a lot higher. But this is Slot 3, with something like 47 viable Pokemon options 😄, and I just don’t see it personally. But as spice? Sure, with that label, Gardevoir works for sure.
Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Brick Break/Thunder Punch
Another one I very much wish was in a less crowded slot, because Raichu is again a budget superstar, but I see little chance of it emerging being stuck in the stuffed Welterweights. It really deserves to be called more than just spice, but how do I justify moving it above all the other stuff in Slot 3? Do give it a long, hard look before dismissing it… yes, it’s a bit bait reliant, but perhaps not as much as you might think. Raichu is legit, just unfortunately buried on this list.
BEST OF THE REST
There’s nothing really wrong with ARIADOS 💸💸, it’s just that Beedrill occupies the same slot and role and is just better…. EXCADRILL 💸💸 is the way to cheat and get a kinda-sorta-G-Fisk in under the radar, and it kinda-sorta works. But worth your pick in this slot? That’s up to you, my friend…. CLEFABLE 💸 is another Charmer option, but nothing particularly special. Heck, if you’re considering that, just run SHADOW GRANBULL 💸💸💸 and embrace the spice fully…. I wish that MUK 💸💸💸 was in a different slot, because it’s actually pretty interesting (especially as a Shadow) but has almost no chance of seeing play behind all the other stuff above…. GENGAR 💸💸 is also just fine, but you can have Haunter in Slot 1, so I see no real reason to reach for Gengar here…. I don’t recommend building one just for this Cup, but ALOLAN SANDSHREW 💸💸💸💸💸 shows again why it is one of the safer unevolved XL projects to undertake at some point.
SLOT 4 – MIDDLEWEIGHTS
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Another pretty stacked slot, with a lot of variety but the biggest cluster of viable Dragons and Fighters in particular. I found this slot to be particularly deep, with most things I included being at least a solid spice pick, and even the last Pokemon covered in the “best of the rest” seemingly deserving some serious attention. Lots of gems to be found here… I suspect this slot will be a key component in the flavor of players’ teams.
Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball
It’s been a long time coming for Golbat, from the early days of curiosity in Twilight Cup and other early Silph Arena play, to slowly growing popularity among the larger, GBL crowd, to finally getting Poison Fang turned into a legit PvP move, to now: Golbat is finally the best of the best! Well, in Slot 4, anyway. 😜 It’s NOT ranked that way, but I truly believe Golbat is the best overall pick among the Middleweights. Not only is a great check to Vigrigus cores, but many of Golbat’s biggest threats are in slots where they’re locked behind several “better” overall options. Not all, of course, but overall this seems to me to have the makings of a meta where the skies could be pretty clear for Golbat to do a lot of good work. I just got a feeling about this one… which probably means I’m dead wrong. 🙃 Thankfully there are other options to follow in case that’s true….
Shadow Claw | Shadow Ball & Dark Pulse
Grigus is likely to more of a consensus #1 pick in this slot, and it’s easy to understand why. Not only is it the other half of that Vigrigus core I keep mentioning, but this is still a new one to build cores around in general, and considering the wide swath of things it covers, there are several cores sitting there waiting to be built! It would be easy to just think of Cofagrigus as a Haunter in another slot, but there are actually a large number of differences between them, with Haunter uniquely outracing things like Golbat, Froslass, Lapras, Steelix, Tropius, Gyarados and others, but Grigus instead outtanking stuff like Jirachi, Bronzong, Melmetal, Politoed, Pelipper, Dewgong, Abomasnow, Dragalge, Stunfisk, and potentially both parts of Vigrigus, beating Viggy rather easily, and winning the mirror vs the more commonly hyped Psychic by running Dark Pulse instead. Pulse continues to be my strong recommendation, as Psychic doesn’t really bring in any wins, while Pulse allows Grigus to outrace A-Wak, Drifblim, Mantine, Jirachi, and as mentioned, opposing Cofagrigus. While Grigus may have been lost in the crowd in Lunar Cup, I think Brawler Cup is where it starts to really make its stamp on The Arena. PvPoke has it ranked #15 as I write this, and I think a spot well inside the Top 20 is quite accurate.
Dragon Breath | Body Slam & Dark Pulse
An immensely popular pick that currently ranked well within the top five in the format, which I kinda get… but there are flaws here that give me pause. While I already mentioned that I see Ice types being somewhat suppressed in this meta just because of many of the better ones being “slot-locked”, Zweil is likely to be facing down Fighters (or quasi-Fighters like Vigoroth) and/or Bugs in the majority of games, and/or others that it struggles against like Whiscash, Diggersby, Melmetal, Qwilfish, Obstagoon, Mantine, Probopass, Trashadam, and other really big names in Brawler. I DO think it’s a solid pick and wouldn’t argue with the many players that will scoop it up in Slot 4 without a second thought, but I see a bit of potential trouble on the horizon for people that don’t plan their team around plugging Zweil’s holes… or don’t see the holes in the first place!
Dragon Tail | Aqua Tail & Outrage
The gap isn’t large, but it seems to be Outrage you want here more than the Gunk Shot Dragalge is ripping through Halloween Cup with. The reason is simple: no Azumarill, and Fairies are not a major part of this meta in general. Outrage is just a big, rarely-resisted beatstick and overall slightly better move (15 energy cheaper for only 20 less damage, a nice tradeoff that leaves Outrage dealing more Damage Per Energy), specifically bringing in wins versus Pidgeot and Sableye (whereas Gunk Shot’s one standout win looks to be Pelipper). The gap is even wider with shields down, with Outrage beating Vigoroth, Talonflame, Drifblim, Empoleon, and Shiftry more readily than Gunk (which has only unique wins versus two Charmers — Wigglytuff and Sylveon — to boast about). Dragalge is not a top tier meta option in this slot, but there are certainly teams that can and likely will make good use of it.
Dragon Tail | Dragon Claw & Earth Powerᴸ
This one is in some ways a tale of two different Pokemon: regular Flygon and Shadow Flygon. Regular has more listed wins, but Shadow arguably has more impactful wins like Cofagrigus, Whiscash, Rainy Castform, Drifblim, Shadow Machamp, Trashadam and others. Non-Shadow has some good wins like Beedrill, Zweilous, Obstagoon, and Qwilfish, but also some real “meh who cares?” wins like Kingdra, Munchlax, Shiftry, and Jumpluff. Sometimes you gotta go beyond just the numbers to find the real truth… and I lean Shadow Flygon after looking beyond surface level.
Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Drill Peck
Ranked appropriately a bit outside the Top 50, and based on the numbers, that seems about right. I don’t think Empie is going to be the secret sauce to rip off a big winning streak, but it’s also unlikely to be the direct cause of many losses. It’s a solid contributor that can fit on many teams more than something you build around, so if your team is coming together and you’re staring at Slot 4 without a clear frontrunner, give Empoleon a hard look. Might be just what you need as a good Water type (with the extra pros and cons that come with Steel) in a slot otherwise mostly lacking in good Water damage dealers.
ALOLAN SANDSLASH 💸💸
Powder Snow | Ice Punch & Bulldoze/Blizzard
Kind of the same story here: while A-Slash HAS been a secret weapon to build around in some metas, here it’s more of a team player that props up teammates and plugs some holes. With Bulldoze it can reach out and beat things you wouldn’t expect like Jirachi, Beedrill, Probopass, and Froslass, while Blizzard offers no coverage but deals killing blows to stuff like Stunfisk, Whiscash, Pelipper, and Trashadam. Either way, A-Slash does, as I said, plug some nice holes, the only problem being that some of those (like Fairies and Psychics) are not likely to be out in force in this particular meta. And you have to keep A-Slash FAR away from this next grouping…. 🥶
Haven’t seen many Fighters to this point beyond mentioning that some good ones were coming up in later slots. Well here they come!…. FALINKS 💸💸💸 is the highest rated, but not with Megahorn as you might expect, instead coming in with the odd pairing of Brick Break and Superpower. Technically, sure, it puts up good numbers, but I don’t see myself using my Slot 4 pick on something with no coverage to speak of, personally…. More interesting to me is BLAZIKEN 💸 with its burninating and unpredictable closer. Is it Blast Burn? Stone Edge? Brave Bird? Probably have to use at least one shield if you’re not sure, right?…. I’ve always had a soft spot for HITMONCHAN 💸💸💸, who continues to do a decent Medicham impersonation with Ice Punch here, either in regular form or Shadow form…. Fan fave LUCARIO 💸 (don’t forget to utilize the Baby Discount™!) is alright here, but its Steel typing is probably more curse than blessing here overall…. It’s ranked below most of these, but the best option may actually be HERACROSS 💸💸, whose resistances to Grass, Ground, and Fighting do a lot more good than its brittleness to Fire and Flying do it bad. If I were to choose a Fighter in this slot, I think the big bug would get my personal vote.
ALOLAN MUK 💸💸
Snarl/Poison Jab | Dark Pulse & Sludge Wave/Acid Spray
I’m of two minds here. What has now become “old school”, Dark-centric A-Muk is average at best… possibly not even really deserving of “spice” status… it’s not helped at all by the derth of Psychics in Brawler. On the other hand, new hotness Poison Jab/Acid Spray is rarely going to actually match the success that win list shows, as the numbers of wins that come with perfect baits is significant. (Here is how it can look if baiting falls apart.) I think Poison Jabber A-Muk is what I’d recommend, but only if you’ve logged some practice time with it. And as a final side note… am I the only one who finds it weird that Alolan Muk is heavier than regular Muk? Strange, that. 🤷♂️
Poison Sting | Crunch & Aqua Tail
Most of Drapula’s movesets are just okay, but there is one particular variety that stands out: Shadow Drap with Crunch and Aqua Tail, the super spammer. It can outrace some crazy stuff you probably wouldn’t expect, like Sableye, Steelix, Froslass, Melmetal, Lugia, Ninetales, Pelipper, Pidgeot, Probopass, Ferrothorn and more. IF I were to consider a spicy Dark/Poison, this is probably the one I’d roll with. Having faced a TON of these down in Halloween Cup, I have a newfound
unhealthy fear healthy respect for the pressure it brings even in bad matchups.
Powder Snow | Body Slam & Returnᴸ/Water Pulse
People often look at me like I have two heads when they ask whether to run Water Pulse or Aurora Beam and I answer back with “Return, of course!”, but uh… yeah, that’s still my recommendation, as that set can take out things that don’t expect to lose to Sealeo like Abomasnow, Empoleon (yes really, even with it resisting ALL of Sealeo’s moves!), Politoed, Pelipper, Greedent, and of course, the mirror. Water Pulse is not without its coverage merits — beating Froslass and Steelix are the two big standouts — but nobody expects the Return Inquisition! I mean, maybe they should if they regularly review my meta analyses, but who would waste their time with all those? Oh, wait…. 😅
Thunder Shockᴸ | Drill Peck & Thunder
It’s Shadow Zappy you really want here; regular Zapdos does have Vigoroth and Meganium as unique, standout wins, but balance those against Venusaur, Cofagrigus, Abomasnow, Ferrothorn, Bronzong, Dragonite, and Sunny Castform that Shadow can overpower, and I think the choice is clear. This might be one of the best metas to deploy Zapdos in yet, for those seeking to peg out the spice meter! 🌶️
Ice Shard | Icy Wind & Hurricaneᴸ/Ice Beam
Not one, but TWO of the Legendary Birds are really, truly good here! Love when that happens. In Artie’s case, it is at its best as a non-Shadow and with Legacy Hurricane (with nice wins like come along with it like Froslass, Politoed, Escavalier, and Snorlax), but if you don’t have it, don’t fret: Ice Beam works too as long as you can shrug off those four specific Pokemon I mentioned.
BEST OF THE REST
Well I didn’t end up leaving much for this section. Whoops! Let’s see what’s left. Uh, GLIGAR 💸💸💸 does some nice things, and even has a little flexibility with Dig beating Steels Melmetal, Steelix, and Probopass, or Return instead taking down Golbat, Tropius, and a couple Charmers…. Very underrated since the buffs to all three of its moves (Poison Jab, Poison Fang, and Crunch), consider SEVIPER 💸💸, which has quietly produced for a while now but never gets any press. This meta is no exception…. Yes, you CAN use your Shadow SHIFTRY 💸💸💸 if you really want to…. People continue to undervalue ZEBSTRIKA. 💸💸 Electric and Fire seem sneaky good in this meta, and Zeb does both well…. Speaking of Fire, ranked all the way down at 112th overall in Brawler (and somehow 30th in Slot 4) is CHARIZARD 💸, and uh, I really don’t get it. What am I missing here? I legit feel like there’s something obvious I’m not seeing, because by the numbers, Charizard should be WAY up higher, but nobody is talking about it. Charizard is under the radar and is an ever-better-than-spice option in this meta if you can find room for it. Zard may be the biggest sleeper in the whole meta… again, unless I’m missing something super obvious.
SLOT 5 – CRUISERWEIGHTS
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Our best Fighter, several of the top Grasses (finally), and some truly unique Pokemon make up the penultimate weight class. There are some real standouts here that have no equals in any other slot, so while there are very clear “best of the best” options, they may not be the best for YOU and your team. Think long and hard on your style and team weaknesses as we plow through here before moving on to the heaviest of heavyhitters in Slot 6….
Counter | Cross Chop & Rock Slide
It is oddly appropriate that one of the very best picks in “Brawler” Cup is four-armed Machamp. Especially as a Shadow, Champ is THE Fighter you want most in this format. I mean, it’s already as good as most other Fighters with just Cross Chop, but it is with Rock Slide that it separates from the pack by taking out Talonflame, Tropius, Gyarados, Lanturn, Dragalge, Qwilfish, Roserade, Venusaur, Froslass, and Sableye. (Many of those, by the way, are losses for regular Machamp, as well as stuff like Whiscash, Ninetales, and Sirfetch’d… Shadow is preferred in this meta.) If you HAVE to have the best Fighter out there, look no further. Machamp is SO potent that the Meta Team was discussing banning it at one point.
For the record, you could pick SIRFETCH’D in this slot instead, and it too has much more to offer than most of the other Fighters around. If you don’t have a good Shadow Champ, this is probably your next best bet, but I’d say only in those circumstances. It’s just outclassed by Shadow Champ if you have your pick of both, but certainly plenty good if it can escape Champ’s… well, shadow. 🌑
Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball
Again better as a Shadow, though regular is just fine too; Shadow has an easier time with Cofagrigus, Lapras, Greedent, and Toxicroak while regular instead outlasts Steelix and Dewgong. Whichever way you roll… well, Aboma has more than enough of a body of work to this point that you know if it fits your sytle or not, right? It’s a top pick in the meta and certainly in Slot 5.
Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge
It’s not ranked next in line behind Champ and Aboma, and yes, is a bit too bait-dependent than many would like, but there’s no denying the potency of Magnezone and Shadow ‘Zone. Shadow is again a bit better on paper, but really these are sidegrades to each other, with regular ‘Zone’s relative bulk allowing it to outlast Galvantula, Escavalier, Venusaur, Roserade, and Politoed long enough to land a KO Wild Charge, while Shadow ‘Zone rolls over stuff like Melmetal, Obstagoon, Vigoroth, Ferrothorn, Snowy Castform, and even fiery A-Wak, Sunny Castform, and Ninetales before they can burn ‘Zone down. Again, baits and all mean your mileage could vary rather wildly, but there will be players that ride to victory on Magnezone’s back, I am sure of it.
Air Slash | Leaf Blade & Aerial Ace
Almost made the “top picks” section, but that just felt wrong with it being a still-hard-for-many-to-get regional. But you can’t deny that Trop is really, really good. With its effectiveness versus Fighters, Grounds, Waters, Grasses, and Bugs (even Galvantula!) and ability to snipe other big names like Cofagrigus, Snorlax, Dragonite, Wigglytuff, Zweilous, and Greedent, you WILL surely be seeing some of those privileged few Tropius owners bringing theirs. Are you one of them?
Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard
Also arguably deserving of a promotion to the next tier up, but I’m generally trying to keep “top picks” to just the top three, so here we are. I’ll continue to stress that it is Blizzard, not the on-paper-good-coverage-move-but-actually-terrible Water Pulse. I mean, Pulse DOES manage to beat Alolan Marowak, but balance that against Blizzard’s wins versus Cofagrigus, Abomasnow, Ferrothorn, Qwilfish, Snorlax, Quagsire, and easier wins against things like Sableye, Whiscash, and Wigglytuff, and… well, why ARE people still running Pulse at this point? Anyway, Gong is just as solid and reliable as you’d expect in this and basically any meta it’s allowed in. It is surely one of the safer picks in this slot.
Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake
The Golf Ball Of Doom holds up quite well in Brawler, going beyond just its anti-Grass/anti-Charm role to also handle most Dragons, Ices, and Darks, and even most opposing Bugs and Steels that crop up. It’s not THE best at anything in particular, but it’s a well-rounded (haha I so funny) pick that can fit in with many team builds.
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb
With Fairies and even most Grasses likely to be somewhat of a rarity, Venusaur’s Sludge Bomb sees less use than normal, but Venusaur is still the best true Grass type without a gimmick like Tropius being a Flyer and Aboma’s iciness. It still does everything a good Grass should while also handling most all Fighters (to include Vigoroth) and the aforementioned Grasses (even the scary Roserade) and Charmers that do pop up. Venusaur isn’t its usual scary self, even I have to admit that, but there’s still nothing at all wrong with grabbing it as your Cruiserweight champion.
Other Grass options here like MEGANIUM 💸 and even FERROTHORN* 💸💸💸 are fine too, but like Venusaur, just don’t shine out quite as brightly as you may be used to. I’d be hard pressed to recommend them over Venu or Tropius, but you’ll likely see a couple throughout the month anyway (probably more Ferrothorn than Meganium, but who knows?), so just know how to handle them if they show up.
Confusion | Psyshock & Payback
Remember how I talked about Jirachi as a potential Slot 1 candidate? Here’s the primary alternative. There actually are a fair amount of differences between them, but the big things that work against Zong are that A.) Jirachi tends to beat Vigoroth and Cofagrigus, while Zong struggles, and B.) Jirachi’s slot is of course a lot more of an open competition. Bronzong is an excellent choice overall in this meta, but may lose out anyway just because it’s trapped behind several other excellent things and unfortunately doesn’t have a ton of things to target down with its big Payback… Jirachi’s Doom Desire is just a better all-around coverage/catch-all move.
ALOLAN GRAVELER 💸
Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge
Pros: cheap, wrecks a lot of stuff including powerful and popular Waters (usually winning in those wars of attrition), Flyers, Ices, Fires, and even most Charmers and Bugs and stuff like Sableye and Haunter. Cons: gets dominated by a good chunk of the rest of the meta, including many Pokemon likely to be key parts of cores (Whiscash, Vigoroth, Cofagrigus, Stunfisk, Machamp, Diggersby, Steelix, and the list goes on). If this wasn’t a format where picking A-Grav meant NOT being able to pick all the other Cruiserweights above, then sure, go for it. And for some teams, that may STILL be the best choice. But it’s an uphill climb for A-Grav to find room in this format. It’s not at all bottom tier or anything, just a bit of a reach.
BEST OF THE REST
Sure, GOODRA 💸💸💸 works alright, but again, Grass only gets you so far in this meta, and Power Whip is Goodra’s big schtick, so that’ll only get you so far…. You probably weren’t going to run it anyway, but I don’t really recommend MUNCHLAX 💸💸. It’s a safe-ish swap, I suppose, but it’s listed as being part of the “core meta” and I really don’t see it…. I often stump for MILOTIC 💸💸💸 and it does do some real good here, but it’s hard to imagine snagging it in this crowded slot…. ELECTIVIRE 💸💸💸 is also fine, but falls behind many other good picks — including Magnezone — in this same slot…. No Registeel or Regirock here, but REGICE 💸💸💸💸 is in and not the craziest idea in the world. There’s really nothing else quite like it, and it can carry its weight for anyone looking for super spice…. But if you REALLY want to shock everyone, bring your Shadow HO-OH 💸💸💸… once we FINALLY reach another Team GO Rocket event, that is. It’s been 5 long months, Niantic…. 😒
SLOT 6 – HEAVYWEIGHTS
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Probably not at all surprisingly, despite the name, this final slot is mostly more about bulk than hard hitters. Most picks here, good and bad, are your typical tanks.
Lick | Body Slam & Superpower
It’s not the absolute best of the best or anything (at least not normal Lax), but I’d be remiss not to lead off the heavyweights with the Fat Albert of Pokemon (and my own personal spirit animal), wouldn’t I? Besides, Shadow Snorlax IS one of the best options in this slot, at least putting up a good fight versus nearly everything that’s not a Fighter and remaining one of the safest options in the entire meta for rounding out your team. Don’t… well… sleep on this one! 🥱 (Dad jokes FTW! 😅)
Thunder Shock | Rock Slide & Superpower
It’s ranked a bit lower, but I still see Mel as one of the top Heavyweight options. It’s versatile and, similar to Snorlax, puts up a tough fight for anything that’s not a very hard counter (Fighters, Fires, and Grounds, in Mel’s case), a list that includes most Waters, Ices, Grasses, Fairies, Psychics, Steels, Dragons, and of course Flyers. I would actually be inclined to call Melmetal the top overall option among the Heavyweights as flexible as it is. It could slot in well on the majority of teams.
MANTINE 💸 (Baby Discount™), otherwise 💸💸💸
Wing Attack | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam
Dang, who knew the Dopefish was so heavy?! I debated for a long time about whether to list Mantine or what ended up being the first “top alternative” as our final “top pick”, but despite being bait-reliant and tricky to handle without experience, Mantine’s full body of work pushed it over the top. It’s just able to bust up so many potential cores — Fighters, Grasses, Diggersby, Whiscash, Cofagrigus, A-Wak, Golbat, Beedrill, Dragalge, Zweilous, Drifblim, Lugia, and so many more — that I felt compelled to recommend it.
Spark | Rock Slide & Thunderbolt
Bastiodon Junior is the other one that was a mustache hair away from making the top tier. And unlike in most metas where Rock Throw seems to be on equal footing, here in Brawler it seems as though Spark pulls ahead by handling Jirachi, Bronzong, Qwilfish, and Empoleon while Rock Throw only manages to snag Roserade. (Also somewhat unusually for Probo… Thunderbolt looks like a clear leader over Magnet Bomb and Return for the same basic reasons. Usually the charge move combinations all come out roughly equal too.) Probopass is worth every second of consideration you give it in this slot. It may not be as versatile as, say, Melmetal and Snorlax, but it brings its own kind of tanky pressure to the fight.
Dragon Tail/Thunder Fang | Crunch & Earthquake
Keeping this one as simple as possible, Dragon Tail does better versus Grasses (Venusaur, Tropius, Shiftry), Dragons of course (Zweilous, Dragalge), and interestingly, Ghosts (Froslass, Haunter), as well as Snowy Castform and Stunfisk. Thunder Fang is also very viable, not surprisingly doing much better versus Waters (Lapras, Dewgong, Pelipper), but also Charmers (Wiggly, Slurpuff, and even Whimsicott), plus Melmetal as a nice bonus. Whether or not you want to actually USE Steelix is another question, but at least now you have an idea of what different varieties bring to the table.
Ice Shardᴸ/Water Gun | Surf & Ice Beamᴸ/Blizzard/Skull Bash
No surprise to hear that Lapras works here, I’m sure. Its best overall second charge move looks to be Ice Beam for its ability to outrace Beedrill, Pelipper, Sableye, Pidgeot, and Stunfisk. Non-Legacy Blizzard and Skull Bash work okay too, but mostly just replicate Ice Beam minus a key Pokemon or two. Perhaps the more interesting alternative is Water Gun, which beats everything Ice Shard Lappie can except Dragalge, Shiftry, and Kingdra, and adds on new wins versus Ninetales, Sunny Castform, Empoleon, and Jirachi to more than make up for it. Extra soggy Lappie may be the best Lappie in this meta! 💦
SHADOW DRAGONITE 💸💸💸
Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Hurricane/Draco Meteorᴸ
Regular ‘Nite is too fringe, but Shadow ‘Nite brings the sauce. It’s a high pressure generalist along the same vein as Haunter and Gengar, and not a bad pick at all if Slot 6 isn’t an area of particular need.
Extrasensory | Sky Attack & Aeroblastᴸ
Usually it’s been Dragon Tail that Lugia has wanted since that move was buffed, but in this meta? It would appear that Extrasensory takes the crown, beating everything Dragon Tail can except Talonflame and Kingdra while uniquely allowing Lugia to outrace Abomasnow, A-Wak, Munchlax, Quagsire, and Greedent. If you’re fortunate enough to have a Great League Lugia (as the rest of us are resigned to waiting for Shadow Lugia), maybe this is your chance to flex.
Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Megahorn
Slot 6 Beedrill, essentially. Not quite as good or versatile as Bee, but more than good enough to stand on its own if you want a Bee-esque performance without taking Bee itself.
Smack Down | X-Scissor & Rock Slide
Got a good one from Halloween Cup? Then sure, you can deploy Crustie here. It won’t do much that you don’t expect of it, but what you already know it can do (beating Flyers, Fires, Ices, Darks, and Bugs), it continues to do well here.
Smack Down | Thunder & Heavy Slam
This in undoubtedly a bold choice, likely even to the degree of being downright foolhardy, but Aggron can actually work. It’s a significantly harder counter to, say, Flyers, Ices, Psychics, than Crustle is.
BEST OF THE REST
It may be that ALOLAN GOLEM 💸 is the better Alolan Rock for once, and it’s all thanks to Wild Charge and the wins it can get versus Steels (Probopass, Melmetal, Trashadam, Jirachi, Bronzong) and Greedent and Cofagrigus. (Stone Edge instead beats Abomasnow and Venusaur, hardly equal compensation.) It might be ranked too low…. Here in the last slot and realized you do not yet have a Fighter? HARIYAMA 💸💸 is fine, if unspectacular…. I badly wanted GYARADOS 💸 to be better here, but it’s just not. At least it CAN be a little unpredictable with Dragon Tail, Dragon Breath, and Waterfall all looking roughly equal in overall lethality…. TYRANITAR 💸💸💸 is also a little disappointing, in both regular and Shadow, but hey, you’ve got Crustle (and even Aggron) in this slot anyway…. I usually try to pump up GOLURK 💸💸💸, but here… meh, not really.
And there we have it, folks! By golly, we got this one done and took a peek at over 90 Pokémon in all! It’s quite a flexible and fun looking format. Good luck with your team building!
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!
Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you flex your muscles and beat down the opposition in Brawler Cup. Best of luck, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!
JRE has been playing Pokémon GO since the beginning, and immediately fell in love with PvP despite having never played a single Pokémon game prior. 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 just grew and grew and took over his life. 😅 He’s now been writing multiple regular article series since Tempest Cup waaaaaaay back in the early days of The Arena (in a time when GBL was still a mere twinkle in John Hanke’s eye), 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, going on hikes, dad jokes, and to move it, move it. (We like to… move it! 🎶)
You can follow him on Twitter: @JRESeawolf or reach out on Discord: JRESeawolf#8349