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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Oct 22, 2020: Nifty Or Thrifty: Marsh 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!

“When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a meta on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get… the strongest meta in all of the Arena.”

First off, if you don’t where I got that (admittedly modified) quote from, go watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Like, right now. Then come back.

Ah, you’ve returned! Well you see, there’s a reason that particular quote came to mind. This meta was a tough one to iron out, and went through a few changes late in the development process. Initially Marsh Cup was going to exclude all Grounds. Then there was a debate about letting the thematic Marshtomp in specifically. Then Grounds were allowed. Then a couple specific Grasses (Tropius and Abomasnow) were tossed out for further balancing. And then finally, the new meta stood as what you see now… and I could start writing about it!

And so here we go, with the continuation of the “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series. As always, it gives an early, first-blush look at the meta for the Marsh Cup, particularly from the perspective of which Pokémon are likely worth the cost of leveling up/adding a second charge move (nifty) and which ones would probably work out fine without heavy investment (thrifty), including several 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?

So before we dive in, one final review of what the meta shook out to be:

– Bug, Ghost, Grass, Poison, and Water types are allowed, including Pokémon with multiple typings as long as one matches one of those five.

– Tropius and Abomasnow are banned.

And that’s actually it! Pretty simple in the end. So just a few of my own administrivia:

– I wrote much of this with my own projected “core meta”, which may or may not line up cleanly with what PvPoke and other sources end up with. Just be warned if you’re looking at the lists, once released, and what I’m saying does not exactly match up! I had to wing it a bit.

– Shadows are once again allowed, and I DO look at them as part of this analysis. But not everything–or even most things–will have special mention of the Shadow alternative, as many are just worse. If I don’t mention it, it’s a safe assumption that the Shadow version just doesn’t have much to offer that the non-Shadow one doesn’t do better.

Okay, whew! With that all out of the way…let’s get started!

NIFTY

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

You know the drill by now… we start with the thriftiest options available, and that means the cheapest category first!

VENUSAUR

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

Another new meta, another Venusaur snippit to lead it off. Because as always, when Venusaur is eligible, it finds a way to make its presence felt. As it does here. Venusaur capably handles (nearly) all the Waters here, and with Tropius and Abomasnow banned, reclaims its title as the premier Grass slayer among Grasses as well thanks to Sludge Bomb… you can literally count the number of Grasses Venusaur cannot beat in this meta on one hand, and only one of those (Flying Jumpluff) are you likely to see with any kind of regularity. It also beats the handful of potent Rock and Ground types you’ll see here, plus bonuses like Sableye too. Venusaur remains a steady champion of the thrifty yet again.

MEGANIUM

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake

There remains a fierce debate about which of the main Vine Whipping starters is best, a battle that goes back far enough that there are rumors it may have spawned a certain world war. Venusaur is better at handing other Grasses, but Meg is even more solid at dishing it out to Waters (better handling Lapras, which can flip the Venusaur matchup, for example) and can add unique wins of its own, like Escavalier, thanks to its special weapon Earthquake. Which side of this eternal conflict do YOU fall on?

CHERRIM

Bullet Seed | Weather Ball (Fire) & Solar Beam

I’ll keep this simple: it’s a Grass that breathes Fire. Yes, in a meta full of Waters weak to its Grass moves (especially the Mud Boys, who can all fall to basically just Bullet Seed) and Bugs and Grasses that don’t like bursting into flame, there is definitely a place for Cherrim!

WHIMSICOTT

Razor Leaf/Charm | Grass Knot & Hurricane/Moonblast

While you’d probably think that sneaking a Charmer into a format with a dearth of Fairies would be the best play, I think that if you use Whimsie, you actually want it as a Razor Leafer, with which it shreds Waters, Rocks, and Sableye and Haunter, with Grass Knot being your best chance at pressuring shields and either Hurricane providing a threat to Bugs and fellow Grasses, or Moonblast offering higher power for a lower cost, at the additional cost of having less super effective coverage. Either way, Whimsicott could end up being a nice budget option for anyone seeking a Razor Leafer with good charge moves on the cheap.

SWAMPERT

Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Earthquake

Somewhat surprisingly, Swampert actually looks a little tepid in this meta. Earthquake is the preferred play with many Poisons and Rocks and Steels that it hits for massive, super effective damage (and that, along with Ghosts, resist the Poison damage of Sludge Wave), and Swampert is certainly always capable of blindingly fast blowout wins. So you get those Poisons and Rocks and Steels, and of course things like A-Wak and Lanturn, but the number of potentially relevant Grasses–as well as the decent number of potent Waters that Swampert cannot stand up to–may hold it back a little bit.

One potential help is going with Shadow Swampert. While it abandons wins that normal Swampert achieves over Galvantula and Haunter/Gengar, it gains wins over many of those troublesome Waters (and Ices), including Rainy Castform, Sealeo, Froslass, Whiscash AND Quagsire, and potentially even Ice Beam Lapras. Still get shredded by the Grasses, of course, and even faster now… but hey, at least it doesn’t lead to farming opportunities!

WHISCASH

Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Blizzard

Roughy on par with Swampert, with Blizzard-driven wins against Golbat, Drifblim, Qaugsire, and Swampert itself that Swampy is not able to achieve… Swampert instead usually beats Escavalier, Galvantula, and Trashadam. But again, with all the Grass and even Flying and Ice around, Whiscash’s normal success is somewhat muted in this meta.

BLASTOISE

Water Gun | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Ice Beam/Skull Bash

There’s nothing wrong with Blastie at all. It puts in a workmanlike performance, getting many of the top Poisons, Sableye, Crustle, Forret, two of the prime Mud Boys, of course Alolan Marowak, and even most of the other top Ghosts, and even Mantine and Empoleon on top of that! But it still loses to the majority of other Waters (Skull Bash CAN help but only to a degree), several top Bugs, and of course nearly everything Grass. Ice Beam provides a nice threat to shields, but it requires some fancy maneuvering for even something as tanky as Blastoise to be able to actually turn matches around with it.

EMPOLEON

Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Drill Peck/Blizzard

Its Steel subtyping is a blessing and a curse here, making Grass damage a little less painful by neutralizing it and resisting all the Bug and Poison damage out there, but also exposing it to the Grounds and few Fighters here and allowing even things like Alolan Marowak to beat it… and if we’re being honest, even with Grass being neutral, they’re usually still going to come out on top anyway too. Still, Empie still emerges as one of the better Waters in this meta, and has good coverage with either Drill Peck (probably preferred for keeping those Grasses and Bugs honest) or Blizzard to allow Empoleon to get things like Drifblim. This looks like a pretty good spot overall for Empoleon to shine.

GYARADOS

Dragon Breath | Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch

What Gary loses to–Grasses, Electric, Rock–it tends to lose pretty hard. But there is plenty of good there too. Poisons, the Flying Waters, Mud Boys, A-Wak, Drifblim, even Steely Bugs Escavalier and Forretress… they all lose to the steady, high damage put out by Dragon Breath Gyarados. If you like the idea of Waterfall Gyarados, then you want Shadow Gary, giving up things like Mantine and Pelipper and Skuntank and Whiscash to instead beat Gengar and Haunter, Empoleon, Trashadam, and Crustle with overwhelming waves of water. Either way, while Gyarados isn’t a meta-defining Pokémon or anything, it does quite well for itself with Aqua Tail now in its arsenal. Look for Gary to show up higher on most meta lists than you may have been used to in past seasons of Silph Arena play.

BIBAREL

Water Gun | Surf & Hyper Fang

A fan favorite that performs solidly enough here, doing most things you want your Water doing with the perk of being particularly good against the Ghosts here (double resisting Ghost damage)… but also being weak to any Fighting moves around too. Still, this is more blessing than curse, I think, as the meta Ghosts seem more plentiful than Fighters, so Bibarel may make a splash for the first (and hopefully not last!) time this season. A budget hero and fan favorite with nasty, big, pointy teeth! What’s not to love?

MANTINE

Bubble/Wing Attack | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam/Aerial Ace

As always, don’t forget The Baby Discount™: get a Mantyke, give it a second move for only 10,000 dust, and then evolve, build up the resulting Mantine for about 30k dust, and save yourself a bundle, since giving the second move to an already-evolved Mantine is 75,000 dust just by itself! After that things get a little trickier, since as per usual, there are cases to be made for a few different movesets. Generally Mantine is going to beat most Grasses, Fighters, Muds and Bugs. The big differences are Wing Attack makes the Grasses, Bugs, and Fighters easier (such as getting Meganium while Bubble generally does not), and also is obviously a bit better against opposing Waters, such as having a much easier time reliably overcoming Azumarill. Bubbletine more easily handles things that are part Steel (like Ferrothorn and Trashadam) and generally wins the mirror versus Wing Attack Mantine. There are even variants that shed the Ice Beam those others above rely on and instead leans on Aerial Ace, giving up things like Sableye and Ferrothorn to instead beat Alolan Muk, Quagsire (which the others generally do not), and possibly even outrace Haunter and Gengar. There are a few ways to go, but be ready for many teams TO go with some version of ol’ Dopefish yet again. You may be sick of if after Sunrise and Flying Cups, but Mantine is still going to hanging around for a while.

GOLBAT

Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

This isn’t the good old days of Twlight Cup or anything where Golbat can roam free, but it still does enough good things to merit a spot on some teams. Relevant Flyers that actually deal Flying damage are actually a relatively rare commodity here, and a boon in format stuff with Grasses and Bugs. And conveniently, Shadow Ball brings an extremely powerful weapon with which to beat down A-Wak and Drifblim and even neutral targets like Swampert and Pelipper too. Or you can run out Shadow Golbat and give up close wins over Blim and Crustle ton instead beat Quagsire before it can strike with a lethal Stone Edge and even beat Empoleon, which resists everything Golbat throws at it except a very lethal Shadow Ball. And that right there speaks to Golbat’s greatest asset: unpredictability. Rarely is the opponent quite sure what Golbat can and cannot beat, and you can use that to your advantage.

BEEDRILL

Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Drill Runᴸ

A unique triple threat to Grasses, Poisons, and Steels thanks to a combination of solid Poison, Bug, and Ground damage output, allowing Beedrill to capably beat most all the ones you care about (with Forretress and Trashadam representing the only relevant Steels to escape, Haunter and Gengar the only Poisons you are likely to encounter that survive, and funky Cradily being the only Grass to get away). Conveniently, Beedrill remains one of the best ways to counter Azumarill, and it doesn’t even need Drill Run to take out Galvantula, which is nice. Unfortunately its usefulness ends there… most Waters and Ghosts and Grounds and Ices fend it off without too much trouble. But there will certainly be holes on several teams in November that are best–or perhaps ONLY–filled by Beedrill.

Shadow Beedrill, by the way, drops Ferrothorn and Shiftry, but gains Froslass, Lanturn, and Rainy Castform. Prooooooobably want regular, but it’s certainly possible you need what Shadow can do more.

CRUSTLE

Smack Down | X-Scissor & Rock Slide

You get a nice cheap twofer this month, as Crustle gets to tear it up in Halloween Cup AND remain very relevant in Marsh Cup as well. Turns out that Smack Down continues to be a good thing to sneak into metas that don’t have much with it AND are full of Bugs and some Flyers weak to it. Flyers like Mantine and Pelipper and Drifblim cannot handle it, Ices like Dewgong and Froslass and Sealeo crack underneath it, Bugs like Galvantula and Beedrill and even Trashadam get squashed by it, and even Ghosts like Haunter and Gengar and A-Wak are snuffed out by it, not to even mention how Crustle also beats all three of the famous Dark/Poisons, plus Lanturn and Shiftry for a cherry on top of a sweet overall body of work. Yes, our little crab buddy is poised for a very good month indeed.

DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT

I badly wanted to find a reason to recommend SWALOT, as it’s always just a weird favorite of mine with its varied movepool and cheap second move cost, but alas, it just falls short here yet AGAIN…. Likewise with WAILORD and WAILMER. One day… one day.


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 Sunrise in this category that are potentially worth it, and here they are!

RAZOR LEAFERS

Razor Leaf | Sludge Bomb & Moonblast (Vileplume)/Leaf Blade (Victreebel)

Lumped together yet again this month, as there’s really not a whole lot that separates the top options, which at this point pretty much boil down to Vileplume and Victreebel. So what DOES separate them? Regular Victreebel has basically been superseded by Shadow Victreebel, which looks to beat all the same core meta things as non-Shadow and adds on Pelipper, Gengar, and Haunter. Regular Vileplume loses to regular and Shadow Victreebel, but matches all of Shadow Vic’s other wins. And finally, Shadow Plume loses to Gengar, but significantly improves on the Haunter and Pelipper wins and uniquely can defeat Mantine and even Toxicroak. They all shred the other Waters, of course, as well as Froslass, Sableye, and Cradily. Whichever option you roll with (for me personally, it’s Shadow Plume), know their role and when to consider yanking them. Because while they win big, they LOSE big in bad matchups too. Keep away from Bugs, Flyers (well, non-Water ones), the Dark/Poisons, most of their fellow Grasses, and of course Alolan Marowak. Otherwise, go out there and be the best Grasshole you can be!

QUAGSIRE

Mud Shot | Stone Edge & Earthquake

What continues to set Quag apart from the other Mud Boys is Stone Edge. The typical EdgeQuake is solid as ever, with Edge being the most reliable way to take down Mantine, Golbat, and Galvantula. But as per usual with Quag, there are other options. Pairing Edge with Sludge Bomb, for example, keeps Mantine, Bat, and Galv AND adds Drifblim, Trashadam, and Lapras, but drops Sableye and Escavalier, both of which fall only to Earthquake. So going back to that and pairing Quake with Bomb leads to particularly interesting results, getting Sable and Escav but dropping everything else mentioned above… but potentially gaining new wins over Empoleon, Toxicroak, Rainy Castform, and EdgeQuake Quag. Why? Because Sludge Bomb is the cheapest move of the three, so the only way to reach a KO Earthquake and beat all those is by baiting a shield with Bomb… Edge, being 5 energy more expensive than Bomb, is just a hair too slow. Not to mention Bomb is a great option to punish overconfident Grasses. However you use YOUR Quag, it just might be the best overall threat of the main Mud Boys in this meta.

POLITOED

Mud Shot | Surf & Earthquakeᴸ/Return

And here is the Mud Boy that… isn’t. With its overall best second charge move Earthquake and the same Mud Shot you’ll find on the other true Boys, Toed has two unique things going for it. First, it has a Swampert-esque spammy Water move with Surf. Second, of course, is that it’s not ACTUALLY a Mud Boy, just a pure Water, which means that unlike the Water/Grounds, it outright resists Ice and Water damage and doesn’t die quite as alarming fast to Grass damage. What does that all mean when put together? Oh, not much… except that Politoed might just be the best “Mud Boy” in the format. It can beat Gengar/Haunter and Empoleon like Swampert and Whiscash can, Golbat like Quagsire and Whiscash, Escavalier like Swampert and Quagsire can… and Whiscash, Lapras, Dewgong, and Sealeo like NONE of them can. That resistance to Ice comes in QUITE handy!

POLIWRATH

Bubble/Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Dynamic Punch

Much more popular than its froggy cousin Politoed, but as with the Mud Boys (and most Waters in this meta in general), Poliwrath is more subdued than it’s used to and mostly is just a worse version of Toed, with a win over Shiftry the only real feather in its cap. It doesn’t even reliably beat things you would expect with its Ice and Fighting moves, like Golbat and Escavalier, while Politoed does.

SEAKING

Waterfall/Poison Jabᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Drill Runᴸ

That’s right… we can FINALLY use it in a Silph Cup. And it’s pretty good, washing away the Mud Boys, Steely Bugs, most of the Ices, the Ghosts, and even most Poisons (A-Muk, Drapion, Golbat). Here’s the one problem: that’s all with Waterfall as the fast move rather than the usually-preferred Legacy Poison Jab. If you’ve already built the fabled triple Legacy Seaking, PLEASE do not TM Jab away. It’s still the way you reliably beat Azumarill and Shiftry and Mantine and other things relevant to open formats (and likely future Cups too). But if you’re still building up a Seaking, consider holding off on the Elite Fast TM for one more month and build a unique and potent beast in the here and now. Even people that KNOW Seaking won’t see that sort of moveset coming!

GOLDUCK

Confusion | Bubble Beam & Psychic

I mean, I am NOT suggesting you go out and build a new one now for this meta, because the results are no doubt driven in large part by Bubble Beam baiting. Buuuuuuuuut…. I mean, you could do a lot worse for potential spice. Golduck is a rare Confusioner in a format with a good chunk of Poisons weak to it, straight up beating even Venusaur with JUST Confusion, and that’s not to even mention the pasting it gives Haunter/Gengar and Toxicroak. Just Bubble Beam can potentially pick up the likes of Azumarill and Lapras (plus Froslass and Beedrill), then the finisher of Psychic (yes, the move) adds on stuff like Whiscash, Quagsire, A-Wak, Dewgong, Crustle, Mantine, Drifblim, and even Empoleon that resists ALL of Golduck’s damage. Yes yes yes… needs baits to work. But it CAN work in rather shocking fashion in the right hands. If you like piloting, say, Bubble Beam Mantine, you may want to log some practice time with Golduck too.

AZUMARILL

Bubble | Ice Beam & Hydro Pump

If there’s one thing Azu has taught us over the years, it is to NEVER count it out in PvP. Even here in a meta packed with Grasses and Poisons and other things that should drive it out of the meta, Azu refuses to go away quietly. Let’s not forget it still beats the Mud Boys (including wannabe Politoed), beats all the most meta Bugs but Galvantula, beats Lapras and Mantine and Empoleon, beats Sableye and A-Wak and Drifblim, and even beats poisonous A-Muk and Drapion and Golbat and Toxicroak. Yes yes, you need to steer clear of Grass, but as many of us have painfully learned, even then Ice Beam must be respected to avoid disaster. I will repeat: NEVER count Azu out. I see no reason to change that stance in Marsh Cup.

PELIPPER

Wing Attack | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane

It’s no Mantine, but it’s close. With its heavier focus on Flying damage, Pelip better beats Grasses like Ferrothorn and Waters like Politoed, Sealeo, and fellow Weather Ball user Rainy Castform. On the flipside, most versions of Mantine better handle things like Crustle, A-Muk, Golbat, Drifblim, Razor Leafers, and Pelipper itself. Examine the matchups closely if you want to go with a wet Flyer, because they both have merit here and enough differences that each team likely needs one over the other more than a player may initially think.

LANTURN

Spark | Thunderbolt & Hydro Pump

One of very few ways to sneak an Electric type into a Cup full of Water types vulnerable to Electric, Lanturn is not surprisingly a solid performer, beating ALL Waters that aren’t part Ground, Grass, or Dragon. And while that alone would merit a spot on some teams, Lanturn can also beat stuff like Alolan Marowak, Froslass, Forretress, Trashadam, Sableye, Skuntank and Drapion, and fellow Electric Galvantula, many of those with Hydro Pump as a big fat finisher. You can’t argue with results, and long-time PvP staple Lanturn gets them in yet another meta.

CRAWDAUNT

Waterfall | Night Slash & Crabhammer

I know, you’re probably sitting there going “what?”, and that’s kind of the point… making your opponent take a step back and scratch their heads trying to figure out how to handle this beast and recall from distant memory what moves it has as they’re faced with each “incoming attack!” shielding decision. Daunt is a glass cannon, no doubt, but a good one that brings heavy pressure with good, cheap charge moves AND one of the hardest hitting Waterfalls in the game (stronger than Gyarados, Empoleon…basically everything but Sharpedo). Heck, with Waterfall alone it runs over some very big names, and with the charge moves added on that list of eye-catching wins gets much better. This is a boom or bust spice pick, no doubt, but one that can smash through some good things before your opponent can muster a proper response… the kind of spice that can win matches.

SEALEO

Powder Snow/Water Gun | Body Slam & Water Pulse/Aurora Beam

An old Silph Arena staple, one of those Pokémon that never would have seen the light of day if not FOR The Arena, and is now a total fan fave. Of course, you always want to run it with Powder Snow and Water Pulse to go along with that required Body Slam, right? Yes, that works fine, as it has in many past metas, but it is NOT the only way you can go. You can instead switch around the Ice and Water moves, moving Water to the fast move with Water Gun and the Ice damage to Aurora Beam and end up with something a bit different instead. Both movesets actually track very closely with each other, taking down Flyers, Dark/Poisons, most of its fellow Ices and Waters (thanks in large part to Body Slam), and bonuses like Crustle, Beedrill, and Sableye. The big differences are that Powder Snow beats Mantine and Shiftry, while Water Gun wins the mirror, Empoleon, and A-Muk and much more easily beats Ices like Froslass and Lapras. I might actually lean Water Gun in this meta, but that’s a decision only you can make for YOUR team.

DEWGONG

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard/Water Pulse/Aqua Jetᴸ

NOT an Arena staple, as it has often been specifically banned or craftily excluded from most metas in the first two seasons, primarily for availability reasons. It’s no fun if your team gets destroyed by something you have never even had the opportunity to acquire yourself, and double Legacy Dewgong–the only Dewgong that really works–has long been the face of that category of Pokémon. With the arrival of Elite TMs, now everyone has a shot at it, and so here we are! Those Legacy moves, Ice Shard and Icy Wind, are already mandatory, and really do most of the work on their own. So what second move to spring for? Many would default to Water Pulse (or further showoff move Aqua Jet for the triple Legacy… Yahtzee!) for coverage, but they actually don’t really add anything in this meta, and trying to use them rather than just straight Icy Wind spam can actually lead to losses against things like Froslass and Trashadam, opponents where logic would dictate Water damage would help, but it is instead the constant debuffing that comes with IW that wins the day. So I actually recommend the closing power of Blizzard, which can bring in new wins over Quagsire and potentially Lapras. (Do note that Meganium shows up as a loss, but the way to still {barely} beat it is to just spam Wind.) So yes, Gong is very potent indeed, but not meta-breaking or anything. Hopefully you’ve been able to make your own and can finally try it out in The Arena for yourself!

JELLICENT

Bubble | Shadow Ball & Bubble Beam/Ice Beam

Yes, I know… not in the game yet. Honestly, I was hopeful we’d get it at the beginning of last season during Sinister Cup, but alas, here we are over a year later and no JellyBelly. But I will eat my hat if we don’t get it around Halloween THIS year. It’s one of the few Ghosts from Gen 5 not released into the game as of yet, and I’ll be shocked if we leave another month and another meta behind without it. And here is its high bar. 👀 And yes, there are most assuredly Bubble Beam bait driven wins in there, specifically against Froslass, Pelipper, and fellow Bubble Beamer Mantine. But while Alolan Marowak and Drapion, for example, look for all the world like things that also require a successful bait to then finish off with a closing move, Jellybelly actually beats A-Wak and Drap with JUST Bubble Beam. And with BB/Shadow Ball, you don’t need baits to defeat the likes of all the Mud Boys, the Steely Bugs, Azumarill, Lapras and Dewgong, Empoleon, Beedrill, Skuntank, Crustle, and Toxicroak, to name a few. You can also consider Ice Beam rather than Bubble Beam and be rid of the baiting shenanigans and have a weapon to spring against Grasses, but honestly, I think you just want to treat this like Mantine and bait and debuff away. But play around with it when we FINALLY can and see what you like best!

GENGAR/HAUNTER

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

So do you remember how I advocated for Gengar as potentially an even better Haunter in Great League back when it received Shadow Punch for its Community Day? I think we may be seeing it. Compare Gengar and Haunter in this meta. They win mostly the same things across the board, with the differences that Haunter’s higher Attack stat allows it to overpower Skuntank while Gengar falls JUST short, while Gengar instead hangs in there long enough to defeat Rainy Castform and also beat Haunter head to head, and it also comes away from shared wins against things like Drifblim, Meganium, and Lapras with more HP left over than Haunter to fight on afterwards. The two Poisonous Ghosts are very close in performance in Great League, but I do like how Gengar has just that little bit of extra bulk, personally. Your preference, of course.

FROSLASS

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

Another favorite in certain circles, Lass does what you’ve come to expect of her in this meta, namely beating the Vine Whippers, Fighters, the Dark/Poisons, and of course most things airborne. Sableye, Ferrothorn, Swampert, and Cradily are some wins for Froslass that your opponent may not expect, Sealeo is another that they SHOULD (since Lass resists those Body Slams), and all are good pickups. Froslass’ frailty does mean it loses to most everything else of relevance, including an alarming number of Bugs, Ghosts, Waters, and even Grasses, but those who like Froslass will surely be encouraged by the good it CAN do.

ALOLAN MUK

Snarl | Dark Pulse & Sludge Wave

As per usual, A-Muk is the best of the Dark/Poisons, the trio with their famed single vulnerability to Ground damage and resistances to all the Grasses, Poisons, and Ghosts in the meta (as well as Dark and Psychic). A-Muk actually beats every single Grass one on one except sometimes Sceptile with its speedy Earthquake, as well as Ghosts A-Wak, Gengar/Haunter, and Drifblim, both of the big Flying Waters (Mantine, Pelipper), Trashadam, Galvantula, and typically Skuntank too. You don’t want it anywhere near anything that can dish out Ground damage, but A-Muk remains a solid performer and a pretty safe switch option against most everything else.

SKUNTANK

Poison Jab | Crunch & Return/Flamethrower/Sludge Bomb

So on the surface, Skuntank looks pretty shaky, especially disappointing considering it has what should be the perfect weapon in Flamethrower for burning down the Grasses and Bugs here. Flamethrower IS the best and usually only way for it to beat things like Forretress, Trashadam, and Cradily. Alternatively, Sludge Bomb beats Rainy Castform and Azumarill, but you lose Forret and Trashy to get there. But there’s one more move to pair with the nearly mandatory Crunch instead: Return, on a purified Skuntank. With that you still beat Azumarill and gain new wins against opposing Skuntanks, as well as Drapion AND Alolan Muk, plus a real shot at Lanturn and Mantine. Yes, you still lose out on Forret, Trashy, and Cradily, but overall that seems like more than a fair tradeoff, and Return Skuntank seems like the surprisingly winner in these moveset sweepstakes.

Of course, Return is not an option for Shadow Skuntank, but it does a little better with Flamethrower (and Crunch) anyway, managing to beat Drap and A-Muk even without Return, as well as getting new wins against Alolan Marowak, Drifblim, Mantine, Carracosta, and even Azumarill thanks to the big jump in Attack stat. The only losses it suffers as compared to normal Skuntank are Forret, Gengar, and Pelipper, so overall Shadow Skuntank is an upgrade, on par with Return Skuntank but superior to other movesets.

TOXICROAK

Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb/Dynamic Punch

It’s no surprise that Croak is good here, but there may be some surprises in the moves I recommend. Once again breaking with moveset convention, I think I’m actually ready to give Dynamic Punch the thumbs up over the customary Sludge Bomb for this meta. Yes, Bomb is a much better threat to things like Azumarill, but Croak beats all the Grasses without it anyway, as even when resisted, Dynamic Punch plus the preceding fast move damage is typically lethal anyway. Yes, Sludge Bomb has a much better chance of one-shotting Grasses (and of course Azu), but on the flipside, Punch is a much better weapon against the Mud Boys (turning Quagsire from a nailbiter with Bomb to a blowout with Punch, for example), the Ice types, and even many of the Bugs (since many are Steel or Rock anyway), specifically picking up a big win against Forretress. Looks to me like Punch is just a bit better overall, though both it and Bomb are very viable.

HERACROSS

Counter | Close Combat & Megahorn

A better Toxicroak? Heracross just might be… for this month, that is. The only core meta thing I see that Toxicroak beats that Heracross cannot is Venusaur. Meganium shows up as a loss on that list but is actually a win too as long as you play it right. (Double Megahorn FTW!) Heracross can beat everything else Toxicroak can one on one… PLUS Lapras, Swampert, Whiscash, and Toxicroak itself! And Heracross is similarly better across other shielding scenarios as well. If ever there was a meta for it to establish itself as the alpha male among Fighters, this looks like it!

ESCAVALIER

Counter | Megahorn & Drill Run

Also on par with Toxicroak in this meta is quasi-Fighter Escavalier. In some ways it’s the best of Croak and Cross mixed together, with Toxicroak’s Ground damage thanks to Drill Run and Heracross’ Megahorn to bring the pain to Grasses. This means that it beats everything Toxicroak can except Meganium (running out of time to spring a winning Megahorn before Meg fires off a lethal Earthquake), and everything Heracross can but Swampert and Toxicroak (and Heracross beats Escav one on one too, for that matter), and loses to Quagsire which Cross AND Croak can outrace. But Escavalier also is able to take out Trashadam like neither of the Fighters can, and also is uniquely able to beat down Froslass and is by far more efficient than Heracross in taking out Lapras, owing those two to its resistance to Ice damage. Not a true Fighter, but Escavalier stands tall with them as a great and flexible option in this meta.

GALVANTULA

Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge/Energy Ball

Might we have found it… the meta where Energy Ball surpasses Discharge? Maybe. Discharge shows as a loss to Lapras and Alolan Muk, but Galv can beat both with just Lunge, so you can kinda ignore those results. What Energy Ball DOES do is annihilate Lanturn, which resists Electric damage but decidedly NOT Grass. Energy Ball is obviously also a great nuke to employ against Mud Boys, provided you live long enough to find a way to spring it on them. Conversely, only with Discharge is Galv able to reliably beat Froslass, Skuntank, and Toxicroak, as Energy Ball just doesn’t deal enough damage (actually being resisted by Stank and Croak) or is too slow (as is the case with Lass, who resists Lunge on top of the other issues). So I won’t go so far as to say that either Energy Ball or Discharge are “better”, but they’re certainly both viable, and Galvantula is a threatening beast either way.

DURANT

Bug Bite | Stone Edge & X-Scissor

Generally forgotten among the several Steely Bug options, Durant has a chance here, and it’s mostly thanks to Stone Edge, which as you can probably guess gives it wins against other Bugs (Beedrill, Trashadam, Forretress) and Ices (Dewgong, Sealeo). Meanwhile, its Bug moves chew through ALL Grasses but toasty Sunny Cherrim, and Skuntank, Drapion, and Carracosta as nice bonuses. Obviously not everybody has one to toss out there, but at least folks that attended GoFest this year likely do. You can roll with it if you want to.

CRADILY

Bullet Seed | Stone Edge & Grass Knot

Speaking of oddballs with Stone Edge in their arsenal, there are few odder than Cradily. Usually it uses Edge to even the battlefield versus Flyers, but here it mostly presents itself as a great answer to some of the prominent Bugs (Galv, Bee, Crustie), and even Alolan Marowak and Sealeo. It does these things while still beating mostly all the Waters (Empoleon, Ludicolo, and Dewgong can all limp away, heavily wounded by alive). A rather specific set of skills, but enough that when Cradily locks onto its prey, it will find it, and it WILL kill it. Liam Neesan would be proud. Dilly dilly!

LUDICOLO

Razor Leaf/Bubble | Energy Ball & Ice Beam

Ludi is in a bit of an odd spot in this meta. On the one hand, its double resistances to Water and Grass damage are extremely relevant. On the other, so are its big weaknesses to Poison, Bug, and Flying damage, and its neutrality to Ice and Electric are both blessing and curse as well, as it will often wish it just had the Grass resistance to Electric and the Water resistance to Ice. It does NOT work particularly well with its customary Bubble, but it CAN put in some work as an unusual Razor Leafer, a role where it is particularly effective against Water/Ices (Dewgong, Lapras), purer Ices (Froslass), Carracosta, Pelipper, and interestingly, Haunter (but not Gengar!). Bubble does have niches against things like Drifblim, Drapion, and Escavalier, but it gives up those other wins I just mentioned above to get there and doesn’t really seem worth it to me. Arguably it’s not even completely worth it as a Razor Leafer either, but at least what it beats, it tends to beat pretty hard.

JUMPLUFF

Bullet Seed | Aerial Ace & Energy Ball

Tropius is banned, but not its little Flying Grass buddy. Pluff is obviously no Tropius, but it IS still capable of good things, getting MOST Grasses (Ice and Flying obviously give it some issues) AND most Grasses… Cradily and sometimes Ferrothorn can bring it back down to earth, but that’s it in this meta. Yes, Pluff’s usefulness ends there (all the Bugs beat it besides Escavalier, as do the Ghosts and Poisons), but that’s a nice little chunk of the meta. And there’s also Shadow Pluff to consider, which loses Shiftry but picks up new wins against Sealeo, Sableye, and even Galvantula! Not a bad effort by the little guy!

SHIFTRY

Snarl | Leaf Blade & Foul Play/Hurricane

I’ll try to keep this one simple. Yes, Shiftry is good. And yes, Shadow is good too. Normal probably wants Hurricane, as that wins the mirror and Galvantula at the cost of giving up Alolan Marowak (which Foul Play . Shadow Shift prefers the faster Foul Play and rides that to wins over A-Wak and Galv, plus Beedrill and the surest (often only) win over Venusaur. All those variants pretty easily take out the (non-A-Wak) Ghosts, most Waters and Grasses, and a few other things like Trashadam. If you like Shiftry, pretty much whichever one you have on hand can make a big dent in this meta.

ALOLAN MAROWAK

Fire Spin/Hex | Bone Club & Shadow Ball

And we come to it at last: the only Fire type in the meta. (We don’t discuss Chandelure and Lampent here. 😅) Obviously there are pros and cons to that, both being rather obvious: the ability to toast all the Grasses and Bugs, but also the risk of being extinguished by all the Waters and Grounds. And looking at the win/loss record against the core meta, those are both clearly in play, with A-Wak easily beating all Bugs but Crustle and all Grasses but Shiftry and Cradily… and losing to all Waters except a couple that rely largely on resisted Ice damage (Froslass, Sealeo, even Dewgong) or have a typing that makes them more fragile to Fire and/or Ground damage (Empoleon, Razor Leaf Ludicolo). It can also overcome Drapion (though it gets hard if it has Aqua Tail) and even amazingly even Skuntank, tanking a Crunch in the process, and beats all the main Fighters (Heracross, Toxicroak) and quasi-Fighters (Escavalier). It’s a nice body of work… not completely dominating, but certainly more than good enough to find a spot on many teams in November, which probably comes as ZERO surprise.

It WOULD perhaps be surprising to seee A-Wak running with Hex, but it IS a viable option. You obviously give up the solid wins against the many things weak to Fire Spin, but amazingly still beat all of the same ones except for Meganium and Sceptile (with their Earthquakes) and Vespiquen and Ninjask (with their own super effective Rock and Ghost moves). You do additionally lose Skuntank and Empoleon, but you gain Drifblim, the mirror match, and astoundingly, Mantine and Pelipper! Surely Mantine and Pelipper owners count A-Wak as a clean win in their heads, so having that suddenly turned around on them could lead to some crazy matches for anyone brave enough to try and pull it off! Is that YOU, my fellow player?

DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT

I may end up regretting this, but I’m putting TENTACRUEL down here. It’s really NOT bad, being a famous Azumarill counter that can also beat the Dark/Poisons, the big Ices, a couple Ghosts and Steely Bugs and Fighers… all good things. But the things that beat it–Mud Boys, Electrics, Sableye, Crustle, and still the vast majority of Grasses–are going to be on every team in multiples. I worry that it looks better than it will end up actually being in this meta. Like I said, I may regret this, but I think Tentacruel will be more bust than boom…. It’s not that CLOYSTER is bad, because it’s not, but in a format where Lapras and Dewgong (and other Icy Waters) are allowed, Cloyboy just doesn’t really have a place…. KINGDRA has made a name for itself in a few metas, but this is unlikely to be one of them.


75,000 Dust/75 Candy

To this point, there is a lot of crossover between this meta and those of Sunrise and Halloween Cups. From here on out, we start to diverge a bit more….

SABLEYE

Shadow Claw | Foul Play & Return/Power Gem

Another ‘mon that has seen itself banned in past metas, don’t mistake Sable’s allowance here to mean that it isn’t potent, because it most certainly is! Running best here with Return (which is nice since that means Sableye is purified and thus cheaper to double move and max out), as its big power nets Sable wins against Politoed and Lanturn that Power Gem just cannot match. (Not that Gem is useless… it’s still a scary threat to Flyers and Ices, so don’t despair if you’re “stuck” with it on your Sable… it’s still a fine move!) As per usual, Sable’s greatest asset is its relative unpredictability, not quite knowing what it can and cannot overcome without doing one’s homework. The “can”s include the other Ghosts, Fighters (and Escav), Crustle and Trashadam, A-Muk, Golbat, Mantine and Pelipper, Empoleon, Sealeo, Lapras, Carracosta, and sometimes Cradily. The “can’t”s include basically all the Grasses, Azumarill, the Mud Boys, Rainy Castform, Dewgong, Drapion, Forretress, and Galvantula. Got all that? No? Well like I said, do the homework and study the matchups well!

Because here comes another wrinkle: Shadow Sableye. It is generally a bit worse, losing Toxicroak, Lapras, Cradily, Lanturn, Sealeo, A-Muk, and Crustle, but it picks up wins against Forretress, Quagsire, and Meganium and retains the Politoed win even without the benefit of Return. That may have more value to some teams, and again, consists of more matchups you may know better than the opponent.

DRIFBLIM

Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

The other expensive Ghost, Drifblim is quite a different threat than Sableye. Now it is the Grasses that have reason to fear, with Blim beating all those of consequence except Shiftry, the Mud Boys (able to shrug off even a Quagsire Stone Edge, though it MUST avoid Cash’s Blizzard), Azumarill (assuming it avoids taking a Pump, at least… Ice Beam hurts but is beatable), Cradily, Forretress, Fighters, Empoleon, and others. There are gaps that neither Sable nor Blim can cover–mainly Electrics and Ices–but they actually cover each other’s weaknesses pretty well otherwise. Just something to keep in mind….

SCIZOR

Bullet Punch | X-Scissor & Iron Head/Night Slash

Surprisingly, it would seem that Iron Head works better overall than Night Slash, beating all the same meta things plus Golbat and Lapras. Even more interesting, though, is how much better Shadow Scizor is in nearly every way. It does lose that close Lapras win, but holds all other wins–usually with noticeably more remaining HP too!–and now also outraces Meganium, Dewgong, and Sableye. And yet more interesting on top of that: with Shadow Scizor, Night Slash reemerges as seemingly the better second move, beating everything Iron Head Shadow does except Golbat and tacking on MORE new wins versus Trashadam, Forretress, and Drifblim. Just look at that last sim there… that is a true contender, my friends. And on that same note….

SHADOW SCYTHER

Air Slash | X-Scissor & Night Slash

Getting really un-thrifty now, but since we just looked at Scizor, this is some nice spice I just had to point out. Normal Scyther isn’t very impressive, but when it comes to Shadow Scyther… behold!. Turns out Shadow Scyther is a strict upgrade, beating everything regular Air Slash Scyther does–all the Grasses but stubborn Cradily, all Fighters, and Swampert–and adding on Cradily but, more impressively, Politoed, Forretress, Drifblim, and Sableye. Now that list has some GOOD names on it. Good enough to power one up and use it? That’s up to you and your own personal spice meter, my friend, but I wanted to at least let you know this surprisingly potent option was one to consider in the first place!

FORRETRESS

Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake

Somewhere, Season 2 champion SpeediestChief is smiling, because his boy Forret is a GREAT option in this meta. Yes yes, I know. “But Mirror Shot baits drive those high results, JRE!” Well, yes and no. Consider what Forret can do with no baiting whatsoever, getting the Grasses, Dark/Poisons, Sealeo, Trashadam, Politoed, and Sableye with Mirror Shot alone. Not bad. THEN you add on the potential wins Earthquake brings in–Whiscash, Quagsire, Lanturn, Rainy Castform, Lapras, and Dewgong–and it makes a bit more sense. What doesn’t really make sense, however, would be running Shadow Forret; while it gains Crustle and Carracosta, it abandons wins against Cash, Quag, and Toed, as well as Rainy Castform and Sableye, some of the biggest names on Forret’s list of accomplishments. Not worth it.

FERROTHORN

Bullet Seed | Power Whip & Flash Cannon/Thunder

Ferrothorn’s Power Whip is a constant, but the second move is always worth a debate in each meta. Here, it would seem that Flash Cannon is probably the best bet. The only thing Thunder can really beat that Flash Cannon cannot is Trashadam, while Flash wins Crustle, Sableye, Venusaur, Meganium, Shiftry, and Jumpluff, none of which Thunder can match. Add that on to the vast majority of Waters that Ferrothorn already handles with its Grass moves, and you’ve got the markings of a ‘mon that has come a LONG way since its mere spicy days early in the LAST season of The Arena. It’s nice to see!

CARRACOSTA

Rock Throw | Body Slam & Surf

I’ve mentioned the Rock Turtle several times throughout this article, and you’ve probably been wondering why. Well, here is why. Turns out Carracosta actually has a great move package for this meta, with Rock Throw to squash Bugs and bring Flyers crashing down, Body Slam to tack on spammy neutral damage and pressure shields, and Surf to snuff out the Ghosts (especially A-Wak, of course) that resist Slam. It makes Carracosta a remarkably strong pick that could really shock the opponent. And this is a step above mere spice… I believe ‘Costa deserves a rightful place in the core meta itself in Marsh Cup. Who would have expected that?

OMASTAR

Rock Throwᴸ/Mud Shot | Rock Slideᴸ & Rock Blast/Hydro Pump

Well if you’ve been holding desperately onto a rare Rock Throw Omastar and just waiting for its chance, this may finally be it. The only thing that the standard Mud Shot one beats that Rock Throw does not is Politoed, and Rock Throw instead nets a big win over Drifblim and outperforms Shot against all the Flyers and Ices (and Haunter). Neither is meta-defining or anything, but both versions are most definitely worth your consideration.

RAINY CASTFORM

Water Gun | Weather Ball (Water) & Thunder

The more expensive Lanturn, but there’s more to it than that, because as I have personally advocated for a while now, I think Rainy is often just a flat out better Lanturn now too. And that seems to indeed be the case in this meta. Yes, Lanturn wins the head to head, as well as Pelipper and Galvantula, all big wins that Rainy cannot reliably match. BUT, Rainy instead beats all the Mud Boys, Toxicroak (much better able to shrug off those Mud Bombs, since Lanturn is vulnerable to Ground damage) and Heracross, Escavalier, Crustle, and Haunter. That Weather Ball spam is pressure that Lanturn just cannot match.

MILOTIC

Waterfall | Surf & Hyper Beam/Blizzard

There’s nothing tremendously special that Milly can do… it’s a rather customary Water type, really. But man, is it solid, not just in its consistent performances, but literally solid, with great bulk even down here at Great League level. So steady is Milotic that it can (and will!) legit reach even big fat Hyper Beam, and uses it as a beatstick against even its fellow Waters (beating Lapras that way, specifically). Blizzard is fine too, but it does not beat Lapras, nor does it cause heads to turn as they hear that familiar Hyper Beam windup sound. It’s not often you can pull that off without sacrificing better plays… but Milly can. It’s a nice filler at the back of your bench if you don’t know which Water to plug in.

LAPRAS

Ice Shardᴸ | Surf & Ice Beamᴸ/Skull Bash

And we come to Lapras at last, here at the end of all things. (Well, almost!) Lappie is one of the better known performers in PvP at this point, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of moving from a raid-centric game to the PvP model where sturdy, lower CP Pokémon can flex their muscles. And Lapras is able to do so here, striking terror into the hearts of Mud Boys, Flyers, and even most Poisons alike, plus several prominent Grasses and Sableye, and some more surprising wins like Alolan Marowak, Crustle, and even Toxicroak. Surf is a great equalizer and gives Lapras reach into some places that even mighty Dewgong cannot make a dent. Dewgong DOES usually win in the head to head, though… unless Lapras is packing Skull Bash, which overcomes Dewgong and the Lapras mirror, though at the cost of Pelipper and Venusaur, for which Ice Beam is required. The good news out of all that is that as long as you have Legacy Ice Shard for the fast move, you can get by fine with no other Legacy moves if need be. There’s something for the Elite TM rich AND poor here!


100,000 Dust/100 Candy

Honestly, there are only two Legendary/Mythical Pokémon to even concern yourself with looking into, so let’s keep this simple. GENESECT is okay-ish, but you can do better with a number of other Steely Bugs, and much cheaper too. SUICUNE looks REALLY good on paper, but unlike some of the other ‘mons above that can get by decently even when Bubble Beam or Mirror Shot baits fail, Suicune really falls apart if the baits don’t work out. I’m not saying it cannot work, but if you don’t already have extensive experience piloting it, you’re probably better off just running with something like Mantine or a myriad of other Waters instead. They certainly all come cheaper! (And yes, Shadow Suicune is a small step backwards, for those wondering.)


FEELIN’ LUCKY?

Here I typically list stuff that may look affordable looking at just the cost for a second charge move, 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 anything listed here and do not already have them built, give strong consideration to looking for them in a Lucky trade. Admittedly this article already contains several Pokémon that have to be at or near maxed, but they have higher second move costs anyway, so I left them in their less “thrifty” sections. There IS one more ‘mon I have yet to cover that looks deceptively cheap with its 10,000 dust second move cost, so let’s cover that before we wrap everything up….

WORMADAM (TRASH)

Confusion | Bug Buzz & Iron Head

Ah, good old Trashadam, which has to be at or extremely close to Level 40, but seems very worth it. It’s got Confusion to handle Fighters and many Poisons (including, of course, Haunter and Gengar that HATE Confusion more than Gollum hates Hobbitses), Bug Buzz for any Grasses that Confusion cannot finish off by itself, and Iron Head with which to beat down Lapras, Galvantula, and Drifblim. Oh, and also tops Sealeo and blows through Whiscash and Quagsire through sheer force of will. Trashy doesn’t do many things that other Pokémon can do a little better, but it does do MANY of those things all in one package. Hopefully you just have one built already and don’t have to sink a ton of new dust into it! Either way, good luck.


And that’s finally it… another massive Nifty Or Thrifty is complete! 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!) and consider some inexpensive options you may not have thought of before.

So get out there and get team building! Good luck and stay safe out there, Pokéfriends. Catch you next time.


JRE has been playing Pokémon GO since the beginning, but having not done anything Pokémon prior, never imagined he’d get so hooked and so into PvP. In starting his own research, deep into Silph Arena and now even GBL metas, he decided to share his findings so other players could benefit, which turned into full fledged articles that multiplied like Tribbles. He’s now been writing multiple regular article series since early in The Silph Arena Season 1, focused on advanced matchups and budget friendly but still viable alternatives for veteran and rookie players alike. A few of his favorite things include powering up oddball Pokémon, going on hikes, spending time with his kids, dad jokes, and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

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


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