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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Sep 22, 2020: Nifty Or Thrifty: Sunrise 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!

“…I didn’t think that a sunrise could ever feel so renewing! The sun rises…then it sets. We take that for granted, and that’s only natural. But things we take for granted…they’re really the most essential things. And they’re precious.”

That’s a quote from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. And while I of course mostly chose it for the prominent appearance of “sunrise”, it really fits in this age of uncertainty. We all have concerns with the state of affairs in the world right now, and it has helped ground us a bit and re-focused us on what is truly important. Pokémon GO may not be “essential”, but let’s not take for granted that it HAS brought many of us together and continues to be a welcome escape now. Another quote from the late, great Stan Lee: *”I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: **entertainment** is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end.”* And he’s right. That entertainment, that escape, is precious too. It’s why you’re taking time to read this article, after all!

So let’s get entertained properly. Welcome, my friends, to Season 3 of The Silph Arena!

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series serves a few functions. First, it gives an early, first-blush look at the meta for the upcoming Sunrise 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?

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

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

So how many times have we been here, with Venusaur leading things off? Seems like a lot. And yes, Venusaur is a solid play yet again here. It still shreds Waters and Fairies and most Grounds and anything relying on Fighting and several of its fellow Grasses, though that last list HAS shrunk as the game has expanded, with Ferrothorn (with certain movesets, at least), Abomasnow, and even Shadow Shiftry able to fend Venusaur off now, as well as more Waters (like Pelipper) and even things like Shadow Zapdos and Emolga able to emerge victorious. I highlight this here early in the article just to show how the landscape has changed… this is quite literally a whole new season. Old staples like Venusaur certainly still have their place–Venusaur is top dog among Grasses here–but things are more diverse than ever.

CHARIZARD

Wing Attackᴸ/Fire Spin | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ/Overheat

One thing that hasn’t changed? The eternal debate about Charizard’s fast move of choice. Both get opposing Grasses, Fighters, Fairies, Ices, Steels, even most opposing Fires. The differences are that Wing Attack gets ALL the Fires (Ninetales and Victini do not survive Wing Attack), plus things that resist Fire damage like Shadow Gyarados or things that the extra energy of Wing Attack just allow Zard to outrace (like Noctowl). Fire Spin conversely beats things like Drifblim and Galarian Linoone thanks to increased fast move damage, plus the more obvious Articuno (regular and Shadow) and Thunder Ferrothorn that melt under a barrage of Fire damage. Shadow Zard, by the way, is a slight downgrade here, picking up things like Emolga (with FS) or Alolan Marowak (with WA), but losing former wins like Vigoroth, Obstagoon, and potentially Ludicolo and Victini. I recommend just sticking with regular Zard for this one.

TYPHLOSION

Shadow Claw | Blast Burnᴸ & Solar Beam/Overheat

There’s always a comparison made between Charizard and Typhlosion in formats they share, so here we go: Typhlosion’s Shadow Claw is more blessing than curse here, giving it an easy win over Alolan Marowak and allowing it to beat Ninetales and Victini too, none of which Charizard can reliably replicate. (And yes, Typh still beats Zard head to head too.) Also important… since it doesn’t have to worry about Electric damage like Zard does, Typh usually edges out Stunfisk as well. The downside is that Zard better handles Fighters (beating Vigoroth and Obstagoon) and Linoone, none of which Typh can reliably overcome (doesn’t help that all three resist Shadow Claw). One exception: while Solar Beam is generally the preferred second move for the Hail Mary shot at opposing Waters and/or Muds–and MUST be respected by such ‘mons–running the unconventional [double Fire moves with Overheat can bring Linoone back into the win column, which is a nice gain. (Loonie can live through a landed Blast Burn and land its own knockout blow charge move, but it never gets there if Overheat finishes it off first!) Zard or Typh… which one fits YOUR team better?

BLAZIKEN

Counter | Blaze Kick & Blast Burnᴸ/Brave Bird/Stone Edgeᴸ

Lots of ways you can do now with the second move you choose to bait out with Blaze Kick. You’re generally going to beat Normals, Darks, Steels, Ices, and most Grasses (basically all but Charmer Whimsicott and Air Slashing Tropius) regardless of what second move you settle on, but Blast Burn seems generally best, as it most easily gets wins against Stunfisk (the regular one, but Blast Burn also nearly OHKOs G-Fisk as well), Quagsire, and–believe it or not–Noctowl. Those last two work out, despite BB being resisted, because it costs 5 less energy than the other primary options, Brave Bird and Stone Edge, and that alone makes a big enough difference. It IS, of course, worth noting that Blaziken beats Altaria one on one only with Brave Bird or Stone Edge, and the latter is particularly nice to have with so many Flyers around.

ALTARIA

Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Dragon Pulse

Let’s keep this simple. If it doesn’t chuck rocks or ice, or isn’t charming, or doesn’t happen to be one of the very few things that resists Dragon damage, Altaria is likely going to overwhelm it. Steels and Fairies and Ice types don’t mind the appearance of Alt, but Grasses, Fires, Muds, even most Normals and Flyers and even Electrics… they all do. Altaria isn’t the best at any one thing, but it’s very solid in wide range of matchups and remains one of the “safer” options to round out a team… and is still a budget player’s dream.

MANTINE

Bubble (or Wing Attack or Bullet Seed) | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam/Aerial Ace

Here things are NOT quite so simple. Well, one thing is: The Baby Discount™ is alive and well… 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! Anyway, however you get there, the *real* work comes with deciding which moves to run. First is the fast move decision. Bubble seems to work best overall, with the best results (and the best chance of winning) against Skarmory, Ferrothorn, Articuno, both Stunfisks, of course all the Fire types, and even Venusaur (thanks to its high energy generation). Wing Attack picks up Abomasnow and Gyarados (exemplifying the advantages it has against most Grasses and opposing Waters), but loses out on the Stunfisks and Skarmory and performs worse against Mud Boys (potentially losing outright to Whiscash, for example). Even Bullet Seed has some value, getting Whiscash and G-Fisk back, still generating enough energy to beat things like Abomasnow, and being the only way to outrace Quagsire. And then there’s a debate about the charge moves. You likely always want Bubble Beam for that sweet bait potential and debuffing, but then there’s Ice Beam to beat Altaria, Skarmory, Tropius, Noctowl, Venusaur, and get the best chance of beating Stunfisk, or Aerial Ace to beat Abomasnow, Quagsire, and the mirror match versus opposing Bubbletines. My general recommendation after all this is Bubble/Ice Beam/Bubble Beam, but there are several ways to go about it, and hopefully all that text above helps you decide what fills the hole on YOUR team best.

SWAMPERT

Mud Shot/Water Gun | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Sludge Wave/Earthquake

Oooooh boy, here comes the controversy. Yes, I think Water Gun may have some real play here. Combined with the always awesome Hydro Cannon, it gives Swampert its best (or often only) path to victory over Articuno (normal and Shadow), Zapdos (who can otherwise reach three Drill Pecks FTW), Noctowl, and Vigoroth. Obviously Mud Shot is typically the gold standard with its high energy generation, and it alone is fast enough to all but guarantee victory over Skarmory and–when paired with Sludge Wave–Abomasnow, Wigglytuff, and Ludicolo as well. With so many Flyers around, Mud Shot’s ineffectiveness there comes more to light, as does Water Gun’s steady damage that hurts Flyers a lot more. I’m not saying WG is the answer in this format, but it seems a very legit alternative for basically the first time ever. Just keep it in mind.

WHISCASH

Mud Shot/Water Gun | Mud Bomb & Blizzard

Here, however, even though I have it listed as an alternative, Water Gun takes a back seat to Mud Shot. Why? Well first off, Whiscash doesn’t need to necessarily threaten Flyers with its fast move… it just needs to reach Blizzard, and Mud Shot is THE way to do that. It is ONLY with Mud Shot and Blizzard that Cash has a real shot to not just beat ‘mons like Altaria and Togekiss but to win with enough life left over to torment whatever follows. Water Gun DOES do some good, like getting Articuno, but old reliable Mud Shot is generally the best way to go. Cash may not look like much on its own, but one early core idea that’s been discussed is pairing it with Skarmory for excellent overall coverage; Skarmory covers Grass, Ice, Water and things like Vigoroth and Wigglytuff that beat Whiscash, while the mustachioed mudfish handles the Fires, Electrics, and Muds like G-Fisk and Swampert (yes, Whiscash wins that head to head no matter what moves Swampert is packing that trouble Skarmory. I know people sometimes beg me for team ideas, so there’s a potentially very good place to start on one!

GYARADOS

Waterfall/Dragon Breath | Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch/Outrage

Gary’s lack of bulk continues to be problematic in Great League, but it’s cheap and does some good things. It will consistently thump the Fires and also generally beats Fighters and Muds (though G-Fisk’s annoying resistance to Dragon Breath makes Waterfall more preferred there). Dragon Breath allows it to beat… well, Dragons of course, as well as outrace things like Ludicolo, Mantine, Pelipper, and Shiftry that resist Water damage, whereas Waterfall washes away Galarian Stunfisk, Articuno, Obstagoon, and Linoone–a key anti-Skarm/Cash core breaker–and performs better against Skarmory as well. Gary is a niche pick here, but there will be some teams with a perfect Gyarados-shaped hole in this meta.

LINOONE

Shadow Claw | Grass Knot & Thunder

Finally, a format where Grass Knot AND Thunder have great value, with the former handling Muds (and the Boys in particular) and even the Electrics here, Thunder zapping all the Flyers (only Altaria and RL Tropius and maybe Articuno manage to limp away), and their powers combined cutting a nice chunk out of the core meta (including that Skarm/Cash core idea, one of very few things that can!). Even Shadow Claw has a nice perk to it here by shredding problematic Alolan Marowak. The big downside is that it has no real answer to Grasses or most of its fellow Normal types, but for the pretty unique coverage it provides, high bulk, and a typing weak only to a list of relevant Pokémon you can count on one hand (even if you lost a finger to an angry Zergling back in the 90s), Loonie should be able to sing a sweet tune in October. (I know, I’m a punny guy. 🤪)

GALARIAN LINOONE

Snarl | Body Slam & Dig/Gunk Shot

Quite a different flavor from regular Loonie, with a rather eclectic group of wins that includes Mud Boys, Electrics, Grasses (Meg, Aboma), Fires (A-Wak, Victini), and its non-Galarian cousin. Note the usage of Dig over the more popular Gunk Shot; either is viable, but Gunk Shot shores up the Grasses (including wins over Shiftry and Ludicolo), while Dig–even as awful a move as it is–can get likely-more-impactful Alolan Marowak and Galarian Stunfisk. G-Loonie is a bit of an oddball without a set “role” here, but it really only gets blown out by Fighters and Charmers and may operate as a pretty good safe swap option in this format.

OBSTAGOON

Counter | Night Slash & Hyper Beam/Gunk Shot

I keep mentioning them, so yes, there ARE Fighters in this format, it’s just that none of them are full, traditional Fighters. Like Goonie here. Counter is all you really need to be a solid Fighter anyway… I mean, that alone beats both Linoones, Ferrothorn, Shiftry, Abomasnow, and very nearly Galarian Stunfisk. Adding on just Night Slash tacks on G-Fisk properly, as well as the Flying Electrics, Skarmory, A-Wak, Victini, Ludicolo, Meganium, and even Whiscash. What’s not to love? But it gets even better, because for the second move I recommend the ultimate #getbeamed move: Hyper Beam, which can add on the other Stunfisk, Pelipper, Ninetales, and even Articuno. (Gunk Shot, which is more popular, helps against Grasses but the only one it really seems to change the outcome on much is Tropius, and it doesn’t do quite enough to beat the Stunfisk, Ninetales, and Articuno that Hyper Beam can.) Goonie is likely to be a big player in this meta.

ALOLAN RATICATE

Quick Attack | Crunch & Hyper Fang/Hyper Beam

The original Dark/Normal PoGO ‘mon still ain’t too shabby. It’s still a chonker that can hang around and put a beating on a lot of things, including all the Electrics (be they Flying or Muddy), Flying Waters, Articuno, Swampert, Linoone, and of course Ghostly A-Wak, and while it loses to many Grasses, A-Rat DOES beat Venusaur, Ludicolo, and potentially Shiftry one on one. You can even throw a wrench in by forgoing the typical Hyper Fang for Hyper Beam instead, getting knockout potential against thicc Whiscash and Tropius in exchange for flimsier stuff like Shiftry, Swampert, and Venusaur. Obstagoon has perhaps surpassed A-Rat overall these days, but the fat rat still has a place for sure.

NOCTOWL

Wing Attack | Sky Attack & Psychic

Yes, Mr. Owl is still a very unwelcome sight for Grasses (outbulking even Abomasnow and beating it!), and its near-legendary bulk allows it to beat down things like Swampert, Victini, Togekiss, and Alolan Marowak. But unfortunately that’s where its usefulness ends. Both Stunfisks beat it, the Legendary Zapdos (and Emolga) and Articuno beat it, Skarmory and Altaria beat it, and it cannot outbulk the likes of Wigglytuff, Linoone, Whiscash, Mantine, Skarmory, and many others. Noctowl is solid enough, but this isn’t the friendlist meta for it or other Flyers without an attractive sub-typing.

PIDGEOT

Wing Attackᴸ/Gustᴸ | Aerial Ace & Brave Bird

The only Normal Bird that really comes anywhere close to Noctowl is Pidgeot. But alas, even with the new Gust, it isn’t quite as solid against Grasses (can’t beat Aboma, for example), though it does at least best quasi-Fighters Vigoroth and Obstagoon, and Linoone as well, none of which Noct can replicate, as well as beating Noctowl head to head. And with Wing Attack it can even outslug Altaria. So there’s that, at least!

GOLBAT

Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

Slightly better than the Birds is Golbat, with the same wins against Grasses (minus Aboma), A-Wak, Swampert, and Fighters, plus all the Charmers. Shadow Golbat can gain Ninetales and a solid win over Vigoroth, but even still, like most Flyers here, Golbat has definite limitations. If you want to cover Grass and Fairy, Golbat works, but don’t look for it to do a ton beyond that.

WIGGLYTUFF

Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough

Speaking of Charmers, Wiggly gets another chance to be the star of the show, beating the other pair of Charmers here, plus the Dragons, Electrics, Darks, Fighters, and bonuses like Whiscash, Articuno, Linoone, Pelipper, and Abomasnow. And nearly all of that you can just Charm to death, and add on Stunfisk, Mantine, and Shadow Articuno that way too. Practically nothing slows Wigglytuff down that isn’t Poison, Steel, or Fire. A good Charmer can go a long way, and Wiggly remains likely THE best Charmer in Great League.

WHIMSICOTT

Charm | Grass Knot & Moonblast/Hurricane

That being said, there IS a new kid on the block this time around, the Grassy Charmer Whimsicott. And what it has going for it is a Grass sub-typing, which gives it a few advantages, such as resisting all of Stunfisk’s moves and therefore handling it with no trouble. It also better handles Meganium (again, resisting all of its moves) and Shiftry, and doesn’t have to shield to still beat Shiftry soundly (and can beat Emolga this way as well, while Wiggly cannot). And while you may not actually land one unshielded often, having the threat of Grass Knot or even a Hurricane is a nice stick to carry, and far different from what any other Charmer wields. Small advantages, granted, and Wiggly is still better overall. But those are the sort of advantages you can use and abuse on the right team. Whimsie is certainly viable.

DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT

MEGANIUM is always popular when available, but the only real advantage it has here is a harder-than-most-Grasses counter role against Galarian Stunfisk. But it’s a much softer counter to some things that you really want your Grasses to dominate, and has NO answer to any of the Flyers. It’ll still see play, but I do worry about its prospects here…. Anyone who’s followed me for a while knows how much I love little MUNCHLAX, but this is just not its kind of meta…. BIBAREL is loved by many, and will hopefully make a dent in Season 3 as it did–multiple times!–in Season 2, but likely not this time…. CHERRIM has some dark horse potential, able to beat most opposing Grasses and also being one of very few Grasses that can overcome Zapdos and its Drill Pecking, but it just doesn’t do quite enough to stand out to me. I hope someone IS able to make it work, though.


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 & Leaf Blade/Moonblast

Yeah, I’m lumping them together again, because the story is the same for all the ones worth considering: this is just not a great meta for Razor Leaf, even the ones considered the most brutal. Yes, they will obviously annihilate the Mud Boys, shred Stunfisk (though Galarian Fisky can usually survive their assault), and things like Obstagoon, Wigglytuff, Vigoroth, Linoone, even Emolga. But even the ACTUAL best–which is typically Vileplume these days, NOT Victreebell–can’t do much of anything beyond that… though Plume DOES somehow Razor Leaf down even Togekiss, which would be amazing to actually witness, and Shadow Plume can even beat Mantine. Running a good Razor Leafer isn’t the craziest idea in the world, but especially in a meta like this, they either make you look really, really smart… or really, really the opposite of smart. And as you’ll see, most of the rest of the 50k ‘mons are gunning for Grasses….

ALOLAN MAROWAK

Fire Spin | Bone Club & Shadow Ball

Yes, I played around with several move combinations, as the newly improved Hex and Flame Wheel do pop up here and there these days and surprise people. But you really can’t top the good old Fire Spin (which alone is enough to terrorize most Grasses, Charmers, and Articuno combined with Bone Club and Shadow Ball. Most Waters and Muds still beat it, as well as Darks and stuff like Altaria, but pretty much everything else has much to fear from this multi-faceted threat. Some people got sick of A-Wak in Season 2, so for those folks, I hate to tell ya, but Season 3 looks to be starting the same way. Hide the children… do NOT send them trick or treating at A-Wak’s house!

NINETALES

Fire Spin | Psyshock & Overheat/Flamethrowerᴸ/Solar Beam

A-Wak and Charizard and even Typhlosion and Blaziken always get all the accolades, while Ninetales just goes out and quietly produces solid results. There are some key differences between Tails and A-Wak, of course. A-Wak wins the head to head and uniquely defeats Ludicolo, Victini, and Vigoroth thanks to typing and its varied moves, but Ninetales is a top-notch true Fire type with good bulk that goes out and gets Shiftry, Linoone, and Obstagoon that all beat A-Wak. Ninetales isn’t flashy, but it is an excellent and very safe Fire, and will always demand shield respect from even Waters and Muds thanks to the well-documented threat of Solar Beam, whether you’re actually running it or not!

ARCANINE

Snarl/Fire Fang | Wild Charge & Flamethrower/Crunch/Bulldozeᴸ

Not as solid as A-Wak OR Tails, but very unpredictable, and that has value too. Snarl Arcanine is reliant on Flamethrower to maintain a Fire threat, but that’s still sufficient to burn through Grasses, Steels, and Ices while also threatening (and typically defeating) Flyers like Mantine, Pelipper, and Togekiss with Wild Charge. Fire Fang ‘Nine works best as a Shadow version, and since Flamethrower is superfluous now, either Crunch or Legacy Bulldoze work well. No longer getting things like Mantine/Pelipper (or Victini, as Snarl did), you now destroy ALL the Grasses, Skarmory, and Wigglytuff instead, most of it with just fast move damage. Arcanine is a spicy pick more than a true meta pick, but what it blows through, it usually does pretty hard. Go big or go home, right?

TOGEKISS

Charm | Ancient Power & Flamethrower/Aerial Ace

The expensive Charmer in this format, and not surprisingly, it does 95% of its work with Charm alone. Fighters perish, non-Poisonous/Steely Grasses perish, Darks perish, and even most opposing Flyers (Zapdos, Pelipper, and of course Altaria) perish. One matchup I want to spend a second on is Swampert, which can go really well or end in a gut punch, depending largely on IVs (and is one of the primary reasons for Swampert to lean towards Sludge Wave over Earthquake here). And yes, if the Water Gun Swampert recommendation takes off, the dilemma is the same. Tread lightly and try not to get baited, as Swampert cannot get to two Sludge Waves in time no matter what and HAS to bait to win.

PELIPPER

Wing Attack | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane

Mini-Mantine… that’s really the best way to think about Pelipper. It is capable of overcoming Abomasnow easier than Mantine, and can beat Mantine head to head with good IVs, but Mantine goes out and more easily beats Charmers, Skarmory, and of course Altaria. I don’t know that I would outright recommend Pelipper over Mantine, but if you’re the type that doesn’t like running the same things as everyone else, here’s your chance to run out Mantine without… well, without actually running out Mantine.

HONCHKROW

Snarl | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

Honch was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the recent (ish) tweak to Brave Bird, going from curiosity to one of only two Pokémon in the game with BB and the solid Sky Attack, and the other is the awesome Skarmory. And with Snarl powering them out for Honch, nothing in the game gets to either move faster. That all adds up to a solid track record here in Sunrise Cup (and many other formats as well), outracing the Mud Boys, the major Fire types, of course Grasses, and even Linoone and potentially Altaria with unrelenting Flying moves. With less Defense than even glass cannons like Haunter and Alakazam, Honch isn’t going to stand up to a lot of punishment, but it can sweep away a good chunk of the meta on the way out.

JUMPLUFF

Bullet Seed | Aerial Ace & Energy Ball

If Pelipper is mini-Mantine, Jumpluff is mini-Tropius. However, remember that Razor Leaf isn’t so hot here, so Trop is likely to be running with Air Slash, and little Jumpluff is actually on pretty equal footing overall. Whereas AS Trop can best Ferrothorn, Jumpluff–with its greater emphasis on Grass damage thanks to Bullet Seed spamming out Energy Balls–instead gets to boast of a win over Galarian Stunfisk, a win in which Pluff emerges halfway to another charge move and with enough HP to likely get there. Like big bad Trop, Pluff beats its fellow Grasses (well, except for Ferro), shreds the Mud Boys (far more effectively than AS Trop, not surprisingly), both Stunfisks, and laughs at Linoone and Vigoroth and Wigglytuff as well. It’s actually really solid here… though you DO need to nearly max one out for it to work, so it’s not a “thrifty” alternative to Tropius by any means. But a fun one!

SHIFTRY

Snarl | Leaf Blade & Foul Play/Hurricane

And with Jumpluff, we begin a run through some oddball Grasses. Shiftry is, of course, quite a unique threat that has made quite the name for itself since recieving first Snarl and then eventually Bullet Seed as well. The former seems best overall here (with so many Grasses and Fires and Flyers around that all resist Seed), paired with old standbys Leaf Blade (which puts on serious Grass-type pressure all by itself) and Foul Play. (The only solid case I see for the also-popular Hurricane over FP is winning the mirror and being a sometimes-harder anti-Grass option, which certainly isn’t nothing, but Foul Play can beat A-Wak and still gets the other jobs done just fine.) Put it all together and it shakes out like this. Not a meta-defining performance or anything, but tearing up both Stunfisks and the Mud Boys while also beating nearly every other Grass, the troublesome Linoone and Emolga, and even two of the most prominent Fires (A-Wak and Victini) is a pretty good deal to get in one Poké-package. Also worth consideration (and I know most of you were considering it already anyway!): Shadow Shiftry, which can win all the same matchups (though several are a bit shakier) plus Venusaur and fellow Shadow ‘mon Zapdos. Either cloaked in a purple haze or not, you can expect to run into this popular and potent threat throughout October.

ABOMASNOW

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

Aboma has been all the rage lately and probably needs little introduction, so I’ll keep this brief and to the point (for once!😅): Abomasnow is an Ice type in disguise, sneaking in its potent Powder Snow/Weather Ball Ice spamming combo simply because it happens to also be a Grass type. The only win where it really even USES Grass (in the form of Energy Ball) is against Whiscash… and it can win even THAT with strictly Ice damage too if it so wishes! As with Shiftry, Shadow Aboma is almost a strict upgrade, tacking on two huge wins against Skarmory (breaking up that SkarmCash core!) and Galarian Stunfisk at the arguably low cost of giving up only Zapdos. “Snowbama” will be a frequent foe as the weather gets colder in much of the world.

LUDICOLO

Bubble | Energy Ball & Ice Beam

Obviously, Ludi doesn’t exactly play like a Grass. As Aboma is more of an Ice that can deal Grass damage, Ludi is a Water/Ice that can also deal some Grass damage… and in fact the same Grass move, with Energy Ball. But it comes a LITTLE slower with Bubble powering it and Ice Beam up. Ludi’s odd Water/Grass combo means it’s the Grass that LOSES to most of its counterparts (it really only beats RL Tropius, thanks to Ice Beam), but it’s also the Grass that beats Flyers (Altaria, Emolga, Togekiss) and even Ninetales, while still handling the Stunfisks and Whiscash and Vigoroth and Linoone and others. The sheer volume of wins isn’t there, but Ludicolo can plug a couple holes at once that nothing else really can.

QUAGSIRE

Mud Shot | Stone Edge & Earthquake

I keep mentioning the Mud Boys, but there’s one big one I have yet to highlight, and it also totes around Stone Edge: Lord Quag himself. No talk show debates necessary here either, as it is clearly the “standard” EdgeQuake moveset you want here, with Edge to knock down Flyers and Fires, and Earthquake to shake down the Stunfisks and outrace Swampert as well. The choice of WHICH Mud Boy to run is always a tricky one, and I’ve already thrown some moveset debates out there for the others in this meta, but at least the seemingly endless Quag moveset debate should be (mostly?) settled this month.

ZANGOOSE

Shadow Claw | Night Slash & Close Combat

Another very popular PvP mon, is the Goose loose in Sunrise Cup? Weeeeeeeell…. Zangoose IS the top counter to Galarian Stunfisk, which is a nice place to start, and whallops Linoone and Ferrothorn with Close Combat, just like G-Fisk. It also  rips through A-Wak and Victini AND Ninetales (and nearly every other Fire as well), plus Obstagoon and Ludicolo and Meganium and the Shadow versions of all three Legendary Birds. And while it doesn’t outright BEAT either half of the SkarmCash pair, it does beat the stuffing out of both of them, at least. There’s a case to be made for running Zangoose in October if you really like it.

BOUFFALANT

Mud Shot | Stomp & Skull Bash

Well I wrote up a big long article extolling Bouff already, so may as well double down now. Yes, Bouffalant is highly bait-dependent to work properly, preferring to get a shield with Stomp and then run roughshod over things with Skull Bash. And Mud Shot is more than capable of making that actually work, to the tune of beating all the prominent Charmers, Electrics, Mud Boys, and Fires (except Normal-resistant A-Wak) and outracing even Shiftry and Linoone to the killing blow. The *potential* is there. The finesse–and guts–to make it work? Well that’s up to you, my friend!

DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT

HEATMOR is actually pretty decent here, but the problem is that the other Fires listed above are just better overall. Thunder Punch really doesn’t do much for it since the most meta-relevant Flyers either already die to Fire (Skarmory, Articuno) or neutralize Electric anyway thanks to their sub-typings (Zapdos, Emolga, Altaria)… on outdamage Heatmor by dealing super effective damage to it faster than it can properly utilize TP (Mantine, Pelipper). Heatmor is decent enough spice, but nothing more…. BRELOOM isn’t terrible, but this isn’t a great meta for it to shine. It dies in the blink of an eye to anything Flying or Fire, and while its Grass side deals with the Mud Boys and Stunfisks, and its Fighting side handles Obstagoon and Linoone and Steels and such… well, it can’t even outslug Vigoroth in a duel where Viggy takes super effective damage and Loom just takes neutral. Viggy and Goonie are both just better, IMO…. The Swines PILOSWINE and MAMOSWINE are likely to be plastered across numerous infographics and such, and as you can see they have a decent on-paper performance overall. My concern is how reliant their success is tied to getting a Stone Edge through unshielded. Take that away and now they’re not only losing to Grasses and the Mud Boys and quietly even most Flyers here, but also now Articuno and all the major Fires. Someone will make them work–probably several someones–but I worry about looking at the high level sims and then wondering why it doesn’t translate to real-world success. That tends to happen with the Swines….


75,000 Dust/75 Candy

Start the breathing exercises, because there are a few of these that are not just recommended, but I would say *necessary* if you plan to utilize the below Pokémon. Here goes….

SKARMORY

Air Slash | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

And at last we arrive at the oft-mentioned Skarmory. It is ab abusively hard Grass counter, with only Shadow Abomasnow able to overcome it. As a Steel, Skarm also resists Fairy and Ice and therefore beats all the Charmers, Articuno, and Whiscash and Pelipper as well. Skarm also beats Vigoroth and, rather famously, Altaria (and other Flying Dragons) too. Skarm is super solid and will surely be on many teams, but it is not without its limitations. It has no chance against Fires or Electrics, nor the Stunfisks or Swampert or Obstagoon or others. Don’t misunderstand… Skarm is still awesome and many tournaments will be won on its back. Not trying to say anything less. Just reminding you that even the top meta options have worrying counters in a meta that’s as seemingly well balanced as this one.

GALARIAN STUNFISK

Mud Shot | Rock Slide & Earthquake/Muddy Water

Tearing it up across GO Battle League, it will be interesting to see how much impact G-Fisk will make on Season 3 of The Silph Arena. It seems to be off to a good start. Not blow-the-roof-off dominant, but very good. Electrics suffer, Flyers (like Skarm and Altaria and Articuno) go down, Fairies falter, and even Fires that can take advantage of most other Steels fizzle out with super effective damage coming back their way. And while most Grasses DO still emerge on top, one that terrorizes most Grounds, Abomasnow, just doesn’t deal enough damage to outlast G-Fisk’s Rock Slides. If you want to get spicy, you can even consider forgoing the standard Earthquake for some Muddy Water shenanigans, dumping Linoone and Unova Stunfisk to instead potentially gain Pelipper and even Venusaur with baiting games. I don’t recommend that, per se, but it’s a legit option if you want to shake things up a bit. Either way, G-Fisk can also fill in the Whiscash role on SkarmCash if you like it better. Just a thought.

STUNFISK

Thunder Shock/Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Discharge/Muddy Water

Couple small debates here. First is the fast move. Thunder Shock is much more common in GBL, but if you compare it and Mud Shot here, you’ll notice that Mud Shot slightly outpaces Shock. They actually win ALL the same matchups, with Shock only slightly outpacing Shot against Togekiss and Skarmory, and Mud Shot winning the mirror against Shock Fisky, not surprisingly (and while still losing, giving G-Fisky more of a fight too). I think I actually tentatively lean Mud Shot in this meta… very slightly. There is also again a case to be made for Muddy Water, this time in place of Discharge. This time paired with Thunder Shock and the standard Mud Bomb, Muddy Water Fisk has a better shot at Victini and Linoone, giving up Pelipper and any realistic shot at the mirror match to get there, but not much else. With good baiting, it in fact performs slightly better than the more standard Mud Bomb/Discharge set, especially against Fires, but note how I began this sentence: “with good baiting”. It’s a fun strat that can pay big dividends, but there is some risk of baits failing, of course, and giving up the potential of Discharge is probably a bridge too far for many teams.

GLIGAR

Wing Attack | Night Slash & Returnᴸ

If you’ve built up a good purified Gligar for Flying Cup, I have great news: it looks like it could work well here too, and with the same recommended moveset of Night Slash and Return, with which you can beat the likes of Venusaur and Tropius and Shiftry, Emolga and Zapdos, Ninetales and A-Wak, Vigoroth and Obstagoon, Wigglytuff and Togekiss, and Linoone and Pelipper just for good measure. Unlike its evolution Gliscor that we’ll look at in a moment, Gligar’s only Ground move is possibly the worst one in the game, with Dig dealing 100 damage… but for 80 energy. 🤢 It is because it is so bad that Return becomes such a clearly better move despite having no STAB and no typing advantages whatsoever. If you’ve evolved a purified one to save some dust and planned to get rid of Return… well, put those TMs away, trainers!

GLISCOR

Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Earthquake

Unlike its pre-evolution, Gliscor DOES have a good Ground move with Earthquake, and with Night Slash setting it up and Fury Cutter building energy for both quickly, Gliscor may not do quite as well as the tankier Gligar, but it does just fine in its own right, able to tout that it beats both Stunfisks and the prominent Fires and even the big Fighters (despite having no super effective moves against Fighting), plus Swampert and Ferrothorn and Shiftry and Emolga and Linoone and some other big names. And Shadow Gliscor can beat Zapdos too. Both of the Glisboys have room to maneuver in Sunrise Cup.

FLYGON

Mud Shot | Dragon Claw & Earthquake

Operating in a manner similar to the Glisboys, Flygon generally loses out to Linoone but picks up Venusaur instead… and its performance is otherwise very close to Gliscor especially. Shadow Flygon gets Linoone, Ludicolo, and even Whiscash, but gives up Vigoroth, Shiftry, and Swampert to do it. Lotta interesting Grounds all available–and viable!–in this meta. Look for those outliers (stuff like Charmers for Gligar and Venusaur and Whiscash here) to determine which one best fits YOUR team.

TROPIUS

Air Slash/Razor Leaf | Aerial Ace & Leaf Blade

I have mentioned a couple times that Razor Leaf isn’t a fantastic play in this meta, and that remains true even of Tropius: Mud Boys, the Stunfisks, and big Normals Wigglytuff, Vigoroth, and Linoone are a good place to start… but RL Trop basically ends there too. With Air Slash things get a bit more interesting. Galarian Stunfisk sadly slips away, but you keep the other RL wins and gain most of the prominent Grasses… Venusaur, Shiftry, Ferrothorn, Ludicolo, and opposing Tropiuses (Tropie? Tropiuseer? Tropics?… oh wait), to be specific.

FERROTHORN

Bullet Seed | Power Whip & Thunder/Flash Cannon

Last season kicked off with Sinister Cup, where I extolled the virtues of Ferrothorn and I think successfully opened some eyes to it for the first time ever… and back then its best fast move was Metal Claw. Bullet Seed is SO much better now, quickly charging up a wide variety of charge moves. Power Whip is a given, but after that the choice basically comes down to beating Flyers (Mantine, Pelipper, Shadow Zapdos) with Thunder, or getting several opposing Grasses (Aboma, Venusaur, Shiftry, Meg) with Flash Cannon. It could have an ever bigger opening Cup performance this season than last.

DRIFBLIM

Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

Another one that made a big showing in last season’s opening Cup… but then disappeared afterwards. Of course, Icy Wind was still a good move back then, Ominous Wind was still a GOOD move, and now that has all changed. Oh, and Hex is better now too. Put it all together and you get… well, a relatively standard Flyer, rolling over Grasses and Fighters, but with the niche of beating A-Wak (and pretty hard, too), Victini, Pelipper, Togekiss, and a couple other big names. Blim isn’t going to blow many things out, but it hangs in there against a lot of things, absorbs some hits, and even in worst case scenarios can still debuff something on its way out. Sounds like a potential safe swap, don’t you think?

DRAGONITE

Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw (& maybe Draco Meteorᴸ)

Thrifty alert! Draco Meteor (and other charge moves) don’t do much for Dragonite, as it gets basically all of its wins with just Dragon Breath and Dragon Claw. It LOOKS like adding on Meteor adds a win against Emolga too, but really, it wins even THAT with just Claw too. And the same rings true with Shadow ‘Nite. Draco Meteor shows two more wins that Dragon Claw alone, but that is similarly misleading, as one of those wins again uses only staggered Claws and the other doesn’t throw ANY charge moves at all. Draco Meteor gives a few more options and is certainly not useless, but you’re really not setting yourself back much if you opt to not add a second move at all and save a good chunk of dust (and an Elite TM, in Shadow Dragonite’s case) in the process. Dragonite could end up being dirt cheap, really!

VIGOROTH

Counter | Body Slam & Bulldoze

The bully of the living-in-infamy Jungle Cup, Viggy is still good here but held much more in check, despite the derth of opposing Fighters, because of the number of things that resist Counter (Flyers, Fairies, and even a prominent Ghost and Psychic {A-Wak and Victini}). Other normals still want nothing to do with it, and nor do the oddball Grasses (Aboma, Ferro, Shiftry, Cradily), and Viggy can even run through Whiscash, Swampert, AND Quagsire. Oh, and G-Fisk. And Articuno. And Ninetales. And even Emolga and Shadow Zapdos. So yes, still very good… but take a gander at those losses too. Vigoroth is a little more boom or bust than it may be used to in this particular meta.

SNORLAX

Lick | Body Slam & Superpower

You can think of it as an overweight Zangoose, doing a lot of similar things, just a bit better thanks to its great bulk. The main differences are that Snorlax can beat Abomasnow, Mantine, Shiftry, and Zapdos, while Goose instead takes out G-Fisk, Meganium, and Ninetales. So as I often do throughout these articles, I will turn it back to you: what fits your team better? I’ll make the choice even a bit trickier by showing off Shadow Snorlax, which drops Linoone and Obstagoon but adds Articuno, Stunfisk, Emolga, Swampert, AND potentially Venusaur. Hey, I didn’t say I make these choices easier on ya. I just feed you the information to make your own choice!

DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT

At the start of last season, and several times throughout Season 2, STEELIX was a big part of Cup metas, but now it is basically just a worse Galarian Stunfisk. If you want to run it anyway, I think I’d actually go with the uniqueness of the Thunder Fang variant, which at least can shock Flyers like Mantine and Pelipper and even tastier targets like Articuno and Skarmory.


100,000 Dust/100 Candy

Well it’s finally happened… we have a Silph meta where not only are all the Legendary Birds eligible, but they all look legit too! And they’re joined by the latest little Legendary to join Pokémon GO too. It’s time to splurge and throw thriftiness to the wind with the most expensive ‘mons of all….

ARTICUNO

Ice Shard | Icy Wind & Blizzard/Hurricaneᴸ/Ancient Power

First of the Birds in Pokédex order, and first of the three in Sunrise Cup success. Grasses don’t want to see it, Flyers don’t want to see it, Muds don’t want to see it. The nuances with the second move, by the way, are as follows: Blizzard (linked above) uniquely beats Mantine and even Skarmory, Hurricane gets Obstagoon and Vigoroth, and Ancient Power… well, ties Mantine, at least? Yeah, I think you are proooooobably best served just sticking with Blizzard. However, when it comes to Shadow ‘Cuno, the case actually may be strongest for Ancient Power, which beats everything Hurricane and Blizzard do, PLUS Victini (dealing over 90 damage!). Shadow Artie is looking downright scary here, folks.

ZAPDOS

Thunder Shockᴸ | Drill Peck & Thunderbolt

You built one for Flying Cup? Good, then you can deploy it in October too! Zappy still shocks most of the other Flyers while also doing standard Flyer things (beating Grasses and Fighters) thanks to Drill Peck, which is amazingly even enough to beat down Swampert too. Sure, that’s ALL it does, but that’s enough to take a big bite out of the meta. Shadow Zappy is a slight downgrade, gaining Victini but losing the Fighters and Swampert, so probably not worth it. But overall, Zapdos IS worth it for sure.

MOLTRES

Fire Spin | Sky Attackᴸ & Overheat

Moltres actually puts in a very solid performance, but here’s the downside… it’s basically the same thing that Charizard does for far less investment. The only differences I can find is that Zard has an easier time beating Shiftry, while Moltres is better able to beat Victini. But that really is basically it. Shadow Moltres, however, DOES beat Shiftry and continues to hold Victini, AND just overwhelms Alolan Marowak and Ninetales too… though it loses Ludicolo and Obstagoon to compensate. I still don’t know that that’s worth the splurge over Charizard, but it WOULD make for a very nice flex that’s more than mere spice.

LUGIA

Extrasensory/Dragon Tail | Sky Attack & Futuresight

Yep, even Lugia gets in on the action! Ferrothorn can fend if off, but otherwise Lugia wears down all the Grasses and Fighters and Charmers, and Victini, Swampert, Pelipper, and in close battles, Whiscash and Altaria. Dragon Tail variants lose the Charmers, but beats Altaria more easily and gets Extrasensory-resistant Obstagoon. Lugia isn’t the best at any particular thing, but it IS a Flying tank that doesn’t fear much except the hardest of hard anti-Flyers.

VICTINI

Confusion | V-Create (& Overheat?)

Well for many of us, this is our newest addition to our Legendary/Mythical Pokédex. Hope you kept it in Great League, as I estimated that was its best league for lasting success back when it was initially released. Because I think you’re going to want at least the option of using it here. It razes all Grass, Charm, Steel, Ice, and even the Electrics, plus Viggy, Tails, and Loonie. You can easily run it with just V-Create and save some serious dust and rare candy, as Psychic in particular really does nothing for it in this meta, and Focus Blast is far too slow. But IF you shell out for a second move, consider Overheat, which can potentially bring in sneaky wins over Obstagoon and Whiscash. (Yes, Whiscash!) Vic may be “tini”, but its impact here may be quite large!


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. Just one this time, but it’s a pretty nice one….

EMOLGA

Thunder Shock | Aerial Ace & Discharge

Unlike in Flying Cup, I think little Emolga DOES really want Aerial Ace here, as it needs it for the Grasses and to have a way to at least neutrally hit Grounds. Now end of the day, yes, –it’s a lesser Zapdos, uniquely winning Venusaur and Togekiss, but losing Articuno, Ferrothorn, Ludicolo, Shiftry, and Swampert–all of which Zapdos usually wins–and loses the head to head with Zapdos as well. BUT, if you don’t have the benefit of a Thunder Shock Zapdos in GL, Emolga is your best and really ONLY substitute. Whichever one you built for Flying Cup, you can deploy it here again.


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

Before I go, I want to extend my thanks to my PvP friends and partners, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last several months and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. You know who you all are! Thank you.

And finally, my thanks to all of you, for your own encouragement and support throughout now TWO full seasons of Silph Arena play. Here’s to the new Season, and the entertainment it can provide us all. 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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