In Season 8 of Pokémon GO Battle League, Niantic decided to bring back a 500 CP limited format, after the trainwreck that was Little Cup back in Season 5. This time it’s the Element Cup and they added a few twists, allowing only unevolved pokémon with Water, Grass or Fire typing as the name suggests.
The Element Cup will run from June 28th to July 12th, 2021, alongside the usual Master League and Master League Classic — as the de facto budget alternative for those who can’t afford to max out legendary pokémon.
In this article we’re going to highlight all the most promising picks for the Element Cup, breaking down their matchups and what makes them so powerful, as always thanks of the help of simulations by PvPoke. If you don’t feel like reading today, consider taking a look at this early video analysis by RyanSwag instead!
Ducklett (Wing Attack + Bubble Beam or Aerial Ace & Brave Bird)
If you want to play the Element Cup, then hopefully you kept one of these funny looking ducks in your inventory. Because despite its looks, it’s a threat which stands at the top of the meta. It does everything that a Water-type should and more, as the Flying typing and coverage grants it a unique advantage over Grass. It’s also got solid bulk and moveset, spamming Bubble Beam to bait and debuff opponents while waiting for the right moment to nuke just about anything with Brave Bird. You could also run Aerial Ace instead of Bubble Beam for more consistent matchups against Grass-types and fellow Water-types, but that can leave you with issues against Fire. Bubble Beam can even outperform Aerial Ace against some Grass-types like Chikorita, where the debuff really comes in clutch. In the end it’s your choice, and however you play Ducklett it’s going to do well.
Seel (Ice Shard or Lick + Aqua Tail & Icy Wind)
Similarly to Ducklett, Seel is a bit of a jack of all trades, finding its true potential in the safe swap slot, just like back in the Little Cup. With no Bronzor to worry about, this time Ice Shard seems like the preferred fast move over Lick for better damage against Grass. However, Lick can be valuable to dominate the mirror match and farm down Fire-types.
Chinchou (Spark + Bubble Beam & Thunderbolt)
As a rare source of Electric damage, Chinchou functions as the only hard counter in the meta to Ducklett, being able to farm it down with just fast moves! However, it’s really a high risk, high reward pick. It still can handle most Fire-types decently, but its moveset leaves it completely helpless against Grass, unlike Ducklett and Seel.
Wooper (Mud Shot + Body Slam & Mud Bomb)
Much like Chinchou, Wooper is dead weight against Grass but quite good against almost everything else, as neutral Body Slam spam can pressure shields and give opponents a hard time. Thanks to the Ground typing, Wooper mainly stands out as the only Water-type here that can shut down Chinchou itself — that’s actually the only reason you would take it over other Water generalists like Seel or Ducklett, which can also hurt Grass-types. Barboach is a valid alternative to Wooper, but having to run Aqua Tail instead of Body Slam makes it considerably less effective as a generalist. Poliwag also has Mud Shot and Body Slam, but without the Ground typing it loses out on the mudboys’ main niche.
Slowpoke (Confusion + Psyshock)
Psychic-type damage goes almost completely unresisted in the Element Cup, so Slowpoke can take good advantage of that. As a result you can go with just Psyshock as the charged move to save some stardust; and if you don’t mind spending it, might as well add Psychic for a late-game nuke. Slowpoke only really fears Chinchou, and Grass-types that are not Poison too. In any other matchup it can at least put up a good fight thanks to its heavy fast move damage.
Tentacool (Poison Sting + Bubble Beam & Wrap)
The most recent Poison Sting buff made Tentacool a legit option here, as it can get to Bubble Beam extremely quickly to leave opponents without any offensive threat. That can work as a valuable set-up in the right team comp, but outside of this niche Tentacool can be tough to play. It still handles Fire-types like it should and can uniquely farm down Cottonee, but its matchups are otherwise quite underwhelming.
Cottonee (Charm + Seed Bomb)
This fluff ball is a huge threat as the only Charm user in the format, and will most likely be extremely common as it also needs little to no investment, working just fine with a single charged move. Cottonee can overpower any neutral matchup with shields and sheer fast move damage, and it’s the single reason for including Fire or Poison in your team. Ducklett is the only other thing that can go toe to toe with it, though it still loses in the 2-shield scenario.
Chikorita (Vine Whip + Body Slam & Grass Knot)
Body Slam makes Chikorita one of the most versatile Grass-types, being able to consistently wear down opponents or force them to shield even in unfavorable matchups. It still handles Water-types quite well, though it can struggle against Ducklett and Ice Shard Seel especially if the Grass Knot doesn’t land. Chespin offers the same moveset as Chikorita, but the lower bulk effectively makes it a downgrade.
Bulbasaur (Vine Whip + Seed Bomb & Sludge Bomb)
The other Vine Whip user is not as tanky or spammy as Chikorita, and it generally struggles a bit more against Ducklett and Ice Shard Seel. Its main selling point is the Poison coverage and typing, which allows it to take down Cottonee and Chikorita itself. Sludge Bomb is also very handy to one-shot Fire-types if it happens to land.
Exeggcute (Confusion + Seed Bomb & Ancient Power)
As we already mentioned, Confusion hits for good neutral damage against pretty much the whole meta. Compared to Slowpoke, Exeggcute loses out against Ducklett, Seel and Fire-types, but gains wins over fellow Grass-types not named Cottonee. It can still retaliate quite well against Fires, leaving them almost always with a red HP bar and possibly surprising them with a super effective Ancient Power.
Oddish (Razor Leaf + Seed Bomb)
This section actually encompasses all Razor Leaf users, namely also Turtwig and Budew, as they all perform very similarly to each other. Their matchups are very straightforward. They obviously feist on Water (excluding Ducklett) and in turn they get destroyed by Fire and struggle a lot against fellow Grass-types. Razor Leaf’s main value lies in just how quickly it can hurt Water-types: if your opponent doesn’t react quickly enough, a few hits will take out half of a Seel and completely disintegrate a Wooper!
Vulpix (Quick Attack or Ember + Body Slam & Weather Ball Fire)
Ember Vulpix is a very simple, basic Fire-type: it beats all Grass, it loses to all Water. With Quick Attack, however, its role becomes a lot more interesting. It can still handle Grass thanks to the quick and powerful Weather Ball, though it needs a decent IV spread to keep up with 2-shielded Exeggcute and Razor Leaf users. On top of that, the consistent neutral damage gives it a lot more play against Water-types, taking advantage of the fact that most of them don’t actually use a Water fast move. Both regular and Shadow Vulpix can even overcome Ducklett, Chinchou and Ice Shard Seel in certain even shield scenarios with Quick Attack. That could make it one of, if not the best safe switch in the format!
Tepig (Ember + Body Slam & Flame Charge)
If you’re just looking for a straightforward Fire-type, Tepig can fill your needs just as well as Ember Vulpix. The Attack boost granted by Flame Charge can make it even more of a threat when it’s done farming down a Grass-type. Growlithe also enjoys the Ember and Body Slam combo, though it’s slightly less tanky than Tepig and Flamethrower is not as useful as a second charged move.
Slugma (Rock Throw + Flame Charge)
Thanks to its Rock coverage, Slugma can flip the script on Ducklett (farming it down in most situations especially if it’s running Aerial Ace) and function as a hard counter to other Fire-types. Outside of its niche, it doesn’t look too good. It’s extremely squishy, therefore often loses to most Grass-types despite the resistance and has to avoid getting hit by pretty much any charged move in order to actually do anything.