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The Fusion Cup Meta

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Introduction

The fourth monthly Cup of the second season of competitive Pokémon GO play, hosted as always by Silph Arena, is a perfect place to start for those who want to approach PvP with a view to the GO Battle League feature that will soon be implemented! The Fusion Cup revolves around dual-type pokemon (of any two given types) and only those with a second charged move unlock cost of 50k or below. Azumarill, Medicham, Wormadam and Dewgong are specifically excluded: the former three would need to be maxed out or near, which would defeat the “cheap” theme of the cup, and the latter is too exclusive due to only being relevant with the rare double legacy moveset.

If you want to quickly check the eligible pokemon in your inventory, here’s a string that you can paste into the in-game search filter:

cp-1500&1,2,3,6,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,21,22,31,34,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,62,69,70,71,72,73,74,74,75,75,76,76,79,80,81,82,83,84,85,91,92,93,94,95,102,103,111,112,121,130,163,164,165,166,167,168,169,170,171,174,176,177,178,183,187,188,189,193,194,195,198,199,203,211,213,214,215,219,220,221,222,228,229,230,238,256,257,259,260,267,269,270,271,272,274,275,276,277,278,279,283,284,286,298,304,305,306,307,315,318,319,322,323,332,333,334,337,338,339,340,342,343,344,345,346,347,348,363,364,365,389,391,392,395,396,397,398,400,406,407,414,415,416,423,423,430,434,435,436,437,439,453,454,458,459,460,461,462,464,468,469,473,476,478,499,500,519,520,521,530,590,591,632,galar,alolan&!52&!53
 

Team Building

The Fusion Cup metagame seems more straightforward than Timeless, with a few staples and stricter team building, though there are ways to deviate from the main path. Whiscash, Altaria and, to a slightly lesser degree, Bronzong seem like the pokemon to beat this time around, and are going to be featured in most people’s lineups. Starting from this core, you’ll want to add a counter to Whiscash (generally a Grass-type) since it goes unchecked within the core. Then a secondary Altaria counter as Bronzong and Whiscash are quite soft at that (generally Fairy- or Ice-types, including pseudo-Ice Poliwrath). Fire-types also have a key role to counter most of those counters (Grass, Fairy and Ice) as well as Bronzong.

So to recap, standard lineups will probably look like: 

  • WAB core (Whiscash, Altaria, Bronzong);
  • Grass (to hard counter Whiscash);
  • Fairy or Ice (to hard counter Altaria);
  • Fire (to counter Bronzong, Grass, Fairy and Ice).

However, the core pokemon are not irreplaceable as there are other valid Ground-, Flying- and Steel-types (Noctowl, Alolan Sandslash just to name a couple) with different niches that you might even prefer over them. There’s also a decent number of alternative picks and wild cards that can shape more unique teams according to your personal playstyle and strategies. We’ll delve into each and every one of them below.

As always, for this analysis we have to thank the wonderful resources that are GoBattleSim and PvPoke, which made it possible in conjunction with lots of firsthand experience from different trainers. Note that, throughout the article, asterisks indicate legacy moves.
 

Source: Gamepress

Altaria and other Flying-types

While Altaria is absolutely meta defining, there are other options that come near its dominance (Noctowl being the only one that can actually be used in place of it) or ones that have completely different niches. You could also include another Flying-type alongside Altaria in the same lineup, and choose to play either one depending on the opponent.
 

Dragon Breath + Sky Attack + Dragon Pulse

Altaria has always been a Great League powerhouse in general, and this is the perfect opportunity to make one, if you for some reason, haven’t already. With its usual competitor Skarmory out of the picture, the fluffy Dragon’s presence grows even more imposing here as the aggressive combination of Dragon Breath and Sky Attack beats almost anything that is not a dedicated counter; this means either Steel, Fairy or Ice. Mirror matches are bound to happen of course, and while in the 2-2 shield scenario you need 139 HP or more to possibly survive one extra fast move compared to the opponent, in the more common 1-1 the deciding factor is who gets to Sky Attack first: when the update to charged move priority mechanics rolls out, having an Attack-weighted Altaria might come in handy. At 107 Attack it also hits a very relevant breakpoint against Whiscash which allows it to win as long as one Blizzard gets shielded, though there will obviously be situational tradeoffs in other matches. A defensive Altaria will hold its own more against Bronzong, for example.
 

Wing Attack + Sky Attack + Night Shade

The owl offers some interesting advantages thanks to the different typing, and it’s the only thing that could potentially replace Altaria in a lineup. It does lose to Altaria, only flipping the 1-1 shield scenario if it sneaks one extra fast move in. Most notably, it can survive a Blizzard from Whiscash or two Ice Punches from Poliwrath to consistently beat both, though it has more issues than Altaria does with Quagsire and Swampert. Another key difference is that it doesn’t get deleted by Fairies, beating Togekiss in the 1-1 shield scenario, as well as Wigglytuff and Alolan Ninetales with shields down with the 1-1 coming down to IVs and energy. Noctowl also walls Alolan Marowak, but has a tougher time with Charizard and its deadly Blast Burn — though with good IVs it’s capable of tanking one and firing a second Sky Attack back. Regarding the second charged move, Night Shade offers more useful coverage on Bronzong (it will at least force a shield) compared to Psychic, only preferable to Sky Attack against off-meta Poison-type picks.

The other Flying-type that can tank a Blizzard to get narrow, but quite reliable wins over Whiscash is Vespiquen. It boasts the same high bulk and big wins over Grass compared to the two above, but it loses hard to them and is far less of a generalist, due to Bug damage being resisted by the likes of Flying, Steel, Fire, Fighting, Fairy and Ghost. The one matchup it does way better in is Claydol.

Wing Attack + Poison Fang + Shadow Ball

Standing out because of the Poison typing, Golbat is the only one in this group to counter Grass and Fighting as well as Fairy, keeping the opponent from safely utilizing Charm users as a pseudo-Flying counters. With legacy Poison Fang Venomoth also fills that role, but it does struggle more against Exeggutor and Shiftry, it gets hard countered by Fire and loses even to Wigglytuff and Togekiss if the opponent shields twice; the only matchup it improves over the ‘Bat is Poliwrath. Anyway, both are generally beaten by all Steel, Flying, Psychic and Ground, though with 2 shields up Golbat can impressively harass Altaria (even with just Poison Fang!) and Whiscash, and thanks to Shadow Ball it retaliates well against Bronzong and Claydol.
 

Air Slash + Leaf Blade + Aerial Ace

Silph probably didn’t mean for people to max out a 1236 CP regional exclusive with likely no use in future Cups when they came up with Fusion... But if you’re really into blowing that stardust, this is how you can get yourself a unique Flying-type that deletes ‘mudboys’ thanks to Leaf Blade, though it must still be careful about Whiscash’s Blizzard if it gets baited, and Quagsire’s Stone Edge if the opponent has an energy advantage. Unlike Noctowl, this other Normal/Flying-type is too squishy to handle Charm users and Alolan Marowak; for the same reason it needs Air Slash to reliably beat all Grass and Fighting. With Fury Cutter it can go down to a Victreebel that shields twice, or to a Poliwrath with the slightest energy advantage, but it picks up one interesting win, over Claydol in the 1-1 shield scenario. If you want to invest even more into Farfetch’d, it’s the pokemon in this Cup that would most benefit the most from the supposed boost to Best Buddies. Having the chance to reach 1315 CP at level 45, with a 10% increase on all stats, if you want to run it, start walking it! Pun intended.

Whiscash and other Ground-types

Ground is the group with the fewest hard counters within the core meta, and consequently the most versatile one. Whiscash in particular can beat both Altaria and Bronzong, and doesn’t really need to be complemented by another Ground-type, though the others can bring some unique niche advantages to the table and can be worthy of play.
 

Mud Shot + Mud Bomb + Blizzard

It’s been a full year since we first met Whiscash back in the Boulder Cup and the little fish is still going strong! What sets it apart from the competition here is the major Blizzard threat for Altaria. It gets a clean win in the 1-1 shield scenario, only needing to bait against opponents with an Attack-weighted Altaria. The 2-2 can also be won by either baiting once or getting 2 extra fast moves in, and the 0-0 is of course an easy OHKO. Outside of this one key matchup Whiscash boasts wide-reaching coverage, only getting hard countered by Grass. Other things can beat it — Noctowl, Charm users, Poliwrath, Heracross, fellow ‘mudboy’ Swampert — but none are going to have it easy. If you use Whiscash as a safe switch and it gets a couple fast moves of energy advantage, it will have win conditions against pretty much anything not Grass. A really high IV Swampert is pretty much the only thing to consistently escape both the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios alive (barely), while Noctowl and Gyarados need to shield one Blizzard to win the 2-2, and other things like Froslass and Heracross can at least aim to go down while gaining shield advantage.

Confusion + Earth Power + Psychic

This Psychic tank brings a different flavor compared to ‘mudboys’, which it loses to, however, going down to Whiscash even if it goes straight Blizzard. It also doesn’t counter Fire like they do, only overcoming Charizard by shielding twice or landing the Psychic. When it comes to Steel-types, Claydol beats Bronzong and Probopass but not Alolan Sandslash. It also loses to other Ice-types like Froslass along the way. On the other hand, it fares better against Fairies, Fighters and Venusaur compared to ‘mudboys’. The advantage over Fighting is obvious (only Hydro Pump Poliwrath has a slight chance to avoid losing) and Confusion takes Venusaur down handily if Claydol opts to shield twice, leaving Shiftry as the only Grass-type that truly counters it. With a good IV spread Claydol can fire a second charged move on Wigglytuff and Togekiss to either beat them or force a second shield, which they aren’t gonna have the health to make back in the next matchup. It also takes on both Altaria and Noctowl if it shields one Sky Attack, though the opponent can take shield advantage by not shielding the Psychic, and an Altaria with high defensive IVs will always come out on top regardless.

Mud Shot + Hydro Cannon* + Earthquake

Even after the recent nerf which brought Hydro Cannon’s power from 90 down to 80, Swampert is by all means still a force to be reckoned with. In this meta, however, it has the huge drawback of getting completely walled by Altaria, to the point of getting farmed down if the opponent invests one shield. Togekiss can farm it down too, while Wigglytuff can lose in the 1-1 shield scenario if Swampert gets a small energy advantage. Swampert’s advantages over Whiscash are easier matchups with Poliwrath (winning the 1-1 with straight Earthquake and the 2-2 with one successful bait) and Charizard, as well as the fact that it beats Whiscash quite consistently in the Ground mirror.
 

Mud Shot + Stone Edge + Earthquake

In this meta, Quagsire finds itself in an awkward spot as sort of a mix between Whiscash and Swampert, which it respectively loses and goes even (depending on shield usage) against. It has a super effective hit on Flying-types like Whiscash — out of the three, it’s the only one to reliably take down Noctowl — and it hard counters Charizard like Swampert. While it doesn’t get walled by Altaria, it still generally loses to it; with decent IVs Quagsire can at least get to a second Stone Edge to force a shield without having to shield anything itself. It beats Poliwrath in the 1-1 shield scenario without baiting, as well as in the 2-2 if it shields correctly, but unlike Whiscash and Swampert it loses to Claydol, not having a super effective hit on it.

If you like ‘mudboys’ but also enjoy fast move beatdowns, after the recent buff to Mud Slap Gastrodon has become a nice addition to the family. The higher Ground damage gets walled hard by anything Flying, but also allows to farm down Steel- and Fire-types (apart from Charizard), only needing to actually use shields and energy against Bronzong among them. It has close fights against other ‘mudboys’ and Poliwrath, relying on baiting to beat Claydol and Froslass, and losing only slightly to Wigglytuff.

Bronzong and other Steel-types

Steel’s main purpose in the meta is to smack down quacks and birds. Bronzong is most popular because it beats the other two and works better as a generalist thanks to Confusion damage, but it definitely feels like the less essential of the three core picks, being hard countered by Whiscash and other top picks that we’ll explore in later sections. Meta shifts could bring more attention to its alternatives as the month progresses, possibly transforming the standard WAB core into WAS or WAP.
 

Confusion + Psyshock + Bulldoze

The third great force of the Fusion Cup, alongside Altaria and Whiscash, is a softer counter to Altaria compared to the others in this section, losing the 0-0 and 2-2 shield scenarios without a small energy advantage despite resisting all of its moves. The 1-1 is IV dependent, and generally becomes favorable if Bronzong hits a breakpoint at around 114 Attack which it can’t get with optimal defensive IVs. That stat distribution can also bring a suprising win over Charizard in the 2-2. Bronzong is also quite versatile in fact, being capable of beating anything not Ground, Fire or Dark, specializing in Fighters, Fairies, and Grasses not named Shiftry. This means that it keeps dominance over other Steel-types too, taking down both Probopass (reaching Bulldoze twice without needing to shield at all) and Alolan Sandslash (straight Bulldoze in the 0-0 and 1-1, and straight Psyshock in the 2-2).

Powder Snow + Ice Punch + Bulldoze

Combining Ice damage with the Steel typing, it’s only natural that A-Slash is the hardest counter to Altaria (winning even at a 2-shield disadvantage!) and arguably to Flying-types in general. It destroys Fairy- and Grass-types including the elusive Shiftry which Bronzong just can’t stand. On the other hand, it also combines the weaknesses of Bronzong and Probopass, getting farmed and deleted by anything Ground, Fire or Fighting: its matchups are quite polarized. Thanks to Bulldoze it can hold its own against the other Steels, though it will still generally go down to Bronzong and, as long as the opponent shields once, to Probopass too.

Spark + Rock Slide + Thunderbolt

Probopass is the opposite of Bronzong in many aspects, despite filling the same main role, and can complement it well if you want to go for a double Steel team. First of all it’s a much harder Altaria counter, winning even at a shield disadvantage. Instead of being countered by Fire it handily beats Charizard and only narrowly loses to Alolan Marowak in the 2-2 shield scenario and, without optimal IVs, the 1-1 too. Instead of walling Venusaur and being walled by Shiftry it gets CMP-ties with both of them, which again turn to losses if the opponent shields twice. Instead of wrecking with Confusion it goes down quickly to Fighters, only somewhat threatening Poliwrath thanks to Thunderbolt — a move which is only really useful for that and for the neutral damage on Bronzong. You could run Magnet Bomb to pick up a win in the mirror match and have a harder hit on Fairy-types, or even go for Rock Throw to farm Altaria and beat Alolan Marowak more efficiently, though losses will get even more hopeless.

A very similar role to Rock Throw Probopass is filled by Magcargo, which often doesn’t even need to spend a shield in order to completely farm down Fire-types, Froslass and Altaria, and it’s even more deadly now when it comes out of those matchups thanks to the recent buff to Overheat. However, when it can’t get to it, it adds Steel- and Grass-types to Probopass’ already large array of very negative matchups.

Double legacy Magneton with Thunder Shock and Discharge resembles Spark Probopass in spamminess and coverage, but it’s infinitely squishier and  doesn’t hold up nearly as well against Grass, Fire and Altaria. Magneton’s sole advantage is giving Bronzong a bit more trouble. Its bigger brother Magnezone gets written off for not handling Altaria at all.

The same goes for the other big Electric-type, Lanturn, which actually loses to the entire WAB core. On the other hand, with Water Gun it can beat all Fire-types and all the Steel-types in this section, handling Wigglytuff and Togekiss quite well too if it’s got top notch IVs.

Fairy- and Ice-types

Since Bronzong doesn’t really function as an Altaria counter by itself, being quite soft in nature, you should complement it with a harder counter. You might not have this issue if you picked Alolan Sandslash or Probopass instead. Fairies offer interesting coverage in this meta, also functioning as hard counters to Dark and Fighting (most notably Shiftry and Poliwrath) while dealing huge damage to Whiscash. Ice-types, on the other hand, will find themselves less often walled by the likes of Steel, Poison and Fire thanks to their handy coverage moves.
 

Charm + Ice Beam + Play Rough

The Normal subtyping mixes very well with Fairy, leaving the pink bunny weak to only Poison and Steel attacks, both of which are uncommon in this meta, and giving it a double resistance to Ghost which lets it lose only narrowly to Alolan Marowak. It can also outbulk Charizard if it spends both shields, though the opponent only has to spend one. That’s actually a general issue to take into account with Wiggly — winning most of its matchups through sheer Charm damage, it often has to give up one more shield compared to the opponent. That happens against the likes of Whiscash, Noctowl, Froslass, and an Altaria with 6 or more fast moves of energy advantage. Since its charged moves won’t threaten a Steel-type coming in afterwards, that can put you at a disadvantage for the rest of the match. Wigglytuff also needs a high Attack IV to safely beat Whiscash and Noctowl switch-ins, but even without the breakpoint it generally works as a soft check to Whiscash.

Charm + Ancient Power + Flamethrower

Togekiss loses to Wigglytuff in the Fairy mirror, and it has lower bulk with different subtyping and coverage. Being weak to Ice, it has a tougher time with Whiscash: if they both start the matchup at no energy and the Whiscash manages to bait, it will get to a Blizzard without even needing to shield; if the Whiscash gets just one extra fast move in and spends a shield, it can get to Blizzard twice! Froslass and Piloswine can also get to Avalanche twice to beat Togekiss, and while Poliwrath’s Ice Punch isn’t as deadly, the second one will at least force a shield. On the other hand, giving up shield advantage to farm down is not nearly as bad for Togekiss as it is for Wigglytuff, and this the part where it really shines. With Ancient Power for Fire-types and Flamethrower for Steel, it will almost always make Fairy counters spend a shield when they come in to finish it.

Charm + Psyshock + Ice Beam

If you played the Ferocious Cup, this is most likely something that you already have built. It is not nearly as dominant this time, but it’s just as bulky as Wigglytuff and has the same issue of getting totally walled by Steel. The Ice typing further worsens the Fire matchups, making it completely farmable by Alolan Marowak and (with a shield) by Charizard, but it also gives a surprising win over Alolan Sandslash as long as it shields one Bulldoze. Having a slightly quicker charged move in Psyshock also helps forcing a shield more consistently against Whiscash, which it also checks just like Wigglytuff. If you want to surprise your opponents, you can also use A-Tales as a ‘fake’ Charm user and run Powder Snow! With that set it performs much like a bulkier Froslass that handles Charizard better (winning the 1-1 shield scenario if it lands the bait) but doesn’t have any threat on Psychic- and Ghost-types.

Powder Snow + Avalanche + Shadow Ball

This half-Ghost stands out for countering both Altaria and Bronzong, though being quite squishy it does need a high Defense stat (around 114 or higher) to handle an Attack-weighted Altaria in the 2-2 shield scenario, where it will also need to bait once to beat Bronzong. It gets destroyed by Probopass, while the A-Slash matchup mainly depends on shield and energy management, and unlike those two it doesn’t melt to Poliwrath though it’s only actually able to beat it in the 2-2. Froslass puts up a decent fight against Whiscash too, forcing a shield without having to use any, though still generally losing in the end. Actually, few things can afford to not shield against Froslass, even some of its counters: Charizard, Alolan Marowak, Shiftry will have to choose between shielding twice or going down if you manage to get a small energy advantage. Similarly, the Venusaur matchup comes down to energy advantages or priority, while Froslass is too frail to handle shielded Charm users, only having a chance against Togekiss in the 1-1 depending on IVs. One last remarkable feat is that it can beat pretty much anything with a 1-0 shield advantage!

Powder Snow + Avalanche + Bulldoze

Piloswine is similar to Froslass in bulk and main moveset, but swaps the Ghost typing for Ground, which for once isn’t that terrible as there aren’t too many Water-types and Razor Leaf users around. The mini mammoth still goes down to Fighters and doesn’t counter Bronzong (though Bulldoze still severely hurts it), but it makes up for that by wrecking Probopass without even needing to bait. It also picks up a key win over Whiscash, being one of very few pokemon capable of beating both Cash and Altaria! To be fair Whiscash can come out slightly ahead if it shields twice, but Piloswine only has to shield back once, gaining shield advantage. The only other relevant differences from Froslass are that it’s a bit more of threat to Alolan Sandslash, and a bit less to Alolan Marowak (Bulldoze hits a little too soft) and Shiftry.

Mud Shot + Ice Punch + Dynamic Punch

Mud Shot’s return as a TMable move on this tanky Fighting-type was quite timely! Getting off Ice Punch at an incredible rate, it definitely makes Poliwrath a pseudo-Ice that consistently punches Altaria to death with shields up, though it’s not functional as a counter switch as it will need to often spend both in that situation. With Dynamic Punch it beats Whiscash in the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenarios without baiting, while needs to get one bait and to have great defensive IVs to win the 2-2. Those two key wins together would already make Poliwrath relevant, but it doesn’t stop there: straight Dynamic Punch takes down Alolan Sandslash and Probopass, as well as Shiftry and Froslass outside of the 2-2 where one bait is needed. In the 2-2 Poliwrath can also give Fire-types a run for their money with straight Ice Punch, even beating Alolan Marowak if it shieds Shadow Ball twice. If you really want to beat Fire with Poliwrath you can choose to run Hydro Pump, which can even sometimes get a surprise win on Bronzong! However, that set loses consistency against Whiscash and Probopass (as in, if they shield the Pump you’re dead) and can’t beat Shiftry.

Ice Shard + Avalanche + Foul Play

Combining Dark typing and Ice damage spam... You may have guessed where this is going: Sneasel is pretty much the only thing that checks the entire core of Altaria, Bronzong and Whiscash! However, while the former two are very one-sided wins (it farms down Altaria with a shield and wrecks the bell even at a shield disadvantage), the Whiscash matchup is only a win in the 1-1 shield scenario, and a quite flimsy, IV dependent one at that; we recommend over 141 Attack to hit an Ice Shard breakpoint, if possible. Sneasel also covers Froslass (outside of the 2-2), Shiftry and Claydol, but this comes at the cost of many drawbacks brought by terrible typing and low bulk. It disappears after 5 to 6 hits from Charm or Counter, and loses to almost everything else not mentioned so far.

An argument could also be made for the bigger brother Weavile: it’s even glassier but, thanks to Snarl, also speedier! Because of this it poses more of a threat to Venusaur and Fire-types, but has less of a chance against Whiscash and can lose badly to an Altaria with 2 shields.

The interesting Ice-types don’t even end there, with honorable mentions to Cloyster and Sealeo — though despite the Water typing they’re not nearly as good as the Dewgong that deserved a ban. They mostly do the same job as Piloswine, beating Altaria and going toe to toe with Whiscash, with the bonus of giving Charizard more trouble. However, their get mostly walled by Steel, and Sealeo’s Body Slam is also ineffective on Ghosts; Water Pulse hits too soft to make up for that. Cloyster’s Icy Wind is more interesting for the guaranteed debuff on the opponent’s Attack stat, which could open up for some interesting strategies, and the combination with the more punishing Hydro Pump.

Grass-types

If you don’t have a Grass-type in your lineup, you will leave opponents free to use Whiscash as a safe switch. That’s a scary situation to be in, and one that you should be extremely prepared to handle if you don’t want to lose. Being the only real hard counters to Ground, however, Grass-types are kept in check by many different groups in the meta.
 

Snarl + Leaf Blade + Foul Play

In this meta Shiftry was already going to be interesting with Feint Attack, but the recent addition of Snarl to its movepool made it that much more relevant. It’s now an extremely spammy glass cannon that still functions well as a Grass by firing Leaf Blade every 3 fast moves, only possibly struggling against a Whiscash with shield advantage. Leaf Blade also brings a CMP-tie against Probopass with shields, but Shiftry’s real edge over its competitors is the Dark subtyping, which makes it the hardest counter to Bronzong as it wins even at a 2-shield disadvantage! Foul Play takes down Froslass as well and gives trouble to most of Shiftry’s counters, especially if it manages to get a little energy beforehand. With 2 extra fast moves it can beat Alolan Marowak (just narrowly with good IVs, and not in the 2-2 against Attack-weighted opponents), Venusaur (in the 2-2 and 1-1), Noctowl (in the 2-2 with successful baiting and, depending on IVs, the 1-1) and Poliwrath (in the 2-2 and, if it shields the Dynamic Punch, in the 1-1), all things that generally take it down without much issue in even scenarios. With 3 extra fast moves it goes as far as forcing a tie with Charizard in the 1-1 and 0-0, and impressively takes down Altaria in the 2-2 and 1-1 unless it’s got top rank IVs! Another important IV fact for the Altaria matchup is that Shiftry needs 86 Defense or higher to meet a bulkpoint and actually put up a fight in the first place. All in all, the only things that can comfortably farm it down are Charm and Counter users — and even then, it can often get off a second Leaf Blade to force a shield against Wigglytuff. Shiftry’s spam is no joke.
 

Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* + Sludge Bomb

In any Cup it’s eligible in, you can bet that Venusaur will be relevant. Here it trails behind Shiftry in versatility against Grass counters and in the matchup against Bronzong and Alolan Marowak, as it gets easily farmed by both. It also doesn’t outspeed Froslass and Piloswine (CMP-tying with both). Just like Shiftry, the matchup against Probopass comes down to energy advantages or priority. The main advantages, besides the usual fact that it beats all other Grass-types in the mirror, are the resistances to Fairy and Fighting, Shiftry’s biggest enemies. Taking down Poliwrath, Wigglytuff and Togekiss without ever needing to bait, Venusaur makes for a much better Altaria bodyguard, which could be key for certain team compositions.

As always, Victreebel exists as a more aggressive alternative that fits some playstyles better; it even ties with Probopass just like Venusaur. However, it picks up losses to Shiftry, Togekiss and Venusaur itself, and it’s generally far more limited in its negative matchups.

The same of course goes for both the other Razor Leaf users with Poison subtyping (Roselia, Weepinbell) and the different ones like Torterra. Being part Ground makes it allows it to wreck Probopass better than any other Grass, and it has some interesting charged move options such as Sand Tomb (nerfing the opponent’s Defense for 40 energy) and Stone Edge (to threaten anything that comes in after it’s farmed down its target).

Confusion + Seed Bomb + Psychic

Now that Confusion is no longer legacy, everyone finally has access the only Grass-type that counters Venusaur — though this niche seems less relevant in a meta where the other main Grass, Shiftry, hard counters it. The resistance to Psychic also makes it not easily farmable by other Confusion users, though it still handily loses to Bronzong and only beats Claydol in the 0-0 and 2-2 shield scenarios. With its own Confusion it farms down Poliwrath with a shield and can also beat most of its counters, including Altaria, if it manages to land the Psychic! However, the downsides are many. Despite Seed Bomb being relatively quick, Exeggutor can even lose to Whiscash if it gets shield baited, and due to its lack of bulk it can’t really handle Probopass, Ice-types or Charm users.

Fire-types

Fire has a unique place in this metagame. Even though they lose to 2/3 of the WAB core, they cover Bronzong (and Alolan Sandslash) and the counters to both Whiscash (Grass) and Altaria (Fairy and Ice). Rounding out a lot of battle teams perfectly, they are quite essential pieces to this puzzle.

Fire Spin + Shadow Ball + Bone Club

After the Sinister Cup, for the second time this Season A-Wak will play an important role. It is by far the tankiest Fire-type in this meta, and the secondary Ghost typing lets it wall Venusaur and Fighting-types very effectively, with Poliwrath’s Hydro Pump being the only real threat. On the other hand, it is threatened by Shiftry (tying in the 1-1 shield scenario depending on IVs) and Froslass, which should be part of Fire’s targets on paper. Bone Club is mainly useful as baiting, to quickly wear down Bronzong and to go toe to toe with Probopass, winning the 2-2 and, unless the opponent has really good IVs, the 1-1 too. Shadow Ball hits anything hard when unresisted, and while it’s usually too slow to flip the hard losses to Altaria and Whiscash, it allows Marowak to win the Fire mirror against Charizard without even needing to bait. One downside of relying mainly on Shadow Ball is getting walled by Noctowl and only narrowly beating Wigglytuff, as they double resist it thanks to the Normal typing.
 

Fire Spin + Blast Burn* + Dragon Claw

As mentioned, Charizard can’t take a hit like Alolan Marowak and it loses to it too, picking up another hard loss to Probopass. Due to low bulk it also goes down to Charm users and Claydol with 2 shields, though it will at least gain shield advantage in the process, and only slightly comes out ahead against Bronzong. On top of that, it struggles against Poliwrath even if it doesn’t run Hydro Pump, always losing the 2-2 shield scenario and tying the 1-1 depending on IVs, energy and baiting — yes, you bait with neutral Dragon Claw to land a resisted Blast Burn, and that’s a general rule of thumb. Blast Burn is just that good. Anyway, to balance all these drawbacks Charizard has few, but very relevant advantages over Marowak. Not being weak to Dark it can tank a Foul Play to reliably beat Shiftry, and not relying on Ghost damage it actually has a chance to take down Noctowl. It can put up a better fight against Altaria and Whiscash too, having the Dragon coverage for the former, and requiring the latter to land the Blizzard for the kill. If Charizard shields Blizzard twice, it can even flip the Whiscash matchup.
 

Snarl + Crunch + Flamethrower

If Marowak and Charizard are too mainstream for you, here’s a pseudo-Fire spice pick. Why ‘pseudo’? Well, as a paper thin half Dark-type, it actually loses hard to the Fighting- and Fairy-types which Marowak beats so well. It also can’t handle Altaria, Noctowl, Probopass or even Venusaur, which often only needs Frenzy Plant to take it down. However, it does boast interesting and consistent winning matchups against both the other Fire-types, though it needs decent IVs to survive in the 2-2 shield scenario. It still handily beats Bronzong, Alolan Sandslash and Shiftry outside of a CMP-tie, again, in the 2-2 against the latter. It walls Froslass too, which is something that the other two can struggle with.
 

Wild Cards

These pokemon don’t fit any of the 6 groups that make up a standard meta lineup listed above, and for this reason they often need the team to be constructed around them to keep it balanced overall. However, their peculiar matchups can give something special and unexpected.
 

Counter + Close Combat + Megahorn

The South America exclusive beetle is the only relevant Close Combat user in the meta (the other one being Infernape). The recent buff made this move devastating, with 100 damage for only 45 energy, though with a huge drawback of debuffing the user’s Defense by 2 stages every time it’s used — but remembers, stat changes get cleared after switching out! Given all of this, Heracross is a hard pokemon to use and it requires unique strategies and the right teammates to be used to its fullest. The most basic tip is charging up to 2 Close Combat by using Counter 13 times, and only then fire both of them in a row on the opponent! This effectively nullifies the Defense debuff that would normally happen between the first and the second one. Once that’s done, or even if you only fired the first one depending on the situation, if you want to keep your Heracross for later in the match you might want to switch it out to clear the double Defense debuff which renders it completely useless. Another situation which it really enjoys is farming down with Counter (Probopass, Alolan Sandslash, Shiftry) and then unleashing Close Combat once or twice on the next opponent: it’s so powerful that it can one-shot even Wigglytuff, Noctowl or Bronzong when it lands. About the actual matchups, thanks to the resistance to Ground granted by the Bug typing it works as a soft counter to Whiscash and Poliwrath as it’s able to (barely) tank 1 Blizzard or 2 Ice Punch respecively, and then hit them with a double Close Combat, either winning or gaining a handy 2-shield advantage. It also loses pretty badly to everything else not mentioned so far.

If you’re brave enough to run it despite its Haunter-level squishiness, Breloom does mostly the same job as Heracross — farming down things weak to Counter and checking Whiscash — just in a more straightforward way thanks to Seed Bomb’s coverage. Dynamic Punch also works as a desperation nuke on the likes of Bronzong and Noctowl.

There are other viable Fighters in the Fusion Cup, namely Toxicroak and Blaziken, but they have the major issue of getting deleted by the whole WAB core. They both check Grass-types, can threaten Charm users from time to time, and the former beats all the other Fighting-types.

Dragon Breath + Crunch + Hydro Pump

Talk about a wild card! Gyarados has never been relevant, may never be again, and actually has few positive matchups in this meta, but they’re all very important: it’s a rare check to the whole main core of Altaria, Whiscash and Bronzong! To be fair the Altaria and Bronzong matchups are, respectively, a CMP-tie and a win only in the 1-1 shield scenario, as Gyarados is quite fragile and will go down to the first charged move in the 0-0, or to fast moves in the 2-2. On the other hand it’s one of the few reliable non-Grass counter-switches to Whiscash, as it can tank a Blizzard to get surprisingly convincing wins even if the opponent gets an energy advantage and baits correctly. Gyarados also consistently beats Poliwrath and gives trouble to Fire-types, managing to beat both Charizard and Alolan Marowak outside of a 1-1 scenario where it gets baited. It will, however, almost always lose to Probopass, Alolan Sandslash, Noctowl and, despite being part Flying, the Grass-types, as well as Froslass in the 1-1 only. It gets farmed by Charm users just like Altaria, and this is where Hydro Pump can come in as a surprise nuke that can even one-shot Wigglytuff. And by the way, if you missed the news, Dragon Breath is conveniently no longer a legacy move.

Shadow Claw + Shadow Ball* or Sludge Bomb + Shadow Punch

This little spooky critter fills pretty much the same role everywhere it’s eligible in, though with varying degrees of success, and you probably already know it by now. It’s an extreme glass cannon that often relies on baiting or advantages in shields or energy to create the right situations to wreck entire teams, making it very risky but also quite rewarding. In this meta it has two hard counters within the WAB core, Whiscash and Bronzong, while it has a chance against Altaria in the 1-1 shield scenario if it lands the Shadow Ball by baiting first. Shadow Ball can actually take down pretty much anything (even a huge tank like Probopass) given how hard it hits, but the usually preferred legacy set gets walled hard by Noctowl, Shiftry and Wigglytuff. Sludge Bomb can actually beat the latter two, though outpacing Shiftry to land it can be a tough task, unless the opponent doesn’t expect it or gets too cocky with farming. There are quite a few matchups where Haunter can also go straight for Shadow Punch and come out victorious, such as Froslass, Heracross, Alolan Marowak, Charizard (in the 1-1 only), Togekiss (outside of the 2-2) and Venusaur (in the 2-2, while the 1-1 comes down to priority).
 

Snarl + Dark Pulse + Sludge Wave OR Poison Jab + Dark Pulse + Acid Spray

Dark/Poison-types have never been this sidelined in a Cup’s meta before, as their one and only weakness Ground is just too dominant this time around. Alolan Muk, however, is still quite versatile outside of the tough Whiscash matchup and can give unique coverage depending on its moveset. Snarl outpaces and beats Bronzong and Alolan Marowak, as well as Froslass outside of the 2-2 shield scenario, and Charizard unless the opponent baits correctly to force a CMP-tie. It can take down Noctowl in the 1-1, and with an energy advantage of 2 fast moves it will even be able to force a win in the 2-2 against Altaria — with Poison Jab it does it at even energy too! However, it will need really good IVs to reach a second Sludge Wave and take down Fairies in the 1-1, while the 2-2 is a hard loss regardless. The Poison Jab set narrowly, but reliably outdamages Charm instead with the help of Acid Spray, but it fares worse against Bronzong and Alolan Marowak (topping them only in the 2-2 and 1-1 respectively) as well as Charizard and Claydol. Both sets lose to Alolan Sandslash and Probopass, and both destroy Venusaur and Shiftry without needing to bait, as A-Muk resists all of their moves. All in all, its main role is that of anti-Grass, with Marowak’s same Ground weakness but different niches.

The other eligible Dark/Poison-type Skuntank gets overshadowed by Muk this time, as with Poison Jab it neither beats Bronzong nor handles shielded Charm users, and even struggles with Froslass in the 1-1. It has a chance against Alolan Sandslash with Flamethrower, though.

There are other interesting Dark-type wild cards available, but they all have the issue of getting deleted by Charm in common with their more mainstream brother Shiftry. Alolan Raticate has a crippling double weakness to Fighting too, but if you manage to avoid those matchups, it can work well as a hard wall to Confusion users and Alolan Marowak with high bulk and decent moves (Quick Attack, Crunch, Hyper Fang) to help in neutral matchups. It still loses quite hard to Altaria, but puts up a fight against Whiscash (winning the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenarios with good IVs). It also checks Shiftry, Venusaur, Charizard, Noctowl, Alolan Sandslash and Froslass, though none are hard wins and all can turn negative depending on energy and shield usage.

Honchkrow is more similar to Shiftry in playstyle, even glassier (almost as much as Haunter) and equipped with Snarl quickly spamming its powerful STAB charged moves, Sky Attack and Dark Pulse. It can still struggle against Grass-types with the slightest energy disadvantage as even resisted charged moves hurt it a lot; for a similar reason it should almost always avoid the 2-2 scenario, where fast moves tear it down quite quickly. Honchkrow loses badly to Altaria and Noctowl, but unlike them, on the other hand, it’s an extremely hard counter to Bronzong. It also has positive matchups against Poliwrath, Alolan Marowak and Froslass.

Relevant Breakpoints and Bulkpoints

Throughout the article we’ve talked about a few relevant IV spreads that can change a pokemon’s key matchups, as they allow to hit particular breakpoints (ability to deal 1 extra damage with each fast move) or bulkpoints (ability to take 1 less damage for each opposing fast move, or to survive to a certain key point when referred to HP).

This table is meant to sum up the most important ones. Note that this is not a comprehensive list, and that having these stats is not by any means required in order to succeed with that one pokemon. You can check if your pokemon meet these stats by inputting its species, level and IVs here on PvPoke.com, in the “Advanced Stats/IVs” dropdown menu.

Pokemon Optimal Stat Motivation
Altaria 105.4-107 Attack Breakpoint vs Whiscash, can take it down before it gets to a 2nd Blizzard to win the 1-1 shield scenario
139 HP Bulkpoint vs Altaria, can tank one extra Dragon Breath to win the 2-2 shield scenario
Bronzong 111.6-114 Attack Breakpoint vs Altaria, secures the 1-1 shield scenario against even high IV opponents
Probopass 118 HP Bulkpoint vs Alolan Marowak, can get off one more Rock Slide to win the 1-1 shield scenario
Claydol 170 Defense Bulkpoint vs Altaria, can win the 2-2 shield scenario
Quagsire 114.6 Defense, or 166 HP Bulkpoint vs Altaria, can get off a 2nd Stone Edge without having to shield the opposing Sky Attack
Shiftry 86 Defense Bulkpoint vs Altaria, can win the 2-2 shield scenario with energy advantage
88 Defense, and 144 HP Bulkpoint vs Alolan Marowak, secures the 1-1 shield scenario
Froslass 114.7 Defense Bulkpoint vs Altaria, can win the 2-2 shield scenario
116.8 Defense Bulkpoint vs Togekiss, can win the 1-1 shield scenario
Poliwrath 136 HP Bulkpoint vs Whiscash, can win the 2-2 shield scenario with one Ice Punch bait
Sneasel 141 Attack Bulkpoint vs Whiscash, can win the 1-1 shield scenario

About the Author(s)

Writer and graphic designer for GamePress, from Sicily (Italy). Illustrator since childhood.

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