As announced by Niantic in the Season 4 blogpost, from October 26 at 1:00 p.m. PDT (GMT −7) to November 3 at 1:00 p.m. PST (GMT −8), something completely new will come to the GO Battle League in Pokémon GO! In honor of the spooky holiday, we’re going to compete in the Halloween Cup, the first official Silph-esque format with type restrictions and a CP cap of 1500. Only Poison-, Ghost-, Bug-, Dark-, and Fairy-type pokemon will be allowed. Encounters with Halloween costumed Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle will also be available from set rewards!
In this article we’ll go through all the meta relevant pokemon in this brand new format and analyze their different roles, to help you decide which team to build and be prepared for every situation. Hopefully you can get better rewards and climb the rankings with this knowledge!
Note to readers: throughout the article, legacy and exclusive moves will be marked with an asterisk (*).
The King of the Meta
Bubble + any combination of Ice Beam, Play Rough and Hydro Pump
Is anyone surprised? No presentations are needed here, Azumarill is not spooky at all, it’s just the usual tanky, dominating powerhouse — possibly even more here than compared to open Great League! The question is not if you’re going to face Azu, but which version of Azu you’re going to face, and which one you’re going to use. All moveset options have their pros and cons:
- Ice Beam + Hydro Pump offers the widest coverage, with the only issue of losing the mirror matchup against Play Rough variants. With mirror matchups coming up so often, however, that can be a big turn-off. This set would probably be the best on the safe switch, since not many opponents would counter-switch their own Azu.
- Ice Beam + Play Rough is the most efficient in the mirror and against Dark-types such as Umbreon, Zweilous and Obstagoon. However it can lack in coverage, notably making the Marowak matchup far less comfortable. The sheer power of Hydro Pump can also be sorely missed when shields are down: with this set you can’t really one-shot the likes of Mawile, Beedrill, Alolan Muk, Wormadam and Wigglytuff.
- Play Rough + Hydro Pump is the slowest, most hard-hitting combination, suited for the role of a closer. Play Rough charges in 6 fast moves compared to Ice Beam’s 5: that seemingly small difference can be crucial, especially when in need of a bait or against aggressive pokemon like Haunter, Gengar and Charm users. Giving up Ice Beam also leaves Azu totally toothless against Grass-types, and more vulnerable to Flyers like Golbat and Drifblim.
Most teams are going to include Azumarill, so you better be prepared to face it! These aren’t its only counters, as we’ll see in the Core Breakers section, but they’ll certainly be some of the most common ones.
Volt Switch + Lunge + Discharge
Recently buffed by the introduction of Lunge, a clone of Icy Wind (decent base power with guaranteed debuffs to the opponent’s Attack), the Electric spider now has the opportunity to shine even more for Halloween. The oppressive damage of Volt Switch makes it the premier Azumarill counter, as long as it has shields to hide behind; in fact, it’s so squishy that it almost always needs shields to work. Its typing helps with that, leaving it only weak to Fire and Rock: Galvantula is able to hold its own against everything else, especially with the help of Lunge’s debuff ability.
Poison Jab + Drill Run* + X-Scissor
The other anti-Azu Bug-type has the key advantage of hard countering Grass-types compared to Galvantula: if your team composition is vulnerable to Grass you might want to consider it, but there are a few trade-offs to keep in mind. Beedrill generally loses to the Ghosts that resist Poison Jab and it’s a bit of a softer Azumarill counter, to the point that it doesn’t work too well as a direct counter-switch. With a small energy advantage, Azu can even win by going straight for Ice Beam, as long as it correctly shields Drill Run twice. Speaking of Drill Run, the Community Day exclusive move is basically mandatory, as it comes in handy against too much of the meta to be effectively replaced by Sludge Bomb. Therefore, we recommend playing the Shadow variant only if you have one with Drill Run. If you do, enjoy the convincingly positive matchup against Galvantula (straight X-Scissor for the win, while the regular variant can lose in the 1-shield scenario) and the boosted damage against Azumarill, though you’ll almost never be able to tank an Ice Beam.
Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* + Sludge Bomb
Razor Leaf + Leaf Blade + Acid Spray
Snarl + Leaf Blade + Foul Play
The Halloween meta isn’t too kind to Grass-types, the hardest Azu counters. Yes, there’s no Skarmory, but most teams will include some sort of Bugs, Fires and Poisons. If the core of choice is Galvantula-Azumarill, though, a Victreebel behind two shields (especially the destructive Shadow variant) can put in some serious work! Razor Leaf chunks the spider right before it can get to a third Lunge, and it’s still the thing that Azu hates facing the most. Venusaur can also beat Galvantula, albeit by a far smaller margin, in the 1-shield scenario going straight for Frenzy Plant — the only feat which the otherwise equivalent Ivysaur can’t achieve. Venu or Vic is mainly up to your playstyle: the former counters the other, can actually tank an Ice Beam and has a better Umbreon matchup, while the latter beats Sableye, Gengar and Haunter more consistently.
You could also take the third option, Shiftry, and it would be a fantastic choice. It goes toe to toe with both the others, and with 2 shields it can also beat Galvantula straight Leaf Blade. However, Shiftry’s unique advantage over not only other Grasses, but also the Bugs, is being able to closely beat Marowak in the 1-shield scenario, as well as straight up countering all other Ghosts. Being weak to the occasional Counter or Charm user seems like a small price to pay in comparison.
Countering Azumarill’s Counters
If Azumarill is a bulky rock and its counters are the paper, these are the scissors that round out the main dynamics of the Halloween metagame.
Fire Fang + Power-Up Punch + Iron Head or Play Rough
This little critter is quite expensive to build — from almost 200k for a Lucky one, to almost 400k for a Shadow — but this Halloween Cup might be the best moment to break the bank. Beyond obviously feasting on Galvantula and Beedrill, a shielded Mawile pretty much only loses to Alolan Marowak and Azumarill (even without Hydro Pump), plus a handful of off-meta pokemon like Scrafty, Qwilfish and Dusclops. Grasses, Darks, Poisons, all have to bow down to the brute force of Fire Fang and Power-Up Punch. The issue with such a combination is that it doesn’t force shields at all. If you use Mawile you’ll have to accept shield disadvantage as a permanent condition, and learn to thrive with it. Iron Head and Play Rough are too slow to be reliable, and landing them will be a satisfying, but very rare occasion. As with most pokemon that rely on fast move damage, using the Shadow variant is recommended, but the difference is not that big and the matchups generally play out in the same way, just faster.
Fire Spin + Bone Club + Shadow Ball
The other Fire attacker doesn’t have the exceptionally wide coverage of Mawile, as it adds losses to Haunter, Gengar and most Dark-types, sometimes even the part-Grass Shiftry. On the other hand, Marowak hard counters Mawile itself, it’s smaller and safer investment, it can tank a charged move from Galvantula and Beedrill, and it can actually put on shield pressure thanks to the threat of Shadow Ball. That thing hits even Azumarill for almost half health, and can take it down if it’s not running Hydro Pump or finds itself at a shield disadvantage.
If you’re feeling spicier, know that Marowak is not the only Ghost with Fire coverage, and it’s not the bulkiest or the spammiest either. Dusclops has both of those titles and can fill a similar role, beating Galvantula (always tank the first charged move and go straight Fire Punch), Beedrill and Mawile (even straight Shadow Punch). It has more issues with Grass-types, going down to both Venusaur and Victreebel if they shield twice.
Confusion + Iron Head + Bug Buzz
The Steel typing and the Confusion damage allow Wormadam to beat both Bugs and Grasses too, though it’s a much softer counter to Galvantula (losing to ones with high IVs in the 2-shield scenario) and it almost always can’t touch a shielded Shiftry. The main issues with Wormadam is that it loses hard to the other pokemon in the same role, due to its double weakness to Fire, and that despite dealing neutral damage to Azumarill, it still doesn’t manage to beat it most of the time. A bold Azu will barely get to Hydro Pump twice without having to shield anything, and even one without Hydro Pump surprisingly wins the 1-shield scenario. The one thing that Worma truly has over its Fire competitors is a really convincing win over Gengar and Haunter — but does that compensate for its downsides? Probably not.
The other Bug/Steel-types Forretress, Scizor and Escavalier have many of the same issues, but they also generally lose to Ghosts, and on top of that they don’t counter Galvantula or Beedrill. That leaves them with wins over Grass- and Dark-types, which seems a bit too small of a niche.
The Core Breakers
If the perspective of making a team with something like Azumarill, Galvantula and Alolan Marowak (totally cool, by the way) and just playing the game of rock-paper-scissors doesn’t excite you, this is the section for you.
Shadow Claw + Shadow Punch* + Sludge Bomb or Shadow Ball
Shadow Claw + Shadow Punch + Sludge Bomb or Shadow Ball
As far as threatening the pokemon above, this spooky duo of glass cannons is probably the best — so good that they could quickly become part of the core too. With Sludge Bomb and shields they cleanly counter Azumarill without needing to bait at all. Shadow Ball does require one bait to win the 2-shield scenario; we recommend running it only if you want to use them as closers, and if you don’t mind getting walled by Dark-types. Anything Dark is Haunter and Gengar’s kryptonite, and the less is in the meta, the more powerful they will be. While Sludge Bomb can help, especially against unsuspecting Scrafty, Zweilous or Shiftry, it often won’t be enough to flip matchups. Anyway, Shadow Punch alone is enough to take care of Alolan Marowak, Beedrill and Venusaur, and it forces Galvantula, Mawile and Victreebel to go at a shield disadvantage in order to win.
If you’re sold on these two Ghosts now you must be wondering, which one is better? Well, the difference is so tiny that your decision should probably come down to which IV spreads you have on them. Assuming they’re both good, Gengar’s higher Defense stat can get you handy bulkpoints against Haunter itself, Mawile, Victreebel, Golbat and more, though that might cost you a loss in the 1-shield scenario against Venusaur.
Shadow Claw + Foul Play + Return* or Shadow Sneak
Sableye confirms its role as a fantastic safe switch. If you have the Purified variant with the exclusive move Return and you get it a couple of fast moves ahead, the only pokemon able to shut it down without the risk of conceding shield or switch advantage will be Umbreon and Charm users. If you only have a standard one with Shadow Sneak, that list grows to include most other Dark-types such as Shiftry, Scrafty, Obstagoon and Zweilous. In reality, most of the time a Sableye switch-in will be answered by an Azumarill, which isn’t impossible to handle with either moveset. Outside of the safe switch role, Sableye also functions as a counter to Beedrill, Marowak and Mawile, only going down to the latter while gaining a 2-shield advantage. The matchups with Galvantula and Venusaur are much closer and can be flipped by a single fast move, as they normally end on unfavorable CMP ties.
Smack Down + X-Scissor + Rock Slide
Smack Down* + Crunch + Stone Edge
Crustle’s unique Bug/Rock typing makes it an anti-meta force to be reckoned with: it easily smacks down both Bug- and Fire-types and it’s not too afraid of Grass, consistently beating Shiftry and sometimes even Venusaur depending on IVs. It also holds its own against most Dark-types and gets pretty solid wins over Sableye, Gengar and Haunter. The downside is that it loses quite hard to Azumarill and gets walled by Mawile, though it can still deal some decent damage with Rock Slide.
That’s where the far glassier Tyranitar comes in, with its Community Day move Smack Down. Thanks to its Fire resistance, it manages to closely beat Mawile outside of the 2-shield scenario. It also does better against Ghosts, but has to shield everything from Galvantula and Beedrill while farming them down, and loses hard to Grass-types — though if it shields twice, depending on IVs it can sometimes overpower Venusaur and Shiftry with fast move damage alone!
Water Gun + Aqua Tail + Sludge Wave
Long-time Silph Arena Cup players know how surprisingly dangerous the little pufferfish can be. It effectively functions as a spicy alternative to Azumarill here, countering both Mawile and Marowak just as well. The Poison subtyping grants it a positive matchup against Azu itself, although it can become really bait-dependent with shields up because of how slow Sludge Wave is. It also has more play against Gengar and Haunter (always winning the 2-shield scenario) as well as Beedrill (given that it manages to avoid the Drill Run). However, unlike Azumarill it’s extremely squishy and shield-needy and it loses to pretty much all Dark-types.
Wing Attack + Poison Fang + Shadow Bal
Halloween’s main Flying-type functions as a hard counter to Beedrill and all Grass-types that only really fears Galvantula within the core meta. It also generally loses to Azumarill, but can seriously threaten it with Poison Fang spam. Shadow Ball’s heavy damage allows it to have the upper hand over Marowak and Mawile. However, outside of that core Golbat doesn’t do too well, going down to most Dark-types and needing to bait in order to beat Gengar and Haunter. If you have a Shadow variant without Frustration, know that it’s arguably better, especially against Azu (winning even the 1-shield scenario with a small energy advantage) but not mandatory by any means.
Drifblim performs really similarly to the bat, with the added benefit of debuffing opponents thanks to Icy Wind. However, it doesn’t do as well against Azu and almost always loses to Shiftry
Infestation + Sludge Bomb + Ice Beam
This spicy purple blob is surprisingly bulky, and counters both Azumarill and Grass-types quite reliably — though it does need really good IVs to tank a Hydro Pump and still beat Azu in the 2-shield scenario. It can also beat Galvantula if it doesn’t get baited with Lunge. On the flip side, Swalot does get completely walled by both Mawile and Marowak, and generally loses to Beedrill and Ghosts too. Yes, Gengar can survive an Ice Beam! The recently buffed Infestation helps with super effective damage against Dark-types instead.
The decent Dark matchups set Swalot apart from other Poison-types such as Muk and Tentacruel. The latter is the hardest Azumarill counter in the game, and can really win games if you manage to align it correctly. Being also a Water-type, it picks up losses to Galvantula and Grass-types, but Hydro Pump is so slow that it generally still loses to Marowak too. It can at least beat Mawile, and by going straight Acid Spray too!
The Dark/Poison family is notorious for being very versatile, being only weak to Ground, which doesn’t even really exist in this meta. It’s only natural, then, for them to make for great safe switches. A Skuntank with high IVs and an energy advantage performs incredibly well against the core meta: apart from beating Azumarill, Marowak and Grass-types, it can force Galvantula and Mawile to go at a 2-shield disadvantage in order to win, and if it doesn’t get baited, it can beat Beedrill too. Alolan Muk is a much more effective Ghost counter, but a softer one to Azu and it doesn’t work quite as well as a safe switch, losing quite hard to Galvantula and Mawile. Drapion has awkward matchups against Ghosts instead, but it can beat Galvantula if it manages to land a Sludge Bomb, and the Aqua Tail spam allows it to take down Mawile in the 1-shield scenario.
With the likes of Azumarill, Galvantula and Mawile being so meta relevant, bringing out the heavy Dark-type guns might not seem like the best idea. Well, first of all, these two don’t really fear Bugs too much: Beedrill has to shield twice to win against both of them, and Zweilous itself can shield twice to farm down Galvantula! Even against Azu and Mawile they can deal some major damage. However, their true strength lies in countering the core breakers, rather than breaking the core themselves. They’re the hardest walls to all kinds of Ghosts. Zweilous also functions very well as an anti-Grass thanks to its Dragon resistances. The oppressive Dragon Breath damage can threaten pretty much anything without a Fairy typing.
If you already managed to evolve and build one, Mandibuzz combines some of the best traits of the two above, being as tanky as Umbreon and countering Grass like Zweilous, while also performing much better against Beedrill and the occasional Fighting-type. All of that comes with a weakness to Electric — though Mandibuzz can still beat Galvantula with shields down, and even in the 1-shield scenario if a Lunge goes unshielded! It does generally lose to most fellow Darks, especially if it’s not running any Flying move. With Snarl, having Aerial Ace really helps to seal the Shiftry matchup, while Shadow Ball gains a win over Mawile. If you’re leaning on the latter, consider also pairing with Air Slash to keep the Flying coverage and easily farm down Grass-types. The two moves combined can deal better neutral damage to Azumarill, allowing Mandibuzz to win if it spends one more shield than the opponent.
The other new addition Bisharp isn’t as interesting, as a very inconsistent glass cannon that’s completely walled by Azu and weak to Fire, though it can still beat Marowak if it lands a Dark Pulse. Despite resisting Grass, its matchups against Venusaur and Victreebel are quite iffy. And if you’re wondering about Krookodile, it can’t exist under 1500 CP since Sandile is only available out of eggs.
Much like with Darks, it may seem like a bad idea to use Fighting-types in a meta filled with Fairy, Bug, Ghost and Poison, but don’t count them out too soon. Beyond beating down on Dark, being a Poison-type itself, Toxicroak can beat Azumarill and Grass-types quite consistently (only the 2-shield scenario against Victreebel is pretty much impossible to flip). It also counters Mawile quite well, getting off 2 Mud Bombs without having to shield anything, and can deal serious damage even in its losing matchups against Galvantula, Beedrill and Marowak. Being Dark-types, Obstagoon and Scrafty beat Marowak and all other Ghosts instead, at the cost of losing against Azu and Grass. Obstagoon at least has a shot at beating Azu thanks to Gunk Shot, if it manages to bait correctly or it comes in when shields are already down. Scrafty, on the other hand, is a much more reliable Mawile counter.
We all know by now how powerful (and annoying, if you’re on the receiving end) Charm is, and it’s no different for Halloween. Their matchups are very straightforward: they prey on Dark-types and lose to pretty much anything that resists Fairy, which mainly includes Marowak, Mawile, Venusaur, Victreebel and Beedrill. In this meta, though, their most interesting feat is farming down both Azumarill and Galvantula.
Shadow Gardevoir only needs one shield to do that against both, as long as it gets an Attack breakpoint against Azu. However, its Psychic subtyping gives it a consistent loss to Gengar and Haunter. Those two don’t have such a good time against the Normal-type Wigglytuff, as they can struggle to reach a second Sludge Bomb, and can just surrender if they’re running Shadow Ball instead. Wigglytuff also has a much closer matchup with Marowak and doesn’t need to spend a shield to beat Galvantula, but it does have to use both (only forcing one) against Azumarill. The true Azu counter in the Charm family is the new Grass-type Whimsicott, which with good IVs wins in all even shield scenarios. It can also uniquely beat Shadow Victreebel, with the downside of being weak to Fire too.