The Season 5 of Pokémon GO Battle League will continue with the Kanto Cup for its first week, replacing the controversial Little Cup. This time only pokémon with a Pokédex number between 1 and 151 will be allowed, and the CP limit will be the standard 1500, meaning that the pokémon you build will be much safer investments for the future in the Great League. Considering that the next and final format of the Season is going to be the Catch Cup, where you’ll be absolutely forced to build your team from scratch, it’s safe to say that the Kanto Cup is the best time to spend your resources if you’re on a budget but still want to take this unique opportunity to reach Rank 10 and catch that Pikachu Libre! The best pokémon in the Kanto Cup will all be very relevant in future iterations of the open Great League too.
In this article we’re going to take a look at all the best picks for the Kanto Cup, recommend their optimal movesets and analyze their different roles to put a balanced team together.
Note to readers: throughout the article, legacy and exclusive moves will be marked with an asterisk (*).
The Core Meta
Some of you may remember that back in Pokémon Red and Blue, the original Generation 1 videogames, Psychic-types were rightly considered overpowered. It would only seem fitting, then, that the Kanto Cup metagame seems to revolve around a single Psychic-type.
Confusion + Shadow Ball & Fire Punch or Thunder Punch
The yellow creeper has very solid defensive stats and outputs high amounts of damage with its largely unresisted fast move. As for the charged moves, compared to the open Great League there’s much more value in running Shadow Ball, super effective in the mirror match and against Alolan Marowak. You should pair with either Fire or Thunder Punch, depending on what coverage your team needs more: Fire is mainly useful against Alolan Sandslash and Grass-types, while Electric hits heavier against Water, Flying and isn’t resisted by Fire. Lastly, a note about the Shadow variant: while generally preferred in the open Great League, here it’s on par with the regular one, so feel free to choose either one depending on what you have.
Many pokémon can hang with Hypno in the Kanto Cup, but unlike Azumarill back in Halloween, only a handful can counter it somewhat consistently. Whether you want to play your own Hypno or not, you probably want to include at least one of these counters in your team deal with all the ones that you’ll inevitably face.
Snarl + Dark Pulse & Sludge Wave
The best counter to Hypno, as well as a fantastic generalist, especially when shields are down. Nothing resists both Dark and Poison, and its only weakness (Ground) is almost non-existent in this Cup.
There is another viable Dark-type, Alolan Raticate, which counters Hypno even harder. However, the Rat does most of the same stuff as Muk while being much worse against Fighting- and Fairy-types. It also struggles more against Alolan Marowak, losing in the 2-shield scenario due to Quick Attack doing next to no damage.
Fire Spin + Shadow Bone* & Bone Club
This is the time to power up your Marowak from last month’s raid day, if you haven’t already. The exclusive move Shadow Bone is particularly handy here to defeat Hypno without needing to bait, though Shadow Ball still performs fine otherwise. A-Wak is a softer Hypno counter and a riskier pick than A-Muk, having a lot more weaknesses; the ones to Dark and Ghost are shared with Hypno too, so it doesn’t even pair well with it. However, compared to A-Muk it does much better against Fighting, Fairy and Steel.
Lick + Body Slam & Superpower or Earthquake
Usually outshined by its little brother Munchlax in the Great League, Snorlax was actually already underrated. It’s only slightly less tanky and it’s got a better, more unpredictable set of charged moves. The Lick damage and the double resistance to Ghost allow it to narrowly beat Hypno and farm down Marowak, while the neutral Body Slam spam puts in work against pretty much everything else. Superpower is the preferred second charged move for the super effective hit on Ice-types, but a solid argument can be made for Earthquake’s one-shot potential against Alolan Muk.
Lickitung is a valid alternative to Snorlax, doing most of the same things but with the generally less useful Power Whip as a second charged move. It’s harder to obtain too, as it needs to be maxed out and it could only learn Body Slam as a raid day-exclusive move back in February (or with an Elite TM).
So at this point you’re prepared to counter Hypno, and you may or may not play a Hypno of your own. You probably need something else to round out your lineup — well, the possibilities are many! Here are all the best of them.
Shadow Claw + many viable combinations
It’s a pure Psychic-type like Hypno, it generally beats Hypno thanks to Shadow Claw and it’s even more versatile, keeping opponents on their toes like nothing else. It’s also much squishier than Hypno though, having to rely more on shields and having more issues against heavy hitters such as Charm users. The big question with Mew is always which moveset is best, and the answers always vary. In the open Great League the most relevant right now is Surf and Wild Charge, which performs very well here too if you don’t wanna have to TM it again. Wild Charge hits very hard when timed right, but Surf is particularly useful to reliably beat Hypno, Alolan Marowak and Shadow Machamp in the 1-shield scenario. Keeping in mind that Mew prefers having one charged move at 40 Energy or lower like Surf, especially if you want to use it as a lead, there are many other interesting options to combine such as Dragon Claw, Rock Slide, Psyshock, Flame Charge, Dark Pulse, Grass Knot. You should build your Mew around the coverage that your team needs, or build your team around the coverage that your Mew brings.
Counter + Cross Chop & Rock Slide
Punchy Champ has risen to the top of the PvP meta with the introduction of its Shadow variant, which continues to impress here, even in a Hypno-heavy meta. Outside of that terrible matchup (and the Wigglytuff one), it can threaten pretty much anything with its high damage output and the wide coverage of Rock Slide. Alolan Muk, Snorlax and Ice-types are Machamp’s favorite prey, and with some baiting it can take down Marowak too, making it a very effective partner for your Hypno.
Charm + Ice Beam & Play Rough (Wigglytuff)
Charm + Ice Beam & Psyshock (Ninetales)
In GO Battle League, whenever Charm users are available, you already know they’re going to mean danger. With 2 shields Charm deletes pretty much anything that doesn’t resist it, which means all of the pokémon listed above except Alolan Marowak! Wigglytuff doesn’t even go down easily to the latter thanks to the double resistance to Ghost, which also grants it a positive matchup against Hypno in all shield scenarios. Alolan Ninetales can’t do any of that due to its Fire weakness, but it performs better against fellow Ice-types and has a quicker charged move in Psyshock. Clefable is also viable, but strictly inferior to Wiggly.
Ice Shard* + Surf & Skull Bash (Lapras)
Ice Shard* + Icy Wind* & Water Pulse (Dewgong)
They function as bulky generalists. The most consistently only counter Dragons and (somewhat) Alolan Muk, but they don’t really take any hard losses either. Machamp often needs to spend an extra shield to come out on top, and Hypno struggles even with Thunder Punch. If you’re undecided between the two, know that Lapras hard counters Dewgong and does much better against Alolan Marowak, but the Gong is generally more powerful in neutral matchups thanks to the debuff ability of Icy Wind.
Powder Snow + Ice Punch & Bulldoze
The Steel typing makes Slash a very hard counter to Wigglytuff and Dragons, and a more consistent one to Alolan Muk, even without having to go for the super effective Bulldoze. However, it doesn’t make as good of a generalist as the two fellow Ices above, due to the crippling double weaknesses to Fire and Fighting.
Dragon Breath + Aqua Tail & Dragon Pulse (Dragonair)
Dragon Breath + Dragon Claw & Hurricane (Dragonite)
As long as you can cover for their weaknesses to Ice and Fairy, the Dragons can function very well as generalists too. Their resistances allow them to beat all kinds of starters and they have balanced matchups with pretty much everything else in the meta. Dragonite is especially powerful as a Shadow, and it’s so squishy that it doesn’t really need the coverage of Hurricane. It does better than Dragonair against Machamp, but in a lot of matchups it needs 2 shields to perform at its best.
Gust* + Aerial Ace + Brave Bird
The OG Normal bird has been recently buffed by the introduction of Gust, and here its matchups are actually quite similar to the Dragons: it’s mainly weak to Ice (plus Electric) and gets outpaced by Charm users, but its matchups against the core meta are otherwise quite playable. Its advantage lies in the capability to farm down Machamp, resist most damage coming from Alolan Marowak and Snorlax, and wreck any Mew that doesn’t manage to land a Wild Charge.
Volt Switch + Rock Blast & Stone Edge (Graveler) or Wild Charge (Golem)
The Alolan rocks may seem spicy, but their matchups against the core meta are legitimately impressive. They can counter both Alolan Muk and Marowak, which makes them fantastic bodyguards for Hypno, and hold their own very well against Hypno itself and Snorlax too — especially Golem which has a quicker (though riskier) nuke in Wild Charge. Even Charmers often have to go down two shields in order to beat these two! Out of the pokémon listed above they’re only really weak to Machamp, though without Stone Edge, Golem really struggles with Dragonair too.
Volt Switch + Thunder Punch & Wild Charge
The other notable Electric in the meta is so frail that it can’t truly hard counter anything, only consistently beating the Ice/Water-types. However, Wild Charge’s damage paired with the baiting potential of Thunder Punch allows Raichu to pose a serious threat to almost anything your opponents throws at it. If the baits work even Alolan Muk has no escape, and Marowak and (with a small energy advantage) Charmers often have to go down 2 shields in order to win. Raichu’s real counters are Grasses and Dragons.
Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant & Sludge Bomb (Venusaur)
Razor Leaf + Leaf Blade & Acid Spray (Victreebel)
The Grass/Poison-types in this meta have the huge issue of being weak to Hypno and getting walled by its main counters, Alolan Muk and Marowak, rendering them useless against huge portion of the meta. Outside of those matchups they would actually be great, as they hard counter Fairies and Electrics and can also beat Lapras, Dewgong, Machamp, Snorlax and most variants of Mew. They’re still very risky picks, though.
Fire Spin or Dragon Breath* + Blast Burn* + Dragon Claw
It’s more versatile than the Grass starter, as it can actually threaten both Hypno and its counters, though it doesn’t consistently beat either and often has to rely on shield baiting with Dragon Claw. Zard only really fears Electric- and Water-types, though it can still deal solid damage to them. It needs Fire Spin to beat Charm users and Alolan Sandslash, but with Dragon Breath it can farm down real Dragons and deal more consistent damage to Alolan Marowak.
Water Gun + Hydro Cannon* + Skull Bash or Ice Beam
The third, tankiest and slowest Kanto starter is also the most underrated! Blastoise can snatch shield advantage from the generally losing Hypno and Machamp matchups, it wrecks Alolan Marowak and goes toe to toe with Alolan Muk and Snorlax. Charm users have to go down 2 shields to beat it and even Electrics don’t appreciate the Water Gun damage. That’s mainly only resisted by Dragons, Lapras, Dewgong and Grasses, and Blastoise has coverage moves to hit all of those too.
Shadow Claw + Shadow Punch + Sludge Bomb or Shadow Ball
The infamous Great League glass cannons can’t handle Hypno’s Confusion damage and struggle more against Wigglytuff (even with Sludge Bomb) compared to the other main Ghost-type Alolan Marowak. On the other hand, they beat Marowak itself and make for much better counters to Machamp.
The main targets of these spicier Poison-types are obviously the Fairies, like Alolan Marowak, but unlike the latter they usually can’t beat Hypno due to their weakness to Psychic. Golbat is also vulnerable to Ice and Electric, but can beat Marowak itself and function as a soft counter to Machamp. Kantonian Muk has more balanced matchups across the board, while Beedrill can take down Alolan Muk with the Community Day-exclusive Drill Run.