After a short break for the month of September, the Silph Arena is back for a second Season of competitive Pokémon GO PvP! Whether you want to confirm your rank or step your game up from Season 1, or you're new to the scene and want to know where to start, here is the right place to be. Start to prepare for the first of 10 themed monthly Cups: the Sinister Cup! Only Ghost-, Fighting-, Psychic- and Steel-type pokemon are allowed this time around, with a specific ban on Dark-types, Skarmory, Hypno and Mythicals (a.k.a Deoxys-Defense) which would have otherwise completely ruled the metagame.
The current Sinister Cup meta looks very diverse instead, though it still focuses on a few key pokemon — Alolan Marowak, Steelix and Poliwrath — which you will probably see on just about every team, and definitely want to have on yours too.
As always, we here at GamePress will do our best to guide you throughout Season 2 Silph Cups. Here’s our first monthly analysis on everything you need to know to compete in your local Sinister Cup, brought to you by lots of simulations on GoBattleSim and PvPoke, as well as lots of firsthand experience. Note that asterisks indicate legacy moves.
(Not-so-fun fact: this article was already finished just as Niantic dropped the huge PvP-oriented update to moves, which recently changed a lot of things in the meta. So, we had to start almost from scratch again. Thanks Niantic! And sorry to you, the reader, for the delay.)
Due to the forced exclusion of Dark-types, almost nothing in the Sinister Cup resists Ghost damage! This puts Ghosts at the top of the meta, as apex predators with few hard counters, for the most part. Every line-up should have one of these picks, and can very well opt for two.
Fire Spin or Hex + Shadow Ball and Bone Club
Already relevant a few times throughout Season 1, now Marowak shines as one of the few must-have picks for this Cup. It’s got high bulk, great typing, and the hard-hitting Shadow Ball, with Bone Club functioning as a way to bait shields or deal some quick extra damage. Due to its very low base power, you should go for Shadow Ball over Bone Club even when they’re respectively neutral and super effective, like against Steelix. Marowak generally doesn’t even need baiting to beat all the main Psychic threats, although, being part Fire, it must be careful about shielding the deadly Ground-type moves that some of them carry.
The recent addition of Fire Spin and Flame Wheel to Marowak’s movepool has sparked some discussion around possible alternative sets. While the latter has such horrible stats that it won’t earn a spot even over Bone Club, Fire Spin is as good of an option as Hex, if not better. It deals 50% more damage — meaning that it does the exact same damage when it’s resisted while Hex is neutral — but generates energy at a slightly lower rate. This creates a disadvantage in the race to Shadow Ball that is the mirror match but gives Marowak the coverage to flip the matchups against some of its popular counters such as Steelix, Mawile, and Girafarig. It could be well worth the tradeoff!
Hex + Shadow Ball and Ominous Wind
This hot air balloon flies high as the Ghost that performs best against fellow Ghosts, combining the power and shield pressure of Shadow Ball with the speed of Ominous Wind, which also has a 10% chance to activate a huge boost to Attack and Defense, potentially transforming Drifblim into an unstoppable tank at any given time. The matchup against Marowak (both sets) depends largely on baiting and priority, outside of the 2-2 shield scenario where Drifblim can safely win by going straight for Ominous Wind. The lack of coverage is more of a strength than an issue in this meta, where Ghost damage goes almost completely unresisted. The Flying subtyping makes it much more vulnerable than Marowak to Ice, usually coming in the form of Ice Punches from Fighting-types, and makes the matchup against Thunder Fang Steelix even more one-sided.
Hex or Feint Attack + Shadow Punch and Fire Punch
It may not look like it, but Dusknoir’s pre-evolution is the tankiest Ghost in the game! It misses the sheer force of Shadow Ball in the main Ghost mirror matches: the only way for it to overcome Marowak and Drifblim is shielding at least one Shadow Ball in the 2-2 shield scenario. Dusclops does have a spammier moveset instead, with Fire Punch as useful secondary coverage that provides a super-effective hit against the popular anti-Ghost Steelix. Dusclops actually beat the Thunder Fang variant quite reliably and the Dragon Tail one in the 1-1 shield scenario when carrying Feint Attack. This alternative, more damage-oriented fast move also allows it to pick up positive lead matchups against Marowak, Haunter and Banette, consistent wins against Girafarig, and the 1-1 against Cresselia. However, with a Dark fast move, it will struggle a lot more against Fighting-types, losing in almost every situation to Poliwrath in particular.
Shadow Claw + Shadow Ball* and Shadow Punch
You have to know what you’re doing to make the most out of this extreme glass cannon. Haunter will often go down quickly to fast moves, and absolutely requires shields to survive any charged move, but its great moveset and brutal Attack stat make it incredibly deadly in the right situations. If you’re lucky enough to have it, legacy Shadow Ball is one of the heaviest nukes in the game, heavy enough to take down tanks like Steelix and Probopass (respectively in the 1-1 shield scenario, and in the 1-1 and 2-2) if it manages to bait with Shadow Punch. Haunter usually outpaces the other Ghosts with shields up, only tying with Drifblim in the 2-2 depending on IVs. However, its biggest drawback is the secondary Poison typing which brings an ugly weakness to Psychic: 3 to 5 Confusion hits are enough to delete a Haunter, leaving it only able to force a shield at best against the Psychic-types that its brothers counter so well. The non-legacy variant seems strictly inferior this time around, though Dark Pulse is still viable since it brings the same coverage as Shadow Ball and is only much worse against Steelix and Poliwrath.
Shadow Claw + Shadow Ball and Thunder
The only other Shadow Clawer available (is that a thing?), conveniently not legacy and not weak to Psychic — though neutral Confusion still chunks it, as Banette is only slightly bulkier than Haunter, forcing close shielded losses against Bronzong, Claydol, and Cresselia. Being a bit slower than the other big Ghosts, it loses to them in 1-1 shield scenarios, but notably beats all of them in the 2-2 thanks to Shadow Claw’s power. For the same reason, it manages to beat Thunder Fang Steelix in the 1-1 and tie (depending on priority) with the Dragon Tail variant in shielded matchups. Banette seems to also fit well into a late-game role, as it trades speed for the extra coverage of Thunder, which, however, is rarely needed and can be omitted if you’re running on a budget. With a 1-0 shield advantage, it has an immaculate win rate against the meta: even the biggest tanks can’t take two Shadow Ball hits from Banette! This is a niche where it definitely shines over Haunter.
Powder Snow or Hex + Avalanche and Shadow Ball
The last spot of the spooky section goes to Froslass, as the Ice typing gives it access to the powerful Avalanche alongside good old Shadow Ball. Which fast move to go with is up for debate. Powder Snow’s faster energy generation comes in handy against Marowak (gaining the 1-1 shield scenario with a shield bait), Drifblim (tying while the Hex variant gets outpaced) and even Steelix. It two-shots the Dragon Tail variant with shields down, and even in the 1-1 with as few as 2 fast moves of energy advantage, while it’s better in shielded matchups against the Thunder Fang variant, tying or winning where Hex would lose quite consistently.
On the other hand, Powder Snow leaves it helpless against Haunter and does little damage to Psychic-types, which can usually take the frail Froslass down with Confusion if they’re willing to spend both shields. In those scenarios it does struggle even with Hex, only going even with Gallade and needing to bait twice against Cresselia, which it can’t even beat in any situation with Powder Snow. Hex is superior against Poliwrath too, which can give Froslass a run for its money.
There are a few alternative Ghosts picks worth considering if you aim to build an off-meta team. Golurk stands out for its unique moveset of Mud Slap, Shadow Punch and Earth Power. The Ground coverage allows it to beat Haunter and Marowak (if it doesn’t get baited) with shields up, wall Bastiodon and take down Steelix in the lead, at the cost of performing quite poorly against all Psychic-types except Bronzong. Dusknoir’s access to the newly buffed Psychic in addition to Hex and Ominous Wind, paired with decent bulk, gives it a surprisingly quick nuke for Poliwrath.
Without their usual Flying preys around, the dual role of Steel in the Sinister Cup is instead to keep Ghosts in check while walling Psychic-types. One or two should be included in a meta team, as they are extremely versatile picks, especially now that the nerf to Power-Up Punch made their counters, Fighting-types, less prominent.
Dragon Tail or Thunder Fang + Crunch and Earthquake
Usually sidelined in the staple role of Steel tank, the solid snake finally steals the spotlight. Its incredibly wide coverage cements its position as the second must-have pokemon in the Sinister Cup. Thanks to Dragon Tail quickly charging Crunch, it dominates both Ghosts and Confusion users alike, with the exceptions of succesfully shield-baiting Gallade and Haunter, plus sometimes Claydol. Earthquake terrorizes fellow Steel-types and provides a deadlier hit on Marowak — especially needed against the Fire Spin variant, which beats it in every shielded scenario unless it doesn’t bait while Steelix does in the 1-1. With shields down Medicham and Hydro Pump Poliwrath are about the only things able to beat it, and they’ll still have to take a big chunk of damage from Earthquake!
Recently, Thunder Fang added a layer of diversity to Steelix’s moveset. With such a hard-hitting Electric fast move it can give trouble to some of its hardest counters, tying Empoleon with shields and dealing consistent high damage to Poliwrath, as well as win even more convincingly against any Flying- and Fairy-type. However, due to the slower charging times it has to give up the matchups against Claydol, Dusclops and Fire Spin Marowak (even the Hex variant actually beats it with both shields), and it will generally struggle more in the mirror match despite gaining a slight edge in the 1-1 shield scenario.
Smack Down + Stone Edge and Flamethrower
The biggest tank of the Great League in this Cup only looks like a more polarized, less versatile version of Steelix. It gets walled way harder by Fighting-types, Gallade and Claydol, also picking up a loss to Bronzong on the way. It should also avoid Steelix itself, which can tank two Flamethrowers while hitting much harder at the same rate with Earthquake, taking on Bastiodon even at a shield disadvantage! On the other hand, Bastiodon cares even less about any Ghost standing in its way: it can just Smack Down Haunter, Drifblim, and Marowak while taking a Shadow Ball plus a Shadow Punch to its flat face, or three double super effective Bone Clubs (two if paired with Fire Spin). Quite the feats.
Spark + Rock Slide and Thunderbolt
As per usual, the mustached rock exists as a budget alternative to Bastiodon with the additional Electric flavor. It beats Drifblim and Dusclops just as easily, while it struggles more against Haunter and Banette, which can beat it if they land a Shadow Ball. It also loses just as hard to Counter users, Claydol and Bronzong, as well as getting walled harder by Steelix and losing to Marowak in the 1-1 (depending on IVs against the Hex variant) and especially the 2-2 shield scenario. However, it has much more potential than Bastiodon to clap back at Fighting-types such as Gallade (which needs to shield bait in order to win) and the most popular one, Poliwrath. This last key matchup is the main reason to consider Probopass in the first place: by going straight for Thunderbolt, it flips the script against Poliwrath unless the opponent sacrifices both shields or manages to land a Hydro Pump!
Waterfall + Flash Cannon and Hydro Pump
The penguin fills the key role of anti-meta Steel-type of the Sinister Cup. Exploiting its resistances and Waterfall’s brute force it can afford to farm down Bastiodon and Steelix, only needing to spend a shield against the latter. And what’s also weak to Water? The king of the meta: it deletes Alolan Marowak in just 9 fast moves! Empoleon generally performs much better with the more shields it has since it’s not that bulky and shields let Waterfall have the time to do its magic. In 2-2 scenarios it remarkably only loses to Fighting-types, making it a great lead or safety switch, while even most Psychic-types can one-shot it if it does not shield. However, it will consequently very often come out of a winning matchup with shield disadvantage, also due to its extremely slow charged moves. That should always be taken into consideration when building a team of three around it.
Bite + Power-Up Punch and Play Rough
Mawile is blessed with a synergistic Steel/Fairy typing but had always struggled to become relevant because of its lackluster movepool. Now it finally finds itself in a meta where Bite is a very strong asset, and at the same time it just got a rework, gaining two elemental fangs plus, most importantly, Power-Up Punch. Thanks to it, this wild card can buff its extremely aggressive Bite at a decent rate and munch through all Ghost- and Psychic-types! Only Marowak and Dusclops can give it some trouble at times, as they bring Fire coverage and last long enough to win in the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenarios. Mawile is not the tankiest either, so it generally prefers hiding behind shields: without them it can also go down to Gallade, Claydol, Bronzong and Drifblim. In fact, despite its generally negative matchups against the other Steel-types listed above, with 1 shield it can overcome Probopass, and with 2 Bastiodon and Dragon Tail Steelix (if it doesn’t bait twice). Mawile’s biggest drawback, however, is the fact almost never has to use a “real” charged move. Play Rough threatens its Fighting counters (and Iron Head is cheaper but doesn’t shine in coverage), but most of the time you want to just deal as much damage as possible with Bite through Power-Up Punch. Since this was recently halved in damage, opponents can safely keep their shields against Mawile and continue the match with a shield advantage — as long as they don’t have another thing weak to Dark in the back, in that case it’ll go down very quickly too!
A case could be made for Forretress as an off-meta choice, but it’s not nearly as dominant against Ghost-types as the ones above, losing hard to Fire Punch Dusclops, Haunter and Drifblim, and only doing marginally better against Fighters.
Fighting is the type that has undergone the biggest nerf in the update a few days before the beginning of the Sinister Cup, because of the other nerf to Power-Up Punch, the arguably overpowered attack that the Fighters relied on. It got halved from 40 to 20 damage, and that means that it now hits as hard with 4 boosts as it previously did from the start! In terms of coverage, they’re also the weaker type in the meta on paper, being walled by Ghost and destroyed by Psychic. At the same time, they are still quite essential to counter all the Steel-types that fare so well against the rest of the meta. Thus, each line-up should have at least one of these.
Bubble + Power-Up Punch and Ice Punch or Hydro Pump
OR Bubble + Dynamic Punch and Ice Punch
OR Mud Shot* + Dynamic Punch and Hydro Pump
With Grass and Electric being almost non-existent, this tanky, angry frog quickly gained traction as a versatile meta staple, being able to take on Ghosts better than any other Fighter and only truly fearing Confusion users. However, things got a bit more complex after the update. The classic set of Bubble, Power-Up Punch, and Ice Punch still do its job against Ghosts, winning reliably against Drifblim and Feint Attack Dusclops without needing to bait and tearing through Marowak, Banette and Haunter in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios. But without the time to buff Bubble and let it do most of the work, now in late-game situations Poliwrath often lacks the firepower to finish things off. Not even the Steelix matchup is a guaranteed win outside of the 2-2, though the Thunder Fang variant loses in the 1-1 too. That’s the main reason to consider running Hydro Pump over Ice Punch: you give up the advantage over Drifblim (unless it’s without shields or falls for a bait), but gain a lot of threat over Marowak, Steelix, Probopass, and even Medicham.
Alternatively, you can choose to forgo Power-Up Punch completely and use Dynamic Punch as the main nuke, best paired with Ice Punch for speed and baiting. It’s just as deadly as Hydro Pump with shields down, but hits much faster, possibly surprising opponents who predict a more common PuP as the first charged move. With it, Poliwrath dominates the mirror and the Steelix matchup, only going down to a Thunder Fang one that’s willing to spend both shields. The lack of ability to buff Bubble, on the flip side, makes the Marowak matchup much closer, though still positive.
While Bubble is generally regarded as the better fast move in this meta, if you have a precious legacy Poliwrath with Mud Shot and want to use it, just know that it’s absolutely viable! It’s not advisable to run it with Power-Up Punch since after the update that combo hits just way too softy. Instead, you could get the most out of Mud Shot’s crazy energy generation by running two nukes together to transform Poliwrath into a deadly dedicated closer. With Mud Shot, however, the shielded matchups with Steelix will always be flimsy and often turn into losses; that also holds true for the 2-2 against Marowak.
Counter + Power-Up Punch or Dynamic Punch and Psychic or Ice Punch
You probably all know Medicham by now. When eligible for a Cup, it is guaranteed to be relevant. In the Sinister Cup though, unlike Poliwrath, it will go down quite quickly to the prominent Ghosts and often even get farmed. On the other hand, since it doesn’t mainly rely on Power-Up Punch for Fighting-type damage, it beats all Steel-types much more consistently, and all other Fighting-types too thanks to its Psychic subtyping! Until recently, it used to almost always run Counter, Power-Up Punch, and Ice Punch. While that still performs very well, we’re now seeing other variants become popular too.
Recently buffed while PuP was nerfed, Psychic now hits at a decent speed and much harder than Ice Punch, providing a nuke that, especially if buffed, even Marowak must be careful about — though it should win anyway if it doesn’t play around. Psychic Medicham also takes the mirror, unless the opponent shields Psychic twice, and dominates fellow Fighters extra hard. But at the same time, it loses all its “punch” against Drifblim and Claydol, while with Ice Punch it can actually overcome the latter without even needing to bait. Dynamic Punch is also viable as a no-nonsense alternative to Power-Up Punch, and actually allows Medicham to have the upper hand against Bronzong — something that it could only do pre-nerf. Psycho Cut, while tempting because of its fantastic energy generation, seems like an inferior choice due to how difficult (and often impossible) it makes it for Medicham to do its main job, beating the Steel-types.
Counter + Power-Up Punch and Shadow Ball
Lucario’s problem when Fighting is featured in a Cup is always that it’s weak to other Fighters. However, the most popular one in Sinister (Bubble Poliwrath) only ties with it and even gets demolished in the 2-2 shield scenario. That leaves some room for Lucario to shine, as long as it’s got shields to hide behind of course. Due to its frailty — apart from a tie against Bronzong and a unique win by baiting on Cresselia — the Steel resistances are not enough to beat Confusion users, nor Ghosts. Its only hope against those is to somehow land a Shadow Ball, something that can happen if Lucario is set up correctly by the rest of the team: it needs either a sizeable energy advantage (obtainable after farming down anything Steel) or a shield advantage. In a 1-0 shield scenario, it can take on just about anything, including the biggest tanks and aggressive counters like Medicham.
Counter + Cross Chop* and Night Slash
Counter + Cross Chop* and Rock Slide
With the stocks of Power-Up Punch users going down, the few Fighting-types that don’t rely on it seem to be getting more attention. Primeape and Machamp, being quite glassy, need the speed of legacy Cross Chop (a clone of Dragon Claw in terms of stats) to be viable. They can both farm every Steel-type very efficiently but will go down to just a few Confusion hits. Primeape at least can usually get off Night Slash as a parting gift, though it doesn’t hit very hard and is only enough to one-shot Girafarig and get Bronzong very low. The Dark coverage is useful to threaten Ghosts too, even securing wins against Feint Attack Dusclops and Banette. Machamp keeps those positive matchups thanks to Rock Slide, which is actually a decent move and it’s just as effective on the most popular Ghosts, Marowak and Drifblim. It can tie with the former in the 1-1 shield scenario depending on IVs, and even get a solid win in the 2-2 if it baits once and shields a Shadow Ball. Overall, Machamp and Primeape play much like alternative versions of Poliwrath, as Fighters which fight back against Ghosts. They also both lose to Medicham and have the upper hand against Poliwrath itself, unless it manages to land a Hydro Pump or a buffed Ice Punch, and outside of the 2-2 shield scenario if it just decides to go for Power-Up Punch.
Among the off-meta picks, Hitmonchan is a decent budget option if you unlock the second charged move for 10k stardust as a Tyrogue, and has the same main moveset as Medicham. Toxicroak resists Fighting just like Medicham but melts just too quickly to Confusion, and the Poison coverage doesn’t do much in this meta.
To round out the meta, after the Fighters we have the Psychic-types as a direct answer to them. So, unless stated otherwise, you can assume that all of these picks below will mainly beat Fighting-types and lose to anything Steel and Ghost — except Haunter, which gets deleted by Confusion! It is, however, the most varied group in the Sinister Cup, with many different typings and all of them come with different niches and purposes.
Confusion + Future Sight and Moonblast
It’s her first appearance in a Silph Cup, but we will soon learn just how beefy Cresselia is. Spoiler alert: as much as Umbreon, right below king Bastiodon. So much that it can easily tank a Shadow Ball to the face (the deadliest one, Haunter’s, does about 80% HP), a tale that no other Psychic-type in this section can live to tell. As such, this pure Psychic-type legendary can win matchups that it really shouldn’t, such as Dusclops with 0 and 1 shield each, Empoleon in the 1-1, or Drifblim and Bronzong with shields down. As you could guess from its slow but heavy charged moves, it performs best in late-game scenarios.
Psycho Cut helps it charge much sooner but, apart from the different playstyle, the results overall are quite similar, only leaving Cresselia much less threatening to Drifblim, Dusclops, and Haunter. Aurora Beam is marginally faster than Future Sight and Moonblast, but it’s such a terrible move that it ends up being less energy efficient than the others even with type advantage, like against Steelix or Drifblim.
Confusion + Psyshock and Bulldoze
As a part Steel-type, this tanky bell does not resist Fighting, making it a very soft counter to Medicham; it does, however, rely on many other key resistances, including Dragon, Ice, Steel, Rock, Fairy, and a double one to Psychic which allows it to beat most other Confusion users. Steelix often needs to land an Earthquake or two Crunches to get rid of it, leaving Bronzong time to bite back with Bulldoze. This coverage move also lets it beat Bastiodon (though it has to bait a shield with Psyshock to win in the 1-1 shield scenario) and have a nasty surprise for Marowak, which it even takes down with Confusion in the 2-2 if Marowak doesn’t bait.
Feint Attack is also viable as a fast move, and it may throw opponents off as it really changes Bronzong’s role. With it, it can win the mirror and have an even bigger edge over other Psychics, but at the cost of almost always losing to all Fighters and struggling more with Haunter and Bastiodon. The super-effective Dark damage is not enough to flip the matchups against Ghosts: neutral Confusion actually hurts them more!
Confusion + Earth Power and Psychic or Earthquake
Claydol fills a unique niche as the only Confusion user able to beat Steel-types, including Bronzong as a part Ground-type. Well, Bastiodon is the only one it truly dominates, winning even at a 0-2 shield disadvantage, while it can’t do much to Empoleon and Mawile; they farm Claydol down with their super effective fast moves if they spend a shield. While the Thunder Fang variant is an easy win, Dragon Tail Steelix is quite tricky: since one Earth Power is often not enough to KO, Claydol goes down with no shields, while the 1-1 shield scenario depends largely on IVs and the 2-2 on IVs plus charged move priority. Earthquake nets the 1-1 win, and that’s the main argument for running it over the more generally useful Psychic. Other than that, Claydol obviously loses to Ghosts (unless it’s able to land a hit on Marowak) and, due to its Ice weakness, it can often have a tough time countering Poliwrath and Medicham. The former generally needs to land a boosted Ice Punch to win, though Bubble already does lots of damage, while the latter can even just use Ice Punch to win the 1-1 shield scenario, with the 0-0 and 2-2 coming down to IVs.
Confusion + Leaf Blade and Close Combat
Not nearly as tanky as the three above, Gallade relies more on shields and on its versatility, given by a diverse moveset and the sheer force of its Confusion, which takes Haunter down in just 3 hits and Poliwrath in 6 or 7! Being half Fighting comes with pros and cons: Close Combat gives it consistent wins against Bastiodon and bait-dependent ones against Steelix, but other Psychic-types generally beat it as Confusion hits Gallade for heavy neutral damage. It also obviously loses to Ghosts, only snatching a tie with Drifblim and Dusclops with 2 shields up, while Marowak can safely win by going straight for Bone Club. Overall, as a Psychic-type that can compete with Steel, Claydol seems like a much more reliable and versatile option.
Confusion + Thunderbolt and Psychic
If you thought Mawile being a relevant wild card was weird enough, enter this palindrome giraffe. Girafarig works as a counter to Poliwrath and Ghosts at the same time, as the only pokemon in the Sinister Cup to resist Ghost thanks to its Normal typing! Since it doesn’t have much bulk to it, Marowak can still give it trouble if it lands a Shadow Ball, while Dusclops can farm it down with Feint Attack and still give it trouble from time to time if running the classic Hex set. Drifblim, on the other hand, is a sure win unless it’s lucky enough to get the Ominous Wind buff — at which point Shadow Ball becomes lethal. This extra niche is balanced by the fact that Girafarig can’t beat Medicham with shields up, nor other Confusion users apart from Gallade, and it also loses extremely hard to Steel-types. Psychic’s use is very limited and seldom gives a real advantage, so you can very well choose to be cheap and run Thunderbolt only.
Charm + Synchronoise* or Psychic and Shadow Ball
Though significantly less prominent, there are Psychic-types in the Sinister Cup that don’t rely on Confusion. One of them is Gardevoir, which has another hard-hitting fast move in the Fairy-type Charm. As such, it makes quick work of any Fighter and notably has positive shielded matchups against all the fellow Psychic-types above apart from Bronzong, which it can only overcome by giving up shield advantage. Charm is also too much for Drifblim to handle, taking it down before it gets to a second Ominous Wind if not by undertapping, while the other Ghosts don’t mind it at all, either thanks to resistances (Marowak and Haunter) or plentiful bulk (Dusclops). Besides those, Gardevoir has to look out for all the Steel-types. The best that can happen against one of them is the 2-2 shield scenario against Dragon Tail Steelix, if the opponent either only uses Crunch or gets Earthquake shielded twice; everything else is an almost automatic loss. Synchronoise is nice to have since it’s Gardevoir’s cheapest charged move, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Dragon Tail + Sky Attack and Hydro Pump
Lugia is another extremely tanky Psychic pick and one that focuses on the coverage and power of its charged moves rather than on Confusion spam. It still counters Poliwrath well with Sky Attack, and will only go down to a buffed Ice Punch — while that’s not enough for Medicham, which deals basically zero additional damage with the double resisted Counter. Among its Steel-types counters, Lugia can actually turn the tables on Dragon Tail Steelix thanks to Hydro Pump: in the 1-1 shield scenario it gets to it twice to force a CMP-tie, or snatches the win with a successful bait; in the 2-2 it needs two of those to come out on top. Hydro Pump also constitutes a major situational threat for Alolan Marowak, especially given that, like Cresselia, Lugia is bulky enough to survive a Shadow Ball. Extrasensory and Dragon Tail perform very similarly as fast moves, but with the latter Lugia gains more positive matchups against other Psychic-types. It completely walls Claydol and Gallade, beats Cresselia and Girafarig quite reliably and has a close one against Bronzong if it lands a Hydro Pump (which is doable without baiting in the 1-1), only leaving space for a sound loss against Gardevoir.
Water Gun + Ice Beam and Psychic
This adorably dumb friend makes the cut as a wild card in the Sinister meta, particularly standing out for being the Psychic-type with the most consistent shielded wins over Steelix — the Dragon Tail variant, because even being quite tanky, it can’t handle Thunder Fang. Slowbro also performs well against Marowak thanks to Water Gun, though it still loses to it, just like to other Ghosts (unless it manages to shield Shadow Ball twice). Slowbro resists everything that Poliwrath and Medicham can throw at it, but only the recent buff to Psychic gave it a way to actually beat the former in the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenarios; with both shields up it goes down to Power-Up Punch spam, but never needs to block while Poliwrath has to invest 2 shields. Water Gun damage coupled with the resistance to Confusion also isn’t nice to fellow Psychics: among them, it only fears Bronzong and shielded Gardevoir, with Gallade and Cresselia also slightly edging out the 1-1. Slowbro seems to fill a “jack of all trades” role, which might work if played well.
Thunder Shock + Thunder Punch and Wild Charge
Not only it got its Psychic buffed, like many in this list: Alolan Raichu also gained speed with the addition of Thunder Shock as a fast move. Its spammy Electric damage gives it a unique spread of positive matchups: it can take care of Poliwrath and Medicham (only really struggling when hit by a boosted Ice Punch), Drifblim and Gallade (though it has to bait to outpace the opponent’s second charged move in the 1-1 shield scenario), Empoleon (going down only if it forces two shields, while it never has to use one) and even tanks like Bronzong and Probopass! On the other hand, while Raichu can hurt most things with neutral damage, it has quite a few weaknesses that it needs other members of the team to cover. Ghosts and Steelix are the most damning ones, given how popular those are, but there are also Claydol, Gardevoir, Bastiodon, and Mawile.
Even after the buff Psychic isn’t really needed, as Wild Charge already destroys what you would use Psychic against, plus much more. Grass Knot is worth some consideration instead: it lets Raichu pick up unexpected shielded wins against Claydol, and do a bit more damage to Steelix before inevitably being farmed and taken down — unless it’s a Thunder Fang variant, in which case it can even force a tie in the 2-2! With only Thunder Punch it won’t be as reliable against Poliwrath and especially Drifblim, though.
If the 9 Psychic options above weren’t already enough, you can choose to be a real weirdo and start looking at things like Uxie. It is actually quite underrated since its role and matchup spread are very similar to those of Cresselia, only a little less thick and swapping Moonblast for Thunder as secondary coverage. This gives it an edge in the occasional Lugia and Empoleon matchups but leaves it totally walled by Claydol. Chimecho is another interesting pick, thanks to Extrasensory’s good energy generation combined with Shadow Ball. Though the pairing is not quite powerful enough to take down the bulkiest Psychics and outspeed the best Ghosts, it can do a surprising amount of work if Chimecho is put in the right scenario.