The Sinnoh Cup Simplified

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The Sinnoh Cup is coming to GO Battle League, from January 10th to the 24th, in Pokemon Pokemon GO. Like the Kanto Cup, the Sinnoh Cup is a Great League format that restricts players to using Pokemon that debuted in the Sinnoh Region (Pokedex #387-493). This restriction thins out most of the staple picks of the Open Great League and emphasizes Bastiodon, how wonderful.

The article below goes over the basics of the Sinnoh Cup Meta, catalogs some of the better picks of the Cup, and gives some sample teams and team building tips to help you get ahead of the Bastiodon meta. 

Sinnoh Cup Basics

The Sinnoh Cup can be broken down into 3 components: Bastiodon, things that beat Bastiodon, and everything else. Of the consistent Bastiodon beaters (aka “Tank Busters”), Gastrodon dominates its competition as both Lucario and Toxicroak are weak to its Mud Slap. Add Grass Knot Cresselia and Razor Leafers into the mix and you have one of the most Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) feeling metas to date. 

Given how RPS the Sinnoh Cup looks, it may be wise to abandon traditional strategies that try to maintain swap advantage, and instead aim to maintain energy and/or shield advantage. That said, if your lead is very weak to Bastiodon or Gastrodon, you may need to fight like hell to keep your lead Pokemon away from them. A better recommendation: Don’t lead with something that is super vulnerable to Bastiodon or Gastrodon, unless you’re emotionally prepared to submit to the fate of RPS.  

The Tanks

Bastiodon is the primary threat of the Sinnoh Cup, as it’s able to manage the widest variety of Pokemon, even without a shield (if you think about it, its face is a shield). As in the Open Great League, Bastiodon has as much potential to be dominated as it has to dominate. If you have Bastiodon hiding in the back, you’ll want to make sure to lure out and remove any Fighting or Ground-type threats to best set yourself up for victory.

Probopass is a pure Basitodon adjacent Pokemon. It can use either Rock Throw or Spark as a Fast Move. It should be noted that with a 97.28 Atk stat, Probopass gets a consistent Spark breakpoint on Bastiodon, flipping the matchup in all even shield scenarios. For Charge Moves, Rock Slide and Thunderbolt are the bread and butter, but replacing either move with Magnet Bomb will increase your anti-Bastiodon consistency. As with all Bastiodon sidegrades, the downsides to Probopass are its limited shield disadvantage wins and massive target on its back.

Empoleon has less hard Rock-Paper-Scissors matchups than Bastiodon and Probopass, but has more threat in disadvantageous matchups. For example, if it’s the late game and your opponent brings out Gastrodon, almost nothing is going to save Bastiodon, while Empoleon still has Hydro Cannon to work with. Empoleon also has a more straightforward win condition over Bastiodon than Probopass does. This all makes Empoleon sound more powerful than Bastiodon, but the drop in bulk and loss of Rock-type coverage is what keeps Bastiodon as a top threat and Empoleon as a sidegrade.

The Tank Busters

Gastrodon stands out as the most consistent Ground-type damage dealer in the Sinnoh Cup, Mud Slapping the snot out of everything in its path. Aside from Grass-types and the few Fliers in the Sinnoh Cup, Ground-type damage is relatively unresisted. Gastrodon’s primary drawback is that Grass-types shred it to pieces. 

Toxicroak and Lucario fill the same roles as Gastrodon, and have dynamic Charge Moves to threaten opponents with, where Gastrodon just has Body Slam. Their main drawbacks are their fragility and the fact that they get Mud Slapped by Gastrodon. You’ll want to use these Gastrodon sidegrades to overcome Gastrodon’s limitations in coverage and fear of Grass, while still laying the smack down on Bastiodon. For Lucario’s Charge Moves, the standard Power-Up Punch + Shadow Ball is recommended, but subbing out PuP for Close Combat could pack a surprise for opponents expecting a soft PuP or Shadow Ball.  

The Good Stuff

Cresselia is a massive Tank like Bastiodon, but lacks Bastiodon’s powerful resistances and weaknesses. Between her bulk, rapid energy gains with Psycho Cut, the Legacy Move Grass Knot, and Moonblast, Cresselia is often a strong safe swap and closer. Moonblast having such a high energy cost can leave Cresselia vulnerable to Dark and Grass-type Pokemon while her opponents still have shields though.

Froslass needs no introduction, as she is the best safe swap in most Cup formats. Here, she is reigned in significantly by Bastiodon’s existence. Bastiodon can fully farm down a Froslass to 90-100 energy, without spending a single shield. As a result, Froslass may be best used as anything but a safe swap. Once Bastiodon is eliminated as a threat, Froslass should be set to sweep.

Abomasnow is aggressive towards most Pokemon in the Cup, aside from Fighting-type Pokemon. Opponents using Gastrodon instead of Fighting-types, or Empoleon instead of Bastiodon will absolutely dread you. The added protection against opposing Grass-types is nice too. The primary drawback is if the opponent picks the “right” Pokemon, Abomasnow won’t have much impact. That said, it won’t go down without getting a few big hits in. The choice between Shadow and Normal is optional, with a slight preference towards the Shadow Abomasnow.

Togekiss uses Charm. Dread it, run from it, Charm arrives all the same. This Cup featuring powerful Steel, Poison, and Ice-type Pokemon should reign Togekiss in significantly. Considering the Poisons are sub Dark-type, once Steel-types are eliminated, there isn’t much stopping Charm from wreaking havoc upon the Sinnoh Cup. 

Drifblim is effectively a softer hitting Froslass, but with a better defensive sub-type and Icy Wind as a debuff move. In most Cups, Drifblim often feels like a weaker Froslass, but given Sinnoh Cup’s emphasis on Ground and Grass-type damage, Drifblim has many opportunities to pull ahead of its Ice-type sister. Grass-types and Gastrodon will realize they have made a mistake when they see this balloon float on it. 

The Wild Cards

Drapion is one of the best safe swaps in the Open Great League, and that doesn’t really change here. With Crunch’s debuff chance and Aqua Tail, it even has opportunities to overcome Bastiodon. Its main threats are The Tank Busters, but they aren’t anything an energy lead and Crunch debuff can’t manage. Drapion feeling so free to swap into gives a lot of credence to keeping a Lucario in the back, just to turn its smile upside down. 

In the Sinnoh Cup, Normal Drapion is preferred over the Shadow. Normal Drapion can manage Grass-types and Cresselia more reliably, while also having more potential to overcome Empoleon and Togekiss. That said, if Shadow Drapion gets enough of an energy lead, it can start to overtake Normal Drapion in the amount of matchup advantages. 

Skuntank and Shadow Skuntank function as Drapion sidegrades, trading Charge Move spam for heavy Fast Move damage. The main appeal to the Skunks is their reliability against Grass-types and Charm, with the added perk of bullying Drapion itself. The drawback however is that there is little hope against Bastiodon and Gastrodon, where Drapion’s Charge Move spam gives them more play there. Given the focus on Fast Move damage, Shadow Skuntank is preferred over Normal Skuntank.

Wormadam Trash Cloak rolls in as one of the most reliable answers to Grass-types and Cresselia, while also putting pressure on the Tank Busters, other Wild Cards, and Ice-type Pokemon. The Rank 1 XL Wormadam is preferred, but the non-XL Wormadam Trash Cloaks are roughly as good and can achieve Drapion breakpoints, most reliably at 107 Atk. The Drapion breakpoints are mostly a consolation prize, so it is still recommended to dedicate your resources to a big XL Wormadam. 

Core Breakers & Spice

Gallade and Gliscor stand out as the only 2 Pokemon that are able to manage both the Tank Busters and Bastiodon. Gallade being so fragile (even as a non-Shadow) paired with the slow hitting and exploitable Confusion makes it feel like a risky pick. If Gallade’s able to avoid Cresselia though, expect him to get shields or dish out some heavy damage. Gliscor on the other hand handles everything but Water and Ice reliably, but can be a bit too soft hitting at times, even as a Shadow.

For Gliscor’s moveset, it’ll want to use Night Slash and Earthquake. The Fast Move of choice is often Wing Attack, as it can chunk things down and benefits from a Night Slash boost. That said, experimenting with Fury Cutter could be interesting. For example, Shadow Gliscor with Wing Attack can beat Bastiodon in the 0 shield scenario by just dropping Earthquake, OHKOing it just before reaching Stone Edge. Normal Gliscor can also beat Bastiodon, but will eat a Stone Edge and will be forced to throw energy to close out the fight. If Normal Gliscor has Fury Cutter, then it can fully Fast Move farm Bastiodon down post Earthquake. How often will this precise scenario play out? No clue, but if you’re a Gliscor user, it could be worthwhile to sim out what you could do with Fury Cutter.

Shadow Grotle stands out as the #1 thing you don’t want to trap your Gastrodon and has a wide variety of 1-2 shield wins. As deadly as it may be, many of the better safe swaps in the Sinnoh Cup are already prepared for it. As a result, Shadow Grotle is best used as a surprise lead, a closer for when its checks are mostly eliminated, or as a safe swap that is meant to wear things down rather than win 100% of the time. Shadow is the preference, but the added bulk of the Normal could throw off expectations. 

Thanks to Sand Tomb, Torterra and Shadow Torterra stand out as Razor Leafers that can consistently overcome Bastiodon. Normal Torterra is alright, but the boosted Bastiodon consistency and Drapion potential puts Shadow Torterra ahead. If you missed out on Frenzy Plant, Stone Edge is arguably better here anyways (not that you’ll be using anything other than Sand Tomb most often). Torterra works well alongside Shadow Grotle in the back for a “Grasshole” combo or as a Grotle sidegrade. 

The other Grass-types of the meta can do a lot with a slight energy lead, but tend to land behind without one. Roserade stands out the most with Bullet Seed, as Weather Ball Fire enables it to manage Lucario and opposing Grass/Ice-type Pokemon, and Leaf Storm keeps all Pokemon respectful. Carnivine and Tangrowth have useful neutral coverage with Crunch and Rock Slide respectively, and can be less bait dependent than Roserade, but fear Lucario and Toxicroak more. As for Cherrim, its extra bulk and pure Grass-type can allow it to handle things Roserade might be too flakey for, but the lack of a good 2nd Charge Move generally holds it back. Note: Roserade and Cherrim may also be effective with Razor Leaf too. 

Munchlax and Lickilicky are noted for being “true neutral” Pokemon in this Cup, with a side of Ground-type damage for Steel and Poison-types. Their primary advantage are as core breakers for the Tank and Good Stuff groups. Their main weakness are the few Fighting-types of the Cup, but may still overcome them with shields down. Between the two, Lickilicky is preferred due to having Earthquake. Munchax has higher HP and Bulldoze does come 5 energy sooner, so that can play to its advantage. Being “neutral” in a RPS heavy meta can be nice, but sometimes the Lick Normals here feel a bit too soft to protect their more RPS aligned allies.

Prinplup is a unique, potential anti-Gast anti-Bast, Pokemon that carries Icy Wind and Bubble Beam for debuffing, along with Hydro Pump to ensure the opponent doesn’t get too comfortable. While Prinplup sounds good on paper, it suffers a bit from having to choose two of its three Charge Moves. Without Hydro Pump you’re at risk of putting no shield pressure on the opponent, with Hydro Pump many victories feel like a coin toss on if the opponent shields it or not, and without Icy Wind Prinplup has no way to hit Grass-types effectively. Prinplup can work, but the question is how often?

Shadow Bibarel’s aggressive Water Gun damage can give non-resisting opponents a lot of trouble in the late game. If it can clean up a weakened opponent for an energy lead, its Shadow boosted Surf and Hyper Fang may be enough to overcome Fighting and Grass-types before they rip it to shreds. Its intolerance to Fast Move damage and relatively slow Charge Moves holds it back significantly against high HP opponents, especially if they have shields, making it a less consistent pick than it appears on paper. 

Magnezone and Shadow Magnezone appear to be as explosive as they are in any Cup. Given that the Sinnoh Cup only has fragile Counter users and few dominant Ground-types, Magenzone has more opportunities than usual to be deadly in the late game. Their main weakness is their intolerance to Fast Move damage and relative inability to take Charge Move hits well, even before debuffing themselves. Electivire and Shadow Electivire function similarly, trading Mangezone’s wonderful Steel sub-typing for Ice Punch. 

Pachirisu is a solid, mono-Electric attacking Pokemon, that overcomes most neutral matchups. The struggle with Pachirisu is that exclusively having Electric attacks leaves it vulnerable to getting trapped by Ground and Grass-type opponents, even more so than Magnezone. To add, few “core meta” threats are vulnerable to Electric-type damage, which means its neutral victories or energy leads might not contribute much to an RPS dominant late game. For example, if your final 2 Pokemon are Pachirisu and Bastiodon and your opponent brings in Gastrodon, there isn’t much room to get out of that one.

Mud Slap Rhyperior stands out as the ultimate Bastiodon nemesis, fully farming it to 96-100 energy without spending a single shield. As a reminder, Rock Wrecker is only 50 energy and if the next mon in doesn’t resist it, they’re going to get Rock Wrecked. Unfortunately, Mud Slap Rhyperior leaves a lot to be desired in most other matchups, keeping it feeling more like a spicy meme than an established threat. As for Smack Down Rhyperior, the limited trapping opportunities makes it significantly less consistent than Mud Slap. With Mud Slap, you can at least maybe Fast Move down a weakened Tank Buster.

Infernape is an extreme meme that Bastiodon + Grass teams never want to see. With Fire Spin, Infernape can fully farm most Grass-type Pokemon, Lucario, and Froslass to 70-100 energy, by spending 1 shield. The next Pokemon in will then have 2 Close Combats or Blast Burns to contend with. To add to its viability, Infernape can also threaten Bastiodon in the 0 and 1 shield scenarios. 

Staraptor is a similar extreme meme that stands to farm down Gastrodon and Grass-types, but even as a non-Shadow is often too fragile to survive a single Fast Move from the next mon in. For example, Infernape is often at about 20-25% health post farm down, making its double Charge Move blast more consistent. The main advantage Staraptor has in the meme role is the Gastrodon matchup. 

As in the Master League, Powder Snow Mamoswine is a risky core breaker that threatens to beat Bastiodon, Gastrodon, and Drapion. The Gastrodon matchup is fairly comfortable for it, but Bastiodon and Aqua Tail Drapion can be tricky to navigate well. To add, Mamoswine can crush the entirety of the Sinnoh Cup with a shield advantage, but similarly gets crushed without one. Also, as in the Master League, Mud Slap Mamoswine sounds great until you sim it out and realize how underwhelming it is.

Dragon Tail Garchomp is interesting, as it’s the only Gastrodon sidegrade that can reliably counter Gastrodon. To add, Garchomp wears down just about everything in the Cup with its heavy Dragon Tail damage backed by Sand Tomb, Bastiodon included. Its main drawbacks are how fragile it is, especially when hit with neutral attacks, and how fast it melts against Ice-types and Togekiss.

Team Building Tips

Given that the meta has a focus on Bastiodon and Gastrodon, the following tips can help you get set up well.

If your lead is weak to Bastiodon, then having Lucario, Toxicroak, Munchlax, or Lickilicky as safe swaps could be good. 

If your lead is weak to Gastrodon, then having Cresselia, Roserade, Abomasnow, Froslass, Gliscor, Munchlax, or Lickilicky as safe swaps could be good.

If your lead is strong or neutral against Bastiodon and Gastrodon, then Drapion is highly recommended as a safe swap. Other potential safe swaps depend on the species in question and how well they manage Bastiodon and Gastrodon.  

These swaps are recommended because even if they do get hard countered, they will still likely deal a bunch of damage and/or get a shield before going down. With that, your next Pokemon should aim to get an energy lead and try to use that to help you overcome them throughout the battle. For example, even though Froslass gets absolutely destroyed by Bastiodon, it still deals about 40% damage per Shadow Ball. That said, other strategies prevail too. These are just simple recommendations to get you started on the right foot. 

Sample Teams & Cores

Team 1: Bastiodon + Cresselia (Grass Knot required) + X

The BastCress core is quite possibly the most oppressive in the Sinnoh Cup, as it features Bastiodon and its most synergistic safe swap Cresselia. Given the sheer bulk of these Pokemon, this core often doesn’t mind losing shield advantage to maintain swap advantage, and may just outlast opponents in the end, even when under constant pressure. 

Given the strength of the core and the RPS nature of the Sinnoh Cup, almost anything can work in the backline. Pokemon that deal heavy Fast Move damage are often preferred, such as Gastrodon, Toxicroak, Lucario, Grotle, Torterra, Togekiss, Munchlax, Lickilicky, Empoleon, and Gallade. If using Empoleon, you may want to consider it as the frontliner in order to wear down any Bastiodon counters while keeping Bastiodon itself concealed for the late game. 

Team 2: Gastrodon + Drapion (Aqua Tail + Crunch preferred, Shadow optional) + X

The GastDrap core capitalizes on Gastrodon’s synergy with Drapion to enable Drapion as a safe swap (either Shadow or Normal work). Given how much the tide of battle can turn with a couple extra Poison Stings and/or a Crunch debuff, Drapion is possibly one of the most unpredictable safe swaps to manage in the Sinnoh Cup. For the backline, you want to make sure you’re not 100% vulnerable to Bastiodon, but you don’t have to over prepare for it either. Lucario, Toxicroak, Abomasnow, Cresselia, Munchlax, Lickilicky, Roserade, Magnezone, and Bastiodon are recommendations. If you’re feeling spicy, consider running Infernape in the backline too. 

If you’re interested in running Gliscor to counter both Gastrodon and Bastiodon leads, the Gliscor + Drapion core has very similar team synergies as Gastrodon + Drapion. 

Team 3: Drifblim + Lucario + X

Drifblim in the lead is a potential blindspot for any teams that don’t lead Bastiodon. While Lucario isn’t exactly a “safe” swap, it is an aggressive pivot that threatens most of Bastiodon’s partners. Given how poor Drifblim’s matchup is against Bastiodon, you may want to fortify your backline with something that manages it decently, while also accounting for Froslass, such as Lickilicky, Munchlax, Gastrodon, Toxicroak, Magnezone, Empoleon, Probopass, Bastiodon, or Prinplup. For some added spice, consider Infernape or Shadow Bibarel. 

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