The third monthly Cup of the second season of competitive Pokémon GO play, hosted as always by Silph Arena, brings an original set of rules and restrictions. The Timeless Cup intends to bring you back to the main series games, as you can only choose pokemon from the Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh regions and you must include one, and only one, starter in your lineup. On top of that, many targeted bans were placed on Fighting-, Normal-, Fairy-, Flying-, Steel- and Psychic-type Pokemon, as well as legandaries, mythicals, Alolan and Galarian forms, Umbreon and Sableye.
If you want to quickly check the eligible pokemon in your inventory, after choosing a starter you can get the remaining five members of the team from the results of this search:
At least in its early stages, the Timeless Cup is looking like one of the most interesting ones in terms of team building. The starter you pick will greatly influence how you put together the rest of the lineup, but ironically, starters are not the most meta defining pokemon in the Cup, and each one of them has suitable replacements available. That title goes to Dragon- and Ice-types, namely Dragonair and Lapras, but also their ‘doubles’, Kingdra and Sealeo, which are the true staples that you will see on almost everyone’s team for reasons that we’ll explore below. For this reason, they’ll be analyzed before the starters.
Whatever the starter, the way to build a basic meta team is including Dragonair (or Kingdra), Lapras (or Sealeo), a Grass-type, an anti-Grass (whether Fire- or Poison-type) and a Water-type. To fill the last spot you can double up on any of those groups, since they all include pokemon that fill very different secondary roles, or you can include one of the many wild cards that populate the borders of the Timeless meta. There is also enough freedom in team building that you can go without one of these groups (even the staples!) and still succeed.
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, thoughout the article, asterisks indicate legacy moves.
Surprisingly (and luckily, for the sake of team building variety), the two meta defining pokemon of the Timeless Cup are not starters! Yes, we just said that the first step to building a team is picking a starter, but we’ll have to look at these two before even starting to consider starters, in order to actually understand their pros and cons. The staples are the best and most versatile all-rounders in the format, and as the name suggests, you are going to see them on pretty much everyone’s team, like Umbreon and Alolan Ninetales back in Ferocious. You’ll want to have them on your own too.
Dragon Breath + Aqua Tail + Return* or Wrap or Dragon Pulse
Being a pure Dragon-type, this elegant snake resists all the elemental types and it’s only weak to Ice and Dragon in this Cup. Fairies are banned, and so is Steel, so nothing even resists Dragon (apart from the not relevant Empoleon, which ironically still loses). If you combine all of the above with aggressive Dragon Breath damage and the spammy Aqua Tail, you have a monster that generally counters all starters and can win almost any neutral matchup, of course with some situational exceptions that we’ll explore later.
There a few ways to go with the second charged move, that functions as neutral coverage for the Waters, Grasses and Dragons that resist Aqua Tail. If you caught a Shadow Dratini with a decent IV spread, purify and build it to get the exclusive move Return on it. If that’s not the case, or you already have a standard Dragonair ready to go, don’t worry — despite its bad reputation, Wrap performs pretty much exactly the same and it’s even slightly more efficient, dealing 10 more damage for only 5 more energy, meaning 2 fast moves! And lastly, if you like mindgames, the slower and less reliable Dragon Pulse offers a heavy surprise hit. That gives Dragonair more punch in the late game (though it’s still the kind of pokemon to perform best earlier on) as it gains unshielded wins over the likes of Meganium, Quagsire, Relicanth, Skuntank, Muk, and has the potential to take down a Lapras or Sealeo sometimes! However, being often locked into Aqua Tail when shields are up or the HP is low can hurt its consistency. The choice is up to you.
Ice Shard* + Surf + Skull Bash
It was only a matter of time before a huge tank like Lapras, already relevant back in Tempest, Kingdom, and Rainbow (and Cliffhanger), would outright dominate a Silph Cup. It’s the Ice Shard variant this time around, so if you don’t have one from its May raid day ask around; luckily, unlike for Last Resort Umbreon, finding a legacy shouldn’t be too difficult.
Lapras is the single pokemon with the most powerful coverage over the whole main meta. While Surf threatens Fire and generally beats all ‘mudboys’ (Swampert needs to land the Earthquake to win, and Quagsire needs an HP or energy advantage), Ice Shard is key to hard counter Dragonair and hit Grass hard. It goes as far as often beating Venusaur with shields up, though the bulkier Meganium and more aggressive Razor Leaf users still take it down quite reliably. If your opponent has neither, Lapras becomes one of the safest switch-ins in the meta and can beat almost anything else with 2 or 3 fast moves of energy advantage. This includes some of its supposed counters like Relicanth (in the 1-1 shield scenario, if it doesn’t get baited) and Water Gun Lanturn (by going straight Skull Bash). Speaking of Skull Bash, it is a must-have for the common Water mirrors, beating even Dragon Pulse Lapras, so don’t feel bad about TMing away legacy Ice Beam on your best one. It is a slow move, but high tankiness and good energy gains allow Lapras to still fire it off reliably and make the most out of the guaranteed Defense buff that comes with it. Skull Bash will also probably be the preferred set in the future, as Water mirrors are always a big thing.
The Staple Doubles
This group is an extension of the true staples of the Timeless Cup listed above. They fill a similar role, with good matchups all over the board and even some better ones, but they’re not meant as replacements for them — though you could use them that way as well. Instead, we recommend playing them together with their counterparts to form the extremely solid double Dragon, or double Ice cores. Including one of those two (possibly even both!) in a lineup is a very solid strategy, and it’s why you should highly consider these options before we move on to the starters.
Dragon Breath + Outrage + Hydro Pump
Kingdra is a peculiar Dragon with the secondary Water typing, meaning it takes neutral damage from Grass and Electric but it’s also not weak to Ice, and it doubles up on its resistances to Water and Fire too. Because of this, unlike Dragonair, it can handle Lapras fairly well: thanks to Outrage being slightly faster than Skull Bash it usually wins with shields down, in the 1-1 if it doesn’t get baited by Surf, and narrowly in the 2-2. However, to achieve this Kingdra needs to meet a bulkpoint at around 127 Defense, and to not let Lapras get a couple of fast moves ahead; if that happens, Lapras will win every time without needing to bait. Having such high Defense also helps it get a bulkpoint against Dragonair, though the matchup between those two is always very close and can be swung either way by any small energy or HP difference. Against the whole meta, the aggressive Dragon Breath damage and incredibly slow charged moves make Kingdra truly stand out in two situations in particular. One is when it’s willing to spend both shields, as it only goes down to Razor Leaf users, Meganium, Sealeo, Quagsire (if it goes straight Stone Edge) and Whiscash (even with straight Mud Bomb). The other is when the opponent has no shields, losing to Dragonair with Return or Wrap, Victreebel, Haunter, and unless it has top-notch IVs, to Venusaur and Swampert too. Even more remarkable is the fact that with a 1-0 shield advantage it can beat literally everything in the Timeless Cup! On the other hand, it struggles much more in the 1-1 scenario, the most common one, though it never goes down without a fight. Setting up Kingdra correctly is key for its success, but if done well and consistently, it can be very rewarding.
The other Dragon in the Timeless Cup is Shelgon, with the same typing as Dragonair and similar stats. Maybe they're even too similar, and Shelgon is handicapped by its utility charged move requiring 45 energy instead of 35, picking up losses to the likes of Charizard, Skuntank, Venomoth in the 1-1 shield scenario: to put it bluntly, Shelgon is just Dragonair but worse, and it doesn’t make as good of a partner as Kingdra. It can replace Dragonair if you don’t have one, if anything. Using it to form a triple Dragon core could be an option too, if you’re feeling really extreme.
Powder Snow + Body Slam + Aurora Beam or Water Pulse
Dragonair is to Kingdra what Lapras is to Sealeo. It has almost the same amount of bulk and an even more energy-oriented Ice fast move which allows it to rely mainly on Body Slam spam to muscle its way through a great number of matchups. That’s all it needs to always take down Dragonair and Venomoth, as well as Kingdra, Swampert, Skuntank in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios, and Muk in the 1-1 only. The matchup against Lapras itself is very close, as Sealeo narrowly loses in the 0-0 and 1-1 if the opponent goes straight for Skull Bash, but slightly edges out the 2-2 regardless. Compared to Lapras, Sealeo also doesn’t counter Quagsire, Whiscash and Fire-types as well. The two ‘mudboys’ actually tie with it in the 1-1 depending on priority, while the 2-2 is respectively favorable and unfavorable for them by small margins. As for Fire, it loses quite consistently to Ninetales (especially the legacy variant), Sunny Castform and often to Charizard too.
But remember, all of the above is achieved by using Body Slam only! Water Pulse helps mitigate some of Sealeo’s Fire problems and beats almost all of them when it lands. If you aren’t worried by Fire, though, Aurora Beam seems like the most relevant choice to cover the very common Grass-types. With it, Sealeo can actually take down Meganium and Venusaur if it baits successfully, and with an energy advantage of 4 fast moves it can threaten even a Victreebel switch-in in the same way.
Ice Shard + Avalanche + Shadow Ball
Glalie is not a true Lapras double like Sealeo, as it doesn’t have the Water typing or the Normal coverage, it handily loses to Lapras and Sealeo themselves (unless it manages to land Shadow Ball twice) and it’s even downright weak to Fire-types. It has iffy matchups with ‘mudboys’ too: Quagsire always wins unless you get an energy lead, which is also true for Whiscash and Swampert in the 2-2, with the latter taking the 0-0 too. Glalie still beats Poison-types, only struggling in the 2-2 shield scenario against a legacy Venomoth and against a Flamethrower Skuntank with energy advantage. The one thing it has in common with Lapras is slaying Dragonair, and doing it well: Glalie only surrenders to one with energy advantage that is willing to spend both shields, thus gaining shield advantage in the process as it can take one Aqua Tail. Its strongest asset is that unlike Lapras and Sealeo, it handles all Grass-types. It does need high Defense IVs to bring that stat over 121 at least, but once that’s done Glalie can farm down Victreebel with a shield and usually survive a Frenzy Plant (unless the opponent's IVs are quite Attack weighted) to beat Venusaur in every scenario, though Meganium is tanky enough to get to a third one and come out slightly ahead in the 2-2 only.
Powder Snow + Avalanche + Shadow Ball
Though the extra Ghost typing has allowed it to outshine its brother in the past, here it comes with pros and cons. The main pro is that it walls Sealeo by double resisting its Body Slam. It also resists all of Venomoth’s charged moves and has STAB on Shadow Ball. However, those small perks come with lower bulk and much less consistent performance overall. All shielded scenarios against Dragonair and Grass starters come down to priority, except for the 2-2 against the former which is a huge loss due to Powder Snow not doing nearly enough damage by itself. For the same reason it gets farmed down by Victreebel and Ludicolo with a shield, very much unlike Glalie.
Powder Snow + Weather Ball (Ice) + Ice Beam
The cold variant of Castform is as bulky and as spammy as Sealeo, with the difference that Weather Ball benefits from STAB and can be super effective. This makes it the hardest counter to Dragonair, Meganium and Venusaur at the same time, beating them quite easily in all scenarios. Among Grass-types, it only loses to Victreebel and Ludicolo if they shield twice, gaining shield advantage as it only needs to do it once. It also ties with every ‘mudboy’ depending on priority and IVs, it narrowly but reliably takes down Venomoth and Muk, while Skuntank can beat it with Flamethrower in the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenario. That’s where we get to its huge drawback: it doesn’t have anything to hit Ice, Water and Fire with. Whenever it runs into a Lapras, Sealeo, Blastoise or Ninetales it will be nothing but dead weight and will be exploited to set up their next matchup.
Now that we have Dragonair and Lapras locked down, let’s take a look at the Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh starters to choose from — remember, you must bring one, and only one in your lineup! Personal favorites will likely play a part into this choice, but we’re here to tell you all the facts about the first and second choices of each typing. Of course they all need their exclusive Community Day moves to shine. If yours don’t have them and you can’t line up a trade, you’re probably better off just waiting a couple of weeks: all exclusive moves will be conveniently available again on December 14th and 15th!
Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* + Earthquake
Historically overlooked because it loses hard to Venusaur and doesn’t have anything to hit Charizard with, now that those two are restricted and less common Meganium can finally shine for its other qualities. First of all, it is the tankiest starter and the one that best threatens the Dragon-Ice core. To do so it does need a decent IV spread (keep a good Chikorita to evolve on December CD!): at least 137 Defense, 140 if possible, to hit bulkpoints against both Dragonair and Lapras. If it does, it will beat the former with straight Frenzy Plant if shieldless and with straight Earthquake in the 1-1 shield scenario — no need to bait! It does lose the 2-2, the only situation where Lapras can give it some issues as well, though Meganium should still get a narrow win unless the opponent somehow sneaks an extra Ice Shard in. Having good IVs also helps Meganium tank an Aurora Beam to beat Sealeo reliably, while Kingdra is an easy win with shields up, unlike Venusaur which can’t always handle it. Another thing that sets Meganium apart from its Kanto counterpart is the wide coverage of Earthquake, which makes it the toughest Grass to deal with for Poison- and Fire-types. Everything not named Charizard, Venusaur or Venomoth isn’t safe as a counter-switch and will often need to burn shields to come out ahead, especially if one gets baited with Frenzy Plant.
Air Slash or Fire Spin + Blast Burn* + Dragon Claw
The iconic Fire-type is a very hard counter to Grass thanks to the double resistance given by the Flying subtyping, which makes even Razor Leaf innocuous. Its powerful moveset keeps it quite versatile otherwise: Blast Burn keeps even a tank like Lapras on its toes as it almost one-shots it, and the speedy Dragon Claw is useful for baiting and coverage on the common Dragons. With the neutral damage from Air Slash, Charizard can actually even beat Kingdra in the 1-1 shield scenario, as well as Dragonair if it gets priority! Air Slash also hits fellow Fire-types and its Water counters harder, while keeping the same advantage over Grass, at the price of generating slightly less energy compared to Fire Spin. Needing one more to get to the first Blast Burn and the second Dragon Claw rarely makes a big difference; one exception is the Sealeo matchup, which the Fire Spin variant wins in the 1-1 by going straight for Blast Burn and Air Slash doesn’t even with baiting. If you’re one of the few able to rock a rare legacy Charizard with Wing Attack and Flamethrower, that is certainly a viable variant too, though not necessarily the optimal one. Quicker energy gains can come in handy, but the inferior damage output prevents Charizard from overcoming Dragons and threatening Lapras and Sealeo that much.
Mud Shot + Hydro Cannon* + Earthquake
The spammiest king of ‘mudboys’ can fire its trademark Hydro Cannon as often as every 5 seconds, and that’s all it needs to destroy every counter to Grass, except sometimes for a shield baiting Venomoth. Earthquake is a nuke that nothing wants to take, and it makes Swampert one of two starters in this list capable of taking on both Dragonair and Lapras, though neither is an easy matchup at all. The only sure win is against a Dragonair with no shields, while with one still up Swampert needs to bait with Hydro Cannon (which is not needed against Kingdra, the only difference between those matchups), and if the opponent shields twice it will lose regardless. Lapras is even trickier, as you need a high Defense stat — 108 at least, 110 is ideal — to meet an Ice Shard bulkpoint and have a chance in the first place; even then, Swampert loses this 2-2 shield scenario, again, needs baiting to win the 1-1, and can lose the 0-0 too if Lapras goes for Skull Bash. However, a Swampert with just 3 or 4 Mud Shot of energy advantage is much scarier, as it beats Lapras and Dragonair in the 1-1 without needing to bait! Its main downside is the double (and lone) weakness to Grass: Razor Leaf will tear through it before you even see it's coming.
Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* + Sludge Bomb
In terms of difference from non-starter alternatives Venusaur surely stands out the most, for the same reason that made it relevant throughout Season 1: it fills the Grass role well while beating every competitor thanks to the Poison typing and coverage. Sludge Bomb also comes in handy as a potent neutral hit on some counters like Charizard and Dragonair. There is one extremely relevant drawback for Venusaur, though: among the most relevant Grass-types, it's the one with the shakiest Lapras matchup with shields up. Due to its average bulk it won’t always have the time to squeeze in a second Frenzy Plant depending on how turns line up — if you’re the Lapras user, trying to self-piggyback or QSA is definitely advised here — let alone a third one. If the Lapras shields twice it’s usually going to come out with a lot of HP and threaten the next thing coming in. So, if you want to bring Venusaur, make sure to have one with top notch IVs! By hitting an Ice Shard bulkpoint at 123 Defense (though anything over 121 is probably fine), it can survive an extra fast move and narrowly win both the 1 and 2 shield scenarios.
Counter + Blast Burn* + Blaze Kick
While Swampert and Meganium work as flexible checks to both Dragons and Lapras, Blaziken goes all in on beating down on Ice thanks to destructive and unique STAB Counter damage. However, the only Ice-type it truly hard counters and can farm down completely is Aurora Beam Sealeo. It still has to use a shield due to its extreme frailty, but with two Blast Burns charged up it will surely get it back. The Water Pulse variant can give trouble if Blaziken shields a Body Slam: then the best play would be to fire a Blaze Kick right away and either faint the Sealeo, or, if the opponent shields, invest another shield to farm and come out with a Blast Burn ready. Due to Surf's speed, Lapras will usually require Blaziken to invest both shields in order to win, while it only needs to spend one, or none if the opponent decides to farm down. While this seems to suggest that Blaziken performs best in the early game, that is also where its flimsiness as a Grass counter shows the most. In the 2-2 shield scenario it just barely edges out Meganium and loses to Razor Leafers and Venusaur, tying with the latter in the 1-1 too. Blaziken also gets deleted by Dragons, 'mudboys', Venomoth, as well as Charizard, Ghosts and Muk. It is a unique pick, but also a risky one.
Water Gun + Hydro Cannon* + Ice Beam
Living in the shadow of its spammier cousin Swampert and its ‘mudboy’ friends, Blastoise’s capability gets often underrated. With as much bulk as Meganium and consistently high damage output, it can take on most neutral matchups especially in the late game. In the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenarios it can beat every Grass counter, including Dragonair with shield baiting and decent IVs (staying over 136 Defense and 130 HP is advised). In the 2-2 it struggles much more, especially against Dragonair itself, Venomoth, Skuntank and Muk. Blastoise also has the advantage over all ‘mudboys’ — except for a Swampert that gets one shield bait right — and, unlike them, it will at least force a shield when locked in against a Grass-type. That comes at the cost of losing the coverage to threaten Lapras, Sealeo and Kingdra, though with a small energy advantage it still doesn’t do terrible against them and can surprisingly even overcome Lapras in the 2-2!
Before moving on, let’s take a quick look at the starters that were excluded from this list and why that’s the case. Sceptile is probably the best of the rest, with a unique combo of Fury Cutter, Frenzy Plant (this time recommended over Leaf Blade because it’s the only way to take down a Lapras) and Dragon Claw (to annoy, though rarely beat, Dragonair), or even Earthquake for the surprise factor. It can beat other Grass-types except for Venusaur, but it’s extremely squishy — just like Typhlosion, which stands out because of Shadow Claw but is let down by the relatively slow Blast Burn and especially Solar Beam. It doesn’t handle Grass well with shields up, but if you manage to set it up in a shield advantage position, it can take down literally anything in the meta! Infernape and Feraligatr are basically downgraded versions of Blaziken and Blastoise, while Ivysaur at least doesn’t perform much worse (actually, often the same) than its evolved counterpart. Torterra and Bayleef are solid, but don’t really do any better as Razor Leaf users than many non-starters. Empoleon is the only one still lacking the exclusive move and is limited by relying solely on Waterfall damage.
The Starter Subs: Grass
You picked a Fire or Water starter, and without Meganium and Venusaur available, you’re now looking for something to counter all things Water, be it Lapras, Swampert or Sealeo and Whiscash. This is, of course, the main reason to include a Grass-type in your team. If you picked Venusaur as the starter, you might even want to have a second Grass that actually takes care of Lapras.
Razor Leaf + Ice Beam + Hydro Pump
Brought to victory and fame by RagingTaz in the European World Cup, everyone’s favorite wacky dancer can finally shine in a Cup too. Having great bulk, the peculiar Water/Grass typing leaves Ludicolo only weak to Poison, Bug and Flying, which means that Fire and Ice only hit it for neutral damage. And while that’s not enough to let it beat any Fire-type, it makes it the hardest counter to both Lapras and Sealeo and the only one capable of completely farming them down without needing to spend a shield, even to Skull Bash, and coming out of the fight with an Ice Beam ready to boot. Actually, not being weak to any of their charged moves, it doesn't even need a shield to farm down every Water-type; even a Blizzard plus a Mud Bomb from Whiscash will get shrugged off. The only exception to that rule is Kingdra, which Ludicolo has to shield against, but will farm down either way. Of course, with big wins come hard losses: Venomoth, Skuntank, Muk and other Razor Leaf users can farm it down themselves by shielding the Ice Beam. Being part Water has many benefits, but also brings a big disadvantage in all Grass mirrors. Ludicolo in the Timeless Cup is pretty much the archetype of “go big or go home”.
Razor Leaf + Leaf Blade + Acid Spray or Sludge Bomb
If you want to have a major threat on the opponent’s Water-types but don’t like Ludicolo’s vulnerability to other Grasses, there are other different ways to go. Victreebel has been a solid Venusaur substitute in the past as the most aggressive Razor Leaf user, therefore being the squishiest one too. It takes out ‘mudboys’ in only 5-7 fast moves, leaving them little to no time to react when switched in against them, but it also has to look out for any Skull Bash or Earthquake which will one-shot it, and it needs to spend a shield on the second Surf and Body Slam coming from Lapras and Sealeo respectively. Running Sludge Bomb or Acid Spray is a matter of playstyle: do you want to damage the pokemon coming in after you farmed down a Water, or debuff it to set up Victreebel’s teammates? Consider also that landing a Sludge Bomb is the only way to beat Venusaur, and Meganium with shields down. The latter can also be beaten in the lead by shielding at least one Earthquake or using Acid Spray.
Razor Leaf + Return* + Sludge Bomb
Vileplume’s pre-evolution plays similarly to Victreebel, without Leaf Blade or Acid Spray, but with some extra bulk. This allows it to tank Surf and Body Slam twice, or Earthquake once, while farming down the various Water-types. Compared to Victreebel, it picks up unexpected wins in the 2-2 shield scenarios against Muk and Skuntank, and it beats Meganium in the 1-1 thanks to Return. In fact, Return comes in handy quite often and we recommend running Gloom only if it’s Purified. The other charged moves are far too slow, and having Victreebel with its Leaf Blade would just be better at that point.
Razor Leaf + Return* + Leaf Blade
Gloom’s alternate evolution is, surprisingly, the tankiest Razor Leaf user available, and it combines that with the speed of Victreebel’s Leaf Blade. However, beyond that and not being farmed by Venomoth, as a pure Grass-type Bellossom doesn’t have many assets over its part Poison competitors. It will always lose to both of them and Meganium, and much harder to Venusaur, Skuntank and Muk. Otherwise, it does what Razor Leaf users do, and does it well. Just like with Gloom, Return is Bellossom’s second best option for a charged move (and getting a Purified one under 1500 CP is not an easy task) but it’s less important, since Leaf Blade is always going to be the way to go except when it’s double resisted. When it gets Last Resort on December CD, Leafeon will perform in a similar way with the solid bulk, mono-Grass typing and access to Leaf Blade.
Vine Whip + Ancient Power + Sludge Bomb or Solar Beam
The only viable Vine Whip user outside of starters is this fairly tanky oddball, a much softer counter to Water compared to the aggressive Razor Leaf users listed above, but with some extra versatility and, most of all, surprise factor. It picks up a loss against Kingdra but can still farm down ‘mudboys’, gaining a lot more energy in the process, though it must be careful about shielding Blizzard from Whiscash. Ancient Power offers the juicy 10% chance of getting an Attack and Defense buff every time it gets fired, and allows Tangrowth to generally tie, depending on IVs, with Lapras and Sealeo with shields up, taking down the latter if it either doesn’t have Aurora Beam or gets it shielded. The quick Rock coverage also keeps Venomoth and Fire-types on their toes when switched in against it, though Charizard is the only one among those that can’t survive one. As a pure Grass-type Tangrowth loses hard to Poison Jab users and Venusaur, but it holds its own in other Grass mirrors. It beats Gloom and ties with Victreebel in the 1-1 shield scenario, where it also ties with Meganium by going straight Ancient Power, while it wins the 2-2 with straight Sludge Bomb. That is one of the only situations where Sludge Bomb actually matters, so if you don’t really care about it and prefer to have the threat of the ultimate anti-Water nuke for late game situations, consider swapping it for Solar Beam.
Infestation + Grass Knot + Stone Edge
The secondary Rock typing takes away the resistances to Water, Grass or Ground, but also the weaknesses to Fire, Poison and Flying. If you pair that with extremely high bulk (it survives a super-effective Blizzard from Whiscash) and Infestation quickly charging up its potent STAB charged moves (which take the same number of fast moves to get to, so you don’t ever need to bait), instead of a true Grass-type you get a unique generalist that doesn’t lose hard to anything in the meta — at least outside of the 2-2 shield scenario where it often doesn’t have time to actually hit. It only narrowly beats most Water-types, and Swampert and Whiscash can also give it trouble in the 1-1 with an energy advantage. While losing to Lapras, Sealeo and Dragonair is not a good look on paper either, with good enough IVs (more than 137 Defense is highly advised) Cradily will consistently leave them with single-digit HP in the 0-0 and 1-1. The same thing is true for grounded Poison-types, Venusaur and Meganium, which actually are its most reliable counters: nothing has an easy time against it! Cradily does beat Kingdra by going straight Stone Edge, which it should do against the others too. Stone Edge also takes down Fire- and Bug-types which might be switched in on it, thinking it’s just a Grass-type, with Charizard and Venomoth being the only ones with a chance to win if they shield bait at least once.
While these are the most interesting non-starter Grasses, there are some others worth mentioning. Shiftry, Abomasnow, legacy Weepinbell are solid Razor Leaf users. Plant Cloak Wormadam (not the pink one!) is uniquely half-Bug and equipped with Confusion, bringing some weird matchups to the table: it actually functions as a counter to all other Grass-types (including Venusaur) and Venomoth, and falls short when it comes to beating Water- and Ice-types.
The Starter Subs: Fire
You picked a Water or Grass starter, and without Charizard and Blaziken available, you’re now looking for something to counter all things Grass, be it Vine Whip or Razor Leaf. Well, there are two ways to go about this role: using Fire, or using Poison. Each comes with a different spread of matchups to consider, so pick what fits your team best. You can go for a Fire and a Poison together, or even two Poisons since they vary quite a bit in use.
Confusion + Poison Fang* or Psychic + Silver Wind
Let’s start from the Poison-types instead of Fire, because Venomoth is maybe the Grass counter that stands out the most in the whole meta, and has earned high relevance in the first couple of weeks already. With Confusion it farms down Grass/Poison-types, which it also walls better than anything else due to the Bug and Poison typing, and, though less farmable, Meganium and Ludicolo are easy wins too. But the best part about Venomoth is the versatility granted by its widely unresisted moveset, something that makes it a pretty safe lead or switch-in. It does lose to all three of Dragonair, Lapras and Sealeo, but never by a lot, especially if it manages to land the Silver Wind which should be a given with a small energy lead or a successful Poison Fang bait (also key to beat Kingdra in the 1-1 shield scenario). The same thing is true for the matchups against ‘mudboys’, with Swampert even going down in the 1-1 without landing the Earthquake. Fire-types are its only really hard counters, though not the only ones.
As expected, legacy Poison Fang is optimal and can come in handy very often for its baiting potential and speed, only needing 3 Confusion hits to activate. If you don’t have it, Psychic is now actually viable too with the recently reduced energy cost; it’s more of a situational surprise hit than a real asset, though, as in neutral matchups Silver Wind completely outperforms it. If you’re missing the legacy Dustox is always there as a valid replacement as well, with less Attack and speed (running Sludge Bomb instead of Poison Fang) but some extra bulk and generally similar matchups.
Poison Jab + Crunch + Sludge Bomb or Flamethrower
Good old skunk is right back at it again, and yet again it doesn’t stand out for being a hard counter, as it goes down to a Victreebel that shields twice (unless it hits a bulkpoint at around 94 Defense) and fears Meganium’s Earthquake so much that it can lose in all scenarios against one with 2 fast moves of energy advantage! However, as always, Skuntank’s main strength is the great versatility in all kinds of different matchups. It goes quite close with Lapras and Sealeo; the 94 Defense cutoff proves key also against the former as it allows it to edge out the 1-1 shield scenario, with some extra help from Sludge Bomb. With a small energy advantage, it even beats them in all shield scenarios, something that holds true for Dragonair and Kingdra too, outside of the 2-2. Actually, the only things that can reliably shut down a Skuntank switch-in are the ‘mudboys’, solidifying the safe switch role that it earned in the Ferocious Cup.
Just like last month, Crunch will be the go-to move, while the other one is up to personal preference. Sludge Bomb provides a harder neutral hit that can be very useful in close matchups, as mentioned above. On the other hand, with Flamethrower it beats Venomoth more convincingly, wins the mirror match and doesn’t get walled by Drapion.
Poison Jab + Thunder Punch + Dark Pulse
The goo monster has many of the same pros and cons as Skuntank: it’s a great generalist with decent bulk, that still counters Grass well thanks to Poison Jab (at least until it gets hit by an Earthquake) and is only hard countered by ‘mudboys’. The main difference is that it’s also weak to Psychic, thus farmable with a shield by Venomoth, which Skuntank generally beats instead: if you already have a Grass/Poison-type on your team, Skuntank is likely the most synergistic choice. Muk’s main selling point, however, is the spammy Electric coverage which gives it a very even matchup with Lapras, depending on priority or energy advantages (as long as it hits a bulkpoint at around 109 Defense), and Sealeo as well. Although it resists Thunder Punch, Dragonair can impressively go down too if Muk lands a Dark Pulse, though it needs a bait to make it in the 1-1 shield scenario. You give that up if you run Acid Spray, but that can open up for some interesting strategies, possibly pairing it with users of high damage fast moves such as Dragon Breath and Razor Leaf.
Ice Fang + Aqua Tail + Crunch
Despite sharing the Dark/Poison typing with Skuntank, Drapion plays very differently. More than a Poison-type it can be considered a pseudo-Ice due to its new fast move Ice Fang, boasting really high damage and mediocre energy gains offset by the accessible charged moves. It still fills the anti-Grass role by resisting it and hitting back with super effective damage, but to be fair it only beats Meganium and Ludicolo reliably in the 2-2 and 1-1 shield scenarios respectively. However, Ice Fang allows it to uniquely slay Dragonair and even farm it down completely by investing one shield, and to win every Poison mirror, though among Fire-types it only has a chance to beat Charizard and non-legacy Ninetales. The huge downside, given how common they are, is that it gets walled extremely hard by Lapras and Sealeo, losing to the former even with a 2 shields advantage! While Infestation would solve that problem, and it’s certainly a viable option, it also reduces Drapion to a spammier but less consistent version of Skuntank.
Infestation + Ice Beam + Sludge Bomb
The other goo monster is kind of a mix between Drapion and Muk. Like the former it beats most Grass-types but can struggle with Meganium if it gets baited (though it’s so tanky that it survives Earthquake), and most importantly it carries the same Ice coverage. Swalot still loses to Kingdra and only beats Dragonair in the 1-1 shield scenario though, as Ice Beam is not fast enough to secure the 2-2 or deadly enough in the 0-0. The good part is that, unlike Drapion, it doesn’t go down very easily to Lapras and even beats Sealeo outside of the 2-2 thanks to Sludge Bomb. The main similarity with Muk is the vulnerability to Venomoth, to which it adds pretty hard losses to Charizard and Skuntank with shields up among the other Grass counters.
Fire Spin + Flamethrower* or Solar Beam + Psyshock
As far as a straight Charizard substitute, this is definitely the most fitting. It’s way bulkier, but it must be much more careful about Meganium’s Earthquake, and cannot farm it down even after shielding one. Having Psyshock instead of Dragon Claw as the spammable charged move also makes it lose much harder to Dragonair and Kingdra, only having a remote chance against the latter if it somehow manages to land a Solar Beam. The nuke also threatens any Water that might come in after a Grass-type has gone down, and has the potential to swing (or close) any match whenever it lands, but at the same time it can put Ninetales at a huge disadvantage if it gets blocked. Legacy Flamethrower, on the other hand, might be less flashy but has a much more consistent performance. With it, a Ninetales with shields can reliably go toe to toe with Lapras and take down Sealeo (using straight Flamethrower in the 1-1, and straight Psyshock in the 2-2), which is, of course, possible with Solar Beam too, just more situational — and it’s something that Charizard doesn’t do nearly as well. Landing Flamethrower is also the only real way to beat a Skuntank, while Psyshock already does the trick against Muk and Venomoth.
Ember + Weather Ball (Fire) + Solar Beam
Castform, again! This time is the hot spicy one, which quickly burns all things Grass (and Bug) with Weather Ball spam. Meganium with shields down is the only one which may give it trouble, though the bulk is enough to barely survive an Earthquake from full health. Weather Ball also lets it narrowly beat other Poison-types such as Skuntank and Muk, and most remarkably, makes it the only Fire-type to consistently tie with Lapras, depending on priority or energy advantage, in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios. The 1-1 and 0-0 are even positive against Sealeo, though it can go down to a Water Pulse variant if it doesn’t get the right shield. Solar Beam is not normally needed against neither of those, and can only come in handy from time to time in late game scenarios, or if the opponent doesn’t expect it at all. The drawback of Castform’s moveset is that it doesn’t have anything to hit Dragon-types with, and it will go down badly to them.
The Starter Subs: Water
You picked a Fire or Grass starter, and without Swampert and Blastoise available, you’re now looking for something to counter all things Fire, but not only. Water-types are a very diverse group in the Timeless Cup and can fulfill the most different roles depending on their secondary typing and coverage, from beating Poison to Dragon and Ice. The only thing all of these have in common is that, much like their half-Ice brothers Lapras and Sealeo, they should steer away from Grass.
Mud Shot + Mud Bomb + Blizzard
The OG ‘mudboy’ can actually be considered on par with the more popular Swampert in this Cup. The only inferior matchups are Lapras, Charizard and the mirror against Swampert itself. The former is a loss that can only be flipped by a small energy lead, and while against the Fire starter Whiscash can go straight Blizzard to win the 0-0 and 1-1 shield scenarios, it has to bait (once versus the Fire Spin variant, twice versus Air Slash) to secure the 2-2. On the other hand, though, it handles Dragons much better than Swampert does, not even needing Blizzard to take down Kingdra in the 1-1 and 2-2, and Dragonair in the 1-1! The 2-2 against the latter is the only hard loss, possibly flipped by a double bait with good IVs (over 104 Defense is always recommended to meet a key bulkpoint). Unlike Swampert, which can lose to them with shields up, Whiscash also gains a complete tie with Sealeo and a convincing win over Venomoth even with straight Mud Bomb. Considering how common and relevant those two and the Dragons are, you could argue that Swampert is not even needed...
Mud Shot + Stone Edge + Earthquake
Good old Quag is slower than its brothers, but has a few perks of its own. It retains Whiscash’ positive Venomoth and Dragon matchups outside of Kingdra with shields down and Dragonair with two up (beating the latter with straight Earthquake otherwise, and Kingdra with straight Stone Edge in the 2-2 shield scenario). It does even improve the matchups against Sealeo, now overcoming it in the 0-0 and 2-2, and Charizard, which it just deletes with Stone Edge. Just like Whiscash, it usually loses to Lapras but can beat it if it gets one or two extra Mud Shot in. However, Quagsire is generally at a disadvantage in ‘mudboy’ mirrors, only having a chance to win the 1-1 versus Swampert with a shield bait. If you’re feeling risky, you can also give that up and much more for some Acid Spray trickery, which could work in the right circumstances and lineups, as mentioned for Muk.
Mud Shot + Earthquake* + Surf
If we’re defining ‘mudboy’ as a Water/Ground-type with Mud Shot and Ground coverage, then legacy Politoed would technically be a ‘half-mudboy’! Only the rare legacy variant is really worth looking at, as Earthquake often outperforms Blizzard — and if Blizzard is what you want, you might just want to look at Whiscash instead. Politoed does worse than the true ‘mudboys’ against Dragons anyway, losing always to Kingdra and needing to bait to give Dragonair some trouble, though it does pick up a win with shields down. It has close matchups against ‘mudboys’ themselves, and just like them, it also beats all Fire- and Poison-types, only struggling in the 2-2 shield scenario against Muk due to the weakness to Thunder Punch (it can win with straight Earthquake otherwise, and with straight Surf against Skuntank). The good part about not being part Ground, is that it resists Ice and Water attacks from Lapras and Sealeo, though that’s not enough to beat them, except if it manages to bait against the latter. Lapras with straight Skull Bash will usually come out on top, even if barely.
Dragon Tail + Surf + Hyper Beam
Moving away from the established ‘mudboy’ family, let’s look at a Water-type that you’ll likely have to build from scratch since it’s never been in a Silph Cup at all before! Milotic is as tanky as Quagsire, and beats it and Whiscash (Swampert wins unless Earthquake gets blocked twice) with the spammy combination of Dragon Tail and Surf. That also takes care of Fire-types, but without the Ground coverage Milotic won’t work as a Poison counter as it doesn’t win the 1-1 shield scenario against Skuntank and Venomoth, and always loses quite hard to Muk. However, the Dragon fast move makes it a unique and reliable Dragon slayer as long as it’s got a high Defense stat (possibly over 135 to meet a Dragonair bulkpoint), only losing if it doesn’t shield Outrage or Dragon Pulse. Lastly, Hyper Beam is essential to not get walled by Lapras and Sealeo. Against the latter it can get to one Hyper Beam and one Surf without shielding anything, so when it doesn’t land the Beam it can at least go down with shield advantage. Lapras, which should generally go straight for Skull Bash, is tougher: the only ways to beat it are either landing the Beam before the first Bash in the 0-0, or shielding Bash twice while baiting once in the 2-2.
Water Gun + Ancient Power + Aqua Tail
Relicanth, like Tropius, is one of those exclusive regionals that you should hunt for PvP, boasting very high defensive stats and a great movepool. In this Cup it’s maybe the single hardest counter to everything anti-Grass, which should be the main purpose of Water in the first place. It only needs to spam Aqua Tail to handily beat all Poison- and Fire-types in all scenarios, often even with shield disadvantage! And that’s not all — this old looking fish is also the hardest non-Grass counter to Lapras and Sealeo, resisting both their Ice and Normal moves and hitting back with Ancient Power. It works well as a counter-switch if they get up to two moves of energy advantage, taking them down without needing to bait. All of this doesn’t come without drawbacks, of course. Due to the Rock typing, Relicanth gets deleted by Grass and countered by ‘mudboys’, only having a chance in the 2-2 against Swampert if it shields one Earthquake. It also loses to Dragons; badly to Kingdra, while against Dragonair it can at least tank Aqua Tail twice while reaching two charged moves of its own to either gain switch or shield advantage for the team.
Mud Shot or Fury Cutter* + Ancient Power + Stone Edge
Don’t have a Relicanth? Here’s an angrier, way less tanky but more aggressive version with the same typing. That means that, again, Grass and Ground give it nightmares, but also that Ice and Fire get wrecked. Even at a moderate energy disadvantage, Kabutops beats Lapras and Sealeo reliably with straight Stone Edge. Being charged up so quickly by Mud Shot — or Fury Cutter if you have a fancy legacy one: the performance is almost exactly the same — Stone Edge is in fact so deadly that anything not Ground can get one-shot by it! That puts huge shield pressure on Kabutops’ opponents and works well with Ancient Power’s baiting potential, and the 10% buff chance as a bonus. With a shield bait it can even take down Dragonair and Kingdra in the 1-1 shield scenario, and almost makes it in the 0-0 too. Taking a look at Poisons, while Ancient Power is more than enough for Venomoth, the Skuntank and Muk matchups are a bit shakier than Relicanth’s as they can’t be won by going straight for Stone Edge in the 1-1 and 2-2 respectively.
Omastar is another Rock option, only differing from Kabutops in bulk (it has a little more) and moveset (having Hydro Pump along with Ancient Power). The lack of a OHKO move makes it unreliable as a counter-switch to Lapras, though. The same thing holds true for its pre-evolution Omanyte, which needs to be maxed out on top of that, but brings the spicy Bubble Beam (the fastest one in the game!) as a secondary move to debuff opponents, set up teammates and possibly bait out shields.
Water Gun or Charge Beam + Thunderbolt + Hydro Pump
If you played during Season 1, you most likely have a Lanturn already built. It is viable once this Cup too, filling a similar role to the Rock/Water-types, but not standing out nearly as much as it did in the past. It hard counters Fire-types, gets walled by Grass, Ground and Dragon, and beats Lapras and Sealeo, though less consistently if running Water Gun. Only the Charge Beam variant can handle Lapras with even the smallest energy advantage and Sealeo in the 2-2 shield scenario, and it’s also one of the few things to beat Kingdra in the 2-2. On the other hand, Charge Beam worsens the already flimsy Poison matchups, where yet again Rocks do a better job. All in all, Lanturn is a suboptimal budget pick that you will probably run only if you have it ready and the stardust is running low.
Water Gun + Weather Ball (Water) + Thunder
With the same coverage and comparable bulk, this little raindrop seems like an improved Lanturn here. It will still be dead weight against Grass and Dragons, but without the Electric typing it actually gets consistent wins over all ‘mudboys’, only having to give up shield advantage to beat Swampert if it gets hit by an Earthquake. Weather Ball spam also generally takes down Poison-types — except for Sludge Bomb Skuntank in the 1-1 shield scenario and, depending on priority, Muk in the 0-0 — and of course it destroys all things Fire. On the flipside, it doesn’t counter Lapras and Sealeo very well unless they don't see the Thunder coming. It beats the former without shield baiting only if it’s not at an energy disadvantage, and always needs to bait (unless shields are already down) to overcome the latter.
Confusion + Cross Chop + Ice Beam or Bubble Beam
Yes, really — this odd duck is a legitimate spice pick for this Cup, one that opponents might not even know the matchups of. It wrecks Venomoth and Venusaur with Confusion as long as it shields once, while Muk retaliates with Thunder Punch outside of the 2-2 shield scenario (the one Golduck is generally more comfortable in) and Razor Leaf users just hit back too hard. Among ‘mudboys’ it also only wins the 2-2 against Quagsire and, if it shields one Earthquake, against Swampert. Among Fire-types it only struggles versus a Charizard with energy advantage, especially if it doesn’t run Bubble Beam. That move, as we know, also debuffs opponents’ Attack by one stage every time it’s used and can make Golduck a tricky support pokemon to strategize around. On the other hand, landing an unexpected Ice Beam is its only hope against Meganium, Dragonair and Kingdra, while the Skuntank matchup is a loss even if that happens. Either way, you want to have Cross Chop on Golduck as it only needs 3 fast moves to activate and it gives it a real niche: beating Ice-types! It only struggles in the 1-1 against Sealeo with energy advantage, and Lapras if the opponent baits successfully.
It’s been a while since we had a bunch of Pokemon, the so-called wild cards, that just don’t fit any meta group at all. With Timeless being so wide open, however, there are quite a few of these, and they are all really interesting off-meta picks with some weird matchups.
Poison Jab + Acid Spray + Sludge Wave or Hydro Pump
Big brain jellyfish is the bulkiest and most effective Acid Spray user in the Cup. As a Water-type, it beats every Fire even by just using Acid Spray (only Ninetales can give it some issues with Psyshock) and loses to most Grass-types, Razor Leaf users in particular. Tentacruel can still kill Venusaur and Meganium if they don’t shield a Sludge Wave, and also has a chance against the latter if it’s got at least 114 Attack, it lands an early Acid Spray and shields once. As a Poison-type, it gets destroyed by Venomoth and ‘mudboys’, with a hail Mary Hydro Pump being the only way to hurt them. If you go for Sludge Wave and just accept the fact that Ground and Poison are going to be walls, you will enjoy an unexpected Dragon-Ice core breaker! Straight Acid Spray beats Dragonair in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios, as long as Tentacruel’s Defense stat stays over 136, while Sludge Wave one-shots it with shields down. Kingdra does tie depending on IVs in the 0-0 and (with Tentacruel going straight Acid Spray) the 2-2, but loses to double Sludge Wave in the 1-1. Against Sealeo it can even reach Sludge Wave twice without having to shield anything! And lastly, Lapras goes down in the 1-1 to straight Acid Spray or (depending on IVs) straight Sludge Wave even if it lands a Skull Bash unless it’s got a small energy advantage and lands it too soon; in that case, Tentacruel only wins by shielding it.
Shadow Claw + Shadow Ball* or Sludge Bomb + Shadow Punch
Everytime it’s eligible, the most extreme glass cannon of the Great League can make for some fun gameplay. It doesn’t really hard counter anything in this Cup, but can also harass almost everything given the right circumstances — apart from Confusion users which just delete it — thanks to its aggressive and widely unresisted Ghost damage and high shield pressure, only as high as its shield neediness. As per usual it’s the legacy Shadow Ball variant that turns the most heads, but this time around Sludge Bomb is viable too. It only gives up the Quagsire, Skuntank, Muk and Relicanth matchups out of the relevant ones (still beating all but the latter by shielding twice) and it otherwise benefits from slightly higher speed and, being a common non-legacy, better IVs. Whatever the nuke of choice, Haunter often has to rely on shield baiting with Shadow Punch, which by itself in the 1-1 shield scenario is only enough to take down Charizard and Victreebel, as well as Venusaur, Meganium and the ones mentioned above in the 2-2. When it gets its Ball or Bomb shielded, it’s game over too. However, if the baiting works and the Ball lands, almost nothing is safe. The rare exceptions are Venomoth, of course; Whiscash which outspams and outbulks it all the time, while Swampert CMP ties in the 2-2; Dragonair, Kingdra and Drapion which can farm it down with a shield (unless they’re at an energy disadvantage). Much like Kingdra, Shadow Ball Haunter also has the perk of beating everything with a 1-0 shield advantage — apart, once again, from Venomoth.
Banette has that 1-0 niche as well and exists in a similar space as Haunter, just a little less paper thin. It has a brand new baiting move now in Return too, if you’re lucky enough to get a Purified one below 1500 CP. It lacks the weaknesses to Psychic and Ground, especially unconvenient given how common Venomoth and ‘mudboys’ are, but also the resistance to Grass, which means that Razor Leaf tears through it. If possible, though, it relies even more heavily on shield baiting and, ironically, can only beat Venomoth in the 1-1 with just Return.
Sucker Punch + Shadow Ball + Ominous Wind
The other Ghost-type available, also known as ‘Sableye but not ban-worthy’, functions a bit differently due to the much more defensive stats and the Dark subtyping which leaves it only weak to Fairies, which aren’t a thing in Timeless. You heard right, Spiritomb doesn’t have any weaknesses in this meta! However, due to also hitting almost nothing super effectively and not being a champion at handling neutral matchups, it falls a bit shorter than you would expect from a generalist with that premise. Just like its fellow Shadow Ball users, it needs to shield bait to win almost any matchup, as Ominous Wind alone only takes down Venomoth in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios, Whiscash and Muk in the 1-1 and Swampert in the 2-2 — again, kind of ironic that most of these are some of Haunter’s biggest enemies. If the Shadow Ball lands, to be fair, Spiritomb can beat Swampert and Charizard out of the starters, as well as impressively threaten the Dragon-Ice core by beating Sealeo and (in the 1-1 only) Kingdra, and put up a fight against Lapras and Dragonair. It also doesn’t lose very hard to anything either and can work in the safe switch role, though it won’t consistently gain switch or shield advantage for the team.
Counter or Rock Throw + Rock Slide + Earthquake
Everyone’s favorite dancing tree is a nice pick too! It fills a very similar role as Relicanth and Kabutops, only differing for the lack of Water typing and the more aggressive Fighting fast move. If functions as a counter to Ice, Fire, and Poison that gets deleted by Grass-types and ‘mudboys’. Against Lapras and Sealeo it has the issue of being weak to Water, though it’s bulky enough to tank one Surf or Water Pulse, and it does lose the 2-2 shield scenario against both unless Sealeo either doesn’t have the Water move or gets it shielded twice. It also needs to meet an Ice Shard bulkpoint at around 126 Defense to beat Lapras. Against Fire- and Poison-types it’s much safer as it can just Rock Slide its way to victory (or Earthquake in the case of Muk), only struggling against Venomoth in the 2-2 shield scenario, which ends in a CMP tie. Like the other Rock-types it loses to Dragons too, outside of the 1-1 against Kingdra and a tie against Dragonair with shields down. Lastly, if you really hate Venomoth there is also the option of running Rock Throw, which loses to Lapras in the 1-1 but beats it (as well as Sealeo) handily in the 2-2.
There are other viable Rock-types, such as Magcargo and Tyranitar, but they have even more issues with the Water damage from Ice-types. Magcargo at least takes only neutral from Grass, but still loses to it almost always.