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[Analysis] Nifty Or Thrifty: Flying Cup...Revisited! (PvP Meta/Budget Review)

Hello again, fellow travelers!
The "Nifty Or Thrifty" article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats--Flying Cup, in this case--particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust. Now I know what you're thinking... didn't this JRE guy already WRITE a big Flying Cup article? Well... yes. Yes I did. And I still recommend giving that a look, because there is some fringy stuff in there that I did NOT include this time. But a number of important things have changed since then--that article was nearly two months ago now--and I also forgot a thing or two last time (like Shadow Dragonite), so consider this a refresher AND a true improvement on the last.
So, as is typical for the NoT series, I'll (re-)cover not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs... or don't need a second move at all! I usually dive right in on Pokémon with the cheapest second move unlock cost (10,000 dust) and work my way through from there until finally concluding with the 100,000 dust unlocks (Mythicals and Legendaries), but this time I'm going to start with the "Three Kings" of the format, the ones that most people are buzzing about and that the entire Flying Cup meta really revolves around. And as you will see, there are ways to save yourself some hard-earned dust and candy even with them!

FLYING HIGH

These Pokémon are at the very top of this meta. Their importance cannot be understated, to the degree that I feel compelled to cover them before I get into the standard run from 10,000 to 100,000 dust 'mons.
AERODACTYL
Rock Throw | Rock Slide (& Ancient Power?)
If you have read anything at all about Flying Cup, surely you have seen talk about Aerodactyl. But perhaps you have wondered why it's the center of everyone's attention. The answer is actually very simple. Ever hear the phrase "killing two birds with one stone"? Well, that's basically Aerodactyl: it hits all the other Flyers with Rocks, and can easily chew through two or even all three Pokémon on an unprepared team. There are only three Pokémon in the entire meta that take neutral damage from Rock... not even resisted damage, just neutral. There are more than three things that take DOUBLE super effective damage, even if you leave out all the Bugs (three Fire types and one Ice). Starting to understand why Aerodactyl is so crazy good here? If not, then maybe this will paint the picture. There are actually a handful more Pokémon that can beat Aerodactyl than that shows, but still... the utter dominance is pretty apparent there, no?
If you're feeling bummed about having to invest in one for this short-timeframe meta, though, don't be, because I have good news: you don't need to run a second charge move on Aerodactyl. Seriously, none of the moves other than Rock Slide really matter. Earth Power? Resisted by literally everything in this meta. Iron Head? The only things it hits super effectively are Ice (Articuno), Fairy (Togekiss), and Rock (other Aerodactyls)--all of which Rock moves hit super effectively as well--and it's resisted by all the Waters, Electrics, Fires, and Steels (read as: Skarmory) here. No way you wanna shell out 75,000 dust to unlock Hyper Beam as a second move, so that leaves only Ancient Power, which costs the same energy as Rock Slide but deals 35 damage less, just for the low 10% chance of a self-boost. If you already have a double moved Aero, then sure, go Ancient for the option to finish something off with it when Rock Slide would be overkill and MAYBE get a bonus boost. But if you haven't already invested, this is perhaps the easiest save-your-dust decision ever. Just roll with single moved Aero and you won't miss a beat. Gotta love when you can get "thrifty" like that!
And in your search for a good Aerodactyl, don't assume that your standard low Attack/high bulk IVs are what you want in this particular meta. While that will win you the mirror, you may actually better off with a high Attack stat! Reason being is that an Aerodactyl with about 139 Attack (139.4, I think, is the exact target) can beat a #1 IV (0-14-15) Altaria, which is a big result. Yes, that's right... a high rank Altaria can beat Aerodactyl in a slugfest unless Aero has a crazy high Attack stat (to get to 139ish Attack requires something like 13-9-2 IVs... it is NOT easy to achieve). There is also an easier to achieve Attack breakpoint around 137 Attack that allows Aerodactyl to force a tie with Waterfall Gyarados, so if you can't get to the 139 needed for Altaria, at least try and get 137 if you can.
And now here's some all-new stuff... let's talk SHADOW AERODACTYL. And as terrifying as regular Aero is, Shadow Aero is even moreso. The only thing regular Aero beats with shields up that Shadow does not is Jumpluff... and Shadow Aero picks up wins against Shadow Pluff, as well as Gliscor, Shadow Gligar, Waterfall Gyarados, and even Air Slash Skarmory. The only things in the entire format that normally beat Shadow Aerodactyl in 1v1 shielding are Gligar, Mantine, Mandibuzz, opposing Aeros, and the Grass pair of Razor Leaf Tropius and (non-Shadow) Jumpluff. That's it... that is the entire list. And while it is not QUITE as dominant with shields down, it's still an overall improvement on regular Aero, picking up relevant wins over Waterfall Gary, Shadow Zapdos, Shadow Dragonite, and even Steel Wing Skarmory! (Though Shadow SW Skarm wins here, but loses to non-Shadow Aero.) And keep in mind that Shadow Aerodactyl once again needs only Rock Slide as a charge move, so even without a chance to TM away Frustration doesn't matter since Slide can be added as a "second" move with no problems.
Okay, that's enough about the King Of Flying Cup. There are still a couple others to highlight before we get into the article proper, though....
SKARMORY
Steel Wing/Air Slash | Sky Attack (& Brave Bird?)
If it weren't for Aerodactyl dominating the headlines, we'd probably all be talking about Skarm instead. It also has a crazy high win rate, and is one of few things that has a leg up on Aerodactyl thanks to its Steel typing blunting Aero's attacks (Skarm takes only neutral damage from Rock moves). It can win with that all-Flying moveset, but even better if you REALLY want to bring the pain to Aero is to run the regularly-not-seen-on-Skarmory Steel Wing instead, with which you can beat Aerodactyl with just fast moves, as well as Togekiss and Articuno. In fact, running Steel Wing with just Sky Attack as your only charge move is also a great way to save some dust for this format, as it beats everything that triple Flying does except Murkrow and Dodrio (which you don't care about), Swanna and Pelipper (who you maybe care about), and Waterfall Gyarados (the only big concern). (Remember that Steel moves like Steel Wing are resisted by Waters, so....). But getting those easy wins over Aero, Kiss, and Artie seem like very fair compensation, don't you think? Keep in mind that with Air Slash, you ONLY beat Aerodactyl and Articuno (and Drifblim) if you land a self-nerfing Brave Bird ...Sky Attack alone won't do. (And Steel Wing/Sky Attack wins them all). Brave Bird with Steel Wing wins you the mirror match, but that is literally the ONLY Pokémon that SW Skarm needs Brave Bird to win... all others it can get with Sky Attack only. For my money, I'm rolling with Steel Wing this go-round, and again, if you do that and haven't double moved yet, you really don't need to. Cha-ching!
Now a fresh word on [SHADOW SKARMORY], and it's a bit less encouraging than Shadow Aerodactyl was, as it appears to be a step backwards. A small one, perhaps, but backwards nonetheless, with Dodrio, Drifblim, and most damningly, against non-Shadow Skarmory, balanced against only one new win: against Murkrow. Blech. Add that to the fact that Shadow Skarm usually ends up with less HP than regular Skarm in many matchups that really matter (Articuno, Togekiss, Gligar, etc.), and you're probaby better off sticking with regular Skarm. Also keep in mind that you don't even HAVE the option of a second move yet with Shadow, since we've not had opportunity to TM Frustration away, so you're left with just Sky Attack. Not a terrible place to be, granted, but it is more of a downer than it is for Aerodactyl, that's for sure.
ZAPDOS
Thunder Shockᴸ/Charge Beam | Drill Peck & Thunderbolt/Thunder
So first, we need to consider the fast move. Thunder Shock is still only achievable on a Great League Zapdos by way of Elite TM, and yes, it is definitely the move you want. Non-Legacy Charge Beam IS seemingly still viable, but not ideal... you lose out on things like Articuno, Drifblim, Honchkrow, Emolga, Charizard, and even double-weak-to-Electric Shadow Gyarados without Thunder Shock. Honestly, if you can't get Thunder Shock, you may want to consider little Emolga instead (which we'll cover in more detail below). Once you have THAT sorted out, the charge moves you want are Thunderbolt--Thunder is fine too but Bolt alone gets Shadow Articuno and performs slightly better across the board--and then Drill Peck for coverage. As an example of what that coverage gets you, look at the only things in Flying Cup that resist Electric damage: the "Glisboys". With all Electric moves, Zapdos has no shot, but with Drill Peck spam, it can actually defeat Gliscor and Shadow Gligar (and regular Gligar as long as it's not a purified one running Return... more on that later). That's just one (very prominent) example, but you can see up at even a high level how far Zapdos without Drill Peck lags behind. Unlike Aerodactyl and Skarmory, if you're going to run Zapdos, you really do need to shell out for that second move.
SHADOW ZAPDOS is overall very slightly worse, losing to Shadow Articuno, Shadow Dragonite, and Emolga, though it does gain regular Dragonite (non-Shadow Zappy can only hope to tie) and Return Gligar just because of the spike in Drill Peck damage. And if you're stuck with Charge Beam, fuhgeddaboudit. Again, Emolga is just waiting in the wings.... 😉
And really, you could stop with those three and likely call it a day. That trio essentially is the "B.B.M.L." of Flying Cup. But they're not the ONLY options... not by a longshot. There are plenty of other solid Flyers to cover, some of which can beat down these "Three Kings" of Flying Cup. And so, let's get into a more standard Nifty Or Thrifty review of the rest, starting with the cheapest and working out way on up from there.

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

ALTARIA
Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Dragon Pulse
Arguably belongs up in the top section, considering its success rate. Altaria remains a Great League beast, taking out basically everything you care about that isn't a Fairy, Aerodactyl, Skarmory, or packing an Ice move (and even that last one is only a sometimes thing. As noted above, [high stat product IVs]() are even better, tacking on Aerodactyl, Pidgeot, and Honchkrow (though you DO tend to lose the mirror due to the opponent's Altaria having higher Attack and winning Charge Move Priority as a result). Altaria is cheap to build too, hitting the right size around Level 28 and with a cheap second move unlock (though in actuality, you don't really need anything here but Sky Attack). The fact that it loses to Aero (sometimes), Articuno, Togekiss, and especially Skarmory are the only things really holding it back. If you have a good one and don't want to invest a lot into this Cup, Altaria is a good, relatively safe team player.
MANTINE
Bubble/Wing Attack | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam
Listed in this section, even though Mantine's second move unlock costs 75,000 stardust, because you can reap the benefits of the Baby Discount™ here, giving a second move to Mantyke for only 10,000 dust and then evolving and investing another 30,000ish dust to take the resulting Mantine to Great League size. And it's listed this early in the article because Mantine has the potential to be very, very good. If you're not just running with Aero/Skarm/Zapdos, you're looking--most ideally--for things that can handle more than one of them. Altaria can handle Zapdos and tussle with Aerodactyl, and Bubble Mantine is able to take out both Aerodactyl and Skarmory (normal AND Shadow versions). And while Mantine is notoriously bait reliant for some wins, having to snag a shield with Bubble Beam before landing a killing Ice Beam or Aerial Ace, it can beat Aero, Skarm AND one of their biggest counters, Gligar, with just straight Bubble Beam spam. Or without utilizing Bubble Beam at all and going with back to back Ice Beams, you can get Gligar again, as well as Altaria and Togekiss (and even Aerodactyl again with high stat product IVs). And thus the combination of both Beams obviously gets all those, and also potentially Gyarados as well (AND maybe even Articuno with, again, really good IVs). And there's even one MORE wrinkle to consider, as Wing Attack Mantine, while not being quite as oppressive against Aero and Skarm, still beats them both (well, assuming Skarmory is running with Steel Wing), as well as Bubbletine's other wins AND the mirror versus Bubbletine. Choices... you've got a few. Hopefully one of them is to consider some version of ol' Dopefish here. Don't let that vacant smile deceive you... Mantine is a stone cold killer in this meta.
GYARADOS
Waterfall/Dragon Breath | Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch
Allow me to present the cheapest consistent counter to Aerodactyl… well, if you run Waterfall. Yes, Gary is left without much in the tank, but it gets the job done and then has enough energy to immediately throw a Crunch or Aqua Tail at whatever follows. (Do note, though, that Shadow Aero can just manage to flip that the other way, depending on IVs, so use caution.) Gary also handles sure-to-be-popular Gligar (and Gliscor) this way too. Tacking on the charge moves brings in normal AND Shadow Steel Wing Skarmory and Shadow Articuno, sure to be omnipresent as well. Or you can run with Dragon Breath, and while you give up Skarm, Artie, and unfortunately Aero in the process, you keep Gligar and gain also likely to be popular Altaria and Mantine, as well as opposing Waterfall Garys.
SHADOW GYARADOS can beat Air Slash Skarm and Shadow OR regular Articuno, but the hit to Gary's already-shaky bulk means that Aerodactyl is now likely to be just a tie, at best, which is not good. If you're going to run Gyarados at this level and in this meta, probably best to stick with a non-Shadow one.
CHARIZARD
Fire Spin/Wing Attackᴸ/Dragon Breathᴸ | Dragon Claw Blast Burnᴸ/Overheat
Charizard loses very hard to Aerodactyl, which both resists Zard's Fire moves AND deals huge damage in return with its Rock moves. And it really can't do much to Zapdos (or Emolga) either, needing an energy lead equivalent to two Fire Spins to even have a realistic shot. So why bother looking into it? Well, there are a number of things Zard does very well. Obviously, Skarmory and Articuno want nothing at all to do with it. But Charizard is also a great Togekiss counter, don't forget, and also finds a way to scratch out a win over Gligar. SHADOW CHARIZARD can tack on Emolga as well. OR, if you have a fancy Legacy Wing Attack Zard, you give up Artie but can get a nice win over Altaria as compensation. Whatever flavor you potentially run, I think Zard could have a legit place in this meta if you don't want to just roll with the big three.
EDIT: Dragon Breath Zard can beat Altaria but loses Artie, which MAY help some teams more, perhaps.
NOCTOWL
Wing Attack | Sky Attack & Psychic
Noctowl is a flying tank in Great League, and a bit underrated in open Great League play. But for those wondering, unfortunately not even Mr. Owl has enough licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop the Flying Cup meta. It looks good matched up against the entire meta, but where it counts, against the CORE meta, Noctowl falters, out-tanking Togekiss and Gyarados, but that's about all you can expect. I mean, with shields down it's a bit better, but as much as I love Noctowl, I cannot in good conscience really recommend it for competitive Flying Cup play.
PIDGEOT
Gustᴸ/Wing Attackᴸ | Aerial Ace & Brave Bird
And sadly, I still cannot recommend Pidgeot either. Absolutely evolve a good one or two with Gust during the event hours, as it WILL be good in future formats for sure, but here it just doesn't work out, with Gust or even with Legacy Wing Attack. Shame.
EMOLGA
Thunder Shock | Thunderbolt & Discharge/Aerial Ace
Important note: yes, the second move unlock is only 10,000 dust, but Emolga has to be maxed, so it's still not "thrifty"... Zapdos could even end up being cheaper! Anyway, this little flying rodent is not only adorbs 😻, but also quite potent here. I ran that sim with best possible "Lucky trade" IVs (12-15-15), as that's the best way to prep one, and that shows wins against Skarmory, Togekiss (unlike Zapdos, who cannot usually survive all that Charming down), the Flying Waters, Articuno (regular or Shadow), and Shadow Zapdos, among others. But the DREAM is #1 IVs, which has to be super rare for such a rare Pokémon, but IF you have one... holy smokes, folks. Now you get the mirror match AND regular Zapdos too. Can you say "great lead"? About the only thing you DON'T want to face in the leadoff spot is Gligar or Aerodactyl... basically everything else you either beat outright or maim badly. And that's consistent across shieldless scenarios as well (where you get Aerodactyl too!). Just like Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, you too may be left confounded over how to properly dispose of "moose and squirrel"... or, uh, at least squirrel.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

TOGEKISS
Charm | Ancient Power (& Aerial Ace/Flamethrower?)
Charm is obviously resisted by Skarmory, and also the few Fires and Poisons here, but is very widely unresisted. For that reason, Togekiss can beat a very wide swath of Flying Cup with Charm alone, including where it counts most (the core meta), beating Gyarados, Altaria (not surprisingly), and even regular AND Shadow Zapdos (very surprisingly), just smashing through Zapdos' (lack of) bulk before it can muster up a winning Thunderbolt. Also note the tie with Shadow Articuno (also impressive), the ALMOST win against Aerodactyl (soooooooo close!), and the best way to try and win the mirror match: just keep Charming and save that charge move for the next 'mon up. The charge move you likely want the most here is Ancient Power (because it deals super effective damage to darn near everything here), but Aerial Ace is a decent all-arounder for a second move, or perhaps even better would be Flamethrower to at least put the fear of God into Skarmory.
What you do NOT want to do, though, is try and outsmart everyone with Hidden Power. Even with the most favorable typing here--Rock--it just does not work on Togekiss. You can kinda-sorta-almost get away with that with TOGETIC, who can at least take out Articuno and Altaria that way (and a decent chunk of the riff raff), but that's probably getting a little too cute.
JUMPLUFF
Bullet Seed | Aerial Ace & Energy Ball/Returnᴸ
Well the volume of wins certainly won't wow anyone, but little Pluff can take out Gligar and Gary (and wins big versus the other Waters as long as it avoids Ice Beams, and also gets OH so close to picking off Aerodactyl, especially ones with decently high Attack that some will have grinded for to have a leg up over Altaria... and note that it has time to double Energy Ball, so no baiting required. It DOES manage to overcome Shadow Aerodactyl this way, one of very few things that can handle that Shadowy nightmare. And some new twists with the introduction of SHADOW JUMPLUFF: it can potentially beat Aero, straight up, which is nice. (Though since it's stuck with just one move due to having Frustration at this point still, you will likely need a very slight energy lead or something to guarantee it.) And PURIFIED PLUFF with Return can do some good things against the Electrics, at least provided you have a good one. Pluff isn't great here, I'll admit, but it has enough niches that you may see some here and there.
PELIPPER
Water Gun/Wing Attack | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane/Blizzard
So on the surface, this looks a bit like a subpar Gyarados, getting Skarmory and Gligar but not much else. But there's a little more to it if you peel back some layers. First off, it can ALMOST Water Gun Aerodactyl to death, leaving it at a mere 2 or so HP. (Incidentally, it also pretty easily takes down Gligar this way too.) It can also defeat Togekiss in a battle of high IVs vs high IVs. And one more item of interest: if you run with Wing Attack, you get Gyarados and a potential win now against Aerodactyl. Point is, you have a few options here that can give you wins the opponent may not expect. Like many things not at the very top of the meta, there is more bad here than good, if I'm being honest. But there IS good that you can work to your favor if you want to get spicy.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

GLIGAR
Wing Attack/Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Returnᴸ/Aerial Ace
Say hello to the only Pokémon (well, other than its evolution) that takes no more than neutral damage from Rock (Aerodactyl) AND Electric (Zapdos, Emolga)... and it's actually even better, as it outright resists Electric thanks to Ground's double resistance and Flying's single vulnerability adding up to an overall resistance. That makes Gligar (and Gliscor) the only Pokémon here that resists Electric, by the way. But there's a downside that unfortunately makes it not quite as consistent a counter to Aero/Zap cores as you might like: Gligar's fast moves and half of its charge moves (Flying, Bug, Ground) are resisted by both Aerodactyl and Zapdos. And thus Gligar is left in a much more uncomfortable position than it really should be, essentially having to choose to beat either Aerodactyl (regular AND Shadow, plus Emolga) with Wing Attack, OR Zapdos (Shadow, anyway) with the faster-charging Fury Cutter, hitting them with resisted fast move damage and neutral Night Slashes. OR you can split the difference a bit and run a purified Gligar with Return, and now get Aero AND Zapdos (albeit JUST barely), as well as Emolga still and Togekiss as a bonus. Or go with Fury Cutter again to make it much harder Zapdos counter (getting regular and Shadow) and win the mirror versus WA Gligar. (ALL of these Pokes have so many nuances and options!) There is even the polar opposite of purified to consider, as SHADOW GLIGAR can beat Aerodactyl and both versions of Zapdos with qualifiers except that that's basically all it does... though if you're only going to beat two major Pokémon, those are the two you really want to get most, no? Wing Attack Shadow 'Dos gives up Zapdos, but gains Emolga and Togekiss. Pick your flavor, but however you trick out your Gligar, it is a very solid counter-meta pick in Flying Cup.
GLISCOR, by the way, is basically just a worse Gligar. The only remarkable things about it are getting Aerodactyl, or in Shadow form and with Fury Cutter, all the Electrics. But uh... Gligar can do that too, and a bit more on top of it. If you can afford it, just roll with Gligar instead.
DRIFBLIM
Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball
I've tried not to go TOO far down the IV spread rabbit hole to this point, partly because in many cases it doesn't make much difference, and partly because with this being GO Battle League, you're going to find a very wide range of players and many more Pokémon with "average", non-ideal PvP IVs than you might in, say, The Silph Arena, especially with Flying Cup coming so early in the season before the eventual Rank 10 players have all pulled away from the rest of the pack. That all being said... the IVs are rather important here, it would seem. Because on the surface, with "default" IVs all around, Blim looks pretty average, missing out on Aerodactyl, Zapdos, AND Skarmory and instead just beating some of their counters/off-meta picks (Gligar, Togekiss, Gyarados). However, check what happens when we have a high stat product IV Drifblim... the wins literally double and now include Altaria, Mantine, and Aerodactyl. And if the opponent is ALSO using H.S.P. IVs, Aerodactyl drops out but is replaced by Steel Wing Skarmory. In these scenarios, consider springing a couple of Icy Winds before going for the throat with Shadow Ball, because remember that IW automatically debuffs the opponent, and in some cases, like against Mantine, that can keep things close even when you don't have perfect IVs. I would also be remiss to point out that with shields down, Blim consistently takes out Aero, Alt, Gyarados, and Shadow Zapdos, and can get Gligar and very nearly Togekiss, depending on IVs. And if you are willing to burn both shields, Blim can again get Altaria, Gligar, Gyarados, and either version of Skarmory. This big ball of spooky gas is a real sleeper in this format.
TROPIUS
Razor Leaf | Leaf Blade & Aerial Ace/Stomp
This is a niche pick, I'll admit right up front. But yes, Tropius IS viable enough here to actually discuss. Its biggest claim to fame is being able to beat Aerodactyl (and all the Waters) with nothing but fast moves, and then come out with 50+ energy to immediately throw a charge move at the next 'mon up, and very likely reach a second Leaf Blade as well before fainting. And while it may not win, Tropius also puts tremendous pressure on the Electrics and Gligar (which Trop CAN win if it shields at the right time) and even things like Togekiss as well. Trop needs to avoid Skarmory (as any long-time GL player can probably tell you), Dragons, and Articuno, but very surprisingly, in a Cup full of Flyers, this weak-to-Flying banana chin dino is really quite solid as a back end, relatively "safe" swap option to soak up some damage and possibly take some very good things down with it. Leaf Blade, by the way, is the only charge move you really need, but either of the other two charge moves is fine to add on as well: Aerial Ace is solid and pretty widely unresisted, and Stomp is also resisted by very little and comes out cheaper than Ace, which might be more valuable with Razor Leaf generating energy so slowly.
DRAGONITE
Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Draco Meteorᴸ
Yes, it works, beating the Electrics, Gary, Gligar, and even able to overpower Steel Wing Skarmory, which is nice. But note: unlike some formats where it can get away with running just Dragon Claw, here Dragonite really needs that second move, and it needs to be Draco Meteor. Without that, there just isn't the same potential. I wouldn't Elite TM Meteor onto Nite just for this format, but if you had the foresight to build one for Great League already, you can dust it off here. There is no denying that it brings tremendous pressure.
Now SHADOW 'NITE doesn't really need a second move to beat Gligar, Gary, Shadow Zapdos, and now Mantine too. It also gains wins against things like Drifblim, Lugia, Shadow Zard and a few others... but drops Emolga, Mandi, and most damningly, Steel Wing Skarm to do it. It's viable, but those losses are disheartening.
MANDIBUZZ
Snarl | Foul Play & Aerial Ace/Shadow Ball
Well I predicted last time that we may see Mandibuzz for this format, and lo and behold, it's here! And yes, Mandi can do good things, at least with the right IVs. Beating Aerodactyl AND Skarmory is not easy, but Mandi can manage that, as well as taking out Gligar, Gyarados, and potentially even Altaria if you get REALLY lucky in trading, and much more on top of that. Forget Noctowl... THIS is the flying tank you want here!

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

ARTICUNO
Ice Shard | Icy Wind & Blizzard/Hurricaneᴸ/Ancient Power
So I'm just gonna start with this. Or better still... this. That's right... even an Articuno with raid-level IVs (12-14-15 in that case, but there are many combinations that get there) can beat not only the Dragons, not only Gligar and Gliscor, not only all the Flying Waters, not only Togekiss, but also Skarmory... even with super effective Steel Wing! In fact, if you look across the entirety of Flying Cup, Artie can beat everything that isn't Fire, Electric, or Aerodactyl. Now the downside is that Icy Wind, good as it is, cannot do it all alone... you need a second, closing move to close it out against some things, especially Skarmory. And the best second move would appear to be not Legacy move Hurricane (though that's okay too), not Ancient Power and its attractive Rock typing, but Blizzard, partly because Skarmory resists Hurricane, but NOT Blizzard. Articuno doesn't come cheap, but it DOES bring it if you're able to afford the investment.
SHADOW ARTICUNO, before you ask, is just not quite as good... and that's with best possible PvP IVs. Waterfall Gary can overcome it, and more damning, so can SW Skarm. No bueno.
LUGIA
Extrasensory | Sky Attack & Hydro Pump/Futuresight/Aeroblastᴸ
Lugia requires a pretty good (actually BAD) trade for a Research Breakthrough-sized, Level 15 one--it has to end up with pretty low IVs overall--but I know many have pulled that off. (Not me, of course... I've been so unsuccessful that TWO of my attempts became random Lucky trades. RIP. 😵 Anyway....) If you have one ready to rock, then yes, Lugia puts in some work here. It doesn't get any of the big three (well, without some tricks... more on that in a sec), but it makes a decent bodyguard for them by soaking up damage and beating some of their more troublesome counters head to head (Gligar, Gary, Togekiss, Altaria, etc.). And while, no, you cannot expect it to take out Aerodactyl (though it does a remarkable job trying!), SW Skarmory, or the Electrics, Lugia can at least hope for a home run with a well-timed Hydro Pump. That WILL happen to someone this Cup, and it will be glorious.
And if by ANY chance we're able to Elite TM the new Aeroblast onto it in time for the Cup (it comes back to raids the day of Flying Cup), do it! It picks up wins against Mantine and Altaria, and becomes much more interesting overall.
And gonna end it right here (again!). Hopefully this helps you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!).
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I'll try to get back to you!
Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Flying Cup (now that it's FINALLY here!), and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time!
submitted by JRE47 to TheSilphRoad

7

Nifty Or Thrifty: Kanto Cup (PvP Meta/Budget Analysis)

The "Nifty Or Thrifty" article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Kanto Cup, in this case. As is typical for the NoT series, I'll (re-)cover not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs... or don't need a second move at all! Because for those on a stardust budget--and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future--it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it. We all want to field competitive teams, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps channel our inner scrooge?
As I try to usually do, I will start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries, though after that I will have a couple more to talk about that ALSO have high level up costs.
But enough intro. Let's dive in!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

VENUSAUR
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb
May as well start in Pokédex order! Venusaur is a Kanto Pokémon that has maintained high relevance in PvP as new generations and new Grass types come along, and while part of that is certainly due to an above average fast move combined with the best overall Community Day move (2.22 Damage Per Energy) in Frenzy Plant, it's just as much due to Sludge Bomb, which turns Venusaur into a true dual threat: it does all the things you want your Grass to do (beating all Waters but Golduck and Shadow Slowbro/poke, and ALL Ground and Rock types, plus the Electrics) while also leveraging Sludge Bomb to beat the Fairies and all other Grasses but Confusion Exeggutor. As bonues, Venu also tends to beat Snorlax and most Mews at Great League level, typically taking out Mew before it can bring even scary stuff like Overheat into the equation. It's a solid and very versatile performer, and well worth an Elite TM for Frenzy Plant if you don't have one already. Venusaur has already proven it has PvP staying power and is a very safe investment.
CHARIZARD
Fire Spin/Dragon Breathᴸ/Wing Attackᴸ | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ/Overheat
So I'm going to try to make a tricky comparison simple, because between all the various fast moves and then normal AND Shadow permutations, Charizard could take up an article all by itself. Instead, I will jump to bullet form for a moment:
  • Original flavor Zard (Fire Spin, non-Shadow) does nothing completely unique, but gets many of the big wins other movesets are more known for (Machamp, Golbat, Snorlax, Magneton, etc.), and most importantly, has the cleanest and most efficient win of all over Hypno.
  • Shadow FS Zard seems to have the greatest "boom" potential, with unique wins over things like Ninetales, Dewgong, and Muk, and also beats Hypno (though it's closer), but also loses to Machamp, Snorlax, Golbat and others that non-Shadow is able to beat, and has razor thin wins over the Charmers, so there's "bust" potential here too.
  • Dragon Breath Zard not surprisingly has the easiest and most consistent wins over Dragonair and Dragonite, beats Snorlax and Poliwrath and FS Zard, and can JUST squeeze by with a win over Hypno, but has the hardest time against Grasses and is the only set that cannot overcome Articuno. Shadow DB is a big dropoff, by the way.
  • Wing Attack Zard has the easiest wins against Fighters, and gets many sneaky wins that other movesets do (Alolan Sandslash, Snorlax, Dragonite, Golbat, etc.) and somehow gets the most comfortable wins over the Charmers. Shadow WA Zard is a close sidegrade, dropping Snorlax, Golbat, and A-Slash to gain wins over Fire Spin AND Dragon Breath Zard, as well as, critically, Hypno. Oh, and the Charmers again make it a very close battle with the drop in bulk.
Got all that? I hope so, because I'm not planning to go through all that again! The main point is this: there are many nuances based on moves used, but Zard pretty consistently beats Grasses and Fairies, loses to Electrics, Rocks, and Ghosts, and the rest are... well, those nuances. Zard is good, and you can expect to see quite a few of them.
BLASTOISE
Water Gun | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Ice Beam/Skull Bash
Nothing fancy here. Blastoise is the blue collar worker of Water types: goes out and does its job--and quite well, thankyouverymuch--with workmanlike efficiency, and a few extra tasks (Haunter, A-Muk, Beedrill, Charmers) besides. It does need Skull Bash to beat Articuno reliably, but I think the better play may still be Ice Beam to keep Grasses honest.
RAICHU
Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Brick Break/Thunder Punch
Breaking Pokédex order for a moment to cover the "fourth starter" of the Kanto region. One of the very first Pokémon I ever covered in a full, spotlight article was Raichu, running Brick Break, which is not a great move but comes with such frequency that it basically turned Raichu into a psuedo-Fighting type that was able to slay even things like Bastiodon in open Great League. Here in the confines of Kanto Cup, that still has value as a way to beat up Steels (defeating Magneton and Alolan Sandslash) and Rocks (and even Snorlax! while still doing the normal Electric things too, to include beating ALL Waters (no Mud Boys here!) and Flyers, plus Beedrill, both Muks, and usually even Mew. Thunder Punch is perfectly viable too, and obviously gives more options against things that do not resist Electric damage, but the extra utility offered by Brick Break is hard to ignore.
ALOLAN RAICHU
Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Grass Knot/Psychic/Thunder Punch
Here I think it is Wild Charge you want in slot #1, and then while Thunder Punch remains an option for the second move, you are probably better off with Psychic to answer back against the Poisonous Grasses, or Grass Knot for extra utility, especially against some key Rocks that you don't get otherwise. But however you slice it, it would be easy to say that AhChu is slightly worse overall than Original Recipe Raichu, but while it's true that it loses to things Raichu can beat (Beedrill, Shadow Nite, Snorlax, and A-Slash), the wins it picks up are VERY impactful: Hypno, thanks to resisting Confusion damage, and the Alolan Rock win I linked to above. Those are both BIG names in this meta. Sometimes it's about quality over pure quantity.
BEEDRILL
Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Drill Runᴸ/Sludge Bomb
While it does get wiped away by Hypno like a bug on the windshield, the Bee does a lot of good in this meta. It is a premier Grassassin, taking them all out except Confusion Eggy, and beats most Fairies, Fighters, Poisons, and the Shadow Dragons and many prominent Electrics too. Shadow Bee is a viable alternative, with the biggest differences being that it drops some of the closer wins (like Magneton and AhChu) to gain regular Dragonite, Alolan Sandslash, and more consistent wins against Mew. No Bugs are truly great in this meta, but Beedrill is easily the best of the bunch.
PIDGEOT
Gustᴸ | Aerial Ace & Brave Bird
Might we be able to use our new Gust Pidgeots? It is admittedly a somewhat niche role, but as the best (non-Legendary) bird in Kanto, Pidgeot DOES have a role. It slays all the Fighters (including Machamp--regular AND Shadow--and its scary Rock Slide), Grasses, and Bugs, for starters. It also takes out all the Ghosts, A-Rat, Snorlax, Clefable, Muk (even with Thunder Punch), and beats Hypno if it's running with the generally recommended Fire Punch (rather than Ice or Thunder). Again, quality over sheer quantity.
ALOLAN RATICATE
Quick Attack | Crunch & Hyper Fang/Hyper Beam
Rarely ever seen in open GBL play due mainly to its fatal double weakness to Fighting, A-Rat is much better in limited metas like Kanto Cup. Specifically here, it represents one of only two eligible Darks, giving it huge advantages over the potent Psychics like Hypno, beating every Psychic type in the format except Alolan Raichu, and with ease. And that Dark typing also means it takes out the potent Ghosts too. Outside of those niches, A-Rat is a chonker with high bulk that deals generally unresisted damage, allowing it to hang around and beat things like Beedrill, Zapdos, Magneton, and Golbat, and then Charizard and Venusaur if it has Hyper Fang. Or there's home run potential with Hyper Beam, dropping the consistency of Fang (and Zard and Venu in the process) but giving A-Rat a potent weapon in drawn out battles and potential wins over Lapras, both Muks, and the mirror versus Fang Rat. Yes, keep it away from Charm and Fighters, but short of those, A-Rat rarely goes down without a good fight.
WIGGLYTUFF
Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough
Speaking of Charm, Wiggly is the undisputed best Charmer in this meta thanks to its unique-for-Charmers resistance to Ghost damage, which gives it wins over HaunteGengar and also Hypno, since its Shadow Ball is rendered all but useless. Thanks to its sky high HP, it also tends to emerge with a bit more left in the tank than other Charmers (like Clefable) in shared wins. Note that I ran the sim there with JUST Charm, as Charming somthing to death and THEN springing Ice Beam or Play Rough on whatever follows is always the right play when you can do it, and leads to wins over things like Lapras and Articuno that Wiggly can fall short on if it DOES try to throw a charge move at them instead of just sticking with Charm.
CLEFABLE is the second best, replicating most of Wiggly's success besides the Ghosts and, critically, Hypno. Those are siginificant differences, though, and put Clefable clearly at a much lower tier. Ignoring that I am temporarily switching to a 'mon with a 50k second move unlock, ALOLAN NINETALES is a very solid Charmer as well, with its resistance to Ice being useful in getting the best Charm win rate against Ices, easily beating Lapras and Articuno and being the only Charmer able to beat Dewgong. But its fatal weakness to Fire and neutrality to Fighting holds it back a bit, particularly against the Fire Punch many Hypnos may run with, and it tends to lose that as a result. It may be better off as a funky Ice type... at least it then beats Hypno!
GOLBAT
Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball
I BADLY want to recommend the Bat, because it's a thrifty superstar in many metas... just not so much this one. For one thing, it loses to Hypno in even the best of circumstances (with Hypno having Fire Punch and Bat landing the Shadow Ball... STILL a loss 😞). And while Bat does capably handle most Grasses, Fairies, Fighters, and Bugs, that is basically the extent of its usage. Shadow Bat is a bit better overall, tacking on Dragonite, Charizard, and A-Muk, but losing even harder to Hypno and others. Run it if you like it, but this is not a meta that particularly fears the Bat, man. 🦇 (No, of course that's not a pun, why do you ask?)
ALOLAN GRAVELEGOLEM
Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge
Ready for a shock? The Alolan Rocks look potentially HUGE in this meta. Both GRAVELER and GOLEM operate nearly identically, but the few differences are pretty key ones. Graveler has slightly higher bulk, allowing it to outtank Wigglytuff and Clefable, as well as Haunter. However, while Golem loses to that trio, it is able to beat Venusaur and Hypno (JUST before they each strike their own killing blows) instead thanks to Golem's higher Attack. Either way, the Alolan Rocks can smash and blast their way through a massive chunk of the meta, fearing really only Fighters, Razor Leafers, and sometimes other Grasses or Charmers (and Water damage from non-Water types, like Dragonair, since Volt Switch tends to keep other Waters at bay). These guys REALLY appreciate the lack of Mud Boys! Give the Alolan Rocks a hard look... it's not every day you can get THAT kind of performance for such a cheap investment! One final note: Golem has to be under Level 20, so hatched Alolan Geodudes won't do.
GYARADOS
Dragon Breath | Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch
IF you're going to run it at all, it's likely with Dragon Breath for the fact that it can beat Hypno and the Dragons at Great League level (plus A-Muk and Poliwrath), but it's worth noting that Waterfall washes away Machamp, A-Slash, DB Zard, and Golbat. Shadow Gary looks a lot scarier but is a small step backwards overall.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

ALOLAN SANDSLASH
Powder Snow | Ice Punch & Bulldoze/Blizzard
Ready for another Alolan surprise? BOOM. This little guy puts in some WORK, making full use of its Steel type resistances by beating all the Dragons, Grasses, and Fairies in the Cup, plus nearly all Bugs and Poisons as well (only Tentacruel and psuedo-Fighter Pinsir evade it), plus all non-Rock Electrics, Haunter and Gengar, and even beefy A-Rat for good measure. I like the extra coverage that comes with Bulldoze, but Blizzard certainly has a lot more blowout potential and A-Slash tends to win bigger with it.
NINETALES
Fire Spin | Psyshock & Overheat/Solar Beam
C'mon, Niantic... Weather Ball Ninetales when? Well, until then, Tails is still very solid. You can argue it's actually the best Fire here (aside from the multi-faceted A-Wak, at least), beating Charizard head to head, as well as numerous things Zard cannot overcome, including Lapras, thr Muks, Zapdos, and Ninetales' chilly Alolan cousin, and it tends to have an easier time with Mew as well. (Zard, conversely, is able to overcome Beedrill, Machamp, and sometimes Shadow Nite, but that's it.) You also have the potential threat of Solar Beam... you don't even have to actually run it to keep Waters and Rocks and Grounds on edge... though if you do and actually land one, you can stop your sets for that day and go out on a high note. 😄 You're likely going to see a lot more Zards than Tails anyway, but maybe now you can use some insider's knowledge to get the jump on them with something a little better.
GRASSHOLES
Razor Leaf | Sludge Bomb & Moonblast/Leaf Blade
Yet again, VILEPLUME and GLOOM are just as good, if not better, than the more famous Victreebel. They beat basically the same things (Vic uniquely beats Snorlax, and Plume instead gets Magneton), but Plume and Gloom tend to emerge with more life left over for the next 'mon up, and have more versatile charge moves to throw out before wilting away. Vic is better at bringing the immediate, in-your-face pressure with Leaf Blade, but try Plume and Gloom out sometime too... you may find you like them better. Either way, Leafers gonna do what Leafers do, shredding ALL Waters, Rocks, and Grounds, plus the Fighters, Fairies (one area where there is a sizeable gap between Plume's remaining HP and Vic's), and Electrics too. But stay far, FAR away from Flyers, Dragons, Ices, Poisons, Bugs, and especially Fire! Oh yeah, and Hypno has their number too. 😢
VENOMOTH
Confusion | Poison Fang & Bug Buzz
One of the very best counters to Grassholes (and Grass in general), and many other things besides, to include Charmers, Fighters, Poisons, and even oddballs like DB Zard, Shadow Nite, and Lapras. Honestly, you can kind of think of it as a better, slightly more expensive Golbat in terms of functionality and utility. Moth is a champion of Silph Arena Cups of the past, so you may already have one still sitting around from back then to dust off and use, so check your inventory!
MACHAMP
Counter | Rock Slide & Cross Chop
Rock Slide is such a good weapon in the (many) hands of Machamp, and allow the regular and Shadow versions to claim the title of best Fighters in this meta. Not only does Champ do everything you could ask of a good Fighting type, but it can even beat Venusaur, Beedrill, Charizard, and Dragonair and the Shadow version adds on Mew, Muk, and Alolan Marowak. The power of Rock Slide!
PRIMEAPE's unique weapon is Night Slash, which combined with the powerful Close Combat allows it to replicate much of Champ's success, the differences being losses to... well, the names I just mentioned above, but wins against Machamp itself and Alolan Raichu (who doesn't appreciate Night Slash), and Primeape at least forces Hypno to shield or it will die. So there's that.
POLIWRATH
Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Dynamic Punch/Hydro Pump
Less potent than the Counter users, but also less predictable. Ice Punch is pretty much mandatory, but you can then run it either with Dynamic Punch for more of a classic Fighter role (beating Lapras, Dewgong, and the Alolan Rocks) or with Hydro Pump to instead surprise stuff like Charizard, Beedrill, and Alolan Marowak. Either way you also beat stuff like Dragonite, Haunter, both Muks, and of course Snorlax and A-Slash. Poli doesn't have the eye-popping numbers, but it's a uniquely versatile threat that has answers where other Fighters don't.
HYPNO
Confusion | Shadow Ball/Focus Blast & Fire/Ice/Thunder Punch
Do not mistake how late Hypno appears in this article to mean it's not big here, as it is probably THE central figure in the meta. (I'm just trying to mostly stick with Pokédex order!) Hypno doesn't have a crazy high win rate, but it just beats so many things so efficiently, and is basically hard countered by nothing but the few Ghosts, Darks, and some other meaningful Psychic types in the Cup. Confusion does much of the damage, and Shadow Ball or Focus Blast are fantastic closing moves, but the real wrinkle to Hypno is predicting which Elemental Punch it's running, making for a nightmare decision the first time you get that "Attack Incoming!" while facing one down. Fire Punch is arguably the best overall, putting pressure on the Steels (Magneton, A-Slash) that are a pain for Hypno otherwise, but note that Thunder and Ice Punch are equally viable and able to beat Charizard and bring different pressure elsewhere (Thunder to Waters, Ice primarily to Grounds, and both to Flyers). Shadow Hypno is remarkably similar, trading new losses against Shadow Nite and the Alolan Rocks for new wins against Lapras and DB Charizard. You definitely want Shadow Ball over Focus Blast, the latter of which is a bit slow with S-Hypno's decayed bulk.
Oh, and one more thing: if you have a high stat product IV Hypno, not only does every single win become a BIGGER win, but Hypno now has paths to beat Mew, Alolan Raichu, and even Alolan Marowak! 👀
TENTACRUEL
Poison Jab | Acid Spray & Hydro Pump
Tentacthulhu is a PvP option you either like the feel of or don't. It's very bait reliant, with proper timing of when to lay down Acid Spray baits or just go for the throat with Hydro Pump being key to its success. It's at least comforting to know it can reliably grind down Fairies, Lapras, Charizard, and even Dragonite with just Sprays, but to break out you need to land that Pump, flipping the Muks, Snorlax, Golbat, A-Rat, and basically all the Ices and Fighters but Shadow Machamp (that darn Rock Slide again!) that way. I wouldn't recommend trying to cram and get good with Tentacruel for the first time now, but if you have experience piloting Tenta, you should be able to deploy it here too if you wish.
RAPIDASH
Incinerate | Drill Run & Flame Charge
Well here you go, your first chance to really use Incinerate. And it's... okay? In fairness, Rapidash itself isn't the best in Great League (it's better in Ultra League, actually), so perhaps this isn't the best first look, but we'll take what we can get! And that's a Fire that does standard Fire things while also knocking over both Muks and Mew with Drill Run. You can probably do a little better, but I'm just here to present the facts!
GALARIAN RAPIDASH
Psycho Cut | Body Slam & Megahorn
Man, if only My Little Pony got Drill Run too. Oh well. Megahorn will do, especially since it beats Hypno with it. Oh, and other stuff, like all the OTHER Psychic types, and all the Dragons, and all the Fighters, and Venusaur for a cherry on top. Not a bad little niche!
MAGNETON
Thunder Shock | Magnet Bomb & Discharge/Zap Cannon
Mostly relegated to the trash heap since Magnezone arrived, MagneTON still has value. It's blazingly fast in throwing out Magnet Bombs and Discahrges, outracing the Legendary Birds (and DB Charizard), Dewgong, Dragonite, Muk, all Fairies, Golbat, and even Poliwrath and, somehow, big bad Shadow Victreebel. Or you can lose a little speed potential to go big with Zap Cannon, dropping Poli and Bat to potentially gain the mirror and, yes, Hypno--even with Fire Punch!--with a good bait to set it up. Spicy!
DEWGONG
Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Water Pulse/Aqua Jetᴸ/Blizzard
He of the double Elite TM quandry, if you've taken the plunge (or pulled off a steal in a past trade) and acquired one, absolutely, it can WRECK here, yes. As with A-Slash earlier, there are coverage moves (Water Pulse or Aqua Jet for the TRIPLE Legacy moveset), and they are the way to beat... well, A-Slash. But Blizzard does everything else they can do, and adds on unique wins against Snorlax and most of Mew's Mewvesets, plus the mirror match (and is the only way to realistically beat double Legacy Lapras too) and gets a much easier win against Alolan Muk. Forget the coverage, IMO... go for broke here with Blizzard. Gong has got the thiccness to reliably spring it.
MUK
Posion Jab | Thunder Punch & Dark Pulse/Sludge Wave
I keep mentioning them, so time now for the Muks... yes, both of them, because original Kanto Muk is a fun option too. No, it can't really tangle with Hypno, but it CAN reliably beat down Fairies, Grasses, most Dragons, Charizard, Zapdos, Dewgong (w/o Blizzard, of course), Snorlax, and even the Fat A-Rat. The commonly accepted moveset is Thunder Punch (which still makes NO sense to me thematically, but whatever) and Dark Pulse, but there's the option to drop Pulse for Sludge Wave, dropping the Dragons for sneaky wins against Articuno and Poliwrath.
ALOLAN MUK
Snarl | Dark Pulse & Sludge Wave
Less moveset surprises here, but that doesn't detract from the results. As one of only two Darks in the format, A-Muk easily handles Hypno (not even Focus Blast can save it without a big-time energy lead) and all other Psychics (besides pesky AhChu) and Ghosts. But it doesn't end there, as A-Muk also swallows Grasses, fellow Dark A-Rat, Golbat, Magneton, Zapdos, Charizard, and most Dragons and Fairies too. It wants nothing to do with Grounds or Rocks or most Waters and Ices, but there is a good chunk of the meta that wants to steer well clear of A-Muk's wide maw.
GENGAHAUNTER
Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball/Sludge Bomb
Basically the same Pokémon, with just these key differences: Gengar's slight advantage in bulk means it can beat Haunter head to head and survive Poliwrath (which Haunter cannot), while the higher Attack of Haunter allows it to sneak in a win over Dragonite. One other nuance: while Sludge Bomb is usually laughed off in favor of Shadow Ball, in THIS particular meta, it has one key thing going for it: beating the Ghost-resistant Wigglytuff. In Haunter's case it maintains all the wins it got with Shadow Ball, while Gengar sheds a Ball win against K-Muk, but either way, I think Sludge Bomb may actually be THE way to go here. Consider it, at least!
ALOLAN MAROWAK
Fire Spin | Bone Club & Shadow Boneᴸ/Shadow Ball
Sadly, K-Wak doesn't have a ton to offer, but A-Wak certainly does! And that sim shows the moveset I think you want most: Fire Spin, Bone Club, and Shadow Bone, which is consistent at beating Hypno (ironically, getting cute with Hex actually usually LOSES that), as well as outracing Lapras and even Dragonite. In addition to the surprising loss to Hypno, Hex-centric movesets also lose Wigglytuff, and Shadow Ball certainly works, but it's relatively slow speed means that things like Alolan Raichu and Mew can more easily escape (not to mention Lappie and Nite). If you built a good Shadow Bone one and didn't have much time to use it in Halloween Cup, now is its chance to shine!
SEAKING
Waterfall/Poison Jabᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Drill Runᴸ
Let's end the 50ks with a fun one! Another multiple-Elite-TM special, this odd fish isn't Dewgong levels of deadly, but it certainly merits a look. It consistently takes out Fires, as you would expect, and also things like A-Muk, Articuno, A-Slash, A-Tails, and Poliwrath that may be a little more of a surprise. Waterfall further nets wins like Haunter, Beedrill, Snorlax, A-Rat, and Alolan Rocks, while Legacy Poison Jab instead handles the Charmers, Lapras and Dewgong, and Dragonair. Both versions can be tricky to maneuver around, especially if you don't know what to expect. This author has the triple Legacy one--first thing I used Elite TMs on, actually--so study hard, as there will be at least one poking around out there! 😉

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

LAPRAS
Ice Shardᴸ | Surf & Ice Beamᴸ/Skull Bash/Blizzard/Hydro Pump
Yes, you really do have all those viable options. Heck, you could even run Water Gun variants if you want or can't get Legacy Ice Shard, but Shard is just better in general. (As just one example, neutral Ice Shard actually beats FS Zard faster than super effective Water Gun due to Shard's higher energy gains... go look it up, it's true!) Anyway, Surf is a given, but the second move is basically whatever you want it to be. I generally recommend Ice Beam (linked above) if you can get it for the pressure it brings to Grasses, but Blizzard is a perfectly suitable replacement if you can't get Legacy Beam, Skull Bash is great for general coverage (and makes Dewgong easiest and beats all other Lapras movesets in the mirror), and even Hydro Pump has a niche as the hardest counter to Fires and Ices, and being the easiest, most consistent way to beat A-Wak in particular. Pick your pleasure and deploy the plesiosaur!
OMASTAR
Mud Shot/Rock Throwᴸ | Hydro Pump & Rock Slideᴸ/Rock Blast
Newsflash: at least with Legacy Rock Slide, Lord Helix can beat Hypno! The only way the hypnosis Pokémon wins is with Thunder Punch, its least preferred Punch overall in this meta. SlideStar also takes out Fires, Flyers (even Zapdos), Bugs, and most Ices with ease, plus both Muks, A-Rat, and with decently high Attack, the Alolan Rocks too. You CAN run non-Legacy Rock Blast instead, but Hypno, Beedrill, Dragonite, and Zapdos become much harder to beat, so it's not recommended. If you want to flex DOUBLE Legacy though, with Rock Throw, it does lose out to Hypno (due to being slower to reach charge moves), but every other win comes easier, and it adds on Haunter as well.
Fellow "Rock Boy" KABUTOPS does much of the same without Legacy moves, but it does miss out on Hypno, Zapdos, and A-Rocks. And that AERODACTYL you have left over from Flying Cup does okay-ish here, but is even a step back further behind Kabutops. Probably best to just let Lord Helix represent off-the-wall Rock types in this meta.
SNORLAX
Lick | Body Slam & Superpower
Yes, it puts in work, with the only things that really blow it out being Fighters or high damage fast moves (Razor Leaf or Charm). Lax puts up a good fight against most everything else and is a top notch "safe swap", just as it is in the higher leagues. But it's more than JUST a safe swap, with safe wins against Hypno, Haunter, Dewgong, Beedrill, Mew (usually), all Electrics but Kanto Raichu, and ALL the Alolans except sometimes A-Tails. That is a VERY good win list when you look at all the names on there. Snorlax obviously isn't cheap to prep, but it's well worth the investment!
DRAGONAIR
Dragon Breath | Aqua Tail & Dragon Pulse/Return
Underrated in Great League already, this meta may present 'Nair with the chance to open some eyes to all the good it can do. In this meta, that means beating Hypno and Mew, Snorlax, Beedrill, A-Rat, Haunter, Golbat, both Muks, all Electrics and Rocks and Grounds but A-Grav and Kabutops, and ALL Fires and Grasses, just to name a few. Some of that is Aqua Tail, yes, but much of it is just pure beatdown from the Dragon moves. Return is a viable alternative--and cheaper!--but Dragon Pulse is necessary to ensure Hypno and Snorlax and a couple others, and the second move I heartily recommend.
DRAGONITE
Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Hurricane/Draco Meteorᴸ
Well, it's not the wide win spread you want, but you WILL see Dragonites at some point, I am sure. Hurricane and Draco Meteor perform about the same overall, so at least you can get by without Legacy moves. Grasses, Bugs, Poisons, Snorlax, other Dragons... those are the things that have the most to fear from 'Nite. Much of the rest of the meta takes a pounding but emerges victorious in the end. Shadow Nite does manage to knock out Hypno and Haunter, but is otherwise a straight downgrade, with things like Bee, Bat, and the Muks all slipping away.

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

Running out of room, so let's get through the Legendaries (and Mythical) in rapid fire form!
  • ARTICUNO does indeed seem best with Legacy Hurricaneᴸ, with which it beats everything Blizzard (Snorlax) and Ice Beam (Wiggly, Clefable) can, plus Poliwrath and Mew. AND it needs good PvP IVs to consistently overcome Hypno. But after all that investment, you get one of the format's very best Grass, Dragon, and Bug counters that also freezes out Muks, most other Flyers, and those Charmer and Snorlax wins I mentioned. Shadow Artie is a downgrade, tending to lose to the Charmers and Mew.
  • ZAPDOS is okay... Shadow Zapdos is better, picking up surer wins over Venusaur, Dewgong, both Muks, and Mew. Either way, it's not among the top tier of Electrics here, but it does well enough in that role, and beating ALL Grasses, Fighters, and Bugs on top of it makes Zapdos a potent flex option. Regular or Shadow need Legacy Thunder Shockᴸ though... perhaps you have one you already built for Flying Cup?
  • MOLTRES is sadly not that great, basically acting as a worse Charizard here. And the Shadow version is a mere sidegrade with either Fire Spin or Wing Attack. Oh, and they all require Legacy Sky Attackᴸ to even be THAT useful. I think you can pass on this one.
  • Shadow Mewtwo just doesn't seem worth it for the investment required, but MEW certainly could be. Writing about its many various Mewvesets would fill up a whole article unto itself, so I will just say this: expect to see it with Shadow Claw almost always, which spells trouble for Hypno, and with Surf or Psyshock most of the time as well. Beyond that, good luck guessing what to shield!
And there we go... we made it through! Well, mostly. There are a couple more that must be maxed out (and therefore don't neatly fit into any "thrifty" analysis) that I will put into a comment/reply below, as well as a few others I will mention that didn't quite make the cut for the main article, but are worth a brief mention. So look for that in a reply. But otherwise, we're done! Hopefully this proves helpful in helping you prep for Kanto Cup, a format that looks fun and hopefully not QUITE as centered on one or two specific Pokémon like Flying and Little Cups did. There are several strong--even dominant--performers, no doubt, but multiple ways to work around them and craft some unique and competitive teams. Good luck!
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I'll try to get back to you!
Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Kanto Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!
submitted by JRE47 to PokemonGOBattleLeague