Core Meltdown: Halloween Cup

Hello again, fellow PvPers, and welcome to another edition of Core Meltdown!

While for the better part of three years of analysis and 300+ articles on PoGO PvP, in 2022 I finally began an honest-to-goodness new article series diving into recommended “cores” to build a team around. And today, I’m going back and doing it for another past format returning to PvP: Halloween Cup (returning… well, basically NOW, on Tuesday, April 5th at 1:00 p.m. PDT). Not ALL cores are covered here, of course, as there will be plenty of other homebrewed ones… and that’s a good thing! This is simply intended to give you just a few of the big ones (and some spicy alternatives!) to get you started on making your own awesome team… and/or gearing up to combat the more popular teams out there!

What is a “core”, you ask? Simply a group of Pokémon that work well together on a team, covering each other’s weaknesses and responding well to the bigger threats in a particular meta. Sometimes a core will be defined as three (or even more, in the case of “show six, play three” formats like The Silph Arena) Pokémon that synergize together, but usually we’re talking core duos. And that’s what I will focus on here: pairs of Pokémon that can make up a solid core to build your team around. And for the visually inclined, instead of linking to a bunch of sims, I’m going to link to graphical representations of what those cores can (and cannot) handle in the Little Jungle Cup meta, heavily utilizing PvPoke’s fantastic Team Builder tool. Strongly recommend checking that tool out if you haven’t already!

And with all that out of the way, and time basically up before the Cup arrives, let’s gooooooo!


Some of the best and (in most cases) likely-to-be most popular cores in the Cup. While you may not run these yourselves, study them hard to at least know how to break them! These cores include (but are most definitely not limited to):

THE QUEENS – Azumarill + Nidoqueen

  • Yep… here’s your Basic B—- Meta Line, folks.
  • Mirror matches and scary Waters that can beat Azumarill (Qwilfish and Jellicent, primarily) are the biggest issues here. Not much else that one or the other “queens” (or both!) can’t handle.
  • Those few gaps can rather easily be plugged by a solid Grass or Electric type, or something relatively neutral like Sableye.
  • Really not much else to see here. This is a pretty well-balanced core that many players will likely rely on, so have ideas in your mind of how to break it up!

THE MANDIQUEEN – Mandibuzz + Nidoqueen

  • Obviously very similar to Azumarill/Nidoqueen, but with different coverage. Poisons and Waters no longer a major issue… now it’s stuff like Umbreon, Froslass (both Mandi and Queen are weak to Ice, remember), and Azumarill.
  • Very tanky and versatile team that handles basically everything BUT Ice rather well.
  • Variant: Umbreon instead of Mandibuzz plays pretty similarly and doesn’t have to worry as much about Ice.

THE QUEEN’S JESTER – Nidoqueen + Scrafty

  • Okay, last one with Nidoqueen, I promise!
  • This is a core that has showed up several places outside of Halloween. The one twist on the usual is running Scrafty not with Power-Up Punch, but Acid Spray instead, which further threatens Fairies that may breath a sigh of relief if they “dodge” Nidoqueen.
  • Azumarill, not surprisingly, remains problematic, as do enemy Queens, but thankfully not much else. This is a high shield pressure team; both have scary closing moves and good baiting can very quickly doom opponents.
  • As Scrafty struggles versus Flyers, this MAY be a case where Stone Edge Nidoqueen makes sense, though you basically give up the Nidoqueen mirror that way.

THE STEELY JELLY – Mawile + Jellicent

  • Who says Fire and Water don’t mix?
  • Great coverage, with Jellicent keeping Grounds, Fighters, and Fires off of Mawile’s back, while Mawile burns through any Grasses, Steels, or even Darks (and Charmers… Wigglytuff especially) foolish enough to try and take out JelliBelli.
  • Sableye is a problem for this core, as are any Waters that Jellicent cannot overcome.

THE HALLOWEEN AVENGERS – Umbreon + Azumarill

  • Hey, the Avengers are stronger together because of their differences, right? Just go with me on this one.
  • One of the most common cores in both editions of Halloween Cup thus far. Not perfect by any means, but very solid, flexible core to build around that can hang in there even in bad spots for a while… often long enough to still swap out with something left in the tank.
  • Biggest issues? Dark/Poisons and enemy Azumarill. Could ways to plug those, albeit few perfectly. Galvantula and Mawile come immediately to mind. For my money, though, allow me to present Beedrill.
  • This is one of those rare instances where Psychic (the move) may be better than Last Resort on Umbreon, just to help fend off Poison types that could cause this core some issues. Your call though!

THE STONE COLD GEM – Sableye + Alolan Ninetales

  • Despite the moniker, this is not a rock hard core. It has very little blowout win potential, but it doesn’t lose hard to many things either. A pretty safe, dip-your-toes-in core to start with that can take the fight to a big slice of the meta.
  • Several holes to plug — Poisons like A-Muk, oddball Bugs like Forretress and Crustle, and Charmers — but I think there’s some nice potential here.


The beginnings of your “ABB” cores, overloaded with a pair of similar Pokémon and a “pivot” intended to handle their hard counters.

THE JELLI ROLL – Jellicent + Azumarill

  • Look at how much of the core meta these two can BOTH handle! Love to see that kind of buddy-buddying.
  • The holes are pretty obvious, though: Dark/Poisons primarily, but also any Electrics or Grasses that show up. I hate to bring it up again, but… Nidoqueen? Or perhaps Toxicroak or the like to keep things spicy.

THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE – Crustle + Tyranitar

  • Ignore the lousy coverage score… it’s almost meaningless. There is precious little in this meta that can stand up to a double Smack Down beatdown, as some of us learned the hard way last time through Halloween Cup.
  • Some of the very few things that can? Steely Mawile, certain Charmers, and things that are wet (mostly Azumarill and Qwilfish).
  • Speaking of Qwil, it comes ready-made as a very good ‘A’ to the rocky ‘B’s here. That particular line was quite popular last year and still ranks highly on PvPoke’s Halloween Training Analysis portal.

THE CREEPY CRAWLIES – Crustle + Wormadam (Trash)

  • Trashadam represents a HARD counter to Fairies and Poisons (that are not part Dark), including normally-scary Nidoqueen and Qwilfish, and a softer (but pretty reliable) counter for other troublesome things like Azumarill. Crustle handles opposing Flyers, Bugs, Ices, and Fires. Lot of good synergy here!
  • Mawile, Umbreon, Jellicent. That’s about all that should really scare you.
  • Another variant is Crustle/Escavalier instead, which is a little softer on Poisons and Fairies, but harder on the Dark/Poisons (and Darks in general, with Escav reliably handling Umbreon).

THE “I DON’T BELIEVE IN FAIRIES” – Scrafty + Zweilous

  • Please tell me you’ve seen the wonderful film Hook and immediately got the reference in the title of this core. If not, go see it. Well worth your time.
  • So yeah… if you see a Fairy (well, aside from Mawile), both of these die quickly and violently. Beedrill can also bee be a problem. But other than that? One or the other (or often both) of this special Dark duo is gonna beat it down. As long as you can plug the Fairy hole with your third, this is actually a surprisingly solid and potentially oppressive core.


Here’s your spicier stuff, some of which could actually work REALLY well, but all carry at least a moderate risk of blowing up in your face. If Danger is your middle name, some of these may be for you!

THE SKIPPING STONE – Azumarill + Crustle

  • That’s one heck of a good score for a “spice” team, ain’t it? I almost put this in the Stable Core section, but this is not a combo that I think was very common last time around, nor considered a “top tier” core.
  • Only real hole are Waters that can overcome Azumarill, meaning Jellicent, enemy Azumarills, and of course Qwilfish. Crustle keeps Poisons off Azu’s back, freeing Azu up to dominate much of what’s left over.
  • Quite a bit of doubling up here, with Azu and Crustie both beating the same opponents… one sign of a good, flexible core.

THE CAMPFIRE – Trevenant + Mawile

  • I wanted to highlight at least one potential Trevenant core, and Mawile happens to cover its frailty to Ices, Flyers, Poisons, Fairies, and even Darks quite well. Trevor, meanwhile, rips through things weak to Grass (Azu, Queen, Jelli, etc.) and others like Qwilfish and Sableye.
  • Biggest threat? Enemy Fire, which roasts both of these. Perhaps a Water type that also blunts Poison AND softens things up for Mawile and Trevor?

THE BLACK BEE – Beedrill + Umbreon

  • Also wanted at least one good team with Beedrill, and while Umbreon is hardly “spicy”, it’s hard to ignore how well these two back each other up. Fire (Mawile, primarily) and a couple Bugs (Forretress is one obvious hole) cause some issues, but really not much else slips through both layers of defense here.
  • NOT much overlap here, meaning higher than normal risk of getting locked into bad matchups. A “safe swap” as the third is particularly important with these two. Maybe Alolan Marowak? Or something really spicy like Dedenne? 🌶️

THE FIGHT OR FLIGHT – Escavalier + Mandibuzz

  • Escavalier isn’t the greatest Charm or Poison counter, but it DOES lock down the ones that plague Mandibuzz well enough, while also tacking Ices and Rocks too, allowing Mandibuzz to feast on most of the rest of the meta.
  • Remaining holes include Azumarill and Mawile, and somewhat enemy Mandibuzz as well. Once again… perhaps Dedenne to plug holes? Or spammy Qwilfish?


Just like on Star Trek, when in doubt, just eject the core! Here I try to highlight some good corebreakers you may or may not have thought of. These can make good third Pokémon with some of the above example cores, or might be worth building your own unique team around. Either way, if you’re getting railed by a popular Pokémon or two and don’t know how to fend it off, you can try turning to some of these.

Mawile SteelFairy
  • You probably noticed throughout the article, but MAWILE, in either its normal or Shadow form, is a very disruptive presence in this meta. It must avoid Fire, most Waters, and a couple Fighters, but most everything else is fair game.
Qwilfish WaterPoison
  • QWILFISH was a great corebreaker in Little Jungle Cup, and that continues here. Beating Fairies, Fires (and Mawile), Rocks, and several of the most prominent Bugs, Darks, and Poisons, there are a surprising number of teams that have a Qwilfish-shaped hole. And you can mix things up further by running Water Gun, which drops a couple fringey things like Venusaur, Obstagoon, and Zweilous to instead outslug Mandibuzz, Skuntank, Escavalier, and Forretress. The original Halloween Cup marked Qwilfish’s first big breakout, and I see nothing that indicates the meta has left it behind.
Dragalge PoisonDragon
  • DRAGALGE is one of only two Dragons (the other being Zweilous) in the meta, one that happens to beat Azumarill along the way. I actually like Dragalge more than Zweil in this meta… less direct threats, AND carries Gunk Shot to keep even scary Charmers on their heels.
Drifblim GhostFlying
  • Not its best-ever meta to shine out, but most of us have seen DRIFBLIM in action enough to know it can be brutal. Its Flying side gives it a leg up versus most Bugs in this meta in addition to its usual duties, so that’s nice. Blim is one of the first ones I’d like at when trying to plug holes from many of the cores above… it slides in nicely with many duos.
Beedrill (Shadow) BugPoison
  • BEEDRILL, particularly the Shadow version, does a lot of disrupting: to Charmers, to Azumarill, to most Poisons, to Darks, and even to some of the scarier Bugs. It is easily one of the best “thrifty” options in this format.
Golbat PoisonFlying
  • Another great budget corebreaker? GOLBAT. If your team can handle Ice, Rock, and Electric well (and several of the Darks, come to think of it), Golbat can turn things around for you in a hurry.

  • Speaking of Electrics, there are only two of them in the whole meta, and both come with the ability to also disrupt Dark types: GALVANTULA and Mighty Mouse DEDENNE. Handling Darks, Waters, Flyers, AND most other Bugs is a good place to be in this meta.
Primarina WaterFairy
  • Wigglytuff has been THE Charmer to turn to first (and usually last) in Halloween Cups of the past, thanks in large part to its resistance to Ghost that allows it to beat things most other Charmers can’t, like Jellicent, Cofagrigus, and Drifblim. However, there is one NEW Charmer this time that is likely to make… well, quite a splash! PRIMARINA comes with a VRY handy Water typing, and while it cannot beat those Ghosts that Wiggly can, Prima CAN take down Azumarill, Snarl Alolan Muk, Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales, and most impressively, Shadow Scizor and Shadow Mawile, those last two especially being traditional Charm counters that NO other Charmer can overcome. Don’t overlook it… Primarina is very quietly one of the best new additions to Halloween Cup this season.

  • It’s not going to stand up to much punishment, and simply cannot face off against anything that deals super effective damage to it, but CHANDELURE blazes quite a trail on its way out. And not just the obvious Grasses and Bugs and Steels and Ices, but also most Poisons, Fires, and Charmers than to its resistances. New option INCINEROAR is similar but torches Ghosts and several Darks instead of Poison types. Fire does a LOT of good in this meta.
Salazzle PoisonFire
  • I mean, if you somehow HAVE a SALAZZLE already… hoooooo boy. (Also, go buy some lottery tickets before that luck dissipates.) Talk about disruption! Deploy freely.

As I mentioned at the top, this is NOT fully comprehensive. Some of these cores and Pokémon are definitely ones you’ll come across, and some are more off the wall and you may never encounter at all… and there are perfectly viable cores and teams that don’t follow ANY of these recommendations. But all are intended to get your own creative juices flowing and give you a starting point to make whatever team works best for YOU. Because that’s what this is all about, right? Finding a team that fits your own style, doesn’t have too many gaping holes, and is FUN.

I also modified my meta/budget overview of the format — “Nifty Or Thrifty” — ahead of time, so be sure to go check that out too. Between that and now this additional guide, I do hope I’ve help put you on the path to success this coming week. Best of luck!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with regular PvP analysis nuggets, or on Patreon.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time. Cheers!

Author & tags

PoGO/PvP Investigative Journalist, GO Hub and Silph Arena/Road Contributor, amateur cook, author of 'Nifty Or Thrifty' and 'Under The Lights' article series and #PvPfacts!

Further reading

Popular today

Latest articles

Support us

Buy GO Hub merch

Get your very own GO Hub t-shirt, mug, or tote.