Nifty Or Thrifty PvP: The Return of Ultra League Premier

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: the glorious return of Ultra League Premier in this case, for the first time since 2022! As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover many of the top meta picks, but I’ll be spending even more of the article than usual highlighting the “thrifty” picks with cheap second move costs and/or low or no XL Candy investment. 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.

As per usual, we’ll start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries. I do try and put extra emphasis on the thriftier stuff, especially for formats like this where you may not use some of these things much in the future. (For a rough guide to reusability, though, I will rank things with ♻️s, with three being solid in Open Ultra League, two being okay in at least certain Cup formats, and only one being something that, honestly, you’re unlikely to use again.) As mentioned above, I am going to place special emphasis on “thriftiness” in this article, trying to save most everything that requires heavy XL Candy investment and/or high second move costs for the end, but there will be a few XL-heavy things that I mark with 💰s, one for things in the mid-40s and two for things that require maxing out (or nearly so).

Alrighty, no time to lose… let’s get into it!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy


Empoleon WaterSteel

Steel Wing | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Drill Peck

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Empoleon was everywhere in Ultra League, often paired with two Dragons for a hard-to-break trio. And now… perhaps that’s back? At the very least, Shadow Empoleon looks very interesting in this format (and can beat a ton of things that non-Shadow cannot, like Annihilape, Escavalier, Golisopod, Greninja, Shadow Swampert, Dragonite, Trevenant, Venusaur, Skeledirge, and Talonflame) and Empoleon in general certainly has use in UL in general now. This is as good a time as any to build Empoleon (particularly Shadow) for Ultra League if that’s not a tool you already have in your arsenal.


Feraligatr Water

Shadow Claw | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Ice Beam

And here again, if you have not yet built an Ultra League Feraligatr, what are you waiting for?! I do actually slightly lean towards non-Shadow in Premier, which can beat stuff like Greninja, Golisopod, Trevenant, Skarmory, Mandibuzz, Shadow Machamp, and Shadow Drapion, whereas ShadowGatr whiffs on those and beats only stuff like Dragalge, Obstagoon, Escavalier, Venusaur, and Walrein instead. But really, both of those are more than good enough for use here, and rank back to back among the Top Three in Ultra League Premier. Again, what are you waiting for? The time to make sure you have both on hand is now, folks.


Swampert WaterGround

Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Earthquake

Here too it would seem that non-Shadow (beats Dubwool, Gliscor, Talonflame, PowderTales, Shadow Machamp, Cofagrigus) slightly outperforms Shadow Swampie (beats Escavalier, Obstagoon, Greninja, Greedent) in this format, but really either is fine and some teams will benefit more clearly from one over the other. It operates quite a bit differently than Feraligatr (Swampie handles Poisons and Electrics far better, but Gatr is otherwise generally better now versus Waters, Flyers, Fighters, Dragons and others) and Empoleon too, but its extra resistances will make it preferred on certain teams for sure. I think it’s more fair to say that all three on a similar tier now rather than saying Swampert has fallen behind them, even if Swampert’s numbers aren’t as flashy anymore on the surface. It’ll still be a terror in Premier.


Greninja WaterDark

Water Shuriken | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Night Slash

Also residing in that upper tier, we have Greninja. Still there, still dangerous, outracing even some seemingly deadly opponents like Trevenant, Escavalier, and Ampharos thanks to its ridiculous speed. On that note, remember that Water Shuriken allows it to outrace the other Hydro Cannon users, so Greninja can take down Feraligatr (Shadow), Empoleon, AND Swampert too. There are some scary new Waters rising up now, but don’t forget that Greninja was that scary new Water not long ago. It hasn’t gone anywhere!


Samurott Water

Fury Cutter | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Megahorn

Now we arrive at a lower tier among Water starters, with Samurott’s schtick of heavy Bug damage doing some good things, but only to a point. If you decide to spice it up with Sammie, a word of advice: consider running it not with Megahorn, but Blizzard, with which you can sneak in wins against Dragons like Dragalge and Kingdra, and bonuses like Gliscor. It’s a particularly nasty surprise, as you might expect, with shields down (much moreso than Megahorn).


Quaquaval WaterFighting

Wing Attack | Close Combat & Liquidation/Aerial Ace

Also in that lower tier. It’s fine, but we’ll see later why it doesn’t really stand up when compared to a certain whirly punchy Water boy. I’d hold off building this one until after its eventual Community Day, personally.


Blastoise Water

Water Gun | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Skull Bash/Returnᴸ/Ice Beam

It’s really not fair putting Blastoise down here, as Blastie always puts in a solid enough performance owing to sheer willpower (and bulk), but if I’m being honest, it’s just kind of there. Doesn’t do anything particularly special, but just hangs in there, takes some punches, and grinds things down. That absolutely has value, just not sure it’s enough to recommend over some of its Watery counterparts above.


Primarina WaterFairy

Charm | Disarming Voice & Hydro Pump

Okay, now you’re officially getting too cute. Stahp. 🛑


Golisopod BugWater

Shadow Claw | X-Scissor & Aerial Ace

It’s here, it does stuff, and is worthy enough to have on hand for general Ultra League use. Just not sure how strongly I recommend it in THIS meta with numerous other good Water and Bug types to consider. Heck, I even prefer Samurott over it a bit in a similar role. But there’s enough good here to do good work in experienced hands. Perhaps yours, Trainer?


Venusaur GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

Serperior ranks higher, but has to basically be maxed out, whereas Venusaur doesn’t require a single XL Candy to rock and roll in Ultra League. I think I’ll go out on a limb and say that I like Shadow a little better than non-Shadow in this meta, as the former can better take on stuff like Annihilape, Umbreon, Pelipper, Golisopod, Galvantula, Kingdra, and Nidoqueen, but it’s worth noting that non-Shadow stands up better versus powerful Waters Feraligatr, Empoleon, and Walrein, beating them all where Shadow Venusaur falls short, as well as Shadow Machamp and Shadow Gallade.

SERPERIOR ♻️♻️♻️ 💰💰

Serperior Grass

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Aerial Ace

Quite frankly, it’s not just the best Grass starter in this meta, I think it might just be the best Grass period. For one thing, it beats Trevenant where Venusaur and Meganium (and the vast majority of Grasses in general) fail thanks to Aerial Ace, which is probably the best overall coverage move of those three Grass starters in this meta. It’s not without its flaws, having no answer to Steel types, none of Venusaur’s handy resistances to Fighting (and neutrality to Poison) and such, and of course the cost is very prohibitive. (You CAN max out a hundo and have to power it “only” to Level 47.5 and see basically no dip in performance, but that’s still very un-thrifty.) Might be worth it, might not. Only YOU can decide that, dear reader!

MEGANIUM ♻️♻️♻️ 💰

Meganium Grass

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake

Meganium is the middle ground. You CAN max it out near Level 50, but you can also “settle” for a near-hundo in the low 40s and get basically the same performance. There ARE some minor differences in various other shielding scenarios, but generally you won’t miss much that way and get a HUGE cost savings. That’s what we’re all about here on “Nifty Or Thrifty”, after all!


Chesnaught GrassFighting

Vine Whip/Smack Down | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Superpower

A bit less impactful, and with the Fighting subtype perhaps being more curse than blessing, but if smashing through Steel, Dark, and Ice types with your Grass slot is your kind of thing, then here’s your guy. And never forget the funky potential of Smack Down, which makes Chesnaught truly unique as it takes down stuff like Charizard, Talonflame, and Galvantula with shocking ease, though at the cost of a few Water and/or Fighting types along the way. Chesnaught is not as strong a recommendation as what we’ve covered above, but there WILL be teams with a Chesnaught-shaped hole waiting to be filled, I’m sure of it.


Decidueye GrassGhost

Leafage | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Spirit Shackle/Brave Bird

I mean, it’s budget Trevenant, but you get what you (don’t) pay for, as Trev can take out things Deci never reliably will like Galvantula, Dragalge, Cofagrigus, and oh yeah… Trevenant. But still, you can do worse than “budget Trevenant”. I’ll point out that Brave Bird is necessary for things like Venusaur and Escavalier, but I might actually lean more towards Spirit Shackle for better speed (and more reliable wins over stuff like Feraligatr and Greninja).

And no, I don’t really see even that much potential here for Deci’s Hisuian cousin.


Charizard (Shadow) FireFlying

Wing Attackᴸ | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ

I lean very heavily towards ShadowZard here, as it is just hugely more impactful than non-Shadow in basically scenarios except shieldless ones, picking up stuff like Empoleon, Walrein, Shadow Poliwrath, Dubwool, Dragonite, Gliscor, A-Muk, Skuntank, Skeledirge and others at the comparatively low cost of losing out to Talonflame, Umbreon, and Kingdra. Yes, Skeledirge has pushed most other Fires down several pegs in Ultra League (and amazingly without ANY exclusive/Legacy moves!), but Charizard, at least in Shadow form, isn’t quite ready to cede the throne in Premier.


Skeledirge FireGhost

Incinerate | Disarming Voice & Shadow Ball

I look at Skeledirge’s moveset and still marvel at Niantic’s rare generosity. Yes, it’s awesome with Incinerate and Shadow Ball alone, but it is Disarming Voice that really pushes it over the top with the crazy, it-makes-no-sense wins it can get like Obstagoon, Mandibuzz, and Poliwrath. In this particular meta, Shadow Charizard really does still reign supreme overall, as Skeledirge gets those special wins (and other stuff that beats Charizard like Ampharos, for rather obvious reasons) but can’t measure up to things Zard can overwhelm like Dragonite, Gliscor, Golisopod, Shadow Poliwrath, Greedent, A-Muk and a few others, and Skele also generally loses the head-to-head. But it is far better with shields down (as compared to ShadowZard) and can still surprise and flip “bad” matchups with that Fairy coverage up its sleeve. Zard may be better still on paper, but there are teams that will undoubtedly be better served by playing the bones.

TALONFLAME ♻️♻️♻️ 💰💰

Talonflame FireFlying

Incinerateᴸ | Fly & Flame Charge/Brave Bird

I mention it here because it IS a 10k Pokemon, and its potential is quite literally sky high, moreso than even ShadowZard or most anything in the entire meta. BUT it has to be a hundo (or VERY nearly so) AND 100% maxed out or else its potential starts to drop off quickly. Frankly, not everyone can afford to do that. If that’s you, look to the above options. But if you have the means to max out a Talonflame (or already have), then giddyup! As with the other Fires above, it’s a very safe and solid build for UL use far beyond just Premier, and with a variety of move combos.


Blaziken FireFighting

Counter | Blaze Kick & Blast Burnᴸ

As with the Water and then Grass starters, we have a very clear lower tier among Fires that starts here with Blaziken. But in Shadow form, at least, it still deserves considerationStone Edge is very tempting, but it’s really best with the cheaper and generally harder hitting Blast Burn, even against things like Pidgeot where you’d expect Edge to… well, have the edge (but doesn’t, as Stone Edge is too slow and Blast Burn is actually more reliable). Counter is what really sets it apart though, with relatively easy wins versus things that can give other Fires trouble like Empoleon, Greninja, Mandibuzz, Greedent, Kingdra, Ampharos, and Galarian Stunfisk… albeit at the cost of giving up a lot as well (to include many Poisons, Bugs, Flyers, Ghosts, and others that shrug off Fighting damage).

Incineroar FireDark

I DO favor Blaze over INCINEROAR, who can do some fun things (like maim Ghosts and a handful of Waters and Fires) but has a lower ceiling overall. It’s viable, I suppose, but compared to all the above… why?


Obstagoon DarkNormal

Counter | Night Slash & Player’s Choice

Since we’re on stuff with a Fighting fast move, good enough time as any to dive into Goonie, who is definitely good enough in this meta. Night Slash is obvious, but what second charge move to go with? It’s not my cup of tea, but there’s no doubt many players have played the bait game and won big with Obstruct. Some will turn to the comfort of Cross Chop and its beatdowns of fellow Darks (and the mirror!). But for my money, as I have for years now, I recommend strong consideration of Hyper Beam. Not only doees Counter and Goonie’s deceptively good bulk allow reaching it in meaningful situations, but it even gets STAB! A Hyper Beam that lands means wins you simply can’t achieve otherwise like Venusaur, Pelipper, Gliscor, Gyarados, Galvantula, and Skuntank. Yes, Obstruct can bait your way to wins like Dubwool, Greninja, Pidgeot, and Shadow Charizard instead, but me? I’d rather take a flier on landing a crushing Hyper Beam than hoping to always get a shield from the opponent at the exact right time. Regardless, whatever your style is, there’s an Obstagoon for you! Goonie never says die.

PIDGEOT ♻️♻️♻️ 💰💰

Pidgeot NormalFlying

Wing Attackᴸ/Steel Wing | Feather Dance & Brave Bird

I mean, the record kind of speaks for itself, don’t it? Of course, that’s with perfect baiting, and if things do NOT go perfectly… welp. As for Shadow, while it can power through a couple scary Ice types (Walrein and A-Ninetales), its lost bulk means it also loses Dragonite, Galvantula, Greninja, Tentacruel, Shadow Poliwrath, and ShadowZard. I like Pidgeot a lot in Ultra League, but timing is key to maximize its effectiveness, and between that and the steep cost, I’m not sure I’d recommend building one unless you’re experienced in piloting it already.

There’s also Shadow STARAPTOR as an alternative, and it can at least be built without XL Candy, but… meh, same issues.


Golem (Alola) RockElectric

Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Wild Charge/Stone Edge

What better way to take down Flyers than with a double-Flying-resistant Rock/Electric type? This here is a case of the rankings (while PvPoke does a top notch job with them and they can generally be trusted) not being the whole story, as A-Golem is ranked outside the Top 200 and yet goes out and can do this. 👀 Obviously it obliterates Flyers (that don’t rhyme with ‘Glide Score’), but running it with Wild Charge means it can tangle with most Waters as well despite being scarily weak to Water damage, with Swampert, Feraligatr, and Greninja outracing it, but not much else that’s wet. It also conveniently puts out Fires, squashes Bugs, smashes Ice types, and even does well versus Poisons (taking out all the Dark/Poisons in particular, even Skuntank with terrifyingly effective Trailblaze and Drapion and Overqwil with their effective Aqua Tail action. Stone Edge is fine too, though loses pressure on Waters (giving up Jellicent, Empoleon, and Poliwrath in particular) to instead beat out Umbreon and Ampharos. Probably not worth it, IMO. Nor, I would say, is Shadow A-Golem, who lacks the bulk to outlast Dubwool, Escavalier, and Shadow Poliwrath as non-Shadow can. All in all, the ceiling here can be surprisingly high and A-Golem is a very thrifty build even at Ultra League level. This is NOT one to ignore just because it’s ranked low!

RAICHU ♻️♻️ 💰💰

Raichu Electric

Volt Switch | Brick Break & Wild Charge

And speaking of digging deep, here we have Raichu also ranked down near #200, but punching WAY above its weight. Its advantage (and the reason I prefer Original Recipe Raichu over Surfer Dude Raichu) is humble Brick Break, which got the benefit this season of a slightly higher cost but a guaranteed reduction of the opponent’s Defense with each use. As I wrote about at the start of the season, OG Raichu might be the single biggest beneficiary, gaining stuff in Ultra League like Annihilape, Skeledirge, Umbreon, Ampharos, Alolan Muk, and Alolan Ninetales, all being particularly relevant here. (Heck, it’s even good enough to consider in Open UL now!) In the end, not only does Raichu beat all the Waters and Flyers you’d expect (with only Dragonite and half-Ground Gliscor and Swampert really escaping), but also those others mentioned a moment ago, all the Dark/Poisons, Escavalier, Galvantula, Alolan Sandslash and more. Zippy zap! ⚡ Too bad it requires maxing out, though.


Clefable Fairy

Fairy Wind | Meteor Mash & Moonblast

Perhaps not as far off everyone’s radar (clocking in at about #50 in rankings currently), Clefable is easily one of the best Fairies in the meta. Getting Fairy Wind to spam out those Meteor Mashes a little while back finally made it the Ultra League weapon it always deserved. And perhaps even better news… instead of pushing up near Level 50, you can build a hundo at only Level 42 and still get just about as much mileage out of it. Nifty AND thrifty… the perfect way to end the 10k section.

LUCARIO (Baby Discount™) ♻️♻️

Lucario FightingSteel

Counter | Power-Up Punch & Close Combat/Shadow Ball

And ending with something that’s not technically among the 10ks, but is if you do it right by double moving a Riolu and THEN evolving for 65k dust savings. We’re going to kick off the next section with a bunch of Fighting types, but I think Lucario is unfairly ranked outside the Top 100 because it isn’t shown with an ideal moveset. You definitely want Power-Up Punch, and I think the closer to run with it may actually be Close Combatnot Shadow Ball. While the latter does get some special wins like Trevenant, Pelipper, and Nidoqueen, it is Close Combat that instead takes down Swampert, Mandibuzz, Pidgeot, and even a bunch of things that resist Fighting like Dragonite, Venusaur, and (Confusion) Gallade. Luc is solid here and compares favorably to several other Fighters we’ll be looking at… right now!

50,000 Dust/50 Candy


Poliwrath WaterFighting

Counter | Icy Wind & Scald/Dynamic Punch

I mean, it’s ranked #1, folks. Is anyone really surprised? It’s good in Open, but Poliwrath reaches its fullest potential in Premier. I would also argue for one with higher Attack (and little to no XL Candy investment) which beats all the same stuff as higher rank IVs PLUS wins the important mirror matches. Icy Wind is basically a must now, but you can consider Dynamic Punch rather than the generally recommended Scald to surprise things like Kingdra and Alolan Ninetales (and even Spark Lanturn if you double shield), though say goodbye to Fires like Charizard, Talonflame, and oftentimes Skeledirge if you do so. I’m not as big a fan of ShadoWrath here… it IS a viable sidegrade, but no better than that, and FAR more expensive. Smoke ’em if you got ’em, I suppose.


Annihilape FightingGhost

Counter | Shadow Ball & Night Slash/Ice Punch

The other Fighter ranked comfortably within the Top 10, (Big) Little Annie is an extremely potent option in all manner of Ultra League formats, definitely including Premier. There are several viable move combinations, but in my opinion you want Shadow Ball over Close Combat for closing power, and I lean towards Night Slash over Ice Punch for coverage, as Slash is key to outracing things like Tentacruel, Feraligatr, Psycho Cut Gallade and the mirror. Ice Punch CAN work better on teams worried about Grass and Flying types, nabbing Venusaur in the 0shield and Mandibuzz in the 1shield, as a couple examples. Your call!

MACHAMP ♻️♻️♻️

Machamp (Shadow) Fighting

Counter | Cross Chop & Rock Slide

There is nothing at all wrong with sticking with the tried and true Shadow Machamp, and it DOES still get standout wins versus several notable things weak to Rock thanks to Rock Slide (ShadowZard, Talonflame, Pelipper, Pidgeot, Gyarados, Golisopod), as well as bonuses like Feraligatr, Alolan Muk, and Alolan Ninetales that Anni in particular can struggle with, though where it whiffs as compared to Anni is versus stuff like Swampert, Nidoqueen, Gallade, Lanturn, and fellow Fighters Poliwrath and Annihilape itself. Machamp is less exciting these days, but can absolutely still get the job done, and may still be your best bet for sheer pressure in any matchup where Fighting damage isn’t resisted.


Sirfetch'd Fighting

Counter | Leaf Blade & Brave Bird/Close Combat

Again comparing to Annihilape as a rough barometer, Sirfetch’d stacks up pretty well, obviously bringing a lot more pressure to Waters in particular thanks to Leaf Blade (beating Feraligatr consistently, as one shining example), but even with the big neutral beatstick of Brave Bird, it struggles versus things other Fighters can handle like Dragonite, Galvantula, Tentacruel, Venusaur, Nidoqueen and, not surprisingly, Annihilape. I lean towards Brave Bird as the closer, but there ARE cases to be made for Close Combat instead, which can take out Skarmory and, amazingly, Shadow Dragonite as well!

As for other Fighters…. TOXICROAK is sort of just a more expensive and less effective Annihilape, picking up Golisopod and Shadow CharmTales thanks to resistances, but dragging behind Anni with losses to things like Dragonite, Galvantula, Swampert, Tentacruel, Lanturn, Nidoqueen and others. ShadowCroak is slightly better, but SO expensive. Just run Annihilape!…. The Bug typing of HERACROSS gives it some nice resistances, but it doesn’t do much to really stand out on its own…. PRIMEAPE‘s main Ultra League relevance now is evolving into Annihilape. It’s fine, but not worth all the XL Candy it requires…. Speaking of XLs, SCRAFTY HAS to be pushed to Level 47 at a minimum, and ideally above that. Being part Dark gives it unique-among-Fighters advantages versus Ghost damage (coming away with wins like Jellicent, Trevenant, Cofagrigus, and ShadowGatr to show for it), but it flops otherwise, being critically weak to opposing Fighting damage and losing to a bunch of things that even other so-so Fighters can handle. It has a bit more to do in Open UL than it does here, in my estimation.


Escavalier BugSteel

Counter | Drill Run & Megahorn

Not a Fighter, but may as well be with its Counter damage, beating down most Normal, Ice, Steel, and/or Dark types as well as any actual Fighter, while also shining versus many Grass and/or Poison types thanks to its typing. Escavalier is not THE best at any one particular thing, but it does a lot of varied things well and is always a good one to consider in Ultra. Premier is no different!


Perrserker Steel

Shadow Claw | Close Combat & Foul Play

Even less of a Fighter, but Close Combat can make it feel like one when that’s what you need. It does fine here, owing in large part to its handy Steel typing, giving it much of the same list of wins as Escav, though with more Ghosts and Flyers mixed in and less Poisons, Steels, and oppnents with their own Fighting damage. I never feel great about Perrserker personally, but that may be my own failing, as I know there ARE players out there that shred with it. Maybe that’s you?


Magnezone ElectricSteel

Volt Switch | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge

As we’re on a Steel trip at the moment, how could I NOT mention The Zone? Shadow seems a bit better than non-Shadow here, losing the bulk to outlast Talonflame and Shadow Poliwrath, but making up for it by instead overpowering Galvantula, Ampharos, Alolan Sandslash, Venusaur, and even Annihilape and others. This in addition to blowing away (most) all notable Water, Flying, Ice, Bug, Psychic, AND Poison types. Yeah, Magnezone will absolutely be a part of this meta, so make sure to steel yourselves!


Sandslash (Alola) IceSteel

Shadow Clawᴸ | Ice Punch & Drill Run

Another case where high rank is super expensive and a much cheaper hundo performs just about as well. Or if candy and dust are less of an issue, Shadow A-Slash is on the same level too.

ABOMASNOW ♻️♻️♻️ 💰

Abomasnow GrassIce

Powder Snow | Energy Ball & Icy Wind

Aboma obviously wants nothing to do with Fighters, but it handles much of the rest of the meta pretty well, even as a hundo (saving yourself about five full levels of XL Candy). It remains uniquely powerful against things like Grasses, Flyers, and Dragons AND Waters, Grounds, and Electrics thanks to its unique and potent combination of Ice and Grass typings and damage output. It’s only gotten better since gaining Icy Wind, so this would be a good time to finish building one for Ultra.

WALREIN ♻️♻️♻️

Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

Still here, still doing its thing. A little better as a non-Shadow with the extra blubber bulk to outlast stuff like Feraligatr, Pelipper, Skuntank, Skarmory, Pidgeot (yes, Shadow actually loses that!), Ampharos and such, with Shadow Wally only uniquely beating Empoleon, Umbreon, and Venusaur to try and compensate. I guess it’s enough to say “sidegrade”, but Wally just feels less special without that bulk to me. How about you?

JELLICENT ♻️♻️♻️ 💰

Jellicent WaterGhost

Hex | Surf & Shadow Ball

On the topic of bulk, JelliBelli has even more of it than Walrein, and makes the most of it. The no-duh analysis is to avoid Electrics, Grasses, Darks, and even most Normals (with them resisting all the Ghost damage), as well as Shadow Claw users like Feraligatr and Golisopod. But takes those away, and Jellicent can trade blows all day with most everything else, winning a ton of neutral matchups by just outlasting what’s thrown at it. JelliBelli is a among the best safe swaps in this meta, methinks.


Tentacruel WaterPoison

Poison Jab | Scald & Sludge Wave

Yet another case where you can save a ton of resources by NOT building high rank and instead maxing the hundo and not really miss out on much… basically just Dragonite and sometimes Feraligatr. If you CAN build a “better” one, then by all means. But not everyone HAS those means, so if you have to make due with ugly IVs, it’s nice to know when you’re able without hampering yourself too much. And yes, I do lean Sludge Wave here over the Acid Spray you’re probably more used to. Use that to your advantage, as the opponent is likely to also expect Spray and let big damage through shields.


Muk (Alola) PoisonDark

Poison Jab | Dark Pulse & Gunk Shot

Yep, another potential Sprayer that I instead recommend a big fat closer for instead. And yes, I recommend leaning FULLY into that with the slightly more expensive but much more impactful Gunk Shot rather than Sludge Wave, as Gunk can beat basically all the same things PLUS Poliwrath, Walrein, Lanturn, Greedent, and Shadow Drapion.

The other Dark/Poisons are alright too. SKUNTANK is another hundo candidate, particularly as a Shadow, with Trailblaze giving it some nice reach. But it’s quite expensive…. OVERQWIL comes FAR cheaper and has a similar record, but the coverage is very different with spammy Aqua Tail…. It actually isn’t a 50k ‘mon but instead 75k, but this is as good as spot as any to point out that DRAPION actually brings up the rear in overall effectiveness, including Shadow Drap. Viable, but worth the high cost? I dunno about that personally.


Nidoqueen PoisonGround

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Earth Power

Been a little while since The Queen ruled over Ultra League, but she’s still out there, biding her time for formats like this one. And while several things here are okay if you build “bad”, close-to-hundo IVs, Nidoqueen is actually overall better that way, able to overpower Abomasnow, Trevenant, Annihilape, and of course the mirror.

Salazzle PoisonFire

SALAZZLE is similar in some ways, can also be built with minimal XL Candy, and can do neat stuff Queen cannot like burn Escavalier, Skarmory, Walrein, and Gliscor, but overall it just doesn’t look as reliable. Many Fires, Dragons, and even Poisons do its various jobs much better. Maybe someone will find success with it, but it seems a little too complicated here for its own good.


Hippowdon Ground

Sand Attack | Weather Ball (Rock) & Scorching Sands

I don’t know that I’d call this a strong recommendation, but I’ve been seeing a bit of Sand Attack in this meta already, and the Hungry Hippo makes better use of it than anything else. Call this one a speculative pick, and while I do worry about all the Waters and Grasses that can ruin its day, there really IS some solid potential here now.


Bellibolt Electric

Thunder Shock | Discharge & Zap Cannon

Ready for a shock? Bellibolt is ranked up at about #40, and earns it despite running with ALL Electric moves. Steer clear of Hippowdon and its fellow Grounds, of course, and Grass types are problematic too, of course. But I mean, look at that record! Literally half of those losses are Grounds and Grasses, and Bellibolt wipes the floor with TONS of things in neutral matchups. And no XLs required, which is always nice!


Florges Fairy

Fairy Wind | Disarming Voice & Petal Blizzard/Moonblast

Also able to contend with a wide swath of the meta, Florges doesn’t lose a lot of races to charge moves with Fairy Wind getting to moves super quick. Quick enough that it makes even rarely-seen, 65-energy Petal Blizzard very interesting and perhaps even preferred to Moonblast, with Petal knocking off Feraligatr, Jellicent, Lanturn, and Swampert, among others. (Conversely, Moonblast instead can beat A-Ninetales, Gliscor, and Escavalier.) Either way, Florges is the one Fairy that really gives Clefable a run for its money in this meta, and a strong finish to the 50k section!

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

Goodra Dragon
  • It’s not the highest-ranked ‘mon in this group, but it’s not far off, and GOODRA looks very interesting these days with the addition of Aqua Tail. I do think that Grass Knot remains its best coverage move, but there is plenty of good in Sludge Wave and Draco Meteor too. Those both lose Umbreon and Feraligatr (and Sludge also loses Empoleon), but both gain Dubwool, Greednet, and Mandibuzz, and Draco further adds on Obstagoon and Tentacruel too. You got some nice options here!
Kommo-o DragonFighting
  • KOMMO-O does learn Brick Break now, but I think it’s still overall best sticking the tried and true Dragon Claw/Close Combat, with which it gains Escavalier and Empoleon.
Dragonite DragonFlying
  • When it comes to Dragonite, I lean hard into the Shadow version here, as it picks up, in order, (deep breath*) Annihilape, Cofagrigus, Feraligatr, Gliscor, Nidoqueen, Pidgeot, Poliwrath, Lanturn, Alolan Muk, Skeledirge, Galarian Stunfisk, Talonflame, AND Umbreon. Non-Shadow can outlast Ampharos, Empoleon, ShadowGatr, Confusion Gallade, and Jellicent. That may work better on a few teams, but the overall advantage clearly lies in Shadow, and in all even shield scenarios.
Lapras WaterIce
  • What better way to hit those Dragons than with LAPRAS, one of the OG Ice types? It doesn’t get enough love these days, but Lappie is still as solid as ever and one of my personal faves I like reminding people is still there doing its thing. And if you want to get tricky, then unlike other Icy Water types, you can lean into the Water side and run it with Water Gun for a uniquely potent option. Loses Dragonite, Pidgeot, and Gyarados, but can instead take down Talonflame, Walrein, CharmTales, Golisopod, and even Ampharos! 😱
Aurorus RockIce
  • It’s little scary with its Rock subtyping making it vulnerable to so much (Ground, Grass, and of course, Water, as well as doubling up the weakness to Fighting), but I’ve already had a couple AURORUS kick my bootie in this meta. It looks good in sims, but from practical experience, it can be terrifying in gameplay too. And Ice type that also smashes Fire, Poison, and other Ice types is well worth the risk of getting locked in against, say, a Water or Fighter.

Steelix SteelGround
  • About as good as any Ice type in breaking Dragons and Flyers is STEELIX. It’s definitely been knocked down a few pegs with the nerf to Breaking Swipe, but if you already had one built before that, don’t despair. At least in this meta, it’s still fine… just consider TMing Swipe back to Psychic Fangs instead. Also worth considering: Shadow which drops Gallade, Mandibuzz, Skarmory, and Shadow Drapion, but gains Dubwool, Greedent, G-Fisk, Walrein, Shadow A-Ninetales, Gyarados and more. Or near-hundo for big cost savings. And/or Thunder Fang to sneak wins away from several Water types.
Gliscor GroundFlying
  • I see two main ways to go with GLISCORAerial Ace is significantly better than Night Slash with shields down, but the reverse is true in 2v2 shielding, with Night Slash now having the distinct advantage. (They’re relatively even in 1v1 shielding.) I feel less impressed by Shadow Gliscor, but if you DO run it, a better general performance seems to be there for Aerial Ace, taking advantage of boosted Attack beatdowns.
Miltank Normal Greedent Normal
  • Even a hundo has to be built up into the mid-40s, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that MILTANK is a fun looking wild card, perhaps even moreso than the even more expensive GREEDENT.
Snorlax (Shadow) Normal
  • Shadow SNORLAX is MUCH cheaper. It’s not meta-shattering or anything, but I am quite surprised to have not seen ANY yet. It’s a nice filler and safe-ish swap.
Sneasler (Shadow) Fighting[posion]
  • And speaking of intriguing Shadows that don’t even have to pushed above Level 30, much less 40, I really like the look of Shadow SNEASLER in this meta. Also fun to remember that while Sneasler itself has a 75k second move unlock (actually 90k since we’re talking a Shadow), you can instead second move a Shadow Sneasel for only 50k (60k Shadow) and THEN evolve. The more you know!
Gallade FightingPsychic
  • When it comes to GALLADE, there is a good case for both Shadow and not. PvPoke recommends Confusion for non-Shadow and the newly added Psycho Cut for Shadow, and while I certainly won’t say going a different direction is “wrong”, I do tend to agree with PvPoke here. Each variant seems to maximize its potential that way, but play with them and see which YOU like better, Trainer!

Trevenant GhostGrass
  • And finally, how could I NOT mention TREVENANTStill very good, even with not a single XL Candy if you wish. Been seeing LOTS of these in my own battles, and for good reason. Doing Grass things while also handling Fighting and Psychic types continues to be a good thing for many teams.


And finally, to finish off, here are things that basically HAVE to be fully maxed out. All sense of thriftiness is gone now, but there are still some nifty things to point out!

Weezing (Galarian) PoisonFairy
  • I really like GALARIAN WEEZING here (and most everywhere in Ultra), but you simply cannot go any lower than Level 47. At least it maintains its performance as a hundo!
Ninetales (Alola) IceFairy
  • You CAN keep ALOLAN NINETALES as low as Level 46, but its performance really starts to drop off as soon as you slip below Level 47. You want a decent rank with no more than maybe 10 Attack to get the best performance out of it.
Galvantula BugElectric
  • A hundo GALVANTULA gets to 2494 CP at Level 50. There’s really no way to cheap out on this one.
Stunfisk (Galarian) GroundSteel
  • GALARIAN STUNFISK also needs to be taken up all the way, getting to only 2445 CP as a hundo at Level 50. Some of you I know already have this built, and if so, congrats! It is good here, but OOOF that investment.
Dubwool Normal
  • Yep, DUBWOOL too. I LOVE it but it maxes out at 2478. Not everybody can afford that!
Lanturn WaterElectric Pelipper WaterFlying
  • And the theme continues with LANTURN and PELIPPER, both actually quite good in this meta (Lanturn especially!) but maxing around or even below 2400 CP.
Mandibuzz DarkFlying Skarmory SteelFlying
  • And finally, same story with Flyers MANDIBUZZ (which I’ve seen on MANY teams) and SKARMORY. Both excellent in Ultra League Premier, but both hovering around or below 2400 CP and necessitating ALL the XLs.

Alright, that’s finally all I got to offer. My goodness, this took a long time… sorry it’s late! Just a massive and potentially diverse meta with lots of team building options. Good luck!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for regular 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 compete, even on a budget, in the grand return of Ultra League Premier. Best of luck, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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!

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