Four hundred analysis articles. Four hundred of these you all have put up with. Today’s article marks that milestone for me as a (mostly PvP) Pokémon GO analyst and content creator. It doesn’t even seem that long ago that I reached the 100 article milestone, or pushed out my first GBL-centric article on budget hero Alolan Raichu, but my GOODNESS were those long ago now.
But I don’t want this to be all about me. For those interested, you CAN go check out that 100th article and a podcast I was invited on just last week where I talk about my Pokémon GO “origin story”, my motives and methods as a writer, my interview with Michael Steranka earlier this year, my newfound love for cooking, my thoughts on the implementation and implications of the XL system, and the reason why I stubbornly keep plugging away at Niantic to do better by us, the faithful player base. If you’re looking for more about me for some odd reason 😅, those would be the places to get all that info.
Now, that behind us, I DO want to offer up a little actual analysis here. So to do so, I thought I’d do a brief review of things I have analyzed among those 400 articles that still stand tall today as solid, budget options. After all, it’s always been about the “thrifty” side for me!
So let’s blow through 400 “thrifty” Pokémon I think everyone should have on their bench for current and future formats! Here… we… wait, what? Oh, I guess you’re right… 400 might be a tad excessive. 😉 I’ll just hit some highlights and not worry about number, how’s that?
We’ll denote those that require an exclusive/Legacy move with a 🕗 emoji, but otherwise we will try to move rapidly and keep this short and sweet. Here we go!
MULTIPLE LEAGUESVenusaur GrassPoison
- 🕗 VENUSAUR. Long-time readers know I have a major soft spot for this big grassy dino, and used to try and lead off every ‘Nifty Or Thrifty’ analysis with it that I could. I had the fun opportunity to revisit it in full earlier this year during its Community Day Classic, so you can read my fuller thoughts on it there, but in short: it might be the best Grass starter in the game forever thanks to its Poison subtyping and coverage move. Both non-Shadow and Shadow versions remain highly competitive in Great League (and Ultra League, for that matter).
- 🕗 MEGANIUM. Always a bridesmaid, rarely the bride. Meganium is super solid in Great League and especially in Ultra League. There are pros (resisting Ground, neutral to Psychic) and cons (vulnerable to Poison, lack of resistances to Fighting and Fairy) that come with being mono-Grass instead of Grass/Poison like Venusaur, but an even bigger difference between the two is in coverage, with Meganium’s Earthquake allowing for serious win potential over things like Registeel, Galarian Stunfisk, and Bastiodon that Grasses generally struggle with. This is another excellent Grass to have on your bench.
- 🕗 SWAMPERT. This one was ALSO featured in a Community Day Classic and I again wrote rather extensively about it then already. That said, if you’ve PvP’d even a little bit in Open formats, you’ve surely come across this spammy beast by now. “They can’t possibly reach ANOTHER Hydro Cannon before I… oh crap, never mind.” “This cannot possibly be an Earthquake already, surely I can tank… yeah, I should have shielded that Quake, now I’m dead.” Great League, Ultra League, even Master League, including SHadow versions and Classic and/or Premier formats, there is no single Pokémon that is more prevalent in PvP on the whole.
- 🕗 TALONFLAME. Hardly the first Flying Fire type, and sometimes plays second fiddle to Charizard (also worth strong consideration) depending on the meta, what separates Talon from the rest is the perfect concoction of its fast moves: high pressure from Incinerate, boosted further by boosts from Flame Charge, all to set up an eventual, OHKO Brave Bird. Like Swampert, this one (and the agonizing decision over when to shield or not) is no surprise to even novice PvPers at this point, but just a reminder that it remains a major threat in Great League and particularly in Ultra League and likely always will be unless (until?) nerfed, no matter what else is released into the game from here forward.
- OBSTAGOON. Blessed with a cheap second charge move cost, Goonie is good enough (if you get that joke, you’re old like me ☠️) to have build for Great League and Ultra League. I continue to favor a big fat closer (either Hyper Beam or Gunk Shot) rather than Cross Chop or the new-ish Obstruct and I likely always will, but there ARE several viable ways to go.
- DUBWOOL. Arguably the biggest beneficiary of new fast move Double Kick, Dubwool hasn’t been “meta” for long and therefore hasn’t been in my articles much to date, but with the numbers it can now put up in Great League and especially Ultra League, it’s worth a new grind. Especially for the latter, as it does need to be FULLY maxed. So much for thrifty… oops! 😅
- 🕗 GYARADOS. More of a Limited/Cup star in Great League and Ultra League (its best showing in Ultra is in Premier Classic), but it’s certainly had its moments to shine in each. Where Gary REALLY stands out, though, is in Master League, where it can flex its high CP in Open, Premier Classic, and of course as a Mega in Mega ML, should that ever return. shudder
- RAICHUS. Obviously when you first think of the Super Raichu Bros, you think Great League. And yes, both Alolan and Original Recipe Raichu have a long track record of success there (remember how I said Raichu was my first true GBL analysis?) that continues even today, especially in certain Limited formats. But fun fact: they have use in Ultra League as well if you’re willing to grind for it, even with KantoChu that doesn’t even quite hit 2500 CP. They’re expensive that way, but good enough that I feel compelled to label them a bit more than JUST Great League weapons.
GREAT LEAGUEAltaria Dragon
- ALTARIA. Highlighted as a Great League only option even though it’s viable-ish in even Ultra League because let’s be honest: Altaria is more spice/showoff in UL, and Great League is where it comes home to roost. Altaria continued to thrive in PvP even in the era of Walrein-on-practically-every-team, even with things like Registeel and Galarian Stunfisk still roaming everywhere now, and will surely remain big into the future if it’s been able to survive all that to this point. Just remember that it takes 400 candies just to evolve in the first place, but on the plus side, you CAN use it without exclusive move Moonblast and not really miss much.
- DIGGERSBY. Essentially Galarian Stunfisk that has much more to fear from Flying and Ice types, but strikes fear into opposing Ghosts. Far less popular than G-Fisk, but its record really puts it in the same ballpark as everyone’s (least) favorite steel trap. Diggs has been a real standout in some Limited formats and can be very scary in Open too. It’s worth it to work on building one up when you can. And you don’t have to worry TOO much about the XL grind… even non-XL Diggersby is normally fine if you need to go that route.
- 🕗 BEEDRILL. Be it normal or Shadow, Beedrill exploded onto the PvP scene when it got exclusive move Drill Run, which gives it the ability to handle many Steels, Fires, fellow Poisons and others that most Bugs just curl up and die against.
- WIGGLYTUFF. Really ANY decent Charmer, but Wiggly remains a favorite for its unique ability to slam to the door on most Ghosts in addition to its standard Charm duties. You may not be the type of player that wants to Charm often (or ever), but there ARE metas that all but demand having one at your disposal, so it’s good to have one at the ready.
- NOCTOWL/🕗 PIDGEOT. Pidgeot pulls the better overall numbers (and is still a personal favorite, actually being one of the very first Level 40s I ever built, LONG before it was cool to do so), but Noctowl is earning the trust of more and more players in the “professional” circuit for its superior bulk and for having Shadow Ball that levels playing fields that Pidgeot, with all Flying moves, cannot. Either way, these two are great at countering several top options (most notably, in many recent Regional championships around the globe, Lickitung and Trevenant) and have only gotten better as Niantic has shown them moveset love over time. Both are well worth having and very cheap to make… though if you have the dust and (XL) candy, Pidgeot has grat potential in Ultra as well.
- GOLBAT. Probably needs no introduction, as it’s become a Limited meta superstar several times over and is currently tearing it up in Halloween Cup. But this is just a reminder that Golbat is great even in Open. Oh, and big brother Crobat is about to eat up Ultra League Halloween Cup as well (and is worth using beyond just Halloween Cup too). You can make them even cheaper by purifying one from Rocket battles too.
ULTRA LEAGUECharizard Fire
- 🕗 CHARIZARD. It still has a place in certain Great League formats as well (though Open is a bit more iffy), but where Zard really shines brightest is in Ultra League formats. Fire Spin is still fine, especially for Shadow Zard, or Dragon Breath allows it to really distinguish itself from Talonflame and take on its own unique (and potent!) niche. You can even dig deep with Wing Attack for something that throws off the opponent’s expectations and timing. I don’t play Ultra League often anymore since XLs kind of smashed the fun out of it (for me), but when I do, I try to work in Charizard if I can. Running it in Ultra is still a lot of fun.
- 🕗 BLAZIKEN. The best part about Blaze is its unpredictability. While savvy opponents facing similarly-flexible Charizard can adjust relatively quickly as they see what fast move it’s running, with Blaziken it’s a total guessing game the first time a shielding decision comes up. Is it Blast Burn? Stone Edge? Brave Bird?! The great thing is that, despite having some different pros and cons, they’re all pretty equally viable, and different teams can benefit from different options in Blaze’s second move slot. This is a disruptive option that can work for many teams, and continues to come cheap… and potentially without needing any Legacy moves at all if you just go with Brave Bird.
- ALOLAN GOLEM (and Graveler). In fairness, I should have also mentioned A-Graveler in Great League, who has been a superstar in several past Limited metas and can even work in Open on the right team… the biggest obstacles being rather obvious (big Grounds, Grasses, Fighters, and somewhat Steels as well). A-Golem works well enough in Ultra to be worth keeping one around as well. It shone brightly in the first Ultra League Cups earlier this season.
MASTER LEAGUEPrimarina WaterFairy
- PRIMARINA. Obviously Prima will get much more interesting after it presumably gets Hydro Cannon during a future Community Day, but even in the here and now, this is one worth building, especially for Master League Premier Classic. Especially in that format, she is arguably THE best Charmer around thanks to resistances to Water and Ice that come with her Water subtyping. Admittedly she does fall off a bit in Open ML, but that’s what Hydro Cannon will be for, right? A Level 40 Prima is a fine project in the present… don’t deny yourself the fun she brings to the table while waiting for months or years for its Community Day to maybe one day roll around.
And don’t forget the other recommended cheapo Master League options I already covered above: Gyarados and Swampert, both of which are Top 20 in the ML meta.
Alright, gonna end it here. There’s never a dull moment in this “job”, and I have Ultra League Halloween Cup analysis (and other projects!) to get back to. Just wanted to do something fun to celebrate this little milestone, and I had kind of been meaning to put together a list like this for a while anyway, so I figured… why not now? Hopefully this helps some of you out, particularly if you’re still getting into PvP. It can be daunting getting started in PvP (as I spoke about at some length in that podcast interview I had last week… I really do recommend giving it a listen!), as I know it is, in some ways, in direct contention with PvE for your time, attention, and prioritizing of events and gameplay. But it doesn’t HAVE to be so scary. Hopefully this gives you some ideas for how to get into it on a budget, with some stuff you may already have on hand! Good luck in your own PvP journey. Mine has been an absolute blast, and I’m so happy I’ve been able to share it all these years and ALL these articles later with all of you. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and here’s to the next 400! 😜
Again, I don’t want this little milestone to be all about me. So I want to extend my thanks to PvPoke for being the foundation ALL of us PvP content creators rely on, to The Silph Road and The Silph Arena for being such great places to discuss the game and share insights on it (and for being so kind to work with me around overzealous automods over the years!), to my friends and colleagues at GO Hub for taking me in nearly two years ago, out of the blue, and making sure the vast Pokémon GO community was able to (hopefully!) benefit from my analyses, and to my local playground and friends that got me started on this amazing journey over the last several years. One day the ride will be over, but the memories and the friendships I’ve made along the way will always stick with me. This community is awesome and I’m so blessed to be a small part of it. 💙
And thank YOU, faithful readers and Pokéfriends, for your encouragement during our long journey together thus far. I look forward to whatever comes next!