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 article series diving into recommended “cores” to build a team around. And today, I’m going back and doing it for a past format returning to PvP: Little Jungle Cup (returning on Tuesday, March 22nd, at 1:00 p.m. PDT). Not ALL cores, as there will be plenty of other homebrewed ones… and that’s a good thing! This is 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!

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…aaaaaaaaand I’m starting to ramble again, sorry. 😖 So I’ll just shut up now and dive in. Here we go!

STABLE CORES

Some of the best and (in most cases) likely-to-be most popular cores in the Cup. I spent a little more time in this section, as several of these ‘mons show up in the vast majority of matches. So while you may not run them yourselves, study them hard to at least know how to break them! These cores include (but are most definity not limited to):

THE B.B.M.L. – Galarian Stunfisk + Cottonee

  • By far the most common meta core in Little Jungle Cup last time around, pairing arguably the best overall Pokémon in the format.
  • G-Fisk keeps Poisons, Flyers, Ices, and other troublemakers like Onix off of Cotton’s back, while Cottonee easily handles Waters, Grounds, Fighters, and Darks that plague Fisky. This is a nearly perfect pairing and it’s easy to see why it’s the most popular core in Little Jungle Cup.
  • Not only do Galarian Stunfisk and Cottonee cover each other amazingly well, but they also double up some of the other top options like Altaria, Umbreon, Deino, Wigglytuff, and Stunky, giving you much more flexibility with your third team slot.
  • The big glaring weakness is Fire. Thankfully there’s little of that to worry about, but something like a Litleo or Pyroar, particularly with Fire Fang, is too much for even G-Fisk to handle unless they’re out of shields.
  • Just a friendly reminder that I continue to recommend strong consideration for Flash Cannon instead of Earthquake on G-Fisk. It obviously struggles more in the mirror match that way, but it picks up Cottonee instead, which is particularly important in this core as you’re otherwise reliant on using your own Cottonee to handle theirs. Flash still handles everything else you’d want G-Fisk to tackle… there’s really not much downside here at all.

THE ALT(ERNATE) B.B.M.L. – Galarian Stunfisk + Altaria

  • Speaking of G-Fisk, how about another potent core where it features?
  • Actually very similar in function to G-Fisk/Cotton, with Fisky keeping stuff off Altaria’s back (Rocks, Ices, Poisons, and especially Charmers… Flash Cannon gets more important here!) while Altaria fills in G-Fisk’s gaps (mostly Fighters, Grasses, and Grounds and/or Waters). This is another very complementary duo.
  • Fires are no longer a big deal — Altaria usually eats them up — but now the issue is mostly… well, the first core: Cottonee and enemy Fiskys. (Though worth noting is that, even with Flash Cannon, G-Fisk CAN manage to force a tie in a pinch.) Perhaps a Fire of your own would make a good third?

THE BRASS MONKEY – Skarmory + Vigoroth

  • Now we start getting to cores that are still very strong, but don’t look quite as dominant. Skarm/Vig is one of those, as they do cover each other versus (almost) everything, but there’s less overlap — less things they both handle without much trouble — making this a little more RPS in nature and more prone to painful switch locking.
  • That all said, this duo DOES have all the major bases covered aside from two things: Mud Boys with spammy Water moves (Swampert mostly, but underrated Barboach can be trouble too), and enemy Vigoroth, as Viggy actually beats Skarmory straight up. Something like a Bulbasaur could perhaps help since you have some of its biggest threats (like Skarmory) covered already.
  • Alternatively, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? Swampert is obviously better versus… well, itself… but Barboach is a more interesting play here, IMO, and between it, Skarm, and Viggy, you can gang tackle enemy Swampies just fine. But if you really WANT to run Swampert, read on!

THE STEEL THING – Skarmory + Swampert

  • Get it? A play off of Swamp Thing? Aww, you people are no fun.
  • ANYway, this is the other side of the coin from above. A good Mud Boy actually plugs a lot of the same holes as Vigoroth, only… maybe better? Viggy is superior against things like Umbreon and Deino (more on that one in a second, though), but otherwise Swampert does what it can do PLUS handles Poisons like Nidoqueen, Golbat, Skorupi, and Toxicroak AND Fighters like Scrafty and… well, Vigoroth.
  • A fun alternative is, as hinted with the last core, Barboach, which struggles versus the Fighters and Swampert itself (and the evil known as Chansey), but CAN beat Deino and Umbreon, as well as several others Swampert cannot handle (and Skarm struggles with also) like Altaria, Mandibuzz, and Stunky, as long as it utilizes Ice Beam, the secret weapon it touts over other Mud Boys. I may try out Skarm/Boach myself, honestly!

THE PORKDUCKEN – Ducklett + Swinub

  • You knew the Duck Of Doom would sneak into one of these solid cores, right? But you might be surprised at what I’ve paired it with. I could have chosen something like Cottonee or Galarian Stunfisk, but I like how Swinub so nicely covers The Duck’s blind spots.
  • Getting specific, Swinub’s typing and handy Ice damage allows it to handle stuff like Deino, Skarmory, and Onix that cause Ducklett trouble. And despite what the graphic there shows, Swinub CAN beat G-Fisk too. But what I really love about it is how much overlap there is between this duo. Both handle Cottonee, Altaria, Umbreon, Golbat, Wooper, Aboma and several others. This is a core that doesn’t need a ton of help from their third teammate, which makes this one pretty “safe” overall and why it gets my vote to close out the “stable” cores.
  • Real quick, PvPoke has a couple teams in their Top Performers/Teams that plug in Cottonee as the third with this duo, but I also like the look of Bulbasaur.

OVERLOADED CORES

The beginnings of your “ABB” cores, overloaded with a pair of similar Pokémon and a “pivot” intended to handle their hard counters. Honestly, these were a little harder to come up with in this format, but I did manage to brainstorm a couple….

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THE MUDDY DUCK – Ducklett + Barboach/Mud Boy

  • Yep, not done with Ducklett yet. But this time we’re using it to kick off a potential ABB core with another Water. A muddy one, that is. I used Barboach for reasons I mentioned with Boach earlier (Ice Beam, primarily) which allows it to handle things like Deino, Skarmory, Cottonee, and Golbat that other Mud Boys can have some big issues with. But something like Swampert is fine too, sure, just less ideal IMO.
  • Obviously Grasses can be a problem for this team, so perhaps something like Swin–no wait, that’s already a core. Uh… Abomasnow as a third?

THE CHARMED, I’M SURE – Cottonee + Wigglytuff

  • If it wasn’t already obvious… Charm is excellent in Little League, where most everything has little HP to overcome. Charm deals big chunks even resisted, so double the Charm means double the domination.
  • This pairing does better than you might think, and even better than the numbers show. While Skarmory and Pyroar are obvious holes, Wigglytuff gets them down to 4 HP and just 1 measly HP (respectively) by just sticking to straight Charm.
  • That said, the main holes are obvious: Poison and Steel. Swinub makes for a good bodyguard against both, aside from Skorupi. Perhaps Onix instead? Pretty sure I saw the rock snek bodyguarding Charmers last time…. 🤔

CORES GONE CRITICAL

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 CHARLOTTE AND WILBUR – Skorupi + Swinub

  • Surely I’m not so old that most readers miss the reference in this title, right? Right? sweats profusely 🥵
  • Yes, I have a small love affair with Swinub in this format. So here’s another fun one, with little Skorupi tangling with Fighters and Charmers and even things like Swampert that trouble Swinub. The biggest remaining hole? Ducklett.
  • PvPoke’s Recommended Teams has teams that plug in Magnemite and Shadow Golbat alongside this pair if you’re looking for a third to try. Spicy!

THE HOT WIRE (JUNGLE EDITION) – Pikachu Libre + Litleo

  • One of my recommendations for Love Cup was Electrode and Charizard and/or Talonflame, as Electric and Fire just had great coverage. One of PvPoke’s recommended teams similarly centers around Litleo and Pikachu… specifically Libre and its OP Flying Press that allows it to smack around Galarian Stunfisk, Scrafty, Abomasnow, Swinub, Umbreon and others that an Electric should not so easily dominate.
  • That all said… I honestly don’t know how to feel about this one. I love the spice factor, but A.) not everyone has a Libre under 500 CP, and B.) this duo leaves a lot of holes. PvPoke solves this by plugging in Cottonee as the third, which does help a LOT with the holes. Maybe that build will work out for folks, and if so, that’s great! That’s why I’m pointing it out even though I personally am kinda iffy on it.

THE GROUNDED DUCK – Diggersby + Ducklett

  • I wanted at least one good Diggersby team in here, as it showed up quite a bit last time and impressed me much more than I expected. And yes, I turned to The Duck yet again. “You’re out of luck until you go duck?” 🦆
  • Ducklett just plugs Diggersby’s holes particularly well, from Fighters to Mud Boys to Cottonee and others. Diggersby acts as kind of an alternate Mud Boy itself that also keeps Steels and Grasses on edge with Fire Punch that makes a scarier weapon than normal in Little League formats.

EJECT THE CORE!

Just like on Star Trek, when in doubt, just eject the core. It happens every half dozen episodes, and never seems to have lasting effects… must have stocked up on those warp cores in bulk or something.

ANYway, I wanted to close this out by highlighting 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. By nature of this very wide format, this particular section will be longer than the standard “Core Meltdown” article, as there are a TON of varied options to pick from!

  • Let’s start off with a really spicy one: SWALOT, who can break up Fighters, Grasses, Fairies, fellow Poisons, and even Swinub and Altaria thanks to Acid Spray baits and Ice Beam as a closer. This one would take some chutzpah to actually use, but it’s NOT the craziest idea, especially in this unranked season.
  • One of the better corebreakers in the whole format is QWILFISH, but as with Barboach, remember to run Ice Beam! (Rather than the default Sludge Wave.) Not only does Ice overcome most Flyers and give Qwil obvious teeth against Grasses and Dragons, but it also provides enough extra punch to take out the major Counter users (Vigoroth, Obstagoon, Scrafty). Disappointingly, though, you usually have to run Water Gun to outrace G-Fisk, and that’s not really recommended.
  • Thanks to resistances, GENGAR can overcome Vigoroth and even Scrafty (thanks to Sludge Bomb, recommended here over Shadow Ball) and a bunch of Poisons. Thanks to sheer force, it can power through the likes of Swampert, Skarmory, Abomasnow, Chansey, and even Ducklett and Galarian Stunfisk. (But annoyingly NOT Cottonee.) The little bit of extra bulk it has makes it better here than Haunter, IMO (who flops against Golbat and Ducklett).
  • G-Fisk will still take its lunch money, but that doesn’t mean that ONIX isn’t a good overall corebreaker. Some of its victims are obvious, with Bugs and Poisons and Flyers and Ices and Fires on the hitlist for its literal Rock Throwing, but other big names are less obvious, like Umbreon, Deino, and even Cottonee. Having sky-high Defense will do that for ya!
  • I would still consider Pyroar to be the superior corebreaker thanks to its ability to handle the Charmers (Cottonee in particular), but don’t forget that INCINEROAR is now a part of this meta, and it instead beats Pyroar head to head and handles Darks (Stunky, Mandibuzz) that Pyroar cannot. Expect to see it popping up here and there.
  • I wrote about Beedrill and Escavalier and such in “Nifty Or Thrifty”, but it’s really little KARRABLAST and its own Drill Run that shines out as the only one of the three that can actually turn that into a win over Galarian Stunfisk… as well as stuff like Swinub, Swampert, Wooper, and conveniently also a gaggle of Darks, Fighters, and Grasses too. The little guy has a lot going for it in this meta.
  • A much more popular Bug that also deserves some accolades is SHELMET, who lacks Drill Run but has Body Slam for spamming and Bug Buzz for its closer. It shares a lot of the same hitlist as Karrablast, but swaps G-Fisk for Cottonee instead and is even more deadly versus Darks.
  • GLIGAR can beat G-Fism and Cottonee. I mean, if that’s not enough for consideration right there, it can also take Vigoroth, Pyroar, Wooper, and a host of Fighters, Poisons, and Darks too. Bonus points for high level IVs, as Gligar can add on Deino then too.
  • Element Cup superstar CHINCHOU has no answers to Cottonee or G-Fisk (even if it runs Bubble), but you have to like how much else it does handle. The lack of success versus Cotton/Fisk will surely hold it back, but don’t look over it for your own team composition. There will be teams out there with a Chinchou-shaped hole waiting to be filled.
  • And as just one more reminder: a good BARBOACH, particularly one with relatively high Attack (for that win over Cottonee), can be a very disruptive force in this meta, busting up cores left and right. It’s a personal favorite, if you couldn’t tell, and easily could be that for you too if you give it a try. Bonus points if also shiny!

As I mentioned at the top, this is NOT fully comprehensive, especially in a pretty wide open format like this one. Some of these cores and Pokémon are definitely ones you’ll come across, some are more off the wall and you may never encounter at all. 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’ll also be slightly modifying my meta/budget overview of the format — “Nifty Or Thrifty” — ahead of Little Jungle Cup’s official return in the next 24 hours or so, but for now you can view it here at GO Hub as it’s still ~95% accurate to what to expect this time. Between than this additional guide, I do hope I’ve help put you on the path to success!

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

Thanks for reading, and best of luck in Little Jungle Cup, or whatever format you find yourself in this week! Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time. Cheers!

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