Hello again, fellow PvPers, and welcome to another edition of Core Meltdown!
While for the better part of three years of analysis and well over 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, we’re looking back at another past format returning to PvP: Flying Cup (returning on Tuesday, May 3rd, at 1:00 p.m. PDT).
What is a “core”, you ask? Simply a group of Pokémon that work well together on a team, often 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.
That all said… as with the recent return of Little Cup, where I spent most of the article discussing how to beat meta-defining Bronzor, I am going to do things a little differently than the standard Core Meltdown format for this Cup. Because there is again one all-consuming boogeyman in this meta that you’re likely to encounter on nearly every team out there, and also one very solid and versatile counter to that central Pokémon that is also likely to ever-present.
So before we get into some corebreakers and cores, I want to focus on those two Pokémon in more of a “Nifty Or Thrifty”-esque writeup.
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 twice as many things that take DOUBLE super effective damage, even if you leave out all the Bugs (six Fire types and one Ice). Starting to understand why Aerodactyl is so crazy good here? If not, then maybe this will paint the picture. 👀 Or even better, try looking at Shadow Aerodactyl. 😱 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 (or at least no better than neutral) 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!
One more note: 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).
Aerodactyl has very, very few reliable counters. But there is one premier Aerodactyl counter that many folks are equally likely to roll out there.
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 is one of those three Pokemon in this format that takes only neutral damage from Rock moves). And while it generally fails versus Aerodactyl with Skarm’s standard all-Flying moveset, the trick in this meta is to instead rely on Steel Wing, which is super effective versus Aero’s Rock typing and allows Skarm to take Aerodactyl out with just fast moves! Across the entire meta, Steel Wing performs just about as well as Air Slash, beating Aerodactyl and Articuno as opposed to the Gyarados, Pelipper, Swanna, and Fletchinder wins that Air Slash achieves (as those Pokémon all resist Steel, but not Flying damage).
Perhaps even better? Skarm, like Aero, can run with just one charge move if you don’t want to spend the extra 75,000 dust for Brave Bird. The only wins that strictly require Bird are Altaria and Mantine (and its pre-evolution Mantyke)… everything else can be had with just Sky Attack. So that’s neat. Chances are you already have a double moved Skarm for general PvP use (MUCH higher chances than having a double moved Aerodactyl ready to go, at least!), but if not, here’s a way to get through the week 75,000 dust richer.
Real quick on Shadow Skarmory, and it’s basically a sidegrade, dropping Drifblim and the basically-meaningless Shadow Crobat to instead beat the equally-meaningless Dodrio and Murkrow. It IS worth noting, however, that Shadow Skarm can also overcome Altaria without needing Brave Bird, again lending credence to running Skarm with just one move if you need to… and this time saving 90,000 dust since we’re talking a Shadow Pokemon.
SO dominant are these two that they collectively make up the most common core in Flying Cup. As you can see, it’s not perfect coverage, but it’s still very impressive. And perhaps even MORE impressive when you look a bit beyond the core meta, with only a couple of Waters and Skarmory itself really able to threaten both Aero and Skarm. I’ve seen entire teambuilding videos on Flying Cup that include the AeroSkarm core on every recommended team, and while I think that’s a little… uh… unhelpful… I do kind of get it. It’s a very potent core that is almost where you can start AND stop any meaningful Flying Cup core discussion.
That said, I WILL throw a few more core ideas out there at the end… but first, I want to shuffle the order around and cover our corebreakers — things that can beat Aerodactyl and/or Skarmory — first and foremost, as those are likely to be the most important Pokemon to consider for this format. Again, just like figuring out how to beat Bronzor in Little Cup.
Here we go!
EJECT THE CORE!
- So first, the bad news: Steel Wing Skarmory represents the ONLY Pokemon that can outright beat Aerodactyl across all three even shield (0v0, 1v1, 2v2) scenarios. That’s it… that’s the list. But thankfully, there are others that come darn close, by winning 2 of the 3 even shield scenarios, and/or getting Aerodactyl to about 10 HP or less in multiple shielding scenarios (indicating they could flip it depending on IVs or blips of lag or such).
- GYARADOS, specifically with Waterfall, is an interesting specimen in this meta. As a Shadow, it can finish off Aerodactyl with fast moves alone before Aero can reach a charge move… the only downside being that it’s a case of mutual destruction, with both killing each other off. But as it does so without shields being a factor, this is perhaps the most consistent, fool-proof way of taking Aero out aside from Steel Wing Skarmory. Do note, however, that this trick will NOT work with Shadow Aerodactyl, who overpowers Gary just before the final, KO Waterfall. RIP. Interestingly, however, non-Shadow Gyarados again ties Shadow Aerodactyl. Waterfall Gyarados, as a Water type, also resists Skarmory’s Steel Wing and therefore takes it down as well in 1v1 and 2v2 shielding. (To include Shadow Skarmory.) Outside of handling the AeroSkarm core, Shadow Gary also beats Gligar and Articuno, and with straight Waterfall can even overwhelm Shadow Zapdos! Gary’s lack of bulk (especially as a Shadow) definitely limits its overall usefulness, but it is one of the very best pure corebreakers in this format, period.
- MANTINE follows the same trend: hit Aerodactyl with super effective Water damage, and resist Steel Wing to scrap with Skarmory as well. The key is running Bubble and throwing Bubble Beam out there, which alone is enough to take out Aerodactyl in 1v1 shielding, whereas with shields down, it is Ice Beam that clinches the win. Skarmory is usually listed as a loss, but with heads up play, Mantine can beat Skarm too (again, early Bubble Beams to strip away Skarm’s Attack is key), and in multiple ways and across multiple shielding scenarios (with shieldless being the most straightforward. With its dangerous Ice Beam and tricky-to-predict bait potential, Mantine is good outside of just AeroSkarm too, with solid wins over Gyarados (to include Shadow), Gligar, and also Togekiss and even Altaria. Gary is a little more straightforward for those inexperienced with using Mantine, as the timing of when to bait and when NOT to bait with Mantine takes some getting used to. But it’s well worth the effort in this meta as a corebreaker with upside.
- Along the same vein, but slightly behind Gyarados and Mantine, we have PELIPPER without its typical Wing Attack and sporting Water Gun instead, for its super effectiveness versus Aerodactyl and neutral damage on Skarmory. (Both resist Wing Attack’s Flying damage.) It beats Skamory just fine in 1v1 and 2v2 shielding, but has trouble overcoming Aerodactyl. It can get Shadow Aero down to about 10 HP and get OH so close versus normal Aero by just sticking to Water Gun, but by then the cumulative Rocks coming its way take it down. It’s a slightly more reliable Skarmory killer, but the fact that it can’t normally take down Aerodactyl, plus the overlap it has with the other Flying Waters, keep it a less preferred option, IMO. But viable, absolutely. Perhaps an ABB team with Pelipper plus one of the above? Just watch out for Electrics then!
- Speaking of watching out for Electrics, obviously they are pretty potent in a format where everything is Flying. Electric moves are super effective against most everything in Flying Cup, the exceptions being the handful of Dragons, Grasses, and other Electrics that take only neutral damage… and the pair of Ground types that actually resist Electric. The unevolved of those two, GLIGAR, is actually pretty amazing in this meta. Ideally you want one with a little bit of Attack, because then it can not only beat the Electrics, but also exploit the fact that it takes merely neutral damage from Rock to take out Aerodactyl as well! (Including in 2v2 shielding.) And even more ideal is a purified one, as it requires the closing power of Return to add on things like Togekiss and the mirror match (with higher Attack again helping out by winning CMP). Sadly Gligar has no real chance against Skarmory, with both of its fast moves being resisted, and Return as well, but it’s still well worth consideration as a handy specialist. Evolved form GLISCOR is kinda-sorta an option too, but fails to take down Aero with 2 shields, and is stuck with almost-always-resisted Earthquake as its closer rather than the usually-unresisted Return. (Purified Gliscor is too large for Great League.) You don’t really want it here… roll with Gligar instead.
- Speaking of those Electrics, we have a couple. Little EMOLGA is the more popular, accessible, and arguably effective of the main two. While it normally fails to survive Aerodactyl, only winning if shields are down, it decimates Skarmory (resisting all of its Steel and Flying damage while plugging away with super effective Electric damage), shreds the doubly-weak Flying Waters, and takes down big players like Togekiss and Articuno too. Less bulky but still scary ZAPDOS does much of the same, its bulk giving away the win Emolga uniquely enjoys versus Togekiss, but overpowering the little flying squirrel in the head to head. Shadow Zapdos is a slight step backwards, honestly, losing ground versus non-Shadow Zappy but also losing to Emolga and Shadow Articuno… though note that, thanks to neutral Drill Peck damage, it actually overcomes Gligar, which is unexpected and kinda cool.
- As I just mentioned it, let’s talk for a second about TOGEKISS. It doesn’t deal super effective versus Aerodactyl nor do anything to reduce its super effective Rock chucking, but it DOES manage to roll over Aero anyway as long as it has at least one shield to bring to bear, simply Charming its frail frame into oblivion. It similarly Charms down Zapdos and Gyarados, and of course brutally assaults Altaria or any other Dragons that try to enter the fray. And while the sims do not directly show it, even its charge moves are quite impactful here, with Ancient Power being a legit weapon in a format filled with Flying types, and Flamethrower being something to keep even Charm-resistant Skarmory on its toes, particular if swapped in against a Togekiss with some energy (or if lacking shields!). Normally Charmers are a divisive topic, and while that’s likely to continue here, I imagine even some Fairy haters will appreciate what Togekiss can do for them in this one particular meta.
- As for Dragons, yes, they must avoid Togekiss at all costs. And Skarmory is a particularly dangerous foe as well, resisting Dragon damage. But ALTARIA manages to rise up as a top option anyway, particularly if you have one with really good PvP IVs, which allow it to outlast Mantine and, most importantly, Aerodactyl. That’s right… despite dealing nothing better than neutral damage and taking a steady dose of super effective Rocks in return, Altaria is such a chonker that it can outlast Aerodactyl anyway, grinding it to dust with a steady diet of Dragon Breath. (And it can tank a Mantine Ice Beam too.) Add to that beating key corebreakers Gligar, Gyarados, and the Electrics, and Altaria defies the odds and forces its way into this meta despite everything working against it. Heck, if it guesses correctly and shields the Brave Bird, it can even overcome Skarmory too! 👀 (And it wins straight up with shields down and in 2v2 shielding too. 👀👀)
- Speaking of bulk overcoming the odds, consider MANDIBUZZ as well. If it forgoes both of its Flying moves (Air Slash and Aerial Ace) and instead just focuses on Dark (Snarl, Foul Play) and Ghost (Shadow Ball) damage, it puts on a surprisingly strong showing, including wins over Skarmory AND Aerodactyl in 1v1 shielding (plus Gyarados and Gligar, for good measure, conveniently resisting their own Dark charge moves). And while it does fall to Aerodactyl with shields down and with both shields up, in consistently holds the Skarmory, Gyarados, and Gligar wins, replacing Aero with Zapdos in o-shield and with Mantine in 2-shield. I don’t know that I strongly endorse this pick as I do many of the others up above, as not having ANY inherent advantages scares me a bit, but you can’t argue with the results. Crazy bulk alongside neutral damage can get you a long way in this game. And the neutral Dark/Ghost damage is what separates Mandi from other bulky Flyers like, say, Noctowl, who is stuck with most of its damage being resisted by the AeroSkarm core and isn’t a good option in this meta. (Same with Pidgeot and many others too.)
- To piggyback of the hints there of Ghost damage, how about DRIFBLIM? Not only are its Ghost moves almost entirely unresisted by things you’ll see in the skies above Flying Cup, but it comes packing Ice damage with Icy Wind and decent bulk… and that’s enough to float around the fringe of the format, mostly because it can outlast Aerodactyl in 1v1 (and 0v0) shielding while also picking off some other big names. Aerodactyl does finally puncture it in 2v2 shielding, but is replaced by Skarmory, so even that’s not all bad!
- And finally, we’ll wrap it up with another big Icy Wind user: ARTICUNO. Ice is obviously a great weapon in a format where everything is Flying, so yes, Artie does a lot of good here, despite its very unfortunate DOUBLE weakness to Rock (and therefore lack of any real chance to take out Aerodactyl). Articuno destroys double-weak-to-Ice Gligar and Altaria, but also manages to outduel Gyarados, Mantine, and (at least with Blizzard in its arsenal) Skarmory, all of which take only neutral damage from Ice (and the last of which deals super effective Steel damage throughout on top of that). Oh, and Togekiss too. Blizzard, as just mentioned, is the second move you want alongside Icy Wind… don’t be fooled into thinking Ancient Power is the way, because it’s not, unable to beat Steel Wing Skarm and losing the mirror (to Blizzard Artie). Skarmory does get away with shields down (replaced by Mantine instead), but Articuno comes roaring back in 2v2 shielding, beating (Air Slash) Skarm AND Mantine, as well as now Zapdos and Emolga too. Not too shabby. Shadow Artie is less preferred through, lacking the bulk to ever outlast Steel Wing Skarm being its primary black mark.
And there are a smattering of other oddballs that can bust up Aero and/or Skarm, like SWANNA and the myriad of Fire types that roast Skarmory (but flop hard versus Aerodactyl, Waters, and really much of the rest of the meta), but those above are the main ones… and really what make up the entirety of Flying Cup. Sure, the format in total has nearly 100 Pokemon in all, but it’s really just a dozen or so that make up the true, viable meta. It would be interesting to see what this meta would look like without Aerodactyl (and even, perhaps, Skarmory) in it, but alas. It is what it is. Not a ton of room for thinking outside the box, but hopefully this has given you at least a few ideas to TRY and make this week more enjoyable. Good luck!
A BRIEF WORD ON OTHER CORES
Oh, real quick before we go. Since this is ostensibly a “core” article, here are a few that utilize the above Pokemon if you need some additional inspiration:
- Gyarados/Zapdos (as one of many examples of a Water/Electric pairing) has most of the bases covered and shuts the door especially hard on Skarmory. The bulk is a little worrying though, opening up exploitation by Togekiss and bulky Altaria. Mantine helps with that but is a bit softer on Skarmory.
- Another very good bodyguard for Electrics is Gilgar, and between the two of them, they can take on just about anything short of Altaria.
- If you like thematic teams, consider Articuno/Zapdos. Yeah yeah, Aerodactyl is a bit of an issue, what’s new? But otherwise this is a pretty solid duo.
- Normally bitter enemies, putting Togekiss and Altaria together results in a very highly ranked duo, though the holes are rather obvious and unfortunately include Skarmory. Thankfully those holes are rather easily plugged.
- Speaking of high ranking teams, it’s not very often you find the ultra rare quadruple A, but maximum bulk with Altaria and Mandibuzz does that for you, despite having some gaps. Yet again though, not overly difficult to fill them.
Those are just a few off the top of my own head, but I strongly encourage checking out GO Battle Log for a closer look at the meta and recommended cores and teams based on data compiled from the format itself. Good luck!
Thanks as always to my friends PvPoke and GO Battle Log for their awesome resources! And thanks to you for reading. I hope this helps you get started in Flying Cup, all ye you are brave enough to take to the skies this week.
Thanks for reading, and best of luck! Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time.