Core Meltdown PvP: Evolution Cup

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

Last year, I started doing not just my standard “Nifty Or Thrifty” meta/budget overviews of weekly GBL formats, but also a companion piece centered on teambuilding… specifically “cores” to build around. Things eventually got busy and hectic and I had to suspend the series, but for Evolution Cup, at least, it’s back!

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 is what I will primarily focus on here: pairs of Pokémon that can make up a solid core to build your team around. However, as it’s been a while, in most cases below I have them shown with a third suggested teammate already!

For the visually inclined, instead of only linking to a bunch of sims, I’m going to link to graphical representations of what those cores can (and cannot) handle in the Evolution Cup meta, heavily utilizing PvPoke’s fantastic Team Builder tool, as well as suggestions inspired by GOBattleLog. Strongly recommend checking out BOTH of those tools 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 definity not limited to):

THE VANILLA – Vigoroth + Dusclops

  • Undoubtedly one of the best core duos in the Cup, Vigoroth and Dusclops cover each other almost perfectly, with Clops fending off Fighters, Poisons, and/or Flyers that give Vigoroth fits, and Viggy handling… well, pretty much everything else.
  • Sealeo (as shown above) does an admirable job backing up where the core duo are weakest, and ensures that very nearly everything is at least double covered. Piloswine is similar and much better versus Electrics (like Alolan Graveler), but slightly shakier overall.

THE VANILLA, PART 2 – Dragonair + Dusclops

  • Dragonair and Dusclops also back each other up quite nicely, though there are a couple cracks versus things like Zweilous and Chansey.
  • The best way to plug those holes is rather obvious: a Fighter. Vigoroth works out well (basically merging this team with the last), but of course a true Fighter like Machoke fits the bill too, though it really doesn’t like Chansey’s Zen Headbutting.
  • This does leave some matchups (like Zweil, Chansey, and Golbat) one deep, with only one of your three handling them, and is therefore potentially a little more RPS than the Vigoroth/Dusclops/Ice team recommended earlier… though it’s still not bad. And Dragonair’s wide neutral coverage gives you more “out”s on paper anyway. This is a still a very solid and flexible team composition.

THE JUNGLE FRIENDS – Vigoroth + Golbat

  • As a duo core, Vigoroth and Golbat technically have perfect coverege (though your only Golbat counter is… Golbat).
  • Though the overall team score comes down a bit, I see opportunity for Alolan Graveler here to smack aside opposing Golbat and problematic Electrics and Poisons in general. The score comes down because A-Grav can get locked into some VERY bad spots if you’re not cancel, so be cautious with when and how you swap so you don’t get locked into a blowout situation. Easier said than done, I know.

THE STING LIKE A BUG – Charjabug + Hakamo-O

  • Get it? Bug stinging and famous fighting phrase all in one? Bah, you’re no fun.
  • Charjabug does an admirable job plugging Hakamo’s holes, with just Piloswine (resist Electric) and Dusclops (resisting Fighting and Bug) as obvious flaws.
  • I hate to keep going back to the Vigoroth well, but it is a good option. Something like Haunter works too if you want to spice it up.


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

THE DOUBLE DRAGON – Zweilous + Hakamo-O

  • Played around with several Dragons to try and get this one working, and Zweilous and Hakamo really seem to plug the most holes, with Hak covering Fighter that harm Zweil, and Zweilous holding off Ghost and Psychic stuff that gives Hakamo fits.
  • The biggest hole is Ice types, which a Fighter like Machoke or, perhaps even better, Vigoroth can handle without much issue. Conveniently, this leaves the team with two Dragons and two Fighters, which for us old-school gamers, is just SO thematic! 🤩

THE FIGHT CLUB – Machoke + Vigoroth

  • With only one of these being an actual Fighting type and spamming widely unresistedBody Slam left and right, there are surprisingly few holes with this pair… really just a couple Dragons and Poisons to worry about.
  • Conveniently, Piloswine fills both holes nicely, fending off most Dragons with steady Ice damage and resisting Poison damage to beat most of those as well.
  • Magneton is a fun alternative for also handling most Dragons and Poisons (thanks mainly to resisting damage from each), though it does still suffer versus half-Fighting Hakamo-O.

THE POISON IVY – Nidorino & Haunter

    • These two plug each other’s holes pretty nicely, with wide neutral coverage from Haunter and heavy Poison damage for most everything else from Nidorino (as an example Poison type, chosen mostly because it manages to beat down Vigoroth).
  • What holes remain are relatively easy to fill: Dragons and Ground damage (read as: Marshtomp). VERY conveniently, Floette takes care of both, handling Dragons with relative ease and Marshtomp as well thanks in large part to Vine Whip.
  • I really wanted to find a good team for Floette’s admittedly limited coverage, and it fits SO nicely here!

THE WET N’ WILD – Sealeo + Marshtomp

  • Surprisingly few gaps left with this Watery duo… they complement each other remarkably well. Really the only holes left are Fighting and Floette.
  • One could go with a FULL Water team (as shown above) with Brionne, though Vigoroth and Flo remain issues.
  • Better may be Dusclops with Return (or Shadow Clops which can handle Viggy and Flo and, of course, several other things.

THE WINTER WONDERLAND – Galarian Mr. Mime + Piloswine/Sealeo

  • I was wracking my brain trying to think up a way for an Ice-themed team to actually handle things like Vigoroth and Machoke, and voila! Enter half-Psychic G-Mime. It’s NOT perfect coverage (Vigoroth and Steely Magneton remain issues), but those can be handled with a Fighter of your own.
  • If you want to go with a FULL Ice team, you can do so with Mime, Sealeo, AND Swine and just try to gang tackle Viggy and ‘Ton. Depends how spicy/thematic you doggedly want to be.


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 PHANTOM FIGHTER – Haunter + Machoke

  • Speaking of Haunter, mashing it together with a Fighting type makes for quite nice coverage. Very little slips through the cracks. The downside, and the reason this is listed in this section instead of earlier, is having basically NO bulk to speak of.
  • There are a couple easy ways to plug holes and shore up weaknesses, such as Piloswine or Dragonair, though neither do much to help out with the lack of bulk. At least games will be over quickly, one way or another?

THE CHILLED VENOM – Ivysaur, Haunter, Sealeo

  • Arguably could have been up in the Overloaded Cores with Haunter and Ivysaur both being Poison types, but this seemed especially funky and a better fit here.
  • It is Ivysaur, not so much Haunter, than consistently handles Vigoroth, and it also plugs holes versus Charjabug and others that Sealeo and Haunter struggle with.
  • Conversely, Sealeo holds down Dragons and Grounds that give Haunter trouble, freeing it up to roam pretty freely.

THE CHILLED BUG – Charjabug, Ivysaur, Sealeo

  • A variation on the last team, with Charjabug being the wild card that Ivy and Sealeo try to free up. Charj handles Haunter and Magneton, but the other two can hold down the rest.
  • A bit less flexible and more RPS than the Haunter version, with Charj’s moves being resisted by a bit more than Ghost damage is. But I like the look of this anyway… on paper, at least.

THE BLUES – Marshtomp, Sealeo, Nidorino

  • I really like the randomness of this team, and the coverage is pretty swell, but there is definitely an RPS feel to it, with most opponents losing to only one member of this trio. In theory it’s flexible and even many of the losses are not hard ones, but uh… high risk along with potentially high rewards.

Outta time, so we’ll wrap it up here for now. I DO have my old Nifty Or Thrifty meta/budget review of the entire format that I recommend checking out as well… the meta is barely changed since last time, but I WILL tweak that as soon as I can. (Poltergeist Dusclops is a new force, for example.)

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.

Until next time (Togekiss Community Day analysis!), 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!

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