Core Meltdown: Retro Cup (PvP Teambuilding/Corebreaking Analysis)

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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 new article series diving into recommended “cores” to build a team around. And today, I’m going back and doing it for another past format returning to PvP: Retro Cup (returning… well, basically NOW, on Wednesday, June 22nd at 1:00 p.m. PDT). 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’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 Retro Cup meta, heavily utilizing PvPoke’s fantastic Team Builder tool. Strongly recommend checking that tool out if you haven’t already! I ALSO strongly recommend checking out GO Battle Log (I believe the link for Retro is here for historical team info for Retro Cup, and that will be updated throughout the coming week as well!

Alright, 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 BBML – Defense Deoxys + Walrein

  • Yep… here’s your Basic B—- Meta Line, folks.
  • Pretty simple, really: DD covers Walrein’s weakness to Fighters, Walrein simply outbulks most of the Ghosts and Flyers that can hound DD. Put together they have incredible bulk that allows hanging in even bad fights and, between the two of them, mopping up some troublesome opponents in the end.
  • Not without holes, as several top line Psychics, a couple Ghosts, and new stuff like Araquanid can bust through this duo, but it scores well for a reason. These two can be very oppressive and collectively can overcome even many of the listed bad matchups.
  • Relatively easy to plug the holes. A good bulky Normal (and there are multiple ways to go with that) or certain spooky tree mitigate most risks, and make up teams you are likely to see A LOT at upper ranks.

THE BBML, PART 2 – Trevenant + Walrein

  • The other side of the same coin from above. Now it’s Trevor covering Walrein’s back against Fighters (including enemy DDs, which are more problematic for the Walrein/DD duo), while Wally handles most Ices and Flyers that can plague Trevenant and just outbulks a good chunk of the meta. As a bonus, Trevor also mostly covers its own backside against Psychics and even most enemy Ghosts. It doesn’t score as well as Wally/DD, but personally I have more faith in this core if forced to choose between the two. It just looks to have less holes to me. (And with a quick gander at the work of some other analysts, this looks like THE most popular, most recommended core by most of them too.)
  • Of course, the unholy alliance is just to run all three and be done with it, as DD plugs the few holes here rather nicely, aside from Araquanid. This trio is likely to be THE team many players settle on, at least early on until the meta adjusts.

THE ALTICHAM – Altaria + Medicham

  • Don’t feel like using DD, Trevor, OR Wally? Go with other old reliables!
  • Nigh-perfect coverage, with Froslass offering stiff resistance but little else. Altaria does in Trevenant, Medicham handles Walrein, and both can take on DDeoxys. Even troublesome pests like Lickitung, Cofagrigus, and Araquanid are pushed aside.
  • Yes, Froslass remains an issue. Enemy Altaria becomes a footrace. Lickitung and Nidoqueen and (Ice Beam) Jellicent are still problematic. There are several ways to shore these up, but Oranguru does it particularly well, for just one idea.

THE FROZEN TONGUE – Froslass + Lickitung

  • Stuck… stuck… STUUUUUCK! Now I guarantee you won’t forget this core. 😉
  • Coverage is far better than the ‘C’ score might imply, with only opposing Lickitung and, ironically, Dragons outdueling both members of this core. (Yeah, Lass actually struggles against Dragons that aren’t double weak to Ice like Dragonite).
  • There are some other Normals that can work too if you lack a fully maxed Lickitung, but obviously they’re not quite on the same level. Or as thematic. 👅🥶

THE STUFFY FLUFFY – Bewear + Hypno

  • A bit off-the-wall, perhaps, but you can’t argue with the coverage! Not much can escape BOTH of these hard hitters. (Hypno runs Ice Punch in this pairing, BTW, mostly to fend off Altaria and other troublesome Flyers.)
  • Technically the coverage gets better but the consistency not surprisingly gets worse if Bewear is running special move Drain Punch. (It runs Stomp instead above, a user suggestion for — surprise! — better consistency.)
  • There are several variants with other Normals, such as Munchlax or Greedent. The bulk scores obviously go up, but I just don’t like the coverage as much… more pressure is put on a third Pokémon to plug holes. May just be personal preference though.
  • Similarly, other bulky Psychics can be brought in rather than Hypno, such as Cresselia or even Oranguru for a double Normal team.
  • However you run it, having a Ghost-resistant Normal and Fighting-resistant big fat Psychic like Hypno just work out very nicely together in this meta. Bewear and Hypno in particular seem to pair up particularly well, but there’s plenty of room to play around and experiment here.


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

THE “I’M CONFUSED” – Oranguru & Hypno

  • Double Confusion FTW? Not much besides other Psychics resists it in Retro Cup, making it a very potent weapon.
  • Cresselia works well enough too, but I settled on Hypno for its ability to beat Altaria (Ice Punch) and threaten Ghosts with Shadow Ball… the ones that get away from Oranguru, at least.
  • The biggest threats are things like Araquanid (that name is showing up A LOT in this article already, no?) and things like Regirock and Lapras. Perhaps certain Fighters can round this team out?

THE MONKEYS – Oranguru + Vigoroth

  • Looking at the other half of Oranguru now by doubling up Normals.
  • The combination of Guru’s Psychic/Dark moves and Viggy’s Fighting damage and spammy neutral Slams provide good coverage against Ghosts, Normals, Ices, Poisons, and enemy Fighters, all while not being weak to enemy Psychics (besides Vigoroth being weak to DD and Medicham).
  • Some obvious holes, but not as many as you may think. Bulky Psychics, Altaria, and omnipresent threat Araquanid are the big ones to try to cover with your third. Perhaps a radical suggestion, but a couple of Rocks like Alolans or even Magcargo plug most of those gaps.
  • VARIANT: Guru/Greedent seems to be a very popular Normal/Normal pairing with similar coverage gaps, but I just don’t like how it’s weaker to Walrein. Certainly could work with the right third, though… cases can be made for DD, Hypno, Froslass and others.

THE CHILL UP YOUR SPINE – Froslass + Walrein

  • A very popular “BB” pairing, with traditional Ice counters either being banned (Steel), repressed (Fire, which isn’t great in this meta), or handled by Froslass (Fighters).
  • Ironically, the right Fighter of your own (and there ARE a couple options) may be the best way to plug holes.

THE BUBBLE BATH – Jellicent + Araquanid

  • Double the Bubble Beam, double the fun? Well, maybe not fun for the opponent….
  • The coverage isn’t fantastic, with threats to avoid that include Altaria and Golbat (though they and Flyers in general have to play it very carefully in case Jelli has Ice Beam), Regirock, and Lickitung and its Ghost-fast-move Normal friends. Combine the constant debuffing with the high bulk of this duo, and it’s only a matter of time before a big Shadow Ball or Bug Buzz breaks things open in your favor, even in less than ideal matchups. Lots of shield bait games.
  • For a third, consider sticking with bubble bellies and bring in Snorlax? Or if you have it, a big fat Rock.

THE DEATH FROM ABOVE – Altaria + Pidgeot/Noctowl

  • I don’t think they’re discussed as much as they should be, but I wanted to highlight the growing importance of Flyers in this meta, especially Pidgeot and Noctowl with their resistance to Ghost, making them fantastic counters to the many Ghosts in the meta, but also the rising Araquanid and of course everpresent Fighters. I wouldn’t necessarily use them both together, but another Flyer with unique traits (Altaria being the most shining example) makes for a very nice ‘BB’ pairing.
  • While Electric is likely to be light and Altaria can handle most of them anyway, Ice is BIG in this meta and must be accounted for. You know what to do: bring a Fighter of your own! (Or a big Rock can work well too.)


Here’s your spicier stuff, some of which could actually work 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 STONE COLD – Regirock + Regice

  • No Registeel, no problem? I mean, Fighters are still a problem, but like, that’s a big problem for Registeel anyway too, so….
  • Yet again, Oranguru plugs big holes (Fighters, Lickitung) nicely. Or bring in your own Psychic/Fighter with Deoxys or even Medicham.

THE CHILLED MONKEY BRAIN – Froslass + Primeape

  • What, you never seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Mwahaha… there’s another team you won’t forget now!
  • Froslass + any Fighter has obvious potential, but Primeape with its unique coverage (Night Slash to chip in versus Psychics and Ghosts, and Close Combat for a big STAB beatstick) lacks in bulk, but has really good coverage (at least on paper). Really just a couple of the more prominent Ghosts (Jellicent especially, but also Trevenant) can rip through both, and especially against Trevor, Lass and Ape have obvious wincons (especially if Night Slash triggers the big buff). Machamp and other Fighters probably come to mind first, but Primeape just seems like a better pairing.
  • VARIANT: Sirfetch’d can fill in for Primeape well enough, probably best run with Brave Bird for huge closing power potential and either Night Slash or Leaf Blade for spam. Just a little less consistent, though probably a higher ceiling.

THE QUEENS – Nidoqueen + Jellicent

  • Okay, technically Jellicent can be a king instead, but you get my point!
  • Nidoqueen’s biggest weaknesses include Ice, Water, and Psychic… and Jelli conveniently can handle all three. Meanwhile Nidoqueen does its normal Poison Fang thing, and my recommendation alongside it is Stone Edge to steal wins from things like Altaria (and other Flyers) and bring extra pain to opposing Ice types. I think it does much more for you here than the standard Earth Power, and very few will expect it.
  • A couple things you might not normally worry about can cause trouble, like Abomasnow and Golbat, so plan accordingly. Maybe go for a full #GirlsThatPvP team? 👧


Just like on Star Trek, when in doubt, just eject the core! Here I try to highlight 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.

Araquanid WaterBug
  • ARAQUANID may be THE best corebreaker in the current Retro Cup meta. Beats the unholy trifecta of Walrein, Trevenant, AND Defense Deoxys, not to mention ALL Psychic types but Alolan Raichu, and most all of the Fighters (to include Medi, Machamp, Primeape, Kommo-O, and usually Bewear and Sirfetch’d and such too). Conveniently, you can also beat most big name Ice types (even Froslass) and of course numerous Grasses. Very few of the most popular cores from previous Retro Cups is safe from ‘Nid. It should FEAST on the meta now.
Marowak (Alola Shadow) FireGhost
  • The new SHADOW ALOLAN MAROWAK looks pretty scary. 👀 Just note the use of Hex rather than the standard Fire Spin.
Abomasnow (Shadow) IceGrass
  • ABOMASNOW, especially Shadowboma, represents a rare threat to Trevenant, Walrein, Altaria, Jellicent, and most Dragons, Flyers, Waters, and even Psychics… all in one package. The speed at which it races to charge moves with Powder Snow gives it particularly intriguing swap-in consideration.
Nidoqueen (Shadow) PoisonGround
  • NIDOQUEEN (also preferrably as a Shadow) is a sneaky good corebreaker and safe swap… with Stone Edge, as noted earlier. Very disruptive presence despite the scary amount of Ice and Psychic damage in the meta.
Castform Normal
  • Speaking of disruptive, there are a number of solid Normal types you can drop into battle, from MUNCHLAX to GREEDENT to SNORLAX (the big boy is SCARY here!) and others. But one that folks always seem to forget about is little NORMAL CASTFORM, which is a particularly effective safe swap because of the speed at which Hex charges up its moves. And those moves include super spammy Weather Ball (Rock) that is nothing less than amazing in this meta (swatting Flyers and Ices and things like Araquanid left and right) and closing power with Energy Ball or Hurricane.
Zangoose Normal
  • A rather unique Normal to consider is ZANGOOSE, who brings Ghost and Dark damage to shred Psychics and Ghosts, and Close Combat to slap down Rocks and (many) Ice and Normal types too. Not so great as a safe swap, perhaps, but brings a ton of pressure wherever you slot it in. It might be overall better than Vigoroth in this particular meta.
  • Similarly, BEWEAR is an actual Fighter (and most all that goes with that role, like beating Ice and Normal and Rock types) that also shreds Ghosts and even Araquanid. What more needs be said?
Bewear NormalFighting
  • LINOONE is a Normal that doesn’t provide spam so much as slower but excellent coverage with Grass Knot and Thunder, alongside Shadow Claw. Psychics, Ghosts, Waters, and most Flyers want nothing to do with it. Probably a better lead or shields-down closer than swap, but whatever works for you and your team!
Zapdos ElectricFlying
  • Again, probably NOT a good example of a traditional “safe” swap, but SHADOW ZAPDOS is likely not on the forefront of people’s minds here, and you can use that to your advantage. Electrics have a lot of juicy targets here (including the new Araquanid), and while it can’t overcome Walrein, zapping most of the other Waters here (as well as Flyers, of course) while also pecking Fighters and Grasses and Bugs (and even Ghosts, as a bonus) into oblivion more than makes up for it. Call it a sac swap… more appropriate to its role.
Galvantula BugElectric
  • Another neglected Electric these days is GALVANTULA. Its unique profile makes it lethal to the many Flyers, Waters, Grasses, AND Psychics here, while also holding down most Fighters in the process. I had trouble finding a team to spotlight it on, but I like what Galv is capable of here.

Samurott Water

  • SAMUROTT is a bit niche, but as Araquanid is showing, an Ice-resistant ‘mon that can dish out big Bug damage suddenly has value in this meta. Sammy fits that bill.

Ariados BugPoison

  • It doesn’t resist Water and is, in fact, vulnerable to Psychic damage, but that doesn’t slow down ARIADOS. It still tangles with the big Psychics, really shuts down Fighters, and brings pain to several other big names. Just make sure you run Megahorn, which is where several of its sneaky wins originate.
Pidgeot NormalFlying Noctowl NormalFlying

And again, one final shout-out to PIDGEOT and NOCTOWL, who capably handle Ghosts, Bugs, Grasses, Fighters, and Ghost-fast-move Normals in equally effective measure. Noctowl is better overall versus Dragons (if that matters to you), while Pidgeot with Wing Attack can actually outrace Walrein and Lapras under the right circumstances, which is pretty crazy. (While Gust is instead more reliable against Fighters.) Either way, these two are definitely on the rise as fantastic counters to Trevenant and now Araquanid too.

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.

If you missed it, I also updated and republished my meta/budget overview of the format — “Nifty Or Thrifty” — ahead of time, so be sure to go check that out too. Between that and now this additional guide, I do hope I’ve help put you on the path to success this coming week. Best of luck!

Until next time, 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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