Hello again, fellow PvPers! New year means it’s time to try something new… the start of a whole new article series, that is!

Many of you have followed my lengthy “Nifty Or Thrifty” meta/budget reviews over the years, and/or other regular series like my “Under The Lights” more targeted analyses and Community Day spotlights and move rebalance overviews and such.

(And I’m very grateful for that faithful readership, by the way!) I try to diversify! But after 300+ articles and 3 full years now of doing this, the #1 question I continue to get is “JRE, what cores/teams do you recommend?” 

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I’ll be honest: while I try to offer specific team advice when asked, I have resisted going full bore into team composition recommendations for a few reasons, including:

  • I want players to think for themselves, to take deep dive analyses and put together their own team based on that, not just rote copy and paste a specific team recommendation and run it out there without stopping to contemplate whether that teams fits THEIR style and works FOR THEM. There are very few cookie cutter teams, in my experience, that work for any ol’ player out there.
  • Closely related, the pressure of giving advice like that is, honestly, a little scary. I don’t want to send folks out to spend a ton of dust on a team that doesn’t work out, and then be out all those resources and frustrated rather than fulfilled. It’s a tricky balance for me as a writer/adviser on these things! 😬
  • As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a better analyst than actual player. (Those who can’t doteach, right?) I’ve reached Legend a couple times, and have plenty of head knowledge that does sometimes help with move counting or quickly recalling moves on lesser used opposing Pokémon, but I tend to make silly mistakes and go with my gut at times I should just stick with my head. And that often does not end well. 😅 In other words: I fear my own teambuilding decisions are not the best out there, at least not on any kind of consistent basis.

But enough rambling… and enough excuses. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but here’s one: I resolve to try and talk more about teambuilding this year. And to kick that off, here we go: an honest-to-goodness article diving into recommended “cores” to build a team around. Not ALL of them, 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.

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 as I finally dip my toes into these waters, officially: pairs of Pokémon that can make up a solid core to build your team around, like the very obvious Bastiodon/Cresselia core you can expect a bunch of teams to be running. 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 Sinnoh Cup meta, heavily utilizing PvPoke’s fantastic Team Builder tool. Strongly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already!

…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. These include (but are most definitely not limited to):

THE DOUBLE DON – Bastiodon/Gastrodon

  • No, not named for The Don, don’t worry.
  • Pairs two of the most powerful Pokémon in the whole format with near-perfect coverage. Bastiodon handles Flyers/Ices/Psychics/Grasses that Gastro cannot, while Gastrodon overwhelms the major Fighters/Grounds/Steels that can plague Bastie.
  • Wild cards like Gliscor and Gallade can be problems, but otherwise this core covers most of the bases.
  • Relatively light in shield pressure, so plan accordingly with your third.

THE CHILLY BASTIE – Bastiodon/Froslass

  • Froslass fills similar role to Gastrodon above, getting Fighters and Grounds off Bastiodon’s back while Bastie smashes Psychics and Fires.
  • Bastie and Lass double up on opposing Ice, Psychic, and Flying types, so third selection can be weak to those and be well insulated.
  • Holes open up to some Steels like Empoleon and Magnezone, as well as Lickers with Grounds moves (AKA Munchlax and Lickilicky). A Fighter or Ground can help plug these holes, and their weaknesses are covered nicely by this core pair.
  • Froslass is rather glassy, so beware other oddballs like Razor Leafers (or other heavy fast move damage, like Hippowdon or Gastrodon) that may not win, but can chunk down a lot of life from Lass AND Bastiodon.

THE CHILLY BELLY – Gastrodon/Froslass (or Abomasnow)

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  • So named because gastro issues are in your belly, and belly rhymes with chilly. Get it? C’mon, these are the jokes, kids!
  • Perhaps a more natural pairing than Bastiodon/Froslass, as Lass protects Gastrodon’s weaknesses (Flying, Grass, Ice, and Cresselia) very well, while Gastro handles the major Fighters, Fires, Rocks, Steels, and Lickers that harass Froslass. This is perhaps the most complete coverage among all cores in this writeup!
  • Still struggles versus Gallade (which is becoming a theme 🤔) and Razor Leafers, so be wary.
  • The bulk shows as being decent, but there is some serious blowout potential here if either of these get locked into a bad matchup. Probably best operating one as your lead rather than having both in the back, IMO.
  • VARIANT: Abomasnow can operate in place of Froslass and make rogue Grasses and Grounds much less problematic, as well as better handling troublesome Gallade and even putting up more of a fight than Froslass versus Bastiodon. But struggles versus Froslass herself as well as Fighters, putting more pressure on Gastrodon to chunk those down instead.

THE CRESSELIO – Cresselia/Lucario

  • Excellent coverage, with Cresselia smashing through Grounds and Fighters (and Togekiss) that give Lucario fits, and freeing up Lucario to feast on most everything else (Steels, Normals, Ices, Darks, etc.).
  • Common weakness: Ghosts. Both Drifblim and Froslass can cause this duo issues, as can, ironically, Lucario with its own Ghost damage in Shadow Ball.

THE INCREDIBLE BULK – Cresselia/Munchlax

  • Not one you’ll likely see in a lot of other guides, but surprisingly solid. Munchlax’s one major weakness (Fighting) is mitigated by Cresselia (though Lucario can still be problematic at times), and Munchlax handles Ghosts and some Darks that rough up Cresselia, as well as things like Bastiodon and Lickilicky too.
  • Imperfect coverage leaves holes to a few Steel types… Munchlax and Cresselia can gang up to take them down or at least leave them near death (Munchie’s Bulldoze can be a big help in the right spot and sometimes snatch big wins), but do need help from the third teammate in this area.
  • That said, this core is very rarely blown out and puts up a good fight across most of the core meta. Very “safe” core to build around.

OVERLOADED CORES

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

THE IRONCLAD – Bastiodon/Lucario

  • Very oppressive to anything not Fighting or Ground. Often double teams a wide swath of the meta, including Psychics, Ices, Darks, even most Steels.
  • Obvious downside: Fighters and Grounds will spell trouble. Something like Froslass can help, but there is more risk here than the fantastic team rating might imply. This will be a VERY popular core, but can be busted up pretty hard by a savvy and/or stacked opponent. High risk, high reward.

THE UNDERDOG – Gallade/Lucario

    • So named for this unusual, little-used-in-Great-League pair of Fighters. 🥊 Hey, it worked for Rocky!
    • Despite both being Fighters, Gallade and Lucario actually cover each other’s weaknesses surprisingly well, with Gallade patching holes Luc has versus stuff like Froslass, opposing Fighters, and Ground types (thanks in no small part to Leaf Blade).
    • Lucario does the bulk of the work and is critical to making this team work. Gallade keeps stuff off its back but doesn’t do much else on its own.
    • Very hard on things like Bastiodon, but does not have effective answers to others like Drifblim and especially Togekiss. Needs help from third teammate.

THE GRASSHOLE – Bastiodon/Grotle (and/or Torterra)

  • Yep, old Grasshole teams can work here. No Victreebel or such, but Grotle and/or Torterra can fill in. (Results show just Grotle, as very little separates it from Torterra in role/function.)
  • Actually locks down much of the meta, but Fighters and some oddballs like Magnezone and Gliscor are issues. Can theoretically run just one Razor Leafer with Bastiodon and a different third (perhaps Cresselia or Froslass?), though most variations likely to overload with Grotle/Torterra or even Bastiodon/Probopass, leaving them wide open to exploiting with a good Fighter or two. Be ready!

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 LEAD BALLOON – Lucario/Drifblim

  • Lucario and Drifblim cover each other’s weaknesses admirably, Luc handling Ices, Rocks, Steels, Darks, and Normals, while Drifblim clears Luc’s path of Fighters and Grounds. Lucario can run absolutely wild… if all goes to plan.
  • Froslass is a mutual issue for Luc and Blim, and Froslass will be big, so… that’s a glaring issue.
  • Aside from Lass, this is relatively safe, though both Lucario and Drifblim have some VERY hard losses (the big pink red Xs on that chart I linked to), leaving an uncomfortable risk of things going very, very badly. In other words… this core could go critical in a hurry! But it’s “safe” in this category, much moreso than the others….

THE SOGGY ROSE – Shadow Bibarel/Roserade

Hey, even I don’t have a bottomless well of clever names!

  • Amazingly good coverage. Shadow Bibarel is very underrated in handling Bastiodon, Gastrodon, and Froslass admirably, as well as others that deal Ghost damage, Grounds in general, and even most Steels, as well as, of course, any Fires or Ices that might threaten Roserade. Rose contributes by keeping Fighters, Electrics, and Grasses off Bibarel’s back.
  • Requires the right swaps and good leads, as getting the wrong thing locked in would lead to absolute (and speedy!) disaster… note how little overlap there is between the two, so if one gets annihilated the other will likely soon follow. Also note pesky Gallade causing issues again.

THE SOGGY MOON – Shadow Bibarel/Cresselia

  • Minus Roserade, plus Cress, which covers much of the same stuff (Fighters, Grasses, Waters) and handily beats Gallade.
  • Overlap in how both Bib and Cress handle Grounds means this is a little safer, but has some new gaps, paeticularly with Electrics and also Lucario. In other words, more reliably covers what it covers and is slightly less prone to messily melting down, but has some notable gaps that need to be filled with the third team member from the get-go. Like maybe Gastrodon or the like? There’s potential here….

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:

  • GALLADE, as mentioned, busts up a lot of well-made plans. Its list of solid wins is rather short, but has much of the top echelon of Sinnoh Pokémon on it, from Steels (Bastiodon, Trashadam) to Grounds (Gastrodon, Hippowdon) to Fighters (Lucario AND Toxicroak) and Froslass as a nice cherry on top. Most cores are going to have one or two of those Pokémon that want nothing to do with Gallade… sometimes it can take on the entirely of otherwise very solid teams of three all by itself. Do NOT underestimate Gallade in this meta.
  • GLISCOR wants nothing at all to do with Ice (like Froslass), but similar to Gallade, it has a nice corebusting profile otherwise. It handles Bastiodon and Gastrodon (not many things do both), troublesome Steels like Bronzong and Magnezone, Poisons (to include Toxicroak), the Lickers, and Cresselia just to top it all off. You can make it a little less versatile (though still not bad) and get Gallade too by using Wing Attack instead.
  • Just a reminder that yes, you can actually use GARCHOMP here as a surprisingly good corebreaker, with or without its Community Day move. Grounds are good here, remember, and Chompy comes with handy neutrality to standard Ground threats like Grass and Water. Just avoid Ices like your life depends on it, because uh… as with Gliscor, it basically does. 🥶
  • Quite unique in this meta, PRINPLUP (yes, the not-fully-evolved precursor to Empoleon) is a Water that can throw out Icy Winds left and right and slam the door on things with Hydro Pump, giving it a similarly unique hitlist that includes the Grounds and Rocks and Ices you would expect of a Water type, but also the big name Flyers (like Togekiss and Drifblim). Compiling debuffs from those Winds gives it other wins you may not expect at first glance, like Bronzong, Lickilicky, Trashadam, and even, yes, Empoleon itself. Not bad, little guy!
  • I already threw it in a couple spicy cores, but just a reminder that BIBAREL, [specifically in Shadow form], capably slays the unholy trinity of Bastiodon, Gastrodon, and Froslass, as well as a wide array of other big names. Keep it away from Fighters, though. 😬

So there we go! My first official “core” article, and hopefully the first of several to come! If this goes over well, I’ll try to keep this going for future Cups down the line, so let me know what you thought with a kind reply or upvote if this proved helpful!

As I mentioned at the top, this is NOT fully comprehensive. Some of these cores 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 do hope this helps put you on that 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 Sinnoh Cup, or whatever format you find yourself in! Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time. Cheers!

(Original article can be found here.)

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