Johto Cup PvP Guide: Nifty Or Thrifty


The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Johto Cup, in this case. As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs and/or leveling up!

Because for those on a stardust budget — and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future — it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it. We all want to field competitive teams, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps channel our inner scrooge?

Johto Cup starts Monday the 21st and runs until the end of Season 10, including the newly announced 20 sets per day beginning on the 26th, so we’ll be spending a lot of battles here! A quick reminder of what Johto Cup is:

  • Great League, 1500 CP Limit.
  • Only Pokémon with a Pokédex number from #152 to #251.

As per usual, we’ll start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries. I do try and put extra emphasis on the thriftier stuff, especially for formats like this where you may not use some of these things much in the future.

(For a rough guide to reusability, though, I will rank things with ♻️s, with three being solid in other Great League formats, two being okay in at least certain Cup formats, and only one being something that, honestly, you’re unlikely to use again.) Now, let’s get to it!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy


Meganium Grass

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake

Easily one of the best Pokémon in the format, well-positioned to deal with the relevant Waters, Electrics, Grounds, and Rocks, while conveniently also handling Counter users, Umbreon, and even Steelix. And while not-so-secret weapon Earthquake makes some of those (especially Steelix) easier, it’s worth noting that Meg CAN do all of that with just Frenzy Plant if you so choose. I generally would NOT recommend Shadow Meg, though. It’s a tad better with shields down, but a downgrade with any shields in play, losing to things like Granbull and Umbreon and shedding critical HP against nearly everything in the meta with no notable pickups (though it does beat Azumarill more efficiently as a rare exception to that rule).


Bayleef Grass

Razor Leaf | Ancient Power & Grass Knot

A long-time fan favorite in limited formats, even before XL Candy allowed it to actually reach 1500 CP, little BayBay looks like it could have its best showing ever in Johto Cup, particularly if you’re willing to break open TWO piggy banks with the Shadow version (which picks up Hitmontop and fellow XL superstar Wobbuffet, though at the expense of losing to big sibling Meganium). BayBay rips through everything you’d expect a Grass-type to handle, including Piloswine and even Shadow Granbull, neither of which Meg can typically overcome. Bayleef is perhaps a little less versatile than Meganium, but better at the main Grass duties.


Typhlosion Fire

Shadow Claw/Incinerate | Blast Burnᴸ & Solar Beam/Overheat

It might be better to go old school with Typhlosion here by running Shadow Claw rather than the new normal of Incinerate. There is certainly nothing wrong with sticking with burning it all down, but Claw more easily beats stuff like Hitmontop and wins the mirror match without giving up anything of significance. Shadow Claw may be slightly better with Shadow Typh as well, getting wins over Wobbuffet, Sudowoodo, and Granbull, which non-Shadow Typhlosion and Shadow with Incinerate lose (though Shadow Incinerate uniquely burns through Umbreon instead).

Unlike Meganium and Bayleef, though, there is no secret sauce with the pre-evolution QUILAVA. It can be built without needing XL Candy, but there’s just really no reason to.


Magcargo FireRock

Incinerate | Overheat & Rock Tomb/Stone Edge

Good news! You know that Magcargo you built for Love Cup and thought you may never use again? You can use it here too!. Typically you’ll want to roll with the same moveset too: Incinerate/Rock Tomb/Overheat, toasting the top meta Steels (Skarmory especially, laughing off Brave Birds just as it’s done to Talonflame in Love Cup), Grasses (though note that Meganium usually turns the tables), Charmers (so basically Granbull, but still…. 😅), Bugs, Flyers, and big bonuses like Umbreon and Raikou… though note that Raikou basically requires Rock Tomb, while Stone Edge instead can outrace Mantine. Even better is if you already took the time to build up a Magcargo with really good IVs, as it picks up Mantine even with Tomb, and Ampharos as well. Toasty! 🐌🔥


Ariados BugPoison

Poison Sting | Cross Poison & Megahorn

Another powerful Love Cup candidate that carries over. In that format, I recommended both Bug charge moves, but here I think that while you still definitely want Megahorn, your best bet for spam/bait move is Cross Poison rather than Lunge, the latter getting more consistent (albeit very close) wins versus Sudowoodo and Shadow Raikou, but Cross Poison handling Hitmontop and three Pokémon ranked well inside the Top 10 (at the time of this writing): Qwilfish (#6), Azumarill (#4), and Lanturn (#2). Cross Poison is a heavy lean for me here.


Crobat PoisonFlying

Air Slash | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball/Sludge Bomb

No Golbat, no problem? Golbat (mostly thanks to a better fast move, but also slightly better bulk) can outslug things Crobat normally can’t like Azumarill and Lugia, but Crobat otherwise closely mimics its performance, capably handling Grasses, Fighters, Bugs, Granbull, and other stuff like Typhlosion (with Incinerate, at least), Politoed, Kingdra, and sometimes even Qwilfish. Typically you want Shadow Ball, but there is a good case to be made for the unexpected Sludge Bomb too, particularly as a Shadow Bat, which brings Azumarill back into the win column (though note that Qwilfish and Politoed slip away).


Noctowl NormalFlying

Wing Attack | Sky Attack & Shadow Ball

Another Flyer that gets some extra emphasis since its better-known counterpart (Pidgeot, in this case) is out of the format, though Noctowl has plenty to offer in its own right. Grasses, Bugs, and Fighters are rather obvious, but the Flying tank that Mr. Owl is, it can also beat down spammers like Qwilfish and Politoed, heavy damage dealers like Granbull, Kingdra, and Typhlosion, and can even tank an Azumarill Ice Beam and win that too. It can even give Steelix a real run for its money now with Shadow Ball. There’s nothing particularly special about Noctowl, but extreme tankiness can take things like it a long way in this game!

MANTINE (Baby Discount™) ♻️♻️♻️

Mantine WaterFlying

Wing Attack/Bubble/Bullet Seed | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam

So I could fill a whole article on the intricacies of proper Mantine usage… few things in the game live and die by well-timed baits (with Bubble Beam, in this case) to the degree Mantine does. When it’s hitting on all cylinders, it can completely take over a match, but if those baits start failing, it can fall apart quickly. Instead, I will try to highlight all three viable fast moves. The standard Wing Attack is obviously best versus Grasses (the only move that can beat Meganium, for instance) and with a good damage/energy ratio that allows it to outrace Lugia, Kingdra, and Wobbuffet (and beats Mantines with the other two fast moves). Bubble is best versus Steels (Skarmory, and the only move to beat Steelix) and other things weak to Water (Piloswine, Sudowoodo), and interestingly, Umbreon, having just the right balance of energy and STAB damage to finish Umbry off. But surprisingly, it may be humble Bullet Seed that deserves the most attention here, as it alone can fell Azumarill and Quagsire, it matches Wing Attack’s wins over Wobb, Lugia, and Kingdra, and beats Piloswine and Sudowoodo as Bubble does. The only black marks are failing to overcome Steelix and Umbreon as Bubble does, Meganium as Wing Attack does, or Skarmory as both other moves do. And of course, these wins/losses are in ideal circumstances with even shields and GBL providing an actual, lag-free, fair fight, so your mileage may vary, but hopefully this gives you a rough idea of the pros and cons of the various things Mantine can do. It should be a big looming presence in Johto Cup.


Feraligatr Water

Waterfall | Crunch & Hydro Cannonᴸ

Admittedly, this is kind of an iffy pick in a format filled with several better Water types, but yes, if you love Feraligatr, this is one of the better chances for it to do something for you. It beats down the top name Steels and Fires and Grounds and a few other big names with mostly heavy fast move pressure (AKA pretty consistent results), so it’s not the craziest idea in the world.

SUDOWOODO (Baby Discount™) ♻️♻️

Sudowoodo Rock

Counter | Rock Slide & Earthquake

Counter users are few and far between in this format, and if you’re able to apply the Baby Discount™ by double moving a Bonsly and then evolving, Sudowoodo could be the cheapest option available to you. And it puts in a fine performance, beating the stuff you’d hope a Fighter could beat, but also capably handling Skarmory, Mantine, and Granbull too, stuff no actual Fighter would want any parts of. Sudowoodo could be sneaky good here on a well-thought-out team and is a rather safe long-term investment with its strong and unique set of moves.

HITMONTOP (Baby Discount™) ♻️

Hitmontop Fighting

Counter | Stone Edge & Close Combat

So about Counter users being rare… Believe it or not, Hitmontop is the ONLY pure Fighting-type in Gen2, and therefore the only one in Johto Cup. Crazy, right? The only typing less represented is Dragon (with only Kingdra). Anyway, there’s nothing inherently wrong with ‘Top… the reason you likely haven’t really seen it in PvP to this point is that it doesn’t have the same spam potential as Machamp and most other Fighters. I mean, sure, Close Combat is fast enough, but you don’t want to have to rely on it TOO much considering the severe self-nerf that comes with it, and Stone Edge is an awesome and very cost-effective move, but it’s no Rock Slide, for example. In the end, yes, Hitmontop is just fine and will surely be a popular choice here, beating the stuff you’d want a Fighter to beat plus things like Skarmory and Jumpluff thanks to Edge. It’s just not one I’d expect to use too terribly much moving forward.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

AZUMARILL ♻️♻️♻️♻️

Azumarill WaterFairy

Bubble | Ice Beam & Play Rough

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way. Yes, Azumarill is legal in this Cup, and that alone probably makes some of you stop reading and swear off Johto Cup forever. And I get it, I do. We’re all sick of the blue bunny. BUT, while it’s good here, yes, it’s not uncontainable by any means. There are the obvious Grasses and Electrics, but also things like Qwilfish, Quagsire, Ariados, Crobat and even things like Noctowl that can outrace or just out tank it. I won’t pretend Azu isn’t going to be big and all-pervasive in Johto Cup, but it can be handled. Just have a plan!

LANTURN ♻️♻️♻️

Lanturn WaterElectric

Spark | Thunderbolt & Hydro Pump/Thunder

Obviously, Lanturn means a very bad day at the office for Azumarill, but it’s so much more than that. Lanturn handles most all Waters…and Flyers, and stuff like Granbull, and Typhlosion and Piloswine thanks to its Water side. It does have a hard time with Piloswine without Hydro Pump (read as: it’s gonna lose), but on the flip side it has its best shot at besting Kingdra with all Electric moves, so plan for whatever scares you more. But Lanturn itself? Very scary here, far beyond the mere numbers.


Qwilfish WaterPoison

Poison Sting | Aqua Tail & Sludge Wave

While Azumarill and Lanturn are more “slow burn” types that just outlast things and eventually breakthrough with a big, finishing charge move, Qwilfish is all about that breakneck speed. And hot dang does it do that well. Here we have the rare Water-type that can straight up outrace Grass types (and sometimes even stuff like Raikou!) with a handy typing that allows beating Fighters, Fires, Rocks, Fairies, and then stuff like Kingdra, Mantine, Piloswine, and Wobbuffet with equal proficiency. Qwilfish should be out partying like it’s Halloween Cup all over again!


Quagsire WaterGround

Mud Shot | Stone Edge & Earthquake

The only “Mud Boy” in the format, and similar to Gastrodon in Sinnoh Cup, Lord Quag looks like it will be a major player in this format. While it somewhat surprisingly struggles versus Skarmory, Quag handles other Steels without much difficulty, and always threatens Flyers with Stone Edge. But the real surprise is how capably it handles other Waters, from Azu to Mantine to Qwilfish to Kingdra and beyond. Add that to taking out things like Piloswine, Sudowoodo, Granbull, and even chonky Umbreon and Wobbuffet, PLUS of course the various Electric and Fire types, and it’s looking like a great time to build your first Quagsire if you don’t have one already! Shadow Quag is a slight step backwards, unable to last against Mantine, Piloswine, Umbreon, or Granbull, but it does now take out Politoed and Forretress and may work better on certain teams.


Politoed Water

Mud Shot | Weather Ball (Water) & Returnᴸ/Earthquakeᴸ

“Wait wait, what’s this nonsense about Return on Politoed, JRE?” I’m actually serious, as a purified Toed with Return wins the mirror and can more easily topple Azumarill than Earthquake can, which is kiiiiiiind of a big deal. The two moves perform virtually identically with shields down too… only if it pushes to 2v2 shielding does Earthquake pull slightly ahead again (more easily beating Ampharos and Quagsire). I’m not saying Return is strictly better, but I think it DOES deserve legit consideration. Perhaps even moreso than Shadow Toed, which can also beat Azumarill and has a very good shot at Lanturn, though it suffers counterbalancing losses like Quagsire and Shadow Granbull too. Decisions, decisions!


Kingdra WaterDragon

Dragon Breath | Octazooka & Outrage

Keeping this one very brief, because while Kingdra remains wildly popular and is always included in the “core meta” group of most eligible Cups, I continue to not get it. Yes, it brings heavy — and in this meta, unique — fast move pressure, but it just folds like a cheap chair to so many things that I have a hard time recommending it. So just study the sim, refrain from using it yourself, and don’t panic when you face one down. Kingdra is scary in Ultra League… but this ain’t Ultra League.


Piloswine IceGround

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Bulldoze/Returnᴸ

Yep, Return is even an option here for sneaking in a possible win over Quagsire, though Bulldoze offers handy Steel/Rock coverage (and beats Steelix specifically) and is admittedly probably the safer bet overall. Or just roll with Shadow Swine to beat Quagsire and Steelix, as well as new wins over Lanturn and Sudowoodo, though note that Mantine and Umbreon usually slip away in that case.


Donphan Ground

Counter | Body Slam & Earthquake

Usually, a disappointingly middling pick that squanders a potent and diverse moveset, it looks like Donny may finally be able to put it all together and make a nice dent in a GBL meta. Again, Counter users are rather rare, and between that and just Body Slam it already looks viable, with wins over Electrics (even Lanturn), Fires, and stuff like Umbreon, Piloswine, and Sudowoodo. Tacking on Earthquake pushes it over the top by bringing in Wobbuffet and a trio of big Steels: Forretress, Steelix, and yes, even Skarmory… and mindbogglingly, it’s Earthquake that finishes Skarm off. Not sure if reality will match the sims, but the potential is there for folks to play Donphan for more than just its awesome animations. (But I mean, those are almost enough on their own, right?)


Heracross BugFighting

Counter | Rock Blast & Close Combat/Megahorn

Heracross and Hitmontop are the ONLY Fighting-types in the whole format. Unlike ‘Top, Heracross comes with a secondary typing, and a rather handy one at that. Being part Bug means Heracross resists Grass and Fighting damage, thus allowing it to take out Meganium and Hitmontop itself. On the downside, it’s also left vulnerable to Fire and critically weak (double super effective damage) to Flying, so unlike Hitmontop, Heracross cannot overcome Jumpluff or Skarmory, and things have to go just right for it to outrace Typhlosion. (If you rush the first Rock Blastyou’ll lose… note that the winning matchup has you get in SEVEN Counters before firing the first Rock Blast, and the energy from that makes the critical difference.) Still, the relative speed of Rock Blast also allows Heracross to outrace Ampharos and Politoed more effectively than Hitmontop; Heracross certainly makes a very strong case for anyone that has a Great League one they can use. The only other particular note is that Close Combat is needed to ensure Toed, while Megahorn instead takes out Wobbuffet, so whichever fits your fancy. Good luck!


Jumpluff GrassFlying

Bullet Seed | Acrobaticsᴸ & Energy Ball/Aerial Ace

Well, here we are. While most of what I wrote about Community Day Jumpluff was rather… ah… subdued, I did recommend still building at least one good one for limited (aka Cup) formats. Well here we get our first crack at one — and a format without Tropius — and yeah, Jumpie looks pretty dang good! In fairness, this is a pretty good format for Grasses anyway (see: Meganium and Bayleef), but even with that in mind, Jumpluff puts up some very encouraging numbers, even with both closing moves (Energy Ball and the Community Day move Acrobatics), so much so that Acrobatics/Aerial Ace looks like a mere sidegrade. (Energy Ball is needed for Lanturn, and Aerial Ace instead outraces Kingdra). Oh, and don’t forget about Shadow Jumpluff, which beats both Lanturn AND Kingdra, with Aerial Ace maintaining a win against Forretress, and Energy Ball instead keeping a win versus Ampharos and adding on Steelix! Now’s the time to try out Jumpie… it will likely never look better than this!


Bellossom Grass

Bullet Seed/Razor Leaf | Leaf Blade & Returnᴸ/Dazzling Gleam

More eye-popping numbers that prove yet again that Grass is quite awesome in this meta. Lossom can even operate as a great Razor Leafer in the same vein as Victreebel, slashing through stuff with the same Leaf Blade that makes Vic tick. Razor Leaf tacks on a big win over Steelix, though only with Bullet Seed (and the big neutral damage of Return) does Bellossom outslug Meganium instead. Shadow Lossom is also quite good with Bullet Seed, trading Granbull (that non-Shadow Lossom can defeat) to overcome Hitmontop instead. (Shadow Lossom with Razor Leaf is a slight step backwards, losing now to Steelix and Umbreon, and isn’t really recommended.) Bellossom is slightly underrated in Open GL play too, and could be more than just a short-term rental.

SUNFLORA, however, likely IS just a one-timer and underwhelms as compared to Bellossom and others anyway. It’s viable, and any big Sunflora fans out there CAN use it here, sure. It’s just not as exciting, despite some impressive charge moves (which it has trouble taking advantage of even with Bullet Seed).


Houndoom (Shadow) DarkFire

Snarl/Fire Fang | Crunch & Flamethrower

Yes, you specifically want Shadow Doom, as it has more going for it than non-Shadow (specifically, wins over Jumpluff, Steelix, Ampharos, and Umbreon, as opposed to likely-less-populous Forretress and Wobbuffet that non-Shadow beats instead). Or you can run with Fire Fang for some crazy fast move pressure and wins over Raikou and Forretress (though you do give up Lugia, Typhlosion, Ampharaos, and Last Resort Umbreon instead. Fire Fang Doom has made some noise in a couple of past metas, but I’ll admit I lean towards what Snarl can offer here instead. You can do worse for a spice pick.


Granbull (Shadow) Fairy

Charm | Crunch & Close Combat

And here, again, I think it’s really the Shadow version that you want, which just applies SO much more pressure (and gets many more potential wins) than non-Shadow; Meganium, Lugia, Typhlosion, Quagsire, and Sudowoodo all fall before Shadow Granbull’s onslaught, but survive non-Shadow Bull. This is really the only Charmer to use here (the only other options at all are Donphan and Wobbuffet, and they both definitely want Counter instead), and it brings death upon all… with its nasty, big, pointy teeth!


Slowking (Galarian) PoisonPsychic

Hex | Future Sight & Shadow Ball/Sludge Wave

This is a little fringe, I’ll admit, but Galarian Slowking could really throw an unprepared opponent for a loop (“is that even legal in this format?”), and it does more than enough to slot in as at least a good spice pick, dominating anything that relies on Fighting damage, plus a variety of other top choices like Jumpluff, Granbull, Lugia, Qwilfish, and Azumarill (though Hydro Pump could cause issues, so be wary there and perhaps consider Sludge Wave if Azu could be a particular issue for your team).


Girafarig PsychicNormal

Confusion | Psychic & Thunderbolt

Okay, okay… no, you don’t really want to use it here, but I could resist the opportunity to highlight what is probably my longest-running inside joke (aside from Psychic, the move, which is a joke I can ALSO bring up here!) with Farigamarif… Geoffarafig… Rigamarifraff? 🦒 Something like that.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

SKARMORY ♻️♻️♻️♻️

Skarmory SteelFlying

Air Slash/Steel Wing | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

I mean, is ANYONE surprised to see Skarm ranked #1 entering Johto Cup? It is almost singlehandedly responsible for keeping the potent Grasses from running completely amok, along with all else it can do. It probably needs little introduction at this point, so let’s pull on some little threads you may NOT have considered. Steel Wing has the looks of a truly legit alternative to the standard Air Slash, with Steel being able to beat Sudowoodo and Azumarill, while Air Slash only uniquely beats Kingdra. There are more wins and losses that come and go depending on when you spring Brave Bird (for example, waiting until AFTER opposing charge moves to spring it, as using it beforehand can lead to disaster), and I strongly encourage studying simulations and running some practice sets ahead of time to get a good feel for all that, but yes, Skarmory will be (and should be) everywhere. And don’t forget about Shadow Skarmory, who has the potential to overwhelm Umbreon and Wobbuffet too!


Steelix SteelGround

Dragon Tail/Thunder Fang | Crunch & Earthquake/Heavy Slam

Normally one we’d be talking about in Ultra League instead, but yeah, Steelix works here, and can actually be rather oppressive if you lack a clear counter like a Fighter, Fire, or Water-type. Even big thicc ‘mons like Umbreon, Jumpluff, Lanturn, and Wobbuffet have trouble dealing with Steelix, and it represents a solid Skarmory counter too, regardless of Skarm’s moves or Shadow status. You can get a little tricky with Thunder Fang if you really want to… while that does abandon wins like Umbreon, Wobb, Jumpie, and Ampharos, it picks up some surprises like Azumarill, Mantine, and Forretress. Or mess with the charge moves instead and sub out Earthquake for the unusual Heavy Slam to beat Piloswine cleanly (though Wobbuffet can get more dicey, in that instance). The choice is yours.


Forretress BugSteel

Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake

Somehow always overlooked, the Golf Ball Of Doom tends to exceed most players’ expectations, and here’s another instance. It Beats Grass, beats Charm, beats Dark, beats Lanturn and Wobbuffet and Steelix and Quagsire and Azumarill and many more besides. Underestimate it at your own peril. Shadow Forret does not come as highly recommended, beating Sudowoodo but losing other special wins like Azu, Quag, and Raikou.


Scizor (Shadow) BugSteel

Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Iron Head

Another case where the Shadow is a virtually straight upgrade over non-Shadow, the difference being non-Shadow can beat Lugia, while Shadow instead has a much better shot at Umbreon, Forretress, and even Hitmontop. Despite the pretty good record, I still consider this more spice than meta, with several wins that are a little close for comfort, and a role that is perhaps best filled by others (like Forretress). But yes, you can certainly role with Scizor here if you wanna.


Gligar GroundFlying

Wing Attack | Night Slash & Dig/Aerial Ace

Just as Gliscor made an impact on Sinnoh Cup, so too should Gligar do some good things in Johto Cup. While I usually advocate hard for purified Gligar with Return, in this case, it’s actually the underwhelming Dig that you want because of how it can beat Steelix and Sudowoodo. Shadow Gligar is okay with Dig as well, still beating those two as well as Lanturn, but there’s a choice to be made, as it needs Aerial Ace instead if you want to beat Meganium, Typhlosion, and Granbull. Hmmm. 🤔


Ampharos Electric

Volt Switch | Thunder Punch & Zap Cannon/Focus Blast/Dragon Pulseᴸ

So just Volt Switch/Thunder Punch does most of the work. You only need one of the closing moves to beat Hitmontop and your choice of the following: Focus Blast primarily for Umbreon, Legacy Dragon Pulse for Kingdra, or Zap Cannon for the best shot at Wobbuffet and Jumpluff. I won’t tell you which way to go, just pick your fave. Pretty much the same story for Shadow Ampharos too, with the exception of Jumpluff being out of reach, but Kingdra being a win for all three closers, and Umbreon falling to Blast OR Zap Cannon now. HMMMMM. 🤔🤔

UMBREON ♻️♻️♻️♻️

Umbreon Dark

Snarl | Foul Play & Last Resortᴸ/Dark Pulse

Speaking of the big Dark baddie itself, heeeeeeeeeere’s Umbreon! If you don’t have Legacy Last Resort, don’t fret… you should at least be able to get it during Johto Tour, but even then, all you really need it for is the mirror match. Otherwise, Psychic (the move!) is okay, and believe it or not, Dark Pulse may be even better, as it leads to cleaner, surer wins versus stuff like Jumpluff, Kingdra, Qwilfish, and Wobbuffet. However you roll, yes, I am sure Umbreon will be a very common encounter in the meta (hence my continued recommendation for Last Resort for those mirror matches).

100,000 Dust/100 Candy


Raikou Electric

Volt Switch | Shadow Ball & Wild Charge

You wanna see something scary? BOOM! Raikou looks rather terrifying in this meta, I gotta admit. At the time of this writing, sims tend to favor Thunder Shock and Shadow Raikou, but that has trouble beating even Politoed and Lanturn. Shadow Raikou, with Volt Switch as the fast move of choice, handles all that plus Wobbuffet, Forretress, and Thunder Shock Raikou (dealing about 33% more cumulative fast move damage, which adds up to a LOT in the end). I also recommend NOT running Shadow, as that has a harder time with Kingdra, Wobbuffet, and even the mirror match as well. But any of these versions is dangerous, beating not just the Waters and Flyers you’d expect, but also stuff like Hitmontop, Typhlosion, Sudowoodo, and even fellow Electric Ampharos with terrible, terrible damage. (Yes, I AM an old Starcraft veteran, thankyouverymuch.)

LUGIA ♻️♻️♻️

Lugia PsychicFlying

Extrasensory | Sky Attack & Aeroblastᴸ

If you were at some able to pull off a trade for Lugia below 1500 CP, you get to use it here. Yay! But if, like me, you have been completely unable to get ANY of your eight attempted trades for a sub-1500 Lugia to work and are instead stuck with Shadow Lugia… well, we ALSO get to use it here! YAY! While in Open Great League, Shadow Lugia is usually a downgrade overall, thankfully here it’s a mere sidegrade, and may actually be preferred for its ability to more consistently beat Azumarill (and Kingdra, for what that’s worth), as opposed to the bulk of non-Shadow holding up better versus Granbull and Skarmory. More good news: the only thing you really need exclusive move Aeroblast for is Sudowoodo, so if you can afford to give that up, you can run a single-moved Lugia and not miss out on much. Just saying!

Ho-Oh FireFlying

On the flipside, the even-harder-to-get-under-1500 HO-OH is looking good, but the Shadow Ho-Oh many of us have instead is a clear downgrade. It’s not completely unviable, and picks up Umbreon, but it loses to Lugia, Kingdra, Hitmontop, and Typhlosion (the Fire you should probably run instead). And there really aren’t any Legendaries/Mythicals worth mentioning, except for one…


Celebi PsychicGrass

Magical Leafᴸ | Seed Bomb & Leaf Storm/Psychic

Again owing to the seemingly ripe meta Johto Cup presents for Grass types, Celebi, once it gets Magical Leaf, looks pretty snazzy as a Grass that does normal Grass things plus beats Steelix, Piloswine, Wobbuffet, Hitmontop and more. It’s worth taking for a spin once you acquire it during Johto Tour.


In this extra section, I cover a few mons that are no less “nifty” than those in the main article above, but require maxing or at least almost maxing out, so they are FAR from “thrifty”! I’m running short on time, so gonna do these in bulleted list style….

Wobbuffet Psychic
  • WOBBUFFET ♻️♻️ is the big one, and one I’ve mentioned a lot throughout this article. It’s basically a mini-DDeoxys with its Counter damage and tankiness. A Psychic that can beat stuff like Skarmory, Lanturn, Sudowoodo, Politoed, and the big Electrics (even Raikou with its scary Shadow Ball) is very handy. The big downside is that you basically need a purified one, as Return is a pretty critical component (it REALLY falters without Return), AND it has to be fully maxed to (or even beyond) Level 50. No easy task. It’s worth it if you’ve done that grind, though, and some of your fellow players have, so prepare to see a few out there.
Ledian BugFlying
  • People always ask me about LEDIAN ♻️♻️, which is crazy expensive (we’re talking Level 49 at a minimum) but does actually put in good work in certain metas. This, however, does not look like one of those metas.
Magby Fire
  • Hitting a nice, cool 1496 CP right at Level 50, a hundo MAGBY ♻️ does surprisingly well. Just not well enough that I think it’s worth the investment, personally. But do with that information what you will.
Chinchou WaterElectric
  • Always rated highly, yes, a maxed out CHINCHOU ♻️♻️ does return its investment nicely… but that’s quite the investment! Is it worth it to you, dear reader? Only you can answer that… I’m just here to present the facts and figures.

But enough presenting… because we are done! As always, I hope this helps you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!) and put together a competitive and FUN team. If I was successful in that, then it was all worth it.

As a reminder, the simulations and my attempts to explain and simplify them are just scratching the surface, just the start of the story, there to give you a rough idea and get you on the path to your own further discoveries! Run some simulations yourself, test with some of these Johto Pokémon yourself, and as always: please discuss! I always love to hear your feedback and any further points of discussion.

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for regular PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Johto Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck in the closing days of GBL Season 10, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

(Credit to Jonkus for the sweet badge in the header image.)

(Original article can be found here.)

Author & tags

PoGO/PvP Investigative Journalist, GO Hub and Silph Arena/Road Contributor, amateur cook, author of 'Nifty Or Thrifty' and 'Under The Lights' article series and #PvPfacts!

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