Hello again, fellow PvPers, and welcome to the second-ever edition of Core Meltdown!
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’ve always gotten is “JRE, what cores/teams do you recommend?” I’ll be honest: while I try to offer specific team advice when asked, for a long time I resisted going full bore into team composition recommendations for a few reasons. Primarily:
- 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 you can’t do, teach, 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 resolved last time I did this to try and talk more about teambuilding in 2022. So here we go again with 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!) as I see them 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, 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. 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 Love Cup meta, heavily utilizing PvPoke’s fantastic Team Builder tool. Strongly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already!
Alright, enough blabbing. Let’s do this!
These cores were literally not possible in 2021, as they include Pokémon new to the game since the last Love Cup. Time will tell if they stand tall this year, but I see great promise!
THE FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON – Druddigon + Charizard and/or Talonflame
- Druddigon is actually pretty well positioned in this meta as the ONLY Dragon in Love Cup. Remember that Dragon resists all four Elemental typings (Grass, Fire, Water, Electric), giving it wins against all major Waters, Grasses, and Electrics in the meta, as well as most Fire types. But it suffers losses to Trashadam, Fighters, and of course, the Charmers.
- A Flying Fire type has obvious advantages versus the Charmers AND Fighters AND Trashadam that plague Druddigon, while Drudd takes care of the Waters (and Electrode) that trouble your Fire type(s) of choice and tangle with much of the rest of the meta.
- Trouble can still come from the Rocks (Magcargo and Crustle), who can beat Drudd and really pummel Flying Fires. While running ABB with Drudd and Zard AND Talonflame is tempting, it might be better to run a solid Water (which would also help combat enemy Fires) or Fighter as your third instead.
MEDIC! – Galarian Slowbro + Medicham
- Hey, G-Bro’s arm appendage reminds me of Starcraft‘s Medics, and you also have Medicham. 💉 It works! 🤷♂️
- Very solid core across the board with outs even in bad matchups, and good coverage between the two.
- Galarian Slowbro is a fantastic Charm slayer that also happens to beat the Grasses and Psychics (Slows, Medi) that can give Medicham trouble.
- Medicham, in turn, handles Scrafty, Trashadam, and the Rocks and Waters that can be problematic for G-Bro.
- The only gaping hole is Flying Fire types. A Rock type or perhaps Water type could handle that and shore up other things like Trashadam and the Charmers too.
POISON CONTROL – Galarian Slowbro + Ariados/Scolipede
- G-Bro and a Poisonous Bug don’t particularly back each other up particularly well, with most of their wins being shared. But they lock down a very wide slice of the meta and can be downright oppressive. Probably best run as the “BB” of an ABB team.
- Closely related, the “coverage” score looks rather iffy, but look at the actual losses: Rocks, Zard/Talon, and Trashadam, holes all easily plugged by a solid Water type. This does carry decently high risk of getting locked in on bad matchups, but then again, that’s what a ABB teams often do, right?
Some of the best and (in most cases) likely-to-be most popular cores in the Cup. These include (but are most definity not limited to):
THE TAP TAP TAP – Alomomola/Milotic + Charmer
- The easiest core ever, with your Charmer of choice (I went with Wigglytuff for this example) locks down much of the meta, while Alomomomomola plugs holes against Fires and (most) Steels that trouble Fairies. And true to the name, most of it is just tapping fast moves.
- Not without flaws, as stuff like Trashadam, the new G-Bro, and of course Vileplume can cause trouble. A good Rock or Fire as your third could help a great deal, but opposing Waters may be somewhat problematic then. You can also consider a Bug instead, but then you’re a little weak to Fire. Decisions, decisions!
- By nature, light on shield pressure. Not a problem, per se, but something to be ready for if you’re not used to playing that way.
THE WATER LILLY – Vileplume/Cherrim + Alomomola/Milotic
- One of the most popular cores by the end of last year’s Love Cup, with a very consistent performance.
- Can roll with either Waterfall user and either of the main Grasses with little variation in the end, though Vileplume is typically better versus Charmers and Fighters and Cherrim brings much more shield pressure and has more “outs” in bad matchups (like Trashadam, which it usually actually wins).
- Chonky Normals (Chansey, Lickitung) can be an issue, Trashadam is still dangerous, and Galarian Slowbro is a new obstacle for this core to overcome this time around. Opposing Grasses are also a push, at best, and scarier if that Grass is Cherrim. Ice Punch Medicham or, again, a Fire type could help steady the ship.
THE FOREST FIRE – Vileplume + Charizard/Talonflame
- If you can stomach the lack-of-bulk eyesore, this is actually a very solid core. Grass and Fire usually combine for good coverage, and such is the case here. This was another common core last time, and for good reason.
- Built in double coverage against popular Charmers and Fighters (though do watch for Medi’s Ice Punch!), which is nice considering their popularity.
- Only two major flaws: Rocks and sometimes opposing Fires. May as well go full Elemental and bring in a Water (which helps with the bulk too!), but beware of sneaky good Electrode then.
THE ROCK AND AWE – Charmer & Crustle/Magcargo
- Pretty simple: the Rocks hold off the Fires, Trashadam, and even the Grasses that can harm the Fairies, while Charm does the rest. No muss, no fuss. Could almost call this “Tap Tap Tap: Part II”.
- Big Waters are the major issue here. Can solve best with Electrode (who doubles up on Flying Fires) or a Grass (which doubles up on Fighters and enemy Charmers) of your own.
The beginnings of your “ABB” cores, overloaded with a pair of similar Pokémon and your choice of a “pivot” intended to handle the hard counters of the “BB” pair.
THE HARD PLACE – Crustle & Magcargo
- Actually offers surprisingly good coverage on its own, with only two major gaps: Waters and Fighters. But between the two of them, Fires are no issue, Charmers crumple, Grasses are handled, even opposing Bugs and Rocks present no serious risk.
- Best bet for a third/pivot might be Vileplume, which obviously locks down the Waters, but is a little shakier than you’d like against the Fighters, particularly Medicham, which might have to just be gang tackled. Another option: a Poison/Bug, which isn’t a hard to the Waters or Fighters, but does do the job, and the two Rocks offer ample protection from Fire.
THE LICKENING – Lickitung & Lickilicky
- What’s worse than going all out to frantically squash a Licki and then breath a sigh of relief as you finally faint it? To see another Licki come right in behind it. Lickitung is obviously the stronger/more annoying of the two, but following up with Lickilicky can overwhelm opponents.
- Surprisingly few holes. Fighters, obviously, plus Cherrim, Lick-resistant Wigglytuff, and the Rocks to some degree, but nothing that, say, a Charmer of your own can’t (mostly) handle. All A ratings is nice to see, huh?
- …but please don’t actually run this. The only thing worse would be something like a Chansey/Blissey team. 😬
THE FIREFIST – Scrafty & Charizard and/or Talonflame
- The Fires torch Scrafty’s biggest issues: Charmers and Fighters (and of course Grass, as a bonus).
- Scrafty, in turn, can hold off the big Waters, Rocks, both Slowbros, and Electrode (especially if it’s relying on Foul Play, which Scrafty double resists and renders useless).
- The only big threat to this core is opposing Fire, which is usually a loss for Scrafty and a toss-up for Zard/Talon. Running Wing Attack Zard (if possible) helps, and running BOTH Flying Fires would mean you should win out in the end.
- Medicham obviously makes a valid fill-in rather than Scrafty, and Medicham/Talonflame (or Charizard) was very popular in Season 10’s Love Cup. (And rated very highly by PvPoke among Top Teams too.)
THE CREEPY CRAWLIES – Crustle/Trashadam/Scolipede (or Ariados)
- Just for kicks, for those who like the idea of playing three Pokémon of the same typing and finding actual success, consider this all-Bug team. It’s not perfect, but it DOES cover all the major bases, better than any other one typing I can think of in this format. Just a fun thought!
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 SPICY LILLY – Cherrim & Seaking
- Similar to The Water Lilly (Plume/Waterfaller) above, but higher risk/higher reward potential. Seaking and Cherrim cover each other remarkably well, but there is little cover that is doubled up, and Fighters are an issue.
- A solid Fairy can bring up the overall bulk AND plug holes, but there’s still an above average potential for RPS here. That’s spice for ya though, right? Maybe a Bug would be the answer?
THE HOT WIRE – Electrode (or maybe Rotom?) & Talonflame/Charizard
- I kept trying to find a core with Electrode as a prominent part, and this seemed one of the best fits, as it obviously keeps Waters off Talonflame’s (or Charizard’s) back and eliminates the toss-up mirror matches with opposing Flying Fires, freeing up your own Fire to roast much of what’s left.
- Just need to find a way to deal with those troublesome Rocks and, ironically, enemy Electrodes. Hmmm… maybe Rotom, of all things, could be an even better fit than Trode? At least it can theoretically wash away the Rocks….
THE SOGGY BUGGY – Alomomola & Ariados
- Dang, this looks so good I feel like I should have it in an earlier section. This is one I don’t recall seeing anyone actually use but I just stumbled upon myself while doing this article and HAD to point out. Near-perfect coverage (Trashadam is the only thing that sticks out like a sore thumb) and shield pressure (Ariados) AND heavy fast move pressure (Alomomomomomola) all rolled into one? What’s not to love? I may try this one out myself before people catch on.
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:Slowbro (Galarian) PoisonPsychic
- I’ve mentioned it throughout, but GALARIAN SLOWBRO looks like a very disruptive new arrival, handing several core building blocks: Charmers, Grasses, Waters, AND Medicham. There will be many otherwise solid teams that G-Bro can wreck almost singlehandedly.
- Remember that the also-new-this-year DRUDDIGON resists all four “Elements” (Grass, Fire, Water, Electric) and really only has to avoid Charmers and Fighters. It can bust up a lot of team builds if you’re able to steer clear of the Fairies and couple of Counter users here… and Night Slash can go off any time to turn a likely win into an absolute rout.
- Very little can disrupt the format’s big Fires AND Waters, but ELECTRODE does that easily (thanks to those big Fires being Flying), and even takes out G-Bro and can hang on versus Lickitung as well. Even ROTOM can be very disruptive here, swapping out Lickitung for a legit shot at Trashadam and Magcargo with a well-timed Hydro Pump.
- Don’t dismiss KINGLER if it shows up on the battlefield. It can blow up a lot more cores than you might think, and spams charge moves FAST with Mud Shot.
- But perhaps the best overall corebreaker here remains SEAKING, which has outs against a wide and varied chunk of the Love Cup meta, including Fires, Waters, Charmers, Slowbros, and even Cherrim that might be quickly swapped in to try and stop it… and give it just a little bit of energy lead and not even Electrode can stop it!
So there we go! Despite a very difficult weekend in which I had to say goodbye to my sweet old dog (seriously, we don’t deserve dogs!), I was able to dive into this (it was a welcome distraction, honestly) and crank out the second of what I hope will be a year-long series.
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!
One other resource I want to point out is the always incredible PvPoke, which I used extensively throughout this analysis. He has his own data compiled from Season 10 Love Cup which I strongly encourage checking out: Top Performers and, more directly related to this topic, Top Teams, many of which show up in the article above. (But certainly not all!) Again, if you need some ideas to get your mind aligned to this meta, check that out as well.
Alright, now get on out there and make some Love! Er… wait… that didn’t come out right. 😅
Thanks for reading, and best of luck in Love Cup, or whatever format you find yourself in! Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time. Have fun!