Nifty Or Thrifty: Element Cup

An affordable guide to the Pokémon GO Element Cup meta

This article has been updated multiple times since original publication, most recently in May 2023 for the “Season Of Rising Heroes” return of the Element Cup format. The biggest changes this time are the addition of Mareanie (and Deerling), updates to Ferroseed and a handful of others, and slight tweaking to Ducklett, who is even scarier in this post-Wing-Attack-buff world.

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

As I try to usually do, I will start with those Pokémon with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the most expensive (75,000 dust in this case, since no Legendaries or Mythicals are eligible). I am going to try to be comprehensive with this, but can’t go into detail on everything I want to… it’s a big meta!

To that end, I will also only be highlighting Shadow versions when they’re particularly relevant… many are worse, and that’s what you can infer if I don’t talk about them. I also want to highlight Pokémon that can be evolved after Element Cup is over and their evolution still fit in Great League, and for simplicity, will use the ⏫ symbol by their name to indicate that. Cool? Cool.

And one more thing before we get into the standard order of things. There is one particular Pokémon I need to highlight, as its importance cannot be understated. It is THE central figure of this meta in a way we haven’t seen since Flying Cup Aerodactyl. And ironically, it’s a Flyer too!


Ducklett WaterFlying

Wing Attack | Brave Bird & Bubble Beam/Aerial Ace

So let’s just get the apocalyptic numbers out of the way from the get-go… but then walk it back a bit. Yes, Ducklett is good in this meta. REALLY good. But it’s not quite as bad as that shows. Firstly, those are the numbers with Bubble Beam consistently succeeding in baiting a shield from the opponent and then closing out with a big fat Brave Bird in nearly every case, and there are hardly any Pokémon in this meta and at this level (below 500 CP, where anything with over 100 HP is quite rare) that can survive eating a Brave Bird. If everything goes perfectly to plan, yes, Ducklett is capable of that kind of crazy good performance. But should everything NOT go perfectly for Ducklett — if those baits do not consistently steal away shields and the opponent is careful and clever — The Duck can end up looking a lot more pedestrian. The reality of its performance lies somewhere between those two polar opposites, but make no mistake: Ducklett is THE Pokémon to beat in this meta, and you can bet the vast majority of teams will be running one. They may even run it with Aerial Ace instead of Bubble Beam, and while AA is about as mediocre a move as you can find in PvP (only 55 damage for 45 energy), at least it’s a heck of a lot more consistent; Ducklett is still potent when it utilizes ONLY Ace, managing to beat most everything that’s not a solid Duck counter without having to rely on the double-edged sword of Brave Bird. I DO think Bubble Beam is my personal recommendation — both for the sky-high ceiling it offers and for the fact that the Water damage it provides, even though low, is nice to have for any Fires that pop up — but mediocre or not, Aerial Ace deserves legit consideration here too. Whatever The Duck runs with, you NEED to have at least one solid answer to Ducklett or it will eat you up like bread crumbs from the kindly old soul at the local pond.

Shadow Ducklett is mostly a downgrade, if I’m being honest. It’s not a lot worse or anything, but it IS slightly worse, dropping a handful of Grasses that non-Shadow better overcomes.

Now with that all out of the way, let’s get into the rest of the options in this Cup. I will make special note of things that beat the Duck, but otherwise, this should be a fairly typical rundown from here on out.

10,000 Dust/25 Candy


Bulbasaur GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Seed Bomb & Sludge Bomb

In the past, PvPoke recommended Bulba run with Sludge Bomb and Power Whip, the moveset closest to big brother Venusaur’s Sludge Bomb and Frenzy Plant… but that’s only half right, and leaves Bulbsaur looking very average. No, in Little League you usually want speed over brute force, and so even though Seed Bomb is a pretty mediocre 55 damage for 40 energy (hey, at least it’s much better than Aerial Ace!) as compared to Power Whip’s 90 damage for only 10 additional energy, it’s Seed Bomb that you want. Between that and the Sludge Bomb that makes Venusaur such a rockstar in PvP, Bulbasaur suddenly becomes arguably THE best Grass type in the entire meta, able to beat every Water type but Slowpoke (yes, that can include Ducklett) AND the vast majority of other Grasses, with only Ferroseed, Shadow Snover, Exeggcute, and the new Fomantis being the viable-ish ones that can survive Bulba. I don’t think I would recommend Shadow Bulba though, as it loses to Tentacool and Ducklett and is just generally shakier across the board.


Chikorita Grass

Vine Whip | Body Slam & Grass Knot

Replicates most of what Bulbasaur does (though struggles to overcome Ducklett these days), and comes out with more left in the tank in the majority of their shared wins, and the reason is simple: just as things work with their later evolutions Meganium and Venusaur in PvP, Chikorita is notably bulkier, but Bulbasaur and its Poison side means that it wins the head to head (and beats several other Grasses that Chika cannot). Chika also benefits from NOT being part Poison, most notably by beating Slowpoke while Bulbasaur normally cannot (as Poison is weak to Psychic). Chikorita is arguably a better Grass-type, but Bulbasaur remains more versatile. Still, Body Slam is quite good in this format and Chika makes great use of it. Chikorita will be a popular Grass in Element.

SNIVY has a similar but flipped moveset, with its spammy move being its Grass move (Seed Bomb) and its “closer” being Normal (Wrap), though the latter is really just a more expensive Body Slam. It’s a fun idea but Chikorita is just better. And CHESPIN also has Vine Whip and Seed Bomb, AND Body Slam, and seems best running with Slam and the unusual Gyro Ball, though like Snivy, it fails to beat Ducklett and just falls behind other Vine Whipping options.


Cottonee GrassFairy

Charm | Seed Bomb & Grass Knot

One of few standouts from the original Little Cup that remains relevant here, and as before, it’s all because of Charm. Cotton remains the only Fairy in the whole format, and unless the opponent specifically hates on Charmers (Fires, Poisons) or represents a very hard counter to Grass (Ducklett and Seel, and even they take a severe beating and only just manage to limp away), chances are Charm will win out. In fact, the ONLY things in the entire format that really beat Cottonee are Duck, Seel, and Fires and Poisons, and not even all of THOSE win (Cottonee can beat Houndour, Slugma, Budew, Oddish and S-Oddish, and Bellsprout and S-Sprout). Couple that with the fact that most everyone who played Little Cup already has a Cottonee built, and I expect this little puffball to be everywhere.

The ONLY other potential Charmer around is PETILIL, and uh… yeah, no. You’re better off running it with certain Hidden Powers but I wouldn’t even recommend that… but we’ll revisit Hidden Power later.


Budew GrassPoison

Razor Leaf | Grass Knot & Energy Ball

It’s not as heralded as others in this format, but Budew just might be the best Razor Leafer in Element Cup. It beats literally every Water here that doesn’t rhyme with “Cluck it!” (or other things you can think of, but this is a family show, folks), and its Grass/Poison typing means that it double resists Grass and can beat all other Razor Leafers except sometimes non-Shadow Oddish, and it also beats other notable Grasses like Treecko, Tangela, and Bellsprout. Obviously, keep it away from Fire, but beyond that… well, maybe this Bud’s for you! 🍻

Much more popular in discussions I’ve seen thus far is TURTWIG, usually in Shadow form, but really regular Turt is nearly identical in performance. And it’s fine, I suppose, but with cheap moves Body Slam and Seed Bomb, you’d hope for a little better. It actually does a little better without relying on any change moves, bringing in new wins against Slugma and, critically, Ducklett sometimes too, which is the best thing it has going for it, really. But Budew does more for you overall.

Sewaddle ⏫

Sewaddle BugGrass

Bug Bite | Seed Bomb & Silver Wind

Really a Bug that sneaks in as half-Grass, and those two facts alone really paint the picture of its role: beating most of its fellow Grasses (basically all the ones you can expect to see except Bulba and Cotton) while also still handling many Water types. But it’s not nearly as strong a Water slicer as most other Grasses, leaving it a much softer counter than you’d like, and it has absolutely no chance of taking out Ducklett, being double weak to Flying damage.

So moving on to Fire types. It is overall the weakest of the three in this Cup, as its only role is to handle Grass, and as we’ve seen above there are Grasses that can also handle the anti-Grass role pretty well, and as we’ll see shortly below, even many Waters can do the same. (And not just The Duck of Doom!) But there ARE some standouts you may want to consider, and while most will show up in the 50k section, there are a couple of real gems here too…


Slugma Fire

Rock Throw | Flame Charge & Rock Slide

Okay, admittedly, Slugma kinda cheats. Yes, it’s a Fire-type, but it really plays like a Rock. As the pre-evolution of personal favorite Magcargo, Slugma has faster but weaker charge moves (Flame Charge rather than Cargo’s Overheat and Rock Slide instead of Stone Edge), but those are just fine under the 500 CP cap… and really, Slugma lives or dies by Rock Throw anyway. Obviously, it’s a fantastic counter to other Fires and even manages to beat several Waters, including a convincing win over Ducklett (though Bubble Beam can throw things off sometimes). The downside is that it at least partially gives up the standard Fire role of toasting Grasses, still resisting their Grass moves but, being somewhat fragile, still losing to things like Budew, Cottonee, Lotad (even with Razor Leaf), and Chikorita. So yes, technically a Fire, but doesn’t really behave like one.


Tepig Fire

Ember | Body Slam & Flame Charge

As I was analyzing this meta, I discovered something I hadn’t realized before… every single Fire starter in the game has Ember (and either Scratch or Tackle), Flame Charge, and Flamethrower, with the third charge move being the only real difference between them. And up until Gen5, those third moves are all pretty bad… until finally, we arrive at Tepig and its Body Slam. As such, it is the ONLY Fire starter rated within the Top 50 on PvPoke, and handles itself alright, though even it is very far from impressive. Still, it’s the only Fire starter that can really beat all Grasses (the rest struggle with at least RL Lotad and Lileep) and Body Slam gives it a leg up versus other Fires (able to beat them all but Vulpix and Growlithe, who both also have Slam, and of course Slugma). Those Fire types I just mentioned are all better, but Tepig is cheap and still close to their overall performance, so if you’re just looking to get in and out of this format for minimum investment, then perhaps that’ll do, Tepig… that’ll do.

I’ll make a brief mention of LITLEO and its Crunch, but it’s no Body Slam… Tepig is just better. FENNEKIN has the best non-Slam third move (Psyshock) aside from Tepig but is even a further step down from Litleo. And the other cheap Fires, even as Shadows… forget about it. On to Waters!


Barboach WaterGround

Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Aqua Tail/Ice Beam

In Little Cup, Barboach was an underrated star with Ice Beam, and while in this meta it provides a nice answer to Grasses and the only non-resisted move to throw at Ducklett, I still think you want double spam with Mud Bomb and Aqua Tail. The best thing going for it is handily beating every single Fire type (that probably sounds obvious but there are actually precious few Waters with that distinction in this meta) while also making matchups with other Waters into true slugfests, beating the majority including Slowpoke, Skrelp, Tentacool, and most of the ones you’ll see listed later in the article. Just be sure, as with any Mud Boy, you keep it FAR away from Grass.

Fellow Mud Shot user REMORAID is getting a little TOO cute, though. It’s similar to its evolution Octillery, it feels like it should do a lot better than it actually does.


Wailmer Water

Water Gun | Body Slam & Heavy Slam

Admittedly nothing particularly special, but more than holds its own, does everything you’d expect of your Water type, and hangs in there a LONG time and soaks up a lot of damage, with nearly twice the HP of most things on this list. (Seriously, its 140 HP in this format makes it feel like a Chansey.) I’m not sure I’d outright recommend it, but you can do far worse as a safe swap, at least.

Unfortunately, the Water starters are not really any better than the Fire starters. At least there’s more moveset variety, but still, the only ones worth any real consideration are potentially OSHAWATT (Aqua Tail and Night Slash are spicy) and PIPLUP with truly awesome charge moves but not a great record with them. And sorry, but I don’t recommend going with the SQUIRTLE Squad either, as fun as that idea sounds. Boo.

50,000 Dust / 50 Candy


Chinchou WaterElectric

Bubble/Spark | Bubble Beam & Thunderbolt

Let’s go in reverse order this time, starting with the Waters. And it is among them that we find THE top counter to Ducklett in Lanturn’s pre-evolution Chinchou, the only actual Electric-type in Element Cup. That means that it deals DOUBLE super-effective damage to The Duck while also resisting all of Duck’s moves. Conveniently being a Water-type, Chinchou also resists Water damage (and hits back at Waters for super-effective Electric damage) and resists Fire as well (and thus beating all Fires except a couple of Shadows). So effective (and tanky too, clearing that rare-in-Little-League 100 HP hurdle) is Chou that it still easily beats Duck even if it runs Bubble, and in fact beats ALL the same things in the core meta with either Bubble or Spark, leaving your choice a matter of preference, with Spark obviously being harder on Waters and Bubble quickly extinguishing all Fires (there are a couple that escape when facing Spark).


Seel Water

Ice Shard/Lick | Aqua Tail & Icy Wind

Another hero of Little Cup, Seel was a great way to control some of the best Pokémon in that format, so how about here? Well, on the surface, it’s slightly disappointing, but there are some simulation shenanigans going on here. Because sometimes the right answer is NOT to bait with Aqua Tail at all and just go for it with double Icy Wind instead. Committing to Wind nets a much more convincing win versus Cottonee and a win in the mirror match. Seel with Lick gains wins against Slowpoke (a rare case of Lick dealing super effective damage!), Quick Attack Vulpix, Tentacool, and even more easily wins the mirror match. It’s so nice to have multiple viable options to keep the opponent on their toes!


Slowpoke WaterPsychic

Confusion | Psyshock & Psychic

Well, I already wrote a whole article on Slowpoke in Element previously, but as a reminder, it’s really good here. It starts by beating all Fires but Houndour and Simisear despite never dealing super effective damage since you want to run with all three of its Psychic-type moves. But WHY do you want no Water moves? Because with the all-Psychic set, it can also beat every Poison type here except Budew and Shadow Oddish (meaning it DOES beat Salandit, Bulbasaur, Bellsprout, Mareanie, Skrelp, and Tentacool), as well as Seel (assuming it’s not running Lick) and Ducklett. As if writing a whole article on it wasn’t enough, then to reiterate again: Slowpoke is a legit (and unique) star in Element Cup. But I don’t recommend Shadow Poke, as it loses hard to The Duck. (Non-Shadow actually has paths to victory depending on the timing of Brave Bird.)

Dewpider ⏫ 

Dewpider WaterBug

Bug Bite | Bubble Beam & Mirror Coat

Last time, Dewpider entered Element Cup with immediate value. A Water that can handle several notable Grasses (including Cottonee, Shadow Bulba, Exeggcute, and Chikorita) is always a good place to start, but it also manages to still beat (most) Fires, plus a number of notable Waters as well (to include Slowpoke, Seel, Wooper, Lotad, and Poisonous Skrelp and Tentacool (thanks in large part to Mirror Coat).

Wimpod BugWater

Oh, and if you’re thinking about running the other Watery Bug, Level 50 WIMPOD, now that it’s in the game… it’s time to evaluate your life choices.


Wooper WaterGround

Mud Shot | Mud Bomb/Body Slam & Returnᴸ

That’s right, I’m recommending Return. Why? Because Wooper beats basically the same things with either Mud Bomb or Body Slam, the only difference being that MB beats Skrelp and BS can win the mirror match. But throw in Return with Slam OR with Bomb and you win the mirror and beat Skrelp, plus add on a new win over Seel (with either Shard or Lick) and a convincing win against Shadow Slowpoke (it’s a nailbiter without Return’s closing power, leaving Wooper under 5 HP). And the other upside to running Return, of course, is that means purified Wooper and serious cost savings in powering and double moving. Win-win!

Similar but slightly worse off is POLIWAG with Return, though you have to have low-ish IVs (that sim fits at 5-7-5, but moving any of those up much takes it below Level 25 and thus impossible for purified Wag). It’s cheaper to build but usually loses to Shadow Slowpoke and, not being an actual Mud Boy, loses to Chinchou as well. You MAY be better off with Shadow Poliwag, running Slam/Bomb and now beating Chou and even Shadow Bulbasaur but losing Slowpoke and Wooper to get there.

And even another slight step down from THAT is TYMPOLE, who matches most of Poliwag’s wins and, while it generally fairs a little better in terms of remaining HP, Tympole lacks Body Slam (having a closing move, Sludge Wave, instead) and cannot overcome Wooper.

Shellos ⏫

Shellos Water

Hidden Power | Body Slam & Mud Bomb

Not technically a Mud Boy (only its evolution Gastrodon picks up that Ground sub-typing), but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it, as Shellos usually defaults to Mud Slap/Mud Bomb along with Body Slam in sims, and that shakes out like this. However, even though the move is normally a lousy choice in PvP, I think you instead want to run with Hidden Power, most ideally Electric, but even Rock is okay too. Why? Quite simply, because you can beat Ducklett that way, and at least in the case of Electric HP, it gives up only a couple Fire types (QA Vulpix, Salandit, and Shadow Growlithe) among its core meta wins to get it. Hidden Power actually works really well on Shellos here, since Shelly has charge moves (Slam and Bomb) that work with HP’s lower-than-average energy generation and threaten pretty much the entire meta (with Mud Bomb in particular hurting Fires and Poisons). Rock-type HP is a little less exciting, regaining that trio of Fires but losing to Slowpoke, Skrelp, and Lick Seel (which Electric HP or even Mud Slap beat). Electric OR Rock also sneakily beat Dewpider too! See if you happen to have one, or can GET one before Element Cup is over!


Skrelp PoisonWater

Water Gun | Aqua Tail & Sludge Bomb

Last year, it was Tentacool in this spot, but Skrelp is just better overall in this evolved meta, much more efficiently beating the Fire types (including the potential appearance of Salandit, which Cool cannot beat at all) as well as Seel with either of its fast moves and Tentacool itself in the head to head. Oh, and despite Water Gun and Aqua Tail being resisted, Skrelp can usually count on beating Cottonee in the end anyway with an eventual Sludge Bomb.

Mareanie  NEW!

Mareanie PoisonWater

Poison Sting | Brine & Gunk Shot

Not as wholly dominant as its evolution Toxapex can be, mostly due to the lack of Poison Jab. But make no mistake… Mareanie can still be impactful. Recommend Gunk Shot as the closer, at least in part because it more easily wins the mirror.


Binacle RockWater

Scratch/Mud Slap | Cross Chop & Ancient Power

You can go one of two specialized ways with Binacle. In Mud Slap mode it puts out all Fires and (non-Grass) Poisons, buoyed by double resisting Fire, resisting Poison, and also resisting the Normal moves many of those Fires (and Tentacool) tote around as well. But there’s also Scratch, which is actually a really bad PvP fast move, but coupled with another Binacle built-in resistance — to Flying — allows it to potentially beat Ducklett (with JUST fast moves!) while still getting the Fires and Tentacool. That is quite a niche role, but one that can (and will!) absolutely catch many opponents off guard and win you some games anyway if you’re looking for some spicy fun!


Clauncher Water

Smack Down | Crabhammer (& Aqua Jet… maybe?)

In truth, Clauncher will rarely even need any charge moves, as it really does all its work with just Smack Down. And that work is smashing all the Fires, along with Seel and, yes, Ducklett. It doesn’t do much outside of those specific roles, but it goes out and does them well, and that has real value. And again, since we’re talking about value, you can easily run it without a second charge move and save yourself some dust while you’re at it!

Shadow Carvanha ⏫

Carvanha (Shadow) WaterDark

Bite | Poison Fang

Another one where it’s all about that fast move damage… say hello to the equivalent of Little Cup’s Shadow Stunky. S-Carv can tear apart all Fires except Dark-resistant Houndour and Rock-chucking Slugma, AND gnaws through Ducklett and most other Waters too. (The only escapees are Lotad, Shellos, Clauncher, Binacle, Surskit, and of course Chinchou.) While it can still outrace a handful of Grasses, the vast majority slam the door on it, but if you can avoid Grasses in general, S-Carv looks quite terrifying against everything else. Remember how I said triple digit HP was a rarity here? Triple digit Attack is basically unheard of, but Carv crosses into that territory. 😱 The ultimate BOOM or bust option, and can be built pretty cheap since it, like Clauncher, has no real need for a second charge move. (Poison Fang is what you want to make those Bites hurt even more! 😈)


Frillish WaterGhost

Hex | Ice Beam & Ominous Wind

Very much Jellicent Lite, though with the charge move roles reversed a bit, with Ghost damage as the shield baiter and potential stat altering move (Ominous Wind rather than Jelli’s Bubble Beam) and is locked in on Ice damage as the closing move (Ice Beam rather than Jelli’s often preferred Shadow Ball). With those current moves representing its best, Frillish is viable if unexciting. It can’t quite overcome Ducklett, and a couple viable Fires (Litleo, Shadow Vulpix) can slip through its tentacles too, but it does a good job against the rest, obliterates Psychic-type Slowpoke, and handles many of the other top Waters capably too, and at least keeps Grasses honest with the threat of Ice Beam. Not as impressive here as I hoped, to be honest, but certainly usable.


Lotad WaterGrass

Water Gun/Razor Leaf | Bubble Beam & Energy Ball

Surely one of the first Pokémon that comes to mind in a format like this, the rare Water/Grass Lotad only has two charge moves but they’re both fine, and two viable fast moves too. And it is the fast moves that determine its role: beating Fires with Water Gun (Growlithe, Tepig, Shadow Vulpix specifically, and the new Salandit too!) or hard countering Waters with Razor Leaf (and specifically gaining regular and Shadow Slowpoke, Shadow Carvanha, and Shadow Poliwag). It is nice that it beats stuff like Seel, Chinchou, Slugma, and Wooper either way, but Lotad’s role is more limited than I hoped for going into the analysis. You’ll still see it though, for sure.

And with that, let’s pivot to more Grass. Most of the best ones were actually covered among the 10ks, but there are a couple more worth discussing….


Fomantis Grass

Fury Cutter | Leaf Blade & Grass Knot

So you remember what I wrote about Sewaddle up in the 10k section, about how it was the Grass that can beat other Grasses? Yeah, basically Fomantis does that, but better. The only thing Sewaddle can get that Fomantis cannot is Shadow Slowpoke, and Fomo goes out and nails Bulbasaur, Ice Shard Seel, and even Slugma instead, wins that Sewaddle can only dream of. For my money (and a bit more dust), I think it’s Fomantis or bust this time around.


Hoppip GrassFlying

Bullet Seed | Seed Bomb & Grass Knot/Return

Actually not all that different from other Grasses we’ve already looked at, as Hoppip, despite being a Flying type, lacks any actual Flying moves. But it is blessed with above-average bulk and a double resistance to Grass damage, so it takes out most all Flyers (Ducklett is the sole meaningful exception) and many opposing Grasses (including all the Razor Leafers). But it doesn’t do much that is particularly special and is a heck of a lot more expensive than Bulbasaur and Chikorita and the like. Use it if you like it and you’ll be happy, but if you’re building one good Grass from the ground up, this is probably not the best way to go.


Rowlet GrassFlying

Razor Leaf | Seed Bomb & Energy Ball

ROWLET is a newer, cheaper alternative…it actually belongs up in the 10k section, but I lumped it in here to compare and contrast with Hoppip. Overall they do pretty much the same thing, the differences being that Hoppip better handles Chikorita (and Grasses in general) while Rowlet instead takes out Tentacool (and generally shreds Waters more efficiently). And that’s really what it comes down to: which do you fear more? If Grass, go with Hoppip, and if Waters/Grounds, roll with Rowlet. Sometimes it really is just that easy!

Deerling ⏫  NEW!

Deerling NormalGrass

Tackle | Seed Bomb & Wild Charge

I still don’t know that I’d call this a strong recommendation, but Deerling is at least interesting now that Tackle has become a viable fast move. Wild Charge normally fails even against Ducklett, but if you catch one napping (I mean, who would normally know what charge moves Deerling has off-hand?), Bambi could sneak up on a lot of unsuspecting players, at least early in the week.


Exeggcute GrassPsychic

Confusion | Seed Bomb & Ancient Power/Psychic

On the surface, this is Grass-type Slowpoke, though there are actually a decent number of differences between them due to one being Water and the other Grass. In brief:

  • Slowpoke tends to beat Fires (Salandit, Vulpix, Tepig, Growlithe) as well as Seel and, of course, Ducklett. Those all beat Exeggcute.
  • Cutie instead beats Grasses like Oddish and Chikorita, and Waters like Lotad, Wooper, Chinchou, and Slowpoke in the head to head.
  • Both usually beat Bulbasaur, Tentacool, Skrelp, and Slugma.

While not beating The Duck is a big strike, Exeggcute DOES capably handle most everything that beats Ducklett (literally every single one in 1v1 shielding except Shadow Growlithe) and that makes it a great option to consider in this meta. Exeggcute is sneaky dangerous here.


Snover GrassIce

Powder Snow | Stomp & Energy Ball/Ice Beam

Sadly lacking the Weather Ball that makes big bro Abomasnow excel, Snover has Stomp for baiting/chip damage instead. With Stomp alone it capably handles (nearly) all Grasses and Chinchou, which is already a good start. Adding a second move tacks on AA Ducklett and Wooper, and then Ice Beam can beat Cottonee, but surprisingly, Energy Ball can ALSO beat Cottonee and topples Seel (with either fast move), Slowpoke, and Skrelp too. (Shadow is a slight downgrade, BTW, missing out on Slowpoke.) Snover was underrated last time… let’s see if folks pick up on its potential this time around.


Lileep RockGrass

Bullet Seedᴸ | Ancient Power & Grass Knot

Gonna have to dig DEEP to even have one of these, as Bullet Seed was available only once for a very brief period when Niantic messed up. They never reverted it, but there is also no way to acquire a Lileep with the move anymore, not even via Elite TM. So IF you happen to have one under 500 CP, consider yourself very lucky. It’s not a rock star (haha I so funny) here, but it certainly is quite viable, doing most standard Grass things while also beating several meta Fire types. Like many others, it cannot beat Ducklett unless it correctly sniffs out and shields the Brave Bird, but at least it keeps it on its toes much more than most Grasses due to taking neutral from Flying and Water and carrying that scary Ancient Power. This is THE time to flex it if you got it!

Shadow Oddish

Oddish (Shadow) GrassPoison

Razor Leaf | Seed Bomb (& Sludge Bomb? Moonblast?)

Shadow Oddish has trouble outright winning against Ducklett, but can at least force a tie and limit The Duck to just that one Bubble Beam, and that’s a win in and of itself. By just sticking to Razor Leaf, Shadow Oddish can actually take out every single Water in Element Cup, and puts the hurt even on Grasses and Fires that resist Razor Leaf. Technically it’s probably a good idea to add on Sludge Bomb or Moonblast for coverage and having something to do with any energy built up, but more than likely you’ll only ever find yourself maybe popping off a Seed Bomb or two. Razor Leaf should be doing 95% of the work anyway. There are very slight differences between Shadow and non-Shadow Oddish, but the most notable one is huge: regular usually cannot tie or beat Ducklett, and Shadow can.

And now, time to set things ablaze… 🔥


Vulpix Fire

Quick Attack/Ember | Weather Ball (Fire) & Body Slam

So this is one to build the case for, because if you start with the “default” moveset of Ember/Body Slam/Weather Ball, Vulpix looks pretty bland, handling Grasses but virtually nothing else. Good news, then: it gets better. Running it with Quick Attack looks quite a bit better, with it still beating all those Grasses but now also beating (Ice Shard) Seel and every other Fire type except Slugma (and Salandit and sometimes Hisuian Growlithe, should people find a way to sneak them in under 500 CP). Yes, some of the Grass matchups are closer, but Vulpix can still beat every one of them too. To reiterate, that means Vulpix can handle roughly ⅔ of the Element Cup meta. Shadow Vulpix, by the way, beats Slowpoke too, but loses to Seel and Lotad and is shakier in other wins and, IMO, not really worth the trouble. Keep in mind that it does NOT gain a leg up in CMP versus regular QA Vulpix either, as CMP is calculated based on base Attack, not readjusted Shadow Attack, so no advantage there either. Just stick with non-Shadow, I’d say.


Growlithe Fire

Ember/Bite | Body Slam & Flamethrower

Growlie, unfortunately, lacks the Quick Attack AND Weather Ball spam of Vulpix, so it’s left playing second fiddle with Ember and Flamethrower instead, which limits its usefulness to more of a straight anti-Grass role, though it CAN beat Ember Vulpix head to head thanks to a superior Attack stat (and similarly manages to beat out most other Fires in the format too). In fact, so high is its Attack that Shadow Growlithe can overpower (Aerial Ace) Ducklett! (For the low cost of giving up Lotad.) But that is, admittedly, rather niche and not a battle you actually WANT to march into, as Ducklett with Bubble Beam reliably fends off S-Lithe. But hey, if your heart is set on running Growlithe, that win likely WILL happen at some point and you’ll feel like the smartest person on the planet, so go for it.

Growlithe (Hisuian) FireRock

HISUIAN GROWLITHE plays somewhat similarly, being shakier against Grasses (due to taking neutral rather than resisted damage), stronger against Fires (beating Quick Attack Vulpix, for example, which is actually a really big deal for a Fire type), and able to beat Ducklett as long as it can avoid taking too many double-super-effective Bubble Beams. The biggest issue with it in Element Cup? Level 20 hatched ones are too big, so getting one under 500 CP currently requires shenanigans.

Salandit ⏫ 

Salandit PoisonFire

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Flamethrower

Speaking of shenanigans, technically, Little League Salandit shouldn’t be possible, since a Level 20 (hatched) Salandit can’t sneak in under 500 CP even with 0-0-0 IVs, and there’s no way to get them outside of eggs. But you ALSO know that folks have snuck freaking Mandibuzz into other Little League formats, so there WILL be someone out there that finds a way. And yes, Salandit can absolutely FEAST on this meta. Don’t expect to face many, but you’d be foolish not to prepare to face at least a couple. Good luck!

75,000 Dust / 75 Candy

Running out of room, so going to hit these in rapid-fire style. None are meta-defining and all are quite expensive, but if you feel like spicing it up, there ARE legit options here…

Ferroseed  UPDATED

Ferroseed GrassSteel

Tackle | Iron Head & Flash Cannon

The only Steel in Element Cup and plays like it by running all Steel moves… or at least, it did until now. Metal Claw was its only viable fast move before the buff to Tackle, which is now preferred for its ability to tack on wins versus stuff like Salandit and Slowpoke. Funny enough, it somehow manages to beat Rock Throw Slugma too, but obviously, other than that and Salandit’s resisted Poison moves, it wants no part of anything else with Fire.

Litwick GhostFire
  • I very much wish LITWICK had a Grass coverage move like its later evolutions, as that would be REALLY handy in this format. But alas, it’s stuck with all Fire moves, and this is mediocre at best. About the best I can say for it is that, in resisting Normal damage, it does quite well versus Quick Attack Vulpix.
Tirtouga WaterRock
  • TIRTOUGA, unfortunately, lacks the Rock Throw of Carracosta, but it still manages to beat all Fires in the format and several other nice names. Niche, but not a bad one!
Pumpkaboo GhostGrass
  • PUMPKABOO is a new-ish Razor Leaf option, but honestly doesn’t have a ton going for it. The Ghost typing has far less advantages in this meta than the Poison typing of Oddish, and the charge moves are a little more expensive than you’d like. Use it if you really like it, but it doesn’t come as a strong recommendation, sorry.
Omanyte WaterRock
  • OMANYTE fills basically the same role, also beating Ducklett, but adding on Tentacool too. And hey, if EVER there was a time to run Brine in PvP… 😉
Kabuto WaterRock
  • Same story with KABUTO… and that’s about all I have to say about it.

And that’s it! There are a few more I looked at but ultimately dismissed (Goldeen, Seedot, Spheal, Psyduck, Paras and others) that just didn’t quite make the cut, but you may see them here or there.

But there we are… a pretty comprehensive review of another interesting meta! Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for teambuilding. Good luck!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily 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 Element Cup (again!), and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time!

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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