Nifty Or Thrifty: Fighting Cup Meta

Best Pokémon to invest in for Fighting Cup

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Hello again, fellow PvPers!

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats — Fighting Cup, in this case — particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust.

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… or don’t need a second move at all! Because especially for one-week formats like this, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to compete without breaking our budget.

So here we go. We’ll start as we usually do with the cheapest (10,000 dust second move unlock) options, and steam on ahead until we reach the most expensive (100,000 dust). Let’s do this! 💪

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

Not much to choose from here, actually… just a handful of oddball starters. But there ARE a couple highlights….

BLAZIKEN

Blaziken FireFighting

Counter/Fire Spin | Blaze Kick & Blast Burnᴸ/Brave Bird

At first glance, Blaze looks rather tepid in this format. But this is very much a case of quality over quantity, because what Blaziken DOES mean really, really matters. In a meta where everything is a Fighter, Pokémon that resist Fighting damage are on the highest tier, and that means Poison and Bug types. Fire damage that Blaze can put out deal neutral damage to Poisons and super effective damage to Bugs, which are both a big deal.

Note that Blaziken beats Buzzwole and Hisuian Sneasel, two of the very top members of the Bug/Poison group at the top of the meta. It also beats Kommo-O, another top player, as well as Zen Headbutt Throh, a Fighting Cup specialist that has been touted ever since Fighting Cup was originally announced (since Zen Headbutt, bad move that it is, has high value here as a move that is super effective versus Figthing types). And with good PvP IVs (a.k.a. low Attack and an emphasis on bulk), Blaze can add another Fighting Cup specialist — Combusken with Peck, another move that is super effective versus Fighting types (and double super effective versus Bug/Fighting types) — to its hitlist.

There is also the option of getting creative with Blaziken’s fast move by running Fire Spin, a move strictly worse than Counter but one that has value here due to resistances. It’s able to beat Bug type Heracross and Poisonous Toxicroak while retaining H-Sneasel and Throh, though it reqires higher Attack to be able to burn through Buzzwole. Long story short, I guess… if you have a higher IV ranked Blaziken (low Attack, high bulk), you’re probably better off running Counter, but if you have higher Attack (like, 144+), Fire Spin may be a better bet to maximize the number of things it burns through. Either way, the quality of wins is high.

COMBUSKEN

Combusken FireFighting

Peck | Rock Slide & Flame Charge

As mentioned above, Combusken is notable here for having Peck, a bad PvP move (average damage at 3.0 DPT, but below average energy generation with only 2.5 EPT) in any serious format, but notable in Fighting Cup for being super effective versus Fighting types and double super effective versus the big Bug/Fighters.

As a result, Ken obliterates Buzzwole and Heracross, and manages to overcome Throh and Hisuian Sneasel too. It’s a bit middling beyond that, but that niche role is a very good one.

But beyond those two, any other Fire is a real reach. InfernapeEmboar, and their pre-evolutions Monferno and Pignite all check the main boxes of beating Buzzwole and Heracross, as well as Throh, but they all fail to take out Hisuian Sneasel or Toxicroak or really anything else of consequence. Seems like it’s really Blaze, Ken, or bust.

CHESNAUGHT

Chesnaught GrassFighting

Vine Whip | Superpower & Energy Ball

Again, a rather specialized role, but that’s the nature of picks in this format. Chesnaught’s duties include handling Poliwrath (for obvious reasons) and Sirfetch’d (for less obvious reasons, namely by resisting Leaf Blade), as well as holding off Primeape and Throh despite their scary super effective damage (Ice Punch for Ape and Zen Headbutt for Throh).

But the downsides are perhaps even more obvious: both Bugs and Poisons resist Naught’s Fighting and Grass damage, making those fights very unfair. There will be teams that may want to employ Chesnaught’s specialized services, though.

BEWEAR

Bewear NormalFighting

Shadow Claw | Superpower & Stomp/Drain Punchᴸ

It probably seems crazy to even consider a Normal type in this meta… Normals are famously weak to Fighting damage! But Bewear is a surprisingly good team player, overcoming things like Kommo-O, Poliwrath, specialists Combusken and Throh, and most importantly, scary Hisuian Sneasel. It somehow manages to (literally) claw its way to a winning record against the entirety of the Cup despite its very obvious downside, but bring it as a specialist, not as something to rely on TOO heavily.

HITMONCHAN (Baby Discount™)

Hitmonchan Fighting

Counter | Fire Punch & Ice Punch/Power-Up Punch/Close Combat

So this one is a little complicated. The only persistent certainty is that you want Counter (obviously) and likely Fire Punch, for the simple reason that it roasts the big bad Bugs (as well as any Grasses, as a bonus), while Thunder and Ice Punch really only stand out versus Poliwrath (Thunder) and Kommo-O/Hakamo-O (Ice). So your options from there include:

  • Run Fire and Ice Punch for the best of both worlds. This doesn’t really work too well with regular Hitmonchan… the Ice Punch side works (both Dragons go down), but Fire doesn’t quite take down the Bugs. This is somewhat mitigated by running Shadow Chan, who loses Kommo-O but retains Hakamo-O (the more important of the two anyway, as we’ll see later) and adds Buzzwole AND conveniently Hisuian Sneasel as well. It’s not a perfect marriage of moves, but it does provide Shadow Hitmonchan some extremely unique reach in this meta.
  • Run Fire Punch/Close Combat for mostly neutral closing power. This doesn’t work out so well for non-Shadow Chan, but Shadow Chan does good work very similar to Fire+Ice Punch, trading Hakamo-O for Kommo-O instead.
  • Run Fire/Ice Punch plus Power-Up Punch. Part of PuP’s role is obviously to bait, but it also boosts Chan’s power to a level where Fire Punch becomes the lethal Bug roaster you want it to be, or Ice Punch takes out those Dragons if you’re just terrified of covering them. Wanna see something crazy, though? Check out Shadow Chan with PuP. 😱 Now it’s likely not actually THAT dominant, as that assumes perfect baiting and reality will likely look a bit different. But still, uh… daaaaaaaaaang. Why aren’t more people talking about Hitmonchan again?

BEST OF THE REST

Some madman (or woman!) out there will try to bring LUCARIO, despite its frailty to Fighting (and frailty in general!), whether it be its cheap cost to build (utilizing the Baby Discount), already having it on hand from Sinnoh/Hisui Cup or something, or just loving it as a Pokémon.

And as with Fighting-weak Bewear, somehow it still works out better than you might assume, thanks in very large part to resisting Dragon and Poison damage and taking merely neutral from Flying (Combusken’s Pecking) and Psychic (Throh’s Zen Headbutts). But its fragile nature really worries me, and unlike some other gimmicky options, its overall record is deep underwater…. HITMONTOP is usually the most popular Hitmon, and while ‘Chan has always been my personal favorite in PvP, I do get the appeal of the big Counter/Close Combat/Stone Edge combo.

However, with most Fighters resisting Edge (it will never deal better than neutral damage here, and even that’s rare), ‘Top is left with Gyro Ball as a very poor fill-in, and just doesn’t look worth it to me in this meta.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

TOXICROAK

Toxicroak PoisonFighting

Counter/Poison Jab | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb

Alright, here we go with our Fighting-resistant all-stars. First up is the OG Toxicroak, known as the Fighter than can beat other Fighters since GBL was still but a glimmer in John Hanke’s eye. (Actually released just a couple weeks before PvP began in earnest in The Silph Arena in January 2019. Thus ends your archaeology lesson, class. It belongs in a museum!)

Anyway, until Hisuian Sneasel and Sneasler came along, like, just a few days ago, Toxicroak (and pre-evo Croagunk) was the only Poison/Fighting type in GO… or the entire franchise until Generation 8. While that makes it critically weak to Psychic damage (2x), thankfully there’s not much of that in this meta. Nor Ground or Flying damage, the other two things Poison/Fighting types are weak to. On the plus side, they resist Grass, Poison, Rock, Dark, and of course Fighting damage, and double resist Bug (like, say, Buzzwole’s Lunges).

Yeah, Poisonous Fighters are well-positioned in this Cup, and Toxicroak still remains arguably the best of them all. And what’s more, this is a rare opportunity to run it not with Counter, but with Poison Jab if you want to, which has the advantage of not being resisted by the Fighting Bugs. Either way, Toxicroak is a HUGE player in this meta, and I still give it the edge over H-Sneasel and even Sneasler because of how its Mud Bomb threatens Poison types like them.

HISUIAN SNEASEL

Sneasel (Hisuian) FightingPoison

Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Aerial Ace/Close Combat

The debate isn’t really whether or not it’s worth running, because it absolutely is. The real debate is what charge moves to run. Despite being resisted by basically everything in the meta, it would seem that X-Scissor is quite important for baiting if nothing else.

Pairing it with mostly-super-effective-but-boring Aerial Ace or hard-hitting-but-also-hard-debuffing Close Combat shake out pretty much the same at the end of the day, so pick your pleasure. Either way, H-Snease put the clamps on a massive swath of the meta and is actually overall a bit more effective than Toxicroak… but critically, loses to it thanks to Toxi’s Mud Bombs.

Sneasler FightingPoison

SNEASLER is not supposed to be possible in Great League… not as long as Hisuian Sneasel remains an egg-exclusive, at least. Yet here we are… I personally saw several of them in Hisuian Cup, so I know for a fact that they’re out there via shenenigans. (AKA trading with a sub-Level 20 account that is able to hatch sub-Level 20 eggs.)

And whether you have any prospects of landing one yourself or not, be prepared to face the ones that are already out there, because uh… it’s the Flying-Cup-Aerodactyl of Fighting Cup, only somehow worse. Do consider burning both shields just to stop it if you have to.

HERACROSS

Heracross BugFighting

Counter | Rock Blast & Close Combat/Megahorn

If not running with a Poison, remember that Bugs resist Fighting damage as well. That said, they’re slightly riskier in the meta, as they take neutral from Rock moves and super effective from Fire… though on the flipside, they resist Ground damage (Poisons take super effective), so… there’s that. The end result is still a very impressive overall performance, but slightly less impressive where it really counts.

Buzzwole is better, as we’ll see later, but of course, the majority of players don’t even have that option yet. Heracross is a decent enough fill-in, and still far superior to the vast majority of Fighters thanks to the resistances it carries. As for the moves, Rock Blast is usually resisted but pretty important for baits, especially when running Close Combat and its big drawbacks.

I think I do lean Combat over Megahorn in general, though, as Close Cobmat is more reliable versus things like Sirfetch’d, Galarian Zapdos, and even enemy Heracross. (And keep in mind that Poisonous Fighters resist Combat, but double resist Megahorn.)

SIRFETCH’D

Sirfetch'd Fighting

Counter | Leaf Blade & Close Combat

It’s not just stuff with a special subtyping that has a chance to take a big bite out of Fighting Cup, though. As a big example, take a gander at mono-Fighting Sirfetch’d. 👀

No super effective charge moves, no funky Fighting- (or Bug- or Poison-) resistant typing, just straight beatdowns with Fighting moves and arguably the best overall charge move in the game, Leaf Blade, with its 70 damage for only 35 energy. Other regular spammy move Night Slash is bad here since everything resists it, but Close Combat remains a risky but potent closer and pairs very nicely with Blade to allow Sirfetch’d to outrace most everything it’s willing to commit a shield or two to beating.

It can overcome even the Bugs that resist Grass AND FIghting damage, and Hisuian Sneasler, and most everything else besides. This is one that I think is WAY off the radar… put it on yours.

GALARIAN FARFETCH’D

Farfetch'd (Galarian) Fighting

Fury Cutter | Leaf Blade & Brave Bird

Curious case here. Against the entirety of Fighting Cup, G-Fetch’d underperforms Sirfetch’d by a decent margin. But against the core meta — the Pokémon you really want to make sure you can beat — G-Fetch’d actually outperforms its later evolution, beating Sirfetch’d in the head to head and more efficiently beating everything Sirfetch’d can but Combusken. Specifically, it turns all Sirfetch’d wins where Sirfetch’d emerges with less than 10 HP (Hakamo-O, Primeape, Toxicroak, Heracross, and Hisuian Sneasel, those last three leaving Sirfetch’d with just ONE HP) into wins where G-Fetch’d wins with over 10 HP remaining.

In short, Fury Cutter generates more energy than the Counter that Sirfetch’d uses, and that means more Leaf Blades and more realistic spots for Brave Bird to blow things away. Sirfetch’d has much more overall pressure just because of how fast the fast move damage piles up, but Galarian Farfetch’d is much better at pressuring shields. Both come with a massive amount of value.

MACHAMP

Machamp Fighting

Counter | Cross Chop & Close Combat

The OG is just fine here, though staple coverage move Rock Slide really doesn’t do anything for you here, being resisted by most everything (even stuff normally weak to it like Bugs and Fires). Instead, it is again closing power from Close Combat that I think you want, which can overpower Hisuian Sneasel and beats Throh much more efficiently too, among others.

Even with all Fighting moves and straight-up Fighting typing, Machamp still brings the goods, showing why it remains such a staple all these years later. Shadow Champ, by the way, is a viable sidegrade, losing Heracross, Shadow Hitmonchan, Machoke and even Machop (!!), and Galarian Zapdos, though it does have some very nice pickups in their place, including Buzzwole, Sirfetch’d, and even Sneasler. Maybe sidegrade isn’t quite the right term….

MACHOKE

Machoke Fighting

Karate Chop | Cross Chopᴸ/Brick Break & Dynamic Punch

Yes, that wasn’t a typo before… while Machop is perhaps a little ridiculous, considering MACHOKE is decidedly not, especially Shadow Choke. Running off of Karate Chop for ever more energy than Counter can generate makes Dynamic Punch legit, and that plus Legacy Cross Chop (or heck, even non-Legacy but generally mediocre Brick Break) somehow just works, even against most everything in the format. Machoke is NOT just a Majoke here… folks. Sorry, sorry… I’ll stop poking fun and move on….

PRIMEAPE

Primeape Fighting

Counter | Cross Chopᴸ/Ice Punch & Close Combat

So remember back earlier this GBL season when I encouraged getting Cross Chop Primeape while it was available during GO Battle Day because it would be good in Fighting Cup?

Well, since then we’ve had the Hisuians and Buzzwole crash into the meta like the Kool-aid Man, but look at that… Primeape remains quite good overcoming… well, basically everything but Sneasler, Buzzwole, and that spammier Sirfetch’d (plus that surprising Shadow Machoke and Sawk when you peel back the curtain on the entire meta). Ice Punch is a poor substitute, so hope you built your Cross Chopper while you had the chance. I tried to give fair warning!

POLIWRATH

Poliwrath WaterFighting

Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Scald

Here you DO likely want Ice Punch alongside Scald, both of which almost always dish out solid neutral damage, including the Poisons and Bugs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Poliwrath is still a bit lackluster overall, though that does improve a bit in Shadow form, with Toxicroak, Primeape, Shadow Machoke and a couple others entering the win column. Either way it outpunches Hisuian Sneasel and stuff like Throh and Combusken, so it has a place on the right team.

BEST OF THE REST

HARIYAMA isn’t bad, it just isn’t really good either…. Not surprisingly, this is an extremely poor meta for Dark Fighters like SCRAFTY and PANGORO. All risk and little to gain…. Yes, I looked at BRELOOM. No, you don’t want it.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

Honestly, most of these are probably not worth building with a second move. While I may even note what second move to use if you DO add one, generally I’m going to note just the one charge move to run with and save you 75,000 dust. But still, protocol is protocol, so we’re still gonna call it the 75k section, alright? Let’s get into it….

HAKAMO-O

Hakamo-o DragonFighting

Dragon Tail | Dragon Claw & Brick Break/Dragon Pulse

You can almost get away with not running a second move on Hak… Dragon Claw is all you really need 95% of the time. But Brick Break has a couple uses too (stuff like Lucario and Scrafty that Hakamo struggles with otherwise), and even Dragon Pulse has a couple edge cases in shieldless matchups.

End of the day, Hakamo (and Kommo-O, which we’ll look at next) is just a generalist, but a good one, with Lucario being the only thing in the format that resists Dragon damage. And Dragons come with some handy resistances (Fire, Water, Grass, Electric) that allow them to shrug off things like Leaf Blade and Fire Punch and Scald that you may run across in the meta. End result is beating things like Toxicroak, H-Sneasel, Sirfetch’d, Throh and Combusken, and Heracross. If you can’t figure out how to fill the third spot on your team, you can do a lot worse than Hakamo-O.

Kommo-o DragonFighting

KOMMO-O is more one to build for Ultra League. It’s okay at this level, but generally inferior to Hakamo, and that’s also the case here. Struggles with Toxicroak, Sirfetch’d, and Hakamo itself. If I had a choice, I’d just roll with Hakamo and not look back, honestly.

THROH

Throh Fighting

Zen Headbutt | Body Slam

The good news: Throh literally doesn’t need a second charge move, as Body Slam is more than enough. Other good news: Zen Headbutt shreds all the Poisonous Fighters, even Sneasler, thanks to Headbutt being super effective two times over. But the bad news is that its effectiveness basically ends there, as everything else it can reliably beat is far outside the meta, usually unevolved stuff like Timburr, Mankey, Mienfoo, Pancham, and Stufful. This is something you bring specifically to wallop the Poisons and nothing else. In that capacity, yes, it has a place, but there’s HUGE risk in relying too heavily on it.

SAWK

Sawk Fighting

Poison Jab | Body Slam

Another case where no second move is really needed (except Body Slam yet again), but honestly, the performance is just okay. Having Poison Jab can be nice for getting around things like Fighting-resistant Bugs, but Sawk still fails to take down Buzzwole, and Jab is just as resisted by Poisonous Fighters as Counter is, so Sawk is left in an awkward spot of not being as good as you’d hope for it to be.

FALINKS

Falinks Fighting

Counter | Close Combat & Brick Break/Megahorn

Believe it or not, there was a time shortly after Fighting Cup was first announced that Falinks was actually ranked #1 in the format. And if you look at the entire picture, just focusing on the pure numbers, that kind of makes sense. The problem is that half the things that can beat it — Hisuian Sneasel, Sneasler, Galarian Zapdos, Buzzwole, and even Bewear — have come along since then, pushing Falinks further down the line and leaving it now pretty pedestrian where it counts most. You can still run it, and this is likely one of few times you could legit do well with it, but the shine has definitely come off over time. And it really does need two charge moves, so it’s not cheap, either.

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

BUZZWOLE

Buzzwole BugFighting

Counter | Lunge & Superpower

So I won’t even pretend to hide my feelings on something that evokes a lot of feelings among players right now: having Great League-level Buzzwole available only to attendees of one specific in-person event, and then having a Cup where it’s SO good prior to other players having any capability to acquire said Pokémon, is pretty dang frustrating. (And this coming from someone who went to Seattle GO Fest and has a Great League Buzzwole.) Even for a company that has proven time and again that they don’t know how to listen, this is a particularly damning indictment.

That all said, I’m just here to talk PvP viability, so let’s get back to that. Yes, Buzzwole is worth all the hype. It’s true that it loses to all the Poisons and Fires in the format, as well as Hitmonchan with Fire Punch and Galarian Farfetch’d with its speedy Brave Bird. But it can punch out literally everything else. In many ways, Buzzwole is THE center of this meta, which is incredible for something that such a small slice of the playerbase even has, but here we are. You may not have Buzzwole, but you better have a plan to beat it, because everyone that DOES have it is surely going to deploy it with glee.

GALARIAN ZAPDOS

Zapdos (Galarian) FightingFlying

Counter | Ancient Power & Brave Bird/Close Combat

And speaking of exclusive, we have Galarian Zapdos. Technically this, unlike Buzzwole, is available to everyone. But because of its famed rareness and ultra rare actual catchability, I would dare say that less players have G-Zap than even players with Buzzwole. But as with Buzz, players that DO have Galarian Zapdos will surely want to throw them out there in this format, despite honestly being just alright.

I know, a Flyer that resists Fighting and Bug damage should do better in a format like this, right? The problem is that its two good charge moves both debuff it drastically, so you’re usually left trying to bait with a (almost-always-resisted) Ancient Power to set up that big closer. It’s just left in a very awkward spot where even its so-so numbers may be better than its actual performance will shake out as in the end.

But it WILL be encountered, and probably more times than most players have ever actually encountered them! 😅

And gonna end it right here (again!). Hopefully this helps you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!).

This is the middle of three articles I was working on at the same time. Yesterday was a review of returning Legacy moves during the upcoming World Championships event, today is… well, this article, and if all goes well, tomorrow will be a long-awaited deep dive on Zacian (and Zamazenta. 🤞 (Thursday at the latest!)

And until then, 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 Fighting Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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