Halloween Cup 2022: Best Pokémon to Power up and Use

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Hello again, fellow PvPers! Back again with another edition of “Nifty Or Thrifty”, the long-running article series that takes a comprehensive look at the meta for Cup formats — the October 2022 revival of Halloween Cup, in this case — particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust.

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?

In 2020, Halloween Cup represented the first limited meta many players ever participated in. Cups are old hat for most of you now, and by now you know that they often require all-new team-crafting and consideration of things you may not have even evolved yet. My goal is to show you which of those may be worth pursuing yourself, but also to prepare you to FACE many of these and know how to handle them, since there are several you may not have encountered in PvP before.

We have a lot to get through, so just a quick caveat: in the interest of time, I kept this “simple”, with almost all simulations focused on standard 1v1 shielding matchups and typically with “default” IVs, since there will be a WIDE range of IV spreads you encounter out there. So this is not FULLY comprehensive but will give you a very good idea of how these Pokémon perform.

Now let’s dive in!

🎃 Halloween Cup Rules

The latest edition of (Great League) Halloween Cup will be available in the GO Battle League from October 20th at 1pm PDT to October 27th at 1pm PDT. Here are the official rules:

  • Pokémon must be at or below 1,500 CP to enter.
  • Only Poison, Bug, Ghost, Dark, and Fairy type Pokémon are permitted.

(Since our last trek through Halloween Cup in April 2022, I have added new relevant ‘mons and marked them as NEW throughout, so be on the lookout for those as you scroll! Several have some BIG time implications for the meta… this won’t be quite the Halloween Cup meta you remember!)

10,000 Dust / 25 Candy

BEEDRILL

Beedrill BugPoison

Poison Jab | X-Scissor/Fell Stinger & Drill Runᴸ

A potent threat to Fairies, Poisons, and Fighters alike, beating (beeting?) Azumarill, Charmers, Dark/Poisons, everything with Counter, and then stuff like Toxapex, Zweilous, Grasses (Venusaur, Shiftry, etc.). Shadow Beedrill, if you have one with Drill Run, could be labeled almost a straight upgrade, picking up potential new wins versus Trevenant, Galvantula, Umbreon, Sableye, Froslass, Tentacruel, and Nidoqueen, though it’s noteworthy that it now loses to Toxapex and Escavalier. Also worth consideration: Fell Stinger rather than X-Scissor for regular Bee can potentially pick up the mirror match and even Alolan Marowak and Tentacruel thanks to a boosted Drill Run. Melissophobiacs, beeware! (Go ahead… I’ll wait while you Google “melissophobiac”. 🐝)

SCOLIPEDE

Scolipede BugPoison

Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Megahorn

Basically an alternative Beedrill that requires no Legacy moves. Basically, Bee is better versus Poisons due to Drill Run, while Scolipede is more consistent versus Darks thanks to Megahorn. Beedrill is perhaps a little more versatile overall, but Scolipede is plenty dangerous too and its Dark hate will fit some teams better.

Ariados BugPoison

There’s also ARIADOS who, as compared to Scolipede, runs Poison Sting rather than Poison Jab and Cross Poison rather than X-Scissor, but relies on the same big closer of Megahorn. Its speed means it beats Escavalier where Scolipede falls short, but Ariados also loses to the Poison Jab Dark/Poisons (A-Muk and Skuntank) that Scolie can defeat. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.

CRUSTLE

Crustle BugRock

Smack Down | X-Scissor & Rock Slide/Rock Blast

Fury Cutter Crustle looks good, but Smack Down looks quite a bit better. Cutter is able to possibly eke out a win over Umbreon and outraces Haunter and the mirror match, but Smack Down alone is able to defeat Flyers Golbat and Drifblim, and all the big Alolans (Wak, Muk, Tales), and those wins make it the clear favorite fast move. Crustie kicks the butts of many core meta Poisons (even getting this close to beating Toxapex), Flyers, Darks, Ghosts, and can beat nearly all of its fellow Bugs too. Only Steely Bugs give it some issues, and even there, it handles Forretress and can beat Trashadam with the generally preferred Rock Slide. Crustle is very solid in Halloween yet again this year.

VENUSAUR

Venusaur GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

So… yeah. This continues to be a rough meta for Grasses. Venusaur is obviously a great way to control Azumarill, Jellicent, and (most) other Waters (Toxapex generally escapes), still an excellent way to take out Charmers, and its resistance to Counter gives it clean wins against Obstagoon and Scrafty and the like, plus Venusaur hangs in there long enough to take out Cofagrigus, Sableye, and even Umbreon (even with Psychic). But the many Poisons, Bugs, and even most Ghosts around fend Venusaur off with relative ease. Venusaur does some things very well, but it’s basically just a specialist only here.

GOLBAT

Golbat PoisonFlying

Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

Aging like a fine wine, Golbat has come a long way from being just a Silph Arena standout… most GBLers have run across the Bat by now too, thanks in large part to the big buff to Poison Fang. Golbat is still very good at baiting shields and closing out with a big fat Shadow Ball, and can grind stuff down with Fang and Wing AttackIt’s VERY scary in this meta, terrorizing Fighters, Grasses, Bugs, many Ghosts, and of course Charmers. Shadow Golbat is an iffy side/downgrade, able to overpower Nidoqueen, Tentacruel, and Haunter, but giving up Azumarill, A-Wak, Drifblim, Mandibuzz, Sableye, Skuntank, AND Qwilfish to do it… I’d just stick with regular Bat, personally, and like many of Gotham City’s worst villains, make your opponents have good reason to fear the Bat.

Crobat PoisonFlying

As for CROBAT, sure, you can use it, but it’s a worse Golbat. While it does manage to finish off Nidoqueen and Tentacruel (Golbat has a lot more trouble with those two), Crobat cannot keep pace with Mawile, Cofagrigus, Drifblim, Azumarill or several others that fall to Golbat. If you want a Bat, stick with the middle evolution.

OBSTAGOON

Obstagoon DarkNormal

Counter | Night Slash & Cross Chop/Hyper Beam

Night Slash is obviously a must, but what else? Gunk Shot is more liability than help with the Poisons, Ghosts, and Steely (or Rocky!) Bugs that resist it, so despite being a great table-turning nuke against Fairies, I think it’s generally worse than Hyper Beam — yes, HYPER Beam — with which Obstagoon is at least able to beat Tentacruel and better handle things like Mandibuzz. That said, if you have a really good IV Goon, Gunk Shot is enough to steal wins from Azumarill and Venusaur… something to keep in mind. There’s also the option of additional spam with Cross Chop which better threatens Mawile and beats Zweilous harder, but it can give up Mandibuzz to do it. Decisions, decisions….

ALOLAN RATICATE (NEW BUFF!)

Raticate (Alola) DarkNormal

Quick Attack | Crunch & Hyper Fang/Returnᴸ

With its TRIPLE resistance to Ghost damage, it’s no surprise that A-Rat is a premiere Ghost slayer, with special Froslass and Sableye being the only two that fend it off. What may be a little more surprising is that especially with the buff now to Quick Attack, Alolan Raticate can also outtank and outrace things like Azumarill, Venusaur, and both Qwilfish, and even outlasts (Snarl) Mandibuzz and Umbreon by slapping them with constant neutral Normal damage. But perhaps even better, if you can manage it, is a purified Rat with Return, which does lose Shadow Bee and Ice Beam Azumarill, but gains seven new wins: Toxapex, Nidoqueen, Skuntank, Galarian Weezing, Zweilous, Golbat, and Beedrill. A-Rat is deceptively bulky and as long as it avoids Fighting and Fairy damage, there is very little that blows it out, making it a good, cheap safe switch option to consider.

MIGHTYENA

Mightyena Dark

Thunder Fang/Fire Fang | Crunch & Poison Fang

If ever there was a time to actually use it, this may be it. With Thunder Fang it presents a unique threat that can beat EVERY Water and Flyer in the format except Araquanid and Scyther (a list that includes Toxapex, Azumarill, Tentacruel, Qwilfish, Mandibuzz, Jellicent, Golbat, Drifblim… it’s a GOOD list!) while also handling Mawile, Alolan Marowak, Cofagrigus, Alolan Muk, Umbreon, PowderTales, Shadow Scizor (yes, that’s a thing!), Incineroar and more. Or give it Fire Fang, which does drop the Waters and Air Slash Mandi, but gains ALL Steel types and stuff like Trevenant, Galvantula, and Runerigus instead, or go whole hog with Shadow Mightyena to pick up things like Venusaur, Sableye, Froslass, and Haunter (and even Jellicent again!) in exchange for now losing to A-Wak, A-Muk, and Snarl Mandi. Oh, how the mighty have… risen? (Just for this specific meta, though. 🙃

INCINEROAR

Incineroar FireDark

Fire Fang | Flame Charge & Dark Pulse

As with Houndoom (which I left in the 50k section down below, though I may even just remove it in the future), it’s Fire Fang you want, but the charge moves (Flame Charge in particular) do quite a bit too, bringing in additional wins versus Mandibuzz, Jellicent (Ice Beam/Shadow Ball variants, anyway), Umbreon (long as it lacks or doesn’t land Last Resort), Drapion, Drifblim, Cofagrigus and more. And as directly compared to Houndoom… well, I think the Hound is going to be left behind now. While Houndoom does uniquely outrace Bubble Beam Jellicent and Incineroar itself due to the speed at which is gets to multiple Crunches, Incineroar is just better overall, with its own unique wins over Mandi, Drap, Cofag, Alolan Muk, and even Alolan Ninetales with Charm. Basically, (mostly) everything Hound can do, Roar can do better. Say hello to your new Fire Fang specialist (not named Mawile, anyway!).

WIGGLYTUFF

Wigglytuff FairyNormal

Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough

Generally the best of the Charmers thanks to its Normal sub-typing and double resistance to Ghost damage, giving it a big leg up in the Halloween meta. You can see this most clearly with a big win over Haunter, even if it chooses not to shield… though beware Sludge Bomb! 😬 (More on that later.) Perhaps a better example is Cofagrigus, which Wiggly rather easily beats but other Charmers don’t. Wiggly also beats nearly everything more effectively (read as: with significantly more remaining HP) than Clefable, including Drifblim, Mandibuzz, Obstagoon, Umbreon, Zweilous, and Galvantula. It’s not that Clefable and the other Charmers are bad — because they’re still pretty good — it’s just that Wigglytuff is better. If you have to pick a Charmer, for my money, it’s Wiggly in this meta.

PRIMARINA

Primarina WaterFairy

Charm | Psychic & Moonblast

…or is it? With the arrival of Primarina, Wiggly’s strangehold on the “Top Charmer” title is suddenly a little in doubt. Prima’s secondary Water typing, like Wiggly’s secondary Normal typing, has a lot going for it by resisting Water, Ice, and Fire damage and making Steel do merely neutral damage, advantages no other Charmer has. (Well, aside from A-Tails resisting Ice, but you get what I’m saying.) So to directly compare the two: Wiggly’s blunting of Ghost means it beats Jellicent, Cofagrigus, and Drifblim without much trouble, while Prima instead beats Azumarill, Snarl Alolan Muk, Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales, and most impressively, Shadow Scizor and Shadow Mawile, those last two especially being traditional Charm counters that NO other Charmer can overcome. I think Prima is underrated and underappreciated going (back) into this format. Don’t make that mistake!

WORMADAM (TRASH)

Wormadam (Trash) BugSteel

Confusion/Bug Bite | Bug Buzz & Iron Head

Trashadam is listed last in this section because, while its second move does indeed cost only 10k dust, it also has to be taken up to Level 40 (and often beyond), and thus is very far from “thrifty”… though it IS very nifty, certainly. There are not many Confusion users in this format, but the fact that it annihilates Fighters and most Poisons (especially Toxapex, resisting all its Poison damage along the way!) helps explain the success Trashy does see. Its typing helps too, allowing it to wail on Charmers and Froslass with impunity, and even to outlast Azumarill. Bug Bite IS a viable alternative, able to beat Umbreon, Obstagoon, A-Muk, and flip the mirror match, though it gives up most of the good Poisons (Toxapex, Nidoqueen, Golbat, Toxicroak, Tentacruel, Haunter, among others) and sometimes Azumarill as well (particularly if Azu runs Ice Beam). Your call!

50,000 Dust / 50 Candy

TOXAPEX (NEW!)

Toxapex PoisonWater

Poison Jab | Brine & Sludge Wave

Say hello to the new meanie Queenie of Halloweenie. That 80% winrate against the whole format is pretty nuts, and while the numbers against the core meta are comparatively modest, note that the vast majority of things that beat it resist its steady Poison damage (Ghosts like Sableye, Cofagrigus, Jellicent, Drifblim, and even Froslass, Grounds like Runerigus and Shadow Nidoqueen, Steels like Trashadam, Escavalier, and Forretress) and/or wail on Pex with super effective damage (Beedrill with Drill Run, Umbreon specifically with Psychic, Toxicroak with Mud Bomb, Galvantula with all its Electric damage). Beyond those, there’s Drapion (who also resists Poison) and big beefy Alolan Raticate and… uh… not much else. Toxapex is going to grind down a LOT of things in this meta. Have a plan to fend it off… or better still, multiple such plans!

GALVANTULA

Galvantula BugElectric

Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge

With the rise of Toxapex (and other Waters like Tentacruel) comes a corresponding rise for Galv. Last time through Halloween Cup, Galv was fading a little. but it appears poised to come roaring back. It is still perhaps THE best way to hold down Waters and Flyers in this meta, and handles Fighters and things like Sableye, Drapion, Skuntank, Hisuian Qwilfish, Beedrill, Forretress, Escavalier, Obstagoon, Scrafty, Froslass, and even Electric-resistant Zweilous and Venusaur thanks to Lunge. I’ve recommended messing about with other moves in past Halloween Cups, but I think it’s back to just classic Lunge and Discharge now. There’s not a lot that resists Electric and it can chunk a LOT of things down.

DEDENNE

Dedenne ElectricFairy

Thunder Shock | Discharge & Play Rough

Enter our second eligible Electric type, though its Fairy subtyping is more curse than blessing here with the heavy Poison presence, and Mighty Mouse remains admittedly a little lackluster overall. It does beat the Darks (and is a particularly brutal Mandibuzz counter, resisting all of its moves but Shadow Ball) while bringing heavy pressure to Waters and Flyers, as well as being a Fairy that can beat stuff like Forretress, Scizor, and Haunter (even with Sludge Bomb) thanks mostly to the blinding speed of its Thunder Shock/Discharge combo. But with even Electric-weak Toxapex shredding it, I just don’t think this is a great meta to try and sneak Deedee into.

CHARJABUG  (NEW)

Charjabug BugElectric

Spark | X-Scissor & Discharge

Not on the same level as Galv but at least more enticing than Dedenne (in THIS meta) is new option Charjabug. If you built one for Evolution Cup (and lived to tell the tale!), you might be able to find a way to get some more mileage out of it here… though disappointingly, it does NOT normally beat Toxapex. Boooo.

ARAQUANID (NEW!)

Araquanid WaterBug

Bug Bite | Bubble Beam & Mirror Coat/Bug Buzz

Araquanid asks: remember me? It’s no Toxapex, but ‘Nid remains super bulky and super annoying if you’re not prepared to face it. And believe it or not, lousy move Mirror Coat is probably THE closer to run with here rather than the more typical Bug Buzz, simply because Coat is super effective versus Poisons (beating Beedrill, Qwilfish, and Toxicroak) and its cost being 5 energy less than Buzz means it can also better outrace CharmTales and Sylveon. Buzz instead hates on Darks (beating Sableye as the most shining example), but honestly, I’m more worried about all those Poisons these days, aren’t you? Mirror Coat gets my own personal vote.

ESCAVALIER

Escavalier BugSteel

Counter | Drill Run & Megahorn/Aerial Ace

In a meta full of Poisons and Electrics weak to it, turns out that Drill Run is a really good move to have, especially when paired with Counter to rough up the Darks too! And it turns out that’s actually all that Escav needs to hit peak performance against the core meta, beating all the important Darks that aren’t airborne (including all the Dark/Poisons), all the Steely Bugs, the major Grasses, Charmers, Toxapex, Tentacruel and more. While having a second move doesn’t seem to have affect there, of course there are many shielding situations and energy lead situations where a second move could be key. Megahorn deals HUGE damage now and picks up wins in shieldless matchups against Umbreon, Galvantula, and Crustle, but Aerial Ace has wide neutral coverage and is super effective against (most) Bugs and Grass. Pick your pleasure!

VENOMOTH

Venomoth BugPoison

Confusion/Infestation | Poison Fang & Bug Buzz

Two ways you can go here. The rare-in-Halloween Confusion slays Poisons (Toxapex, Galarian Weezing, Beedrill, Shadow Queen, Haunter, Golbat, Toxicroak, Qwilfish, Tentacruel, etc.) with ease, while Infestation instead hates on Darks (Umbreon, Zweilous, Snarl Mandibuzz, Sableye, Alolan Muk) and outraces Galvantula too. Also of note: Shadow Moth works best with Infestation, gaining Ice Beam/Hydro Pump Azumarill (normal Moth with either fast move can already outrace Azu without Pump), Qwilfish, Shadow Beedrill, and Shadow Nidoqueen as compared to non-Shadow Infestation Moth. I think your best bets are either that or Confusion for non-Shadow for how it chews through all those scary Poisons.

ALOLAN MAROWAK  (NEW SHADOW!)

Marowak (Alola) FireGhost

Fire Spin/Hex | Bone Club & Shadow Ball/Shadow Boneᴸ

So in 2020 I made the bold claim that Hex, rather than Fire Spin, was actually my recommendation for Halloween Cup. By and large, player feedback and my own experience backed that up: Hex A-Wak was legit good! But Halloween Cup 2022 is a different experience. Running Hex with Bone Club and Shadow Ball still looks like a good play… as compared to the more standard Fire Spin/Club/Shadow Bone, Hex-Wak misses out on Beedrill, Forretress, CharmTales, Scrafty, and Ghost-resistant Wigglytuff, but instead beats FS A-Wak, Drifblim, Jellicent, Qwilfish, and Toxapex!

And I haven’t even mentioned Shadow A-Wak, which is better in nearly every way. It can now take out Drifblim, Forretress, CharmTales, and Qwilfish with either fast move, as well as Golbat, Sableye, and Nidoqueen (something non-ShadoWak couldn’t do at all!). Fire Spin looks better on ShadoWak, as it can add Shadow Scizor, Hisuian Qwilfish, and Trevenant to the win column as well!

FROSLASS

Froslass IceGhost

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

I played around with Froslass’ movesets as well (Hex and the improved Crunch were both worth at least a look), but nah: I think it’s the tried and true Powder Snow/Shadow Ball/Avalanche you still want here. Lass is actually really good at combating most Poison types (including Toxapex, though A-Muk, Haunter, and Tentacruel are problematic for obvious reasons, and the new Galarian Weezing is as well), and has positive matchups with Grasses (duh), Fighters, and even some big-name Darks — Mandibuzz and Zweilous — again, for rather obvious reasons. She can also outrace Cofagrigus, Sylveon, Beedrill, Jellicent without Bubble Beam, and Pump-less Azumarill. Froslass, as per usual, is much more dangerous than her overall win/loss record alone would imply.

JELLICENT

Jellicent WaterGhost

Hex/Bubble | Bubble Beam & Shadow Ball/Ice Beam

The third of our “elemental” Ghosts (Fire, Ice, and now Water), Jelli’s numbers are buoyed by always getting perfect Bubble Beam baits in sims, which isn’t completely realistic. (I only guess wrong and shield — and curse! — Bubble Beam, like, 95% of the time. 😅) But heck, even with NO Bubble Beam, just running straight bombs with Shadow Ball and Ice Beam, Jelli is still scary. What BB baits allow is for Jellicent to outrace more things like Drifblim and the mirror match (with Hex), or Forretress and Golbat (with Bubble), and Cofagrigus, Incineroar, Froslass, and Scizor (with either fast move). Lotta options, but in one configuration or another, expect JelliBelli to be quite popular once again. Jelli is a particularly great way to counter the Poisonous Waters (Toxapex, Tentacruel, Qwilfish) by resisting ALL their moves and beating them all when running Hex, the fast move that gets my vote for that reason alone!

RUNERIGUS  (NEW!)

Runerigus GroundGhost

Shadow Claw | Sand Tomb & Shadow Ball

Just as Cofagrigus rose dramatically last Halloween Cup due to getting Shadow Claw, so too will Runerigus be skyrocketing this time around as it ALSO now has Shadow Claw. I mean, just compare the old to the new! SO good is Rune that it basically leapfrogs Cofag now, able to beat several really notable things that Cofagrigus cannot, like Shadow Nidoqueen, Poison Jab Alolan Muk, Skuntank, Golbat, Incineroar, Jellicent, and Haunter. Now, yes, some of that is thanks to Sand Tomb baiting and setting up Shadow Ball to KO, but Tomb is for more than just baits… it actually does pretty well all on its own, actually being everything I just listed there except Golbat, Jelli, and A-Muk and holding most of Runerigus’ other wins as well. This isn’t your typical “well, it only wins because of baits” type. The typing combination DOUBLE resisting Poison and Electric damage (and also resisting Bug and Rock damage) in addition to all else that Ghost already resists more than makes up for its relative frailty to the few Water, Grass, and Ice moves it has to watch out for.

COFAGRIGUS

Cofagrigus Ghost

Shadow Claw | Shadow Ball & Dark Pulse

Once again, I recommend Dark Pulse, not Psychic, as the second move. Pulse is especially better in this meta, allowing Grigus to outrace Ghosts it struggles to otherwise, like Drifblim, Alolan Marowak (be careful though: Hex/Shadow Ball A-Wak can still win), and the mirror. There’s nothing Cofagrigus is necessarily THE best at, but look over its list of wins and you’ll notice it’s solid versus a good number of things (including Venusaur and Azumarill that Runerigus cannot handle)… much of its list of losses are Dark types.

DUSCLOPS

Dusclops Ghost

Hex | Fire Punch & Shadow Punch/Returnᴸ

Just in a nutshell: the only Bugs that Clops can’t beat in Halloween Cup are Crustle and Araquanid, and the only Steels and Grasses it cannot overcome in the format are Darks or Ghosts. And then it goes out and also beats most Poisons (Drapion, Nidoqueen, Golbat, Tentacruel, Qwilfish, Toxicroak, etc.), Alolan Ninetales, and either other Ghosts like Haunter and A-Wak (with Shadow Punch) or Nidoqueen and sometimes Azumarill (with Return). But really, Niantic: Poltergeist Dusclops when?

HAUNTER/GENGAR

Haunter GhostPoison

Gengar GhostPoison

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ/Ice Punch & Sludge Bomb/Shadow Ball

Yep, both Haunter AND Gengar are equally viable, and run roughshod over a large portion of the core meta, including Fighters, Charmers (with one notable exception we’ll get to in a second), Jellicent, Galvantula, Fire Spin A-Wak, Beedrill and many more. My recommendation for KO move is Sludge Bomb to guarantee Azu, outrace Crustle (in Haunter’s case, at least), and get past the one Charmer that otherwise beats these two: Wigglytuff. (Shadow Ball beats Nidoqueen, though, and is still plenty legit too!) Oh, and Haunter’s new Ice Punch is generally less preferred in this meta, losing to several prominent Ghosts and a couple Steels, but it CAN at least take down Air Slash Mandibuzz, so that’s something?

HOUNDOOM

Houndoom DarkFire

Fire Fang | Flamethrower & Crunch

I’ll keep this one really simple: it’s all about that Fire Fang. It alone burns through every Grass and non-Rock Bug type in the entire meta, plus Froslass, Alolan Ninetales, Haunter, Sableye, Drifblim, and of course, Steel-coated Mawile. This is a bold pick, no doubt, but you have to like that list of wins… without even needing charge moves! One you DO need charge moves (Flamethrower specifically) to beat is Umbreon, though I recommend Crunch as well for potential debuffs and the occasional shields-down KO potential. Oh, and don’t forget Shadow Doom which can potentially beat Skuntank and Snarl Mandibuzz (and gives up only Drifblim, of all things, to do it)!

That all said… I already talked about Incineroar being new and all-around better now, so honestly, Houndoom’s day may have already passed.

SALAZZLE (NEW!)

Salazzle PoisonFire

Incinerate | Poison Fang & Sludge Wave/Dragon Pulse

While there’s a very low chance you have one of these at all yet, somebody out there surely does and will be itching to deploy it in Halloween Cup. And yeah, it’s WELL worth it. A Fire that can beat Azumarill (with Sludge Wave, at least… Dragon Pulse instead takes out Nidoqueen), and a Poison that can beat most other Poisons and Steels, I’ll just kinda sit back and let the record speak for itself. Be ready… somebody who always magically wins the “Walk Star” award in their local raids probably has half a dozen different ones to choose from by now. 😒

SCRAFTY

Scrafty DarkFighting

Counter | Foul Play & Power-Up Punch

Last year my recommendation was Acid Spray, but nah… I think it’s back to Power-Up Punch all the way. PuP instead enables Scrafty to more easily beat Escavalier, Mandibuzz, Poison Jab Alolan, and even new-fangled Fairy Wind Mawile. Just stick to the tried and true.

TOXICROAK

Toxicroak PoisonFighting

Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb

It’s pretty simple here: beat (no-Flying) Darks (aside from pesky Sableye, Air Slash Mandibuzz, and Malamar), Steels, Rocks, bonuses like Toxapex, Qwilfish, Shadow Nidoqueen, Venusaur, Mawile, and PowderTales, and carry the looming threat of Sludge Bomb to keep even the Fairies honest. I don’t think Toxicroak really needs any more explanation than that, does it?

ALOLAN NINETALES

Ninetales (Alola) IceFairy

Powder Snow/Charm | Weather Ball (Ice) & Psyshock/Dazzling Gleam

There are several ways to go about using A-Tails. Powder Snow is usually best with Dazzling Gleam to beat Darks (Umbreon, Sable, Scrafty), but Psyshock wins the mirror and is good against Poisons, beating Toxicroak and Beedrill (and potentially even Pump-less Azumarill, as a bonus). CharmTales is obviously extremely tough on Darks and has more consistent wins versus Azumarill, but is left pretty vulnerable to the many big Poison types. 🥶

SHADOW GRANBULL

Granbull (Shadow) Fairy

Charm | Crunch & Close Combat

Nothing fancy here… just straight beatdowns, including overcoming A-Muk and Drapion more easily than Wigglytuff (while Wiggly beats Drifblim and Sylveon instead).

GALARIAN WEEZING (NEW!)

Weezing (Galarian) PoisonFairy

Fairy Wind | Overheat & Sludge/Play Rough

Possibly the weirdest Fairy in the game, but who cares because Overheat is a great weapon in this meta. After that it’s just a matter of deciding whether you want Sludge to bait with (allowing for wins versus Trevenant, Beedrill, Froslass, Hisuian Qwilfish, and Alolan Muk (with Poison Jab), or Play Rough to operate as a more typical Fairy and take down Umbreon, Mandibuzz, and Jellicent instead. Either way, I LOVE the zany new addition that comes with G-Weeze this year!

AZUMARILL

Azumarill WaterFairy

Bubble | Hydro Pump & Ice Beam/Play Rough

For the many of you tired of seeing it, I am sorry to report that, yes, Azumarill is a big threat here, even with the rise of things like Toxapex that can terrorize it. The question isn’t whether or not to run it — because likely many teams will — the question is what moves to run on it? I’ll start by saying that no matter what, you probably want Hydro Pump, as it’s just a tremendous equalizer and catch-all move threat that hardly anything of note resists in Halloween Cup… you basically have to have it to beat things like Froslass, Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Muk, Forretress, Sylveon, and Cofagrigus. The debate then becomes Ice Beam versus Play Rough. Beam has obvious applications against Flyers and very wide neutral coverage (and more readily beats Galarian Weezing and Mawile with Fairy Wind), but Play Rough is much better against Fighters, Waters, and is almost a must-have to win the mirror. I’ll leave that decision in your capable hands for your own team, but expect to face down a healthy mix of both on opposing teams!

TENTACRUEL

Tentacruel WaterPoison

Poison Jab | Acid Spray & Hydro Pump

As per usual, Tentacruel does a lot of surprising things with just Acid Spray, dominating Fairies and some key Darks. But of course, Tentacruel can also dish out some big Water damage. The natural assumption is that new move Scald is probably the way to go, but I’m not so sure that that’s true. Scald DOES allow for new wins like Haunter, Shadow Scizor, Crustle, and Beedrill that Tentacthulhu couldn’t get before, but I think that Hydro Pump may still be the way to go in Halloween Cup, as it alone has the KO power to take down Umbreon, Mandibuzz, Golbat, Drifblim, Qwilfish, and the Dark/Poisons.

QWILFISH

Qwilfish WaterPoison

Poison Sting | Aqua Tail & Sludge Wave

Similar strat here, hoping to set things up for a big KO Sludge Wave, but this time the bait move, Aqua Tail, deals nice (and extremely spammy) damage on its own. Generally it also beats spammier stuff that Tentacruel cannot, such as Zweilous, Venusaur, Trevenant, and Nidoqueen, but while Tentacthulhu instead knocks out things previously mentioned like Umbreon, Mandibuzz, Drifblim, and the Dark/Poisons, as well as Froslass, Toxicroak, Scrafty and a couple others. Both are good in their own ways.

HISUIAN QWILFISH  (NEW!)

Qwilfish (Hisuian) DarkPoison

Poison Jab | Aqua Tail & Shadow Ball/Ice Beam/Dark Pulse

Qwilfish’s new Hisuian cousin adds another Dark/Poison to the Halloween mix, a type combination famously weak ONLY to Ground damage. So while H-Qwil struggles versus things with prominent Ground typings or moves (Beedrill, Escavalier, Forretress, Toxicroak, and of course Nidoqueen), it does a ton of good otherwise. Shadow Ball is generally my recommendation, as it is most consistent in beating Sableye, Mawile, and OG Qwilfish, but the other moves have their own good points too: Ice Beam tends to win the mirror and beats both Nidoqueen and Golbat, and even Dark Pulse has a great edge case: uniquely overcoming Toxapex. I think Hisuian Qwil may overtake Johtonian Qwil as the preferred pufferfish this time through Halloween Cup.

Overqwil DarkPoison

Also (NEW!) this time is H-Qwil’s evolution OVERQWIL, though it does little to distinguish itself from H-Qwilfish. Probably the best thing going for it is that it allows running multiple Qwils if you wish!

ALOLAN MUK

Muk (Alola) PoisonDark

Poison Jab/Snarl | Dark Pulse & Acid Spray/Sludge Wave

The old school Snarl-powered moveset is looking pretty good again with SO many big Poisons around, getting standout wins over all the Dark/Poisons except H-Qwil, as well as Tentacruel, Trashadam, and Runerigus, and getting oh so close to beating Toxapex too. There’s also the option of Poison Jab, ideally paired with Acid Spary to wear stuff down with Jabs and get wins Snarl cannot like Umbreon and Sableye and much more consistent wins against Azumarill, but overall I think it’s Snarl you want here these days.

And for what it’s worth, Kanto MUK looks pretty spicy too! 🤔

SKUNTANK

Skuntank PoisonDark

Poison Jab | Crunch & Flamethrower/Return

Here Poison Jab is your only real choice. Crunch is pretty much a must, leaving you to decide between Flamethrower (best versus Bugs and Steels, uniquely beating Forret and Trashadam), Sludge Bomb (best versus Fairies and some Darks, uniquely beating LR Umbreon) or Return (best versus opposing Dark/Poisons, uniquely beating A-Muk and the mirror). Oh, and there’s also Shadow Stank to consider too….

NIDOQUEEN

Nidoqueen PoisonGround

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Earth Power

There’s also regular and Shadow to consider with the Queen, another big addition to the meta this time around. And while obviously alike in many ways, there are also a LOT of differences. Regular uniquely outbulks Beedrill, Haunter, PowderTales, Sableye, A-Wak, and Toxicroak, while Shadow Queen instead outmuscles Toxapex, Trevenant, Snarl Mandibuzz, Zweilous, Cofagrigus, and even Venusaur. One could argue there are more impactful wins with Shadow, but there’s really no wrong way to go, depending on your team needs.

SEVIPER

Seviper Poison

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Crunch

No, really! Unlike Queen, Seviper cannot handle Crustle, Golbat, Haunter, Toxicroak, Scrafty, Stank, A-Muk or others, but it DOES have Crunch which makes it handy in beating A-Wak and Grigus and, unlike Queen, Drifblim, Froslass, Qwilfish, and Shadow Bee, and not being part Ground means that also unlike Queen, Seviper can beat PowderTales as well. It actually fits some teams better than Queen… seriously.

DRAGALGE

Dragalge PoisonDragon

Dragon Tail | Aqua Tail & Gunk Shot

The skillset of Dragalge translates really well to Halloween Cup: it douses things like Queen, A-Wak, and Crustle with Aqua Tail, poisons Azumarill (and also overwhelms Umbreon) with Gunk Shot, and resists the many moves of Poison, Grass and (most) Water and Fire types (and Fighters) while beating them down with Dragon Tail (yes, including Toxapex). Dragalge is quietly very dangerous in this meta. Now’s a great time to build one if you’ve been holding off.

75,000 Dust / 75 Candy

ZWEILOUS

Zweilous DarkDragon

Dragon Breath | Body Slam & Dark Pulse

The other Dragon that makes a dent in this meta, Zweil operates best as a Ghost and Dark slayer, beating every Ghost but Froslass and basically every Dark without Fighting damage. As a bonus, Zweil can take out Queen, Tentacruel, Venusaur and some others too. Steer clear of Bugs and especially Fairies, but Zweilous is a tough out for most everything else.

HYDREIGON  (NEW!)

Hydreigon DarkDragon

Dragon Breath | Brutal Swingᴸ & Dragon Pulse

Oh, well I suppose there IS one more Dragon to mention, as post-Brutal Swing, Hydra almost sort of works now. I have a hard time really recommending it, but I’d be remiss not at least mention it. If you don’t care so much about your ELO, I do think it could be a lot of fun to unleash this beast. (It’s at least better here than it looks to be in UL Halloween Cup! 😬)

MANDIBUZZ

Mandibuzz DarkFlying

Air Slash/Snarl | Shadow Ball & Aerial Ace/Foul Play

There are merits to several move combos, but here’s the nutshell. First, I recomnend Shadow Ball in the mix for how it can overcome stuff like Mawile and Golbat more readily than other moves. Then there’s the fast move decision. Snarl more easily beats Ghosts (Drifblim, Froslass especially) and outraces Nidoqueen and Tentacruel before they can wear Mandi down. Air Slash more easily beats Grasses, Bugs, and Fighters (getting a unique win over Scrafty, for example), and Darks (Umbreon, Snarl Mandi). There’s no “wrong” way to go, really.

UMBREON

Umbreon Dark

Snarl | Foul Play & Last Resortᴸ/Psychicᴸ

Umbreon rarely wows with its number of wins… but what is impressive is its remarkable consistency. Yes, it impressively shreds all the Ghosts, but what Umbreon does best is wear a lot of things down. I generally recommend Last Resort to handle Darks (Mandi, A-Muk, mirror), but yes, Psychic works fine too (getting Toxapex, Toxicroak, Shadow Bee, and Shadow Queen). Umbreon puts up a good fight against basically everything here without a steady diet of Fairy, Fighting, or Bug damage, and remains one of the safest gap fillers you’ll find in this meta.

SABLEYE

Sableye DarkGhost

Shadow Claw | Foul Play & Return/Power Gem

Yep, Sable is solid, able to overwhelm things like Toxapex, Jellicent, Shadow Mawile, Haunter, Escav, A-Wak, Beedrill, Tentacruel, Shadow Queen, Toxicroak, Dark/Poisons, and much more. Shadow is a bit worse and generally not recommended, IMO, mostly due to the lack of Return.

DRAPION  (NEW…?)

Drapion PoisonDark

Poison Sting/Bite | Aqua Tail, Fell Stinger, Crunch, Return… you decide!

Obviously NOT actually new, but somehow I DID leave it completely out of Halloween Cup ‘Nifty Or Thrifty’ until now! 😳 Yes, obviously it’s quite good, and Halloween Cup has been crawling with Drapula in the past. There are MANY move combinations that work (which partially explains its popularity in past Halloween Cups). There’s the Bite/Fell Stinger variety that piles up heavy fast move pressure. There’s the more classic Poison Sting/Aqua Tail/Crunch version that’s the best all-arounder. There’s even the little seen but quite good purified variant with Return that could surprise the heck out of folks. There are almost no “wrong” ways to go… customize your Drap and go to town on this little Halloween Town. All the cool kids are doing it!

SNEASLER  (NEW!)

Sneasler FightingPoison

Shadow Claw | Close Combat & Aerial Ace/X-Scissor

Got one that’s Great League size? First off, darn you to heck. But secondly, yeah, you’ll enjoy it here. I would generally lean towards Aerial Ace (as simmed there, alongside the necessary Close Combat for closing power) and its ability to beat Beedrill, Drifblim, and Venusaur. But technically, X-Scissor has a slightly better showing thanks to bait capability, and has the potential to beat Trevenant (admittedly, THAT one does not require baiting), Shadow Mawile, Shadow Scizor, and Incineroar. Honestly, even with that tasty Trevor win, I still lean Ace (as boring a move as that is and as much as it pains me to say it!).

DRIFBLIM

Drifblim GhostFlying

Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

Also still solid enough, though the meta continues to fill up more and more over time with things that can take Blim on, like Jellicent, Mandibuzz, and A-Tails. But still, almost its entire loss list is made up of Darks and a handful of troublesome Ghosts (Jelli, Lass, Sable, Haunter); beyond them and things dedicated to taking out Flyers (Crustle, Galv), Blim is still a force to be reckoned with. And it handles the rising Poison/Waters just fine.

CHANDELURE

Chandelure GhostFire

Incinerate | Flame Charge & Shadow Ball

Chandelure does well enough in this meta, yes, with notable wins versus Nidoqueen, A-Muk, Skuntank, Golbat, Toxicroak, Wigglytuff, Froslass and even Jellicent, to name just a few. Get fired up! 🔥 (But leave Poltergeist at home… it’s still Shadow Ball you want.)

(SHADOW) SCIZOR

Scizor (Shadow) BugSteel

Bullet Punch | X-Scissor & Night Slash

Very few things see this kind of jump in performance as a Shadow… compare regular Scizor to Shadow Scizor! 👀 Without any new losses, Shadow gains potential wins over Cofagrigus, Drifblim, Escavalier, Forretress, Jellicent, Shadow Queen, Obstagoon, Sableye, Skuntank, Hisuian Qwilfish, Umbreon, Galarian Weezing, and a partridge in a pear tree! Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the point… Shadow Scizor is one of the scariest things in this format in the right hands. Maybe yours, hmmm?

FORRETRESS

Forretress BugSteel

Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake

Forret was a little fringe last Halloween, but it’s gotten better with age, as it can handle scary stuff like Toxapex, Nidoqueen (regular and Shadow), A-Tails (with either fast move), Sylveon, and on-the-rise A-Muk, both Qwilfishes, and others. This in addition to already holding down other Charmers, Darks, and even most Poisons already. The Golf Ball Of Doom will be spinning on many graves this October.

TYRANITAR

Tyranitar RockDark

Smack Downᴸ | Crunch & Stone Edge

Sort of a more expensive Crustle that resists Dark and Ghost. That means TTar beats Cofagrigus, Haunter, and Umbreon that Crustle struggles with (and beats Crustie head to head too), while Crustle instead gets Forret, Obstagoon, Trashadam, Zweilous, and CharmTales. You CAN make TTar cheaper by running with only one charge move (Crunch) and really only give up Tentacruel, but that’s your call.

SYLVEON

Sylveon Fairy

Charm | Psyshockᴸ & Moonblast

On the surface there’s nothing special about Sylveon, as it performs on par with other Charmers. What makes it special doesn’t show up well in simple sims, but Psyshock is a great answer to the many Poisons here that normally wail on Charmers without fear. Sylveon can at least keep them on their toes, for what that’s worth.

MAWILE  (NEW MOVE!)

Mawile SteelFairy

Fire Fang/Fairy Wind | Power-Up Punch/Iron Head & Play Rough

Fairy Wind is an intriguing new option this time, and I can see folks running that successfully, perhaps even freeing themselves from Power-Up Punch and going with double closers. But I still think Mawile may be best burning through every single Bug and Grass in Halloween Cup with Fire Fang instead, throwing a PuP as early as possible to boost fast move damage. Most Darks and Ices and Golbat fall before Mawile too, and I think I can really rest my case here. This is one of the most expensive picks here, but smoke ’em if you got ’em!

TREVENANT

Trevenant GhostGrass

Shadow Claw | Seed Bomb & Shadow Ball

During last year’s Halloween Cup, Trevor was brand new and I didn’t have a full writeup for it yet. But now let’s give Trevenant its due, as Trevenant most certainly has a place in the meta. It’s a Ghost that beats Azumarill and basically all the other big name Ghosts (to include scarier ones like Froslass and Alolan Marowak) while at the same time being a Grass that can beat most of the big Bugs and Grasses. While it still hates Darks and even most Poisons (to include even Watery Toxapex), it is clear that Trevor should have a good showing this time around with its pretty unique versatility.

Gourgeist GhostGrass

And then there’s GOURGEIST, which is honestly just a worse Trevenant. It’s viable, but IF I were to run it, it would probably be with Fire Blast, which is a bit worse overall but at least has the element of surprise going for it.

100,000 Dust / 100 Candy (ALL NEW!)

Just gonna quickly bulletize these, as there’s only a couple to cover, all of them NEW!

Tapu Fini WaterFairy

  • Yep, if you love TAPU FINI, she’s plenty viable here. In addition to obviously busting through most all Darks (only the Dark/Poisons get away) and Fire types, Fini also finishes her fellow Fairies, Froslass, Drifblim, Jellicent, and unlike most other Fairies, Golbat and Escavalier too. This seems a fun option for those lucky enough to have one under 1500 CP.

Moltres (Galarian) DarkFlying

  • Speaking of aren’t-you-lucky picks, anyone who has managed to catch a GALARIAN MOLTRES under 1500 CP may fall in love with it here. Good thing too, because not a love is going to be coming back your way from other insanely jealous players!

Buzzwole BugFighting

  • Yes, BUZZWOLE is also a new option here. But no, unlike its last Cup of real relevance (Fighting Cup), it’s not all that hot here. Viable, though? Sure, I suppose.

NICE SPICE!

Here are a few more things I like in this meta that I may not recommend quite as much as the stuff above, but they’re still fun options if you like to spice things up! 🌶️

CRAWDAUNT / SHARPEDO

Crawdaunt WaterDark

Sharpedo (Shadow) WaterDark

Waterfall | Night Slash & Crabhammer / Poison Fang & Crunch

The very definition of spice, hitting super hard with Waterfall and washing away some big names in the process. But they’re both rather flimsy (especially Sharpie) and lose rather hard when not in a positive matchup. If that’s your kind of play style — go big or go home! — this pair may pique your interest.

GRIMER

Grimer Poison

Mud Slap | Sludge & Mud Bomb

Obviously not everyone can build one of these up to XL levels, but I know several players who made getting an XL Grimer a priority. If that’s you, here’s a chance to profit. Just peruse that win column and check out the big names: Toxapex, Azumarill, A-Wak, Galarian Weezing, Drapion, Tentacruel, Mawile, Haunter, Venusaur, A-Tails, Crustle, Forretress, and more. Grimer has a unique moveset that has some very nice applications here.

ALOLAN GRIMER

Grimer (Alola) PoisonDark

Poison Jab | Crunch & Sludge Bomb

Same story here, only I think even more players have built this already than Kanto Grimer. Alolan operates on a similar level with A-Muk and is worthy of spice consideration for sure.

NIDORINA  (NEW MOVE!)

Nidorina Poison

Poison Sting | Poison Fang & Dig/Returnᴸ

Believe it or not, ‘Rina is even MORE expensive than even the Grimers, needing to be fully maxed to hit even 1480 CP! But IF you’re able to swing that, the grind is worth it. Dig is not a good PvP move by any means, but it’s able to finish off things like Mawile, Toxicroak, and Hisuian Qwilfish, and new move Thunderbolt couldn’t come at a better time, zapping through Toxapex, Jellicent, Mandibuzz, Drifblim, and Golbat pretty consistently. Meanwhile the absurdly spammy Poison Sting/Poison Fang combo dusts off a ton of other things, including Obstagoon, Umbreon, Scrafty, Galvantula, and ALL Fairies and Grasses.

SHADOW GARDEVOIR

Gardevoir (Shadow) PsychicFairy

Charm | Shadow Ball & Synchronoiseᴸ

Gard’s Psychic typing is more curse than blessing in this meta full of Ghosts, Darks, and Bugs (and all but bereft of Fighters), but through sheer force she can still manage to carve out a slice of the meta. If you love using her in Great League, she can be deployed here and do alright.

PAWNIARD

Pawniard DarkSteel

Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Iron Head

Yes, BISHARP can work too, but people always ask about Pawn anyway, so here ya go. Yes, if you underwent the arduous effort to build one, it’s a really good pick here that can handle most Ghosts, Darks, and a decent spread of others. Go nuts!

I’m sure your eyes are glazing over after that LONG read, so I’m just gonna end things right here and wish you the best of luck in Halloween Cup. 🎃 I hope it’s enjoyable and that this perhaps helps add a bit to that enjoyment!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. But otherwise, stay safe out there, Pokéfriends. Thanks for reading, and catch you next time!

(Header art background credit: “Night in Lavender Town”, by Gary Ng – heavily modified by JRE 😁)

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