Nifty Or Thrifty PvP: Holiday Cup 2023

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: the 2023 version of Holiday Cup, in this case. As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover not only the top meta picks but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs… or don’t need a second move at all! 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?

A quick reminder of what the Holiday Cup is:

  • Great League, 1500 CP Limit.
  • Only Electric, Flying, Ghost, Grass, Ice, and Normal type Pokémon are allowed.
  • No other restrictions. Legendaries, Mythicals, Shadows are all a-okay!

As I usually do, I will start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries. Also, a couple of key indicators as you read: anything with a ⬆️ means that Pokemon has a new or buffed move that increases its value since last time in Holiday Cup, and anything with a 💥 is new to the article entirely this time.

Okay, enough intro. Let’s dive in!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy


Venusaur GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

It used to be a tradition/inside joke that I would lead off basically every ‘Nifty Or Thrifty’ with my personal fave Venusaur, and hey, the holiday season is all about tradition, right? Besides, Venusaur looks just fine here, capably handling many top threats like Diggersby, Stunfisk, Lapras and Dewgong, Pelipper, Lanturn, Galvantula, Dubwool, the Charmers, the Alolan Rocks, Sableye, quasi-Fighters Vigoroth and Zangoose, and at least with good PvP IVs, Obstagoon and Dunsparce, and the list goes on. Venusaur is one of the more reliable and flexible (for Grass, at least) options around. Shadow Venusaur is an interesting sidegrade option, gaining Magnezone, Togedemaru, and easier wins over Obstagoon and Dunsparce, at the cost of losing Lapras, Pelipper, Galvantula, and often Alolan Graveler as well. Either way, Venusaur should remain a staple here despite the risk of wading into a literal snowball fight in this format.


Charizard FireFlying

Wing Attackᴸ | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ

While Fire Spin still gets some unique wins like Cradily and Togedemaru), honestly you’re probably better off with the new and improved Talonflame in that role now. (More on it in a second.) If you want Zard, I think it’s still with Wing Attack Its high energy gains bring in wins versus Walrein, Sableye, Skeledirge, A-Wak, Litleo, and sometimes Talonflame. Shadow Charizard has some nice extras like Aurorus, Pidgeot, and wins that non-Shadow can only get with Fire Spin like Cradily and Noctowl, but it misses out on Abomasnow, Lickitung, A-Wak, Altaria, and both Galvantula and Charjabug (which, yes, non-Shadow is able to beat!).


Talonflame FireFlying

Incinerateᴸ | Flame Charge & Fly/Brave Bird

Last year I basically called Talon a worse Charizard. But now? Whole new story with the big buff to Incinerate and the potential of Fly and its prominent lack-of-self-nerfing like you get with Brave Bird. Yes, BB comes with some crazy potential wins like Altaria, Mandibuzz, Mantine, and Diggersby, but with Fly, you get a more consistent performance and wins like… well, both Charizard and the Talon mirror match. That’s a little academic, though… Talon burns through a ton with just its Fire moves. 🔥 (For the record, the only new losses there are other Fires, Dewgong, and Lickitung.)


Skeledirge FireGhost

Incinerateᴸ | Disarming Voice & Shadow Ball

If you haven’t built a Skeledirge yet, what are you waiting for?! It’s been a beast in multiple formats (including Open play) since the day it arrived in GO, and it’s only better now with the newly buffed Incinerate. Not only does it burn through ALL the format’s Grass and Bug types, all Steels but Togedemaru, and all Ice types but Aurorus and the Arctibax family, but also BIG names like Talonflame, Vigoroth, Obstagoon (Disarming Voice is a big help there!), and Fairies like Wigglytuff. With really good IVs it can even do silly stuff like outracing Pelipper. This could be one of the bigger curveballs in this year’s Holiday Cup.


Pidgeot NormalFlying

Wing Attackᴸ | Feather Dance & Brave Bird

Aging like a fine wine with other Flyers (except you, Talonflame) taking some hits of late, Pidgeclaus is coming to town… to blow it away! Yes yes, there are plenty of Ice, Electric, and/or Rock types around to prey on its all-flying moveset, and of course, things can blow if the Feather Dance/Brave Bird bait game doesn’t go your way. But aside from those dedicated Ices, Rocks, and Electrics, and the occasional other problem spot like Skarmory, Pidgeot has the tools and the means to tangle with just about everything. You’ll likely see this bird even more than turtledoves and partridges (whether in pear trees or not!) this holiday season.


Noctowl NormalFlying

Wing Attack | Shadow Ball & Sky Attack

Less explosive than Pidgeot, and that shows in the numbers, but it may end up being more consistent. Shadow Ball is also a nice weapon to answer back Electrics, Steels, and Rocks that resist Flying damage, giving Noctowl an “out” that Pidgeot lacks, making it a much safer swap in general. Even with the nerf to Sky Attack, I think Mr. (or Mrs.!) Owl will be much better and more popular than the simple win/loss numbers show.


Altaria DragonFlying

Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Moonblastᴸ

The good? It’s a Flyer that takes only neutral from Electric and resists ever-more-scary Fire damage too. But the bad, of course, is that double weakness to Ice, especially in a format like Holiday Cup that’s loaded with Ice. In the end, this leaves Altaria very viable but held in check. Beating the (non-flying) Fires without much trouble and things like Lanturn, Stunfisk, and the Electric Bugs is nice. Bonuses like Sableye, Mandibuzz, Pelipper, and Arctibax are just icing on the cake. Note that Moonblast is important for some of those, like Stunfisk, and is great for slamming the door on Darks in the right spot.

MANTINE (Baby Discount™) ⬆️

Mantine WaterFlying

Wing Attack | Ice Beam & Aerial Ace

It’s a whole new ballgame for Mantine this year after the buff to Aerial Ace. No more need for Bubble Beam baiting to victory… you can now just go for the throat and new wins that include Wigglytuff, Dubwool, and even Froslass and the newly improved Vigoroth.


Graveler (Alola) RockElectric

Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge

Arguably Enemy #1 of Holiday Cup Flyers, the Alolan Rocks remain budget heroes, perhaps even moreso with this season’s rise of things like Skarmory, Talonflame, and Mantine. There are good cases for both A-Graveler (more bulk = many safer, more decisive wins) and A-Golem (several closer, scarier wins, but higher Attack can lead to additional wins like Venusaur and Arctibax). But either way, the Alolan Rocks provide equally great coverage versus Flyers, Ices (including fellow rocky Aurorus), Fires, and even most Electrics. They have always been an incredibly good fit in this meta and that continues even as Holiday Cup shifts around them.


Charjabug BugElectric

Volt Switchᴸ | X-Scissor & Crunch/Discharge

An afterthought in the past, but now here it comes charjing in with Volt Switch for a Galvantula-esque performance. But there are several differences. Charj is much bulkier and can hold out to beat Charmers (A-Tails, Wiggly), Mandibuzz, Venusaur, Cradily, Water Gun Lanturn, and Galv itself, whereas Galv and its higher Attack (plus Lunge) overcome things like Sableye, Togedemaru, A-Slash, Vigoroth, Abomasnow, and Pidgeot more reliably instead. Another wrinkle: while X-Scissor comes highly recommended, there’s a choice to be had between Crunch (wins vs Froslass and even Skeledirge) or Discharge (wins vs Wiggly and Skarmory). Either way, this little guy should be very popular now, as it has been across all other GL metas of late.


Raichu Electric

Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Trailblaze

I used to really like the underrated Raichu here because of Brick Break and its advantages versus the big Normals, Rocks, and Ices in this meta. But now? The new Trailblaze is just flat-out better. While BB can sneak away with a win over Vigoroth, Trailblaze instead can instead beat stuff like WG Lanturn and things you’d think BB would be good for like Aurorus, Obstagoon, Lickitung, Dubwool, Dunsparce, and Magnezone, as well as things that are real head-scratchers like Alolan Marowak and Trevenant that resist Trailblaze, but succumb to the Attack boost it provides to Raichu’s other moves. Original Recipe Raichu looks really to blaze a new trail indeed this year. It’s looking scary, folks!

Far less impressed by ALOLAN RAICHU, however. Its Psychic subtyping is more curse than blessing here, holding out to beat Vigoroth well but then flopping versus things OG Raichu can handle like Obstagoon, Mandibuzz (not a good look for an Electric type!), Lickitung, Dunsparce, Aurorus, A-Slash, Sableye, Trevenant, Talonflame and more. Ouch.


Wigglytuff NormalFairy

Charm | Icy Wind & Play Rough

Arguably the best representative of Charmers thanks to its resistance to Ghost damage, though in the past even Wigglytuff struggled here. But it has received TWO new moves since then, both upgrades on what it used to be stuck with. Disarming Voice and Icy Wind give it newfound effectiveness with new wins coming against Froslass (one Ghost it used to struggle with), Lickitung, Dewgong, and the Powder Snow variant of Alolan Ninetales! (It already typically beats the Charm version.) Charmers are still somewhat limited here, but on the right team, one could wreak absolute havoc, and I think Wiggly is ready to wrestle the crown away from A-Tails again.


Whimsicott GrassFairy

Fairy Wind | Grass Knot & Moonblast

Using WHIMSICOTT might seem foolish in a format stuffed with Ice types that prey on Whimsie’s Grass typing, but keep in mind it ALSO resists Electric and Ground and Grass damage, and that combined with no longer being locked behind Charm (instead preferring its new-this-year Fairy Wind) allows it beats things even Wiggly cannot like Stunfisk, Lanturn, the Alolan Rocks, Pelipper, Cradily, Charjabug, and even Vigoroth, though at the cost of NOT beating things Wiggly can like Lickitung, Froslass, Dewgong, Mandibuzz, and PowderTales. But still, this is now a pretty impressive alternative that is very likely to catch the opponent quite off guard, especially early on in the meta. Go try it out!


Meganium Grass

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake

Sticking with Grasses, next, we have… potentially a better Venusaur in Meganium. Yes, its lack of the extra resistances that come with Venusaur’s Poison typing make things like Vigoroth and Charmers very dicey (if not outright losses), but Meg’s better bulk and excellent anti-Electric/Steel coverage with Earthquake allow Meg to take down things like Dunsparce, Walrein, Togedemaru, Magnezone, and even (Shadow Claw) Alolan Sandslash, none of which Venusaur can consistently replicate. I started the article with Venusaur, but I don’t want to play favourites at your expense. If you’re considering a Grass starter, Meg may be your better bet. Check your team composition and see which fits your needs better!


Chesnaught GrassFighting

Smack Down/Vine Whip | Superpower & Frenzy Plant

We missed Frenzy Plant by mere weeks last time, but we got it now! And yes, it’s pretty good as a classic Vine Whipper, handling some things other Grass starters struggle with like Obstagoon, Dunsparce, and Togedemaru thanks to Superpower (and Naught’s Fighting subtyping resisting Rock and Dark damage and making Bug damage neutral). There’s also a very unique Smack Down to consider. Yes, you give up some things like Dewgong, Sableye, Magnezone, Dubwool, Diggersby, Alolan Sandslash (that last case, in particular, being a foot race to Naught’s Superpower), but then Chesnaught becomes a Grass type that can topple Charizard, Talonflame, Altaria, and Mandibuzz (despite being double weak to their Flying moves) and crushes Charjabug. Sometimes crazy strategies like that can give you the edge you need, especially if you can lock in something that expects to beat Chesnaught only to learn their grave error too late.


Obstagoon DarkNormal

Counter | Night Slash & Hyper Beam/Cross Chop

And with Fighting making a showing, now let’s pivot to a couple of the format’s quasi-Fighters. Obstagoon is the cheapest Counter user here, yours for potentially just the measly cost of a second move after evolving up from a hatch-size Galarian Zigzagoon. And Obstagoon and its Counter are quite good in this meta, yes. None of the Ices like it (not even Froslass which is usually troublesome for Fighters and quasi-Fighters), nor other things weak to Counter like Diggersby, Togedemaru, Magnezone, and the Alolan Rocks. And meanwhile, Night Slash handles most of the major Ghosts (Skeledirge, Golurk, and Decidueye are problematic, but that’s about it), and Goon also overcomes things like Mandibuzz, Stunfisk, Lanturn, and Noctowl with a combination of high neutral damage and a big fat closer, Hyper Beam being my personal recommendation for its ability to specifically knock out Stunfisk, Mandi, Mantne, Lanturn, and Altaria, though Cross Chop solidifies some things like Arctibax and Litleo.


Dubwool Normal

Double Kick | Body Slam & Payback/Wild Charge

With Double Kick, Dubwool is a fun little wrench thrown into the works. Beating down all the major Steels, Rocks, Ices, and Normals besides Pidgeot, PowderTales, and Wigglytuff (for rather obvious reasons, no?) is no shocker for a quasi-Fighter, but Dub does so much more. Vigoroth, Froslass, Galvantula, Charjabug, Stunfisk, Lanturn, Skeledirge, and Noctowl are just a few highlights, but there are more. Wild Charge can obviously blow away most of the big-name Flyers (including Charizard, Talonflame, Mandibuzz, Mantine and Pelipper) plus Dewgong, while big fat closer Payback brings out the ghost traps for Froslass, A-Wak, and Trevenant, and is rather key to finishing off Vigoroth, Arctibax, Cradily, Vigoroth Lanturn and others.

Bewear FightingNormal

Ironically, both of those not-actually-fighters are better than actual Fighting type BEWEAR. Don’t get me wrong, Bewear does some nifty stuff (like ripping through Ghosts), but being part Fighter means opening it up to super effective damage from Flyers and other Fighting damage around (losing to Dubwool, for instance). It can be run for sure, but I like it less than the other options above.


Munchlax Normal

Tackle/Lick | Body Slam & Bulldoze

As always, Munchie does a lot of little things well, but there is one rather significant shift now: Lick may be getting surpassed now by STAB Tackle, which seems SO wrong as I write it but is actually SO true. It makes sense when you think about it, though… both fast moves now have the exact same stats, so the only scenarios where Lick is better is when it’s dealing super effective damage. And this is borne out in the wins: Lick uniquely takes out Ghost types Froslass, A-Wak, and Trevenant, but Tackle deals higher neutral damage (thanks to STAB) and beats Abomasnow, Charizard, Dunsparce, Lanturn, Lapras, Lickitung, Litleo, Noctowl, Pidgeot, Talonflame, AND Wigglytuff! Your new favourite is here, and Munchlax is rising to new heights because of it.

Greedent Normal

Fellow beefy Normal type GREEDENT is pretty good too, improved a bit here thanks to new Mud Shot. Still prefer Crunch over the new Trailblaze personally, but I’m sure there are teams that would appreciate the Grass coverage more.


Pyroar FireNormal

Incinerate | Flame Charge & Overheat/Crunch

MUCH more exciting this year with the big Incinerate buff. Pyroar is now more overtly better with wins like Cradily, Mandibuzz, Talonflame, and somehow even Mantine (with nothing but Fire moves!), though Litleo has the better coverage move and tends to survive battles with more left in the tank (and specifically beats Dewgong whereas Pyroar falters).

50,000 Dust/50 Candy


Togedemaru ElectricSteel

Thunder Shock | Gyro Ball & Wild Charge

There’s a surprising amount to unpack for such an unassuming little ball of floof. The Electric side is nothing new: Wild Charge is what puts most Electric types on the map at all, and Thunder Shock is no Volt Switch, but still a great fast move as a clone of Mud Shot/Fairy Wind/Poison Sting/etc. With those, it’s no surprise that it beats the vast majority of Waters (only Water Gun Lanturn and Ludicolo/Lombre give it any real trouble) and Flyers (Gliscor/Gligar, Galarian Zapdos, and Ho-Oh being the only real exceptions). The more interesting part, though, is that Maru is half Steel, just like Magnezone. But unlike Zone, Togedemaru has a Steel move that’s not just primarily a bait move (like Zone’s Mirror Shot): Gyro Ball. It’s not a great move by any means, having the same so-so stats as Bulldoze, Power Gem, and Aurora Beam (60 energy for only 80 damage). But it DOES deal some real damage, and that combined with the extra resistances that come with being part-Steel (twelve of them, including Ice, Rock, Normal, Fairy, Grass, Flying, and Dragon, among those most relevant to this format) allows Maru to beat things like Abomasnow, Venusaur, Altaria, Aurorus, Alolan Ninetales, Wigglytuff, and a slew of fellow Electrics. Or if you really like reindeer baiting games, *Fell Stinger has potential as well!


Magnezone ElectricSteel

Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge

Speaking of ‘Zone, yes, the ceiling is quite a bit higher (for ShadowZone, specifically), and even the floor is relatively safe. ShadowZone can sneak away with some crazy wins with just the right baiting, like Obstagoon, Dubwool, Vigoroth, Talonflame, and Alolan Marowak… things no Steel type should be beating. But Togedemaru can instead beat some things like Venusaur, Alolan Graveler, and Lanturn that ‘Zone normally cannot, and Maru also wins the head-to-head. Both are very viable, I just personally prefer the safer consistency of Togedemaru, but that’s a JRE thing. You do you!


Bellibolt Electric

Thunder Shock | Discharge & Zap Cannon

Nothing particularly special, but bulk can take you a long way. Just check out our next entry….


Lanturn WaterElectric

Spark/Water Gun | Surf & Thunderbolt

Quite a bit different now with rhe changes to Spark, but no less potent than before. Spark not surprisingly is required to guarantee wins like Mandibuzz, Obstagoon, and the mirror match, but it may be a better idea to run Water Gun in Holiday Cup, with which it can do fun stuff like beating Magnezone, Togedemaru, and even Galvantula and scary Stunfisk. In whatever configuration, early results on GO Battle Log show Lanturn as the most used ‘mon so far, so have a good plan to handle it… frequently.


Ludicolo WaterGrass

Bubble | Ice Beam & Leaf Storm

The good? Ludicolo is a Grass not weak to Ice or Fire, and a Water that is not vulnerable to Electric or Grass. But the bad news is that Ludicolo still takes neutral from all of those, so it does not often have a true advantage in that way and is left in a lot of neutral-on-neutral slugfests. Thankfully Ludi has good overall coverage, with a combination of Water, Ice, and Grass damage, so it can wail on just about everything. Put that all together and you get this, a hodgepodge of wins that makes Ludicolo an interesting wild card that can support a number of teams. I don’t generally recommend it over existing Ice Beam or Leaf Storm, but it IS worth noting that Scald is now a thing too.


Ninetales (Alola) IceFairy

Powder Snow | Dazzling Gleam & Weather Ball (Ice)

Charm | Psyshock & Weather Ball (Ice)

Two obvious varieties here. Charmtales is a deceptively solid Charmer that makes full use of its resistance to Ice to beat Walrein, Lapras, Dewgong, and Abomasnow, all of which can give Wigglytuff and especially Whimsicott big problems. (The downside is missing out on Trevenant, Lanturn, Vigoroth, and the A-Rocks that at least one of the others can get.) But much more potent is Powder Snow Ninetales, which quite simply puts on a clinic by walloping its fellow Fairies, Grasses, Flyers, Normals, and Grounds while still slapping around Darks and quasi-Fighters too.


Abomasnow GrassIce

Powder Snow/Leafage? | Icy Wind/Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

Not the best meta for it, as Aboma is an Ice that generally must avoid other Ices, and a Grass that has to be wary of Rocks and Fighters, but it certainly still has a place. Traditional Powder Snow is generally the best bet (buoyed by Icy Wind now with new wins like Togedemaru, Lickitung, Sableye, Galvantula, and the mirror), but Leafage does bear at least some consideration as you build your team.


Froslass IceGhost

Powder Snow | Shadow Ball & Avalanche

Also not the best meta for Froslass, and worse than last year, as most of the new arrivals (Togedemaru, Dubwool, Dunsparce, Aurorus and others) can overcome Lass. But she’s still an Ice that can beat things like Vigoroth and Wigglytuff too, and carries that looming threat of Shadow Ball that will force shields where the opponent really doesn’t want to have to use them.


Piloswine IceGround

Powder Snow | Avalanche & High Horsepower/Stone Edge

Normally Piloswine’s Ground subtyping is more a curse than a blessing, opening it up to all manner of unpleasant vulnerabilities. But in this particular meta, it’s more blessing than curse, giving it an edge against Electrics and Rocks that most of its fellow Ices don’t share, which leads to big wins over all of them besides Lanturn, Togedemaru, Manectric, and spammy Magneton. It’s the only meta Ice type that can consistently beat the Alolan Rocks, for instance, and also Magnezone and Alolan Sandslash when running High HorsepowerStone Edge has a place too for beating Alolan Ninetales (and obviously being better versus enemy Ices in general), but different teams will prefer different coverage. What suits YOUR team better?


Sandslash (Alola) IceSteel

Powder Snow | Ice Punch & Drill Run

Last year I pointed out the merits of second charge moves like Gyro Ball and Blizzard, but that was before Drill Run, the new odds-on favourite. A-Slash is not its usual effective self in this particular meta, though it certainly could chew through a lot on the right team. But speaking of Drill Run…


Dewgong WaterIce

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Liquidation/Drill Run

The past debate over Water Pulse vs Blizzard is over… Drill Run again is [your new champ](). Or IS it? Don’t forget about Liquidation, which drops Togedemaru but can much more reliably beat Fires like Talonflame and Skeledirge.


Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

Yes, especially as a Shadow, Wally is still ready to show its stuff in the Holiday core meta, with Froslass, Sableye, Cradily, Alolan Sandslash, Dunsparce, Water Gun Lanturn, and the Charmers being among its more impressive, less traditional (for an Ice-type) wins.

It’s perhaps a bit less exciting, and far more expensive, but yes, you can still dust off pre-evolution SEALEO as well if you want to.


Cradily RockGrass

Bullet Seed | Grass Knot & Rock Slide/Stone Edge

Still good with Stone Edge, which has the knockout power to smash through Lickitung, Skeledirge, Litleo, Abomasnow, and PowderTales, but there’s a new option this year in Rock Slide, which instead outraces things you would hope Stone Edge could handle (Altaria, A-Wak, Charjabug, Noctowl) and some bonuses like Sableye and Venusaur. Rock Slide is also MUCH better on Shadow Cradily than Stone Edge. But in whatever configuration, Cradily remains potent in controlling many Flyers, Bugs, and Ice types that give most Grasses a lot more trouble.


Vileplume (Shadow) GrassPoison

Razor Leaf | Sludge Bomb & Moonblast/Leaf Blade

Not sure you necessarily want to run a Leafer here, but if you do, I’ll keep saying it until I see people actually starting to use it: Shadow VILEPLUME is just as good, if not better, than the more famous Shadow VICTREEBEL. Plume uniquely beats Whimsicott and Cradily while still beating everything Shadow Vic can in the meta, and usually with more HP left over. Just saying!


Roserade GrassPoison

Bullet Seedᴸ/Poison Jab | Weather Ball (Fire)ᴸ & Leaf Storm

Rose can be fun and potent spice here. With Bullet Seed, it can outrace Aboma, A-Grav, Dubwool, Froslass, Sableye, Vigoroth, and Dewgong. With Poison Jab instead, the unique wins are Galvantula, Magnezone, A-Slash, Lickitung, Venusaur, and Trevenant. Try Rose out and see what you think!


Marowak (Alola) FireGhost

Fire Spin | Bone Club & Shadow Ball/Shadow Boneᴸ

There’s not much left to tease out about longtime staple A-Wak, so I’ll just note that Shadow Ball deserves a look just as much as Shadow Bone, with Ball having the firepower needed to punch out Charizard, Walrein, Arctibax, and win the mirror, and Bone instead outracing Froslassbetter. And that’s even more so with ShadoWak, as Shadow Ball beats everything that Bone can PLUS Talonflame and Cradily.


Palossand GroundGhost

Mud Shot | Shadow Ball & Scorching Sands

One advantage to this article (sadly) coming after the format has already been cooking for a couple of days is getting to see surprises I didn’t expect to pop up. I’ve been seeing quite a bit of it in my own battles, and GO Battle Log currently shows it in the Top 15 overall in usage, and well within the Top 10 in trending teams. This is despite a less than eye-catching record overall, but here’s another of those quality over quantity equations, with wins that include all Electrics (except Water Gun Lanturn) as well as non-Flying Fire types, the big-name Charmers (thanks in large part to wearing them down with Scorching Sands), Rock chuckers like Aurorus and Dunsparce, quasi-Fighters like Vigoroth and Dubwool (even with Payback), and even Alolan Sandslash. It’s kicked my butt a time or two, and could easily spook your opponents too. Just something to think about!


Zangoose Normal

Shadow Claw | Night Slash & Close Combat

It’s cooled off a bit year after year, but the Goose is still… kinda loose? It handles new arrivals Skeledirge and Arctibax, in addition, to equally threatening things weak to Ghost/Dark and things weak to Fighting, and I think remains a bit underrated in Holiday Cup.


Galvantula BugElectric

Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge

The PvP world is starting to pass Galv by a little bit over time as more and more things come along that push it down the rankings. Even in this era of increased Flyers, it’s an Electric type that takes neutral (rather than resisted) damage from Flying, and if resisted Lunge goes through unshielded and the shield is saved for Discharge, it then becomes an Electric that can lose to those Flyers, straight up. Plus it now has Charjabug as a direct competitor. That said, it can absolutely still do a lot of damage, and I noted in the Charj section that there are still plenty of wins Galvantula uniquely gets even in comparison to Charjabug. Galv isn’t finished just yet!


Manectric Electric

Snarl | Psychic Fangs & Wild Charge

Perhaps a little spicy, and likely not as reliable as the numbers show, but uh… the potential is certainly there for some serious spice. If that’s your thing, of course. 🌶️


Dunsparce Normal

Rollout | Drill Run & Rock Slide

With Rollout finally giving it a good fast move, Dunsparce’s potential has been fully realized, as its charge moves Drill Run and Rock Slide have always had huge potential on their own. It all comes together for wide-ranging success. Ice, Flying, Electric, Fire, Bug, Steel, and even most Ghost types ALL hate to see it, and unlike most ‘mons that spew out Ground and/or Rock damage, basically none of them can hit it with anything better than neutral damage in return.

I am rapidly approaching Reddit’s character limit, so just gonna hit the new highlights below and then save the rest for a comment!

75,000 Dust/75 Candy


Vigoroth Normal

Counter | Body Slam & Rock Slide

Viggy was already in the Top 10 last year. But now, it’s the one and only thing that knocks Aurorus off its perch at #1 in Holiday Cup. There is basically nothing that necessitates Bulldoze in this meta… Rock Slide is seemingly a straight upgrade, securing wins against several Ice types (Froslass, PowderTales) and others like Galvantula and Talonflame that want nothing to do with Rock damage. And it remains a threat to nearly everything else, from its domination over Rock, Ice, Steel, and most other Normal types, to outracing bulkmeisters like Lanturn and Stunfisk. Vigoroth was good in past seasons. It’s outstanding this year.


Aurorus RockIce

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Meteor Beam

Formerly ranked #1 in the Holiday Cup, and this year falling all the way down to… merely #2. 🙃 It makes sense, as Aurorus beats ALL the big Flyers, Grounds, and Grasses (with Abomasnow being basically the only exception), but then ALSO goes out and smacks around other Ices besides Steely A-Slash and aforementioned Aboma. It even beats all Fire types (Incinerate included) except Charizard, and all meta Dragons, and then adds on Wigglytuff, Sableye, Charjabug, Galvantula, Dunsparce, and Lickitung, just to show off. Anything that deals Fighting damage is a major blind spot, as are Steels, Lanturn, and the Alolan Rocks. But Aurorus can tangle with just about everything else.


Arctibax IceDragon

Dragon Breath | Avalanche & Dragon Claw

An exciting new arrival this year as a Dragon with a spammy full Dragon moveset that isn’t weak to Ice damage, and puts in a mighty impressive first showing… for those that have managed to find a good one. Availability is still a major issue, but for that have it, Baxter can put in work against a very wide swath of the meta as long as it can avoid Fighting, Rock, and/or Steel damage. Baxcalibur works too but it is flimsier and less effective.


Skarmory SteelFlying

Steel Wing | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

I pointed out last year, even before the Steel Wing buff, that Skarmory is quite uniquely potent in this meta as a Flyer that can also beat down many Ice and Rock types thanks to that very Steel Wing. But it was overall left far weaker and niche than it is now after the buff! It in fact now beats all Ice and Rock types that are not half-Electric, Dewgong, or Alolan Sandshrew (Skarm tends to beat A-Slash), and can similarly defeat all non-Electric Bug and Grass types, and all Dragons and Fairies (even Dedenne… sorry, SwagTips!). Add to that general effectiveness versus Normals (basically all the meta ones but Litleo and Lickitung) and Flyers (all meta except Fires and Mandi) thanks to resisting much of their damage, and Skarmory looks ready to carve up this meta like a Christmas roast.

Okay, switching over to rapid fire to close this out! Most of these are basically unchanged from last year’s Holiday Cup anyway.

Miltank Normal
  • MILTANK continues to be nifty with Rollout, stupidly fast spam with Body Slam, and THREE great coverage moves. Those charge moves come SO fast, with Thunderbolt zapping Mantine, Lapras, WG Lanturn, Walrein, A-Wak, and A-Slash, Ice Beam instead freezing out Altaria, Stunfisk, Whimsicott, Venusaur, and Alolan Graveler, and even Gyro Ball being more than viable for its anti-Ice and anti-Fairy roles, smacking down Froslass, Aurorus, Aboma, A-Slash, and Whimsicott. Because you know how big gyrating cows are a huge part of holiday tradition too! 🐮
Sableye DarkGhost
  • SABLEYE is always a part of the meta too, but honestly, it’s not that impressive here. There’s just too much around that resists Shadow Claw, and while the Fairy threat is low, there is a ton of neutral damage that overwhelms Sable. Not highly recommended, though it’s far from completely unviable in the right hands.
Castform (Snowy) Ice
  • The Snowy version falls off a bit now, but NORMAL CASTFORM appreciates the buff to Tackle and operates as a fun little wild card, with Weather Ball (Rock) for the Flyers and Ices, and Energy Ball for troublesome Waters. I like its potential quite a bit!
Gligar (Shadow) GroundFlying
  • Speaking of potential, GLIGAR has quite a bit of that now (especially in Shadow form, despite scary vulnerabilities (especially to Ice). You can carry over the one you may have recently built for Open.
Luxray Electric
  • LUXRAY has even bigger boom or bust potential. I honestly have a hard time recommending it, but hey, it’s hard to ignore that ceiling!
Lapras WaterIce
  • Do me a favor: if you’re going to run LAPRAS, give strong consideration to Water Gun, which can beat Aurorus, Fires like Litleo, and washes away Walrein and the mirror, giving Lappie a nice niche the other Ice/Waters can’t match. Ice Shard is fine too, but not as unique or special.
  • And a host of the usual suspects keep doing the same thing they’ve done in Holiday Cups past, including STUNFISK (the rise of Flyers makes Thunder Shock the clear favourite fast move now), SNORLAX (and Shadowlax too!), MANDIBUZZFERROTHORNTREVENANT and others. Good luck!

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

Celesteela SteelFlying
  • CELESTEELA is available, assuming you got one from research during the Ultra Beast Arrival weekend recently. It’s generally a worse Skarmory, but running with Smack Down gives it a nice niche: being able to beat down Fires that maim Skarm like Charizard and Talonflame, as well as beating Skarmory in the head to head, and some Ices too (like Lapras). If you have a good one, Holiday Cup offers a nice sandbox to take it for a whirl.
Moltres FireFlying
  • Not new but definitely improved is MOLTRES, an underrated beneficiary of the buff to Wing Attack. It’s not quite on the same level as the more versatile Charizard and Talonflame, but it has closed the distance significantly. If you have a GL-sized one, it’s worth at least a look. (Ho-Oh, however, I am less sure about.)
Zapdos ElectricFlying Articuno IceFlying
  • Conversely, ZAPDOS and ARTICUNO suffer more than benefit from being Flying, as their fellow Electrics and Ices (not to mention Rock types too) come with a big advantage versus them. I have a hard time recommending them, though I can see someone making a good Zappy work for them.
Raikou Electric
  • A reminder for those who built one way back when and then forgot about it: Shadow RAIKOU is viable enough here if you wanna dust yours off. I like it a bit better than Zapdos, at least.
Zapdos (Galarian) FightingFlying
  • Speaking of Zapdos, GALARIAN ZAPDOS brings a new full-fledged Fighter into the meta, but as with the other Birds, Ice and Electric types are still issues, and you gotta watch out for other Flyers too. It can work but will require some fancy team building skillz.
Regice Ice
  • One Legendary that works VERY well here is REGICE, though you more want traditional Earthquake more than newer (and exclusive) Thunder, with Quake’s ability to beat Electrics and Fires like Togedemaru, Magnezone, Lanturn, and Alolan Marowak having more value in this meta. Thunder is mostly superfluous with Blizzard handling Flyers anyway.


In this section, we’ll cover a few mons that are no less “nifty” than those in the main article above but require maxing out beyond Level 40 and dipping into Candy XL, so they are FAR from “thrifty”!

Amaura RockIce
  • So good is Aurorus in this meta, that pre-evolution Littlefoot… er, I mean AMAURA is a very viable option too. Some people have made building a GL Amaura a pet project already, so if that’s you, try it here in Great Valley Cup Holiday Cup and let us know how it goes!
Diggersby NormalGround
  • DIGGERSBY remains quite good here, though it’s always had a Flyer problem, as Mud Shot and Earthquake barely tickle them. Quick Attack takes care of that, bringing Charizard, Noctowl, and Mandibuzz into the win column and giving up only Lickitung to do it. At least in this meta, I think Quick Attack is your new #1!
Lickitung Normal
  • Speaking of LICKITUNG, nothing new as compared to last year… it just keeps plodding along and making players cry. Myself included, as I am STILL woefully short on XLs for it. Darn you, drool face!
Chansey Normal
  • Darn you especially, CHANSEY. NOBODY SHOULD RUN YOU grrrrrr.
Pachirisu Electric
  • The Electric version of Chansey is even more exclusive, as PACHIRISU remains frustratingly out of reach for most players around the world. Those who have it will likely use it though, so be ready! It’s a monster.

Finally done! Though there are even MORE things I could mention, and possibly a couple I forgot about entirely, we’re gonna call it quits here. The format is already underway, and I am SPENT after a loooooong week of writing. Hope this was a help to you, and good luck in your battles!

The format has already begun, so go get it! Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for regular GO 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, especially those of you who took the time to read it ALL! I sincerely hope this helps you master Holiday Cup and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time… and Happy Holidays, Pokéfriends!

(Artwork by arkeis-pokemon, modified by JRE.)

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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