Pokémon GO Mountain Cup PvP Analysis – Nifty Or Thrifty Edition

Discover best Pokémon to power up for your hard earned Stardust during Mountain Cup with our Nifty Or Thrifty PvP Analysis.

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Mountain 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 and/or leveling up! Because for those on a stardust budget — and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future — it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it.

So as I try to 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. I do try and put extra emphasis on the thriftier stuff, especially for formats like this where you may not use some of these things much in the future. (For a rough guide to reusability, though, I will rank things with ♻️s, with three being solid in other Great League formats, two being okay in at least certain Cup formats, and only one being something that, honestly, you’re unlikely to use again.)

A quick reminder of what Mountain Cup is:

  • Great League, 1500 CP Limit.
  • Only Ground, Ice, Steel, and Rock type Pokémon are eligible.
  • Swampert is banned.

Okay, enough intro. Let’s dive in!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy


Diggersby NormalGround

Mud Shot/Quick Attack | Fire Punch & Earthquake/Hyper Beam

So let’s talk about Ground, right here from the get-go. This meta is stuffed with Steel and Rock types, both of which Ground hits super effectively (and resists, in the latter case). Ground is, of course, weak to Ice, but even that is somewhat mitigated here with Diggersby’s Fire Punch… it may not actually beat many Ices that way, but it at least keeps them on their toes. (As well as, conveniently, Grass types that try and prey on Ground types as well.) In the end, when you add that all up with Diggersby’s incredible bulk and extra resistance to Ghost (thanks to its Normal typing), you get this. Not a meta-busting performance, granted, but a very solid one, and one with some alternative options, even. Mud Shot and Earthquake drives wins versus Lucario, Empoleon, and Aurorus, but Quick Attack and Hyper Beam instead slam the door on Walrein, Marshtomp, and Gliscor. Or heck, you can even go with something like Quick Attack/FP/Quake to try and capture some of each. Pick your pleasure! I will recommend that if you try and go with a low rank, hundo (or near-hundo) Diggs, Mud Shot/Quake seems to be your best bet, beating all the same stuff as higher rank Diggersby with the sometimes-exception of Lucario or Escavalier and their scary Counter damage. Play around in those sims with your own IVs and see what happens.


Whiscash WaterGround

Mud Shot/Water Gun | Mud Bomb & Blizzard

Not nearly as much moveset variance with good old Whiscash… you clearly want Mud Bomb and Blizzard, as always. There IS some potential intrigue with the fast move, though. Mud Shot is the standard and the one you will surely see the most, but there IS a case for Water Gun, which loses to Lucario but beats down Escavalier instead. Either way, the overall performance (and what you beat) is pretty similar to Diggs, but you do beat Diggersby head to head, and Froslass, at the cost of losing to things like Skarmory and Ferrothorn that hate Diggersby’s Fire Punches.


Marshtomp WaterGround

Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Returnᴸ/Surf

With no Swampert, your only other 10k Mud Boy option is Swampie’s little bro Marshtomp. And on the surface, it’s subpar, even with Return for closing power. But there is hidden value here, such as being able to take out Dewgong and Lapras that Diggs and Whiscash cannot… thanks to Return. On the flipside, it only beats Diggersby if it has Surf, and flops versus Skarmory, Runerigus, Froslass, Ferrothorn, Escavalier, and Quagsire no matter what moves you’re using. Especially when compared with the others above, Marshie is kinda niche.


Torterra GrassGround

Razor Leaf | Sand Tomb & Frenzy Plantᴸ/Stone Edge

And now for something completely different. In a meta with so many big name Grounds and/or Waters and/or Rocks, Grass is obviously a potent option. Just by typing, it resists Ground AND Rock damage coming back at it too, though at the cost of being double weak to Ice. In the end, that leaves it a very good role player, able to rip through all of the above Pokémon along with most of their fellow Waters and/or Grounds, and despite that fragility to Ice, it can even take down Walrein and Aurorus. Oh, and it beats prominent Cradily as well. The big downside is a complete lack of shield pressure, and that you basically need a Shadow version to get all that… non-Shadow struggles to beat Cradily and Aurorus. And even the one big plus that comes with non-Shadow — taking down Ice Shard Lapras — can be mostly matched by a Shadow with higher Attack. Recommend rolling with Shadow and not looking back.


Empoleon WaterSteel

Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Drill Peck

Another way to smash through Grounds and Rocks and NOT be resisted by Steel is Water. Empoleon puts out plenty of Water damage, but the obvious downside is that its Steel subtyping makes it weak to Ground itself. In the end, as with Torterra, there’s good and bad here, with Empie washing away Rocks and Ices left and right, and stuff like Skarmory, Cradily, and even Abomasnow (thanks to Drill Peck), but flopping against most Grounds, Bugs, and other Grass types. Empoleon has a role to play for sure, but it’s not quite as potent as you’d probably like it to be.

WORMADAM (Trash) ♻️♻️♻️

Wormadam (Trash) BugSteel

Bug Bite | Iron Head & Bug Buzz

It’s Bug Bite you want in this meta, as it beats a slew of things Confusion and its sloooooow cooldown cannot, like Lapras, Aurorus, Ferrothorn, Quagsire, and Marshtomp. Perhaps even better is that you can build a lower rank Trashadam without needing any XL Candy and still get the same performance! A performance that includes the big Grasses, Ices, and Mud Boys. Not too shabby!


Magcargo FireRock

Incinerate | Rock Tomb & Overheat

You would be forgiven for thinking that Mags would be choked right out of this meta with the Mud Boys and so many Grounds and Rocks around in general. And indeed, Magcargo needs to avoid them like the plague, but it does plenty of good elsewhere, roasting numerous big name Steel, Ice, Grass, and/or Bug types, and Runerigus for good measure. Be ready with a quick hook if you can for the hard counter matchups, but on the right team, I think Magcargo could feast in this meta.

LUCARIO (Baby Discount™) ♻️♻️

Lucario FightingSteel

Counter | Power-Up Punch & Close Combat/Aura Sphere/Shadow Ball

Wrapping up this section with a GREAT one, as Lucario is ready to rumble in this meta. 🥊 Fighting is incredibly handy in Mountain Cup, beating up on Steel and Rock and Ice types and dealing at least neutral damage to nearly everything here…just a handful of Ghosts and a small group of Grounds with a Poison, Flying, Psychic, or Bug subtyping actually resist Fighting damage, and Luc still beats most of them anyway! The really scary thing is how much of that work comes with just Counter and Power-Up Punch 👀… other charge moves are really only needed for things like Froslass, Quagsire, and Gliscor. Shadow Ball or Aura Sphere work equally well, but the “best” may be Close Combat, which can also outrace Diggersby. Lucario has been big in several past formats (most recently this season’s Fantasy Cup up in Ultra League), but this may actually be its best format yet. Get ready to see everybody who has a shiny one pulling it out to show off!

50,000 Dust/50 Candy


Escavalier BugSteel

Counter | Drill Run & Megahorn

Now that we’ve looked at the success Lucario can have, Escavalier’s high success rate is probably not a huge surprise. In many ways, this is about the best meta it could ask for… Steels and Ices and Rocks to both resist AND pick on with Counter (and Drill Run, as needed), big Megahorn to take down Grasses and knock aside tanks like Whiscash, and hardly any Fire around to exploit the one and only weakness of Steely Bugs. (Really just Diggersby’s Fire Punch, Mawile’s Fire Fang, and maybe the occasional Magcargo or Hippowdon.) As with Lucario, this might be the best meta Escavalier has seen yet. Get ready to feast.


Donphan Ground

Counter | Body Slam & Play Rough/Heavy Slam/Earthquake

Not nearly as overpowering as Luc or Escav, but Donnie has Counter too, a unique mono Ground typing, and spammy Body Slam to keep a range of opponents on their toes. The problem is that its tying is pretty easily exploited, and it doesn’t operate very well as a non-Shadow, needing a Shadow boost to hit key breakpoints against several opposing Pokémon in this meta. As a Shadow, in becomes more interesting, though not so much with Earthquake (which it just has trouble reaching in time)… it looks more promising with Heavy Slam (which adds on Dewgong, Lapras, Cradily, Ferrothorn, AND Gliscor) or, even better, Play Rough (which further adds on Quagsire and Registeel, despite the latter resisting it). This is admittedly much more a spice pick than the true meta pick that Luc and Escav represent, but it’s a nice way to immediately make use of those Shadow Phanpys that arrive this coming weekend.

Lycanroc (Midnight) Rock

I’ll also give a quick shout-out here to LYCANROC (Midnight), which for once doesn’t have much use for Stone Edge, and instead wants to run Psychic Fangs and widely-unresisted Crunch, powered out by, of course, Counter. Crunch is not a straight upgrade, as Stone Edge is usually needed to punch out Gliscor and Alolan Ninetales, but Crunch uniquely beats Froslass, Ice Shard Lapras, Ferrothorn, and Galarian Stunfisk instead. Yeah… you can probably see why Crunch gets my vote.


Perrserker Steel

Shadow Claw | Foul Play & Close Combat

No Counter here, but Close Combat dishes out Fighting damage when you need it, primarily against Ice types like Abomasnow, Dewgong, and Aurorus that require a well-timed CC to overcome, and Perrserker’s mono Steel typing is handy for beating Ice and Grass types in general (with bonuses like Skarmory and Runerigus). If you only have them with hatch-level IVs, don’t fret… higher Attack may actually be preferred here, winning not only the mirror but also Galarian Stunfisk and potentially Shadow Gliscor too!


Runerigus GroundGhost

Shadow Claw | Sand Tomb & Shadow Ball

Another Shadow Claw user that may want higher Attack is Runie, which is fine with average IVs, but gains the mirror (obviously) and potentially Aurorus with an elevated Attack IV. Either way, you dominate the Counter users (Ghost double resists Fighting, remember) and manage to outduel several notable Steel and even opposing Ground types. I think Runerigus could definitely be a nice role player on the right team. Also worth pointing out that it gets really nasty in 2v2 shielding as Sand Tomb debuffs pile up.


Froslass IceGhost

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

As per usual, Froslass looks average in sims, but the actual impact she has on the meta is likely to be much higher as players agonize about trying to guess when the Shadow Ball is coming with each shielding decision. That all said… this IS a meta filled with a number of things that resist Ice, so Froslass can have just as difficult a time trying to land Shadow Ball, as having an Avalanche or two go through unshielded at the wrong times can prove equally disastrous. Froslass users that enjoy such mind games: here’s another chance.

WALREIN ♻️♻️♻️

Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

With steady Ice damage to maim much of the meta and Earthquake for the otherwise scary Steels and Rocks, you almost feel like Walrein should do better than this. It is absolutely still a great performance (including Shadow Wally, you just might be left wanting a little bit more. Well, with high rank/high bulk IVs, you DO get more, with Ice Shard Lapras and sometimes Quagsire moving into the win column, so there’s that.

DEWGONG ♻️♻️♻️

Dewgong WaterIce

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard

I’ll keep saying it until I’m as blue in the face as I would be under an Icy Wind assault… run ]Blizzard, not Water Pulse. With Blizzard you can steal wins versus Ferrothorn and Quagsire and others that likely won’t see it coming… including potentially even Galarian Stunfisk if Gong has a higher Attack stat! Dewgong is more consistent than Walrein in grinding down Grass types (Wally struggles mightily versus Cradily, Torterra, AND Ferrothorn) and Skarmory as well, not needing any particular IV or Shadow trickery to take them out. Don’t forget about the OG Water/Ice bulkmeister! I actually lean slightly towards Dewgong over Walrein here, which I did NOT expect going in, but both have plenty of value (and Wally does have more at least theoretical “out”s in bad spots).


Sealeo IceWater

Water Gun/Powder Snow | Body Slam & Aurora Beam/Returnᴸ

Powder Snow plays similarly to the other Icy Waters above, with only Mawile and Galarian Stunfisk standing out as things it struggles with that at least one of Walrein or Dewgong can conquer. What could separate is a bit is running Water Gun, which carries the same record but gets there its own way, shedding Cradily and Torterra to instead beat Mawile and Empoleon and easily beat Froslass. If I were to run Sealeo, that’s how I would do it. And don’t forget the potential of Return on your purified Sealeos as a big fat neutral beatstick… again, something the other Watery Ices above lack.


Sandslash (Alola) IceSteel

Shadow Clawᴸ | Ice Punch & Bulldoze

Double resists Ice, resists Grass, deals widespread neutral damage with Shadow Claw, spammy Ice damage with Ice Punchand has Bulldoze for the Steels? What’s not to like? Weeeeeell… there’s also a weakness to Ground just like other Steel types, no real way to threaten Water tyoes, and critical double weaknesses to Fire and Fighting damage that will likely be on the majority of teams. So in the end, A-Slash will surely make an impact, but where it loses, it can lose alarmingly quickly. High risk, high reward.


Ninetales (Alola) Ice[Fairy]

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

slightly lean towards ShadowTales here, as it can overpower Cradily, Runerigus, and Skarmory with just its Ice moves, unlike non-Shadow (which instead can outlast Froslass). But if you DO run non-Shadow, I recommend looking at the unconventional Ice Beam rather than Dazzling Gleam. Yes, it leaves you without coverage, but really the only coverage you’ll usually need is versus Steels, and they resist Gleam anyway. At least Ice Beam gives you the closing power to finish off Cradily, Runie, and Skarm too, and non-Shadow can also outlast Quagsire while Shadow cannot. I do NOT really recommend CharmTales here.


Piloswine IceGround

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Stone Edge/High Horsepower

Piloswine still has problems that hold it back, namely being an Ice type that doesn’t resist Ice and takes super effective from Water and Grass, and a Ground that gets burned by Fighting damage and, well, Fire as well. But its moves keep it relevant, with either Stone Edge for opposing Ice types (beating A-Ninetales, for example) or High Horsepower for opposing Steels and even some Grounds (beating Quagsire this way, as well as solidifying an otherwise very shaky win over Galarian Stunfisk).


Nidoking PoisonGround

Double Kick | Sand Tomb & Earth Power

Now HERE is a spicy pick. Nope, not Nidoqueen, which really struggles here. But Nidoking finally has a spot to make use of its funky moveset. Earth Power is still key, but instead of oft-resisted Poison Fang that Queen has, Nidoking uses oft-effective Sand Tomb to set things up. The real key, though, is Double Kick, which is of course a coveted-in-this-meta Fighting move. Add it all together, and there’s some real potential here, particularly with Shadow King that can further add on Quagsire, Diggersby, and even Dewgong!


Quagsire WaterGround

Mud Shot | Stone Edge & Earthquake

Lord Quag is always the forgotten Mud Boy, and if I’m being honest, in this meta, it does trail the others. But what it has that the others lack is a true anti-Ice weapon with Stone Edge that can punch out things like Dewgong, Walrein, and Froslass without a moment’s notice. And it does get more interesting with high rank IVs, adding Diggersby, Escavalier, and a surer win over Walrein.


Gastrodon WaterGround

Mud Slap | Body Slam & Earth Power

Unique among the Mud Boys thanks to heavy fast move pressure with Mud Slap, literally slapping Steels aside left and right, as well as Aurorus, Lapras, and the other Mud Boys! With some extra Attack, it can do all that AND overcome Escavalier as well! Don’t sleep on the slug, folks.


Abomasnow GrassIce

Powder Snow/Razor Leaf | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

So first off, this does have the look of a meta that favors Shadowbama over non-Shadow, with Shadow able to overpower things non-Shadow cannot like Cradily, Skarmory, Lapras, and Walrein. There’s also Razor Leaf to consider, which you may remember was very effective in Weather Cup and works similarly here, shredding Waters (Lapras, Walrein, Dewgong, even Empoleon) like nobody’s business, and even Alolan Ninetales.


Cradily RockGrass

Bullet Seed | Stone Edge & Grass Knot

And speaking of Weather Cup, the terror of that format works here too, still shredding Waters (and now Grounds and Rocks) with its Grass damage and smashing Ice types with Stone Edge. Consider one with extra Attack, which does abandon a close win over Abomasnow, but gains Galarian Stunfisk (and the mirror match). You know I gotta say it… dilly dilly!

75,000 Dust/75 Candy


Ferrothorn GrassSteel

Bullet Seed | Power Whip & Mirror Shot/Flash Cannon

The utility of its Grass side should be obvious by now, though Ferrothorn has the extra advantage of making Ice coming back its way deal only neutral damage, a huge plus in this meta that makes things like Dewgong, Walrein, and Lapras much more surefire than other Grass types. And conveniently, Ferrothorn also double resists Grass damage and thus it beats down those other Grasses as well. These are both helped by utilizing one of Ferro’s Steel charge moves, either Mirror Shot to pick away and bait shields, or Flash Cannon for big booms instead. (Mirror is better in 2v2 shielding, while Flash is superior with shields down, both for rather obvious reasons.) You do have the common Steel problems of Fighting and especially Fire damage to avoid, and Ferro has no real answers for enemy Steel types, but there are several teams that have a Ferrothorn shaped hole on them. It’s really good in Mountain Cup.


Forretress BugSteel

Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake

Bigger, fatter, spinnier Trashadam, basically. The biggest difference is that Trashy’s closer is Bug type, whereas Forret rolls with Earthquake, with which it can bury Galarian Stunfisk and Perrserker that Trashadam cannot. Otherwise they play very similarly, honestly, with the caveat that Trashy brings a little more pressure to Ice types with Iron Head than Forret does with underpowered Mirror Shot (shown most clearly by Trashadam beating Dewgong while Forret typically falters). As with most Shadows I have not specifically mentioned above, Shadow is less recommended here.


Skarmory SteelFlying

Air Slash/Steel Wing | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

This is another of those metas where Steel Wing may shine, with nice wins over Aurorus and Diggersby and, as anyone who played Flying Cup knows (shudder), the mirror match. But yes, Air Slash will likely be more standard, with its own wins over Lapras, Gliscor, and Marshtomp. Either way, I like how Skarm looks more than I expected to in this Ice and Steel and Rock filled meta. I give it a thumbs up, and I did NOT expect to be doing that going in!


Mawile SteelFairy

Fire Fang | Power-Up Punch & Iron Head

With so many flammable things in this meta, it’s back to old-school Fire Fang Mawile instead of the now-more-common Fairy Wind. You burn through all the Grasses and most big-name Steels and Ices that way, even stuff like Lapras, Empoleon, and Aurorus that take only neutral from Fire, and scary Counter users as well. Shadow Mawile works fine too, though it usually misses out on Registeel, taking down Dewgong instead. In addition to the mandatory Power-Up PunchIron Head is important for helping ensure wins over things like Cradily and Lapras.


Stunfisk (Galarian) GroundSteel

Mud Shot | Rock Slide & Earthquake

Yes, it’s here, it’s good, get used to it. We’re all suffering together. It does flop versus the Mud Boys (and Diggersby) and most of the Grasses, and wants nothing to do with the Counter users unless it’s ahead on energy or shields. But uh… yeah. We’re gonna have to just hunker down and endure it this week. I’m no happier about it than you are!


Gliscor GroundFlying

Wing Attack | Night Slash & Earthquake

Not a lot of Flyers in this meta, and the rest are Steel, Rock, or Ice types, meaning that Gliscor (and Gligar) is the only one that actually resists Fighting damage… and yet it STILL loses to Lucario! Bah. It still does more than enough else to be viable, perhaps Shadow Gliscor in particular with its extra win over Whiscash, and its performance is perhaps even better than the numbers, as nearly all of its losses are to Ice types which deal double super effective damage. For now, I’ll call it a wild card with a good deal of upside, for those who want to try to make it work. It can wreck an Ice-free team, for sure.

Gligar GroundFlying

GLIGAR itself comes less recommended, being stuck with the subpar Dig rather than Gliscor’s far better Earthquake.

LAPRAS ♻️♻️♻️

Lapras WaterIce

Water Gun/Ice Shardᴸ | Surf & Ice Beamᴸ/Skull Bash

Maybe you saw this coming with my other odd moveset recommendations above, but yeah, I am NOT recommending Ice Shard here, even though Lapras takes down Gliscor and Torterra that way. Instead, I firmly believe Water Gun is the way to go here. With that, you add on wins versus G-Fisk, Registeel, Mawile, Cradily, Aurorus, Empoleon, and the mirror match. As with Sealeo, Water Gun really separates Lapras from the Walrein/Dewgong crowd and makes it an extremely potent threat in this meta. Just don’t go with Shadow Lapras… you want to hold onto that bulk!


Aurorus RockIce

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Meteor Beam

Particularly with high rank IVs (with which you gain Abomasnow), Aurorus is a risky but deadly option. It’s an Ice that is kind of awkward versus Grounds that a good Ice should dominate, and similarly has to tiptoe a bit around Grass types too, and it’s even more vulnerable than most other Ices when faced with Fighting or Water damage. But it pretty well dominates other Ice types, and beats up more than enough things to be recognized as part of Mountain Cup’s “core meta” Pokémon.

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

Bringing it home with a quick bulleted list here. Strap in!

Registeel Steel
  • sigh. Yes, just like G-Fisk, this meta means we have to just suck it up and deal with REGISTEEL. With its moves that rip into Steel, Ice, Rock, AND Water and Flying types, it is particularly well-positioned here, too. Fighters and Grounds and the little bit of Fire in the meta are key to holding it down, making up literally its entire loss list. Get ready, folks… if you’re sick of the Doorknob Of Doom already, you likely will be in a week!
Regirock Rock Regice Ice
  • Not quite to the same degree, but REGIROCK and REGICE will be making some noise in this meta as well, especially now that MANY more players have Great League ones after they were handed out at the beginning of Hoenn Tour. (Perhaps the only good surprise from that weekend?)
Kartana GrassSteel
  • KARTANA remains more elusive than the Regis in Great League, but if you have one, it’s actually really good here, similar to Ferrothorn but obviously more focused on grindy fast move damage than charge moves. That said, it was perhaps the best array of charge moves on any Razor Leaf user out there, with THREE of them costing only 35 energy. This may be your best EVER opportunity to deploy your GL Kartana, so don’t miss out!
Articuno IceFlying
  • The prospect of deploying ARTICUNO in a meta with so many scary Steel, Rock, and Ice types around is daunting, but at least on paper, it holds up surprisingly well! Legacy move Hurricane helps quite a bit by taking down Quagsire, Froslass, and Escavalier that otherwise shrug off Artie’s Ice damage, and it does a fine job versus Grasses and Grounds in general, not surprisingly. If you have one for Great League, it’s worthy of real consideration.
Melmetal Steel
  • If you paid for Double Iron Bash MELMETAL, here’s a good opportunity to make use of it. Rock Slide variants are okay too, but only with the speed of D.I.B. can you reliably outrace Walrein and even Lucario! This is one of those rare opportunities for Mel to crash into a Great League party.


Last couple things are massive XL Candy projects, so look for them in lucky trades!

Bonsly Rock
  • Everybody always gets excited when BONSLY is viable, so here you go: Bonsly is viable! Knock yourselves out, friends.
Lileep RockGrass
  • Same thing for the 17 of you out there that actually have the no-longer-obtainable Bullet Seed LILEEP. Have fun… but the rest of us still detest you. 😝 /s

And that’s it, JUST before the buzzer! Go forth and do good things with this information… I hope it sets you up for a successful and FUN week in Mountain Cup. ⛰️ Best of luck!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for regular 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 climb to success in Mountain Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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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