Nifty Or Thrifty PvP Analysis: Retro Cup (GBL Season 11)

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a deep dive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Retro Cup (3.0!), 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 less powering up. Because for those on a stardust budget — and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future — it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it. We all want to field competitive teams, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps channel our inner scrooge?

As I 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, though after that I will have a couple more to talk about that ALSO have high level up costs. I am going to try to be comprehensive with this, but can’t go into detail on everything I want to… it’s a massive meta. To that end, I will also only be highlighting Shadow versions when they’re particularly relevant… many are worse, and that’s what you can infer if I don’t talk about them.

Not a ton changed since the Interlude Season, but new or heavily updated things will be marked with a 💥.

Got all that? Good, because here we go!

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Altaria DragonFlying

Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Moonblastᴸ

The landscape has changed enough to knock Alt down a peg or two, but make no mistake about it: it’s still a top option here. Just check out some of those big names in Altaria’s win column. Hypno. Cresselia. Alolan Marowak. Galvantula. Medicham (even with Ice Punch!). Deoxys (even with Rock Slide!). Drifblim. Trevenant. And more. Nearly everything in the loss column throws out Ice or Rock damage, so don’t let the lopsided numbers fool you. Altaria beats darn near everything else in the meta, and few things appreciate the lack of Steels more. Don’t let the core meta numbers hold you back… most teams will run just one of those many Ices or Rocks that threaten Altaria, if even that. It’s STILL ranked well within the Top 10 for a reason, and is by far the cheapest build in the Top 25.


Noctowl NormalFlying

Wing Attack | Sky Attack & Shadow Ball

While Altaria has fallen back a bit, Noctowl has instead seen a major rise. Partly that’s due to the similar rise in general of Ghosts (and Noct’s double resistance to Ghost damage), with Trevenant, Gourgeist, and Cofagrigus all crashing the party for the first time this go-round. But the addition of Shadow Ball also gives Mr. Owl new reach… and new wins like Mew (even with Wild Charge!) and Shadow Hypno. Come for all that, stay for all else Noctowl can do, like handling Dragons, Lickitung, and even stuff it shouldn’t be able to beat like Abomasnow.


Pidgeot NormalFlying

Wing Attackᴸ/Gustᴸ | Feather Dance & Brave Bird

So some goofball author left Pidgeot out entirely during the Interlude Season version of this article 😵 (after Pidgeot was still banned from GBL the very first time around). What it lacks in Noctowl’s consistency, it more than makes up for in boom potential with Brave Bird and Feather Dance to bait it out. Both Legacy fast moves work well, with Wing Attack outracing Golbat, Shadow Hypno, and impressively both Lapras and Walrein, while Gust instead overpowers Altaria, Mantine, and Shadow Machamp.


Munchlax Normal

Lick | Body Slam & Bulldoze

Another riser as the meta has morphed, Munchie is a relatively cheap and effective generalist and safe swap option, ruining the days of Psychics and Ghosts and outbulking others like Shadow Queen, Galvantula, Golbat, and potentially Regirock and Lickitung depending on timing and IVs. It holds up just as well as famous big bro SNORLAX, who probably needs no introduction… skipping ahead to a 75k option, but Snorlax is also very viable here in basically the same role, albeit a little shakier versus Psychics, better versus Ices, and usually more expensive to build.


Greedent Normal

Bullet Seed | Body Slam & Crunch

Not as oppressive against Ghosts and Psychics, but still beats most of them and more. Greedent is a little tougher on Waters instead thanks to compiling chip damage from Bullet Seed, specifically leading to a win versus Lapras that Munchlax struggles with, and potentially Walrein as well… just spam those Body Slams as fast as possible for that one. And it beats Lickitung more reliably than Munchlax as well.


Gyarados WaterFlying

Dragon Breath | Crunch & Aqua Tailᴸ

Sort of a specialist, but a pretty good oneDragon Breath takes out all Dragons except Stone Edge Flygon and Hakamo-o, Crunch takes care of most of the big name Psychics (even Hypno with Thunder Punch) and Ghosts, Aqua Tail is there for everything else. (Specifically, in the core meta, for beating Whiscash and making A-Wak much easier than even Crunch.) And having good PvP IVs means potentially beating Lickitung too. Or roll with Shadow Gary to swap out Lickitung, Whiscash, and Mantine and instead beat Lapras, Froslass, and (usually) Mew. As with Altaria, the size of the win list is somewhat limited, but the importance of those wins is much higher.


Swampert WaterGround

Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Sludge Wave/Earthquake

Honestly, this is still just a so-so meta for Swampy… even without Grasses in much of the equation, it has to be wary of all the Ices here, and falters against most of the Flyers, Dragons, and many Psychics too, and is extremely fragile to Licktung’s Power Whips. IF you want to try it, I actually recommend Shadow Swampert for once; while it can’t beat Lapras or DDeoxys like non-Shadow can, it it DOES overpower Shadow Hypno, Cofagrigus, and scary Walrein. Swampy and the Mud Boys still do good here and will absolutely still see play, but their luster is a bit duller.


Whiscash WaterGround

Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Blizzard

A different flavor than Swampert, with Blizzard able to potentially knock out things like Altaria, Golbat, Kommo-o, Drifblim, and DDeoxys that Swampert cannot. Conversely, the lower power of Mud Bomb as compared to Swampert’s Hydro Cannon (plus the slowness of Blizzard as compared to Earthquake) leaves Whiscash unable to overcome things Swampy does like Hypno, Galvantula, Shadow Machamp, and Walrein. It’s still a decent all-arounder with nice reach against Dragons and Flyers, but needs some protection overall.


Talonflame FireFlying

Incinerateᴸ | Brave Bird & Flame Charge

Talonflame is good… no huge surprise there. Of course it beats all the big Grasses and (non-Water) Ices, but did you know it also beats several of the big Psychics too? Lickitung XL? Alolan Marowak (even with Hex/Ball)? Dewgong? Altaria? Jellicent? Because with the power of Flame Charge boosts and a well-timed Brave Bird, it can do all of that and more. Yes, Rocks and Waters and Electrics are all a major issue, of course, and there are no Steels to melt down, but Talonflame is likely still going to be a major factor in Retro Cup.

Good old CHARIZARD doesn’t put up the same gaudy numbers as Talon, but it’s still very solid. Loses out to some of those unexpected Talonflame wins—Jellicent, Altaria, A-Wak the most notable—but makes up for it by being even more solid against Fighters (typically outracing Shadow Machamp, for example, which Talon cannot) and beating things like Trevenant and Galvantula that plague Talon as well. It is very possible Zard is a better fit on some teams, so do a quick compare between the two if you plan to use one (I suggest PvPoke’s Team Builder tool) before you settle on one.


Raichu (Alola) ElectricPsychic

Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Thunder Punch/Grass Knot

Notable for being an Electric that resists Fighting AND Psychic damage, which portends good things in this meta. AhChu beats basically all the Fighters AND Psychics you care about, in addition to handling the typical anti-Flying/anti-Water role you expect of an Electric type. I think you want Thunder Punch here for bait potential to set up big fat Wild Charges (and it beats DD and Cress most reliably that way), but Grass Knot is an excellent coverage move that will keep even Grounds on their toes… just the threat of it will force shields where no Electric has a right to be doing so!


Graveler (Alola) RockElectric

Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge

Basically identical in performance against the core meta, ALOLAN GOLEM and ALOLAN GRAVELER share all the same wins (Ices, Fires, Flyers, Dragons, Bugs, and then Cress and S-Hypno) and losses (Fighters, Grounds, most Grasses, the Lickis). (Lapras shows as a loss for A-Golem, but isn’t necessarily.) Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that regular Hypno usually escapes, but overall it’s… well, a rock solid performance, and on the cheap!


Linoone Normal

LINOONE carries the Lax-like role in a slightly different way. It pressures with Shadow Claw just like they do with Lick, slicing through Ghosts and Hypno, Mew, and overcoming Confusion Cresselia too. (Yes, that IS a thing… more on that later.) But Linoone has got some great coverage moves with Grass Knot and Thunder, wrecking Waters and Muds and most Flyers — and specifically enabling it to handle both Trevenant and Walrein, two of the format’s biggest new additions — and setting it apart from Snorlax and Munchlax enough that it well deserves separate, serious consideration.

Bewear NormalFighting

Similarly, the typing of BEWEAR 💥 plus Shadow Claw rips through Ghosts, but then Bewear goes out and embraces its Fighting side for wins over a range of Normals, Rocks, Ices, and a smattering of relevant Dragons and Waters too. I think its record is a bit overinflated due to Drain Punch baits, but this IS a meta where it has a chance to shine.

Golbat PoisonFlying

GOLBAT remains a budget player’s friend, and has some nice wins over Fighters, Ghosts, and even many of the Psychics (including Hypno and DD), as well as most Grasses that could pop up. Shadow Bat drops a couple things like Shadow Hypno and Alolan Marowak to instead outrace Whiscash and Cresselia. But be careful… many of Golbat’s wins are WAY too close for comfort.

Crustle BugRock

CRUSTLE is a cheap build that whiffs on Fighters, several notable Grasses and Waters, and falls disappointingly short against most of the Psychics (usually a Bug strength), but as you can see in that sim, it does a nice job of cleaning up the rest of the riff raff, and has one the best performances in the format if you’re willing to force the issue and burn both shields. Might be an intriguing option as a lead.

Samurott Water

This isn’t a terrible spot for that SAMUROTT languishing on your bench. The Bug moves have some tasty targets here with the big Psychics around, and it helpfully resists Ice and Water and other damage thanks to being a Water itself.

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Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

Last time in ranked Retro, as in many past Cups, Walrein was a pitiable afterthought. But now here it sits, at the time of this writing, at #2 in Retro Cup (AND #3!). And Wally earns it. Beating the Flyers, Grasses, Dragons, and Grounds on that list isn’t overly surprising, but beating Jellicent? Alolan Marowak? Froslass? Regirock? Darned impressive. (And with excellent IVs you can potentially add Cofagrigus, Lickitung, and Hypno to that list too!) Shadow Wally is a small step backwards, losing Abomasnow, Mew, and Regirock to instead beat things like Cresselia, but generally I think I still recommend non-Shadow. This is one to expect to see a lot this week.


Araquanid WaterBug

Bug Bite | Bubble Beam & Bug Buzz

And now, of course, we have the anti-Walrein, able to take whatever Walrein gives it and come out with plemty of life and enough energy to immediately fire off a Bug Buzz at whatever follows or Bubble Beam another thing down a couple times. And there are plenty of other juicy targets for ‘Nid in this meta, not least of which is the wide swath of Psychic types it absolutely dominates (even DDeoxys and Hypno and their scary coverage moves!), plus Fighters and Grasses and Ices and much more besides. Araquanid slides in this time as a Top Ten option.


Nidoqueen PoisonGround

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Stone Edge/Earth Power

This might be one of those rare metas where Stone Edge is actually better than Earth Power. That said, Nidoqueen doesn’t like all the Psychics and Ices and others around that tear into it. But yes, it’s a part of the meta now and will surely pop up throughout the week. Get ready to deal with her.


Cofagrigus Ghost

Shadow Claw | Shadow Ball & Dark Pulse

Bulkier Haunter/Gengar, and a new option we didn’t have last time through ranked Retro. Haunter will come later (and arguably has a little more upside), but for now a quick comparison. Cofag’s bulk allows it to outlast Walrein, Abomasnow, Dewgong, Hypno (regular and Shadow), and Kommo-o, while Haunter’s much higher Attack allows it to instead outrace Altaria, Froslass, Golbat, Lapras, A-Wak, Mew, and Cofagrigus itself.


Marowak (Alola) FireGhost

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

So A-Wak, of course, usually runs with Fire Spin, and its standard moveset certainly works here as well. But if you haven’t figured it out already, this is not a meta where Fire is particularly good. There are no Steels to melt down, no Fairies to smolder, so Fire types in general just become anti-Grass (and sometimes anti-Bug) specialists. This is a meta at least somewhat dominated by Psychic types thanks to having no Steels or Darks around to hard check them. So why not bring out A-Wak’s true potential with Hex and Shadow Ball rather than Shadow Bone? Hex generates more than enough energy to fire Ball off in multiples — Hex actually gets to the first Shadow Ball at the same time Fire Spin reaches the first Shadow Bone, as you can see most clearly here — and now you’re reliably beating Hypno (believe it or not, Hypno has the advantage against Fire Spin or even Hex/Shadow Bone A-Wak variants) and Mew, and outracing Jellicent and Drifblim, beating Dewgong more reliably than with any other moveset, and winning the mirror match (versus ANY other conceivable moveset, including Hex/double Bone)! t’s better than Fire Spin A-Wak with shields down, too. I know it probably seems a little crazy to recommend Alolan Marowak run with no Fire moves at all, but the only major Ice and Grass types it defeats with Fire Spin and does NOT with Hex are Meganium, Sceptile, and Lapras. Big names in there, yes, but with new wins versus the Psychics and Ghosts I mentioned, you likely won’t miss giving up those close Grass/Ice wins all that much. Once more, with feeling: I strongly recommend Hex A-Wak in this meta.

Oh, and don’t forget the new potential of SHADOW A-WAK. It also runs notably better with Hex here, but due to lack of bulk, Shadow Ball may be less preferred than lower energy Shadow Bone, with Bone taking out Drifblim, Froslass, Lapras, Machamp, Mew, Trevenant, and most mirror matches, while Ball only uniquely beats Nidoqueen, Hypno, and Jellicent. Tough choice! 🤔


Hypno Psychic

Confusion | _____ Punch & Shadow Ball

As per usual, it’s not that Hypno is completely dominant and unbeatable, because that’s really not the case. Ghosts still make for a very bad day at the office, and even Shadow Ball is often too slow to turn the tide of those battles (though it certainly keeps things interesting, and is of course a fantastic answer against other Psychics too). Anything with Lick is going to typically beat Hypno down as well, and it can also just be outbulked and/or outraced by stuff like Lapras, Shadow Dragonair, Dewgong, Regirock, Galvantula and others. But make no mistake: in a meta without Darks or Steels to hold them in check, this is very much going to be a Psychic-dominated meta, and Hypno is still the king of that group in Great League. You better bring at least one very solid counter to it each and every time out, or it could pick your entire team apart all by itself. The Shadow version is a solid sidegrade, giving up things like Shadow Abomasnow, Cresselia, Galvantula and Mew to instead beat Lapras, Dewgong, Regirock, and possibly even Jellicent. I slightly lean non-Shadow, but both are equally viable… and equally scary.


Jellicent WaterGhost

Hex | Shadow Ball & Bubble Beam/Ice Beam

So first I’m going to show you some numbers that’ll blow your socks off… but then walk it back a little bit. Because things that utilize Bubble Beam rely pretty heavily on baits, and if those baits fail, the win record suffers. Yes, you can run that version and profit… the ceiling is certainly high, and the reality likely lies somewhere in the middle of that half dozen wins between the best and worst possible. But if I were using JelliBelli here, I think I’d just run Ice Beam alongside Shadow Ball and be done with it. The ceiling is not as high, but the floor is pretty stable too, and you have the advantage against Altaria now and give basically nothing up (from the failed baits simulation, at least) to get there. But regardless of move selection, you beat the vast majority of Psychics (though Cresselia’s Grass Knot is a pain), Ghosts, Fighters, Ices, and more. Jellicent is likely to be a common presence in this meta and is probably the best case for considering running a Grass or Electric at all.


Dewgong WaterIce

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard/Water Pulse

I’ll keep this brief, because you all probably already know what Ice Shard/Icy Wind can do. I just want to spend a quite minute talking about what second move to use. The default most go with is Water Pulse for coverage, but it’s such a BAD move (only 70 damage for 60 energy) that trying to force it is actually no better than Icy Wind alone. No, what you want to run is Blizzard, which gives Gong true closeout potential and allows it to have a shot at Cresselia and Mew and wins against Abomasnow, Shadow Hypno, and believe it or not, Alolan Marowak!


Sealeo IceWater

Powder Snow | Body Slam & Aurora Beam/Return

There are a couple movesets to consider here. Powder Snow with Slam and Return wins the mirror and beats Lickitung, and was my recommendation in the original Retro Cup. But with the rise of things like Trevenant, Nidoqueen, and potentially Kommo-o, Aurora Beam beats all of those plus Drifblim and even Froslass and is, despite being a very poor move on paper, the move you want this time.


Abomasnow IceGrass

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

Yep, Aboma gonna Aboma. Dragons and Flyers beware, and even many Waters, Lickis, Trevor, Cresselia and more. Shadow Aboma may be a near-straight upgrade, gaining Hypno, Golbat, Cofagrigus, and Walrein. I think Shadobama may be the more intriguing play here if you have one ready to go.


Froslass IceGhost

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

Yes, Froslass fans, you can use it here and feel good about it. Lass is not as solid a true Ice attacker as you may think — there are several Grasses and Flyers that can take advantage of its frailty and turn the tables — but what makes Lass special is that, as a Ghost type with Shadow Ball, it beats down the big Psychics, AND holds off many of the big name Fighters too.


Machamp (Shadow) Fighting

Counter | Cross Chop & Rock Slide/Paybackᴸ

Rock Slide or Payback? Both have pros and cons. The former is good for anti-Flying (and anti-Froslass specifically) and general coverage, while the latter has obvious applications versus the potent Ghosts and Psychics in the meta. To get more specific, Shadow Champ with Payback can beat Jellicent (and non-Shadow can also sometimes get Cofagrigus), while Shadow with Rock Slide beats Froslass and has the best shot at Mew, and non-Shadow continues to beat Lass, as well as Walrein. (Technically Wally only requires Cross Chop, which is a win for non-Shadow Champ but usually a mere tie for Shadow.)


Primeape Fighting

Counter | Night Slash & Close Combat

Darks are out, but things with Dark moves are very much still in, and that includes Optimus Primal and its Night Slash. Combined with Close CombatPrimeape actually looks kinda scary, including beating Shadow Champ head to head. Night Slash may not lead directly to wins in those 1v1 shielding scenarios, but it DOES at least force some huge names to shield or face game-altering consequences.


Haunter GhostPoison

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

While famously unable to stand up to Confusion, the OG Ghost pair make excellent Psychic counters otherwise and absolutely shred most Fighters. (Though Primeape can make things very interesting in all the wrong ways!) They also rip through other Ghosts and a lot of other things too, and remain great generalists. Just… just avoid Confusion if you can, m’kay?


Galvantula BugElectric

Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge/Energy Ball

Oh yeah, this is a Galv-friendly meta, with the Electric damage wiping out Waters and Flyers left and right (and dealing big neutral damage all over too), and Lunge really threatening most Grasses and of course the Psychics here as well. I really don’t know that I need to say any more, do I? Galv is good, and while that’s no secret anymore and people basically know what’s coming (other than perhaps the Energy Ball spice if that sounds like you), that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to stop!


Lanturn WaterElectric

LANTURN puts in a fine, workmanlike performance, it’s just not particularly special compared to what things like Galv and other Electrics can do.

Ninetales Fire

NINETALES is yet a fine specimen that just has a diminished role here (though it’s easily one of the best Fires). Nothing wrong with using it, but it misses having Steels to smelt.

Zangoose Normal

And some spice for you: ZANGOOSE holds down Ghosts (and Lickers) and beats Hypno, Confusion Cress, and often Mew as well. But it doesn’t stop there: things like Lapras, Regirock, Sealeo, and Galvantula populate the win column as well thanks to Close Combat (though it does fail to take out Walrein). It lies somewhere between useful specialist and generalist and is a nice dark horse in Retro Cup.

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Trevenant GhostGrass

Shadow Claw | Seed Bomb & Shadow Ball

Arriving as an immediate Top 5 option in Retro, and at this point you probably don’t need me to point out why… but I will anyway. Its Ghost side effectively handles Psychics, Fighters, and most opposing Ghosts (including particularly scary Froslass and A-Wak), while its Grass side picks on Rocks, Grounds, and/or Waters across the meta, AND it goes out and beats Dragonair and Galvantula (well, Electrics in general) for good measure. And Trevor even beats up a lot of things it loses to, like Altaria, Lapras, and Shadow Nidoqueen (it beats regular Queen), all of which it gets down to a dozen HP or less. Make no mistake: Trevenant is very deserving of its high rank and likely to be widespread this time around in Retro.


Drifblim GhostFlying

Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

Considering the prevalence of Psychics (and the Ghosts that counter them), it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Blim works here. It doesn’t have a super expansive role, but it goes out and performs its primary duties: beating down nearly all Psychics and most Ghosts (Haunter/Gengar and, not too surprisingly, Froslass can fend it off, but….), clobbering ALL the Fighters, all Grasses that don’t rhyme with the 44th President of the United States, and all Bugs that aren’t Galvantula or Crustle. Specialist, yes, but one of the better ones in this meta… though Walrein gives it the sads.


Lapras WaterIce

Ice Shardᴸ | Surf & Skull Bash/Ice Beamᴸ/Dragon Pulseᴸ

Wanna see something crazy? Lapras with Dragon Pulse, of all things, shows the best win record against the meta, beating Walrein and Dewgong like Skull Bash can and Shadow Aboma like Ice Beam can. I mean, I’m not saying go out and Elite TM your Lapras to Pulse, but if you’ve been holding onto one all this time, waiting for your chance… hey, go for it! Beyond that, no big surprises though. Lapras is one of the best known commodities in PvP at this point, though I suppose it IS worth noting that yes, it does beat Hypno, even with Thunder Punch.


Castform Normal

Various | Weather Ball & Various

Yes, they are ALL viable. RAINY does a very nice Lanturn imitation (and takes out Walrein), SUNNY is a solid Fire (for what that’s worth in this meta), and SNOWY remains a very underrated little Ice type (that CRUSHES Trevenant). But the most shocking is that NORMAL CASTFORM is actually really solid here. It runs off of Hex, making it a great little anti-Ghost (taking out ALL of them) and anti-Psychic (getting Hypno, Mew, and Psycho Cut Cresselia). And it also outraces Walrein with Weather Ball (Rock) (at least with good IVs), or the Lickis (even XL Lickitung) with Weather Ball (Normal) (if Licki scares you more than Walrein), and also has Energy Ball to beat big Waters like Lapras, Dewgong, and Whiscash, and also gets Galvantula as a nice bonus. The other Castforms you kinda know what to expect, but who saw THAT coming? Normal Casty carried my own team last time through Retro… it comes highly recommended.


Dragonite (Shadow) DragonFlying

Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Hurricane/Draco Meteorᴸ

Perhaps the ultimate generalist… with Steel and Fairy out of the meta, there is literally nothing that resists Dragon Breath. So even with Shadow Nite being worryingly frail (and Ices being a thing), it’s still able to pressure a good chunk of the meta, including big name Fighters, Ghosts (including fellow glass cannons Haunter, Gengar, and Trevenant), and Mud Boys, and bonuses like Hypno, Galvantula, Mantine and more.


KOMMO: Dragon Tail | Dragon Claw & Close Combat

HAKAMO: Dragon Tail | Brick Break & Dragon Pulse

Hakamo has the spammier Fighting damage with Brick Break and closes with Dragon Pulse, while Kommo has the spammy Dragon damage with Dragon Claw and closes with Close Combat. Ironically, Hakamo-O is a little better overall, with the unique ability to beat out Araquanid, Drifblim, Jellicent, Lapras, and Kommo-O itself mostly thanks to big neutral closing power from Pulse, while Kommo-O instead punches out Dewgong, Froslass, and often Mew. Both are intriguing (though not overpowering) options for those who have one ready to use.


Snorlax Normal

Well worth mentioning SNORLAX again, especially Shadow Lax. It’s one of few things that can tangle with Trevor AND Wally, as well as, obviously, a WIDE swath of other things. Don’t mistake its low placement in the article for anything other than me already mentioning it alongside Munchlax. ShadowLax is ranked within the Top 25, and honestly might deserve being much higher than that.

Oranguru NormalPsychic

Fellow beefy Normal ORANGURU is well worth a look. It outbulks a TON of things and is quite good versus Psychics AND Ghosts, sort of carrying the Dark role in a format without Darks. (Having Foul Play helps too, of course). Sadly it does fail to outbulk Walrein, but that’s hardly enough to tarnish all the good it CAN do.

Vigoroth Normal

VIGOROTH is just okay overall, but the two ways it stands out is being a “Fighter” that double resists Ghost damage, allowing it to handle Lickitung better than nearly anything else, and actually beating Haunter and Gengar straight up thanks to Bulldoze. It’s a pretty handy specialist… and beats Walrein’s tusked face in, of course.

Gallade (Shadow) FightingPsychic

Someone out there is going to run SHADOW GALLADE, so study that win/loss record and be ready for it. Someone even crazier will even run it with Charm, so be ready for THAT too.

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Cresselia Psychic

Confusion/Psycho Cut | Grass Knotᴸ & Moonblast

So here, once again, we get into some more weird moveset hijinks. The gold standard is usually Psycho Cut/Grass Knot/Moonblast, which is still just fine, yes. However, in a meta where Confusion is powerful, I think it may actually be the preferred fast move for Cress too, picking up wins over A-Wak, Abomasnow, Galvantula, and Shadow Queen, and giving up only Shadow Dragonair to do it.


Regirock Rock

Lock-On | Stone Edge & Focus Blast

No Registeel, no problem? Regirock is actually pretty underrated, with Steel getting all the attention normally, but ‘Rock is just as good if not even better, and one of ‘Steel’s biggest advantages in open play — resisting Charm — is basically nowhere to be found in Retro Cup. Regirock obviously crushes Flyers and Ices, but also plows through the likes of Hypno and Galvantula and, interestingly, every Ghost here that isn’t part Grass or Ground. If you’re lucky enough to have one at Great League size, this is a great place to deploy it.


Deoxys (Defense) Psychic

Counter | Psycho Boost & Thunderbolt/Rock Slide

Not overly oppressive, but absolutely a part of this meta. This time I think it’s Psycho Boost that’s the must-have, and Thunderbolt gets my vote as the second move. With that configuration you win things like Medicham and the mirror match, whereas Rock Slide merely allows you to outrace Lickitung (not that that’s nothing!). Whatever moves you prefer, DD should feast.


MEW is obviously very viable and very customizable; not much sense in showing a lot of sims with all the possibilities, but the popular ones in Open GL work here too…. Yes, popular Legendary spice SHADOW ZAPDOS works…. SHADOW MEWTWO is glassy AF, and so you want Psycho Cut to push out Psystrike and Shadow Ball as early and often as you can before it dies (Confusion doesn’t really cut it, but Mewtwo can wreck some face before it goes down. Yes, you CAN run Mewtwo here!

And finally, our last and probably most expensive section:


Second move costs are a very small part of the story here, as these all need to be maxed, and ideally well into XL range at that. Let’s go through them rapid fire style:

Lickitung Normal

LICKITUNG‘s potential dominance cannot be understated. Other than Fighters and a handful of others, the thing holding it back the most is cost, as Lickitung needs to be pushed right up to Level 50. But uh… yeah. If you see one up near 1500 CP, buckle in for a bumpy ride. I’ve tried to highlight throughout the article things that handle it, but here is the full list (everything with a score under 500). Good luck. (You can consider LICKILICKY a much cheaper — but also less potent — replacement as sort of a Ghost-heavy Snorlax.)

Medicham FightingPsychic

MEDICHAM is of course its usual self, but it doesn’t jump off the page that much compared to other (much cheaper) Fighting options already discussed. If you have one built and maxed already, of course you can roll with it. But if you don’t, I think you can plug and play a Shadow Champ or even something like Primeape in really not miss out on much besides (still) losing to Psychics a bit less harshly.

Diggersby NormalGround

DIGGERSBY does do some nice things, including trouncing even Grass Knot Lickitung and most all Ghosts and Electrics, but it’s inconsistent versus the Psychics and has to be wary of Ice AND Water AND Fighting, which may be a bridge too far.

Wobbuffet Psychic

IF you just desperately want to run Charm, WOBBUFFET is probably THE way to do it. But even it is better off without Charm, running Counter instead for a more expensive role at the cost of being worse versus other Psychics.

Chansey Normal

And finally, repeat after me: DO NOT RUN CHANSEY. But someone out there (likely with a career trajectory of being the next Bond or Batman villain 🤪) WILL roll out their prized, maxed out Chansey, so steel yourselves for the Chansocalypse. Timeout is still a very real strategy, but as much as I absolutely hate to say it, Chansey can just flat out beat a decent number of things in this meta.

And that’s it! As I said at the beginning, this is not fully comprehensive… there’s just too much to cover! I tried to hit the highlights and some of the better spice, but there are other Pokémon out there that folks will make work for them, and that’s great! Hopefully this DOES help you start to balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!) and form the framework of your team. Best of luck!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Retro Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. 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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