Nifty Or Thrifty PvP: Fighting Cup Remix (and how to handle Toxicroak!)

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Hello again, fellow PvPers!

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats — Fighting Cup Remix, in this case — particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust. As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs… or don’t need a second move at all! Because especially for one-week formats like this, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to compete without breaking our budget.

Especially a format like this, which was a very condensed meta last time and looks potentially even more so this go-round. Niantic chose to mix things up and ban a handful of Pokémon, which I’ll quickly list here.

FIGHTING CUP REMIX BANS

Now for availability purposes, I TOTALLY get Buzzwole and especially Sneasler. The former has been made available at Great League level, but only during a couple one-day (not EVEN a full day) events, so accessibility has been limited at best. The latter is not even possible to fit in Great League without some “shenanigans”, such as hatching a Hisuian Sneasler with a low level account, turning it into a Sneasler (under Level 20, due to aforementioned low level account), and then presumably trading it to a alternate friend’s account for them to use in PvP. There is no way to just hatch and evolve a Great League Sneasler otherwise, and Hisuian Sneasel has only been available by hatching so far.

So again, from an accessibility standpoint, I understand those two bans. Somewhat for Hakamo-O and Kommo-O too, as they’re in the wild and eggs but exceedingly rare still. But traditionally, for Remix formats, Niantic has stated that “the Top [X number] Pokémon most used by Trainers ranked Ace and above in the [League/Cup] will not be allowed in the [League/Cup] Remix”. This is the rationale used for (I believe) every Remix format to date, even if not explicitly stated. (For example, last season, Little Jungle Cup Remix banned Ducklett, Cottonee, and Skorupi, the three most used Pokémon from past Little Jungle Cups, so the rationale carried through.)

Hakamo-O and Kommo-O were used a LOT last time, but uh… I saw other things even more frequently, especially Toxicroak. The thing seemed to be on practically every opposing team. Yet here we are, and Toxicroak is unbanned and ready to run WILD, as Sneasler, Hakamo, and often Buzzwole were some of the very few things able to fend Toxicroak off. With them out… well, let’s just cover Toxicroak first and foremost, as it really defines Remix more than anything else. Heck, possibly more than even Aerodactyl defining Flying Cup!

TOXICROAK

Toxicroak PoisonFighting

Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb/Dynamic Punch

Toxicroak has been known as the Fighter than can beat other Fighters since GBL was still but a glimmer in John Hanke’s eye. (Actually released just a couple weeks before PvP began in earnest in The Silph Arena in January 2019. Thus ends your archaeology lesson, class. It belongs in a museum!) Anyway, until Hisuian Sneasel and Sneasler came along a few months ago, Toxicroak (and pre-evo Croagunk) was the only Poison/Fighting type in GO… or the entire franchise until Generation 8. While that makes it critically weak to Psychic damage (2x), thankfully there’s not much of that in this meta. Nor Ground or Flying damage, the other two things Poison/Fighting types are weak to. On the plus side, they resist Grass, Poison, Rock, Dark, and of course most relevant to THIS meta, Fighting damage, and double resist Bug. Yeah, Poisonous Fighters are well-positioned in this Cup, and with Sneasler gone, Toxicroak is now indisputably the best of them all 😱, and the best Pokémon of all in the format, unsurprisingly ranked #1 and it’s really not close. Now there ARE a couple more things that can outlast Toxicroak than just that tiny list — I’ll be pointing ALL of them out in this analysis article — but it’s still by far the meanest, nastiest brawler in this entire format, much more so now that some of its bigger counters were banned from the meta. Thanks, Niantic… good planning. Can we just ban Toxi now too? That would be greeeeeeeeeeat. Until and unless that happens, this is basically Toxicroak Cup, folks. If you thought it was everywhere last time in Fighting Cup, you likely ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

A relatively light category in this format, and unfortunately, only one of them can reliably contend with Toxicroak. But there ARE some things still worth highlighting….

BLAZIKEN

Blaziken FireFighting

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

At first glance, Blaze looks rather tepid in this format. But this is very much a case of quality over quantity, because what Blaziken DOES mean really matters. In a meta where everything is a Fighter, Pokémon that resist Fighting damage are on the highest tier, and that means Poison and Bug types. Fire damage that Blaze can put out deal neutral damage to Poisons and super effective damage to Bugs, which are both a big deal. SO big, that I actually want to show you Fire Spin Blaze. The overall record is worse than the first one I linked to (utilizing Counter instead), with Counter able to beat things like Galarian Farfetch’d, Combusken, and Bewear (and a tie with Primeape). But what Fire Spin gains? Heracross and… Toxicroak, showing off how big neutral (or super effective) damage can be. Blaze can reach two Blaze Kicks before Toxi can reach a second Mud Bomb, so there ya go. THIS is why we dig beyond just the original numbers, folks! The quantity of Blaze’s wins is relatively low, but the quality is very high.

COMBUSKEN

Combusken FireFighting

Peck | Rock Slide & Flame Charge

Combusken is notable here for having Peck, a bad PvP move (average damage at 3.0 DPT, but below average energy generation with only 2.5 EPT) in any serious format, but notable in Fighting Cup for being super effective versus Fighting types and double super effective versus Bug/Fighters… though with Buzzwole out, that’s only really notable now versus Heracross. But Ken still manages to overcome Throh and Hisuian Sneasel too. It’s a bit middling beyond that, but that niche role is a very good one. And with a little bit of love given to its Attack IV, it can get oh so close to toppling Toxicroak too. And worth noting that it can add Primeape to its win column if it commits to JUST Peck. Maybe better than just niche after all!

And beyond those two, any other Fire is a real reach. InfernapeEmboar, and their pre-evolutions Monferno and Pignite all check the main boxes of beating Heracross and Throh, but they all fail to take out Hisuian Sneasel or Toxicroak or really anything else of consequence. (Though of note: Pignite is one of very few things that CAN beat Toxicroak in 2v2 shielding, albeit just barely!) Overall seems like it’s really Blaze, Ken, or bust.

CHESNAUGHT

Chesnaught GrassFighting

Vine Whip | Superpower & Energy Ball

Again, a rather specialized role, but that’s the nature of picks in this format. Chesnaught’s duties include handling Poliwrath (for obvious reasons) and both of the Fetch’d (for a less obvious reason: resisting Leaf Blade), as well as holding off Primeape and Throh despite their scary super effective damage (Ice Punch for Ape and Zen Headbutt for Throh). But the downsides are perhaps even more obvious: Poisons (and Heracross) resist Naught’s Fighting and Grass damage, making those fights very unfair. There will likely be teams that may want to employ Chesnaught’s specialized services, though.

BEWEAR

Bewear NormalFighting

Shadow Claw | Superpower & Stomp/Drain Punchᴸ

It probably seems crazy to even consider a Normal type in this meta… Normals are famously weak to Fighting damage! Despite all that, Bewear clings to viability, overcoming things like Poliwrath, G-Fetch’d, specialists Combusken and Throh, and most importantly, scary Hisuian Sneasel. It somehow manages to (literally) claw its way to a winning record against the entirety of the Cup despite its very obvious downside, but bring it as a specialist, not as something to rely on very heavily.

HITMONLEE (Baby Discount™)

Hitmonlee Fighting

Double Kick | Close Combat & Stompᴸ/Brick Breakᴸ

One of my favorite Pokémon designs, it has distressed me for years now how Hitmonlee has been useless in PvP, trapped until very recently behind TWO unviable fast moves (Rock Smash and Low Kick). But now, finally, things are looking up, as Niantic has unleashed its true potential at last with Double Kick. It is admittedly still underwhelming in Open GL, but in the right Limited metas, it looks a LOT more interesting than it used to. And yes, it suddenly looks quite potent here in Fighting Cup Remix if you want to take one for a test drive, overpowering even Fighting-resistant Heracross. The catch is that it requires one of two Legacy charge moves to operate at peak efficiency, either Brick Break (as simmed a second ago, with a unique win over G-Fetch’d), or Stomp for good neutral damage and its own unique win versus Hisuian Sneasel (and the ability to at least maim Toxi pretty good). Due to Legacy, this is NOT a build many will want to undertake, but it could be a super cheap build (if you double move a Tyrogue and then evolve it, thus taking advantage of the Baby Discount™) and at least looks like a lot of fun for those who have extra Elite TMs gathering dust and want to at least kick the tires on this format. (Yes, groan at that pun… I feed off your cringing! 😈)

HITMONCHAN (Baby Discount™?)

Hitmonchan Fighting

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

Last time, Jackie Chan was sneaky good with Ice Punch to nail Hakamo-O and Kommo-O, but they’re gone, leaving Ice with little to do. Instead, I now recommend Thunder Punch for widespread neutral damage (only Chesnaught and Breloom resist it) and super effectiveness versus the Poliwraths (and perhaps Galarian Zapdoses) that are likely to be on the rise this time around. Fire Punch is still fine as a way to threaten Heracross (and those Grasses, if you’re worried about them), particularly with Shadow Chan. But I more strongly endorse Close Combat for its closing power, or Power-Up Punch for its 100% win rate versus the core meta.

…wait, 100% win rate!?! Yeah, that’s what the sims show, though that of course counts on ALWAYS getting the PuP bait and then slamming in with a closing Elemental Punch. Obviously that’s NOT always going to happen, but take note that even running with ONLY PuP (so no baits at all), Shadow Chan is still pretty amazing, missing out only on the things that outright resist Fighting damage (Toxicroak, N-Snease, and Heracross). I’d say that kind of performance with a realistic shot at even Heracross and the Poisons demands some more attention, wouldn’t you? Non-Shadow Chan is lesser, but far cheaper (able to utilize the Baby Discount™ that Shadow cannot), and despite struggling against Poisons and Heracross (and now a few other Fighters as well), I’ll it viable, just far less exciting. Shadow Hitmonchan looks like a criminally underrated beast.

BEST OF THE REST

Unlike its fellow Hitmons, HITMONTOP doesn’t even have a Shadow option, and its charge moves are ill-fitting in this meta. Pass…. I will admit when I err, and last time, I badly undervalued the impact LUCARIO would have on the Fighting Cup meta. Its role as Dragon-slayer last time was quite significant, and despite being weak to all the Fighting (and Fire… and Ground….) damage around the meta, it carved out a very potent and unique niche by holding down Hakamo and Kommo. But they’re gone now, and thus Lucario is now a pretty big liability most of the time. Yes, it still resists Poison and Throh’s Zen Headbutts, but there is a TON that obliterates it, including Toxicroak which gets rare super effectiveness from even its Mud Bombs. I could be surprised again, but I really doubt it. Leave Luc on the bench this time around.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

In many ways, the bread and butter of this format, containing most of the top-line Toxicroak slayers… and much more besides, of course.

HISUIAN SNEASEL

Sneasel (Hisuian) FightingPoison

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

There really isn’t any question as to whether or not it’s worth running Hisuan Sneasel, because it absolutely is worthy of serious consideration. The only question is whether or not it’s an easy replacement for the banned Sneasler, and to THAT I say, at least by the numbers, no. Sneasler has Shadow Claw which made it particularly valuable in the original Fighting Cup as a way to level the playing field with Toxicroak and Buzzwole and others that resist Fighting damage. H-Snease doesn’t have Claw, having to settle for Poison Jab instead. And that’s still good, good enough to overcome Heracross and most other Fighters in this format. But it is, of course, resisted by Poisonous Toxicroak, and it doesn’t do enough to outrace other big names like Poliwrath (normal OR Shadow), Galarian Farfetch’d, and of course Throh (sharing the same double weakness to Zen Headbutt that similarly dooms Toxicroak). It’s still very good overall, don’t get me wrong, but H-Snease will immediately feel like a step down from Sneasler (and Toxicroak) for those who turn to it. Maybe it’s best on an ABB team with Toxicroak? 🤔

HERACROSS

Heracross BugFighting

Counter | Rock Blast & Close Combat/Megahorn

As H-Sneasel is lesser Sneasler, here we have lesser Buzzwole. The biggest difference between the two is that Buzz has Lunge which comes with an opponent debuff, whereas Heracross has resisted-by-all-Fighters Rock Blast instead. That said, the record of Heracross and Buzzwole are actually very similar, with Buzz having an easier time versus Primeape, but Heracross a better time against Blaziken (with Rock Blast actually having a rare advantage over Lunge) and Shadow Machamp. Long story short, the dropoff from Buzzwole to Heracross is a MUCH softer fall than that from Sneasler down to Sneasel. I still like Heracross quite a bit here.

SIRFETCH’D

Sirfetch'd Fighting

Counter | Leaf Blade & Close Combat

It’s not just stuff with a special subtyping that has a chance to take a big bite out of Fighting Cup, though. As a big example, take a gander at mono-Fighting Sirfetch’d. 👀 No super effective charge moves (Brave Bird isn’t as recommended here as Close Combat is), no funky Fighting- (or Bug- or Poison-) resistant typing, just straight beatdowns with Fighting moves and arguably the best overall charge move in the game, Leaf Blade, with its 70 damage for only 35 energy. Other regular spammy move Night Slash is bad here since everything resists it, and Brave Bird is just a bit too slow to nail Toxicroak and Heracross like you’d want, but Close Combat remains a risky but potent closer and pairs very nicely with Blade to allow Sirfetch’d to outrace most everything it’s willing to commit a shield or two to beating. It can even outrace Toxicroak AND Heracross, though it’s so close that those results could swing based on factors like lag or an erroneous extra fast move click or the like… far from reliable, but possible!

GALARIAN FARFETCH’D

Farfetch'd (Galarian) Fighting

Fury Cutter | Leaf Blade & Brave Bird

More consistent versus Toxicroak and Heracross (and beating Sirfetch’d in the head-to-head), Galarian Farfetch’d comes with Fury Cutter, which is a much worse move than the Counter of Sirfetch’d overall, but generates energy faster, hence the easier time against those big names (and more remaining HP in most all wins it shares with Sirfetch’d too). So while its overall win/loss numbers lie a little below Sirfetch’d (and it misses on things its evolutionary big bro can beat like Blaziken and Hitmonchan), I actually trust (and recommend) G-Fetch’d more in this meta.

MACHAMP

Machamp Fighting

Counter | Cross Chop & Close Combat

The OG is just fine here, though staple coverage move Rock Slide really doesn’t do anything for you here, being resisted by most everything. Instead, it is again closing power from Close Combat that I think you want, which can overpower Hisuian Sneasel and beats Throh much more efficiently too, among others. Shadow Champ, by the way, is a viable sidegrade, losing Hisuian Sneasel, Heracross, Machoke and even Machop (!!), and Galarian Zapdos, though it does pick up Sirfetch’d . Maybe sidegrade isn’t quite the right term….

MACHOKE

Machoke Fighting

Karate Chop | Cross Chopᴸ/Brick Break & Dynamic Punch

Perhaps the biggest breakout star of the original Fighting Cup, those who built one will be pleased to hear that their Machoke, especially Shadow Machoke, remains very, very good here. Particularly in the case of Shadow, the only big names it can’t handle are Heracross and Toxicroak, and Toxicroak in particular is SO close that with the right IVs, you can actually turn the tables and come out with a straight-up win. Technically non-Legacy Brick Break is just as good on paper, but that’s because it and Legacy move Cross Chop cost the same 35 energy and get good baits. But Cross Chop is undoubtedly better (10 more damage for that same energy cost) and IS worth the Elite TM, in my opinion, as Shadow Choke is quietly very useful in other formats beyond just Fighting Cup.

PRIMEAPE

Primeape Fighting

Counter | Ice Punch & Cross Chopᴸ/Close Combat

So remember back earlier this GBL season when I encouraged getting Cross Chop Primeape while it was available during GO Battle Day because it would be good in Fighting Cup? Here’s why. The Poisons and Sirfetch’d outrace it, but not much else of any note… and even those Poisons aren’t entirely safe, as Primeape with a decent Attack IV can potentially even outslug Toxicroak, even with straight Ice Punch (so no baiting with Cross Chop needed!). If you don’t HAVE Cross Chop, Ice Punch/Close Combat is still viable enough too.

POLIWRATH

Poliwrath WaterFighting

Mud Shot | Scald & Ice Punch/Dynamic Punch

Scald is basically a must for very widespread neutral damage output (with STAB!), but there’s a case to be made for Dynamic Punch as the second move (more forgiving with IVs, and easier win versus Primeape). But particularly with a decent amount of Attack, I lean Ice Punch as, similar to Primeape, Ice Punch allows outracing Toxicroak. But if you can manage it, ShadoWrath is the best of both worlds, able to beat Toxicroak AND Primeape, as well as everything else non-Shadow can beat in the core meta. Poliwrath was good last time, and it’s only gotten better now.

BEST OF THE REST

HARIYAMA isn’t bad, it just isn’t really good either. Though I guess I may as well point out that Shadow Harry is at least more interesting (if still unremarkable)…. Not surprisingly, this is an extremely poor meta for Dark Fighters like SCRAFTY and PANGORO. All risk and little to gain…. Yes, I looked at BRELOOM. No, you don’t want it.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

With no more Dragons, this section has shrunk quite a bit, but there are still a couple names to cover, especially the first one….

THROH

Throh Fighting

Zen Headbutt | Body Slam

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

SAWK

Sawk Fighting

Poison Jab | Body Slam

Another case where no second move is really needed (except Body Slam yet again), but honestly, the performance is just okay. Having Poison Jab can be nicebut it’s resisted by Poisonous Fighters, leaving Sawk would sort of an “empty” win column… good number of wins, but not really any where you want wins the absolute most.

And other than a reminder that Shadow Hitmonchan and Shadow Hitmonlee are actually more appropriate in this section than the 10k section where I actually covered them (no Baby Discount™ for them!), that’s actually all that’s worth diving into here. Moving on to out singular Legendary Fighter….

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

GALARIAN ZAPDOS

Zapdos (Galarian) FightingFlying

Counter | Ancient Power & Brave Bird/Close Combat

As a Fighting-resistant Flyer, you would kind of hope to get more of G-Zap than you seem to. The issue is that its “bait” move, Ancient Power, is resisted by Fighting types, and both of its closers (Close Combat and especially Brave Bird) come with significant drawbacks for an already somewhat fragile Pokémon. So yes, it gets some good wins, but Toxicroak, H-Snease, G-Fetch’d, Hitmonchan, and even Primeape do NOT appear among them.

…at least without some further digging. 🙃 If you happen to have one with higher Attack, G-Zap gets a lot more interesting, now able to beat both of the Poisonous Fighters! If you’ve gotten lucky enough not just to have a GL Galarian Bird, but one with the right kind of IVs too, this might be your lucky day week!

In Conclusion

As a quick reminder, your team composition HAS to be able to handle Toxicroak, as it will likely be everywhere. The better options for handling it are Throh (by far its hardest counter, just not useful outside of that specific role), Poliwrath (Shadow in particular), Galarian Farfetch’d, Fire Spin Blaziken, and then depending on IVs, Primeape (Ice Punch), Machoke, Sirfetch’d, and Galarian Zapdos. MUCH better than a simple glance at the overall meta shows, but that toad is still pretty omnipotent here. Gird yourselves if you venture in, and while I usually push a bit for trying these Cups… I completely understand if you instead try your luck in Open Great League this week. Niantic, in my opinion, royally screwed up with what they did (and did NOT) choose to ban, and I really don’t get it beyond assuming the choices were snap decisions without much meta consideration behind them. 🤷‍♂️

But rant over… gonna end it right here! Hopefully this helps you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!) if you find yourself in a Fighting mood.

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

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Fighting Cup Remix, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, whichever format you choose this coming week, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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