Nifty Or Thrifty: Ultra League Premier Classic (Part II)

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Hello again, fellow PvPers!

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Limited formats — the grand return of Ultra League Premier Classic, in this case — particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust. Typically the NoT series covers 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.

So last week was, for me personally, a very long and busy week. As such, I released only PART of my ULPC analysis the day the format arrived, and had to take what little time I could carve out to finish up the rest. So here it is, several days late, but better late than never, right? Yeah, sorry, but I promise it really couldn’t be helped and I did the best I could with what time I had available. Hopefully THIS week will be kinder as we march towards Thursday’s new format.

Enough time has been wasted already… let’s waste no more and dive in, starting with the 50k options!

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

Once again, I’ll start with stuff left over from Weather Cup, as there’s a greater chance people already have those built and therefore would require no further investment.

WALREIN

Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

Reports of Wally’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Shrugging off this season’s nerf of Icicle Spear, it was fine in Weather Cup, and is full-on meta in ULPC, riding high like it’s (earlier) 2022. And Shadow Wally is still a fine alternative, abandoning wins against Typhlosion, (Bullet Seed) Roserade, and Charizard (with either Dragon Breath or Wing Attack) to instead pick up Steelix, Scizor, and Venusaur. Look, there is no doubt Walrein took a hit with the nerf, but FAR too many people are just throwing them away like garbage, when Wally is STILL a great PvP Pokémon. Keep riding that wave. Based on usage in these early hours of ULPC, many of your fellow players certainly still are!

POLIWRATH

Poliwrath WaterFighting

Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Dynamic Punch

Scald served many players well on their resurgent-in-Weather-Cup Poliwraths. Now it’s time to pat Wrath on the back for a job well done, TM Scald back into Ice Punch, and throw it back out there. Without Ice Punch, Poliwrath fails to take down Nidoqueen, Shadow Dragonite, Drifblim, or Gliscor. Or Shadow Wrath is a nice alternative that takes down Swampert, Kingdra, and non-Shadow Dragonite, giving up Nidoqueen, Escavalier, and Fire Spin Charizard in the process. Poliwrath has always found its best niche in Ultra, and it’s nice to see that continues even with Legendaries and Mythicals (and Ultra Beasts now!) removed from the equation.

POLITOED

Politoed Water

Mud Shot | Weather Ball (Water) & Earthquakeᴸ

Not as popular in Weather Cup as its Kantonian weightlifter cousin, but has a shot at surging more in ULPC. It’s obviously best at washing away Fire and Ground types (to include Nidoqueen), but it’s also pretty good versus Poisons, overcoming A-Muk, Toxicroak, and Crobat, and is bulky enough to outlast stuff like Sylveon, Lapras, Empoleon, and Shadow Snorlax too. Flip to to Shadow Toed to pick up Obstagoon and even Poison Jab Roserade, at the cost of now losing Gliscor and Crobat. Either way, Toed is a solid contributor despite not hitting 2500 CP.

KINGDRA

Kingdra WaterDragon

Dragon Breath | Octazooka & Outrage

Continuing to be wildly popular in yet another Ultra League meta, despite lackluster sim numbers. Part of it is the mind games with Octazooka (which seems to trigger its debuff MUCH more often than 50% of the time) and Outrage… to shield or not to shield? (Doesn’t matter, I always guess wrong anyway! 😵) But whatever it is, there IS plenty of good that Kingdra does do even without baiting hijinks, beating some of the bigger names in ULPC, and it only gets better when Octazooka does its thing. Kingdra remains a popular part of those Double Dragon builds too. You WILL see it out there.

ARCANINE

Arcanine Fire

Snarl | Psychic Fangs and Wild Charge

I stumped for it in Weather Cup… and then didn’t see a single one. So once again, I’ll stump for it here in ULPC, because… well, dang, the potential is massive. Particularly so with Shadow Arcanine, which can gain Escavalier, Toxicroak, Shadow Machamp, and Blaziken… without suffering ANY new losses. But yes, caveat lector: this is a bait-heavy performance that can be a wild, wild ride with lots of ups and downs. In actual practice against savvy opponents, that sky-high ceiling may not be acheiveable. But darn if I can’t find a more exciting spice pick than Arcanine. If you like to live dangerously, I think I found your ride.

Alright, now back to our regularly scheduled program with things NOT sliding over from Weather Cup….

NIDOQUEEN

Nidoqueen PoisonGround

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Stone Edge/Earth Power

Wait wait wait… why are you listing Stone Edge before Earth Power, JRE? Surely you’re not suggested it’s Option 1A to Earth Power’s 1B, are you? Not exactly, but it’s worth noting that EdgeQueen does pull slightly better anti-meta numbers than EarthQueen, the latter of course having the best mirror matchup and burying Steels (Magnezone, Empoleon) and Poisons (A-Muk), and Edge instead clubbing Flyers (Charizard, Crobat, Drifblim) and Ices (Walrein). And Edge maintains… well, a slight edge in other even shield scenarios as well. (I checked.) And they’re even remarkably consistent with Shadow Queen, with Stone Edge (wins versus Crobat, Drifblim, and now Gyarados) again doing slightly more than Earth Power (unique wins: Magnezone and Poliwrath). I’m not going to foolishly stand here and say that Stone Edge is strictly better or anything, but it DOES bear much more consideration as a legit alternative in this meta than in most other formats. Just something to think about!

TOXICROAK

Toxicroak PoisonFighting

Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb

Toxi doesn’t quite reach 2500 CP, but it comes extremely close, and does a lot of good if you max one out. Wins against Darks and Normals and Ices and (some) Steels don’t come as much surprise, but of course one of Toxicoak’s bigger claims to fame is beating other Fighters, which it does just fine at Ultra League level too. And the great equalizer Sludge Bomb enables Toxi to bring down things like Charizard (at least sometimes), Roserade, and even big Charmers like Sylveon and Togekiss too! Toxicroak is well equipped to make some noise in ULPC.

SIRFETCH’D

Sirfetch'd Fighting

Counter | Leaf Blade & Night Slash/Brave Bird

Leaf Blade is almost a must for the BIG widespread neutral (or often super effective) damage it puts out. And after that, common wisdom would say to run with Brave Bird, and maybe that IS the right way to go with the extra wins it can pull versus stuff like Alolan Muk, Escavalier, and Fire Spin Charizard. But I gotta say, I personally have been enjoying Night Slash instead, which brings in some wins as well (Typhlosion being the clearest example) and puts a LOT more pressure on things like Trevenant (and can beat it outright with correct calling on your own shield use). There’s no “wrong” answer, really, and Sir Fletch is one of the better and more fun Pokémon to use here.

MACHAMP

Machamp Fighting

Counter | Cross Chop & Rock Slide/Paybackᴸ

Yep, the OG PvP Fighter is still just fine, including in ULPC. Two basic choices: regular or Shadow? The big difference? Non-Shadow can more reliably take down Charizard, Shadow more reliably outraces Swampert. And Question #2: Rock Slide (as simmed above), or Payback? The latter gives up stuff like Charizard, Gyarados, and (in the case of non-Shadow Champ) Typhlosion. But Payback brings Swampert into the win column for non-Shadow Champ, and also tacks on Gliscor for Shadow Champ for the first time.

HERACROSS

Heracross BugFighting

Counter | Rock Blast & Megahorn/Close Combat/Earthquake

Your eyes don’t deceive you: that IS Heracross peaking out from behind Buzzwole’s beach ball sized biceps meekly saying “remember me?” And yeah, Cross is still quite good. Ever better… all three of its closing moves are actually viable here. The utility of Megahorn is pretty obvious, especially versus Grasses and any Psychics that pop up. Close Combat is by far the fastest and can actually punch out even things that resist it, like Roserade, where other closers are too slow. And yes, even Earthquake has real utility, particularly as a way to snatch a surprise win from things like Nidoqueen or Toxicroak if they don’t shield, thinking they’re safe from any Heracross can throw at them. Whoops!

ESCAVALIER

Escavalier BugSteel

Counter | Megahorn & Drill Run/Aerial Ace

Technically I guess you can even run Acid Spray alongside the obligatory Megahorn, as I have personally witnessed opponents trying out the last couple days, but for my money, give me Drill Run or even unexciting but decent coverage move Aerial Ace. There’s really no “wrong” answer though, and they all actually perform pretty similarly on paper.

MAGNEZONE

Magnezone ElectricSteel

Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge

I guess people are just (understandably) too terrified of the popular Grass, Fire, Fighting, and Ground types in the meta, because despite having a really impressive record (on paper, at least), I don’t think I have personally seen a single ‘Zone yet in this rotation. (Nor ShadowZone either.) Obviously there ARE a number of pretty hard counters among the bigger names in the meta (including but far from limited to: Trevenant, Swampert, Typhlosion, Toxicroak — actually about ANY decent Fighter — Nidoqueen, Obstagoon, Steelix, Snorlax, even Roserade), so I get why folks seem to be avoiding it. But on the right team, there is potential for Zone to absolutely rake.

MUKS

Muk Poison Muk (Alola) PoisonDark

Poison Jab | Dark Pulse & Acid Spray (Alolan) or Thunder Punch (Kanto)

Both are most threatening — even against things weak to Dark damage like Trevenant — with Poison Jab as the charge move, with Dark Pulse dealing the necessary Dark pressure when you need it. From there, Alolan Muk is best with Acid Spray for baits but actually even moreso for just wearing opponents down. But in this meta, it is actually Kanto Muk that seems scarier, with Thunder Punch doing a ton of work versus Waters and especially the many Flyers around (to include things like Charizard, Dragonite, Gyarados, Drifblim, Crobat, Togekiss and more). That said, I have less faith in Shadow Muk, who too badly misses the bulk it gives up by being a Shadow.

GENGAR

Gengar GhostPoison

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

If Muk’s numbers are impressive, feast your eyes on this. 👀 And unlike simulation winrate heroes like Magnezone, I think this might be a bit more legit. For one thing, its performance with straight Shadow Punch (so no baiting needed at all) includes Trevenant, Charmers, ALL the big-name Fighters (even Toxicroak and its scary Mud Bombs, Sirfetch’d and its Night Slashes, and Gallade and its terrifying Confusions), Crobat, Empoleon, Venusaur, Shadow Dragonite, and the list goes on. Shadow Ball just adds to that already viable performance by allowing Gengar to reach for things like Charizard, Typhlosion, Walrein, Nidoqueen, Gliscor, Escavalier, Kingdra and others. Yes, popular picks like Swampert, Snorlax, Lapras, Steelix, and of course a few Dark types fend Gengar off, but there’s a TON of good it does against names that are just as important in ULPC. I think Gengar is being criminally overlooked so far.

Alright, so now we’re going to shift for the remainder of this article. I covered MOST of the major 50k options above that I wanted to, but as I finish writing this, it’s Sunday evening and this format is already literally halfway through its week. I need to get this out the door, and I think I’ve done a decent job between the above in-depth analysis and Part 1 with all the 10k options of highlighting the “thrifty” side of this format. From here on out, we’re going to cut to a speedy bulletized format for a few of the better 75k options, and some “nifty” tips and tricks you may not be aware of.

Real fast though, I DO want to mention some final spicy 50ks:

Seen a few OVERQWIL, which is a fun idea for this format…. I feel like I should be seeing more ROSERADE, but just haven’t. I get that Venusaur is awesome here (and long-time readers know I am a HUGE Venusaur fan), but Roserade is a more than capable alternative that comes with the ability to burn through things Venu can only dream of. I think it’s worth a little more attention…. Looking for a Fairy that doesn’t just rely on Charm? There’s a really good one below in the 75k section, but there’s also FLORGES, soon to be a major star in Master League Premier Classic, by the way…. Long have I stumped for ZEBSTRIKA in Ultra League, and it’s even better than usual here in Premier Classic. This is an Electric that even Trevenant and other flammable things have to shield against. Zeb is worth a long, hard look.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

Sylveon Fairy
  • One I want to make sure I mention right off the bat is SYLVEON. I very briefly mentioned it with other Charm users in Part 1, but an intriguing new alternative has emerged: Quick Attack Sylveon. Check out this list of wins it gets that Charmeon does not: Walrein, Toxicroak, Gliscor, Charmers Togekiss and Sylveon, and traditional Fairy counters Escavalier, Roserade (even with Poison Jab!), and Crobat! Quick Attack into Psyshock allows the “WTF?!” wins over those Poisons, while Moonblast comes out alarmingly quickly to still get in Fairy damage where needed. This is a star in the making in PvP, and ULPC is a great place to start the party.
Steelix SteelGround
  • I HAVE talked about the new hotness of Psychic Fangs STEELIX before, but here’s your reminder that an already underrated Ultra League option is now even scarier. Earthquake is better in the mirror (and versus other Steels, of course), whereas Crunch is how to beat Trevenant (and threaten other Ghosts).
Trevenant GhostGrass
  • Speaking of the spooky tree, there’s a reason that TREVENANT is all over the place in this meta: it’s scary good. I did check some move hijinks with Foul Play in the mix, but there are no real advantages it offers over the standard Seed Bomb/Shadow Ball. No real insights, just be aware that Trevor is ev-er-y-where in Ultra League Premier Classic.

Gallade PsychicFighting
  • Also very popular thus far is GALLADE, who is at its best in Ultra League, and Premier in particular. Here’s what I wanna talk about for a second: to Shadow or not to Shadow? Because there are actually quite a few differences between them. Neither will ever be called “bulky”, but non-Shadow does last slightly longer, enough so to beat Escavalier, Steelix, and Snorlax. But with something like Gallade, it can be better to just hit as hard as possible before that lack of bulk catches up, so Shadow Gallade pulls the better numbers with its own unique wins versus Gyarados, (Bullet Seed) Roserade, Typhlosion, Dragonite, and Crobat. Which version better fits (or counters) YOUR team, trainer?
Luxray Electric
  • Similarly hard hitting (and flimsy) but far less popular is LUXRAY. As with Gallade, there are some key differences between Shadow and non-Shadow, and once again it’s the Shadow that’s a bit better, with potential wins versus Shadow Machamp, Blaziken, Toxicroak, and Gliscor (whereas non-Shadow only nabs Poliwrath and Togekiss). The consistency can be all over the place with the wild combination of Psychic Fangs and Wild Charge… the opponent’s shield timing can swing the results wildly. But the pure potential is most certainly there.
Dragonite DragonFlying
  • Don’t take its late appearance here to mean that DRAGONITE is not amazingly awesome in ULPC, because it absolutely is. New, long-awaited coverage move Superpower gives it new teeth… and new wins, versus stuff like Poliwrath, Obstagoon, Escavalier, Scizor, and Shadow Snorlax. In the past, I’ve recommended running ‘Nite single moved (with just Dragon Claw) because the second move options just didn’t do much for it. That will NOT be the case from here forward. Superpower takes Dragonite to a whole ‘nother level.
Sneasler FightingPoison
  • If you’re like me (and most of us, honestly) and never got a Great League sized SNEASLERhere’s your chance to make GOOD use of one, as 2500 CP is a cap anyone can make work for it. Shadow Claw is definitely the way to go here too, rather than STAB Poison Jab.
Snorlax Normal
  • Unlike Sneasler, SNORLAX is very much NOT new to the game. But there are still surprises to be had with my personal spirit animal. Shadowlax likely wants the rather customary Superpower alongside the standard Body Slam, but non-Shadow Snorlax may instead want Earthquake. Shadow with that Fighting damage from Superpower can take down Walrein, Obstagoon, Escavalier, and even Gallade and Roserade (though in fairness, those last two are due to Shadow-boosted Body Slam more than anything). But non-Shadow with its Quakes instead rolls over Nidoqueen, Steelix, Lapras, Fire Spin Zard, and the mirror (though again, that last one is just Body Slamming action).
Gliscor GroundFlying
  • And speaking of Earthquake, don’t forget about GLISCOR, who also has Night Slash to put the hurt on Trevenant in addition to a glut of Fighters, Fires, Grasses, and/or Poisons across the meta, and even big Dragons. Where it fails (mostly Waters and especially Ices), it fails hard and fast, but it brings tremendous pressure to much of the rest of ULPC.
Lapras WaterIce
  • Also don’t forget about old mainstay LAPRAS. No big tips or surprises with it at this point (I DID check its variety of moves, but Surf/Skull Bash still seems best overall), just worth mentioning because it still holds up all this time later.
Oranguru NormalPsychic
  • Even I initially forgot all about ORANGURU, which has become a force (at least in certain formats) in Great League, but yeah, it gets big enough for Ultra as well, and looks poised to make a mark on ULPC for those who have a good candidate to build. Do note that this IS one that needs to be maxed, but it certainly seems worth it with Psychic damage for the Poisons and Fighters, and Dark damage (and a resistance to Ghost, remember) for stuff like Trevenant, and enough bulk and power combined to handle the likes of Swampert, Gallade, Walrein, Charizard, Kingdra, the Charmers and more.
Goodra Dragon
  • There’s been much to discuss of Toxapex, a Pokemon that was poised to make major use of Muddy Water before a move switcheroo that will see it (more than likely) released with lousy Brine instead. But uh… what of the OG Water Muddier, GOODRA? And why is nobody talking about it right now? Have you SEEN its potential in ULPC?

Alright, that’s it… this VERY tardy analysis is now complete. Hopefully this helps you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!) and keep pushing through the rest of ULPC. Assuming this format returns again in the future, these are all pretty safe investments too, so don’t worry too much about “but I’ll only get a couple more days of use with these… what’s the point?” and such.

Until next time (Master League Premier Classic is up next!), 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 Ultra League Premier Classic, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you again soon, Pokéfriends!

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