Nifty Or Thrifty: Halloween Cup

Nifty Or Thrifty this Halloween in Pokémon GO's Trainer Battles!

Hello again, fellow PvPers!

Back again with another edition of “Nifty Or Thrifty”, the long-running article series that takes a comprehensive look at the meta for Cup formats — the April 2022 rehash of Halloween Cup, in this case — particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust. 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?

In 2020, Halloween Cup represented the first limited meta many players ever participated in. Cups are old hat for most of you now, and by now you know that they often require all-new teamcrafting and consideration of things you may not have even evolved yet. My goal is to show you which of those may be worth pursuing yourself, but also to prepare you to FACE many of these and know how to handle them, since there are several you may not have encountered in PvP before.

We have a lot to get through, so just a quick caveat: in the interest of time, I kept this “simple”, with almost all simulations focused on standard 1v1 shielding matchups and typically with “default” IVs, since there will be a WIDE range of IV spreads you encounter out there. So this is not FULLY comprehensive but will give you a very good idea of how these Pokémon perform.

Now let’s dive in!

🎃 Halloween Cup Rules

The latest edition of Halloween Cup will be available in the GO Battle League from April 5th at 1pm PDT to April 12th at 1pm PDT. Here are the official rules:

  • Pokémon must be at or below 1,500 CP to enter.
  • Only Poison, Bug, Ghost, Dark, and Fairy type Pokémon are permitted.

(Updated for Halloween Cup April 2022, I have added new relevant ‘mons and marked them as NEW throughout, so be on the lookout for those as you scroll!)

10,000 Dust / 25 Candy

Beedrill BugPoison


Poison Jab | X-Scissor/Fell Stinger & Drill Runᴸ

A potent threat to Fairies, Poisons, and Fighters alike, beating (beeting?) Azumarill, Charmers, Dark/Poisons, everything with Counter, and then stuff like Tentacruel, Zweilous, Grasses (Venusaur, Shiftry, etc.), and even big bad Galvantula (overwhelming it before it can reach a second charge move). Shadow Beedrill, if you have one with Drill Run, could be labeled a straight upgrade, picking up potential new wins versus Umbreon, Sableye, Froslass, and Nidoqueen. Also worth consideration: *Fell Stinger** rather than X-Scissor, with which Shadow Beedrill still gets all the same wins (assuming baits work, of course!) and regular Bee can potentially pick up the mirror match and even Alolan Marowak thanks to a boosted Drill Run. Melissophobiacs, beeware! (Go ahead… I’ll wait while you Google “melissophobiac”. 🐝)

Scolipede BugPoison


Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Megahorn

Basically an alternative Beedrill that requires no Legacy moves. Basically, Bee is better versus Poisons due to Drill Run, while Scolipede is more consistent versus Darks thanks to Megahorn. Beedrill is perhaps a little more versatile overall, but Scolipede is plenty dangerous too and its Dark hate will fit some teams better.

Ariados BugPoison

There’s also ARIADOS who, as compared to Scolipede, runs Poison Sting rather than Poison Jab and Cross Poison rather than X-Scissor, but relies on the same big closer of Megahorn. Its speed means it beats Escavalier where Scolipede falls short, but Ariados also loses to the Poison Jab Dark/Poisons (A-Muk and Skuntank) that Scolie can defeat. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.

Crustle BugRock


Smack Down | X-Scissor & Rock Slide/Rock Blast

Fury Cutter Crustle looks good, but Smack Down looks even better. Cutter is able to possibly eke out a win over Umbreon and outraces Haunter and the mirror match, but Smack Down alone is able to defeat Flyers Golbat and Drifblim, and all the big Alolans (Wak, Muk, Tales), and those wins make it the clear favorite fast move. Crustie kicks the butts of the core meta Poisons, Flyers, Darks, Ghosts, and can beat nearly all of its fellow Bugs too. Only Steely Bugs give it some issues, and even there, it handles Forretress and can get either Escavalier with Rock Blast or Trashadam with the generally preferred Rock Slide. Crustle is very solid in Halloween yet again this year.

Venusaur GrassPoison


Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

So… yeah. This looks like it’s going to be a rough meta for Grasses. Venusaur is obviously a great way to control Azumarill, Jellicent, and the other Waters, still an excellent way to take out Charmers, and its resistance to Counter gives it clean wins against Obstagoon and Scrafty and the like, plus Venusaur hangs in there long enough to take out Cofagrigus and even Umbreon. But the many Poisons, Bugs, and even most Ghosts around fend Venusaur off with relative ease. Venusaur does some things very well, but it’s basically just a specialist only here.

Golbat PoisonFlying


Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

Aging like a fine wine, Golbat has come a long way from being just a Silph Arena standout… most GBLers have run across the Bat by now too, thanks in large part to the big buff to Poison Fang. Golbat is still very good at baiting shields and closing out with a big fat Shadow Ball, but it can grind stuff down now with Fang and Wing Attack like it couldn’t last Halloween. It’s VERY scary this time around, terrorizing Fighters, Grasses, Bugs, many Ghosts, and of course Charmers… and it’s one of the few things that can stare down Mawile and live to tell the tale by resisting Mawile’s charge moves and crushing it with a big fat Shadow Ball, or now by being able to just wear even it down with Fang spamShadow Golbat is an iffy side/downgrade, able to overpower Nidoqueen, Tentacruel, and Haunter, but giving up Azumarill, A-Wak, Drifblim, Mandibuzz, Sableye, Skuntank, AND Qwilfish to do it… I’d just stick with regular Bat, personally, and like many of Gotham City’s worst villains, make your opponents have good reason to fear the Bat.

Crobat PoisonFlying

As for CROBAT, sure, you can use it, but it’s a worse Golbat. While it does manage to finish off Nidoqueen and Tentacruel (Golbat has a lot more trouble with those two), Crobat cannot keep pace with Mawile, Cofagrigus, Drifblim, Azumarill or several others that fall to Golbat. If you want a Bat, stick with the middle evolution.

Obstagoon DarkNormal


Counter | Night Slash & Cross Chop/Hyper Beam

Night Slash is obviously a must, but what else? Gunk Shot is more liability than help with the Poisons, Ghosts, and Steely (or Rocky!) Bugs that resist it, so despite being a great table-turning nuke against Fairies, I think it’s generally worse than Hyper Beam — yes, HYPER Beam — with which Obstagoon is at least able to beat Tentacruel and better handle things like Mandibuzz. That said, if you have a really good IV Goon, Gunk Shot is enough to steal wins from Azumarill and Venusaur… something to keep in mind. There’s also the option of additional spam with Cross Chop which better threatens Mawile and beats Zweilous harder, but it can give up Mandibuzz to do it. Decisions, decisions….

Raticate (Alola) DarkNormal


Quick Attack | Crunch & Hyper Fang

With its TRIPLE resistance to Ghost damage, it’s no surprise that A-Rat is a premiere Ghost slayer, with special Froslass and Sableye being the only two that fend it off. What may be a little more surprising is that it also outtanks Venusaur, Qwilfish, and Trashadam, and even outlasts (Snarl) Mandibuzz and Umbreon by slapping them with constant neutral Normal damage. A-Rat can do those things and more pretty consistently, and can even sneak away with wins versus Sableye and Shadow Beedrill with good PvP IVs. Also worth considering: Hyper Beam gives up Qwilfish and sometimes Venusaur, but gains Air Slash Mandi and A-Muk (with either of its fast moves). A-Rat is deceptively bulky and as long as it avoids Fighting and Fairy damage, there is very little that blows it out, making it a good, cheap safe switch option to consider.

Mightyena Dark


Thunder Fang/Fire Fang | Crunch & Poison Fang

If ever there was a time to actually use it, this may be it. With Thunder Fang it presents a unique threat that can beat EVERY Water and Flyer in the format except Scyther (a list that includes Azu, Qwil, Tentacruel, Mandibuzz, Jellicent, Golbat, Drifblim… it’s a GOOD list!) while also handling Mawile, Alolan Marowak, Cofagrigus, Alolan Muk, Umbreon, PowderTales, Shadow Scizor (yes, that’s a thing!), Incineroar and more. Or give it Fire Fang, which does drop the Waters and Air Slash Mandi, but gains ALL Steel types and stuff like Trevenant and Galvantula instead, or go whole hog with Shadow Mightyena to pick up things like Venusaur, Sableye, Froslass, and Haunter (and even Jellicent again!) in exchange for now losing to A-Wak, A-Muk, and Snarl Mandi. Oh, how the mighty have… risen? (Just for this meta, though. 🙃)

Incineroar FireDark


Fire Fang | Flame Charge & Dark Pulse

As with Houndoom (which I left in the 50k section down below, though I may even just remove it in the future), it’s Fire Fang you want, but the charge moves (Flame Charge in particular) do quite a bit too, bringing in additional wins versus Mandibuzz, Jellicent (Ice Beam/Shadow Ball variants, anyway), Umbreon (long as it lacks or doesn’t land Last Resort), Drapion, Drifblim, Cofagrigus and more. And as directly compared to Houndoom… well, I think the Hound is going to be left behind now. While Houndoom does uniquely outrace Bubble Beam Jellicent and Incineroar itself due to the speed at which is gets to multiple Crunches, Incineroar is just better overall, with its own unique wins over Mandi, Drap, Cofag, Alolan Muk, and even Alolan Ninetales with Charm. Basically, (mostly) everything Hound can do, Roar can do better. Say hello to your new Fire Fang specialist (not named Mawile, anyway!).

Wigglytuff FairyNormal


Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough

Generally the best of the Charmers thanks to its Normal sub-typing and double resistance to Ghost damage, giving it a big leg up in the Halloween meta. You can see this most clearly with a massive win over Haunter, even if it chooses not to shield… though beware Sludge Bomb! 😬 (More on that later.) Perhaps a better example is Cofagrigus, which Wiggly rather easily beats but other Charmers don’t. Wiggly also beats nearly everything more effectively (read as: with significantly more remaining HP) than Clefable, including Drifblim, Mandibuzz, Obstagoon, Umbreon, Zweilous, and Galvantula. It’s not that Clefable and the other Charmers are bad — because they’re still pretty good — it’s just that Wigglytuff is better. If you have to pick a Charmer, for my money, it’s Wiggly in this meta.

Primarina WaterFairy


Charm | Psychic & Moonblast

…or is it? With the arrival of Primarina, Wiggly’s strangehold on the “Top Charmer” title is suddenly a little in doubt. Prima’s secondary Water typing, like Wiggly’s secondary Normal typing, has a lot going for it by resisting Water, Ice, and Fire damage and making Steel do merely neutral damage, advantages no other Charmer has. (Well, aside from A-Tails resisting Ice, but you get what I’m saying.) So to directly compare the two: Wiggly’s blunting of Ghost means it beats Jellicent, Cofagrigus, and Drifblim without much trouble, while Prima instead beats Azumarill, Snarl Alolan Muk, Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales, and most impressively, Shadow Scizor and Shadow Mawile, those last two especially being traditional Charm counters that NO other Charmer can overcome. I think Prima is underrated and underappreciated going (back) into this format. Don’t make that mistake!

Wormadam (Trash) BugSteel


Confusion/Bug Bite | Bug Buzz & Iron Head

Trashadam is listed last in this section because, while its second move does indeed cost only 10k dust, it also has to be taken up to Level 40 (and often beyond), and thus is very far from “thrifty”… though it IS nifty enough to use, certainly. There are not many Confusion users in this format, but the fact that it annihilates Fighters and most Poisons helps explain the success Trashy does see. Its typing helps too, allowing it to wail on Charmers and Froslass with impunity, and even to outlast Azumarill. Bug Bite IS a viable alternative, able to beat Umbreon, Obstagoon, A-Muk, and flip the mirror match, though it gives up most of the good Poisons (Nidoqueen, Golbat, Toxicroak, Tentacruel, Haunter, among others) and sometimes Azumarill as well (particularly if Azu runs Ice Beam). Your call!

50,000 Dust / 50 Candy

Galvantula BugElectric


Volt Switch | Lunge/Cross Poison & Discharge

In Halloween Cup 2020, Galv was brand new to the game and was at the very nucleus of the meta. This year it’s still very good, but not the worldbeater it was in the past. Sure, it’s still perhaps THE best way to hold down Waters and Flyers in this meta, and handles Fighters and things like Forretress as well. But there are more things now in the meta that fend it off, like Cofagrigus, Sylveon, and especially Nidoqueen. Do keep in mind that Cross Poison shows much better numbers than Lunge, but other than PowderTales, the other new wins it can get (Golbat, Trashadam, Scizor, Qwilfish, Beedrill) come solely because CP gets a shield and clears the way for a winning Discharge. I’m not saying Galv is bad… it most certainly is not. But those are best case scenario wins… tread lightly. (And also keep in mind that only the power of Lunge can overcome stuff like Venusaur and Zweilous.)

Dedenne ElectricFairy


Thunder Shock | Discharge & Play Rough

Enter our second eligible Electric type, new since last time through Halloween Cup. Mighty Mouse here is more impactful than Florges, but admittedly still a little lackluster overall. Does still beat the Darks (and is a particularly brutal Mandibuzz counter, resisting all of its moves but Shadow Ball) while bringing heavy pressure to Waters and Flyers, as well as being a Fairy that can beat stuff like Forretress, Scizor, and Haunter (even with Sludge Bomb) thanks mostly to the blinding speed of its Thunder Shock/Discharge combo.

Escavalier BugSteel


Counter | Drill Run & Megahorn/Aerial Ace

In a meta full of Poisons and Electrics weak to it, turns out that Drill Run is a really good move to have, especially when paired with Counter to rough up the Darks too! And it turns out that’s actually all that Escav needs to hit peak performance against the core meta, beating all the important Darks that aren’t airborne (including all three Dark/Poisons), all the Steely Bugs, the major Grasses, Charmers, Froslass, Tentacruel, and more. While having a second move doesn’t seem to have affect there, of course there are many shielding situations and energy lead situations where a second move could be key. Megahorn deals HUGE damage now and picks up wins in shieldless matchups against Umbreon, Galvantula, and Crustle, but Aerial Ace has wide neutral coverage and is super effective against (most) Bugs and Grass. Pick your pleasure!

Venomoth BugPoison


Confusion/Infestation | Poison Fang & Bug Buzz

Two ways you can go here. The rare-in-Halloween Confusion slays Poisons (Beedrill, Shadow Queen, Haunter, Toxicroak, Qwilfish, Tentacruel) with ease, while Infestation instead hates on Darks (Umbreon, Zweilous, Snarl Mandibuzz, Sableye, Alolan Muk) and outraces Galvantula too. Also of note: Shadow Moth works best with Infestation, giving up PowderTales and sometimes Scrafty, but gaining Forretress, Ice Beam/Hydro Pump Azumarill (normal Moth with either fast move can already outrace Azu without Pump), and two important Poisons: Toxicroak and Tentacruel.

Marowak (Alola) FireGhost


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

So in 2020 I made the bold claim that Hex, rather than Fire Spin, was actually my recommendation for Halloween Cup. By and large, player feedback and my own experience backed that up: Hex A-Wak was legit good! But Halloween Cup 2022 is a slightly different experience. Running Hex with Bone Club and Shadow Ball still looks like a good play… as compared to the more standard Fire Spin/Club/Ball, Hex-Wak misses out on Pump-less Azumarill, Shadow Beedrill, Skuntank, Drapion, and Ghost-resistant Wigglytuff, it instead beats Drifblim, Froslass, Haunter, and Tentacruel. And I haven’t even thrown Shadow Bone into the mix. Pairing best with Fire Spin, it beats everything FS/BC/Ball does except Pump Azu, Skuntank, and Ball-Wak (hee hee… “ball wak” 😏), replacing them with Beedrill, Froslass, and Nidoqueen (Hex-Wak also beats Queen, BTW). Got all that? If not, just study those sims again, and pay very close attention to what fast move enemy A-Waks are using. It can really make a big difference!

Froslass IceGhost


Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

I played around with Froslass’ movesets as well (Hex and the improved Crunch were both worth at least a look), but nah: I think it’s the tried and true Powder Snow/Shadow Ball/Avalanche you still want here. Lass is actually really good at combating most Poison types (though A-Muk and Haunter are problematic for obvious reasons), and has positive matchups with Grasses (duh), Fighters, and even some big-name Darks — Mandibuzz and Zweilous — again, for rather obvious reasons. She can also outrace Cofagrigus, Sylveon, Beedrill, and Pump-less Azumarill. Froslass, as per usual, is much more dangerous than her overall win/loss record would imply.

Jellicent WaterGhost


Hex/Bubble | Bubble Beam & Shadow Ball/Ice Beam

The third of our “elemental” Ghosts (Fire, Ice, and now Water), representing a BIG change since the Halloween 2020 meta… that year, there WAS no Jellicent! So like I said: BIG change. Now yes, those numbers are buoyed by always getting perfect Bubble Beam baits, which isn’t completely realistic. (I only guess wrong and shield — and curse! — Bubble Beam, like, 95% of the time. 😅) But heck, even with NO Bubble Beam, just running straight bombs with Shadow Ball and Ice Beam, Jelli is still plenty scary. What BB baits allow is for Jellicent to outrace more things like Haunter, Drifblim, and Cofagrigus (with Hex), or A-Muk and Scrafty (with Bubble, and a few others like PowderTales, Sylveon, Crustle, and Skuntank depending on which bomb (Ice or Ball) you choose. Lotta options, but in one configuration or another, expect JelliBelli to be everywhere.

Cofagrigus Ghost


Shadow Claw | Shadow Ball & Dark Pulse

Well I’ve already written (rather extensively) about Grigus before, but as a reminder, I recommend Dark Pulse, not Psychic, as the second move. Pulse is especially better in this meta, allowing Grigus to outrace Ghosts it struggles to otherwise, like Drifblim, Alolan Marowak (be careful though: Hex/Shadow Ball A-Wak can still win), and the mirror. There’s nothing Cofagrigus is necessarily THE best at, but look over its list of wins and you’ll notice it’s solid versus a good number of things… nearly everything on its list of losses are Dark types.

Dusclops Ghost


Hex | Fire Punch & Returnᴸ/Shadow Punch

Also wrote about this one not all that long ago, and in Halloween Cup specifically, but to rehash: the only Bug that Clops can’t beat in Halloween Cup is Crustle, and the only Steels and Grasses it cannot overcome in the format are Darks. And then it goes out and also beats most Poisons (Drapion, Nidoqueen, Golbat, Tentacruel, Qwilfish, Toxicroak, etc.), Alolan Ninetales, and either other Ghosts like Cofagrigus, Haunter, and A-Wak (with Shadow Punch) or Azumarill and Scrafty (with Return). Hoping you followed my advice and built one during Duskull Community Day: this may be its best-ever chance to shine, thanks in large part to that Fire Punch.

Haunter GhostPoison

Gengar GhostPoison


Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Sludge Bomb/Shadow Ball

Yep, both Haunter AND Gengar are equally viable, and run roughshod over a large portion of the core meta, including Fighters, Charmers (with one notable exception we’ll get to in a second), Jellicent, Galvantula, Fire Spin A-Wak, Beedrill and many more. My recommendation for KO move is Sludge Bomb to guarantee Azu, outrace Crustle (in Haunter’s case, at least), and get past the one Charmer that otherwise dominates: Wigglytuff. (Shadow Ball beats Nidoqueen, though, and is still plenty legit too!)

Honchkrow DarkFlying


Snarl | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

Ready for a surprise? Not only is Honch (and pre-evolution Murkrow) the only Flying type in the whole format that Froslass does NOT beat, but it has a lot of potential in general, thanks in part to the fastest Sky Attack in the game, and that is thanks to Snarl. Add that to the looming threat of Brave Bird, and Honch is a Flying move spammer like no other… and remember, this is a format full of things that want nothing to do with Flying damage. Honch blows over most Bugs, Grasses, Poisons (including A-Muk, Skuntank, and Shadow Queen)… and oh yeah, every single Ghost in the game except Haunter/Gengar (and only if they’re toting Sludge Bomb). It’s a very good list… but being completely upfront, it does NOT beat several top meta options, including Galv, Azu, Bat, Crustle, Mandi, Mawile, all the Charmers, and several other big names. I don’t want to rain on my own parade, because Honch is criminally underrated, but DO consider that while it beats a lot of things, it still loses to many others even in the best of circumstances.

Houndoom DarkFire


Fire Fang | Flamethrower & Crunch

I’ll keep this one really simple: it’s all about that Fire Fang. It alone burns through every Grass and non-Rock Bug type in the entire meta, plus Froslass, Alolan Ninetales, Haunter, Sableye, Drifblim, and of course, Steel-coated Mawile. This is a bold pick, no doubt, but you have to like that list of wins… without even needing charge moves! One you DO need charge moves (Flamethrower specifically) to beat is Umbreon, though I recommend Crunch as well for potential debuffs and the occasional shields-down KO potential. Oh, and don’t forget Shadow Doom which can potentially beat Skuntank and Snarl Mandibuzz (and gives up only Drifblim, of all things, to do it)!

That all said… I already talked about Incineroar being new and all-around better now, so honestly, Houndoom’s day may have already passed.

Salazzle PoisonFire


Incinerate | Poison Fang & Dragon Pulse/Sludge Wave

While there’s a very low chance you have one of these at all yet, somebody out there surely does and will be itching to deploy it in Halloween Cup. And yeah, it’s WELL worth it. A Fire that can beat Azumarill, and a Poison that can beat most other Poisons and Steels, I’ll just kinda sit back and let the record speak for itself. Be ready… somebody who always magically wins the “Walk Star” award in their local raids probably has half a dozen different ones to choose from by now. 😒

Scrafty DarkFighting


Counter | Foul Play & Acid Spray/Power-Up Punch

Long-time readers of my articles know that I have long bashed Acid Spray, but even I have to admit that Spray has legit potential here, enabling paths to victory over Venusaur, PowderTales, Galvantula, Drapion, Skuntank, and Sableye that Power-Up Punch cannot achieve. PuP instead enables Scrafty to more easily beat Escavalier and Tentacruel (by outracing them) and A-Wak (by boosting Foul Play into KO territory). Either bait-n-buff move works, but don’t just go in blindly thinking PuP is the answer as per usual. The Spray N’ Pray crowd may have the last laugh, just this once.

Toxicroak PoisonFighting


Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb

It’s pretty simple here: beat (no-Flying) Darks (aside from pesky Sableye and Malamar), Steels, Rocks, bonuses like Qwilfish, Shadow Nidoqueen, Venusaur, and PowderTales, and carry the looming threat of Sludge Bomb to keep even the Fairies honest. I don’t think Toxicroak really needs any more explanation than that, does it?

Ninetales (Alola) IceFairy


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

There are several ways to go about using A-Tails. Powder Snow is usually best with Dazzling Gleam to beat Darks (Umbreon, Sable, Scrafty), but Psyshock wins the mirror and is good against Poisons, beating Toxicroak and Beedrill. CharmTales is obviously extremely tough on Darks and has more consistent wins versus Azumarill, but is left pretty vulnerable to Poison types.

Granbull (Shadow) Fairy


Charm | Crunch & Close Combat

Nothing fancy here… just straight beatdowns, including overcoming A-Muk and Drapion more easily than Wigglytuff (while Wiggly beats Drifblim and Sylveon instead).

Florges Fairy


Vine Whip | Disarming Voice & Moonblast

Honestly, this is NOT a great meta for Florges, but it’s new and at least deserves a mention. It does still beat the notable Darks, and has obvious advantages versus Water types (though its maddeningly inconsistent versus Jellicent and especially Azumarill), but overall… meh. It’ll shine brighter in other formats down the line, I think.

Azumarill WaterFairy


Bubble | Hydro Pump & Play Rough/Ice Beam

For the many of you tired of seeing it, I am sorry to report that, yes, Azumarill is a big threat here. The question isn’t whether or not to run it — because likely the majority of teams will — the question is what moves to run on it? I’ll start by saying that no matter what, you probably want Hydro Pump, as it’s just a tremendous equalizer and catch-all move threat that hardly anything of note resists in Halloween Cup… you basically have to have it to beat things like Froslass, Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Muk, Forretress, Sylveon, and Cofagrigus. The debate then becomes Ice Beam versus Play Rough. Beam has obvious applications against Flyers and very wide neutral coverage (and more readily beats Shadow Nidoqueen), but Play Rough is much better against Fighters, Waters, and is almost a must-have to win the mirror and versus CharmTales. I’ll leave that decision in your capable hands for your own team, but expect to face down a healthy mix of both on opposing teams!

Tentacruel WaterPoison


Poison Jab | Acid Spray & Hydro Pump

Yup, Acid Spray again. The thing is that Tentacruel does a lot with just Spray, dominating Fairies and some key Darks. But of course, it’s with Hydro Pump that Tentacthulhu gets really scary, beating most opposing Poisons and key Ghosts (A-Wak, Froslass, Drifblim) too.

Qwilfish WaterPoison


Poison Sting | Aqua Tail & Sludge Wave

Similar strat here, hoping to set things up for a big KO Sludge Wave, but this time the bait move, Aqua Tail, deals nice (and extremely spammy) damage on its own.

Muk (Alola) PoisonDark


Poison Jab/Snarl | Dark Pulse & Acid Spray/Sludge Wave

The standard Snarl-powered moveset is okay, and has unique standout wins versus Jellicent, Scizor, and Skuntank. But give consideration also to Poison Jab, ideally paired with Acid Spary to wear stuff down with Jabs and get wins Snarl cannot like LR Umbreon, Obstagoon, Shadow Mawile, Sableye, Mandibuzz, Golbat, and much more consistent wins versus Azumarill.

And for what it’s worth, Kanto MUK looks pretty spicy too! 🤔

Skuntank PoisonDark


Poison Jab | Crunch & Flamethrower/Return

Here Poison Jab is your only real choice. Crunch is pretty much a must, leaving you to decide between Flamethrower (best versus Bugs and Steels, uniquely beating Forret and Trashadam), Sludge Bomb (best versus Fairies and some Darks, uniquely beating LR Umbreon) or Return (best versus opposing Dark/Poisons, uniquely beating A-Muk and the mirror). Oh, and there’s also Shadow Stank to consider too….

Nidoqueen PoisonGround


Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Earth Power

There’s also regular and Shadow to consider with the Queen, another big addition to the meta this time around. And while obviously alike in many ways, there are also a LOT of differences. Regular uniquely outbulks Beedrill, Haunter, Golbat, Sableye, A-Wak, Drapion, and Toxicroak, while Shadow Queen instead outmuscles Azumarill, Snarl Mandi, LR Umbreon, Zweilous, Cofagrigus, and even Venusaur (TIL on that last one!).

Seviper Poison


Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Crunch

No, really!. Unlike Queen, Seviper cannot handle Crustle, Golbat, Haunter, Toxicroak, Scrafty, Stank, or A-Muk, but it DOES have Crunch which makes it handy in beating A-Wak and Grigus and, unlike Queen, Drifblim, Froslass, Qwilfish, and Shadow Bee, and not being part Ground means that also unlike Queen, Seviper can beat PowderTales as well. It actually fits some teams better than Queen… seriously.

Dragalge PoisonDragon


Dragon Tail | Aqua Tail & Gunk Shot

The skillset of Dragalge translates really well to Halloween Cup: it douses things like Queen, A-Wak, and Crustle with Aqua Tail, poisons Azumarill (and also overwhelms Umbreon) with Gunk Shot, and resists the many moves of Poison, Grass and (most) Water and Fire types (and Fighters) while beating them down with Dragon Tail. Dragalge is quietly very dangerous in this meta. Now’s a great time to build one if you’ve been holding off.

75,000 Dust / 75 Candy

Zweilous DarkDragon


Dragon Breath | Body Slam & Dark Pulse

The other Dragon that makes a dent in this meta, Zweil operates best as a Ghost and Dark slayer, beating every Ghost but Froslass and basically every Dark without Fighting damage. As a bonus, Zweil can take out Queen, Tentacruel, Venusaur and some others too. Steer clear of Bugs and especially Fairies, but Zweilous is a tough, tough out for anything else.

Mandibuzz DarkFlying


Air Slash/Snarl | Shadow Ball & Aerial Ace/Foul Play

There are merits to several move combos, but here’s the nutshell. First, I recomnend Shadow Ball in the mix for how it can overcome stuff like Mawile and Golbat more readily than other moves. Then there’s the fast move decision. Snarl more easily beats Ghosts (Drifblim, Froslass especially) and outraces Nidoqueen and Tentacruel before they can wear Mandi down. Air Slash more easily beats Grasses, Bugs, and Fighters (getting a unique win over Scrafty, for example), Darks (Umbreon, Snarl Mandi), and interestingly, Mawile. (Even resisted Air Slashes add up!) There’s no “wrong” way to go, really.

Umbreon Dark


Snarl | Foul Play & Last Resortᴸ/Psychicᴸ

Umbreon rarely wows with its number of wins… but what is impressive is its remarkable consistency. Yes, it impressively shreds all the Ghosts, but what Umbreon does best is wear a lot of things down. I generally recommend Last Resort to handle Darks (Mandi, A-Muk, mirror), but yes, Psychic works fine too (getting Toxicroak, Shadow Bee, and Shadow Queen). Umbreon puts up a good fight against basically everything here without a steady diet of Fairy, Fighting, or Bug damage, and remains one of the safest gap fillers you’ll find in this meta.

Sableye DarkGhost


Shadow Claw | Foul Play & Return/Power Gem

Yep, Sable is solid, able to overwhelm things like Jelli, Mawile, Haunter, Escav, A-Wak, Beedrill, Tentacruel, Shadow Queen, Toxicroak, Dark/Poisons, and much more. Shadow is a bit worse and generally not recommended, IMO.

Drifblim GhostFlying


Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

Also still solid, though this year it has to contend with things it didn’t in Halloween 2020 that beat it, like Jellicent, Mandibuzz, and A-Tails. But still, almost its entire loss list is made up of Darks and a handful of troublesome Ghosts (Jelli, Lass, Sable, Haunter); beyond them and things dedicated to taking out Flyers (Crustle, Galv), Blim is still a force to be reckoned with.

Chandelure GhostFire


Incinerate | Flame Charge & Shadow Ball

Chandelure was around in Halloween 2020, but if you recall, Incinerate hit the game less than a week after Halloween Cup 2020 ended, so poor Chandie was stuck with Fire Spin and couldn’t keep up. But now? Now we’re cooking, with new wins versus Nidoqueen, A-Muk, Skuntank, Golbat, Toxicroak, Wigglytuff, and even Tentacruel and Jellicent, to name just a few. Get fired up! 🔥

Scizor (Shadow) BugSteel


Bullet Punch | X-Scissor & Night Slash

Very few things see this kind of jump in performance as a Shadow… compare regular Scizor to Shadow Scizor! 👀 Without any new losses, Shadow gains potential wins over Cofagrigus, Drifblim, Escavalier, Forretress, Snarl Mandi, Shadow Queen, Obstagoon, Sableye, Skuntank, Tentacruel, Trashadam, and a partridge in a pear tree! Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the point… Shadow Scizor is one of the scariest things in this format in the right hands. Maybe yours, hmmm?

Forretress BugSteel


Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake

Forret was a little fringe last Halloween, but it’s gotten better with age, as it can handle newcomers Nidoqueen (regular and Shadow), A-Tails (with either fast move), Sylveon, and on-the-rise A-Muk, Qwilfish, and others. This in addition to already holding down other Charmers, Darks, and even most Poisons already. The Golf Ball Of Doom will be spinning on many graves this October.

Tyranitar RockDark


Smack Downᴸ | Crunch & Stone Edge

Sort of a more expensive Crustle that resists Dark and Ghost. That means TTar beats Cofagrigus, Haunter, and Umbreon that Crustle struggles with (and beats Crustie head to head too), while Crustle instead gets Forret, Obstagoon, Trashadam, Zweilous, and CharmTales. You CAN make TTar cheaper by running with only one charge move (Crunch) and really only give up Tentacruel, but that’s your call.

Sylveon Fairy


Charm | Psyshockᴸ & Moonblast

On the surface there’s nothing special about Sylveon, as it performs on par with other Charmers. What makes it special doesn’t show up well in simple sims, but Psyshock is a great answer to the many Poisons here that normally wail on Charmers without fear. Sylveon can at least keep them on their toes, for what that’s worth.

Mawile SteelFairy


Fire Fang | Power-Up Punch & Play Rough

One of the most unique threats in this (or any!) meta, in normal or Shadow form, Mawile burns through every single Bug and Grass in Halloween Cup, and by throwing a Power-Up Punch as early as possible to boost Fire Fang damage, every other Fairy but Azumarill too. Add to that the fact that most Darks and Ices and Golbat fall before Mawile too, and I think I can really rest my case here. This is one of the most expensive picks here, but moke ’em if you got ’em!

Trevenant GhostGrass


Shadow Claw | Seed Bomb & Shadow Ball

Last time through Halloween Cup, Trevor was brand new and I didn’t have a full writeup for it yet. But now let’s give Trevenant its due, as it most certainly has a place in the meta. It’s a Ghost that beats Azumarill and basically all the other big name Ghosts (to include scarier ones like Froslass and Alolan Marowak) while at the same time being a Grass that can beat most of the big Bugs and Grasses. While it still hates Darks and even most Poisons, it is clear that Trevor should have a good showing this time around with its pretty unique versatility.

Gourgeist GhostGrass

And then there’s GOURGEIST, which is honestly just a worse Trevenant. It’s viable, but IF I were to run it, it would probably be with Fire Blast, which is a bit worse overall but at least has the element of surprise going for it.


Here are a few more things I like in this meta that I may not recommend quite as much as the stuff above, but they’re still fun options if you like to spice things up! 🌶️

Crawdaunt WaterDark

Sharpedo WaterDark


Waterfall | Night Slash & Crabhammer / Poison Fang & Crunch

The very definition of spice, hitting super hard with Waterfall and washing away some big names in the process. But they’re both rather flimsy (especially Sharpie) and lose rather hard when not in a positive matchup. If that’s your kind of play style — go big or go home! — this pair may pique your interest.

Grimer Poison


Mud Slap | Sludge & Mud Bomb

Obviously not everyone can build one of these up to XL levels, but I know several players who made getting an XL Grimer a priority. If that’s you, here’s a chance to profit. Just peruse that win column and check out the big names: Azumarill, A-Wak, Froslass, Shadow Queen, Jellicent, Umbreon, Mawile, Drifblim, Cofagrigus, Sableye, A-Tails, Crustle, Haunter, and many more. Grimer has a unique moveset that has some very nice applications here.

Grimer (Alola) PoisonDark


Poison Jab | Crunch & Sludge Bomb

Same story here, only I think even more players have built this already than Kanto Grimer. Alolan operates on a similar level with A-Muk and is worthy of spice consideration for sure.

Nidorina Poison


Poison Sting | Poison Fang & Dig/Returnᴸ

Believe it or not, ‘Rina is even MORE expensive than even the Grimers, needing to be fully maxed to hit even 1480 CP! But IF you’re able to swing that, the grind is worth itDig is not a good PvP move by any means, but it’s able to finish off things like Haunter, Qwilfish, Tentacruel, and all the Dark/Poisons, while the absurdly spammy Poison Sting/Poison Fang dusts off a ton of other things, including Mandi, Goon, Umbreon, Scrafty, Galvantula, and ALL Fairies and Grasses.

Golurk GroundGhost


Mud Slap | Shadow Punch & Dynamic Punch

Didn’t make the main article this time, but Golurk still knows how to spice things up. With an intriguing moveset that hits Poisons (Mud Slap), Ghosts (Shadow Punch), and Darks and Steels (Dynamic Punch) super effectively, it makes sense that it actually works out pretty well in this meta, taking out every Steel but Scizor, plus the likes of Nidoqueen, Galvantula, Beedrill, Escavalier, Obstagoon, Toxicroak, Haunter, A-Wak, Mawile, Qwilfish, Tentacruel, and many more.

Krookodile GroundDark


Snarl | Crunch & Earthquake

For those lucky enough to have one in Great League, Krook is sneaky good in Halloween Cup, handling Ghosts and most Poisons with equal deftness, plus stuff like Nidoqueen, Umbreon, Crustle, Trashadam, and Mawile. If you’ve been itching to use yours, this isn’t a bad place to start!

Gardevoir (Shadow) PsychicFairy


Charm | Shadow Ball & Synchronoiseᴸ

Gard’s Psychic typing is more curse than blessing in this meta full of Ghosts, Darks, and Bugs (and all but bereft of Fighters), but through sheer force she can still manage to carve out a slice of the meta. If you love using her in Great League, she can be deployed here and do alright.

Pawniard DarkSteel


Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Iron Head

Yes, BISHARP can work too, but people have been hounding with questions on Pawn already, so here ya go. Yes, if you underwent the arduous effort to build one, it’s a really good pick here that can handle most Ghosts, Darks, and a decent spread of others. Go nuts!

I’m sure your eyes are glazing over after that LONG read, so I’m just gonna end things right here and wish you the best of luck in Halloween Cup. 🎃 I hope it’s enjoyable and that this perhaps helps add a bit to that enjoyment!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. But otherwise, stay safe out there, Pokéfriends. Thanks for reading, and catch you next time!

Original Reddit article here.

(Header art background credit: “Night in Lavender Town”, by Gary Ng)

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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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