Pokémon GO Holiday Cup 2022 Guide – Nifty Or Thrifty edition

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The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: the 2022 version of Holiday Cup, in this case. As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs… or don’t need a second move at all!

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?

A quick reminder of what Holiday Cup is:

  • Great League, 1500 CP Limit.
  • Only Electric, Flying, Ghost, Grass, Ice, and Normal type Pokémon are allowed.
  • No other restrictions. Legendaries, Mythicals, Shadows are all a-okay!

As I try to usually do, I will start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries.

Okay, enough intro. Let’s dive in!

10,000 Dust / 25 Candy

VENUSAUR

Venusaur GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

It used to be tradition/inside joke that I would lead off basically every ‘Nifty Or Thrifty’ with personal fave Venusaur, and hey, the holiday season is all about tradition, right? Besides, Venusaur looks just fine here, capably handling many top threats like Diggersby, Stunfisk, Lapras and Dewgong, Pelipper, Lanturn, Galvantula, Dubwool, the Charmers, the Alolan Rocks, Sableye, quasi-Fighters Vigoroth and Zangoose, and at least with good PvP IVs, Obstagoon and Dunsparce, and the list goes on.

Venusaur is one of the more reliable and flexible (for a Grass, at least) options around. Shadow Venusaur is an interesting sidegrade option, gaining Magnezone, Togedemaru, and easier wins over Obstagoon and Dunsparce, at the cost of losing Lapras, Pelipper, Galvantula, and often Alolan Graveler as well. Either way, Venusaur should remain a staple here despite the risk of wading into a literal snowball fight in this format.

CHARIZARD

Charizard FireFlying

Wing Attackᴸ/Fire Spin/Dragon Breathᴸ | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ

Last year Fire Spin was the clear favorite. And while Spin is certainly still worth taking for a spin (and still has a couple truly unique wins like Cradily and Togedemaru), this year it is clearly Wing Attack that takes the crown. (And in a format with so many flammable things, Wing Attack muscling out Fire Spin probably tells you everything you need to know about the favored fast move going forward!)

Wing Attack’s high energy gains bring in wins versus Altaria, A-Wak, Litleo, and sometimes Talonflame (spamming Dragon Claw as often as possibe is key… you have to get two through shields to win it) that Spin cannot match, and a completely unique win over Sableye that neither Spin nor Dragon Breath can match either.

(Breath also misses out on things like Dubwool, A-Slash, PowderTales, and Walrein and it trails behind WA and FS, having only a unique win over Mandibuzz to its name.)

Wing Attack is an even clearer favorite for Shadow Charizard, with wins over Dubwool, Dunsparce, Noctowl, Pidgeot, Vigoroth, Lapras, and Walrein that neither Fire Spin nor Dragon Breath can match; the only unique wins those two moves get are A-Slash, Aboma, and Togedemaru for Fire Spin, and Altaria for Dragon Breath.

There’s room for all three in this format depending on team need, but Wing Attack is your new default, here and elsewhere. If you haven’t cashed in an Elite TM for Wing Attack yet, there’s really no sense waiting any longer!

TALONFLAME

Talonflame FireFlying

Incinerateᴸ | Flame Charge & Brave Bird

Somewhat losing its past edge of Charizard now that Wing Attack has pushed Zard back into new relevance, but Talon is still plenty deadly. It beats Noctowl more easily than Zard, and can situationally win the head to head as well (is the Zard player doesn’t commit to just spamming Dragon Claw as often as possible), though it DOES tend to miss out on Trevenant and Froslass, whereas WA Zard can better outrace their scary Shadow Balls.

Nothing really NEW to say about Talonflame at this point – it’s a pretty well-known commodity with its Brave Bird nukes leveling many playing fields – but oldies can still be goodies. Talon is still worth a shot if you’re comfortable with it.

PIDGEOT

Pidgeot NormalFlying

Wing Attackᴸ | Feather Dance & Brave Bird

Sticking with Flyers for the moment, which brings us to the ever-improving Pidgeot. In the original Holiday Cup, it had just recently received Gust but still lacked Feather Dance, and just didn’t cut it. Last year, it had Dance but was mostly still using Gust, and was much better but still kind of lackluster. THIS year, however, with buffed Wing Attack powering out its charge moves, Pidgeclaus is coming to town… to blow it away!

Yes yes, there are plenty of Ice, Electric, and/or Rock types around to prey on its all-Flying moveset, and of course things can blow if the Feather Dance/Brave Bird bait game doesn’t go your way. But aside from those dedicated Ices, Rocks, and Electrics, and the occassion other problem spot like Skarmory, Pidgeot has the tools and the means to tangle with just about everything. You’ll likely see this bird even more than turtledoves and partridges (whether in pear trees or not!) this holiday season.

NOCTOWL

Noctowl NormalFlying

Wing Attack | Shadow Ball & Sky Attack

Less explosive than Pidgeot, and that shows in the numbers, but it may end up being more conistent. Shadow Ball is also a nice weapon to answer back Electrics, Steels, and Rocks that resist Flying damage (and has other uses, like against Froslass, where Noctowl falls just four energy short of beating it in the head-to-head), giving Noctowl an “out” that Pidgeot lacks, making it a much safer swap in general. I think Mr. (or Mrs.!) Owl will be much better and more popular than the simple win/loss numbers show.

ALTARIA

Altaria DragonFlying

Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Moonblastᴸ

The good? It’s a Flyer that takes only neutral from Electric, and resists scary Fire damage too. But the bad, of course, is that double weakness to Ice, especially in a format like Holiday Cup that’s loaded with Ice. In the end, this leaves Altaria very viable, but held in check. Beating the Fires (that don’t rhyme with “hardy har”) without much trouble and things like Lanturn, Stunfisk, and Galvantula is nice. Bonuses like Sableye, Mandibuzz, Pelipper, and Noctowl are just icing on the cake. Note that Moonblast is important for some of those, like Stunfisk, Mandi, and Owl.

MANTINE (Baby Discount™)

Mantine WaterFlying

Wing Attack | Ice Beam & Bubble Beam

As with Charizard, while there was the choice of up to three viable fast moves in the past, the clear frontrunner now is Wing Attack. That said, it’s really just not up on quite the same level as something like Pidgeot, its only real advantage being landing Ice Beam in key spots to sneak in wins like Skarmory that other Flyers can’t normally get. Though I suppose it IS noteworthy that one with a bit more Attack (hatch-level IVs, basically) CAN overcome Pidgeot too, so there’s that.

ALOLAN GRAVELER/GOLEM

Graveler (Alola) RockElectric

Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge

Arguably Enemy #1 of Holiday Cup Flyers (though Aurorus is making a big push at that title this year), the Alolan Rocks remain budget heroes this year, perhaps even moreso with this season’s rise of Wing Attackers. For me, A-Graveler gets the nod over A-Golem, as Grav can outbulk (Ice Shard) Lapras and Vigoroth, whereas A-Golem overpowers Venusaur instead. But either way, the Alolan Rocks provide equally great coverage versus Flyers, Ices (including fellow rocky Aurorus), Fires, and even most Electrics. They have always been an incredibly good fit in this meta, and somehow have only gotten better this year.

RAICHU

Raichu Electric

Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Brick Break/Thunder Punch

The big advantage Original Recipe Raichu has over its Alolan surfer dude cousin is Brick Break, which by itself is able to beat down Alolan Sandslash, Magnezone, Skarmory, Noctowl, Pidgeot, Charizard, Dunsparce, Lapras, Walrein and more. But the real upside is playing a similar role to Thunder Punch in setting up a closing Wild Charge. There is risk, as the opponent correctly sniffing out the bait and letting through an unblocked Brick Break is often going to be… less than ideal.

But when it works, it really works, and even better than that shows, as it can also beat stuff like AurorusObstagoon, and Lickitung with proper move timing. High risk, but potentially high rewards in using Brick Break. I’ll say both it and Thunder Punch are viable alongside Wild Charge… but Brick Break is what makes Original Recipe Raichu truly unique.

Raichu (Alola) ElectricPsychic

Honestly I’m not nearly as impressed by ALOLAN RAICHU. Sure, it resists Fighting and can thus beat some things more easily than KayChu, but it also loses to things KayChu can beat, like Dunsparce, Wigglytuff, A-Slash, Lickitung, Obstagoon, and even Mandibuzz, those last four thanks to taking super effective damage from their Ghost or Dark moves. Though do note it’s a little better than that sim shows… it can also take down Dubwool, A-Wak, and even Sableye if it uses the old “build up energy for two Wild Charges and throw them back-to-back” trick.

ALOLAN RATICATE

Raticate (Alola) DarkNormal

Quick Attack | Crunch & Hyper Beam/Returnᴸ

Thanks to the buff to Quick Attackthe Rat Pack is back. Obviously Ghosts run and hide, but people tend to forget just how thicc A-Rat actually is… it can win a LOT of neutral matchups on bulk alone, such as Lickitung, Lanturn, Pelipper, Venusaur, Abomasnow, Mandibuzz, Talonflame, Noctowl, Lapras, Walrein, Dunsparce, Togedemaru, A-Slash, Alolan Graveler and more, despite those last three resisting all of its Normal damage.

A-Rat isn’t ranked very well, but that’s in large part because it’s assigned Hyper Fang in the rankings, but with QA’s high energy gains, you’re quite a bit better off with Return or Hyper Beam (as simmed above). I don’t so much recommend Shadow A-Rat, but purified A-Rat is ready to take a bite out of this meta… and the (ghost of?) future metas to come.

WIGGLYTUFF

Wigglytuff NormalFairy

Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough

While arguably the best representative of Charmers thanks to its resistance to Ghost damage, even Wigglytuff admittedly struggles here. Yes, it wipes away Darks and Dragons, and uses that Ghost resistance to pretty well dominate Lickitung and Trevenant, and it can outmuscle CharmTales and Dunsparce and Galvantula and Dubwool and such too, but it plays more of a niche, specialist role than anything. Useable, just not one to rest ALL your hopes and dreams on.

WHIMSICOTT

Whimsicott GrassFairy

Charm | Grass Knot & Hurricane/Moonblast

The only other cheap Charmer to really even consider is WHIMSICOTT, which might seem foolish in a format stuffed with Ice types that prey on Whimsie’s Grass typing, but keep in mind it ALSO resists Electric and Ground and Grass damage, so it beats things that Wiggly cannot like A-Grav, Stunfisk, Lanturn, and Cradily, though unsurprisingly cannot hold off Lickitung, Trevenant, or Alolan Ninetales as Wiggly is able to. Pick your pleasure, I suppose.

MEGANIUM

Meganium Grass

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake

Sticking with Grasses, next we have… potentially a better Venusaur in Meganium. Yes, its lack of the extra resistances that come with Venusaur’s Poison typing make things like Vigoroth and Charmers very dicey (if not outright losses), but Meg’s better bulk and excellent anti-Electric/Steel coverage with Earthquake allow Meg to take down Dunsparce, Walrein, Togedemaru, Magnezone, and even (Shadow Claw) Alolan Sandslash, none of which Venusaur can consistently replicate.

I started the article with Venusaur, but I don’t want to play favorites at your expense. If you’re considering a Grass starter, Meg may be your better bet. Check your team composition and see which fits your needs better!

For what it’s worth, SERPERIOR is very solid as well, just without the better coverage of Meganium or even Venusaur. Playable if you like it!

CHESNAUGHT

Chesnaught GrassFighting

Smack Down/Vine Whip | Superpower & Energy Ball

Frenzy Plant (and its ability to outrace Aurorus and Galvantula) will come just a couple weeks too late to help it here, but Chesnaught is still viable in the here and now. To be honest, though, Vine Whip makes it rather blah compared to the other Frenzy Planters in this meta. So if you’re going to run Chesnaught, run it with its very unique Smack Down instead.

Yes, you give up some things like Walrein, Sableye, and Alolan Sandslash (that last case in particular being used to Naught’s Superpower), but then Chesnaught becomes a Grass type that can topple Charizard (despite being double weak to Wing Attack), Talonflame, and Mandibuzz, and crushes Galvantula without needing to wait for Frenzy Plant to come along. I think Smack Down Chesnaught could really flummox some players this time around.

OBSTAGOON

Obstagoon DarkNormal

Counter | Night Slash & Hyper Beam/Gunk Shot

And with Fighting making a showing, now let’s pivot to a couple of the format’s quasi-Fighters. Obstagoon is the cheapest Counter user here, yours for potentially just the measly cost of a second move after evolving up from a hatch-size Galarian Zigzagoon. And Obstagoon and its Counter are quite good in this meta, yes. None of the Ices like it (not even Froslass that’s usually troublesome for Fighters and quasi-Fighters), nor other things weak to Counter like Aurorus, Diggersby, Togedemaru, Magnezone, and the Alolan Rocks.

And meanwhile, Night Slash handles all the major Ghosts, and Goon also overcomes things like Mandibuzz, Stunfisk, Lanturn, and Noctowl with a combination of high neutral damage and a big fat closer, Hyper Beam being my personal recommendation for its ability to specifically knock out Stunfisk and Noctowl.

DUBWOOL

Dubwool Normal

Double Kick | Body Slam & Payback/Wild Charge

Crashing the party this year thanks to Double Kick, Dubwool is a fun little wrench thrown into the works. Beating down all the major Steels, Rocks, Ice, and Normals besides Froslass, Pidgeot, PowderTales, and Vigoroth (for rather obvious reasons, no?) is no shocker for a quasi-Fighter, but Dub does so much more.

Galvantula, Stunfisk, Wigglytuff, Lanturn, and Noctowl are just a few highlights, but there’s more. Wild Charge can obviously blow away most of the big name Flyers (including Charizard, Talonflame, Skarmory, and Pelipper), while big fat closer Payback brings out the ghost traps for Froslass, A-Wak, and Trevenant, and takes down Vigoroth as a bonus. Dubwool is going to be a disruptive and somewhat unpredictable wild card this time through Holiday Cup!

Ironically, both of those not-actually-Fighters are better than actual Fighting type BEWEAR. Don’t get me wrong, Bewear does some nifty stuff (like ripping through Ghosts), but being part Fighter means opening it up to super effective damage from Flyers and other Fighting damage around (losing to Dubwool, for instance). It can be run for sure, but I like it less than other options above.

MUNCHLAX

Munchlax Normal

Tackle/Lick | Body Slam & Bulldoze

As always, Munchie does a lot of little things well, but there is one rather significant shift now: Lick may be getting surpassed now by STAB Tackle, which seems SO wrong as I write it, but is actually SO true. It makes sense when you think about it, though… both fast moves now have the exact same stats, so the only scenarios where Lick is better is when it’s dealing super effective damage.

And this is borne out in the wins: Lick uniquely takes out Ghost types Froslass, A-Wak, and Trevenant, but Tackle deals higher neutral damage (thanks to STAB) and beats Abomasnow, Charizard, Dunsparce, Lanturn, Lapras, Lickitung, Litleo, Noctowl, Pidgeot, Talonflame, AND Wigglytuff! Your new favorite is here, and Munchlax is rising to new heights because of it.

Fellow beefy Normal type GREEDENT is alright too, if less exciting overall.

PYROAR/LITLEO

Pyroar FireNormal Litleo FireNormal

Incinerate/Ember | Flame Charge & Overheat/Crunch

Neither are super exciting, even with new move Incinerate, but both Pyroar and XL project Litleo are certainly viable. Major differences: Pyroar’s higher Attack allows it to outrace Mandibuzz, Walrein, Talonflame, and Litleo, while Leo’s greater bulk outlasts Lapras, Togedemaru, and Venusaur instead. And if you ignore Incinerate and instead settle on Ember for Litleo, you can add on Dunsparce, Magnezone, and Noctowl too! 🔥

50,000 Dust / 50 Candy

TOGEDEMARU

Togedemaru ElectricSteel

Thunder Shock | Gyro Ball & Wild Charge

Kicking it off with one of the newest additions, because there’s a surprising amount to unpack for such an unassuming little ball of floof. The Electric side is nothing new: Wild Charge is what puts most Electric types on the map at all, and Thunder Shock is no Volt Switch, but still a great fast move as a clone of Mud Shot/Fairy Wind/Poison Sting/etc. With those, it’s no surprise that it beats the vast majority of Waters (only Water Gun Lanturn and Ludicolo/Lombre give it any real trouble) and Flyers (Gliscor/Gligar, Galarian Zapdos, and Ho-Oh being the only real exceptions). The more interesting part, though, is that Maru is half Steel, just like Magnezone.

But unlike Zone, Togedemaru has a Steel move that’s not just primarily a bait move (like Zone’s Mirror Shot): Gyro Ball. It’s not a great move by any means, having the same so-so stats as Bulldoze, Power Gem, and Aurora Beam (60 energy for only 80 damage). But it DOES deal some real damage, and that combined with the extra resistances that come with being part-Steel (twelve of them, including Ice, Rock, Normal, Fairy, Grass, Flying, and Dragon, among those most relevant to this format) allows Maru to beat things like Abomasnow, Venusaur, Altaria, Aurorus, Alolan Ninetales, Wigglytuff, and a slew of fellow Electrics.

MAGNEZONE

Magnezone ElectricSteel

Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge

Speaking of ‘Zone, yes, the ceiling is quite a bit higher (for ShadowZone, specifically), and even the floor is relatively safe. ShadowZone can sneak away with some crazy wins with just the right baiting, like Obstagoon, Dubwool, Vigoroth, Talonflame, and Alolan Marowak… things no Steel type should be beating. But Togedemaru can instead beat some things like Venusaur, Alolan Graveler, and Lanturn that ‘Zone normally cannot, and Maru also wins the head to head. Both are very viable, I just personally prefer the safer consistency of Togedemaru, but that’s a JRE thing. You do you!

LANTURN

Lanturn WaterElectric

Spark/Water Gun | Surf & Thunderbolt

So Surf doesn’t actually move the needle as much as you might expect for Spark Lanturn. Yeah, there ARE new wins  – Galvantula, Sableye, and Magnezone – but there’s a loss now to Togedemaru, making Surf more of a sidegrade to Hydro Pump than a clear upgrade. Where Surf does really help is with Water Gun Lanturn, with WG/Surf able to outrace Aurorus, Galvantula, Magnezone, Stunfisk, and Togedemaru, none of which WG/Pump can reliably replicate.

Even better, with good PvP IVs, you can further add on Dubwool, Sableye, Vigoroth, and even Whimsicott that resists all of Lanturn’s moves! That brings Water Gun’s performance right up to Spark’s level, while Spark doesn’t benefit from those high rank IVs… so if you have a high rank Lanturn, you know what to do!

LUDICOLO

Ludicolo WaterGrass

Bubble | Ice Beam & Leaf Storm

The good? Ludicolo is a Grass is not weak to Ice or Fire, and a Water that’s not vulnerable to Electric or Grass. But the bad news is that Ludicolo still takes neutral from all of those, so it does not often have a true advantage in that way and is left in a lot of neutral-on-neutral slugfests. Thankfully Ludi has good overall coverage, with a combination of Water, Ice, and Grass damage, so it can wail on just about everything. Put that all together and you get this, a hodgepodge of wins that makes Ludicolo an interesting wild card that can support a number of teams.

ALOLAN NINETALES

Ninetales (Alola) IceFairy

Powder Snow | Dazzling Gleam & Weather Ball (Ice)

Charm | Psyshock & Weather Ball (Ice)

Two obvious varieties here. Charmtales is a deceptively solid Charmer that makes full use of its resistance to Ice to beat Walrein, Lapras, Dewgong, and Abomasnow, all of which give Wigglytuff and especially Whimsicott big problems. (The downside is missing out on Trevenant, Lanturn, Vigoroth, and the A-Rocks that at least one of the others can get.) But much more potent is Powder Snow Ninetales, which quite simply puts on a clinic by walloping its fellow Fairies, Grasses, Flyers, Normals, and Grounds while still slapping around Darks and quasi-Fighters too.

ABOMASNOW

Abomasnow GrassIce

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

If you want to use it, ShadowBama looks better than non-Shadow, with Shadow beating Charizard, Skarmory, Noctowl, Walrein, Lapras, and Cradily that non-Shadow cannot. Not the best meta for it, as Aboma is an Ice that must avoid other Ices, and a Grass that has to be wary of Rocks and Fighters, but it certainly still has a place.

FROSLASS

Froslass IceGhost

Powder Snow | Shadow Ball & Avalanche

Also not the best meta for Froslass, and worse than last year, as most of the new arrivals (Togedemaru, Dubwool, Dunsparce, Aurorus and others) can overcome Lass. But she’s still an Ice that can beat things like Vigoroth and Wigglytuff too, and carries that looming threat of Shadow Ball that will force shields where the opponent really doesn’t want to have to use them.

PILOSWINE

Piloswine IceGround

Powder Snow | Avalanche & High Horsepower/Stone Edge

Normally Piloswine’s Ground subtying is more curse than blessing, opening it up to all manner of unpleasant vulnerabilities. But in this particular meta, it’s more blessing than curse, giving it an edge against Electrics and Rocks that most of its fellow Ices don’t share, which leads to big wins over ALL of them besides Lanturn, Togedemaru, Manectric, and spammy Magneton.

It’s the only meta Ice type that can consistently beat the Alolan Rocks, for instance, and also Magnezone and Alolan Sandslash when running High HorsepowerStone Edge has a place too for beating Alolan Ninetales (and obviouly being better versus enemy Ices in general), but different teams will prefer different coverage. What suits YOUR team better?

ALOLAN SANDSLASH

Sandslash (Alola) IceSteel

Powder Snow | Ice Punch & Bulldoze/Gyro Ball

Several options here with Gyro Ball and Bulldoze and Blizzard leading to edge case wins (Gyro for Ice, Bulldoze for Fires and Steels, and Blizzard for a catch-all), but some of the highlights: Shadow A-Slash with Powder Snow/Ice Punch/Gyro Ball seems like the “best”, with particularly notable wins being Froslass, Stunfisk, Charizard, and Aurorus. That said, non-Shadow can outlast Togedemaru, or Shadow with Shadow Claw has Lanturn as a truly unique win. There’s really no “wrong” way to go… trick out your A-Slash as you like!

DEWGONG

Dewgong WaterIce

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Water Pulse/Blizzard

Dewgong may have tailed off in recent seasons, but it’s always comfortable still in Kanto Cup and Holiday Cup. The bad? More Electrics this time to make Gong sad, but on the plus side, several Flyers have risen in prominence this time around too, and few can wear them down and farm like Dewgong can. I still prefer Blizzard as the second move for its raw and often unexpected closing power (enough to even take out Alolan Marowak!), but Water Pulse, horrible move that it is, does provide coverage against Fires and Ices, so I can’t NOT recommend it too, as much as I might want to. (60 energy for only 70 damage… blech! 🤢)

WALREIN

Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

So shortly after last year’s Holiday Cup, Walrein had its Community Day, got Powder Snow and Icicle Spear, and surged to sudden PvP relevance. And since then, it’s had Spear nerfed and been brought back to the pack of other Ice/Water types. It never had a chance to venture into Holiday Cup at the height of its horror and splendor, which is a real shame. But yes, especially as a Shadow, Wally is still ready to muscle into the Holiday core meta, with Froslass, Sableye, Cradily, Alolan Marowak, Dunsparce, Talonflame, and the Charmers being among its more impressive, less traditional (for an Ice type) wins.

It’s perhaps a bit less exciting, and far more expensive, but yes, you can still dust off pre-evolution SEALEO as well if you want to.

CRADILY

Cradily RockGrass

Bullet Seed | Stone Edge & Grass Knot

Yep, it’s still goodStone Edge is still not quite enough to overcome Altaria, Pidgeot, Skarmory, or Noctowl, but it does swat down other Flyers, as well as Bugs and (most) Ice types that give most Grasses a lot more trouble. Specifically among this year’s newcomers, Cradily handles Walrein, Togedemaru, Litleo, Dunsparce, and Surf Lanturn pretty reliably.

GRASSHOLES

Vileplume (Shadow) GrassPoison Victreebel (Shadow) GrassPoison

Razor Leaf | Sludge Bomb & Moonblast/Leaf Blade

Not sure you necessarily want to run a Leafer here, but if you do, I’ll keep saying it until I see people actually starting to use it: Shadow VILEPLUME is just as good, if not better, than the more famous Shadow VICTREEBEL. Plume uniquely beats Magnezone and Cradily and wins the head to head, while Shadow Vic instead has only Dunsparce to claim as a unique win between the two. Just saying!

ROSERADE

Roserade GrassPoison

Bullet Seedᴸ | Weather Ball (Fire)ᴸ & Leaf Storm

Well, I pushed for it a bit as a target during this past Community Day Weekend, so I would be remiss to NOT point out that Rose can be fun and potent spice here. With Bullet Seed, it can outrace Aboma, A-Grav, Dubwool, Sableye, Vigoroth, and Walrein. With Poison Jab instead, the unique wins are Galvantula, Magnezone, A-Slash, Lickitung, Venusaur, and Trevenant. Try Rose out and see what you think!

ALOLAN MAROWAK

Marowak (Alola) FireGhost

Fire Spin | Bone Club & Shadow Ball/Shadow Boneᴸ

There’s not much left to tease out about longtime staple A-Wak, so I’ll just note that Shadow Ball deserves a look just as much as Shadow Bone, with Ball having the firepower needed to punch out Charizard and Skarmory and win the mirror, and Bone instead outracing Froslass and Cradily better. And that’s even moreso with ShadoWak, as Shadow Ball gets Lapras, Walrein, and Talonflame as unique wins, whereas Bone beats Sableye as its only counterbalancing win.

ZANGOOSE

Zangoose Normal

Shadow Claw | Night Slash & Close Combat

It’s cooled off a bit with the arrival of new Fighting-damage-dealers this year, but the Goose is still… kinda loose? It handles new arrivals Aurorus, Dunspace, and Walrein, in addition to equally threatening things weak to Ghost/Dark and things weak to Fighting, so it still has a place for at least one more Holiday Cup.

GALVANTULA

Galvantula BugElectric

Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge

The PvP world is starting to pass Galv by a little bit over time as more and more things come along that push it down the rankings. Even in this era of increased Flyers, it’s an Electric type that takes neutral (rather than resisted) damage from Flying, and if resisted Lunge goes through unshielded and the shield is saved for Discharge, it then becomes an Electric that can lose to those Flyers, straight up.

That said, it can absolutely still do a lot of damage, and Lunge allows it to beat several Grasses and fellow Electrics (and weak-to-Bug Darks too), and its Bug typing is handy for resisting Fighting and thus taking out things like Vigoroth. Galv isn’t finished just yet!

ZEBSTRIKA

Zebstrika Electric

Spark | Flame Charge & Wild Charge

As an Electric that can burn down Steels, Grasses, and Bugs, Zeb remains criminally underrated in this meta. Especially if you have one with high enough bulk, which tacks on wins versus Obstagoon and Lickitung too. Zeb does all the stuff you’d want your Electric type to do AND goes out and picks up stuff like Froslass, Alolan Sandslash, Togedemaru, Magnezone, Alolan Marowak, Altaria, and the Charmers too. Sounds like a legit option to me!

DUNSPARCE

Dunsparce Normal

Rollout | Drill Run & Rock Slide

Started this section with a potent new addition to this year’s meta, and ending it the same way. With Rollout finally giving it a good fast move, Dunsparce’s potential has been fully realized, as its charge moves Drill Run and Rock Slide have always had huge potential on their own. (Just ask anyone who’s faced Excadrill in PvP! 😬 Now it finally all comes together. 

Ice, Flying, Electric, Fire, Steel types ALL hate to see it now, and unlike most ‘mons that spew out Ground and/or Rock damage, basically none of them can hit it with anything better than neutral damage in return.

I am rapidly approaching Reddit’s character limit, so just gonna hit the new highlights below and then save the rest for a comment!

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

AURORUS

Aurorus RockIce

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Meteor Beam

Now ranked #1 in Holiday Cup. It makes sense, as Aurorus beats ALL the big Flyers, Grounds, and Grasses (with Abomasnow being basically the only exception), but then ALSO goes out and smacks around other Ices besides Steely A-Slash and aforementioned Aboma. It even beats the big name Fire types, and then adds on Wigglytuff, Sableye, Galvantula, Dunsparce, and Lickitung, just to show off.

Anything that deals Fighting damage is a major blind spot, as are Steels, Lanturn, and the Alolan Rocks. But Aurorus can tangle with just about everything else. There’s never been a better time to build one, as it’s rocking out in Open Great League too!

MILTANK

Miltank Normal

Rollout | Body Slam & Thunderbolt/Ice Beam

Brought to you this holiday season by Rollout, the fast move craze now sweeping the nation! If you’ve been waiting to use your bovine buddy in PvP, this is a great place to start. Those charge moves come SO fast, with Thunderbolt zapping Lapras, WG Lanturn, Walrein, A-Wak, and A-Slash, while Ice Beam instead freezes Altaria, Stunfisk, Venusaur, Trevenant, and Alolan Graveler in their tracks. Because you know how big gyrating cows are a huge part of holiday tradition too! 🐮

OTHERS

And from here, we’re switching over to rapid fire to close this out! Most of these are basically unchanged from last year’s Holiday Cup anyway.

Vigoroth Normal
  • VIGOROTH is easily a Top 10 option in the format, but that’s nothing new. It’s a Fighter that doesn’t have the traditional Fighting weakness to Flying, a Normal type that beats down nearly all other Normals. And of course, that’s just scratching the surface. Viggy is a BIG part of Holiday Cup, as always.
Sableye DarkGhost
  • SABLEYE is always a part of the meta too, but honestly, it’s not that impressive here. There’s just too much around that resists Shadow Claw, and while the Fairy threat is low, there is a ton of neutral damage that overwhelms Sable. Not highly recommended, though it’s far from completely unviable in the right hands.
Castform Normal
  • The Snowy version falls off a bit now, but NORMAL CASTFORM appreciates the buff to Tackle and operates as fun little wild card, with Weather Ball (Rock) for the Flyers and Ices, and Energy Ball for troublesome Waters. I’m liking its potential quite a bit!
Gliscor GroundFlying
  • Speaking of potential, GLISCOR has quite a bit of that now (including in Shadow form, despite scary vulnerabilities, especially to Ice.
Luxray Electric
  • LUXRAY has even bigger boom or bust potential. I honestly have a hard time recommending it, but hey, it’s hard to ignore that ceiling!
Ampharos Electric
  • AMPHAROS is still better off in Ultra League, but the addition now of Brutal Swing is at least worth a mention. Your best play is usually to pair it with Focus Blast (and Volt Switch, of course) for a funky Swiss army knife.
Lapras WaterIce
  • Do me a favor: if you’re going to run LAPRAS, give strong consideration to Water Gun, which can beat Aurorus, Fires like Litleo, and washes away Walrein and the mirror, giving Lappie a nice niche the other Ice/Waters can’t match. Ice Shard is fine too, but not as unique or special.
  • And a host of the usual suspects keep doing the same thing they’ve done in Holiday Cups past, inlcuding STUNFISK (the rise of Flyers makes Thunder Shock the clear favorite fast move now), SKARMORY (though Steel Wing bears real consideration for how it rips through Ice and Rock types… Aurorus in particular HATES it), SNORLAX (and Shadowlax too!), MANDIBUZZFERROTHORNTREVENANT and others. Good luck!

100,000 Dust / 100 Candy

Celesteela SteelFlying
  • New this year is CELESTEELA, assuming you got one from research during the Ultra Beast Arrival weekend recently. It’s generally a worse Skarmory, but running with Smack Down gives it a nice niche: being able to beat down Fires that maim Skarm like Charizard and Talonflame, as well as beating Skarmory in the head to head, and some Ices too (like Lapras). If you have a good one, Holiday Cup offers a nice sandbox to take it for a whirl.
Moltres FireFlying
  • Not new but definitely improved is MOLTRES, an underrated beneficiary of the buff to Wing Attack. It’s not quite on the same level as more versatile Charizard and Talonflame, but it has closed the distance significantly. If you have a GL-sized one, it’s worth at least a look. (Ho-Oh, however, I am less sure about.)
Zapdos ElectricFlying Articuno IceFlying
  • Conversely, ZAPDOS and ARTICUNO suffer more than benefit from being Flying, as their fellow Electrics and Ices (not to mention Rock types too) come with a big advantage versus them. I have a hard time recommending them, though I can see someone making a good Zappy work for them.
Raikou Electric
  • A reminder for those who built one way back when and then forgot about it: Shadow RAIKOU is viable enough here if you wanna dust yours off. I like it a bit better than Zapdos, at least.
Zapdos (Galarian) FightingFlying
  • Speaking of Zapdos, GALARIAN ZAPDOS brings a new full-fledged Fighter into the meta, but as with the other Birds, Ice and Electric types are still issues, and you gotta watch out for other Flyers too. It can work but will require some fancy team building skillz.
Regice Ice
  • One Legendary that works VERY well here is REGICE, though you more want traditional Earthquake more than newer (and exclusive) Thunder, with Quake’s ability to beat Electrics and Fires like Togedemaru, Magnezone, Lanturn, and Alolan Marowak having more value in this meta. Thunder is mostly superfluous with Blizzard handling Flyers anyway.

FEELIN’ LUCKY?

In this section, we’ll cover a few mons that are no less “nifty” than those in the main article above, but require maxing out beyond Level 40 and dipping into Candy XL, so they are FAR from “thrifty”!

Amaura RockIce
  • SO good is Aurorus in this meta, that pre-evolution Littlefoot… er, I mean AMAURA is a very viable option too. Some people have made building a GL Amaura a pet project already, so if that’s you, try it here in Great Valley Cup Holiday Cup and let us know how it goes!
Diggersby NormalGround
  • DIGGERSBY remains quite good here, though it’s always had a Flyer problem, as Mud Shot and Earthquake barely tickle them. Newly buffed Quick Attack takes care of that, bringing Charizard, Noctowl, and Mandibuzz into the win column and giving up only Lickitung to do it. At least in this meta, I think Quick Attack is your new #1!
Lickitung Normal
  • Speaking of LICKITUNG, nothing new as compared to last year… it just keeps plodding along and making players cry. Myself included, as I am STILL woefully short on XLs for it. Darn you, droolface!
Chansey Normal
  • Darn you especially, CHANSEY. NOBODY SHOULD RUN YOU grrrrrr.
Pachirisu Electric
  • The Electric version of Chansey is even more exclusive, as PACHIRISU remains frustratingly out of reach for most players around the world. Those that have it will likely use it though, so be ready! It’s a monster.

Okay, NOW we’re finally done. Though there are even MORE things I could mention, and possibly a couple I forgot about entirely, we’re gonna call it quits here. The format is already underway, and I am SPENT after a loooooong week of writing. Hope this was a help to you, and good luck in your battles!

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, especially those of you who took the time to read it ALL! I sincerely hope this helps you master Holiday Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time… and Happy Holidays, Pokéfriends!

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