Pokémon GO Spring Cup Guide: Nifty Or Thrifty edition

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Man, it’s really tough to write right now.

Personally, it’s been rather nutty in the JRE household the last few days, with illness that hit the wife and is now trying HARD to take me down, a very sick little pet bunny that needed to be driven out of state for emergency care and overnight stays (she is MUCH better now, thank goodness), and, of course, a sudden lack of motivation thanks to… recent decisions by a certain AR/gaming company. Not to make excuses, but just to set up the following article. Because I’ll be honest… I started this one MUCH later than I do most editions of “Nifty Or Thrifty”, and I’m rushing to make up for lost time.

But this, as always, is not for me, or even for Niantic. It’s for YOU, dear reader. And thus, I’m pushing all that other stuff aside and doing what I can to get this information to you. So let’s get into it!

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Spring 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 and/or leveling up! Because for those on a stardust budget — and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future — it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it.

As per usual, we’ll start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries. I do try and put extra emphasis on the thriftier stuff, especially for formats like this where you may not use some of these things much in the future. (For a rough guide to reusability, though, I will rank things with ♻️s, with three being solid in other Great League formats, two being okay in at least certain Cup formats, and only one being something that, honestly, you’re unlikely to use again.)

A quick reminder of what Spring Cup is:

  • Great League, 1500 CP Limit.
  • Only GrassWater and Fairy type Pokémon are eligible.
  • Toxapex is banned, and it’s not hard to see why! Thank goodness.

Due to lack of time/mental capacity, this is going to be a little bit more truncated than most of these writeups you’re used to. (Okay, okay, at least wait to jump for joy until I leave the room, people…sheesh!) But that’s also driven by this being a somewhat consolidated meta. It’s not a small format, per se, with still over 250 eligible Pokemon. But there are some very clear tiers of Pokemon that are very good and competitive and those that are not even viable… and not many groups in between. Drift far beyond the top recommendations and you can find yourself in Rock Paper Scissors hell quickly. Very few Fairies look likely to make an impact, so this will often come down to Water vs Grass. And you can probably guess which is more likely to come out on top in THAT scenario.

Anyway, let’s dive in and see what we’ve got, shall we?

10,000 Dust/25 Candy


Venusaur GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

Long time readers will know why I’m leading another “Nifty Or Thrifty” off with my boy Venusaur, but even first time readers can understand why a Poisonous Grass type with good moves deserves a mention here: at least on paper, it has advantages versus Waters AND opposing Grasses and Fairies thanks to its Poison side (and Sludge Bomb). The problem is that most things that look likely to impact the meta have similar special qualities, with more than enough Ice, Flying, Bug, Steel, and opposing Poison out there to keep Venusaur somewhat in check. This may even be a format to consider a higher Attack Venusaur, as it beats all the same things (in all even shield scenarios) PLUS usually wins the mirror. Either way, consider that Venusaur’s entire loss list against the meta is Ice, Poison, Bug, Flying, or Steel types (and Trevenant), and it becomes even clearer that Venusaur is better than its numbers… you basically have to hard counter it in this meta to fend it off.

Meganium Grass Serperior Grass

You feel like MEGANIUM ♻️♻️ and SERPERIOR ♻️♻️ shouldn’t work as well in this meta, having no handy subtyping to help them versus opposing Grass and Fairy types, but their bulk and good enough coverage moves keep them in the running as well. As perhaps the clearest example of what separates them from Venusaur, they lose to Poison slinging Tentacruel (which Venusaur can beat), but both outlast Walrein (which Venusaur usually falls just short against). There are many more nuances than that, and it IS worth noting that Venusaur is notably better in 2v2 shielding and especially with shields down than are Meganium or Serperior, but you can make a case for whichever is your favorite.

I think that’s about it for Grass starters, though. CHESNAUGHT can beat Ferrothorn (which IS a big deal, as we’ll see later) but nothing else special. SCEPTILE is interesting-ish in Shadow form but doesn’t really stand out, per se. Even non-starters like LEAVANNY and WHIMSICOTT mostly fall flat. See what I meant about this being a rather condenced meta?

Speaking of which, on to the other typings….


Swampert WaterGround

Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Earthquake/Sludge Wave

There is perhaps no better single sign of how this meta is shaping up than looking at how tepid Swampert is. I mean, it CAN get a bit better, with either Sludge Wave to potentially add on things like Mantine and Abomasnow, or going with Shadow Swampert and instead adding wins versus things like Walrein, Sealeo, and even Ferrothorn. But it’s just an uphill battle with so few good targets for Ground damage and SO many Grasses (and even many of the big name Waters) that can cross Swampert off without too much fuss. Swampert will show up, absolutely, but this is the most uphill battle it’s had to face in a while.

Not too surprisingly, even with the threat of BlizzardWhiscash struggles even worse than Swampert. Swampie may work on the right team, but in this case, I think you want to mostly avoid.


Samurott Water

Fury Cutter | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Megahorn

At least Sammie has Bug moves going for it, bad versus Fairies but decent against Waters and even a little scary for Grasses. So-so with “average” IVs, but at least a little more interesting with high rank IVs (new wins versus Walrein and Sealeo), and capable of handling some Grasses like Venusaur, Cradily, and Abomasnow, I might even recommend considering Sammie over Swampie here. What a weird meta, right?


Golisopod BugWater

Shadow Claw | X-Scissor & Aerial Ace

In many ways just a worse Samurott… except that in this case, you at least manage to take down Ferrothorn AND Trevenant, which is very nice. Niche, but nice.


Empoleon WaterSteel

Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Drill Peck

The best thing I can say about is that it handles Galarian Weezing in ALL even shield scenarios, which is actually huge. Handling pesky Araquanid and Abomasnow and Qwilfish and often Tentacruel are very nice bonuses. I understand why Empie is ranked almost outside the Top 100 when you consider the entire format, but it puts in some good work where it counts most and should NOT be overlooked, despite some very obvious flaws and limitations.

MANTINE (Baby Discount™) ♻️♻️♻️

Mantine WaterFlying

Wing Attack | Aerial Ace & Ice Beam/Bubble Beam

Finishing off the 10ks with a great one. The really cool thing about Mantine in this meta is that you can run it without baits and do just as well as heavy baiting with Bubble Beam… Bubbles can wear down and beat Mawile, but going for the jugular with Ice Beam gives you the important mirror match. As much as it pains me to say it, boring move Aerial Ace is the key here, doing most of the work by itself, which makes sense when you consider that so few things in this meta resist Flying damage. It shreds nearly all the Grasses, and played right, dies literally ONE energy short of taking down even Ferrothorn. There isn’t much in thi meta that Mantine can’t maim, even in defeat. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to build one. Just remember to take advantage of the Baby Discount™ with a Mantyke if you can… double move and THEN evolve for a 65,000 dust savings!

That’s right… really no Fairies to speak of. This is about as good as it gets. Yeah.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy


Weezing (Galarian) PoisonFairy

Fairy Wind | Overheat & Brutal Swing/Sludge

Getting this out of the way right from the top of this section, because G-Weeze is an absolute menace in this meta. Fire and a resistant typing to burn all the Grasses. (It literally beats every single one in all even shield scenarios except Cradily with shields down and Exeggcute — not Exeggutor, but Exeggcute — in 2v2 shielding.) It’s similarly dominant over other Fairies aside from Azumarill and Tapu Fini (who are almost completely unviable anyway thanks to all the Grasses around). And then it goes out and beats things like Araquanid, Jellicent, and Mantine too. The majority of Water types CAN take it down, thanks in very large part to absorbing the Overheat that otherwise makes it so scary, but this is Galarian Weezing’s meta, folks. Just put the crown on it now, and I hope to Arceus you have one to use yourself. Good luck!


Abomasnow GrassIce

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

Shadowbama is scariest with its ability to outrace Walrein, Sealeo, Cradily, and even Ferrothorn. Non-Shadow is viable but far less exciting, honestly. Abomasnow has taken over Venusaur’s former title as “the Grass that beats other Grasses”, and while Energy Ball is imperfect at it, Aboma still slaps aside enough Waters to mostly fill the Grass role while doing it. DO watch out for Poison or opposing Ice, of course, and anything coated in Ice/Grass-resisting Steel or wielding Fire is a quick death sentence. But Aboma is easily one of the odds on favorites going into this meta.


Cradily RockGrass

Bullet Seed | Stone Edge & Grass Knot

Opposite case here, where you do NOT want Shadow, I don’t think, but instead the extra bulk that comes with non-Shadow Cradily, adding on things like Mantine, Pelipper, Tentacruel, Alolan Ninetales, Walrein, Abomasnow, and Shadow Razor Leafers. Cradily is very interesting with its Stone Edge that can smash Flying and Ice types that terrorize most other Grasses, though one could argue it’s sort of budget Ferrothorn here.


Jumpluff GrassFlying

Fairy Wind | Acrobaticsᴸ & Aerial Ace/Energy Ball

Similar to how Mantine is best in this meta with subpar Aerial Ace, arguably so is Jumpluff. As compared to the more standard Acrobatics/Energy Ball, Ace loses Lanturn, but gains the mirror and CharmTales. Ultimately your call, and there’s no wrong answer, but either way Jumpball is looking quite fun (and very thematic) in Spring Cup.


Pelipper WaterFlying

Wing Attack | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane

Sticking with Flyers for a moment longer, as Pelipper is quite good. Not quite Mantine levels of good, but not as far off as the simple numbers show. Because while Pelipper fails to knock out some things Mantine can (like Venusaur, Trevenant, Abomasnow, Qwilfish, and Mantine itself), Pelipper DOES tend to beat Ferrothorn, Tentacruel, Mawile, and Jellicent while Mantine usually does not. Quite a nice set of names to cross off there, no?


Araquanid WaterBug

Bug Bite | Bubble Beam & Bug Buzz

Basically everything that Golisopod wants to be, but better. Famously nasty versus the Icy Waters that are a big deal in this meta, and chews through most Grass types too, including even Ferrothorn despite dealing no better than neutral damage throughout. (It can even handle ThunderThorn! ⚡ FerroThor, literally Grassy God of Thunder? 🔨 Eh, I’ll figure that out by the time we actually get to Ferrothorn.) ‘Nid’s biggest issues are Flyers, Electrics (Lanturn, at least), Poisons, Fairies, and then Ghosts and Steels, roughly in that order. Most everything else just gets chewed up, quite literally.

WALREIN ♻️♻️♻️

Walrein IceWater

Powder Snowᴸ | Icicle Spearᴸ & Earthquake

Araquanid is of course the bane of Wally’s existance, resisting everything it’s got to throw at it, but overall this should be one of Walrein’s better showings. It certain does not relish facing down Grass types, but it gets the job done more often than not, and Earthquake conveniently dooms big Poison types like G-Weeze, Tentacruel, and Qwilfish, and even bonuses like Steely Mawile. ShadoWalrein is not without its merits (outdueling Cradily and CharmTales), but it gives up more than it gains, with new losses versus stuff like Qwil, Mawile, Aboma, and Trevenant. I think my recommendation is to avoid Shadow for this one, but Wally overall definitely gets a big thumbs up.

DEWGONG ♻️♻️♻️

Dewgong WaterIce

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard

I feel almost dirty recommending Aerial Ace throughout this article so far, but at least I can take solace in continuing to point out how useless Water Pulse is, and recommend yet again that you run Blizzard on your Dewgong instead. I know what you’re thinking: ‘JRE, the difference between them looks tiny!’ Perhaps… but that new win you see is none other than Ferrothorn. I rest my case.


Sealeo IceWater

Powder Snow | Body Slam & Aurora Beam/Returnᴸ

I feel like every time I’ve written about Sealeo lately, it’s been to recommend Water Gun. Well not this time… good old Powder Snow is the way to go with all these Grasses and/or Flyers around. Body Slam is a must, but after that is kinda up to you. Aurora Beam to finish off Grasses like Trevenant, Shadow Vic, and Cradily, or Return to instead blow away Tentacruel and things like the mirror match? Just don’t say Water Pulse… we have discussed why already, you rabblerouser.


Tentacruel WaterPoison

Poison Jab | Acid Spray & Sludge Wave

PvPoke currently has Tentacruel ranked JUST outside the Top Ten, at a very robust #11 (at the time of this writing). And that seems about right… when run with Scald, anyway. But in my humble opinion, Sludge Wave is the way. There really isn’t much here that resists Poison, and a LOT of things that resist Water. More specifically, Sludge Wave washes away Dewgong, Cradily, Venusaur, and Qwilfish, and Scald barely gets them wet. Trust Uncle JRE and go with that all-Poison set… you won’t regret it.


Qwilfish WaterPoison

Poison Sting | Aqua Tail & Sludge Wave

In THIS case, however, you do want the spammy Water charge move rather than all-Poison, partly because Aqua Tail is just SO good at stealing shields and setting up Sludge Wave, but also because Acid Spray just doesn’t harmonize with Poison Sting nearly as well as it does Tentacthulhu’s Poison Jab. Aqua Tail is a key piece in setting up wins over things like Trevenant, Venusaur, Cradily, Mantine, and Mawile that you usually lose to otherwise, among others. Tentacruel is your slow plodder… Qwilfish is a spammer’s delight. Which one suits YOU better, trainer? Or… perhaps both? 😈

LANTURN ♻️♻️♻️

Lanturn WaterElectric

Spark | Surf & Thunderbolt

No alternate Water Gun moveset recommendations here… you want to just go with Spark. You beat basically every non-Ground Water type out there except Ludicolo and Kingdra (which take only neutral damage from Electric), plus any Fairies you’ll see except the occasional Dedenne and rare Whimsicott out there (both Electric-resistant). The problem, of course, is Grasses, which Lanturn has NO answers for. But still, effectively handling basically 2/3 of the meta ain’t bad at, and Lanturn dominates in many of those matchups. It’s farm or BE farmed with this one.


Ninetales (Alola) IceFairy

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

This is one of those rare occasions where I think Dazzling Gleam doesn’t have a great use case, and I’d recommend running with Psyshock instead, regardless of fast move, for the extra pressure it brings to the big Poison types here. There are, of course, differences a-plenty between the fast moves, with Powder Snow hitting Grasses hard (beating Trevenant, Venusaur, and Shadow Victreebel), while Charm instead knocks out other Ices like Walrein and Dewgong, and big Waters like Jellicent and Araquanid. But even better is Shadow PowderTales, which beats everything non-Shadow can except sometimes Poliwrath, and ADDS Cradily and even Ferrothorn. (Whereas Shadow CharmTales is more of a sidegrade, losing Walrein and Jellicent to gain Pelipper and PowderTales instead.)


Dedenne ElectricFairy

Thunder Shock | Discharge & Play Rough

On the one hand, lots of Waters and/or Flyers to pick on! But on the other hand, lots of Grasses and Poisons to ruin your day, too. In the end, the numbers reveal that dichotomy, with every Flyer but Jumpluff and the vast majority of (non-Ground) meta Waters showing in the win column, but nearly all Poisons and/or Grasses in the losing column (though it does beat Fairy-weak ones like Shiftry and Chesnaught, at least). I don’t know that I’d build a team around it, but there will be some teams out there with a hole best filled by this little fella.


Klefki SteelFairy

Tackle | Foul Play & Play Rough

And while we’re on the topic of funky Fairies, look at what humble Klefki can do here! This being one the rarer regionals in the game, I have none to try out myself, but I like what picture the sims paint, at least. Got one and always wanted to use it? This may be your best shot. 🔑


Shiftry GrassDark

Snarl | Leaf Blade & Hurricane

Foul Play just doesn’t do much for you in this meta. Even against most of the Steel types here, I think Hurricane is just better… Mawile resists both and Ferrothorn takes neutral from both, and Hurricane obviously shreds any Grasses it manages to hit. Shadow Shiftry in particular is pretty scary in the right hands, outracing equally scary stuff like Jumpluff and Walrein that its non-Shadow version just can’t beat in time.


Roserade GrassPoison

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

The differences between the fast moves couldn’t be more obvious. Poison Jab beats Grasses (Trevenant, Venusaur, Jumpluff, Tropius), while Legacy Bulled Seed beats more Waters (Dewgong, Jellicent, Qwilfish)… oh, and outraces Abomasnow (thanks to Weather Ball), the one odd outlier. Either way, Rose is a pretty underrated threat in this meta, consistently beating BIG names like Ferrothorn, Tentacruel, Araquanid and more. Well worth a look!


Electrode (Hisuian) ElectricGrass

Thunder Shock | Energy Ball & Wild Charge

As with Dedenne earlier, this is an Electric type that does not want to see Poison, but it looks better than I expected going in, managing to outrace things you might not expect like Sealeo, Cradily, Mawile, and Tentacruel, at least with proper move timing. Because of course, as wonderful a weapon as Wild Charge is, used at the wrong time, it can spell disaster. If this is a Pokemon you’re already comfortable with, you might really enjoy it here.


Vileplume GrassPoison

Razor Leaf | …does it matter?

Obviously Shadow Victreebel is the one that comes to mind first, really being where the whole “Grasshole” thing came from anyway. But I continue to point people to Shadow Vileplume and Shadow Gloom, who have a bit more bulk and can hang in there to beat Cradily and Sealeo on top of everything Shadow Vic can do. Not saying they’re strictly better — Vic certainly has more enticing charge moves — but they are at least worthy of your consideration.


Seaking Water

Poison Jabᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Drill Runᴸ

Especially if you have one with a bit of extra Attack (which can potentially add Pelipper to the win column), Seaking could be a lot of fun here, with Poison Jab and Icy Wind to keep Grasses and Flyers on their toes (beating not just Tropius and Jumpluff, but Abomasnow too!) and Drill Run for wide neutral coverage and a way to slam the door on Poisons and Steels (beating Mawile and Galarian Weezing specifically). I could see Seaking throwing a wrench in the works of a lot of opposing teams!


Jellicent WaterGhost

Hex | Ice Beam & Shadow Ball

For at least one week, you may want to look back on a time before Surf was an option and just run both closers: Shadow Ball and Ice Beam, which seems like it may be the best of both worlds here. With SO many things that resist Surf in this meta, it’s just not worth it… Beam/Ball really beats everything Beam/Surf or Ball/Surf sets can anyway, and combines their success, beating Jumpluff and Tropius with straight Ice Beam, and Araquanid and Dewgong straight Shadow Ball. There is basically nothing that Surf brings to the table… TM it away for this meta, I say.


Bruxish WaterPsychic

Confusion | Psychic Fangs & Crunch

Got a Bruxish you built for Psychic Cup and figured you wouldn’t be needing again? Well good news… it has a lot of potential here! Just TM that Bite away to Confusion and that Aqua Tail (not very good here, for the same reasons Jellicent really doesn’t really want Surf) and go slay all those Poisons (yep, including G-Weeze) and Ices (even Aboma!) and a cluster of other Grasses and Waters and Fairies too. This is a GREAT spice pick with serious upside for your consideration here at the end of the 50ks!

75,000 Dust/75 Candy


Ferrothorn GrassSteel

Bullet Seed | Power Whip & Mirror Shot/Flash Cannon

The utility of its Grass side should be obvious in this Watery meta, though Ferrothorn has the extra advantage of taking only neutral damage from Ice — making things like Dewgong, Walrein, and Lapras much more surefire than other Grass types — and actually resisting Poison, which has huge and obvious advantages in Spring Cup as well. And conveniently, Ferrothorn also double resists Grass damage and thus it beats down most other Grasses too. It DOES suffer some HARD losses, such as Fire-wielding Mawile and Galarian Weezing (though even in that latter case, it can turn the tables with a well-timed Flash Cannon), and CAN be worn down by Trevenant, Araquanid, and a cluster of Flying types. (Despite that threat, I still generally recommend a Steel charge move rather than Thunder to cover Fairies and other Grasses instead of doubling up versus Waters/Flyers.) Ferrothorn is ranked #2, and really only because Galarian Weezing is in the way of getting to #1.


Trevenant GhostGrass

Shadow Claw | Seed Bomb & Shadow Ball

It’s not perfect by any means. Trevor still trembles in the face of Ice, Fire, Flying, and even (neutral) Bug and Poison damage. But there is NO denying that it’s better than even its numbers show, with the number of relevant things that resist Ghost damage being something that even Chubbs from Happy Gilmore could count on one mangled hand. Trevor may not always win, but it similarly mangles a LOT of the meta. It WILL be a common encounter in this meta.


Mawile SteelFairy

Fire Fang | Power-Up Punch & Iron Head

Same moveset as I recommended for Mountain Cup, and for similar reasons: Fire Fang burns through Grass and Ice and Steel types, and Iron Head is likely your best coverage for how hard it also hits Ice types and the pretty wide neutral damage it does. The end results are quite nice, in regular and Shadow form. Lots of burnable things here, and resisting Grass and Flying and Ice damage is just icing on the cake. Waters are your biggest foe though, so be wary.


Tropius GrassFlying

Air Slash | Leaf Blade & Aerial Ace

Less versatile than fellow Flying Grass Jumpluff, but many more people have Tropius after in-game events of the recent past, and this is still a good place to deploy it as a Grass killer that also beats up plenty of Waters with spammy Leaf Blades. I’ll admit it’s a niche role, but the right team can REALLY benefit from filling niches like this.

LAPRAS ♻️♻️♻️

Lapras WaterIce

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

Want some deep cut secret tech? Give Legacy Dragon Pulse a look, as it’s pretty awesome in a meta with so many Water and/or Ice types that resist Ice damage (beating Walrein and Dewgong specifically). That said, old reliable Ice Beam is fine too, beating Galarian Weezing and Cradily instead.

100,000 Dust/100 Candy


Kartana GrassSteel

Razor Leaf | Any

The only Legendary I think is really worth mentioning here (sorry, Tapu Fini, but no), Kartana adds a new flavor of Grasshole thanks to its handy Steel subtyping. It has a whole arsenal of cheap, cheap charge moves, and while my recommendations are X-Scissor for opposing Grasses and Night Slash for the Ghosts and wide neutral coverage, there’s really no wrong way to go.

Alright, that’s it! Hopefully this gives you something positive to read in these dark days, and may all your sets avoid RPS in Spring Cup!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for regular 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 show your own true colors in Spring Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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