Hello again, fellow travelers! Time at last for some deep dive RETRO CUP analysis! Only the first 15 Pokémon types, excluding Dark, Steel, and Fairy types, will be usable in this cup, and the CP limit will be 1,500.

The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Retro 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 less powering 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. 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?

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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, though after that I will have a couple more to talk about that ALSO have high level up costs. I am going to try to be comprehensive with this, but can’t go into detail on everything I want to… it’s a massive meta and Reddit only allows me 40,000 characters. 😬 To that end, I will also only be highlighting Shadow versions when they’re particularly relevant… many are worse, and that’s what you can infer if I don’t talk about them.

So let’s see what I can squeeze in… here we go!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

ALTARIA

Altaria

Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Dragon Pulse/Moonblastᴸ

It’s a big week for little Altaria. It gets its own Community Day move during Retro Cup, and then gets to go out and put up big numbers. Or does it? Where it REALLY counts, against the core meta, the initial numbers are not nearly as impressive, but there is still a very high quality of wins here, with some of the very biggest of the big names in Altaria’s win column. Hypno. Cresselia. Alolan Marowak. Galvantula. Medicham. Deoxys. Drifblim. Dragonair. And more. Everything in the loss column throws out Ice or Rock damage, so don’t let the lopsided numbers fool you. Altaria beats darn near everything else in the meta (even beating all but the very best, maxed out Lickitungs, and keeping even that extremely close), and few things appreciate the lack of Steels more. Don’t let the core meta numbers hold you back… most teams will run just one of those many Ices or Rocks that threaten Altaria, if even that. It’s ranked well within the Top 10 for a reason, and is by far the cheapest build in the Top 20.

GYARADOS

Gyarados

Dragon Breath | Crunch & Aqua Tailᴸ

The other cheap ‘mon in the Top 25? Yep, it’s Gary, which is actually set up pretty nicely here, especially should you find yourself with one with high stat product IVsDragon Breath takes out Altaria and Dragonair (and every other Dragon except Stone Edge Flygon), Crunch takes care of most of the big name Psychics (even Hypno with Thunder Punch) and Ghosts, Aqua Tail is there for everything else. (Specifically, in the core meta, for beating Whiscash and making A-Wak much easier than even Crunch.) Those good IVs also net you Lapras if you can get a Crunch to land. As with Altaria, the size of the win list is somewhat limited, but the importance of those wins is much higher.

The other Flying Waters, MANTINE (who sneaks in with just a 10k second move thanks to the Baby Discount™) and PELIPPER (with a second move cost of 50k, but is here for the sake of comparison), are fine as well, and perform much better than Gary against Fighters due to utilizing Wing Attack, and both do better against Ices in general as well. But they’re not nearly as reliable against Ghosts and especially the big Psychic types. Viable, yes, and they both exceed Gary’s win total versus the entirely of the Cup. But where it really matters, versus the core meta, amazingly I think they’re both arguably inferior to Gyarados. Isn’t THAT a twist of fate?

SWAMPERT

Swampert

Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Sludge Wave/Earthquake

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With no Steels around, I think it’s very clearly Sludge Wave that you want as the second move. That said, this is still just a so-so meta for Swampy… even without Grasses in much of the equation, it has to be wary of all the Ices here, and falters against most of the Flyers, Dragons, and many Psychics too, and is extremely fragile to Licktung’s Power Whips. Swampy and the Mud Boys still do good here and will absolutely still see play, but with Steels out of the meta, their luster is a bit duller.

And that goes for WHISCASH too, though it at least has Blizzard to turn the tables on Flyers. But Mud Bomb just isn’t as great a weapon as you’re likely used to in this Steel-free meta.

One last note: if you want to run Shadow Swampert, then Earthquake may actually be the play, having enough sheer power to knock out things like Jellicent, Shadow Hypno, Lapras, and Medicham where regular Swampert (especially with Sludge Wave) cannot.

VENUSAUR

Venusaur

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

Without Steels to blunt their attacks, and with so many big Waters in the meta, you might think this is a great environment for Grasses. But it’s not all that great after all. Sure, Venusaur still crushes the Waters and Grounds and Rocks in the meta, plus reliably beats Lickitung, even the XL version, which is no small thing. But with Fairies out, it also loses most of what makes its Sludge Bomb special, and it gets shredded by anything packing Confusion. For once, its Poison side is much more curse than blessing. Venu is still viable and DOES still have a role, but it’s more diminished than usual.

So what of Grasses that aren’t part Poison, like MEGANIUM? Well, they don’t do any better, generally. Meg in particular has far fewer targets for its special Earthquake, and aside from beating both Lickis, doesn’t do anything special, and nor do any other Grass starters. There are a couple Grasses we’ll circle back to, but in later categories.

TALONFLAME

Talonflame

Incinerate | Brave Bird & Flame Charge

We did Water and Grass, so naturally next up is Fire. And these days, when it comes to Fire, Talonflame is all the rage. Of course it beats all the big Grasses and (non-Water) Ices, but did you know it also beats the big Psychics too? Lickitung XL? Alolan Marowak (even with Hex/Ball)? Mantine? Altaria? Jellicent? Because with the power of Flame Charge boosts and a well-timed Brave Bird, it can do all of that and more. Yes, Rocks and Waters and Electrics are all a major issue, of course, and there are no Steels to melt down, but Talonflame is likely still going to be a major factor in Retro Cup.

Good old CHARIZARD doesn’t put up the same gaudy numbers as Talon, but it’s still very solid. Loses out to some of those unexpected Talonflame wins—Jellicent, Altaria, A-Wak the most notable—but makes up for it by being even more solid against Fighters (typically outracing Shadow Machamp, for example, which Talon cannot) and beating things like Dragonair and Galvantula that plague Talon as well. It is very possible Zard is a better fit on some teams, so do a quick compare between the two if you plan to use one (I suggest PvPoke’s Team Builder tool) before you settle on one. And if you’re feeling spicy, there are also TYPHLOSION and even BLAZIKEN to consider too! 🤔

ALOLAN RAICHU

Raichu (Alola)

Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Thunder Punch/Grass Knot

Notable for being an Electric that resists Fighting AND Psychic damage, which portends good things in this meta. AhChu beats basically all the Fighters AND Psychics you care about, in addition to handling the typical anti-Flying/anti-Water role you expect of an Electric type. It’s not listed there, but it can even beat Altaria if you play your cards right. I think you want Thunder Punch here for bait potential to set up big fat Wild Charges (and it beats DD and Cress most reliably that way), but Grass Knot is an excellent coverage move that will keep even Grounds on their toes… just the threat of it will force shields where no Electric has a right to be doing so!

Original Recipe RACIHU looks a bit lame in comparison, but with good PvP IVs it can add on Hypno, Cresselia, and Alolan Marowak (regardless of A-Wak’s fast move), that last one highlighting the biggest advantage KayChu has over its Alolan surfing cousin: it’s not weak to Ghost damage, so it much better handles Ghosts and things that rely on Ghost damage (see: anything with Lick), bringing home wins versus stuff like Froslass and potentially the Lickis where AhChu falls flat.

ALOLAN ROCKS

Golem (Alola)

Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge

Basically identical in performance against the core meta, ALOLAN GOLEM and ALOLAN GRAVELER share all the same wins (Ices, Fires, Flyers, Dragons, Bugs, and then Cress and S-Hypno) and losses (Fighters, Grounds, most Grasses, the Lickis), with the sole exception of A-Grav with good PvP IVs being able to eke out a win over Shadow Aboma that regular IVs (and A-Golem) usually cannot. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that regular Hypno usually escapes, but overall it’s a… well, rock solid performance, and on the cheap!

BEST OF THE REST

  • MUNCHLAX is a relatively cheap and effective generalist and safe swap option, ruining the days of Psychics and Ghosts and outbulking others like Galvantula, Dragonair, and Regirock. It is only a small step behind its big famous bro SNORLAX (who probably needs no introduction… Snorlax is also very viable here in basically the same role, albeit a little shakier versus Psychics, better versus Ices, and usually more expensive to build).
  • LINOONE carries the Lax-like role in a slightly different way. It pressures with Shadow Claw just like they do with Lick, slicing through Ghosts and Hypno, Mew, and overcoming Confusion Cresselia too. (Yes, that IS a thing… more on that later.) But Linoone has got some great coverage moves with Grass Knot and Thunder, wrecking Waters and Muds and most Flyers, setting it apart from Snorlax and Munchlax enough that it well deserves separate—but still very serious—consideration.
  • CRUSTLE is a cheap build that whiffs on Fighters, several notable Grasses and Waters, and falls disappointingly short against most of the Psychics (usually a Bug strength), but as you can see in that sim, it does a nice job of cleaning up the rest of the riff raff, and has one the best performances in the format if you’re willing to force the issue and burn both shields. Might be an intriguing option as a lead.
  • GOLBAT remains a budget player’s friend, and has some nice wins over Fighters, Ghosts, and even many of the Psychics (including Hypno and DD), as well as most Grasses that could pop up. But some of those wins are WAY too close for comfort, and there are other things that do much of what it does and more. It’s a decent enough specialist, but nothing more.
  • CHERRIM is still pretty comparable to the suddenly popular Roserade, and the fact that is mono-Grass is nice in this Psychic-heavy environment (for example, Cherrim can beat Hypno while Rosie dies quickly and horribly). It can also outrace even a perfect XL Lickitung, which is very nice to see. (Roserade cannot.) Unusually, you want a little extra Attack on your Cherrim if you go this route. It’s some nice and likely unexpected spice here.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

ALOLAN MAROWAK

Marowak (Alola)

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

Of course, A-Wak usually runs with its unique blend of Fire and Ghost damage, with a little Ground coming from Bone Club that’s usually just for baits, but also amazingly helpful in the mirror and against Steels (especially for chipping in against Galarian Stunfisk and Bastiodon in open GL, being able to outright beat the former as long as it shields the Earthquake). And yes, that standard moveset certainly works here as well. But if you haven’t figured it out already, this is not a meta where Fire is particularly good. There are no Steels to melt down, and Fairies are nonexistent, so Fire types in general just become anti-Grass (and sometimes anti-Bug) specialists.

This is a meta at least somewhat dominated by Psychic types thanks to having no Steels or Darks around to hard check them. So why not bring out A-Wak’s true potential with Hex, and even better, go for the throat with Shadow Ball rather than Shadow Bone? Hex generates more than enough energy to fire it off in multiples—Hex actually gets to the first Shadow Ball at the same time Fire Spin reaches the first Shadow Bone, as you can see most clearly here—and now you’re reliably beating Hypno (believe it or not, Hypno has the advantage against Fire Spin or even Hex/Shadow Bone A-Wak variants) and Mew, and outracing Jellicent and Drifblim, beating Dewgong more reliably than with any other moveset, and winning the mirror match (versus ANY other conceivable moveset, including Hex/double Bone)!

It’s better than Fire Spin A-Wak with shields down, too. I know it probably seems a little crazy to recommend Alolan Marowak run with no Fire moves at all, but the only major Ice and Grass types it defeats with Fire Spin and does NOT with Hex are Meganium, Sceptile, and Lapras. Big names in there, yes, but with new wins versus the Psychics and Ghosts I mentioned, you likely won’t miss giving up those close Grass/Ice wins all that much. Once more, with feeling: I strongly recommend Hex A-Wak in this meta.

HYPNO

Hypno

Confusion | _____ Punch & Shadow Ball

As per usual, it’s not that Hypno is completely dominant and unbeatable, because that’s really not the case. Ghosts still make for a very bad day at the office, and even Shadow Ball is often too slow to turn the tide of those battles (though it certainly keeps things interesting, and is of course a fantastic answer against other Psychics too). Anything with Lick is going to typically beat Hypno down too, and it can also just be outbulked and/or outraced by stuff like Lapras, Shadow Dragonair, Dewgong, Regirock, Galvantula and others. But make no mistake: in a meta without Darks or Steels to hold them in check, this is very much going to be a Psychic-dominated meta, and Hypno is still the king of that group in Great League. You better bring at least one very solid counter to it each and every time out, or it could pick your entire team apart all by itself. The Shadow version looks terrifying but is really more of a sidegrade, giving up things like Shadow Abomasnow, Cresselia, and Mew to instead beat Lapras, Dewgong, and Regirock. I slightly lean non-Shadow, but both are equally viable… and equally scary.

JELLICENT

Jellicent

Hex | Shadow Ball & Bubble Beam/Ice Beam

So first I’m going to show you some numbers that’ll blow your socks off… but then walk it back a little bit. Because things that utilize Bubble Beam rely pretty heavily on baits, and if those baits fail, the win record suffers. Yes, you can run that version and profit… the ceiling is certainly high, and the reality likely lies somewhere in the middle of that half dozen wins between the best and worst possible. But if I were using JelliBelli here, I think I’d just run Ice Beam alongside Shadow Ball and be done with it. The ceiling is not as high, but the floor is pretty stable too, and you have the advantage against Altaria now and give basically nothing up (from the failed baits simulation, at least) to get there. But regardless of move selection, you beat the vast majority of Psychics (though Cresselia’s Grass Knot is a pain), Ghosts, Fighters, Ices, and more. Jellicent is likely to be a common presence in this meta and is probably the best case for considering running a Grass or Electric at all.

DEWGONG

Dewgong

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard/Water Pulse

I’ll keep this brief, because you all probably already know what Ice Shard/Icy Wind can do. I just want to spend a quite minute talking about what second move to use. The default most go with is Water Pulse for coverage, but it’s such a BAD move (only 70 damage for 60 energy) that trying to force it is actually worse than Icy Wind alone, with Froslass and the Dewgong mirror slipping away. That’s right… even with Icy Wind being resisted by Lass and DOUBLE resisted by Gong, it is still better against both than Water Pulse. No, what you want to run is Blizzard, which gives Gong true closeout potential and allows it to have a shot at Cresselia and Mew and wins against Abomasnow and Shadow Hypno.

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SEALEO

Sealeo

Powder Snow/Water Gun | Body Slam & Return/Aurora Beam

Here again, conventional wisdom says to run Body Slam and double Ice moves… and is wrong. There are two movesets to consider here. Powder Snow with Slam and Return (that’s right, purified Sealeo!) does all the same things as Aurora Beam plus wins the mirror and beats Abomasnow. The other variant uses Slam and Aurora with Water Gun as the fast move, which can’t beat Aboma but still wins the mirror as well as Froslass and Alolan Marowak. Tricksy!

ABOMASNOW

Abomasnow

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball

Yep, Aboma gonna Aboma. Dragons and Flyers beware, and even many Waters, Lickis, Cresselia, and a potential one that may shock you: Shadow Machamp. Yep, Aboma actually outraces it if Champ attempts to throw any charge moves. Shadow Aboma is a nice sidegrade that loses S-Champ, Dewgong, and Lickilicky, but look at what it gains: regular AND Shadow Hypno, along with Lapras. I think Shadobama may be the more intriguing play here.

FROSLASS

Froslass

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

Yes, Froslass fans, you can use it here and feel good about it. Lass is not as solid a true Ice attacker as you may think–there are several Grasses and Flyers that can take advantage of its frailty and turn the tables–but what makes Lass special is that, as a Ghost type with Shadow Ball, it beats down the big Psychics, AND holds off many of the big name Fighters too.

MACHAMP

Machamp

Counter | Cross Chop & Rock Slide/Paybackᴸ

I’m sure you’re tempted to run your new Payback Champ out there, but the problem is that at Great League level, it’s too slow to beat the big Psychics… better saved for Ultra League, IMO. (It CAN beat Jellicent, but that’s the only special win of note.) Even in this Psychic-heavy meta, I think you still want Rock Slide, and you want it on Shadow Machamp. That beats everything the others can except Aboma and S-Dragonair, but now beats Froslass, Shadow Aboma, Alolan Marowak, Whiscash, and sometimes Mew and even Altaria! Just this one, conventional wisdom still pays off.

PRIMEAPE

Primeape

Counter | Night Slash & Close Combat

Darks are out, but things with Dark moves are very much still in, and that includes Optimus Primal and its Night Slash. Combined with Close CombatPrimeape actually looks pretty scary, including beating Shadow Champ head to head. Night Slash may not lead directly to wins in those 1v1 shielding scenarios, but it DOES at least force some huge names to shield or face game-altering consequences.

GENGAR/HAUNTER

Gengar

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

While famously unable to stand up to Confusion, the OG Ghost pair make excellent Psychic counters otherwise and absolutely shred most Fighters. (Though Primeape can make things very interesting in all the wrong ways!) They also rip through other Ghosts and a lot of other things too, and remain great generalists. Just… just avoid Confusion if you can, m’kay?

GALVANTULA

Galvantula

Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge/Energy Ball

Oh yeah, this is a friendly Galv meta, with the Electric damage wiping out Waters and Flyers left and right (and dealing big neutral damage all over too), and Lunge really threatening Grasses and of course the Psychics here as well. I really don’t know that I need to say any more, do I? Galv is good, and while that’s no secret anymore and people basically know what’s coming (other than perhaps the Energy Ball spice if that sounds like you), that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to stop!

BEST OF THE REST

  • LANTURN puts in a fine, workmanlike performance, it’s just not particularly special compared to what things like Galv and the Super Raichu Bros. can do.
  • POLITOED is also perfectly fine and you’ll likely see a few. It just suffers a bit in a way similar to the Mud Boys… no Steels means less for it to do, though it certainly still chips in.
  • Fellow Weather Baller NINETALES is yet another fine specimen that just has a diminished role here. Nothing wrong with using it, but it misses having Steels to smelt.
  • And some spice for you: ZANGOOSE holds down Ghosts (and Lickers) and beats Hypno, Confusion Cress, and often Mew as well. But it doesn’t stop there: things like Lapras, Regirock, Sealeo, and Galvantula populate the win column as well thanks to Close Combat. It lies somewhere between useful specialist and generalist and is a nice dark horse in Retro Cup.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

DRIFBLIM

Drifblim

Hex | Icy Wind & Shadow Ball

Considering the prevalence of Psychics (and the Ghosts that counter them), it shouldn’t come as much surprise that I’m leading off this section with Blim. It doesn’t have a super expansive role, but it goes out and performs its primary duties: beating down nearly all Psychics and most Ghosts (Haunter/Gengar and, not too surprisingly, Froslass can fend it off, but….), clobbering ALL the Fighters, all Grasses that don’t rhyme with the 44th President of the United States, and all Bugs that aren’t Galvantula or Crustle. Specialist, yes, but one of the best around in this meta.

LAPRAS

Lapras

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

Wanna see something crazy? Lapras with Dragon Pulse, of all things, shows the best win record against the meta, beating Dewgong like Skull Bash can and Shadow Aboma like Ice Beam can. I mean, I’m not saying go out and Elite TM your Lapras to Pulse, but if you’ve been holding onto one all this time, waiting for your chance… hey, go for it! Beyond that, no big surprises though. Lapras is one of the best known commodities in PvP at this point, though I suppose it IS worth noting that yes, it does beat Hypno, even with Thunder Punch.

CASTFORMS

Castform

Various | Weather Ball & Various

Yes, they are ALL viable. RAINY* does a very nice Lanturn imitation, SUNNY is a solid Fire (for what that’s worth in this meta), and SNOWY remains a very underrated little Ice type. But the most shocking is that NORMAL CASTFORM is actually really solid here. It runs off of Hex, making it a great little anti-Ghost (taking all of them out but Drifblim) and anti-Psychic (getting Hypno, Mew, and Psycho Cut Cresselia. And it also outraces the Lickis (even XL Lickitung) with faster Body Slams, and also has Energy Ball to beat big Waters like Lapras, Dewgong, and Whiscash, and also gets Galvantula as a nice bonus. The other Castforms you kinda know what to expect, but who saw THAT coming?

SHADOW DRAGONITE

Dragonite

Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Hurricane/Draco Meteorᴸ

Perhaps the ultimate generalist… with Steel and Fairy out of the meta, there is literally nothing that resists Dragon Breath. So even with Shadow Nite being worryingly frail, it’s still able to pressure a good chunk of the meta, including big name Fighters, Ghosts (including fellow glass cannons Haunter and Gengar), and Mud Boys, and bonuses like Hypno, Galvantula, Mantine and more.

There’s also SHADOW DRAGONAIR, which has been mentioned a few times throughout the article already. Especially with good PvP IVs, it’s viable too, and isn’t as critically weak to Ices (Dragonite’s primary foe, and the biggest threat to Dragons in general here) or Rocks, but it just doesn’t have the same high ceiling as Dragonite.

BEST OF THE REST

  • VIGOROTH is just okay overall, but the two ways it stands out is being a “Fighter” that double resists Ghost damage, allowing it to handle Lickitung better than nearly anything else, and actually beating Haunter and Gengar straight up thanks to Bulldoze. It’s a pretty handy specialist.
  • Someone out there is going to run SHADOW GALLADE, so study that win/loss record and be ready for it. Someone even crazier will even run it with Charm, so be ready for THAT too.
  • Ditto with TROPIUS. It’s viable-ish with either Air Slash or Razor Leaf, and while I don’t know that I personally advocate running it, do expect to face it a time or two.

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

CRESSELIA

Cresselia

Confusion/Psycho Cut | Grass Knotᴸ & Future Sight/Moonblast

So here, once again, we get into some more weird moveset hijinks. The gold standard is usually Psycho Cut/Grass Knot/Moonblast, which is still just fine, yes. However, in a meta where Confusion is powerful, I think it may actually be the preferred fast move for Cress too, picking up wins over Galvantula and in the mirror versus Psycho Cut, plus now beating non-XL Lickitung, and giving up only Shadow Dragonair to do it. And yet one MORE curveball: I’m not saying it’s strictly better, but Future Sight bears serious consideration in place of Moonblast. Yes, Future Sight is obviously resisted by other Psychic types, but really, you only want to be using Grass Knot there anyway… the only notable anti-Psychic loss of any significance that C/GK/FS Cress has that C/GK/MB does not is sometimes the mirror match. But look at the gains: Abomasnow and Alolan Marowak (well, with Fire Spin, at least). Those are two very significant pickups, wouldn’t you say? The A-Wak win also comes with shields down (and Confusion/Future Sight is again the only way to get it), and in this case Cress wins even against the worst-case-scenario Hex/Shadow Ball version. Now THAT is nifty!

REGIROCK

Regirock

Lock-On | Stone Edge & Focus Blast

No Registeel, no problem? Regirock is actually pretty underrated, with Steel getting all the attention normally, but ‘Rock is just as good if not even better, and one of ‘Steel’s biggest advantages in open play–resisting Charm–is basically nowhere to be found in Retro Cup. Regirock obviously crushes Flyers and Ices, but also plows through the likes of Hypno and Galvantula and, interestingly, every Ghost here that isn’t part Ground. If you’re lucky enough to have one at Great League size, this is actually a great place to deploy it.

DEFENSE DEOXYS

Deoxys (Defense)

Counter | Rock Slide & Thunderbolt/Psycho Boost

The sims don’t recommend it, but I think Rock Slide is the one move you for sure want, and after that it’s a matter of Thunderbolt handling other Psychics (usually beating Hypno and the mirror) or STAB Psycho Boost to beat Lickitung XL and stuff like Dragonair. Whatever moves you roll with, DD should feast again.

BEST OF THE REST

MEW is obviously very viable and very customizable; not much sense in showing a lot of sims with all the possibilities, but the popular ones in Open GL work here too…. LUGIA is some nice spice if you have one, with Dragon Tail the preferred fast move due to Psychics resisting Extrasensory…. Yes, popular Legendary spice SHADOW ZAPDOS works…. SHADOW MEWTWO is glassy AF, and so you want Psycho Cut to push out Psystrike and Shadow Ball as early and often as you can before it dies (Confusion doesn’t really cut it, but Mewtwo can wreck some face before it goes down. Yes, you CAN run Mewtwo here!

And finally, our last and probably most expensive section:


FEELIN’ LUCKY?

Second move costs are a very small part of the story here, as these all need to be maxed, and ideally well into XL range at that. Let’s go through them rapid fire style:

  • LICKITUNG‘s potential dominance cannot be understated. Other than Fighters and a handful of others, the thing holding it back the most is cost, as Lickitung needs to be pushed right up to Level 50. But uh… yeah. If you see one up near 1500 CP, buckle in for a bumpy ride. I’ve tried to highlight throughout the article things that handle it, but here is the full list (everything with a score under 500). Good luck.
  • MEDICHAM is of course its usual self, but it doesn’t jump off the page that much compared to other (much cheaper) Fighting options already discussed. If you have one built and maxed already, of course you can roll with it. But if you don’t, I think you can plug and play a Shadow Champ or even something like Primeape in really not miss out on much besides (still) losing to Psychics a bit less harshly.
  • DIGGERSBY does do some nice things, including trouncing even Grass Knot Lickitung and most all Ghosts and Electrics, but it’s inconsistent versus the Psychics and has to be wary of Ice AND Water AND Fighting, which may be a bridge too far.
  • IF you just desperately want to run Charm, WOBBUFFET is probably THE way to do it. But even it is better off without Charm, running Counter instead for a more expensive role at the cost of being worse versus other Psychics.
  • And finally, repeat after me: DO NOT RUN CHANSEY. But someone out there (likely with a career trajectory of being the next Bond or Batman villain 🤪) WILL roll out their prized, maxed out Chansey, so steel yourselves for the Chansocalypse. Timeout is still a very real strategy, but as much as I absolutely hate to say it, Chansey can just flat out beat a decent number of things in this meta. Consider it this meta’s Bastiodon. Oh man, chills up the spine…. 🥶

And that’s it! As I said at the beginning, this is not fully comprehensive… there’s just too much to cover! I tried to hit the highlights and some of the better spice, but there are other Pokémon out there that folks will make work for them, and that’s great! Hopefully this DOES help you start to balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!) and form the skeleton of your team. Best of luck!

Oh, I do have one last treat for you. A friend of mine, u/thatmarowakgirl  here on Reddit, created a simple and to-the-point “retro” Retro Cup Infographic for those who prefer the visual. Check it out… hope THAT helps too!

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! I sincerely hope this helps you master Retro Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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