Hello again, fellow PvPers!
The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Limited formats — the grand return of Ultra League Premier Classic, in this case — particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust. Typically the NoT series covers not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs… or don’t need a second move at all! Because especially for one-week formats like this, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to compete without breaking our budget.
That all said… even I have limited time and resources at times. This has been a nutty week, such that the format has now arrived and I unfortunately STILL have a lot of writing to do for ULPC and just literally have not had the time.
But I don’t want to leave y’all completely hanging. So let’s do this: I’m gonna split this into parts, starting here with the thankfully extensive list of the thriftiest stuff. You could easily build a team of only things in this article and be done with it. But I WILL strive to finish a Part 2 with the more expensive options when able. Hopefully tomorrow? We’ll have to see. 🤞
10,000 Dust/25 Candy
Quite a bit to unpack here, which is always nice. I’m going to start with things that were relevant in Weather Cup, AKA things you may have already build and don’t need to spend any additional resources on for the ultimate in thriftiness!
Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Earthquake
Yep, just like in Weather Cup, Swampert makes a big impression here. There is little mystery to what it can do at this point, with a winlist stuffed with Fire, Steel, Electric, Ground, and Poison types. So I’ll just mention some of its more interesting wins: (Poison Jab) Roserade, Snorlax, Sylveon, Drifblim, Shadow Machamp, Toxicroak, Poliwrath. I’ll also point out that Shadow Swampie is potentially even scarier, losing now to Champ, Wrath, and Blim, but gaining Togekiss, Obstagoon, Crobat, Kingdra, and Lapras too! Swampert is cheap and plentiful, and will likely be all over the place in ULPC. Plan accordingly!
Water Gun | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Skull Bash/Returnᴸ/Ice Beam
If you don’t want to run Swampie, Blastoise is probably your next best bet among Water types. The best is actually a purified one with Return, which can sneak away with wins over Obstagoon and Gyarados, but even with a non-Return coverage move, Blastoise just hangs on and overcomes many things thanks to its great bulk. Fires and Grounds and most Steels, of course, but also things like Crobat, Swampert, A-Muk, Drifblim, and even Gallade with its scary Leaf Blades. Shadow Blastoise is a viable enough sidegrade, picking up Swampert and Blaziken but dropping A-Muk and Gallade, though it obviously lacks access to Return (and those Gary and Goon wins that go with it).
Fury Cutter | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Megahorn
Perhaps not as impressive as it’s been in Weather Cup, but Sammie still does good things here, still beating most of the Fires, Grounds and such you’d want from your Water type, while craftily taking down Obstagoon, Roserade, Lapras, Walrein, Swampert and others thanks to its big Bug-type damage output. You CAN technically run it without Fury Cutter and/or Megahorn, but uh… why would you? That’s kind of Sammie’s thing.
Other Water starters like EMPOLEON and PRIMARINA will likely show up here and there, and the right team can probably make them work, but they don’t offer as much in this format as you may be used to getting from them in Ultra League.
Shadow Claw | X-Scissor & Aerial Ace
I will remain adament that Shadow Claw or no Shadow Claw, Golisopod still remains a subpar PvP Pokemon. It STILL needs charge move help. But it kinda sorta almost worked in Weather Cup, and while it doesn’t have the greatest record in ULPC, it does almost sort of work here too, at least managing to beat Trevenant, Venusaur, Roserade, Swampert, Walrein, and a smattering of big name Fighters (and quasi-Fighters) and others. It’s viable, which is about the best compliment I’m willing to pay it.
Dragon Breath/Waterfall | Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch
Oh man, where to start with this one? There are several varieties that do good work here. Dragon Breath remains the fast move of choice, but Waterfall is plenty viable as well, losing things like Dragonite, Kingdra, and Obstagoon to gain Crobat, Escavalier, and perhaps most importantly, Nidoqueen as well. High rank PvP IVs benefit DB Gary (with new win potential versus Crobat and Escavalier, cutting in on Waterfall’s niche), but doesn’t really boost Waterfall Gary. And then there’s Shadow Gary, which offers a viable sidegrade with Dragon Breath (dropping Leaf Blade users Gallade and Sirfetch’d, but picking up Poison Jabbers Roserade and Nidoqueen), but is a big-time downgrade for Waterfall Gary to point that I would label that unviable. Oh, and of course, there’s also high rank IV Shadow Gyarados with Dragon Breath (good Lord, that’s a mouthful!) which re-gains Sirfetch’d and tacks on Crobat. Got all that? Hope so, cause I’m just dropping all that and moving on. Good luck, trainer!
Dragon Breathᴸ/Wing Attackᴸ/Fire Spin | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ
It didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact in Weather Cup (despite being one of the very best Fires), but Charizard, particularly with Dragon Breath, has a lot more room to stretch its wings here. As you can see by that pretty short loss list, there isn’t much that offers enough resistance to survive the onslaught of Dragon fast move pressure and a hearty Blast Burn closer… even things that should be very hard Fire counters like Swampert can’t get the job done. Shadow DB Zard is a slight downgrade but still very good, losing out on Swampert, Steelix, Shadow Snorlax, Drifblim, and Crobat, but gaining big names: Gallade, Toxicroak, and Trevenant. The better way to go with Shadow Zard, however, is with Wing Attack, which does fail to overcome Snorlax, Kingdra, or Trevenant like the high-damage Dragon Breath Shadowzard can (and loses to DB in the head to head), but Wing Attack manages to uniquely outduel Crobat, Drifblim, A-Muk, Steelix, Shadow Snorlax, and Shadow Machamp instead. Wing Attack isn’t as hot with non-Shadow Zard, however, missing out on key wins like Walrein, Dragonite, Gliscor, Steelix, A-Muk, and Shadowlax that Shadowzard can beat. And old-fashioned Fire Spin Zard, while barely worth talking about with non-Shadow Zard, is ALSO a fine option with Shadowzard, offering kind of a nice mix of WA and DB by beating everything they can except WA Zard and Kingdra (which DB Shadowzard defeats) and Dragonite and Toxicroak (which both WA and DB Shadowzard win)… meaning its winlist includes Trevenant, Steelix, both versions of Snorlax, Crobat, Drifblim, A-Muk, Shadow Machamp and more. Once again… got all that? Hope so, because I will not be doing it again. I guess the key takeaway is: use Shadow Zard with any of its three viable fast moves, or use Dragon Breath for non-Shadow. There’s your Charizard TL;DR!Typhlosion Fire
Your only other truly viable Blast Burn user is TYPHLOSION, who is much simpler to explain: use it with Shadow Claw (for wide neutral damage… it’s just better than Incinerate in this meta) and Solar Beam (to sometimes catch Waters napping, or at the very least to nab a shield), and don’t use Shadow. All that said, obviously the ceiling is quite a bit lower than it is with Zard.
Incinerateᴸ | Flame Charge & Brave Bird
Yes, it does still work here despite its hobbled, barely-over-2200-CP state. Brave Bird is still an awesome closer, and keep in mind that at least everything else is similarly capped at Level 40. So in addition to all the Steels, Bugs, Grasses, and Fairies you’d expect to be burning up, you’re also still blowing away most Fighters (and quasi-Fighter friends) and bonuses like Walrein, Gliscor, Crobat, Drifblim, Nidoqueen and others. If you have that hundo sitting around, now’s the time to perhaps consider powering it up.
If you built a BLAZIKEN with Brave Bird for Weather Cup… well, it’s far from useless here, but it’s inferior to Talon and other options with less concentration of Water and Ice and Rock types around.
ALOLAN GOLEMGolem (Alola) RockElectric
Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Wild Charge/Stone Edge
Also a bit less exciting than it was in Weather Cup, but A-Golem still puts in good work. Not only does it wallop all those Fire types, but of course there are a ton of relevant Flyers to knock out as well in this meta, and it ALSO still picks off several big-name Waters (Walrein, Lapras, Kingdra among them) and even Steels like Escavalier, Scizor, and Magnezone. It even beats out bonuses like A-Muk, Sylveon, Snorlax and others. And if you DID build one for Weather Cup, no new investment necessary. Huzzah!
Okay, now let’s get to things that weren’t in Weather Cup….
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb
Steady as she goes… Venusaur is always a steady presence when eligible, and such is the case in ULPC. Its shine has dulled a bit over the years as other diverse Grass types have risen up around it, but Venusaur is still a premier Fairy slayer on top of its standard Grassly duties, and its Poisonous side also give it consistent anti-Fighter utility as well. And while it certainly doesn’t want to wade into battle versus dedicated Poison types, it at least puts up a stiff fight and keeps things like Nidoqueen on their toes, whereas versus most other Grasses they can just farm like Old MacDonald. (You know… the famous farmer, not the fast food. 🍔)
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake
Unlike Venusaur, Meg not only has to be maxed, but it barely crosses 2400 CP when it does so. However, like Venusaur, Meganium remains a solid contributor in ULPC. The major differences between the two are that with its higher bulk, Meg can beat Kingdra and Gliscor, and with Earthquake it can beat stuff like Magnezone too, whereas Venusaur uses the equalizer of Sludge Bomb to take down Togekiss and its Poison subtyping to better outlast Toxicroak. Pick your favorite… but note that both are a bit worse off as Shadows.Sceptile Grass
You can kinda sorta get away with SCEPTILE as a Grass fill-in (doing a little of what Venusaur is special for thanks in part to Fury Cutter and sheer speed, and a little of what Meganium is special for thanks to Earthquake), but really, it would be better to go with one of the two Grass starters above. But Sceptile deserved at least a mention!
Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Megahorn
Not a ton of Grassassinating Bugs that get big enough for Ultra, but Scoli does, and while even it doesn’t hit 2500 CP (while maxing out at Level 40, at least), it does plenty of work. Not just against Grasses, but also Fairies, Fighters (even Blaziken!), and stuff you may not expect like Kingdra, Walrein, Lapras, Gyarados, Swampert, and Snorlax. I can’t sit here and tell you that maxing a hundo Scolipede is worth it for your budget and priorities, but in a vacuum, it IS “worth it”.
Smack Down/Fury Cutter | X-Scissor & Rock Slide
Crustie does hit 2500, and operates quite a bit differently than Scoli. Its primary job is beating down Fires, Flyers, and/or Ice types with Rocks, a job which it handles capably, with bonus wins like Kingdra, A-Muk, Snorlax, and Venusaur too, and then either Sylveon with Smack Down, or as an alternative, Obstagoon with Fury Cutter. There’s really no “wrong” answer between the two fast move options.
Shadow Claw | Superpower & Drain Punchᴸ
The good news? Bewear doesn’t even need to be Level 30 to be at good ULPC size, much less Level 40. And it puts in yeoman’s work. The not so good news is that it doesn’t do anything really special aside from tearing down Trevenant and overcoming Steelix and Snorlax and such tanks that are vulnerable to Fighting moves. Oh, and it’s rather more reliant on Drain Punch baits than I’m comfortable with. But if you have it and like it, it’s absolutely viable and could round out a number of “what do I play as my third?!” teams on the cheap. You can kind of think of Bewear as budget Snorlax here.
Counter | Night Slash & Obstructᴸ/Hyper Beam
While Night Slash alone does plenty on its own, there’s really no reason NOT to shell out for a second move. If you have Obstruct already, you can stick with it… it’s THE best way for Goonie to have a shot at (non-Dragon Breath) Charizard and Roserade. But personally, I still recommend Hyper Beam, which has bigger boom potential, such as taking down Crobat and A-Muk and Venusaur (and still having a good chance to surprise KO the Charizards and such of the meta). Beam is silly expensive, but Goon CAN pull it off in meaningful spots, especially at this CP level. Trust me on this one.
Counter | Power-Up Punch & Close Combat/Shadow Ball
It would be easy to look at numbers like this and write it off as Power-Up Punch bait-heavy nonsense. And to at least a degree, that’s not inaccurate. But what you REALLY want to beat with a Fighter – Ice and Steel and Normal and Dark types – Lucario does with just PuP anyway. What Close Combat or Shadow Ball do is bring in stuff like Charizard, Crobat, Gyarados, Roserade, Swampert, Dragonite, Venusaur, and/or Gallade. And yes, sometimes the opponent will call every mere bait right, but if past metas with Lucario have taught us anything, it’s that even the best players often still guess wrong. If you’re an experienced Luc user, I see little reason NOT to give it consideration here. Just remember to second move it BEFORE evolving from Riolu and save yourself 65,000 dust!
Air Slash | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball
You can’t tell just by the numbers, bur Crobat is uniquely awesome in this meta… I saved one of the very best for last. Not only does it dominate Grasses and Fighters AND most big Poisons, but as a Poison itself it also handles Fairies without issue, downs Ghosts like Drifblim via Shadow Ball, and even overcomes things that resist its moves, like Alolan Muk, Scizor, Gliscor, and Escavalier. Oh yeah, and despite that meta sim not showing it, it IS able to overcome Trevenant if it commits to the Fang-down. Hot tip there, folks!
CHARMERSClefable Fairy Primarina WaterFairy
Charm | Various
There are several to choose from, from the 10k second move ones (CLEFABLE, PRIMARINA) to the more expensive (TOGEKISS, SYLVEON), but Charmers, of course, don’t use charge moves like most other Pokémon. With the possible exception of Togekiss, you can run any of them single moved in a pinch and not even really miss out. Not that Charmers are GREAT in this meta, but hey, they ARE for the most part Thrifty!
And gonna end it right here so you can get back to playing (and me, back to… more writing! 🥴). Hopefully this helps you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!).
And until then, you can always find me on Twitter for regular PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!
Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Ultra League Premier Classic, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you again soon, Pokéfriends!