Normally this is the part where I would tell you about the “Nifty Or Thrifty” series and how we dive into budget heroes AND the overall meta analysis… but you know what? I’ve already done that for Retro Cup. THREE times now. Yes, those guides are now a bit dated, but I just couldn’t do all that completely over again. (I DID try, but the time/motivation/mental capacity eluded me.) So instead, I want to focus on what’s changed since last time. New Pokémon, new twists on old Pokémon (mostly due to new move options becoming available), stuff like that.
So, while this will still be in rough “Nifty Or Thrifty” order (starting cheap and working up to the Legendaries/Mythicals), we’re going to focus on just the newer stuff, and I’ll refer you back to those old Nifty Or Thrifty behemoth articles to flesh out the rest of the meta.
Here we go!
10,000 Dust/25 CandyPidgeot Normal
- There was a time when Altaria was the best bird in this format, but those days are past. (Though yes, Alt is still very good, and may still be more common due to how well it handles Electrics, and Lanturn in particular!) With the boost to Wing Attack, PIDGEOT is suddenly sitting pretty in the Top 3. And uh… you don’t have to study the record too hard to figure out why! Now yes, as always, that’s assuming the Feather Dance baits go your way, but heck, even with ONLY Dance and not even relying on Brave Bird, Pidgeot still overcomes scary stuff like Abomasnow, Drifblim, Medicham, Quagsire, and big neutral matchups like Lickitung, Swampert, Mantine, Dubwool, Cresselia, and of course (thanks to handy resistances) stuff like Trevenant, Jellicent, Araquanid, Golisopod, Cofagrigus and more. WITH Brave Bird is where you see it reaching for things like Hypno, DDeoxys, Cradily, Dunsparce, Miltank, Toxapex, Golbat, Altaria, Ninetales, and even Lapras and Walrein and others. Pidgeot is a menace in this meta, and having Steels out of the picture only helps.
- Last time in Retro, it was the addition of Shadow Ball that gave NOCTOWL some additional licks to get in. But now, as with Pidgeot, it is the December buff to Wing Attack that has it also rising up the ranks past Altaria. UNlike Pidgeot, Noctowl’s numbers do not immediately pop off the screen (due primarily to lacking baiting nightmare Feather Dance), but make no mistake: this bird is downright deadly. It can still beat most of the big names Pidgeot can, with a lot more conistency, such as Hypno, Cresselia, Lapras, Golbat and more, and can overcome things like Dragonair where even Pidgeot usually falters.
- It’s a relatively minor change, but note that MUNCHLAX generally prefers Tackle now, with the extra power leading to new wins like Abomasnow, Lanturn, Miltank, Lickitung, Dunsparce, Shadow Ninetales, Golbat, and Toxapex. Lick is still useful for sniping Ghosts (Froslass, Jellicent, Drifblim, Cofagrigus), some Psychics like Cresselia, and things that resist Normal-type damage (Regirock, most notably), so which way you go depends on the composition of the rest of your team.
- Speaking of Ghost fast moves, I’ll give a small shout-out to GOLISOPOD and its Shadow Claw, along with Liquidation, neither of which it had last time through Retro Cup. It’s now able to beat a slew of things it couldn’t before, like Walrein, Trevenant, Jellicent, Froslass, Cofag, Drifblim, Cresselia, and Ninetales. Still not a strong recommendation from me considering all that’s available in this meta, but hey, it’s certainly viable now, which Golisopod definitely could NOT say last time.
- Similarly, last time through Retro Cup, DUBWOOL didn’t really have any viable fast moves. Now it arguably has two: Tackle got buffed, but of course more exciting overall is Double Kick, which can beat everything Tackle can that doesn’t outright resist Fighting damage (Golbat, Araquanid, Toxapex) and adds on Miltank, Abomasnow, Aurorus, Cradily, and even Cofagrigus and Charizard. (Speaking of which, remember that Charizard benefits from the Wing Attack buff now too, particularly as a Shadow.)
- Not a fast move change with EMOLGA, but a very key charge move addition with Acrobatics now in the mix, which doubles its previous win total in this meta by adding on Trevenant, Medicham, Lickitung, Ninetales, Cresselia, Mew (usually), and even Froslass! It suddenly moves into the upper echelon of Electric types, a key grouping for controlling the out of control Flyers among their other duties, and Emolga now plays double duty by sniping most Fighters, Grasses, and/or Bugs too!
- ALOLAN GRAVELER is decidedly NOT new, but the Shadow version is, and comes with new win potential versus Hypno, Cofagrigus, Lanturn and others.
- If I’m being honest, even with new Frenzy Plant, CHESNAUGHT remains just okay. But it CAN snipe Galvantula, Dragonair, Dewgong, AND Aurorus now, none of which I think opponents would expect, so perhaps try and take advantage, at least early in the week we get with Retro.
- Swampert of course remains its annoying/terrifying self, but don’t forget that with the buff to Mud Bomb, WHISCASH is celebrating like it’s 2021 all over again, resurging in relevance.
50,000 Dust/50 CandyLanturn WaterElectric
- Yes, LANTURN got the spam move it had been dying for, Surf, since our last trip through Retro Cup. So that was then, and this is now, with new wins showing versus Medicham, Galvantula, Cofagrigus, and Miltank, among others. It was good last time. It should be GREAT now, particularly with the likely rise of Flying types.
- Also benefitting from Surf now is JELLICENT. Technically it still has a higher ceiling with Bubble Beam, able to sometimes sneak in wins versus stuff like Cresselia, Abomasnow, Golisopod, and the mirror match, but that takes nigh-perfect baiting, and can drop off rather significantly if the bait games don’t go your way. Surf is much more consistent in beating things like Froslass, Cofagrigus, Drifblim, and Swampert, and adds on its own unique wins versus Regirock, Aurorus, and the new-and-improved Quagsire.
- Speaking of, LORD QUAG is ready to play with the big boys now that it got its own spam move in Mud Bomb, flexing new wins versus Hypno, Lapras, Golbat, Miltank, and even Shadow Abomasnow thanks to being able to bait a Bomb and then landing a big Stone Edge. The only downside? Without Earthquake, it does struggle versus Swampert, so take that for what it’s worth.
- The natural inclination with DEWGONG is to run it with new move Drill Run, but stop and think about THIS meta for a moment. One of the primary advantages to Drill Run on Dewgong is the coverage it brings, especially versus Ice-resistant Steel types… Steel types which don’t appear in Retro Cup. So while Drill Run IS an improvement over horrible Water Pulse (and new-fangled Liquidation), sneaking in a unique win versus Toxapex, that is about ALL it does that is truly special… and Blizzard still gets the JRE Seel (haha I make funny pun) Of Approval for overpowering Quagsire, Shadow Hypno, Miltank, Cofagrigus, and even Ice-resistant Froslass. Drill Run is fine and generally what you’ll want in the future, but for this one last week, I say hold off on it.
- DUNSPARCE, though… yeah, it definitely wants Drill Run, as well as Rock Slide, now that it has Rollout to rush them onto the battlefield. Should be a pretty big player here, despite obvious shortcomings versus Fighters (among others).
- Yes yes, it’s reliant on baits and, unlike Cofagrigus, has basically NO answer to the Big Birds, but RUNERIGUS has gained Shadow Claw since last time and I can’t help but STILL be happy about that. Basically look at it as Cofag that struggles versus Ice (losing to things like Aboma, Dewgong, and Walrein that Cofag can beat) but has more paths to victory versus things like Regirock, Quagsire, Jellicent, Miltank, Mew, and Cofag itself. It can find a spot on the right team, for sure.
- DUSCLOPS used to rely on Return as it lacked any other closing move. That was before Poltergeist, which is just slightly better for non-Shadow Clops, but a boon for ShadowClops. While it DOES tend to do better versus things like Toxapex, Golbat, and Golisopod still with Return, Poltergeist brings in things like Hypno, Cresselia, Lanturn, Lapras, Regirock, Cradily, Dragonair, and Mantine (and possibly a partridge in a pear tree… still verifying that one).
- My old pal (and I think longest running inside joke) FARIGAMARIF is a shockingly good fit in this meta now that it has Double Kick, which allows it to wail on the many Fighting-weak targets (and get scarier the longer those matches go thanks to Psychic Fangs), while conveniently handling opposing Fighters (aside from Medicham) and bonuses like Galvantula, Swampert, Golisopod, Golbat, Toxapex, and Trevenant. (Remember, this is a Psychic type that actually resists Ghost thanks to that Normal subtyping.) Interestingly, I think it wants to run Psychic (the move… two inside jokes in the same paragraph! 💪) as a closer rather than Thunderbolt or even Return, as only Psychic can overcome a wide range of neutral matchups like Dubwool, Abomasnow, Galvantula, Swampert, Ninetales, Dragonair, and Froslass, though it’s certainly worth noting that Thunderbolt is obviously best versus Flyers and Waters (notably taking down Mantine and Dewgong) and Return is great for a neutral beatstick when you reach it in time (overcoming Quagsire, Lanturn, and Shadow Hypno that way). You can’t go “wrong” with any of them… it comes down to what YOUR team needs most, my friend. Does your team want Garifarigagig? Give it a look!
- I’m not sold on its performance myself, but I did SEE a lot of GALARIAN SLOWBRO on Day 1 of this rotation of Retro Cup. I like its variety, and there’s no denying it really is a Jack-of-all-trades now with Surf in the mix, but… meh. Seems like a special role player to me, but with the amount I’ve seen already, what do I know?
- And finally, TOXAPEX, who arrives within the Top 20, and puts in a performance appropriate to that ranking. It is very far from flawless, with a worrying number of meta Psychic, Ground, Ghost, Rock, and Electric types that mostly lick their chops when facing down ‘Pex. But it also does a lot of good, grinding down most everything else in the end. I’ve only seen one or two, but they WILL be out there, folks…. lurking.
75,000 Dust/75 CandyAurorus RockIce
- Even if you had lucked into having a then-brand-new AURORUS ready for Retro Cup last time, it was pretty blah. But NOW, of course, it comes packing Meteor Beam… and a whole lot more wins, to include Lickitung, Hypno, Walrein, Lapras, Araquanid, Cresselia, Cradily, Cofagrigus and many more. As if the sheer number I’m suddenly seeing of them in the opening hours of Retro Cup and it’s #2 ranking in the meta didn’t tell you already… it’s one of the very best Pokémon in this meta now, even with the scary Fighters roaming about.
- MILTANK, however, may actually want to keep the Thunderbolt that Aurorus has cast aside… or perhaps not. Bolt’s special wins are not surprising — Walrein, Dewgong, Toxepex, Jellicent — and it does technically net the highest overall number of meta wins. But Ice Beam is quite good as well, dealing with Dragons like Altaria and Dragonair, plus bonuses like Abomasnow. There’s even the option of Tackle these days, which is less adept at handling things like Charizard, Jellicent, and Cofagrigus that Rollout can handle, but more consistent in beating Toxapex and Dragonair, and capable of doing what Rollout never really could like Lanturn, Quagsire, and ironically, Golbat. Whichever variety you prefer, Millie is quite a potent threat now in Retro Cup, easily in the upper echelon of tricky Normal types.
- It is very possible you didn’t have any way to build a Great League SNEASLER until very recently (the Solstice Horizons event in June, the first time that Hisuian Sneasel was in the wild). Retro Cup is not a bad meta to play with your new toy. Just saying!
And on the downside, it’s well worth pointing out that while TREVENANT has not fallen completely off a cliff or anything, this is yet another meta where it definitely has fallen. It’s still clinging to a spot in the Top 30, but just barely. Even Cofagrigus has passed it by. Take all that information for what it’s worth, though… I personally have already faced down many, so it’s still out there! So far, at least.
100,000 Dust/100 CandyRegirock Rock
- I know folks are excited about their new SHADOW REGIROCK, and yes, you CAN deploy it here, and it even gets some special, unique wins versus Lickitung and Dunsparce. But for those with the option, it is still better to stick with non-Shadow, which needs that extra bulk to beat out Altaria, Hypno, Cradily, Golisopod, Cofagrigus, Mew and more.
- RAYQUAZA was a complete afterthought in the past. Now, with Breaking Swipe… well, perhaps it still should be? I dunno. It’s at least crossed into solid spice territory.
- Releasing mere days after our last trip through Retro Cup, BUZZWOLE hasn’t quite lived up to the hype in PvP (including hype by yours truly, I’ll admit it). It has most definitely made its mark in certain formats (helloooooo, Fighting Cup… please never come back), and it might just be me being stubborn, but I COULD see Retro Cup being one of them. There’s just too much juicy potential here for me to ignore, horrifying double weakness to Flying damage be darned!
Alright, that’s all I got for now. Again, I will refer you back to last year’s Retro Cup analysis for a broader overview of the meta, but hopefully this helped tease out the new wrinkles to look for over the next week. Good luck!
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter — and now on Threads, in case that becomes a thing — 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 master the new (and improved?) Retro Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Catch you next time, Pokéfriends!