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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Feb 21, 2020: Nifty Or Thrifty: Toxic Cup

Author: JRE Seawolf

“Nifty or Thrifty” is a series which author JRE Seawolf started on the Arena subreddit to analyze the Cup meta – specifically through the lens of which Pokemon may be worth powering-up and purchasing 2nd charge moves for and which “budget picks” are available at less cost who can still perform well!

Yes, you knew it was coming. Here we go!

clears throat With apologies to Britney Spears, I present the chorus to ‘Toxic (cup)’:

“Oh, the taste of your Licks,
And Flying guuuuuys!
You’re Tox-i-croak, bombin’ all night.
With a taste of a poison paradiiiiiise,
I’m addicted to Bugs
Don’t you know that they’re toxic?
(funky guitar riff)
And I love all the mud

Though the Mud Boys are toxic!”

ANYway, the “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series serves a few functions. First, it gives a first blush, comprehensive look at the meta for the upcoming Toxic Cup, particularly from the perspective of which Pokémon are likely worth the cost of leveling up and adding a second charge move (nifty) and which ones would probably work out fine without heavy investment (thrifty), including some alternatives to the more expensive options. 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 of six, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps instead channel our inner scrooge?

As the meta is still coming together, I have tried to whittle down without leaving too much out, but as per usual with these, it’s likely to be a long read, just to warn you up front! I’ll try to keep it entertaining, too. 😃

Before we dive in, make sure to familiarize yourself with what makes up Toxic Cup. It’s Poison, Bug, Normal, Ground, and Grass Pokémon, with the exception of Ground/Waters, Tropius, Vigoroth, and Noctowl, all specifically removed because of imbalance they would have introduced. The full list is over here, so check that out before reading on.

And that, I think, is all the intro we need. You’re here for the Pokémon, so let’s get to it!



10,000 Dust/25 Candy

Typically I am going to recommend anything here be double moved, because they all benefit and the cost is so (comparatively) cheap to do so. This category is really where “nifty” and “thrifty” meet in the middle.


Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

Golbat looks very dominant on the surface, and is understandably ranked very highly in Toxic Cup (#2 on PvPoke at the time of this writing). With its unique Flying and Poison profile, it handles the vast majority of Bugs, all Fighters (and psuedo-Fighters, like Escavalier) and Grasses that don’t specifically hate on its typings (like Confusion Exeggutor and Rocky Cradily), and the looming threat of Shadow Ball strikes fear into nearly everything (including things that usually fear no Flyer, like Forretress, who can lose handily). Golbat’s standard move package is a perfect fit for this meta, giving it an answer to nearly everything it could wind up facing. It should see glory here like it hasn’t seen since Twilight Cup, and obviously is one of the cheaper builds in the game. Huzzah!

As per usual, though Crobat is just slower and a clear step down.

Alolan Raticate

Quick Attack | Crunch & Hyper Fang

Well so far it’s like a Twilight Cup reunion, isn’t it? A-Rat could be a big player here again, with very few deadly Fighters to dodge, and while its Dark half doesn’t appreciate Bug damage, it outbulks a wide range of Poisons, Normals, Grounds, and of course, Ghosts/Psychics and anything relying those types of moves. It isn’t perfect, but A-Rat should once again be a key piece for budget players especially.


Water Gun | Surf & Hyper Fang

Hyper Fang Bros represent! Overall, Bibarel looks merely good, but then you look at the core meta and OH BABY! Obviously all the Grounds loathe Bibarel’s Water moves, but Bibarel is quietly solid against the Steely Bugs and many of the most relevant Poisons as well, and beats most everything Flying by just outlasting them in neutral on neutral slugfests. The only natural threats Bib has to worry about are Fighters (which are few) and Grasses (which will be held back by all the other things that hold THEM down). It and the few Waters permitted have pretty free range to roam in this meta, and Bibarel seems positioned as the one that makes the most of it. And you thought it would be just a one hit wonder in Ferocious Cup, didn’t you? (Okay, I did too. Glad we were wrong!)


Lick | Body Slam & Bulldoze

The textbook definition of generalist, I have advocated for Munchie before, but in its best chance to ever shine, it (and 95% of other Normals) were completely held back by Vigoroth. That unfortunate damper on Jungle Cup is removed here, and Munchie finally gets to play. And does it ever, including a fantastic showing against the core. Basically, if a Pokémon doesn’t have Fighting moves or resist Munchlax’s moves, it is very likely that Munchie will simply wear it down and outbulk it.He may not have a set “role”, but he should be a fantastic and very safe filler for many teams in March, able to bring spammy pressure at the top of the lineup or soak up some damage and help you stabilize in the back.

And yes, big bro Snorlax is quite solid in its own right with the same Lick and Body Slam and the second move of your choice. (Superpower or Earthquake seem like the best here.) But it’s obviously much more expensive (can’t get the Baby Discount with Munchie and evolve, as it has to be under Level 20 to fit), and Munchie is bulkier anyway. But if you have a Snorlax ready to go, then sure, it’s good here too!


Charm | Ice Beam & Play Rough

Jungle Cup is when Wiggly first burst onto the scene (like the Kool-Aid Man!) as Charm came out of nowhere mid-month and rocked the meta and the PvP world forever. And now, she’s baaaAAAaaack! Wiggocalypse II: Wiggocalypto? Call it what you will, but yes, Wiggly looms very large again. Poisons and the few Steels and most Grasses still handle it, but that’s really just about it. Keep in mind that Fairy resists Bug and Ghost moves which are both widespread here (as well as its more famous resistances to Dark and Dragon). Wiggly can run pretty rampant on an unprepared team, and can singlehandedly hold down Fighters and play whack a mole with the few Darks and Dragons that may try to peak their heads out. YOU may not plan to use one, but you better have a plan for how to fend one off!


Fury Cutter | X-Scissor & Rock Slide

Surprising me, at least, Crustle looks best here not with Bug-squashing and Flyer-clubbing Smack Down, but instead with Fury Cutter. And boy, does it ever look good! It still manages to smack Flyers down to earth with Rock Slide spam (only the Glisboys escape and sometimes, just barely, Golbat) and nearly every Bug in the entire Cup (with only Steely Durant and Scizor and Close Combat Pinsir reliably slipping away), and it conveniently resists things that rely on Body Slam (resisted) and other Normal moves, as well as all the various Poison attacks. It’s even able to outrace Waters that deal super effective damage to it, like top options Bibarel and Qwilfish. Hunt up a good one, because this sturdy little crab has all the makings of a budget player’s hero and is going in as the leading candidate for breakout star of Toxic Cup.


Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

So this is as good a time as any to discuss Grass in Toxic Cup. Up until the very late stages of planning out the meta (like, the day before announcement), the infamous Mud Boys (Water/Ground Pokémon) were still in. It is well documented by now that Grass is the ONLY typing that deals super effective damage to the Mud Boys, so Grass was a critical component of keeping the meta balanced. In the end, it was decided to snip the Mud Boys to make the meta feel fresh and allow things normally trod underfoot to rise up and see play, a decision that I think was the right way to go and gives Toxic unique and exciting potential. But what of Grasses? They remain, but what is their role now? Similar to Jungle Cup, they seem hemmed in on all sides by things that resist their moves and hit them back hard. But again, as in Jungle, they can operate as generalists that conveniently hold down some of the bigger, nastier threats in the Cup. Venusaur features, as it usually does, as the best overall Grass with its combination of overpowered Frenzy Plant and just-as-important Sludge Bomb, allowing it to beat everything listed above south of Golbat: Fairies, Waters, Grounds, most Normals, and even many of the more oddball Bugs (Crustle, Heracross, Galvantula, etc.) get trampled underfoot. It doesn’t rule the roost at the top of the meta like it has in many past Cups, but it shows well overall and will earn its place in this meta… and on more teams than you might initially think.

Meganium is usually discussed closely in line with Venusaur, so let’s do that here too. Unfortunately, without Venu’s Poison subtyping, Meg tends to fall prey to Bugs and Poisons much more rapidly, despite its otherwise impressive bulk, and its second charge move (Earthquake) is slower than Sludge Bomb and also unfortunately resisted by Bugs, though it does obviously do well (should you land it) against Steel and the many Poisons here. Meg works on the strength of those turn-around wins with Earthquake, but it suffers more than usual in this particular meta, and the gains are at least somewhat drowned out by the downsides as compared to Venusaur. It’s a bit more of a high risk, potentially high reward option in Toxic.


Razor Leaf | Sand Tomb & Frenzy Plantᴸ/Stone Edge

Finally, a Cup where Torterror’s unique typing is a true strength. While most Razor Leafers suffer against the many Bugs and Flyers and even many of the more meta Grounds here, Torterra’s Ground sub-typing means Poison deals only neutral damage (as it does for the Grass/Poisons), AND it actually resists Ground (and Rock) damage. So despite its slow, lumbering ways, Torterra does pretty well against the core meta (for a Grass), and makes it the best pure Razor Leafer available. Yes, it still doesn’t want to face Bugs or Poisons, but it at least holds up better and does the job you expect of it outside of that. If you want to go Razor Leaf this month, don’t look first to staples like Victreebel and Bellossom and such… look to Torterror.

There are some good things to be said about other cheap Grasses like Sceptile with its unpredictable moveset (though Fury Cutter/Leaf Blade/Earthquake looks like the best way to go overall… probably) and Serperior and fan favorite Bayleef, but they really all struggle enough here that I have a hard time seriously recommending them. This is just not a Grass-friendly environment, and while someone can and will make them work, it’s an uphill battle. Beyond Venusaur and maybe Meg and Torterra, even I caution against relying on Grass too much this time around. The meta may shake out differently though, so we shall see!


Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Sludge Bomb

Sadly, even with its prominance in the very logo for Toxic Cup, Beedrill looks merely “okay” here. Yes, it is still a top notch Grassassin and beats down the Fighters, can still farm down Wigglytuff (not many things that can), and it shows well against the many meta Normals mentioned above (and can even steal a win from things like Pidgeot), but man, it does not like facing the many Grounds and Poisons in the Cup, or even many of the more relevant Bugs. Beedrill will find a way onto teams and show well at times, but make no mistake: it’s a specialist, not a generalist. It is worth noting, though, that it beats Bibarel and Toxicroak, which is a popular core in early discussions.


Poison Jab | X-Scissor & Megahorn

Think of it as a slightly different and probably slightly better Beedrill. With Megahorn rather than Sludge Bomb, it handles itself better than Bee against Poisons in particular, notably beating all the Dark/Poisons while still beating the Fighters and Wiggly and other things you rely on Beedrill for. I don’t see it breaking out like, say, Crustle, but Scolipede could perhaps start to make a name for itself here in Toxic. As with Beedrill, it could break up cores centered around some combination of Bibarel, Toxicroak/Fighters, and Wigglytuff.

There are a bunch of other Bugs that may or may not emerge as the meta unfolds, with varying second charge move costs. Masquerain is the cheapest and performs about as well overall as more expensive options like Vespiquen, Yanma, and yes… sigh… even Ledian. There are a few more standouts highlighted below, usually with a Poison or Steel subtyping, because anything lacking a secondary typing like that struggles overall in Toxic, at least against the core meta. Partly because of the last group in the 10k category….

Birds, Birds, Birds!

Wing Attack/Air Slash | Aerial Ace/Sky Attack/Brave Bird & “Spice Move”

Yeah, there are a lot to pick from. So let’s pare this down. First off, while they have the charge moves you like to see, you can eliminate anything stuck with Peck as the fast move, as it is a terrible, terrible move and sinks the prospects of anything that relies on it. Oft-spicy pick Farfetch’d doesn’t really cut it here, sadly, so really we’re left with Swellow, Staraptor, and Tranquill. Quill and Raptor have the appeal of toting a rare Fire move with Heat Wave, and Raptor has the added benefit of Wing Attack and Close Combat too, but as you can see from their win/loss columns, the end results are mixed and probably rather unreliable. (Doesn’t help that Fire Blast takes forever and an age to charge up… and has a putrid cost-to-damage ratio of 75 energy for only 95 damage.) Swellow, despite the lack of spice, is probably the best bet, taking its role as straight up Flying damage spammer seriously with no muss or fuss. If you don’t have a Legacy Pidgeot (to be discussed later), Swellow may be your best substitute (and wins the head to head on the strength of Sky Attack… just sayin’.)

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

Here is where the rubber meets the road, where the wheat is separated from the chaff, where boys become men, where… where I get on with it. 😅 Anyway, while the 10k moves are pretty easy to justify, 50,000 dust is not something easily tossed away. As is often the case, the majority of eligible ‘mons in Toxic Cup fall in this category, and here they are!


Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb

I’ve mentioned them quite a bit already, so let’s start with the Fighters. And the best of the best here is pretty clearly ol’ Croak. He’s been a bit down on his luck since Twilight, but here he looks to be making a comeback the New Kids On The Block could only dream of. Just look at how it brutalizes the core meta. Most Bugs, Grass, Steels, Normals, Dark/Poisons… they all run crying to their mamas. Toxicroak’s unique type combination makes it a pain to deal with. You know how I said Wigglytuff is the bane of Fighters? Well look what happens if it tries to switch in on Croak. If THAT’S not a safe counter to Toxicroak, then all bets are off. Toxicroak’s typing and moveset make it an incredibly versatile and powerful threat in this meta, and it’s gonna party like it’s early 2019 again.


Counter | Close Combat & Megahorn

It lacks the sheer number of wins that Toxicroak touts, but make no mistake: Heracross is a dangerous foe in Toxic Cup. It still takes down everything you’d want your Fighting type to beat–those odd losses that show against Munchie and Lickitung are actually wins if you just farm them down with Counter–and beats some things Croak cannot, like Flygon, as well as beating Toxicroak itself one on one. While Croak benefits from the spamminess of Mud Bomb and is a better option to rip down shields, Heracross is a fantastic closer with two devastating charge moves that cover a huge chunk of the meta between them. It continues to be a good candidate to save in the back, or farm something down with Counter and then swap out to bring in for the knockout blow later with its big charges.


Counter | Aerial Ace & Drill Run/Megahorn

Not technically a Fighter, of course, but with Counter it may as well be, threatening the Normals and Steels and Rocks and Darks you’d want a Fighter to handle, and bringing big time versatility with its charge moves. Aerial Ace is probably a must in this meta, and then both Megahorn and Drill Run give it reach against whatever you need to hit harder with super effective damage. (Look over those lists and decide what YOU need most.) The one constant is this: Escavalier is a true threat in this meta, to a wide range of popular picks. If you are still trying to get a good Great League one (as I still am), grind harder! I know I will be!

I know, I can hear it now: “where are Breloom and Ursaring?!” Technically, on paper, they show similar overall win/loss spreads to the others listed here, but I’m having a much harder time trusting them. Breloom is just SO fragile and has to contend with an unfavorable Grass sub-typing, and Ursaring’s Normal typing does it few favors either, losing to every other Fighter (including the “pseudo Fighters” like Escavalier) and leaving its best second charge move, Play Rough, going mostly to waste. Neither are terrible… there certainly IS something to be said for their simulated performance. But based on past experience watching others try to make them work–and yes, doing so myself–they just don’t tend to perform where you expect and want them to. Tread lightly…or, my recommendation, don’t tread with them at all. It’s (probably) a trap!


Bug Bite | Stone Edge & X-Scissor

Another Steely Bug, one that plays like an actual big instead of Swiss Army knife Escavalier. It’s best with good old familiar Bug Bite and X-Sicssor, with Stone Edge as the knockout blow that allows it to hit back HARD at a good chunk of the core meta. and can knock Flyers like even Gliscor out of the sky. If you’re able to get your hands on one, it’s a cheaper alternative to the more expensive Steely Bugs we’ll be seeing later, and really does much of the same job.


Volt Switch | Discharge & Any

And here we have anything BUT your standard kind of Bug. Galvantula is an Electric merely posing as a Bug since the welcome buff to Volt Switch. Discharge is the best to pair with it to give you a very rare-in-Toxic full (and GOOD) Electric attacker and make Waters and Flyers all weep (as well as prominent Fighters and Poisons and even some Bugs), and while I cannot at this point nail down THE best second move to go with (they all have merit), I can say that you definitely want to unlock that second move slot while we all figure that out as the meta moves forward. Because I fully expect Galvantula to be a part of it no matter how it specifically shapes up.


Shadow Claw | Close Combat & Night Slash

Having had BOTH of its charge moves buffed in recent months, Zangoose has just been waiting for the right meta to bust out, and I think that meta has arrived. Sworn enemy of venomous Seviper, it is fitting that Goose looks poised to do a lot of damage in Toxic Cup. It beats most Normals despite their resistance to Shadow Claw thanks to Close Combat, and rips through many other things that aren’t fortunate enough to resist Claw and Night Slash. Obviously Fighters still make it cry, and many Grounds and, ironically, Poisons are able to fend it off, but the list of wins there includes a lot of very relevant, very hard to otherwise handle stuff. Zangoose WILL be a major player this month. Have a plan to stop it, because it will be quick and painful if you don’t.


Shadow Claw | Shadow Punch & Shadow Ball

Yep, Haunter sneaks in where other Ghosts can’t thanks to its Poison subtyping. And it does what you’ve come to expect: run roughshod over most things that don’t resist its movesand/or abuse its typing (and even some things that do). Unfortunately for it, there are a decent number of things that outlast it (Normals, mostly) or just outdamage it, and it’s held more in check than is typical. But yes, it still does its thing well enough to merit a spot on several teams. Props again to Niantic for bringing Shadow Ball back!

The Swines

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Stone Edge/Ancient Powerᴸ/Bulldoze

I don’t see Abomasnow making much impact in Toxic, so here are your token Ice types. That makes them good against other Grounds and of course Flyers; they beat everything part Flying and all Grounds that aren’t Dragons, Torterra, or Steelix. But their role kinda ends there. They can handle some Bugs, some Poisons, and some Normals, but none consistently, and they are deathly afraid of the Fighters and anything Water. High neutral damage like that from Haunter slices through them, Grasses tend to beat them out before they pile up enough Ice damage. They’re role players… good ones, but no more than that. The right team will want them and benefit greatly, but they’re not for everyone.


Smack Down/Mud Slap | Surf & Player’s Choice

Just like last month, the fast move and charge moves contain several viable combinations. Smack Down to abuse Flyers and squash Bugs, or Mud Slap to better knock out Poisons and Steels? I think **Surf** is a near must, but the second move could be Superpower, Earthquake, the new Rock Wrecker or even a different move based on need. The only advice I will give for now is to say that you probably don’t want to have Smack Down and Rock Wrecker or Mud Slap and Earthquake paired together, as you want some diversity among the moves to best handle what should be a very diverse meta. In some form or another, “Perrier” will be deployed by many for the second month in a row (and third time in the last five months). Stay sharp and pay attention to the moves so you know how to best respond!


Fire Fang/Ice Fang | Body Slam & Earth Power/Stone Edge

A classic case of quality over quantity here. Hippo is either hungry hungry for Bugs with Fire Fang (giving it a super rare-in-Toxic Fire fast move) or for Flyers and Grounds with Ice Fang. It’s a specialist either way you go, taking out the Dark/Poisons pretty consistently but not much else outside of whatever its Fang type feasts on, but both of those specialized roles are quite unique in this Cup, and Hungry Hungry Hippo should find a way onto many teams, probably more with Fire Fang which is all the rage in chatter so far, but Ice Fang is really, really good too.


Mud Slap | Bone Club & Earthquake

And here we have just a regular old Ground, with just some standard Ground moves. No tricks up its sleeve. And yet, somehow, it still works. Yeah, turns out Poisons and Steels and even several opposing Grounds don’t appreciate a steady assault of Ground damage. Marowak does absolutely nothing fancy, just goes about its job like a good soldier. If that sounds like something that helps you, give A-Wak’s castoff cousin a call.


Poison Jab | Thunder Punch & Dark Pulse

You have to like the Electric potential from Thunder Punch, a rare threat in this meta to the Waters and Flyers out and about, but overall Muk feels a little outmatched here, hemmed in by Grounds on one side, Normals and things that can actually outbulk it on another, and even many Bugs flitting about that can shrug off its attacks. It will fit well on some teams, but if we’re being honest, it will be a minority of teams. His versatility is nice, just not the best move package for this particular meta.

Alolan Muk

Snarl | Dark Pulse & Sludge Wave/Gunk Shot

Things look a bit better here than they do for A-Muk’s Kantoian cousin. Still need to be wary of Grounds, but Snarl and Dark Pulse make for a potent and rarely resisted combo, and A-Muk has two great door slamming Poison moves to follow it up and the bulk to typically get there. It’s never going to really blow anything away, but what it can always do–and still does here–is hang in a lot of fights and grind out wins, or at least help you stabilize and save you a shield or two in the process.

Things do not look so good for fellow Dark/Poison Skuntank, who, like Kanto Muk, is just hampered by its available moves here. Flamethrower SHOULD be big, but whether with Bite or Poison Jab, it just doesn’t get to it reliably enough to make the impact you want. It needs an energy or shield lead, and that’s not something you want to rely on. It has its uses, but A-Muk and especially Drapion (which we’ll look at later) surpass Stank in Toxic Cup.


Poison Jab | Acid Spray & Hydro Pump

Note I didn’t mention Acid Spray with either of the Muks, because it really doesn’t work with them here. You want a Sprayer, THIS is your guy. Tentacruel has the bulk to use it in multiples, and it also importantly helps set up a crushing Hydro Pump that nothing in this meta really wants to mess with. This is definitely one to practice with ahead of time, as Tentacruel IS rather bait dependent and proper guessing on the opponent’s part will make it pretty toothless, but if you like playing chess and trying to get the dramatic win, this is YOUR guy too.


Water Gun | Aqua Tail & Your Choice

Here you’re usually just looking to spam Water damage as much as possible with Water Gun and Aqua Tail, which nets Qwil most of its wins already. The only things in the entire meta that resist Water damage are the Grasses and other Waters, neither of which will be fielding many viable candidates, and of course all the Grounds and Rocks will be taking super effective damage. But you DO want a second move here, even if you won’t actually be using it all that much, because Ice Beam and Sludge Wave and, yes, even Acid Spray all have some good targets in this meta, and there WILL be things you run across that render the Water damage moot. (Looking at you, Bibarel!) My personal recommendation is probably Sludge Wave, just because of the great closing potential, but it really does come down to what fits your team best. They’re all viable, really (though Fell Stinger looks like the worst overall).


Lick | Body Slamᴸ & Shadow Ball/Power Whip

They’re back, and if you dodged Body Slam in Rose Cup, you better be sure you’ll be seeing it this time around. Shadow Ball, Power Whip, and even Earthquake are all good followup moves, and all threaten a wide swath of the meta. Shield timing will be key, as any of those can OHKO in the right spot, but also keep in mind that just spamming Body Slam is deadly in and of itself. The Lickiboys are here to stay in PvP now.


Snarl | Leaf Blade & Foul Play

So you remember all I said about Grasses, right? Well, there are a couple Grasses that don’t PLAY like most Grasses and may have a better chance at making a dent in the meta as a result. And Shiftry is anything but your typical Grass anymore… it’s a Dark that happens to be able to spam Leaf Blade too. That means it rightly terrifies Grounds, Waters, and anything utilizing Ghost or Psychic moves, which covers a decent chunk of the core meta. Shiftry isn’t going to dominate like it did at times in Fusion Cup, but it can still carve up an unprepared team in very short order. More of a specialist now, but one to keep in mind whether you plan to use it or just need to make sure you’re not slaughtered by it.


Confusion | Seed Bomb & Psychic

It’s nice that everyone can get a Confusion Eggy again, and that makes it another Grass-that’s-not-quite-Grass in Toxic Cup. I’ll be upfront here: its win spread is ungood. BUT, digging deeper, you see that it beats some huge players in this meta: Toxicroak and Bibarel and Golbat and Haunter and Flygon and Galvantula and Heracross and even Venusaur and Qwilfish. Those are all top tier options in Toxic Cup, and rare is the Pokémon that can take them all down without even breaking a sweat. There are several Confusioners available, but only one that we’ll get to down below that I think deserves mention besides Exeggutor.

And yes, that includes Venomoth, who loses some of those key matchups (Bibarel most notably) and seems to be, somewhat surprisingly, just a worse Exeggutor here.


Bubble | Ice Beam & Hydro Pump

And here I go with another Grass… or do I? I am recommending running Ludicolo as a Water. Remember the good things I’ve said about Water? Ludi can run a full Water moveset, with Ice Beam to keep a lot of things on their toes too. The Grass subtyping is pure liability here, since all the Bugs will be itching to (bug) bite into it, but hey, even Bibarel goes down fast to Fighting. Everything has its Achilles’ heel, and I think Ludicolo can overcome its own fatal flaw and make some noise in this meta by shedding its normal “oddball Razor Leafer” identity and embracing its wet and wild side. Grounds, Bugs that DON’T play primarily as Bug damage dealers, and most Normals (including, yes, Bibarel itself) hope that Water Ludi) does not come out to play. And thus, I get to end the 50k section with some spice. 🌶️

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

Start the breathing exercises, because now we’re getting into some expensive decisions. Pop some antacids (and antivenom) as we push forward….


Wing Attack | Night Slash & Earthquake

As in Rose Cup, the win/loss numbers really jump off the page, but also like last month, there’s a catch, because against the core meta, Gliscor comes back down to earth a little bit. Yes, it easily handles the Fighters and many really good Grounds and Bugs and Poisons, but there are also really good things in all of those categories (and the majority of Normals and Flyers) that shrug it off. And keep in mind that it is still rather bait needy, and turning off baiting paints a much scarier picture. Gliscor is not quite the dominant force it was (and really still is) touted as. A solid choice, absolutely, just not one to necessarily build your team around. Study those matchups hard and decide if it’s worth it… and it helps if you already built one last month!

A shout out to Gligar too, which is really not all that far behind, but there’s more of a gap than there was in Rose. Gliscor is just better here.


Dragon Tail | Crunch & Earthquake

Another expensive boi you likely have already built at some point in the past, as Steelix has seen a lot of action in Season 2. And I’m almost sorry to say: new meta, same story yet again. Steelix continues to hate on Flyers, Poisons, Rocks, Grass, Ice, most Bugs… you know, a bunch of the things you’ll be facing this month. And yes, it’s the same old moveset again too, as Thunder Fang is not the way to go here, unable to beat the Bibarels and Qwilfishes of the world. Steelix is no surprise to anyone at this point, but familiarity doesn’t make it any less of a pain to deal with. He’ll be up to his usual tricks all throughout March.


Bullet Seed/Metal Claw | Mirror Shot & Power Whip

There’s a good chance you didn’t build one for Sinister or Rose Cup, as its been a spicy but somewhat tepid recommendation before. And this is yet another muted but optimistic assessment this month, and I’m not necessarily advocating building one from scratch now if you haven’t already before. But… BUT… like Bernie Sanders, Ferro is once again asking for your donations, and promising to do good things with them. A peek at the core meta shows intriguing but limited success, but safely beating the Waters and nearly all Grounds (and some prominent Normals and Bugs thrown in as a bonus) really isn’t a bad deal at all. I lean towards Bullet Seed and its energy generation, but Metal Claw also does similar things and adds on Steelix too. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.


Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Heavy Slam/Earthquake

He’s back! A breakout star at the tail end of Season 1, Forret returns to assert itself again. And with a couple new bait moves at its disposal, it won’t feel as slow and lumbering as it has in the past. In fact, it can now carry a full STAB moveset with double Steel charge moves, and that actually appears to be the best way to go, crushing Normals and other Bugs and some important Grounds and Poisons while still dominating Grasses, though Earthquake is certainly still a very valid option as well, hurting many of those same things while especially dealing grave damage to Steels (and winning Steelix now, as a shining example). However you slice it, people have been itching to get it back into battle, and the big golf ball Pokémon is going to make its presence known again. Get ready!


Bullet Punch | Iron Head & X-Scissor/Night Slash

Scizor has always lurked in the background when eligible, hiding somewhere behind Forretress. (Which, in fairness, is pretty easy to do. ) Some have tried to make it work in formats like Jungle Cup, but it just has never had great success. That MAY be about to finally change. Interestingly, in a Cup with a bunch of Grounds and others that resist Steel moves, Scizor looks like it will do its best work with a full Steel moveset, with either X-Scissor or Night Slash chipping in with non-Steel damage and baits. (Both second moves are incredibly close in performance, so whichever you land on, I’d save yourself a TM and settle for, though it IS notable that XS/IH tends to beat NS/IH in the mirror.) Somehow it still beats many of the notable Grounds, along with a smattering of other important Pokes. If you have a Scizor you’ve been dying to use, this is your meta to try!


Fury Cutter | X-Scissor & Close Combat

I mean, sure, you can. Close Combat makes it interesting, but it’s all attack and no bulk, and being in this category, rather on the expensive side as well. Someone will make it work, and it CAN work, but not sure it’s worth the cost, personally. Though considering how few Bugs actually DO reach even that kind of win spread, I’d be remiss not to mention it.


Ice Fang | Aqua Tail & Sludge Bomb/Crunch

Last month there was a lot of debate about whether to run Ice Fang or Bite, but this month, I think the answer is clear. Ice Fang gives Drap unique reach in a meta full of Grounds and Flyers (and Grasses) that don’t like Ice damage at all, and makes it the best, most consistent Dark/Poison in Toxic Cup. Aqua Tail is a must for oft-unresisted spam and additional Ground hate, and I think I actually lean Sludge Bomb this time for pretty good coverage and Drap’s best on-paper numbers, but Crunch and even Fell Stringer, for those who like it, are fine too. If you’re in a bind and don’t already have a Drap built, you can even consider going the THRIFTY route and running with just Aqua Tail and really not miss out on much, but as Drap is a very safe investment, I recommend finding a way to unlock if you can.


Mud Slap | Shadow Sneak & Dynamic Punch/Earth Power

Trying to stay all business here and bring you the top flight options (and stay under Reddit’s character limit! 😅), but you know by now I can’t ignore the truly viable spice. So here we are with Golurk, who’s been on the back of milk cartons asking if anyone’s seen him since Sinister Cup. While its funky movepool hasn’t changed since then, Mud Slap was buffed, potentially giving it new life. It can uniquely handle a range of Fighters, Poisons, Steels, and many of the most prominent Bugs, though note that it is somewhat bait dependent on the mediocre Shadow Sneak to work at peak efficiency. Still, can’t help but like that win spread. It has a real chance to do here what it wasn’t allowed to do in Sinister, or ever before.


Mud Shot | Dragon Claw & Earthquake/Stone Edge

Saving the best for (almost) last? Well, saving a really good one, at least. Flygon makes the most of both of its typings, with Dragon Claw being resisted by a grand total of 10 Pokémon in the entire Cup (several of which you won’t ever see anyway) and taking out a good chunk of things all on its own. But Earthquake is particularly devastating here, with Claw being a great way to set one up to get through unshielded and nuking a ton of things.


Mud Shot | Sand Tomb & Earthquake/Outrage

The other Dragon that sneaks in. I’m just gonna leave this right here. Go check it out, and after you pick your jaw up off the floor… realize that that insanity is thanks to crazy bait games. Turn that off, and it really comes crashing down. But man, you better shield properly if you run into a Garchomp. Not sure how many will try bringing one, but somebody will. Don’t get suckered with your shielding!

That’s it for this section, but do keep an eye out for a potential Stunfisk release in the game. It could make a sizable splash if we get it in the middle of Toxic Cup! To a lesser extent, Krookodile too.

And good news! You don’t have to agonize about Legendaries and their 100,000 second move cost, because the only eligible one is Celebi, and while it’s not terrible, I really don’t think it’s worth it unless you just really love it as a Pokémon. And if you do, hey, who am I to say not to go for it?

Feelin’ Lucky?

Here I list stuff that may look affordable looking at just the cost for a second charge move, but due to stats, have to be at or very near Level 40 to really be viable. Obviously that’s a steep cost in candy AND dust, so if you want to use these and do not already have them built, give strong consideration to looking for them in a Lucky trade. Good luck!

Wormadam (Trash Cloak)

Confusion | Iron Head & Bug Buzz

There’s been quite a bit of debate on Trashadam already. Just as a bit of background, Trashy was one of the very last internal debates among Team Silph and their contributors, as everyone knows its cost can be prohibitive despite the fact that its second move only costs 10,000 dust. Because it HAS to be maxed, at least with anything close to good PvP IVs. It IS worth it, as Trashy is by far the best Confusioner here, and arguably the best Bug period.


Shadow Claw | Grass Knot & Thunder

Honestly, it’s a worse Lax, but that still has a place. It handles Waters and Grounds a bit better in general thanks primarily to Grass Knot, but its comparative lack of bulk (which, in fairness, is high compared to most things BUT the Lax Boys) holds it back from the same impressive breadth of wins. But there’s probably a better chance you already have Loonie built, and yes, it’s fine to deploy here too. Just don’t expect it to steal wins over things like Gliscor and the Dark/Poisons and such like Munchie can.

While I don’t know that it merits its own section, Furret probably deserves at least a mention. With Brick Break baiting out a killer Hyper Beam, it can do good things, but I don’t feel as good about it as I do generalists like Munchie and Loonie. Might have something to do with how quickly it can all fall apart….


Mud Slap | Bulldoze & Horn Attack

Now my THIRD time featuring Horn. Not for the thrifty, but it IS yet again nifty. Horn Attack does a good job baiting out Bulldozes and as we saw with Marowak, persistent Ground damage can do good things here. It’s much chunkier than either of its later evolutions, and if you built one already, yeah, I think you can deploy it as your spice pick again here.


Well well… well. This section is typically devoted to stuff you can get by NOT buying the second move for, but uh… I actually don’t really have anything for you here this month. I’ll reiterate that Drapion can really get by with just Aqua Tail, but really, that’s about it that I see. Everything else really needs both moves… sorry!

Legacy Considerations

I’ve touched on some Legacy moves already, but there is one particular ‘mon to specifically point out when it comes to Legacy:


Wing Attackᴸ/Air Slash | Aerial Ace & Hurricane/Brave Bird

Wing Attack Pidgeot is the closest we get in this meta to Noctowl. It’s nice and bulky, and that more than anything else puts it on a different tier than the other available birds. Even without any tricky, non-Flying moves, Pidgeot blows the competition away, and that strong performance carries over to the core meta too. Strong Flyers are in a very good position in this Cup, able to prey on Bugs and Grasses alike and blunt the attacks of Grounds, and with no Mr. Owl around, Pidgeot is the best of the best. It is very viable with non-Legacy Air Slash instead, but it comes back closer to the mix of other birds then. You want Wing Attack if at all possible to get the wins other birds can’t.

And before I ramble on any further… that’s a wrap! As with all my articles, take all of this with a big grain of salt. I am not trying to persuade you one way or the other, and of course everybody’s dust situations are different. But if you don’t have a dust pool/vault resembling that of Scrooge McDuck, then perhaps this can help you balance the cost of where to be thrifty with your hard-earned dust (and candy!).

Before I go, continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last year and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. And my thanks to all of you, for your own encouragement, support, and–this month especially–patience throughout Season 1 and now into Season 2.

Thank you for reading! I very much appreciate you taking the time, and sincerely hope this helps you master Toxic Cup. Best of luck, and catch you next time!

JRE has been playing Pokémon GO since the beginning, but never imagined he’d get so into PvP. In starting his own research, deep into the Silph Arena metas, he decided to share his findings so other players could benefit, which turned into full fledged articles, which multiplied like rabbits. He’s now been writing multiple regular article series since Tempest Cup, focused on advanced matchups and budget friendly but still viable alternatives for veteran and rookie players alike. He likes powering up oddball Pokémon, reading a good book, spending time with his kids, dad jokes, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

You can follow him on Twitter: @JRESeawolf or reach out on Discord: JRESeawolf#8349

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