Jul 1, 2020: Nifty Or Thrifty: Catacomb 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!
It’s our final chance for a Nifty Or Thrifty musical intro this season! sniff So let’s make it a good one… with some R.E.M.!
clears throat La la la… ahem
🎼 “Season Two has moved too fast
♪ Where should be our new address?
♫ Frozen water is evening now
🎵 The catacombs are filling in
♩ If my soul was made of stone
♬ No, not, not so dark, dark
♭ Next season is so far, it’s so dark, I’m so lost
🎶 Season 3’s so far, it’s so far, it’s so far….“
(Apologies to R.E.M. for butching the middle section of their catchy “Letter Never Sent“… which was probably written before most of you all were even born. And here I’m staring down 40 in less than two weeks…. 😬)
But anyway, let’s get to it, for the last official time this season! The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for the season-ending Catacomb 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. 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?
Before we dive in, let’s quickly define what Catacomb Cup is. As described on the main Catacomb Cup page, we’re talking Bug, Dark, Grass, Ice, and Rock types, including those with multiple typings as long as one typing matches up with those five.
There are a few specific bans. No Shadow Pokémon, Legendaries/Mythicals, Regionals, or Steel types. Also, the following Pokémon are specifically banned, and I will link to a quick sim showing how potent they’d be if they WERE in:
Enough intro, though. You’ve been waiting long enough, so let’s dive in!
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.
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Poison Jab/Bug Biteᴸ | Drill Runᴸ & X-Scissor/Fell Stinger/Aerial Ace
I always start with Grass, so let’s mix it up and go with some Bugs this time. And here is probably the most talked about Bug of all right now. It’s renaissance season for Beedrill, with its victory lap just a week ago (at the time of this writing) during its Community Day. And yes, Drill Run is a move you very much want here, if for no other reason than to keep the Dark/Poisons down. Heck, with JUST Drill Run, Bee has time to double Drill all three of the D/Ps, and manages to also beat nearly every Grass, and Glalie and Pinsir (and yes, Pinsir does matter here, as we’ll see later). Of course, adding in the customary X-Scissor or even Aerial Ace make all the Grasses even easier, add on the formerly elusive Jumpluff, and then Scissor adds Zweilous, while Ace instead gives Bee the mirror match. And yes, this is FINALLY the meta where you can pull out Legacy Bug Bite and do just about as well. And one MORE thing: you MAY want an Attack-weighted Bee here, as it can snatch wins away from Sudowoodo and Umbreon too! There are lots of options and nuances to Beedrill this time around, so take your new acquisition with you and sting your opponents.
Posion Jab | X-Scissor & Megahorn
If that all sounds too complicated, well, there’s Scolipede, which can also beat all the D/Ps, Zweilous AND Umbreon, all the Grasses but Exeggutor, and just to show off, Sudowoodo and Pinsir and Sealeo and Snowy Castform too. Now while that all sounds fantastic–and it is!–keep in mind that a lot of that relies on baiting with X-Scissor to set up a killer Megahorn. If that doesn’t go according to plan, things get hairy… Zweil, Sudo, Sealeo, and potentially all three D/Ps can slip away. (DO note, though, that you can at least just straight Scissor Zweil to death, which is nice.) There are no double Drill Run options here, and Megahorn, good as it is, is no Drill Run… the 10-cost gap between them can feel like a mile in this spammy meta. Scolipede will fit some teams better than Bee, but don’t be sucked in by the high level sims without understanding what it really takes to make Scolie really work.
Fury Cutter | X-Scissor & Bug Buzz
Any time Bugs are in the meta, somebody (usually several somebodies) always ask me to look into Kricketune. And I always do, and then it never makes the final cut, because it’s really just a plain old Bug. But you know what? In this meta, “plain old Bug” can get you quite a ways. It can’t quite get A-Muk, but Krick takes out Drap and Stank with no problem, as well as all the big Darks (Zweil, Umbreon, AND now Sableye), and is the perfect Grassassin, slaying every single Grass here with zero exceptions. Once again, though, a note of caution: it relies at least somewhat on X-Scissor baiting to get all that done. (Sensing a theme here with X-Scissor yet?) Krick can also be a little pricey, despite the low second move cost, since it has to be leveled up near 40 to make its full impact. But as I said, lots of people always ask, so here you go, friends: THIS is your chance to try and make something of it!
Razor Leaf/Bug Bite | Leaf Blade & X-Scissor
I mention it more due to its uniqueness than having a particularly good win spread, because if I’m being honest, it really doesn’t. It basically operates as a fairly standard Razor Leafer, or basically as a spammy Bug that beats Zweil and Sudo and some Grasses, but generally fails to capitalize on the awesomeness that is Leaf Blade versus Waters and even most of the Rocks. Leavanny will have a little bit of a surprise factor going for it once we can get one at the tail end of the month, but once the surprise wears off, it seems more bark than bite here.
I did look at other cheap Bugs like Masquerain and Ariados, but they just don’t do anything to deserve a shot over any of these others, IMO. Poor Masq has fallen on very hard times with Ominous Wind AND Silver Wind nerfed so hard. Not even Bubble Beam can save it.
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb
Okay, NOW we can transition fully into Grasses. And yes, I seem to always start with Venusaur, but I can’t help it… it’s usually the best Grass whenever it appears in a meta, and that holds true in the Catacombs too. It’s actually the #1 counter to Umbreon, just outmuscling it and many other things that don’t resist Grass damage… and even some big things that do. But as I often say, what makes Venusaur so great isn’t just Frenzy Plant, but the just-as-important Sludge Bomb, giving it an edge against other Grasses. I know I basically write the same thing every time my boy Venu is in NoT, but it continues to be true and Venusaur continues to deserve the accolades. Just look over that list and see for yourself.
Fellow Frenzy Planter Meganium just doesn’t look great here, however. Earthquake doesn’t do anything particularly impressive, and without Venusaur’s Poison subtyping, she can’t handle Fighters as well (losing to Breloom and Pinsir, both of which Venu beats pretty easily), and she doesn’t beat most of the other Grasses. Her one claim to fame here is outbulking Lapras much more easily than Venusaur, but that really is just about it. Sorry, Meg fans. I ain’t seeing it here.
Fury Cutter | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Dragon Claw/Leaf Blade
Usually when I advocate for Sceptile, it’s due to its off-type moves Earthquake to give it closing power and a threat to Steels and the like, or Aerial Ace to give it an important edge versus Fighters and other Grasses, either one being paired with Leaf Blade and not needing Frenzy Plant at all. But here? Consistently as I simmed, the best results came with Frenzy Plant paired either with Blade for the rarely-recommended double Grass charge move threat, or even better, the never-before-recommended Dragon Claw. Also note that unlike more recent metas, Sceptile is using not Bullet Seed, but Fury Cutter. So what the heck is going on here? Well, put simply, it’s all about the composition of the meta. Bullet Seed is resisted by all the other Grasses and Bugs AND Zweilous, where Fury Cutter is super effective against Grasses and the Darks. That matters. With Fury Cutter sets, Scep tends to get Breloom and Shiftry, and with Bullet Seed, it typically does not. Fury Cutter also hurts Zweilous more, and that’s also where Dragon Claw comes in, as Fury Cutter/Dragon Claw finally has a purpose: slaying Zweil. Yes, it’s the only relevant thing in the format that Dragon Claw hits super effectively, but considering Zweil’s importance in this meta, that’s enough for me to give it two thumbs up. There is surprisingly little dropoff going from Leaf Blade to Dragon Claw, with Sceptile holding its ground (and the same wins), since both are typically used to bait shields anyway and set up Frenzy Plant, and Claw gets that sweet Zweil win and also even Victreebel (with straight FC/DC spam again). Sceptile is perhaps spicier than ever here!
Charm | Petal Blizzard & Hyper Beam… but uh, doesn’t really matter
A Grass type that can Charm sounds fun, and yes, that has a place here: wiping the Darks and Breloom (the only Fighter) off the face of the earth with no muss, no fuss. But uh… that’s all it can really do. It’s a good niche, granted, and opponents that encounter it may not know right away what it’s going to do, and that’s good too… even a moment or two of hesitation can be huge in the heat of battle. But really, I’m not recommending is as much as I’m just mentioning it’s a thing. And yes, the second move is cheap, but you’re likely not going to need even ONE charge move, so take that for what it’s worth.
Charm | Foul Play & Play Rough
Here is the Charmer that I see a lot more buzz about in early meta talk, but honestly, Liepard is no better than Lilligant, and arguably even worse. With its resistance to Dark damage, Liepard technically beats the big Darks more effectively than Lilli, but only with 5-6 more HP remaining on average, and Lilli still gets more wins overall and has nearly 40 more HP after beating down Breloom (thanks to not being weak to Fighting damage, which–in other metas, at least–combines with Liepard’s vulnerability to other Charmers to make it a very awkward Charmer. This is probably the best possible meta for it to try and show its stuff, but even here, I think I rank it not even second, but third. (#1 Charmer is still coming later.) Don’t buy into the hype.
Rock Throw | Overheat & Stone Edge
So, if you’ve been following my articles for a while, you know I have a huge soft spot for Mr. (or Mrs.!) Cargo. STILL somehow the only Fire/Rock type in the entire franchise–not even Galar has changed that–this fiery snail is one I stumped for in several Cup formats. But for real this time–this is not a drill!–this is it. This is its chance to finally prove itself. Even PvPoke agrees, with Magcargo ranked safely inside the Top 20 in the Cup. So what’s different this time? First off, Mags is one of only two viable Fire types in a format full of Grasses, Bugs, and Ice types. Now, that does not necessarily translate to widespread success, but it DOES equal key wins, beating all the major Bugs and Ices, and getting bonus wins over Skuntank and even Umbreon. What’s more, other than Counter users, Mags doesn’t really get blown out by anything either… it puts up a pretty good fight against most of the meta. And while, yes, you have to level it up into the mid 30s, that second move still only costs 10k. And Stone Edge and Overheat are both very good moves.
Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge
As was the case way back in Jungle Cup, double Rock charge moves are the best way to go here, with Bugs weak to it (as opposed to Electric being neutral), Grasses neutral to it (they resist Electric damage), all Ices being weak to Rock (whereas only the Water/Ices are weak to Electric), and the few Flyers, of course, being equally weak to Electric and Rock (aside from the Bugs, which are DOUBLE weak to Rock). Yes, Wild Charge is, on paper, an arguably better move than Stone Edge now, but the latter has better coverage in this particular meta… and comes without any self-nerfing. So now that that part of it is settled, which Alolan Rock Boy to go with? Graveler and Golem each win the same matchups against the core meta with two key differences: Golem, with its higher Attack stat, deals one extra damage per Volt Switch to Venusaur and can win that matchup, while A-Grav can’t… but A-Grav uniquely beats Zweilous thanks to its higher Defense, reducing the damage of each Dragon Breath to 3; A-Golem instead takes 4 damage per Breath, and that adds up quickly… to a loss. As much as a I love Venusaur, I think it’s safe to say Zweilous is a more impactful win here, so I would recommend A-Grav if I had to pick one, personally. But either way you go, the Alolan Rocks are budget heroes that do a lot of good things here, terrorizing Bugs, Ices, all three Dark/Poisons, Sableye, the other Rock Throwers, and even Sudowoodo! They should be able to make a mark on many teams in July.
Quck Attack | Crunch & Hyper Beam/Hyper Fang
By the numbers, A-Rat looks really good here, but a note of caution: many of those big name wins are accomplished by snagging a shield with Crunch and then crushing with a landed Hyper Beam. That is what we call living dangerously. Sure, it’ll work at times and make the #getbeamed crowd hoot and holler, but when it DOESN’T work? BIG oof. You can kinda split the difference by going with Hyper Fang instead, but then you lose out on the potential to beat Lapras, Vespiquen, A-Muk, Sealeo, Umbreon, Snowy Castform, and others. The good news for A-Rat is very, very little Fighting and Fairy around to terrorize it, but the bad news is you may be relegated to having to use it as a boom or bust option if you’re going to use it at all.
Snarl | Body Slam & Dig/Gunk Shot
Is it viable? Yes, I’d say so. But is it GOOD? Weeeeeeeeell…. The problem is that Body Slam only gets it so far–Drap, A-Muk, Umbreon, Beedrill, Sealeo (the ONLY thing in the game that can spam Slams more than Sealeo), so a good list overall, just a short one–and G-Noone doesn’t have great moves to pair with it. I mean, Dig OR Gunk Shot gain Froslass and Sableye, and then Dig further adds Rock Throwers Magcargo and Carracosta, or Gunk Shot instead tacks on Grasses Shiftry, Jumpluff, and Sceptile. So the moves DO have impact, they just don’t push G-Noone to a level that I think makes it worth a slot on most teams. But that’s up to YOU, my friend. I just give you the data.
50,000 Dust/50 Candy
While the 10k moves are pretty easy to justify, 50,000 dust is not something so easily tossed away. But as is often the case, the majority of eligible ‘mons in the Cup fall in this category and make up the meat of many teams, so let’s break them down!
Volt Switch/Fury Cutter | Bug Buzz & Dischange/Cross Poison
Believe it or not, Galv is one of only two viable Bugs in the 50k category, and is also the last Electric type in this article. And both of those typings matter. Volt Switch is really the fast move I think you want. I listed Fury Cutter as well because it combined with Bug Buzz can make Galv an effective Umbreon slayer and can get Zweilous from scratch too, but Volt Switch is just more impactful overall, getting the majority of Ices, two of the three D/Ps, Sable, and Vespiquen while also putting ticking-time-bomb pressure on Grasses. If you feel really confident in your ability to bait, and/or just like to spice things up, Cross Poison shows a downright silly win column, but you better get those baits, because its performance can fall off a cliff if things don’t go to plan. As I always like to say, the truth of how well CP performs falls somewhere between those two polar opposites, but I still personally feel Discharge and Bug Buzz is more reliable. But I am not you, of course, so do what makes you happy!
Bug Biteᴸ | Poison Fang & Bug Buzz/Silver Wind
That’s right… just as Bug Bite is finally viable on Beedrill, it’s viable here too, and is clearly better than the standard Confusion thanks to all Darks and Grasses being weak to Bug Bite and the Darks instead resisting Confusion. Confusion DOES get Beedrill and certainly performs fine overall, but Bug Bite can get big Darks Shiftry, Umbreon, and Zweilous, and that probably carries more weight here. And it gets even better with good IVs, if you’re able to get one like that, as it can secure Drapion and Skuntank (as opposed to just A-Muk that “default” IVs get) as well as Lapras… or yet another option is Silver Wind rather than Bug Buzz, which also snags Drap and Stank (though not Lapras) at the cost of giving up Umbreon. Admittedly, Venomoth isn’t the top Bug here or anything, not by a long shot, but it has a long history of being a Confusioner, so the initial… well, confusion that may come from taking super effective Bug damage from the get-go.
Poison Jab/Snarl | Dark Pulse & Gunk Shot
Not quite the dominant force it was in Sorcerous Cup, but it IS still very, very good, and once again, my recommendation is Poison Jab AND Gunk Shot over the typically more popular Snarl and Sludge Wave. In fact, starting there, Gunk Shot looks like it might be better even if you DO roll with Snarl, as Gunk has the killing power to overcome Umbreon and Vespiquen, while Sludge Wave, while faster, falls short (though it’s worth noting the extra speed DOES win Skuntank, which Gunk cannot reliably replicate). But again, using Snarl/Dark Pulse/Gunk Shot as our barometer, I want to really focus in on the difference Poison Jab can make. My boy Magcargo slips away, but the gains are big: Lapras, Sealeo, Skuntank, the mirror match, and even something that SHOULD be a big threat: Fighting type Breloom. Snarl is an overall better move, but just like in Sorcerous, the typing and pure damage output of Poison Jab seems to pull ahead here. If you followed my advice last month, congrats! You’re done. If not, this is your second and last chance this season to turn your opponents’ expections of A-Muk on their heads.
Poison Jab | Flamethrower & Sludge Bomb/Crunch
Yep, we have yet another moveset debate. Well, there’s not much debate about Poison Jab and Flamethrower, the latter of which hits all the Grasses and Bugs for super effective damage, and hits the rest of the meta for at least neutral unless it’s a Rock or Dragon (aka Zweilous). The question of the second charge moves seems like an easy one at first, with Crunch blowing away Sludge Bomb when looking at the entire meta… but there actually IS a significant debate to have, because against the core meta, Bomb actually appears better than Crunch. So which is it? Well, turns out FT/SB beats everything FT/C does, PLUS Lapras. Crunch is faster (5 less energy) than Sludge Bomb, but just doesn’t have the same killing power. Crunch’s overall numbers are inflated a bit by the sheer number of Rock types in the format (and Rock resists Sludge), but very few of those Rocks are actually relevant. (I know, I know… Sudo would like a word, I get that.) Neither is “wrong”, but the unusual Flamethrower/Sludge Bomb set makes a strong case here.
Snarl | Sky Attack & Dark Pulse/Psychic/Brave Bird
Sneaking Sky Attack into a format filled with Bugs and Grasses just seems like a good idea to me… so much so that the second move really doesn’t even matter all that much. The problem is, other than taking advanatage of its Dark typing by being a Flyer that can beat down Froslass, it really basically is ONLY here to kill Bugs and Grasses. That’s not bad, but the fact that it loses to Umbreon and Zweilous is disappointing, to say the least.
Fire Fang | Flamethrower & Crunch/Foul Play
There is a MUCH better case for sneaking Fire into this format, which also handles Grasses and Bugs with ease, PLUS Ice types. In fact, Houndoom actually does its best work with just Fire Fang, beating all Grasses, Bugs, and Ices that aren’t part Water or Rock, plus Sableye. I think Houndoom does what you want Honch to do, just better. Yes, that makes it somewhat of a specialist, and it can’t overcome the biggest Darks or any Rocks to speak of, but it’s still a very good specialist that I think people are overlooking thus far.
Snarl | Avalanche & Focus Blast
I looked at a LOT of sims for Weavile (and Sneasel), and the only one that seems worth it to me is Snarl/Avalanche/Focus Blast. It gets several of the Grasses and Flyers you would hope to get with Avalanche, gets Froslass due to resisting ALL of its moves, and beats Glalie, Lapras, and the Dark Trinity of Zweilous, Umbreon, and Sableye, typically via a final Focus Blast. Oh, and this is also an Ice type that can beat the Alolan Rocks (and doesn’t even need Focus Blast to do it). Weavile is not one I typically give a thumbs up, and I will warn again that some of its bigger wins only come if it lands a Focus Blast, but just the fact that it CAN do what the sims show makes it worthy of consideration, at the very least.
Powder Snow | Shadow Ball & Avalanche
Yes, she’s still good, though also yes, she is still frail. Lass handles most Grasses and Bugs, though due to her flimsiness, she struggles against Razor Leaf and cannot reliably overcome Breloom either. She resists Body Slam, which allows her to take out both Zweilous and Sealeo with relative ease, but then goes and loses to bulky Umbreon, Glalie, and Lapras. She can pick off Sudowoodo, but loses to the Rock Throwers, and can improbably beat Skuntank (even with Crunch or Flamethrower) but cannot overcome A-Muk or Drapion (if Drap has Crunch, at least). Froslass is solid and unique, for sure, but the results are a little bit of a mixed bag of somewhat unpredictable results. Use Lass if you like it, and you’ll probably do well. But keep that Breloom matchup in mind in particular, because one of her most famous niches is being an Ice that can beat Fighting… but that, too, is frustratingly unpredictable.
Ice Shard | Shadow Ball & Avalanche
Froslass always gets more accolades, but Glalie goes out and puts up numbers that are often just as solid with little fanfare. Such is the case here too, They share a lot of the same wins, but there are some key differences. Lass takes out Zweilous, Glalie outbulks Umbreon. Lass beats big Bugs Beedrill and Pinsir, Glalie instead beats all the Dark/Poisons. Froslass beats Vine Whippers like Venusaur, Glalie instead gets Razor Leafers like Victreebel. And Lass gets Sudowoodo, while Glalie beats Froslass herself. In short: they’re both viable, and both have their own strengths and weaknesses, mostly due to the pros and cons of Froslass’ secondary Ghost typing. Which fits YOUR team better?
Powder Snow | Body Slam & Aurora Beam/Water Pulse
Well Sealeo may not QUITE be the fastest Body Slammer around anymore (G-Noone wrested away that crown), but it’s still plenty fast and quite bulky, and always a good fallback plan. (Read as: safe swap.) It doesn’t put up an eye-popping number of wins, but it DOES put up a good fight to anything not heavy on Grass, Rock, or Electric damage, and rather easily handles top threats like the D/Ps, Vespie and Bee, other Ices (besides Lass), of course Zweilous, and even Breloom. It can’t beat the *other* big Counter user, Sudowoodo, but with Water Pulse it can at least really make Sudo work for it. I think, bad a move as it is, Pulse is the better play here, as it makes several of its losses less severe and manages to overcome Magcargo, but Aurora Beam does at least wrap up Jumpluff and make Breloom and some other Grasses easier.
Powder Snow | Avalanche & Bulldoze/Stone Edge
This is a little bit of a friendlier environment than its used to, with not much Fighting or Steel or Fire around to abuse it. But even still, the results are a little lackluster. Pilo DOES reliably get Zweil, Vespie, and Bee, and A-Grav and Sableye, so it’s a good start. With Bulldoze it also abuses the Dark/Poisons and Rock Throwers, and I tend to personally favor that over the Glalie and Snowy C it wins with Stone Edge instead, but that’s me. Your team may need that Ice coverage more, so weigh your options. One more note: it comes very close to beating Umbreon, and can actually get there in certain IV scenarios, so that’s another point in its favor. In fact, a Pilo with decently high Attack gets that Umbreon win AND potentially Grasses like Tangrowth and Venusaur too, so a hatch IV Piloswine may actually be your best bet here. 🤔
Ice Shard | Icy Wind & Avalanche/Hydro Pump
Yup, it works here. Icy Wind is a move to ride until Niantic eventually nerfs it (hopefully never, but this is Niantic we’re talking about), and Cloyboy makes full use of it, wearing down the D/Ps, Vespie and Bee, Breloom, Jumpluff, Sable, and even Ices Glalie and Snowy C, among others. Add on Hydro Pump to set up a win over Froslass and a HUGE stick to punish anything that doesn’t (or can’t!) shield, or the awesome Avalanche to get the mighty Umbreon. Just call Cloyster “Dewgong Lite”.
Charm/Powder Snow | Ice Punch & Surf/Play Rough
No Alolan Ninetales, no problem? Ice has got another Charmer, and while still not fantastic, it looks to be the best Charm option in this Cup. Note how it easily (though not surprisingly) takes down all the major Darks, plus Breloom. Standard fare for the Charmers we’ve already looked at. But unlike them, Tempermental Coca Cola Polar Bear (also known as Beartic) can carve its way to some other victories too. Liepard was able to beat Pinsir, and Beartic can too. Lilligant will be able to beat Sceptile, and so can Beartic. And Beartic can also overcome Snowy Castform and Drapion thanks to resisting their Ice damage. Ice is a pretty bad typing in the Pokémon franchise, resisting ONLY Ice and being weak to Fire, Fighting, Rock, and Steel. Thankfully Fire and Steel are quite rare, and Fighting is also rare and the one actual Fighter wants no parts of Charm. So even though it usually sucks, in this particular meta, Beartic stands tall as the best Charmer available. OR if you want maximum spice, you can make it into a funky Powder Snow Ice type that does okay-ish, but is really just for the lolz. Maybe at the end of the month when everyone perhaps has developed a proper respect for what Charm Beatic can do.
Bubble/Razor Leaf | Energy Ball & Ice Beam
As a Razor Leafer, Ludi does… well, okay-ish. The problem is that its famous double resistance to Water goes mostly to waste here with so little actual Water damage around. Ludi works a bit better with Bubble instead. It’s not fast enough to Ice Beam to have a true shot at Zweilous, but Bubble Ludi DOES get Umbreon and Sableye, as well as Ices Lapras and Froslass and Sealeo, and Drapion too. And Magcargo certainly does not appreciate Bubble either, and even against Sudowoodo, while a loss, Ludi dies with the winning charge move ready to fire… a good IV Ludicolo can flip that as well. Not the breadth of wins you may want to see, but they’re impactful for sure.
VILEPLUME & VICTREEBEL
Razor Leaf | Sludge Bomb & Moonblast/Leaf Blade
Putting them together, because the results are very close whether you prefer Plume or Vic. Plume’s bulk makes it slightly better overall, able to hang in long enough to beat both Pinsir and Glalie, while Vic just can’t stand up long enough to turn those around. Vic shows a win over Tangrowth that Plume doesn’t, but Plume actually gets that too if it sticks with straight Razor Leaf, so like I said, Plume is just slightly better overall. And while it doesn’t lead to any wins in general sims, carrying the threat of Moonblast is a nice stick to carry with the impactful Darks in play here. But pick your pleasure… the two top RLers are both on roughy equal footing in the Catacombs.
Bullet Seed | Leaf Blade & Dazzling Gleam/Return
And now a “reformed” Razor Leafer, converted to the study of Bullet Seed since its big buff a little while back. Bell can spam Grass damage with a Leaf Blade barrage, getting her the major Rocks and Waters and and Sableye. But with Dazzling Gleam added into the mix, Bell can now beat the whole Dark Trinity (Sable, Umbreon, AND Zweilous) if it succeeds in getting a bait with Leaf Blade. That’s some nice potential. You could even go with Return instead of Gleam, but you lose Zweil, Umbreon gets shaky, and your only notable pickup is Victreebel, so… yeah, Gleam seems the best way to go.
Bullet Seed | Dazzling Gleam & Aerial Ace/Energy Ball
But if you REALLY want a Grass that can slay the Darks, this here is an even better option. Because Jumpluff is bulky enough to get to TWO Dazzling Gleams against not only Sableye AND Umbreon AND Zweilous, but also Shiftry and Breloom too (and Vic and Pinsir for good measure). Then you can trick it out with Aerial Ace to beat down Grasses like Venusaur and Tangrowth, or with Energy Ball to get Rocks like Sudowoodo and Alolan Graveler. However you customize your Pluff, just make sure it has Gleam, as things that handle the Dark Trinity AND do other good stuff are not too easy to come by in this format.
Bullet Seed | Foul Play & Leaf Blade
Well, they did it. After telling everyone that asked that, yes, getting a Bullet Seed Shiftry during Seedot Community Day was a good idea–because you never know!–but that Snarl would likely always be better, here we are, with a Silph format that makes Bullet Seed the better play. With BS, Shiftry gets Sealeo and Umbreon… with Snarl, neither of those. Bravo, Team Silph. You did it.
Vine Whip | Rock Slide & Sludge Bomb/Power Whip
Honestly, Growth is a bit of a letdown in this meta. Yes, it can do Grass things AND take out Vespiquen, which isn’t nothing, but it’s not a whole lot of something either. You can instead turn it into a funky jack-of-all-trades with Sludge Bomb rather than the more standard Power Whip, which gives it more teeth against other Grasses, but it also makes the wins over Waters and Rocks a bit shakier. I dunno. Somebody will make it work anyway, but I’m leary after giving it a hard look.
Counter | Seed Bomb & Dynamic Punch
Okay, the elephant in the room. Yes, Loom is the only Fighter allowed in the format. That should be huge, right? But here’s the problem: Loom is VERY squishy. So yes, while it can outdamage most major Rocks and Darks, it can’t overcome the majority of Ices and even several Darks escape it… Loom cannot reliably beat Lapras or Sableye or Skuntank or Drapion or Sealeo or even Snowy Castform. Even though the other Counter user here is NOT a Fighter, I think it’s much better, ironically, than the one actual Fighter, as we’ll see in a short bit.
Bullet Seed | Stone Edge & Grass Knot
Admittedly Cradily (dilly!) is more gimmicky than solid meta as it was in the recent Forest Cup, but it’s still a good gimmick. It’s a Grass that can beat the couple of Fires in the Cup, plus the majority of Bugs and Ices, plus A-Muk, and yet still beat the other Rocks (including, yes, Sudowoodo) thanks to its Grass side. Cradily covers some good ground with its nigh-perfect melding of Grass and Rock.
Fury Cutter | X-Scissor & Power Gem/Bug Buzz
Think of it as a souped up Beedrill/Scolipede. It still wants to get shields with X-Scissor, though it can find good success with just Scissor too, beating Umbreon and Zweilous and all Grasses but Tangrowth, plus some others. But if all goes according to plan and Scissor snags a shield, a closing Power Gem can add on Glalie, Snowy Castform, and the mirror match, or Bug Buzz makes other Darks easier, like Drapiom and Sableye. Air Slash is a sorta viable alternative, but you give up Zweilous without Fury Cutter, and that’s a dealbreaker for me.
75,000 Dust/75 Candy
Start the breathing exercises, because now we’re getting into some expensive decisions. Hold onto your butts, because here we go!
Dragon Breath | Body Slam & Dark Pulse/Dragon Pulse
And here it is: the freshest and scariest thing in the Catacombs. It’s not that Zweil is completely dominant, because it does not put up video game high score numbers or anything. It doesn’t like Ice or Bug or Fighting, and isn’t appreciative of many of the Rocks out there either, as the loss column in that link shows. But what makes Zweil scary is that, with good PvP IVs, it can overturn even some of its more common counters, like Beedrill, Scolipede, Vespiquen (with Air Slash, anyway), and even certain varieties of Drapion. Zweilous can be a very tough–and very oppressive–out unless you have your own oppressive Ice type or the like. Expect Zweil to be everywhere in July. Oh, and by the way, Body Slam is a must, and Dark Pulse is generally the preferred second move. Dragon Pulse loses Lapras (which Dark Pulse gets), but does at least make Umbreon a much easier win. Speaking of….
Snarl | Last Resort & Foul Play/Dark Pulse
The original oppressive Dark type, Umbreon isn’t ready to give up its throne just yet. Umbreon and Zweilous look similar on the surface but there are actually several differences. Between the two of them, Umbreon uniquely defeats Froslass, Sealeo, Carracosta, A-Grav, and Snowy Castform, and more easily overcomes Beedrill, Vespiquen, and Drapion. Conversely, Zweilous uniquely beats Shiftry, Jumpluff, Venusaur, Magcargo, Glalie (yes, really… it gets to a second Body Slam JUST before Glalie can fire off its second Avalanche, whereas Umbreon lets Glalie get to three total Avalanches), and Umbreon itself in the head to head. One more wrinkle with Umbreon: while I generally recommend Foul Play, for the fact that it generally performs best–beating Ices like Lapras and Snowy C and Grasses like Tangrowth and Sceptile–it’s worth noting that Umbreon can beat Sudowoodo with Dark Pulse thanks to its superior damage and the fact that Umbry reaches three DP or FP. But anyway, considering the different wins and losses between Umbreon and Zweilous, you could conceivably even run both, but note that neither can handle Sudowoodo, Breloom, or Pinsir, among others, so have solid coverage with your third if you go that route. Generally, I think you may be best with just one or the other in your line of three, but that’s your call. Hopefully this at least helps you sort out which one may fit your team better!
Shadow Claw | Foul Play & Return/Power Gem
The last of the Dark Trinity (I gotta trademark that sometime), Sableye doesn’t put the big numbers that Umbry and Zweil do, but what it has going for it is that it actually beats Breloom and Pinsir, and at least forces a tie with Sudowoodo, thanks to its secondary Ghost typing and consequent resistance to Fighting damage (and neutrality to Bug damage). Perhaps Sable would be a better pairing with Zweil or Umbreon in a double Dark build? Anyway, Foul Play is the one must here, and then it’s a choice between Power Gem or Return (for a purified Sable, of course). What Gem gets you shouldn’t be a big shock… it hurts Ices (and Flyers, though Foul Play is sufficient for those), so Lapras and Snowy C enter the win column. With Return instead, you get Jumpluff and two of the three Dark/Poisons (A-Muk and Stank). Sableye isn’t dominant here, but there is definitely a hole on teams out there that Sable fits even better than the more heralded Darks.
Ice Fang | Aqua Tail & Fell Stinger/Crunch
Ice ice, baby! In this format, it’s all about that Ice Fang, which by itself can beat all Flyers and nearly every Grass in the format, as well as Sableye AND Umbreon. Ice Fang is SO important that this is a rare case where I give Fell Stinger two hearty thumbs up, as it tacks on A-Muk, Skuntank, and most importantly, Zweilous. (And if the mirror match opponent doesn’t shield, it can get enemy Draps too.) Add on Aqua Tail to gain Magcargo and Houndoom as well, and you have a very unique and complete package. Crunch is not completely useless, as it DOES gain Froslass, but I think what Stinger and Aqua get you are just better. Just my opinion!
Counter | Rock Slide & Earthquake
In truth, Sudo may belong better up in the 10k section, as you can double move a Bonsly with the Baby Discount™, evolve and level it up to about Level 25, and be all set with a good chunk of dust saved. But Bonsly isn’t a terribly common hatch, and isn’t even available now, so here we are. And where we are is smack down in the middle of a meta where Sudowoodo not only shines, but is arguably THE most important Pokémon you could have on your team. It is not that it beats everything in sight, because it doesn’t. Sudo wants nothing to do with any of the many viable Grasses here, nor anything else that can deal Fighting or Ground damage. But its wins come against huge targets: Umbreon and Zweilous, all three Dark/Poisons, all Ice types but Froslass, all viable Bugs but Pinsir and Scolipede, and even nearly every other Rock type. Don’t let all those Grass wins discourage you…Sudowoodo handles nearly everything BUT Grass. Just scan the entire meta win/loss results and see what I mean.
Rock Throw | Body Slam & Surf
The other big Rock type that’s generating a lot of conversation, and for good reason. Rock Throw combined with two moves that are spammy but still pretty hard hitting–Body Slam and Surf–allows Carracosta to beat every single Bug and Ice type in the Cup, and every Flyer but Jumpluff, as well as the D/Ps, fellow Rock Thrower Magcargo, and Zweilous too. But there IS a case for Water Gun instead, and its name is Sudowood. And Costa’s pre-evolution is actually quite good too… but more on that later.
Mud Shot | Ancient Power & Stone Edge
It may not have Rock Throw, but Kabutops is a nice little sleeper pick anyway. You might think it would only be usable with Legacy Fury Cutter and that that would give it an edge against the Darks, but it actually hurts them even more with Mud Shot… it beats Sable, and gets OH so close to beating Zweilous too (and can actually flip it with high enough Attack). But really, what Kabutops is here for is to beat down Rock-weak things like Flyers, Bugs, Ices, and D/Ps, which is handles with lethal efficiency, also getting the more prominent Rock Throwing Pokémon in the process. So while Kabutops may not do anything particularly special as compared to other Rocks, it does exactly what you want your Rock type to do, and your opponent is FAR less likely to have logged practice time against one, which is a very real advantage that no sim can show you.
Fury Cutter | X-Scissor & Close Combat/Superpower
Pinsir has been lurking out there for a long time, just waiting for a format where Heracross was on the outside looking in, and a Bug with Fighting moves had a role. Well Pinsir, your day has arrived. Sir Pince handles both Zweilous and Umbreon with surprising ease (and can still beat them both reliably with just its Bug moves!), and can also slaughter every Grass but Venusaur, Vileplume, and Jumpluff. All in a day’s work for a Bug, right? But wait… we haven’t even seen what Close Combat does for it. Because with that, Pinsir can also take down ALL Ice types but Fighting-resistant Froslass, AND turn the tables on several big Rocks, including Kabutops, the Alolan Rocks, and big prize Sudowoodo. And just as a cherry on top, it also takes down Skuntank and Drapion. This may be a hard one to justify investing in, at least in your own mind, as there is risk here of being a one time wonder. But hey, we enter the offseason after this, and you KNOW we’re gonna rake in dust come GO Fest. You’ll get it all back in plenty of time for Season 3. If you like Pinsir–or at least just like what it uniquely brings to the table here–I say go for it!
Fury Cutter | Bug Buzzᴸ & X-Scissor/Night Slash
As I type this, I’m sitting here in the closing hours of this year’s “Bug Out” event, snatching every Scyther I see pop up off of my incense and looking for good IVs. But I do so with the knowledge that it really needs a Legacy move, Bug Buzz, to work best. Without BB, it cannot reliably beat Umbreon, Sableye, Sudowoodo, or Skuntank. WITH Bug Buzz, though, Scyther gets all of those, plus Zweilous, Pinsir, and every single Grass in the Catacombs. Just keep it FAR away from Rocks. 😬
Ice Shardᴸ | Surf & Skull Bash/Blizzard
Gonna spend a little time here, because I think Lapras is very, VERY important in this Cup, and hasn’t been properly appreciated yet. It starts with Zweilous, which Lapras, as an Ice type, should handle fine, right? Yet the default sim on PvPoke shows it instead as a loss. But watch this: if I remove other moves from the equation and give Lappie only Ice Shard and Surf, it suddenly wins, even if Zweilous goes full spam and uses only Body Slam as quickly as it can get it. What’s going on here? Well, with another move in the equation (like Skull Bash), the sim has Zweil delay the first Surf a bit to try and trick the opponent into throwing a shield. It works, but then at the end, Zweil has enough time to race to a Dark Pulse and kill Lappie off, whereas if you just go straight Surf, even though it’s resisted, enough damage it dealt between it and residual Ice Shard damage to beat Zweil pretty much every time, all other factors being equal. The fact that the default sim shows Zweil as a loss in 1v1 shielding has kept it under the radar a bit. Lapras also wins shieldless and very nearly 2v2 shielding matchups as well. (It CAN win even that if you don’t bother trying to force any shields at all). Zweil CAN get Lappie, but Lapras has the upper hand.
And in fact, Surf is all you need to do most of what Lapras does in this format. And what it does it quite good, ripping through most Grasses and all Bugs but Pinsir and Volt Switch Galv, most Ices and Magcargo thanks to Surf, and Return Sableye. And yes, you want a second move with Lappie, always, and here either Skull Bash or Blizzard adds Skuntank. I think Skull Bash is best overall, as its a nice bomb when it hits and that Defense boost is always a good thing. And one more final point in Skull Bash’s (and Lappie’s) favor: #1 IV Lapras can beat Umbreon with double Skull Bash!) Lapras is very good here, and I think deserves more chatter.
Ice Shard | Night Slash & Solar Beam
And we’ll end the 75ks with some spice. Cryo is arguably viable even with just Ice Shard and Night Slash, beating Zweil and most Grasses and Ices (including Froslass, who does not appreciate Slash) and Vespie and even Drapion. But now enter the spice: Solar Beam. I know, I know… it ONLY works when you successfully bait a shield with Night Slash, and catch the opponent napping with the beam from orbit. But it WILL work, especially early in the month when nobody has any clue what moves Cryo has, and when it DOES work, you get Sealeo, Lapras, and potentially even Umbreon. #GetBeamed crowd, get rowdy!
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!
Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Blizzard
Listed here because it has to be maxed or JUST short of maxing to be at the right level. Casty is a pure Ice, with no fancy tricks or coverage moves. But you know what? Weather Ball is so good that it STILL manages to force its way into the discussion. Comparing it to something like, say, Glalie shows what Weather Ball does for you. Glalie, as discussed before, takes out Umbreon and Sableye on the strength of Avalanche, and Froslass thanks to Shadow Ball. But Snowy beats Zweilous, and in a cakewalk… it’s actually the best anti-Zweil in the whole Cup behind only the Charmers. Snowy C gets the Grasses (more reliably than Glalie, getting Venusaur and even Breloom that Glalie cannot), the D/Ps, and Vespie and Beedrill, the last of which Glalie struggles with. So while it doesn’t do anything tricky, Casty gets the job done.
Water Gun | Body Slam & Surf
If you were thinking about WG Carracosta, you’re gonna LOVE Water Gun Tirtouga, which is even better. It beats all the same meta stuff WG Carra does, but thanks to better bulk, can manage to take down Beedrill and even Umbreon as well. That means its wins include Bee, Vespie, Umbry, Sable, Sudowoodo, the Rock Throwers, Froslass and Glalie and Snowy C, AND all the Dark/Poisons. That’s an amazing body of work for something that can state “this isn’t even my final form!”. Tirtouga is really, truly legit if you’re willing to take the plunge by maxing out a really good one.
Smack Down | X-Scissor & Rock Blast/Rock Tomb
So Crustle may be banned, but there’s a loophole: Dwebble isn’t! Unfortunately it tops out far below 1500 (and even below 1300), but at least it shares Crustle’s attractive typing and a close approximation of its moves, giving it moderate success here in the Catacombs. Taking out Beedrill and Vespie and Pinsir and Scolie PLUS several major Grasses and Ices is a nice place to be. If you’re looking for a season-ending splurge and/or some serious spice, little Dwebble may be the place to do it.
I’ve touched on some Legacy moves already (and in the case of ones like Lapras and those with CD moves, I still put up above as they were widely available for a while and much easier to acquire in trades even if you don’t have them), but there are a couple of ‘mons that really only enter the discussion with certain Legacy moves:
Mud Shotᴸ | Rock Blast & Earthquake/Stone Edge
It absolutely requires Mud Shot and its fast energy generation, but if you somehow still have one that’s usable in Great League, this may be your best ever time to deploy it. That’s a list of very good wins, including the D/Ps, Sudo, Vespie, A-Rocks and Rock Throwers, and even Zweilous. And while, yes, some of those do require a successful Rock Blast setting up a KO Earthquake or Stone Edge (Edge loses Zweil and Sudowoodo, but gains Lapras and Sealeo and performs better against Bugs and Ices in general), it’s nice to see that straight Rock Blast can still get A-Muk and Stank, Vespie, and big rocks A-Grav, Carracosta, and Magcargo (and even straight Earthquake gets all those minus Vepsie, and straight Edge gets everything Blast does PLUS Glalie). But again, it all comes down to Mud Shot. If you have it, this is a really sneaky good play. But if you don’t, Golem isn’t godawful, but it becomes much more mundane. And for the record, while Mud Shot Graveler can beat Beedrill and Froslass, overall it is worse than Golem, not having a shot at Zweil or Sudowoodo, for just a couple very glaring examples.
Mud Shot/Rock Throwᴸ | Rock Slideᴸ & Hydro Pump/Rock Blast
Omastar really works best only with Legacy Rock Slide. But yes, it most definitely works. Lord Helix is frustratingly unable to really take down the big Darks or Sudowoodo, Ices, Bugs, Fire, D/Ps, and non-Sudo Rocks flee in terror. Or, if you have the option and REALLY want to flex, Legacy Rock Throw can headline an all-Rock set, dropping Carracosta and A-Grav to instead gain Pinsir and become a brutally oppressive Bug, Ice, and Fire slaying specialist that still gets the D/Ps too. Either way, Lord Helix could be a nice wild card at the end of your bench.
Mud Shot | Rock Tombᴸ & Bubble Beam
Sadly, Legacy Brine doesn’t do much here, but Legacy Rock Tomb does. With Bubble Beam to set it up, and Mud Shot charging all the energy required quickly, it can do good things in the right hands. This is a TOTAL spice pick, as Rock Tomb ‘Nyte is a very rare Legacy, but therein lies its potential strength: the opponent could have NO idea what’s coming when they first face it, and shielding decisions lead to sweaty brows. If they sniff it out and shield properly, not taking the bait, things can get ugly. But honestly, if you’re considering something like this, the initial shock on your opponent’s face probably has more value than getting all the proper shield baits anyway, right? Do it for the season ending flex.
This section is devoted to stuff you can get by NOT buying the second move for, but it’s kind of light these days….
Smack Downᴸ | Fire Blast OR Stone Edge
T-Tar really doesn’t need a second move. I mean, sure, you CAN add one, but the times that will be relevant are gonna be next to nil. Smack Down does 95% of the work anyway, destroying Bugs and Fires and beating most Ices while also walling A-Muk and Drapion, and grinding down Sableye too. If I had to pick a charge move, I think it’s actually Fire Blast to at least have a threat against Grasses. Stone Edge is better on paper, but completely redundant with Smack Down, and Crunch is a Dark move, and Dark moves, again, aren’t all that good here.
So, for the last time this season… 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 on using any one ‘mon or any one team, 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 save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!).
Before I sign off, my sincere and continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last year and a half 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 patience throughout now TWO Seasons of Silph Arena play. 😍
Thank you for reading, this and ALL my articles over close to two years of PvPing! I very much appreciate you taking the time to read all this, and sincerely hope this helps you master Catacomb Cup and finish this season with a bang. 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