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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Dec 14, 2021: Nifty Or Thrifty: Glacial 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!

Welcome to the final 2021 Silph Arena edition of “Nifty Or Thrifty”, the long-running article series where we take a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats — Glacial Cup, in this case — and cover not only the top meta picks, but also some ‘mons where you can save some dust! Because for those on a stardust budget — and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future — it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it. We all want to field competitive teams of six, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps get stingy?

As I try to usually do, I will start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and steam ahead until we finally arrive at the expensive Legendaries.

For details on what makes up Glacial Cup, just check out the Arena homepage for Glacial Cup, but basically it’s Dragon, Ice, Poison, Psychic, and Water type Pokemon, though the following are all specifically banned: Altaria, Azumarill, Cresselia, Defense Deoxys, Gardevoir, Jellicent, Lanturn, Medicham, Alolan Ninetails, Alolan Sandshrew, Swampert, Toxicroack, and Wobbuffet.

But enough intro. Let’s dive in!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

VENUSAUR

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

Leading off with my buddy Venusaur, for old time’s sake. No Grass type can contend with all Abomasnow can do in this meta, but Venusaur is the best Grass behind Aboma. Yes, the many Poisons and Ices around are obviously an issue, and most of the Psychics are scary, but Venusaur absolutely dominates the vast majority of Waters here, and holds down some other troublesome ‘mons like Malamar, Alolan Raichu, Haxorus and Fraxure, and Mew (even with Flame Charge) and is one of a bunch of ways to beat Nidoqueen. (More on her later.) It’s a role player, granted, but Venusaur still fills that role very, very well and should still find a way onto teams.

BEEDRILL

Poison Jab | Drill Runᴸ & X-Scissor/Fell Stinger

Beedrill’s role is a bit more varied. It handles other Poisons well with Drill Run, handles Darks (like Zweilous and especially Malamar thanks to the latter’s double weakness to Bug damage) thanks to its Bug side, slays Grasses and even all of its fellow Bugs that lack Confusion, while also picking on stuff like Lapras, Samurott, Empoleon, Poliwrath, Alolan Raichu, Galarian Rapidash, and Mew. I slightly lean towards Fell Stinger rather than X-Scissor here, as it wins the mirror and makes several of those wins easier thanks to the Attack buff, but either works fairly well here… whichever style you’re more used to, probably best to stick with it. And stick with Bee… it’s a big player in this meta.

Oh, and don’t forget the potential of Shadow Beedrill! It struggles more versus things like Lapras and AhChu, but excels against things that Beedrill often can’t handle otherwise, like Alolan Sandslash, Politoed, and Froslass.

SCOLIPEDE is just not as good here, as it doesn’t have the extra versatility (mostly in handling Poisons) of Drill Run (losing to Bee, Ariados, SKuntank, Dragalge, and Empoleon that Beedrill can beat). Still, the sheer power of Megahorn allows Scolie to smack down Politoed, Quagsire, and even Lugia that Beedrill cannot, so maybe it will still fit on some teams better.

ARIADOS

Poison Sting | Megahorn & Lunge/Cross Poison

As with Scolipede, Megahorn is what makes Ariados so dangerous, combined with super speed from Poison Sting and quickly-compounding debuffs on the opponent from Lunge (or a cheaper chance at self-buffing with Cross Poison). I lean Lunge, and not just because of the clearly better chance at beating Dewgong, Omastar, Whiscash, Barbaracle and such that the sims show. Bug is just a better overall typing here, with a lot more things it hits hard (big-name Psychics, Darks, Grasses) than does a Poison move like Cross Poison (resisted by all the other Poisons and important Ground and Rock types). And yes, I recommend Ariados too, especially if you’re strapped for dust.

EMPOLEON

Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Drill Peck

I mean, do I need to go into detail? Yes, Grasses and Electrics are obviously a big issue, as well as Fighting and Ground… to a degree, since Empie still beats Whiscash, Quagsire, and of course Nidoqueen. But there’s really not much else that scares Empoleon in this meta. Some other things sneak away with wins (Dragalge, Zweilous, Golbat), but Empie is a force to be reckoned with in Glacial Cup. How appropriate, being a penguin and all!

SAMUROTT

Fury Cutter/Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Megahorn

Yes, you can actually deploy it here, though it’s admittedly a rather niche role, leaning heavily into its Bug damage to slay Darks and Psychics, and potentially even the top Grasses, while its Water side is used more for resistances than anything, beating stuff like Dewgong and A-Slash largely by resisting their normally oppressive Ice spam, though Hydro Cannon is obviously fantastic pressure on its own. And holy cow, that might have been my longest run-on sentence EVER. 😅 Anyway, you CAN run it as a more traditional Water, though that’s generally not the way to go here unless you want to get that likely short-lived Game 1 surprise.

MANTINE (Baby Discount™)

Wing Attack/Bullet Seed | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam

The only thing I can say definitively is that you probably don’t want Bubble. Much better are Wing Attack or even Bullet Seed, either of which can win versus Flyers like Lugia, Pelipper, and Bubble Mantine mirror matches. Bullet Seed is obviously best versus other Waters (especially Mud Boys and Rock Boys, uniquely beating Quagsire, Omastar, and Barbaracle), while Wing Attack is best versus Grasses (uniquely beating Venusaur and even Abomasnow) and is the best “generalist” move, able to outrace stuff like Zweilous, Gengar, and Dragalge.

WHISCASH

Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Blizzard

Cash is always a threat, but this particular meta allows it to be particularly scary. Grasses obiously handle it without much issue, as well as a couple tanky Psychic types and many of the better Waters, but otherwise it’s a long day at the office trying to take it down. So many juicy Poisons and Rocks to pick on, plus big names like Malamar, A-Slash, Froslass, Zweilous, Shadow Hypno, Mew, G-Dash and more. No wonder that, at the time of this writing, it’s a consistent Top 5 pick on GoBattleLog and currently showing as the #2 most used Pokemon in Glacial Cup according to Silph.gg.

Probably not a shock then that MARSHTOMP, running the same Mud Shot/Mud Bomb combo, is also pretty good here… that is, if you have a purified one running Return as a big closing move.

GYARADOS

Dragon Tailᴸ/Dragon Breath | Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch

Both Legacy Dragon Tail and non-Legacy Dragon Breath perform very, very similarly, but I give the slight edge to Tail for more consistently beating Froslass (as opposed to Breath having an easier time versus the less-used Alolan Muk) and generally performing better versus fellow DT user Dragalge. You can really go with either though to get a better-than-average generalist that brings big pressure to a good chunk of the meta. Or kick it up another notch with Shadow Gary, which is actually quite a bit different, now losing to Malamar, Whiscash, Drapion, Beedrill, and Ariados, but gaining Skuntank, both Muks, Venusaur, Lapras, Empoleon, and Barbaracle. 🤔 Some nice options here, eh?

GOLBAT

Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

The moveset is pretty well known by now, and there’s no reason to mess around with it. What IS still a bit up in the air is whether you want Shadow or non-Shadow. The former has the extra punch to knock out Nidoqueen, Drapion, and Whiscash, while non-Shadow instead outlasts Mantine, Dragalge, Skuntank, and rather amazingly, potentially even Shadow Hypno. (A savvy S-Hypno player can win if it sticks with just fast moves however, so watch out!) The secret is out on Golbat these days after living for years as more of a Silph-only play, but that doesn’t mean its impact on Silph metas has at all diminished. The Bat is still great, in whichever variety you roll with.

ALOLAN RAICHU

Volt Switch | Wild Charge & Thunder Punch/Grass Knot

Sworn enemy of Golbat and all the Waters above. This is another meta where Grass Knot is a legit option for its ability to nail unprepared Grounds (specific example: beating Quagsire) and enemy Raichus. But generally I think you’ll be much better off just sticking with Thunder Punch/Wild Charge, which allows AhChu to potentially add on Politoed, Samurott, Omastar, and Galarian Rapidash.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

ABOMASNOW

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Energy Ball/Outrage/Blizzard

Some HUGE core meta ‘mons to cover among the 50ks, most of them exciting options that don’t usually get much time in the limelight, but I feel I’d be remiss to not lead off with very well-known Aboma. It’s easily a Top 5 most popular option according to Go Battle Log, and showing so far as number 1 by Silph’s own tracking (at the time of this writing), so expect to see it a bunch. If you plan to use it yourself, you can legit mix things up a little if you want to perhaps get a competitive edge. Everyone expects Energy Ball, and yes, it’s THE best way for Aboma to handle Waters (specifically beating Dewgong and Poliwrath most easily that way, among others). But it DOES have other options, as Outrage and Blizzard can both win the important (and probably frequent) mirror match, with Blizzard also overpowering Hypno (regular and Shadow, and yes, even if it has Fire Punch), and Outrage coming fast and effectively enough to outrace Alolan Muk. I’m not saying I necessarily WOULD forgo Energy Ball — there are plenty of Waters to target down with it here, for sure — but give the other options a look and you MAY like the way they fit your team better.

MALAMAR

Psycho Cut | Foul Play & Superpower

The first of that exciting crop of fun, unusual options, Malamar doesn’t blow you away with its overall record, yet it’s been a consensus Top 3 pick thus far in Glacial Cup. Why? Look at what it DOES beat: Aboma, AhChu, A-Slash, Hypno, Poliwrath, Gengar, Lapras, Politoed, Quagsire, Omastar and more. Again, it’s not a long list, but it’s a very impactful one. Fighting and Dark provide some very good coverage in this meta, and nothing else combines them (and races to them) like Malamar does with Psycho Cut.

BARBARACLE

Fury Cutter | Cross Chop & Stone Edge

The time is finally here for this funky fellow to make a big dent in a meta. There are lots of varied movesets you can run that do good things, but the best mix would appear to be Fury Cutter powering out spam/bait Fighting move Cross Chop and STAB closer Stone Edge. Fury Cutter nicely bleeds Psychics, Darks, and Grasses, Cross Chop further pressures Darks, Ices, and other Rocks, and there’s very little here that wants to eat a Stone Edge in any spot. In the end, it can beat every Dark type, all Ices except sometimes A-Slash and Regice (thanks to their Ground coverage moves), and a whole host of others. Enjoy it while you got it… there may not be another meta this Barbar-friendly for a while.

GASTRODON

Mud Slap | Body Slam & Earth Power

Yeah, Mud Boys are pretty darn good here, and Gastroboy is no exception. The sheer damage output of Mud Slap combined with Body Slam allows Gastro to beat Whiscash, Empoleon, Poliwrath, and Lapras, things that the other Mud Boys in the format cannot tangle with. The nature of its moves mean that it has no realistic shot at things like Froslass, Golbat, Lugia, Mantine, or Dewgong like the others do, but still, Gastodon could very quietly be the best Mud Boy by far for many players’ teams this month.

QUAGSIRE

Mud Shot | Earthquake & Stone Edge/Sludge Bomb

Again, Mud Boys good. Quagsire’s main claim to fame among them is that big Stone Edge that allows it to take down Lugia, Mantine, and Dewgong. On paper, Sludge Bomb can work too, but that’s a bit janky, as it shows wins versus Empoleon and Quagsire simply because of the relative speed of Bomb and wins them only with a followup Earthquake… Bomb isn’t actually a great move here, IMO.

PILOSWINE

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Bulldoze

Been a hot minute since we saw this name pop up, hasn’t it? I still have trouble making a strong recommendation for Piloswine and the worryingly long list of vulnerabilities that come with being an Ice/Ground type, but this is one of those metas where it can overcome that enough to make a difference with its moveset, with an admittedly great Ice package doing 90% of the work, and Bulldoze being nice to have for opposing Waters, Steels, and Rocks (specifically by beating Barbaracle, as one example) and allowing you to slam the door shut versus the many Poisons around in key moments.

ALOLAN SANDSLASH

Powder Snow | Ice Punch & Bulldoze

All that said, A-Slash is just a better Piloswine at the end of the day. Pilo CAN do a handful of things A-Slash can’t (beating Whiscash thanks to not being weak to Ground, and holding on to outlast Malamar and Pelipper on the strength of Avalanche), but A-Slash adds on Abomasnow, Froslass, Gengar, Hypno, Omastar, and Venusaur that Piloswine cannot handle. I mean, seeing as how A-Slash resists FOUR of the five primary typings in this meta (Ice, Dragon, Psychic, and Poison), its success should hardly come as any big surprise. But if you need more convincing, while its relentless Ice damage is scary enough, Bulldoze is, for once, actually a great move for it here, adding on new wins against Froslass, Barbaracle, Omastar, Beedrill, Skuntank, AND Alolan Raichu. A-Slash is positioned to be a stud here.

FROSLASS

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

I always struggle to come up with the words to describe Froslass anymore, because the secret was out on it LONG ago, and the numbers really speak for themselves, no? Scary as an Ice type, but its Ghost side brings in resistances to Poison damage that make it a good Poison slayer too, far more important in this meta than the opening it provides for Ghosts and Darks to pick on it. And of course, the Psychics (and Ghosts) around HAVE to be wary of Shadow Ball, and often will lose to it anyway. Some of us are kind of sick of Froslass, but she’s not going anywhere this month.

DEWGONG

Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard/Water Pulse

Again, what new is there to say about Dewgong at this point? You know how it grinds things down, you know it requires up to two Elite TMs to make, you know it’s always in discussions for potential bans because of its (admittedly shrinking) exclusivity and potential to dominate metas. If you’ve been reading my works for a while, you likely even know that I will generally always recommend not the lousy-but-technically-coverage move Water Pulse, but instead Blizzard as the second, KO charge move thanks to it being able to overcome the mirror, Quagsire, Shadow Hypno, and top-ranked Abomasnow. That said, Water Pulse DOES manage to overcome Alolan Sandslash and is obviously nice to have against Ice types in general, but even the other notable Pokemon in the win column in those sims I linked to, Mew, is actually a win on the back of Icy Wind alone, so even THAT doesn’t count. If you’re (understandably) terrified of A-Slash, sure, go with Pulse, I suppose. Otherwise… well you know what to do by now, right?

SEALEO

Powder Snow | Body Slam & Returnᴸ/Aurora Beam/Water Pulse

And again, if you’ve been following me for some period of time… well, first off, sorry for all the dad jokes over the years. But primarily, you’re welcome for continuing to look beyond the default, go-with-the-crowd movesets, like once again digging up Return Sealeo. Yes, there is a little merit to Aurora Beam (beating Hypno) and Water Pulse (beating Froslass), but the excellent potential of Return is pretty clear, with its own unique wins versus (in alphabetical order) Abomasnow, Ariados, Empoleon, Malamar, Mantine, Alolan Muk, Pelipper, and Politoed. Yes, it requires baiting a shield with Body Slam, sure… but so do Aurora Beam and Water Pulse. If you choose to run Shadow Sealeo, Return is obviously not an option, so stick with Aurora Beam there to get several of Return’s standout wins (Ariados, Malamar, Mantine, A-Muk, and Pelipper) through sheer force, plus Venusaur. But note that you lose quite a bit to get there: Aboma, Beedrill, Empoleon, Froslass, Hypno, Lapras, Muk, Politoed, and Alolan Sandslash. I still strongly recommend bucking the more popular trends and dancing circles around all the Shadow Sealeos with your purified one instead.

POLITOED

Mud Shot | Weather Ball (Water) & Earthquakeᴸ

Remember how everyone lamented the fall of Politoed when Weather Ball got nerfed a while back? Yeah… good times. Sorry, Chicken Little, but Toed is still quite good. If there’s a knock on it as compared to the true Mud Boys, it’s that Toed doesn’t resist Electric or Poison damage as actual half-Ground Pokemon do, so things like Alolan Raichu, Golbat, and Ariados escape its grasp. But there’s upside to that too, such as resisting Ice and Water damage outright (rather than taking neutral as the Mud Boys do), so Politoed can beat Dewgong, Lapras, and Empoleon as the Mud Boys cannot, and also usually beats Whiscash in the head to head. Even after its “big nerf”, Politoed is still a major player that fits some teams much better than any Mud Boy ever could.

POLIWRATH

Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Dynamic Punch/Scald

Usually more of an Ultra League star, Poliwrath actually has enough punch to work in this meta, at least as a specialist. What does it specialize in, you ask? Poliwrath’s best role is as the Water that can beat up other Waters, while also still pounding most Ice and Poison types at the same time. There are more nuances than that, of course… Dynamic Punch gives it many of those anti-Water wins — such as Dewgong, Politoed, Lapras, and Empoleon — plus Fighting-weak Zweilous, while running instead with Scald takes out some nice targets like Nidoqueen, Gengar, and Froslass instead. If you want to run ShadoWrath, Dynamic Punch is your best bet, and is a nice alternative to non-Shadow, trading in Whiscash and Quagsire to instead take out Gengar and Abomasnow more reliably. Poliwrath’s biggest problem is being a Fighter in a meta with lots of things that hate on Fighters, but I think it can still carve out a nice role for itself for those willing to try.

PELIPPER

Wing Attack/Water Gun | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane

Pelipper’s somewhat middling numbers have less to do with the Weather Ball nerf than being unfairly compared to Mantine. The latter has its numbers inflated by Bubble Beam baits, while Pelipper has to do it more the old-fashioned way with spam and a more crushing but harder to bait out finisher in Hurricane. It’s fine and does its job quite well, arguably more reliably than Mantine, but isn’t as gaudy about it. Pelipper is very usable here by those that like it.

SEAKING

Poison Jabᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Drill Runᴸ

And you thought a mere two Elite TMs for Dewgong was bad! The TRIPLE Legacy special known as Seaking has just gotten better and better over time, and this looks one of the best metas yet for it to show off its unique set of skills. Handling Waters and Ices thanks to resistances and moves that hit back for at least big neutral damage, drilling through Poisons and Rocks with Drill Run, chilling out Dragons and Flyers with Icy Wind, Seaking contributes in lots of interesting ways. I’ve always said it’s a fantastic “support” Pokemon, able to deal some good damage and/or debuffing on its way out even in bad matchups and helping you stabilize with the rest of your team. But in this meta, it does quite a lot all by itself. If you’re sitting on a small pile of Elite TMs and haven’t invested in a Seaking yet, this is a great time to dive in.

DRAGALGE

Dragon Tail | Aqua Tail & Gunk Shot

Not a crazy high win rate or anything, but Dragalge is certainly more than interesting enough to make teams. It beats a nice group of big names across various typings, from Malamar to Venusaur to AhChu to Mantine/Pelipper (these two thanks directly to Gunk Shot) to Gengar to Dark/Poisons to Empoleon to Barbaracle to Nidoqueen and back again. (Plus Beedrill and Golbat if Dragalge has good PvP IVs.) Oh, and even Froslass if you time things right. It’s not perfect by any means, unable to top Zweilous or Grounds or the vast majority of Ices and/or Waters, but Dragalge has got a lot of good going for it and will benefit many teams in December for sure.

VENOMOTH

Infestation/Confusion | Poison Fang & Bug Buzz

A few ways you can go here: Infestation to take out Psychics and Darks (Hypno, Malamar, Zweilous, Alolan Raichu) and outrace stuff like Politoed and Quagsire, or Confusion to instead hate on other Poisons (Beedrill, Dragalge, Gengar) and beat down stuff like Lapras. Or there is, of course, Shadow Moth that works best as an Infestation sidegrade, losing Shadow Hypno, Muk, Politoed, Samurott, and Ariados to instead defeat Lugia, Whiscash, Mew, and Lapras. It’s nice to have options, right?

NIDOQUEEN

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Earth Power/Stone Edge

Buckle up, as this one is gonna get a bit lengthy. Not a ton of Meta Team tidbits to discuss this time (the official developer notes are already out, after all), but there was a LOT of team debate on Nidoqueen. I think we voted on whether or not to ban it on at least four separate occasions, and that’s not an exaggeration. She’s oppressive in ways that can make her unfun, and we were keenly aware of that. However, what I and another teammate kept stressing is that yes, she can work here, but is held in check by the meta around her. The vast majority of the format’s many Psychics, Ices, Waters, and even some of the Grasses lick their chops at the sight of Nidoqueen. She still has outs, ways she can wiggle out of bad matchups, but this is a meta that hates on her unique typing much more than a meta that fears it. A Nidoqueen user faces a mostly uphill battle in Glacial Cup that they won’t be used to. She’s balanced here like she hasn’t been since her big buffs and thunderous arrival on the PvP scene over six months ago. For once, I actually want to see her show up… it could be cathartic to see her run the gauntlet. Someone will make her work and win a tournament and people will throw up their hands about that dang Nidoqueen haunting their dreams AGAIN, but you know what? Whoever does that will have to have earned it, and that’s pretty neat, IMO.

If it is YOU, dear player, that plans to run that gauntlet, consider how to trick out your Queen. The default Earth Power is fine, and snags wins over Poliwrath and Alolan Muk in particular, but give a thought to what Stone Edge brings to the table here: a big stick to throw at Ices and Flyers (specifically beating Pelipper and even Lugia). Shadow Queen is very similar, with Earth Power now beating Quagsire and Stone Edge maintaining the unique win versus Lugia, but either move can now take out Alolan Muk and Shadow Queen’s Poison Fangs are enough to down Poliwrath by themselves, with Shadow Queen also now beating Venusaur and Zweilous; the downside is new losses to Beedrill and Golbat and no clear path to take out Pelipper even with Edge. (Just too flimsy now.) And thus ends my dissertation on Nidoqueen. 😅 Just wanted to make sure you all knew we considered a LOT of ins and outs and consciously decided to let her play in this hostile meta.

SEVIPER

Poison Jab | Poison Fang & Crunch

Nidoqueen alternative that isn’t weak to Ice or Water like Queen is (and also resists Grass rather than taking neutral), and thus beats stuff like Abomasnow, Froslass, Pelipper, Politoed, and Venusaur that she cannot, as well as Zweilous. The downside is less resistance to Poison damage than Queen has (and no resistance to Rock) means Seviper loses to things Queen can outlast like Golbat, Skuntank, Beedrill, Ariados, Barbaracle, Omastar, and both Muks. Don’t overlook Seviper… its performance is a solid sidegrade to that of Nidoqueen, and this meta may let it rise up even above Queen on many teams.

MUK

Poison Jab | Thunder Punch & Dark Pulse

Generally better here as a Shadow than as a non-Shadow (the extra wins are Ariados, Lapras, Lugia, Omastar, and Politoed for Shadow versus Barbaracle, Dewgong, and Skuntank for non-Shadow). Muk’s Thunder Punch may still not make much logical sense (dude doesn’t even have fists, really!), but this is one of its better spots to make a real dent with so many impactful Waters and Flyers around, and Dark Pulse has lots of juicy Psychic targets too. That said, Sludge Wave also bears consideration, putting a couple things like Lugia out of reach but giving it a great shot in the mirror match and versus Drapion.

ALOLAN MUK

Snarl/Poison Jab | Dark Pulse & Sludge Wave/Acid Spray

These days there are multiple ways to trick out your A-Muk. “Classic”/dark-centric A-Muk is a bit middling, but is obviously great at slaying Psychics (even Malamar) and Ghosts and outracing its fellow Dark/Poisons, while still being effective against most Grasses. On-the-rise Poison Jab A-Muk has a higher ceiling thanks to Acid Spray bait games, but it can get a little rough if those baits don’t work out. It’s possible this may be one of those rare metas where Kanto Muk surpasses its Alolan cousin, though A-Muk remains much more popular (so far, at least) in actual tournaments.

SKUNTANK

Poison Jab | Crunch & Returnᴸ/Flamethrower

Often debates about whether to roll with Sludge Bomb or Flamethrower on Skuntank. But I’m still out here stumping for Return, which beats things like Lapras, Mantine, Muk, and all the Dark/Poisons without giving up any key wins other Skuntank sets can achieve except the occasional Ariados and such (thanks to Flamethrower’s effectiveness). Of course, if you’re going to run Shadow Stank, Return isn’t an option, but I’d recommend sticking with purified Stank anyway, so….

HAUNTER/GENGAR

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

Virtually identical, though Haunter has an easier time outracing Mantine and Empoleon, while Gengar can better outlast Poliwrath. No fancy tricks to recommend this time… just running with all Ghost moves seems the best way to go, with basically nothing but the Dark/Poisons, Malamar, and Zweilous resisting Ghost damage (and with the possible exception of Zweil, even those Darks are put under tremendous pressure anyway). Generalists supreme once again, Haunter or Gengar make great back-of-the-bench wildcards in Glacial.

GALARIAN RAPIDASH

Psycho Cut | Body Slam & Megahorn

Most default sims (and even some guides) will recommend Play Rough, but it’s really Megahorn that allows G-Dash to stand out a bit, keeping up the pressure on Darks, bringing in wins against Psychics like Hypno and Mew, outsplugging fellow Horn user Samurott, and critically, spearing Grasses like Venusaur and super-important-in-this-meta Abomasnow. G-Dash becomes another example of something without a long list of wins that is still very important for the quality of those wins, taking out some of the biggest names in all of Glacial Cup.

BRONZONG

Confusion | Psyshock & Payback

I did check out other moves, but there’s really no good reason NOT to just run Payback (alongside the almost-mandatory Psyshock). Bulldoze doesn’t do anything significant that the Psychic damage can’t do on its own, and Flash Cannon is just kind of there not doing anything for you, while Payback leads directly to wins against things like Lugia and Hypno. The usage numbers for Bronzong seem rather low in tournaments thus far considering the good amount of… well, good it can do in this meta.

HYPNO

Confusion | Shadow Ball & [Elemental] Punch

Such a wild meta that Hypno doesn’t even show up until the very end of the 50ks. Anyway, I won’t tell you which moves to run, as a good case can be made for even stuff like Focus Blast. But generally I think you’re still best going with Shadow Ball for anti-Psychic/Ghost coverage and one of the Elemental Punches for non-Shadow Hypno (Fire Punch can beat Alolan Sandslash, but otherwise the differences between the three are surprisingly minor) and perhaps the popular double Punch for Shadow Hypno (though Ball/Punch still has PLENTY of merit with Shadow too). However you choose to trick out your Hypno, expect to see opponents doing all manner of things with their own throughout December. Hypno is as solid (and unpredictable!) as ever here.

AVALUGG

Ice Fang | Body Slam & Avalanche/Crunch/Earthquake

Speaking of solid, say hello to the new icy tank in GO. Well… soon, anyway. Avalugg doesn’t arrive in GO until December 23rd, but you can bet on seeing it pop up very shortly thereafter. Avalugg will mostly be a big player in Master League, but in formats like this, it will certainly make a dent in Great League play as well… and appropriately in Glacial Cup too. It actually does most of its work with just Ice Fang (with STAB!) and Body Slam, but Avalanche notably gets Mantine and Hypno, Crunch also beats Hypno and adds on Froslass, and even Earthquake provides nice coverage versus Rocks and Steels (and beats Alolan Sandslash)… and any of the three add on Whiscash as well.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

ZWEILOUS

Dragon Breath | Body Slam & Dragon Pulse/Dark Pulse

Is it a surprise to anyone that Zweilous is ranked #1 in Glacial Cup? Its combination of moves just cover SO much here, with Dragon Breath mowing down other Dragons, Dark Pulse hammering Psychics (even Malamar), and the combination of its typing and Body Slam beating down the other Darks and outpacing stuff like Politoed, Nidoqueen, Venusaur, Mantine and Pelipper, Golbat, Muk, Omastar, and even scary things like Lapras and Empoleon that usually shred Dragons. Many Waters and Ices and others CAN handle Zweil, as I’ve been highlighting where relevant throughout the article already. But there’s no denying Zweil is a major player here and will be throughout the entire duration of the Cup.

LAPRAS

Ice Shardᴸ/Water Gun | Surf & Ice Beamᴸ/Skull Bash

This has much more the feel of an Ice Beam meta than a Skull Bash one, though the numbers are admittedly close. Bash of course is best employed versus other Waters and Ices that resist Lapras’ primary moves, which shows up most clearly as wins (sometimes, at least) versus Dewgong and Samurott. However, Ice Beam is more flexible overall and has several Dragon and Flying targets (Pelipper being one notable pickup) it can help finish off, as well as others like Beedrill and Drapion that it helps outrace. You can somewhat split the difference by running Surf and Beam alongside Water Gun, beating Bee, Gong, Drap, and Pelipper, along with Empoleon, but now you start losing things like Hypno, Abomasnow, Mantine, Dragalge… generally not recommended unless you just want to shock and awe the opponent with some spice.

All of that may be academic, though… it may be double Legacy Shadow Lapras that you actually want most here, which can also take out Bee, Gong, and Drap, PLUS Zweilous, Venusaur, Malamar, Ariados and more. If you can afford the Elite TMs to build it, of course. Or if you’re REALLY looking to blow through Elites, Shadow with Dragon Pulse can reach even further by adding on Samurott and Omastar. 👀 Now THAT is spice!

DRAGONAIR

Dragon Breath | Aqua Tail & Returnᴸ/Dragon Pulse

There have been several past metas where ‘Nair is highly ranked but seems disappointing in actual performance. Here the opposite seems true. It’s ranked very modestly, but the performance looks potentially promising. Yes, avoiding Ice types is key, and several Waters are an issue for their resistance to Aqua Tail, but Dragonair tangles with the vast majority of Poisons, Grasses, Flyers, and other top players like Malamar, AhChu, Omastar, Nidoqueen, Shadow Hypno, and even Froslass! There’s nothing that ‘Nair is particularly the best at, but it’s a pretty scrappy generalist and safe-ish swap as long as it doesn’t immediately run into an icy buzzsaw.

This might be the first time I really recommend Dragonair above its evolution DRAGONITE. In regular and even Shadow form, it’s merely “okay”. Carrying extra vulnerabilities to Ice and Rock carries far more weight than the resistances to Fighting, Grass, Bug and such… in this meta, at least.

Similarly, I’ve mentioned HAXORUS a few times, but really, I don’t know that you actually want to use it hereFRAXURE is better, but not anything particularly special, with even the uniqueness of Night Slash not netting it the majority of Psychics like you’d hope.

GOODRA

Dragon Breath | Power Whip & Muddy Water

Yes, Goodra relies at least somewhat on Muddy Water baits… it’s a very fair critisism. But the potential is there for it to make a nice impact, with lots of juicy Waters to target with Power Whip and big names it crosses off like Malamar, AhChu, Gengar, Mew, Nidoqueen (one of a surprising number of instances where Muddy Water alone is enough), Omastar and others. I elevate it just a little above most of the other Dragons for its unique utility in this particular meta.

FLYGON

Dragon Tail | Dragon Claw & Earth Powerᴸ

In a meta with Waters, Grasses, and especially Ice types galore, you’d be tempted to think Flygon just can’t hack it. I didn’t expect to see much myself, honestly. But behold! Joke’s on us, I guess. Flygon makes up for its obvious deficiences with some should-be-just-as-obvious advantages: as a Ground type, it resists Electric, Rock, and Poison, allowing it roll over the vast majority of those three types, plus outslug even some big-name Waters (Empoleon, Mantine, Pelipper among them), Malamar, Shadow Hypno, and even Venusaur and Zweilous. It’s a truly impressive performance… at least on paper. Will it experience actual success in Glacial Cup? Not many people seem to be using it yet, but perhaps all it needs is a little exposure…?

MILOTIC

Dragon Tail | Surf & Blizzard

Millie wants to be a Dragon but isn’t. That’s okay, though… the typing it has instead allows Miotic to beat ALL the actual Dragons in Glacial Cup, and a massive slice of the rest of the format. More to the point of the core meta wins, Milotic slaps around nearly all the big Poisons and many prominent Waters, Grounds, and/or Ice types. Oh, and Malamar, just for good measure. The fact that, at the time of this writing, Millie is represented on only 3% of teams, nearly outside the Top 25, seems almost criminal. This meta might be its brightest moment in the sun yet, and if you’ve never built one, NOW is the time!

RAINY CASTFORM

Water Gun | Weather Ball (Water) & Thunder

Lanturn banned… in comes Rainy C. Even with most of its damage being Water, it still manages to best most of its fellow Waters with Thunder anyway, while that Weather Ball spam washes away Ices, Rocks, Nidoqueen, Malamar, G-Dash, and even Lugia, and more. It’s had better showings in other metas, but little Rainy does more than enough here to make an impact.

SNOWY CASTFORM

Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Blizzard

The pure Ice type with no coverage moves that continues to defy all logic by somehow consistently being really, really good anyway. Practically nothing short of Waters, Rocks, and/or dedicated Ices (like A-Slash and Froslass) can tangle with it. Poisons, Psychics, Flyers, Darks, Dragons, Grasses, Bugs… they all typically fall before this innocent looking little killer ice cube. Unless it has a distinct advantage, Snowy is likely to beat it in Glacial Cup. Underestimate and overlook it at your own peril!

CARRACOSTA

Rock Throw | Body Slam & Surf

There are a handful of “Rock Boys” in this meta worth considering, but perhaps the best of them is Carracosta, a standout from a couple of past Silph metas. In addition to knocking out all the major Flyers and (most) of the major Ices (one notable exception that we’ll get to in a minute), Costa’s Rock Throw makes it particularly lethal to Bugs (Ariados, Beedrill) and allows it to outslug Galarian Rapidash and Zweilous, a unique honor.

OMASTAR

Mud Shot | Hydro Pump & Rock Blast/Rock Slideᴸ

Unable to slay the Bugs, G-Dash, or Zweilous I mentioned with Costa (or Lugia, interestingly), Omastar stands out by instead being harsher on Steels (beating Empoleon and the one major Ice that Costa cannot: Alolan Sandslash), as well as outracing Shadow Hypno and Nidoqueen on the strength of fast-charging Mud Shot. Legacy Rock Slide is flashier, but Rock Blast really works just fine too to spam Rock damage or try to bait out the big Hydro Pumps, a KO move that Costa can only dream of.

There are others like KABUTOPS, but frankly, they just don’t work out as well and aren’t worth a whole lot of thought unless you reeeeeeeeeally like to spice things up for the heck of it. And if that sounds like you, may as well go for broke with something like XL OMANYTE. 🐌

SHADOW GALLADE

Confusion | Leaf Blade & Close Combat

Not much in the way of Fighting in this meta (intentionally), and of course, Gallade doesn’t really play like a Fighter. But it does carry Close Combat, which has some great targets here, as do Leaf Blade and even Confusion. Put it all together and you get a remarkably solid performance for something that usually only works in Ultra League. And yes, Shadow is preferrable, as non-Shadow has trouble outracing Nidoqueen, Dewgong, Ariados and others.

DRAPION

Poison Sting | Aqua Tail & Crunch

Not nearly as terrifying as it is in other formats, even in Shadow form, but still has to be respected. Obviously deadly to Psychics, but Drap capably handles Grasses, Grounds, many of its fellow Poisons, and standouts like Malamar, Froslass, and Pelipper too (well, as a Shadow, otherwise those three names and Nidoqueen can turn the results around). It’s not cheap, especially as a Shadow, but it’s plenty viable and flexible.

100,000 Dust/100 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

You’ve waited more than long enough for this article already. Let’s blow through the relevant Legendaries and finally bring this one home!

  • How appropriate that such a chilly format looks like a fantastic place for ARTICUNO to spread its wings. It is rather important to have Legacy Hurricane though, as it’s necessary to handle Froslass, Politoed/Wrath, and ensure a clean win over Hypno. Shadow Artie is less preferred, abandoning wins against Lass, Toed, and Wrath, as well as Zweilous, which is no bueno.
  • This format is a good reminder that even the “worst” of the current Regis, REGICE, can still be quite good. Its Earthquake coverage move is actually really handy in a meta with so many Poisons (and some big name Rocks and Steels) around. You may not even have one under 1500 CP, but if you do from a while back, this is your best chance perhaps ever to deploy it!
  • Out of the freezer, into the fire? Not a typing you see much in this meta, but fire is alive and well with VICTINI (who actually has outs against G-Dash and sometimes Lapras too). High risk/reward tradeoff here, as Victini has awesome potential but usually nerfs itself to Hades and back in the process. If you’re a comfortable Vic pilot in GL already, you may have the edge here… I don’t know that I recommend players that haven’t put it through its paces try to pick it up just for this meta.
  • JIRACHI is another Confusion user… or is it? Just this once, Charge Beam actually could be interesting too, chipping in enough super effective chip damage to uniquely take down Golbat and Omastar, as well as outracing Drapion and Froslass, which is quite nice. The damage and effectiveness of Confusion overpowers Gengar, Beedrill, and Dewgong instead, but this has the looks of a legit decision process and potential spice alert.
  • Not everybody has a Great League LUGIA either, but those that do may want to run it here, yes. Of note: though it shows as a loss there, Lugia actually DOES beat Abomasnow as long as it sticks to straight Sky Attack… and in fact, Sky Attack is all it really needs, so don’t fret if yours doesn’t have Aeroblast. Don’t recommend your new-ish Shadow Lugia as much, as it tends to lose to Aboma, Hypno, Mantine, Whiscash, and Ariados, but on the plus side it does manage to gain new wins versus Zweilous, Omastar, and Quagsire, so it’s not all bad.
  • And finally, the always-hard-to-evaluate MEW. Obviously it’s good, and some of the more popular movesets remain strong here, but there are SO many viable move combos to choose from that it’s tough to evaluate beyond giving it a hearty thumbs up. (The one thing I WILL say is that having some form of Electric damage is pretty key in this meta, but you don’t have to run Wild Charge necessarily… there are other ways to go about it.) Go nuts, folks, and may all your TMs land you just what you’re looking for.

And that’s it… you made it! I hope you enjoy the Glacial Cup meta, and enjoyed reading about my thoughts on it. More than any of that, though, I hope this helps you PLAY in this meta and inspires some teambuilding ideas. Good luck!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!

Before I go, continued thanks to my buddy over at PvPoke for making this all possible, to the rest of the welcoming Silph Arena Meta Team, and to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the years 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 FOUR Seasons of Silph Arena play. 😍

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master the last Arena Cup of the year, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, catch you next time, and Happy Holidays, Pokéfriends!


JRE has been playing Pokémon GO since the beginning, and immediately fell in love with PvP despite having never played a single Pokémon game prior. 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 just grew and grew and took over his life. 😅 He’s now been writing multiple regular article series since Tempest Cup waaaaaaay back in the early days of The Arena (in a time when GBL was still a mere twinkle in John Hanke’s eye), 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, going on hikes, dad jokes, and to move it, move it. (We like to… move it! 🎶)

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


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