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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Feb 1, 2022: Nifty Or Thrifty: Guardian 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!

Here comes the second half of the Silph Arena season, and that means a new “Nifty Or Thrifty”, the long-running article series where we take a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats — Guardian 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, though after that I will have a couple more to talk about that ALSO have high level up costs.

For details on what makes up Guardian Cup, just check out the Arena homepage for Guardian Cup, but the format is one we were excited to try out: a move-based meta rather than type-based. Eligible are any Pokémon (of any type) that learn moves of Electric, Fighting, Fire, Flying, and Psychic types (excluding Hidden Power), though with the following bans:

  • All Fairy-type Pokémon are banned.
  • All Mega, Legendary, and Mythical Pokémon are banned.
  • Also banned are Lickitung, Medicham, Scrafty, Altaria, Pachirisu, Wobbufet, Stunfisk, Umbreon, Mandibuzz, Vullaby, Cofagrigus, Obstagoon, Hypno, Chansey, Bastiodon, Diggersby, Tropius, and Lanturn.

With that all out of the way, let’s dive in!

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move


Incinerateᴸ | Flame Charge & Brave Bird

This might be a first for me: leading off a Nifty Or Thrifty with something other than a starter. But Talon deserves this honor. Electrics, Waters, Rocks… that’s really about all Talon has to really worry about. Talonflame’s schtick is well known by now and I won’t waste your time going over it yet again. Just know that, yes, this is another meta where it can most definitely make its mark. Appropriate considering all the “falcon” and “hawk” superheroes out there!


Fire Spin | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ

Not far behind Talon at all, and in some ways a little safer by beating stuff like Magnezone, Beedrill, Galvantula, and Machamp that can overcome Talonflame, as well as Dragonite… though also a little less explosive, failing to punch out things like A-Wak, Ninetales, Poliwrath, Skuntank, and Noctowl that Talon can punch out with Brave Bird. Some teams will want one or the other more, so just study the matchups to see what fits YOUR team better, my friend.

And turns out that only the superhero nature of the Flying Fires (“it’s a bird… it’s a plane!”) is big here, as TYPHLOSION just pales in comparison. I can maybe see BLAZIKEN still finding a way to break out with its unique Counter damage handling villains that plague the Flyers like Probopass, Alolan Rocks, and Magcargo, but even it seems limited to a niche role in this meta. There IS one 10k Fire that’s more superhero than sidekick, though….


Incinerate | Rock Tomb & Overheat

Yep, it’s really kryptonite for a number of big names in Guardian Cup, including all those other Fires, plus of course Bugs, Steels, and Grasses as you’d hope for your Fire type to handle, and Flyers as you’d hope to get out of a Rock type. Of course, Mags wants nothing to do with the many Fighters and Waters here, nor the smattering of Ground or Rocks. But it does more than enough good to earn a spot on many teams this month.


Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge/Wild Charge

Speaking of oddball Rock types, the Alolan Rocks return to do their best Ben Grimm imitation. (You gotta admit the resemblance with Alolan Graveler especially is… well, fantastic. 4️⃣.) GRAVELER runs best with the Rock Blast/Stone Edge combo you’re probably most used to by now, which uniquely smashes through Electrics like Ampharos and Magnezone in addition to all the Flyers, Fires, Poisons, Bugs and others left in its wake, while GOLEM is actually probably best run with Wild Charge this time around, missing out on Amphy and Zone but outracing Probopass, Bronzong, and Alomomola instead. Either way… it’s clobberin’ time!


Volt Switch | Brick Break & Wild Charge

Long-time superhero of the thrifty, Raichu continues its zippy zappy ways that would make even The Flash proud. Not surprising is how it takes out Flyers and Waters with relative ease, but its secret weapon continues to be mild-mannered Brick Break, which all on its own is enough to take down stuff like Probopass and Magnezone and a number of those Flying and Water targets (meaning you don’t HAVE to self-nerf with Wild Charge in those matchups if not advantaegous to do so). But of course, getting Wild is the way to reach KayChu’s highest potential with surprising wins versus stuff like Toxicroak, Vigoroth, Ninetales, Bronzong, Muk, Skuntank, Beedrill and more.


Volt Switch | Thunder Punch & Psychic/Wild Charge

Here the highest overall potential is with the all Electric set, beating everything KayChu can except Beedrill and Ninetales (and adding on Machamp thanks to AhChu’s built-in resistance to Fighting damage). But if you’re going to run Alolan Chu, I think you may actually want to run with Psychic instead. While you then lose the raw neutral power (that comes with Wild Charge) necessary to outrace Magcargo, Probopass, Skuntank, and Jumpluff, you instead gain unique wins versus things like the Alolan Rocks, Ampharos, and Chesnaught (and become incredibly efficient versus Fighters in general, of course). If you want to be punching stuff out with Wild Charge, I think you want Original Recipe Raichu. Otherwise, go with Extra Crispy Raichu from Alola and utilize that unique Psychic side.


Thunder Shock | Aerial Ace & Thunderbolt

Almost saved this for the “lucky” section at the end, but we’ll go ahead and hit it now, as you at least don’t need XL Candy here. Yes, Emolga works here (in the absence of Zapdos especially) as a solid-enough Electric that can also handle many Fighters and Grasses (and even Gliscor), if that sort of thing is important for your team coverage.


Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Aerial Ace/Leaf Tornado

Serperior sneaks in because of the same Aerial Ace that makes Emolga rather special, and you know what? While lately I’ve been recommending Leaf Tornado for how well it works on Serp, in this particular meta, I think it actually is Ace that you want for how it threatens other Grasses, specifically taking out Chesnaught, Ferrothorn, and Gourgeist. (Yes, Geist gets in thanks to having a Fire move in its set… but more on that later.) While Serperior does smack down a few Fighters and even overcomes Galvantula, it doesn’t do a ton beyond the typical Grass role — slashing Waters, Rocks, Grounds, and Electrics — but its ability to take down the other big name Grasses pushes it into the upper tiers of the meta.


Vine Whip/Smack Down | Superpower & Energy Ball

My recommendation is still Vine Whip for cleaners wins against Fighters (Primeape, Poliwrath, Zangoose), Grounds (Steelix, Donphan), and Electrics (Electivire especially), but yes, you can get spicy with Smack Down if you wish. It’s still nasty enough a surprise to sneak away with wins over things like Talonflame, Charizard, Dragonite, Galvantula, and Magcargo that Grasses simply should not be beating and leave the opponent broken… especially if they quick swap in one of those to deal with a lowly Grass. Oops!


Bullet Seed | Weather Ball (Fire) & Solar Beam

Less of a surprise than it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that Cherrim’s Weather Ball isn’t still a very powerful tool. It still has what it takes to handle the big Waters and (most) Grounds and Rocks here, as well as handling Electrics, but those Fire Balls come in quite handy against Bugs and other Grasses (handling the anti-Grass role even better than Serperior, including beating Serp itself) and even a couple big-name Fighters like Toxicroak and Vigoroth, and even holding up against Dusclops’ dangerous Fire damage to come out on top there too. There are a small handful of things that the similar Roserade does better (we’ll see them later), though Cherrim may be slightly better here anyway. Maybe call it an honorary Powerpuff… uh… supergirl?


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

Wait, what? How does The Bee sneak into this meta? Because it has the same move that seemingly half of Pokémon in the game — and inded, the Guardian meta — do: Aerial Ace! (Finally, something GOOD that coems from that move.) Not that it wants to use it… Bee is best sticking with the old reliable Drill Run and either X-Scissor (better for outracing Machamp) or Fell Stinger (better for the mirror and Alolan Marowak). Either way, it carries its normal anti-Grass/Fighter/Poison role, but did you know it can actually outrace Dragonite, Galvantula, Alomomola, Empoleon, and even Charizard and sometimes Magcargo and Talonflame too? Beedrill is NEVER to be underestimated, folks!


Wing Attack | Poison Fang & Shadow Ball

Yet another one that you can just expect to be good in whatever meta it occupies, Guardian Cup included. Golbat doesn’t even have any Fairies to target here, but still has plenty to do by wrecking Fighters (DOUBLE resists Fighting damage, remember), Grasses, Grounds, and even most of the Waters too, with bonuses like Beedrill, A-Wak, Muk, Stank, Gliscor, Pidgeot, Charizard and more. The Bat is pretty versatile in this meta despite the lack of one of Charmers to chew through.

MANTINE (Baby Discount™)

Wing Attack/Bubble/Bullet Seed | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam

Yes, there’s a case for all three fast moves, though I lean towards Wing Attack myself. It can beat all the same things the other two moves can except Steelix (Bubble wins that) and Relicanth, Roserade, and Talonflame (where the effectiveness and/or speed of Bubble and Bullet Seed shine through). Beyond that, Wing Attack is just the most versatile overall, shredding Grasses and most other things most reliably. But whatever you’re most comfortable with already… sure, roll with it!


Gustᴸ/Wing Attackᴸ | Feather Dance & Brave Bird

Nothing to see here… just Pidgeot being its normal, bullying self. I lean a little bit more Gust here than I do Wing Attack; both are fine, but Gust is more consistent in beating most Fighters (Wing Attack can fall short versus Toxicroak, Primeape, and Machamp) plus Bronzong and Mantine, while Wing Attack outraces Vigoroth and some head scratching stuff like Skarmory, Ninetales, and Rainy Castform.

Either way, Pidgeot is definitely still preferred over NOCTOWL, who is undoubtedly better now with Shadow Ball, but this isn’t exactly a Shadow Ball meta… Pidgeot’s big Flying damage is just better.


Waterfall | Drill Peck & Hydro Cannonᴸ

Wrapping up the 10ks with another bird, but obviously one that’s quite unique. Fires, Grounds, and Rocks (yes, even Alolan ones) are obvious, Steels a little less so, Flyers make sense if you think about Empoleon’s Steel typing… and yeah, that’s pretty much The Emperor in a nutshell.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move


Counter | Cross Chop & Rock Slide

What else would I kick the 50ks off with? We enter Guardian Cup with Machamp ranked #1, and it’s very hard to argue with that. It doesn’t blow the meta away or anything, but it handles a wide swath of it well, from the Normals and Steels and Rocks you would expect, to Fires and even some Flyers thanks to Rock Slide, to several prominent Waters and Electrics and Grounds. It’s not perfect and it certainly has plenty of Counters, but Machamp puts up a good fight even in losing spots versus just about everything in the meta. It will be out in force in February for sure.


Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb

Giving Machamp a run for its money, though not doing a ton different. It’s harder on Grasses and tends to beat the other Fighters, but fails badly to the Flyers that Machamp’s Rock Slides can get. Ironically, it’s no better versus Electrics despite the obvious-on-paper advantage of Mud Bomb. Those are the big differences I see, at least.


Counter | Close Combat & Leaf Blade/Night Slash

Yes, even Brave Bird works fine too, but Close Combat is 10 energy cheaper and that makes a big difference, allowing Sirfetch’d to sneak away with wins over stuff like Galvantula, Noctowl, Skarmory, Toxicroak, Dragonite, and Charizard. And yes, I KNOW several of those resist Fighting damage, but it doesn’t matter… Sirfetch’d still smacks them down with Close Combat more reliably than it does with Brave Bird. After that, do you want the coverage of Leaf Blade or Night Slash? There are decent cases for both, but only YOU know what your team would most benefit from, my friend.


Counter | Cross Chopᴸ/Night Slash & Close Combat

Here the decision is much clearer… or is it? If you happen to have Legacy Cross Chopyou probably want to actually roll with that, as it can outrace fellow Counter users/Fighters Donphan, Chesnaught, and even Machamp. If you don’t have Chop, Night Slash is okay too, just not as good versus Fighters, being more niche for stuff like Alolan Raichu and any other Psychics or Ghosts that pop up.


Counter/Mud Slap/Charm | Body Slam & Earthquake/Heavy Slam

So Donphan may be doing its best Batman utility belt cosplay, as there’s actually a fair amount of versatility here. With Counter it runs as a quasi-Fighter with different resistances, managing to take out things that plague true Fighters, like Skarmory, Muk, Bronzong, and Beedrill. With Mud Slap it remains surprisingly useful, at least on paper, still able to take down the Steels, Rocks, and Poisons (Muk, Skuntank, Beedrill) that it does with Counter, but now also beating non-Flying Fires, being VERY efficient versus Poisons (now beating Toxicroak and even Roserade), and winning the mirror versus Counter Donny. And yes, while Fairies are banned here, you can even run Donphan as a Charmer (and the best one in this Cup, in fact), giving up many of those wins listed above but now representing a nasty and effective surprise against Fighters and stuff like Dragonite, beating them all rather handily. Like I said, versatile! Donny may actually make a decent dent in a meta, for once!


Ice Fang/Fire Fang | Weather Ball (Rock) & Earth Power

I’m not sure if I trust it as much as I do Donphan, but Hippow puts up a decent showing too, obviously wrecking Electrics and Rocks, but also most prominent Bugs, Steels, and Fires too. Ice Fang emphasizes the Flying wins (adding Dragonite, Gliscor, Pidgeot, and Pelipper) and wins the mirror, while Fire Fang doubles down on Steels (Bronzong, Ferrothorn, Skarmory). Either Fang keeps Grasses on their toes too, which is always nice perk for a pure Ground type to have. Again, not sure how much I trust this one, but it does seem a meta where even Hippow may be able to thrive.


Snarl | Wild Charge & Overheat

Speaking of things with Fire damage that I don’t fully trust, enter Manectric. Yes, the win rate is very high, but so is the risk factor. Manectric is more supervillain in my mind than superhero… it’s all about presentation! The cracks start to show even when you take baiting away, and the full horrors are revealed if the opponent dares to burn shields. Remember that while Manny has two legit bombs for charge moves, they both do some big-time self-nerfing in the procsss. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly potential here for high reward… but also high, high risk.


Spark | Flame Charge & Wild Charge

In some ways just a lesser Manectric (the Robin to Manny’s Batman, perhaps?), but it’s nice how you can freely use Flame Charge here and NOT nerf yourself into oblivion… on the contrary, Zeb actually gets stronger with each use. The same Wild Charge as with Manectric is here to close things out when the time is right, but until then you can stay in the fight longer and less hobbled than with Manny. I like that better, personally. How about you?


Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge

Another Electric sporting some truly gaudy numbers, ‘Zone lacks Fire coverage to burn Grasses and such, but more than makes up for it with its Steel side and the many handy resistances that come with it. In this meta, the fact that it resists Poison, Rock, Ice, Psychic, Bug, and Grass damage are particularly important. Worth noting: despite its obvious vulnerability to Fire, Zone still manages to outrace Charizard and Talonflame, so don’t auto-swap out versus them… but you DO need to dodge most other Fires, plus Fighters and Grounds, of course.


Volt Switch | Lunge & Bug Buzz/Discharge

I’m starting to see a trend in Galvantula’s appearances lately: a trend that favors not Discharge, but Bug Buzz instead. Yes, [Discharge]() is better able to Skarmory, Skuntank, and Toxicroak (added on to the impressive list of what Lunge alone can do), but Bug Buzz instead finishes off Bronzong, Jumpluff, Magnezone, Primeape, Serperior, Sirfetch’d, AND wins the mirror match. If you absolutely have to kill Skarm/Stank/Toxi dead, you know what to do. But for my money? This is yet another in a growing number of metas that fear Bug Buzz more.


Counter | Rock Blast & Megahorn/Close Combat

So the vast majority of what Heracross can do here is just with Counter and Rock Blast… really all of the closing moves work and have their own advantages and disadvantages across various shielding scenarios, but I still lean Close Combat for speed or Megahorn for huge closing power and coverage, but that choice is yours. Whichever one you pick helps beat Alomomola, which is nice.


Poison Jab/Bullet Seedᴸ | Weather Ball (Fire)ᴸ & Leaf Storm

Finally back to the Roserade vs Cherrim discussion. While Cherrim’s bulk and/or mono-Grass typing allows it to beat stuff like Gliscor, Gourgeist, Dusclops, Pelipper, and Magnezone, Roserade‘s built-in resistance to Fighting allows it to beat Machamp, Sirfetch’d, and Primeape, plus its raw power overwhelms Steelix and Alolan Rocks, all unlike Cherrim. They’re rather similar outside of those specific matchups, though except for Fighters, Roserade tends to come out of their many shared wins with far less HP left over. I’d say if you really need to snipe Fighters, roll with Rose, but otherwise Cherrim is probably a safer overall bet.

…or is it? That’s all Bullet Seed Roserade. If you have a Poison Jab version on hand, yeah, that’s a very different story. It can do some truly nutty things that the Bullet Seeders cannot, like beating Skuntank, Dragonite, Jumpluff, Galvantula, Beedrill, and even Noctowl and Charizard! It doesn’t come without cost, though… Rose now loses to things it beat before like Toxicroak, Vigoroth, Steelix, and Alolan Graveler. But still, it’s an impressive body of work that really demands a second look!


Poison Jab | Thunder Punch & Sludge Wave/Dark Pulse

Since when did The Blob become a superhero? Hmmm. Anyway, Kanto Muk finally gets to stand… er, lay?… tall without its Alolan cousin around to hog the spotlight thanks to toting Thunder Punch, a move it does indeed want in this meta that does a LOT of work on its own, with which Muk combines Poison Jab to slay Fighters, Flyers, Waters, and Grasses alike. Then it’s just a matter of Dark Pulse (to get Galvantula) or Sludge Wave (to solidify Toxicroak and Pidgeot), both of which bring in Ampharos and Gourgeist.


Poison Jab | Crunch & Returnᴸ/Sludge Bomb

Muk gets in for Electric, Skuntank gets in for a Fire move it doesn’t even really want here. Instead, your best bet is Return, meaning you want a purified antihero type. (After all, its other charge move IS still Dark, after all.) Failing that, you can run with Sludge Bomb, the relative speed of which outraces Vigoroth and Poliwrath, but only with Return do you beat stuff like Mantine, Muk, Pidgeot, Ninetales, and the mirror match.


Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

Gengar gets in thanks to its wide array of moves, but Haunter does not. Yet I think you generally want to just stick with the all-Ghost moveset, with which is uniquely beats Magcargo, Ferrothorn, Steelix, and Mantine. There is a slight case for Sludge Bomb or legacy Dark Pulse simply because they’re 5 energy cheaper than Shadow Ball and can better outrace Empoleon (Dark Pulse) and Ninetales (Pulse or Bomb), but Shadow Ball really seems like the best all-around choice here, despite the total lack of coverage it provides.


Hex | Returnᴸ & Fire Punch/Ice Punch

Both Elemental Punches work, with Fire having obvious uses versus Steels (beating Ferrothorn specifically) and Ice beating Flyers like Dragonite and Gliscor. The key, though, is having a purified one with Return, the only move it has with any kind of closing power, and the only way it can reach for wins against things like Alomomola, Beedrill, Muk, Vigoroth, Poliwrath, Ampharos and others.


Fire Spin | Bone Club & Shadow Boneᴸ/Shadow Ball

There was an internal debate about whether or not to ban A-Wak outright, but in the end the Meta Team left it in place. I mean, its record is very impressive, but it suffers some very hard losses to some of the bigger names in the meta, mostly of the type of things that usually spell trouble for A-Wak (Normals, Waters, Rocks, primarily). You do generally want Shadow Ball here, I think, for the potential wins it provides over Talonflame, Charizard, Empoleon, Skuntank, and the mirror match, but worth noting is that Shadow Bone is more reliable versus Beedrill, Ninetales, and Alolan Raichu.


Fire Spin | Weather Ball (Fire) & Overheat

Look, I get it. Solar Beam is very tempting in a meta with several prominent Waters, Rocks, and Grounds just waiting to #GetBeamed. I won’t tell you that’s “wrong”. But I can’t ignore what Overheat brings to the table, even if I want to: wins over things like Pidgeot, Vigoroth, Skuntank, Gliscor, and Ampharos. I remember the good old days of Rainbow Cup and such where Solar Beam was my recommendation… but those were the old days, and things have changed.


Shadow Claw | Night Slash & Close Combat

The Goose definitely means a bad day at the office for the Ghosts above, but it does much more than thatNight Slash of course tears through Psychics, while Close Combat smashes Rocks and Steels and Normals, and the combination thereof overpowers some impressive stuff like Dragonite, Electivire, Galvantula, and Charizard… and potentially even Virogoth if you play your cards right. Zangoose is certainly a spicy wild card… but a good one!

PERRSERKER is basically just a different flavor. A bit tankier than Zangoose and sporting a better defensive typing, Perrserker tends to outlast Alomomola, Mantine, Jumpluff, Muk, Noctowl, and Serperior, but loses things Goose can take down like A-Wak, Gourgeist, A-Grav, Magnezone, Galvantula, Electivire, A-Raichu, and Vigoroth. Study them hard to know which better fits YOUR team.


Rock Throw/Spark | Rock Slide & Thunderbolt

The sidekick to headliner Bastiodon gets to take the lead in this meta. The only question, as always, is which fast move to roll with, and thankfully it doesn’t make a huge difference. Rock Throw has an easier time beating Electric-resistant Gourgeist and Electivire, while Spark is obviously better versus Waters (beating Empoleon, for a specific example). The choice is yours, my friend.


Confusion | Psyshock & Bulldoze/Payback

Relatively simple choice here as well for the… uh… Bell of… Justice? “For whom the bell tolls, evildoer!” Ahem. Want to beat Steels like Probopass and Poisons like Skuntank? Run Bulldoze. Want to instead win the mirror and stuff like Pidgeot? Go with Payback for a darker, more vengeful Justice Bell. Or uh… something like that. It’s possible I am trying too hard now…. 🦸


Psycho Cut | Foul Play & Superpower

I feel obligated to mention it, but in a meta like this where it is moves rather than typing that get things in, Malamar is a little less special. Still fine, still viable, just uh… well, kinda like a superhero without actual superpowers trying to keep up with Superman and friends. At least it has a unique-ish spread of wins that includes Fighters AND Ghosts, Rocks and Grasses, Poisons and Grounds, and other odd coverage pairings.


Snarl | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

It is the terror that flaps in the night! It is the Ghost slayer that picks apart your Grasses, and your Fire types too! It is Darkwing Du–er, Honchkrow. Always Honchkrow I’m stumping for, so dangit, here I go again. Give it a look, eh?


Wing Attack | Weather Ball (Water) & Hurricane

More predictable, more expensive Mantine. But that’s still not a bad place to be. Positives: less bait-dependent than Mantine (still does a lot with just Weather Ball) and throws out more Water damage to take out things Mantine has trouble with like Steelix and Talonflame, and also outlasts Roserade and Rainy Castform. Mantine has a higher ceiling, but there are reasons Pelipper is arguably more popular these days.


Poison Jabᴸ/Waterfall | Icy Windᴸ & Drill Runᴸ

Seaking must carry around a Batman-style utility belt with all the tricks up its… uh… fins. And yes, triple Legacy remains a great flex that works here, slaying stuff like Gourgeist, Jumpluff, Primeape, Pelipper, Muk, and Skuntank. But this is not the first meta where I’ve recommend considering Waterfall instead. It blows through Rocks (Alolan Rocks, Probopass), Steels (Steelix, Skarmory), and others like Zangoose, Pidgeot, Dusclops, Poliwrath, and Talonflame. I would NOT eTM Poison Jab away, but if you’re able to build TWO Kings….

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move


Hex | Seed Bomb & Shadow Ball

Sneaking in because of Fire Blast, which is workable but usually worse off than Shadow Ball. There is some slight variation depending on the size, but I’ll just throw the average numbers out there. Geist certainly looks super in this meta, despite its non-hero appearance. (Hey, the same look works for Ghost Rider, so who am I to judge?) As a Grass, Geist picks apart Waters and Electrics (and the odd Ground or Rock here and there (like Donphan and the Alolan Rocks). As a Ghost, it holds down Fighters and other Ghosts (even A-Wak). With those both combined, it also snipes stuff like Beedrill (none of its moves deal worse than neutral damage, and Drill Run is resisted), Galvantula (same thing), Ferrothorn, Serperior, and potentially even Charizard. All hail Gourd Rider!


Thunder Fang/Dragon Tail | Crunch & Earthquake

Fortune seems to favor Thunder Fang here, with wins over Flyers Charizard, Mantine, and Pelipper, and strangely Ferrothorn as well. Dragon Tail is a bit more versatile, beating Gourgeist, Jumpluff, Roserade, and Ampharos instead. Not sure what its superhero name should be, though. 🤔 Iron Snek?


Water Gun | Weather Ball (Water) & Thunder

The best Castform here, combining powerful Water and Electric typings in the best possible way, slaughtering Fires, Grounds, Rocks, Flyers, and Waters alike.

SUNNY CASTFORM is alright but pales in comparison to things like Ninetales. NORMAL CASTFORM gets in due to Hurricane but probably wants to run Energy Ball instead… if you run it at all.


Waterfall | Psychic & Hydro Pump

Honestly, I was hoping for a little more from Alomomomomola in this meta. It’s fine, perfectly serviceable, but does little to distinguish itself from the rest of the Water pack. It’s safe to build one now if you lack it, though, as it’s a true superhero in the upcoming (at the time of this wrtiting) GBL Love Cup, and a safe investment for the future. So bulky!


Water Gun | Aqua Tail & Hydro Pump

Hey, Zen Headbutt is finally good for something: letting Relicanth sneak into this meta. And yes, Relicanth trainers… you can actually use it here. It doesn’t do anything particularly special, but what it does — blowing through Fires, Grounds, Rocks, and Flyers — it does particularly well with no muss, no fuss. It’s a specialist, but a very good one in Guardian Cup.


Counter | Body Slam & Bulldoze

vYou wouldn’t be able to tell just by the numbers, but Vigoroth was a major point of concern for some members of the Meta Team throughout the development process for Guardian Cup, and an early inclusion on the banlist. But as you can see, there’s enough to keep it in check here, including all the actual Fighters and the small but important group of Ghosts, among others. Vigoroth is always a threat, no doubt, but it’s more humble neighborhood hero than overpowered ape of steel here.


Counter | Ice Punch & Close Combat

As per usual, you likely want Ice Punch so that ‘Chan can put on its best Medicham Junior act. Ideally you can get it built using the Baby Discount™, but if not, Hitmonchan is still worth it, IMO. A little less so with HITMONTOP, but there are people that swear by it too.


Confusion | Leaf Blade & Close Combat

Yep, fresh off driving people nuts in Sinnoh Cup, Gallade is dangerous here too. Not only is it a Fighter that beats the other Fighters (and Poisons) thanks to Confusion, but Leaf Blade rips through stuff like Alomomola, Donphan (well, unless it’s running Charm! 😬), Rainy Castform, Relicanth, and Alolan Rocks (and even crazy stuff like Dragonite and Charizard… seriously, look it up!), while Close Combat can mop up Steels and some other stragglers. If anything, Gallade is MORE powerful here than it was in Sinnoh Cup. Must be a yellow sun around for it to draw its strength from or something….


Volt Switch | Thunder Punch & Focus Blast

Definitely a part of the core meta, though with which nuke do you want to run it? The Focus Blast that got it here in the first place and threatens Steels (beating Ferrothorn specifically), or the spicy, potent Zap Cannon with which it instead overwhelms stuff like Galvantula and Jumpluff? Amphy has a couple of superpowers to choose from!


Snarl | Psychic Fangsᴸ & Wild Charge

Well I hope you built one while it was available late last year, because suddenly, Luxray’s power level is over 9000!. Luxray is one the Meta Team watched closely through several iterations of Guardian Cup, and we were delighted to see it consistently perform very well. This meta is kind of a perfect storm for it, with Psychic Fangs having plenty of juicy targets and setting up Wild Charge beautifully to just blow a ton of things away with the power of a steaming locomotive. Keep it away from Grass, Grounds, Rocks and a few others, but I’ll just stop talking and let you marvel over that (potential) win list for a moment. It’s quite a sight. And while having less than perfect baiting obviously means a dip in performance, it doesn’t fall entirely off a cliff even in the worst case scenarios. Luxray may not quite achieve that incredibly lofty ceiling in the reality of tournament play, but I DO think it’s truly legit in this meta. Up, up, and away!


Thunder Shock | Ice Punch & Wild Charge

Honestly, given a choice between them, I would personally run Luxray over Electivire here, but that doesn’t mean Vire isn’t also good. Quite the contrary, actually. Now we’re also talking baits here, as that is mostly what you’re going to want Ice Punch for, though it is nice for how it can take out stuff like Dragonite and Gliscor, things most Electrics struggle with. But let’s be real: Wild Charge is doing 90%+ of the work here. Not that that’s not true of most Electrics, of course!


Bullet Seed | Power Whip & Thunder

Ferro only sneaks in because of Thunder… and that’s the second move it wants here too, as only then can it beat stuff like Noctowl, Mantine, Pelipper, Jumpluff, and even Charizard. This in addition to the standard Grass things, plus conveniently handling stuff like Bronzong, Steelix, and most of its fellow Grass types.


Air Slash | Sky Attack & Brave Bird

Absolutely nothing fancy here: Skarmory just goes out and does what it normally does, dominating Grasses and Flyers, beating Fighters, handling Poisons, and picking off Alomomola just for good measure. No hidden secrets or new strats here or anything. Skarmory is like an old superhero sitcom: you know exactly how it’s going to go week in and week out, but you keep in coming back for the BAM-POWs anyway.


Dragon Breath/Dragon Tail | Dragon Claw & Hurricane

There are actually quite a few listed differences between Dragon Breath and Dragon Tail, with Breath listing wins versus Dusclops, Magcargo, and Relicanth, and Tail instead pointing to wins over Galvantula, A-Wak, Sirfetch’d, and Zangoose. But in reality, the two moves perform just about the same, with lag and sneaking fast moves having more to do with how things go than optimized simulation timing. Pick your favorite and go to town, because yes, Dragonite is an above average specialist here that has little in the way of Fairy or Ice damage to have to worry too much about. If anything, it’s hampered more by the lack of other Dragons to outrace and the number of Steels that resist its moves than anything.


Wing Attack/Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Earthquake/Returnᴸ

So let’s talk moves. Both of these heroes of the night want Night Slash, that much is certain. But beyond that things get interesting. Gliscor is pretty well set with Earthquake, but Gligar has no such option, so it most ideally wants to be purified with Return. And then there’s the fast moves. Wing Attack is the norm, and with Gliscor it beats Chesnaught and Serperior, with Gligar it beats Noctowl, and with both it beats Roserade. But don’t forget about Fury Cutter! It’s a very slight downgrade for Gliscor, outracing Ninetales and Ferrothorn, and a very slight upgrade for Gligar, beating out Mangezone, Electivire, and the Alolan Rocks. Both should strike some uncertain fear into the bad guys.


Mud Shot/Dragon Tail | Sand Tomb & Outrage/Earth Powerᴸ

Still feels like a meme to endorse Great League Garchomp, but here we are. Not sure of its superhero inspiration (King Shark is a villain, so….), but it does look like it could take a bite out of this meta, with either Mud Shot to beat Poisons (Beedrill, Skuntank), Rocks like Relicanth, Steels like Bronzong, and Rainy Castform and Vigoroth, or Dragon Tail to instead beat Dragonite, Gliscor, Jumpluff, Pelipper, and Talonflame. Good luck making that choice, my friend!


Mud Slap | Shadow Punch & Dynamic Punch

I love ending the 75ks with some spice, and there are few things spicier than Golurk. With its extremely unique ability to Mud Slap through Fires and Rocks and Poisons and Steels, and beguile some of the meta’s top Fighters (particularly Machamp, resisting its Fighting AND Rock damage), it makes for a very interesting team player. As I often do, I recommend giving it a look!


ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

In this extra section, I cover a few mons that are no less “nifty” than those in the main article above, but require maxing or at least almost maxing out, so they are FAR from “thrifty”! So here we go… the home stretch!

WORMADAM (Trash Cloak)

Confusion | Iron Head & Bug Buzz

Definitely looks like sidekick material, but Trashadam has a history of taking teams on its back and carrying them to victory. Can it do the same here? That’s a solid maybe. I think it’s more of a specialist here, albeit a very good one, slamming the door on Fighters and Grasses and Poisons, and outlasting Alomomola, Galvantula, Alolan Graveler, Gliscor, Mantine and more. It’s not a cheap build, but it at least doesn’t strictly require XL Candy, and there’s a good chance you have one built already. Deploy at will.


Counter | Rock Slide & Earthquake

So I’ll be upfront and honest: there’s basically no difference between Bonsly and Sudowoodo. Like, they have the exact same core meta wins and losses across the board. But of course, if you’re in this section, you’re looking for spice to show off, and Bonsly has that in bucketloads over Sudowoodo. 😉


Fire Fang | Flame Charge & Crunch

It’s worth a spice mention, at the very least. Yes, other Fighters and Fires pick on it, but look at all that it CAN chew through. (And unlike Bonsly, more effectively than its evolution). This is another one that many players have already splurged for, but if you haven’t, it’s nice to know that it performs basically just as well as a hundo, saving a ton of XL Candy in the process. Something to think about if you happen to have a 15-15-15 sitting around, eh?

Alright, that’s finally it… you made it! And I made it before February officially arrives… whew! 😮‍💨 Now go out there and enjoy Guardian Cup, and the second half of the Silph Arena season!

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Guardian Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time, 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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