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The Silph League Arena

Nifty or Thrifty

Apr 3, 2022: Nifty Or Thrifty: Nemesis Cup, Part I (Fighters & Anti-Fighters)

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!

Sorry for missing last month, folks, but we’re back! And as always, the “Nifty Or Thrifty” series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for Silph Arena Cup formats: Nemesis Cup, in this case. As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover top meta picks and some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs or less powering up, 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 channel our inner scrooge?

Now with the basic intro behind us, we are going to be doing things a little differently this time around. This particular write-up, Part I of an intended pair of articles, is going to focus on just PART of the meta: the part that is somewhat locked in.

Nemesis Cup is sort of an offspring of last season’s popular “Commander Cup” in that before you build out the rest of your team, you first must select a leader from a small whitelist… and you do that twice, actually. Slot 1 of your team is a selection from one of ten unique “Fighters”, and then Slot 2 is a selection from one of ten possible “Anti-Fighters”. In today’s article, I am going to cover those 20 Pokémon specifically, and then I have about another 30-40 I’ll blow through in a later follow-up article for Slots 3-6.

That all said, SOME things will remain as they always do here. While I’m not going to specifically break them up into different sections based on costs, I will still start with those with the cheapest second move unlock cost and work my way up the 75,000 cost Pokémon.

With all that out of the way, let’s do this, Pokéfriends!

“FIGHTERS”

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

LUCARIO (Baby Discount™)

Counter | Power-Up Punch & Close Combat/Shadow Ball

Showing strong at #1 (at the time of this writing), it’s pretty easy to see why. Yes, it’s likely Close Combat you want here, which gives Lucario better avenues to sneak wins away from things like Noctowl, Froslass, Flygon, Galvantula, Gallade, and even Magcargo. Shadow Ball, by contrast, doesn’t have any standout wins against the core meta, unless you can get them to not shield at all (and even then, Close Combat is usually still better, though at least Shadow Ball can uniquely beat Gengar and Gallade that way, which is something.) That all said, expect to see plenty of both… and plenty of Lucario in general, one of the more popular Pokémon that players relish being able to use when opportunity arises. This is most definitely one of its best opportunities yet.

BLAZIKEN

Counter | Blaze Kick & Blast Burnᴸ/Stone Edgeᴸ/Brave Bird

Another very popular ‘mon, clocking in at #2 overall right behind Luc. It has the potential for a similarly strong performance, with Blaze having obvious advantages versus most Steels, Grasses, and Bugs (uniquely beating things like Chesnaught, Mawile, Beedrill, and Lucario itself), while Luc instead handles Empoleon, Flygon, and Kingdra that prey on Blaziken’s Fire typing, plus much better handles Confusion, shown with wins over Trashadam and Gallade that Blaze cannot normally hope to achieve. Make no mistake: both are very powerful here and will power several teams to victory. They’re ranked neck and neck at the top of Nemesis Cup for a reason.

Oh, last note: I lean Blast Burn, as the speed of it (50 energy, so 5 cheaper than Stone Edge and Brave Bird) allows Blaze to actually outrace Noctowl and Quagsire, two wins that could really surprise opponents. But all three moves are viable and come with their own advantages… and mind games!

OBSTAGOON

Counter | Night Slash & Gunk Shot

The obvious appeal here is the ability to fight off several traditional “Fighter” counters. Specifically against the “Anti-Fighters”, that includes Noctowl, Froslass, Gengar, Gyarados, (Dragon Breath) Charizard, and — at least with Gunk Shot — Jumpluff as well. The obvious downside is that, like Lucario, it is at a distinct disadvantage versus other things with Fighting moves, so pick your poison! And yes, I do generally recommend Gunk rather than Cross Chop, as it’s needed for Jumpie and also Lanturn, and is a fantastic big stick to tote around in general.

CHESNAUGHT

Vine Whip/Smack Down | Superpower & Energy Ball/Gyro Ball

The last of our 10k “thrifty” Fighters, and rather a weird one. The numbers don’t look great, but it operates quite uniquely as a Grass in Fighting clothing, shredding stuff like Lanturn, Flygon, and Hisuian Electrode that more traditional Fighters can struggle with. Or even more uniquely, you can deploy it with Smack Down, turning it into a slayer of Fires (Charizard, Magcargo), Bugs like Galvantula, Poisons like Drapion, and enemy Chesnaughts too. If I were to consider deploying Naught, it would likely be in that form for the surprise factor.

POLIWRATH

Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Dynamic Punch

A personal favorite that often underwhelms in Great League… Poliwrath makes a lot more waves these days in Ultra League. But here it is: a meta that looks positively Wrathful. Poliwrath still manages to overcome much of what you’d want a Fighter to really do while also beating everything in the “Fighter” category but Gallade and Chesnaught, plus several of the “Anti’s” like Charizard, Gyarados, Gourgeist, and depending on IVs, Froslass too, and puts the fear of God into others like Noctowl, Gengar, and Jumpluff with Ice Punch. Not to even mention being particularly brutal against things like Walrein, Mawile, and Empoleon which other Fighters of course can beat, but come out battered and bruised (or don’t win at all!)… but that’s not a problem for half-Water Poliwrath. Deploy!

You can also consider Shadow Poliwrath, who loses somewhat special wins non-Shadow can achieve versus Gourgeist, Quagsire, and Trashadam, but picks up wins versus Gengar and Hisuian Electrode to compensate.

PANGORO

Bullet Punch/Snarl | Close Combat & Night Slash

Similar to Chesnaught, Pangoro is a bit… odd. First off, I recommend you seriously consider Bullet Punch over the more heralded Snarl, the former able to beat Gallade, Skuntank, Drapion, and perhaps most enticingly, Galarian Rapidash, while the latter instead outraces Lanturn, Forretress, and sometimes Obstagoon. Neither is “wrong”, but Bullet Punch adds a nice unique twist that might be THE niche Pangoro would need to see play over these other Fighter options.

QUAGSIRE

Mud Shot | Earthquake & Acid Spray/Sludge Bomb/Stone Edge

Anyone else remember the early days of The Silph Arena, when we would spend much time debating what moves to run on Lord Quag? Well here we go again! TechnicallyAcid Spray is the best, with unique (potential) wins versus stuff like Malamar, Walrein, Obstagoon, and Poliwrath, but that’s if you get perfect baiting and all and, honestly, I don’t really trust it. In my opinion, if you want to get spicy, just stick with Sludge Bomb, which is Quag’s fastest charge move and still beats down Charizard and other things. But really, I see no reason to get cute, as good old faithful Stone Edge is just fine, giving Charizard AND Walrein the smackdown (and much more besides), particularly with high end IVs (which also beats Shadow Walrein and Malamar too, without any fancy bait games).

EXCADRILL

Mud Shot | Rock Slide & Drill Run

Unlike Lord Quag, at least Excadrill looks somewhat like a Fighter. Or perhaps a brawler… oh wait, that’s taken already. ANYway, you obviously don’t want to run Fighting/Ground-weak Excadrill out against most of the actual Fighters, but it does plenty of other good, conveniently shredding things that make most of the Fighters quake like Dedenne, Beedrill, Gallade, Trashadam, G-Dash, the Dark/Poisons, Charizard, Froslass, Galvantula and more. It does not play much at all like a traditional, actual Fighter, but it’s a very intriguing and powerful pick you can build around in this meta nonetheless. Do expect to see it around throughout April.

FLYGON

Mud Shot/Dragon Tail | Dragon Claw & Earth Powerᴸ

Moving on to the 75k “Fighter” options with another Ground that is distinctly NOT a Fighting type. Flygon, like Excadrill, does things quite a bit differently. Flygon puts down many Electrics, Steels, and Poisons, and isn’t inherently weak to Fighting damage like Excadrill, so it handles actual Fighters better too (beating ones like Blaze, Luc, and Pangoro). As a general rule of thumb when comparing the two, Exca is much better versus Dragons (beating Zweilous, Kingdra, and Flygon head to head), as well as Froslass, while Flygon instead handles those Fighters, plus Malamar, Mawile, Gengar, H-Trode, and even Empoleon. Alternatively, you can run Dragon Tail instead and beat the other Dragons and Quagsire and Obstagoon, but you give up Steels (Lucario, A-Slash, Trashadam) and things like Dedenne, Pangoro, and G-Dash. Or heck, even Shadow Flygon, which operates similarly to the non-Shadow Mud Shot variant but now beats Quagsire instead of Charizard. Whichever way you go, between Quag and Exca and your Flygon of choice, if you want to go non-traditional and play a Ground instead of a Fighter, at least you’ve got some good options!

GALLADE

Confusion/Charm | Leaf Blade & Close Combat

And we wrap up this section with another actual Fighter, though hardly a traditional one. Gallade plays in many ways like an anti-Fighter, with Confusion usually leading the way. In fact, the only companions it has in the “Fighter” category that it can’t beat are the funk Ground duo of Flygon and Excadrill. (Quag is another story, since it detests Leaf Blade.) Yet Gallade also does traditional Fighter things like beating Ice types (including Froslass), along with several other very un-Fighter things like obliterating Gengar and Beedrill and even overcoming Dedenne reliably. OR… there’s another side to Gallade that rarely comes recommended, but is worth legit consideration here: Charm Gallade, specifically as a Shadow. In that configuration, give up many of the wins I just mentioned (Dedenne, Gengar, Beedrill, as well as Trashadam, Mawile, Lanturn, and Ices like Walrein and Lapras) to instead punch out Darks and Dragons (Malamar, Skuntank, Zweilous, Flygon), Galvantula, G-Dash, and opposing Confusion Gallades. Yes, I do believe this may one of those exceedingly rare times that Charm may really, truly work on a non-Fairy in a Silph Cup. Have at it!

“ANTI-FIGHTERS”

ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move

CHARIZARD

Wing Attackᴸ/Fire Spin | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ

May as well start with one of the most complex ones. Not that Charizard or its role is overly hard to understand. As a Fire, you already have an idea of what it can literally burn, and as a Flyer, it’s one of the more traditional counters to… well, traditional Fighters. The complexity comes from having so many options to choose from, with three fast moves that are often viable, and regular AND Shadow versions of each. I do think, after a lot of side by side comparisons, we can pretty safely push Dragon Breath off the raft; it’s not completely awful, just not as ideal here as the other alternatives. Classic Fire Spin is as reliable and comfortable as ever, especially standing out as the only way Zard can hope to outrace Galvantula (and have a shot at Electrics in general), and the Shadow version can instead beat Flygon and is the only way Zard can outrace Excadrill. But if you can do it, the better play here may be Wing Attack, which is more of a hard Fighting type counter with its own unique wins over Walrein and Drapion, while Shadow Zard with Wing Attack trades those in for its own unique wins versus Noctowl, Zweilous (racing to those Dragon Claws), and Fire Spin Zards. Like I said: it’s complicated!

NOCTOWL

Wing Attack |Sky Attack & Shadow Ball

MUCH simpler here, however. The moveset is locked in since the introduction of Shadow Ball to Mr. Owl’s arsenal, and it remains a Flying tank that is the very definition of anti-Fighter. The only things in the “Fighter” category Noctowl can’t reliably beat are Obstagoon (though that one comes down to IVs) and Lord Quag. (And yes, that means it CAN beat Excadrill… today you learned, right?) But Noctowl does much more than that, as it can ALSO take down all the anti-Fighters without obvious advantages (Froslass and Dedenne specifically), plus other important pieces like Malamar, Drapion, and a swarm of Bugs. You’ve likely been seeing Mr. Owl everywhere if you’ve ventured into GBL’s Catch Cup… get to see it in PvP a lot longer this month. This should be a staple of Nemesis Cup.

GYARADOS

Waterfall/Dragon Breath |Aqua Tailᴸ & Crunch

If you for some reason need Gary to take out Dragons, run Dragon Breath, because it will then pick off Zweilous and Flygon and Kingdra no sweat, as well as Poliwrath as a bonus. But I think Waterfall is the better play here; it doesn’t beat Dragons, but it has a wider and more menacing profile that includes things like Obstagoon, Excadrill, Empoleon, Trashadam, and Alolan Sandslash, and wins nearly all the wins it shares with Dragon Breath more decisively (with more HP leftover). I just wouldn’t get too cute with Shadow Gary… it CAN pick up some cheeky wins over Gallade and Gengar, but gives up a lot more than it gains.

JUMPLUFF

Bullet Seed |Acrobaticsᴸ & Energy Ball/Aerial Ace

Continuing with the Flyers as we move up to the 50k ‘mons, little Jumpluff has quite a lot of potential hereAcrobatics is basically a must, but either Aerial Ace or Energy Ball work alongside it, the former winning the mirror match and outracing Drapion and Kingdra, while the latter handles Excadrill and Lanturn and, honestly, probably gets my vote, though there’s no “right” or “wrong” here. That said, if you decide to run Shadow Jumpluff, I recommend Aerial Ace (as much as I would ever recommend such a dull move) for its relative speed, helpful for Shadow Pluff’s reduced bulk (and getting wins versus the mirror and Forretress, to be specific).

DEDENNE

Thunder Shock | Discharge & Play Rough

Okay, no more Flyers… now we move on to something that threatens Flyers and the Fighters themselves: little Dedenne. It handles most of the “Fighters” (with the exceptions of the Grounds and sometimes Gallade), as well as all the “Anti-Fighters” we’ve covered so far (plus Gengar and G-Dash yet to come). As a half-Fairy, it also smacks around Darks, and its Electric side is obviously a major threat to Flyers and Waters not already mentioned, and the combination of the two adds some impressive names like Forretress and Galvantula to the winlist. Little mousey hits way above its weight class in this meta!

GALARIAN RAPIDASH

Psycho Cut | Body Slam & Play Rough

Admittedly less impressive (on paper, at least) is the second of only three Fairies allowed in this slot: Galarian Rapidash. What it DOES do well is lock down the “Fighters”… again, aside from the Grounds. And that Fairy side means it does eliminate most Darks as well, despite Psycho Cut obviously being resisted. But beyond a couple things like Galvantula, that is about where its usefulness seems to mostly end. It can get to its charge moves in a hurry (and spam Body Slam for days), so it will likely still find a role as a swap option to quickly apply some pressure and get back in the game. It’s an interesting challenge trying to think of how to build around this one, but there’s some nice potential here despite the less apparent track record of success.

GENGAR

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball

At the other end of the spectrum from Fairies, we have our first and only Poison type in the first two slots. That said, you don’t want to actually run it with Poison moves like [Sludge Bomb (https://pvpoke.com/battle/multi/1500/custom/gengar/11/2-6-5/2-1/nemesis), I don’t think… while you do pick up a couple things like Jumpluff that way, I really think this is a meta where it’s best to just stick with all-Ghost moves and instead overpower things like Lanturn, Lapras, Magcargo, and Quagsire, not to mention very widespread neutral damage. Only two Normals in all of Nemesis Cup, so you really only have to dodge the Darks, and you can keep even them on edge with the potential bomb of Focus Blast in the back of their minds.

FROSLASS

Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball

And capping off the 50ks with another dual Flying/Fighting threat: Froslass. As per usual, her performance and impact are likely to exceed what the simple numbers show, but even they show her unique potential, with wins against several of the “Fighters” (including often-hard-to-handle Flygon) while also handling a mix of Flyers, Poisons, Grasses, Dragons, and prominent Fairies Dedenne and G-Dash too. Nothing else can quite do what Lass can, and you know she’s always a popular pick in Silph Cups. No reason to expect anything less here.

GOURGEIST

Hex | Seed Bomb & Shadow Ball

The format’s third and final Ghost takes us into the 75k Anti-Fighter options, and Gourgeist is rather uniquely equipped to handle ALL the “Fighters”, be they actual Fighters or the trio of Ground types, thanks to its unique Ghost/Grass typing and move package. Geist capably handles everything in the “Fighter” slot that isn’t Dark (so just Obstagoon and Pangoro then). Even Flygon, taking only neutral damage throughout, generally falls to Gourgeist regardless of what fast move Flygon is running. This in addition to having obvious advantages against other Waters, Grasses, Electrics, and surprisingly even the Fairies here (able to outrace even Mawile!). There’s some variance depending not just on IVs, but also the size of your Geist — I showed sims with “Average” size here, as it had the widest spread of wins with stuff like Mawile, Malamar, and Poliwrath that other sizes are a bit less consistent against — but overall whatever your best Geist is looks like it could be a very valuable contributor in Nemesis Cup, living up to its name as a nearly-complete package versus the occupants of the “Fighter” slot.

MAWILE

Fire Fang | Power-Up Punch (& Play Rough?)

If there is anything in this writeup that I think you can genuinely get away with not double moving, it’s Mawile. Yes, Play Rough has its uses, like beating Noctowl, but usually the smart play is to just spam out Power-Up Punch and watch the world burn. If you CAN double move your Mawile, obviously do so, but not everyone has that extra dust and/or candy just lying around, especially if you’re thinking about Shadow Mawile, so I personally endorse forgoing the second move if you need to. But regardless of that, Mawile roasts a lot of the meta, from Fighters to Bugs to Grasses to Flyers to Ices to other Fairies to even some truly surprising Waters (like Lapras, Empoleon, and Kingdra). Shadow DOES seem a bit scarier overall if you can afford it, with pickups like Dedenne, Drapion, and Skuntank with no appreciable new losses (at least, provided in some cases that you keep it simple and stick to JUST Fire Fang and PuP. Mawile is easily one of the most expensive options in this Cup that you will nonetheless likely see in abundance thanks to its widespread effectiveness.

So there we have it… our first two, whitelist slots. Pick your pleasure, and then build around its weaknesses with the rest of the meta. As a reminder, that will mean dual-type Pokémon that are part Bug, Dark, Fire, Grass, Ice, Psychic, or Water, with the exceptions of those that are also part Fairy, Flying, Fighting, Ground, Ghost, or Normal type… those typings are found ONLY in these first two slots. Oh, and Escavalier is also banned too, before I forget to mention it. If you’re confused about what I just tried to summarize, check out the official Nemesis Cup rules page and hopefully that will make more sense.

Anyway, we’ll get into those four potential “bodyguards” for Slots 3-6 next time. For now, Nemesis Cup has already begun, so I’ll leave you with the above to get started and check back with you in a few days with the rest. Until then, hopefully this helps get you on your feet and able to rack and stack the whitelist slots. 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 reach out on Reddit or Twitter or Discord or wherever else you can track me down with any questions and I’ll try to get back to you quickly!

Thank you for reading, and catch you again soon, 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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