Feb 26, 2021: Nifty or Thrifty: Vortex 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!
The “Nifty Or Thrifty” article series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for PvP Cup formats: Vortex Cup, in this case. As is typical for the NoT series, I’ll cover not only the top meta picks, but also some mons where you can save some dust with cheaper second move unlock costs… or don’t need a second move at all! 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, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps channel our inner scrooge?
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.
But enough intro. Let’s dive in!
10,000 Dust/25 Candy
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Volt Switch/Thunder Shock | Brick Break & Wild Charge
I know, I know… I always start with Venusaur, so what’s this? Eh, trying something new, and cute, might delete later. 🤩 Anyway, Raichu has quite a lot of potential here. Now I don’t want to mislead… yes, some of those wins are due to Brick Break baits and a followup Wild Charge. But far from all. With just BB, Chu can beat things Electrics normally just can’t, like Shiftry and Melmetal and Alolan Sandslash, and even mighy tank Snorlax. And it’s not like Raichu is a slouch without Brick Break either. The combination of the two just works well together. As do Thunder Shock (as simmed above) or Volt Switch, the latter of which has an easier time against things like Ninetales and Snowy Castform (and with high enough Attack, potentially Hypno as well), but the superior energy gains of Thunder Shock better beat things like Gliscor, Gengar, Primeape, and Zangoose and get that nice win I mentioned over Shiftry. Or hey, you can even run it as a Charmer in a format without Fairies! (Don’t, uh… don’t actually do that. 😅) However you trick out your Chu, it may be the best “starter” in the format.
ALOLAN RAICHU is more consistent with Volt Switch, and its tricky move of choice is Grass Knot, which gets its own special wins against stuff like Alolan Graveler, Melmetal, and A-Slash like its Kantoian cousin, and its Psychic sub-typing makes it handy at countering Fighters in a pinch. I prefer Original Recipe Raichu, but there’s certainly a case for either… or perhaps even both?
Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge
Graveler or Golem, there isn’t a huge difference. A-Grav can better beat Escavalier and, importantly, Zweilous, while A-Golem’s higher Attack allows it to potentially sneak away with wins over Venusaur and Magnezone, though it loses to A-Grav’s better bulk in the head to head. Either way, their unique utility in threatening Flyers, Fires, Waters, Ices, and even the Dragons give them a lot of reach in this meta. And they’re cheap, too! Both should be able to find a spot on many teams.
Counter | Blaze Kick & Blast Burnᴸ/Stone Edgeᴸ/Brave Bird
With many of the top Fighters banned, along with ALL Fairies that prey on Fighters, anything left with decent Fighting moves has value, and Blaze is certainly in that camp. It does most things you’d want your Fighter to do, and also obviously roasts a the vast majority of Grasses and Bugs thanks to its Fire damage. You can mix things up with the second charge move, as Blast Burn, Stone Edge, and non-Legacy alternative Brave Bird all operate very similarly overall, but ironically it is with Blast Burn that Blaze most easily beats Ninetales in particular thanks to its relative speed (five less energy than Bird or Edge).
Incinerateᴸ | Flame Charge & Brave Bird
Might we be witnessing a changing of the guard, with Talonflame surpassing Charizard as the better Flying/Flaming Bird? We just might be. Charizard is still fine (we’ll talk about it more in a minute), but post-Community Day Talonflame is better able to handle things like Ninetales, Jellicent, Poliwrath, Snowy Castform, Zangoose, and even Whiscash, beating them all while Zard typically cannot. I will be following this article up in the very near future with a more in depth look at Incinerate Talon, but for now, just know that it makes it a very, very interesting new option that has Charizards everywhere sweating, and not just from the heat.
Speaking of CHARIZARD, yes, it certainly still works, and does still have a few tricks up its sleeves that Talonflame doesn’t, like being able to outrace Magnezone and Stunfisk. Its best role may be as a Dragonslayer with Dragon Breath, beating all the Dragons here with other nice pickups like Mandibuzz and opposing Zards/Talons, though at the cost of more “traditional” wins like A-Slash, Primeape, Galvantula, Escavalier, and Hypno. Still, that may represent its best shot at relevance here after everyone that wants one gets their hands on a (literally) shiny new Talon after the first week of the month.
Vine Whip | Superpower & Energy Ball
The first Grass on our list (still not Venusaur? 😱) has some unique reach with its Fighting side and Superpower, allowing it to check all the boxes you’d want from your Grass AND beat things like Zweilous, Melmetal, troublesome anti-Grass Grasses Ferrothorn and Shiftry, and even Grass killers Alolan Sandslash and Honchkrow, and potentially with quite a lot of life left over too! There is risk involved, certainly, as Superpower is a double edged sword with its severe self-nerfing, but utilized properly, Chesnaught could be very dangerous in this meta.
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb
Hey, there’s our typical article-leading Grass dinosaur, finally. Venusaur still does good things, as per usual, but having all Fairies and many big Fighters out of the pool does leave it with less value overall. Sludge Bomb is usually a big plus, along with Venusaur’s Poison subtyping, but in this particular meta, it is far less special and really only comes into play when batting other Grasses… with no Abomasnow or Tropius, Venusaur does at least get to reclaim the title of “Grass that beats (nearly) all other Grasses (CD Roserade, Jumpluff, and Celebi would still like a word). Venusaur is still an extremely solid Grass type with a leg up on other fellow Grasses, but it does lose a bit of its usual shine overall.
Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Earthquake
Yes indeed, this is looking less like a Venusaur meta and more like a Meg meta. Or should I say, more like an Earthquake meta than a Sludge Bomb meta. With Quake, Meganium can take out things like Melmetal, Magnezone, Escavalier, and even Dragonair, whereas Venusaur mostly just sputters. The superior bulk of Meg also makes it more consistent in beating Lapras and coming out of nearly every shared win with notably more HP than Venusaur (and not just because it starts with more than Venu). It’s been a little while since Meg outshone Venu in a Silph Cup, but for those who have been waiting, rejoice!
You’ve also got the speedy SCEPTILE and the other Grass starters, but they just don’t really stack up. Recent Love Cup star CHERRIM is at least worth a mention for having similar utility to Chesnaught, but it’s not quite as good. Still, you may already have one built and ready to go, and you DO at least have the option of running it with Dazzling Gleam for solid anti-Fighting coverage.
Gustᴸ | Aerial Ace & Hurricane/Brave Bird
I ALWAYS write about Beedrill around this time, but am choosing not to this time because half of its utility is gone (Fairies and a number of Fighters, similar to Venusaur’s diminished role), and its Grassassin role (and what remains of its anti-Fighting role) is better filled by Flyers like Pidgeot. Beedrill’s niche, if it has one, is that it can beat Zweilous and Dragonair, but Pidgeot is otherwise much better and more versatile, matching Beedrill’s other wins and adding on things like Snorlax, Diggersby, Gengar, Gliscor, Rainy Castform, and Forretress.
NOCTOWL is similar but a hair worse, losing to Primeape, Hitmonchan, and Toxicroak that Pidgeot (and Beedrill) are able to take out, as well as Rainy Castform that Pidgeot picks off. Compensating wins come against things like Dragonite, Charizard, and Jellicent, but overall Gust Pidgeot is generally just a better Mr. Owl now.
MANTINE (and Pelipper)
Bubble | Bubble Beam & Ice Beam
Yep, Baby Discount™ lets Mantine sneak in to this section of the article. (10k dust to second move a Mantyke and THEN evolve and save yourself a bucket of dust.) And while there is no way PELIPPER (Wing Attack/Weather Ball/Hurricane) can come that cheap, I’ll go ahead and lump it in here too, because it and Mantine perform a very similar role: holding down Fires, Fighters, and Grounds while applying ample pressure to Grasses and Hypno as well. The differences: Mantine can take out Mandibuzz and even Venusaur and does much better against the Dragons thanks to Ice Beam (beating regular and Shadow Nair and potentially even sneaking away with a win over Zweilous), while Pelipper with its Flying damage can beat Mantine head to head, as well as other Waters like Lapras, Jellicent, and Sealeo, plus Snorlax as a bonus.
Dragon Breathᴸ | Aqua Tail & Crunch
The Mantine/Pelipper debate may be just academic though, as I think it’s the OG Flying Water that likely has a rare opportunity to surpass them both in this meta. Gyarados having Dragon Breath is BIG here, as it allows Gary to beat down ALL the Dragons and also grind down both Mantine and Pelipper, as well as other Waters like Jellicent, Rainy Castform, and Whiscash. Being a Flying type allows it to beat most of the Fighters (really only Primeape and then Chesnaught and Gallade with their Grass moves can fend it off) and Grounds, its Water typing and Aqua Tail allow it to take down Ninetales and most other Fires, and Crunch lets it take out Hypno and the vast majority of Psychic and Ghost types (though AhChu, Mew, Gengar, and Froslass are still problematic). It’s a nice, varied package that finally found a meta where it all just works. Gary has been waiting for a chance to really break out, and this may finally be it! Shadow Gary seems to be strictly worse though, losing Snorlax, Shadow Tails, and Whiscash with no notable gains.
Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Blizzard
I mean, yeah, Whiscash works, doing about everything you’d expect–beating Electrics, Steels, Poisons, Fires, etc.–and a few things you wouldn’t, like beating the Dragons (thanks to Blizzard), Jellicent, and Snorlax. But really, there are few surprises left in Whiscash at this point. Use it if you like it, and it’ll do what it’s done for you many times before.
Mud Shot | Fire Punch & Hyper Beam/Earthquake
Diggs appreciates the relative lack of big name Fighters for sure, allowing it to stretch its… uh… oddly muscular ears a bit and make a dent in the meta. Obviously Electrics and Steels and Rocks and even Bugs flee in terror to its potent Ground coverage and spicy Fire Punches, but also of note is that it just grinds down Zweilous and Dragonair and even Snorlax and Honchkrow too. Also of note: you may want to consider forgoing Earthquake for the normally-crazy notion of Hyper Beam instead. Diggs has the bulk AND quick energy gains to actually use it in meaningful spots, and a well timed Beam can bring in new victories over the likes of Dragonite, Mandibuzz, Hypno, Charizard, Shiftry, Gliscor and others, though without Earthquake it does have a tougher time handling Escavalier and Alolan Sandslash. (Yes, Fire Punch can still turn those on a dime, but it’s hard for even Diggersby to land enough in time while taking super effective damage in return.) Anyway, especially early in the month, Hyper Beam could REALLY catch some opponents with their pants down. Are you brave enough to try it, my friend?
Counter | (Elemental Punch) Punch & Close Combat
With so many big name Fighters banned, time for some less heralded PvP stars to shine. And “Jackie” Chan sneak in among the thriftier options thanks to being able to double move a Tyrogue for only 10k dust and then evolving up… the good old Baby Discount™. I THINK it will run best and most consistently as a Medicham wannabe with Ice Punch and Close Combat, as Ice is the only way to reliably bring down things like Dragonair and Gliscor, and sharing wins over Grasses like Chesnaught and Venusaur with Fire Punch. There are cases for the other Elemental Punches too (Fire against things like Ferrothorn, Thunder against stuff like Rainy Castform and the Water/Ices), but Ice seems the best overall way to go here. For Shadow Chan, you may want to consider going with two Punches rather than Close Combat, but you can build your Hitmonchan a number of ways and find success. It will rightly be a popular Fighting choice in this format.
LUCARIO can also get the Baby Discount™ and can be had even cheaper, since it requires barely any leveling up once evolved from a (double moved) Riolu, and it shows a nice record against the meta too. The problem is that it is very reliant on Power-Up Punch to bait shields, and without that working out, it looks less appetizing. Viable, sure, but I wouldn’t go that route unless you’re already familiar with piloting Luc.
Smack Down | X-Scissor & Rock Slide
Still very unique for being able to take down Flyers, Darks, Fires, and Ices alike, while also keeping steady pressure on Grasses and Psychics and the Dragons. More specifically, a quick glance at the win list shows Zweilous, Shadow Hypno, Jellicent, Ninetales, Mandibuzz, Mew, Dewgong, Shadow Dragonite, Snorlax and much more. Yeah, Crustie is gonna continue to see play in this format too.
DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT
Aside from the BEEDRILL and such that I already mentioned, other disappointing things I checked include ALOLAN RATICATE (had hoped the shallow pool of Fighters and lack of Charmers would do good things for it, but not to be), GOLBAT (caught up in the wave of this seemingly being not a great meta for Poison types), and EMPOLEON (far from awful, but just doesn’t do anything particularly special and struggles to beat the Dragons and Fires, areas where a Steel and Water, respectively, should shine).
50,000 Dust/50 Candy
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Counter | Close Combat & Night Slash/Ice Punch
Well, that escalated quickly. Primeape is the #1 ranked Fighter in Vortex Cup, and it’s not very hard to see why. Not only can Ape beat every Normal, Steel, Rock, Ice, and Dark type in the Cup that doesn’t have Confusion or Charm or Gust (seriously, every other one… look it up!), it also eliminates things that cause most Fighters trouble, like Galvantula and Stunfisk, and beats the Hitmons, Blaziken, and even Toxicroak (which is a real rarity, as Croak beats nearly all other Fighters) head to head as well. And while it does not out-and-out defeat most Psychics or Ghosts, Night Slash does force shields at the very least, and can flip the script in the right spot… like, for example, how Primeape actually stands tall and takes out Gengar and Haunter in the no shield scenario. But what of the new Ice Punch, you wonder? It’s just not as good… while it does manage to beat Venusaur and Gliscor, it loses to things Slash (or at least, the speed of Slash) can beat like Lapras, Dragonair, Raichu, Ferrothorn, Rainy Castform and others. And yes, Legacy Karate Chop is viable too, trading in Toxicroak and Stunfisk to outrace Poliwrath instead. Expect to see Primeape, and in multiple configurations, throughout March. Just not with Weather Ball anymore… boo. 😢
Mud Shot | Ice Punch & Dynamic Punch
Truly unique and very versatile, Poliwrath is a favorite of this writer and many other PvPers, so it’s nice to see that it cleans up nicely in Vortex. Poli is a real standout versus Ices thanks to resisting Ice (and Water!) damage flung back its way, and it can also take out all the Dragons thanks to some Ice of its own with Ice Punch. Its resistance to Fire also comes in handy, allowing it to take on Ninetales and Charizard and others and come out on top. If it’s just a straight up heaping helping of Fighting type damage you want, look to Primeape. (Oh, and Poli can beat Ape head to head too, just FYI.) But if you want versatility, Poliwrath may be a much better fit for your team with its unique coverage.
Counter | Mud Bomb & Sludge Bomb
As Poliwrath is the Fighter that can beat Dragons, so is Toxicroak the Fighter that can beat Grasses. Meg, Venu, Naught, even the Razor Leafers… Poison may not be a great typing here overall, but it does good things for Toxicroak’s resistances. The power of Poison damage in the form of Sludge Bomb and spammy Mud Bomb also allow Croak to take out Dragonair and others too. That all said, I like Croak a little less than the other Fighters already mentioned… after all, it’s a Fighter that loses to things like Diggersby and Lapras (which Fighters should generally overcome), among others. Use it if you like it… Toxicroak can absolutely still dominate unprepared teams. But just don’t lean on it TOO much. It’s a role player here more than it is a centerpiece.
Counter | Close Combat & Megahorn
I’ll keep beating the Heracross drum whenever it could be impactful, and Vortex Cup fits the bill. The good: wins against Primeape, Poliwrath, Chesnaught, and Shadow Sealeo, none of which Primape can do. The bad: losses to Dragonair, Ninetales, Galvantula, Mandibuzz, Froslass and a couple others that Primeape beats. Ape and possibly even Luc are better overall, but Heracross may fit some teams better. It’s always an (overlooked) option.
Before we completely leave the Fighters, there is also MACHOKE with Karate Chop and Dynamic Punch, and Legacy Cross Chop (or non-Legacy Brick Break, in a pinch) to set it all up. It’s really not a bad option at all, but a little expensive to build up, best with a Legacy move, and completely lacking in any coverage moves. (Well, there is Return
, I guess, but meh.) Still, as spice, it’s a fun option that does its job just fine, one of the quietest winners of the buff to Karate Chop.
Fire Spin | Weather Ball (Fire) & Solar Beam/Overheat
Yep, the coverage offered by Solar Beam is undeniable, but Overheat has Tails’ biggest boom potential, adding on wins against stuff like Hypno, Shadow Sealeo, Gliscor, Mew and others. As in Kanto Cup, I think that Ninetales has officially surpassed the old standbys like Charizard and Sunny Castform as the top Fire type in the meta (with the possible exception of Blaze and its important Counter damage), and a potent and likely-to-be popular option overall. Get ready to face a few.
Powder Snow | Icy Punch & Gyro Ball/Bulldoze/Blizzard
And at the other end of the spectrum, we have something double weak to Fire AND Fighting, but still solid–as Ice!–overall. A-Slash may not like those Fighters or Fires, but few things so thoroughly destroy the Dragons (resisting their Dragon damage AND Zweilous’ Body Slams) and Grasses and Flyers, while also holding down Psychics like Hypno and Mew, and things like Gengar/Haunter, Whiscash, and Stunfisk. It’s not an overall eye popping performance, but A-Slash gets some really good wins where it counts.
Ice Shardᴸ | Icy Windᴸ & Blizzard
Yep, the original double Legacy special. And as always, I still recommend Blizzard as the second charge move, as Water Pulse has better coverage on paper but it usually doesn’t hold up in actual gameplay. Take Ninetales, for instance. Sims will tell you Water Pulse can beat Tails, but that’s only if it’s running Psyshock. With Solar Beam or even Overheat, Blizzard loses by little more than does “coverage” move Water Pulse, and Blizzard further gains wins over things like Snorlax, Lapras, and even Jellicent with just raw power, even when resisted. There will be occasional spots where Pulse may seem like the smarter play, but I think there are many more where Blizzard is just the better closing move to have in your back pocket.
Powder Snow | Body Slam & Aurora Beam
Non-Legacy, baby Dewgong. The hook here is Body Slam which is a great equalizer against things that terrify even Lapras and Dewgong. For example, Sealeo can actually beat Hitmonchan (assuming it’s running the generally preferred Ice Punch) and Shadow Sealeo can even force a tie with Primeape, neither of which are things that most Ices can boast. Without the spammy STAB moves Icy Wind (Dewgong) or Surf (Lapras), Sealeo is overall a bit less impressive in the classic Water/Ice role, but it performs well enough, and after the upcoming GO Rocket event, you will finally have the option to deploy a double moved Shadow one, so folks surely WILL be trying them out.
Powder Snow | Avalanche & Shadow Ball
Still very popular in certain crowds, and it does look quite impressive by the numbers against the at-the-time-of-this-writing core meta (21-11-1). But there are some worrrying stats buried in there. Froslass is known as a Fighting counter, but it loses to Primeape and its Night Slash. Ghosts should be able to beat Mew, but Froslass typically loses. Ice types should be able to overcome Dragonair and Honchkrow, but Froslass is too frail and loses to regular and Shadow ‘Nair AND Krow. Yes, Lass does a lot of good as an Ice that can beat Hypno and Jellicent and Toxicroak and Lucario, and as a Ghost that can tangle with Grasses and Zweilous and Mandibuzz and such. But there is reason to be cautious against some of the biggest names in this meta. That said, yes, Froslass with a small energy lead can be very, very scary and it will be a popular “safe swap” option, I imagine. Lass already has a LOT of fans, after all.
Confusion | Ice Punch & Shadow Ball
If you REALLY want to put the clamps on Fighters, this may be your best ticket on the strength of Confusion and bulk that can shrug off even a Primeape Night Slash and even very nearly a Lucario Shadow Ball. (Luc is the ONLY Fighter Hypno cannot beat in this meta, but look how close even that is!) Anyway, Hypno is good without being wholly dominant, which is how it avoided the ban list. It smacks around Fighters and Grasses and other big names like Ninetales and Diggersby and Stunfisk and Dragonair and even Melmetal, but then it loses to Mew, Zweilous (and Shadow Dragons), Bugs, and basically all the major Waters and Ices. Your mileage may vary depending on Elemental Punch chosen (I recommend Ice but there are certainly other ways to go) and whether or not you want to try out Shadow Hypno (who picks up Lucario and big name Waters like Lapras, Dewgong, Mantine, and Pelipper, but loses Dragonair, Diggersby, and Shadow Sealeo in the process). But in whatever form, Hypno is a popular Pokémon that people will be happy to see NOT on the ban list and deploy. Will you be one of them?
ZANGOOSE & PERRSERKER
Shadow Claw | Close Combat & Foul Play/Night Slash
Zangoose advantages: higher Attack that leads to unique wins over stuff like Galvantula, A-Graveler, Honchkrow, Magnezone, Melmetal, Raichu, and Charizard. Oh, and the potential for Night Slash to go off at any moment for a big boost. Perrserker advantages: higher bulk and a better typing allowing for unique wins over Ice (Snowy Castform), Flying (Pelipper), and especially Grass (Venusaur, Shiftry, Razor Leafers). Either way, with résumés that include the Dragons, Hypno, Mew, most Ices and Ghosts and other big names, Goose and Perrserker are nice, spicy wild cards that can capably fill that sixth spot you don’t know what to do with at the end of your bench.
Razor Leaf | Sludge Bomb & Moonblast/Leaf Blade
Yep, they’re still a thing. And after Love Cup, maybe folks will have more of an appreciation for VILEPLUME, who can outtank Magnezone and Lucario and has a much easier time taking down Mew and even Honchkrow (yes, really!) than does VICTREEBEL, who has less bulk but with its superior Attack can outrace Pelipper. Otherwise they really perform pretty much the same, shredding Waters (even Icy ones), Grounds, most Fighters… yeah, you know the drill by now. They’ll show up yet again, I’m sure. If YOU intend to run one, I once again recommend Vileplume for most team compositions.
Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Shadow Ball
Similar to the comparison between Vileplume and Victreebel, with Gengar having slightly higher bulk but Huanter being more “go big or go home” with the high Attack. And as with Plume and Vic, the comparison between Gengar and Haunter is a very close one. Gengar can potentially beat Shadow Dragonair, Rainy Castform, and Poliwrath, while Haunter can beat non-Shadow Dragonite and shows a win against Ninetales that Gengar doesn’t match, but that’s only if it is Shadow Ninetales (which is generally not preferred here or… well, anywhere really), and at least with the right IVs, Gengar can win that anyway. In my book, it’s advantage Gengar in this meta… and also advantage Shadow Ball over the Sludge Bomb I’ve recommended in the last couple metas, because… well… no Wigglytuff or other Fairies.
Hex | Bubble Beam & Shadow Ball
Bubble is good, and does manage to beat Diggersby. But Hex just seems better, able to potentially beat Gyarados, Dragonair, Drifblim, and even Galvantula! JellyBelly is a Bubble Beam baiter through and through, but done properly, it’s a monster. This is its best chance yet to show off what it’s got in the Arena.
Mud Shot | Stone Edge & Earthquake/Sludge Bomb
A different–maybe better?–Whiscash. In truth, Lord Quag is more of a sidegrade, beating Ices (Dewgong, Shadow Sealeo, Snowy Castform, Alolan Sandslash), Flyers (Mandibuzz, Mantine, Gyarados), and bonuses like Galvantula and Poliwrath, whereas Whiscash and its spam and bulk better beats things like DIggersby, Toxicroak, Lucario, Snorlax, Zangoose and Jellicent. There may be no Swampert here, but at least you still have solid Mud Boy options if you so choose to go that route.
Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge
With many relevant Waters, Ices, and Flyers ripe for the picking, oh yes, it’s time to get in the Zone (and no, not that Zone). Magnezone can also beat things like Mew, Shadow Hypno, Galvantula, Venusaur, Melmetal, Shadow Dragonite, and even Shadow Ninetales! And since we’re mentioning all these Shadows, Shadow Zone sheds Galv, Venusaur, and Shadow Tails to instead have a shot at non-Shadow Tails, Snorlax, Hypno, and Shadow Dragonair. Magnezone may be a tad underrated going into Vortex.
Volt Switch | Foul Play & Thunderbolt OR Discharge & Hyper Beam
Chances are you learned to either love or loathe Trode during Love Cup. And there are two schools of thought on its moveset of choice, too. Foul Play/Thunderbolt is better at beating Ninetales and Shadow Hypno, two big names in this meta. But the alternative that pushed Trode over the top in Love Cup is Discharge/Hyper Beam can go for broke and bring in wins over stuff like Galvantula, Snorlax, Shadow Dragonite, and even Toxicroak. (Granted, those last two are wins more due to Discharge than Hyper, but still.) However you felt about it in Love Cup, get ready for that to continue.
Volt Switch | Lunge & Discharge
Sooooo… yeah. I mean, the numbers kind of speak for themselves, don’t they? Maybe it’s easier just to focus on things that Galv can’t normally beat: Fires (Ninetales), Grounds (Stunfisk, Diggersby), and a smattering of things like Snorlax, Snowy Castform, Dragonite and Dragonair (but it DOES beat Zweilous… yay Bugs!), the Alolan Rocks, Gengar, that pesky Primeape, and uh… yeah, that’s about it. Waters: dead. Flyers: dead. Most Fighters: dead. Even Grasses: dead. Oh and Hypno and Mew? Dead and dead. (Again, yay underrated Bug type!)
Counter | Megahorn & Drill Run/Aerial Ace
Not as eye-opening a performance, but Escav still checks a lot of nice boxes. In a nutshell: it’s a “Fighter” (tackling Ices, Steels, Normals, and Zweilous) that can beat Hypno and most Grasses too. Most of that comes with Megahorn, but there is at least one good case for Drill Run (as simmed above), as it beats Diggersby, and a good case for Aerial Ace: beating Meganium. Just don’t run Acid Spray if you like winning. 😄
Any | …and (almost) Any
The long running joke is that it doesn’t matter what moves you run on Probo… but it’s basically true. The only constant is that you want at least one Rock move, either Rock Throw or Rock Slide. I think I AM going to give a slight edge to Rock Throw as the fast move of choice though, as it most consistently beats Hypno and Ninetales, and those are kiiiiiiiiiiind of a big deal. But almost no matter what moveset you go with, Probo is really solid here in the “mini Bastiodon” role, doling out losses to the Ices, Dragons, Fires, Flyers, Bugs, and even the Ghosts and those things like Ninetales and Hypno too.
Spark | Flame Charge & Wild Charge
With this meta being so massive, I haven’t spiced things up as much as you may be accustomed to here on Nifty Or Thrifty, but you know I can’t stay fully away. So HERE is spice. Zeb is not new to NoT, but it surprised even me how well it may hold up here. For example, I didn’t know it could simply overpower Hypno, Snorlax, and Toxicroak, but it has that potential and much more. Its Electric side zaps the Waters and Flyers you would expect, while sneaky (and buffed these days) Flame Charge allows it to get even stronger and burn down things like Melmetal and Snowy Castform too, and can nearly OHKO stuff like Lucario and Froslass out of the blue if they don’t block. Zeb isn’t for everyone, but I firmly believe it IS for someone. Maybe even you!
Spark | Thunderbolt & Hydro Pump
Criminally underrated so far. Lanturn handles all the big name Waters, Fires, Ices, and Flyers, plus Snorlax, Melmetal, Galvantula, Mew, and Shadow Hypno. What more do you want? It seems well worth at least a bench spot on many teams of six, so how come I haven’t seen ANYONE talking about it?
Confusion | Bubble Beam & Psychic
I don’t believe in it as much as Zebstrika, but yes, Golduck has the potential to be spicy. It’s really just with this one moveset though, and most of it relies on good baiting with Bubble Beam, but the possible results are enticing, no doubt. If you love Golduck and look for excuses to run it, you could do worse than trying it out in this meta.
DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT
Speaking of spice, I just couldn’t quite find room for CRADILY, which still does a number of things well, just not enough of them. Pour one out with a hearty “dilly dilly”…. ALOLAN MUK is surprisingly so-so in Vortex, capably handling Psychics, Ghosts, and Grasses but not much else of consequence…. I’ve mentioned it throughout, and I do endorse HONCHKROW as legit spice, but while it easily handles Psychics, Ghosts (even Froslass), Grounds, Grasses, and even Snorlax and Shadow Nair and the like, “spice” is probably the best category to slot it in…. TENTACRUEL is the one that this meta is cruel to, as it is most Poisons, with no Fairies and the thinner pool of Fighters giving it less utility and leaving it fringe at best…. New-fangled ROSERADE is no Cherrim here…. You may have enjoyed SLOWBRO in Love Cup, but that’s a fast NO in Vortex Cup…. There may not be any Fairies, but there are eligible Pokémon with CHARM. However, even the best of the best are still pretty bad, and no better than the Charm Raichu I joked about above. You can MAYBE make a small case for LILLIGANT if you are just determined to make Charm work, but it’s a lot of work for not much gain.
75,000 Dust/75 Candy
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Dragon Breath | Body Slam & Dark Pulse/Dragon Pulse
Here we go. Zweilous has always been solid when allowed, but now it’s sitting here ranked #2 in the meta at the time of this writing. And it’s not due to an overwhelming number of wins, but rather the quality of those wins: the other Dragons, Hypno, Mew, Ghosts, Grasses, Mandibuzz, Stunfisk, even Lapras! (Well, assuming it’s running Dark Pulse. With Dragon Pulse it better beats Chesnaught, of all things.) Hopefully you have a good Zweil already, because there’s never been a better time to unleash it.
Dragon Breath | Aqua Tail & Dragon Pulse
Zweil’s thing is its Dark typing and damage. Dragonair’s shtick is Aqua Tail, which makes it a strong anti-Fire in addition to handling Grasses and Mew and Shadow Hypno, and unlike Zweilous, Froslass and Galvantula. Shadow Nair is a different flavor that can beat Hypno, Mandibuzz, Melmetal, Meganium, Whiscash and Toxicroak, though it gives up Galv, Chesnaught, Shadow Ninetales, Snorlax, and Mew.
Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Hurricane/Draco Meteorᴸ
95% of Nite’s work is done with just Dragon Breath and Dragon Claw. Mandibuzz is the win you get with either Hurricane or Legacy Draco Meteor. (Do remember that you can evolve Dragonite during the event going on right now to get Meteor!) Shadow Nite is mostly an upgrade, gaining Hypno, Galvantula, Mantine, Drifblim, and Whiscash for the “low” cost of giving up Mandibuzz, Dragonair, and Lucario.
Snarl | Shadow Ball & Aerial Ace/Foul Play
Still a relatively new Pokémon, but already I feel like Mandi needs no introduction. So let’s just get right down to it. Mandi is a beast, beating (among others) Hypno, Ninetales, Mew, Dragonite and Dragonair, Snorlax, Diggersby, Gyarados, and the vast majority of Ghosts and Grasses and Fighters. It’s a big swath of the core meta, with Mandi really just needing to avoid Ices, Electrics, and Rocks to find victory. Shadow Ball seems to work best, with either Aerial Ace to bring harder pressure to Fighters and Grasses (and win Lucario), or Foul Play for a stronger neutral damage performance and a bonus win over Whiscash. Pick your pleasure, but either way, know that Mandibuzz will bring the pain. Few things appreciate the lack of Charmers more than Mandi. It has lots of room to… well, stretch its wings.
Ice Shardᴸ | Surf & Ice Beamᴸ
In many metas, there is room to experiment with Lapras’ varied movesets. Water Gun, Skull Bash, sometimes even Dragon Pulse. This is not one of those metas. In this meta, you want old school: Ice Shard/Surf/Ice Beam. Beam for a much easier time against the Dragons, Flyers, Grasses (especially Venusaur), Toxicroak and Pelipper. Skull Bash DOES do good things (like beating Sealeo and being a good stick versus other Waters and Ices in general) and is certainly viable, especially if you can’t get Legacy Ice Beam, but Beam is just the most reliable in this meta full of Ice-weak targets. Shadow Lapras is an intriguing sidegrade, absorbing losses to Toxicroak, Snorlax, and most alarmingly, Hypno, but gaining wins against big names Galvantula, Ninetales, and Zweilous. It may be hard to swallow investing two Elite TMs into Shadow Lappie, but if you’ve been thinking about it, this wouldn’t be a bad time to try it out.
Lick | Body Slam & Superpower
Normal Snorlax doesn’t have a wide, sweeping win list, but it is a list full of big names, like Hypno and Mew, Zweilous, Shadow Dragonair, Shadow Sealeo, Dewgong, Galvantula, and all the Ghosts. But Snorlax typically makes for one of the better Shadow Pokémon, able to shrug off the loss of bulk much better than most, and Shadow Lax looks truly terrifying here. While it drops Hypno and Shadow Nair, it gains Shadow Hypno and regular Nair, as well as Lapras, Sealeo, Stunfisk, Venusaur (albeit barely), Gyarados, Snowy Castform, and Shadow Ninetales. I mean, just look at the numbers against the entirety of the Cup. Daaaaaaaang.
Hex | Icy Wind Ace & Shadow Ball
Slow and steady wins the race? Blim grinds out a lot of wins, including the Grasses, Fighters, Diggersby, Jellicent, Ninetales, Dragonair, Mantine and Pelipper, Hypno, and even Melmetal. It’s a good list, and Drifblim remains a good Pokémon.
Bullet Seed | Power Whip & Thunder/Flash Cannon
Forret is definitely being overlooked. Yes yes, I know some of that is baiting with Mirror Shot, but consider this too: with JUST Mirror Shot and Bug Bite, Forret still manages to slay Zweilous, Mew, Grasses, Snowy Castform, and the regular and Shadow versions of Hypno, Dragonair, and Sealeo. That alone seems worthy of a look, doesn’t it? Add in Earthquake and you gain the potential of wins against Lapras, Jellicent, Snorlax, Melmetal, Stunfisk, and Whiscash. Again, why aren’t people talking about Forretress again? Somebody page Season 2 champion SpeediestChief!
Thunder Shock/Mud Shot | Mud Bomb & Discharge
While it admittedly doesn’t have the breadth of wins you’d like, there are a lot of things Stunfisk does very well, and few things that can bring the shield pressure it consistently does. Note that Thunder Shock (as simmed there) beats Drifblim and Mantine, while Mud Shot instead wins the mirror and performs much more consistently versus Lucario and Toxicroak.
Bug Bite | Mirror Shot & Earthquake
Still truly unique in PvP, Ferrothorn is the Grass that beats Hypno (even with Fire Punch!) and Dragonair. With Thunder it handles Mandibuzz, Mantine, and Pelipper, while Flash Cannon instead drives through Dragonite, Venusaur, and Meganium. Another case where the quality of its wins outshines the mere quantity.
Smack Downᴸ | Crunch (& Stone Edge?)
Believe it or not, this is actually a really good meta for T-Tar. With big Smack Down damage, it chews through Flyers, non-Watery Ices, Fires, and Bugs very nicely, and being part Dark, it handles regular and Shadow Hypno too. It’s an impressive list of wins for something that I guarantee most players (you included?) haven’t even thought about until right now. Shadow Tyranitar has the exact same win/loss record, as does single moved Tyranitar! So while Stone Edge is a nice-to-have closer, Crunch is all you’ll usually need. Nifty AND Thrifty potential with this one!
Confusion | Leaf Blade & Close Combat
This one HAS been talked about quite a bit already, but the surprise here is that it doesn’t have a record any better than T-Tar. Yes, Gallade Confusions other Fighters to death, Leaf Blades through most Waters and Grounds, conquers Snowy Castform with Close Combat, and even manages to pick off Froslass, Venusaur, Dragonair and potentially even Shadow Dragonite, but you feel like it should be doing more and it just can’t quite get there. It also doesn’t help that Hypno, Zweilous, Mandibuzz, Mew, Ninetales, and many of the other top names survive. Oh! Well maybe that’s where Shadow Gallade comes in. It does drop Snowy C, Sealeo, and Dragonair, but gains Meganium, Melmetal, Snorlax, Dewgong, Diggersby, Shadow Nair… all good, but I still don’t see the biggest names I mentioned on there. Boo. Still, it is clear that Gallade certainly DOES have a place.
Ice Shard | Night Slash & Solar Beam
I know, this seems a little ridiculous to recommend in a meta stuffed with other prominent Ice types, but Cryogonal has some things to play with that they don’t. One is Night Slash with applies nice pressure to Psychics and Ghosts and closing damage to the Dragons (ALL of whom Gonal beats). The other is Solar Beam, which Gonal legit has the bulk and enough energy gain from Ice Shard to actually reach in meaningful spots, like wins it achieves against Dewgong, Lapras, Mantine, Sealeo, and believe or not, even Mandibuzz. 👀 Put it all together and you get a surprisingly sturdy body of work. Looks like a spice pick to me!
Wing Attack/Fury Cutter | Night Slash & Earthquake
A bit of a specialist, better handling Fighters (Chesnaught especially) with Wing Attack and Psychics and Darks (Shadow Hypno, Zweilous) with Fury Cutter. This is even more exaggerated with Shadow Gliscor, as Shadow WA beats Primeape and Chesnaught, and Venusaur, while Shadow FC now beats Hypno and alone has the speedy energy gains necessary to beat Mew, Ninetales, and Whiscash. Again, these are niche roles, but a decent enough ones to deserve a mention.
Confusion/Ice Shard | Icy Wind & Psychic
Well you know people that shelled out for it are itching to use it, and in a meta where Psychic and Ice are both pretty potent, Mr. Rime has some use. There are a number of differences between running it with Confusion (as simmed just a second ago) or with Ice Shard, though none should be shocking: the former beats Fighters (Primeape, Toxicroak), Ices (Lapras, Dewgong, Sealeo, Snowy Castform), and Venusaur, while Shard instead tap-tap-taps on the graves of Flyers (Mandibuzz, Pelipper, Drifblim), Shadow Dragonair, and Meganium. Rime isn’t the vest at anything, but does enough good things to see play. And again, that will be more than enough for folks who have it to throw it out there while they can.
Mud Shot | Rock Slideᴸ & Hydro Pump
A bit underrated, in my opinion. This is a Rock type in a meta full of Flyers and Ices and Fires to smash with rocks, and one that resists all of their moves (Fire doubly so) while doing it. “Lord Helix” also can overcome Shadow Hypno and Shadow Dragonair, and while it does struggle versus Electrics, it DOES rather easily handle Galvantula. It’s not perfect (Fighters, Grasses, and Electrics in general make pretty easy work of it), but Omastar deserves a shot on at least some teams.
Rock Throw | Body Slam & Surf
Good news! If you built one for Catacomb Cup last season, you can dust it off again here. Beating Ices and Fires and Flyers (akin to Helix) is nice. Beating Jellicent, Galvantula, and Zweilous is nicer. Surf’s up, dudes!
Powder Snow | Weather Ball (Ice) & Blizzard
The only Castform with no coverage moves is also ironically the best one in Vortex Cup. Ice is just a really good typing here, folks. Grasses, Flyers, Grounds, all Dragons, Galvantula, Hypno, Mew, Snorlax, even Jellicent… all get crossed off by this unassuming little ice ball.The only Castform with no coverage moves is also ironically the best one in Vortex Cup. Ice is just a really good typing here, folks. Grasses, Flyers, Grounds, all Dragons, Galvantula, Hypno, Mew, Snorlax, even Jellicent… all get crossed off by this unassuming little ice ball.
Ember | Weather Ball (Fire) & Solar Beam
Solid, if relatively unremarkable, unable to beat things like Primeape and Toxicroak that Ninetales can. But it is worth noting that Solar Beam does really good work in taking out Dewgong and Lapras, and unlike Ninetales, Shadow Sealeo as well.
Water Gun | Weather Ball (Water) & Thunder
A reliable Water type that can beat other Waters thanks to its coverage with Thunder. Standout wins include outspamming Stunfisk, Toxicroak, and Lucario, and outlasting Snorlax, Drifblim, and Whiscash.
DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT
RELICANTH? More like Relican’t since the nerf to Ancient Power. Sigh… such wasted potential…. Technically HITMONTOP probably belonged up in the 10k section along the same lines as Hitmonchan, but wherever you stick it, while Top does do some good things, this isn’t the best meta for its particular set of skills…. JYNX is no Mr. Rime…. Repeat after me, boys and girls: DO NOT RUN CHANSEY. This concludes your monthly PSA. 🙃
100,000 Dust/100 Candy
ᴸ – Legacy/Exclusive Move
Legendaries are specifically banned… but Mythicals are specifically not, so yes, we have several things to actually discuss here!
Shadow Claw | Wild Charge & Player’s Choice
Again, Mew almost demands an article in and of itself to review all its varied move combinations, but generally I think I can saw you’ll want Shadow Claw (or perhaps Volt Switch) and Wild Charge to start, as they do good things in this meta. Beyond that you can kind of customize it as much as your TM patience allows, but Surf, Flame Charge, Dragon Claw, and Psyshock all have good utility here for rather obvious reasons. Good luck in the TM roulette!
Thunder Shock | Rock Slide & Superpower/Thunderbolt
Finally, being a Mythical instead of a Legendary has some meaning! The standard second move is Superpower, and Mel does beat Zweilous that way, which is no small thing. But there is play here for Thunderbolt too, as it instead beats Shadow Dragonair and Shadow Hypno, and those are ALSO a big deal. Decisions, decisions…. 🤔
Confusion | Doom Desire & Psychic/Dazzling Gleam
A Confusioner that also resists Dragon and Ice damage? Yes, please! Fighters fall (even Primeape), Ices shatter, Dragons are dulled, and the Grasses don’t matter. (Yes, I have a gift for rhyme. 😏) Throw in Shadow Hypno and Mantine and Pelipper for good measure. And yes, you can get some of the same performance out of Bronzong too, if you already have one of those built.
Confusion | V-Create & Overheat/Psychic
No Dragon resistance here, but a great performance against a slightly different set of targets. Ices still suffer, and Grasses of course, and the Fighters all still falter. But now you’re beating Ninetales and Melmetal, Stunfisk (somewhat surprisingly), and Hypno now. The Confusion is strong with these Mythicals!
CELEBI, however, is likely NOT the Confusioner you’re looking for. Move along, move along….
And no, don’t run GENESECT, at least not until we can get it with Drives in Great League. (PLEASE, Niantic! 🙏)
And now congratulations are in order… because you made it through! Yep, that’s all I’ve got for now, though I am going to TRY to carve out some time to get back to some good old-fashioned “Under The Lights” spotlight articles this month too.
Before I go, continued thanks to my buddy over at PvPoke for making this all possible, 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 THREE Seasons of Silph Arena play. 😍
Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you master Vortex 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, but having not done anything Pokémon prior, never imagined he’d get so hooked and so into PvP. In starting his own research, deep into Silph Arena and now even GBL metas, he decided to share his findings so other players could benefit, which turned into full fledged articles that multiplied like Tribbles. He’s now been writing multiple regular article series since early in The Silph Arena Season 1, focused on advanced matchups and budget friendly but still viable alternatives for veteran and rookie players alike. A few of his favorite things include powering up oddball Pokémon, going on hikes, spending time with his kids, dad jokes, and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
You can follow him on Twitter: @JRESeawolf or reach out on Discord: JRESeawolf#8349