— Introduction —
The debut of Ultra League (UL) Premier in GO Battle League (GBL) Season 3 has brought a Great League feel to UL with a reasonably balanced meta. We only wish the cost to power up Pokémon was lower, so more trainers could fully explore what this quality meta has to offer. One week in, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of how the meta is shaping up thanks to two outstanding summaries from Pokebrains  from Ytxpikachu . You might see some similar trends below and how you can potentially counter them. So let’s get to it!
What is a Core?
A core is a pair of Pokémon that synergize well together by covering each other’s weaknesses, and trio cores are composed of multiple powerful duos. Therefore, any single Pokémon in the trio core can often be substituted for another partially complementary Pokémon to create a solid line that’s less predictable. Core breakers are Pokémon that generally perform well, even in a loss, against all members of a duo or trio core. You might only face two of the three shown in any given battle, but bringing one of these core breakers means you’ll be well positioned no matter which of those duos you see.
How does the Graphic work?
Each GBL meta-defining trio core is surrounded by six core breakers. Each segment of the encircling ring reflects its matchup with the respective trio core Pokémon. A Win (dark teal) or Loss (dark gold) generally indicates the outcome in even-shield scenarios, and these matchups are less likely to flip due to slight energy differentials. Even (grey), Narrow Win (light teal) and Narrow Loss (light gold) reflect which way the matchup generally trends and implies that IVs and slight energy differentials might play a larger role in the outcome. Importantly, Pokémon walled by one of the three (e.g. Meganium against Altaria or Tropius) were not considered despite having solid matchups against two of the three. As these trios are composed of multiple strong duos, sometimes one of three Pokémon are replaced with another pick to reduce predictability or better counter the current meta. We limited the graphics to 6 of the top core breakers but there are of course other solid options, some of which are highlighted in the Alternatives sections. Try integrating these core breakers into your lineup to counter some of the top teams in GBL.
— Terms —
Note that 0/1/2S refers to the even-shield scenarios in simulations from PvPoke.com. All wins or losses mentioned are even-shield scenarios with zero starting energy unless otherwise stated. Stat Product (SP) and IVs are occasionally referenced. Exclusive moves (*) cannot be acquired by regular TMs and are either legacy or obtained through previous events, purification or use of an Elite TM.
— Venusaur + Charizard + Lapras —
In pretty much every Pokémon game, you’re given a choice: which type of starter Pokémon do you want to pick? Grass, Fire, or Water? In UL Premier, you get the option of running all three types and building a core with it! While we chose to highlight Lapras here due to its versatility, the data referenced in the Introduction highlight how Swampert, Empoleon and Gyarados could also fill the Water role in this trio core.
Venusaur Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* + Sludge Bomb
Venusaur appreciates UL Premier eliminating the usage of Giratina, Registeel, Cresselia, and Articuno, and finally has a chance to shine in UL with its biggest threats out of the picture. Its Poison subtyping allows it to generally win matchups against Fighting and Fairy type Pokémon, along with eliminating Water types with Frenzy Plant.
Charizard Fire Spin or Wing Attack* + Dragon Claw + Blast Burn*
Charizard helps its core partner Venusaur by threatening Bug and Steel type Pokémon that aim to wall Venusaur. The Community Day move Blast Burn is recommended as the self-debuffing from Overheat makes Charizard less flexible, although Overheat is an option if you cannot get a Blast Burn Charizard. For the fast move, Fire Spin better threatens Steel types like Magnezone while legacy Wing Attack generates energy faster and allows Charizard to defeat Dragonite. To get Wing Attack, you would either need to have an old legacy version or use an Elite Fast TM.
Lapras Ice Shard* + Surf + Skull Bash or Ice Beam*
Lapras is the only member of the trio that is not officially a starter Pokémon, but offers other advantages for this particular core over starter Pokémon like Blastoise and Swampert due to having stronger matchups against Flying type Pokémon that threaten Venusaur. Ice Shard is required, which means you will either need a Lapras with the legacy move or an Elite Fast TM (Lapras was featured in a Raid Day and in Research Boxes with the move). Surf is required as a charge move, and Skull Bash is generally preferred as the second charge move in order to strengthen the mirror match. Ice Beam, another legacy move that was available with Ice Shard on its Raid Day and Research Box encounter, is also an option to give Lapras more power against Grass types.
This core has a message for Togekiss: you have nowhere to run!
Magnezone Spark + Wild Charge + Mirror Shot
Magnezone is in a prime position to threaten this core thanks to its Electric/Steel typing. Its Electric typing gives it a win against Lapras in all even-shield scenarios, as long as it is careful not to shield too much too early and debuff itself to the point that an unblocked Surf knocks it out. Its Steel typing gives it a resistance to Grass that can give it a chance to defeat Venusaur in the 1S and 2S matchups, depending on how the shield baiting plays out (Magnezone can win the 1S with straight Wild Charge, as long as it doesn’t block the first Frenzy Plant, but will drop the 2S matchup with that strategy). Magnezone is weak to Fire, but Charizard is weak to Electric and makes the matchup more of a toss-up.
Gallade Confusion + Leaf Blade + Close Combat
Gallade has the moveset to make it an ideal core breaker for Venusaur + Charizard + Lapras. Against Lapras, it generally has close wins in all even-shield scenarios by just using Leaf Blade in tight 1S and 2S matchups and closing out 0S Lapras with a Close Combat. Gallade is able to mow down Venusaur with Confusion, though non-Shadow Gallade has to be careful of Venusaur reaching a second Frenzy Plant (achievable for the 1S Venusaur win if Venusaur has a good SP or an energy lead). Non-Shadow Gallade will want to have two shields ready just in case it needs them. Shadow Gallade does more damage and more easily wins 1S, but drops the 0S matchup as it is unable to tank a Frenzy Plant in order to land a winning Close Combat. The matchup with Charizard is a toss up, depending on shield baiting and how many shields are in play. With two shields, Charizard can be taken down with just Confusion.
Crustle Fury Cutter + X-Scissor + Rock Slide
Bug typing to threaten Venusaur? Check. Rock typing to threaten Charizard and Lapras? Check. Crustle is in a weird spot where it has the chops to threaten all three Pokémon, but also has vulnerabilities to each from its typing. Rock is perfect to counter Charizard, but the Bug typing makes it more susceptible to Fire. Bug is perfect to counter Venusaur, but the Rock typing does not allow it to resist Frenzy Plant. Rock is a great way to deal with Ice type Lapras, except Lapras’ Surf is doing super-effective damage in return. The result is a Pokémon that can win or go even with all three core members, but doesn’t have a secure win. Charizard is its safest matchup, winning all scenarios except for a 2S scenario where it does not shield bait and Charizard pulls off two shield baits to land Blast Burn.
Slowbro Confusion + Psychic + Ice Beam
Slowbro hype! Similar to Gallade, Slowbro has Confusion to threaten Venusaur and can secure the win by using both of its shields, though typically falls short in other scenarios (unless it has an energy lead). Its Water typing along with neutral Psychic attacks allow Slowbro to defeat Charizard and also a close Lapras win. Psychic + Water is an ideal combination for cracking this core, just as long as it has enough shields for Venusaur.
Machamp Counter + Cross Chop + Rock Slide
Machamp does not have many win conditions against Venusaur unless it has a significant advantage in shields or energy, but it can bust the Charizard + Lapras part of the core apart and has Rock Slides to threaten Venusaur with heavy damage. Charizard is a close matchup, but one landed Rock Slide is the end of Charizard and Machamp can cleanly win the 0S and 1S matchups from even energy.
Empoleon Waterfall + Hydro Cannon* + Drill Peck
Empoleon’s typing is perfect for countering Lapras, double resisting Ice Shard and resisting all Charge moves. Waterfall also flushes Charizard down the drain, unless Charizard can find a way to land a Blast Burn (which requires having a shield or energy advantage). While Empoleon loses to Vensuaur, it keeps the 0S and 1S matchups closer than you might expect thanks to Grass being neutral and having super-effective Drill Peck to fire in return. Empoleon must be wary of Venusaur with two shields, which wins the matchup in a big way.
Lapras is the core member best positioned to crack the core. With Skull Bash, it goes even in the mirror with Skull Bash Lapras and walls Ice Beam Lapras. It wins the matchups with Charizard, and can win the 0S matchup with Venusaur with either Ice Beam or Skull Bash (Skull Bash is a very tight win though).
Kanto Muk has a unique moveset to threaten all three core members. Its Poison typing helps it win all even-shield scenarios with Venusaur, while Thunder Punch gives it the ability to defeat both Charizard and Lapras in some shield scenarios. Alolan Muk is similar to Kanto Muk, tending to have fewer win conditions against Lapras and Charizard. Lapras is a much tougher matchup for Alolan Muk than it is for Kanto Muk.
Blaziken threatens Lapras with Counter, Venusaur with Blaze Kick, and Charizard with the potential landing of Stone Edge or Brave Bird, giving it win conditions against each member of the trio core. Typhlosion defeats Venusaur and Charizard and has ways to beat Lapras, taking the 0S with a Solar Beam and getting a bait-dependent 1S win. Arcanine has Fire Fang to threaten Venusaur and Wild Charge to vaporize Charizard and Lapras, giving it win conditions against all three core members.
Tangrowth is a unique Grass type, as it can pressure Charizard with Rock Slide. It does the standard Grass job of defeating Lapras, but loses to Venusaur (though it will do some damage on the way out the door with Rock Slide).
— Magnezone + Venusaur + Shadow Gallade —
If you looked into which Pokémon were being used at the top of the leaderboard, you have probably come across this trio. Magnezone, Venusaur and Shadow Gallade pack a strong punch and can put up a fight even against most of their counters. This core has strong anti-meta characteristics and will present a challenge to those who are not familiar with their matchups.
Magnezone Spark + Wild Charge + Mirror Shot
As one of the best Electric type Pokémon in this format, Magnezone preys on Flying and Water types like Drifblim and Lapras, which are commonly seen here. Thanks to the resistances provided by its Steel sub-typing, Magnezone also counters Dragon and Fairy types, Dragonite and Togekiss being some notable examples. It is vulnerable to Fighting, Fire and Ground type attacks, and will rely on its partners to deal with those weaknesses.
Venusaur Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant* + Sludge Bomb
Venusaur synergizes well with Magnezone. It takes care of most of the Fighting and Ground types that give Magnezone trouble, while Magnezone keeps in check the Flying types that Venusaur attracts. The Community Day exclusive move Frenzy Plant is a must have.
Shadow Gallade Confusion + Leaf Blade + Close Combat
Offering wide offensive coverage with access to powerful Psychic, Grass and Fighting type moves, Shadow Gallade can be very difficult to stop if your team lacks a dedicated answer to him. Thanks to his boosted Attack, the Shadow variant has an easier time knocking out opponents with unblockable damage from Confusion, which gives a better performance in most of the 2S scenarios. It comes at the cost of being incredibly shield-needy, but that also applies to non-Shadow Gallade.
Gliscor Wing Attack + Night Slash + Earthquake
Who would have thought this spicy pick could be a real nightmare for this trio?! In even-shield conditions, Gliscor can win against every member of this core. Gliscor does not even need to bait, as spamming Night Slash allows it to win in the 1S and in the 2S scenarios against all three Pokémon of this team (note that Venusaur with nearly perfect SP can survive long enough in order to reach a third Frenzy Plant and flip the 1S scenario). Landing Earthquake is always the way to go when shields are down. Shadow Gliscor is a bigger threat to Venusaur and Shadow Gallade, but does worse against Magnezone, losing the ability to win the 1S and 2S using Night Slash only.
Perrserker Shadow Claw + Foul Play + Close Combat
Its Confusion resistance allows Perrserker to dominate against Shadow Gallade as long as shields are in play. The 0S scenario depends heavily on Shadow Gallade's IVs as high SP ones can survive just enough to reach a deadly Close Combat, but since IVs are very difficult to optimize on Shadow Pokémon, Perrserker still has the upper hand here. Perrserker has an easier time against Venusaur, since it resists all of its moves. However, the 0S scenario depends on Venusaur's IVs as the fight against high SP variants can end up in a simultaneous knockout. Magnezone presents a bigger challenge. Shielded scenarios depend on the plays made by both sides, but Magnezone usually dictates the flow and can win both in the 1S and in the 2S if it plays it perfectly. Magnezone must go for multiple Wild Charge back to back, but in both scenarios, Perrserker faints with a charge move ready (not exactly a comfortable win). Perrserker will delete Magnezone if it lands a Close Combat though, so the 0S scenario is on Perrserker's side.
Alolan Muk Snarl + Dark Pulse + Sludge Wave
Alolan Muk is the core breaker that has the easiest time switching into any Pokémon of this trio and still winning the fight. It walls Venusaur with bulk to tank its Frenzy Plant safely, and thus is able to farm extra energy before putting an end to the fight with straight Dark Pulse in all even-shield situations. The 1S scenario against Shadow Gallade is particularly tricky because it revolves around Alolan Muk shielding Close Combat and landing Sludge Wave. Fortunately, spamming Dark Pulse will do the trick in the 2S scenario, giving it options in the lead matchup. Against Magnezone, the shielded scenarios are complex, since Magnezone needs to either bait a shield with Mirror Shot or avoid being hit by Dark Pulse following the self-debuff. Alolan Muk has the edge in the 2S while Magnezone has the advantage in the 1S, but both scenarios could go either way. Magnezone barely wins when shields are down, but poor timing when using Wild Charge or a single Snarl of advantage can flip the battle in Alolan Muk's favour.
Escavalier Counter + Drill Run + Megahorn
Escavalier hits Magnezone for super effective damage and completely walls Venusaur, so it is not surprising to see it win these matchups in all even-shield scenarios. Magnezone can win in the 1S scenario either by baiting successfully or with high SP IVs, which will allow it to reach a second Wild Charge before going down. Escavalier will always win against Shadow Gallade as long as it avoids being hit by Close Combat. It wins the 1S, loses in the 0S as Shadow Gallade wins the charge move tie, and has a bait-dependent loss in the 2S.
Charizard Fire Spin + Blast Burn* + Dragon Claw
Due to its Flying sub-typing, Charizard takes super effective damage from Electric type attacks, which complicates the Magnezone matchup. Wild Charge charges faster than Blast Burn, this allows Magnezone to win in the 0S and in the 1S scenarios. Charizard can win if it shields twice, even if it gets baited, but that comes at the cost of a 0-1 shield deficit (note that Magnezone with max SP can win the 2S scenario barely reaching the Wild Charge after a doube bait). Against Shadow Gallade, Charizard wins in the 0S and the 1S, but always loses if Shadow Gallade shields twice and takes a 1-0 shield advantage. One major difference between the non-Shadow Gallade matchup referenced earlier is that Shadow Gallade cannot tank a Dragon Claw from Charizard in the 1S, whereas non-Shadow Gallade forces Charizard to bait. Logically, Charizard dominates against Venusaur in all even-shield scenarios.
Ferrothorn Bullet Seed + Power Whip + Flash Cannon
Thanks to its great bulk and useful resistances, Ferrothorn comes out on top in most scenarios against this trio. It wins against Magnezone in all even-shield situations, except in the 2S if Magnezone baits twice successfully. Similarly, Venusaur can only win against Ferrothorn in the 2S matchup if Ferrothorn does not bait, while losing the rest of the even-shield scenarios. Ferrothorn loses against Shadow Gallade in the 0S and the 1S, but will win in the 2S once it shields a single Close Combat.
Magnezone has win conditions against all members of this core, but some will require successful shield baits.
Bronzong dominates against Venusaur and has the edge against Shadow Gallade in all even-shield scenarios, but needs an energy advantage in order to stand a chance against Magnezone.
Flygon destroys Magnezone, has positive bait-dependent matchups when shields are up against Shadow Gallade, and can win against Venusaur with an energy advantage.
Scizor can deal with both Venusaur and Shadow Gallade but has a terrible matchup against Magnezone. Given that Magnezone is almost exclusively used as a lead with this trio, Scizor is a potent answer in the back.
Similarly, Toxicroak wins against both Venusaur and Magnezone, but melts quickly to Shadow Gallade's Confusion.
— Snorlax + Shadow Machamp + Gengar —
Fun trivia about Pokémon typings: Fighting and Ghost type damage perfectly cover each other—no existing Pokémon resists both! For those taking notes at home, the typing combination that would resist both is Normal/Ghost, which we are yet to see in the series. It’s no wonder that a trio that features a prominent Fighter (Machamp), a pure Ghost attacker (Gengar), and a Normal type (Snorlax) with both Ghost and Fighting moves up its sleeves cover each other well to create a generalist core. In the wide-open Premier Cup, that could serve you very well.
Snorlax Lick + Body Slam + Superpower
A generalist in the league at large, it’s no surprise that Snorlax is also seeing play in a Premier feature. While it misses seeing Giratina to give a good Lick-ing, the ability to use Snorlax as a “get out of jail free” card against a lost lead or simply as a fat cushion to absorb some damage and save a shield make it a useful tool. The bulk in particular is extremely useful for this trio, as the other two core partners are rather glassy Pokémon. Snorlax covers both Machamp and Gengar rather well because it can handle the Confusion users that scare both, as well as tanking some heavy-hitting fast attack damage that would otherwise tear through either of its two frail sidekicks. Another nice thing is that, generally speaking, the matchups that Snorlax does lose are quite close, turning things into a slugfest. For its teammates, Gengar and Machamp, a nearly-fainted Pokémon is a feast to dine upon, gaining an energy lead for the next matchup and getting ready to unleash heavy-hitting charge moves upon the next target.
Shadow Machamp Counter + Cross Chop + Rock Slide
Remember how I was just talking about Fighting and Ghost covering each other perfectly? Why isn’t Lucario in this core as it has Shadow Ball alongside plenty of Fighting damage? Well a few reasons. First, Fighting and Rock cover each other pretty well, too. Of those currently in the game, only Gallade, Toxicroak, Golurk, Nidoking & Nidoqueen reach close to the 2500CP limit of UL and resist both, and the two most common ones (Gallade and Toxicroak) beat up on Lucario anyway.
Machamp dishes out a lot of neutral or super effective damage and the Shadow boost only amplifies that. As stated earlier, Machamp with a farm-down under its (championship) belt is often terrifying for the opponent and prompts them to consider which Pokémon to sacrifice into the anticipated onslaught. Despite including multiple generalists, this team can play more Rock-Paper-Scissors in the mirror match. Machamp winds up protecting Gengar very well because Gengar most fears Snorlax and Dark types, and Machamp comes in to punch both. As a partner to Snorlax, Machamp also soothes some of its Fighting fears, such as Poliwrath and Escavalier.
Gengar Shadow Claw + Shadow Punch* + Shadow Ball
Well it’s fitting for the “Shadow Pokémon” that Gengar has Shadow written all over its moveset! There are clear problems with a full-Ghost moveset, but it certainly has firepower and hits much of the meta with at least neutral damage. As mentioned previously, Gengar with an energy lead is daunting, prompting your opponent to consider which Pokémon to give up to the ghost. Gengar covers Snorlax rather well, serving as an excellent tool to take out the Fighting types that would otherwise tear through its soft underbelly. And as stated above, Machamp and Gengar cover each other well, dealing out complementary damage and performing well in their respective roles.
Shadow Dragonite Dragon Breath + Dragon Claw + Hurricane
An amazing generalist in UL Premier, Dragonite has a lot of play against Venusaur, the most common Pokémon by the data referenced in the Introduction, and the other two members of this featured trio. Against Shadow Machamp, Shadow Dragonite wins all even-shield scenarios. That’s a stark contrast to non-Shadow Dragonite versus non-Shadow Machamp, where Machamp wins all but the 2S situation. Shadow Dragonite versus non-Shadow Machamp is a little stickier, since in the 0S the Machamp can survive a Dragon Claw and throw a Rock Slide for the knockout. Against Gengar, the even-shield matchups are all in Dragonite’s favor, but the 1S is very tricky. If you choose to throw a Dragon Claw and allow the Gengar to get some Shadow Claws in, then the matchup can swing the other way. For that reason, Dragonite should consider only using Dragon Breath when expending a shield, finishing with about ⅓ of your HP left and plenty of energy for the next matchup. Against Snorlax, Shadow Dragonite wins all but the 1S scenario, where it is just slightly out-bulked by the tubby target on the other side.
Swampert Mud Shot + Hydro Cannon* + Sludge Wave
A major threat to most teams without Grass, Swampert can challenge this trio core with a barrage of neutral damage. High SP on Swampert can be important to securing the Snorlax matchup otherwise certain IV combinations can fall to Snorlax due to increased Lick damage. High SP Swampert takes all even-shield scenarios against Snorlax, but can lose the 2S if switching in late. Shadow Machamp is able to pick up a big win in the 1S to help shore up this cores vulnerability to Swampert, but Swampert can still take the 0S from Shadow Machamp. Against Gengar, Swampert wins all even-shields aside from 0S against high SP Gengar, but has to be wary of the Shadow Ball where Gengar could win the lead at the cost of a shield.
Alolan Muk Snarl + Dark Pulse + Sludge Wave or Gunk Shot
Alolan Muk is a nightmare for Gengar, dominating all even-shield scenarios. Greatly appreciating the low frequency of Earthquake Snorlax in UL Premier, Alolan Muk takes the 0S with a double Sludge Wave and must land a Sludge Wave and a Dark Pulse in the 1S, although this doesn’t require baiting. Snorlax does take the 2S, however, avoiding the shutout. Gunk Shot performs similarly in the Snorlax matchup and can allow Alolan Muk to steal a 0S win against Shadow Machamp (Sludge Wave is just short of the knockout). Aside from that moveset note, Alolan Muk narrowly loses the 0S, and Shadow Machamp can’t afford to overcharge in the 1S or it risks a nearly fainting Sludge Wave.
Gallade Confusion + Leaf Blade + Close Combat
Gallade strikes fear in an opposing Machamp, resisting all of its moves and being able to farm down with just Confusion. The Lick damage from Snorlax can quickly add up, so spending 2S on Gallade is often ill-advised. Gallade lands the Close Combat to take the 0S, but must rely on baiting in the 1S. Against a Snorlax lead, Gallade should do 7 Confusions before throwing a move and must bait and land the Close Combat. Against Gengar, Gallade loses the 0S, but should otherwise only use Confusion to farm down at the cost of a shield. If Gallade throws a Leaf Blade, then Gengar can potentially win the 1S by reaching a second Shadow Punch.
Slowbro Confusion + Psychic + Ice Beam
Ever perplexed, Slowbro emerges from backstage for an encore! Aside from no resistance against Rock Slide, Slowbro and Gallade have analogous matchups to both Machamp and Gengar. The potency of Confusion damage overwhelms, and Slowbro’s only loss across both matchups is the 0S against Gengar. Slowbro, however, has a notably worse Snorlax matchup than Gallade, but can potentially take the 0S with an energy lead.
Togekiss Charm + Aerial Ace + Flamethrower
Togekiss can make short work of Shadow Machamp with just Charm, but barely survives the Rock Slide in the 0S. Against Snorlax, Togekiss must land a Flamethrower to win the 0S and consistently takes the 2S due to cumulative Charm damage. However, the 1S actually tilts in Snorlax’s favor with the third Body Slam coming before the second Aerial Ace. Against Gengar, Togekiss has few outs, but it can win the 2S and at an 0-1 shield deficit, neither of which Clefable can manage.
Staraptor is a low-key core breaker here with Normal typing to resist Ghost attacks and the ability to dish out super effective charge move damage. Ultimately, the inflexibility of having to run two self-debuffing moves pushed this one to the Alternatives. If you’re looking for spice to tackle this specific trio core though, you might find yourself enraptured by this suggestion.
Hope you found the graphic and article helpful, and thank you for taking the time to read the full write-up. Please share the post if you found it useful and good luck battling out there!