Meta Cores - Kanto Cup
Updated: Nov 18
— Introduction —
Welcome back the first generation of Pokémon (along with some new typings and new regional faces)! We’re back with Meta Cores to highlight some of the lines that we expect to perform well alongside some core breakers to muck up their plans. While this will be a comfortable meta for some players who have played PVP since the feature was released, for others this might be the first time you see a number of these Pokémon in GO Battle League! So sit back and enjoy as we walk you through a bit of what Kanto (and Alola) has to offer.
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 prospective Kanto Cup 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 six of the top core breakers but there are of course other solid options. Try integrating these core breakers into your lineup to counter some of the top teams in Kanto!
— Terms —
Note that 0/1/2S refers to the even-shield scenarios in simulations from PvPoke. 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 (ª) cannot be acquired by regular TMs and are either legacy or obtained through previous events, purification or use of an Elite TM.
— Hypno + Snorlax + Alolan Graveler/Golem —
This first core is so tight that we had to dredge out the LEGACY BUG BITE PARASECT to fill out the breakers. This trio is just strong here. In a generation without strong Steel or Ground-types, Alolan Graveler can just run through a lot of the players and with Hypno there to cover the Fighting-types, there isn’t much to shake up that duo core at all. Snorlax operates as a hard-hitting generalist to fit in that third slot and round out the core.
Hypno Confusion + Shadow Ball + an Elemental Punch
For the intents of the graphic matchups we used Thunder Punch, which is what we generally believe to be the best for this meta - but all have play. Given the expected prevalence of certain Water-types as well as the fact that Hypno can handle the Grass-types without Fire or Ice Punch (since Tangela, Parasect, and the eggs are the only ones without a Poison sub-typing) Thunder Punch just seems well positioned to cover Alolan Graveler. Shadow Ball seems necessary in this meta for two matchups in particular - the mirror match and Alolan Marowak. Without it you’re really struggling through both of those, and they’re likely to show up a good amount. As already stated, Hypno covers Fighting-types for Alolan Graveler and Snorlax alike. But beyond that it just covers an immense amount of the meta between its 3 different damage typings and its amazing stats.
Alolan Graveler Volt Switch + Rock Blast + Stone Edge
Alolan Golem Volt Switch + Wild Charge + Rock Blast or Stone Edge
A double-rock moveset might seem… iffy but it’s actually pretty strong in Kanto. With no real Steel or Ground-types in the expected meta the only thing that resists Rock is Fighting, which is going to pummel away at Alolan Graveler anyway. Alolan Golem also works in this spot, swapping either of the moves for Wild Charge to give it either a similar bait playstyle or a double-heavy-hitter closing pattern. Some matchups change between the two but they’re generally playing comparably. In stark contrast to the bulky Hypno, the two rocks are very much “go down hard swinging”. The slightest advantage and they can cause a ton of carnage, but slip up and things can go badly quickly.
Snorlax Lick + Body Slam + Superpower
Jack of all trades, master of none. Snorlax offers a ton of power behind Lick and Body Slam alone, dealing rapid heavy-hitting Slams… which are neutral at best. Likewise its mono-normal typing is largely going to be neutral - fearing Fighters but offering safety against Ghosts. And that safety against Ghosts (as well as Lick’s super-effective damage) is very important, since we’re pairing Body Slam with another doubly-resisted-by-ghosts move in Superpower. Outside of Ghost-types, these two charge moves offer oppressive coverage and extreme power. Both having some of the best damage you can get for such low amounts of energy, the pair really lets you pummel down anything that cannot outlast a few hits - and even some things that can! Its crewmates here of Hypno and Alolan Graveler both like the coverage that Snorlax brings to the table but really don’t want to see one themselves - it can tear through the two.
Wigglytuff Charm + Ice Beam + Play Rough Primeape Counter + Night Slash + Close Combat or Cross Chopª Dragonair Dragon Breath + Aqua Tail + Dragon Pulse Alolan Sandslash Powder Snow + Ice Punch + Bulldoze or Gyro Ball Parasect Bug Biteª (or Fury Cutter) + X-Scissor + Solar Beam Raichu Volt Switch + Wild Charge + Brick Break
— Shadow Machamp + Dewgong + Alolan Marowak —
Fair warning to anyone eyeing up Dewgong - its mirror match will give you Bronzor flashbacks! These three make for a somewhat specialized line - there are specific things you want to pair your Alolan Marowak against as well as your Shadow Machamp. But nonetheless this trio is able to take down a good deal of the meta between them, largely on the power that each individual member provides.
Dewgong Ice Shardª + Icy Windª + Water Pulse
We’re nearing a year since Icy Wind got its extreme buff and battlers everywhere started searching for double legacy Dewgong. At this point it’s much less of a rarity - any player who has reached rank 7 in two successive seasons can build their own! And especially for the Kanto Cup it is worth that heavy price! Dewgong operates as a prime player of the game of attrition. Either it debuffs the opposing Pokémon and either wins or makes it an effective punching bag for the next member of its own team, or it causes a swap - which this team has plenty of opportunity to punish if and when it happens.
Alolan Marowak Fire Spin + Shadow Boneª + Bone Club
A much more accessible legacy move, Alolan Marowak just had its raid day on Halloween and is now ready to bone down the competition. Doing exactly what you’d expect, Alolan Marowak is able to take down every Grass-type, Bug-type, Fairy-type, and Psychic-type in the Kanto Cup, making it exceedingly good coverage for these two core-mates and especially good for covering Shadow Machamp’s behind. Shadow Ball still definitely has play if you don’t have a Shadow Bone Marowak, and it even has benefits (such as closing power in the mirror) so there are options for the nuanced player. The core of Alolan Marowak - of heavy hitting Fire and Ghost-type damage - is what is important and that works regardless of which Shadow move you use.
Shadow Machamp Counter + Cross Chop + Rock Slide
Four shadowy fists coming right at your face! Shadow Machamp really gives most Pokémon in Great League a run for their money in terms of damage, testing the limits of even the bulkiest players. In Kanto Cup, it’s no different. In this core specifically, it does a lot of work taking down the Alolan rocks (Graveler and Golem) that give both Dewgong and Alolan Marowak trouble. It additionally puts a pummeling on Lapras which can otherwise roll over the other two as well.
Alolan Raichu Volt Switch + Wild Charge + Thunder Punch Poliwrath Bubble + Ice Punch + Dynamic Punch Golduck Confusion + Cross Chop + Bubble Beam Gyarados Dragon Breath + Aqua Tailª + Crunch Gengar/Haunter Shadow Claw + Shadow Punchª + Shadow Ball Slowbro Confusion + Psychic + Ice Beam
*note that Shadow Punch is an exclusive move for Gengar but not Haunter
— Lapras + Venusaur + Alolan Muk —
A couple of Kantonian classics paired with an Alolan adversary! Venusaur and Lapras are a classically strong pairing in PvP and they continue to hold that distinction in Kanto Cup. Of the condensed meta, only four Pokémon take down both in the 1S and all of those four (Alolan Marowak, Haunter, Gengar, and Shadow Machamp) require shield baiting in one or both matchups. For three of those four, Alolan Muk's Dark-typing comes in very handy. The fourth not so much, but I'd consider Venusaur's matchup vs Machamp (in either variation) anything but one-sided. Beyond that, however, Alolan Muk is just an amazing blob of sludge. Kantonian Pokémon were not balanced around Dark-typing existing and its advantages are numerous in a meta where Hypno and Alolan Marowak are expected to be power players. Its coverage of these 2 really help it in this core to act as a further bodyguard to Venusaur.
Venusaur Vine Whip + Frenzy Plantª + Sludge Bomb
The first starter in the first generation, we're going to visit Venusaur first. Venusaur does what you want it to do - taking down the Water-types, Fairies, and most Electric-types while additionally doing its secondary job of winning matchups against every other Grass-type (no Tropius, Abomasnow, or Ferrothorn in Kanto!). An important matchup that is relevant in Kanto Cup is the Venusaur vs Lapras matchup. Some PvP veterans have surely played out this matchup from both perspectives multiple times. The short of it is that the 1S matchup (and possibly the 2S matchup depending on IVs) comes down to charge move timing. If the Venusaur player uses Frenzy Plant as soon as it's available then they give the Lapras player an extra "free" turn of fast move which is granted during the Frenzy Plant animation - which allows the Lapras player to win the matchup if they time their Surfs correctly. On the other hand if the Venusaur player times their Frenzy Plants correctly - using the move at the end of a Lapras' Ice Shard - they reach their second Frenzy Plant at the same time as the second Surf on Lapras and cause a CMP tie that Venusaur wins. If that sounds needlessly complex then I'm sorry - because it is. But it's a needlessly complex mechanic that can completely decide that matchup and that's good information to know in this format.
"I don't have a Venusaur with its CD move"
Ivysaur is usually a replacement, but be warned that it does lack some of the oomph that Venusaur has. It can do most of the job that Venusaur wants to do in those key one-sided matchups. And if you do bring a purified Ivysaur there is some merit to Return - like beating Venusaur itself! But again, I would recommend this only if you do not have the Frenzy Plant Venusaur. Anyway, on to Lapras!
Lapras Ice Shardª + Surf + Skull Bash
A plesiosaur that you cannot ignore! Lapras has been blessed with both amazing stats and an amazing moveset for battles, which help it take a very strong position in Kanto Cup. Outlasting many Pokémon while flipping other matchups with the slightest energy lead, the tanky dino can really offer many teams an amazing generalist that pairs up quite nicely with the other two in this trio. As above, the Venusaur matchup is one to remember. While it's of less importance to the Lapras player (the Venusaur player is the one who can cement their own victory) it is important to be able to recognize when the opponent has not timed their moves correctly and how you can capitalize on it. Another important matchup is the mirror match. While it might seem nice to bait a shield out with Surf - since Lapras players are inclined to shield the first Skull Bash - that is what I would consider a high-risk/low-reward bait. By not opting for Skull Bash initially, you miss out on the Defense boost and actually can wind up tying or losing the matchup anyway depending on IVs. And if the opponent calls your bluff and doesn't shield your Surf you're really up a creek. Just some thought-food.
Alolan Muk Snarl + Dark Pulse + Sludge Wave
Finally, something without any legacy moves! Alolan Muk is - much like Lapras - a solid generalist with some fast-charging, heavy-hitting charge moves. Having recently featured Alolan Grimer in the Halloween event, this Pokémon should be heavily accessible and acts as an amazing add-in to any team in the Kanto Cup. As many know by this point the Dark/Poison typing gives only one weakness - Ground. And not only are there no Ground-types expected to be key meta players, there are only 3 Ground-type moves that I can expect to see in that core meta: Drill Run from Beedrill, Bone Club from Alolan Marowak, and Bulldoze from Alolan Sandslash. That's not a lot of threat to Alolan Muk.
Ninetales Fire Spin + Psyshock + Overheat Beedrill Poison Jab + Drill Runª + X-Scissor Shadow Hitmonchan Counter + Thunder Punch + Ice Punch or Fire Punch Shadow Machamp Counter + Cross Chop + Rock Slide Shadow Pinsir Fury Cutter + X-Scissor + Close Combat Shadow Zapdos Thunder Shockª + Drill Peck + Thunderbolt
Hope you found the graphics 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!