Safe and Sacrificial Switching in Sunrise Cup
Special Thanks: u/PolymersUp
— The Setup —
Pokémon GO PvP is sometimes described as Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS). If you lead with Rock and your opponent leads with Paper, some might say that’s game over. Except, sometimes it isn’t. Safe Switching and the Sacrificial Swap are strategies that can help you reduce the RPS nature of lead calls, regain your footing, and climb your way back into the match.
Thanks as always to PvPoke for supporting simulations. Also if you love discussing Cup Metas, come join in on the daily discussion at GO Stadium and forge new friendships with people as passionate about Meta discussion as you. If any terms or abbreviations are unfamiliar to you, please read the section at the bottom of the post for an explanation.
— Concentrated Meta —
This Safe and Sacrificial Switch analysis focuses on Pokemon in the following concentrated Sunrise Cup Meta. Pokemon outside of this concentrated Meta will be looked at situationally.
Fire Types: Alolan Marowak
Flying Types: Altaria, Articuno, Shadow Articuno, Drifblim, Mantine, Pelipper, Skarmory, Zapdos, Shadow Zapdos
Grass Types: Abomasnow, Shadow Abomasnow, Ferrothorn
Ground Types: Quagsire, Stunfisk (Galarian), Swampert, Whiscash
Normal Types: Obstagoon, Vigoroth, Wigglytuff
— Featured Pokemon —
Mantine Bubble + Bubble Beam + Ice Beam
Clean Wins (All Even-Shield, Even Energy Scenarios)
Using straight Bubble Beam: Alolan Marowak, Galarian Stunfisk, and Swampert. Mantine does not need to block an early Rock Slide to counter Galarian Stunfisk, and can instead decide later to match shield for shield.
Using straight Ice Beam: Drifblim, Swampert, and Whiscash. Drifblim gets very close in the 2 shield scenario. Swampert can also be won with straight Bubble Beam, so it comes down to a player preference. Whiscash may require using a Bubble Beam to finish it off, as Mantine cannot take two Blizzards.
Situational Wins (Some Even-Shield Scenarios)
Wins the 0S and 1S matchups against Altaria with straight Ice Beam. The 1S matchup can get very close depending on IVs. Can win 2S with a shield bait.
0S wins against Obstagoon, Vigoroth, and Pelipper. 0S matchup with Skarmory comes down to CMP, so whichever has the higher attack stat wins. All these matchups are using straight Ice Beam until the opponent is in range to finish with Bubble Beam.
Bait-dependent or IV dependent 1S matchups with Articuno, Pelipper, Obstagoon, Skarmory, Vigoroth, and Wigglytuff.
Loses 0S and 1S to Shadow Articuno, but can pick up a bait-dependent 2S win.
Wins 2S against Quagsire with straight Bubble Beam (make sure to block the first two Stone Edges)
Wins with Energy Advantage
With one Bubble of energy advantage, Mantine picks up some winning scenarios with Shadow Articuno (bait-dependent 1S win) and Zapdos (can win 1S with bait if Zapdos does not bait).
With one Bubble of energy advantage, wins all even shield scenarios with Ludicolo using straight Ice Beam (as long as Energy Ball does not drop its defense stat).
Abomasnow and Ferrothorn are strong choices to block a Mantine switch and are two of Mantine’s biggest threats. Both have consistent winning conditions, but need to avoid getting double shield baited (make sure not to block one of the first two charge moves). Ferrothorn wins with straight Thunder. Ferrothorn can also win most scenarios using Power Whip (should it be running Flash Cannon as a second move or go for a bait), but has a few additional losing conditions. Abomasnow can win by using straight Weather Ball to start as its first two charge moves. If Mantine blocks once, it can start using Energy Balls to finish it off.
Electric types are a huge threat to Mantine thanks to its double weakness. It has a few winning scenarios with Zapdos and Unova Stunfisk, but these matchups are generally unfavourable for Mantine and it struggles to keep up. Emolga is the Electric type that Mantine struggles the most with. It has the blazing speed of Thunder Shock and Discharge that Unova Stunfisk has, but without the weakness to Water moves and more attack power for its electric moves. Emolga does need to be careful about allowing Mantine to land an Ice Beam, and should be prepared to use shields on possible Bubble Beams shield-baits to ensure it comes out on top.
Linoone puts huge pressure on Mantine with the threat of Thunder. Though Linoone can lose the 2S scenarios if Mantine can land one Ice Beam, it has clear 0S and 1S matchup wins.
Sacrifice Switch Potential
Mantine’s Bubble Beam can potentially soften up the opponent’s counter switch, which in turn could be farmed for energy. In this sense, Mantine has some potential as a Sacrifice Switch. You will want to examine your opponent’s team composition to see what their likely answer to Mantine would be, and which Pokemon you would be able to use to generate that energy farm. For example, Galarian Stunfisk can farm energy on trapped Electric/Flying type Pokemon, who cannot threaten much damage in return.
Mantine is a centralizing figure in the Sunrise Cup Safe Switching Meta, as it has a number of strong neutral matchups, relatively few hard counters, and the ability to set-up energy farm situations for its teammates by softening up the counter-switch with Bubble Beam. Teams should come prepared with at least one strong counter to Mantine on their team of 6 (Ferrothorn, Abomasnow, Zapdos, Emolga, Unova Stunfisk, Linoone) to keep opponents from using the Safe Switch without hesitation.
— Alternative Switch Options —
Sunrise Cup is filled with a number of close matchups due to being filled with a lot of bulky Pokemon with good coverage. This means a lot of Pokemon could be viable as a Safe Switch candidate. Here is a rundown of the remaining Meta options, with their pros and cons.
Galarian Stunfisk is a central Meta figure, which has a fast energy generation with Mud Shot and strong coverage with Rock Slide and Earthquake. It makes for a strong Safe Switch option to consider. With one Mud Shot of energy, it picks up a win against Pelipper and has a better chance at defeating Drifblim, rendering each of those poor choices to immediately counter the switch. However, Galarian Stunfisk’s position in the Meta means that opponents likely will have answers ready on their Team of 6 you will need to watch out for. Swampert is a strong response, but has to be careful in the 2S scenario where Galarian Stunfisk can win if it can land one Earthquake. Mantine is another strong response, though lacks power and might be forced to use an extra shield to secure the matchup at an energy disadvantage. Vigoroth and Obstagoon are strong responses that win in all even shield scenarios, though Galarian Stunfisk can sometimes use an extra shield to win the 2v1 against Vigoroth. Whiscash and Ludicolo are amongst the hardest Galarian Stunfisk counters, both of which at even energy can win at a 1v0 shield disadvantage (however, not when Stunfisk has a one Mud Shot energy advantage, so they will need to match shield for shield on a counter switch).
Pseudo-Fighter Vigoroth combines a strong Fast move in Counter with a quick, spammy Charge move in Body Slam, which gives it the potential to be a Safe Switching star. However, it is held back by one extremely negative matchup with Drifblim, which double or triple resists every single one of Vigoroth’s moves. Outside of Drifblim, Vigoroth is an excellent candidate to use as a Safe Switch. It is threatened by a number of Flying types but generally doing a lot of damage to them in return (sans Drifblim of course). Fellow Pseudo-Fighter Obstagoon lacks Vigoroth’s power due to Cross Chop and Night Slash each having only 50 power compared to Body Slam’s 60 power, and loses head-to-head with Vigoroth due to its double weakness to Fighting. However, it has a much stronger Drifblim matchup and has the potential for Night Slash attack boosts to change the matchup.
Grass types Ferrothorn and Abomasnow have a significant weak spot as Safe Switches: Both are double weak to Fire and have to be careful of getting farmed down by Alolan Marowak and other Fire types. Outside of Fire types, they can have a lot of play as a switch as they both can potentially win 0S against Vigoroth and grab a shield advantage. However, Vigoroth will finish this shield-disadvantage scenario with a lot of energy if it farms down, which means you would need a Pokemon like Skarmory to limit the damage Vigoroth can do with the energy. Abomasnow in particular picks up a number of matchups with just one Powder Snow of energy, including both versions of Articuno and the 1S Galarian Stunfisk matchup (by landing an Energy Ball), which only Shadow Abomasnow can win without energy advantage. Shadow Abomasnow can pick up a 1S Skarmory win with one Powder Snow of energy. Ferrothorn does not pick up as many wins with energy advantage, but one Bullet Seed of energy improves its chances at the matchup with Drifblim and Articuno with shield bait.
The three Meta Water/Ground types generate energy quickly, but have a weak spot as a Safe Switch due to their one weakness to Grass, a double weakness to be precise. Ferrothorn is a hard counter to all three of them, as are other Grass types like Venusaur, Shiftry, and Meganium. Swampert has the advantage of being able to defeat Abomasnow if it can play its cards right with shield-baiting, but has little answer to an Altaria counter-switch and struggles with Water/Flying types. Whiscash struggles more with Abomasnow than Swampert does, but has more of a fight against Altaria thanks to the threat of Blizzard. Whiscash has similar struggles with the Water/Flying types. Quagsire is a hybrid of Swampert and Whiscash in terms of coverage, lacking a 40 energy Charge move to spam but instead bringing two Power moves in Stone Edge and Earthquake. Quagsire has a fighting chance against Abomasnow and Altaria, while also putting significant pressure on Water/Flying types Mantine and Pelipper. Against Abomasnow, it needs to land a Stone Edge and avoid getting hit by Energy Ball, though it still generally loses and that loss can be very hard. Against Altaria, it can win the 0S scenario and grab a shield advantage.
Altaria carries significant risk as a Safe Switch, due to a number of negative matchups with Galarian Stunfisk, Abomasnow, Articuno, and Wigglytuff. On a similar note, Zapdos is hard walled by Galarian Stunfisk. Neither is advisable to use in the Safe Switch role, unless the opposing team lacks these counters.
Skarmory has potential as a Safe Switch, due to holding up better against Galarian Stunfisk than Altaria or Zapdos does. It still loses the matchup but can keep it closer due to taking neutral damage from Rock Slide and having the hard-hitting Brave Bird, which does solid damage even when resisted. It needs to look out for Electric types (Zapdos, Emolga, Unova Stunfisk) and Alolan Marowak (though it does have a fighting chance against AWak).
Icy Wind users have strong potential use as a Safe Switch, due to a number of solid neutral matchups and the ability to threaten lowering the opponent’s attack stat. Drifblim puts up a good fight outside of Abomasnow, Articuno, Wigglytuff, Linoone, and Unova Stunfisk, all of which it needs to be on the lookout for. If using Drifblim as a Safe Switch, you will want a very High Stat product to keep the matchup with Abomasnow from being a blowout. Articuno has fewer truly negative matchups and is a Pokemon to keep an eye out for as a Safe Switch. With one Ice Shard of energy advantage, Articuno wins against Quagsire in all even shield scenarios, and defeats Zapdos in both 0S and 2S. It has two Pokemon it is mainly afraid of in Galarian Stunfisk and Alolan Marowak. Against Galarian Stunfisk, Articuno will need to use both shields to keep the matchup close, which could set-up an energy farm situation as Stunfisk is left with relatively low HP. Against Alolan Marowak, Articuno can land a Hurricane or Ancient Power and lose the 0S scenario, but set-up a Pokemon like Mantine to farm energy. As for Shadow Articuno, it drops the Quagsire win in 0S and 1S that standard Articuno gets with one Ice Shard of energy, but picks up Galarian Stunfisk in the 2S scenario. Shadow Articuno also has a small chance to defeat Alolan Marowak if it lands a Hurricane, due to the increased power of the move, though this will come at the cost of a shield disadvantage, and high stat product Alolan Marowak may still just hang on and win. Considering this, it would be recommended to use the Shadow Version when using Articuno as a Safe Switch, mainly due to the improved Galarian Stunfisk matchup. However, both versions of Articuno can do wonders as a Safe Switch.
Mantine was the Safe Switch feature for the month, but how does Pelipper stack up? It doesn’t seem to have quite the same potential, but still has its own merits. The positives is that it has a much closer matchup with Abomasnow and can even potentially defeat Ferrothorn if it can land Hurricane and avoid getting hit by Thunder. For the negatives, it struggles more against the Electric/Flying types without the threat of Mantine’s Ice Beam, has a harder time with Skarmory and Altaria, and cannot switch in against Galarian Stunfisk due to losing as an energy disadvantage in all even shield scenarios.
Wigglytuff, as it has been in previous Metas, is inflexible as a Safe Switch due to slow energy generation. It does not want to see Steel types Galarian Stunfisk, Ferrothorn, and Skarmory, and also loses to Alolan Marowak (though the matchup is close due to Wigglytuff neutralizing the threat of Shadow Ball). However, outside of these matchups, Wigglytuff is a dominant force to be reckoned with. It is not advisable to use as a Safe Switch, and is better used as a Pokemon that you stick on your opponent’s Pokemon, as opposed to you switching Wigglytuff into the battle and allowing your opponent to decide which Pokemon they want to counter it with.
— Takeaways —
Mantine was showcased as one of the strongest Safe Switch candidates. Use the detailed analysis to help you prepare for running it as a Safe Switch and for facing it as an opposing Safe Switch. Make sure you are packing at least one counter on your team of six to deter it.
Articuno (both Shadow and non-Shadow) have very strong potential as Safe Switches due to having minimal hard counter matchups. Shadow Articuno is recommended for the improved Galarian Stunfisk matchup, winning in 2S.
A number of other Pokemon have Safe Switch potential but have common Meta hard counters to watch out for. This group includes Galarian Stunfisk, Abomasnow, Ferrothorn, Swampert, Whiscash, Quagsire, Skarmory, Drifblim, and Pelipper.
It is not advisable to consider using Altaria, Zapdos, or Wigglytuff as a Safe Switch, unless your opponent is lacking a hard counter.
— Terms and Abbreviations —
A Safe Switch is a Pokémon that is well-suited to switch in against your opponent should you find yourself immediately in a bad position from the lead. While the opponent reacts and switches to an appropriate counter (called a Counter Switch), the Safe Switch often gains a slight energy advantage on the incoming Pokémon. Safe Switches often have solid matchups across the core Meta, have excellent coverage move options to threaten their top counters, and ideally can flip some losses to wins with a modest energy lead. When executed well, this usually nets the trainer a win along with switch advantage or possibly a loss with a shield advantage, a much better situation than they were in initially. Hex Dusclops in Sinister Cup was an example of this strategy in action. For Safe Switching scenarios, we will focus on 1S matchups, since you often will need to invest one shield to flip the initial matchup. Situationally, we will look at 2S matchups since we are discussing how to recover from a bad lead, and using both shields is an option if winning switch advantage is paramount.
A Sacrificial Swap is a Pokémon that is used as bait to draw out the opposing hard counter, which often is then subsequently farmed by the next Pokémon. An excellent example of this was Quagsire or Whiscash in Tempest Cup. They could be switched in to draw out the opposing Tropius or Abomasnow, get defeated quickly, and allow Skarmory or Altaria to farm energy against the now trapped Grass type.
Clean Wins (All Even Shield Scenarios) The featured Pokemon gets consistent wins from even energy in the 0v0, 1v1, and 2v2 shield scenarios.
Situational Wins (Some Even Shield Scenarios) The featured Pokemon gets situational wins and losses depending on shield baiting or different shield scenarios.
Wins with Energy Advantage The featured Pokemon can potentially pick up these wins with energy advantage.
Meta Threats: If your opponent brings one of these Pokémon, you should be cautious of overusing the Safe Switch.
Sacrificial Switch Potential: A description on whether the Safe Switch can be transformed into a Sacrifice Swap for some of its counter-switch threats.
Verdict: A brief conclusion of the effectiveness of this Pokémon as a Switch.
Here, we use 0S, 1S, and 2S to refer to various even-shield scenarios. Shield baiting is when you use a lower energy charge move to draw a shield from your opponent prior to landing the higher DPE move. Occasionally, we will use a Move Sequence Summary to illustrate a bait-dependent matchup, such as (BC)-SB-BC—this means the first Bone Club was shielded and A-Marowak needs to land both a Shadow Ball and a Bone Club to win.
High Stat Product (SP) is generally preferred when optimizing IVs for PvP in Great or Ultra League due to the CP caps; however, breakpoint and bulkpoint considerations can provide a pivotal edge against your competition in key matchups. A breakpoint (BrP) is an Attack value threshold at which your fast (or charge) move now does more damage per move in a specific matchup. These are not generalizable as they are dependent on multiple factors: base move damage, your Attack value, and your opponent’s Defense value. Conversely, a bulkpoint (BuP) is the Defense value threshold at which you prevent a specific opposing Pokémon from reaching a BrP.
L denotes a Legacy move
CMP – Charge Move Priority
DPT – Damage per Turn
EPT – Energy per Turn
DPE – Damage per Energy
STAB – Same-Type Attack Bonus