The Boulder Cup Meta

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From January 6th through the 31st the Silph Arena is having their first themed tournament season, the Boulder Cup. In this format players will battle in the Great League with a restriction of only using Fighting, Ground, Steel, and Rock-type Pokemon. While the GamePress team is nearly finished polishing off our Great League content in general, players might want to know sooner than later what’s big in Boulder.

For more information on the Silph League and the Boulder Cup, click here.


The Rock: Boulder's Best

Limiting the Great League to Fighting, Ground, Steel, and Rock-type Pokemon causes Fighting and Ground-type Pokemon to dominate both in theory and in practice. Counter, the premier Fighting-type fast move, is one of few moves that are unbalanced in energy gains and power compared to other attacks. Mud Shot, the premier Ground-type fast move, is one of the three highest energy gaining moves in the game. Nearly any Pokemon with these attacks will be a major threat in the Boulder Cup. The advantages and disadvantages of each Pokemon are highlighted below.

Counter + Dynamic Punch and Ice Punch

With a CP cap of 1431, Medicham is one of few Pokemon that are literally built for the Great League. What makes this Pokemon stand out even more in the Boulder Cup is how it performs the Fighting-type role with STAB Counter spam while overcoming competitive Fighting-types with its Psychic sub-typing resistance. Medicham’s main drawback is how steep of an investment it is as you will have to max it out to get the most mileage out of it. If the cost of Medicham is too high for you, Toxicroak makes a decent replacement to fulfill the role of a Fighting-type countering Fighting-type; however, this Poison-type frog will take losses to Mud Shot users.

Mud Shot + Mud Bomb and Blizzard

Whiscash already stands out in the Great League meta for having the fastest, most powerful Ground-type damage in the League. The combination of Mud Shot and Mud Bomb is akin to the Thunder Shock + Thunderbolt combo held by most Electric-type Pokemon, allowing Whiscash to overcome most neutral matchups through rapid charge move activation. Having only one weakness is just the icing on the cake. Having access to Blizzard is important for Whiscash as without it Daddy Cash will be 100% vulnerable to Skarmory, Gliscor, and Breloom.

Mud Shot + Mub Bomb and Surf

You can think of Marshtomp as a baby version of Whiscash. At a base, Whiscash will be the better option for Mud Bomb spam. What allows Marshtomp to stand out is its access to Surf, allowing it to more consistently overcome the Flying-type threats of the Boulder Cup. The one caveat is Marshtomp will take a hard loss to Breloom, but Whiscash’s chances were slim to begin with. Swampert may also be considered, filling a similar role to Marshtomp. The key difference is it trades Mud Bomb spam for the powerful, but slow, Earthquake.

Counter + Seed Bomb and Dynamic Punch

With all the Ground, Water, and (later highlighted) Electric-type damage going through the Boulder Cup, Breloom is the only Grass-type strong enough to bring them to heel. Medicham can handle these Pokemon for the most part, but Breloom’s resistances and Seed Bomb access allow it to delete Water and Ground-type Pokemon while taking nothing more than a scratch itself. It just has to be a bit more cautious of Flying-type Pokemon as Breloom is a free lunch for them.

Mud Shot + Dragon Claw and Earthquake

Having access to Dragon Claw, Flygon is the type of Pokemon that will always be a threat in the Great League. If given the right circumstances, its rapid Dragon Claw spam allows it overcome most neutral matchups. However, if the opponent has an energy advantage or more shields, Flygon can easily fall behind. Worse yet, Flygon can’t even touch Skarmory with a single neutral hit. Stone Edge could be considered, but it won’t get Flygon much further in the Skarmory matchup.

Bubble or Mud Shot + Dynamic Punch and Ice Punch

What Poliwrath lacks in Counter access it makes up for in Bubble. With Bubble, Poliwrath is able to flex on Gliscor, Gligar, and Magcargo better than any other Fighting-type in the Boulder Cup. How much these Pokemon threaten your team composition will determine if Poliwrath is a good fit for you. The legacy move Mud Shot is also a viable option on Poliwrath, offering less damage for faster energy gains. Overall, Bubble is the better option as Mud Shot will only likely help you in Poliwrath mirror matchups.

Counter + Ice Punch, Thunder Punch, Fire Punch, Brick Break, and/or Close Combat

Hitmonchan makes up for its fragility with its coverage. Between Counter, Ice Punch, and Thunder Punch, Hitmonchan can land a solid hit on every Pokemon in the Boulder Cup meta. Ice Punch helps counter Gliscor, Flygon and Breloom. Thunder Punch gives Hitmonchan the advantage over Skarmory and Poliwrath. Fire Punch covers nearly any Steel-type and Breloom. If you feel any of those bases are covered well enough, then Brick Break or Close Combat will offer better neutral damage.

The Paper: Skarmory

Best Moveset: Air Slash + Sky Attack

Note: No need for a second charge move

If Fighting and Ground-type Pokemon are the “Rocks” of the Boulder Cup, then Skarmory is the “Paper.” Overall, Steel-type Pokemon struggle to stand out in the Boulder Cup due to the prevalence of Fighting and Ground-type Pokemon. However, Skarmory’s Flying sub-typing offers it a double resistance to Ground and a single resistance to Fighting. This turns Skarmory’s Ground-type weakness into a Ground-type single resistance and it’s Fighting-type weakness into neutral damage. While Counter is a powerful neutral move in PvP, Skarmory’s STAB Flying-type fast and charge moves tilts the matchup in its favor.

Best Moveset: Fury Cutter or Wing Attack + Aerial Ace and Earthquake or Night Slash

Gliscor and Gligar also function well in the Boulder Cup, just not as well as Skarmory. Their advantage lies in maintaining Flying-type’s resistance to Fighting and double resistance to Ground while covering Flying-type’s weakness to Electric with Ground-type’s double resistance (turning it into a single resistance). Their fault lies in being vulnerable to the Ice and Water-type damage present in many of the Bould Cup’s best Pokemon. That and they can’t stop Skarmory. Overall, both are worthy options to add to a Boulder Cup team. Any moveset combination is effective, just stay away from Gligar’s Dig unless you want to truly surprise your opponents as it has terrible damage for the energy cost.

The Scissors: What Beats Skarmory

Skarmory’s power over Fighting and Ground-type Pokemon may seem oppressive to the meta, but it actually opens the doors for Steel-type Pokemon to actually have a chance in the Boulder Cup as Skarmory counters. The best way to counter a Pokemon is to resist its damage and hit back super effectively. This concept is most salient in Magcargo, Melmetal, Magneton, and Magnemite. Another route to success is to just resist their damage and hit back for neutrally like Steelix does, or to put yourself on Skarmory’s level but just hit back harder like Metagross. While all of these Pokemon do a great job of taking out the Boulder Cup’s most centralizing threat, you can only select so many Pokemon for your team. The advantages and disadvantages of each Pokemon are highlighted below.

Ember + Stone Edge

If a Skarmory counter is needed, why not use one that can also counter other Skarmory counters? The main risk to using Magcargo is just how helpless it is against the Fighting and Ground-type Pokemon in the meta. For Magcargo's charge moves, just like with Heatran in the Master League, Magcargo’s Fire-type charge moves are traps. Stick with Stone Edge and maybe unlock the 2nd charge move to seal the deal against Steel-type threats should they have no shield.

Thunder Shock + Thunderbolt and/or Rock Slide

Any League that allows Melmetal will see Melmetal. Melmetal’s Steel-typing doesn’t offer it any advantages against the Fighting and Ground-type Pokemon of the meta, but its fast Thunderbolt use means they can’t take it too easy. All Melmetal needs is Thunderbolt, but having Rock Slide unlocked could help it out against Gliscor.

Spark or Thunder Shock + Discharge (Thunderbolt)

Magneton and Magnemite function similarly to Melmetal but may be more accessible for some trainers. Unfortunately, Magneton requires the legacy move Discharge and Magnemite would need to be maxed out which could be steep Stardust investment. Given their Steel and Electric-typing, they have an advantage over Melmetal itself, resisting its attacks while dealing neutral damage themselves. If you use either of them, you’ll have to be wary of Gliscor and Mud Shot users.

Dragon Tail + Crunch and Earthquake

Like Magcargo, Steelix excels at countering both Skarmory and other Skarmory counters. With Dragon Tail, Crunch, and Earthquake, it may fare better against the rest of the meta than Magcargo would and has the opportunity to counter Magcargo itself. Be aware that Steelix may find itself to be too slow to be threatening in many matchups though.

Bullet Punch + Meteor Mash and Earthquake

Metagross is more flakey of a Skarmory counter but can get the job done. Between Meteor Mash and Earthquake it can also handle itself well against the other Steel-types and the Fighting-types of the meta. It’s biggest drawback is that most Pokemon in the arena are faster and tankier than it.  


Surprisingly, restricting the Great League meta to a handful of types isn’t as limiting as you’d think it is. In fact, this restricting gives more credence towards using Pokemon that don’t get to see much action such as Magcargo, Gliscor, and Hitmonchan. It will be interesting to see what future Silph Arena Cups look like.

As far as team composition goes in the Boulder Cup, it appears like you’ll for sure want to use a Skarmory. You could get away with soft countering the metal bird with Surf Marshtomp and/or Thunder/Fire Punch Hitmonchan, but it could be mindful to include a dedicated Skarmory counter or two. It will be interesting to see which strategies and Pokemon rise to the top this month.