During the month of April, players looking for competitive play will challenge each other in the Kingdom Cup, the Silph Arena’s new format inspired by Game of Thrones: participants will have to bring a party of 6 unique pokémon under 1500 CP with Ice, Fire, Dragon or Steel-typing. As always, with a rapidly forming metagame, we at GamePress tried to analyze it through extensive simulations on GoBattleSim and a lot of first-hand experience.
The metagame of the Kingdom Cup might be the most complex and varied we’ve had so far, although it’s heavily centralized around one particular pokemon (like the Boulder and Twilight Cups) and it features many polarized matchups that will force switches and consequent counter-switches (like the previous Tempest Cup). The very limited availability of a couple of essential meta staples has been lamented by many, so in this analysis, we’ll also do our best to find possible budget replacements and strategies to play around the absence of one particular key pokemon in your line-up.
Compared to the infographic below, this article will take a slightly different approach in order to highlight the main game of rock-paper-scissors that effectively rules the Kingdom meta. Legacy moves will be marked with an asterisk.
If there’s one pokemon that you absolutely need to bring in a Kingdom tournament, this is it. Lucario is the Sword that can cut (more like punch) down almost anything that comes on its path. The king of the meta that defines the rest of it, as was the case with Toxicroak in Twilight or Skarmory in Boulder.
Counter + Power-Up Punch + Shadow Ball
The recent addition of Power-Up Punch, a rapid charged move which boosts the Attack stat of the user every time it’s fired, made the Sinnoh mascotte a force to be reckoned with. Setting up multiple buffs is easy and it transforms the already hard-hitting Counter into a source of unstoppable, raw damage that will tear through everything that doesn’t resist it and even some things that do. If not accounted for, Lucario can sweep entire teams, and there aren’t many counters that can get out of a fight against it without at least a few scratches and one less shield. Shadow Ball as a secondary move (which you should unlock before evolving your Riolu to save resources!) provides important coverage and can one-shot most threats if buffed. Also, whether as an intended feature or not, it’s been proven that buffs will remain active even if the user gets switched out, an that only makes Lucario even more powerful and versatile.
However, there are a few minor downsides to it. The low bulk will require to usually invest at least one shield into it to get the most out of the Attack buffs (and it’s an investment with excellent returns), and the fact that it wants to get buffed as soon as possible might make it a bit predictable at times. You could make a competitive team without Lucario, but if you’ve got the chance to include one, it’s a must have.
If Lucario is the Sword of the Kingdom Cup, then this would be the Shield — actually the kind of shield that doesn’t block swords, but is cut in two by them instead. To put it simple, if Lucario is the rock, then Bastiodon would be our scissors.
Smack Down + Flamethrower + Stone Edge
The flat-faced dinosaur is the beefiest tank roaming the Great League, and also one of the most expensive ones. As it caps at right above 1500 CP it needs to be powered up a lot to be viable; with its very important second charged move costing 75 more candies, and given Shieldon’s rarity, you’ll most likely need to invest a lot of resources to take it to your local tournament. The good news is that if you caught a weather boosted level 35 Shieldon, you can also evolve and use that. It will perform only marginally worse than a level 38-40 one.
But is it worth the investment? Short answer, yes. Although the glaring double weaknesses to Fighting and Ground-types make it an easy target for king Lucario and a few others we’ll look at later, its sheer bulk coupled with Smack Down’s offensive power make it an infallible counter to pretty much anything else, whether it is cold, it flies or breathes fire. As the latter two are actually what Lucario fears most, and because the tanky Bastiodon almost never needs to waste shields in order to win its favorable matchups, the two actually work best in synergy!
Thunder Shock + Rock Slide + Thunderbolt
If you’re one of the many who can’t afford a Bastiodon, your best choice as an alternative would be Melmetal. It does the same jobs, although not as reliably. As it depends a lot on its powerful quick-fire charged moves (which apply a lot more shield pressure compared to Bastiodon’s), due to the weakness to Fire-types it will need to either have shields or hope to land Rock Slide as soon as possible to beat them. Melmetal doesn’t fare any better than Bastiodon against Fighting or Ground either because of its lower bulk, it’s not as consistent as an Ice counter, and actually loses to Bastiodon itself more often than not. It still handles Flying-types well, though — spoiler alert: it’s the third main group of the meta.
To truly have something on Bastiodon’s level, we should pray that Probopass gets released in April. It shares the same typing and matchups (only a bit worse against Water-types) and sports a flexible moveset, with both hard-hitting Rock moves and Electric ones like Melmetal. Magnet Bomb would also be viable as coverage for Ground-type counters.
The Air Force
After the Sword and the Shield, the last group of this complex game of rock-paper-scissors that is the Kingdom Cup is composed of the usual Flying-type suspects, or the Air Force if you will. They work well as answers to Lucario, but are countered hard by the Shield group. They’re also a lot cheaper and easier to obtain than the previous options: in fact, you likely already have at least one of them ready from previous cups. They’ll surely be common feats in every tournament.
Dragon Breath + Sky Attack + Dragon Pulse
Despite the repeated presence of Ice-types in order to keep it in check, the queen of the Great League makes it yet again as one of the top picks. One of its Sky Attack takes 70% of Lucario’s HP off and Dragon Breath hurts even if resisted, although it should be careful about Shadow Ball, which is going to hurt a lot especially if buffed. Altaria also beats other Lucario counters and has the advantage in the fast-paced fights against fellow Dragons. On the other hand, its not very effective moves only tickle Bastiodon and Melmetal.
Fire Spin + Blast Burn + Dragon Claw
The iconic Fire starter doesn’t boast nearly as much bulk as Altaria but, in this meta, it makes up for it in coverage. Its powerful Fire moveset allows it to melt Lucario a lot quicker (before leaving a chance to stack buffs) as well as threaten Steel- and Ice-types. It loses to Altaria, but multiple hits from the quick Dragon Claw will make a dent in it or force one shield. It will also practically faint as soon as Rock and Water enter the field.
Air Slash + Sky Attack + Flash Cannon
This time around, Skarmory seems like the odd bird out. It can mostly do the same jobs as Altaria, and even much better ones against Ice-types and Dragons. However, the Steel typing makes it more vulnerable to Fire and to Lucario’s buffed Counter damage — and beating it is supposed to be its whole purpose in the meta.
Countering the Sword
Flying-types are not the only ones that can take a beating from Lucario. Here are some other options with unique advantages which make them worth being picked along an Altaria or a Charizard as additional coverage against the king of the meta (and more).
Counter + Stone Edge* or Brave Bird + Overheat
So far, we looked over the fact that both the Sword and the Shield of the meta are very weak to Fighting. Actually, this means that even without great charged moves (at least until May), Blaziken will fill an essential role as the only hard counter to both Lucario and Bastiodon, destroying them with just the power of its Counter! If you’re one of the chosen ones with a Stone Edge variant, one of the rarest pokemon in the game, now is your time to shine: it will provide a nasty surprise for its main counters, Flying- and Water/Ice-types. If you don’t have it, no worries: Brave Bird works just as fine most of the time, as it’s the less expensive of its charged move. Much like Lucario, Blaziken is frail and might need the assistance of shields to finish its job. Even a Power-Up Punch can make it tremble, while Bastiodon’s Stone Edge destroys it. Monferno is a strict downgrade, but a viable option as it compensates the low damage output of Rock Smash with cheaper charged moves like Flamethrower and Low Sweep. Infernape, on the other hand, is just too slow to be useful with its Close Combat.
Hex or Rock Smash + Bone Club + Shadow Ball
The Ghost typing gives it a double resistance to Fighting moves which makes it a great counter to both Lucario and Blaziken, although against the former it must be very careful about shielding any possible Shadow Ball. Bone Club is a terrible charged move which offers useful coverage for Steel-types, but Marowak will need Rock Smash to keep Bastiodon in check too. With that set it also takes Lucario down more reliably, and hurts Ice-types which counter it with their Water moves. However, most neutral matchups (like the Flying-types) will get significantly worse, as Hex charges a lot faster and is the superior move in general. Both options are viable in the end, and that only adds to Marowak’s value.
Fire Spin + Flamethrower* + Psyshock
Fire Spin + Earthquake + Overheat
Ember + Weather Ball (Fire)
These Fire-types don’t fly like Charizard, and will be just as vulnerable to Rock, but they’re still great at killing Lucario. However, their utility in the meta looks quite limited outside of that role: they only can beat Ice-types that aren’t part Water and threaten Steel-types like Steelix and Melmetal, as long as they shield their super effective moves. Ninetales’ Psyshock allows it to also have positive matchups against fellow Fire-types like Blaziken and Charizard. If you somehow have it, know that Torkoal works best as a closer with its powerful Earthquake that can even let it go toe to toe with Bastiodon in the right scenario. Castform is pretty much the opposite, as it solely relies on spamming its way to success with Weather Ball. The last Fire starter left, Typhlosion doesn’t quite make the cut despite having Blast Burn. Due to its frailty, if running Shadow Claw it won’t be able to beat a Lucario with shields reliably, and with Ember, its other positive matchups are few and far between; it also has a prohibitive second charged move in Solar Beam.
Countering the Shield
Lucario, and to a lesser extent Blaziken, already make for great answers to the otherwise oppressive threat that is Bastiodon. However, there are quite a few other pokemon that can do that and be solid against the meta. If your team only has one Fighting attacker, you will probably benefit from the help of one of these guys.
Mud Shot + Earthquake + Dragon Claw or Stone Edge
After watching from the sidelines in both the Boulder and Tempest Cup, the dragon of the desert will finally get an important role in April. It is a quite fragile but incredible counter to Bastiodon and Melmetal, resisting all of their moves and deleting them with Earthquake, which Mud Shot charges relatively quickly. Lucario must use a shield against it too, but once that’s done, it will take down Flygon easily through Counter damage. The Fire-types of the group above don’t want anything to do with it, but it will be beaten more often than not by the Flying-types and be decimated by Ice. As for the secondary charged move, Dragon Claw and Stone Edge both have their perks and picking one or the other changes Flygon’s role in the team. With the former, it can bait shields really effectively and deal swift damage to other Dragons or neutral targets, while Stone Edge can make the difference in its usually negative matchups, but makes Flygon a bit less versatile and more of a slower, Quagsire-style finisher.
Dragon Tail + Earthquake + Crunch or Heavy Slam
Our longest boy proves to be a solid pick yet again, for 3 out of 4 cups so far! This time, its main goal is being a complete wall to both Altaria and Bastiodon; it also does well against all other Dragons and Marowak-A. On the other hand, Lucario, Charizard, Blaziken and Lapras tear through it with their super effective moves. Like for Flygon, Earthquake is its essential move, allowing it to one-shot Steel-types; Crunch and Heavy Slam are both viable, with the former edging it out against Fire and the latter benefiting from STAB in neutral scenarios.
Waterfall + Flash Cannon + Hydro Pump or Blizzard
The unique Water/Steel typing allows Empoleon to resist Bastiodon’s Smack Down, giving it a big advantage as it takes away big chunks of health with Waterfall, which also shuts down any Fire-type. It has close matchups with Flygon and Lapras too. Against Melmetal it’ll have a harder time, as it can’t afford to take any Electric hit, and being part Steel also leaves it vulnerable to Lucario. Flash Cannon is the only charged move it will have a chance to use most of the time, as Waterfall charges energy very slowly: it usually works best as a closer.
Mud Slap + Mud Bomb + Iron Head
As the only thing in the meta with consistent Ground-type damage, as well as a convenient double resistance to Rock, the fabulous triple mole seems made to hard counter Bastiodon and Melmetal alike. It deals big damage to Lucario too, despite still usually losing to it due to its own weakness to Fighting and terrible bulk. Dugtrio’s main issue is that it performs poorly against almost everything else: Flying- and Water-types delete it, as does Blaziken, while it has closer matchups with other Ground-types and Marowak-A. It’s a risky pick, that might pay off or easily make you pay.
Countering the Air Force
Having one of the following pokemon in your line-up would be highly recommended if you don’t have Bastiodon or at least Melmetal, as the dangerous Air Force would be able to have free reign otherwise. If you don’t swim in rare candies or stardust, that’s the way to keep your roster balanced and competitive. They’re also useful in other key matchups, so you can also consider bringing them alongside Bastiodon to give Flying-types a real good scare and lure in Lucario at the same time.
Water Gun or Ice Shard* + Ice Beam* or Dragon Pulse* + Surf
Don’t be fooled by its lower position in this article: Lapras is definitely a top pick for the Kingdom Cup. Its main problem is being weak to both Lucario and Bastiodon, although with Water Gun damage it puts up a fight and can even take the latter down sometimes! Running the full Water moveset also helps against all the Fire-types, but makes beating Altaria a lot harder as long as the opponent shields Ice Beam. This time having a legacy fast move isn’t by any means necessary, but with Ice Shard it becomes the best hard counter to all Dragons instead of a bulky generalist that can also do well against them. As for the charged moves, having either of the legacy ones is still recommended, with Ice Beam and Dragon Pulse synergizing best with Water Gun and Ice Shard respectively; however Surf is by far the most important move for Lapras in this meta, so even variants with Blizzard will likely work.
Powder Snow + Body Slam + Water Pulse
This seal’s habit of slamming its body around repeatedly won’t prove quite as effective now as it was in the Tempest Cup, due to the ubiquity of Steel-types that resist Normal moves. It’s still a consistent source of damage in neutral matchups and a bait for shields, and while maybe not as safe of a lead, Sealeo is still a great budget alternative to Lapras that wins against it in the mirror match. Powder Snow will be needed to take down Altaria and other Dragons like Flygon, which would be very hard (if not impossible) with Water Gun. It then should rely on being quite fast with its Water Pulse to threaten Fire-types.
Powder Snow + Avalanche + Shadow Ball
Powder Snow + Ice Beam + Psyshock
Powder Snow + Bulldoze + Avalanche or Stone Edge
They generally lose to their half-Water comrades and to Bastiodon, but their main role is as specialized Dragonslayers, each one with different key resistances and coverage. Froslass also does well against Fighting-types thanks to its secondary Ghost typing, while Ninetales is more vulnerable to Lucario but destroys Altaria and other Dragon Breath users better than most things. Although it can’t stand a chance against anything with Water or Fighting moves, Piloswine is able to turn the tables on Bastiodon and reliably take down Melmetal with the super effective Bulldoze.
The Wild Cards
The metagame of the Kingdom Cup doesn’t even end at the main three groups and their respective counters, which already makes for more than enough options. Sometimes throwing a curveball at your opponent is more important: these pokemon are great at that, and are actually some of the most well-rounded pokemon in the meta.
Dragon Breath + Aqua Tail + Dragon Pulse
Probably the most meta relevant pick of this group. Dragonair is one of the best generalists, as it only loses hard to Ice Shard Lapras and has slightly negative matchups against Lucario, Steelix and the rest of the Ice-types. Anything else will be a tie or a win: the damage from Dragon Breath and Aqua Tail (a clone of Dragon Claw in terms of stats) poses a concrete threat even to Bastiodon and Altaria. It could find its niche as a relatively safe lead that will almost never require to switch out. Dragon Pulse as a secondary move adds the potential of a sneaky OHKO on Dragons, and is generally more useful than Wrap, but it’s not mandatory. Shelgon is an inferior alternative to Dragonair, with a bit less coverage from Flamethrower instead of Aqua Tail, but it’s definitely viable too.
Waterfall or Water Gun* + Outrage + Hydro Pump
While Dragon Breath is usually the move of choice for the seahorse, with it in the Kingdom Cup it only becomes a subpar version of Dragonair. With the hard-hitting Waterfall instead, Kingdra becomes the worst nightmare of any Fire-type It severely hurts both Lucario and Bastiodon (even going as far as beating them in certain scenarios), and puts up a good fight against Water Gun Lapras, Flygon, Steelix and Ice-types. The only things that wreck it without thinking too much about it are Dragon Breath users and the Ice variant of Lapras. If you have a legacy Kingdra with Water Gun that works great too, but Waterfall’s higher damage output seems to be usually preferred to the faster energy generation.
Confusion + Heavy Slam + Psychic
The last shout-out goes a pokemon that might be easily overlooked, partly because of its rarity, but performs better than many would expect. Bronzong gets walled by Bastiodon and Steelix, and fears Melmetal and Marowak-A to a lesser extent, but its Confusion will hit a lot of the rest of the metagame for lots of damage. It can tie with Lucario, Flygon, Ice- and Flying-types, as well as deleting Blaziken from existence and beating the other wild cards listed above. It could be a safe switch-in against many opposing line-ups.