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The first step in teambuilding is deciding the Pokemon you build around (shocking, huh?). Once you do that, you support it with a solid core, which is the key for your team's success. The core basically determines the team's success; it should synergize well enough, offensively or defensively, and regardless of the playstyle, it should be capable to take on the majority of the threats in the tier. In Little Cup, a metagame that goes through a lot of shifts and changes (it has went through one recently, in fact), finding cores of your own can be a pain. This article is here to clear things up in the mess, introducing a few prominent cores in the metagame!
Staryu + Snover: Offensive Core (Anti-sand)
Sand has always been a relatively popular playstyle in LC. Hippopotas might not be as prevalent as Tyranitar is in OU, but sand is still good, mainly because Drilbur is one of the best and cutest sweepers ever. Snover is a Pokemon that completely shuts down the standard sand team, as it can easily switch in on many staples of a sand team and threaten them with a powerful STAB Blizzard or Giga Drain. It also removes sandstorm to boot, which makes Drilbur considerably easier to deal with. The major thing that stops Snover from completely running over sand teams is that Stealth Rock considerably shortens its lifespan, limiting the amount of damage it can dish out. Enter: Staryu. Staryu, which is undoubtedly the premier spinner of LC, is more than capable of keeping the field clear for Snover, as most Ghost-types have a hard time switching in to block Rapid Spin lest they eat a strong Hydro Pump. In addition, the two have great type synergy as well. Staryu resists the Fire-type attacks that will occasionally be thrown at Snover, while Snover can tank the Grass- and Electric-type type attacks that Staryu is weak to. With no Stealth Rock on the field, all that has to be done for Snover to demolish the opposition is to take out the one or two Pokemon that it can't beat.
This works great against sand teams, but as you will soon be able to see by reading this fantastic article, sand is not the only type of team you will face when playing the best metagame Smogon offers. The biggest problem for this core is that while it puts up very good offensive pressure, there are also many Pokemon that can put pressure on Snover and Staryu. For example, Larvesta can easily switch in on Snover, and from there it can either Flare Blitz for the KO, U-turn to gain momentum, or Wild Charge the predicted Staryu switch-in. Misdreavus presents its own challenges; Staryu might have a hard time spinning against bulkier variants, and it will probably win a one-on-one matchup with Snover, especially if Stealth Rock is down. It can also boost up and attempt a sweep with Nasty Plot. Of course, Pokemon that are capable of beating both Staryu and Snover, such as Chinchou packing Hidden Power Fire, are also big threats. Most significantly, neither Staryu or Snover can do much to a boosted Scraggy, and they can't stop it from setting up.
Since the problem with this core is that it lacks defensive protection against anything that isn't Ground- or Water-type, good teammates for this core are those that can keep up offensive pressure while still checking some opposing threats. Mienfoo probably epitomizes this, as it can check the dangerous Scraggy (as well as bulky Normal-types that Staryu and Snover won't have an easy time against) while also putting pressure on the opponent. Larvesta is also a nice partner, as even though the healing it gets from Morning Sun is diminished, it can check opposing Fighting-types while spamming a strong Flare Blitz and U-turn. Snover and Staryu can also protect it from the Water-types that will probably switch in on it. Similarly, Murkrow can provide fantastic offensive presence, and Staryu and Snover are great for wearing down the few Pokemon that can withstand powerful STAB Brave Birds. The removal of Stealth Rock and constant hail damage also work well in Murkrow's favor. It's also worth mentioning that Pokemon that stereotypically have problems against sand teams pair exceptionally well with this core, provided that they aren't setup bait against offensive threats such as Scraggy.
Both Snover and Staryu are the best at what they do, so it isn't advisable to try and substitute one of the two out for another Pokemon. A more defensive approach to this core could be to try and use Tentacool over Staryu, though. Natu could also work, though it is less reliable at keeping Stealth Rock away.
Misdreavus + Omanyte: Offensive Core (Lure and Bait)
Omanyte is often overshadowed as a Shell Smash sweeper by Clamperl or Dwebble, but the cute little fossil Pokemon fits perfectly in this combination. Since Omanyte is only stopped by Croagunk, Munchlax, Ferroseed, and to an extent, Lileep, Misdreavus makes an amazing partner. It can lure in and weaken all four of them, allowing Omanyte to sweep with ease. Life Orb + Nasty Plot is especially good as it allows Misdreavus to OHKO Croagunk after Stealth Rock damage, cleanly OHKO Ferroseed, and 2HKO Munchlax. With these threats gone, Omanyte can smash its shell and wreck the opponent.
This core is completely shut down with Misdreavus gone though, as Omanyte will not be able to get past the above mentioned counters. Therefore, Houndour and Stunky are great counters for this combination; both can switch into Misdreavus and defeat her with their Dark STAB moves, allowing Croagunk or Ferroseed to do their job reliably. Entry hazards, especially Toxic Spikes, also cripple this combination, as Omanyte's health will decrease extremely fast, cutting short its sweep. If Life Orb is not used on Misdreavus, Munchlax and Croagunk will have an easier time against it, though they are likely to not be able to take on Omanyte afterwards. Hard-hitting attacks are also a bum to this combination, as neither Misdreavus nor Omanyte can take repeated hits, especially after the defense drops from Shell Smash. Moreover, extremely fast sweepers such as Choice Scarf Misdreavus and a Drilbur in sand will beat this core, as they outspeed Misdreavus and +2 Omanyte, and can do a lot of damage with the proper moves.
Shroomish makes an extraordinary teammate for this combination. Since Misdreavus is usually bait for Toxic, especially when running Life Orb, Shroomish can take advantage of that and get poisoned, which turns it into an efficient status absorber and activates its Poison Heal ability. Moreover, Shroomish can defeat bulky Water-types such as Staryu that can become troublesome if Omanyte lacks Hidden Power Grass or Misdreavus loses the Speed tie. In addition, Spore grants Omanyte and Misdreavus more opportunities to set up and can put their counters to sleep, allowing them to sweep with ease. A Rapid Spinner is generally advised as this core suffers greatly from hazards, so Staryu or Tentacool make good partners. Entry hazards are also appreciated, making Omayte's life easier when it attempts a sweep. This core appreciates a lot of momentum, so U-turn users such as Mienfoo and Larvesta make great partners.
Basically any other Shell Smash user could work over Omanyte; Tirtouga is especially good thanks to its typing, meaning it is stopped by the same Pokemon Omanyte is. If wishing to go with a physical sweeper rather than a special sweeper, Tirtouga is by far the best choice.
Mienfoo + Chinchou + Larvesta: Offensive Core (VoltTurn)
It's no mystery that VoltTurn chains have spread into every single tier. Meet Little Cup's edition: Mienfoo, Chinchou, and Larvesta! Like any other VoltTurn chain, once this set gets the first scout, it's barely stoppable. VoltTurn chains grab all the momentum they can have, forcing a whole lot of switches and racking up damage on the foe. The synergy between the core partners is also remarkable: Ferroseed and Lileep that beat Chinchou are stopped by Mienfoo and Larvesta, while Croagunk and Slowpoke that defeat Mienfoo are stopped by Larvesta and Chinchou, respectively. The bulky Water-types that counter Larvesta, such as Staryu and Tentacool, are beaten by Chinchou.
Misdreavus, however, gives this core problems, as none of the core members can defeat her by themselves; Misdreavus is immune to Mienfoo's Fighting STAB, can tank a Hydro Pump from Chinchou with her its high base Special Defense, and doesn't get OHKOed by Larvesta's Flare Blitz. In return, Misdreavus can grab a Nasty Plot boost, hitting harder than usual with its STAB Shadow Ball. Entry hazards also wear down this core quickly, as it switches in and out a lot. While switching is the key of this core's success, it can also become a disadvantage, as with each switch-in, more and more damage will rack up. The most glaring example is Larvesta. Thanks to its typing, it takes 50% damage from Stealth Rock, and if a single layer of Spikes is up, Larvesta will be crippled completely as it must use Morning Sun to heal itself, and if it does not, it will not be able to switch in again. All three parts of this core also suffer greatly from Toxic Spikes, decreasing their lifespan very quickly.
Staryu and Tentacool make good teammates for this core, being able to spin away entry hazards that bother the core. Natu can also come into consideration, especially when looking at the fact it learns U-turn, which allows it to participate in the core as well. Its Magic Bounce ability instantly reflects back non-attacking moves such as Taunt, Toxic, and of course, entry hazards. Stunky will always defeat Misdreavus thanks to its wonderful typing, great bulk, and Dark STAB in Crunch, Sucker Punch, and Pursuit. A sweeper can also take use of this core's quality in wearing foes down quickly, making Scraggy, Murkrow, Axew, and Dratini great partners.
Any other Volt Switch or U-turn user can be used in addition to or instead of one of the current members, such as Elekid, Magnemite, Taillow, Vullaby, and Zubat.
Numel + Lileep + Chinchou: Defensive Core (Synergetic)
Ahhh, the standard FWG core... many competitive players have been wet dreaming about these for years, and others bitching about how boring and ineffective they are. For many reasons, they are pretty good in LC, although the number of viable defensive Fire-types is understandably low. This particular FWG core is interesting though, because it is defensive but also offers an interesting strategy. Numel has access to Simple and Stockpile, meaning that it can quickly become very bulky and outstall the opponent with Lava Plume or Toxic. The problem? It's 4x weak to Water, so the ubiquitous Staryu and Chinchou can just switch in and threaten it with Hydro Pump or Scald. Lileep and Chinchou fix that very nicely though, as Lileep is immune to Water-type attacks due to its Storm Drain ability and can threaten them with Energy Ball, while Chinchou can tank Water attacks and shoot back a Thunderbolt, Volt Switch, or Hidden Power Grass, or just stall them out with a RestTalk set. Furthermore, Lileep can set up Stealth Rock to wear the opposing Water-types down, while Chinchou can help out the rest of the team with Heal Bell. Numel also helps its teammates out, being able to check Pokemon such as Larvesta and Croagunk that would otherwise be problematic.
There are two slight problems with this core. The first is that it isn't fully protected against all Pokemon (obviously). Because the core lacks resistances to Ghost-, Fighting-, and Dark-type attacks, it is vulnerable to Pokemon such as Misdreavus, Mienfoo, Timburr, and Scraggy. Other powerful attackers, such as Snover and Drilbur, are also difficult to handle. In fact, almost all Pokemon that set up will give the core trouble, because just one critical hit spells doom for Numel. Secondly, as the core will be switching between its members a lot in a match, it is also vulnerable to entry hazards. Even if just Stealth Rock is on the field, some clever switching from the opponent can easily wear down Numel and Chinchou, whose only form of recovery is Rest. This weakness is very easily exploited against Pokemon like Larvesta and Mienfoo, which can repeatedly switch in and out while dealing further damage with U-turn.
This core's weakness to entry hazards can be lessened by including some sort of countermeasure to them. Because of this, Natu or Staryu are probably the best choices for teammates. Natu can give the core a huge advantage against opposing defensive teams by preventing them from setting up hazards and just shutting down many defensive Pokemon in general. Staryu is much more reliable when it comes to keeping the field clear of hazards, although it does not really do anything else for the core outside of maintaining some offensive presence. Teammates that can help patch up weaknesses to powerful attackers and setup sweepers are also helpful. Mienfoo and Croagunk check the ever-present Scraggy decently, and Mienfoo can also spread around Toxic, Taunt, or Knock Off to boot. Vullaby can do the same thing decently well and also functions as a makeshift check against threats such as Timburr and Misdreavus. Bronzor can also help to protect the core from several powerful attackers. With its Steel typing and Levitate, it boasts nice Ice, Grass, and Dragon resistances, as well as a Ground immunity, which make it perfect for dealing with Snover, Drilbur, and Dragon-types such as Dratini or Axew.
There are many alternative options for a FWG core. Numel doesn't have to be the Fire-type of choice, as Larvesta and Ponyta are also Fire-types that use defensive sets well. If one doesn't want to run Chinchou, Staryu can be used (and is a really good teammate for Larvesta for obvious reasons). Frillish and Slowpoke also warrant mention, as both of them make decent checks to Fighting-types bar Scraggy. Defensive Grass-types are everywhere in LC. Ferroseed can be used instead of Lileep, as it can set up Stealth Rock or Spikes and pressurize the opponent with Leech Seed. Pure Grass-types such as Shroomish, Chikorita, or Turtwig can also be used as fairly solid Drilbur checks, each providing their own merits outside of that task (Spore, Aromatherapy, and Stealth Rock, respectively).
Murkrow + Snover: Offensive Core
Murkrow, a previously banned Pokemon, is undoubtedly one of the biggest threats in Little Cup. However, it's not really much of a team player, as it has trouble switching in on almost everything and thus can't support its teammates that well. That being so, Snover is one Pokemon that does pair fairly well with Murkrow. It can switch in or threaten many of the Pokemon that Murkrow dislikes, such as Chinchou and various Rock-types. The permanent hail it sets up with Snow Warning also works in Murkrow's favor; it can be used to further wear down counters to Murkrow's SubRoost set, while Murkrow can keep itself healthy. In addition, Snover tends to lure in Fighting-types, which Murkrow can scare out and throw up a Substitute against. This core isn't completely one-sided, however. Murkrow can be used to wear down the opposing team until they are unable to take Snover's powerful STAB attacks, allowing the latter to clean up late-game with Choice Scarf Blizzards.
That's not to say this core is perfect. Notably, both Murkrow and Snover are weak to Stealth Rock, and combined with how notoriously frail they both are (especially if Snover is running a Choice Scarf), that doesn't bode well for their longevity on the battlefield. They also can't completely wear down all of the checks they share. Magnemite, for example, checks both Murkrow and Snover, and with a Choice Scarf it can threaten both of them out with ease. The core is also weak to many stat-boosting Pokemon. Dragon Dance Scraggy can outspeed and OHKO both Snover and Murkrow if it can nab a boost, and Tirtouga can set up on a Choice Scarf Blizzard or the standard Murkrow set and wreak havoc.
Good teammates for this core are ones that can help out with these shortcomings (obviously). Staryu gets a huge mention here, because it can remove Stealth Rock to help keep Murkrow and Snover around longer. It can also lure in Chinchou for Snover to come in on and keeps the offensive theme of the core. Croagunk also synergizes well with this combination, as its priority can stop the above mentioned Tirtouga and Scraggy from destroying your team. A bulky attacking Chinchou can also work well as a teammate, as it helps out with many of the Pokemon that both Murkrow and Snover have trouble against. Chinchou can also grab momentum with Volt Switch to allow Murkrow or Snover a safe entry and support the team with Heal Bell. Another notable mention is Diglett, which can trap and kill the Pokemon who threaten Murkrow and Snover with a STAB Earthquake.
There are no real substitutes for Murkrow or Snover. Murkrow is one of a kind, and Snover is the only Pokemon that can set up permanent hail.
Magnemite + Drilbur: Offensive Core (Trap and Sweep)
AKA "sandmag". iss is a bully for making this set. ):>
Drilbur is a huge threat in Little Cup and is arguably broken as its only full stopped by Bronzor and checked by a few bulk Water- and Grass-types, such as Lileep, Ferroseed, and Slowpoke, all of which are easily defeated by the little magnet. Air Balloon + Magnet Rise is extremely cruel, as it allows Magnemite to switch in freely into Bronzor, trap it, and KO it with repeated Thunderbolts. Once Magnemite's balloon is torn, it can use Magnet Rise before Bronzor will hit it with Earthquake. With Bronzor gone, Drilbur can easily grab a Swords Dance boost and tear teams apart, as most teams only carry one or two checks to Drilbur.
This combination is extremely dangerous and requires careful play, as if your Bronzor is trapped and killed by Magnemite, you're going to get swept. However, bulky Grass-types such as Shroomish and Turtwig can stand up against this core. Unless Drilbur is running X-Scissor, neither it nor Magnemite can get past them, as they can heal off damage with Synthesis or Leech Seed. Chinchou can easily switch into Magnemite and strike both Drilbur and it hard with Hydro Pump, which easily OHKOes Drilbur and has a 50% chance to OHKO Magnemite. A key part for Drilbur's sweep is having sandstorm up as it activates Sand Rush, making Drilbur the fastest Pokemon in the metagame. Snover can be problematic as it can switch into Magnemite's Electric STABs, change the weather to hail, and OHKO Drilbur with its STAB Blizzard. Snover must be wary of a predicted Flash Cannon or Hidden Power Fire from Magnemite, as both will easily KO it.
Hippopotas support is a must. The hippo's Sand Stream ability is, as mentioned, a key part for Drilbur's success. Larvesta or Ponyta are also great partners as both can defeat Snover with ease. However, they will not enjoy the repeated damage from sandstorm, and using Sunny Day to increase Morning Sun's health regeneration becomes counter-productive, so they will just have to settle with healing 25% of their HP. A spinner such as Staryu is also recommended, as once Magnemite's Air Balloon is popped, it will take a lot of damage from Spikes, and Drilbur gets easily crippled by Toxic Spikes. Mienfoo could also work well with Magnemite, creating the infamous VoltTurn chain.
Wynaut could replace Magnemite as it gets the bonus of trapping all Pokemon in Little Cup thanks to Shadow Tag and can grant Drilbur more opportunities to set up with Encore.
Larvesta + Porygon + Staryu: Defensive Core
Porygon used to be a very obscure Pokemon in Little Cup, until people discovered its potential as a bulky attacker and defensive Pokemon. The major thing holding Porygon back from sweeping with a bulky Charge Beam set or being a major defensive threat is that it's weak to Fighting-type attacks and thus can't hold its own against Mienfoo, Scraggy, Croagunk, or Timburr, all of which are fairly common. One solution to this is to run Larvesta. Larvesta not only walls most Fighting-types, as it resists Fighting and is only hit neutrally by the other moves most Fighting-types run, but it can also cripple them while switching in to their attacks due to Flame Body. Like Porygon, it also packs a punch with a strong STAB Flare Blitz and U-turn. When Mienfoo or Croagunk are burnt, they are almost completely unable to touch Porygon, who then becomes almost unstoppable to the opposition. However, the problem with this is that Larvesta is weak to Stealth Rock, which greatly reduces its ability to switch in and out. Staryu is then added to the core, as it can remove Stealth Rock with Rapid Spin.
Porygon is really bulky, but even it can't successfully tank powerful, boosted attacks, and neither can the rest of the core. This makes the core weak to most boosting sweepers, such as Shell Smash Omanyte, Swords Dance Drilbur, and Nasty Plot Misdreavus. Furthermore, although Larvesta walls almost every Fighting-type, it is not a complete counter to Scraggy, and a well-played Dragon Dance Scraggy can break through it and sweep. Even powerful attackers without a boost can be troublesome, such as Murkrow, which can actually 2HKO Porygon with Brave Bird.
Croagunk synergizes well with this core due to its ability to check many boosting sweepers. With Fake Out, Vacuum Wave, and Sucker Punch, it can shut down most Shell Smash sweepers, as well as some Scraggy and Misdreavus. Bulky Chinchou can deal with many of the powerful attackers that Porygon has trouble with, such as Murkrow, and can also support the core with Heal Bell. This is useful, as Toxic is one of the few things that really shuts down Porygon. Another teammate that works well with this core is Bronzor, which not only makes a very solid check to Drilbur, but can also support the team with Stealth Rock. If Bronzor is used, make sure to include means of stopping other set-up sweepers though, as it is probably the easiest Pokemon to set up on in Little Cup.
Porygon is probably one of the better bulky Normal-types in Little Cup, but if you want to, you could also try running Munchlax or Lickitung instead. Ponyta can be used in place of Larvesta, as it also has Flame Body to cripple physical attackers, but without the Fighting resistance it is less helpful against Mienfoo and other Fighting-types. Natu is another option, as it can be used over Staryu to keep Stealth Rock away. However, it is not as reliable and requires much more careful play.
That's it! These are ... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ... 7 cores of the Little Cup metagame! Nothing left but to get out and test them on the ladder! Doing so will help you study the metagame, and discover new cores! Until next time, see you on the ladder!
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