Gym defenders tier list – 2017

This tier list combines best mathematical understanding of gym defense AI and simulated match-ups with a real-world meta-game analysis. Pokemon are weighted not only by how many different kinds of Pokemon they beat, but also by the relative frequency of the attackers they can expect to face. 

Consider a Pokemon such as Arcanine, who boasts great moves and elite base stats. The traditional spreadsheet calculation methods would suggest that Arcanine is one of the best gym defenders in the game. However, what this doesn’t take into account is that Arcanine’s defending ability is hampered by the ubiquity of Vaporeon as an attacker. It is a safe assumption that 90+% of all players regularly attacking gyms have a quality Vaporeon as one of their go-to Pokemon. When defending a gym, your defense is only as good as your opponent’s best available counter. From this example, we can see that the gym meta-game for Pokemon GO is highly influenced by the presence of Vaporeon.

Tier 1

These Pokemon are elite defenders in essentially all situations, and carry favorable matchups against the widest possible range of attackers. If they have a weakness, it is exploitable only by a very small number of relatively rare Pokemon.

Tier 1 Rating Explanation
SnorlaxSnorlax Pros:

  • The strongest overall defender. Takes an inordinately long time to KO.

Cons:

  • Soft countered by Rhydon.

Optimal Moveset

  • Zen Headbutt + Hyper Beam or Body Slam
LaprasLapras Pros:

  • A strong overall defender; does heavy damage and takes a long time to KO. Particularly good against popular attacker Dragonite.

Cons:

  • Somewhat inefficient vs. Arcanine, Omastar, and Vaporeon.

Optimal Moveset

  • Ice Shard + Blizzard or Ice Beam

Tier 1.5

These Pokemon are the best defenders of their type, and carry a similar number of favorable matchups as the Top Tiers. They defend well against many of the most common high-quality Pokemon. However, they either are less overwhelmingly dominant in their favorable matchups, or they have weaknesses that are exploitable by multiple species of more easily attained Pokemon.

Tier 1.5 Rating Explanation
DragoniteDragonite Pros:

  • Does very well vs. a wide range of opponents if sporting Steel Wing. High CP will frequently top gyms (if you care about that!).

Cons:

  • Double weakness to ice – countered by Lapras and the now-common Cloyster.

Optimal Moveset

  • Steel Wing + Dragon Pulse
OmastarOmastar Pros:

  • An incredible defensive typing allows Omastar to resist Snorlax’s normal-type moves, resist Lapras’s ice-type moves, and hit Lapras and Dragonite effectively. Rock Slide also is an efficient move on defense.

Cons:

  • Double weakness to grass renders Omastar inefficient vs. Exeggutor, Venusaur, and Tangela.

Optimal Moveset

  • Rock Throw + Rock Slide (legacy moveset)
  • Water Gun + Rock Slide (Tier 2 moveset)
ExeggutorExeggutor Pros:

  • Confusion + Psychic is the best defender moveset in the game. Seed Bomb is also efficient, especially against water-types such as Vaporeon.

Cons:

  • Inefficient vs. Arcanine, Charizard, and Dragonite.

Optimal Moveset

  • Confusion + Psychic or Seed Bomb
VaporeonVaporeon Pros:

  • Metagame-defining defender. She has high bulk, good charge moves, and a solid typing. She is ubiquitous in many regions and finds herself in gyms often due to high CP.

Cons:

  • Serious Pokemon GO players are well-equipped to counter Vaporeon. Inefficient vs. the top grass types and Dragonite.

Optimal Moveset

  • Water Gun + Water Pulse or Aqua Tail
Tier 2

These Pokemon are high-quality gym defenders with a plentiful array of favorable matchups. However, they are not as dominant as another Pokemon of their type, and/or they have well-known and readily available counters.

Tier 2 Rating Explanation
SlowbroSlowbro Pros:

  • With the fantastic STAB Confusion + Psychic moveset and a solid typing, Slowbro remains strong despite his nerf in the CP update.

Cons:

  • The CP update nerfed him quite badly. He is still a good generalist defender, but now has issues vs. Exeggutor and Tangela.

Optimal Moveset

  • Confusion + Psychic
PoliwrathPoliwrath Pros:

  • Like Slowbro, Poliwrath has been knocked down a peg due to the CP update. He still packs a meaty punch on defense with a STAB Bubble.

Cons:

  • Poliwrath’s old counters are still there, just stronger. Tangela also enters the mix, and Exeggutor remains a punishing enemy.

Optimal Moveset

  • Bubble + Ice Punch or Hydro Pump or Submission
VenusaurVenusaur Pros:

  • Venusaur retains a positive matchup vs. Vaporeon despite unfavorable changes in the CP update. Arcanine, previously the strongest fire-type, was also nerfed.

Cons:

  • Has difficulties vs. Arcanine, Charizard, Flareon, and Dragonite.

Optimal Moveset

  • Razor Leaf + Sludge Bomb
RhydonRhydon Pros:

  • Rhydon received a significant buff due to the CP update. His base stats are so enormous that he is a reliable generalist despite double weaknesses to water and grass.
  • Favorable matchup against Snorlax, making him the only real Snorlax counter in the game.

Cons:

  • Double weakness to water, more specifically, Vaporeon, who is nearly ubiquitous. Also sketchy vs. Exeggutor.
  • With only 1-bar charge moves in his movepool, Rhydon’s charge move usage on defense is easy to predict.

Optimal Moveset

  • Mud Slap + Stone Edge

Do you think this list needs to be updated or needs slight adjustments? Let us know your opinion in the comments!





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