Making the Generation 2 Defender Tier List: Methods and Observations

Article by dondon151. Tier list available here.

In the process of creating this tier list, we first assessed the quantitative defensive ability of each Pokemon and then supplemented that with simulations of numerous specific matchups. We assessed defender quality via 2 factors: the amount of damage done to an attacker and the amount of time required for the attacker to win. Because attackers have ultimate freedom in matchup choice, we heavily weighted a Pokemon’s worst matchups when considering their placement in the tier list.

To assess quantitative defensive ability, I used an approach similar to one recommended by u/ryanoftheday. For each Pokemon, I approximated its defensive ability by searching through Pokebattler’s ranking lists and multiplying the combat time by damage dealt for one of their best movesets. I performed this operation for the “no dodging,” “dodge specials PRO,” and “dodge all PRO” attacker strategies to account for differences in how certain dodging strategies affected defender quality. These numbers were then summed and divided by 2000 to produce a cumulative index that reflects a Pokemon’s defensive ability. A higher number is better.

There was no specific cutoff in mind to consider a defender as viable, but it turns out that all defenders on the tier list have an index >2.35. Generally speaking, all Pokemon with index >2.30 were given greater scrutiny in the individual matchup assessment, whereas those with a lower index were given cursory glances (usually what I guessed were their worst matchups).

Next, each defender was simulated against a variety of possible attackers to determine their best defensive movesets in addition to their worst matchups and overall performance against top or common attackers in the metagame. These simulations were conducted in Pokebattler between Pokemon at level 30 with maxed IVs. For each matchup, I logged percentage of attacker’s HP remaining (defender’s HP if defender won) and amount of time taken (if attacker won).

This step served to weed out defenders that appeared viable going by their calculated defensive index. Golem, for example, was invalidated due to very bad matchups vs. Vaporeon, Machamp, and Exeggutor.

The final tier list placement was based on both of the above assessments in addition to a Pokemon’s max CP. Everyone should be aware by now that practically, gyms are dominated by the “big 7,” Pokemon with max CP greater than or equal to Vaporeon. Theoretically good or viable defenders without complementary CP were penalized on this list.

A full, detailed spreadsheet containing the quantitative defensive ability calculations and matchup simulation results can be found here for your viewing pleasure.

Tier Breakdown
Tier 1: Blissey; Tier 2: Snorlax

No contest here; should be super obvious. Blissey is, like, twice as good as Snorlax, and Snorlax is almost twice as good as any other Pokemon. For people with enough candy to power up a Blissey with a suboptimal moveset, just power her up and stop being such a perfectionist. Blissey with any moveset is much better than the best Snorlax.

Tier 2.5: Tyranitar, Dragonite, Rhydon, Gyarados

So at first glance this is just a lazy CP-based tier of everything that can consistently slot above Blissey in a gym. And it kind of is; we believe that it is extremely important to be able to out-CP Blissey in this metagame. Blissey is the only defender that can seriously deter attackers because of how long she takes to defeat and how much damage she does in the process. Our hypothesis is that the ideal gym (with limited Blissey) has Blissey placed in the middle to lower half of the gym. A Blissey placed too high up can simply be avoided after an attacker has defeated most of the gym and knocked off 7k prestige. A Blissey placed too low gets knocked out early and doesn’t do much.

Aside from that, these Pokemon are all actually quite competent defenders in their own right, despite each bearing a double weakness. They all have stellar matchups outside of their few counters. All defenders in this tier have a balanced combination of elite base stats in addition to ideal quick moves for defense. Dragonite is slightly better than the rest in general matchups and Tyranitar has slightly worse bad matchups, but they all fall to their specialized counters.

Tyranitar matches up badly vs. Machamp and Heracross; it needs Crunch in this matchup to avoid getting gimped. However, this cuts its damage output vs. Vaporeon. Can out-CP Snorlax.

Dragonite matches up badly vs. Lapras; Cloyster and Jynx also have a chance to beat it before it uses a charge move, especially if that charge move is Hurricane. Can out-CP Snorlax.

Rhydon, despite having a losing matchup vs. Vaporeon, does better in this matchup than either Dragonite or Tyranitar do in their worst matchups. Compared to Tyranitar, Rhydon doesn’t suffer from the 1-bar problem quite as much because Vaporeon’s DPS is not close to Machamp’s. Can out-CP Blissey.

Gyarados has a very high max CP and performs well with a new ridiculously good quick move, but still has trouble vs. Jolteon. Jolteon does have to tread carefully, though, because it’s the weakest counter in this tier. Gyarados is actually tricky to type counter because it’s only weak to 2 types, one of which has poor representation. Can out-CP Blissey.

One more consideration worth noting is that the above 4 Pokemon have defensive synergy when mixed together. Tyranitar and Rhydon have weaknesses to water, fighting, and grass, which are countered by Dragonite and Gyarados. Dragonite and Gyarados are weak to ice and electric, respectively, which don't particularly enjoy staying in against Tyranitar or Rhydon.

Tier 3: Vaporeon, Lapras

Vaporeon can out-CP a level 30 Blissey and takes more time to defeat than run-of-the-mill defenders; however, simply dodging its charge moves takes away a lot of defensive bite. There's actually little benefit to dodging Vaporeon's Water Guns, because unless you're at a big level disadvantage, you're not getting the full 75% damage reduction.

Lapras’s CP is borderline unviable, but it takes more time to defeat than run-of-the-mill defenders and its matchup spread is still excellent, losing only to Tyranitar and Machamp.

Tier 3.5: Donphan, Espeon, Exeggutor, Ampharos, Slowbro, Slowking, Steelix

This is where tiering starts to get challenging. Beyond this point, the flaws start to add up: Pokemon start having worse overall matchups, bad bulk, inadequate CP, etc. So essentially this tier is a hodgepodge of CP-viable, but less optimal, defenders and CP-unviable, but more optimal, defenders.

Donphan, Espeon, and Exeggutor fall into the first category. Donphan has weak matchups vs. Vaporeon and Exeggutor, but has the bulk to run down the clock a slight bit more. Espeon faints quickly but hits hard and is only really vulnerable to Tyranitar. Exeggutor is similar, being a tad bulkier overall but faints extremely quickly to Charizard and Flareon.

Slowbro, Slowking, and Steelix fall into the second category. Slowbro and Slowking simply have strong matchup spreads. Steelix has weak matchups vs. Vaporeon and Machamp, but in terms of wasting time it is on the same level as Vaporeon and Lapras.

Ampharos is kind of in the middle. It isn’t quite as frail or exploitable as the first category but has a Lapras-level max CP that could make it viable in some locales.

Tier 4: Cloyster, Clefable, Umbreon, Hypno

The best way to characterize a tier 4 defender is a tier 3 defender with some extra flaw.

Cloyster and Clefable are like a worse Ampharos more than anything - no really bad specific matchups, but less CP.

Umbreon is like a worse Steelix - takes a long time to defeat, but really doesn’t do well against any common attacker.

Hypno is basically a weaker version of Slowking.

The Pokemon That Didn’t Make It

There were 2 broad categories of Pokemon that I considered for the tier list: CP-viable (can out-CP a level 30 Blissey) and CP-unviable (good defenders in theory but cannot out-CP a level 30 Blissey).

CP-Viable Candidates

Of the CP-viable Pokemon, Heracross, Golem, Flareon, Machamp, Alakazam, Arcanine, Scizor, Pinsir, and Ursaring didn’t make the cut.

Heracross, Golem, Scizor, and Pinsir just have some awful matchups. Charizard obliterates the 3 bugs while Vaporeon, Machamp, and Exeggutor make quick work of Golem.

Flareon and Arcanine are unviable because 5 of the top 7 CP Pokemon type-counter it.

Machamp, Alakazam, and Ursaring are varying degrees of frail without having good enough matchups to justify their inclusion in tier 3. In my opinion, however, they are the next best CP-viable Pokemon.

CP-Unviable Candidates

Of the CP-unviable Pokemon, the ones worth discussing are Jolteon, Muk, Venusaur, Porygon2, Kangaskhan, Poliwrath, Granbull, Tentacruel, and Miltank.

Jolteon performs worse than Ampharos in every matchup in terms of damage done and time taken. The time is kind of a big deal here. Also, dodging everything hurts Jolteon a bit more than it hurts other defenders.

Muk, Venusaur, Porygon2, and Tentacruel have too many awful matchups. Muk doesn’t have a moveset that isn’t exploitable, Venusaur gets gimped by Charizard and Flareon, Porygon2 gets gimped by Dragonite and Machamp, and Tentacruel gets gimped by Alakazam and Espeon.

Kangaskhan, Poliwrath, and Miltank appear solid on paper, but for whatever reason fall short in key matchups. Kangaskhan and Miltank are poor against Vaporeon; Poliwrath and Miltank are poor against Dragonite.

Granbull is very similar to Ursaring.

On 1-Bar Charge Moves

One noticeable difference between GamePress’s tier list and other tier lists that have been published is the moveset recommendations for certain defenders. Other defender tier lists rank movesets by DPS and possibly also take into consideration ease of dodging.

We go a step further. In the process of examining individual matchups, we observed that in an expected simulation mode, certain Pokemon (especially the frailer ones) often failed to use their 1-bar charge moves in their worst matchups. This was only a minor consideration prior to gen 2; however, the overall decrease in quick move energy gain combined with the substantial buff to charge move power makes this a more common phenomenon.

Therefore, even though multi-bar charge moves often have worse defensive DPS, sometimes we consider them to be the only viable charge move. One good example is Espeon. On paper, Future Sight is the optimal charge move. The problem is that in Espeon’s worst matchup (vs. Tyranitar), Tyranitar can be expected to KO Espeon before it uses Future Sight. This applies even when Tyranitar spends extra time dodging Confusion. Because we give high weight to a Pokemon’s worst matchups, this is a significant point against Future Sight. This is why we recommend only Psybeam for Espeon.

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