On February 9th, Pokemon GO released the final batch of Gen 3 Pokemon into the wild. Among these include Volbeat and Illumise as world-split regionals, Tropius as an African exclusive regional, Swablu as a shiny, Chimecho has a bonus stardust Pokemon, and the highly anticipated Metagross and Salamence. Some other items changed with this update: Plusle and Minun are no longer regional, Rayquaza has entered the raid scene, and various tier 1-4 raids raid bosses have been replaced. It is currently unclear if the raid changes are permanent. Many of the new raids are Ice-type Pokemon, suggesting their arrival may be to help less equipped players take on Rayquaza.
Naturally, trainers have been asking about our new friends in the meta and how to best counter the new raids. Using our best mathematical understanding of gym and raid AI, simulated matchup data, and real world analysis, we here at GamePress believe we have the answers players are looking for!
Ever since the trailer for Gen 3, trainers have been waiting for Salamence’s release. Unfortunately, Niantic decided to unleash this dragon alongside the tier 5 raid boss Rayquaza. While Rayquaza and Dragonite have some trade offs in DPS and TDO, Rayquaza is an upgraded Salamence. Despite inferiority to Rayquaza, Salamence does have some distinguishing characteristics that allow it to stand out from the pack.
The biggest draw for Salamence is its exclusive access to the Dragon-type nuke, Draco Meteor. Draco Meteor has the greatest cycle DPS for Dragon-type charge moves; however, it is offset by its 100 energy cost. The runner up, Outrage, only costs 50 energy to use. This means Draco Meteor only has a situational DPS advantage over Outrage (eg. Using 1 or 2 Draco Meteors when you could have used 3 or 5 Outrages). For a bulkier Pokemon like Dragonite, this would be less of a problem, but Salamence’s poor defenses means it is more likely to faint before it can fire. In practice, this means a high level Dragonite can survive an Outrage from the raid boss Rayquaza and immediately retaliate with its own Outrage from the energy gained. While a high level Salamence could also also survive this, it would faint before gaining the energy required for Draco Meteor.
Salamence also stands out from the crowd with access to Hydro Pump. While Dragonite and Rayquaza are potent, neutral threats to Fire and Ground-type Pokemon, Salamence can hit them super effectively. However, once you bring Kyogre, Gyarados, and Vaporeon into the discussion, Salamence looks less impressive.
Overall, Salamence isn’t a poor defender, it just has much less to offer compared to the OG dragon and gym topper, Dragonite. Like Dragonite, Salamence has great stats and resistances for gym defense. Unlike Dragonite, Salamence falls short on its movepool and bulk. Typically a fast, hard hitting charge move like Hydro Pump is a nasty surprise for counters, but when most of its optimal counters can resist Water-type damage, it becomes less impressive. It’s important to note that if your goal is to show off that you have a Salamence more than to optimally defend the gym, then Draco Meteor is the charge move of choice. Just look at it!
Despite its reputation as a formidable Pokemon, Niantic threw a curve ball and made Metagross nearly meta unviable by cursing it with a poor STAB movepool (Bullet Punch, Zen Headbutt, Psychic, and Flash Cannon). Fortunately, its poor movepool is offset by its stellar stats, allowing Metagross to be the best non-Legendary Jynx and Heavy Slam Machamp counter, as well as a particularly tanky option against Dazzling Gleam Blissey. Given that Jynx’s Confusion set is particularly punishing and Heavy Slam is the most difficult Machamp solo, Metagross is a good partner to have despite lacking offensive capabilities. In all other raids though, several other Pokemon stand above him.
As a defender, Metagross has many all around holes. Its Steel-typing helps ward off Dragon-types but leaves it vulnerable to Fire and Ground-types. While its Psychic-typing patches up its weakness to Fighting-types, the low base power of Metagross’s fast moves along with its limited single bar charge moves means Machamp has little to fear as a neutral counter. This Psychic-typing also invites Tyranitar and Shadow Ball Mewtwo to tear Metagross apart. All that said, Metagross isn’t a bad pick for gym defense thanks to its tank capabilities, but if you’re looking for a Steel-type defender Steelix is your best bet.
For more detail on countering these raid bosses, check out our raid counters page
Unlike previous Gen 3 waves, rather than changing out just one raid boss to add one of the new Pokemon to the pool, many of the previous tier 1-4 raid bosses were removed and replaced with Ice and Water-type Pokemon. Most notably, all tier 3 raid bosses except for Machamp were removed to make room for Azumarill, Jynx, and Piloswine. It isn’t clear if this is a permanent change or a temporary one. That being said, trainers looking to take on the new tier 3 raid bosses should prepare.
For Azumarill, Grass, pseudo-Grass, and Electric-types such as Exeggutor, Venusaur, Groudon, Ho-Oh, Raikou, and Zapdos stand out as being top picks. Since Azumarill is part Fairy-type, Muk, Gengar, and Sludge Bomb Venusaur also rise to the occasion, especially against Play Rough sets. After them, the glass cannons Jolteon, Sceptile, and Victreebel also stand out. Overall, Azumarill isn’t a difficult fight and is easily bested by level 25 Pokemon.
Piloswine stands out from the other new tier 3 raids as being easiest to defeat. Piloswine is easily subdued by Water-types such as Kyogre, Gyarados, Vaporeon. However, consider investing in the Fire-types Moltres and Entei, and the Fighting-types Machamp and Hariyama, who will repay their investment against anticipated future Regirock, Regice, and Registeel raid bosses.
Like Scyther, Jynx stands out not as a particularly difficult raid boss, but a painful one. Having exclusively multi-bar charge moves with the powerful Confusion to back them up, most fights with Jynx will leave you reaching into your potion bag. With this in mind, Entei, Tyranitar, and Metagross stand out as the best options as they are able to tank hits better than all others. Mewtwo, Moltres, Ho-Oh, and Flareon are also great investments for this raid.
This last wave of Gen 3 Pokemon brought two of the most anticipated Pokemon from Gen 3: Salamence and Metagross. Along with Salamence came the Dragon-type nuke, Draco Meteor. Despite having one of the coolest animations in the game, the risk of using it over Outrage, which has half the energy cost, makes it a little suboptimal. Being in such close competition with Dragonite and Rayquaza as a Dragon-type Pokemon, Draco Meteor sets Salamence apart as much as it sets it back. While Metagross also came into Pokemon GO cursed with a less than ideal movepool, it still manages to make a name for itself as one of the bulkiest Blissey counters and as the most optimal, non-Legendary Heavy Slam Machamp counter.
Speaking of the Machamp raid, Machamp is the only tier 3 raid to remain unaltered with this update. In the place of Gengar, Alakazam, Ninetails, Porygon, Omastar, and Scyther now stand Azumarill, Jynx, and Piloswine. Whether these raid changes are temporary to help trainers with Rayquaza raids or permanent has yet to be seen. One thing that is certain is that these raids are much easier than their predecessors.
It’s worth noting that Gen 3 isn’t quite done yet! Nincada, Ninjask, Shedinja, Kecleon, Spinda, Clampearl, Huntail, and Gorebyss all have yet to be added to Pokemon GO, along with Gen 2’s elusive artist Smeargle. Nincada’s evolution line is likely delayed due to Shedinja’s unique characteristics in the console games, having only 1 hp and only receiving damage from super effective hits. Kecleon also has the unique trait of changing its type based on which attacks hit it. Could Shedinja and Kecleon’s inclusion mark the introduction of abilities in Pokemon GO, or will it just be another unique trophy? Only time will tell!