Gym Defenders Tier List

Rankings
Attackers
Gym Attackers
Defenders
Gym Defenders

DPS per type

This unique, first-of-its-kind tier list combines our best mathematical understanding of gym defense AI and simulated matchups with a real-world metagame 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. In this we have taken after the traditional method of tier list ratings for fighting games: a bad matchup vs. a never-seen character means much less than a bad matchup against the most-used character in tournament play.

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 metagame for Pokemon GO is highly influenced by the presence of Vaporeon.

We also note and consider the frequency of high-CP fire-type attackers such as Arcanine and Flareon. The presence of very rare Pokemon, such as Lapras, is taken into consideration, but a bad matchup vs. Lapras does not devastate a Pokemon's position on the tier list, since prospective attackers are less likely to carry a quality Lapras. Enjoy!

-PEEFsmash of the GamePress Pokemon Go Research Team.

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Gym Defenders Tier List

Tier 1

These Pokemon are elite defenders in essentially all situations, and carry favorable matchups against the widest possible range of attackers. They have great damage output and draw attackers into prolonged battles. If they have a weakness, it is exploitable only by a very small number of relatively uncommon Pokemon.

Tier 1Rating Explanation
SnorlaxSnorlax Pros:
  • The strongest overall defender, possessing great all-around matchups.
  • Takes an inordinately long time to KO.
  • Has a very high max CP.

Cons:
  • Soft countered by Rhydon.

Optimal Moveset
  • Zen Headbutt + Hyper Beam or Body Slam
LaprasLapras Pros:
  • A formidable overall defender; does heavy damage and is difficult to type-counter.
  • Very strong vs. Dragonite.
  • Takes a long time to KO.
  • Has a high max CP.

Cons:
  • Soft countered by Vaporeon.

Optimal Moveset
  • Ice Shard + Blizzard or Ice Beam
Tier 2

These Pokemon are the best defenders of their type, and carry a similar number of favorable matchups as the tier 1s. 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 2Rating Explanation
VaporeonVaporeon Pros:
  • Metagame-defining defender; ubiquitous in many regions.
  • Takes a long time to KO.
  • Has a very high max CP.

Cons:
  • Countered by the top grass-types - Exeggutor, Venusaur - and Dragonite. Serious Pokemon GO players are well-equipped to counter Vaporeon.
  • Has a fairly weak quick move for defense.

Optimal Moveset
  • Water Gun + Water Pulse or Aqua Tail
ExeggutorExeggutor Pros:
  • High damage output with Confusion + Psychic or Seed Bomb; the latter being great against water-types.
  • Strong vs. Vaporeon.
  • Has a high max CP.

Cons:
  • Countered by Dragonite; inefficient vs. top fire-types - Arcanine, Charizard.
  • Takes slightly less time to KO than most tiered defenders.

Optimal Moveset
  • Confusion + Psychic or Seed Bomb
SlowbroSlowbro Pros:
  • Difficult to type-counter, having no exceptionally disadvantageous matchups.
  • Good damage output with Confusion + Psychic or Ice Beam.

Cons:
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Confusion + Psychic or Ice Beam
Dragonite Dragonite Pros:
  • High damage output with Steel Wing vs. any attacker.
  • Has a very high max CP and will frequently top gyms.

Cons:
  • Double weakness to ice - is countered by Lapras and inefficient vs. the now-common Cloyster.

Optimal Moveset
  • Steel Wing + Dragon Pulse
Tier 2.5

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. Additionally, defenders in and below this tier begin having unfavorable matchups vs. tier 1 attackers.

Tier 2.5Rating Explanation
PoliwrathPoliwrath Pros:
  • High damage output with Bubble + any charge move.

Cons:
  • Countered by grass-types - Exeggutor, Tangela, the now-common Venusaur - and Slowbro.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Bubble + Ice Punch or Hydro Pump or Submission
VenusaurVenusaur Pros:
  • Good overall defensive performance with good stats and moveset.
  • Strong vs. Vaporeon.

Cons:
  • Countered by fire-types - Arcanine, Charizard, Flareon - and Exeggutor.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Razor Leaf + Sludge Bomb
RhydonRhydon Pros:
  • Huge stats and high damage output with Mud Slap + Stone Edge or Earthquake.
  • Strong vs. Snorlax.
  • Performs well despite double weaknesses to water and grass.
  • Has a very high max CP.

Cons:
  • Double weakness to water, more specifically, Vaporeon; also sketchy vs. Exeggutor.
  • With only 1-bar charge moves, Rhydon's charge move usage is easily predictable.

Optimal Moveset
  • Mud Slap + Stone Edge
Tier 3

These Pokemon are solid gym defenders but they possess at least one critical flaw or broad weakness. They maintain the ability to optimally fill a defensive role in the right gym composition.

Tier 3Rating Explanation
CloysterCloyster Pros:
  • Difficult to type-counter, having a synergistic combination of typing and moves.
  • Strong vs. Dragonite.

Cons:
  • Despite its sky-high defense, Cloyster's HP is disappointingly low.
  • Cloyster's good charge moves are all 1-bar, so its charge move usage is easily predictable.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Ice Shard + Blizzard or Hydro Pump
KangaskhanKangaskhan Pros:
  • Solid generalist defender with good stats, moveset, and typing.
  • Stomp will be spammed constantly and is annoying to dodge.

Cons:
  • Lacks the raw power to be particularly strong against any attacker.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Mud Slap + Stomp
GyaradosGyarados Pros:
  • Huge stats and advantageous typing vs. top-tier attackers.
  • Has a very high max CP.

Cons:
  • Double weakness to electric, more specifically, Jolteon, who is as ubiquitous as Vaporeon.
  • Has fairly weak quick moves for defense.

Optimal Moveset
  • Dragon Breath or Bite + Dragon Pulse
OmastarOmastar Pros:
  • Advantageous attack and defensive typings vs. top-tier attackers.

Cons:
  • Double weakness to grass; demolished especially by the now-common Venusaur.
  • Rock Slide variants are poor vs. Rhydon and Golem.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Rock Throw + Rock Slide or Hydro Pump (legacy moveset)
Tier 3.5

These Pokemon are niche-fillers with at least one very important advantage or favorable matchup. They are only useful in situational gym compositions or in defending against particular higher-tier attackers. Their job is always done more optimally or in a less exploitable way by a different Pokemon in a higher tier.

Tier 3.5Rating Explanation
HypnoHypno Pros:
  • Surprisingly good defensive performance with good moveset and typing.

Cons:
  • Lacks the raw power to be particularly strong against any attacker.
  • Has a very low max CP; good luck placing it above the bottom rung.

Optimal Moveset
  • Confusion + Psychic or Psyshock
ClefableClefable Pros:
  • Competent generalist defender with good moveset and typing.

Cons:
  • Like Hypno, Clefable lacks the raw stats to pose a real threat to many top-tier attackers.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Zen Headbutt + Dazzling Gleam or Psychic
TentacruelTentacruel Pros:
  • Competent generalist defender with good typing and above-average bulk.

Cons:
  • Can be frustrating to attack into, but Tentacruel lacks the raw stats to seriously threaten top-tier attackers, a common theme in tier 3.5.
  • With only 1-bar charge moves, Tentacruel's charge move usage is easily predictable.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Poison Jab + Hydro Pump or Blizzard
TaurosTauros Pros:
  • Competent generalist defender with decent stats, moveset, and typing.
  • Horn Attack variants can be frustrating to dodge.

Cons:
  • Like Hypno, Clefable, and Tentacruel... no need to say it again.
  • Horn Attack variants are type-countered by Rhydon and Golem.
  • Has a middling max CP.

Optimal Moveset
  • Tackle + Horn Attack or Earthquake
GolemGolem Pros:
  • Use the wrong attacker into Golem, and you will be KO'd by its high damage output.
  • Performs fairly despite double weaknesses to water and grass.
  • Has a high max CP.

Cons:
  • Weaker version of Rhydon; all you have to do vs. Golem is brainlessly pick Vaporeon.
  • Earthquake and Stone Edge variants are at risk of fainting before using their charge move.

Optimal Moveset
  • Mud Slap + Stone Edge or Ancient Power OR
  • Rock Throw + Earthquake or Ancient Power
??? Tier

??? TierRating Explanation
ChanseyChansey Pros:
  • Great generalist defender by traditional metrics; high total damage output owing to massive bulk.
  • Takes far longer to defeat than any other Pokemon in the game, even Snorlax.
  • Weak attackers will be completely -unable- to defeat Chansey in time, especially if the attacker dodges frequently.

Cons:
  • Effectively impossible to prestige against; in other words, a gym will not reasonably advance beyond the level that she is placed in. So if you were to put Chansey in at level 3, getting that gym to level 4 would be much more difficult because of Chansey's extreme bulk. Because of this, Chansey can serve as a quality defender, either as the 10th Pokemon or in a gym built up via Bubblestrat.

Optimal Moveset
  • Pound or Zen Headbutt + Hyper Beam