Gym Defenders Tier List

Gym Defenders Tier List
Tier List Overview

Two months have passed since the last update to our tier list. Since then, Niantic has brought in several significant new threats into the meta (Mewtwo, Raikou, Zapdos, Entei, and Moltres). In addition to this, the meta has settled and player habits have changed as a result of the new gym system. Because of this, we have decided to revise our defender tier list to not only reflect the addition of Legendary Pokemon, but also to reflect how trainers now battle gyms.

At the time of writing this, gyms only reward coins when your defender is knocked out of the gym. You can only receive the maximum amount of 50 coins after a collective of 8 hours and 20 minutes of defending, and only after your Pokemon are removed from their respective posts. While this change in functionality has trivialized gym defense to an extent, we’ve decided to settle on ranking our gym defenders as we had in the past; based on the assumption that the goal is to use the most time consuming and resource draining Pokemon that Pokemon GO has to offer.

As per the previous defender tier list, it is assumed that hardcore players are near the end game and are equipped with a fully optimized crew of gym attackers and defenders. With the advent of Raid Bosses and Legendary Pokemon, it is also assumed that the more casual player base has access to a well rounded group of powerful attackers, namely Machamp, Tyranitar, Raikou, Zapdos, Entei, Moltres, and, most recently, Mewtwo.

In the process of creating this tier list, we first assessed the quantitative defensive ability of each Pokemon, then supplemented that with simulations of numerous specific matchups, then tweaked rankings based on the likelihood of the defender causing a switch. Quantitative defender quality was assessed using two factors: the amount of damage done to an attacker, and the amount of time required for the attacker to win. Because attackers are now more likely to use 1 or 2 all powerful attackers (namely Dragonite, Machamp, and Mewtwo), performance against these 3 attackers (technically 4 due to the sharp contrast between Focus Blast and Shadow Ball Mewtwo) was weighed more heavily.

Through this we found that due to the changes in player habits and the introduction of Legendary Pokemon, the quantitative rankings of most defenders have decreased significantly from our previous model (aside from Tyranitar who flourishes in this new meta, and Blissey who remains relatively untouched). While Pokemon in the higher and lower tiers are more notable for their quantitative performances, we’ve decided to split to vast amount of middle ground Pokemon into two separate tiers based on how likely they are to force the opponent to bring in additional Pokemon and switch attackers.

Defenders Tier List
Defenders Tier List
S+ Tier
S Tier
A Tier
B+ Tier
B Tier
C Tier
C- TIer
S+ Tier

This Pokemon is an elite defender in essentially all situations and carries favorable matchups against every attacker in the game. She has great damage output and draws attackers into prolonged battles.

Zen Headbutt vs Pound/Lick:

While Zen Headbutt was previously regarded as the gold standard for these top 3 Pokemon, the performance of Pound and Lick against their newest threat, Mewtwo, and their propensity to elongate battles that much more, have lead us to believe that they are now more equal in performance. That said, a greater emphasis is still placed on Zen Headbutt due to its higher base damage and increased energy gains.


Pros:

  • The highest “Gym base stat total” in the game
  • Only weakness covered by strongest quick and charge moves
  • Has no true poor matchups
  • All movesets are viable and leagues superior in performance to the next lowest tier

Cons:

  • It might take a while for you to get a return on your gym coins if placed in a low turn over area


Best Movesets:

  • Zen Headbutt or Pound + Dazzling Gleam
S Tier

These Pokemon are great defenders in essentially all situations and carry strong matchups against every attacker in the game. Though not all matchups result in victory, these Pokemon nonetheless have high damage output and force long battles.

Pros:

  • Very strong defender, with a high base stats and only 1 weakness
  • Strongest quick move is SE against its 1 weakness
  • Best, non-legacy, charge move is SE against its “best” counter

Cons:

  • Countered by Machamp and Heracross
  • Has a weak matchup with Tyranitar if not carrying Heavy Slam

Best Movesets:

  • Zen Headbutt or Lick + Heavy Slam or Body Slam

Pros:

  • Like Blissey in every way but with significantly lower attack and defense
  • Its extremely high bulk makes up for its lower attack
  • Its extremely low CP gives it a slower motivation decay rate, which may make it even more powerful than Blissey after an extended period of time

Cons:

  • Relies on optimal moveset for performance
  • More neutral counters such as Mewtwo, Alakazam and Dragonite handle Chansey as well as its more optimized counters (Machamp and Heracross)

Best Movesets:

  • Zen Headbutt or Pound + Dazzling Gleam or Psy Beam
A Tier

These Pokemon are of the most formidable in the game. Their unique defensive typing limits them to only a few poor match ups and forces switches if both are used in a gym. Even at minimum motivation/CP, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Pros:

  • Impressive bulk condemns neutral matchups to extended battle times
  • Powerful non-STAB quick and charge moves keeps it threatening even to its more optimized match ups
  • Overall, Dragonite and Mewtwo’s worst match up

Cons:

  • Has a wide variety of optimal counters in Fighting, Fire, and Water-type Pokemon (notably Machamp, Vaporeon, and Moltres/Entei)
  • Most counters resist its STAB movesets

Best Movesets:

  • Dragon Tail or Iron Tail + Crunch or Heavy Slam

Pros:

  • Defensive typing limits counters to Ice and Fairy-type Pokemon
  • Dragon-type STAB attacks are powerful and largely unresisted
  • Steel Wing punishes Fairy-type and some Ice-type match ups

Cons:

  • Countered so heavily by Ice-type Pokemon that it may not be able to get its charge move off
  • Fairy-types both deal SE damage and have immunity tier resistance to Dragonite’s Dragon-type attacks

Best Movesets:

  • Dragon Tail + Dragon Claw or Outrage or Hurricane
B+ Tier

These Pokemon are similar to the tier above in that their unique defensive typing limits their counters, they synergize with each other, and they have notable performances even at minimum motivation/CP. The main difference is that they have a wider selection of optimal counters and perform slightly less than the above.

Pros:

  • Defensing typing limits counters to Electric-type Pokemon
  • Has a powerful quick attack and a variety of powerful charge moves which may allow Gyarados to KO frailer or underleveled Electric-type counters

Cons:

  • Countered so heavily by Electric-type Pokemon that it may not be able to get its charge move off

Best Movesets:

  • Dragon Tail +  Hydro Pump or Outrage or Crunch

Pros:

  • Confusion is of the most powerful quick moves for defense and has extremely good coverage
  • Variety of type coverage through charge moves, often punishing more common matchups

Cons:

  • Tyranitar counters Slowbro extremely hard
  • Now has Raikou, Zapdos, and Shadow Ball Mewtwo to contend with as well

Best Movesets:

  • Confusion + Ice Beam or Psychic or Water Pulse

Pros:

  • Exactly the same in performance as Slowbro

Cons:

  • Like Slowbro, Tyranitar absolutely demolishes Slowking while Raikou, Zapdos, and Mewtwo have also entered the game as threats

Best Movesets:

  • Confusion + Blizzard or Psychic

Pros:

  • Formidable base stats combined with powerful, neutral coverage limits counters despite Tyranitar’s many weaknesses
  • Deters Dragonite, Tyranitar, and Mewtwo attackers, punishing those that don’t switch

Cons:

  • Extremely poor matchups with Machamp and Vaporeon
  • A whopping 7 weaknesses

Best Movesets:

  • Iron Tail + Crunch or Stone Edge
B Tier

These Pokemon are solid defenders that force prolonged battle times. What separates them from B Tier is they don’t have many or any alternative movesets to help punish their more optimal counters.

Pros:

  • Pervasive neutral coverage with STAB Dark-type attacks backed with tremendous bulk

Cons:

  • Fighting-types (namely Machamp and Heracross) resist all of Umbreon’s movesets and hit back with STAB SE damage

Best Movesets:

  • Snarl + Dark Pulse

Pros:

  • Combination of powerful STAB Ice and Water-type moves may punish less optimized counters
  • Wards off Dragonite

Cons:

  • Countered by Machamp, Tyranitar, Mewtwo, Raikou, Zapdos, Entei, and Moltres

Best Movesets:

  • Ice Shard or Frost Breath + Ice Beam or Blizzard or Hydro Pump

Pros:

  • Volt Switch is of the most powerful quick moves for defense and has extremely good coverage
  • Electric-typing limited Ampharos to slow, Ground-types as optimal counters
  • Has access to Focus Blast to punish Rhydon, Golem, and Tyranitar

Cons:

  • Ground-types hit with SE damage and have immunity tier resistance to Electric-type attacks
  • Limited to single bar charge moves

Best Movesets:

  • Volt Switch + Focus Blast or Thunder

Pros:

  • Unique, Fairy-typing gives Clefable the most unique optimal counters out of all rated defenders
  • Zen Headbutt punishes players who know Poison-type attacks deal SE damage to Fairy-type Pokemon
  • Do you know Clefables most optimal counters without googling it? Yeah. Didn’t think so :^)

Cons:

  • Fairly limited and predictable movesets
  • Performance becomes less impressive once Clefable’s more optimal counters are figured out

Best Movesets:

  • Any + Dazzling Gleam

Pros:

  • Extremely high bulk coupled with powerful STAB charge moves with early dodge windows
  • Relatively long battle times compared to most Pokemon in this tier, even when at a disadvantage

Cons:

  • Extremely predictable
  • Performance declines significantly with motivation/CP loss.

Best Movesets:

  • Water Gun + Aqua Tail or Hydro Pump

Pros:

  • Play Rough has an early dodge window and punishes 3 of the most powerful attackers in the game (Dragonite, Tyranitar, and Machamp)

Cons:

  • Movesets don’t really give it a significant edge over its most common counters

Best Movesets:

  • Counter + Play Rough
C Tier

These Pokemon are decent defenders that either have notable bulk, powerful quick moves, and/or surprising movesets that allow them punish their more common counters.

Pros:

  • Poison-typing forces Fighting-type attackers to switch
  • Blizzard access and bulk wards off Dragonite

Cons:

  • Limited to single bar charge moves

Best Movesets:

  • Poison Jab or Acid + Hydro Pump or Blizzard

Pros:

  • Poison-typing limits Muk's counters to Psychic-types and slow, Ground-types
  • Infestation and Dark Pulse hit Muk's better counters for SE damage

Cons:

  • Is countered heavily by Mewtwo and Lugia
  • Both STAB charge moves are very slow single bar charge moves with late damage windows limiting Muk to Dark Pulse

Best Movesets:

  • Infestation or Poison Jab + Dark Pulse

Pros:

  • High base power attacks coupled with all around good stats allows Kangaskhan to punish less optimized match ups
  • Outrage and Crunch can get a powerful surprise hit on Dragonite and Mewtwo respectively 

Cons:

  • Countered easily by Machamp and Heracross

Best Movesets:

  • Mud Slap + Outrage or Crunch

Pros:

  • Zen Headbutt makes up for Miltank’s poor attack stat, hitting Fighting-type counters hard
  • Access to the legendary charge move “Body Spam.”
  • Effectively a mini-Snorlax

Cons:

  • Countered easily by Machamp, Heracross, Alakazam, and Mewtwo
  • Deals laughable damage to Tyranitar

Best Movesets:

  • Zen Headbutt + Body Slam

Pros:

  • Confusion is of the most powerful quick moves for defense and has extremely good coverage
  • Carries Focus Blast to punish Dark-type Pokemon, namely Tyranitar
  • Future Sight may punish non Dark-type Pokemon anticipating Focus Blasts long animation time and late dodge window

Cons:

  • Countered heavily by both Dark and Bug-type Pokemon
  • Shadow Ball Mewtwo resists primary movesets and hits back with SE damage

Best Movesets:

  • Confusion + Any

Pros:

  • Mud Slap’s high base power coupled with Stone Edge’s early dodge window and wide type coverage keeps Rhydon in the meta despite the challenges it faces with Water and Grass-type Pokemon
  • Pairs up very well with Fire, Electric, and Rock-type weak Pokemon
  • Wards off Dragonite and Tyranitar

Cons:

  • Very poor match ups against Grass and Water-type Pokemon

Best Movesets:

  • Mud Slap + Stone Edge or Megahorn
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