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History of Dragon Types in Pokemon GO

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History of Dragon Types

Introduction

On February 8, 2018, Niantic announced the descent of the legendary Dragon-type Pokemon Rayquaza. As Groudon did to Rhydon and Kyogre did to Gyarados, the last of the Hoenn weather trio has finally arrived to claim the crown of its type. Aside from Rayquaza, there are other new additions to the House of Dragon such as Salamence. The center of the meta is once again around Dragon-types, as they have always been and will continue to be.

Dragon is arguably the best type for a generalist. Its attacks are only resisted by Fairy and Steel-types while it resists the four most common types: Water, Grass, Fire, and Electric. The only other type whose attacks have such a narrow resistance range is Ghost, but one type that does resist (and doubly resist) is Normal type, which is quite common in gyms.

Alas, nowadays it is the age of specialists. But it wasn’t always this way. Generalists dominated the early stage of the game until they didn't. The history of generalists is interesting to learn, and one important part is the history of Dragon-types.

Early Dominance: Dragonite

A history of Dragon-types would be nothing without the history of Dragonite, as it had been the only viable Dragon type across Gen 1 and Gen 2. If you have played since launch, you will remember the importance of Dragonite in the very early stage of the game. In the Gen 1 meta, obtaining the “Big 3” (Dragonite, Snorlax, Lapras) was everyone’s dream, of which Dragonite was the top prize.

Back then, no popular gym defender resisted Dragon-type attacks. Dragon Breath and Dragon Claw were also designed to be very powerful. Pairing unmatched type advantages and wonder moves with super solid stats, Dragonite easily became the best attacker in the entire game. In early versions of the game, STAB and effectiveness had the same 1.25x multiplier, meaning that there was often no point in leveraging type advantage rather than just throwing Dragonite at things.

In gym defense, Dragonite had the highest CP, putting it at the top of the lineup. Steel Wing and Dragon Pulse was one of the deadliest defensive movesets. A double weakness to Ice was Dragonite's Achilles's heel, but that just meant that attackers were forced to bring along an Ice type or engage in Dragonite duels. As both a top attacker and a top defender, Dragonite was arguably the best Pokemon in the game.

The CP rebalance in October 2016 lightly buffed its stats but buffed others to a greater extent, making Dragonite relatively weaker. Still, it remained the absolute best attacker in the game. Back then, a Dragonite could solve every problem you had, and the number of powered up Dragonites was simply the indicator of strength.

*The battle wons on my Dragonite demonstrates how important it has been for fighting the early gyms

Gen 2: Rise or Fall of the Dragon?

Gen 2: Rise or Fall of the Dragon?

While Gen 2 introduced a new member to the Dragon family - Kingdra, despite its fantastic typing, its stats are disappointing. Even blessed with the unique (before TM) Dragon Breath/Outrage moveset, Kingdra just doesn't compete with Dragonite. Furthermore, Gen 2 arrived at the same time as great move rebalance. Dragonite was given better moves: Dragon Tail and Outrage, and therefore remained the elite Dragon. However, outside of the Dragon family, there was a rising star from a type that had been long overlooked - Fighting. And the star is Machamp.

If one was to pick a single Pokemon from Gen 2 that shook the meta completely, it would be no other than Blissey. Blissey herself redefined the defense meta by making the battles painfully long. Niantic’s answer to that was a combo of two moves: Counter and Dynamic Punch. Machamp, being the strongest Fighting-type, masters both moves. In beating a Blissey or other Normal-type tanks like Chansey and Snorlax, no other Pokemon could match the speed of Machamp, not even Dragonite.

Still, Dragonite was definitely usable as an elite attacker and continued to appear in gyms as an OK defender. Tyranitar had higher CP but Larvitar candies were so rare back then, so you would still see Dragonite topping gyms often. That said, Dragonite’s relevance definitely decreased with the advent of Gen 2.

Meta Rework: Gym, Raid, and Legendary Raid

Meta Rework: Gym, Raid, and Legendary Raid

The gym rework changed the way how the order of defenders is determined, and more significantly, introduced a new way to defend gyms - feeding Golden Razz Berries. Pokemon who can stall the attackers for the longest will naturally be the best defenders. Dragonite fails to do so, but it does wall Machamp and forces attackers to switch. Beyond this little niche, Dragonite was no longer formidable on gym defense.

But the "real" rework was the key change in STAB and super effective multiplier. STAB was reduced from a 1.25x multiplier to 1.2x. Also, the effective multiplier increased from 1.25x to 1.4x. These changes gave rise to the specialists, and for the first time players were encouraged to learn type matchups. As a result, the generalist, Dragonite, lost many places of optimal counters in many matchups. Since then, it was never the no-brainer answer to gyms.

Along with the gym rework was the introduction of raids, which further pushed Dragonite out of the center of the game. The rewards of raids are exclusively useful, and players get to catch bosses that are otherwise extremely hard to come by such as Tyranitar, Snorlax, and Lapras. The entire meta shifted to raids.

The raid system rewards high DPS Pokemon since the number of rewards given is based on your damage contribution. Specialists with optimal DPS were immediately the new meta. Dragon-type, or Dragonite, lacked effectiveness in every raid battle as there were no Dragon-type bosses. It simply was not the highest DPS choice in raids - Dragonite was often viable, but never ideal, and served best as filler for players with incomplete teams. However, the way players invest completely changed: instead of building a big army of the best generalist, one would build smaller armies of specialists for each key type. After months, the effect can now be seen perfectly: players are equipped with an army of Golem, an army of Machamp, and so on.

Legendary raids brought more bad news to Dragonite. At the time, everyone thought Niantic had figured out the way to release legendaries. It was just a matter of time before Dragonite was outclassed by its legendary peers. But even before Gen 3 came Mewtwo, who has been competing with Dragonite for the best generalist, sporting monstrously high DPS. Mewtwo can be both a great generalist and a great specialist at the same time, which Dragonite isn't capable of. The exclusivity of Mewtwo is Dragonite's saving grace.

Gen 3 and the Rayquaza factor

Gen 3 and the Rayquaza factor

December 2017 saw the arrival of Gen 3. While the introduction of Gen 3 was considered late, the introduction of the weather trio (Groudon, Kyogre, Rayquaza) was considered early. Two months after Groudon first appeared, Rayquaza descended from the sky as the strongest addition to the Dragon family. It is an improved (though not strictly better) Dragonite with sky-high DPS; and, once again, a Dragon-type claims the highest neutral DPS title. Without playing the EX game, players can get their hands on the Pokemon with the best neutral DPS. The good thing about powering up a Rayquaza is you can use it in the next fight immediately. The months of February and March will see a Dragon-centric meta.

As for Dragonite, it won’t be collecting dust. Unlike Rhydon and Gyarados who gave up their titles of the best attacker of their types without a fight, Dragonite has much more to say! It has more bulk than Rayquaza and thus slightly higher TDO. With the incoming Community Day, Dratini candies supply won’t be a problem anymore, and an army of Dragonite is far easier to come by than an army of Rayquaza because the latter requires a considerable amount of Rare Candies, which are now the limiting factor.

Some other new additions to the Dragon family - Salamence and Lati Twins have their niche. Salamence's Draco Meteor holds the record of the highest one-shot damage to a defending Dragonite/Salamence in the gyms, which can be handy if you are using the delay-room strategy to take out defenders in the 2nd-5th slot. Latios and Latias have access to the classic Dragon Breath/Dragon Claw, a legacy moveset of Dragonite, which many players dream to have one/more. Latios will be the highest Atk DB/DC user, and the Dragon-Psychic-dual-typing also saves him from any double weakness. The game will see so much more variety in the foreseeable future.

Gen 4 and Beyond

The debate between Dragonite or Rayquaza being better is meaningless just as the debate between Vaporeon and Gyarados. If you take a step back and look into the future, the family of Dragon will only see more formidable additions as later generations come. Gen 4, 5 and 6 all have Dragon-types as their cover legendary (it almost seems that The Pokemon Company is addicted to Dragon-types). With Rayquaza as a reference, their projected base stats and possible Dragon-type moves that are already in the game are summarized in the table below.

Atk Def HP CP
284 170 191 3646
Dragon Tail / Outrage
Atk Def HP CP
302/275 242/220 200/182 4654/3897
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail
Dragon Claw, Dragon Pulse, Outrage
Atk Def HP CP
308/280 247/225 180/164 4560/3819
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail
Dragon Claw, Dragon Pulse, Outrage
Atk Def HP CP
206 247 300 3965
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail
Dragon Claw, Dragon Pulse, Outrage
Atk Def HP CP
302/275 242/220 200/182 4654/3897
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail
Dragon Claw, Dragon Pulse, Outrage, Draco Meteor
Atk Def HP CP
302/275 242/220 200/182 4654/3897
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail
Dragon Claw, Dragon Pulse, Outrage, Draco Meteor
Atk Def HP CP
270/246 187/170 250/228 4118/3456
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail

Dragon Claw, Dragon Pulse, Outrage, Draco Meteor
Atk Def HP CP
203 245 216 3337
Dragon Breath, Dragon Tail
Dragon Pulse, Outrage, Draco Meteor

The takeaway is that even after imposing the "9-antic nerf", 5 of them will have higher CP than Rayquaza. And they all have access to the classic Dragon Tail + Outrage combo. Note that both Dialga and Palkia have their own Dragon-type signature moves - Roar of Time and Spacial Rend, respectively, which could be stupidly strong like Origin Pulse and Precipice Blades. Rayquaza’s only chance to prevail against them all is that they all receive the 9-antic nerf AND their moves are no better than the current ones.

Outside of the Legendary realm, there will also be some formidable members of the Dragon family. One of the most anticipated is Garchomp in Gen 4, a Dragon- and Ground-type Pokemon, with a base Atk of 260 and a max CP of 3824. With almost the same base Atk as Dragonite and 32% more bulk than Rayquaza, Garchomp will definitely be a contender.

Another factor to consider is Mega Evolution, a feature available in the main series. Simply speaking, it is a temporary evolution to enhance Pokemon in battle. Not every Pokemon has their own Mega Evolution (yet); of all the Dragon-type Pokemon mentioned in this article, only Rayquaza, Salamence, Garchomp, and the Lati Twins do. If Mega Evolution is ever to be implemented in Pokemon GO, they will surely welcome it.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the future. However it may be, Rayquaza of the House Dragon, First of its Name, the Unburnt, King of the Dragon and Flying-types, Protector of the Sky, Breaker of Meta, and Father of the Weather Trio, will stay relevant for quite some time.

Dragon-types will only get better and stronger in the future, continue to be the very definition of a generalist, and serve us well.