Making the Generation 2 Attacker Tier List: Methods and Observations

Article by dondon151. Tier list available here.

Matchup data obtained from creating the defender tier list was also used to create this attacker tier list. In general, there are 4 rough categories of attacker:

  • Generalists (which are good against most defenders)
  • Specialists (which are optimal against specific common defenders)
  • Tanks (which win matchups handily but are slow)
  • Glass cannons (which have high DPS but are frail)

A species may not fit squarely into a single category, but these categories illustrate the priorities taken into account when creating this list. Some trainers may value time and therefore would never use a Blissey to attack, while other trainers may be bad at dodging (or be at the mercy of lesser hardware or the dodging bug) and therefore prefer not to use an Alakazam to attack.

The general weighting assignment was pretty simple: if a Pokemon was the best at a specific role in some meaningful way, then it fits somewhere in tiers 1 to 2.5. If a Pokemon wasn’t the best, then it doesn’t fit in tiers 1 to 2.5. There were some exceptions to this rule:

  • It’s okay to be worse than Dragonite or Blissey; they are just too good.
  • Heracross got an exemption from being relegated to tier 3+ because Machamp loses >80% of its HP defeating Blissey efficiently; if you want to beat multiple Blissey efficiently, you need multiple fighting-types.

As far as an attacker's specific placement in tiers 1 to 2.5 is concerned, that was determined using subjective weighting of that Pokemon's utility. For example, Dragonite - a generalist who effortlessly wins almost every matchup - is ranked above Jolteon, a specialist good only for the Gyarados matchup. Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon are all specialists, but Vaporeon doubles as a more versatile tanky attacker while Flareon's strengths are less utilized in the current metagame, hence their respective positions in tiers 1.5, 2, and 2.5.

Originally I was planning to scrap the tier list format altogether and use a chart that groups attackers by role. Eventually I decided against this. The group format doesn't doesn’t adequately differentiate between good Pokemon in a role and worse Pokemon in that role. It doesn't tell you, for example, that Machamp is a better specialist than Jolteon, who is in turn a better specialist than Charizard, without requiring the graphic to have heaps of complicated divisions.

Conversely, the tier list format, though blunt, helps the player to make optimal choices for his or her attacker squad. If you have sufficiently strong Pokemon in tiers 1 through 2.5, then you are equipped to optimally deal with any gym. If you don't have some of those Pokemon, or if you want to try something different, then tier 3+ has an ample pool of backup options to choose from.

The full, detailed spreadsheet containing matchup simulation results used for making the defender tier list is useful in this context, although it doesn't contain all of the matchup information used. The spreadsheet can be found here for your viewing pleasure.

Special Concerns

I won’t bother justifying the position of every Pokemon in the list. As always, there was some public disagreement about the placement of certain Pokemon, so let me address the 3 most common contentions presented against this tier list.

Machamp in tier 1.5 instead of tier 1

In preliminary iterations of the tier list I was undecided about Machamp being in tier 1. After comparing its matchup data to Dragonite, however, I simply couldn’t justify them being in the same tier. I think that Machamp is the best of the tier 1.5s but it's not in the same league as Dragonite.

Blissey in tier 1 (but she’s so slow!)

A lot of people ignored the statement that this tier list accounted for a spectrum of playstyles, and as a result took their pitchforks to GamePress’s methodology. For me, this is a position of damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t. If I put Blissey in tier 1, one camp of users would shout how wrong I was because she’s so slow. If I didn’t put Blissey in tier 1, another camp of users would shout how wrong I was because she beats everything.

The matchup data absolutely cannot justify Blissey in a lower place on the tier list. Pokebattler ranks her #1 in power (the number of times attacker could defeat defender consecutively) by a long shot.

Gyarados in tier 3+ (the motherload)

This placement in particular seems to have triggered a massive amount of negative feedback. Let me take this opportunity to debunk defenses of Gyarados, because many of them are factually incorrect.

Gyarados is just, like, a slightly worse Dragonite, It has a little less atk and no STAB on its dragon moves

Tyranitar is a slightly worse Dragonite. Gyarados is a much worse Dragonite. In a classic generalist go-to matchup vs. ZH/BS Snorlax, Gyarados wins at least 10 seconds slower depending on moveset (if both dodge specials only) while also taking more damage. Even SW/HB Dragonite - the worst attacking moveset - outperforms DT/O Gyarados in this matchup.

By the way, if you evolved a Pokemon and rolled a moveset that had only 72% the DPS of the optimal moveset, you would consider that a failure and start gathering candy to try again.

DT/O Gyarados is one of the best Dragonite counters

No, certainly not. Very few Pokemon can beat Dragonite without dodging; Gyarados is not one of them, but Lapras is.

Supposing dodge specials only, as far as speed is concerned, Lapras, Cloyster, Jynx, Piloswine, and Golem are all faster, more potion-efficient, and of course, Dragonite wins the mirror match faster too. Lapras has enough HP remaining to take down a second Dragonite.

DT/HP Gyarados is better than Vaporeon as a specialist

In the 2 matchups where it really matters - vs. Rhydon and Tyranitar - Vaporeon wins faster and with more % HP remaining. So no. They do about the same vs. Flareon but Flareon is such a joke and uncommonly seen in gyms nowadays. Donphan is also uncommon but less of a joke, and Vaporeon does way better here.

My personal experience dictates that Gyarados is a superior attacker

If you like using Gyarados as an attacker, then by all means, continue using Gyarados as an attacker, don’t let me stop you. If you lack half of the Pokemon in tiers 1 to 2.5, then Gyarados looks pretty good. If you have a maxed out copy of each of the Pokemon in tiers 1 to 2.5, then I can't see a situation in which including Gyarados on your 6-mon team is ever ideal.


The purpose of a tier list is not to validate your opinions. If the tier list disagrees with your opinions, then the default conclusion is not that the tier list is wrong. It’s easy to be fooled by personal experience. Players often don’t meticulously document their battle results, nor do they conduct their experiments in controlled settings, not to mention the impact of subtle personal biases.

Thanks for reading. In some way I feel that I owe an apology to Nick (GamePress site admin), because in speaking truth to the mob I have damaged GamePress’s reputation in the eyes of a subset of its users.

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