It has been many months since our last defender tier list update. While new Legendary Pokemon and Community Day exclusive attacks have done a lot to add to the offensive side of the meta, the defensive side has remained stagnant. The primary reason for updating our defender tier list isn’t to showcase new Pokemon or moves in the meta, but to better reflect the defensive meta and to highlight optimal Pokemon for specific strategies regarding gym defense.
This defender tier list highlights and seeks to optimize three different gym defense strategies: Pre-raid/immediate defense, general/intermittent defense, and defense over an extended period of time. Additionally, this tier list is in direct reference to Blissey, Chansey, and Snorlax being the greatest defenders in the game. Given that these three should be present in any “optimized” gym, the remaining three gym slots take advantage of their strengths and cover their weaknesses. As a result, this emphasizes Pokemon that resist Fighting and Fire-type damage and throws Pokemon vulnerable to those types under the bus (namely Lapras).
This page will cover the basics of the Defender Tier List. Over the next few weeks there will be pages added dedicated to each of the three defensive strategies linked below.
The Master Tier Pokemon should be considered for all gym defense strategies. If you are alone and you take a gym, adding a Blissey will always be the best decision. If Blissey is already in a gym, then Snorlax or Chansey will be the next best choice and so on. While all three Pokemon are optimized at max CP, Blissey also functions well in the 1952-2200 CP range. At max CP, Blissey is extremely formidable but after ~4 hours it becomes less threatening than it would be in the 1952-2200 CP range, as this lower CP range will maintain its motivation. As such, true gym defense enthusiasts will want to have both CP ranges of Blissey in their collection.
Mixing Defensive Types
Any gym can be defeated if someone has the will to attack it. Given how easy it is to take down almost any gym with a single line up of the same exact Pokemon, pairing Pokemon with complimentary resistances can be enough to deter someone looking for an easy victory (i.e., the majority of the population). As a result it could pay to be mindful of which types resist what the previous defender in the gym is weak to. For example, the Master Tier are all vulnerable to Fighting-type Pokemon, so placing a Fairy, Flying, Psychic, Poison, or Ghost-type Pokemon (types that resist Fighting) after them could be ideal.
It is important to note that while the Master Tier Pokemon only resist Ghost-type damage their monolithic defenses basically make them “omni-type” resistors. As such, you can pair these Pokemon with nearly any other Pokemon type and maintain the threat of "mixed defense.” While pairing any Master Tier defender with a Fighting-type weak Pokemon is unideal, Blissey’s extreme stats make it a non-issue. For example, the greatest defensive duo is Blissey and Snorlax, despite their shared weakness. On the other hand, Blissey, a resistor, and Snorlax would likely make a better trio than Blissey, Snorlax, and Chansey.
You’ll want to consider these Pokemon if you are defending before a raid egg hatches or if gyms in the area are constantly under attack. “Counter-Typing” highlights Pokemon that pair well with the Master Tier Pokemon. “Bulky” highlights Pokemon that don’t cover the Master Tier’s weaknesses as well but have solid enough defenses where they handle most neutral threats better than “Counter-Typing” Pokemon. Tier 3 Pokemon are a mix of both.
In general, all you need are the three Tier 1 Pokemon coupled with the Master Tier Pokemon to defend a gym optimally in the short term. However, you may dislike Milotic’s lack of counter-typing, Gardevoir’s low tolerance for neutral damage or Dragonite’s weakness to Dragon and Ice-type attacks. As such there are 8 other Pokemon for you to choose from. Two rogue Pokemon not featured in this list include Wobbuffet, which has massive defenses but no threat, and Slaking, which can upset a “3 room knock out” with its fast and hard-hitting Play Rough attack.
General/2-6 Hour Basics
The greatest influences on the Pokemon picks for this list are a) The ability to maintain gym height over time and b) Machamp lethality. Gym height arguably defends a gym better through deterrence than type mixing because it can stop would-be-attackers from clicking on a gym in the first place. Consider, if an attacker is looking for some easy prey to get their daily coins, are they going to fight a gym that likely has highly motivated, high CP Pokemon in which the defending trainers are likely nearby and/or actively berrying or they going to go after the pancake down the block that is likely filled with random trash? Now of course this strategy won’t stop everyone from attacking, but it is an extra level of deterrence to couple with the Master Tier and type mixing.
The >3200 Pokemon have the largest effect on the amount of time a gym is tall. If you are scratching your head at Slaking, Slakings extreme CP will make up for un-optimal CP Pokemon such as Chansey and then some. The 1700-2200 CP Pokemon operate in the “optimal range” for <3200 CP Pokemon in this strat (1952 being the sweet spot). While Clefable has resistance advantages over the Slowdudes and Hypno performs better at <2000 CP, the Slowdude's threat on Dragon, Ground, and Grass-type Pokemon with Ice-type attacks put them ahead. While Crobat appears like an odd pick, it is a highly specific counter to Machamp; so specific that it is only Tier 3.
While Milotic and Gardevoir are excellent defenders, their lower CP caps and poor performance in the 1700-2200 range keep them off the list. If you feel they will likely be berried within 4 hours then they both make perfectly reasonable Tier 1 Pokemon.
6+ Hours Basics
Where “General/2-6 Hours” aims to maximize gym height, 6+ hours aims to maximize motivation. These defenders will maintain a performance greater than other presented Pokemon after an extended period of time in absence of berrying. Tier 1 Pokemon perform better than a <2200 Blissey. Tier 2 Pokemon perform at the level of a <2200 Blissey. Tier 3 Pokemon perform better than Tier 2 Pokemon at <1500 CP. What makes <1500 CP special is that these Pokemon will still take 3 battles to knock out of a gym after 8+ hours where 1700-2200 range Pokemon will only take 2 battles to knock out. That said, the Tier 3 Pokemon are more of a novelty than a worthwhile investment given the limited usefulness of being very ok after 8+ hours.
Snorlax can be left out of this strategy because it performance is mediocre at <2200 CP. However, it is worth noting that the inclusion of a maxed out Snorlax alongside either a <2200 Blissey or maxed out Blissey will give the gym a high level of threat for ~4 hours which could allow a gym to persist long enough for the advantages of the other Pokemon on this list to show through, as being optimal at 6+ hours won’t matter if the gym doesn’t last that long.