Written by DavidKSA
Glass cannons are Pokemon that offset their relative frailty with high attacking power. In the turn-based main series, Pokemon with high Special and/or Physical Attack stats, in conjunction with high Speed stats, could be used to “sweep” opponents. Speed was important, because it determines who goes first – this was critical for Pokemon with little to no defensive capability. Essentially, if you set up for a sweep correctly, defensive stats do not matter.
Your offensive capability, the ability to take out your opponent first, is your defense. Jolteon’s frailty wouldn’t matter; bring it out late game when none of your opponent’s Pokemon are at full health, it is going to outspeed pretty much everything, guaranteeing you go first. You can then clean up, taking out every last mon one-by-one, without them ever having a chance to hit you back (obviously simplified example that isn’t taking into account priority moves, special walls with stalling/recovery sets, etc.).
In Pokemon Go, we have a real-time battle system, which means that no matter what you do the enemy is constantly attacking you, and dealing damage that you cannot completely avoid. Speed is used as a small modifier on Attack and Defense stats. Unfortunately, the increase in Attack stat is not enough to make up for a low effective health, as you will soon see.
What Pokemon Are Included In This Analysis?
First thing’s first: What are we defining as a “Glass Cannon” in Pokemon Go? Obviously, it involves a combination of high DPS and a low effective health, but what should the cut-off be? Based on purely arbitrary criteria (If you want technical specifics = Final Evolution, Tankiness below 27,000, DPS in the 70th percentile or better, and some personal bias), I have deemed the following to be Glass Cannons: Alakazam, Espeon, Flareon, Gengar, Houndoom, Jolteon, Jynx, Pinsir, Scizor, Starmie, Ursaring, Victreebel and Vileplume.
Now, the most important criteria for evaluating these Pokemon is not their DPS output. What we will be looking at is the total amount of damage they can be expected to deal before fainting – a calculation that takes their DPS output and effective health into consideration.
Total Damage Output Rankings
(credit to /u/Qmike for the calculation method for DPS and TDO)
|Tyranitar *||Bite||Stone Edge||15.4||524|
|Dragonite *||Dragon Tail||Outrage||17.0||494|
|Vaporeon *||Water Gun||Hydro Pump||12.9||484|
|Ursaring||Metal Claw||Hyper Beam||14.6||324|
|Scizor||Fury Cutter||Iron Head||13.4||301|
|Pinsir||Bug Bite||X Scissor||13.7||297|
|Scizor||Fury Cutter||X Scissor||13.2||296|
|Vileplume||Razor Leaf||Solar Beam||13.7||296|
|Gengar||Shadow Claw||Shadow Ball||18||294|
|Houndoom||Fire Fang||Foul Play||14.4||293|
|Pinsir||Fury Cutter||X Scissor||13.3||287|
|Houndoom||Fire Fang||Fire Blast||14.1||287|
|Scizor||Bullet Punch||Iron Head||12.7||285|
|Gengar||Shadow Claw||Sludge Bomb||17.4||285|
|Victreebel||Razor Leaf||Solar Beam||14.2||274|
|Victreebel||Razor Leaf||Leaf Blade||13.7||265|
|Starmie||Water Gun||Hydro Pump||13.2||248|
What you’ll notice is that Flareon and Espeon are the top two, they deal the most damage before fainting. Gengar, despite topping the DPS charts, rank towards the bottom. Gengar is so frail, that it does not deal as much damage during its life-span as many of the other Pokemon on the list.
I included Vaporeon, Dragonite, and Tyranitar as reference points. In Pokemon Go, the DPS output of the Glass Cannons does not compensate for their lack of durability. Vaporeon is better than all of them attacking into neutral targets. Yes, it takes longer, per battle, but it deals more damage in the long run – a Pokemon like Vaporeon can take out more opponents than a Glass Cannon, which means you are more likely to make it through high-level gyms in one run using tankier, low DPS Pokemon. Even a Feint Attack/Foul Play Umbreon will deal more damage during its life than Confusion/Future Sight Alakazam. Food for thought: are you actually saving time when you can’t make it all the way through a gym, and therefore end up having to make a new attacking roster more frequently?
And The Best Glass Cannon Is…
You might be tempted to pick Flareon since it has the best total damage output, but remember: Flareon is a Fire type. In our current meta – Vaporeon, Gyarados, Rhydon, Dragonite, and Tyranitar all resist Fire. That’s five out of seven of the most common gym defenders. Espeon on the other hand, has overall unresisted Psychic type attacks (Tyranitar is the only Top 7 defender that resists Psychic). And of course, there are still special cases where type advantage makes some of the other Glass Cannons better. My findings (and remember, we are prioritizing longevity over time-to-win):
- Overall, Espeon is the best Glass Cannon
- Ursaring is the best Glass Cannon against Tyranitar
- Jynx is the best against Dragonite
- Flareon is the best against Snorlax (despite Espeon resisting Zen Headbutt)
- Victreebel is the best against Rhydon
- Surprise, Jolteon is the best against Gyarados
- Flareon is the best against Blissey (despite Espeon resisting Zen Headbutt and Psychic)
- Vileplume is the best against Vaporeon (Gengar actually kills Vaporeon faster than any other attacker, but its longevity is atrociously bad)
The Optimal Movesets
With that answered, what are the best movesets for these Pokemon? You might be tempted to look at the highest DPS/ highest total damage moveset, well…remember these are Glass Cannons, dodging is key.
On paper, Espeon’s best moveset is Confusion/Future Sight. But consider this – Confusion has a long animation time, it takes 1.6 seconds. How many defenders can you reliably use Confusion twice against before successfully dodging? Most likely, none. Against opponents you can use Zen Headbutt twice before dodging, Zen Headbutt is better. Confusion deals base 20 damage per use, Zen Headbutt deals 12. Two uses of Zen Headbutt is 24 damage. Per use, Zen Headbutt yields about 10 energy, and Confusion yields about 15. Two uses of Zen Headbutt gives you 20 energy.
Therefore, when you can use Zen Headbutt twice, but Confusion only once before dodging, Zen Headbutt is better. If the defender has a faster, and more frequent attack animation, where you can only reliably fit in one use of either attack, Confusion is superior. And this type of Analysis applies to all the other movesets/Pokemon as well (assuming you prioritize dodging everything, and you should with Glass Cannons). With Alakazam, four uses of Psycho Cut before dodging is better than one use of Confusion.
Similar reasoning can be used with the charge moves. As long as the weave DPS disparity isn’t too large, quick animations are best. Victreebel with Leaf Blade realistically will live longer and deal more damage than Solar Beam Victreebel, despite having the lower weave DPS.
Espeon is the best overall. However, the value of a strong generalist is diminished in Pokemon Go. And the reason for that is simple. You custom tailor a roster to the gym you are fighting, allowing you to always choose optimal matchups. In the main games, you’ve already made your roster before battling other people – that uncertainty gives value to Pokemon that are useful in a wide array of situations, with lots of coverage moves. There are better Glass Cannons for a particular job than Espeon, and even then there are better Pokemon than the Glass Cannons. This game isn’t turned based – you are constantly taking and dealing damage.
The Pokemon with the best combination of durability and DPS are therefore the best in general (not accounting for type advantage). They objectively deal more damage than anything else before dying. And you probably know most of these attackers very well. In order of TDO on offense (greatest to least): Blissey, Snorlax, Tyranitar, Dragonite, Vaporeon, Rhydon, Gyarados, Muk, Lapras, Golem, Exeggutor, and Machamp.
They deal more damage before dying to neutral targets than any Glass Cannon. Using these Pokemon, you are more likely to make it through high-level gyms and take off more prestige per run.
At this point, we still do not have any idea when the Gym Rework is coming, and what it entails. Hopefully, Niantic will do something to add more appeal to using the game’s more fragile attackers.