Pokemon GO’s Usual Gym Suspects

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Pokemon GO’s Usual Gym Suspects

USER GUIDE | Submitted by ChaterangaIf you are like myself, then you can’t help tapping on a gym and seeing what is stacked inside. Whether the gym belongs to your team or the opposition, trainers always want to measure up the Pokemon inside and try to determine how tough the gym will actually be to take down. Most trainers blindly throw Pokemon in gyms without truly understanding the value or ability of their Pokemon to defend.

Trainers tend to lean on the standard of placing the Highest CP Pokemon Available, with the idea of not being knocked out quickly. However, some high CP Pokemon are actually better Attackers than they are Defenders and fall quickly when placed in a defender role. This guide will attempt to better inform trainers on what you should place in gyms, and ultimately improve the time your Pokemon last as a defender.

Understanding the Meta

By design, the gyms in Pokemon Go are never suppose to stay defended by a specific team for long amounts of time. This means that all gyms can, and will eventually be defeated but, as trainers your job is to place Pokemon in gyms that cost the attacking team more resources than it is worth, or drain their economy to the point that they are limited to the amount of gyms they can attack. In other words, attacking trainers should have to use their (Revives and Health Potions) in order to defeat your gym. The more items it takes, the more time they have to gather more resources, the less time they have to attack gyms. When trainers place easy Pokemon in gyms, or stack the gyms to one specific weakness (For example, 6 Vaporeons can be defeated by 2 good Jolteons) then the defending trainers will actually end up spending more resources than the attacker. This is why it is important to understand what Pokemon are strong defenders and why they are so strong.

CP versus Level

Most trainers understand the base stats in Pokemon but Niantic’s “CP” value causes some difficulties to even moderate players. As previously mentioned, trainers will often place their highest “CP” Pokemon in gyms to avoid being near the bottom but a stronger less CP Pokemon could actually help them stay in the gym longer. For example, a trainer is deciding between three Pokemon to place in a gym. The trainer has a Dragonite (2323 CP) Charizard (2275) and Poliwrath (2124) to choose from. If the trainer was to use the method of “Highest CP”, the Dragonite would be placed in the gym. Although movesets should be considered, overall if each Pokemon has the best Defensive moveset, then the Dragonite is the weakest choice in this example. With the double weakness to Ice, and lower overall stats, it is a poor choice for Defending.

Example 1.A

Pokemon CP Level HP Est. ATK Est. Def
Dragonite 2323 24 118 211 158
Charizard 2275 30 121 188 157
Poliwrath 2124 32 144 164 168


It is important to remember that IV’s will affect each trainers Pokemon stats in different ways (Which is why I used Estimated ATK/DEF stats in the table) but overall this example highlights how CP alone is not a good metric in determining what you should place in a gym.

Movesets Matter!

When it comes to defending a gym the most important factor for a defending Pokemon is having the best moves to deal the most damage before fainting. Even with lower CP, a defender with the perfect moveset can do more overall damage than its higher CP Pokemon counterpart. Because you cannot play as the defender your Pokemon needs moves that will help it deal consistent damage while charging up its power move. No Pokemon demonstrates this point better than Dragonite. As an Attacker you can easily take down gym defenders with (Dragon Breath) and any charge move. However, as a Defender Dragonite deals more damage overall with (Steel Wing) and (Dragon Pulse) while also dealing effective damage to Ice type attackers. (Dragonites best counter) The majority of Pokemon will have a best Offensive moveset and a best Defensive moveset, with a few having just one overall good moveset, it’s important to know what these moves are before placing Pokemon in gyms as defenders.

Gym Defenders

Now that you understand why and how Pokemon should be selected for defenders, let’s look at the four major types and some of the top tier choices for defending. (Because Poison types are easily defeated by Psychic types and Alakazam was recently buffed, I am not including them in this breakdown and will focus primarily on Fire, Grass, Ground, and Water types. This articles focus is on how to select a good defender for gyms not a Tier list for best gym defenders.)

Fire Types

With the current “Water Gun” environment you do not often see Fire types in gyms. However, the current “Starter” event should have allowed players to gather up enough candies for one Charizard and hopefully that means the gym meta will change. Trainers at low levels will place Flareon in gyms as it probably is the highest CP they have, but it doesnt have a great survival rate.

Some trainers think that Arcanine with (Bite/Bulldoze) is a nice surprise for Water type Pokemon but the damage is still relatively low for a defender. Charizard provides the best Fire type introduction to gym defense, as it’s “Flying Type” provides a much better advantage against Water Pokemon than other Fire type defenders. While (Flamethrower) or (Fire Blast) deals good damage regardless of the attacking Pokemon’s type.

Charizard also highlights how the “Legendary Birds” may affect the gym meta with the Quick move (Wing Attack) as Charizard’s other counter “Ground Type”, will take effective damage from this Quick Attack.

  • Charizard (Wing Attack/Fire Blast) or (Wing Attack/Flamethrower)

Grass Types

With the ease of access to Fire and Bug types trainers often overlook the benefits of Grass type defenders, with most of the higher health and defensive stat Grass types having an additional type (Poison or Psychic) these defenders are not a bad choice in the right gym. The most common defensive moveset is (Razor Leaf) with any charge move, with Exeggutor being the only exception with (Confusion/Psychic)

Once again, the recent starter event should have provided trainers the opportunity to acquire a Venusaur and any one with (Razor Leaf) will be a good choice for defending. Exeggutor is a first class defender with better HP than Venusaur and an equally effective Quick move in (Confusion), both of these defenders should be considered for gym defenders.

  • Exeggutor (Confusion/Psychic or Seed Bomb, Solar Beam)
  • Venusaur (Razor Leaf/Petal Blizzard or Sludge Bomb)

Ground Types

The recent buffs to Rhydon and Golem have made them common sights in most gyms. However, the “Highest CP Avaiable” method is providing experienced trainers the opportunity to take down gyms with ease as both of these Pokemon have double weakness to Water types. Kangaskhan with a much lower CP but similar movesets is actually a better Ground defender because of its type advantage of “Normal”.

When trying to determine the best time to use one of these Ground Types, you should use the level approach to placing Rhydons in gyms. If you have a higher level defender (Example 1.A) use that Pokemon first unless you have no other choices. As for movesets Golem and Rhydon need (Mud Slap) to be effective defenders with (Earthquake) being the best charge move. However, (Stone Edge) is a close second and can be equally effective, especially in gyms that suffer from signal loss or have lag issues.

  • Rhydon (Mud Slap/Earthquake) or (Mud Slap/Stone Edge)
  • Golem (Mud Slap/Earthquake) or (Mud Slap/Stone Edge)


Water Types

The most common defenders in any gym and the overall strongest defenders in most gyms, Water types provide the most comfort for trainers when selecting a defender. Trainers are confident that any attacker will receive a good amount of damage from a Water type defender. The biggest error of trainers though is not mixing in type advantages and flooding gyms with Vaporeons or Gyarados. As previous examples have demonstrated, a lower CP Poliwrath or Slowbro can be just as effective as a high CP Vaporeon or Gyarados, with less weaknesses to Grass or Electric types.

Understanding that this type is generally strong, I will just list some of the best movesets for any new trainers that are not familiar with them.

  • Vaporeon (Water Gun/Hydro Pump, or Water Pulse, Aqua Tail)
  • Lapras (Ice Shard/Ice Beam, or Blizzard)
  • Poliwrath (Bubble/Hydro Pump) or (Bubble/Submission or Ice Punch)
  • SlowBro (Confusion/Psychic)

What about Dragonite and Snorlax?

Because Dragonite and Snorlax are Rare, trainers will always want to put them in gyms. My advice though is used these Pokemon to fill gyms when you have poor options for defenders. For example you come across a gym that has three Vaporeons in it, and even though you have a higher CP Vaporeon, you dont want to make the gym an easy target for attacking players. In this case you should place a Snorlax or Dragonite in these gyms. They are the ultimate fix for poorly defended gyms and in most cases you will still stack high inside the gyms. As with all defenders the movesets matter, so you should have a (Zen Headbutt) Snorlax and as previously mentioned, a (Steel Wing) Dragonite as gym defenders.

I hope this helps trainers make better decisions when deciding defenders for gyms, and provides a better overview of the current gym battle system in general. As always this article is based on my experiences in the game and solely based on my opinion, with no affiliation to Niantic or Pokemon Go. With the expected addition of Generation 2 some of this material may be subject to change, but in the mean time, enjoy those battles.

Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

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Zeroghan started the Hub in July 2016 and hasn't had much sleep since. A lover of all things Pokémon, web development, and writing.

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