Salamence vs. Dragonite in Pokémon GO: an in-depth comparison

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Pokémon GO Salamence Max CP Stats Moves

Today, we explore how well the dragon / flying Salamence from Generation III stacks up against the original from Generation I, Dragonite.

Before diving into an analysis comparing them in Pokemon Go, first let’s briefly look at their history in the main series games.

Dragonite and Salamence In The Game Boy Games

This may come as a surprise to those not familiar with the main series Pokemon games, but when Dragonite was introduced in Generation I, it was not a particularly good Pokemon. Despite having Legendary base stats, Dragonite had a few problems.


First, Dragonite’s strength lies in its Physical Attack stat, and early on in Pokemon all Dragon type moves were special attacks. Second, there were hardly any Dragon moves in Gen I and Gen II. Third, Dragonite is not sitting in a particularly good Speed tier. And Fourth, in combination with its low Speed, Dragonite also has a crippling 4x weakness to Ice, which makes it very difficult to switch in as many Pokemon run Ice moves for coverage and could one hit Dragonite. (edit: Yes, I’m ignoring wrap. We do not speak of wrap! 😠)

When Generation III arrived, Salamence was undoubtedly the better Pokemon. By the time Game Freak added more Dragon type moves in Gen III, Dragonite was already outclassed.

Salamence has (even though it is only by 1 point) a higher Physical Attack stat and a higher Special Attack stat. Salamence also sits in a much better Speed tier than Dragonite. And last but not least, Generation III introduced abilities into the game, and Salamence had a good one: Intimidate – when a Pokemon with this ability is used, it lowers the Attack stat of your opponent.

Salamence was not quite as bulky as Dragonite, but boasted more offensive utility. Dragonite did not distinguish itself from Salamence until Generation V. At this point, Dragonite was given the ability Multiscale – while the user of this ability is at full health, it reduces damage taken by ½.

With this Generation, Game Freak differentiated Dragonite from Salamence as the bulkier, more defensively oriented Pokemon. And for the rest of this article, please keep this in mind. Salamence is intended to have more offensive power, and Dragonite is intended to have better defensive capabilities (which isn’t to say that Dragonite is a defensive Pokemon, just that it is more so inclined than Salamence).

Dragonite And Salamence In Pokemon Go

If we ignore Slaking as an outlier, Salamence will have the highest non-Legendary Attack stat in the game when Generation III arrives in Pokemon Go.

Pokemon HP Attack Defense CP Tankiness
Salamence 190 277 168 3532 31920
Dragonite 182 263 201 3581 36582

Should base stat calculations remain the same when Generation III arrives, Salamence will have a 5% higher Attack stat than Dragonite (note: that this does not necessarily correlate to a 5% increase in DPS), while Dragonite will be about 17% Tankier.

Which means, though Salamence will have improved offensive power, Dragonite will last longer in battle. And as you will see in the table below, due to its bulk, Dragonite will deal more damage before it faints than Salamence.

Quick Definitions:

  • Cycle DPS – The damage dealt by using the quick attack as often as possible and then attacking with the charge move as soon as you are able to.
  • Offensive TDO – The total damage dealt on offense before fainting
  • Defensive TDO – The total damage dealt on defense before fainting
Pokemon Moveset Cycle DPS%1 Offensive TDO%2 Defensive TDO%3
Dragonite Dragon Tail / Outrage 94.4% 58.9% 78.9%
Dragonite Dragon Breath / Dragon Claw 87.8% 54.7% n/a
Salamence Dragon Tail / Outrage* 99.4% 55.5% 77.9%
Salamence Dragon Tail / Dragon Pulse 92.2% 51.4% 69.4%
Salamence Dragon Tail / Dragon Claw 95.6% 53.2% 64.1%
Salamence Dragon Breath / Dragon Pulse 89.4% 50.1% n/a
Salamence Dragon Breath / Dragon Claw 92.3% 51.6% n/a

1. Percentage is relative to Shadow Claw/Shadow Ball Gengar(100%)
2. Percentage is relative to Pound/Hyper Beam Blissey(100%)
3. Percentage is relative to Zen Headbutt/Hyper Beam Blissey(100%)
*Salamence does not learn Outrage in the more recent main series games
n/a Dragon Breath is obviously a poor defensive move and was therefore omitted from the Defensive TDO comparison


Now as you can see from the table, if Salamence could learn Dragon Tail and Outrage, it would have a slightly better DPS output than Dragonite, about 5%. Dragonite, due to its Tankiness, still lives longer than Salamence and therefore deals about 3% more damage before it faints. On defense, Dragonite has the superior damage output for the same reason, it is more durable. And in combination with a higher max CP, Dragonite will also sit higher in gyms. Overall, Salamence can take out a defender a little faster than Dragonite, but Dragonite will deal a little more damage in the long run.

But of course, Salamence in the recent games does not learn Outrage. Recall that Gyarados used to have Dragon Breath in Pokemon Go. Early in the main series, Gyarados could learn Dragon Breath, however in the more recent iterations it does not. It has been speculated by many that Niantic uses the movepool from the latest Generations when deciding what moves to use. Thus, you can expect Pokémon GO Salamence’s best moveset, based purely on currently available moves, to be Dragon Tail/Dragon Claw. This narrows the gap in cycle DPS output between Dragonite and Salamence, with Salamence barely edging out its rival by 1%. And this further widens Dragonite’s lead with respect to its offensive total damage output.

Based on the current state of Pokemon Go, you wouldn’t really be able to tell that Salamence was the superior Attacker in the main games. As things stand now, Salamence would essentially be another Dragonite in Pokemon Go, and in a way slightly worse. Thus, let’s explore a possible way that Salamence could differentiate itself from Dragonite in Pokemon Go.

Speculation As To How New Moves Could Affect The Meta:

PSA: I’m just exploring a what-if scenario, if that offends you then my apologies.

Salamence, in the most recent Game Boy games, does not learn Outrage or Hurricane. It does however learn a comparable move to Hurricane, Fly.

In the main games, Fly has 90 base power, as do these moves: Leaf Blade, Wild Charge, Petal Blizzard, Sludge Bomb, Thunderbolt, Psychic, Play Rough, Aqua Tail, Bug Buzz, Ice Beam and Flamethrower.

As you may be aware, all of these moves have very different base power cooldowns, and energy requirements in Pokemon Go. Though it is interesting to note that prior to Generation II, every 90 power move was a 2-bar charge move in Pokemon Go (Aqua Tail, Leaf Blade, etc. are now 3-bar moves, and Petal Blizzard is 1 bar).

What we are going to focus on is a very powerful dragon type move, Draco Meteor. Draco Meteor had 130 base power in the main games, 90 accuracy, and 5PP (meaning, they could only be used 5 times). The only move in Pokemon Go that shares those characteristics is Overheat (they also both lower special attack when you use them). Realizing that Niantic pretty much does whatever they want, irrespective of how these moves were in the main games, here are some calculations anyway with a hypothetical Draco Meteor using the same stats as the Pokemon Go version of Overheat:

Pokemon Moveset Cycle DPS% Offensive TDO% Defensive TDO%
Dragonite Dragon Tail/Outrage 94.4% 58.9% 78.9%
Salamence Dragon Breath/Draco Meteor 105.4% 60% 74.3%
Salamence Dragon Tail/Draco Meteor 102.2% 58.3% n/a

In Pokemon Go, Overheat is a 1-bar move (uses 100 energy) that does 160 base damage in 4 seconds. To perform this calculation, the hypothetical Draco Meteor was given the exact same move data. As you can see, if Salamence had Dragon Tail and a dragon type equivalent of Overheat, it would surpass Dragonite and even Shadow Claw/Shadow Ball Gengar in terms of damage output.

And if such a move was given to Salamence, it is arguably fair, since it does have a higher Pokemon Go Attack stat than either Dragonite or Gengar. Salamence also eclipses Dragonite in terms of Offensive Total Damage Output with Dragon Tail and the hypothetical Draco Meteor. On Defense, Dragonite still outperforms Salamence, and keep in mind it does get better gym placement as well.

In conclusion

The point of this hypothetical demonstration is to illustrate that in the current state of Pokemon Go, Salamence’s strengths in the main games will not be reflected accurately.

The addition of a powerful dragon type move exclusive to Salamence could help give it an offense advantage over Dragonite, while preserving Dragonite’s advantages on Defense.

Thus, both Pokemon would have their individual strengths and weaknesses and neither would be superior to the other.