Best Pokémon to evolve and power up in Pokémon Go — Updated for Gen 2!

Which Pokémon should evolve first and power up the most? This is your NEW list!

Updated April 2017 to account for changes in rankings, movesets, and damage, and expanded with additional top-tier Pokémon from Gen 2.

Pokémon Go Gen 2 just added 80 new Pokémon to the game. That makes 230-odd for you to hatch, catch, and evolve. Once you add them to your Pokédex, though, here's really only one thing left to do with your Pokémon — put them on Gyms. To do that, you'll either have to battle to get a spot or be battled to keep it. That means having Pokémon that can attack and defend Gyms are critical, and that means those are the Pokémon you want to max out.

So, which Pokémon should you evolve and power up — including Gen 2? Here's the updated list!

WARNING: Pokémon Go has announced that three more major updates are coming our way this year and that a new Gym system is likely to be the first. That means, if holding Gyms is what's most important to you, proceed with caution. It may still be worth it in terms of Gym rewards to worry about today for today and the future when and if it comes. It may also be worth it to wait and see. Figure out what's important to you and then invest your Candy and Stardust wisely! Personally, I'm maxing one or two of each high-CP Pokémon — and a few personal favorites! — for now, and saving on the rest for whatever comes next!

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The Mon-ificent Seven Gym Defenders

While the number of Pokémon in the Pokédex expanded, and the movesets have been remixed, one thing that hasn't changed is how Gym placement works. The Pokémon with the highest CP (Combat Power) sits highest on the Gym and has the best chance of staying there the longest. That means a max CP of 3000 or more. Preferably more. So, when it comes to the top ranked Pokémon, the only thing that's really new is the addition of a couple Pokémon from Gen 2.

(Donphan and Espeon can also reach 3000 CP, but just barely. That makes it far less likely they'll sit high up on Gyms.)

Tyranitar — Max CP 3670

Like something out of Godzilla, Tyranitar is a Rock/Dark-type Pokémon that packs a Dragonite-style punch. With CP that soars over 3700, Tyranitar will be sitting on top of many Gyms for the months to come, especially with the Iron Tail + Crunch moveset. (Just watch out for its double weakness against fighter types!)

It'll cost you 25 Larvitar Candies to evolve Pupitar and 100 more to get Tyranitar.

Catch or hatch:

  • Larvitar

Catch or evolve:

  • Pupitar
  • Tyranitar

Dragonite - Max CP 3581

Dragonite ruled the Gyms and players desires in Pokémon Go Gen 1. Everyone scoured water environments for the rare Dratini spawns — and rarer Dragonair spawns — to accumulate enough Candy to evolve. And the Mt. Moon biomes, as hinted by Clefairy spawns, for the occasional Dragonite spawn itself. And we're going to keep doing it too. With its new Dragontail + Outrage moveset, Dragon is more powerful as ever in the game and a few new Gen 2 Pokémon aren't going to change that! (Though it's still double weak against ice-types.)

It takes 25 Dratini Candies to evolve a Dragonair and 100 more to get a Dragonite.

Catch or hatch:

  • Dratini

Catch or evolve:

  • Dragonair
  • Dragonite

Snorlax - Max CP 3355

Snorlax doesn't have any evolutions, at least not yet. (Spoiler: There's a baby Munchlax coming eventually!). But that doesn't make it any less powerful. There are, in point of fact, few Pokémon as well rounded when it comes to both attack and defense as Snorlax. It doesn't quite have the HP of Blissey, but it has a higher CP potential, and that puts it at the very top of a lot of Gyms. It's old Zen Headbutt + Body Slam moveset might be legacy now, but Zen Headbutt + Hyper Beam works as well as ever.

Catch or hatch:

  • Snorlax

Rhydon - Max CP 3300

Rhydon received a significant boost in late 2016, with Pokémon Go's updated formula pushing its potential up above 3000 CP. That's made it much more popular in Gyms. So has its singular ability to outlast Snorlax in most matchups, especially with the Mud Slap + Stone Edge moveset. (Only slightly offset by a double weakness to water and grass.)

It takes 50 Rhynhorn Candies to evolve a Rhydon.

Catch or hatch:

  • Rhynhorn

Catch or evolve:

  • Rhydon

Gyarados - Max CP 3281

Gyarados is much more powerful now than it was when Pokémon Go launched, the updated formula shooting it up over 3000 CP. Because Gym position is CP based, that's made Gyarados a common tenant. It's new Dragon Tail + Hydropump or Outrage movesets has only made it more so. (On the negative side, it's double weak against electric.)

It takes 400 (!) Magikarp Candy to evolve a Gyarados.

Catch or hatch:

  • Magikarp

Catch or evolve:

  • Gyarados

Blissey - Max CP 3219

Chansey was already a high HP wall. Blissey is like Chansey on Hulk-serum, so that makes it a super-high HP fortress. Dazzling Gleam is the best defensive charge move but put any Blissey on a Gym and friend and foe alike will hate you, as they throw Pokémon after Pokémon at Blissey trying to dislodge or prestige it. And it better be high damage-per-second (DPS) 'Mon as well, because time runs out in Pokémon Go after 90 seconds. Yeah, it's fun and frustrating to be a wall.

It takes 50 Chansey Candy to evolve Blissey.

Catch or hatch:

  • Chansey

Catch or evolve:

  • Blissey

Vaporeon - Max CP 3157

Eevee are so common in some areas that almost everyone has access to a high-level Vaporeon or several. It can get to 3000 CP, though barely, but at any significant combat power, it's a force to be reckoned with. (Even if it's weak against grass.) Because it's a split evolution (Rainer trick aside), you won't always get a Vaporeon, but when you do, watch out world. It's power and ubiquity are game changing. Especially with the Water Gun + Aqua Tail moveset.

It takes 25 Eevee Candy — and some luck — to evolve Vaporeon.

Catch or hatch:

  • Eevee

Catch or evolve:

  • Vaporeon

The All-Star Pokémon Gym Attackers

The changes to moveset and damage really changed the dynamics of Gym attacking. Unlike prestiging your own team's Gyms, it makes no difference if you use lower CP Pokémon when attacking Gyms held by opposing teams. Type matching remains critically important, though. While you can power through almost any defender with a Dragonite, Snorlax, or Tyranitar of sufficient power, doing so quickly and efficiently still requires some strategy.

Machamp to counter Tyranitar, Snorlax, and Blissey

If you can build up one of the new Machamp's with Counter + Dynamic Punch, you can do some serious damage against the double week Tyranitar. Snorlax and Blissey are only weak against fighting, not double weak, but for tanks like those, take weak when you can get it. If you don't have Counter + Dynamic, Karate Chop + Cross Chop will still give you STAB (same type attack bonus) and take advantage of the weaknesses in many of the top defenders.

Catch or hatch:

  • Machop

Catch or evolve:

  • Machoke
  • Machamp

Cloyster or Lapras to counter Dragonite

Lapras can last longer but Cloyster can be more efficient. Either way, ice is double effective against Dragonite so you'll want to have at least one of the two available at all times. And you'll want them with Ice moves. Water moves won't do the job.

Catch or Hatch:

  • Shellder
  • Lapras

Catch or evolve:

  • Cloyster

Vaporeon to counter Rhydon

Sure, Rhydon is double weak against grass types, so if you have a really good Exeggutor or Venusaur already, use it. But Rhydon is also double weak against water, and if Vaporeon is on your defender list, double duty as an attacker is twice as efficient. You really want Water Gun + Hydro Pump on offense, but its such a little aqua-tank, almost any moveset will do.

Catch or hatch

  • Eeevee

Catch or evolve:

  • Vaporeon

Jolteon or Ampharos to counter Gyarados and Vaporeon.

Electric attacks are not only double effective against Gyarados but effective against Vaporeon, so that makes your Jolteon even more efficient since you can use it to counter both instead of or in addition to building up a strong grass type like Exeggutor or Venusaur. Gen 2's Ampharos is an electrical force to be reckoned with as well, but given it's just arrived on the scene, and isn't anywhere nearly as common, Jolteon will still be most people's go-to.

Catch or hatch:

  • Eevee
  • Mareep

Catch or evolve:

  • Jolteon
  • Flaaffy
  • Ampharos

Best of the rest

If you want to add a little variety to your game or you've got a high stat (IV) Pokémon you really want to power up, here are your best bets.

  • Donphan with Counter and Play Rough.
  • Espeon with Confusion and Psybeam or Future Sight.
  • Exegguter with Extrasensory and Solar Beam (Legacy: Confusion and Psychic).
  • Amphoros with Volt Switch and Zap Cannon.
  • Slowbro with Confusion and Psychic.
  • Slowking with Confusion and Psychic.
  • Steelix with Iron Tail and Heavy Slam.
  • Umbreon with Feint Attack and Foul Play.

Should you evolve first, or power up first?

Evolve first, power up second. It's tempting to power up first, because instant gratification is instant, but it'll cost you less Stardust in the long run to evolve and the strategically power up only your best or favorite Pokémon.

Long story short, you never know what moveset you're going to end up with until you evolve (see below). Get the evolution out of the way and you'll know exactly what you're spending your precious Stardust on and can make a more informed decision.

Should you evolve and power up right away or wait for better Pokémon?

The longer you wait, the better chance you have of catching or hatching a base Pokémon with higher stats (IV). The higher the stats, the higher the potential CP of you eventual Pokémon evolution. So, it makes sense to wait as long as you can before evolving. For example, if you're going for a third stage evolution, don't do the second stage right away. Wait and do both the second stage right before you're ready to do the third stage. That way, if you get a higher stats later, you can evovle that one instead. You're not stuck with your earlier evolution.

In other words, don't evolve Dragonair until you're ready to evolve Dragonite because you could get a much better Dratini by the time you get to 125 candies than the one you had at 25 candies.

And even if you get to 125 candies, if you don't have a Pokémon with high stats (IV) to evolve, you can keep waiting until you do.

Great... but how do you get enough Candy to evolve?

To evolve you need Candy. A lot of it. The amount you need starts small but grows as you get to higher levels. Candy also has to match the Pokéman family you want to evolve or power up. So you need Larvitar Candy to evolve to Pupitar and Tyranitar, and you need more Larvitar Candy to power up Tyranitar as well.

  • 3 Candies per base-level Pokémon caught in the wild.
  • 5 Candies per second-level Pokémon caught in the wild.
  • 10 Candies per third-level Pokémon caught in the wild.
  • 1 Candy per Pokémon transferred to the Professor.
  • 5 to 15 Candies per 2 KM Egg hatched.
  • 10 to 21 Candies per 5 KM Egg hatched.
  • 16 to 32 Candies per 10 KM Egg hatched.
  • 1 Candy per Buddy distance walked.
  • 6 Candies per base-level Pokémon caught in the wild while using a Pinap Berry.
  • 10 Candies per second-level Pokémon caught in the wild while using a Pinap Berry.
  • 20 Candies per third-level Pokémon caught in the wild while using a Pinap Berry.

How do you know which specific Pokémon to evolve?

If a Pokémon is particularly rare you might not have much choice as to which one you evolve. If you live in a place where Eevee spawn every few minutes, though, deciding which one(s) to evolve can be trickier. That's where appraisals come in.

Appraisals are how Pokémon Go surfaces the hidden IV stats of the game. All Pokémon have these three stats: stamina, attack, and defense. You can get a good idea of where your Pokémon ranks by having your Team Leader appraise your Pokémon.

How to appraise your Pokémon in Pokémon Go

Ideally, you want to evolve the Pokémon with the best appraisal. Those will be the ones with the highest stats and, eventually, the highest CP.

  • Instinct: Overall, your [Pokémon looks like it can really battle with the best of them!
  • Mystic: Your [Pokémon] is a wonder! What a breathtaking Pokémon!
  • Valor: Overall, your [Pokémon] simply amazes me! It can accomplish anything!

If the appraisal calls out one stat, it's great. If it calls out two stats, it's terrific. If it calls out all three stats, it's likely perfect:

  • "It's HP is its strongest feature."
  • "I'm just as impressed with its Attack."
  • "I'm just as impressed with its Defense."

If you get one of those, it's an all-star, must evolve, must power up, must show off!

Once you evolve, how do you know which specific Pokémon to power up?

Note: Pokémon Go has now changed the movesets and damage metrics several times, including twice in the week following the Gen 2 launch. That's led some people to stop worrying about movesets as much, since you can literally spend tons of time, Candy, and Stardust powering up an ideal Pokémon only for it to become substandard with one tweak of the formula. Others, though, look at changing movesets and damage as a way to start their armies anew. If you don't care about movesets, power up the highest CP Pokémon you have and make it as high as you can. If you do care, wait until you get the moveset you want, then max it out.

This is where movesets come in. Arguably, movesets are the most important and frustrating aspect of the Pokémon Go Gym system. A moveset is exactly what the name implies — the set of quick and charge moves available to your Pokémon. The bad news is, movesets are determined at random when you evolve. No matter how great your starting moves, how high your initial CP, or how good your appraisal, the moment you tap the evolve button you're putting your Pokémon's fate in the hands of chance.

That's not as doom-and-gloom as it sounds. A 3000 Snorlax with a "bad" moveset like Zen Headbutt and Earthquake is still a 3000 Snorlax! But a 3000 Snorlax with an ideal moveset like Zen Headbutt and Hyper Beam is even better.

You can always wait for ideal movesets before powering up but for especially rare Pokémon that can take a long time and there's no way to know if your next hatch, catch, or evolution will be any better.

How do you get enough Stardust to power up your Pokémon?

To power up you need more Candy but you also need Stardust. Stardust is generic. You can use any Stardust you got from any source on any Pokémon you want. The amount you need starts small but grows as you get to higher levels. So, how do you get as much Candy and Stardust as possible to power up as much as possible?

  • 100 Stardust per base-level Pokémon caught in the wild.
  • 300 Stardust per second-level Pokémon caught in the wild.
  • 500 Stardust per third-level Pokémon caught in the wild.
  • 500-1500 Stardust per 2 KM Egg hatched.
  • 1000-2100 Stardust per 5KM Egg hatched.
  • 1600-3200 Stardust per 10 KM Egg hatched.
  • 500 Stardust per Pokémon, per Gym, per 21 hours.

To evolve a Magikarp into a Gyarados takes 400 Dratini Candy. To power up a Gyarados to over 3000 CP could take another 112 Magikarp Candy and 120,500 Stardust or more.

To evolve a Dratini into Dragonair and Dragonite takes 125 Dratini Candy. To power up a Dragonite to over 3000 CP could take another 70 Dratini Candy and 80,000 Stardust or more.

So, catch, hatch, walk, and claim as much Candy and Stardust as you can.

LEGACY: What happened to my near-perfect Pokémon?

With the release of Gen 2, Pokémon Go changed a lot of movesets. Power increased. The number of bars was reduced. Speed decreased. Moves were eliminated. Moves were added. Taken together, once top-tier Pokémon and movesets are no longer best-in-class. In addition, Lapras finally go nerfed the way many other Pokémon were late last year. Since many players will have Pokémon with now "legacy" movesets, I'm going to keep the list below. You won't be able to get them on any new Pokémon, but you'll be able to keep them if you have them. They'll be updated in terms of what the best new combinations are as soon as they're determined.

Note: Pokémon Go has just changed this up again. A partial rollback, some de-powered Pokémon seem powered back up again. Others, not so much. As soon as the changes are understood, this article will be updated. Again. Yup.

LEGACY: What are the best Pokémon to evolve and power up for defending Gyms?

If all you want to do is place your Pokémon on Gyms and hold those Gyms so you can collect your daily coin and Stardust bonus, and you want to keep things simple: Hatch, catch, or evolve the Pokémon with the highest possible CP potential and then max them out as much as you can, and put them on a Gym that doesn't turn over very often. A Pokémon with 2500+ CP sitting on top of a Gym that doesn't change teams much is going to be on there for the long hall.

Here's the current list for (approximate) maximum CP on Pokémon Go:

  • 3530 Dragonite (Steel Wing and Dragon Pulse ideal)
  • 3305 Snorlax (Zen Headbutt and Hyper Beam or Body Slam)
  • 3250 Rhydon (Mud Slap and Stone Edge)
  • 3230 Gyrados (Bite and Dragon Pulse)
  • 3110 Vaporeon (Water Gun and Water Pulse or Aqua Tail)
  • 2580 Lapras (Ice Shard and Blizzard or Ice Beam)

If you want to add some variety (and some good defenders despite lower CP):

  • 2916 Exeggutor (Confusion and Psychic or Seed Bomb)
  • 2482 Slowbro (Confusion and Psychic or Ice Beam)

Dragonite is incredibly vulnerable to Cloyster and Rhydon to Vaporeon, and any high-level player who puts in the time and potions can tear down any gym in fairly short order. There's no such thing as a sure thing. As a general rule, though, being on top of a Gym keeps you there longer than being at the bottom.

LEGACY: What are the best Pokémon to evolve and power up for attacking Gyms?

In general, given many people will simply stick the highest CP defenders they can on a Gym (see above!) you'll probably want their best counters among your attackers.

  • Cloyster or Lapras (Frost Breath and Blizzard) to counter Dragonite.
  • Rhydon (Mud Shot and Earthquake or Stone Edge) to counter Snorlax.
  • Vaporeon (Water Gun and Hydro Pump of Aqua Tail) to counter Rhydon and Lapras.
  • Jolteon (Thunder Shock and Thunder or Thunderbolt) to counter Gyrados, Vaporeon, and Lapras.
  • Exeggutor (Zen Headbutt and Solar Beam) to counter Vaporeon and Rhydon.
  • Dragonite (Dragon Breath and Dragon Claw), by virtue of its stats, is also one of the best attackers in the game.
  • Snorlax (Lick or Zen Headbutt with Body Slam or Hyper Beam), also has massive stats, so also makes a great attacker.
  • Alakazam (Psycho Cut and Psychic) to take on almost anything.

Your style of play can also be a factor, though. If you're great at dodging, Alakazam can unleash incredible amounts of damage per second (DSP). It has relatively few hit points, though, so if you don't dodge it'll be taken out quick. Arcanine and Charizard can also be great for taking out the big grass-type Pokémon, like Venusaur, but the former especially has been significantly weakened over time.

Snorlax, on the other hand, is a tank and can plow through several strong Pokémon in succession, dodging be damned, before being taken out. You may also simply like greater variety to play with or have personal favorites you love to use, regardless of how good or bad they are overall.

Again, if you have a favorite Pokémon, one that you love like Kabotops or Hitmonlee, max them out and keep them in your pool. It doesn't always have to be about efficiency. It can be about fun.

Any other questions on Pokémon Go evolution or powering up?

Have any other questions about evolving Pokémon or leveling them up? Let us know in the comments.