Pokémon GO: Best Gym defenders and attackers to power up

Pokemon Go: Blissey in a Gym
(Image credit: iMore)

Hard as it may be for some to remember or believe, but Gyms aren't just for Raiding in Pokémon Go. In off-hours, you can still take them down and take them over for badge points, experience points, and Stardust.

But which Pokémon are the best ones to defend your Gyms... and which are the best to attack everyone else's?

The top four tanks

Once upon a time you could stack an old Gym ten high with 3000+ CP Blisseys and call it a day. But who even remembers those times anymore? Now it's all about variety and balance.

That said, Blissey still reigns supreme, even if you can only use one now. So, to round things out, these are the other tanks you want in your arsenal. If you want to make things even easier for yourself, you should check out the best Pokémon Go accessories.


When Blissey arrived as part of Gen 2, she didn't have high enough CP to sit at the very tip-top of Gyms but she had high enough HP to serve as a big, pink wall wherever she did sit. Now that CP doesn't matter anymore and HP is all that matters, Blissey fully takes on her title as the new queen of defenders.

Blissey is vulnerable to Fighters, especially Machamp, but Dazzling Gleam will punish them all the way down.

Evolve: 50 candies from Chansey to Blissey.

Best movesets: Pound or Zen Headbutt + Dazzling Gleam.


Snorlax doesn't have any evolutions, at least not yet. (Spoiler: There's a baby Munchlax coming in Gen 4!). But that doesn't make it any less powerful. There are, in point of fact, few Pokémon as well rounded when it comes to defense as Snorlax. It doesn't quite have the HP of Blissey, but since you can't have multiple Blissey in a Gym anymore, you're going to want a Snorlax as well.

Especially if you have the legacy Body Slam move.

Best movesets: Zen Headbutt + Heavy Slam (Zen Headbutt + Body Slam if you have it).


Chasey is a slightly less tanky version of Blissey, which still makes it more tanky than almost all other Pokémon in the current game. In other words, Chansey is a big, pink wall... jr. And since CP doesn't matter anymore, neither does Chansey's lack of CP. All that matters is its phenomenal HP. In fact, lower CP and high HP can make Chansey the best defender in many cases.

Like Blissey, Chansey is vulnerable to Fighter-types like Machamp, so Dazzling Gleam with hurt them as they hurt it.

Best movesets: Zen Headbutt + Dazzling Gleam.


With the introduction of Generation 3 came Milotic, but it's only recently begun to realize its true potential as a top Gym Defender as the meta has shifted. It's a gloriously tanky water-type with some additional Dragon and Ice-type moves that make it more powerful than any other non-legendary water-type at holding its ground in a Gym. It's a bit challenging to evolve one, as you have to walk the already-rare Feebas for kilometers on end, but if you get a good Feebas with solid IVs, get hiking. Milotic is worth it.

Evolve: 100 Candies from Feebas to Milotic, plus walk with the Feebas as your Buddy for 20km.

Best movesets: Dragon Tail + Blizzard or Surf

The next best defenders

Because you can only have one of each kind of Pokémon in a Gym now, it's not uncommon to come across a Gym with empty slots, but with Blissey, Snorlax, Chansey, and Slaking already taken. When that happens, you need to mix things up to make the Gym as challenging as possible.


Steelix always had great defensive potential but the old, CP-based system never let him show it off. Now, Steelix can defend with some of the best of them — and look awesome while doing it.

Evolve: 50 Onix candies + Metal Coat from Onix to Steelix.

Best movesets: Dragon Tail + Heavy Slam.


Lapras is back, baby! After being an early defensive favorite, Larpas' lack of CP — and a subsequent loss of CP — put it out of contention in the old Gym system. Now that CP isn't the be-all, end-off of Gym defense, Lapras' tankiness brings it back into play. (Especially because the even more powerful, and legendary, Articuno can't be placed into Gyms.)

Best movesets: Frost Breath + Blizzard or Ice Beam


Slaking would have had a CP that soared over 5000 — Five. Thousand. — but Pokémon Go nerfed it hard before releasing it as part of Gen 3. Still, Slaking climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and swats at the puny biplanes of most other Pokémon in the game. He's lost a bit of importance with the rise of Pokemon like Milotic but he's still an easy-to-access (after the Slakoth Community Day) heavy hitter that's perfect on defense.

Because Chansey has low CP and Slaking, enormous CP, they make a good pair. And because Slaking continues the trend of the best defenders being vulnerable to Fighting-types, it also needs to continue the trend of using a Fairy-type move to inflict as much damage as it can.

Evolve: 25 Candies from Slakoth to Vigoroth; 100 Candies from Vigaroth to Slaking.

Best Movesets: Yawn + Play Rough.

Other good options

If you don't have any of the new top defenders, or you don't have enough of them to sit in the up to 20 Gyms you can now be in at a time, here are some other Pokémon that make the cut. Some are previous top tier defenders that now, by virtue of their high CP, don't fit as well in the new system. Others are previous also-rans that, because the CP stacking is over, now have a new lease on the defending life. Just remember, holding a Gym is now near impossible if someone else is intent on taking, so these are more fillers than defenders.

  • Steelix with Dragon Tail or Iron Tail or Crunch or Heavy Slam, any of it really
  • Dragonite with Dragon Tail + Anything
  • Donphan with Counter + Play Rough
  • Metagross with Bullet Punch + Zen Headbutt
  • Garevoir with Confusion + Dazzling Gleam
  • Venusaur with Razor Leaf + Sludge Bomb
  • Muk with Poison Jab + Gunk Shot
  • Gyarados with Dragon Tail + Anything
  • Rhydon with Mud Slap + Stone Edge
  • Slowbro or Slowking with Confusion + Anything
  • Umbreon with Snarl + Anything

All-around ace attackers

New optimal defenders require new optimal attackers to take them out. Unlike defending, though, the new CP cap doesn't apply on offense. That means, if you have maxed out Dragonite, Tyranitar, or Vaporeon from the old Gym system, they still have value — as a wrecking crew.

Generally, type matching is more effective for the first and even second round when you're taking a Gym. By the third round, generalists are just faster.


Across multiple generations, Machamp has remained in the top tier of attackers whether as a specialist to counter the normal-types like Blissey, Chansey, Snorlax, or Slaking or just as a strong choice that's easy to get your hands on. Deck him out with his best fighting moves and let him go to town on anything except flying or psychic-types.

Evolve: 10 Machop candies to Machoke, 100 more to Machamp.


Dragon-types are popular in Gyms and attacking them, and if you can get your hands on a Rayquaza from Raid Battles, it's an ace choice for bringing down every other Dragon-type who dares defend a Gym. He also has a dual Flying-type that's helpful in that sphere, with strong moves to compliment it.

Best Movesets: Dragon Tail + Outrage, Air Slash + Aerial Ace

Take down Gyms quickly

Type matching remains critically important when attacking Gyms, especially for the first and maybe second rounds. While you can try to power through almost any defender with a Dragonite or Tyranitar, you might also lose a lot of lizards — and revives and potions — that way. Taking down Gyms quickly and efficiently still requires some strategy. And knowing the best counters means you have something to fall back on when your big guns are down.

Mamoswine to counter Dragon defenders

I think it's fair to classify Mamoswine as a good all-around attacker as well for the sheer reason that so many Pokemon that are in Gyms as proper defenders now are Dragons in typing or moveset. Enter Mamoswine, the furry piggy that booted Lapras properly out of its spot as one of the stronger Dragon counters by actually having a real Ice-typing that could deal with them, and a Ground-type to avoid the oft-paired Flying-type. Mamoswine is tanky and strong and has a fantastic Charge Move in Avalanche, making it a necessary addition to most attacking teams.

Evolve: 25 Swinub Candy to Piloswine, 100 Swinub Candy + Sinnoh Stone to Mamoswine

Kyogre 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 Kyogre is on your defender list, double duty as an attacker is twice as efficient. You really want Waterfall + Hydro Pump on offense, but its such a little aqua-tank, almost any moveset will do.

Catch in raids:

  • Kyogre

Dragonite or Salamence to counter Dragons

Though Dragonite's use as an all-around attacker has dimmed as more types are introduced to the top Defenders, its powerful Dragon-type moves are still a fantastic choice to go after, well, other dragons. Outside Mamoswine, few Pokémon can survive its onslaught. Its best defensive moveset also doubles as its best offensive moveset — Dragon Tail and Outrage.

That said! Even better is now Salamence, who with Dragon Tail + Meteor has outclassed Dragonite in almost every way for the same types of situations.

Evolve: 25 Dratini or Bagon candies to Dragonair or Shelgon, 100 more to Dragonite or Salamence.

Best movesets: Dragon Tail + Outrage or (for Salamence) Draco Meteor

Tyranitar to counter Mewtwo, Psychics

Tyranitar isn't quite the thunder lizard Dragonite is on offense, but it's close. Excellent stats mitigated only slightly by less damaging moves and less optimal typing, it can still power its way through many defenders. That's true of tanks like Blissey, Chansy, and Snorlax, using Bite + Stone Edge, especially if they have Psychic moves Tyranitar resists. Pure Psychics will be hit even harder by Bite and Crunch.

Evolve: 25 Larvitar candies to Pupitar, 100 more to Tyranitar.

Best movesets: Bite + Crunch or Stone Edge

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). And even though you can get Training Machines now and teach your Pokémon new moves, the better moves you get up front, the less you'll have to hunt down TMS.

So, gGet 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.

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.

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.

Also, now that Training Machines have been introduced into Pokémon Go, you'll be able to teach a great Pokémon with bad moves better moves.

Either way, it's still worth waiting for ideal movesets — evolved or trained — 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.

Evolving and powering up

Every Pokémon has the ability to get stronger in Pokémon Go. But just because you can evolve a Pokémon doesn't mean it's the right move. You'll want to work on beefing up your strongest catches so you can take on Gyms and maintain control for your team. 

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

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