Best Pokémon Go gym defenders and strategies to get coins and earn badges fast

Pokémon Go has completely changed the Gym system. Pokémon are no longer ordered by CP but by when they enter a Gym. There's no longer room for ten defenders, only six. You can only have one of any kind of Pokémon in a Gym at any given time. Also, any Pokémon over 2000 CP will now lose motivation fast. That means, if you want to get your 50 coins a day, or earn your Gym badges fast, it's a whole new game — and you'll need a whole new strategy to win it!

Why do you even want to defend Gyms in Pokémon Go?

We all know the joke: Currently, the best Gym defenders in Pokémon are:

  • Chansey
  • Snorlax
  • Blissey
  • Error
  • Network Error.
  • Raid Boss takes over.

Given the errors, the unpredictability, and how badly Pokémon Go has hurt the Gym system, many people might feel perfectly justified in dropping a Pidgey in an empty slot as they pass by and never thinking or doing anything more about it.

In a perfect world, instead of hurting Gym defense over and over again, Pokémon Go would have helped out Gym attacks and achieved a better balance. For example, by rewarding Gym takedowns with Stardust, up to a maximum of the 5000 a day the old Gym system would provide.

But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in this one. And that means, if you want your 50 coins a day for defending Gyms for 8 hours, 20 minutes before midnight, or your 1440 Badge XP for holding a Gym all day, you'll need to plan and prepare for it.

Best Pokémon Go Gym defenders: Top three intimidators

In the old Gym system combat power (CP) was all that mattered and Tyranitar, Dragonite, Gyrados, and Rhydon rode high. No longer. Now hit points (HP) are what's important. Make no mistake, almost anyone of almost any level can quickly and easily take down a Gym now. But there are a few Pokémon that can make it take longer and make attackers work harder. Namely: Blissey, Snorlax, and Chansey.

If you want to dissuade lower level and lazier players from attacking your Gym, you want to have these Pokémon in your defensive lineup.


Blissey is a tank's tank. A mega-tank. With MASSIVE amounts of HP. Thanks to the new Gym system, you no longer have Blissey running out the timer to look forward to/worry about, but its sheer defensive capability means if you have one under 3000 CP — or even better, under 2000 CP! — it's still the best Pokémon to fill a Gym slot.

  • Best movesets: Zen Headbutt and Dazzling Gleam. Zen Headbutt hurts Fighter-types and Dazzling Gleam is harder to dodge than Hyper Beam, making Blissey even more frustrating.
  • Counters: Machamp with Counter and Dynamic Punch. Dragonite with Dragon Tail and Outrage. Tyranitar with Bite and Stone Edge. Exeggutor with Extrasensory (legacy: Confusion) and Solar Beam.


Snorlax isn't just a tank. It's mega-tank and that hasn't changed with the update. For defense, though, you now need Snorlax under 3000 CP — even under 2000 CP! – or you can literally see them draining away. Even CP-hobbled, Snorlax can take a beating while dishing out damage and that means anyone who goes up against one is in for a tough battle.

  • Best movesets: Zen Headbutt with Heavy Slam. The Headbutt punishes fighter types, like Machamp, and Heavy Slam is harder to dodge than Hyper Beam. (Legacy: Zen Headbutt with Body Slam, which was even better.)
  • Counter: Machamp with Counter and Dynamic Punch. Otherwise throw anything tough, including Tyranitar or Rhydon, or anything that does a ton of damage, like Alakazam.


Chansey 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 her phenomenal HP.

  • Best movesets: Same as Blissey. Zen Headbutt or Pound with Dazzling Gleam. Zen Headbutt hurts Fighter-types and Dazzling Gleam is harder to dodge than Hyper Beam.
  • Counters: Machamp with Counter and Dynamic Punch. Dragonite with Dragon Tail and Outrage. Tyranitar with Bite and Stone Edge. Exeggutor with Extrasensory (legacy: Confusion) and Solar Beam.

Best Pokémon Go Gym defenders: Top three frustraters

Blissey, Snorlax, and Chansey all have one thing in common: They're all vulnerable to Machamp. With 3000+ Tyranitar and Dragonite just looking for something to do, they're also liable to get run over by the big generalist attackers. That means it's not just as simple as dropping your tanks and hoping for the best. You also have to dissuade people from attacking them. That's where Vaporeon, Lapras, and Espeon come in. They force attackers to go to the trouble of picking a broader lineup and switching more often. And that can be frustrating.

If you want to dissuade higher level and, yes, even lazier players from attacking your Gym, you want to have these Pokémon in your defensive lineup.

What are the best Pokémon Go movesets for Vaporeon?

Eevee are so common in some areas that almost everyone has access to a high-level Vaporeon or several. Since it can only barely get to 3000 CP, there's even a chance your maxed out Vape is still viable in the new system. While it's still double weak against Grass, it also still got a lot of power behind it. That's even more true on attack, where it can blast right through Tyranitar.

  • Best movesets: Water Gun with Aqua Tail. Fast and frequent enough it can force more dodging — or damage.
  • Counter: Exeggutor with Bullet Seed and Solar Beam (or any Grass-type with Solar Beam, really). Jolteon with Thunder Shock or Thunderbolt. (Or Zapdos with Charge Beam and Zap Cannon.)


Lapras... what a life! The late 2016 update skyrocketed other Pokémon ahead of it on the CP charts, and the early 2017 update sent Lapras tumbling down. Now, the mid-2017 update has made under 3000 CP the new sweet-spot for Lapras, and it's back in the game. Of course, Lapras still one thing best — knocks out Dragonites... if it has the right moves.

  • Best movesets: Frost Breath with Blizzard. It shreds Dragonite.
  • Counter: Machamp. Very few things can take Dynamic Punch hurt. Also, Jolteon or Magneton with Electric movesets.


Espeon takes some effort to evolve — you get a one-time name trick with "Sakura", or you have to walk 10 KM, earn 2 buddy candy, and then evolve at night. But when you get a good Espeon, you get psychic gold: A Pokémon that can reach 3000 CP and hits like Charles Xavier with a migraine, especially against Machamp. Tyranitar, though, can bite right through it.

  • Best movesets: Confusion with Future Site. They're the psychic gifts that keep on hurting.
  • Counter: Tyranitar with Bite and Crunch.

Best Pokémon Go Gym defenders: Next best wildcards

You might not always have the best defenders, your best defenders might already be busy defending other gyms, or you might simply want to mix things up from time to time. That's where the next best defenders come in. They're tanky enough to slow down attackers and diverse enough to require switches. That means they could confuse less experienced players and annoy more experienced players.

If you want to have some extra fun but also encourage others players to attack elsewhere, these are the additional Pokémon for you to look at.

  • Muk with Poison Jab + Dark Pulse
  • Amphoros with Volt Switch + Focus Blast
  • Dragonite with Dragon Tail + Anything
  • Gyarados with Dragon Tail + Anything
  • Slowbro or Slowking with Confusion + Anything
  • Donphan with Counter + Play Rough
  • Umbreon with Snarl + Anything
  • Clefable with Zen Headbutt + Dazzling Gleam
  • Rhydon with Mud Slap + Stone Edge

Pokémon Go Gym Defenders: Assemble!

This much should be clear: Given the current Pokémon Go game mechanics, where super effective is super effective and motivation drains high CP faster than ever, no Gym can withstand a determined attacker for long. Yes, even if you waste your precious Golden Razz feeding it.

About the only thing that can really hold a Gym is the ongoing "Error" and "Network Error" bugs, and takeover by a Raid Boss.

What a Gym can do, though, is intimidate and frustrate an attacker, and when it does it combination, it can encourage them to leave it alone and look for an easier Gym to attack.

That's where sequencing comes in.

Pokémon Go Gym defenders sequences

Inspired by GamePress' rankings, Reddit's musings, and a ton of personal experience, this is the system I've come up with and am currently using.

The gist is this: If your team puts your Blissey, Snorlax, and Chansey all one after the other, and a Machamp or two can run right through them. Don't put a Vaporeon in and a powerful Tyranitar could bite its way through everything. No Lapras? Dragonite could run rampant.

So, here's what you do:

  1. Start with a Blissey or Snorlax. That'll intimidate weaker players and drain more powerful players alike.
  2. Follow it up with an Espeon. Tyranitar will keep plowing through but Machamp, which should already be weakened, will have to swap out to be finished off.
  3. Go back to a Snorlax or Blissey, whichever your team didn't use first. That could force another switch and further wear down Machamps.
  4. Follow up with a Vaporeon or Lapras. Vaporeon will tear into a Tyranitar and Lapras, a Dragonite, forcing a switch. (Though Lapras will be weak to a Machamp, if any remain in the battle team.)
  5. Hunker down with Chansey. Almost all the HP of a Blissey but much lower CP. That'll keep wearing down the attackers.
  6. Finish with a Vaporeon or Lapras, whichever your team didn't use already. The attacker has gone through everything else, so do as much damage to remaining Tyranitars and Dragonites as you can.

You can experiment with different lineups, and weave in your Muk, Amphoros, Slowbro or Slowking, or other wildcards to keep things unpredictable.

Working as a team

Sequencing a Gym works best if you're doing it all, or at least mostly, at the same time. That means groups who go out and take Gyms down together, then build them back up together. Like coordinating Raids, it takes a little time to schedule but can lead to much better results.

Make a meeting place, carpool or walk/bike together, and once a Gym is down, communicate clearly and effectively about who is putting in which defender and when. That way, you build the toughest Gym possible to last as long as possible — at least under the current gameplay mechanics.

Playing solo

If you don't have a team to play with, or you're not with your team at the moment, you can still contribute towards better, tougher Gyms.

If you're taking down a Gym, drop in your Blissey, Snorlax, or Chansey and use whatever chat app you prefer — Messenger, WhatsApps, Discord, etc. — to let your teammates know there are spots available for them. Don't hesitate to recommend defenders either. Even if you don't use chat, open slots with a good starting defender is an invitation to join in the Gym.

If you come upon a Gym that has free spots available, add a Pokémon that will help out with the overall defense. If there's no Blissey, Snorlax, or Chansey, add one. If there is, complement it with a Vaporeon, Lapras, Espeon, or wildcard that will force a switch away from Dragonite, Tyranitar, or Machamp.

It really does take a team to build a Gym. Even if it's one solo player dropping at a time.

What if you don't care about defending Gyms?

Theme gyms! Everything from Eeveelutions to Team Rocket, Sea Food, Fossils, Starters, Jungle Gym, Babies, colors, types, and more. In short, it's been fun.

What's the best Pokémon Go Gym defense?

The harsh reality is Pokémon Go Gyms are now so easy to take down that holding them for any length of time is a factor of how remote they are, how burnt out or fed up with the new Gym system the local players are, the interest level of younger, more savage players in taking them down, and only then the relative strength of your defenders.

If you really want to hold a Gym to get your coins or earn your gold badge, you might have to content yourself with taking it, losing it, and taking it. Again and again. Over time, you might find patterns for when you lose Gyms: When other players are on their way to work or finished work, late at night or early in the day. Then you can plan your own Gym attacks accordingly.

When you do, let me know the Pokémon Go defenders and strategies that work best for you!

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.