Gym Defense has fallen far to the wayside since the early days of Pokemon GO. That said, there are still incentives to be aware of good Gym Defenders. If your Team holds a Gym before a Raid, you get Bonus Premier Balls, Gym Defense is still a good way to casually earn Poke Coins, and then there’s always the personal goal of getting Gold Gym Badges. Whatever the reason may be, there is still interest in Gym Defense so the question must be answered: “Who are the Best Gym Defenders?”
While Gym Defense isn’t as popular as it once was, the mechanics of the “new” Gyms are pretty interesting. There are Tall Gyms vs Short Gyms, CP Decay, and Motivation Decay. Because of these unique effects, different motivations for defending a gym, and unique Gym turnover rates, one single basic Tier List doesn’t cover all the nuances of defending a Gym. As a result, there are effectively 3 different styles of Gym Defense, leading us to the 3 columns of the “Specific Gym Defense Tier List.”
Pre-Raid/<2 Hour Gym Defense focuses on Pokemon at peak performance with little to no CP or Motivation Decay. You’d want to use these Pokemon to hold a Gym before a Raid or to better hold a Gym in a bigger city. 2-6 Hour Gym Defense focuses on Pokemon that Defend Gyms well over an extended period of time and help keep the Gym Tall. You’d want to use these Pokemon to hold a Gym for 4+ hours to get your daily Poke Coins, typically in a medium/small city or suburban area. 6+ Hour Gym Defense focuses on Pokemon that perform well up to 24 hours. While pretty niche, these Pokemon can help ward off attackers in more remote areas for little upkeep, and can help bring in Gym Coins throughout the week so you don’t have to attack Gyms every day.
The data for this Tier List was collected using Pokebattler.com. The Pokemon were simulated at their various specific CP ranges against level 40 iterations of Machamp, Mewtwo, Metagross, Lucario, and Raikou. Other attackers were used for “tie breaker” type situations. The numbers collected from these simulations were then put into 3 separate formulas using various weights for KOs and swapping. These results were then scrutinized by the exalted genius Ryan Swag and made into an initial draft of the Tier List. This Tier List was then further scrutinized, adjusted, and validated by the other members of the GamePress Team.
When placing Pokemon into Gyms, be aware of the weaknesses featured in the Gym and the weaknesses present in the last Pokemon in the Gym. For example, if the last Pokemon added to the Gym (the Pokemon seen at the top of the Gym) is weak to Electric and Grass-type Attacks, you may want to use a Grass, Poison, or Dragon-type Pokemon to cover their weakness. When in doubt, use Blissey or Mandibuzz.
Doing so will incentivize your opponent to swap Pokemon while attacking the Gym or to just focus on one Pokemon in the Gym at a time. Sometimes the unique resistances may make your opponent waste extra time making a specific Offense Team for the Gym. All of these factors increase the likelihood of the Gym getting Berried and may demotivate someone from battling the Gym altogether. At the end of the day, the best Defense is not getting attacked in the first place. Be smart, and cover the Gym’s weaknesses.
Tier 0 - Blissey and Mandibuzz
Regardless of the Gym Defense style, Blissey and Mandibuzz are uncontested as the most powerful Gym Defenders. Compared side by side at max level, Blissey is better than Mandibuzz. However, when compared at the 1700-2200 and <1500 specific CP ranges, Mandibuzz outperforms Blissey. While either can outdo the other given the right circumstances, both outperform all other Pokemon in each specific group.
As far as their movesets are concerned, they can basically run anything and do well. Blissey may want Zen Headbutt and Psychic to blitz Fighting-type attackers and Mandibuzz may want to use Dark Pulse to subdue Psychic-types such as Mewtwo and Metagross along with Air Slash to keep pressure on Fighting-type pokemon. That said, hard hitting Fast Moves and frequent Charge Moves can accelerate the attacker’s own Charge Moves, closing the fight out sooner. So running Pound + Hyperbeam on Blissey for example could cause the opponent to waste even more time attacking. Which is “best” comes down to the situation, but probably isn’t worth worrying about too much.
Pre-Raid/<2 Hour Gym Defense
These Gym Defenders are the cream of the crop when at max CP with little to no CP loss. They are best used to hold down a Gym pre-raid or keep a Gym held a bit longer in a bigger city.
After Blissey and Mandibuzz, the most optimal choices are Milotic, Alolan Muk, and Dragonite. Milotic has raw bulk and good variety in optimal Fast Moves and Charge Moves, Alolan Muk has a unique defensive type (Poison/Dark) that can spell trouble for offending Mewtwo and Metagross, and Dragonite
is freaking Dragonite walls Fighting-type attackers while maintaining offensive pressure with Dragon Tail and Dragon Claw.
Tier 2 features Garchomp, Metagross, Gyarados, and Salamence. Given the unique defensive typing or likelihood/ease to XL, these Pokemon can easily be as good as the Tier 1 options. Garchomp features massive power and solid resistances, Metagross’ Steel-type synergizes with any Dragon-type Pokemon on Defense and packs a ton of power, Gyarados is basically a Flying Milotic, and Salamence is a slightly worse version of Dragonite that also brings Fire and Water-type attacks for Steel-type attackers.
Tier 3 is the rest of the “good stuff.” At the end of the day, there are only 6 Gym Slots and Tier 0-2 should handle all of them. These Pokemon are worth considering if you can’t put in better ones or if their unique Defensive Type would combo well with the last Pokemon in. Special highlight to Ampharos who can bring the pain across the board with Volt Switch, even when getting railed on by multiple attackers. The damage from Ampharos may even disrupt the “multiple room” strategy used to knock out Pokemon from full motivation should that glitch/”feature” be present at the time (basically, you and 2 friends enter the gym, two of you back out and re-enter, the re-entering creates a new instance of the battle, if 3 separate instances knock out the Pokemon at the same time it will be treated as being defeated 3 times at once and no amount of Berries will save it).
“What about Togekiss?” Togekiss and many other Pokemon aren’t “bad” but once again, a Gym only has 6 Slots. Togekiss harasses Machamp pretty well, but many of the featured Pokemon harass Machamp as well if not better, while also defending well against anything else. This isn’t to say that Togekiss is a “bad” Gym Defender, it’s just that the line has to be drawn somewhere.
2-6 Hour Gym Defense
These Gym Defenders are optimized to detract would-be attackers over about 4 hours, ideally to help you collect on your daily Poke Coins with little upkeep. They do this by optimally keeping a Gym Tall for a longer period of time (which gets attacked first? A Small Gym or a Tall Gym?) and by staying Motivated for a longer period of time (which gets attacked first? The Gym with low/no Motivation Pokemon, or Gym with those full hearts?).
This is where Gym Defense gets complicated. You can read the full explanation of the mechanics in this guide:
The TL;DR about 1700-2200 & >3200 CP is:
- 1700-2200 CP Pokemon stay above 1333 CP for 5-6 hours
- Gyms are Tall at 8000 CP
- 8000/6 = ~1333
- 1700-2200 CP Pokemon also maintain ”2-3 battles to knock out” motivation over 5-6 hours
- A 2650 CP+ Pokemon can maintain >1333 CP as long, but would fall into the “1 battle to knock out” motivation range much more quickly
- >3200 CP Pokemon have such great CP that 2 of them can “make up for” a <1500 CP Pokemon being in the Gym
- This works against Motivation over time, but aids Gym Tallness over time.
Any Defenders in the “Pre-Raid” section work well for this strategy as long as they have >3200 CP (100-200 less is probably fine) and can be Tier’d here equally to how they’re Tier’d there.
After Blissey and Mandibuzz, the most optimal Defenders in the 1700-2200 CP range are Azumarill, Claydol, Hypno, and Alomomola. Azumarill is a bit neurotic as it only reaches the 1700 CP range near level 50. Most Trainers may want to save their XL candy for optimizing their Great League Azumarill. While 1700 CP Azumarill is arguably impractical, its performance can’t be overlooked for the Tier List. Claydol bolsters Gyms with good bulk, good resistances, and heavy Confusion damage. Hypno is a cheaper alternative to Claydol, trading in the Ground-type for a wide variety of Charge Moves. Alomomola is basically the pocket sized version of Milotic.
Tier 2 features Wormadam Plant Cloak, Wormadam Sandy Cloak, and Umbreon. The Wormadam’s are interesting as they are Bug-types with Bug and Psychic-type attacks, spelling trouble for Psychic and Fighting-types alike. The Plant Cloak arguably has better resistances than the Sandy Cloak, covering both Water and Electric, but the Sandy Cloak’s Ground-type renders Machamp’s Rock Slide neutral. Umbreon on the other hand doesn’t offer much against Fighting-types, but is dangerously thick against just about everything else.
Tier 3 could probably feature 20+ Pokemon on its own. The 7 that made it in only did due to their unique resistances and comparative ease to power up. For example, Wormadam Trash Cloak is as good as Foretress, but you have to XL it. Gligar is as good as Gliscor, but once again, XL Candy. The line has to be drawn somewhere.
Special note: Level 50 Slaking hits above 5000 CP. If you want to keep a Gym Tall, that is a pretty good avenue. Overall, its performance isn’t that much worse than Snorlax or Melmetal either.
6+ Hour Gym Defense
This is the “set and forget” side of the Tier List, mostly meant for holding more remote Gyms for a longer period of time or attempting to Gold Badge a more remote Gym with little Berry upkeep.
The <1500 CP range is favored here for its ability to maintain a Pokemon’s Motivation (# of times they need to be attacked to get knocked out of a Gym). After 24 hours, many of these Pokemon will still need to be knocked out twice before they’re kicked out of the Gym. Similarly, this CP range may be used to supplement the “2-6 Hour” strategy as after 6 hours they’ll still take 3 battles to knock out compared to the 1700-2200 range’s 2 battles. Just keep in mind they won’t do much to keep a Gym Tall.
The most optimal Defenders for this strategy (along with Mandibuzz and Blissey) are Chansey, Wobbuffet, and Azumarill. The differences between level 40 and 50 here are pretty minor, so you can save yourself a quarter million stardust amping these Pokemon up with XL Candy unless you really want to. It’s good to note that 1500 CP Mandibuzz is as good as the Tier 1 options here, but Blissey is a bit lacking at the 1500 CP range. Considering performance at CP, it may be better to use a higher CP Blissey even though it may take less battles to knock out of the Gym.
Tier 2 includes Wormadam Plant Cloak, Wormadam Sandy Cloak, Jumpluff, and Bastiodon. The Wormadams have the same exact features as they did in the 1700-2200 section (good bulk, moves, and resistances). Jumpluff is similar to the Wormadams but is slightly different. Bastiodon is hella weak to Fighting but is hella annoying for anything else. A 1500 CP Blissey is about on this group’s level.
Like the 1700-2200 CP range, Tier 3 here could include well over 20+ Pokemon. The 8 featured sport unique/useful resistances. Overall, just about anything that’s good in the Great League can be good here, but outside of specific circumstances, none of them will be better than Tier 2. Munchlax, Audino, Diggersby, and any other “big HP Normal-type” is weaker than 1500 CP Blissey and far less resilient than Bastiodon.
Overall, Gym Defense is still ruled by Golden Razz’s and Error Messages. Beneath those mechanics, there are good, annoying to deal with, Gym Defenders. While investing in Pokemon for Gym Defense specifically isn’t the best use of Stardust, should you have any of these Pokemon at CP range, they’re going to be the most optimal for holding down the fort.