Countering Zapdos: Golem vs. Tyranitar

Countering Zapdos: Golem vs. Tyranitar


On July 21st, Zapdos will be returning as a raid boss for a limited period of time over normal community day hours. During this time, Zapdos will not only have the chance to be shiny but will also carry the fast move Thunder Shock. This is an exciting event for shiny collectors and Team Instinct members alike. While the best counters to Zapdos should be obvious, a challenger has entered the arena. In this article, we not only explore how much of an upgrade Thunder Shock is for Zapdos but also establish which Rock-type Pokemon is truly Zapdos’s master!

If you’d like an audio version of this information, check out this video.

Thunder Shock

Given how poor of a fast move Charge Beam is, Thunder Shock is a clear upgrade for Team Instinct’s mascot. While it helps bridge the gap between Zapdos and Raikou, Raikou is still the superior Electric-type Pokemon. The secret to becoming a great Electric-type in GO isn’t in Thunder Shock but rather Wild Charge. Just look at Arcanine; it isn’t even an Electric-type Pokemon but the mere access to Wild Charge has given it some interesting niches in the meta (how useful is another story).

Considering that there aren’t any targets for Raikou or Zapdos in the current raid meta, there’s no real need to power up either right now. Considering Gen 4 is closer than ever and that Electivire and Magnezone may compete with Raikou and Zapdos as good enough budget Electric-types, you may want to hold onto your stardust and candy. That said, both are excellent Electric-types and will serve you well should you power them up.

Zapdos Counters

When it comes to countering Zapdos you should look no further than Smack Down Tyranitar and Golem. At level 30 and 31 respectively, with a great friendship bonus, both dominate all other options. In the case of Golem, you may be able to get more DPS from Rayquaza and Jynx, but given the duration of the fight it is unlikely the small gain of 1.2-1.5 DPS is going to make or break your damage ball bonus. In fact, the DPS cut off for the trio is ~14 DPS per person. Given Golem’s extreme bulk, it would make for a smooth 3-5 man clear which would assure you your damage bonus as you’d be getting 20% or greater total damage each time.

If you meet failure in the casual raiding environment, try to encourage players that are using Rhydon or Ground-type attacking Golems to instead use Rock-type attacking Golems, Smack Down Tyranitar, Piloswines, and Dragon-type Pokemon. For example, using a simple fast move TM on a Mud Shot + Earthquake Golem can take its DPS from 8 to 13.5. Sealing the deal with a single charge move TM, will take its DPS even higher. Just remember to be respectful. Trying to change a strangers game playing habits in the moment yields inconsistent results. You can avoid this situation altogether by collaborating with your local players ahead of time.

Golen vs. Tyranitar

Now that it is established that Golem and Tyranitar are the best counters, the question becomes which one is best? The high total damage output (TDO) tank Golem, or the damage per second king Tyranitar? To be honest, a bit of both is may be ideal.

One common mistake made when discussing DPS is that it is treated as a constant when it truly fluctuates over the course of the battle. Every time a Pokemon faints or a trainer has to relobby there is a dip in DPS. Similarly, every time a Pokemon launches a charge move it causes a spike in DPS. While DPS constantly shifts up and down, TDO can only increase (or stay the same in the case of fainting out). As such, TDO can be seen as a more reliable measure of a Pokemon’s performance.

In the graph above you can see that at roughly 130s Team Tyranitar has a massive drop in DPS due to relobbying (modestly set at 15s) that brings it down to the level of Team Golem. At roughly 155s, Team Tyranitar picks up the pace and is on the level of the blended team. Shortly after that, the raid ends. What this suggests is that rather than putting all of your chips on just Tyranitar or Golem, it could be best to blend a team of Tyranitar and Golem together in order to gain the DPS spike in the beginning while avoiding having to relobby.

Similarly, with a partly cloudy weather bonus, both Smack Down Tyranitar and Stone Edge Golem contribute to a duo clear. While only Tyranitar’s high DPS makes the duo more achievable, you may want to consider bringing in Golem. Golem’s high TDO helps prevent you from fainting out and relobbying making the duo more consistent. While it could be argued that Tyranitar is overall superior as it has duo enabling DPS at level 33, a pure Tyranitar team would be at an even greater risk than a level 40 one to have duo failing issues related to relobbying. Blending in a few level 30+ Golem will still contribute to the clear while making it more consistent.


Overall, the pull for Zapdos Day is going to be more for the shiny than the performance increase. Thunder Shock is a buff for Zapdos, but Team Instinct’s mascot still lives in the shadow of Raikou. When it comes to beating down on Zapdos, no other Pokemon do it better than Tyranitar and Golem. While Tyranitar does have the advantage in DPS, it will come to heel once you have to relobby. As a result, it may be in your best interest to slot in 2-3 Golems at the end of your Zapdos beatdown squad as a DPS preserving anchor.

Have fun and good luck with the shiny hunting!