On 12/8/17, the highly anticipated Gen 3 update launched in Pokemon GO. Rather than introducing all 124 new non-legendary Pokemon, Niantic divided the release by giving us 50 new Pokemon now with the promise of the rest at a later date. While this choice has been met with mixed views, you should still be aware of which Pokemon to look out for. Using our best mathematical understanding of gym AI, simulated matchup data, and real world analysis, we here at GamePress believe we have the answers players are looking for!
The Gen 3 Winner
Ever since its debut, Gyarados has lived in Vaporeon’s shadow. Despite having the most powerful Hydro Pump in the game, its role as a Water-type Pokemon has been restricted by its lack of a Water-type fast move. With the addition of Waterfall, Gyarados is held back no longer, usurping Vaporeon as the greatest Water-type attacker currently available in Pokemon GO!
Despite Gyarados’s advantage in raw power, Vaporeon hasn’t been knocked out of relevancy. By virtue of its high HP, Vaporeon will often last longer in fights, allowing it to put in more damage before fainting. Additionally, Vaporeon has access to the powerful, multi-bar charge move Aqua Tail, allowing it to clean up weakened gyms more rapidly. While Gyarados is the Water-type King, Queen Vaporeon is here to stay.
It's also worth noting that even with Waterfall’s apparent advantage with STAB, it is inadvisable to TM all of your Gyarados. Bite is still the preferred fast move when fighting Psychic and Ghost-type Pokemon, and Dragon Breath/Tail are necessary for Gyarados to combat Dragon-types, both on offense and defense. Overall, Gyarados is turning out to be quite the headache of a Pokemon, having a variety of viable movesets across the board; and that’s before weather is involved.
The Gen 3 Survivor
In our Safest Bets for Gen 3 article, Machamp was considered a risky investment. Facing competition with 3 new Fighting-type Pokemon, all with various stat and type advantages over Machamp, it’s surprising that he came out ahead. To solidify Machamp’s dominion even further, all 3 got their most optimal Fighting-type movesets! It truly is a testament to Machamp’s raw power that despite all odds, he still managed to come out on top.
While Machamp remains the undisputed Fighting-type champion, Hariyama does weigh in on some of Machamp's matchups with its higher bulk. Similar to Gyarados vs. Vaporeon, while Machamp will get jobs done faster than Hariyama, there may be times that Hariyama will survive more hits than Machamp would, allowing it to fire off more Dynamic Punch before fainting. This advantage is present enough where Hariyama makes an excellent complement to or substitute for Machamp in any raid or gym battle where Machamp is called for.
As for Blaziken and Breloom, even with their sub-typing’s resistances at work, both currently fail to match up to Machamp. Both are much more frail and offer insufficient advantage to compensate. Even with the addition of Focus Blast to Blaziken’s repertoire, its performance can’t reach The Champ *. Unfortunately for these two, they face even tougher competition on the Fire and Grass-type side of the meta. Being edged out of relevancy by more powerful options is an unfortunate reality most Pokemon face. Even with good stats and the best movesets, outside of a rebalance or the addition of abilities, these two may not see much play in GO given the availability of Machamp through raids.
That said, Blaziken and Breloom are still both excellent Fighting-type Pokemon, with both edging out the former Fighting-type runner-up Heracross, who itself remains a relevant attacker.
*A level 40 Machamp and Blaziken fighting a level 40 Zen Headbutt + Dazzling Gleam Blissey both finish the fight at about the same time (50 vs 53s). Assuming all charge moves are dodged, they finish the battle at 28 and 11 HP respectively. An undodged Dazzling Gleam would result in 43 and 36 extra damage respectively. This suggests that even with Blaziken’s better resistance to Fairy-type attacks, it cannot handle flubbed dodges any more than Machamp can. While this scenario suggests Blaziken is on par with Machamp, in raids these gaps in performance only widen, even in situations where Blaziken’s Fire-typing gives it an advantage. This is all before considering Dynamic Punch’s overall better utility over Focus Blast.
The Gen 3 Beauty
Gardevoir is the first meta-relevant Fairy-type attacker in the game. While Gen 1 and 2’s Fairy-types were a bit of a flop, Gardevoir has the stats to pull off the one stunt they couldn’t: surpassing Ice-types as a Dragon-type counter. Gen 3's potential future legendary Rayquaza raids is reason enough to invest in Gardevoir, but there are also several raids in which she excels in now, namely Machamp and Focus Blast Mewtwo.
Fairy-types are best known for their super effective damage and immunity tier resistance to Dragon-type Pokemon. They are less known for their resistance to and type advantage against Fighting-types. Paired with the Psychic-typing, Gardevoir doesn’t flinch in the face of Machamp’s Dynamic Punch or Mewtwo’s Focus Blast. Having access to Dazzling Gleam and Shadow Ball for super effective coverage, Gardevoir transcends the performance of normal Psychic-type Pokemon and rivals Lugia and even Mewtwo itself for relevancy.
Outside of mopping the floor against the most relevant tier 3 solo and the most dangerous Mewtwo moveset, Gardevoir is also a nice addition to gym defense. In our previous meta, all gyms could be handled with Dragonite and Machamp aside from the occasional Fairy-type hiccup. Gardevoir exists in a similar defensive niche, but is more of a punch in the gut. While she is a bit frail against neutral threats, having access to Confusion makes sure that as the opponent beats her down they’ll remember her, which is all we can really ask for with the current state of gym defense.
The Gen 3 Beast
Given how relatively poor Niantic has been with balance in Pokemon GO, neglecting to nerf some (Blissey) and arbitrarily nerfing others (Ho-Oh), trainers were on the edge of their seats in anticipation of how Niantic would handle Slaking’s supra-legendary base stats. Surprisingly enough, they nerfed Slaking pretty well, in a way veterans of the Pokemon series can appreciate.
In the console games, Slaking’s gargantuan stats were balanced by its Truant ability, which caused it to do nothing every other turn. The inclusion of Yawn as Slaking’s only fast move was a clever way to blunt Slaking’s DPS in GO while also giving a nod to this ability. Trainers who played the console games may remember finding Slaking too slow to rate, while also finding Norman’s Slaking as being quite the terror. This effect is also present in GO.
Given how slow it is, there is little reason to use Slaking on offense, but a defending Slaking can be a threat. Even outside of beneficial weather, Slaking’s Hyper Beam is powerful enough to KO most of its counters in one hit if the attacker fails to dodge. While Play Rough doesn’t sport as wide of a KO range, its lower energy cost and early dodge window may KO weaker opponents before they knew what hit them, and it will certainly take an unexpected chunk out of the HP of stronger ones.
While this all sounds impressive, nearly all of these advantages are lost if Slaking is even slightly demotivated. Against more optimized counters, if Slaking isn’t carrying Play Rough, it might not even launch its charge move, contributing basically nothing but a warm body to gym defense. Niantic restoring Slaking’s base stats could help remedy this issue slightly, but overall Slaking’s usefulness on gym defense ranges from “strong for 1 hour” to non-existent. Its best use may be more of a psychological deterrent, scaring casual players with its high CP and the threat of its deadly charge moves, or by simply buffing a gym’s height making it appear more furnished and motivated.
Due to Pokemon GO’s simple combat system, many of the new 50 Pokemon aren’t making waves in the meta. Aside from the 3 new Fighting-type Pokemon mentioned above, Sceptile, Absol, and Shiftry also stand out as Pokemon that make good alternative options to Pokemon we currently have.
While Sceptile isn’t outright better than Exeggutor, it’s worth including in any situation that calls for Grass-type damage. The same can be said for Shiftry, whose stats and moves conjure images of Victreebel. And even though Absol and Shiftry can’t compete with Tyranitar, they’re both great non-Tyranitar Dark-type options that compete with Houndoom. These 6 species might not allow us to fight Pokemon we’re currently facing any better than we could before, but unlike the majority of our new friends, these guys are actually useful!
Overall, the biggest benefits from the update were Gyarados finally getting a Water-type fast move and the relief that our investments in Machamp remain secure. The Dragon-slaying and Fighting-slamming beauty Gardevoir stands out as the most powerful and unique new Pokemon from the update, giving us more options to fight against some of the hardest raids. The inclusion of Slaking is certainly the most impressive from the update, not because of its performance but because of how well Niantic handled nerfing and translating him from the console games in a way players can appreciate.
While the majority of the 50 Pokemon added with the update didn’t change the game as we know it, it did give us some nice alternative options for roles that are currently filled. For elite trainers this doesn’t seem like much, but for newer and more casual players the inclusion of these new Pokemon may help them get ahead sooner. For players who are tired of using the same Pokemon day in and day out, it certainly gives some more variety. Perhaps this variety may even gain substance in future mechanic updates.