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Gym Defenders Tier List

Rankings

Introduction

Recently, the defense meta has largely withered in terms of utility and general viability. The difference between taking down a gym held by top-tier defenders and those with less general viability is a matter of a minute or two for any worthwhile attacker. On top of this, the EX Raid system is on pause for the foreseeable future, and the update to the coin system that is slowly rolling out is set to reduce coins earned via defense. Based on these facts, we can no longer genuinely recommend raising many Pokemon at all purely for the sake of gym defense.

That said, the current tier list has a new overall focus; universal utility.

Methodology

While the Pokemon on this list will first have an emphasis on their ability to defend, they will also be heavily weighted based on their utility outside of the defense meta. The basic goal of this tier list will be geared towards promoting a healthy, well-rounded team in order to maximize the value of a given investment. We will continue to include overtly good defenders even if they have no other utility, but in many cases they may be devalued on this individual list in light of their fairly poor return on investment. While some players choose to focus on gym defense and are willing to invest in powerful defenders based on their merit as defenders alone. that is no longer the goal of this list.

While mention will be given to 2x weaknesses, special consideration for weaknesses to specific types will generally not be mentioned any longer. While issues like a weakness to Fighting or Steel are still an issue, most types now have at least one "superstar" attacker now, making factors along these lines far less relevant than they once were.

The Real Defense Meta

While individual Pokemon are important, the most important factor to consider is the ability to stagger type weaknesses and strengths. If it were still possible to have a team filled with nothing but Blissey, it would generally be less effective than a set of lesser counters with complementary strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, having a varied defense team is paramount to success, and making sure that this varied investment has multiple uses will ultimately serve players best.

Tier 1

Tier 1 is reserved for Pokemon that have a great defensive presence and/or a great amount of utility outside of the defense meta. These Pokemon tend to be great investments in general due to their presence in other areas of the game, or are just too strong in the defense meta to be ignored.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Zen Headbutt, Pound

Charged Moves: Dazzling Gleam, Psychic


One of the bulkiest Pokemon in the game for gym defense, the utility of Blissey as a defender cannot be overstated. It is outstanding at wasting any would-be attacker’s time. However, it also has absolutely no viability outside of gym defense, which gives infinitely less return on investment than many other top-tier defenders. One of the bulkiest Pokemon in the game for gym defense, the utility of Blissey as a defender cannot be overstated. It is outstanding at wasting any would-be attacker’s time. However, it also has absolutely no viability outside of gym defense, which gives less return on investment than other top-tier defenders.

Best Defensive Moves

Best Fast Moves: Zen Headbutt, Bullet Punch

Best Charged Moves: Meteor Mash, Psychic


Metagross has great stats and typing that can allow it to hold down gyms extremely well. The power of Meteor Mash also can’t be understated, as it will severely damage anything that doesn’t resist it. Metagross also has outstanding utility as a raid attacker, in the Master League, and in Rocket Battles, not to mention one of the best Mega Evolutions in the game. These factors all make it a great investment beyond defense.

Tier 2

Pokemon in Tier 2 are still extremely viable, but tend to pack a little less punch on defense or a little less general utility than the Pokemon in Tier 1.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Zen Headbutt

Charged Moves: Body Slam, Heavy Slam, Outrage


One of the original big-name defenders. Snorlax sports great stats and a great moveset that includes counter-coverage and a spammy charged move that can make it an absolute pain to face. It also has utility in the Master League and the Ultra League, though it will be substantially weaker on defense if built for the later. 

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Hex

Charged Moves: Icy Wind, Ominous Wind, Shadow Ball


It’s very hard for any of the big-name Fighting Types to face down Drifblim without super effective coverage, which makes it a great Pokemon to pair with Blissey, Snorlax, Tyranitar, and basically any of the fighting weak Pokemon on this list. Outside of defense, Drifblim is great in the Ultra League when maxed, giving its investment more worth. It's also outstanding in the Great League, though the lower CP makes it less than worthwhile on defense if built for such.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Dragon Tail, Waterfall

Charged Moves: Surf, Blizzard


Great stats, a great moveset, and one of the best mono-types in the game for defense, Milotic is great at holding down gyms and has great synergy with many common gym defense setups due to its general lack of weaknesses. Its one issue is the fact that it doesn’t have much utility outside of defense. Its attack is too low for utility as a raid attacker, and its pvp performance is less than stellar.

Tier 3

Tier 3 is a mixed bag. It's filled with a number of very, very strong Pokemon with high general viability but slightly lower defensive utility. They're all great investments in their own right, but mainly shine in defense if added to a gym that already have Pokemon posted that compliment them well.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Waterfall, Dragon Tail

Charged Moves: Crunch, Aqua Tail, Outrage


Gyarados hits hard, has some great moveset options, and has a potentially annoying typing to play around. However, it’s probably best to save it for gyms that already have at least one or two Electric resistant Pokemon posted. It’s good in the Master League and outstanding in the Ultra league, though if raised for the latter will be weaker on defense due to its lower maximum CP. To top it off, Gyarados is also usable as a raid attacker and Mega Evolution, which gives it good all-around utility

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Mud Shot

Charged Moves: Outrage, Sand Tomb, Fire Blast, Earthquake


Great stats  and resistances make Garchomp a force to be reckoned with on defense, though its less than synergetic attacks can also leave it easily walled. It also has an issue with its 2x weakness to Ice, so it’s probably best to leave it in gym setups that already have a few ice-resistant Pokemon posted. By that same token, it works amazingly well when posted near an Electric Weak defender. It’s a great gym attacker, a powerful Mega, and a solid force in the Master League, so its investment is definitely worthwhile

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Dragon Tail

Charged Moves: Outrage, Hurricane


One of the original big-name defenders, and once the strongest attacker in the game. Dragonite has power to spare, a spammy moveset, and good bulk. However, it has issues with Steel and Fairy Types, which can generally wall it hard, and is best saved for gyms that already have an ice resistant Pokemon or two posted. It’s a very solid attacker, and is outstanding in the Master League and Rocket Battles, which can definitely give its investment value

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Smack Down, Iron Tail

Charged Moves: Crunch


Very solid and well rounded stats with good defensive moves can make Tyranitar a wall in the defense meta, though it’s best when posted after one or two Fighting Type resistant Pokemon are already defending. Tyranitar is also usable in PvP, is an outstanding pick for Rocket Battles, and has an oppressively powerful Mega Evolution.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Charm, Confusion

Charged Moves: Shadow Ball, Dazzling Gleam, Psychic


Gardevoir is a bit niche on defense due to its frailty. Its main utility is patching up Fighting weaknesses, as it absolutely destroys many Fighting Type Pokemon. It’s also the top Fairy Type raid attacker, viable in PvP, and a genuinely great Mega Evolution.

Tier 4

Tier 4 is filled with niche Pokemon that work well if played to their strengths, and/or Pokemon with good general utility. Some of these Pokemon are extremely important within specific metagames and are a bit of a stretch to fit on the defense tier list, but overall they work very well and are good investments.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Counter, Poison Jab

Charged Moves: Dynamic Punch, Stone Edge


Good bulk and attack make Conkeldurr genuinely viable on defense, where it's arguably the best overall Fighting Type defender, but its moveset is not exactly the best defensively speaking. Without resorting to expensive and risky charged moves, it’s easily walled. However, it’s also one of the top Fighting Type attackers with PvP utility as well, giving validity to its investment

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Charge Beam

Charged Moves: Mirror Shot, Wild Charge


Magnezone is very, very polarizing on defense. With more resistances than any other Pokemon in the game (save its pre-evolutions), it can wall out a lot of attackers. However, its short list of weaknesses incorporates some extremely pervasive attackers that can threaten its less than stellar bulk, including a double weakness to Ground. For this reason, it’s probably best to hide Magnezone behind something that resists Ground. It’s also a good attacker with high general performance and utility in the Master League, so it’s a good choice for investment overall

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Razor Leaf

Charged Moves: Sludge Bomb, Frenzy Plant


Bulky and strong, Venusaur can help to hold down a gym, though its moveset options are easily walled by several strong attackers. It has the added advantages of Ultra League utility, gym attacker utility that’s compounded by a strong Mega Evolution, and top-tier Great League presence, though a Great League-ready Venusaur will be substantially weakened on defense.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Rock Smash, Bubble

Charged Moves: Play Rough, Ice Beam


Azumarill has very nice typing on defense, good bulk, and a low CP that keeps it from demotivating quickly. However, the main reason that it’s a worthwhile investment is the fact that a maxed Azumarill is one of the absolute top Pokemon in the Great League.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Counter, Bug Bite

Charged Moves: Drill Run, Aerial Ace


Having only one weakness is always nice, and Escalavier is one of the best on defense in this regard. A good moveset and stats make it stand out as a solid choice for defense, and its utility as a great Pokemon in the Ultra League at near maxed level gives its investment a bit more viability.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Dragon Tail, Fire Fang

Charged Moves: Outrage, Fire Blast, Hydro Pump


Salamence can deal some very solid damage, though it’s defensively less than stellar and is easily walled when not using its expensive and far riskier charged moves. Just be sure to have it hiding behind something that resists Ice Types. Its real viability comes from its utility outside of defense, as it’s a top Dragon attacker and has a very strong Mega Evolution.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Water Gun, Mud Shot

Charged Moves: Hydro Cannon, Surf, Muddy Water


While not very strong on defense on its own merit, Swampert’s lack of weaknesses can help to make it annoying to deal with. It has issues with low powered fast moves and less than outstanding defensive stats when compared to many other Pokemon on this list, but its utility outside of  defense is very high. Just make sure that it’s behind a Grass Type resistant Pokemon on defense.  It’s a top Water Type attacker, an outstanding Pokemon in the Master League, and it has a very strong Mega Evolution.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Thunder Shock

Charged Moves: Super Power, Rockslide, Thunderbolt


Say hello to the only Mythical Pokemon that can defend… for some reason! Melmetal has one of the best mono-types for defense, and can slot in on many teams easily. However, its actual defensive presence isn’t that strong due to the fact that it only has Thundershock as a fast move, which isn’t outstanding. Melmetal can make up for that with good charged moves and stellar performance in the Master League, where it’s a top threat for the meta.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Zen Headbutt, Pound

Charged Moves: Dazzling Gleam, Psychic


Pseudo-blissey is pseudo-blissey. Its only purpose to exist is to slot into a gym that already has a Blissey to provide yet another huge speed-bump. It’s good in this niche, but this leaves the gym more susceptible to Fighting Types, and Chansey has literally no utility outside of this one strategy.

Tier 5

With one or two note-worthy exceptions, Tier 5 is populated by niche Pokemon with limited overall use. In general these Pokemon are just "okay" defenders with utility in only one or two other areas of the game.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Bite, Water Gun

Charged Moves: Hydro Cannon, Ice Beam


A viable defender, Blastoise sports surprisingly solid synergy in its defensive move types that can make it decent. However, its real utility comes from its viability in the Ultra League and its very solid Mega Evolution, which give its investment additional utility

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Iron Tail, Dragon Tail, Thunder Fang

Charged Moves: Crunch, Heavy Slam


Steelix has defense…. and defense… and defense. Oh, and did we mention defense? If this Pokemon had more HP, it could be the strongest Pokemon around. On defense, it has some very strong moveset options that can make it threatening, but it’s not as bulky as it seems and doesn’t pose a huge threat. It’s a great choice in the Ultra League, and has an absurdly bulky Mega Evolution incoming though.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Smack Down, Iron Tail

Charged Moves: Flamethrower, Stone Edge


A maxed out or nearly maxed out Bastiodon is a brick wall of a Pokemon... against Pokemon with a similarly low CP. It has a potentially decent presence, but its double weaknesses to both Ground and Fighting can easily make it trivial to fight, so try to hide it behind a Flying Type defender if you can. In the Great League, Bastiodon is very strong though a bit niche; if the opponent doesn’t have a way to deal with it, then it’s basically a win condition unto itself. If they do, then it can be a bit of a liability unless played smart

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Poison Jab, Snarl

Charged Moves: Dark Pulse, Gunk Shot


Alolan Muk is yet another Pokemon with only one weakness; Ground Type. If played with the right defensive team, it can do a great job and can help patch up team weaknesses. However, it probably shouldn’t be a front-line defender as it’s a bit frail. Alolan Muk also has utility in the Ultra League as a great attacker at near maxed level, and the Great League as a niche counter, though a Great League specimen will be too weak to be worth using on defense

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: Mud Slap, Smack Down

Charged Moves: Rock Wrecker, Surf, Superpower


Great stats? Check. Great moveset? Check. Rhyperior has the makings of a top-tier defender… but it has double-weaknesses to two of the most common types in the game: Grass and Water. For this reason, it can fall like a house of cards. Outside of defense, it’s a top-tier Rock attacker, a really good Ground attacker, and it has great utility in the Master League and Rocket Battles.

Best Defensive Moves

Fast Moves: None

Charged Moves: Body Slam, Play Rough


*Yawn* Slaking is a *Yawn* bad Pokemon. It’s not doing much of anything itself, but *Yaaaaawn* its extremely high CP boosts gyms *YAAAWWWWWN* really well. Don’t invest here unless you’re only interested in gym CP.

Honorable Mentions

The Niche Grass Types

They are definitely decent on defense and have utility outside of it (Exeggutor as a Grass attacker and Ferrothorn as a Great League pick), but their overall utility trails behind many other picks. They’re still viable, but they have issues.

The Bulky Defenders

These Pokemon are perfectly good on defense, and… that’s it. They have no genuine utility beyond this one niche, and while they’re perfectly good in this niche, they’re also outclassed in one way or another by something else on our list.

The Lost Mega

Ampharos is decent as a defender and one of only two Electric Type Mega Evolutions, so it has its viability. However, it’s just.. mediocre in most ways, making its return on investment a bit lackluster.

The Outclassed and Underutilized

These Pokemon tend to fall into the “meh” category. They have limited utility outside of defense, and they’re outclassed in this by another Pokemon that does the same basic thing better.

The “Please don’t use this”

Aggron gets a category all its own because of its status as a bit of a meme Pokemon. It’s bulky as heck, but its double weaknesses make it very easy to take down. As for alternate uses, it and Blissey are some of the only Pokemon on this list with negative utility due to the fact that  bringing them to a raid will likely get you smacked by your fellow raiders. It has a Mega Evolution, but Mega Metagross is just so much better…