'Pokémon Go': Best 20 Pokémon for attacking and defending gyms

'Pokémon Go': Best 20 Pokémon for attacking and defending gyms
Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go

Have you caught the very best Pokémon in Pokémon Go?

Judging the value of a Pokémon depends a lot on what job you are asking it to do in Pokémon Go. A Pokémon that is an excellent gym attacker might make for a terrible defender. Is that Pokémon better than a Pokémon who can both attack and defend, but isn't great at either?

This is why "best of" lists all have their unique methodologies to try to answer the question of which Pokémon are superior to all the rest. The Pokémon that continually rise to the top of any list, no matter how it's been determined, are the best Pokémon of 2016.

Pokémon Go best Pokémon: How to determine the top 20 fighters

Niantic patched Pokémon Go on Nov. 21 with a balance update that adjusted the stats for every Pokémon in the game except Lapras. This update necessitated rethinking every top 10 and top 20 list the experts had presented prior to the change. 

Rhydon, for example, suddenly became a potential powerhouse, and while Chansey may not look like much the balance update turned her into a badass.

All the data by which we're going to figure out the top 20 Pokémon in Pokémon Go is therefore relatively fresh. We are drawing from three sources here: GamePress, the Total Damage Output-based analysis from Redditor Qmike (a member of The Silph Road community), and the matchup-based simulations provided by Silph Road member QuantumOverlord.

We looked at how often a member of a species of Pokémon appeared in top 20 rankings for attacking and defending, and where they appeared on the list. We also considered how many times an individual member of a species showed up in the top 30 for best attackers and defenders.

Finally, we made an assessment as to what a particular species of Pokémon was best suited to do. For instance, a Pokémon that is excellent at attack may be so good as to balance out their complete lack of value as a defender.

Mew, Mewtwo and the legendary birds were also removed from any data sets we used, as we wanted this list to contain only Pokémon you may actually catch at this time.

If you want to determine the best moveset for each Pokémon on this list, The Silph Road has an excellent analysis, as does GamePress.

20. Hypno

Hypno is part of your defense squad.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Defender

Drowzee seems to be relatively common in Pokémon Go, making Hypno one of your best defenders in the early game. It can also make for a potential speed bump as a gym defender in endgame play.

19. Gengar

Gengar's impish grin portends his value as a gym attacker.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Attacker

Gengar earned a spot on this list for its attack skills. Don't bother fielding Gengar as a defender unless you have to, but with the right moves Gengar can give even proper endgame Pokémon a hard time during a gym battle.

18. Charizard

Weird that this bad boy evolves from a cute little Charmander, huh?  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Attacker

Considering how iconic Charizard is in the Pokémon franchise one would think it would amount to more in Pokémon Go. But while Charizard might make for a good attacker compared to most Pokémon on the top 20 list, it can't hold a candle to the true endgame fighters like Snorlax, Dragonite, Lapras and Vaporeon.

17. Vileplume

Killer toadstools are good for beating up on gyms.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Attacker

To be honest, Vileplume is a third-tier attacker. Not a competitive endgame Pokémon, but maybe a good choice for attack squads in the early game.

16. Alakazam

Alakazam is another addition to the endgame Pokémon courtesy of the balance update.  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Attacker

Alakazam only started appearing on multiple top 20 lists after the balance update, so it's a relatively new consideration as a serious endgame Pokémon contender.

Alakazam can be an excellent attacker, considered Tier 1 and top 10 on several lists. That's about all Alakazam is good for, however. Don't waste it on defense.

15. Muk

Perhaps Muk uses his gunk to slow down attackers, and that's why he's a good defender?  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Multi-purpose, slightly better defender

Muk places top 20 on both attacker and defender lists but is a third-rate attacker at best compared to endgame Pokémon. 

14. Cloyster

Cloyster's shell suggests what he's good at: defending gyms.  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Defender

Cloyster has little if any value as an attacker. It is a useful bulwark as a gym defender against lower-level attackers, but unless you are really hard up you may never field Cloyster as part of an attack squad.

13. Poliwrath

Polywrath isn't much on attack, but can hold a gym down.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Defender

Poliwrath is a top 10 defender on some lists, but that's about all it's good for from an endgame perspective. Poliwrath can't hold a candle on offense against the big boys but he can frustrate lower-level Pokémon during a gym battle.

12. Omastar

It may be difficult to evolve Omastar if you don't live near water, but he's totally worth the effort.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Multi-purpose, not particularly good at attack or defense

Omastar is not what you might normally think of as an endgame fighter, but it shows up on both top 20 attacker and defender lists. It's not very good at any one thing, however, so Omastar is probably best only against lower-tier Pokémon. 

11. Chansey

Chancey was given a tremendous bump by the recent Pokémon Go balance update.  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Extremely good defender.

There's not much more to say about Chansey other than to cite its basic role because defense is all Chansey does. It can be a brick wall following the balance update. Put Chansey in control of your gyms wherever possible.

10. Jolteon

Jolteon is the second of Eevee's three evolutions to make the top 10 best of 2016 list.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Attacker. Little value as a defender.

Jolteon, an evolution of Eevee that players can control by using the Eevee name trick, can do a fair amount of damage given the optimal moveset. However, Jolteon is fairly useless as a defender.

The best use for Jolteon in your attack squad might be to probe enemy defense. It's also a good lead Pokémon to swap out for other attackers as the situation requires.

9. Slowbro

Slowbro is an excellent choice to defend your gyms.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Defender.

It's easy to dismiss Slowbro as a goofy-looking Pokémon, but with the optimal moveset he can be a solid gym defender right up there with Snorlax and Lapras.

8. Venasaur

It's ugly as hell and it's a hell of an attacker.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Best at attacking

Venasaur isn't a very sexy Pokémon. You won't read about it nearly as much as any of the top 5 Pokémon but Venasaur can still pack a hell of a punch.

If you're going up against a Venasaur during a gym battle, considering putting it up against your very best defender.

7. Gyarados

400 Magikarp candy to get this bad boy. Hope you live near water!  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Attacker

Perhaps it's only fair that Gyarados doesn't break the top five list in either attack or defense. Anyone who doesn't live near water is likely going to have a difficult time gathering 400 Magikarp candies to evolve a Gyarados. So it wouldn't be right for it to be too powerful an attacker.

Attacking is still what Gyarados is best for. You may see them defending gyms in the game world but that's not its optimal role. If you can save one for your attack squad, do so.

6. Rhydon

Rhydon wasn't much of a player until the recent balance update. Now he's sitting close to the top.  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Multi-purpose, better on attack

Rhydon's rise into the top 10 was paved by the balance update. Pokémon Go players following the update noticed that Rhydon had become a really good attacker. In fact, it may be able to compete with Snorlax, Dragonite and even sometimes Vaporeon on that score if it has the right moveset.

Rhydon can also serve as a defender and will give non-endgame Pokémon a relatively hard time if they attack. You will probably get more out of Rhydon if you keep him on offense, though.

5. Exeggutor

He looks funny, but he fights good.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Multi-purpose, better on defense.

Exeggutor is another endgame Pokémon that can fill multiple roles, although its total damage output might be lower than any other endgame Pokémon on our list.

On defense, however, Exeggutor has the potential to stand alongside Snorlax and Lapras.

4. Vaporeon

Vaporeon has been a force to be reckoned with since the earliest days of Pokémon Go.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Multi-purpose but superior on attack.

Vaporeon has been an endgame Pokémon since the very beginning. It also exploded in popularity after the Eevee name trick was discovered, allowing anyone who wanted a Vaporeon to evolve one.

That left a lot of room for experimentation with different Vaporeon builds, and so the data on this Pokémon's battle prowess is substantial. Vaporeon was nerfed slightly by the balance update but it's still a powerhouse you can always expect to contend with.

3. Lapras

Lapras is good for your defender or attacker squads.  Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Role: Multi-purpose, excellent defender

Of the top three Pokémon species in Pokémon Go, Lapras is the best defender with Snorlax close behind.

Lapras is no slouch on offense, either. It's a top five attacker just behind Snorlax, but if you can save Lapras to defend a gym, you'll get the most out of this Pokémon.

2. Dragonite

It can take a while to collect all those Dratini but it is so worth it.  Niantic/Pokémon Go

Role: Multi-purpose, better on attack

With the right moveset, Dragonite is a devastating gym attacker — even better than Snorlax or Lapras. If you want a Pokémon that can rip through the early defenses of an enemy gym to expose the heavy hitters at the top, Dragonite is the Pokémon you want to lead with.

Dragonite can also play defense if you need it to. Like any endgame Pokémon in Pokémon Go, Dragonite is a multi-purpose fighter. Try to keep Dragonite available for offense, however, rather than slotting it into a gym defender position.

1. Snorlax

Awww, isn't he cute? He will also kick your ass.  Mic/Pokémon Go

Role: Multi-purpose, slightly better on defense

Snorlax is the only Pokémon on our list who is considered Tier 1 in both GamePress attacker and defender rankings. At least five different possible Snorlax movesets appear in the top 30 Total Damage Output lists. 

So it doesn't matter which variety of Snorlax you get. When you find yourself a Snorlax, you just caught the best Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

More Pokémon Go news, tips and tricks

If you're so into Pokémon Go that you would love to argue with us about our picks, you may also want to check out Mic's other Pokémon Go content. Here are guides on how to catch Gen 2 baby Pokémon, the 98 Gen 2 Pokémon that have yet to be added to the game, how to catch Pikachu and his adorable new Christmas hat, post-update Chansey and Rhydon, everything you need to know about finding the long-awaited Pokémon Ditto, creating new PokéStops, how to maximize your chances of catching Pokémon and fresh information about how PokéStops distribute Pokémon eggs.