Best Pokémon in Pokémon GO: best attackers, best defenders, and best for PvP

Here are Pokémon GO's best Pokémon, whether you're defending a gym, hitting a raid, or taking on other players in PvP

Pokemon GO

Although the highs of Summer ‘16 will likely never be surmounted, Pokémon GO is still going strong with a core community of battlers. But if you’re new to the game, or just struggling to know which Pokémon to power up, we’ve got a handy list of the best options.

Stardust – the in-game currency you’ll use to power up your Pokémon – is a precious commodity, so be careful how you spend it. Your safest bets will be on powerful Pokémon to use when battling in raids or gyms, but you can also look at more unique monsters for PvP battles in the GO Battle League.

There are far more permutations and viable options in GO Battle League – as well as different recommended IV spreads if you want to get really technical. However, we’ll kick things off by looking at the most powerful Pokémon overall, the ones you’ll want to be using in gyms and raids. Just make sure to check out our Pokémon type chart to make sure you’re always dealing super-effective damage wherever possible.

For battling in gyms and raids you want to power up the Pokémon with the best IV stats. To check this, hit the button with three horizontal lines in the bottom-right of your screen when looking at a Pokémon. Select ‘appraise’ from the menu and check the stats – you’ll want all three bars to be as close to the end as possible, preferably red which means that stat is maxed out. You can’t change these stats, so don’t bother powering up a Pokémon that doesn’t look too great here.

Look out for Pokémon in your box that know legacy moves – these are moves that can only be accessed in certain events or with a rare Elite TM.

Pokemon Go

We’d like to thank this fan-maintained chart for all its data on Pokémon GO stat distributions, as it helps all players know what to look out for. However, we’ve done some digging to find the best Pokémon based not only on their stats, but also on their viability against common opponents and in various situations.

Best Pokémon GO attackers

(Shadow) Mewtwo

Put simply, Mewtwo is the best Pokémon. With a CP that reaches over 4,000 and devastating legacy attacks in Psystrike and Shadow Ball, Mewtwo can deal huge damage even in neutral matchups. Running Confusion and Psystrike is optimal, but other movesets still deal massive damage – just set it up so you’re doing super-effective damage and watch opponents fall. If you don’t have access to legacy moves, Psychic will deal big STAB damage and Focus Blast can take out normal- or steel-types you come across.

Shadow Mewtwo is considerably harder to come by – especially if you want the best IVs – and costs considerably more stardust to power up, but deals 20% more damage. The Shadow bonus also means Mewtwo has 83% of its regular defence, but the attack boost is worth the debuff. Make sure to use a TM on Frustration during specific Team Rocket events which allow it, and then use an Elite Charged TM to get a Shadow Mewtwo with Psystrike.

(Shadow) Metagross

Metagross is the best steel-type Pokémon GO attacker. Its legacy move Meteor Mash is probably the best steel-type move in the game, and Metagross has access to some great coverage moves such as Earthquake, too. Its bulk will keep it in the battle for a while, allowing you to get off more charge moves.

The same goes for Shadow Metagross as Shadow Mewtwo: it’s more powerful attacking, but more expensive to power up and takes more damage. If you can get your hands on one, though, it’s worth it.

Read more: How to get all the Eevee evolutions in Pokémon GO

Machamp

Machamp is a powerful attacker, although it is a little on the frail side. However, as you’ll come to realise when you read on, many of the best defensive Pokémon are weak to fighting-type attacks, giving Machamp a distinct advantage. We recommend running Counter/Dynamic Punch, although both Cross Chop and Close Combat will do well, too.

Rayquaza

Rayquaza, like other legendary Pokémon, is now only available through Legendary raids. You’ll need a team of trainers to take it on, but if successful, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most powerful dragon-types in Pokémon GO. Make sure not to go up against any ice-types, because Rayquaza has a double weakness, but other than that you’ll be pretty much fine.

Kyogre

The best water-type currently available in Pokémon GO, Kyogre is regularly available in raids and boats a great defence stat as well as strong attack. Use Hydro Pump or Surf to get past bulky rock- and ground-type defenders or raid bosses. Ice Beam is another option if you’re taking on a dragon or want some coverage against grass-types who’ll be dealing super-effective damage in return.

Groudon

Groudon unfortunately suffers from a double weakness to water, but its wealth of moves more than make up for the fact. We like doubling up on Fire Punch and Earthquake, but if you haven’t got 100 candy and 100,000 stardust to spend on a second charge move, just one will do.

(Shadow) Salamence

If you’re after a dragon-type, Salamence could be a great option. Easier to come by than Rayquaza, Salamence can deal some great damage with its Dragon Tail/Draco Meteor combination.

As with Mewtwo and Metagross, the Shadow version of Salamence is a superior attacker – so keep hold of any Shadow Bagons with a minimum of 3-star IVs.

Lucario

Lucario is another fighting-type like Machamp who can deal massive damage to common defenders. Machamp maxes out at 3056CP compared to Lucario’s 2703CP, but the latter has access to Aura Sphere – a better fighting-type charge move than Machamp has access to – and Power-up Punch, which boosts its attack stat by one stage each time it is used. Getting off a few of these can quickly make Lucario into a phenomenal attacker.

Super-effective: Make sure you know your Pokémon type chart

Rampardos

Rampardos has the best attack stat out of any non-legendary Pokémon currently available in Pokémon GO. However, it is an incredibly frail monster, and will go down in just a few hits. However, if you want a glass cannon that you can use to get some big damage off quickly, Rampardos is your best choice. Stick to rock-type moves and try to deal super-effective damage against flying-, bug-, fire-, or ice-types for best results.

Tyranitar

If you want a rock-type attacker who will stick around a bit longer, Tyranitar is your best choice. Aim for the legacy fast move Smack Down combined with Stone Edge, but Bite and Crunch will do great damage against Psychic-types, too. Rhyperior is another great choice for a powerful rock-type attacker, but Tyranitar’s resistance to Mewtwo’s psychic- and ghost-type moves puts it just ahead in our book.

Best Pokémon GO defenders

Blissey

Blissey has huge HP and defense stats, making it the perfect Pokémon to leave in a gym for a couple of hours to collect your daily coins. It won’t do much damage in return to attackers, but its bulk will keep it there for a long time. If there’s already a Blissey in the gym you want to defend – use Chansey, Blissey’s unevolved form. It’s nearly as bulky and equally annoying to shift.

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Snorlax

Snorlax is another big bulky normal-type. Use in much the same way as you would Blissey – stick it in a gym and forget about it.

Slaking

Can you see a pattern emerging here? Slaking has the most CP out of any Pokémon in Pokémon GO and a good defence stat, too. It’s normal-typing means it is only weak to fighting-type attackers, so Machamp or Lucario. Pick any of the “big three” normal-types to hold a gym all day, although it might be worth adding a Machamp counter to the roster if it looks a little weak to fighting-types.

Mewtwo

Speaking of fighting-type counters, Mewtwo will shut down Machamp in an instant. Use Psystrike or Psychic to protect your normal-types. However, it is worth remembering that legendary Pokémon can’t be put in gyms, so you’ll have to find another psychic-type to fulfil that role. Mewtwo is best utilised as a defender in PvP Master League.

Metagross

If you wanted a psychic-type to defend a gym, Metagross is the best option. Give a defensive Metagross Psychic instead of Meteor Mash or Earthquake to best deal with those pesky Machamps.

Togekiss

Togekiss is a bulky fairy- and flying-type Pokémon whose best job is providing a hard counter to the dragon-types that dominate attackers. Charm is a must-have fast move as it will chunk the health of any dragon-types and be effective in most neutral matchups as well. Dazzling Gleam as a charge move will finish off any dragons you might face. Machamps will also have no chance against a Togekiss.

Dragonite

While it suffers from the same double weakness as Rayquaza, very few ice-types make it into attacking teams. Dragonite also offers better defence than Rayquaza – as well as being easier to get hold of from 10km eggs – so can hold its own in a defensive position. A good attack stat and flying-typing makes it a nice Machamp counter in a gym.

Registeel

Steel is a great defensive typing with few weaknesses, and Registeel has the best combined stats out of all the steel-types in Pokémon GO. Again, as it is legendary, it can’t be put into gyms, but it will be found on a high percentage of Great League teams in GO Battle League.

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Melmetal

Melmetal is the first and only Pokémon introduced by Pokémon GO rather than in a main series game. It is also the only mythical or legendary Pokémon that can be left to defend a gym. This makes it the best steel-type to defend gyms, preferably using Superpower and/or Rock Slide to deal the most damage. As with all steel-types, watch out for Machamps.

Shuckle

Shuckle deserves a mention purely for its astonishing defense stat. At 396, the only Pokémon to come close is Deoxys Defense form at 330, and the closest non-legend is Bastiodon with 286. However, a poor HP stat and abysmal attack makes Shuckle practically useless. However, it’s still fun to whack one in a gym and watch attackers struggle to beat the little bug.

Best Pokémon for Pokémon GO PvP (GO Battle League)

There are three main leagues for GO Battle League (GBL): Great League, Ultra League, and Master League. The former limits Pokémon CP at 1,500, Ultra League caps CP at 2,500 and Master League is a free-for all. Each also sometimes offers a Premier Cup – the same limits apply, but no legendary Pokémon can be used.

Season 6 changed the entire structure of GBL, but the basics remain the same, so if you haven’t played since then we’ll get to the changes later. As of Season 7, Niantic has also removed the walking requirement that used to be necessary in order to unlock new battles, which had been temporarily paused during the pandemic.

The tactics for each league are roughly the same, pick a Pokémon to send out first – your opener, a defensive Pokémon to take hits – your safe switch, and a Pokémon to wrap things up – your closer.

Generally, you should make sure that no two Pokémon have similar weaknesses so you aren’t swept by one Pokémon you don’t resist, but that rule can be bent and broken on occasion. To start with though, make sure your safe switch has a resistance to attacks that your opener is weak to. Flying-type Pokémon are often used as a safe switch due to their resistances, and it is always recommended to have a flyer on your team.

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GO Battle League is a complicated beast, and you might soon find yourself down the rabbit hole of comparing matchups and IVs. We recommend checking out PvPoke for rankings of the best GO Battle League Pokémon based on the meta and GoStadium to check how good your Pokémon’s stats are for PvP (hint: max stats aren’t always the best here). We did say it was complicated…

We’ve gathered a tried and tested team for each league, but GO Battle League is a place to test different combinations, trial different Pokémon, and go against the grain more than when you’re attacking gyms or defeating raid bosses.

Great League

Alolan Raichu – we like opening with Alolan Raichu as it’s this month’s Research Breakthrough encounter and can deal huge damage to the flying- and water-types that are so popular in Great League. Be sure to charge up two Wild Charges before pulling the trigger, so you can use them back-to-back to deal damage (or trigger your opponent’s shields) before switching out to mitigate the defence drops.

Vigoroth – as a safe switch, Vigoroth is great. Nobody will switch a fighting-type in against Alolan Raichu’s psychic-type attacks, so Vigoroth won’t be weak to anything your opponent has switched in to deal with your opener. Body Slam does huge neutral damage to everything except ghost-types, and a fighting-type coverage move will be useful too.

Altaria – we told you you’d need a flyer. Altaria deals with a lot of common Great League threats, just watch out for Ice Beam which will deal doubly super effective damage. Try to save your shields to protect Altaria – or Alolan Raichu if it’s still around – as Vigoroth can take a few hits.

Great League Remix

Ten Pokémon have been banned in the Great League Remix, which runs from April 12 to April 26. The banned Pokémon are as follows:

  • Venusaur
  • Raichu (and Alolan Raichu)
  • Marowak (and Alolan Marowak)
  • Azumarill
  • Umbreon
  • Skarmory
  • Swampert
  • Galvantula
  • Stunfisk (and Galarian Stunfisk)
  • Talonflame

These bans will shake up the meta for the month of April, so prepare your underused or underloved Pokémon to reign supreme.

Ultra League

This team works in both Ultra League and the Ultra League Premier Cup, as it doesn’t have any legendaries. However, both Togekiss and Snorlax are hard counters to Giratina, which won’t feature in the Premier Cup – so you may want to swap one of them out.

Togekiss – opening with Togekiss immediately scares out any dragon-types or Machamps, which are common at this level. When any fighting-types have been taken down or switched out, move to your safe switch.

Snorlax – now you see why your want Togekiss to scare out any fighting-types. Beware of hidden fighting-types in the back, but if your opponent led with a fighting Pokémon, Snorlax will be safe to hit Body Slams or Superpowers to deal big damage. Snorlax with this moveset also beats popular closers such as Giratina and Registeel comfortably.

Charizard – as a closer, Charizard is a great choice. Dragon Claw can deal with any dragon-types, sometimes taking them by surprise, and legacy move Blast Burn will deal huge damage to any types that don’t resist fire. Ensure you have Fire Spin as a fast move to charge up energy quickly.

Enjoying GBL? Why not try Pokémon Sword and Shield ranked?

Master League Classic

Giratina (Origin Forme) – Master League is the home of legendary Pokémon, and Giratina is one of the best. It deals big damage even in neutral matchups and hits big threats such as other dragon-types for super effective damage.

Groudon – as a safe switch, Groudon offers unparalleled coverage. Safe switches work slightly differently in Master League, as you need to cover the biggest legendary threats more than the weaknesses of your opener. Groudon can use Fire Punch, Earthquake, and Grass Knot to cover all manner of switch-ins.

Gyarados – so long as you’ve eliminated any opposing rock-types, Gyarados will destroy your opponent’s backline. Dragon Breath is a powerful fast move that can wreak havoc on opposing dragons (there are a lot up here), Aqua Tail deals powerful STAB, and Crunch hits ghost- and psychic-type Pokémon super-effectively (that’s most often Giratina and Mewtwo).

We’re yet to see what the Master League meta will bring now that XL Candies can power up Pokémon higher than ever before. However, we can safely assume that it will be chock-full of maxed-out legendary Pokémon, so battle at your own risk…

Sinnoh Pokemon roaming a lush forest

Pokémon GO Battle League Season 7

Pokémon GO Battle League Season 7 kicks off on March 1 with a bunch of new cups and exciting rewards. With players still reeling from Season 6’s nerfs, there’s never been a better time to jump into the unstable meta.

Here are the full dates and rewards for GO Battle League Season 7:

  • The Great League will run from Monday, March 1 at 13:00 PDT (21:00 GMT) to Monday, March 15 at 13:00 PDT (21:00 GMT)
  • The Ultra League and its Premier Cup will run from Monday, March 15 at 13:00 PDT (21:00 GMT) to Monday, March 29 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
  • The Master League, Master League Classic, and the Great League will run from Monday, March 29 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, April 5 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT). Only Pokémon that haven’t been powered up with Candy XL are allowed in Master League Classic
  • All three leagues will run from Monday, April 5 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, April 12 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
  • The Great League and a new cup called Great League Remix will run from Monday, April 12 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, April 26 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
    • The Great League Remix will ban the 10 most-used Pokémon from Great League – the ban list will be announced shortly after the Great League ends on March 15
  • The Ultra League and its Premier Cup will run from Monday, April 26 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, May 10 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
  • The Master League, Master League Classic, and the Retro Cup will run from Monday, May 10 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, May 17, 2021 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
    • Only Pokémon that haven’t been powered up with Candy XL are allowed in Master League Classic
    • Only the first 15 Pokémon types will feature in the Retro Cup (so that excludes Dark, Steel, and Fairy types). The CP limit in 1,500
  • All three leagues will run from Monday, May 17 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, May 24 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
  • Ranked play will end on Monday, May 24 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)
  • An unranked Kanto Cup will run from Monday, May 24 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT) to Monday, May 31 at 13:00 PDT (20:00 GMT)

Pokémon GO Battle League Season 7 rank rewards

  • Trainers who reach rank 10 will receive Pikachu Libre avatar items, and trainers who reach Legend rank will earn avatar items and a pose inspired by Elesa who appeared in Pokémon Black & White
  • Rank 1: You’ll be guaranteed to encounter Zebstrika, one of Elesa’s partner Pokémon in the Pokémon RPGs
  • Rank 1 and up: You’ll be able to encounter Pokémon such as Poliwhirl, Flaaffy, Pupitar, Galvantula, and more
  • Rank 10 and up: You’ll be able to encounter Pokémon such as Medicham, Frillish, Stunfisk, and more
  • Rank 15 and up: You’ll be able to encounter Pokémon such as Scraggy, Lampent, and Rufflet. Don’t forget—if you’re lucky, you might encounter a Shiny Rufflet
  • From rank 20 and up: You’ll be able to encounter the Legendary Pokémon that is appearing in five-star raids at that time
  • Ace rank and up: You’ll be able to encounter Deino
  • Legend rank: You’ll be guaranteed to encounter a Pikachu Libre. This will be the only time you’ll be able to encounter a Pikachu Libre during the season
  • You’ll earn more Candy XL than normal when you catch these Pokémon in GO Battle League reward encounters: Poliwhirl, Flaaffy, Pupitar, Medicham, Scraggy, Galvantula, Lampent, and Stunfisk

 

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We’re currently seeing the introduction of Mega Pokémon to Pokémon GO. While none of the currently available Megas break into these lists – and none can be used in GO Battle League at the moment – there are some to look out for:

Mega Aggron will be a defensive beast, while Mega Mewtwo, Mega Garchomp, Mega Gengar, and Mega Rayquaza will all be huge attacking threats.

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