We don’t know how difficult Legendary raids will be. Now hopefully this doesn’t offend anyone, but I’m going to walk through some speculation. I think it’s safe to assume, like the raids we have now, Legendary raids will be designed to be defeated with teamwork. I don’t think Niantic would give us raids that cannot be completed by the current 20 player limit, but if they aren’t, then I would expect they will probably expand the number of players that can join in for Tier 5 raids.
This post will specifically focus on aiding players who cannot hope to assemble large raiding parties to help them. Because honestly, you don’t really need a whole lot of strategy when you can rely on a dozen other attackers. But when your group is smaller, getting all the details right may save your raid pass, and ultimately give you a shot at catching that rare Legendary.
Before we get into counters, please keep this in mind. Do not invest candy/rare candy or stardust into powering up anything until we get closer to Go Fest and learn more about how Tier 5 raids will work, and which Legendaries will be released first.
The Best Overall Legendary Counters:
Likely, you’ve already heard a lot about the strongest Pokemon to use against specific Legendaries, but the reality is most people probably do not have the candy/dust to be able to evolve /power up ideal counters for every matchup. You need to prioritize a select few Pokemon that you can use for almost any raid.
1. Tyranitar – The All-In-One Legendary Killer
Bite/Stone Edge or Crunch
I bet you are surprised Golem isn’t first on the list. After all, Moltres, Articuno, and Ho-Oh all have double weaknesses to Rock. Tyranitar doesn’t have a Rock quick move, so it loses out in terms of DPS to Golem. However, Tyranitar is unquestionably the best overall counter to every Legendary. It has good matchups against Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Mew, Mewtwo, Entei, Ho-Oh, Lugia, and Celebi. The only Legendaries Tyranitar cannot hit for Super Effective damage are Raikou and Suicune.
And think about this. Niantic could have chosen Dragonite to be a Tier 4 raid boss, but they didn’t. They also didn’t give us Golem. We have a chance at a Tyranitar for a reason – Niantic wants us to be prepared for what’s to come.
Now let’s unpack this:
Tyranitar takes neutral damage from Articuno, unlike Golem – due to its Ground typing, Golem will take Super Effective damage from Ice (and Articuno only learns Ice Moves in this game). That really impairs Golem’s survivability, and thus its DPS advantage over Tyranitar is outweighed by Tyranitar’s superior total damage output. Meaning, though Golem deals damage faster, Tyranitar lives longer and contributes more damage overall to the battle. Tyranitar does not lag behind in DPS enough to ignore its effective health advantage in favor of Golem’s better DPS.
Against Moltres and Zapdos, Golem is unquestionably better than Tyranitar. Tyranitar cannot compete with Rock Throw/Stone Edge Golem for DPS. Golem and Tyranitar both resist Fire, and Golem has a .51x immunity to Electric while Tyranitar is neutral. Golem clearly dominates these matchups, as you’d expect. But Tyranitar will do well against both, it isn’t ideal but it is a good matchup.
Mew and Mewtwo – Golem has no place in your roster for these raids. And that’s where Tyranitar sets itself apart as the more useful of the two Rock types. As a dual Dark type, Tyranitar enjoys a .51x immunity to Psychic moves, and combined with its already impressive Tankiness, will give it great longevity against Mewtwo (for the most part). Mew only learns Pound as a quick move, which hits Tyranitar for the standard Not Very Effective .714x multiplier. Against these Pokemon, Bite/Crunch is ideal, however Bite/Stone Edge will do nicely as well since you will deal a good amount of DPS with Bite regardless of your charge move. Mew has a large movepool, and can hit Tyranitar for SE damage with Earthquake, Solar Beam, and more importantly, Focus Blast. Mewtwo also learns Focus Blast, which is problematic. Focus Blast from a raid boss will definitely one-shot Tyranitar, and even if you dodge you will most likely experience a lag death. But overall that’s okay, most Pokemon will be destroyed by Mewtwo’s charge moves anyway. The only Pokemon with a better overall type matchup is Scizor, which is far less bulky than Tyranitar, has a lower DPS output, and will still be one-shot by Focus Blast Mewtwo despite being neutral to Fighting type moves. Other than Focus Blast, Tyranitar resists all of Mewtwo’s possible charge moves (Hyper Beam, Shadow Ball, Psychic).
Against Entei and Ho-Oh, again Golem has the clear advantage...mostly. Entei only learns Fire moves, is weak to Rock, and thus Golem is going to be better here than Tyranitar. But Ho-Oh is a bit trickier. Yes, it has a double weakness to Rock, but Ho-Oh has a few things in its favor. Namely, its monstrous base stats, and excellent coverage moves. Solar Beam Ho-Oh absolutely eradicates everything you would want to use against it – Golem and Omastar both have a double weakness to Solar Beam, and stand no chance. Tyranitar and Vaporeon will go down as well. Ho-Oh also can learn Steel Wing, which is going to be Super Effective against Rock types, except for Omastar because it’s a dual Water type. Tyranitar’s one benefit is that it resists Extrasensory, but overall it will be outperformed by Golem in this matchup.
Lugia. Finally, it has come. The one time both Bite and Stone Edge can be SE against the same Pokemon. There is no doubt, overall Tyranitar is the absolute best counter to Lugia. Like with Mew and Mewtwo, Gengar has the higher DPS, but its longevity so pales in comparison to Tyranitar it doesn’t matter. Gengar has to worry about taking SE damage from Extransensory and Future Sight (Extrasensory will probably kill Gengar before Lugia even uses its charge move though), While Tyranitar can comfortably tank hits from those moves. The only thing Tyranitar has to worry about is Hydro Pump, which will completely destroy Golem as well.
Against Celebi, Scizor will be the best counter out there, as it is able to resist Celebi’s moves and deal double (1.96x) SE damage with Fury Cutter/X-Scissor. Pinsir actually has the highest DPS against Celebi (marginally), but does not enjoy Scizor’s array Steel type resistances to Confusion, Hyper Beam, Dazzling Gleam, and Psychic. Gengar outputs high DPS as well, but again is removed from consideration due to that fatal weakness to Psychic type attacks. Tyranitar is far bulkier than Scizor, Pinsir, and Gengar. It only has to watch out for Dazzling Gleam, and will perform well against any other moveset.
2. Golem and Omastar – The DPS Duo
Golem – Rock Throw/Stone Edge or Rock Blast
Omastar – Rock Throw/Rock Slide or Rock Blast
Against pretty much anything that flies, Golem and Omastar top the charts in terms of DPS. To reiterate, Rock is double SE against Articuno, Moltres, and Ho-Oh. Rock is also SE against Zapdos, Lugia, and Entei.
That gives Omastar and Golem potentially 6 useful matchups, though there is one important distinction to note. Omastar resists Ice, but takes SE damage from Electric; Golem takes SE damage from Ice, and is immune to Electric. And so, Omastar is the best counter to Articuno, while Golem is the best counter to Zapdos. One more thing - the moveset which elevates Omastar to Number 2 on this list, Rock Throw/Rock Slide, is a legacy moveset. It is very unlikely that you have obtained this moveset, so against Articuno you will probably have to look to Tyranitar or Flareon as a counter.
Golem and Omastar both have a problem against Solar Beam Ho-Oh, but so does everything else, making their double weakness a non-consideration. Overall, powering up a legacy Omastar or Golem will give you 5 useful matchups in Legendary raids, making them very good investment choices, especially considering they are actually the ideal counters to Ho-Oh, Moltres, and Articuno.
3. Jolteon – The Fly Swatter
A lot of the Gen I and Gen II Legendaries are flying type, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Jolteon on this list. Electric is SE against Articuno, Moltres, Ho-Oh, Lugia, and Suicune. Obviously, when you can exploit a double weakness to Rock, Jolteon is not going to be ideal. But assuming you can’t put together a full team of 6 Rock Throw/Stone Edge Golem, or 6 Bite/Stone Edge Tyranitar to attack a Moltres, your next option is to look to the strongest non-Legendary Electric type in the game, Jolteon. Jolteon will put out a very respectable amount of damage against all of the flying Legendaries (except Zapdos of course).
And more importantly, Jolteon’s favorable matchup against Suicune does not overlap with any of the other counters on this list. Victreebel and Exeggutor both have great DPS against Suicune, and resist Water moves, but they aren’t very useful against the other Legendaries, and in fact every Flying Legendary resists Grass. Suicune also learns Snarl (SE against Exeggutor), and Extrasensory (SE against Poison types – which Victreebel, Venusaur, and Vileplume are), which somewhat reduces their advantage over Jolteon (though they are still better overall in that specific matchup).
Like Tyranitar, Jolteon isn’t necessarily the best against any one Legendary, but will turn in good performances against 5 of them, which is enough to make it worth your consideration if you do not possess better alternatives to fill out all 6 of your attacking slots.
And yes, undoubtedly other alternatives exist - Flareon is going to be better against Articuno than Jolteon, Houndoom will deal more damage to Lugia, and I could list other higher DPS options for specific Legendary raid bosses, but none of them have the broad range of matchups that Jolteon possesses.
4. Scizor and Houndoom – Psychic Slayers
Scizor – Fury Cutter/X-Scissor
Houndoom – Snarl/Foul Play
Both Scizor and Houndoom possess useful matchups that qualify them for number 4 on this list. Scizor will deal SE Bug type damage to Mew, Mewtwo, and Celebi. Houndoom will deal SE damage to Mew, Mewtwo, Lugia, and Celebi. Despite Scizor having many resistances, and Houndoom possessing an immunity to Psychic, both are relatively fragile. Houndoom’s DPS with Snarl/Foul Play is close to Bite/Crunch Tyrantiar, but it does not possess Tyranitar’s impressive Defense and HP stats. The same is true for Scizor, and it only eclipses Tyranitar and Houndoom for DPS when facing Celebi, due to its double weakness to Bug type.
Both Scizor and Houndoom are worth powering up if you need to fill out your roster against Mew, Mewtwo, and Celebi. And for Celebi, Scizor is going to be one of the best counters to have. If you have two Steel moves, you can deal quite a bit of damage to Articuno, but I would only invest in a Bug moveset because that is what will make Scizor more useful.
Because Lugia is also flying, Scizor will not be able to hit it for SE damage, while Houndoom of course doesn’t have this problem, but Houndoom is going to be outperformed by Tyranitar.
5. Dragonite, Flareon, and Vaporeon – The Generalists
Dragonite – Dragon Tail/Hurricane or Outrage
Flareon – Fire Spin/Overheat or Flamethrower
Vaporeon – Water Gun/Hydro Pump
Dragonite doesn’t have type advantage over any of the Legendaries, and won’t be able to deal SE damage in a Legendary raid until Gen III arrives with Latias, Latios, and Rayquaza. But despite that, Dragonite still has incredible base stats and high Dragon type DPS that is at least unresisted by all of Gen I and Gen II’s Legendaries. Fire Spin/Overheat Flareon almost outputs the DPS of Dragon Tail/Outrage Dragonite, and is no slouch either.
Dragonite is usable against anything that isn’t Articuno. Though I would note that Dazzling Gleam Celebi and Blizzard Mew could be problems. Hurricane Dragonite can give you type advantage over Celebi, but Flying moves are NVE against Electric types like Raikou and Zapdos, so you do sacrifice a few matchups that you be able to participate in if you had Outrage. Dragonite actually has very good typing for attacking into elemental defenders, with resistances to Fire attacks (Entei and Moltres only learn Fire moves), Grass (Solar Beam Ho-Oh), and Water (Suicune) that will definitely aid in Dragonite’s longevity and ability to continually put out damage.
Flareon will have type advantage over Articuno, and will deal the highest DPS to Articuno possible from only exploiting a single type weakness (Rock attackers of course will be better if you have them). Flareon also has type advantage over Celebi – it will deal SE damage, and has a useful resistance to check Dazzling Gleam. Aside from that, Flareon will deal high amounts of neutral damage to anything that doesn’t resist Fire, which includes: Zapdos, Raikou, Lugia, Mew, and Mewtwo.
Vaporeon will be a good choice going against Moltres, Entei, and Ho-Oh (though like everything else, Vaporeon has problems with Solar Beam). Aside from that, Vaporeon has solid damage output and a high effective health. If you do not have better DPS options, you could use it to attack into Articuno (Vape resists Ice, Water attacks are neutral to Articuno), Mew (but watch out for Solar Beam and Thunder), Mewtwo, and Lugia (Vape resists Lugia’s coverage move, Hydro Pump). Vaporeon will not win you the DPS race, but if you don’t have more powerful attackers, Vaporeon has a great total damage output and can be used as broadly as Flareon.
If you are short on resources, your single best use of stardust and candy will be investing into a Bite/Stone Edge Tyranitar. It has the most useful matchups of any Legendary counter in the game, and will give you the most utility for your investment.
Golem and Omastar with Rock moves also have broad applications, and in many cases are the ideal counter. If you can afford to power up one as well I promise you won’t be sorry.
Jolteon is another great addition to your raid roster. In addition to a wide variety of uses, Jolteon also has a unique matchup with Suicune not covered by Tyranitar, Golem or Omastar.
With Tyranitar, Golem/Omastar, and Jolteon you can hit every Legendary for heavy amounts of SE damage.
Quick note on TM usage: TMs give you a rare opportunity to correct sub-optimal movesets, but due to their low drop rate they should be used with care. Using a TM on Bite/Crunch Tyranitar is a waste, since you risk Fire Blast and having two Dark moves at least optimizes you to attack into the 4 Legendary Psychic types (Mew, Mewtwo, Lugia, and Celebi). This is especially true since you can currently obtain Tyranitar from raids. Absolutely Do Not Use TMs on Pokemon you can obtain from raids – keep raiding until you get one with the right moveset and invest in it. You still have a few days, so keep raiding (as much as your budget permits).
As I said before, I would recommend that you hold off on powering up counters until Legendaries are released and/or we know more details in general about which ones we will see first.
In the meantime...
Try to go to as many raids as possible, even if you don’t plan on spending a raid pass because there are opportunities to meet people. Having a group of people to raid with is important, offer to give people your number so they can contact you, and/or create a FB group or a Discord chat so you have a place to add fellow players in your area.
Make sure you are doing at least one raid per day, even if it isn’t a high tier raid. You will still be able to stockpile Golden Razz Berries and Rare Candy by completing low level raids.
Go to nests – specifically, Geodude, Scyther, and Houndour nests. You can look for them in your area on The Silph Road’s Nest Atlas.
Catch/Hatch as much as you can so you can build up your stardust reserves. Make sure you place at least 1 Pokemon in a gym for about 8 hours per day so you can collect your 50 coins.