When Pokemon GO first came out, very few Pokemon benefited from using non-STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) attacks. Since type effectiveness was equal to STAB, no attackers got a benefit from using non-STAB attacks, holding back would-be powerful Pokemon such as Gyarados. Some defenders made use of non-STAB attacks, but only in cases where the damage outweighed their fast attack’s combined damage (for example, STAB Water Gun vs non-STAB Confusion) or if their common counters received doubled up Super Effective (SE) damage, namely in the form of Ice-type attacks to ward off Dragonite, the game's greatest attacker. There were a few cases that broke this trend, but they were few and far between and often less effective than other Pokemon more suited for the role.
With the changes Niantic has made to Type Effectiveness, some new faces have taken the spotlight. Essentially, STAB damage has been nerfed slightly (1.25 to 1.20) while SE damage has been buffed significantly (1.25 to 1.40). In addition to this, resistance has been buffed proportionately (0.80 to 0.714) and we now have a very large, “immunity tier” defensive bonus against attacks that in the main games dealt zero damage (0.80 to 0.51). A Pokemon’s type is now their shield against attacks, and the type effectiveness of their attacks are now their sword. While STAB + SE damage is ideal, it is no longer mandatory to make a good attacker or defender.
This effect is more heavily noticed when fighting Raid Bosses. While you’re in the clear using Exeggutor against a Water Gun + Hydro Pump Blastoise, if that turtle is carrying Bite and Ice Beam you’re going to wish you brought in something else. Your plans to use a Psychic-type Pokemon will change drastically if Muk is holding either Infestation or Dark Pulse. A Water-type vs Arcanine? Wild Charge says “hi.”
Below is a list of Pokemon we feel have gained or lost significantly on either defense or offense due to these changes. In order to make this list less exhaustive, it doesn’t include all Pokemon that gained or lost in some way, just ones that stand out heavily from the crowd.
Big Winners on Gym Defense
As if Blissey needed a buff, right? Now that SE damage is more potent, Machamp, Heracross, Tyranitar, and Dragonite will all have to watch out for Dazzling Gleam more than ever! And although Machamp and Heracross now hit Blissey even harder, Tyranitar and Dragonite do less damage because of the STAB multiplier reduction. With these changes in place, Machamp may now be, indisputably the greatest Blissey counter and Ursaring steps to the plate as a solid choice rather than a budget one.
Snorlax’s buffs are less devastating than Blissey’s, but they do add an extra slap to Machamp fighting Zen Headbutt sets and Tyranitar fighting Earthquake and Heavy Slam sets while defending gyms.
Mini-Blissey returns to the scene and not just as a time wasting gimmick. The aforementioned buffs Blissey has received carry over to Chansey and actually make this Pink Egg pretty dangerous if you aren’t paying attention. With the the new gyms limiting players to 1 Pokemon of each species, Chansey is now less of an un-evolved Blissey and more of a threat in its own right. However, unlike Blissey, Chansey will rely more on its Zen Headbutt + Dazzling Gleam set for damage than its big sister does.
Muk has literally climbed from Zero to Hero as a Gym Defender, for what it’s worth. Its Poison-typing leaves it vulnerable to only Psychic and Ground-type attacks. Because Ground still struggles as a potent offensive type, that only leaves Psychic-type as the “optimal” counter. All Psychic-types are punished heavily by both Infestation and Dark Pulse. This results in Muk’s optimal counter being so nebulous that only Dragonite comfortably fits the bill. If your optimal counter is the Pokemon noted for dealing the highest neutral DPS in the game, you’re doing something right in my book.
Tentacruel has also ascended in usefulness. Unlike Muk, this monster doesn’t have access to Bug or Dark-type moves to harass Psychic-types with and its Water sub-typing leaves it vulnerable to Electric-type Pokmon (which is a serious 180 from where Water and Electric-types were in this meta when the game first game out.) That said, both Psychic and Electric-types either don’t have the DPS or bulk to hold this sea monster down too hard. Tentacruel is a solid addition to any gym.
Clefable may also now see some decent usage as a gym defender. Its unique Fairy-typing and access to Zen Headbutt gives it the most unique set of “optimal” counters in the game (compared to most contending Pokemon). If people go into the fight treating it like Blissey, they will be soured to find that their Fighting, Dark, and Dragon-type attacks are all resisted. Can you tell us what’s effective against Fairy-type without Googling it? Yea. Didn’t think so. :^)
Like Normal-types, Electric-type Pokemon benefit from having only 1 weakness. While Jolteon and Magneton shine brighter as attackers, as a defender, Ampharos is blessed with bulk, a powerful quick move (Volt Switch), and a charge move that is effective against its best counters (Focus Blast). While Ground-types deal STAB, SE damage to Ampharos and have immunity tier resistance to Electric-type attacks, as stated earlier with Muk, they still have poor DPS. If you’re only going to have 1 type countering you, Ground is definitely the one you want.
While the changes to Type Effectiveness haven't necessarily helped Steelix shine more as a gym defender, the removal of CP limitations to gym stacking have. Steelix has always been a great gym defender, and with the CP cap out of the way I hope to be seeing it more often on gyms. Attackers who are unprepared to handle Steelix better be prepared to spend a long time fighting it.
Lapras is back in the saddle as an optimal gym defender, but not by the merit of the Type Effectiveness changes. Like Steelix, Lapras can now excel in the gym defense scene due to the removal of CP restrictions. While Lapras is still as vulnerable as ever to Fighting-type attacks, the nerf to neutral damage has done a lot to bring down Lapras’ more common Fire-type counters (who are also even more punished than ever by Lapras’ Hydro Pump set).
Big Winners on Gym Offense
Due to Type Effectiveness changes, Bullet Seed is finally a potent option for Exeggutor as an attacker! Over all, Exeggutor takes out Water, Rock, and Ground-type Pokemon more efficiently than ever before! In fact, all Grass-types have gotten buffed as counters to these Pokemon-types to the point where Vaporeon, Rhydon, and Tyranitar have lost their seats as good Gym defenders!
The day foretold has come. While u/dondon151 shakes his head in mild frustration, no one notices over the cheer of the Gyara-believers. Gyarados is now an optimal attacker, punishing Pokemon with Ground-moves like no-other with its Hydro Pump set, and in the high-end snob Pokemon GO community, it is now worthy of the title “Dragon Slayer.” Gyarados also hasn’t lost much ground as a defender either. While the 3000+ CP increased motivation degrade hurts, Gyarados’ counters are now far more limited. If you’re bringing something in other than an Electric-type to handle its Hydro Pump sets, you’re asking for trouble. Oddly enough, the Fairy-type Clefable also comes in hard against sets containing Dragon and Dark-type moves as well.
3. Clefable, Granbull
Previously, these Pokemon were “if only Niantic did X” good-in-theory counters to Dragonite and Gyarados carrying Dragon-type attacks; now they have teeth. While their niche as counters would be solidified with Fairy-type quick moves, they have now moved from serious jokes to serious contenders. Don’t believe me? Try them out! The immunity tier resistance has gone a long way to bring these Pokemon up in bulk.
4. Charizard, Houndoom
These Pokemon have now shed their titles as B-list Fire-types and now hold a significant presence in their respective roles. While Flareon still reigns supreme, Charizard and Houndoom bring in some significant bulk against Grass and Psychic-type attacks, respectively. While Houndoom is still less effective at slaying Psychic-types as Tyranitar, the gap has closed significantly. And Arcanine… let’s not forget about Arcanine.
I got a lot of flak promoting Arcanine’s Wild Charge moveset during the Solstice Event, and now that the Raid Boss Lapras is at our door, who do you turn to? Who is there to resist its Ice-type attacks and deal SE damage? Wild Charge Arcanine. This is no joke. Snarl+Wild Charge Arcanine is now a potent attacker against Lapras, Cloyster, Slowbro, Slowking, and Gyarados. I’m dead serious. Run the simulations or try it out yourself and be amazed. If they’re carrying Water-type attacks though, watch out!
While Poliwrath initially looked like promising attacker on paper, when Gen 2 came out it was quickly found to be significantly lackluster and limited to prestiging roles. With SE damage and resistances buffed, Poliwrath now takes the stage as a decent Fighting-type Pokemon and counter to both Tyranitar and Lapras!
7. Sandslash, Nidoking
Of all the changes in attacker rankings, I did not see these two coming. While they only have a solid claim against Electric-type and Fire-type Pokemon, and while Rhydon and Golem do their jobs better, they are still both nearly on par with them as attackers and are both very good options in raids against Arcanine, Magmar, Electabuzz, and Jolteon should you be lacking in attackers.
Big Losers on Gym Defense
In contrast to Muk, Vaporeon has gone from gym defender Hero to Zero. The huge buffs to Grass-type Pokemon have nearly edged Vaporeon out of the gym defense scene entirely. Other Water-type Pokemon haven’t been hit nearly as hard since they hold Psychic, Poison, and Ice-type attacks to keep Grass-types at bay. Unfortunately, Vaporeon is still stuck with relatively weak, full Water-type movesets. That said, Vaporeon is still a very potent Pokemon on offense and a powerful option against many Raid Boss Pokemon!
Like Vaporeon, the change to Type Effectiveness have obliterated Rhydon’s usefulness in the gym defense scene. However, with all the Poison, Rock, Fire, and Electric-type Raid Boss Pokemon all over, Rhydon is now more relevant on offense than it had ever been! And if gym defense ever becomes relevant again, Rhydon will be of the best answers to Electric and Poison-type Pokemon.
With a grand total of 7 weaknesses, it comes to no surprise that Tyranitar has sunk on gym defense with the changes to SE damage. Unlike Vaporeon and Rhydon, the 3000+ CP increased motivation degrade rate puts an even larger nail in the coffin on the Pokemon with the highest CP currently available in the game. That said, like Vaporeon and Rhydon, Tyranitar has only grown in power as a counter to Pokemon weak to Dark and Rock-type attacks. To put things in perspective, Tyranitar does what Exeggutor does to Vaporeon while also holding the highest BST available in the game along with an immunity-tier resistance to Psychic-type attacks.
4. Alakazam, Hypno, Espeon, Slowking, Slowbro
Like Water and Ground-types, Psychic-type Pokemon have the displeasure of having a counter that both resists their damage and deals back SE damage. Even worse, this resistance now has an increased immunity tier (0.51 rather than 0.714). This should be enough to take out Psychic-types entirely from gym defense, but fortunately for them the most optimal Dark-types (Tyranitar and Houndoom) are both pretty hard to come by, even with Tier 4 raids giving those who participate a free Tyranitar. In addition to this, Hypno and Alakazam both have access to the Fighting-type charge move “Focus Blast,” punching a serious hole in any inattentive Dark-type Pokemon. While the Slowdudes still maintain their seats of power as solid gym defenders, who are bolstered by the removal of the CP restrictions on gym stacking, future Dark-type Pokemon may shake them off.
Big Losers on Gym Offense
1. Alakazam, Gengar, Espeon
Out of all the Pokemon that lost in some way from these changes as attackers, these 3 are feeling it the hardest. Their main claims to fame were their potent, neutral, high DPS attacks. Niantic has nerfed that damage and buffed the damage of specific counters to the point where you only want to use these attackers in specific situations. They have lost their identity as “Glass Cannons” and are now just like everyone else. That said they make solid counters to various Pokemon and Raid Bosses where they have the advantage (such as Machamp or Muk), and still make a quick, general attacking “clean up crew” against gyms near full CP decay to save you the hassle of swapping around attackers.
What about Dragonite?
Despite all the challenges neutral damage faces right now, Dragonite still reigns supreme as the strongest, neutral damage attacker in the game. That said, you will gain more of a benefit using specific counters now making its usefulness slightly more tenuous. At any rate, given how questionable some counters can be, Dragonite still remains a reliable, stardust-efficient answer to most things in this game. As a defender, the buffs to its counters haven’t shaken its standing that much and Dragonite still remains a serious threat. The real killer is that 10% degrade rate it faces if Dragonite is greater than 3000 CP
While Gym Defense doesn’t really exist right now due to the CP degrade and 6 slot limit, the meta has changed, and in my opinion, for the better. Being limited to STAB only movesets for optimal attackers and most defenders wasn’t very intriguing to begin with. The game of rock-paper-scissors with Dragonite beating nearly everything was getting stale. With this new shake up, a Pokemon’s type is now more representative of its defensive value than it had been before, and the buff to SE damage has opened the playing field for more unique movesets and a larger variety of “viable” Pokemon on both offense and defense. A Pokemon’s Type is no longer exclusively indicative of what it can handle, but a shield limiting what can effectively approach it. Non-STAB moves are no longer a flavoured liability, but a potential sword to punish whatever stands in its way. Now if only we had a solid answer to this Blissey problem that doesn’t appear to be going away.