Choosing what to power up is the most crucial choice that any player can make in this game. EVERYONE has an opinion, every site and writer will post SOMETHING, but what proof or what validation do they actually give you that makes you believe them ? Many people know me and people who have listened to my advice know that I have really good information. But why do i have good information? On this subject it is simple, since gen two release I began playing gyms very frequently and have won over 10,000 battles in that time and ive done thousands of training matches. I also run my own damage calculations and test practical application instead of just flat numbers. Also having everything besides region locked pokemon with every attack set makes me unbiased on my opinions. This guide will only cover things I ACTUALLY use myself when im playing seriously and then a few next best choices.
The recommendations out there from reliable sources are math based recommendations(which are a great resource and great starting point), however they don't take into account ability to dodge, lost energy, practical match-ups or even the value of a pokemon in a 6 versus 10 fight. This guide will give you a lot of useful information, numbers and reasons as to why a player with my experience and pokemon inventory is constantly picking the same pokemon.
Pokemon actually worth the space on your team
Its no secret that Dragonite is an insanely strong pokemon. But i put him first despite tyranitar being a higher CP max on purpose. EVERY dragonite is good for attacking, some are just better. However i would only say that two of Tyranitar possible attack combinations are actually good for attacking(one is acceptable). More than this, Dragonite is a very versitile pokemon, it can literally beat ANY viable pokemon if a good trainer is using it(which just means practicing with your pokemon). Hardly nothing takes extra damage from dragonite, but also NOTHING I consider viable takes reduced damage. He has an insane damage output and a range of attacks both legacy and current that have insane DPS and includes the highest bar damage spread of ANY pokemon attacks in the game. He also has the fastest spam move in the game. I mentioned hes also the second strongest pokemon in the game based purely on stats right ?
Attack Set Ranking
Dragon breath - Dragon Claw : this is by far my favorite, fastest fast attack in game high damage and EPS combined with the fastest charge move thats a 3 bar 50 damage per bar attack. A skilled player will hardly ever get hit unless its a mistake or very unlucky timing(or a lack of trying haha)
Steelwing or dragon tail - outrage : Tail or wing depends on your opponent, tail has higher DPS and EPS but wing is faster making it easier to avoid attacks. Outrage has the highest damage per bar at a total 220 before STAB( Same Type Attack Bonus). The downside to outrage is it has a very long animation, so planning when to use charge is essential!
Steelwing or Dragon tail - Hurricane : Tail or wing, same reasons. Hurricane is extremely fast and its the only attack thats flying on a top tier pokemon, this is by far the best choice if you want to use a flying type attack pokemon.
Dragon Breath - Dragon Pulse : This is a very good set simply because of the Dragon breath, its faster than Steel wing and way faster than tail. The trade off is pulse is less damage than Outrage but still has a long animation.
Dragon Breath, Steelwing Dragon Tail - Hyper Beam : Dragon breath is by far the best, then the toss up between tail and wing is the same as previously mentioned. Hyperbeam is the worst attack for dragonite, however its a huge damage move on one of the highest stat and attack stat pokemon in the game even if you roll a dragonite and it gets this attack set it is still useful, at least till you get a few with other attack sets :) then ide probably throw it in a gym!
Tyranitar has two really good attack sets for attacking and is a great addition to a pokemon team because he not only is the highest CP pokemon currently in the game, but he also counters a lot of top tier defenders. He also has a huge damage spread bar with Crunch!
Attack Set Ranking
Bite- Stone Edge: this is one of my favorite attack sets, don't let the 5 power of bite or the 100 power of stone edge fool you, the damage output of this attack set is very high. Yes their are higher, but what really makes this attack set so valuable are the insanely fast animation times. Bite is a .5 second animation and stone edge is 2.3. This combination with tyranitar attack of 251 make tyranitar a high damage output machine that will never get hit being commanded by a skilled trainer(with practice this will be you). 32.61 constant dps spread(this is peak DPS, practical DPS will not be the same due too 1 bar, it can be close due to the 2.3 second animation).
Bite- Crunch: 28.71 constant dps spread(this is maintainable due to 3 bar setup), should be enough said. I rank both Bite stone edge and Bite Crunch the same, both have their advantage and their weaknesses. Bite crunch leaves you much more prone to getting hit by charge moves, which makes him a poor choice especially versus a 3 bar spam move, skilled trainers with practice can effectively handle a 2 bar like a gleam blissey(which Bite Crunch is one of my "go to" pokemon for blissey), but i wouldn't suggest trying vs a 3 bar as just one crunch will generate enough damage to possibly proc an immediate return attack.
Bite- Fire Blast: 28.59 constant DPS spread( this isn't even close to maintainable, long animation and 1 bar). The .5 second fast move Bite, and the extremely high stats of tyranitar made this attack set make it to my list( i only include it because if i didnt have a Stone Edge and Crunch i would still use this). The fact it has a fire attack doesn't make it necessarily a better choice vs grass, i say this because the strongest grass gym defender is also psychic(Exeggutor), so hes weak versus Dark and Fire. The impractical long animation 1 bar with an already inferior DPS spread make it an obvious bottom of the three. All that said, its still very strong comparatively to everything else in the game currently as an attacker, if you had a choice between a Bite Fire Blast tyranitar or any fire pokemon for instance, in the game currently Tyranitar is a clear top choice.
All other attack sets for tyranitar are just a gym topper, gym pokemon will be discussed in a different guide.
Vaporeon has been one of the strongest pokemon in the game since its release, not just as the strongest water type by far, but also comparatively to everything in the game. Vaporeon is an amazing pokemon because it doesnt have 1 great quality, it is the most well rounded pokemon in the game. It has a great balance of stats, insanely powerful attack sets, 7th highest overall CP and its a pure water type. It counters many pokemon and can beat every pokemon on a gym. Its stats and attack sets make it so it can dodge easily, DPS down Blissey even at a large pokemon level disadvantage, and it can even eat attacks and still win most matchups(dodging correctly will allow it to go through many pokemon). It counters Tyranitar and rhydon along with every fire pokemon, makes easy work of snorlax and Blissey(can eat charge moves and still come out with a victory), and can even beat pokemon with type advantages(dragonite with its much higher CP and resistance or even exeggutor with its resistance and its damage bonus, these arent however smart choices, but it can do it easily is the point). Vaporeon like Tyranitar and Dragonite make my pokemon team almost EVERY time i pick a team vs a level 10 solo! To top this off, vaporeon only has three possibly attack sets, Watergun - Hydropump, Aquatail or Waterpulse. Two out of three are arguably best attack sets depending on matchup.
Watergun- Hydropump: This attack set is ranked highest by many sites, with a constant DPS spread of 28.56 there is good reason. This DPS isn't exactly maintainable due to the one bar nature, but at 3.3 second animation with only a .7 second delay its possible to be close.
Watergun- Auqatail: This move set isn't ranked as high as Hydropump by sites for attacking, however this is one of the fastest charge moves in the game(1.9 second animation) with 3 bars for 50 damage, this is essentially a water Dragonclaw(1.7 second animation). 24.77 DPS spread, this damage is maintainable due to the three bars and the fact its a 1.9 second animation. This attack set will do plenty of damage and will make it so a skilled trainer can avoid EVERY attack. In a practical fight hydropump will only be slightly higher constant DPS, but also Hydropump is pretty fast for a one bar move, so I rank these two attack sets equally, both are amazing each is slightly better for certain match ups.
This is probably one of the most underrated pokemon in the game, yet it finds its way into my inventory most of the times I battle. The key with this pokemon for attacking is Solarbeam. His quick moves have slight variations in strength and weakness but they are ALL viable, some are just slightly better.
Any- Solarbeam: This ranking is unique as the real advantage is Exeggutor is the strongest grass type, combined with psychic(making him have resistances too some of Blissey attacks), and an insanely high damage move in Solarbeam. This Pokemon does take skill and timing to be really effective with, but you can completely avoid charge moves if played right vs many pokemon because he does so much damage!
Team Fighting- Confusion: this is the best DPS to EPS ratio but the slowest animation(1.6), effectively used in groups teams can completely avoid charge attacks even with only a few players clearing. I still like it for solo play but its definitely a difficult to master attack set and hes left vulnerable a lot of times(many pokemon I wouldn't choose this versus). This is also a legacy, so not something attainable until trading unless you already have one.
Best rounded- Extrasensory: This is the next best EPS to DPS ratio and is tied with all other "fast" moves for animation time(1.1 seconds). This is what i would suggest powering if you dont already have a Solarbeam(or you want another). More efficient for avoiding attacks, definitely better for solo and so close for groups that you cant go wrong with it.
Bulleseed: very high EPS but DPS is just too low, i wouldnt use dust on one but when i evolve them i keep them as trainers as they are still useful, just clearly a next best move set sort of deal.
Zenheadbutt: this got nerfed, inferior EPS, DPS, and its got the same animation time as Extrasensory. Still useful if you already have them, but very clearly not a best choice. On the bright side if you have one its a legacy pokemon!
These are the picks that only make it into my inventory in certain cases and are not very frequent, as the pick would require something like 3 of the same pokemon in a row on a gym. These are pokemon if you do make one ide suggest only one and waiting for only the best attack set and a very high IV.
This is a one trick pony(or in this case electric dog), I only pick Jolteon if there are several Gyarados lined up. Jolteon is only viable versus Gyarados because of a combination of double weakness to lightning(flying-water), jolteons attack stat 232 and Jolteons attack set thundershock-Thunderbolt. Every other pokemon that will be on a gym has a better counter. Jolteon is a glass cannon and without the double weakness exploit versus a Gyarados a jolteon wont go far.
Venasaur I only use because the double grass moves of Exeggutor are inferior(Bulletseed is terrible in comparison to vinewhip). Vinewhip will get weakness bonus vs Vaporeon, Rhydon, Tyranitar(Exeggutors best fast attacks are psychic which Tyranitar is resistant to), so the loss in damage due to a much lower attack stat than Exeggutor is made up for a little here, but the real advantage is its a .6 animation time making him have much more ability to dodge incoming attacks. Hes a useful pokemon, but hes much harder to get than an Exeggutor(requires much more farming for an evolution 125 versus 50). So if you can get one easily or already have one its probably going to be a useful pokemon for you, but I wouldn't make it a top priority, Exeggutor is much easier to attain. But hey Venasaur is cooler in my opinion ;)
Espeon and Alakazam
These are both glass cannons, really high attack stats and hardly no health. They are the best choices for psychic currently. They will shred most pokemon just because of their attack stats and insanely high DPS move. They just wont go very far. If several Machamps every got lined up on a gym ide use one of these for sure, but how often have you ever seen that ? Confusion is the heaviest hitting for both, if you want a fast dodging set up its Zenheadbutt for Espeon or Psychocut for Alakazam. Futuresight is the best charge move for both. I VERY VERY RARELY EVER use either!
Hes the best fighting type, only remotely viable with Counter-Dynamicpunch. I am only including this because so many people think hes amazing and i want to explain the practicality of him. He does have a very good damage output due to the EPS-DPS of Counter and the two bar 90 damage Dynamic punch. However he will barely beat a single blissey of same pokemon level even if you dodge correctly, if you fail once versus any of blissey attacks he wont even beat one. I have a bunch of Machamps and keep them as trade value because the majority of the community thinks hes amazing, he mostly only finds his way into my inventory as a trainer when most of my pokemon are fainted in that CP range, or once in a blue moon if theres only a couple or 1 pokemon on a gym and im extremely rushed and want to save 5 seconds. I wouldn't recommend using dust, I have maxed one and wont ever do that again. When I evolve them i just keep them where they are and if my other trainers are all fainted I use them as backup trainers.
Lapras used to be really good, got a pretty good nerf and had water attacks added, both these things made Lapras way less useful. Its still the best ice pokemon till Articuno is released though. Lapras you only want for double ice moves, I only use it if there are multiple Dragonite lined up. Any of the duel ice move combinations are great fast moves ice shard or frost breath, charge moves Blizzard or Icebeam. If its double water moves it would be something for possibly training, but vaporeon is a far better water attacker as it just has way better stats. If you make one you only need one. I have several because i had them before the re balance, but i wouldn't make anymore.
Best steel also contender for best bug due to his resistances, has a ton of resistances but once again hes just really low on the food chain. I like him but hes more of a novelty "best of type".
Flareon - Arcanine
With the addition of Firespin and Overheat Flareon became a much stronger choice as a fire type despite its extremely low HP it now does more damage than Arcanine(before Arcanine was not only better balanced but he also had better attack sets, as firefang was far superior to ember). Arcanine is still a much more balanced pokemon because he has almost 40% more health. Having a good fire type can be advantageous if you encounter a bunch of grass on a gym, they also will work fine versus other pokemon. But still not a top priority, i rarely use either as most of what gyms are composed of has better choices to pick as a trainer. For Flareon you would want Firespin- Overheat or flame thrower (flame thrower is faster and has better ability to maintain constant dps). Arcanine Firefang - Fireblast or my preference Flamethrower(legacy moveset now).
These are a few things that are pretty good and I would say are viable but I just personally dont really like using, either because I don't like the attack combinations or because something is slightly better. I include these because there are some pokemon very close in effectiveness that some people might have that would still be a good viable choice if they don't have my 4 top recommendations.
This is a good pokemon to power up if you have one for multiple reasons. The main one is its something that if you replace it with a different attacker its still going to be useful as a defender! Every move Gyarados has is non STAB besides Hydropump, that being said the attacks he can get are very strong and he has a very healthy attack stat and the 5th highest CP.
Bite- Crunch: good vs psychic, but tyranitar gets resistance from psychic, although against a grass move Gyarados doesnt have weakness.
Any fast(dragon breath or dragon tail best)- outrage: Good versus a dragonite
Any fast- Hydropump: his best settup for attacking, however hes weak against rock so targeting a rhydon or tyranitar is risky. Plus a vaporeon can get double water, so with that and the weakness from gyarados being flying ide go for the vaporeon. Gyarados Hydropump will hit harder than vaporeons and his DPS even without STAB for fast moves is higher than vaporeons.
Twister and Dragonpulse: legacy moves, decent but outrage hits harder.
4th highest CP in game currently, Earthquake and stone edge, Mudslap is the best choice for "fast moves. I dont like him for attacking because his 1.4 second animation for Mudslap, plus tyranitar has Stoneedge and has Bite as a fast move. I like Rhydon a lot and if you power a high IV Rhydon you have a 4th highest gym defender, something you can use as an attacker and best part, he evolves into Rhyperior in gen 4 and they have him planned to be 3869 CP.. yeah he will top EVERYTHING currently in the game. Stone edge or Earthquake are the moves you want. He can take down normal types with resistances, smash fire types, flying and he is resistant to rock and fire well exploiting tyranitar weakness in both fighting and ground type attacks. Not a bad investment ;)
I dont include some types, like normal(because they are great gym defenders and very poor attackers), or fairy(just way too insanely outclassed to even mention). I have reasons why I have included or not included things and to explain all of it would take weeks of my time and would be more than 99% of people would be interested in reading. Hope this helps you to at least know what to hunt for and save for! Remember maxing one pokemon from level 20 is equal to 2350 first stage pokemon catches! So save your dust for the best stuff, eventually you will get them and when you do you will be ready to max and use them if you save !
Additions from Q N A
Memeeaters56 reddit user : Q= Did you mention heracross? If you a lucky soul that has one with COUNTER/close combat it SHREDS harder than machamp. A= heracross isnt mentioned for many reasons, he is almost exact stats as machamp but machamp has better attacks being the main reason, dynamic punch is what really makes machamp good :). but also heracross is a regional and 95% of the community wont be able to attain him. so mentioning a second best thats unattainable for many isn't something i bothered with. But good question