TL;DR

Mega Salamence is the best dragon-type mega right now.

  • Higher DPS and more bulk than Mega Latios
  • Always better to bring a Mega Salamence in raids than not bringing one. Not to mention you can get those dragon-type XLs from catching the boss as well!
  • It will eventually be outclassed by Mega Garchomp and Mega Rayquaza. However, Mega Salamence actually contributes more damage in group raids (3+ players) than Mega Rayquaza does!

Investment decisions (for stardust, XLs, ETMs etc): I’d prioritize Shadow Salamence, and/or Shadow Dragonite with better IVs.

  • Save ETMs by evolving during Hoenn Tour (likely giving Outrage for free via evolution)!
  • Shadow Salamence benefits more from leveling up than Mega Salamence.
  • Shadow Dragonite very closely trails behind Outrage Shadow Salamence in average performance, but it’s more consistent, especially if the boss has dragon charged moves (~25% of the time). You can really go either way, as their gap is smaller than the difference between 10/10/10 and 15/15/15.
  • Outrage is an upgrade over Draco Meteor, but a small one (4.5% for shadow, 2.4% for mega). I’d do it if you have excess ETMs, especially on a shadow, but not a top priority.
    • Unlocking 2 charged moves is a curiosity, but not worth the dust.

Keep reading for:

  • Dedicated “Salamence Verdict: Investment Options” section with more detailed advice
  • Shadow Salamence vs. Shadow Dragonite, and a few other comparisons
  • Draco Meteor vs. Outrage, and how to use a double-moved Salamence
    • Double-moved Shadow Dragonite actually prefers Outrage/Dragon Claw, not O/DM!
  • All non-shadow non-mega dragons: Why there’s no single “#1 dragon” (and why 6 Rayquazas are not close to a must-have today)
  • Future dragon attackers: Megas, Shadows and non-shadows
    • Shadow dragons: Shadow Rayquaza may be a slight disappointment – and not worth extra Super Rocket Radars
    • Outrage Haxorus, and why it’s even worse than Dragon Claw on average: Haxorus really needs a spammy CD move, NOT another 1-bar!!
  • List of my previous analyses (in Appendix 2)

You can now follow me (@teban54) onTwitter!

Introduction

With the Twinkling Fantasy event, Mega Salamence made its Pokemon Go debut and will be in mega raids until the morning of Wednesday, January 18.

Even though Salamence caught or evolved during the event did NOT come with its Community Day move, Outrage, it is widely believed – but unconfirmed – that Outrage may be available via evolution during Go Tour: Hoenn in February.

How does Mega Salamence stack up against several dragon-type megas we have seen as a raid attacker? How does it compare to its own Shadow version? More generally, what’s the “best” dragon counter to use? How much threat will Mega and Shadow Salamence face in the future? Let’s take a look!

Base Stats

PokemonBase AttackBase DefenseBase HP
Salamence277168216
Rayquaza284170213
Garchomp261193239
“Shadow Salamence”332.4 (+55.4)140 (-28)216
Mega Salamence310 (+33)251 (+83)216
Mega Rayquaza (9% nerf)354 (+70)197 (+27)213
Mega Garchomp339 (+78)222 (+29)239
Mega Latios335241190

Regular Salamence was already a top-tier non-shadow non-mega dragon attacker in raids, mostly thanks to its stellar 277 base attack (only below Rayquaza, Haxorus and Palkia). But there’s a huge caveat…

Mega Salamence’s stats boost heavily leans towards more defense, while most other raid-relevant megas gained more attack.

  • It gains 33 base attack to a still-awesome 310, but that looks like nothing compared to Mega Rayquaza and Garchomp, which both gain 70+ attack.
  • Mega Salamence’s base attack is also lower than several other megas, some of which you may not have expected: Heracross, Sceptile, Blaziken, Gardevoir/Gallade, Latios, etc.
  • Even Shadow Salamence has higher effective base attack, albeit only about half the bulk of its mega.

Since attack is the most important stat of the three in raids, this may look underwhelming at first. But on the flip side, it means Mega Salamence is incredibly bulky, unlike our typical impressions of its regular forms. Thanks to gaining 83 base defense, it has the 2nd highest bulk product (defense*HP) among all dragon megas, only behind Mega Latias. This will have important implications later on.

Dragon attackers: The Charts

Dragon attackers ranked by their average in-raid performance, using ASE, ASE with dodging, and ASTTW.
Dragon attackers ranked by Equivalent Rating (ER) and DPS.

See Appendix 1 (at the end of this article) for technical details and how to read the charts. The Chandelure analysis also contains explanations on ASE vs ASTTW.

Note: Glaciate Kyurem is not included here even though it’s a great anti-dragon counter when applicable, similar to the likes of Garchomp and Zekrom. For more details, refer to its own article.

First, keep in mind this shows average performance, across every boss and every moveset you may face. We’ll unpack the nuances later on.

In an average sense, Mega Salamence (Dragon Tail/Outrage*) is generally the current best dragon-attacker. Just reading off the chart alone:

  • Mega Salamence (with Outrage) is strictly better than Mega Latios.
  • With bulk and relobbying considered (Estimator/ASE), Mega Salamence’s solo performance is better than Shadow Salamence. Even without relobbies (ASTTW), they’re still basically equivalent unless you XL them.
    • DO NOT PURIFY!!!
  • The Community Day move, Outrage, is an improvement over Draco Meteor – and more so than DPS indicates. The improvement is most significant on the shadow and least significant on the mega (due to bulk differences), and isn’t a huge one, but on all three forms the difference is there.

There are nuances to every single one of these statements, and I’ll unpack them in the following sections.

Also take note of Shadow Salamence, which is generally the best non-mega dragon attacker (i.e. you can run multiples of it). It does seem to have a close fight with Shadow Dragonite, which is basically equivalent in estimator (though Dragonite sometimes uses Dragon Claw). More on this later.

Even regular Salamence with Outrage is still very relevant! While it’s generally a small downgrade from Rayquaza, it’s in the same ballpark as a huge cluster of great, immediately-below-Rayquaza dragons, together with Garchomp, Zekrom, Palkia and Dialga.

  • Draco Meteor regular/shadow Salamence isn’t far behind Outrage, but the difference is enough for Dragonite’s respective variants to overtake them. Unless you’re planning to spend an Elite TM, just use a Dragonite instead (and wait to evolve for Outrage).

Dragon-type megas: Which one contributes the most damage?

Before anyone says “I only use megas for XLs from catching the raid boss”, note that you can always use dragon-type megas as raid counters AND also get XLs, since the raid boss is also a dragon.

The plot above only shows individual performance. An important feature of mega evolutions in raids is the damage boost it provides to all other raiders: 30% if their attacks match your mega’s type, 10% if not. That can be a game-changer – even shadow boost and weather boost are only 20%!

So if your raid group needs that power, should you use a high DPS but frailer mega for your own damage, or a lower DPS but bulkier mega to keep the group damage boost for longer?

Comparison of dragon-type megas, in terms of damage up to a fixed time frame (relative to the no-mega baseline).

This is a nicer-looking version of the mega analyses I’ve done in the past (Psychic, Fighting, Steel, Dark/Ghost). Special thanks to several Reddit users for their comments on visualization: u/viridiformica, u/rvc113, u/ChocolateKey4609.

Note that Mega Sceptile uses Fury Cutter and Mega Ampharos uses Charge Beam.

Mega Salamence is indeed the best currently available dragon mega to use. Not only does it have the best raw power, but its superior bulk (strictly better than Latios) also gives the longest mega boost duration in neutral typing scenarios.

  • However, if Mega [email protected] have a typing advantage (e.g. against Ancient Power Giratina-A), they’ll likely be better.

In the future, Mega Rayquaza and Mega Garchomp will both outperform Mega Salamence in individual power. However, here’s a shocking result: Mega Salamence contributes more than Mega Rayquaza in group raids (3+ players)!

  • If you have 3+ players and the others all use dragons, the group will do more damage over a fixed time if you run Mega Salamence, since its 29% more bulk is enough to offset Ray’s 15% more individual DPS.
  • Note: While the plot shows everyone else uses L40 Rayquaza, the same conclusion holds if they use any “acceptable” lower-DPS dragon, even L30 Dragonite. The 30% boost is more important.

Mega Garchomp will likely be the best mega for group raids in the long run. Its raw power is already similar to Mega Rayquaza (more later), but it has bulk very close to Maga Salamence.

Note that both Mega Rayquaza and Mega Garchomp will likely be ages away due to their huge popularity. Therefore, Mega Salamence will remain king for quite some time.

(Quick note on Mega Altaria: IF you know the raid boss has double dragon moves, Mega Altaria becomes the best dragon mega with 4+ players (Plot). However, in reality it’s hard to tell if the boss has dragon moves with the current recommendation algorithm.)

Detailed Comparisons: Mega & Shadow Salamence, Mega Latios, and Shadow Dragonite

[Skippable, there’s a verdict section regarding investment decisions 2 sections from now]

TL;DR: Shadow Dragonite is slightly worse than Shadow Salamence but more consistent, especially against bosses with dragon charged moves. Ultimately, it’s splitting hairs and comes down to IVs. Also, run Outrage/Dragon Claw on a double-moved Dragonite, not Outrage/Draco Meteor!

I made a bunch of comments about these Pokemon in an average sense earlier. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each of these pairs, with respect to each raid boss and each moveset that you may face. In how many scenarios do one of these Pokemon become better than the other?

Comparisons involving Mega Salamence, Shadow Salamence, and their close competitors

Metrics: Outer ring is estimator (ASE), middle is ASE with dodging, and innermost is ASTTW. For specific metrics to refer to, my suggestion is: ASTTW for Mega vs Shadow (and if you only plan to have 1 of these Pokemon on your team), ASE for everything else. For more details, refer to Appendix 3, which has an explanation of Estimator vs TTW.

Each Pokemon listed above can choose a single move for each raid: Draco Meteor or Outrage for Salamence, Outrage or Dragon Claw for Dragonite.

Hard boss movesets

First, I want to single out a set of specific boss movesets that I’ll denote as “hard boss movesets”. In practice, it turns out to be a synonym for “bosses with heavy-hitting dragon charged moves”:

  • Zekrom (Outrage), Arceus Dragon (Outrage), Eternatus (Dragon Pulse), Kyurem (various moves), Giratina-O (Dragon Tail/Dragon Pulse), Latias (Outrage), Reshiram (Draco Meteor, Dragon Breath/Stone Edge), Naganadel (Dragon Pulse, Dragon Tail/Gunk Shot?), Mega Ampharos (Zap Cannon), Mega Latias (Outrage)

There are a handful hard-hitting non-dragon moves in there (e.g. Stone Edge Reshiram, Zap Cannon Mega Amphros).

Why single these out? These are bad cases for Shadow Salamence. Yes, they’re bad to all other dragons not named Dialga, but they’re especially bad for Shadow Salamence.

  • Against CB/Outrage Zekrom, L40 Shadow Salamence is FAR from top 30, and is behind regular Salamence, Guzzlord and Giratina Altered!!!
  • Its estimator goes from 1.79 against the best-case moveset to 3.43 against this moveset. It also has 94 deaths against this moveset. This is because Zekrom’s charged move is a guaranteed OHKO.

Against these movesets, here’s typically what happens in estimator:

  • Mega Salamence > Shadow Salamence
  • Shadow Dragonite > Shadow Salamence
  • Often, Shadow Salamence prefers Draco Meteor over Outrage
  • Sometimes, Shadow Dragonite prefers Dragon Claw over Outrage

Note that Palkia is excluded from here, because apparently it deals too heavy damage to most Pokemon listed here.

Shadow Salamence vs. Shadow Dragonite

Starting with the most relevant pair.

  • Against the “hard boss movesets”, Shadow Dragonite (either Outrage or Dragon Claw) usually outperforms Shadow Salamence. This contributes to most of its 26% win cases. (Even if you only use Outrage and no DC, Dragonite still retains majority of these wins.)
  • Against most other movesets, Shadow Salamence wins, though the difference is usually rather small.
  • There are a few random exceptions where Shadow Dragonite is better despite the boss not having a dragon charged move (e.g. Shadow Ball Giratina-O, DT/AT Palkia), but the differences are minor.
  • If you dodge, Shadow Salamence is almost always superior. (That’s assuming no dodge glitches…)

Shadow Salamence still does better most of the time (75%), but against bosses with big dragon moves (~25%), Shadow Dragonite wins and with a slightly greater advantage.

In other words, Shadow Dragonite is slightly worse on average but more consistant, while Shadow Salamence has greater average power but more risky.

Their differences are close enough that ultimately, it may just come down to IVs. Neither shadows are easy to get high IV copies of, and the ASE/ASTTW differences come with the margin of IV differences (even 15/15/15 vs 10/10/10, as I’ve shown in my Keldeo analysis). If all your Shadow Bagons are bad but you have good Shadow Dratinis, go for it!

Also, if you use a Shadow Dragonite with two charged moves, I’m very sure the ideal moveset will be Outrage/Dragon Claw, not Outrage/Draco Meteor. Both Outrage and Draco Meteor are sluggish moves and risky on glass cannons, and Dragon Claw addresses their shortcomings perfectly. But you don’t need it if you don’t want to spend the 90k dust.

Mega Salamence vs. Shadow Salamence

  • DO NOT PURIFY!!!

If you actually want to use them in raids, Mega. But for a theoretical discussion…

Similar story as Shadow Salamence vs Shadow Dragonite, but more extreme and more widespread. Half-half “win rates” in estimator, but TTW is probably more realistic here (Appendix 3), and Shadow Salamence has better TTW 76% of the time.

Shadow Salamence’s terrible performance against the “hard boss movesets” is enough to drag its averages (ASE, ASTTW) down more than what the pie chart says. So Mega is a lot more consistent, but if you don’t care about the bad cases, Shadow is still the way to go.

Mega Salamence vs. Mega Latios

This pair has a much different flavor than the last two, because both are quite bulky. Most differences come down to typing differences, such as against Mega [email protected] and Stone Edge Reshiram. Occasionally, Latios having the spammier Dragon Claw does make a difference, such as against Outrage Zekrom.

While Mega Latios may be a better specialist against his own mega raid and his sister’s, for a generalist dragon mega, Salamence is 100% the way to go.

Draco Meteor vs. Outrage?

[Skippable, there’s a verdict section regarding investment decisions 1 section from now]

TL;DR: Outrage is better, though the improvement over DM is kinda small. While double moving DM/O gives a theoretical improvement, it’s hard to quantify, and certainly not worth the 75k/90k dust.

Unfortunately, almost 4 years after Bagon CD, we still have no good way to evaluate attackers using two charged moves – no simulators account for that, and it becomes a complex decision real quick. Even though the landmark GamePress article did manage to come to the “DM+O Salamence > Rayquaza” conclusion, that methodology is no longer replicable as GoBattleSim is currently broken. Therefore, this section mostly focuses on single-moved Salamence, but allowed to choose a move at the start of a raid, and commit to it throughout the battle.

If you only run a single move, in an average sense, Outrage is an upgrade over Draco Meteor. The difference is around 2.4% on Mega Salamence, 4.5% on Shadow Salamence, and 3.8% on regular Salamence.

  • For reference, here are the differences a few legendary signature moves made: Giratina-O 4%, Zekrom 2%, Reshiram 7%.
  • If you combine Outrage and Draco Meteor’s best performances on a per-boss level (like I did in the last section), you get a frankly unnoticeable change (0.3%) in ASE/ASTTW over single Outrage.
    • Combining Outrage and Dragon Claw on Shadow Dragonite gives a 1% improvement.

Even if we break down to individual boss movesets…

Draco Meteor vs. Outrage on various forms of Salamence

… Indeed, Outrage is still better than Draco Meteor overall. DM is most workable on Mega Salamence, since it actually has enough bulk to use it; but on all forms, DM still gets only <1/4 use cases.

  • Many of these <1/4 cases are the “hard boss movesets”, but not all (e.g. DT/HP Palkia, DB/Psychic Mega Latios).

But why CAN Draco Meteor be situationally better? Honestly, it doesn’t have too much to do with the relative strength of Outrage vs DM (they’re close enough). It all comes down to two words: Energy cycles.

Let me borrow RyanSwag’s plot from the GamePress article:

DPS plot of regular Salamence’s various charged moves over time. Credit to GamePress.

You want to get to the peak as much as possible. So if you don’t have time to complete 2 Outrages, 1 DM is better.

  • This explains why DM is often preferred against the “hard boss movesets”: after taking a SE dragon charged move, Salamence probably doesn’t have time to use 2 Outrages, but enough for 1 DM (which takes less time than 1 Outrage).
  • We can conjecture that most scenarios – that are not so hard – probably correspond to the 22-30s range in the chart, where Salamence can get to 2 Outrages but not 2 DMs or 3 Outrages. The <1/4 cases where DM is better is the 16-22s scenario, where you can’t reach 2 Outrages.

If you do have a double moved Salamence, you should use charged moves in a way that minimize “wasted” energy and fast moves.

  • In particular, you want to prevent being unable to reach a final charged move before fainting. Ideally, you should faint right after getting off the final charged move.
  • This also means avoiding energy overflow (i.e. getting more than 100 energy). If you’re about to tank a charged move from the boss and thus get energy overflow, use an Outrage right now, even if you’re close to a DM.
  • Not as simple as “Use one DM, then spam Outrage”.
  • In practice, this is hard to do. It requires good estimates of how many moves you can get off, how far away is the boss from its next charged move, whether you should dodge, etc. I myself have been practicing with a DM/O Shadow Dragonite, but sometimes still make the wrong decisions.

Given all these complications, and the difference being so minor (probably <2%), double moving a Salamence is almost certainly not worth the 75k dust, or 90k on a shadow. If you have too much dust to spend, you can unlock DM for the best possible performance (and some fun mind games other than tap tap tap), but it’s certainly not advisable for the general public.

Salamence Verdict: Investment Options (Dust, XL, ETMs)

First… DO NOT PURIFY!!!

To recap:

  • Mega Salamence is currently the best mega, but will be outclassed by Mega Garchomp (and Mega Rayquaza in individual power).
  • Shadow Salamence is currently the best non-mega, but with a very small difference over Shadow Dragonite while being less consistent. They’ll likely be IV dependent.
  • Regular Salamence is still one of the many great, indistinguishable dragon attackers, but of course outclassed by its own shadow and Rayquaza.

While bringing a Mega Salamence to raids is obviously the best use of that slot, in terms of what to put your resources (e.g. XL, ETMs) into: I’d still prefer Shadow Salamence, but feel free to build Shadow Dragonite(s) if their IVs are better.

  • You can always put one or more Shadow Salamence in your battle party (and Shadow+Mega!). But for Mega Salamence, not only is it only limited to one, but you also have to work around with the cooldown and/or spend mega energy.
  • XL candies (L50 vs L40) have a more noticeable impact on Shadow Salamence among all its forms (and especially more than mega). Having extra bulk on a glass cannon, especially one that takes super effective damage 25% of the time, is more helpful than the already bulky mega.
  • Likewise, if you opt for the ETM route, Outrage’s improvement over Draco Meteor is more clearly felt on Shadow Salamence than all other forms. The glassy shadow gets more value from a move that it can reach more reliably. Mega Salamence can actually work with Draco Meteor reasonably well.
  • Despite a slightly lower average performance, Shadow Dragonite has several advantages over Shadow Salamence: Greater consistency due to more bulk, having the option to add Dragon Claw if you want to, and simply being more available (both the shadow and XLs). While I would still choose a 100% Shadow Salamence over a 100% Shadow Dragonite, if you prefer reliability and/or have better IVs on Shadow Dragonite, go for it!

Don’t forget it’s quite possible that we’ll get Outrage via evolution during Hoenn Tour with no ETMs required, so save all your Bagon evolutions until next month! Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s no need to rush to ETM it now.

Is it worth an Elite Charged TM if you already have a non-legacy (Shadow/regular) Salemence? That’s a nuanced question and everyone will value ETMs differently, but my response would be: Good on an already evolved shadow, but if you want a regular or mega, just catching a new one and evolving it during Hoenn Tour (most likely) will be better.

  • Outrage being a ~4% improvement over Draco Meteor sounds not significant enough for a rare, expensive item, especially with Hoenn Tour being so soon.
  • That being said, you will definitely get good uses out of the ETM if you do decide to use it. I consider it: Good if you have excess ETMs, but not absolutely critical if you’re short on them.
  • I’m willing to make an exception to Shadow Salamence for those who have already evolved it, because who knows when we’ll get Shadow Bagon again… And Shadow Salamence is relatively future-proof as I’ll discuss in later sections.

If you’re a new player, I highly recommend getting an army of 6 Salamence & Dragonite, even if only at L30 (e.g. wild caught and evolved). Dragon bosses come to raids very often, so a full dragon team can be very useful. Of course, those Salamences should stay unevolved until next month.

(For the FOMO players: IF Salamence ever gets Air Slash/Fly, it will be a beast of a flying attacker, to the point where even regular Salamence is better than existing shadow attackers other than Shadow Moltres. However, this is likely too speculative, and Dragon Ascent Rayquaza will almost certainly outclass it. Shadow AS/Fly Salamence’s FOMO may be a concern, but…)

Non-shadow non-mega dragons: Who’s the #1 – or is there one?

Off-topic, but for funsies. Since I already made the infrastructure for pie charts, why not compare all the almost indistinguishable dragons – Rayquaza, Garchomp, Zekrom, Salamence, Palkia, Dialga and Dragonite (listed in order of L40 ASE)?

Comparisons of all top-tier dragon attackers (non-shadow)

As mentioned in Appendix 3, I think Estimator (ASE) or ASE Dodge is the better metric here, since dragons are more likely to relobby than other types in general.

If we look at the ASE ring, Rayquaza is unsurprisingly the best with a 39% “win” rate (and the best ASE value in earlier charts). But “only” 39%, not even half the time? That’s right: Rayquaza is holistically the best, but it’s heavily situational and typing-dependent – many other dragons can become #1 in some cases. It doesn’t even come close to dominating other dragons.

As seen here, almost every dragon gets a piece of the #1 pie (except Dragonite and maybe Zekrom). Most of them come down to typing differences, as most non-flying dragons have better defensive typing and at least some movesets where they stand out.

  • This is the most obvious if you remove Rayquaza from the comparison. The #1 estimator’s place is split almost evenly between Salamence, Palkia, Dialga and Garchomp.
  • Even though Salamence’s presence isn’t huge on the left, it takes over much of Rayquaza’s share if you take the latter out of picture. (Fun fact: Salamence and Rayquaza have virtually identical bulk.)
  • Despite Zekrom not shining as the #1 very often, it’s very consistent and doesn’t have too many unfavorable cases, thanks to its electric typing.
  • Don’t forget we’re only talking L40s! Any L50 attacker you can build is generally better than a L40 that you can’t XL.

Almost every single option has something going for it, whether it’s PvP Master League, being attackers of other types, or cost/accessibility. Ironically, outside of its raid performance, Rayquaza scores the lowest on these three (maybe tied with Palkia).

You may have heard other players saying “Rayquaza is the best dragon, get as many as you can when they return”. Sorry, I disagree – it’s no longer 2018. It was dominating back then, but today Rayquaza is not even close to a must-have. You can have a team of 6 unique dragons and probably be even better off. In fact, odds are stacked against it: every other dragon is either easier to power up or pulls more double duties, while Rayquaza is pretty much a dedicated dragon attacker and not much else – while still being expensive!

(I made a table of every dragon’s pros and cons, but decided to remove it. I can post it upon request.)

Future and Speculative Attackers: Megas

For this article, I decided to split the future and speculative attackers into two different sets of plots: Megas and non-megas.

Future dragon megas ranked by ASE, ASE with dodging, and ASTTW.
Future dragon megas ranked by Equivalent Rating (ER) and DPS.

TL;DR: Mega Garchomp and Mega Rayquaza are the future of dragon megas; they’re very close in individual power, but Garchomp is the clear winner for group raids. Some other megas can get better moves, but not threaten these two.

We have already seen in earlier sections that Mega Garchomp contributes more damage in group raids: despite Mega Rayquaza having 4.6% higher DPS, Mega Garchomp has 26% more bulk that keeps the mega boost for longer. But even in solo performance, they’re remarkably similar – tied in estimator, and even in TTW Ray is only 1.6% better. Both will easily outclass Mega Salamence and Mega Latios in solo power, though Mega Rayquaza fails to do so in group raids.

There are a few megas that may theoretically receive better moves (but not guaranteed to happen), but none of them come close to the level of Mega Rayquaza/Garchomp, and most don’t even get to Mega Salamence levels:

Mega Latios with Outrage is the most promising of the bunch. Since Mega Latios actually has higher base attack than Mega Salamence, it ends up being better in raw power, but just barely.

Mega Ampharos and Mega Sceptile is a pair that both gain dragon typing upon mega evolution but lack the dragon fast moves. Getting a fast move makes them above/below regular Rayquaza’s level (above for Sceptile, below for Ampharos), but well worse than other megas. Even in the best-case scenario, if Mega Ampharos ditches its CD move Dragon Pulse and instead goes for Outrage, it still inferior to other top-tier megas and shadows, though definitely a lot more usable.

  • What happens when Mega Sceptile gets Outrage? As you can see… It’s even worse than Dragon Claw lol, unless you XL it.
  • Outrage is a move that requires enough bulk to use, simply because it takes too long to fire. Even as a mega, Sceptile is still extremely glassy, having even less bulk than regular Rayquaza/Salamence. Without dodging, it simply can’t use Outrage reliably due to being KO’ed too often, especially when the spammier Dragon Claw is an option.
  • The same issues will apply to Haxorus… Stay tuned.

Mega Charizard X can also theoretically get Outrage, which it’s able to utilize better than Sceptile does. However, it goes from below Dragonite level to… at Dragonite level. If you’re worried about Charizard FOMO, worry about Fly or Sky Attack instead.

Future and Speculative Attackers: Non-Megas

Future dragon attackers ranked by ASE, ASE with dodging, and ASTTW.
Future dragon attackers ranked by Equivalent Rating (ER) and DPS.

Shadow dragons

TL;DR: Shadow Rayquaza hurts more than other dragons from going shadow due to less bulk, and is thus likely not worth multiple Super Rocket Radars. However, Shadow Salamence is still relatively future-proof due to limited availability of shadow legendaries.

Shadow Salamence and Dragonite benefit from being the only relevant shadow dragons released, which allow them to dominate dragon attackers today. But what if all future shadow dragons (mostly legendaries except Garchomp) are released?

First, two reminders:

  • Shadow legendaries are released extremely slowly, one every 3 months at most. At the current pace, we may see Shadow Rayquaza as late as 2024, Shadow Dialga as late as 2026, and Shadow Zekrom as late as 2028!
  • Unless things change, you’re generally limited to 1 copy per shadow legendary, and also only 1 shot at its IVs. With the kind of differences we’re discussing here, they’ll almost certainly be IV-dependent.

We still see a tight cluster of almost-equivalent shadows on the plots, and the exact rankings are meaningless (they’re dependent on methodology and boss selection). However, compared to their non-shadow placements, Shadow Rayquaza and Shadow Salamence both fall relative to other dragons, while Shadow Dialga rises.

If we do the #1 pie chart as above, we can also see a similar trend:

Comparisons of all top-tier dragon attackers (non-shadow and shadow)

As we go from non-shadow to shadow, Rayquaza and Salamence both lose a piece of their pie, while Palkia, Dialga and Zekrom gain more from it. Shadow Rayquaza still gets the most #1s out of all shadow dragons, but now its share in estimator reduces to “merely” 1/3.

What’s more alarming than the 39% to 32% change is that, just like Shadow Salamence, Shadow Rayquaza’s bulk gets to “dangerously low” levels that makes it much less consistent. Remember when I was lamenting about Shadow Salamence being worse than Guzzlord against CB/Outrage Zekrom? Since they have identical bulk, that will happen to Shadow Rayquaza too.

This, combined with the limited availability of shadow legendaries, suggests to me that Shadow Rayquaza is likely not worth getting more than 1, i.e. not worth spending your saved Super Rocket Radars on. Its upgrade over Shadow Salamence/Dragonite is small, it doesn’t stack up too well against future shadow dragons, it’s much less available than Shadow Salamence and Garchomp, and it can’t even double duty as attackers of other types as Garchomp and Zekrom can. And we haven’t even gotten to IVs yet!

Realistically (in some future), a mixed team of Shadow Salamences, Shadow Garchomps, and one of each shadow legendary is likely the best non-mega team. And considering IVs and XLs, good IV and/or L41+ Shadow Salamences and Garchomps may have more value than one-shot L40 shadow legendaries. Your Outrage Shadow Salamences may be reasonably future-proof!

Shadow Palkia/Dialga’s value here will increase significantly if their signature moves are good – look at where Shadow Dialga with Outrage is on the chart.

I ignored Shadow Haxorus above, but it will be mentioned below.

Non-shadow dragons (Future Pokemon and moves)

TL;DR: Black Kyurem, Dialga/Palkia with signature moves, and Eternatus with a better move are the future of non-shadow non-mega dragon types. Even with an Axew CD, Haxorus really needs a quick, spammy charged move – Outrage really, really doesn’t do it.

Black Kyurem will be a beast that may redefine non-shadow non-mega dragon types, if it can keep the current Game Master moveset DT/O. It has almost the same performance as all shadow dragons – lower DPS (though still similar to Shadow Dialga), but more bulk. The only question is how it’s implemented: Will it be like a mega? Will we get more than one? Sadly, nobody knows.

  • Ultra Necrozma is basically a worse Black Kyurem. Both are fusion forms and Ultra Necrozma has better base stats, but it lacks a dragon fast move.
  • White Kyurem has bad moves in the Game Master. Above Rayquaza, but underwhelming for a fusion form.

What’s not a fusion: Eternatus, a Gen 8 legendary. It has very promising base stats that combines Palkia-level attack with massive bulk, but in the Game Master, it has absolutely garbage charged moves. (Cross Poison and Dragon Pulse, really??) It’s enough to join the tight cluster of dragons even with Dragon Pulse, but IF it gets an actually good move, like Outrage or its eventual signature move… It would have been the best non-mega non-shadow non-fusion dragon attacker, by far.

Dialga and Palkia will also inevitably get their dragon-type signature moves, Roar of Time and Spacial Rend. And I think their prospects look promising – both have a good chance of dethroning Rayquaza as the best non-shadow non-mega dragon, though not to Black Kyurem levels.

  • Making the moves as good as Outrage would already be enough to do that, and that’s not a particularly high bar, even if they do end up being 1-bar moves.
  • Among the two, Dialga likely has a better chance to shine due to typing. But Niantic may compensate for that by making Spacial Rend the stronger move, so who knows.
  • These also apply to their shadow forms.

Legends Arceus also brought us Dialga Origin and Palkia Origin. The winner is likely Palkia Origin, which has strictly better stats (6 more attack and 8 more defense). It will depend on moves, but with the same moveset DT/DM that its altered form learns, Palkia-O already seems to outclass Rayquaza, albeit just barely.

  • Dialga Origin, if given the same moveset DB/DM as Dialga Altered, will be worse due to lower base attack. However, having different moves would be a game changer.

The nearest-term upgrade we can expect is Haxorus, as signs are pointing to an Axew Community Day this year with Breaking Swipe as the likely CD move, though none of this is confirmed. If anyone at Niantic is reading this, I’ll put it out there: Haxorus really needs Breaking Swipe to be a multi-bar, short-duration charged move, NOT a nuke like Outrage, and especially NOT a 1-bar move.

  • Haxorus has the same 284 base attack as Rayquaza, but only 87% bulk. Its bulk is almost identical to Mega Sceptile, and between Electivire and Gardevoir, neither of which is anywhere close to being tanky.
  • Remember when I said Outrage works less well on Mega Sceptile than Dragon Claw, despite higher DPS? Yes, that’s happening again with Haxorus. Single-move Outrage is NOT an upgrade and even worse than its existing Dragon Claw in ASE nor ASTTW, until you’re at L45 or higher.
  • Combining Outrage and Dragon Claw on a per-boss level makes a bit of difference, but it’s still somewhere between Dragonite and Salamence, lol.
  • Outrage is even more disastrous on Shadow Haxorus, but the Pokemon miraculously fares better from the shadow treatment than other dragons due to Dragon Claw. Now, combining Outrage and DC is almost like only using DC, and its performance is similar to Shadow Salamence.
  • All this is saying: Despite higher DPS than Dragon Claw on paper, Breaking Swipe being an Outrage clone really, really doesn’t make the cut. It just doesn’t work on a glassy Pokemon that’s always at risk of taking super effective damage.

There are several unreleased dragon-type Pokemon in future generations, but they’ll all share the same fate: Outclassed on day 1.

  • Gen 9’s cover legendaries Koraidon and Miraidon are the best of the bunch, but even they can only reach the level of the tightly clustered existing dragons, even with the best possible movesets.
  • Dragapult (Gen 8 pseudo-legendary), Baxcalibur (Gen 9 pseudo-legendary) and Roaring Moon (Paradox Salamence) are all below Dragonite. Despite Dragapult already getting DT/O in Game Master.
  • Naganadel, Duraludon, Kommo-o with Outrage (or its signature move), Zygarde… All worse than Latios.

Articles coming up next

When my IRL schedule permits, I plan to analyze the following:

  • Larvitar CD Classic: A rehash of rock and dark/ghost analyses, but with more focus on Mega Tyranitar and/or how to improve Tyranitar’s moveset. Also comes with the long-overdue dark/ghost future attackers.
  • Shadow Mewtwo and other shadow legendaries: It will still definitely come at some point, but no ETA. The writer me is hoping for no Rocket takeover in January…
  • Fairy: Probably when Mega Gardevoir comes, if the speculations come true.
  • Primal Kyogre and Groudon, + other grounds like HH Mamoswine: This article is obviously necessary regardless of whether we get Origin Pulse and Precipice Blades. Also, the ground-type section is long overdue.

I’ll do a really detailed look at fairy or ground in February, or both, with depth similar to this article. Still debating on which one to do.

Appendix 1: Guide on how to read the charts & Technical details

Don’t know how to read the charts?

If you’re totally lost, just look at the first two plots, or just the first one if you don’t dodge in raids. These two plots are based on my Average Scaled Estimator (ASE) metric, which approximates in-raid performance using Pokebattler Estimator, best suited for realistic shortmanning (2-5 raiders).

The Average Scaled Time to Win (ASTTW) plots are similar, but best suited for medium or large lobbies (6+ raiders). This metric assumes no relobbying (i.e. reentering the raid after all Pokemon fainted).

The ER (aka DPS3*TDO scaled) and DPS plots are for experienced players who want to check these metrics.

In all six plots, the higher, the better. Example: Shadow Salamence is generally better than Rayquaza, which is better than Dragonite, if they’re all at the same Pokémon level. But everything listed is perfectly usable and will let you pull your weight in raids.

You can also compare different attackers at different levels: points on the same horizontal line mean they’re equally as good. Example: Looking at the “ASE no dodging” plot, A Level 35 Shadow Salamence (with Outrage) performs similarly to Level 45 Rayquaza and Level 50 Dragonite.

Reminder: All plots show average performance against many raid bosses. Against a specific raid boss, the rankings can be different.

Technical details:

  • The first two plots are based on my in-house Average Scaled Estimator (ASE) metric, which estimates in-raid performance by automatically computing the average Pokebattler estimators against a variety of T5, Mega and T3 raid bosses, scaled so that the best attacker at L40 gets 1.0. The smaller, the better. For more details, refer to my Venusaur analysis in January 2022 and the comments.
  • The middle two plots using Average Scaled Time to Win (ASTTW) follow the same methodology, but replaces Pokebattler estimator with TTW.
  • “ASE Dodge” uses simulations with the “Dodge Specials” + “Realistic Dodging” options on Pokebattler. You can compare it to ASE without dodging to see how much dodging helps an attacker.
    • For example, Shadow Salamence’s ASE at Level 40 drops from 1.057 without dodging to 0.985 with dodging, so dodging generally helps Shadow Salamence’s performance.
    • However, Mega Latios’s L40 ASE rises from 1.029 to 1.032 with dodging, so dodging may hurt Mega Latios more than it helps.

Appendix 2: Past analyses on other types

Missing types: Fairy (planned – Mega Gardevoir), Poison

Not all articles are included: the ones here typically have sections not covered in the most recent/”main” articles.

Appendix 3: Estimator vs. TTW

This section is mostly to justify the metric choices for the detailed comparisons (DM vs Outrage, comparisons involving Mega Salamence and Shadow Salamence, etc).

Pokebattler has two main metrics to rank raid counters: Estimator, and Time to Win (TTW). Their only difference is that estimator considers relobbying time, while TTW doesn’t:

  • TTW: Unlimited-time solo with 6 of the same Pokemon, have “0-second relobbies” when they faint.
  • Estimator: Unlimited-time solo with 6 of the same Pokemon, have 15-second relobbies.
  • Neither have anything to do with theoretical DPS and TDO numbers. Therefore, TTW is a more realistic version of DPS – it still prioritizes speed, but accounts for taking damage while DPS doesn’t.

Since they both assume unlimited-time solos, neither are perfect approximations of group raids regardless of group size. Even in 2-man or 3-man raids where relobbying may be a concern, estimator can still overvalue tanks sometimes, although not as much as TTW overvalues glass cannons.

  • My guess: A weighted average of estimator and TTW will likely be the most realistic. For realistic shortmanning T5/mega/elite raids, the metric would favor estimator more. For 6-person remote raids, it may favor TTW more.
  • I plan to conduct more research on this when I have time… Which probably won’t happen anytime soon.

In the specific case of dragons and Mega Salamence, there are two more complications:

  • Relobbies are very common without dodging, even in 6-person remote raids. Not only because many dragon bosses are heavy hitters, but most dragon attackers (other than Dialga and Mega Altaria) always face the threat of super effective dragon-type damage from the boss.
  • In Mega vs Shadow comparisons, whether to run a mega doesn’t significantly change the relobbying outcome. You can only run one mega in a party of 6, so replacing a Shadow Salamence in the 1st slot with a Mega Salamence doesn’t hugely affect the time that your 6th Pokemon faints.
    • The difference is more significant with dodging vs no-dodging, or a mixed 3+3 lobby (e.g. 3 Shadow Salamence + 3 Dialga, or more realistically 3 Rampardos + 3 Rayquaza).

So in theory, the metrics to focus on (for this article) would be: ASTTW for Mega vs Shadow comparison, ASE for everything else.