This is Second part of the a comprehensive analysis of how Legendaries function in Pokemon Go, within the context of the Legendary Raid meta, regular Raid meta, and Gyms in general. Using that information, you can determine which Legendary Pokemon are worthy of resource investment.
To give them context, Raikou’s DPS with Thunder Shock/Wild Charge is on par with Fire Spin/Overheat Charizard, and Charge Beam/Zap Cannon Zapdos is on par with Air Slash/Overheat Charizard. Which is to say, they both have a fairly strong DPS output, but nothing too crazy.
What makes the Electric Legendaries useful are their type matchups. They both out-DPS the current Water type counters (as well as Mewtwo), which makes them useful against Raid bosses like Vaporeon, Blastoise, and Lapras – although Raikou clearly outshines Zapdos against Blastoise and Lapras due to its superior bulk and lack of weakness to Ice moves.
Though against Lapras you’ll find that Machamp still reigns supreme over the two Electric type Legendaries, as long as it has Counter or Karate Chop/Dynamic Punch. If Zapdos wasn’t stuck with Charge Beam, and instead had Thunder Shock, it would be sitting up on the DPS charts closer to something like Counter/Dynamic Punch Machamp, but alas we on Team Instinct got Hanke’d. What’s interesting to note here is that Focus Blast Mewtwo does have a better DPS than either Electric type Legendary against Lapras, with better survivability as well.
In Legendary Raids, both Electric type Legendaries will be obviously outperformed in matchups when a double Weakness can be exploited. Raikou has great DPS exploiting a single weakness, though of course it cannot hope to match Rock Throw/Stone Edge Golem dealing double SE damage.
Now anytime that Electric is SE, Raikou is strictly superior to Jolteon, in terms of DPS and Survivability. Zapdos’s Flying typing does make it undesirable to use against Articuno, and in this matchup Raikou is easily the better choice.
However, Zapdos sets itself apart from Raikou in the matchup against Solar Beam Ho-Oh, and is in fact the only hard counter in the game to Steel Wing/Solar Beam Ho-Oh. That’s all well and good, but can Zapdos actually tank a hit from a 180 base power move powered by a 263 Attack stat (the same as Dragonite’s)? Yes, if you pour dust and Rare Candy into Zapdos to get it to a high level (36+) it should be able to survive a hit from Solar Beam that would kill Raikou and virtually every other counter to Ho Oh, aside from Dragonite.
The problem is, how will you know what Ho Oh’s moveset is before you attack (unless someone from your raiding group checks it while the rest wait)? Overall you will be better off with Raikou in most cases, though I have no idea when either will be released. Should we get Zapdos first, I will say it is definitely good enough to warrant investment anyway.
Conclusion: Raikou Gets Priority Over Zapdos. It is overall the more powerful of the two, and Zapdos really only shines in the very specific Solar Beam Ho Oh matchup.