You’ve tossed a few PokeBalls, caught a few Caterpies and spun your way to a few items at the PokeStop, but it’s time to take things to the next level. These tips and tricks will help you go from novice trainer to unbeatable gym leader faster than you can spit out the PokeRap.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Swipe the PokeBall Button for Quick Menu Access
The PokeBall icon at the bottom of your screen is used to access most of the in-game menus, like your Pokedex, Items, captured Pokemon and the Shop. You can tap the PokeBall icon and navigate to these menus, or you can look like a pro and get to them with a single swipe. Swipe the PokeBall left to instantly access the Pokemon menu, swipe right to go right into your items and swipe up to access the shop.
See at a Glance Why a Wild Pokemon Appeared
When a wild Pokemon pops up out of the bushes, look at the tiny rings surrounding it. If the rings are white, the Pokemon was there naturally. If the rings are a purple-y pink colour, it showed up because of a nearby lure module. If the rings are replaced by a pink cloud circling the Pokemon, that means it was attracted to your Incense item and only you can see it.
Noticing the different rings will help you develop a feel for finding more Pokemon in your area, and it’s nice for when you’re playing with friends. You’ll know not to shout “Squirtle!” when you see the incense ring and start an unnecessary stampede.
Increase Your Chances of Catching Pokemon, and Earn More XP
It might seem easy at first, but catching Pokemon gets harder as you level up. You start running into stronger Pokemon, and your once-massive stash of PokeBalls will start to dwindle if you don’t learn the ins and outs of the perfect throw. When you see a Pokemon appear, tap it on your screen, then move to a spot where you’re safe and out of the way. Once you’ve started an encounter, the Pokemon will stay on your screen until you either catch it or runs away because of too many failed attempts.
When the encounter starts, you’ll notice a white circle around it. That’s the target you have to hit for your PokeBall to work at all. Inside the white circle, however, is a constantly-shrinking, coloured circle (more on that later) that tells you how difficult it will be to catch the Pokemon. Your goal is to toss your PokeBall and hit the inside of the shrinking, coloured circle. Doing so will grant you more experience points (XP) depending on the size of said circle:
- A “Nice!” toss happens when you get it inside the coloured circle while it’s fairly large, and will grant you an additional 10 XP if you make the catch.
- A “Great!” toss happens when the coloured circle is about half the size of the white circle, and will grant you an additional 50 XP.
- An “Excellent!” toss happens when the coloured circle is very small, and will grant you an additional 100 XP.
Not only do good throws give you some extra XP, some resourceful redditors who have datamined the Pokemon GO app suggest good throws may also increase the chances of catching the Pokemon. They also suggest throwing a curveball increases your chances as well, in addition to the 10 XP bonus it provides. To throw a curveball, you just hold your finger on the PokeBall, spin it around, then toss. If you’re having a hard time hitting the Pokemon, turn off the AR so it stays still in one place. This also helps you save a ton of battery.
Those XP bonuses may not seem like much on their own, but they make a huge difference over time, especially if you have an item like the Lucky Egg activated, which doubles XP gained for 30 minutes. A good toss and Lucky Egg can turn an encounter with a common Pokemon like Pidgey — which would normally only net you 100 XP — into a much more profitable catch. Not only would you get 200 XP for the catch, but an “Excellent!” toss and curveball bonus would add another 220 XP, making that little Pidgey worth 420 XP. It’s almost as much as the bonus for catching it for the first time.
As mentioned earlier, though, some Pokemon are much harder to catch, and it all depends on the colour of their shrinking circle. Red means very hard, orange means hard, yellow means moderate and green means easy. For red, orange and yellow Pokemon, a few items will help ensure you make your catch. Razzberrys will lower the difficulty of catching a Pokemon by one colour, but they are only good for one attempt. If the Pokemon breaks free, you’ll need to use another. Using GreatBalls or UltraBalls will increase your chances as well, but you have a much more limited supply, so save them for the really tough Pokemon.
Optimise Your Pokemonn Training and Evolving
The value of an individual Pokemon depends on a few things: Your trainer level, its combat power (CP) when you found it and its move set. Generally, you only want to keep the Pokemon with the highest CP and transfer the rest to Professor Willow in exchange for candies you can use to evolve your best Pokemon (here’s a breakdown of how many candies each type of Pokemon needs to evolve). Once they’re evolved, you can worry about powering them up with stardust. Here’s an example:
You find two Charmanders, one with a CP of 230, and another with a CP of 450. You keep the Charmander with 450 CP (maybe tag it with a favourite star so you know it’s your best), then transfer the other Charmander to the Professor to get a Charmander candy. You don’t power up the Charmander you kept, but wait until you have enough candies to evolve it into a Charmeleon. Again, you don’t power it up, but wait until you have enough candies to evolve it into its final form, Charizard. Only then do you begin to use the stardust you saved to power up your Charizard.
If you want to find Pokemon with higher CPs, you need to increase your trainer level. Niantic, Pokemon GO’s developers, have been very quiet about how CP works, so here are a few more things you might want to know about it:
- All Pokemon of a certain type have the same maximum CP, regardless of what their CP was when you caught them. Basically, a 100 CP Charmander and 450 CP Charmander have the same maximum potential, and that is determined by your trainer level. It’s still best to keep the higher CP one, though, because you’ll save yourself resources powering it up in the long run.
- Some species of Pokemon have a higher maximum CP than others.
- If your trainer level increases, the maximum CP of all your Pokemon increases. That means the Pokemon that belong to a trainer at level 20 all have a higher CP cap than those that belong to a trainer at level 10.
- Evolving a Pokemon will raise their current and maximum CP, but the percentage trained will remain the same. For example, a 20 CP Pidgey with a max of 100 might evolve into a 40 CP Pidgeotto with a max of 200 — it stays at 20 per cent.
A good rule of thumb to follow is not to evolve a Pokemon that didn’t have a red ring when you caught it. But say you have two Charmanders that both have high CPs. Which do you evolve? If you’re planning on battling with one of them, look at their move sets. It’s best to have a Pokemon with two different types of attacks. In Charmander’s case, a version with Scratch (Normal type) and Flamethrower (Fire type) is more ideal than a Charmander that has two Fire type moves. That said, if you want to train some seriously strong Pokemon, the best thing you can do is raise your trainer level as fast as possible. It’s better if you don’t waste your resources on powering up the Pokemon you find early on in the game. This is especially important with stardust, as it becomes a much rarer resource the longer you play. Be stingy with your resources and focus on building your trainer level first.
Boost Your Trainer Level Quickly With the Lucky Egg Trick
You can level up a lot faster by saving a ton of weak Pokemon to evolve when you have a Lucky Egg activated and doubling your XP gain. So, catch a bunch of Pidgeys, Rattatas and so on, and build up a stash of candies. Now activate a Lucky Egg, then start evolving them all. You’ll get 1000 XP for every evolution instead of the standard 500 XP.
Pro tip: Don’t evolve Pidgeottos into Pidgeots while you do this! Evolving four Pidgeys into Pidgeottos will cost you 48 candies and net you 4000 XP with a Lucky Egg activated, but just one Pidgeot will cost you 50 candies and only get you 1000 XP with a Lucky Egg. Do the maths before you undo all your hard work. Also, Nick Steinberg at Goliath points out that you can battle with Pokemon and wear them out before you evolve them. Go fight at an enemy gym with some Pokemon and they will be returned to full health once they’re evolved.
Track Pokemon and Use Tools to Find the Ones You Don’t Have
Tracking Pokemon isn’t an exact science, so there’s no way to guarantee the finding and capturing of anything. Still, the video above from the GameXplain YouTube channel recommends a few tips that make it a little easier:
- Three paw prints means the Pokemon is within a kilometre of your location. Two paw prints means the Pokemon is 100m away and one paw print means the Pokemon is just 10m away (these distances are not yet confirmed, but highly likely). If you see no paw prints, you’re practically on top of that Pokemon’s location.
- Don’t select a single Pokemon to track. Keep the entire tracking tab open so you can see Pokemon change order based on their location nearby. Pokemon in the top left are the closest to you, and the ones in the bottom right are the farthest away.
- Choose a Pokemon you want to track on the list, then pick a direction. Watch to see if it’s position or paw prints change. If it moves down the list or gets more paw prints, you went the wrong way.
Using the process of elimination to track a Pokemon can be frustrating, but for now that’s the best way to do it. Unfortunately, the “three-step glitch” is currently making this process harder than usual, but a fix is on the way. If you’re after a specific type of Pokemon, tools like Poke Radar let trainers show where they captured what. Different areas have higher chances of spawning certain Pokemon. If you know where these areas are, you can frequent them more often and increase your chances of filling up your Pokedex.
Know Your Eggs and Hatch Them Fast
To hatch your eggs, you’ll need to use the incubator item. You get one infinite incubator at the start, and you get a few others as level rewards that come with three uses each. Always use your infinite incubator on your 2km eggs, and save the other incubators for your 5km and 10km eggs. Why? You’ll use up the bonus incubators after only 6km of walking if you decide to stick 2km eggs in them. It’s a waste, especially when you can get 30km out of each one if you only put 10km eggs in them. Besides, most of the Pokemon in the 2km eggs are fairly common and easy to find anyway. The Pokemon in 5km and 10km are uncommon and rare (here’s a complete list).
You also need to hatch your eggs as soon as possible when you get them. The CP of the Pokemon inside is based on your trainer level when you acquired the egg, not when it hatches. Plus, once you hit the limit of eggs you can carry (nine), you can’t pick up any more. You could be a level 20 trainer, but if all the eggs you have were collected when you were level 5, they won’t turn out so great when they hatch. So get walking, running, biking or consider using some tools if you need help, because the faster you hatch your eggs the better.
Take Over PokeGyms With Ease
For the amateur trainer, gym battles often turn into a messy tap-fest, where Pokemon defeat other Pokemon through sheer brute force. The video above, from the Tech Insider YouTube channel, demonstrates a better way to battle. It comes down to a few key moves:
- Always use your six strongest Pokemon when taking on an enemy gym — my friends and I call them bunker busters — and make sure they’re all healed up before you fight.
- When the fight starts, wait for the screen to flash yellow. When it does, swipe right or left and you’ll dodge their attack. This flash is present throughout the entire match, so you can follow the same pattern of flash, dodge, attack until the battle is over. Not every ability is dodgeable, like “Earthquake”, but most are.
- Defending Pokemon attack every 1.5 seconds, so keep that in mind as you plan your dodge and attack pattern. Don’t try to attack too much after each dodge.
When it’s all done, you can leave a Pokemon to defend the gym for your team. It’s tempting to leave your best Pokemon, but go for your second or third best instead. Keep your best as your bunker buster and use the rest of your strong Pokemon as seeders for holding and defending gyms. Holding gyms is how you earn PokeCoins to spend in the Shop (10 per gym held), and you can earn a maximum of 100 PokeCoins every 24 hours (or 10 different gyms).
If you want to focus on increasing your trainer level instead of earning coins, however, I wouldn’t recommend spending much time trying to build up and defend the gyms you take over. You earn five times as much XP for defeating and taking a gym than you do for training at one of your own to bolster its defences. Also, training up a gym is a much bigger time sink since you can only train with one of your Pokemon at a time, as opposed to the six you can use when attacking another team’s gym. Just like with powering up your Pokemon, focus on your trainer level first, and worry about holding gyms for your team later.
Spend Your PokeCoins On the Right Items
If you have some PokeCoins to spend in the shop, don’t waste them on items you can collect at a PokeStop. Use them to buy Lure Modules (or incense if you don’t have a PokeStop near your area), Lucky Eggs and maybe Incubators if you have more eggs than you can handle right now. Also, know the items you’ll get every time you level up so you’re not accidentally buying items you’re about to get for free anyway. This comprehensive list from TheSilphRoad reddit breaks down every known item reward tier.