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Pokemon Go Strategy Guide

Posted by Kevin


So you've downloaded Pokémon Go like the rest of the world. Problem is, you don't know quite how to catch them all and become a master trainer. That's okay, because we’ve compiled every bit of information about Pokémon Go that we could find. This is a comprehensive strategy guide encompassing every area of the game, including tips and tricks players have learned through extensive trial and error. So make sure to read the guide carefully, and then get out there and mold your fledgling avatar into a master trainer.

Starting Out

First thing’s first -- don’t die. Honestly. It’ll be a challenge. For the first time in my life, I almost wandered into someone on the street while staring at my phone. I became one of the people I hate the most. There are also reports of muggings taking place at Pokéstops with active lure modules in place. Bottom line, take Niantic’s advice and don’t go wandering into the waiting mouth of a nearby Gyarados.

When you first start up the game, you have the option to name your character and customize your appearance. Options are limited, and you’ll often find other players wandering around who look exactly like you. But the game was never intended to be a complex avatar generator, so we can forgive that. You’ll get a brief rundown of the basics from the now-super-sexy Professor Willow, but you’ll likely come away without knowing exactly how to proceed. And that’s not your fault; the game simply doesn’t provide a lot of instruction. But that’s why we’re here.

Navigating the World Map

The world map takes your GPS data and fills in Pokémon Go-specific data into your real-life whereabouts. Looking at the screen, you should see Pokéstops and gyms. Pokéstops are smaller blue signs sticking out of the ground like pushpins on a paper map. These are item drops. If you visit one, making sure that it’s inside the circle that radiates outward from your avatar, you can click on the stop, spin the image that pops up, and collect the items it drops. Pro-tip: you don’t have to take the time to click on each of the items individually, you can just ex out of the stop and they’ll all be added to your inventory.

Catching Pokémon

There isn’t a lot of in-game information about how to catch a Pokémon, even though it’s well, the main mechanic of the game. You’ll be met with a brief tutorial, then cut loose to try your luck and ultimately waste all your Pokéballs on a zubat. Seriously, $%@! zubats. If you want to do a little better than that, here’s all the available information on catching Pokémon currently known to man:

On your travels, you’ll run into Pokémon at differing levels of strength. Strength is denoted by Combat Points (CP) and by the colored circle that envelops the Pokémon when you press and hold the Pokéball. All Pokémon that you meet in the world will be color-coded like this. At first, it’s likely you’ll only see Pokémon with green circles, as green-encircled Pokémon are the easiest to catch. In order of easiest to most difficult, the colors are green, yellow, orange, and red.

Press and hold the Pokéball with your thumb or one of your fingers to see the circle begin to constrict around your prey. Then, simply flick upwards as if throwing the ball at them, just like a real-life Pokémon trainer would. This part is easier said than done, and you should expect to spend a decent amount of time perfecting your throw. You’ll normally need to hit the Pokémon square on to catch them, but green Pokémon are somewhat forgiving in that respect. The trick to catching Pokémon is to wait until the circle constricts to its smallest possible form before you throw the ball. This isn’t so important when catching green guys, but it becomes important when the yellow guys start to show up, so you should get into the habit sooner rather than later. Judging distance can be tough, considering Pokémon are animations placed squarely in the middle of real life, and a somewhat distorted real life via your camera lens at that. It’s tricky, and I’ve lobbed quite a few balls right over the heads of gleefully bouncing Pokémon. It’s hard to know when to cut your losses, but if you find yourself wasting a ton of Pokéballs on something that just won’t be caught, then consider running. You may have paid real money for those Pokéballs, after all.

When you start to regularly catch Pokémon without any trouble, you’re on track to have a good time. When the yellows, oranges, and reds start to show up, you may have to start throwing curveballs. Curveball throws will give you a bonus multiplier that’ll make it less likely that a Pokémon will break out of your Pokéball once caught. In order to throw a curve, simply spin the ball first before you throw it. You can also throw a curve by manipulating the ball mid-throw. A lot of players have commented on performing this feat accidentally. Turns out that it’s much harder to prevent this while performing a normal throw than it is to do it intentionally once you figure it out. I find it easier to pull off a curve if I swing my thumb upwards and to the left, much farther up my screen than you’d think before letting go. It’ll spit stars in a kind of stellar diarrhea and zip to the right to let you know you’ve done it correctly. If you connect on this -- which is much harder to do than with a normal toss -- you’ll likely have nabbed yourself a strong Pokémon.

You can also use a razz berry to make it more likely that you’ll catch a Pokémon on your next throw. When you start to run into red-encircled Pokémon, it’s likely you’ll have to use a razz berry and hit it dead on with a curveball in order to capture it. Keep in mind that if you hit inside the circle, you’ll get a friendly message like “Nice!” or “Great!” along with a few extra experience points for landing a good throw. When you reach level twelve, the game starts to give you great balls at Pokéstops. Great balls are stronger than regular Pokéballs, and they make it easier to capture higher CP beasties.

Squirtle gonna eff you up on the playground.

Joining a Team

There aren’t any perks or bonuses for joining a certain team, just cool names, symbols, and pretty colors. So don’t worry about picking the wrong one. The only negative is arguably in choosing a team that isn’t well represented in your neighborhood. This could make it harder to break into opponent-controlled gyms as you won’t have much help. 

The three teams are: Team Instinct (yellow), Team Mystic (blue), and Team Valor (red). Again, there are no real benefits to aligning with a particular gym, so just pick the one your friends belong to or the one whose tagline you identify with the most. Or, pick the one your friends don’t belong to and steal their gyms every chance you get. 

All About Gyms

Pokémon Go gyms are large structures tied to real-life landmarks like train stations, historic sites, or restaurants and bars. They’re much larger than Pokéstops and are multi-tiered to represent their current gym level.

Some gyms are in... odd locations.

A gym’s level represents the number of Pokémon of a particular team that can be left in the gym to defend it from other teams. You can level up a gym by “training” against teammates’ Pokémon, raising the prestige level of the gym with every victory. When you level up a gym, the team will be able to place one additional Pokémon inside. Gyms can be leveled up to 10, allowing them to hold 10 Pokémon defenders of a particular color. The point of leveling up gyms is to prevent them from falling into enemy hands, and to collect rewards. Rewards are collected every 21 hours, and are dished out according to the number of Pokémon you have inside a gym. Since you can only have one inside any given gym, you’ll have to travel to get multiple Pokémon in gyms and multiple rewards. 

To collect rewards, go to the shop and click the shield icon in the upper righthand corner. This will start a 21-hour timer, and you won’t be able to collect a reward again until it’s finished. You can choose when to collect a reward, even after the timer is done, so make sure to only collect when you have the maximum number of your Pokémon inside gyms. 


When you train at a friendly gym, you’ll have the option of picking one Pokémon to take on the whole gym. If you win, you’ll increase the gym’s prestige and eventually level it up. If you take on an enemy gym, you’ll be able to pit a whole team of six Pokémon against their gym. Make sure to pick your team strategically and always keep in mind which types do well against which. After you pick your team, tap the “Go!” button in the bottom right and the match will start. 

Combat is streamlined for Pokémon Go. Each of your Pokémon has two attacks -- weak and strong -- and those attacks are listed in their stats. While training with a friendly gym or in battle against an enemy gym, you’ll perform a weak attack by tapping on the screen. It’s a good idea to tap as fast as possible here, as speed is your friend and battles usually don’t last very long. Strong attacks are readied by filling up the blue bar or bars in the upper left corner beside the name of the attack. When a strong attack bar is full, tap and hold the screen to unleash it. The game will tell you whether or not your attacks are effective, and you can switch out Pokémon if you get into trouble or you’re up against a type that happens to be a bad match for yours. 

You can also dodge incoming attacks by swiping left and right on the screen. The usefulness of this feature is up for debate, as battles don’t last very long, and dodging against rapidly incoming attacks doesn’t seem super helpful. Plus, it’s impossible to dodge strong attacks, leaving you completely open against the most powerful offensives your opponents have to offer. At this point, tapping as fast as you can until you can unleash your own strong attacks seems to be the best strategy, as right now it’s mostly a contest of speed against the AI, and not skill. 

If you regularly train and take on gyms, eventually you’re going to need potions and revives. These are normally attained through leveling up and by stopping in at Pokéstops. Potions will recover 20 HP and revives will bring your Pokémon back from fainting and replenish half of its health. At the moment, it’s not possible to pay for these items, so you’ll have to ration them carefully. 

Evolving Pokémon

When you catch a Pokémon, you’ll receive its respective candy (i.e. squirtle candy, eevee candy, clefairy candy, etc.). You also get candy by transferring Pokémon to hot Professor Willow. To do this, go to the Pokémon’s stats and hit the transfer button at the very bottom. You’ll be prompted to click okay, making certain that you absolutely want to do this. Also in the Pokémon’s stats, you’ll find the number of candies required for it to evolve. Following our example, both a squirtle and an eevee require 25 of their respective candies to evolve, and a clefairy needs 50 clefairy candies. Evolving a Pokémon will turn it into the next Pokémon in the chain, and increase its CP by a significant amount. 

You can also power up your Pokémon. It’s a good idea to do this if you have its ultimate version, as it’s now the only way to make it stronger. Or, if you have a team of dedicated gym busters that you need to keep competitive. Keep in mind that the more powerful your Pokémon is before you evolve it, it’ll be around twice as powerful after the transformation. So it’s always worth it to power up your Pokémon as much as possible before you hit that evolve button. 

Powering up involves using an item called stardust, in addition to Pokémon candies. The amount of stardust necessary when you first catch something seems to be random. It changes with each individual Pokémon caught. Though the number is definitely lower in weaker Pokémon. But two sandshrews with the same CP could have different stardust requirements for powering up. 

Leveling Up

Leveling up is fairly automatic and grindless. You gain experience for each Pokémon you catch, each one you evolve, each gym battle you fight, and each medal you earn. For a casual player, you shouldn’t have any problems gaining the necessary experience to move along at a decent pace. The very best way to level up, however, is to make an expedition of it. Plan a route that hits as many Pokéstops as possible, and make sure to pass by some gyms to train in or take over along the way. You should encounter plenty of Pokémon on your walk, and get some exercise too. A few expeditions like this and you’ll break double digits in no time. Not to mention, traveling is the only way to incubate the Pokémon eggs you find during item drops. 

We’re gonna be mommies.


Most items are self-explanatory. The items you’ll need most often are Pokéballs, potions and revives, and either lure modules or incense. Incense brings Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes, and no one else can benefit from it, unlike lure modules. 

Placing a lure module inside of a Pokéstop will draw Pokémon to that stop for 30 minutes. This is a nice way to be kind to your neighbors, as everyone close enough will benefit its use. And if you see that someone else set up a lure module down the street, it’s an easy thing to run down the road and say hi, while making sure to nab as many Pokémon as you can. Just keep your eyes open at Pokéstops with active lure modules and be safe. 


So that’s it. That’s everything we know about the game so far. We’ll be sure to update this guide going forward as soon as new information is available.