Although I'm usually not the most competitive gamer, there's something about Pokemon GO's gym system that has me hooked. I've dominated the gyms in my local area since Wednesday night, and skirmished over gyms in the CBD more times than I can count. Despite constant glitches, fierce rivalries and an abundance of Golbats, I've come to learn a lot of the nuances of the battling system: so here they are for you to up your battling game.
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To begin with, you need to be at level five to access gyms at all. Once you're at this level, select a gym in your range of view (you don't have to be nearby) and go through the prompts to side with one of the three teams. While everyone has an opinion on which team is the best, your choice of team doesn't impact anything in the game aside from how you relate to other players.
When picking your team, consider how many people will be around to back you up. If you're planning on playing in a group with your friend, join the same team so you can back each other up at local gyms. Alternatively, if your local area is dominated by one team, consider whether you want to help strengthen the winning side or perhaps back up a team that just needs that little extra push to take some gyms. Ultimately, your choice is up to you, but it will impact your battling going forward.
The Anatomy Of A PokeGO Gym
Chances are if you're only just getting into battling now, most of the gyms in your area will already be claimed. The colour of the gym represents what team is holding it, and the number of platforms beneath a gym visually depict what level it is (ie how many prestige points and Pokemon it has). Gyms at levels 1-3 have two platforms beneath it, level 4-5 gains another platform and I think the next platform gets added at level 6, though I'm not entirely sure about that one. On the rare chance that you spot an unclaimed gym, it'll be a simple grey icon.
When you tap a gym to select it, you'll be shown more in-depth details about that gym. The first trainer/Pokemon that'll appear is the weakest trainer for that gym, and you can swipe through to the gym leader, the most powerful Pokemon at that gym. An open circle next to the crown in the top left hand corner denotes an empty slot where another Pokemon could be added.
If the gym is a friendly gym, you'll see a little punching glove icon in the bottom right corner that begins 'training' mode. If there is space for another Pokemon at a friendly gym, you'll see another icon appear in the bottom left corner. If you're at a rival gym, you'll see an icon in the bottom right with two Pokeballs clashing — this is how you challenge a gym.
On this screen you'll also see a little health bar next to the gym's picture, along with a set of numbers that'll look a little like "2000/4000". This is the gym's prestige points. Think of prestige like health — when the count reaches zero, the team holding it will be kicked out and the gym will be able to be claimed. Once the number of points increases to the number after the slash (in this case, 4000), the gym will go up a level and a slot for another Pokemon will be opened up.
Pokemon are automatically sorted in gyms from lowest to highest CP, and the trainer of the highest CP Pokemon will be the gym leader, with their Pokemon visible at the gym on the map.
Attacking A Rival's Gym
If you want to own a gym, you'll probably have to claim one first. If you have a choice of multiple gyms, pick one with the lowest prestige. Gyms with high prestige often have people around them, actively raising their gym's points in case rival teams try to take it down.
You'll need to be within range of a gym to challenge it. Simply press the challenge button and pick a team of 6 Pokemon to fight with you. You will fight each Pokemon in the gym's roster one after the next, so try and order your six Pokemon so that type advantages are in your favour. Check out PokemonDB for a handy chart of type advantages if you need a refresher.
To start out with, battles in Pokemon GO are not turn-based, so get ready to battle the moment the giant 'GO' disappears from your screen. Unfortunately, due to server issues, this could be anywhere from one second to ten seconds. Stay vigilant.
Once the battle starts, you want to mash for your life. You have three different moves in PokeGO battles: tap to standard attack, tap and hold to special attack, and swipe to dodge. Personally, I've never used dodge, as it feels too laggy to be worth anything. Maybe it's just my poor form, but I've found it ineffective thus far.
Out of the other two moves, you'll have to practice with your different Pokemon to get your strategy down. Pay attention to whether your special attack move is a different type to your standard attack, and always take note of type advantages. Special attack moves are much slower, so they're only worth using if they're especially powerful or have a type advantage.
Some standard moves, such as water gun, are incredibly fast, and should be spammed over and over without wasting time on special moves. On the other hand, Pokemon such as Electrode with a powerful move like Discharge should prioritise special moves over standard. Other powerful special attacks I've used include Flame Wheel and Flash Cannon — but each Pokemon is different so you should always make sure to find out what works for you.
Keep spamming attacks until either you or the other team are knocked out. If a Pokemon (on either side) faints, it'll be automatically replaced with the next Pokemon in the roster. Fainted Pokemon that you own will have to be revived after the battle, and all damage has to be healed with a potion of some sort. Note that the only way to heal or revive Pokemon is with items you pick up at Pokestops — you can't buy healing items in the store, and nor can you heal them any other way.
If you manage to defeat all the Pokemon in a gym, you'll knock 2000 points off its prestige, and if it had less than 2000 points to begin with then you will be able to claim the gym. Unless...
That Damn 1HP Glitch
You may encounter a glitch when battling gyms, where the opposing Pokemon will drop to 1HP but won't die. You may also be taken straight back to the Pokemon roster at the start of the battle, leaving you unable to actually fight for the gym. This glitch is annoying as hell, and unfortunately there's very little you can do about it, as it's related to the ongoing server issues.
If you get the glitch, give the gym at least one other go (luckily a glitched battle won't leave your Pokemon low on health) and if it continues, go look for another gym to challenge. Unfortunately, until the issues are fixed by Niantic, there's little we can do about it.
Defending Your Gym
If you come across a gym that's already owned by your team, don't just walk past it — you can do your bit to help. Instead of battling, accessing your own gym gives you the option of 'training'. In training mode, you will pit one Pokemon against the gym's entire roster. Luckily, you don't have to beat all the Pokemon to raise the gym's prestige points, but you will get more points depending on how many Pokemon you manage to knock out.
You will get 500+ prestige points for every Pokemon you manage to beat with a Pokemon of a lower level, with significantly decreasing returns the higher your Pokemon's level is. The best way to quickly level up your gym is to pick a Pokemon that's a lower level than the gym's first defender, but with a type advantage. You should be able to beat the first Pokemon fairly easily. Run from the battle, collect your 500 points, heal up your battler and do it all over again. (Thanks to Bondles for the tip!)
If someone is actively attacking your gym (you'll see the battle happening on the map icon) you can train over and over to keep the gym 'fortified' against any potential attackers. If you're actively defending, it's a good idea to have a couple of people on your team doing it along with you.
Leaving A Defender
When you manage to raise the gym's level, or if your team's gym already has a spare slot, you can leave a Pokemon in the gym to help defend it (though each trainer can only assign one Pokemon per gym). Have a good think about what Pokemon you leave — if it's an uncontested gym in the suburbs, chances are you won't get that Pokemon back for a while, whereas fought-over gyms will probably return your Pokemon within hours.
Note that your Pokemon's nicknames are visible to you only — so unfortunately your cleverly named 'Farty McFartface' will only show up to other users as 'Koffing'.
Gym defenders will automatically use a mix of standard and special attacks, so it's a good idea to leave Pokemon with strong Specials that potentially aren't as fast as your screen-mashing attack Pokemon, as mentioned above.
Also think about the type balance of your gym — the more types of Pokemon are in your gym, the more defensible it will be. Consider ordering Pokemon so that a challenger with a type advantage against the first Pokemon in the roster will have a disadvantage against the second defender. If you only have high level Pokemon in a certain type, consider whether you really need to leave a Pokemon there at all...
While there's obviously nothing set in the way of Pokemon GO etiquette at this point, a few things should be common sense. When you're leaving a Pokemon at your team's gym, your action could either help or hinder. If you're considering leaving a Pokemon that would be the lowest CP Pokemon at that gym, you're probably not going to be helping much.
Similarly, if you're considering leaving another Golbat in a gym full of Golbats just because it's your highest CP Pokemon and you want to be the gym leader, perhaps reconsider and contribute a Pokemon that will actually help your team hold the gym (even if it ends up sitting second or third in the roster).
Catching Strong Pokemon
There's no point in battling gyms if you don't have a handful of strong Pokemon to back you up. You won't keep any gyms for long if you rely on a single strong Pokemon — you need a number of strong Pokemon to both attack rivals and defend your gyms if you want any chance of success at this facet of the game.
Read More: Here Are Some Tips For Playing Pokemon GO
To begin with, types are important. One of the strongest Pokemon types you can have in a lot of areas at the moment is electric. Why? Well, you may have noticed an abundance of Golbats and Pidgeots at almost every gym, and this is for the express reason that these two Pokemon are the easiest to get to a high level. Both these Pokemon are also flying type — which have a weakness to electric. If you live around one of Australia's coastal areas, chances are there are also a lot of water types. Again, their weakness is electric — see where I'm going with this? While it might change in the future as people evolve more types of Pokemon to higher levels, electric Pokemon are some of the strongest types to battle with right now.
The level of the Pokemon you catch increases with your player level — at the time of writing, at level 19, I tend to encounter Pokemon between level 200 and 600, with a few outliers on each side. Pokemon without a further evolution to go are usually caught at a much higher level (common examples of this include Pincer and Golduck) while those with one evolution are lower, and those with two evolutions even lower again. The reason for this is because Pokemon get a huuuge boost in CP when they evolve.
Upgrade Or Evolve?
I'll tell you a secret. I don't upgrade my Pokemon anymore, aside from a select few occasions — usually fully evolved or unevolvable Pokemon also at a very high CP (relative to my other Pokemon). The reason for this is as you move up levels, the Pokemon you catch have higher and higher CP. It's much more effective to simply catch strong Pokemon than it is to try and upgrade low CP ones.
If your Pokemon has another evolution or two to go, save all your candy for that. Pokemon can double or triple their CP when evolved — though evolutions requiring 50 candy will power up your Pokemon much more than those that require 25 or 12. Magikarps can even go from CP 60 to around 700! In this one thing, Team Mystic are right — strengthen your Pokemon through evolution!
Eggs are one of the most valuable sources of Pokemon in this game. Eggs will hatch often rare Pokemon, though guaranteed they will always come with a heap of valuable candy. If you hatch an uncommon Pokemon without an evolution like Snorlax or Lapras, they will also get more points with each upgrade than a regular caught Pokemon would.
While the general rule is that 2km eggs hatch common Pokemon, 5km eggs hatch uncommon Pokemon and 10km eggs hatch rare ones, it's worth hatching all the different kinds of eggs. 2km eggs can hatch Weedles, but they can also hatch any of the starters (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle) including Pikachu. Find a a list of what hatches from different types of eggs here.
Why Claim Gyms At All?
When it comes down to it, gyms may not be for you at all. There's only one tangible in-game reward for having your Pokemon in gyms. This is the 'Defender Bonus', an allocation of Stardust and Pokecoins that can be accessed from the Shop page every 20 hours. You get 10 coins and 500 dust for every Pokemon you have in a gym, with a maximum of 10 Pokemon you can claim for.
For most people, however, it's the competitive aspect of gyms that'll be most attractive. Whether you love the feeling of working in a team, or just having your name and Pokemon up for all to see, take these tips, overthrow all the other teams and become the one true Battle Girl!
I'm getting there (slowly).