Three Part Guide
Your group of 15 is battling Kyogre using a bunch of Aggron, Lugia, and other Kyogre. All of a sudden a car pulls up and 4 players get out. You offer to back out so they can join your group, but they politely decline. They pick their lineups with one scrolling motion. They talk about the game what sounds like another language. DPS? Hard Counter? Maxed Hundo? Re-lobby? TTW? What are they even saying?
They win, and you notice they receive considerably more balls to catch the boss with than you got. Hey, they got more Rare Candy too! They hit Kyogre with a great or excellent curve every time. And then they are gone. Off to the next raid.
Maybe you’ve played for a while, but seeing these trainers makes you want to step up your game. Maybe you want something more from the game than mindlessly pounding on your screen. Or maybe you have recently returned to the game and want to be the very best, like no one ever was. No matter your motivation, if you are looking to get serious about Pokémon GO, this article will guide you on how to do it.
And guess what?! This is a perfect time. As we approach the release of Gen 4 in fall 2018, Niantic has announced that there will be a rebalance of CP, primarily focusing on Defense and Hit Points. In addition, the combination of new Pokemon and new moves will lead to a completely new meta. You may have been far behind your local grinders last week, but now there is the potential that everyone is effectively starting fresh.
Why so Serious?
Casual players make up a huge portion of the player base, and Niantic does plenty of things that help casuals catch up. A smart player can compete for raid damage balls with level 35 Pokemon that were caught in the wild and evolved, so is there even a need to grind and get level 40 Legendaries? Originally level 30 was an accomplishment. Now it can be done in hours. While a hardcore player is going to get their dex more quickly, events and in-game features allow the casuals to get there too. Anyone can max a Pokemon at level 38. So what’s the point?
While we all play for fun, the definition of fun will differ between a casual and hardcore player. Hardcore players look for something more, whether it be a way to push themselves, compete with others, “solve” the game or even self-promote.
Pokémon GO is a diverse game, with no single playstyle being best. Because of that, there is no set path to serious and no true definition of casual. Some players catch as many Pokémon as possible. Some collect shiny Pokémon. Some aim for gold gym badges throughout their area, or some try to maximize XP via friendship. One hardcore subset tries to do as many legendary raids in a day as possible, while another group attempts to beat the bosses in the fastest possible time. The recent addition of lucky trades has many chasing a complete Lucky Dex!
Make Your Personal Gameplan
The first step to getting serious is establishing a personal goal. Figure out if you want to be a catcher, a "wafu" raid grinder, a habitual shiny checker, or a speed raider. Think about what aspect of the game you like the most, then focus on it. You’ll quickly find that many of these “goals” overlap… someone doing 70 raids on a Saturday is gaining a ton of XP and building a solid foundation for a battle team with high IV bosses and Rare Candy. That same player then finds themselves catching more to get more dust to power everything up, then starts going after fast raid times because they have stellar lineups. And so on.
Watch the Clock
The next step is time allocation. We all have limited time to play GO, so we don’t want to waste it. Most hardcore players have jobs & other hobbies. They probably aren’t playing that much more than you, but they are much more efficient. They aren’t sitting at a raid waiting for yet another person who was “5 minutes away” 10 minutes ago. They aren’t battling for gyms where they already have gold badges (many don’t even value gym battles at all). They never just grind or raid mindlessly. The true hardcore trainer has learned a tremendous amount about the game, and plans their every move to maximize their time and resources.
Preparing Your Knowledge
“If a woodchopper was given just five minutes to chop down a tree or lose his life, he better spend three minutes sharpening his ax.” -An anonymous lumberjack or Abe Lincoln, probably.
First, you need to learn about the game. Start by finding someone to talk about GO with. You can look to someone you know from raids or maybe a large scale forum like The Silph Road subreddit. Do a bunch of listening, but don’t be afraid to ask questions too. This is how you learn. Over time find more friends to talk to. This allows you to quickly hear about changes so you can rapidly adjust. When not talking, read. Obviously, GamePress is an encyclopedia of information so start here, but there is much to be learned from The Silph Road, Pokebattler, and other reputable sources.
As you talk to people and read everything, you’ll start to learn some of the GO lingo. It may be a good idea to check out GamePress’s glossary, which has definitions of some commonly used terms. A couple you should know immediately:
- DPS is damage per second. It is the amount of damage a move or Pokemon does in one second. It’s actually quite meaningless in a vacuum (Weave DPS, Cycle DPS, DPS*TDO all may mean more), but DPS is an easy way to see how quickly your Pokemon is doing damage.
- IVs refer to individual values. These are numbers between 0 and 15 that are added to a Pokemon’s base statistics in HP, Attack, and Defense. In general, higher values are better, though for a vast majority of the player base IVs are overrated.
A hardcore player strives to have a thorough knowledge of the game mechanics. While a casual is happy when a spawn shows up at his house, a hardcore player knows the spawn and despawn time of every spawn point in their house if not their neighborhoods. Learn about how spawns work and figure out when you can turn on the game at home to get the most Pokemon at once. Learn about weather, and which type of Pokemon spawn more in Cloudy, Rainy, or Windy. Figure out which biomes are around you, and use that to hunt for new dex entries after a new generation is released.
Mechanics get deeper than that. S2 Cells are used for Gym and Pokemon placement, weather, EX raids, spawns, and probably many other things. Open Street Map is the basis of what the game uses to determine spawn types and nests. The super hardcore might even create an Ingress account or befriend Ingress players to help get stops and gyms added in strategic places. Some countries even have the ability to add stops/gyms through the Pokemon Go game client.
For many, raiding is currently at the center of Pokemon GO. At the most basic level, you are either raiding or collecting resources to help you raid at any given time. Having awesome Pokemon and lots of Stardust is part of the equation, but you need to learn how to battle. First, start with type effectiveness. Know which types are strong and weak against each other. Next, understand the raid boss counters. So many trainers love to throw their high IV level 20 legendaries at a boss, but they could be probably doing much more damage with a level 33 low IV uncommon. Start by checking GamePress to see which counters are best, but over time you won’t even need us. You’ll see a new boss and be able to predict the best counters.
Casuals use the raid counters selected by Niantic which emphasize survival. Hardcore players have high damage teams that may even vary based on the boss’s moveset. Sharpen your ax. Use the Battle Parties feature to have battle teams premade for the main Legendary raid and some popular tier 3s. You get extra credit if you build a second team for Legendaries that are strong enough to generally defeat your first wave of attackers.
(It’s very possible that the next iteration of battle mechanics encourages survival more than fast damage. Regardless of what changes are made, don’t expect auto select to take you to the top. Work with others and use all available resources to figure out what a team of optimal attackers will look like going forward).
It even gets deeper. It’s not enough to use Tyranitar vs Mewtwo. You want Tyranitar with Bite & Crunch as its moves. Use GamePress’s rankings to see the best moves for each Pokemon in general. In addition, our boss counter guides identify the moveset that is best against the boss.
And still, there is more! A hardcore player knows attacking patterns of a boss and will understand when to dodge and when to just take a charged attack. Hardcores will understand what the dodge glitch is and how to avoid it. They’ll know not to all re-lobby at the same time in a group raid and are all too familiar with energy and health rubberbanding. Possibly most importantly, they understand breakpoints (the level where a Pokemon’s move does one more damage) and power up Pokemon to the appropriate place.
We’re just scratching the surface here. Take your battling to the next level. Use resources like Pokebattler or GoBattleSim to see what your best lineup is. Sure, you can read the best counters, but is your level 40 Venusaur better or worse vs Kyogre than your level 30 Raikou? These tools are imperative.
Find a Grinding Loop
Hardcore players know their area, and use their time playing in the most efficient places possible. Whether walking or driving, you should aim to find a “circle” of sorts to play in. Prioritize places where you can hit ten unique stops/gyms in a row (the 10th stop gives an item and XP bonus). Find places with cluster spawns (many spawns in one area). Try to incorporate gyms into your loop, and make them gold if possible (more items per spin!). Ideally, play in a loop that maximizes spawns but also gives you a chance to refill your bag. In a perfect world you come back with as many items as you started with even after gaining loads of candy and Stardust.
Meeting the Community
The Silph Road is a simultaneously an incredible resource and community. Their reddit forum hosts some of the best discussion about the game, and their tools such as the nest atlas are used by many. One of the coolest features on Silph is their list of local communities. Maybe you’ve already found your local players, but if you haven’t this is where to go.
Your local community is imperative. As mentioned above, this is the best way to find people to talk with about the game. Most Tier 4+ raids require multiple trainers, so many local Discord, Facebook, or other groups are used primarily for raid coordination. Beyond that, friendship is an efficient path to quick XP gain, and the extra raid balls earned when you raid with Ultra & Best friends give you a significantly better chance to catch the boss. Many strong friendships have been formed on local chat groups as well!
Hardcore players COMPETE. They love to show you their Pokedex, how many level 40 Pokemon they have, how many 100 IVs they’ve hatched, and how much XP they’ve gotten. While there is no in-game ranking for this type of things, players have created their one. Check out the TL40 leaderboard. How far behind are you in catches, hatches, or distance walked? Can you catch up and see your own name on the list? The leaderboard is split by country, city, or worldwide and can show you monthly or all-time leaders.
While you cannot battle against another player, you can see who can defeat a raid fastest. Players compete to get the best times with each boss, with two separate high profile leaderboards (all player maintained of course). In addition, it is a badge of honor to duo a raid boss first, or beat bosses with strange or non-optimal counters. GamePress’s solo, duo, and tier 5 guides lay out the groundwork for speed raiding, and battle simulators can help you streamline your team even more. However, to make your way to the top of the leaderboard, you’ll need to grind dust and Rare Candy.
YouTube and Pokemon Go is a funny dynamic. Let’s face it, there are way more casuals than hardcore players, so the vast majority of YouTube content is directed towards casual players. In fact, the vast majority of hardcores spend their limited PoGo time either grinding or talking about the game… very rarely watching videos. That said, there is some pretty amazing content out there. GamePress has video raid guides, and SwagTips & TrustTheCones are the YouTube channels for a handful of GamePress contributors. You may want to check the record books mentioned above too for plenty of good solos, crazy dodges, and more. Find the channels you like, and watch the vids they make that appeal to you. And it’s always helpful to search “catching Mewtwo” or “catch glitch” to get tips for how you can do that stuff.
Twitter is a huge resource for PoGo players. The PokemonGo App is a must follow, as is NianticLabs and Niantic Support. Many Hardcore players follow each other and share their accomplishments. It’s easy to build a list of people to follow from the trainers found in record books, and the mainstream Youtubers are good at disseminating news. Don’t forget to follow GamePress too!
The r/pogoraids subreddit leans a bit more Hardcore than The Silph Road, especially when it comes to raid challenges. In addition to their record book, Pogoraids hosts a public PokeDraft league and periodic raid challenges in their Discord.
Paying to Win?
The amount of money you spend does not make you hardcore, and there are plenty of hardcore players who put very little if any money into the game. But if you are spending money, do it wisely. First of all, if you are serious about GO, you should consider a GO Plus or Gotcha. Both offer the ability to catch Pokemon while not paying attention (driving), and greatly increase your Stardust totals. Secondly, most hardcore players are not spending $x a day in separate transactions. They are buying discounted gift cards, such as a $100 iTunes Gift Card for $85. They then use that to buy $100 in coins at a time and only use those coins on bundle boxes. The efficient player pays $85 for 14500 coins, then uses those coins to buy raid passes in bundles that average 80 coins or less per pass. $85 buys 181 passes in this example, about 47 cents per raid.
A common complaint about Pokemon Go is that there is no endgame. The max level has become relatively easy to hit, and there aren’t really tangible benefits once you pass level 38. However, serious players have created their own endgame. They find the part of the game they like the most and do it in the best way possible.
Think you have what it takes to be hardcore? Maybe you can set a new record raid time, or get the most evolves in the world next month. There are plenty of resources on laid out here, but this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. Keep reading, keep talking about the game. Use your time wisely. Figure out how you can play more efficiently, and start grinding like the world’s elite players. Good luck. See you on the leaderboards.