Getting Serious About Pokemon GO

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Your group of 15 is battling Kyogre using a bunch of Aggron, Lugia, and other Kyogre. A car pulls up and 3 players emerge. 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 you've thought about stepping up your game. Maybe you want something more from the game than mindlessly pounding 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.

Why So Serious?

Casual players make up a huge portion of the player base, but Niantic offers plenty of means tohelp casuals catch up. A smart player can compete for raid damage balls with level 35 Pokemon that were caught in the wild and evolved. 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?

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!

Set a Personal Goal

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 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 maximizes their time and resources.

Expand Your Knowledge

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 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, 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, 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 they are relatively overrated.

In-Game Systems

A hardcore player strives to have a thorough knowledge of the game mechanics. 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, Rain, 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.

Start with type effectiveness. Know which types are strong and weak against each other. Next, understand the raid boss counters. The Pokemon suggested by the game are often not your best picks. 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. Use the Battle Parties feature to set up battle teams for the main legendary raid and some popular tier 3s.

It’s not enough to use any 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.

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 more items). Find places with many spawns in one area. Try to incorporate gyms into your loop, and make them gold if possible for 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.

Before PvP battling arrived in GO, trainers tested their battling prowess by trying to defeat raids in the lowest time. It's 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 Stardust and Rare Candy.

Suppose that you're the most accomplished raider and highest XP trainer in your local area. Are you really the very best if you can't dominate the competition in PvP battles? Although the system is bare bones at best, The Silph Arena is active in promoting local tournaments and creating a global leaderboard. Attending tournaments is a great way to build rapport with the most dedicated players in your local area. PvP has entirely different mechanics from raids and gyms, so don't think that you'll find easy success just because you have optimized raid parties!

Social Media

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. That said, there is some pretty amazing content out there. SwagTips & TrustTheCones are the YouTube channels for a handful of GamePress contributors. 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. @PokemonGOApp is a must follow, as are @NianticLabs and @NianticHelp. Many hardcore players follow each other and share their accomplishments. 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, r/pogoraids hosts a public PokeDraft league and periodic raid challenges in their Discord.

Paying to Win?

The amount of money you spend on the game 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 (working or 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 bundles that offer discounts on Raid Passes.


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 reach the top of your local PvP leaderboard. There are plenty of resources on laid out here, but this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. Keep reading and 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.