How do you win Gym battles in Pokémon Go? By putting together a great roster of little monsters.
Once you hit level five in Pokémon Go, you can pit your creatures against others at your neighborhood Pokémon Gym — for fame, glory, and some Pokécoins, of course.
But how do you go about getting to a gym, fighting, and winning? I spent this afternoon running around the fair city of Providence training my creatures and conquering foes, and here’s what I’ve learned.
First: Find a Pokémon Gym
Gyms are pretty well-marked on the Pokémon Go map: They’re the largest, tallest landmarks out there. Like Pokéstops, you can tap on one to find out where, exactly, it exists in the real world, but you can’t actually battle until you’re in the immediate vicinity.
Once you hit a gym, you’ll be asked to choose a team affiliation: Instinct (Yellow), Mystic (Blue), or Valor (Red). When you fight at gyms, you’re fighting to maintain control for your team — as such, make sure you choose wisely.
How to fight at Neutral, Friendly, or Enemy gyms
Once you’ve chosen a team, you can fight at gyms. They’re marked in three ways: Neutral, Friendly, or Enemy.
A neutral gym can be claimed by any of the three teams; to claim a gym, you assign one of your Pokémon to hang out and fight for you (and your team). Once a gym is claimed, it becomes either a Friendly or Enemy gym. You can fight at both, but it results in different bonuses depending on the gym type.
At a Friendly Gym, you spar amongst your teammates to raise your gym’s level — the higher the gym level, the more Pokémon from your team you can have stationed there. You choose just one Pokémon to battle through your teammates; win or lose, your gym’s level improves.
At an Enemy Gym, you fight to reduce your opponent’s gym level and eventually conquer it for your own team: You can battle with up to six of your Pokémon against the gym leaders. Winning will net you experience points, subtract from your opponent’s Gym prestige, and with luck, remove your enemy’s claim to that gym.
Okay, but how do I get good enough to win fights?
If you want to be the best Pokémon Trainer in all the land, you have to level up some Pokémon to do your dirty work. Unlike the original Nintendo games, you don’t level up your creatures by fighting other ones in the wild; instead, you catch Pokémon to earn Stardust and Candy. Those two items can help either Power Up or Evolve your critters.
The best way to build a good gym team is to look at the CP (Combat Power) of your various Pokémon. Some Pokémon — especially evolved versions like Hypno and Clefable — can be caught with high Combat Power in the wild, but most of your critters will start out with CP in the low to mid 40s.
To improve that, you need the Pokémon’s candy type — earned when you catch one — and some Stardust — earned by catching any Pokémon, or by leveling up. To improve your Pokémon’s CP, you’ll typically need 1 piece of candy and 200-800 bits of Stardust; this usually results in a 20-80 point CP jump for your critter.
You can also evolve your Pokémon just with candy: Depending on what evolutionary step your creature is going through, you’ll need anywhere from 10 pieces of candy to a whopping 400 (oh, Magikarp). This will add a huge boost your creature’s CP and potentially give them some new abilities, too.
I recommend focusing your Stardust on one or two Pokémon (ideally who are already at a relatively high CP) to start out, then expanding your roster; if you have one creature who has 600 CP, you’re not going to need a whole lot more on your team to do well against introductory opponents.
How to fight at a gym
Okay, so you’ve got your trained-up Pokémon and you’re ready to fight — either at one of your own gyms, or an opponent’s. How do you actually, y’know… fight?
The name of the game is tapping and swiping — with the occasional tap-and-hold to use your Pokémon’s Special Power. When you enter a Gym battle, you’ll be able to hit your opponent at any time after the “Go!” command has been given — and they’ll be able to hit you, too.
To attack your opponent, just tap anywhere on the screen; you’ll see a “Very effective!” or “Not very effective,” followed by a drop in their HP, to let you know if your attack was successful. But this isn’t your mom’s Pokémon game: This fight is simultaneous, so there’s no real wait-and-see to find out if you managed to hurt your opponent or not. You just have to go and be quick on the draw.
You can dodge basic attacks, too, by swiping left or right to move around the screen. Special Attacks are a different beast: They tend to take up the entirety of the screen and be relatively undodgeable.
You can release a Special Attack after one of the blue bars underneath your HP has charged; tap and hold on the screen and two black bars will sink down on either side to let you know the special attack is being released. While this is happening, you can’t add any further fight moves, nor can your opponent dodge.
If you’re playing at a friendly Gym, you’ll just have one Pokémon to fight your entire gym’s lineup; at enemy gyms, however, you can swap between your creatures at any time during a fight. If your primary Pokémon faints, you’ll automatically swap to the next in the rotation, but you can also tap the Swap Pokémon button to choose a different creature if your first one’s running low on health or isn’t being effective against your enemy.
How to keep a gym for your team (and earn mad cash and Stardust)
Once you’ve conquered a gym for your team, it’s time to leave a Pokémon there to defend it. You can choose any of your creatures, though once you do, they’re stuck there until they get defeated, and you can’t level them up in the meantime. My strategy so far has been to leave my mid-level CP Pokémon there, retaining my highest-CP creatures for other gym battles and training.
Once you conquer a gym, you can visit the Pokéshop daily (once every 20 hours) to collect the fruits of your labor: free Pokécoins and some extra Stardust. It’s a great way to circumvent the insanity of in-app purchases and generate some nice rep for your team. (Editor’s note: Go team Mystic!)
Have other questions about battling in Pokégyms? Let us know below.