The longer Pokemon GO is released, the more the game seems like it’s separating into the haves and have nots. Casual players are content to hover in the 300-500 CP range for their top level Pokemon, while the no-life players (including myself) are now staking claims on gyms with 1600 Gyaradoses and 1500 Jolteons.
I posted a picture of my “crew” yesterday (seen above), which contains a number of rare 1000-1600 Pokemon I’ve hatched, evolved or caught, and a few people told me that I was the reason they’ll never take over a gym. But that isn’t true.
Combat Power (CP) actually means very little. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a 1v1 fight between two identical Pokemon, one with double the CP will probably crush the other in a straight slugfest, but the thing is, almost no gym battles in Pokemon GO are 1v1.
I know that lower level players are often intimidated by high level players claiming gyms, but the secret is that they don’t really need to be. There are a few reasons for this, but overall, CP is an over-inflated stat that does not have all the much to do with whether a gym will be able to fend off invaders or not. Right now, Pokemon GO is structured in a way where mid-tier and even lower-tier players can take over high-tier gyms, especially when they only have to go through 1-3 occupants.
How? There are a few ways. One is brute force. You are given six Pokemon to fight with as an attacker, and if you’re only going against a gym of one or two enemies, you can probably knock them down no matter your CP. A 1600 Vaporeon will die if you throw six 500-600 Hypnos at it. Do that once or twice, and the gym is yours, albeit temporarily.
The other way to win is through constant dodging. In areas with a (very) stable GPS connection, you can predict enemy attacks when the screen flashes, then swipe left or right to dodge. Since enemies are fighting using AI, they cannot dodge, meaning you can essentially dance through gyms almost untouched if you dodge correctly. Check out this video for some impressive footage of that in action.
But, above all else, you can beat higher level gyms through type matching. You know, the thing that Pokemon was built on in the first place?
Battling is in fact a bit more complicated than making two Pokemon square off and button mashing. Each Pokemon has one or two “types” which gives them various strengths and weaknesses. And in this game, each Pokemon has two moves that each have their own types, and will be good or bad against various enemies. This, far more than CP, is how you can win higher level gym battles.
Everyone can probably guess the Charmander (fire) beats Bulbasaur (grass) beats Squirtle (water) who beats Charmander loop that’s the rock-paper-scissors of the game. But there are way more types than that, and this is where you need to bust out a chart from the old Red and Blue days.
So, for example, this chart says that if you have a Grass Pokemon, it’s strong against water, ground and rock types, but weak against fire, ice, poison, flying and bug types. This chart may not be perfect, but it’s a pretty good reference tool, and I imagine someone is currently building a new one based on the intricacies of GO.
What does this translate into in the game? It makes for some pretty even playing fields, despite CP differences. For example, I hatched an 800 CP Tangela (grass type) and while I didn’t think I’d use it much, I threw it up against a 1650 Lapras just for laughs. But, since Lapras is part water-type, My Tangela’s basic grass attacks and his charged up solar beam destroyed Lapras. Tangela did fall, but not before he took three quarters of Larpas’s life, despite being half his CP. Then, Lapras could be finished off by literally anyone else in my roster.
I also have what I call a “Kamikaze” Haunter who is only about 400 CP and has low HP, but can tear through the armies of 600-900 enemy Hypnos guarding all the gyms around me. He dies quickly, but with his move set, so do they.
The point of all of this is that unless you see a gym stocked six-deep by 1200-2000 CP stuff, you can probably figure out a way to take it down using type matching, dodging or just having six decent Pokemon at your disposal to whittle them down. If you’re a casual player with a couple good Pokemon, almost nothing should be able to stop you from taking over gyms that are only guarded by 1-3 people.
This is why gym turnover is so high, because almost nothing is ever defensible, regardless of CP. I have seen 1900 CP gym leaders ousted in hours when I thought they would last days. Because the game has to use AI to defend, and will not dodge, and will not type match, defense is always going to be infinitely harder than offense, meaning you can take those gyms over.
You will lose them, of course, based on what I just said. But take one or two over a day and that’s 500-1,000 extra Stardust, plus bragging rights about how you took out a 1600 Snorlax by yourself. Also, gym battling gets you loads of XP depending on how many other players you can take out. If you can refresh your dead Pokémon with all those potions and revives you would never use otherwise, it’s one of the best XP farms in the game.
Gym battling is something that is definitely going to need to be refined over time, but for now, it heavily favors attackers, and you should not be scared to take over any gym under level three. Yes, there are limits to this advice. If your lead Pokémon is a 300 Pigeotto right now, maybe don’t go charging into those 1400 Scythers just yet, but your moment will come. All it takes is patience and a bit of strategy.