The 2018 Pokemon: Go Crash Course

It's about that time of year again: the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and it's not dark already when you get off of work. With the coming of spring comes a reawakening in the popularity (and playability) of the cult classic Pokémon Go (GO). Whether just opening the app on your walk between locations or getting together with your friend to tackle gyms and raid battle, the nice weather means an increase in people playing GO and trying to enjoy the weather before it gets too hot.

If you're like me, you've probably fallen out of love with the digital monster collecting that is GO, especially if you're a more rural player. Niantic, the development company behind Pokémon Go has been pushing out updates, events, new creatures to collect, and a slew of other features that are sure to reignite that spark you probably had when the game was first gaining popularity. But let's be honest, after being away for so long (some of us up to a year or longer) can make it hard to feel the drive to get back into the game and learn/relearn features again.

Here is a quick rundown to get you up to speed on the new features in Pokémon Go:

New Generations of Pokémon

As of writing this blog post, Niantic has included the first three generations of Pokémon for us to capture and collect. With the inclusion of these new generations, we're looking at a whopping 386 creatures in total for you to capture and collect. Keeping track of this many creatures can be a hassle, and looking towards the future we've got 4 additional generations of Pokémon (or another 421 additional Pokémon) on the way. There is a definite tier list for these new Pokémon, with a few key creatures from each generation to watch out for.

Generation 2 Top Pokémon:
  1. Tyranitar (Lavitar Family)
  2. Blissey (Chansey Family)
  3. Donphan (Phanpy Family)
  4. Espeon/Umbreon (Eevee Family)
  5. Ursaring (Teddiursa Family)
  6. Ampharos (Mareep Family)
  7. Link To Full Tier List
The Generation 2 Pokémon to watch for. The Generation 2 Pokémon to watch for.
Generation 3 Top Pokémon:
  1. Slaking (Slakoth Family)
  2. Metagross (Beldum Family)
  3. Salamence (Bagon Family)
  4. Aggron (Aron Family)
  5. Gardevoir (Ralts Family)
  6. Flygon (Trapinch Family)
  7. Link To Full Tier List
The Generation 3 Pokémon to watch for. The Generation 3 Pokémon to watch for.

The starter Pokémon from any generation are always good choices to round out your team as well, so don't forget to pick those up as you come across them! This list is subject to change as the game evolves into its final product, but for the most part it seems like these creatures will dominate the Player Vs. Player (PvP) and Player Vs. Environment (PvE) scenes of Pokémon GO for some time to come.

Based on Tier Lists from RankedBoost.

Raid Battles

You've probably at least heard of the Pokémon GO Raid battle feature—pitting up to 20 players on any team against one huge "boss" Pokémon. This feature was added by Niantic in June of 2017 and brought a new sense of community to GO. Since their release, a few things have been tweaked about raids to make them more user-friendly and to have it feel less damaging to miss a raid. First, raids appear on gyms randomly throughout the day. By spinning the photo disc once a day at any gym you can receive a free raid pass—good for one entry into a raid. Make sure you have your Pokémon healed up and a few friends with you, as you could be pitted against a boss Pokémon with over 20,000 Combat Power (CP), and you will need all of the power you can get to take it down in the three minute time limit. Raids come in three tiers: Normal, Rare, and Legendary. Each tier is denoted by a different egg during the raid spawning period (a 45 minute period pre-raid where the gym is still accessible).

The different varieties of raid eggs available in Pokémon Go. The different varieties of raid eggs available in Pokémon Go.

You start a raid battle with a team of six Pokémon, and after the 100-second lobby countdown, you are thrown into a battle much like a battle for a gym. You and the people with you battle the one boss Pokémon together instead of fighting a team of six, however. If your entire team of six happens to be knocked out before the three minute fight timer is up, you can enter the raid again with different Pokémon (or the same if you've healed them up) without an additional raid pass—so don't give up before the raid is completely over!

When you successfully finish a raid, you receive several rewards, all with the goal of making your battling experience easier in Pokémon Go—from potions to heal your creatures to universal "Rare Candies" for evolving them and even Technical Machines (TMs) to alter the abilities your Pokémon have, raids give some pretty sweet and game-changing rewards. The biggest reward from any raid battle is the opportunity you get to capture the raid "boss" Pokémon after successfully defeating them. Based on team color contribution (how much work was done by each team during the raid) you receive a certain number of "Premier Balls": Pokéballs that are specially designed for raid Pokémon. These Pokémon can only be caught with these balls, but you get the added benefit of them not being able to flee until you've run out of them.

An additional raid feature that launched in September of 2017 is called Exclusive Raids. These raids are invite-only, and the invitations are given out to players who actively and regularly participate in the regular raids. These "Ex-Raid Passes" are given out weeks in advance for a specific gym, and when they start will contain a very elusive legendary Pokémon (currently it's Mewtwo).

Raid battles require a bit more involvement than many of us had with this game, but if you have the chance and some friends to do it with, then it can lead to some of the most fun to be had with this variety of game. If you're looking for more people to do this in your area, check out Facebook Groups and Discord Channels for playing Pokémon Go near you – there are hundreds of groups so you're bound to find someone to play with!

Community Day Events

This new feature was added starting in January of 2018 and is honestly the reason I even started picking Pokémon Go up again. Community day events are held on the third weekend of every month (so far), and star a specific Pokémon as the main attraction. During these events, which last three hours, the selected Pokémon has drastically increased spawns, and the shiny variety is much more widely available (from a 1/8942 chance of spawning up to almost 1/25). Another benefit of these community days is that if (read: when) you get enough evolution candies to evolve the selected Pokémon to its final stage it also learns an exclusive charge attack, making it pretty worth taking the time to gather enough and get that move. In my experience, 20-30 good minutes of capturing Pokémon is all you need to get at least one shiny, and enough candy for the evolution, and with three hours available its possible to get several if you can find those sweet, sweet spawn locations.

Pokémon Go Community day events star a specific Pokémon and have increased rewards. Pokémon Go Community day events star a specific Pokémon and have increased rewards.

These events give an excuse to get out and play on a weekend with friends, and make it easy to plan time around them because they happen the same weekend of every month. Honestly this is my favorite addition to Pokémon Go as a game, because it keeps me interested enough to pick it up at least once a month and get out there, meeting up with friends I haven't seen since the last day and sharing stories, comparing Pokémon, and making plans to continue doing stuff with them in the future.

These community days also reward additional Stardust (used to increase a Pokémon's power) and XP or Experience Points (used to level your trainer), so it's definitely worth getting out there and grinding a little bit. I recommend hitting business parks, strip malls, and big-box store parking lots (e.g. Wal-Mart) to capitalize on these events. There are times where you could see 10+ spawns of the community day Pokémon in the same place, and each one has the opportunity to be the next, better one, or a shiny. Getting out there and catching some, I'm sure you'll see just how easy it is, and get a little endorphin rush with just how much fun you might have!

New Items

Super IncubatorAs with any evolving video game, Pokémon Go has had a ton of new items implemented to help you out along the way. A few of these items come from raids and are mentioned above, but there are even more new items to help you use your time as efficiently as possible while playing GO. First, there's the Super Incubator, a new and improved form of incubator for hatching Pokémon Eggs. What makes the super incubator, well, "super" is that it cuts the distance required to hatch an egg by 1/3. This means for those 2km eggs, you only need to walk 1.333km, for 5km you only walk 3.333km, and for 10km you only walk 6.666km. This is huge, as it allows for you to hatch more eggs and get more opportunities to get those rare 10km-hatched Pokémon. These incubators are currently only available through the Sale Boxes available in the shop and are intermittent, meaning you won't see them very often.

Star PieceAnother cool new item introduced to GO is the Star Piece. This item is very similar to the Lucky Egg, but instead of increasing XP gains by 50%, it increases Stardust gains by 50%. With Stardust being arguably the hardest resource to come by (requiring you to catch 2800 Pokémon to fully level a single one from Level 1 to Level 40 under standard conditions), this can be a huge time saver and can give you the edge when it comes to conquering those gym and raid battles.

Technical MachinesThe last new items I'm going to touch on are the Technical Machines. These come in two forms: the Fast TM and the Charged TM. As the names imply, these are used to change the Fast and Charge moves on your Pokémon respectively. These items are awarded from winning raid battles, and from the Mythical Research Event (which we'll touch on in the next section), and can take that underused but high CP Pokémon with bad moves and change them into a frontrunner for taking down gyms and raids. This ends up being a feature for the more hardcore GO player, as sometimes it can take 10s of TMs to get the moveset you're vying for. I highly recommend looking at the tier list linked above or this moveset guide to see which Pokémon are worth your TMs.

Field and Mythical Research Tasks

In April of 2018, Niantic released a feature that basically every other mobile game has had for years: a daily quest system. This system comes in the form of "Field Research"—small one-off quests you can receive from visiting and spinning a PokéStop. You can complete any number of these each day, each with their own rewards, but can only receive one "stamp" each day on your field research report. After seven days of completing field research (which don't need to be consecutive), you get the opportunity to battle a legendary Pokémon. For the month of April, it was Moltres: the fire-type legendary bird from the first generation of Pokémon. For May, it's Zapdos: the electric-type bird of the same origin.

Field and Mythical Research TasksEach of these field research tasks can award a wide variety of rewards, from Pokéballs to Berries and even encounters with Pokémon. Some of the more difficult research tasks even award an opportunity to catch Pokémon you might not see often, like the starters from each generation. You also are rewarded with XP and Stardust from completing seven days of field research, making it worth your while to use them to help progress your account. Along with the release of the Field Research Tasks, Niantic announced and implemented the Mythical Research Tasks.

Mythical (Special) Research Tasks are tasks that each player faces in the same order. The first set of these tasks teases the reward of Mew, the final Pokémon in the first generation, and one of the rarest Pokémon in the franchise. These tasks require a bit more effort on your part, from walking several kilometers with your buddy Pokémon to evolving 20 Pokémon and even evolving a Magikarp (which required 400 candy to evolve in the first place!). Once you finish all eight steps (containing three quests each) for the Mythical Research, you have the opportunity to capture your very own Mew.

Pokémon from Research Quests have a 0% chance of fleeing, so you'll be guaranteed a capture if you encounter them. They also always appear in the 66%-100% Individual Values (IV) Range (IVs are mathematical values that determine the difference between two Pokémon of the same species—a topic for another time), so you're sure to get one that is at least passable when it comes to adding them to your lineup. Field Research Quests can also be trashed, meaning if you get one you don't want to complete, you can scrap it to get another one—making this "daily quest system" one that favors the player experience.

Final Thoughts

I don't know about you, but I'm really excited to see where this year takes us in terms of Pokémon Go. Growing up with this franchise, it's been super easy to invest in this game, especially now that Niantic is regularly fixing bugs, rather than removing features with seemingly no return date. Between the community feeling of playing with friends, to the immersion I wished for growing up with this series, Pokémon Go gets a lot of things right. Pair that with the exercise I get from actually playing the game and navigating the town around me, it makes it a no-brainer for the walks to-and-from work, and for spending some time outside with friends.

Are you itching to play Pokémon Go again this spring and summer? Is your smartphone in need of repair, virus removal, or data backup, so it can get you exploring your local community? Let us know below, or bring your device into Armor, and we'll make sure you're running at 100% for the coming month of exploring, trailing, and capturing virtual creatures on your phone!