Continuing the tips on how to maximize Pokemon Go without spending any money, part one was items and PokeStops. Once you hit level 5, you can enter the gyms and begin earning PokeCoins. The first thing you will do is choose a team. PoGo is a social game by nature, and your chances of doing well at gyms are heightened if you have a few friends that will play with you. You should also be on the same team as they are. This is important, as B and I are on different teams, and this has hurt our ability to level together. We still go out together and the majority of my PokeGrind group is on Valor with B, but it would have made things easier for us if I were on their team. We have compromised that we can all attack Instinct, but when we come across gyms of our teams, I sit out while they train Valor and they sit out while I train Mystic. Also, since I am the lone holdout for Mystic in our group, I typically get the gyms we all take from Instinct. Finally, we do occasionally place lower level Pokemon on existing gyms for XP grinding for the opposite team, but we haven’t done this much as gyms offer relatively little XP.
Your primary goal for levels 5-9 is to get a feel for the dynamics, and learn how to cash out on gyms. You should be able to earn the 100 PokeCoins needed for your first bag upgrade during this time. There are two ways to interact with gyms depending on the color of the team that currently controls it. You can attack gyms that are not controlled by your team and you can train with gyms that are currently held by your team. There is no game play difference between training and attacking a gym. Both are basically click on gym, choose Pokemon and fight the defenders of the gym. The big difference between training and fighting is the number of Pokemon in your line-up as the attacker. Mimicking real life, if you are training at a gym, one fighter will fight all the best fighters to increase his/her skill. You gain XP and the gym gains prestige for each Pokemon you defeat. When fighting an enemy gym, you can choose six attackers, because you are basically a gang taking over. You gain XP and the gym loses prestige for each Pokemon you defeat. Once the gym is at 0 prestige, it turns neutral and anyone can place a defender at the gym – claiming it.
Until you have multiple higher* CP Pokemon, it’s best to train gyms to earn PokeCoins. When training, the goal is to raise the gym’s prestige enough to bump it to the next level, so that you can place a defender in the line up. You want to place one of your top Pokemon as a defender, in order to keep the gym competitive. I have seen some gyms with CP 10-100 Pokemon as defenders, obviously to make it easier to train the gym, but this also makes it easier for attackers to take the gym. It’s basically like not having another defender on the gym.** However, you should choose one really good Pokemon as an attacker that you never place at a gym as a defender (thus losing it to be an attacker in other gym battles). I recommend renaming it to Attack Only or something, as I renamed my Vaporeon attacker “Hydro Pump” to tell me which charge move it had, but I forgot it was my attacker at the end of the night. I accidentally placed it on a gym making the next day’s lunch run more difficult (I have since renamed him so I don’t do that again, as I lost him for 2 days until that gym was defeated).
If you have a lot of mid-CP Pokemon, it may be easier to attack a gym, but you’ll have to place a mid-CP Pokemon as the defender, meaning you won’t be able to hold the gym alone for long. Timing matters when trying to max out your defender status, and to get max bonuses, you need to be in 10 gyms at once and then cash out. If you are in a highly populated area, like your hotspots or PokeStop routes, gyms can be taken over in a matter of minutes. Also, lunch and dinner hours tend to have more traffic, for obvious reasons. You have to keep your defenders on their gyms until you are ready to cash out, so if travel time is a factor, you may be kicked out of a highly contested gym by the time you reach the next gym or by the time you heal your attackers. Unlike hunting and stops, lessor populated areas with gyms are better for a gym circuit. At earlier levels, finding and holding 2-4 gyms at the end of the night*** is a great feat. If you know you won’t be entering any gyms for the next day, go ahead and cash out.
Since most of my friend in Mystic haven’t organized gym battle sessions, I have to hold gyms without help. I have a circuit of 5 gyms within driving distance of me at lunch that I hit from hardest to weakest. If the gym is Mystic, I train and place a defender based on what is already on the gym – typically averaging the CP of the existing defenders unless it’s a low CP gym, then I place one above the CP level of the leader. I go to the hardest gyms to hold first, so that I have my entire line-up to fight/train. I may end up placing higher CP Pokemon as defenders to ensure I keep a Pokemon in the gym until I can cash out. The lower powered gyms can be trained/attacked with lower CP Pokemon, and also defended with the same Pokemon once healed. After I place a defender in all 5 gyms (takes about 45 mins), I typically cash out, giving me 50 coins every lunch break (plus any leftover if my group went out the previous night and I kept a gym overnight). Only half the max bonus, but a reliable half. I have lost most of these gyms by the time I get off work, but that doesn’t matter since I cashed out.
If you have a group of friends willing to take gyms with you, you best strategy is to all attack the gym at once. The defender will deal damage to all attackers, but all attackers are giving damage to the defender simultaneously, as well. The key is once the gym turns neutral, the lowest level player places one of his/her higher level Pokemon as a defender (but not their “attacker”). Then, everyone can train the gym up to the next level. The next lowest person then places a defender, then repeat training until the highest player has placed a defender. This is done in lowest player order first to make training the gym for other players easier. Everyone in the group should be able to train the lowest player’s defender, and even when higher level players place defenders, the lower level players can still train with their Pokemon defenders. Do this at 10 gyms, and everyone cashes in at the end of the night. When I go with the PokeGrind group, the gyms I take are for fun. Any I still hold at lunch the next day are a nice bonus to my 5.
Once you hit level 9, you can start evolving your PokeMon with gym attacks and defenders in mind. Evolve your highest CP creatures, factoring in their charge attacks. I’m not 100% sure the higher charge attack base creatures give an equivalent charge attack evolution, but there is some anecdotal stories on the internet supporting this theory. If the CP is similar, it’s worth considering, if it’s not, evolve the bigger one. Once you have a higher level fully evolved Pokemon, you can consider using your stardust to power it up even further. Only use your stardust for your first string, though.
*Higher/lower will be dependent on the gyms you are trying to take over. Higher may mean 1000CP in one gym and 2000CP in another.
**It’s considered polite to train a gym up to the next level before you leave, opening up an empty space for the next person on your team to place and train the gym. This could leave the gym open for attacks but no more so than just reaching the level and placing a defender.
***Or whenever your session occurs. Not saying you can’t plan for 3am (or 6am) gym raiding sessions – in fact, if you are a night owl (or early bird), this is a good strategy, as it would open up more time your defenders would remain on the gym due to less traffic. Please keep safety in mind first, as things tend to be more dangerous at night.
Many thanks to H and K from the PokeGrind group for helping on these posts!