After I published my last post, one of the friends I mentioned that regularly goes on PokeGrinds* with us, hereafter named H, observed that one didn’t have to spend money if they were very dedicated. So, I’ll review the ways to we brainstormed to maximize the game without buying PokeCoins. There is currently only one way to earn PokeCoins in game play, and that is defending gyms. You can receive 10 PokeCoins for each gym you are defending, up to 10 gyms, earning 100 PokeCoins each day.** The only thing the game doesn’t provide for you at some point are bag and Pokemon storage upgrades, so earning enough for bag upgrades is essential. Everything else in the shop is given to you at some point through either PokeStops or level items. So, in order to maximize the game without spending money, you need to use your level bonus items wisely and have defenders in gyms each day. (Also, you’ll need to be in populated areas, sadly. I can’t help those in rural areas where the PokeStops and gyms are few to none.) This post will discuss bonus items and bag space and gym tactics will be the next post. Gym tactics are interrelated, so there will be a bit of crossover.
The only item you need for your first 5 levels is PokeBalls. Luckily, this is what stops will give you during these levels (because you haven’t unlocked anything else). So, you don’t have to pay for balls, as long as you have a good place to hit a lot of PokeStops. You can find them in clusters on historical landmarks, well-known government buildings, parks, churches, and various kinds of art (sculptures, murals, statues, even graffiti!). So this means college campuses and downtown areas in most medium to larger cities have zones with a lot of PokeStops. You’ll get to level 5 quickly, since you’ll get a new Pokemon bonus for each new creature you catch, and there are at least 10 common creatures in each area (though what is common can vary greatly). This is the time to find the PokeStop hot spots and learn how to use that PokeBall.
The stops will also give you eggs, so make sure an egg is always in your unlimited incubator and as soon as an egg hatches, place another egg in the incubator. You’ll get another (temporary) incubator at level 6, 10, 15 and 20 (and possibly every 5 levels thereafter). You should place your highest km eggs in the temporary incubators, as they only have 3 uses before they break. Eggs hatch Pokemon and hatched Pokemon come with more candy than captured Pokemon. This is great for evolving commons, found in 2km eggs and gaining more rare (possibly gym fighting) Pokemon, found in 5km and 10 km eggs. You also have to walk to hatch eggs, so it’s best to find a route with a lot of stops that you can make loops with (since stops refresh every 5 mins or so). If you use an incense while walking, more Pokemon will spawn for you as well.
You should also figure out where your local nests are spawning. An easy way to do this is to figure out where people in your area are playing. B has a theory about Pokemon spawning that makes a lot of sense to our group. He thinks they spawn at a higher rate where there has previously been a lot of others players capturing Pokemon, or put simply, a lot of PoGo traffic. He drives a lot in rural areas for work, and noticed that for miles nothing would spawn – despite the charts that say some Pokemon are more likely to spawn in the rural farmlands. He would stop at the only gas station for 50 miles in both directions and (BAM!) 5-6 Pokemon would spawn. More people are playing in those locations, so the chances of spawns are higher there. This is why so many people report success at shopping centers (Walmart and Target, too). More traffic; more Pokemon.
You don’t get your first Lucky Egg until level 9, so the power leveling tricks discussed in my previous post won’t apply until then. Your goal before level 9 is to capture the highest CP value Pokemon that you can, so you can be gym competitive and start earning coins. You can reach level 9 very quickly based on hitting stops, catching creatures and hatching eggs. After level 9, you can start your evolution Lucky Egg spree. Save enough candy to open each evolution once, but only evolve all the way up for high CP Pokemon. Don’t power them up until they are fully evolved and gym worthy. Save your stardust for only the very best (like no one ever was). In the city, Pidgeys are everywhere, so I was able to get a lot of Pidgey candy quickly. I got a decent Pidgeot to take to the gyms this way. Remember that Pokemon have a CP based on their type, so a Pidgeot will only ever be a 1300CP. While having one maxed out early is good for your line-up, save your stardust for later game Pokemon.
Once you have injured or fainted Pokemon, PokeStops begin giving you Revives and Potions (in large quantities). You have a very limited amount of bag space, and PokeBalls are the priority. After a few training and/or fighting sessions, you’ll have an idea of how many of each you need to keep on hand. Trash the rest! You do not need 100 revives no matter how much gym activity you are doing (I keep between 30-45, and have never run out). I also keep less than 50 of each type of potion (higher potions open up at higher levels). Again, PokeBalls are the most important item in your bag, and it’s a tragedy if you run out and can’t catch an epic Pokemon. You base bag only holds 250 items, so if you have 50 each of Revives and potions, along with a few random spaces for Incense, Lures and RazzBerries, you can only less than 150 PokeBalls. Start with 30 of each and see how your gym sessions pan out. You don’t lose your fainted/injured Pokemon, so worst case scenario, you can heal them after your next PokeStop spree if you run out. Finally, I never trash RazzBerries, since you can’t buy them and they help catch higher CP Pokemon.
If you have a circuit of gyms, either in a group or alone, you can buy a bag upgrade in about a week. Hopefully before you hit level 10, as you’ll want more space once you hit the higher levels. Again, this is the only thing the game doesn’t offer you at some point. After you have earned enough for the bag upgrades you want (I only have 2, making my bag 450 items max) any other PokeCoins you earn can be spent on other items. Incubators, Lucky Eggs, and Lures are rare drops from PokeStops, so they may be good investments with additional PokeCoins earned. A Lucky Egg is an obvious good purchase before an evolution spree. An Incubator is the most expensive of the rare items, but since it has 3 uses, I argue that it’s actually the cheapest at 50 coins a use (and a great purchase). I am pretty moderate in my Incubator purchases, at 2 in addition to my infinity one. I have noticed how many more eggs those in my group that run 4-5 in addition to their infinity one are hatching, though. A Lure is part of the social contract, since they benefit everyone at that PokeStop, but in populated places you can find lures being used all over the place without having to use one yourself (see the lures on the Capitol Building pic above). It’s good to have a few on hand to contribute when you are part of group outings.
Buying PokeBalls should never be needed, if you are hitting the PokeStops and trashing your unneeded potions. They are not a great value, either, even in bulk, considering how many balls you may waste on an elusive Pokemon. However, I try to keep enough in my coin reserve to buy 100 balls in case I spot a Dragonite.
You can read Part 2, which covers gym tactics more in-depth, here.
*PokeGrind: the term, dubbed by K, for actively going on hunts, stop outings, and sitting at lured locations. Much more fun in social situations (you have folks with you on the Grind) than solo.
**Actually each 21 hours, but I’ve found the extra 3 hours haven’t meant much. I have an 8-5 job and a schedule around that, so I really can’t maximize that extra 3 hours to get an extra cash in every 8 days.
Disclosure: I live in a state capitol city with a population around 200k. The tactics and opinions expressed here and developed by the PokeGrind group are based on this fact. Also, our group has all spent money on the game. Obviously the more you spend the better exchange rate for PokeCoins you get, but I’d reco $20 for 2-3 bag upgrades, an 8 Lure pack, an 8 Lucky Egg pack and 8-9 Incubators (spread out your purchase of these to be able to keep that 100 ball buffer).
Many thanks to H and K from the PokeGrind group for helping on these posts!