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The (not so) secret strategy behind Pokemon GO: Volume 1

I didn’t grow up playing Pokemon. Released in February of 1996, it hit at just the wrong time for me to be interested. And once I missed the first wave, the ship had sailed on me getting involved. It wasn’t until Pokemon GO was released in July of this year that I revisited the franchise.

As a result, I made all of the “rookie mistakes” the first week or two of Pokemon GO release. I thought the CP number was the end-all, be-all of Pokemon power. I didn’t realize that I should horde my stardust at all costs. And I didn’t know that there were hidden values behind the scenes that governed how strong a Pokemon had the potential to be.

This lack of understanding led me to uninstall the app. Why? Because I need to be challenged. I love strategy games. Give me a game that wants you to think a turn or two ahead and I’ll play it for a month or two. One that desires you to think five turns ahead I’ll play for a year. And those rare games that demand you think ten moves ahead? I’ll play those for a lifetime. But a game that I can figure out in a single sitting (or two) that has a repeatable way to win consistently? My interest may last weeks, if that.

The latter is where I pegged PKGO. Rise in rank. Catch bigger creatures. Rank them up as you have stardust. Yay (not)! I lasted almost two weeks to the day after installing the app.

Pokemon IVs

It wasn’t until reading on a couple of online communities that I began seeing the word/abbreviation “IV.” People were tossing around the phrase right and left, but having never played Pokemon before I had no idea what they were talking about. I checked my app again and browsed through the several hundred Pokemon filling the inventory looking for a reference. Nothing. I asked another friend also playing PKGO. He didn’t know either.


I finally googled “pokemon go IV.” Jackpot (though not sure why I didn’t do this first). Apparently there was more depth to the game than I originally realized. Individual Value (IV) ratings such as “Attack”, “Defense”, and “Stamina” were present in addition to the Pokemon’s HP, all of which led to its summarized CP score. A creature with a high CP score might be worth keeping and leveling up, but maybe not. And, best of all, there was an easy way to tell. Suddenly my interest was rekindled, but I’d made a mess of my original trainer’s account…blowing all of my stardust and candies on Pokemon likely nowhere near good enough to warrant it. Despite being level 18 at the time, I created another account and started over from scratch.

To unpack the above realization, let’s use a Pinsir that I caught last night:

Pinsir from Pokemon Go

Pretty nice for a newly minted level 15, right? Big CP. Can instantly begin powering it up. Let’s do this,right? Wrong. Right after catching the Pinsir, I navigated over to the Pokemon GO IV Calculator. To quote from the first line of the website, “Find out if your Pokemon can be the best. This tool will tell you the IVs of the Pokemon.” Finding out how good my Pinsir is was rather simple. Choose the correct Pokemon (Pinsir), enter in its CP, HP, and amount of dust that it takes to level him up, and click “Find IVs”. Below are the results from that search.

Pinsir in Pokemon GO IV calculator

As you can see, my Pinsir doesn’t have the capabilities of reaching “the best Pinsir ever” status. He’ll max out at around 66.7% of what those maximum values are. Not something that I want to be wasting my dust on. Indeed, most of my Pokemon fall into a similar spot. I now screen every Pokemon that I catch. If the average values are above 70%, I’ll keep the Pokemon. Indeed, my current practice is to favorite those about 70% and rename them to their Average IV value. See the below:

Pokemon with average IV shown

Practical Application

Let’s move on to a bit of practical application. If your play experience has been anything like mine, I’m sure there is a Pokemon we all have caught dozens or hundreds of times: Pidgeys. Seriously, they’re everywhere. I can hardly move about my neighborhood, let alone the city, without my phone buzzing with another Pidgey sighting.

With all of the Pidgeys, then, which do you keep? Which do you evolve into Pidgeottos, and then on to Pidgeots? The one with the current highest CP? Maybe, maybe not.


If I simply took the highest Pidgey in my list, I’d evolve/level up the one with CP 286. However, that Pokemon’s average IV combination rating is 43%. I’ve got two similarly CP-sized Pidgeys just to its right: one with a CP of 280 but average IV’s of 72%, and one with a CP of 261 and average IV’s of 85.6%. Given that, I know which one I’m going to choose to focus on. Before I would have wasted candies and stardust on the wrong Pidgey. Now? CP 261 Pidgey, I choose you!

Everyday Actions

To close, I wanted to quickly summarize my new normal process when Pokemon hunting. I’m sure that most of you have been doing something similar for a long time, since you likely also knew about IV’s since the beginning. However, in order to keep these actions maneageable, I do it after each trip. Keeps the number that I need to check down to something manageable.

  1. Catch a bunch of Pokemon
  2. Sort my Pokemon list by recently caught
  3. Run the new Pokemon through the Pokemon GO IV Calculator
  4. Favorite and rename those with average IV’s 70% or above
  5. Rinse, repeat

Happy hunting!

About Mike

Christian. Husband. Father. Writer. Gamer. Sports enthusiast. I have many interests that don't naturally overlap, but love to discuss them all.

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