Breakpoints are one of the more recently emerged topics in the Pokémon GO community, although they were present as a core game mechanic since launch. As our collective understanding of countering particular Pokémon raises, it seems that the necessity to explain even the less important battle mechanics also grows.

So, without further ado, what are breakpoints?

Breakpoints explained

There are two types of breakpoint in Pokémon GO, offensive and defensive, and they occur when powering up a particular Pokémon to a certain level. After the power up that reaches an offensive breakpoint, that Pokémon’s quick attacks will deal 1 more DMG to a subset of targets. The same applies to damage received; After the power up that allows the Pokémon to reach a defensive breakpoint, it will resist 1 more DMG from its opponent.

The levels at which Breakpoints occur depend on both the attacker and defender’s levels, stats, IVs and movesets in each individual match-up.

This is a natural phenomena that stems from the core damage formula Pokémon GO uses:

Floor(0.5 * Power * Atk / Def * STAB * Effectiveness) + 1

We highlighted the important parts for this analysis:

  • the Floor function and
  • the attacker’s Atk / defenders Def coefficient

Both Atk and Def increase with Pokémon levels, which in turns increases with power ups. This increase is not direct though, but it is facilitated by another hidden factor: Combat Power Multiplier (CpM):

Attack = CpM * (Base Attack + Attack IV)
Defense = CpM *(Base Defense + Defense IV)

This formula has a few consequences on how the true move damage behaves:

  • The more you upgrade your Pokémon, the more damage it will deal
    • However, the Floor function pulls down the upgrade system and doesn’t allow a linear growth. In order to jump to a higher damage bracket you need to pay the full upgrade cost before the Floor function lets you move forward.
  • You will deal less damage when attacking a higher level defender

This is how the Floor function pulls back linear values grouping them into a discrete rounded value.

Floor function graph

How does this influence my Pokémon?

It depends, there are various charts circulating the internet showing how upgrades can influence each Pokémon attacker vs defender matchup, but in a nutshell, it enables you to gain and/or resist +1 more damage in a certain matchup if you upgrade your Pokémon to a certain level.

For example, here’s what Omastar’s offensive breakpoints look like when Omastar is using Water Gun against Ho-Oh:

Level IV Damage Increase
30.5 15 3->4 (33.33%)
31.5 14 3->4 (33.33%)
32.0 13 3->4 (33.33%)
32.5 12 3->4 (33.33%)
33.0 11 3->4 (33.33%)
33.5 10 3->4 (33.33%)

In order for your Water Gun to deal +1 damage, you need to upgrade your Omastar to the level noted in the first column, depending on his attack IV in the second column.

Wait, this is not simple!

No, it really is not. In order to take advantage over breakpoints, you need to take the defender’s level/raid boss tier and move damage, as well as your attacker’s level, IVs, and move damage, all into consideration.

In the past, we haven’t talked a lot about this mechanic, as it didn’t really have a big enough effect on the battle meta, but as soloing raid bosses becomes an ever more prominent element for the more elite trainers, so do breakpoints become more necessary to achieve solo success.

In essence, damage breakpoints are reserved for the most hardcore players out there, not for everyone. Similar to how perfect IVs give you an additional ~10% of performance, achieving a particular damage breakpoint can give you an additional 20-33% damage increase if you’re willing to dig deep.

If you’re already proficient at dodging and using your charge moves at the optimum moments, then it makes sense to invest time and calculate perfect damage breakpoints, especially in potential solo match ups.