A Beginner’s Guide to PvP in Pokemon GO

Related articles

PvP in Pokemon Go can be intimidating. The goal of this guide is to cover some basic concepts that will get you ready to embark on your journey to be the very best, like no one ever was!​

OMG there’s too much to know, where do I even start?! Right here! Seriously, read this guide then dive in and get battling. Even the best players make mistakes and have room to learn and improve. Otherwise, you can also skip this guide and get battling anyway. You don’t have to read my wisdom ramblings to learn and enjoy.

Pokemon GO Trainer Battles Guides

The Foundation

No one expects you to be a Pokemon Master on your first day. The information and skills you’ll need will come over time. Let us briefly cover some topics that you will need to build on later, and one that seems to be holding raiders back from getting into pvp. (The links provided add various depth such as infographics, type charts, or evidence, etc.)

Type effectiveness

This involves both what type a Pokemon or move is (e.g. fire) and the relative damage it will do/take based on those types. + As you may know, there are 18 types in Pokemon that form a very complicated version of rock, paper, scissors. The type chart linked will make more sense if you wait until you read a little further. + The damage the types do to each other is affected based on those strengths and weaknesses. + Damage done/taken can be Neutral, Not Very Effective (NVE) or Super Effective (SE). These can be single or double NVE or SE. + These strengths/weaknesses can stack. I like to think of them as rungs on a ladder.

Neutral damage is on the middle rung. SE damage moves you up one, while NVE moves you down one. + Because many Pokemon have more than one type (and some types have built in 2x NVE from other types), this can make things even more complicated. Its just a matter of breaking it down on the ladder.


Consider Gligar, whose Ground / Flying typing makes him pretty unique.

What if an attacker uses an eletric attack against him? The flying type is 1x weak to Electric (which means it takes 1x SE damage from Electric). The Ground portion takes only 2x NVE damage from electric (think grounded wires in real life). So on our ladder, Electric moves up one rung, but then back down two. The result is that you are one rung below neutral, or at 1x NVE. + Typing is something that takes a lot of practice to get . Much of the type effectiveness follows real world situations. Water puts out fire, fire burns grass, etc.

PvP Differences

Much of what you may be used to from raiding is different when applied to PvP. These changes include:

  • Turns
  • PvP is actually turn-based.
  • Each turn is 0.5 seconds.

Fast Moves

  • Fast moves occur over 1 – 5 turns
  • Generate energy (fills up the charge move bubbles). Energy gains are usually listed in energy per turn (EPT). This is helpful for comparing moves because they do not all take the same number of turns.
  • Deal unavoidable damage (consider that charge moves can be shielded). This damage is also usually referred to in damage per turn (DPT).
    • In the link, you can see moves from various types and sort them by damage, energy, etc.
    • Damage is the power of the move that is listed in the game. Because that damage occurs over a number of 0.5s turns, the DPT is a better measure of its power. – Consider the fast moves: Confusion 16 Damage/12 energy vs Dragon Breath 4 Damage/3 Energy.

At first glance Confusion seems much stronger… until we take into account the number of turns required for each move. Confusion requires 4 turns to use again (2 secs) while Dragon Breath fires every 0.5secs. This means that after 2sec, both moves will have done 16 damage and generated 12 energy. They both have 4 DPT and 3 EPT.

Charge Moves

  • Charge Moves have energy costs that range from 35-100.
  • The maximum amount of energy you can save is 100. (This means some moves can be saved and fired off in pairs, or one shortly after this other. More on this later)
  • Charge move efficiency is compared in Damage per Energy (DPE). Consider that both Low Sweep and Hydro Cannon cost 40 energy, but Low Sweep deals 40 damage to Hydro Cannon’s 90!! Low Sweep has a DPE of 1, while Hydro Cannon is 2.25.
    • If the math is too much right now, just know that moves have varying efficiency, making some much better than others.
  • When your fast moves generate enough energy to fill up your charge move bubble you can choose to fire it off, starting the charge move mini-game:
  • There may be no best way to charge every move, but I find making fast circles (of different sizes for different moves) to be very helpful. ValorAsh demonstrates this clearly in his video. This is helpful for beginners, because even if you cant remember the animation for that move, you are circling anyway.
    • Charge moves deal base damage plus damage for every icon swiped during the animation¹.
  • Stat-changing moves
    • Some moves like Power-Up Punch and Acid Spray affect attack and defense.
    • These can seriously affect the amount of damage that Pokemon do or take.
    • Other than Power-Up Punch, which is very…powerful, they require some finesse and practice to utilize and can fall short.

Useful infographic

Infographic about Pokemon GO Trainer Battles
Pokemon GO Trainer Battles infographic

Intro into IVs (dispelling myths)

IVs have become a very divisive topic in PvP. Not only will you hear that they either matter or they don’t, you’ll hear plenty of other inaccuracies. Do IVs matter?! Maybe. I realize that is a very crappy on the fence answer, but its also true. Anybody that gives you a single outlook on IVs is oversimplifying things, a lot! Sometimes they matter, and sometimes you won’t even notice the difference.

For beginners, I recommend not stressing too much over them (unless it satisfies the collector in you, in which case go for it!) Moves will matter far more than IVs. However, I know it is a subject that confuses a lot of people so I will cover it further. I will do my best to keep it short and provide links for the more inquisitive readers.

  • Stat Product is considered the current gold standard for determining the quality of IVs for a given Pokemon.
  • Stat product is associated with Total Damage Output (TDO). In raids, dps is often the best since you are trying to beat a timer. In pvp, how fast you deal damage is usually less important than how much you do before you faint. This means TDO is generally better than DPS for PvP.
  • The Current CP formula weights attack nearly twice what it weights Defense or Stamina (HP).
    • Because of that, a Pokemon with IVs Attack/Defense/Stamina (ADS) 15/0/0 will have nearly the same CP, but much less total stats and stat product as one with 0/15/15.
    • This means that generally, Pokemon with a lower attack are better
  • Mythbusting:
  • Is stat product perfect? Definitely not. There are many instances where lesser stat products beat great ones. The 92nd best stat product Altaria beats the rank 1. In The Jungle Cup, Wigglytuff wanted a high attack to beat one pokemon and a high defense to beat another. As a result it wanted an IV spread like 10/6/1. This is exactly the opposite of what is considered a good spread. In fact, that’s rank 2792, but it was the best spread for that tournament

Hopefully, It is clear that there is nothing clear about IVs and a single right answer. There are so many other things that will affect a battle much more than IVs. This is a trap for beginners. Don’t let IVs be your excuse for not battling!

If you would still like to find your rankings for stat product, you can use IV rankings here.

Note: This is all regarding things that max above 1500. For things that are less than 1500 CP at level 40, Higher IVs are always better (Medicham, Sableye, etc.). This also only applies to CP Capped leagues (Great/Ultra). In Masters, you do want the highest stats possible.

The Prep

There is a lot that goes into preparing for a tournament. Understanding your options, trying them out, and narrowing them down to a team of six. Silph Tournaments require Teams of 6, entering into 3 vs. 3 battles. ​

The Meta

Meta describes two different things and it is important to understand the difference. In the first sense, the meta is a fancy way of describing the Pokemon that can be used in a particular tournament. e.g In any tournament where only specific types may be used, that’s the meta. In The Silph Arena: Boulder Cup this is all Rock, Ground, Fighting, and Steel pokemon.

The more widely used (and more important) use of meta specifically defines a small part of the larger group because it is the strongest, most available, or is the most expected to be used.
The Meta can help you determine what you should have on your team.

Your Team

Picking a team can be a very daunting task, even for advanced players. There are many different ways to approach team-building. A good team needs to:

  • Be able to beat The Meta Pokemon (often using other meta Pokemon)
    • This is why knowing what the meta is, is important. Knowing what is strong tells you options that are good to bring yourself , and helps you narrow down what you will need to be able to beat come tournament day.
  • It needs to be able to cover its own weaknesses.
    • If all of your team are strong, Meta Pokemon, but they all lose to a single threat, whether that’s a single Pokemon, or Pokemon type, you will be in for a world of hurt. A good opponent will see that you have that weakness and will beat you easily. The rankings tab I linked can be changed to any Silph Cup which will help you see some of the best overall picks for your tournament’s meta.

After you have mastered the basics you can go rogue, but in the beginning I would recommend:

While you are learning type effectiveness and other things that are required for proper team-building, it can be helpful to use outside resources to form your team. Don’t just copy/paste. As you learn, you need to be asking why that resource made those choices and eventually you should be able make your own evaluations.

Practice Makes Perfect

More experienced players will largely practice with many Pokemon before settling on their team of 6. As you learn, it might be easier to start with a smaller selection of Pokemon and practice with them as much as you can. It is my experience that knowing how to use your team is as important as what is on it. So how can we practice?

  • The easiest way is with an Ultra friend or in person. Ideally, you can find someone who can mentor you as you learn. real-time advice on what moves to use, or if shielding was a good idea can be invaluable and will allow you to learn faster than you simply evaluating the results. Sometimes you can make good decisions and still lose, and other times you can make bad ones and win.
  • The next best way to practice is using simulations. I would highly recommend that you acclimate yourself to Pvpoke.com. Along with the rankings tab I linked above, the Battle tab allows you to select 2 pokemon and simulate the matchup. You can choose what moves they have and how many shields they use. You can also adjust other things like IVs etc, but let’s save that for later.
  • The newest Simulator available allows for a match against an AI opponent that is much more realistic than battling the in game AI. You can pick Pokemon for your team and go against random Pokemon from the meta of your choice, or pick specific Pokemon to battle against.

The Battle

Unfortunately, it is difficult to give specific advice here without specific circumstances, but let’s cover a few basic points.

The Teams

This is an obvious bit of advice, but KNOW what team of three you brought into battle. It’s easy in the heat of the moment to forget what you picked and what you have available to bring in if you need to swap.

Shield Usage

  • Shields are a limited resource.
  • Shields often need to achieve something other than simply preventing that damage. Ask yourself, If I shield, can I either:
    • Get my own charge move off and win this fight?
    • Win this fight and save my charge move for the next Pokemon up?
  • Is this damage going to be super effective and faint me, or will it be not very effective , allowing me to save this shield for later?
  • Are they trying to Shield bait? This is using a cheap, weak move to burn an opponents shield prior to using a bigger, more powerful move.

Charge Moves

  • As I mentioned before, energy can be saved up, even after a charge move, or moves, is ready to be fired. This can be useful for YOU to do a shield bait. If you will survive long enough, charge up to the bigger charge move, but use the smaller one. Hopefully, you can get them to use a shield, if not, you can choose to fire another charge move off quickly with all of the extra energy you had saved.
    • The point here, is that it can be useful to not always fire your charge moves off immediately. You can make your opponent unsure of what move you’re using. Skilled opponents will either count fast moves, or just generally have the timing down to anticipate what moves you’re using if you don’t switch it up.


I don’t want to go into too much detail on the topic here, but Switching is a resource in itself. The 60 second lockout after you do is a long time if you are stuck in a bad matchup. Over time you will have to learn when you need to stay in a bad matchup, and when you need to get out ASAP! This is when knowing your Team matters so much. You need to have an idea of what you need to select as you will faint before you swap if you take too long in some matchups.


Some pokemon are very clearly better better than others because of their moves, stats, or both. All of the resources linked above and below have rankings available but if you want a great infographic, backed by explanations, look no further than this


As linked above, these sites all have valuable information or usage that can help you along your path to becoming a Pokemon Master:


I am whosikon, a battler out of North-East Ohio PvP. We work with PvPers from all over NEO to support local tournaments and larger, collaborative ones. I am lucky to have a lot of amazing competition in my area which has helped to push me. I still see so much promise for new PvPers, and I hope this guide can draw in more friends and competition for everyone. Thanks for reading along.

Written (in part) with StackEdit.

Article originally published on /r/thesilpharena, transcribed on GO Hub for visibility and as introductory post for whosikon.

Related reading

Popular today

Latest articles

Support us

Buy GO Hub merch

Get your very own GO Hub t-shirt, mug, or tote.