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Pokemon Go: How to upgrade your Pokemon

Not sure how to power up and evolve your Pokemon? Here's a quick guide.

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We're still learning how to play Pokemon Go. If you're still learning, too, you might not yet know how to get peak performance out of your pocket monsters. That's what this article is for!

In order to advance in Pokemon Go -- and win against other players if you go battle at a gym -- you need to improve two distinct stats:

  • Your overall Trainer Level = how much you've played the game
  • Your Pokemon's Combat Power (CP) = how strong your Pokemon are

In order to win battles, you'll need high-powered Pokemon, but to find and upgrade to high-powered Pokemon, you need to be a high-powered trainer. The higher your Trainer Level, the better Pokemon you'll find, and the more you can upgrade their CP.

Luckily, pretty much everything you do in Pokemon Go gives you experience points (XP) towards your trainer level.

  • Catching a Pokemon = 100xp
  • Getting a new Pokemon for the first time = 500xp
  • Landing a difficult throw = 10xp
  • Stopping at a Pokestop = 50xp
  • Evolving a Pokemon = 500xp

And so on. So your first step is to go find and catch lots of Pokemon.

Next, it's time to power them up. Hit that Pokeball logo at the bottom of your screen, then tap Pokemon. You'll see a sortable list of all the Pokemon you own. If you tap on any basic Pokemon, you'll see two options:

  • Power up = train your Pokemon to increase its CP and health points by a small amount
  • Evolve = transform your Pokemon into a different, upgraded species

Evolved forms of Pokemon are typically much stronger, but depending on the Pokemon you may only be able to evolve them once, or twice before they reach their final form.

You'll need two different kinds of resources to upgrade them:

  • Stardust (used to power up)
  • Candy (used to power up and evolve)

But again, you'll get those things just by catching lots of Pokemon.

The more you power up a Pokemon, the more stardust it'll require to reach new levels of strength. Different Pokemon require different amounts of candy to evolve -- 12 for some, 25 for others, 400 to turn the flopping useless fish Pokemon Magikarp into its ultimate form.

Also, the candy needs to be the same type as the Pokemon you're upgrading, meaning you need to capture a lot of the very same Pokemon, over and over again, to get enough candy to help them reach their full potential.

You typically get a few matching candy when you catch one, and one more if you give away unwanted Pokemon (look for a Transfer button near the bottom of any Pokemon's info page). But you may not want to transfer some of your weakest Pokemon (like Pidgey, Weedle, and Caterpie) because it's more valuable to evolve them to increase your trainer's XP -- since evolving those particular Pokemon only costs 12 candies each.

Now for the big question.

Should you evolve before you power up? Or power up before you evolve?

We don't actually have an answer to that question right now. There are several theories going around internet forums advocating each approach, but we haven't necessarily found them to be true. We tried experiments with seemingly identical Pokemon, but one of them was more powerful when we evolved it first, while the other was more powerful by powering it up first.

We'll experiment more, and we've asked Pokemon Go developer Niantic for more info, too.

But in short, here's how this game seems to work so far:

  1. Catch lots of Pokemon to get candy and stardust, and to increase your trainer level
  2. Evolve and enhance Pokemon to increase your trainer level and fight at gyms
  3. With your higher trainer level, catch more and better Pokemon, evolve and enhance them more
  4. Transfer old Pokemon when needed to clear space and get additional candy
  5. Rinse and repeat.