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Best Pokémon to level or evolve for gyms in Pokémon Go

Which Pokémon are worth evolving and powering up, and which ones should go back to the Professor?

As you catch Pokémon in Pokémon Go, you collect Stardust and Candy, which can be used to level up and evolve your pocket monsters.

But how should you best spend that hard-caught Stardust and Candy? What Pokémon are the best for evolving and leveling up for gym battles, and which ones should just be transferred back to the professor? Here’s the deal.

Wait and stockpile

It’s tempting to spend your Stardust powering up the first powerful Pokémon you catch — god knows, I did this to my Clefable after catching it my very first day playing.

But in all honesty, until you hit level 20, it’s not really worth it: In those first twenty levels, you’re far more likely to catch unevolved Pokémon in the wild with higher stats than a Pokémon you caught at level 2 and spent thousands of Stardust on. I spent a lot on the Kadabra in the above picture, only to catch another Abra later in the game that was only 20CP lower than the evolved version.

Pokémon Go has also run a couple of events now: Halloween, where candy was doubled and buddy walking distance quartered, and bonuses, where Pokéstops gave out extra goodies and Pokémon spawned at an exponential rate.

Waiting for an event to get the highest candy and best spawns, especially for the Pokémon you really care about or want the most, is a perfectly reasonable strategy.

Remember, you can also transfer any extraneous Pokémon for extra Candy if you’re looking to stockpile for that perfect Growlithe/Arcanine transformation.

What kind of Pokémon should I level up and evolve?

This is somewhat subjective depending on your area and what Pokémon you enjoy playing, but Gamepress has compiled a list of the Pokémon with the highest damage and CP per type.

There are a few things you want to consider when leveling up Pokémon:

  • Their hidden IV stats — stamina, attack, and defense
  • Their Combat Power (CP), HP (HP), and level arc
  • Level cost
  • Pokémon rarity
  • (Evolution only) STAB bonus

First and foremost, all Pokémon have three “hidden” stats: stamina, attack, and defense, collectively called “IV stats”. You can get a good idea of where your Pokémon ranks by having your Team Leader appraise your creature. In general, you don’t want to level up or evolve creatures with low IV stats, since there’s no way to train these up — they’re assigned to Pokémon at random.

From those base stats, CP, HP, and Level arc will dictate just how powerful you can make your Pokémon. In general, unevolved Pokémon around 400-900 CP are ideal candidates for leveling or evolving — a 550CP Eevee (which you’ll be able to catch around level 20) will turn into a mighty powerful Flareon, Jolteon, or Vaporeon for gym battles.

Anything with a lower CP isn’t worth wasting your Stardust or Candy (unless you’re trying to power-level your character). Instead, send those lower-CP creatures to the Professor for an extra Candy.

You’ll also want to look at how much Stardust and/or Candy it costs to level up or evolve your Pokémon — it’ll cost a lot less to raise the HP of a creature like Lapras than Tangela or Jolteon, for instance.

In addition, some Pokémon are simply rarer than others: If you’re trying to raise up the stats of your Vaporeon, keep in mind that you’ll also need that Eevee candy to evolve a Jolteon or Flareon.

Lastly (for powering up only), you’ll want to look at your attacks and whether they’ll award STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus). If your Vaporeon has two water-based attacks, for instance, it’ll be more powerful than a Vaporeon with a Water and a Normal-type attack. Rarer type attacks are important, too: Dragon attacks, for example, have very few vulnerabilities and can make or break a Pigeot power-up.

Note: This doesn’t apply to evolution — when you evolve a Pokémon, their attack types are randomized.

Should I level up first, or evolve first?

In my opinion, you should almost always evolve your high-CP base-evolution Pokémon, rather than spend dust leveling up a lower-level creature, then evolving it.

If you’re looking for creatures to attack or defend gyms, you’ll want to improve Pokémon once they’re evolved and give you a great HP and CP and a high level arc; otherwise, you’re just pouring lots of Stardust into a low-level creature that may never have a ton of hit points, even at its max level.

By waiting, you can also avoid leveling up a creature you think will be powerful because of its STAB attacks, but losing them on an evolution.

Okay, but what are the best Pokémon to evolve right now?

Right now, the Pokémon we’re seeing dominate in gyms are the following:

  • Dragonite
  • Snorlax
  • Vaporeon
  • Clefable
  • Wigglytuff
  • Hypno
  • Lapras
  • Flareon
  • Arcanine
  • Venomoth
  • Pidgeot
  • Golem
  • Exeggutor
  • Golduck

For more detailed numerical gaming, check out Gamepress’s gym defenders and attackers lists.

Other questions?

Have any other questions about evolving Pokémon or leveling them up? Let us know in the comments.

Originally published in July. Last updated in November with information about special events.


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