Once you hit level five in Pokémon Go, you can pit your creatures against others at your neighborhood Pokémon Gym — for fame, glory, and some Pokécoins, of course.
But how do you go about getting to a gym, fighting, and winning? Here's the deal.
Update: It looks like Pokémon Go has once again changed the rules when it comes to both taking down and leveling up a Gym. This time, though, instead of making it easier to tear down and harder to build up, they've added some much-needed balance. According to Reddit, here's the new prestige math:
First: Find a Pokémon Gym
Gyms are pretty well-marked on the Pokémon Go map: They're the largest, tallest landmarks out there. Like Pokéstops, you can tap on one to find out where, exactly, it exists in the real world, but you can't actually battle until you're in the immediate vicinity.
Pre level 5, visiting a gym won't do too much: The Professor will pop up and let you know to come back once you're a bit more experienced. Once you hit that level cap, however, you can visit a gym and be asked to choose a team affiliation: Instinct (Yellow), Mystic (Blue), or Valor (Red). When you fight at gyms, you're fighting to maintain control for your team — as such, make sure you choose wisely.
How to play at Neutral, Friendly, or Enemy gyms
Once you've chosen a team, you can fight at gyms. They're marked in three ways: neutral, friendly, or enemy.
A neutral gym can be claimed by any of the three teams; to claim a gym, you assign one of your Pokémon to hang out and fight for you (and your team). You can only assign one of your Pokémon per gym — once a gym is claimed, it becomes a level 2 friendly or enemy gym, and has a spot for up to one other Pokémon from a member of that faction.
If a member of your faction holds the gym, you can spar amongst your teammates to raise your gym's prestige, and thus, its level — the higher the gym's level, the more Pokémon that your different team members can station there (and the harder it becomes to overthrow). Gyms range from level 2 (two Pokémon from different members of your faction) to level 10 (ten Pokémon from different members of your faction), and Pokémon are ordered from lowest CP (combat power) to highest.
Once you've added a Pokémon to a friendly gym — whether you've conquered it for your team or are joining an established gym — that Pokémon goes to live at the gym until it's been conquered. You're not responsible for "playing" those opposing fights, and won't have access to train your Pokémon until it's been returned after the conquering of that gym — so choose the Pokémon you'll leave wisely.
When training at a gym, you can choose just one Pokémon to spar with your teammates; as long as you win at least one fight, your gym's prestige and level improves. (Bonus tip: If you battle your teammates with a lower-CP Pokémon and win one fight, you'll gain more prestige points and personal XP than if you crush a couple Pokémon with a super-high CP pal.)
Enemy gyms are, well — the enemy! As such, you fight at an opposing gym to reduce your opponent's prestige and eventually conquer it for your own team.
Unlike training at friendly gyms, you can use up to six of your Pokémon against the up to 10 gym leaders. Winning will net you personal experience points, subtract from your opponent's Gym prestige, and — with enough battling — remove your enemy's claim to that gym.
Okay, but how do I get good enough to win fights?
If you want to be the best Pokémon Trainer in all the land, you have to level up some Pokémon to do your dirty work. Unlike the original Nintendo games, you don't level up your creatures by fighting other ones in the wild; instead, you catch Pokémon to earn Stardust and Candy. Those two items can help either Power Up or Evolve your critters.
Generally, I recommend avoiding using your Stardust until you reach level 20 and start catching higher-level base creatures; if you want to start battling early, however, spend it on just one or two Pokémon (ideally who are already at a relatively high CP) to start out, then expand your roster at level 20.
How to fight at a gym
Okay, so you've got your trained-up Pokémon and you're ready to fight — either by training at one of your own gyms, or smashing an opponent's. How do you actually, y'know... fight?
Match up Pokémon with their opposing types before a battle
You might be woefully undermatched against an opposing Gym, but you can still do well and damage their Gym's Prestige if you know one simple trick: How to match up an opposing Pokémon's type and element. Each creature has a primary type, which usually matches up to some sort of element. And, as in the real world, some elements are more successful than others.
Build a good lineup (or a solid trainee)
If you're playing at a friendly Gym, you'll just have one Pokémon to fight your entire gym's lineup; at enemy gyms, however, you can swap between your creatures at any time during a fight. If your primary Pokémon faints, you'll automatically swap to the next in the rotation, but you can also tap the Swap Pokémon button to choose a different creature mid-fight if your first one's running low on health or isn't being effective against your enemy.
How to dodge and attack effectively
The name of the game is tapping and swiping — with the occasional tap-and-hold to use your Pokémon's Special Power. When you enter a Gym battle, you'll be able to hit your opponent at any time after the "Go!" command has been given — and they'll be able to hit you, too.
To attack your opponent, just tap anywhere on the screen; you'll see a "Very effective!" or "Not very effective," followed by a drop in their HP — or a "Dodged!" if they avoided your attack. But this isn't your mom's Pokémon game: This fight is simultaneous, so there's no real wait-and-see to find out if you managed to hurt your opponent or not. You just have to go and be quick on the draw.
The best way to win a battle is the art of the Dodge. You can dodge any attack your opponent throws at you with the right timing — though you may not escape all their damage, your Pokémon will be a lot happier off than if it had to take it all at face value.
To dodge, look for the speed lines emanating from the attacking Pokémon: This is the cue that lets you know when to swipe left or right to get out of the way. Ignore the opposing creature's attack animations — in some cases, you'll see the "attack" hit your Pokémon long before the actual damage shows up. The damage is what matters, however, and by watching for the speed lines, you can dodge it.
Once you've dodged, you may be able to get in one or two basic attacks before your opponent's had a chance to reset — especially if you've just dodged one of their Special Attacks. Once you see those speed lines appear, however, dodge again to start this damage-dodge-damage chain all over again.
Once you've built up enough basic attack damage, you'll charge your Special Attack: When you see one of the blue bars underneath your HP light up and glow, you can tap and hold on the screen to unleash your top-tier battle move. Two black bars will sink down on either side to let you know the attack is occuring. While this is happening, you can't add any other fight moves, nor can you dodge an opponent's attack.
How to keep a gym for your team (and earn mad cash and Stardust)
Once you've conquered a gym for your team, it's time to leave a Pokémon there to defend it. You can choose any of your creatures, though once you do, they're stuck there until they get defeated, and you can't level them up in the meantime.
If you happen to stumble across a gym that's already owned by your team, you can train it up to add an extra slot for your Pokémon — or, if it's of a higher-level than there are Pokémon inside it, you can just add one of your creatures right away.
Once you conquer a gym, you can visit the Shop daily (once every 20 hours) to collect the fruits of your labor: free Pokécoins and some extra Stardust. It's a great way to circumvent the insanity of in-app purchases and generate some nice rep for your team.
Have other questions about battling in Pokémon Gyms? Let us know below.
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Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.