Pokémon Go is, by and large, a peaceful game; one which brings people together, gets kids out of the house, and infuriates cynics across the land. But that could all be about to change, thanks to the Pokémon Go Teams.
Alright so it's probably not going to be quite so dramatic as children warring in the streets - or in their local McDonald's restaurant - but Pokémon Go Teams do add an interesting competitive mechanic to the game which may well be yet to see it's full potential. As things stand, there's relatively little to separate the teams apart from a few minor distinguishing points that we'll discuss below.
This is an important decision however - unlike changing your name or Trainer appearance, you cannot change your Team choice (yet) in Pokémon Go, and in the future, there's good reason to believe that your choice of Pokémon Go Team could have a significant impact on your experience - possibly even affecting your chances of catching a Legendary Pokémon.
Pokémon Go Teams Valor, Mystic, and Instinct - and their leaders
You're prompted to join one once your Trainer reaches Level 5 and you tap on a nearby Gym. At this point, you'll be introduced to the three teams and leaders - who were revealed in full at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con - each have their own personal philosophy on Pokémon.
Team Instinct - Yellow - Zapdos
Team Instinct - who presumably drew inspiration for their name from one of the teams on The Apprentice - are lead by a chap named Spark. Here's what he has to say:
Pokémon are creatures with excellent intuition. I bet the secret to their intuition is related to how they're hatched. Come and join my team. You never lose when you trust your instinct!
Team Mystic - Blue - Articuno
Team Mystic are led by Blanche, who has this to say:
The wisdom of Pokémon is immeasurably deep. I'm researching why it is that they evolve. My team? With our calm analysis of every situation, we can't lose!
Team Valor - Red - Moltres
Headed up by Candela, Team Valor are apparently all about Pokémon's strength:
Pokémon are stronger than humans, and they're warmhearted, too! I'm researching ways to enhance Pokémon's natural power in the pursuit of true strength. There's no doubt that the Pokémon our team have trained are the strongest in battle!
What does your choice of Pokémon Go team do, and which is the best?
As we noted above, there really isn't anything confirmed at this point which is affected by your choice of Team. The only notable impact Pokémon Go Teams have on the game involve the Gyms, where you fight on behalf of your team to take and hold the Gym with your own Pokémon, and other team members can join in the attack or defense. (They also chat to you when you do CP Appraisals of your Pokemon, and while all three have their own phrases, each will grade them in the same way.)
That being said, there are a couple of rumours and suggestions circulating about what your Team choice could mean down the line, the main one involving the Legendary Birds, Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres.
You'll have noticed that each Legendary Bird is tied to each of the Teams as a mascot - Zapdos for Instinct, Articuno for Mystic, and Moltres for Valor - but there's also a relatively obvious clue to Teams' significance in the Team leaders' names. Spark, Blanche, and Candela speak rather blatantly to the Electric, Ice, and Fire types respectively. Given that Articuno and Blanche relate to Ice - rather than Water, which might have indicated more of a generic reference to starter types - it's not beyond reason to suggest there's something more going on here than just a bit of symbolism.
What that actually means though is still unclear. Being totally speculative here, it could be that maybe after a certain period of time, Niantic take stock of how many gyms are owned by each Team and afford them a chance at catching their respective Legendary Bird.
It could be something else similar, or it could be nothing at all. Regardless, the developer does have a history of time-limited events with their previous game Ingress, as do license-holders Nintendo with their own Mythical Pokémon distributions, which is what gives us reason to believe that Gyms and the Legendary Birds - which are still absent for now - will have a part to play in your choice of Team. In terms of those Legendary Birds meanwhile, here's everything we know about Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres and the other Legendaries so far.
Want more help with Pokémon Go? As well as our Pokémon Go tips, tricks and guides page, you can look up the Gen 2 Pokédex on how to catch the most recent creatures, using Special Items such as the Dragon Scale and other methods. The update also introduced changes to Eevee evolutions, Egg hatching distances, best Pokémon, moves and Buddy distances. Elsewhere, you can read about how Gyms, promo codes and the Pokémon Go Plus accessory works, and the many ways of earning experience with our XP chart.
Which Pokémon Go Team should you choose?
That's a hard one to answer. On the one hand, if our theory about Legendary Birds and Gym capturing is roughly correct, then joining the team with the most members - believed to be Valor at the time of writing, if the following image from the Adobe marketing blog is anything to go by - will likely give you the greatest chance of success on a Team-wide scale.
On the other hand, less team members means less people owning the relative Legendary Bird. So joining the least popular Team - allegedly Team Instinct at the moment - could give you the chance to own the rarest of the three in Zapdos, which could serve you well as bragging rights, or even an advantage in trading down the line.
The best advice we have though is that you join the same team as your friends. If you're able to play together in the same physical space, that means you can group up to take down Gyms - or defend them - and help your team along the way, which aside from all the potential benefits is just a fun, neat feature used by the game.
(For what it's worth, I personally went for Instinct even though none of my friends did, because Zapdos is one of the most competitively viable Pokémon in the competitive scene at the moment. And also because it's rad.)