Pokémon Go Legendary Pokémon have been hotly anticipated for some time, finally arrived a year after the game released.
Fans of the classic games will remember them fondly - from the flying trio Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres to the elusive Mewtwo and Mew in Red, Blue and Yellow to Gen 2's Gold, Silver and Crystal, Legendary beasts Raikou, Entei, Suicune and final Pokédex entries Lugia, Ho-oh and Celebi and beyond.
However, from summer 2017, things have changed, and following the huge Gym rework and the addition of Raids, have now seemed them appear as part of a release schedule over the summer, which we delve into later in the article along with our advice for how to battle and catch Legendaries, too.
How to catch Legendaries and how to unlock Legendary Raids in Pokémon Go
They're here at last! Ninatic finally unlocked Legendary Pokémon in Pokémon Go following Pokémon Go Fest. Summer 2017 saw Legendary birds Moltres, Articuno and Moltres come and go, with Legendary beasts Raikou, Entei, Suicune here for Autumn - and the start of a Gen 3 Legendary rollout over the winter, starting with Groudon.
Though they are similar to standard Raid Battles in many ways, there are several differences in both their appearance and capture:
- Legendaries will only be available via Legendary Raids, the highest difficulty of Raid Battle.
- While regular Raids appear at random, Legendary Raids appear for set periods of time. For example, in Autumn 2017, the Legendary beasts Raikou, Entei and Suicune rotated between regions each month. Before that, Legendary Birds debuted for one week at a time over summer 2017. You can read the current active Legendaries later in the article.
- EX Raid Battles see certain elusive Legendaries, such as Mewtwo, require an EX Raid Pass invite before you can participate. To get an invite, you must beat a Raid Boss at that Gym before the EX Raid appears, as well as several other requirements discussed in our Raids article.
- Legendary Raid Pokémon have the highest CP of any Raid creature. For example, Articuno was at 37,603, Moltres at 41,953, Zapdos at 42,691, Lugia at 42,753 and MewTwo at a staggering 49,430.
- Once the battle is over, the Legendary still must be captured like any other Raid, though the capture rate is lower.
- Once you have captured the Legendary, you cannot use it to defend Gyms - but they can of course attack with them in subsequent Raids.
- The Buddy Distance for Legendaries is 20km per one Candy - so we'd recommend using Rare Candy rewards from Raid battles as a way to easily power them up.
Legendary Pokémon counters, availability and release schedule
Legendaries are much challenging than standard Raid battles, so will require as many players as possible.
Living in major cities with gyms at popular landmarks will naturally attract players without organising before hand - just look out for the blue and white Egg, and get there for the countdown, and provided you are in a popular spot, other players should be there waiting for it to begin.
Otherwise, joining Facebook or Discord groups for your town or area is a popular way to organise groups.
In battle, you essentially want to field powerful Pokémon with strong opposing Types. We have overall Raid Battle advice, but for Legendaries, here are our specific recommendations:
Currently active Legendary Pokémon
|Legendary Pokémon||Type||Counters||Tips||Availibility||Best Moves, Catch CP|
|Groudon (Gen 3)||Ground||Gyarados, Dragonite, Venusaur, Exeggutor||Weak against Ice, Grass, Water. Is very far away during capture, with rapid attacks, so straight throws might be easier.||January 15, 9pm UK / 1pm PST||N/A|
|Kyogre (Gen 3)||Water||Jolteon, Raikou, Venusaur, Exeggutor||Weak against Electric, Grass. Like Groudon it is far away, and moves side-to-side regularly; as such, play without AR and throw only when it's about to return to the centre (the 'end' of it's movement) to increase your chances.||February 14, 9pm UK / 1pm PST||Waterfall and Hydro Pump; 2328 (2910 with weather boost)|
|Mewtwo (Gen 1)||Psychic||Tyranitar|
|Prioritise Dark attacks if you have them, as well as powerful Psychics. Gengar can be useful but is also very fragile against the wrong moves and won't last long.||EX Raid, no end date||Confusion and Shadow Ball; 2275 (2844 with weather boost)|
With the arrival of Groudon and Kyogre, it's assumed the rest of Gen 3's Legendaries will follow in the first half of 2018. As for Mythical creatures such as Mew, it's unknown when or how they will appear.
Previously available Legendary Pokémon
|Articuno (Gen 1)||Ice, Flying||Omastar (Rock moves)|
|Prioritise Rock-type attacks to be double-effective. When catching, wait for it to drop to the lowest of its two heights, where it's in easier range, then use the attack-animation technique mentioned below.||Summer 2017|
|Moltres (Gen 1)||Fire, Flying||Omastar (Rock moves)|
|About the same difficulty as a Tyranitar Raid, due to low defenses. Prioritise Rock-type attacks to be double-effective. When catching, it doesn't move between two heights like Articuno, but has a smaller circle, so focus on using the attack-animation technique mentioned below.||Summer 2017|
|Zapdos (Gen 1)||Electric, Flying||Golem|
Piloswine (double Ice moves)
|Weak against Ice and Rock, so once again Golem is great to bring with you. During the catch phase, Zapdos is closer but moves around a lot, but will return to the centre, which is the best time to throw - so hold steady and wait until then.||Summer 2017|
|Lugia (Gen 2)||Psychic, Flying||Articuno|
|Prioritise Dark, Rock, Ice and Electric-type attacks, but beware its water-type Hydro Pump! The toughest to beat, but a large circle for catching and minimal movement. Use attack-animation technique mentioned below.||Summer 2017|
|Raikou (Gen 2)||Electric||Rhydon, Golem, Dophan||Weak against Ground, Grass creatures.||Autumn 2017|
|Entei (Gen 2)||Fire||Golem, Vaporeon, Omastar||Weak against Ground, Rock, Water creatures.||Autumn 2017|
|Suicune (Gen 2)||Ice||Zapdos, Venusaur, Jolteon||Weak against Electic, Grass creatures.||Autumn 2017|
|Ho-oh (Gen 2)||Fire, Flying||Golem, Raikou, Tyranitar, Vaporeon||Weak against Rock, Electric and Water.||Autumn 2017|
In short, the better counters and more players you have, the more chance you'll have of taking the Legendary down, but you're not done there!
How to capture Legendary Pokémon
Like other Raid encounters, once a Legendary's defeated you have to then catch it. This is difficult seeing as, according to research available from Pokémon Go community The Silph Road, your chances are pretty slim.
- The base catch rate for Legendary Pokémon, aside from Mewtwo, is currently 3% - meaning with no modifiers of any kind, throwing the ball straight, not using any berries and not even getting a "Nice" throw, you have a 1 in 33 chance of catching the Pokémon - not great odds.
- There are several ways of increasing your chances - Golden Razz Berries and Curveballs (when you spin the PokéBall before releasing your throw) drastically increase your chances, whilst Nice, Great, and Excellent throws increase those chances further respectively, and there's also a small bonus for having a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal (see more in our guide to Pokémon Go Catch Bonuses).
- A Golden Razz Berry, Curveball, and Excellent throw, with a Gold medal for that Legendary's Type, give you a 24% chance of catching the Legendary - meaning one in roughly four throws like this will catch it, which is much better considering the roughly 5-13 balls that will be available!
- Mewtwo's base catch rate is currently a 6% chance - meaning it's considerably easier to catch than the other legendaries, and actually easier than some Tier 4 Raid bosses, too!
If that's not clear enough, here's a handy image, created by reddit user and Silph Road member Epimetheos:
With the above in mind, what can you do to increase your chances of catching Legendary Pokémon? It's recommended you:
- Attempt Curved and Nice, Great or Excellent throws (landing the ball in the centre of the circle - the smaller the better)
- Using a Golden Razz Berry between every catch attempt
- Level up as many relevant Catch Bonus medals as possible to Gold by catching wild creatures of the same Type
- As well as increasing the chances of individual throws, you want to have as many attempts as possible by earning more Premier Balls for the catch phase. One way is to target a Gym controlled by your team (which can be somewhat out of your control), and another is dealing a high amount of damage. It's worth noting your contribution is wiped out when your team faints, so you want to keep them alive for the entire fight, and one way of doing that is bring high defense tank creatures (Snorlax and Blissey) so you can absorb a lot of damage.
- Finally, you want to land as many Premier Balls you can. Legendaries and other high level Raid creatures attack very regularly, and since they are immune during these attacks, you can waste a lot of opportunities simply trying to land a single ball. While these attacks are random, there is a way to avoid them; by observing these attacks, and throwing the ball before the animation ends, the ball will land in the vulnerable window between attacks. This Silph Road thread discusses the practice in detail, as well as the following video from Mesa:
What we already knew about Legendary Pokémon Mewtwo, Mew, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, as well as Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Lugia, Ho-oh and Celebi in Pokémon Go
Before we even heard their presence was confirmed in the big Gym rework, we already knew the various Legendaries were in the game.
That's thanks to some good old-fashioned datamining. NesstendoYT on YouTube was one major player, who dug through the game's files to discover that the above first generation Legendary Pokémon are indeed listed in the game:
Their absence in the game led to plenty of speculation, particularly with one of the strongest and most famous Legendary Pokémon - Mewtwo - being the focus of one of the game's first trailers, showing crowds of people teaming up to fight it, whittling down its health as a timer ticks down before capturing the Pokémon in a packed Times Square, suggesting that Mewtwo and other Legendaries could be unlocked through public events rather than random encounters.
That's since been confirmed of course - but it's interesting Mewtwo pops up again at the end of the trailer... maybe that's the Legendary Raid that needs to be tackled in Chicago?
As for Gen 2's Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Lugia, Ho-oh and Celebi, they've appeared in datamining efforts, too, with their stats showing up alongside the likes of the birds, Mew and Mewtwo.
These stats reveal them to be among the best Pokémon in our Pokémon Go tier list, with Mewtwo and Ho-Oh having some of the highest base attacks in the game, more so than existing creatures Alakazam and Dragonite.
The datamine also revealed that these creatures have no capture rate at all, so perhaps that lends itself to the theory that Legendaries will automatically be caught after defeating them in a Legendary Raid?
On the hunt for more Pokémon go tips and tricks? Recently we've seen the introduction of the monthly Pokémon Go Community Day event and 20 new Gen 3 Pokémon, Legendary Kyogre, the arrival of weather effects and Star Pieces, as well as recent changes to region exclusives, additional Baby Pokémon and other additions to the 2km, 5km and 10km Egg chart. Ever-expanding Pokédex completionists, meanwhile, might want to read about the various Special Items available as well as the various methods for determining Eevee evolutions, too.
The history of Legendaries in Pokémon Go
We knew for some time that Legendaries were coming, but what's the story, and how did we get to this point?
When did we think Legendaries were coming? The Legendary teases:
The biggest suggestion to date came from a five word acceptance speech from Niantic during the 21st Annual Webby Awards: "This summer will be legendary", a heavy hint we were set to see something soon:
That seemed to have been corroborated by the latest trickle of information, where Niantic suggested that "Legendary Pokémon and battles between players" were set to arrive some time this summer.
Whether this was going to happen at the same time as the implementation of the new Raids feature or a little while after was unknown, although things certainly did at least appear to be tying together quite nicely at that point.
The first Legendary Pokémon spotted in Pokémon Go - but how did it appear?
Back in early August of 2016, before any of this official news was even close to being announced, a player topped a Gym in Ohio with an Articuno, which is said to be the first Legendary appearance in the game. Multiple players verified the sighting, but how the player got the creature is in question. Amazingly, the owner claimed she received the Pokémon as part of an apology from developer Niantic after contacting them via email about an issue.
Other possibilities could be an exploit that has edited the creature's data to appear in the game, an error that has seen one spawn accidentally, or a glitch turn another Pokemon into the famed Legendary, similar to a case reported by a user who had their wild Caterpie transform into a Charizard once in their possession.
What else we know about Legendary Pokémon in Pokémon Go
Finally, it's also worth pointing out - for history's sake, at the very least - that all this time there's been a hunt of Legendary Pokémon in plain sight, with users who have progressed to level 5 and interacted with a gym find themselves invited to one of three teams - Team Instinct, Team Mystic, or Team Valor - which are shown to be tied to Zapdos, Articuno and Moltres respectively. Could participating in teams play a part in how you unlock these particular Pokémon? It could still be the case that those Legendary Birds are tied to special Team-specific Raids at some point down the line.
The addition of Pokémon Go's Buddy system also paves the way for players to earn Candy and power up rare creatures without the need to catch any more - perfect for ultra rare Pokémon such as Legendaries. Meanwhile, the eventual arrival of Ditto - which was just as elusive as the Legendaries for sometime - is at least a sign that Niantic have been slowly working their way towards introducing all of the game's missing Pokémon.
In the meantime, an upcoming update will introduce Pokémon trading to help flesh out the gaps in your Pokédex, and our Pokémon Go guide, tips and tricks page to pick up a few pointers you might not know.
Additional reporting by Chris Tapsell.