Much like the main Pokémon games, alongside the standard combat modifiers like Type advantages and weaknesses, it turns out Pokémon Go has a whole secret layer of stats for every creature in the game, with hidden values for a Pokémon's Attack, Defence, and Stamina that's linked to their CP. And like the main Pokémon games, it's possible to expose these values and maximise them to make your Pokémon as strong as possible.

Stronger, higher CP Pokémon - along with Pokémon that have the most powerful, highest DPS moves, means winning more battles, winning more battles means taking more Gyms, allowing you to get free PokeCoins (and pride) in the process.

So what exactly are all these hidden stats, what do they mean, and how can you use them to get the best, strongest Pokémon in Pokémon Go with the maximum CP possible? Thanks to the work of Pokémon Go community The Silph Road, we know how.

Pokémon Go CP explained: What is CP and how is CP calculated?

CP, or Combat Points, is a measure of how strong your Pokémon will be in battle against another Pokémon, and is actually a combination of several hidden stats. Each Pokémon in Pokémon Go has a set of Base Stats for Attack, Defence, and Stamina, along with a hidden Level and a hidden modifier for those Base Stats, known as a Pokémon's IVs.

It's not worth going into too much detail on how all of those stats work (you can read the nitty gritty details over at this fan-run wiki) but they can essentially be explained with a nice little analogy about dogs:

Greyhounds, often used for dog racing, are a naturally fast breed of dog. Bulldogs, not so fast. Just like Greyhounds are naturally speedy, Dragonites, as a Pokémon species, have naturally high Attack - or, in other words, a naturally high Base Stat for Attack - contrast that with Machokes which, despite having decent Attack, are somewhat puny by comparison.

However, every now and then you might get a Greyhound that is so slow, and a Bulldog that is so fast, that out of these two individual dogs the Bulldog is actually faster. So, in Pokémon Go, you might get such a naturally low-Attack Dragonite, and naturally high-Attack Machoke, that you'll hit the point where the Machoke actually has a higher overall Attack than the Dragonite. That's because the Individual Values of the Machoke - basically its genes - are considerably stronger than those of the Dragonite. In Pokémon Go, IVs are given a value out of 15 for each stat, so a spread of 15/15/15 across Attack, Defence, and Stamina would be considered perfect IVs.

Finally, you have the Pokémon Level. In brief, a Pokémon Level is like how hard the Pokémon has been training, so again, a more well-trained Machoke with a higher Level might have an overall higher Attack than an untrained Dragonite. Raising a Pokémon's Level is easy enough - each time you use the Power Up function in-game, it raises that Pokémon by half a level. Note that the Level always caps out at a maximum of 1.5 Levels above your own Trainer Level, but that maximum does still increase alongside your Trainer Level over time. You can get a rough estimate of a Pokémon's Level from the white curved bar above its head - a bar all the way to the right means the Pokémon is at its current maximum Level, and a bar all the way to the left means it's at its minimum Level, which is always Level 1.

So, a combination of a Pokémon's hidden Base Stats, IVs, and Level are what dictate its CP - the higher the better, but remember that just because that Drowzee you caught has higher CP than your old one, that doesn't necessarily mean it's stronger. It might just be a higher Level.

Now you're probably wondering - how do you find Pokémon with great Base Stats and IVs, and what's the best way to Level them up once you do?

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. We also explain big the Gym rework update, Raids, Raid Battles, and Raid Bosses, how to get Legendary Pokémon, and promo codes, and there's also info on changes to how to get PokéCoins, Eevee evolutions, Egg hatching distances, the tier list and best Pokémon, the best moves and movesets and Buddy distances. Plus, you can read about the Pokémon Go Plus accessory works, and even our XP chart.

How to find out approximate CP and IV values within Pokémon Go with the Appraisal feature

In a bid to combat third-party apps, in August Niantic added the ability for Trainers to 'Appraise' a Pokémon's IV stats inside Pokémon Go itself, with a series of phrases that hint at how powerful they will be in battle.

To get an Appraisal of your Pokemon, tap the menu in the bottom right corner and select Appraisal when viewing it, and then your chosen Team Leader will give you the low down.

Each Team Leader will have their own set of phrases, but they all fall into four categories - Great, Good, OK and Bad. Here's what Team Mystic has to say (thanks to Amallah on Reddit for the descriptions) for the overall status of your Pokemon:

  • Great (82%-100% / 37-45) - Overall, your (Pokémon) is a wonder! What a breathtaking Pokemon!
  • Good (67%-80%) - Overall, your (Pokémon) has certainly caught my attention.
  • OK (51%-49%) - Overall, your (Pokémon) is above average.
  • Bad (0% to 49%) - Overall, your (Pokémon) is not likely to make much headway in battle.

As well as an overall look at the Pokémon's IV, it'll also tell you which of its HP, Attack and Defense stats it performs well in. Again, this is out of four categories. Remember that IVs each rank out of 15, and though a Pokémon could rank 'Great' overall, it could then suffer in a key stat that makes that Pokémon particularly noteworthy.

The Team Leader will also tell you about its size, which to date has yet to be a factor in any aspect of training in Pokémon Go, suggesting it might have some use in the future.

How should you use the new Appraisal feature?

Appraisal is a very handy way to know at a glance whether you have a 'Great' Pokémon on your hands. You want to hear that astounded response in the overall stat, as well in the specific stat category you are targeting, to let you know it's a keeper.

An important factor to consider is Pokémon rarity and whether it is one of the best Pokémon in the game. For example, if you have a Snorlax - one of the best creatures to put in a gym with its high health - with a low HP stat, that makes it a less attractive proposition. But then again, because it's rare, you might not have any alternative Snorlax to rely on. Of course, an average Snorlax will still perform better than others in its field, so it could still be worth Powering up.

Ultimately, these phrases are specific enough to give you an off-the-cuff feel for its strengths, but is vague enough that you'll want to do more research before you decide to invest your Stardust and Candy; remember the overall 'Great' phrase means it's between 82% and 100% of its potential, so it'll be helpful to know exactly how strong it is. Read on for how you can find out.

How to get the highest CP and IVs in Pokémon Go

The best Pokémon in Pokémon Go - in terms of battling that is; you might think Jigglypuff's the best looking, and more power to you - is the Pokémon with the highest possible CP when it's at maximum Level, with perfect IVs. Here's how you do it, step by step:

  1. Pick your Pokémon from our ranked list of the strongest Pokémon in Pokémon Go.
  2. Go and catch it! You can use our list of all possible Pokémon locations for help.
  3. Once you have your Pokémon of choice - let's say a Dratini - you then need to figure out whether it's any good. To do that, you'll need to find its Level and IVs, which are invisible in-game. But worry not! The community have put together a variety of IV calculators, which give you a percentage estimate for how good your Dratini's IVs are. Our recommendation is the Silph Road, a community site with its own IV calculator.
  4. A perfect 15/15/15 set of IVs will come out as 100% in the calculator, so once you've found a Dratini which comes out as perfect - or one which is close enough to perfect for you to be happy - then it's time to evolve it.
  5. You can check out our tips for evolving Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more detail, but generally it's advisable to evolve your high-IV Pokémon before you start spending Stardust to Power Up and increase its Level. That's because each time a Pokémon evolves, although its IVs stay the same, its moveset is randomised. So you might end up with that genetically perfect Dragonite, only for it to have a rubbish set of moves that spoil all your hard work finding it.
  6. Finally, once you're happy with your perfect IV Dragonite, with the perfect moveset (check our guide to Pokémon Go moves and movesets for more on that!), it's time to Power Up your Pokémon to the maximum level. So go find more Dratini, grind them down into Dratini Candies and feed them to your Dragonite. Don't forget that your Pokémon's maximum Level increases alongside your own Trainer Level, so your Pokémon won't be the very best it can be until you yourself hit the cap at Level 40.

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About the author

Chris Tapsell

Chris Tapsell

Staff Writer

Chris Tapsell is Eurogamer's Staff Writer, its newest Chris, and a keen explorer of the dark arts of gaming, from League of Legends to the murky world of competitive Pokémon.