How to catch rare Pokémon in Pokémon Go [Updated!]

How do you catch a rare Pokémon when you find it? How do you stack bonuses to catch 'em faster? What does a Razz Berry or Pinap Berry do? How do you score a Critical Catch? Here's everything you need to know!

Updated May, 2017: Contains all the latest research and stats for stacking bonuses so you get the best catch rate possible for the most important Pokémon in the game.

Pokémon Go's slogan is "gotta catch 'em all" and that's exactly what a large part of the game play evolves. You travel around, Pokémon pop up all around you, and you try to catch them. All of them. But some Pokémon are considerably harder to catch then others. Sometimes it's because they've got a low catch rate or high flee rate. Sometimes it's their level. Sometimes it's because you're not stacking all the bonuses you could be. And sometimes it's because they're so rare you freak out and forget how to maximize your chances. Whatever the reason, here's how to make sure you catch all the rare Pokémon you come across!


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TL;DR: Give me the highlights?

If you don't want the details — though you really should read them at least once! — here's a quick cheat sheet!

  1. ABC. Always be curving. Once you can nail Curve Ball every time, you'll get a 1.7x bonus every time.
  2. Max out your medals. Some are easier to get than others but they consume no resources like Great or Ultra Balls or Razz Berries, so once you get them, that 1.05x to 1.3x is automatically applied each time.
  3. Consistency counts. Aim for the smallest target you can nail every time. If that's Nice, it's nice. If that's Great or Excellent, even nicer. But better the bonus you get then one you miss, and that extra 1.3 to 2x also doesn't consume resources and can make a difference.
  4. Razz for real. Use Razz Berries when you need to. Unlike Great or Ultra Balls, you can't miss with a Razz Berry and its 1.5x bonus will last until you hit.
  5. Bump them Balls. Use Great and Ultra Balls to maximize your odds. You get an extra 1.5x for a Great Ball and 2x for an Ultra Ball so use them to get those super rare or hard to catch Pokémon.
  6. Pinap Power: Use a Pinap Berry to get double Candy for any Pokémon you really want to evolve or power up. You can't use a Razz Berry as well, so use an Ultra Ball to make up the difference.
  7. Nanab ain't nothing: Ostensible a Nanab Berry calms a Pokémon down, making it easier to hit. In the current game, though, it seems to make little to no real difference.

If some or all of that doesn't make sense, read on for the details!

Wait, how do you FIND rare Pokémon to catch in the first place?

Fair questions! Before you can catch any Pokémon you first have to find them. And that can be easier said than done, especially for rare Pokémon like Tyranitar, Snorlax, Chancey, Togetic, Muk, and more. It took a long time for me to complete my Gen 1 North American Pokédex and get all the Gen 2 babies, but Pokémon has made some changes since then and it might just be easier for Gen 2! That's due to the new Nearby, the restored Sightings, and crowdsourced tools like the nest atlas and Facebook groups. Put it all together, and you have a really good chance of finding all the rare Pokémon you need!

Learn how to find rare Pokémon in Pokémon Go Gen

How do you catch a Pokémon in Pokémon Go

There's a lot to unpack here but just to make sure we're all starting on the same page, this is the basic catch mechanic in Pokémon Go:

  1. Tap the Pokémon you want to catch.
  2. Wait for the catch screen to load and the Pokémon to come into view.
  3. Touch and hold on the Poké Ball.
  4. Flick the Poké Ball at the Pokémon on the screen.

Hit the Pokémon and it'll get sucked into the Poké Ball. From there, it'll try to fight its way out for a couple of shakes. If it can't, you'll get a "Gotcha!" notification and the Pokémon is yours. If it's tough enough, though, it'll break free and either give you another chance to catch it, or flee.

What's a 'Critical Catch' in Pokémon Go?

Critical Catch is a new game mechanic that launched alongside Pokémon Go Gen 2. When you hit a Critical Catch, there's no shaking and no chance for a Pokémon to escape or flee. Instead, you see some brief fireworks from the Pokéball and the Pokémon is captured immediately.

Oh, yeah. It's on.

Right now it Critical Catch feels random. Every time you throw a Poké Ball, there's a chance it could be a Critical Catch. It's possible either now or in the future other factors may influence Critical Catch, including medals.

For now, just enjoy it when you get it. It means whatever Pokémon you hit is caught, right and proper.

What about Shiny Pokémon, how do you catch those?

There are currently only two Shiny (color variant) Pokémon in Pokémon Go:

  • Shiny gold Magikarp
  • Shiny red Gyarados

The bad news is they're incredibly rare. You can't tell if a Pokémon is Shiny or not until you try to catch it, and even if a specific Magikarp or Gyarados is Shiny for someone else, that doesn't mean it'll be Shiny for you. It's been theorized that there's only a 1/300 chance a Magikarp or Gyarados will turn out to be Shiny. Given how rare Gyarados spawns are already, well, you do the math.

The good news is, if you come across a Shiny Pokémon, it's no harder to catch than a regular Pokémon. And Magikarp is just about the easiest Pokémon to catch in the game!

What are catch rates?

Note: With the launch of Gen 2, all the Pokémon in Gen 1 have become easier to catch by about 25%. For example, Magikarp has gone from 56% to 70% and Dragonite has gone from 4% to 5%.

Pokémon Go works off a "random number generator" (RNG). Think of it like rolling dice in a board game. Any time something major happens, the Pokémon Go servers generate a random number to decide the outcome. Everything from which Pokémon spawns to whether you successfully catch it or it runs away is decided by the RGN.

When it comes to catching Pokémon, every Pokémon has a base "catch rate" or a percentage chance for you to catch them. That base catch rate is then multiplied by the Pokémon's level to get the actual catch rate at the time of your encounter. (Yes, just like trainers, Pokémon have levels.)

Magikarp are the easiest to catch, now at close to 70%. That means, by just throwing a regular Poké Ball without any curves or bonuses, there's slightly more than a 2 in 3 chance to catch it.

The hardest to catch give you a 4%. That means, by just throwing a regular Poké Ball without curves or any other bonuses, there's only a 1 in 25 chance you'll catch them.

That number is then multiplied by the Pokémon's level. Basically, the higher the Pokémon's level, the harder it is to catch. In other words, a level 1 Margikarp is a 100% certainty while a level 30 Dragonite would be under 3%.

You can see the new list on Silph Road.

Does the position of the Pokémon on screen make a difference?

Some Pokémon are right up in your face and easy to hit. Others, like Golbat or Ponyta hover or linger further away, making them harder to hit. Distance doesn't affect catch rate though. As long as you hit your target, you have the same chance to catch that target. And it's only once you hit it that catch rate matters.

Pro tip: If you're having trouble hitting a far-away Pokémon, switch to AR mode and tilt your screen. That'll bring them in closer and make them easier to hit.

What about your own trainer level, does that give you a bonus?

Not directly, no. The higher your level the higher the level Pokémon you can encounter in the wild — up to the cap of level 30. But there are no bonuses as such awarded for being a higher level.

Is catch rate x Pokémon level why some low CP Pokémon are so hard to catch? (?!)

Sort of. When you a see a Pokémon on your catch screen you also see the CP (Combat Power) of that Pokémon. If the CP are low we tend to think the level is low, making it easier to catch. But CP doesn't just depend on level, it also depends on stats (IV).

So, a Pokémon with low CP could be a low-level Pokémon with good stats or it could also be a high-level Pokémon with lousy stats.

In other words, if a low CP Pokémon keeps escaping your Poké Ball, odds are it's a lousy Pokémon that just happens to be high level and may not be worth your continued time and resources trying to catch.

What are flee rates?

Every Pokémon also has a base "flee rate". When a Pokémon escapes your Poké Ball, the dice get rolled again. If the random number generated is higher than the flee rate, they'll stay around and let you try to catch them again. If it's lower, they'll disappear in a puff of smoke and frustration.

The big difference between catch rates and flee rates is that, while catch rates can be modified down by Pokémon level and up by catch bonuses, flee rates are always the same. So far, in the game, nothing alters them.

Currently, the lowest flee rate is 5%. That means, if you catch one of those, there's only a 1 in 20 chance they'll flee. Counterintuitively, some of the most highly evolved and powerful Pokémon have the lowest flee rate, including Dragonite, Alakazam, Venusaur, Charizard, Blastoise, and many more.

Gamepress has the full list of flee rates for Pokémon Go, if you want to check them out.

Generally speaking, though, almost all Pokémon fall under 15%. Also counterintuitively, the ones at 20% are the Pidgey, Rattata, Zubat, and other most-common spawns. (That's why they feel like they run so always.)

The big outlier is Abra, which has a 99% flee rate. It's meant to emulate the way Abra would teleport away in the Pokémon animated series, but it really means there's only a 1 in 100 chance Abra will stay around if you don't nail him with the first Poké Ball.

Is there a higher chance for a Pokémon to flee the more times it escapes?

Not really. The flee rate is always the same. The more times it escapes, though, the more often you risk it fleeing. So, if a Dragonite breaks free, it has a 5% chance of fleeing. If it breaks out again, the chance is still only 5%, but it's another chance. Same with the 10th or 20th breakout.

It's what makes super hard to catch yet low flee rate Pokémon so exciting/frustrating. You can throw every Ultra and Great Ball you have at a Dragonite and it can keep escaping yet never fleeing, draining you down.

What's the difference between Poké Ball, Great Ball, and Ultra Ball?

Everyone starts off with Poké Balls, which are the standard way to catch Pokémon. They're useful but they offer no additional bonuses to successfully complete the catch. As you increase in level, you get access to more powerful items:

  • Level 1: Poké Ball (red).
  • Level 12: Great Ball (blue).
  • Level 20: Ultra Ball (yellow).

Great and Ultra Balls modify the catch rate, making it harder for Pokémon to escape. (They don't effect flee rate, so if a Pokémon does escape, it still has the same chance to flee.)

  • Poké Ball: x1
  • Great Ball: x1.5
  • Ultra Ball: x2

You can follow all the math on The Silph Road.

What about Curve Balls?

Throwing a Curve Ball is believed to be equivalent to x1.7:

  • Curve Poké Ball: x1.7
  • Curve Great Ball: x2.55
  • Curve Ultra Ball: x3.4

You can follow all the Curve Ball math at Gamepress.

So you should always be curving?

Since a curve Poké Ball has a 1.7x modifier and a regular Great Ball only has a 1.5x modifier, yeah. ABC. Always be curving!

Razz Berry — what's the modifier on the Razz Berry?

The Razz Berry bonus is 1.5, same as Great Ball and slightly less than Curve Ball, but since bonuses stack, it can make all those things even better.

  • Poké Ball + Razz Berry: x1.5
  • Great Ball + Razz Berry: x2.25
  • Ultra Ball + Razz Berry: x3
  • Curve Poké Bal + Razz Berry: x2.55
  • Curve Great Ball + Razz Berry: x3.825
  • Curve Ultra Ball + Razz Berry: x5.1

Nanab Berry — what is it and what does it do?

Nanab Berry looks like a banana. You can use one the same way you use a Razz Berry and, while they also make a Pokémon easier to catch, they do it in a different way.

A Razz Berry increases your catch rate, so if you hit Pokémon with a Poké Ball it's less likely to escape. A Nanab Berry slows down the Pokémon, making it easier to hit with a Poké Ball to begin with.

That said, most Pokémon aren't that hard to hit, even if they are ducking and dodging around. And a Nanab Berry doesn't stop all movement, just the more erratic movement.

So, right now, a Nanab Berry might not matter much.

What's a Pinap Berry and does it help catch as well?

Pinap Berry look like pineapples. They don't affect catch rate, though, or help you get a Pokémon in any way. Instead, if you use a Pinap Berry and then immediately catch a Pokémon — and it doesn't escape or flee! — you get double candy for that Pokémon.

That makes it great to use on any high-value Pokémon you want to evolve or power up, like Dratini or Larvitar. It basically makes it like catching two Pokémon at once.

Note: There's a bug in the current version of Pokémon Go that shows 5 instead of 6 Candy on the catch screen. You'll see the correct amount on the Pokémon screen, though. (See the Dratini image far right, above.)

How do Throw Bonuses factor in?

Those colored target rings that appear on Pokémon and then slowly shrink in size reward accuracy. Hit inside that circle and you'll get a bonus. The circles shrink smoothly but there are three distinct levels for bonuses.

  • Large target: Nice!
  • Medium target: Great!
  • Tiny target: Excellent

When you nail one, you'll get a Nice! Great! or Excellent! acknowledgment on screen. Just like the targets shrink smoothly, so do the bonuses increase smoothly. The smaller the target you hit, the higher the bonus you get.

The range is between 1x for barely making the target at all to 2x for nailing it dead center. Here's how the on-screen acknowledgments seem to break it down.

  • Nice: 1x to 1.3x
  • Great: 1.3 to 1.7x
  • Excellent: 1.7 to 2x.

For the math, see Gamepress.

So, you should always aim for Excellent?

Yes and no. If you're Bullseye, Hawkeye, the Green Arrow, or otherwise have perfect aim and timing and can nail Excellent every time, sure. Go for it. Enjoy the bonus. If you miss a little or a lot, though, you get no bonus.

When you factor in Pokémon jumping and attacking, which disrupts the target, with Curve Balls, which you want to throw, and the different distances required for different Pokémon, it can be a lot to process. Start slow and low and work your way up.

In other words, you're better off aiming for Great if you can hit it consistently than Excellent if you can't, and Nice is better than Great if you miss that more than you hit.

Does the color of the target ring reflect the real-time catch rate?

It may, but given how hard it is to "read" slight variances in color spectrum, it's better to think of it as a rough guide. It's easy to see the difference between a Poké Ball and an Ultra Ball, and with or without Razz Berry as well. Medal bonuses are tougher to discern.

The target color can be anywhere on the spectrum from red (hard catch) to green (easy catch) with yellow in between. So, to artificially freeze-frame the catch rates:

  • Reddish: "0"-20%
  • Orangish: 20-40%
  • Yellowish: 40-60%
  • Limeish: 60-80%
  • Greenish: 80-100%

How do Medal Bonuses work?

Medals have existed in Pokémon Go since launch. Medal Bonuses, however, were introduced later. Let's start with the current type medals:

  • Bug: Bug Catcher Medal
  • Dragon: Dragon Tamer
  • Electric: Rocker
  • Fairy: Fairy Tale Girl
  • Fight: Black Belt
  • Fire: Kindler
  • Flying: Bird Keepr
  • Ghost: Hex Maniac
  • Grass: Gardener
  • Ground: Ruin Maniac
  • Ice: Skier
  • Normal: Schoolkid
  • Poison: Punk Girl
  • Psychic: Psychic
  • Rock: Hiker
  • Water: Swimmer
  • Delinquent: Dark

You get type medals for catching Pokémon of a specific type:

  • Bronze: 10 Pokémon of the same type.
  • Silver: 50 Pokémon of the same type.
  • Gold: 200 Pokémon of the same type.

Each medal level gives you a bonus:

  • Bronze: 1.1x
  • Silver: 1.2x
  • Gold: 1.3x

Some Pokémon have two types, for example water and flying. In those cases, if you're at different medal levels for each type, you have to average the bonus.

  • None / None: 1x
  • None / Bronze: 1.05x
  • None / Silver: 1.1x
  • None / Gold: 1.15x
  • Bronze / Bronze: 1.1x
  • Bronze / Silver: 1.15x
  • Bronze / Gold: 1.2x
  • Silver / Silver: 1.2x
  • Silver / Gold: 1.25x
  • Gold / Gold: 1.3x

For the math, see Gamepress.

How to get every medal in Pokémon Go Gen 2

So. Many. Numbers. Break it down for me again?

You bet!

  1. ABC. Always be curving. Once you can nail Curve Ball every time, you'll get a 1.7x bonus every time.
  2. Max out your medals. Some are easier to get than others but they consume no resources like Great or Ultra Balls or Razz Berries, so once you get them, that 1.05x to 1.3x is automatically applied each time.
  3. Consistency counts. Aim for the smallest target you can nail every time. If that's Nice, it's nice. If that's Great or Excellent, even nicer. But better the bonus you get then one you miss, and that extra 1.3 to 2x also doesn't consume resources and can make a difference.
  4. Razz for real. Use Razz Berries when you need to. Unlike Great or Ultra Balls, you can't miss with a Razz Berry and its 1.5x bonus will last until you hit.
  5. Bump them Balls. Use Great and Ultra Balls to maximize your odds. You get an extra 1.5x for a Great Ball and 2x for an Ultra Ball so use them to get those super rare or hard to catch Pokémon.
  6. Pinap Power: Use a Pinap Berry to get double Candy for any Pokémon you really want to evolve or power up. You can't use a Razz Berry as well, so use an Ultra Ball to make up the difference.
  7. Nanab ain't nothing: Ostensible a Nanab Berry calms a Pokémon down, making it easier to hit. In the current game, though, it seems to make little to no real difference.

Can you really catch any Pokémon?

If you stack your bonuses right, you have a high probability — and in some cases a mathematical certainty — of catching any Pokémon with a high enough catch rate and low enough level. As their catch rates go down and levels go up, and your bonuses go up, you're still playing the odds.

Catching a level 1 Magikarp you can take to the bank. Catching a level 35 Dragonite — be prepared for a fight.

Any other catch questions?

If you have any other questions on catching Pokémon in Pokémon Go, drop them in the comments below!