A new type of raid is coming to Pokémon Go this month: Shadow Raids. Niantic announced the in-person-only raid type on Thursday, giving players an alternate way to catch Shadow Legendary Pokémon like Mewtwo by battling in gyms. Shadow Raids will also introduce Shiny Shadow Legendary Pokémon to Niantic’s mobile game, and a new mechanic that will see players face tougher, “enraged” Shadow Pokémon.
Shadow Raids will go live in Pokémon Go on May 22, as part of the game’s Rising Shadows event. The debut of Shadow Raids will be a weeklong event, with one-star and three-star raids featuring Shadow Pokémon running Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, Legendary Shadow Pokémon will appear as Shadow Raid Bosses, starting with Mewtwo.
Three-star and five-star Shadow Raid Bosses will become enraged (and stronger) as players battle them, but Pokémon Go players can use a new item called a Purified Gem to quell that enraged state. Purified Gems can be assembled using Shadow Shards — earned by battling the lower-tier Shadow Pokémon throughout the week — and an item called the Shard Refiner, which players will get from Professor Willow.
Niantic said Pokémon Go’s new Shadow Raids are an opportunity for players to earn Legendary Shadow Pokémon that they weren’t able to get from battles with Team Go Rocket leader Giovanni. Shadow Raids also can’t be accessed using Remote Raid Passes, another attempt by Niantic to get Pokémon Go players out exploring and meeting up in-person.
“The driver there is really to get players focused on getting out there and playing. Whether it’s Monday to Friday, [or] Saturday/Sunday, we really, really want that to be a main facet of the game,” John Funtanilla, Pokémon Go senior producer, told Polygon in an interview.
“This is an opportunity for players to catch Legendaries that they missed, [and] it’s going to be a lot more frequent. I feel like we’re doing players a service and saying, Hey, work with your community, work with your fellow teams and neighbors [...] because there is going to be more chances to get Legendaries as they rotate in and out.”
Michael Steranka, director of the Pokémon Go live game at Niantic, said the new system is designed as “an opportunity for us to get players a second bite at the apple,” if they missed a limited-time opportunity to get a Shadow Legendary Pokémon. But Shadow Raids aren’t designed as a replacement for the existing method of earning Shadow Legendaries.
“We still think at least as of right now that the Team Go Rocket rotations with Giovanni are still the best way to introduce new Shadow Legendaries into the game,” Steranka said. “But you know that that might be subject to change later on down the road if the right opportunity comes up to debut something.”
Funtanilla wouldn’t say which Shadow Legendary Pokémon are next in the rotation, but it sounds like Pokémon Go players will have much more frequent opportunities to get their hands on high-powered Pokémon through the new Shadow Raid system.
“In terms of the cadence on how frequently we swap the the Legendary Pokemon out — or even the tier-one and tier-three Pokemon — that’s something that we want to evaluate after players have gotten their hands on this and [we] see how long the excitement for a particular rotation lasts,” Steranka said. “It’s something that we’ll be evaluating and adjusting as players get their hands on the feature.”
The Purified Gems that players can earn through other Shadow Raids or through Team Go Rocket grunt battles will add an extra layer of strategy when battling higher-tier Shadow Raid Bosses. Players will be able to farm shards ahead of bigger challenges, and stack Purified Gems to keep the enraged modifier at bay. In other words, players may be able to take down Shadow Raid Bosses with a smaller number of teammates, if they come equipped with the right debuffs. Or they may become a raid’s MVP, if they help feed Purified Gems on behalf of the whole team.
Steranka explained that Shadow Raids are designed to be “an evergreen mainstay within Pokémon Go, just sort of always happening in the background.” But it’s not the only major new feature Niantic has planned, he said.
“We view Shadow Raids as the tip of the iceberg, as far as new features and development in Pokémon Go for this year is concerned,” Steranka said. “I think this is maybe our most ambitious year yet in terms of how many new mechanics and features we’re planning to launch to our players. End of May is around the start of the summer season [...] and you’re going to see us really ramp up over the upcoming months and debut lots of new experiences for players.”