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Pokémon Go trainer battles guide: How to fight your friends and choose a league

It’s time to prove yourself in multiplayer, trainers

Pokémon Go trainer battles art Niantic/The Pokémon Company

Pokémon Go has introduced PvP with trainer battles, allowing players to compete against each other both locally and online. Not only can they fight each other one-on-one, but trainer battles introduce competitive trainer leagues as well, so that Pokémon masters can truly be named. It’s a huge change to a game that’s sorely needed multiplayer in the years since launch.

What actually are trainer battles in Pokémon Go?

Trainer battles are one-on-one fights, either pitting a player against another, local trainer, or letting two friends compete online.

How can you battle your friends online?

Players who are Ultra Friends or Best Friends — the two highest tiers of friendship — may send each other invites to battle through the Friends list. You cannot remotely battle against your Good and Great Friends.

How do you battle people locally?

To battle another player in person, you have to be part of the same trainer league — which we’ll get to later. More importantly, you have to swap battle codes. These are separate from the trainer codes used to add people to your friends list. Instead, battle codes are unique QR codes that a player must scan in order to send a battle invitation to another. Battle codes are assigned to all players automatically and can be found in the battle menu.

What about the battles themselves? How do PvP battles play out in Pokémon Go?

Trainer battles involve two players, each with a set of three Pokémon. (That’s a huge change from the typical Pokémon games, which allow for both sides to have six Pokémon in their party.) Players can customize their battle party ahead of time, and then select it once the battle begins.

Players select which Pokémon to use and then send them out to fight against one another in real time; battles are not turn-based. Players can switch between their three Pokémon as they like, although a cooldown timer prevents them from constantly swapping between their party.

Salamence vs Exeggutor in a trainer battle Niantic/The Pokémon Company

Battles last a maximum of four minutes, and the winner is named either when their opponent is out of usable Pokémon or after that timer runs out. If both players have at least one Pokémon remaining, the game will break the tie by awarding the player whose team has more health remaining.

Pokémon battles otherwise work much the same way as they do for Raid Battles and Gyms. You tap the screen or hold it down to to perform fast attacks and charge attacks, respectively. But in trainer battles, Pokémon have two different charge attacks to choose from (although that second charge attack must be unlocked). Players can also use a Protect Shield ability to better defend against anticipated stronger moves.

What rewards do you get when you win a trainer battle?

Well, first thing: Both trainers get a prize after a battle, usually consisting of candy, stardust and rare items, like a Sinnoh Stone. In a way, they’re both winners. But in another, more accurate sense, only one of them is truly the better Pokémon trainer. Their only extra prize is a chance to gloat.

Battling against friends also increases the friendship level between the two, funny enough.

Is there a limit to the number of trainer battles I can participate in daily?

No, although you can only receive rewards from trainer battles up to three times a day.

What about Pokémon? Are there any that are restricted?

You can use any Pokémon, including Legendaries, except for Ditto and Shedinja.

What about playing against NPCs? Are there single-player trainer battles?

Yes! If you’d like to level up your team before taking on your friends or other locals, the solo training mode is where to go. The team captains — Blanche, Candela and Spark — make themselves available for players to battle against so that they may train up as often as they’d like without having to find another person to play with. These are referred to as team leader battles, and are available on an unlimited basis. (You may only receive one award a day from them, however.)

Master League in Pokémon Go Niantic/The Pokémon Company

What are are trainer leagues?

Trainer leagues are the three tiers which players must select in order to participate in trainer battles. Each one comes with a limit on a Pokémon’s power, so that players can anticipate how strong the other player it’s going up against will be.

The three leagues are:

  • Great League, with a combat power maximum set at 1,500
  • Ultra League, with a combat power maximum set at 2,500
  • Master League, with no combat power maximum

Players can only battle against other trainers in their league, which Niantic says is “to ensure an even playing field.”

Are there leagues or tournaments like in traditional Pokémon games?

No, although Niantic said it encourages players to come up with their own unofficial tournaments. For now, you’ll have to depend on your fellow local trainers to determine who’s the best of ’em all.

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