Everything you need to know about shadow Pokemon in Pokemon GO

By Steven Rondina


Aug 29, 2021

Reading time: 4 min

After defeating a Team Go Rocket grunt or leader, players are given the opportunity to catch a shadow Pokemon. One of the more difficult choices players face in Pokemon GO is whether to raise the shadow Pokemon, or purify it for an IV and CP boost.

The choice is a tough one that needs to be looked at on an individual basis, and that’s something that requires a deeper dive. Here’s how to approach shadow Pokemon, when to purify, and how to best utilize them.

What are shadow Pokemon in Pokemon GO?

Shadow Pokemon are a unique type of Pokemon in Pokemon GO. They can be captured after defeating members of Team Go Rocket and they have several unique functionalities.

Their charged attack is Frustration by default, which can only be changed with a Charged TM item during certain special events.

Wobbuffet, Chimchar, and More Emerge as New Shadow Pokémon in Pokémon GO |  Pokemon.com

After capturing a shadow Pokemon, players have the ability to purify a shadow Pokemon. Purified Pokemon gain a significant boost in CP and IVs and lose the 20% increased damage mechanic. Their charged attack is also changed from Frustration to Return. They also have the added bonus of being easier to raise and evolve.

Are shadow Pokemon worth keeping?

Keeping and raising shadow Pokemon can be worth it, depending on the Pokemon and the trainer’s plans for them. Different species of shadow Pokemon can be viable for PVP battling and raids, but not all are going to be good for both. If players aren’t interested in PVP battling or are already fully set for handling raids and Team Go Rocket enemies, it might not be worth it to invest in raising many shadow Pokemon.

All legendary shadow Pokemon are worth keeping, but past that things are murky. A shadow Pokemon with low defense and HP IVs can be released without worry as they will end up being squishy to the point where they won’t live long enough to deal significant damage. Inherently squishy species of Pokemon might also not be helpful as shadow Pokemon. Shadow versions of inherently weak Pokemon like Shuckle and Smeargle also won’t benefit from shadow status in a way that makes them worth the Stardust it takes to power them up.

Should I purify shadow Pokemon?

Generally speaking, shadow Pokemon should not be purified. From a purely mathematical perspective, shadow Pokemon offer higher DPS than the alternative options. Meanwhile, a purified Pokemon isn’t inherently better than a regular Pokemon of the same species and comes with the handicap of the Return charged move.

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Purifying shadow Pokemon does have some benefits for those who are just looking to add more Pokemon to their stable of PVE options. A player can purify a Pokemon like Growlithe or Swinub and take advantage of the reduced candy and Stardust costs to quickly evolve them and raise their CP into being formidable options for raids and fighting Team GO Rocket enemies. Though Return is not an ideal charged move, it can be freely replaced with a Charged TM or another move can be taught at a discounted candy cost.

Not all Pokemon can reach a high enough CP number to be strong options for raids, but many different Pokemon can be turned into decent PVP options. Ultimately, the candy and Stardust cost may be too high for what isn’t always going to be a strong option.

What are the best shadow Pokemon in Pokemon GO?

Shadow Pokemon inherently take more damage, which makes bulkiness important when picking out a shadow Pokemon to build up. The ideal shadow Pokemon for PVP play has a low attack IV, but high defense and HP IVs. This is because the flat 20% boost for attacks from shadow Pokemon offers more DPS than a high attack IV, while the low attack IV means the Pokemon’s CP is weighted more heavily towards their bulkiness.

Because of this, the best shadow Pokemon have a good bit of natural bulkiness alongside solid attack power. Shadow legendaries like Ho-oh, Mewtwo, and Moltres are the best shadow Pokemon. However, when it comes to non-legendary Pokemon a list of some of the top choices includes:

  • Machamp
  • Tyranitar
  • Mamoswine
  • Metagross
  • Electivire
  • Hariyama

Other Pokemon will appear as shadow Pokemon over time, and other strong options will pop up when that happens. Unfortunately, there is no clear schedule or even precedent established when it comes to Niantic changing the lineups for Team Go Rocket trainers, so it’s unknown when more may be introduced.