Should You Purify Shadow Pokemon?

Originally, Shadow Pokemon were a type of Pokemon in Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. They were described as having had their emotions “closed off” by Cipher so that they would become fighting machines. They were unable to use attacks that weren’t “Shadow” Moves, and would not gain any experience through battle. The only way to turn them back to normal was through a process called Purification, which would undo the final lock on the door to a Pokemon’s heart.


Pokemon GO brings their own version of Shadow Pokemon that may draw some similarities to Colosseum/XD, but with enough differences to stand out on their own. The Shadow Pokemon in Pokemon GO are distinguished by their purple aura and red eyes. While they lack the Shadow-based Moves their Colosseum/XD counterparts have, GO‘s Shadow Pokemon attacks have a “Shadow Bonus,” which deals an extra point or two worth of damage. If players manage to catch one from Team GO Rocket, then they can choose to Purify it, or keep it as a Shadow Pokemon. But which is the better choice?

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Catching Shadow Pokemon

Unlike regular Pokemon, Shadow Pokemon cannot be found in the wild, nor are they “Surprise Encounter” rewards for completing Field Research or Special Research. Rather, players will need to defeat Team GO Rocket Grunts or Leaders in order to have a chance at catching one of their Shadow Pokemon.

Team GO Rocket can be challenged at black PokeStops, or by tapping any Rocket Balloons that may appear on the map. Team GO Rocket Leaders can only be challenged if players have and use the Rocket Radar. Finally, Giovanni (Team Rocket’s Boss) can be encountered if players have a Super Rocket Radar. Defeating any of these opponents in battle will bring players to a “bonus stage” where they catch one of their opponent’s Shadow Pokemon.

Most Pokemon can be caught as Shadow Pokemon, including Legendaries. However, Legendary Pokemon, such as Shadow Latios, are exclusive to Giovanni’s team and won’t be found on a common Grunt’s team. Shadow Pokemon can only be caught with Premier Balls. There are several factors that go into the number of chances players will have when catching the Shadow Pokemon:

  1. The Grunt/Leader defeated
  2. Hero Medal Rank
  3. Purifier Medal Rank
  4. Pokemon remaining

All the Pokemon in Team GO Rocket’s party are Shadow Pokemon, meaning they’ll deal increased damage than Pokemon found in a regular Trainer Battle. Bring Pokemon with good IVs and high CP to have a chance at winning. If players lose, they can either have a Rematch or choose not to battle.

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Pros and Cons of Purification

While the obvious thing to do when catching a Shadow Pokemon is to purify it, purification is not required and players can choose to keep their Shadow Pokemon. There are both good and bad reasons why players should hang on to a Shadow Pokemon. For one, their Moves will inflict more damage at the cost of having lower defense. Shadow Pokemon can be left at Gyms and assigned as a Buddy just like regular/Purified Pokemon. However, they can’t be traded to other players.

Reasons to keep Shadow Pokemon
  • Shadow Pokemon’s Quick and Charged Moves have “Shadow Bonus”, which deals additional damage to enemies.
  • They’re hard-hitters, making them good for battling other trainers (including Team GO Rocket).
  • Weather Boost effects will still count for a Shadow Pokemon, essentially giving them Shadow Bonus and Weather Boost damage added to their attacks.
Reasons to Purify Shadow Pokemon
  • Shadow Pokemon cost 20% more Candy and Stardust to Power Up, Evolve or to learn a new Charged Move.
  • Purified Pokemon will have better Appraisal and receive 2 points towards all their IVs. This can potentially bring a 2-star Shadow Pokemon to a 3-star if it’s purified.
  • Purified Pokemon will receive a significant boost in Combat Power (CP).
  • Some Special Research Tasks require players to Purify a set number of Shadow Pokemon.

One drawback that both Shadow and Purified Pokemon have the moves Frustration (Shadow) and Return (Purified).The latter is a Normal-type Move that has decent DPS and can be used well in PVP if players know what they’re doing. On the other hand, Frustration/Return may not be worth keeping on a Pokemon with better Charged Moves.

A Normal-type like Snorlax will get better use out of these exclusive moves than a Pokemon with weak Attack IVs. Of course, the Frustration/Return move can easily be replaced by learning a move via a Charged TM, or by using Candy/Stardust to learn a new move. However, doing so can take time if players don’t have enough resources, and these resources may be better off for evolving/powering up the Pokemon instead.

Pokemon GO is available for mobile devices.

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