Pokemon Go CP, IVs, Stats and Level – Which Is More Important?

by glencurio

In reading posts and comments online as well as speaking to local friends and community members, I’ve noticed a pervasive and persistent misunderstanding of stats, CP, level, etc. and how all these things relate to each other. This post is meant to provide a clear and detailed explanation of these topics.

tl;dr: CP comes from an individual’s real stats and real stats are determined by base stats, level and IVs. Pokemon who are similar in CP have very roughly the same strength, with differences due to the distribution of the 3 stats.

Let me explain in-depth!

1. Every Pokemon species has base stats that do not change.

Or rather, they don’t change within a given main series games. There have been a few Pokemon that received slight buffs to their base stats in Gen 6, and a few more in Gen 7. Pokemon in the main series have 6 stats, and a formula is used to convert main series base stats to Pokemon Go base stats: Attack, Defense and HP. This formula has changed a couple times, resulting in the so-called CP rebalances (actually stat rebalances) that we’ve experienced. If you’re interested, the current conversion formulae are explained here.

Side note/rant: I say HP but some others will say Stamina. They’re the same thing. In the main series games, this stat has always been referred to as HP, so I say HP. If I recall correctly, “Stamina” came from Niantic’s code. Some people argue that it was meant to distinguish between base HP and actual real HP, but main series players have never had an issue with it, and we don’t have alternate terms for Atk and Def. Anyway, it’s not important. HP is Stamina is HP, that’s all.

2. Every individual Pokemon has IVs that do not change.

IVs are “Individual Values”; you can think of them as a Pokemon’s DNA. In PoGo, each Pokemon has an IV ranging from 0-15 for each of the 3 stats. IVs will remain the same when you evolve or power up. They do get re-rolled by trading in PoGo. IVs determine a Pokemon’s maximum potential at level 40. At lower levels they matter less, though a Pokemon with high IVs can hit breakpoints or bulkpoints at a lower level. In othe words, a high IV Pokemon may be the same strength as a low IV Pokemon, but the cost to get it to that point may be lower, and the high IV one has the potential to be powered up to greater heights.

3. Every individual Pokemon has a level that can be increased.

Pokemon range from level 1 to 40. In PoGo, level is increased by spending candy and stardust to Power Up the Pokemon. Each Power Up increases the level by 0.5. Each level has a corresponding CP Multiplier (CPM). The higher the level, the higher the multiplier, the stronger the Pokemon.

4. Every individual Pokemon has real stats that are determined by base stats, level and IVs.

The important thing to note is that every one of these variables are part of the equation. As noted, the level is associated with a set CPM. Real stats are calculated thus:

Real Stat = (Base Stat + IV) * CPM

The difference between base stats and real stats is subtle but important, and context is often needed to know which one is being discussed. CPM is always less than 1, so real stats are always lower than base stats. For example, Venusaur has a base attack stat of 198, but a level 40 Venusaur with 15 Atk IV has a (real) attack stat of 168.

5. CP is determined by real stats.

This point might be misunderstood because of the way the CP formula is presented. In this GamePress article, they give the formula like this:

CP = (Attack * Defense^0.5 * Stamina^0.5 * CP_Multiplier^2) / 10

where Attack is the base attack + IV, etc. But the formula can be rearranged to this:

CP = Attack * Defense^0.5 * Stamina^0.5 / 10

where Attack is the real attack stat (CPM already applied) without rounding decimals.

6. A Pokemon’s strength is determined by its real stats.

This is the important bit when we are trying to compare Pokemon strength under a CP cap. Level, IVs and base stats only matter in that they are how we arrive at the real stats of a Pokemon. These real stats are the values that are used in the damage calculations (referred to as “current stats” in that article).

In case it’s not clear, let me break it down with examples for each part:

  • A level 40 Pokemon at 1500cp is not inherently stronger than a level 20 Pokemon at 1500cp.
  • A 100% IV Pokemon at 1500 CP is not inherently stronger than a 0% IV Pokemon at 1500cp.
  • A Pokemon with high base stats (like Raikou) at 1500cp is not inherently stronger than a Pokemon with low base stats (like Minun) at 1500cp.

All 3 of these factors combine together to determine real stats, CP, strength. If all of these Pokemon are at a similar CP, then it means:

  • The level 40 Pokemon has much lower base stats and/or IVs than the level 20 Pokemon.
  • The 100% Pokemon is a lower level or has lower base stats than the 0% Pokemon.
  • The Raikou is a lower level than the Minun.

Jumping ahead slightly, here’s a more subtle example for level, which I’ve noticed tends to trip people up the most.This post lists the optimal Cresselia for Ultra League as 1/15/13 at level 37. This is considered optimal even though there are many other options that could land you a level 40 Cresselia. A 0/0/9 Cresselia even hits 2500cp exactly at level 40! But because IVs also play a role, the level 37 Cresselia is better (according to stat product — more on that soon) despite being 3 levels and 6 powerups lower.

7. The Attack stat is overvalued in the CP formula.

CP is a measure of strength, not the determinant of strength. And the measure is flawed.

Note those exponents (square roots) in the formula under point 5. It means that Attack is weighted more heavily than Def or HP, which means that Atk contributes more to CP. When we are trying to constrain ourselves to a CP cap, that’s a bad thing.

While dipping your toes into the Great League with your friends, many of you may have fought with or against level 15 legendaries. Raikou and Moltres have good reputations as strong attackers, and the research breakthrough versions come conveniently just under 1500cp. You may have been surprised at how poorly they perform. The problem isn’t that they are only level 15; it’s because their Attack stats are proportionally higher than their Def and HP. Conversely, if you’ve ever faced off against a Cresselia, you’ll know that she’s a powerhouse despite being a mere level 20 with necessarily low IVs.

Think of the CP cap as a bucket with limited space. In building your optimal Pokemon, you fill that bucket with pieces of Attack, Defense and HP. Now imagine that every piece of Attack is twice the size of a piece of Defense or HP. You can squeeze many more pieces into the bucket if you minimize the amount of Attack you add.

This is why high Attack Pokemon like Rayquaza and Mewtwo tend to fare poorly in the lower leagues, whereas tankier Pokemon like Giratina and Lugia shine. Typing and movepool aside, the strongest Pokemon in the Great and Ultra leagues are those with much lower base Attack than base Def/HP.

Side note: This is also why each point of Atk IV tends to increase the CP much more than each Def IV or HP IV. But since IV is added to the base stat, it isn’t always the case. For example, HP and Def contribute more to CP for Deoxys-N and Deoxys-A because their Attack stats are already so huge that 1 additional IV of Attack doesn’t make much of a difference in the CP formula.

8. Optimal IVs are tough to nail down. Stat product is currently favoured.

Although base stats are fixed for any given species, we can choose among individuals with different IVs to achieve different results. The rule of thumb is to aim for low Attack IV and high Def/HP IV, so as to maximize your total stats.

But while we can say with certainty that CP is not a good representation of strength (especially under a CP cap), it’s more difficult to come up with a better measure of our own. The most popular measure seems to be stat product, Stat Product is the number you get when multiple a Pokemon’s 3 real stats together: Attack × Defense × HP. A higher value roughly indicates that this Pokemon will have higher TDO. The optimal IVs are whatever IVs (and level) produce the highest stat product. Note that although this is achieved with lower Attack and higher Def/HP, it does not mean that 0 Attack IV is always ideal. The optimal IVs will vary for every species.

Stat product is the favoured measure now, but as people conduct more analyses, we may find other measures to be more accurate in describing performance. If you wish to explore for yourself, check out this calculator by /u/Exaskryzand play around with it.

Note that any single measure only gives you a general sense though. A sub-optimal spread may sometimes be better. That’s because…

9. Breakpoints and Bulkpoints are matchup specific.

If you aren’t familiar with breakpoints and bulkpoints from raiding, here are two guides from GamePress:

You may notice that we talk about breakpoints (and to a lesser extent, bulkpoints) mainly with regards to raiding and not so much with gyming. That’s because they’re always the same when we’re calculating against a raid boss with fixed stats, but not so much when we’re facing off with various opponents’ ragtag teams and their motley IV spreads. Your optimal 1/15/13 Cresselia has the highest stat product, sure, but maybe having 1 point higher in Attack (and sacrificing a few points in Def and HP) would have allowed you to reach a breakpoint in a certain matchup, giving you the edge.

Consider this example, showing that a “sub-optimal” level 27 10/12/11 Altaria wins the mirror match against the “optimal” level 29 0/14/15. The latter has the highest stat product for Altaria, but it seems that the 10 Atk Altaria hits a clutch breakpoint in this match-up.

Suffice it to say, nobody is going to be using “optimal” IVs for every Pokemon, and planning for it is next to impossible. That said, I expect that we may see specific analyses for Pokemon that max out under a CP cap. For example, the best Blastoise in Ultra League is level 40 and 100% IV because it maxes out under the 2500cp cap. Since we can take this as a known quantity, we may consider breakpoints and bulkpoints against it. Maybe the “optimal” Venusaur (1/15/14 at lv 39) could actually be improved in this matchup by increasing the Attack IV to reach a breakpoint for Vine Whip. Or maybe the “optimal” Typhlosion (0/13/15 at level 35) could do better with 14 or 15 Def, in order to reach a bulkpoint against Water Gun and increase the chance of surving to fire off Solar Beam.

In the end, it will always be matchup specific. Tweaks to gain the upperhand in one matchup means sacrifices in another. For now, common wisdom says stat product is the best overall measure we have.

10. In the grand scheme, IVs aren’t worth obsessing over.

This is subjective, of course. If you’re aiming to be the very best, like no one ever was, then yeah – optimize away. But in any given PvP match, the greatest deciders will be team selection, lead selection, and good decision-making with shields, switches, and charge move use.

It’s fun to theorycraft around optimal cases, but you might never find that 8/15/15 Azumarill. And if you do find it, are a few extra percentage points of performance worth all the dust you’d need to spend? You could just start with a lv 35 weather-boosted catch, or a lucky Azurill with a cheap second move unlock. Or even better – optimize style points and dazzle opponents with a shiny!

For now, while the meta is still young and shifting, you will probably have a lot more fun if you use what you have and experiment with a variety of attackers.

I hope this guide helps some of you out. Good luck in the arena!

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