Not only are gyms easier for players of all experience levels, but gym “Raid Battles” add an entirely new dynamic to fighting monsters.
A Raid Battle is essentially a collaborative fight between players and one big, overpowered Pokémon. Winning a battle can mean catching a rare Tyranitar or Alakazam and getting special items.
But most Raid Battles are quite difficult and impossible to fight solo. There are also strict time restraints that make fighting Raid Battles tricky.
Raids appear randomly at gyms throughout the day (they end promptly at 9 p.m. central time each night).
Before a raid begins at a specific gym, all Pokémon in the gym will be returned to their trainers. A large egg will appear over the gym signifying a countdown until the raid begins, after which a powerful Pokémon, or Raid Boss, will appear there for exactly one hour.
For now, you have to be a level 5 trainer or higher to engage in raids.
When a Raid Battle is active, you'll see a monster silhouette instead of an egg and a timer counting down to when you can no longer battle the Raid Boss there.
The 'Nearby' tab also shows raids that are active or about to start around you. Tap on one to see where it is on the map.
Each raid's difficulty level is indicated by the number of monster icons.
Before you play in a Raid Battle, you'll need a raid pass. You can get one per day by swiping a gym. Alternatively, you can buy as many premium raid passes as you want in the game's shop.
If you are at a gym with an ongoing Raid Battle and don't have a raid pass, swipe on the gym where the raid is happening. You'll get one if you haven't already been given one that day.
Raid Battles aren't easy. There are four tiers of difficulty based on the boss Pokémon, and each tier requires more players to fight together.
A Level 1 Raid Boss, like Magikarp, can be taken down by one player with well-matched, powerful Pokemon. A Level 4 boss will likely require at least a half dozen well-matched players to be taken down (up to 20 players can fight in one raid at a time).
Here are the Pokemon in each Raid Boss tier, courtesy of The Silph Road:
Each Raid Boss takes more damage from certain kind of Pokémon. You'll want to research the best Pokémon to take with you into the fight.
Each Raid Boss is more susceptible to at least one different Pokémon type (fire, ice, grass, etc.), and there are usually a few Pokémon that will help you win over others.
A Silph Road member put together a handy infographic (click on the pic above for the full table) that shows the best counter Pokémon for each Raid Boss. You can save the above one to your phone's camera roll or download individual guides for each tier on Reddit.
When you use your raid pass to start a Raid Battle, you'll enter a waiting room where other nearby players can join to help you take down the boss.
The code at the top right of the waiting room can be given to other players for a private raid. They just need to enter the combination under 'Private Group' instead of 'Battle' when they join the raid.
You'll have up to two minutes to configure your team (or less if other players had already initiated the raid and have been waiting for you). To save time, have your fight lineup favorited if you can. If not, you can search for specific Pokémon to add to your lineup before the timer finishes.
You can also search for things like Pokémon type (fire, ice, grass, etc.) or CP to make things quicker.
When the battle begins, you (and any players with you) have exactly 176 seconds to defeat the Raid Boss.
In normal gym battles, a quick flash will clue you when to dodge an attack, but that doesn't happen with Raid Bosses. Just do your best to avoid special attacks that do extra damage and try to beat the clock.
If you realise that you're losing, you can quickly pop out of the battle and heal your Pokémon with potions (just don't leave the gym entirely, or you won't be able to fight in the raid or get your raid pass back).