Feature Article

Pokemon Masters Explained: Guide To Sync Pairs, Evolving, And Everything Else You Need To Know

Not your traditional Pokemon game.

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The latest free-to-play Pokemon game, Pokemon Masters, is officially out now on iOS and Android devices. It allows you to team up with a variety of legendary trainers, gym leaders, and champions in a brand-new region. Though the basics of the Pokemon series are still there--such as battles and evolutions--there are many ways in which Masters plays very differently from a traditional Pokemon game.

To get you started, we've compiled all of the basics of what you need to know to understand how Masters works. The game has you visit a new region where you're partnered with Pikachu. Plenty of other notable trainers and their Pokemon from all over the world have traveled to the region as well, giving you the opportunity to befriend and team-up with them as you all journey together. Here's a look at what Sync Pairs are, how to evolve, and many other elements of how Masters works.

Sync Pairs And Their Stories

In Masters, you don't catch new Pokemon, you recruit sync pairs to your team--and, oh boy are there a lot to recruit. Each pair consists of a legendary trainer, gym leader, or champion and their partner Pokemon. Each pair has their own unique story too, which typically plays out by evolving the partner Pokemon but can also be unlocked by just playing with the pair. Unlocking these pairs is usually random, though you can drop some cash to get the ones you want.

Sync pairs grow stronger as they win battles and gain experience. The number of stars next to the trainer's name determines the max level they can reach. For example, most of the sync pairs you'll encounter early on will have three stars and have a max level of 30. The main exception is Rosa and Snivy, who are a five-star sync pair, and one of the best set of partners you can have on your team for the early game thanks to their powerful "Time to Energize" sync attack. You can increase the star number of any sync pair up to five through the use of Power-Up items. At five stars, the level cap is 40.

Once you've earned your first PML Leader badge, you'll unlock the ability to increase that level cap even further. Maxing out a sync pair requires them to have five stars and be level 100.

Fundamentals Of Battling

In Masters, Pokemon battles are three-on-three tag battles between six sync pairs. You'll have to balance your team as best you can to account for every battle, defeating all of your opponent team's Pokemon before they beat you. If you need assistance, clicking "Optimize" while selecting your team will cause the game to automatically assign the three best sync pairs for the job. Hitting Auto Mode during a fight will cause your sync pairs to keep fighting for you if you happen to be distracted by real-world things and become idle in-game.

Every sync pair has its own HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed stats. The first five all work as they did in previous Pokemon games. A sync pair's HP determines how much damage the Pokemon can take before fainting. Attack determines how much damage the Pokemon in a sync pair can deal out with physical moves, while the Defense stat determines their resistance to physical moves. Special Attack and Special Defense are the same but for special moves.

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Fundamentally, Speed works the same as it always has by determining the order of when each Pokemon can attack. However, Masters is not a turn-based RPG like traditional Pokemon games. Instead, battles occur in real-time and each Pokemon move has a cool-down rate tied to a gauge. Thus, a sync pair's Speed stat determines how quickly the partner Pokemon can recharge its moves and attack again.

It may not sound like too big of a change for the Speed stat, but Masters departure from turn-based battles makes the stat more important than it's ever been. It's definitely something to keep in mind as you make it further into the game and unlock more powerful moves that require longer cool-downs.

Elemental And Class Typing

Each sync pair is assigned one or two type strengths and one type weakness. So don't just assume a fire-type Pokemon will automatically be effective against all grass, ice, bug, and steel Pokemon. It will only be strong against one or two of those types. Same goes for weaknesses. Instead of being weak to ground, rock, and water, a fire-type Pokemon will only be weak to one. These strengths and weaknesses change depending on the sync pair, so, for example, not all fire-type Pokemon will have the same strengths and weaknesses.

Not only does each pair have an elemental type, but they also have class typing too. Every sync pair fits into one of three classes: strike, support, or tech. Strike pairs have high Attack and Special Attack stats, but lower HP. Support pairs are the exact opposite, and usually learn HP-restoring attacks and status-boosting moves. Tech pairs typically lack high damage dealing moves and instead excel at learning attacks that inflict status conditions, like paralysis and poison, on the opponent's Pokemon.

When forming your team, class typing is definitely something to keep in mind. Even if your elemental typing ensures you have an advantage over your opponent, you may want to switch one of your sync pairs out for another if they're all in the same class. A team consisting of all tech pairs, for instance, potentially won't be able to deal out enough damage to take advantage of their elemental dominance.

Upgrading Your Move Gauge

Every sync pair starts out with only two moves, with one typically usable by the trainer and the other by their partner Pokemon. Only Pokemon moves deplete the move gauge that allows you to attack. However, trainer moves can only be used a certain number of times each battle.

You can learn more moves, however, for an initial cap of four. You unlock new moves through Training Machines, or TMs for short. Not to be confused by Technical Machines, or TMs, of course--the item that's been used to learn new moves since Pokemon's first generation of games. Why would that be confusing? Anyway, to teach a sync pair its third move, it will require five TMs. The fourth move (and any passive abilities that the sync pair can learn) will require rarer items in a much greater quantity--a quantity that increases with every additional move after the fourth. The items change depending on the pair.

Unlike traditional Pokemon games, though, you're not limited to a maximum of four moves forever. For 30,000 coins, you can unlock another slot. You can unlock another for 100,000. So before unlocking moves for a sync pair beyond their fourth, it may be worth investing some coin so that you don't have to forget anything.

Leveling Up

Like previous Pokemon games, you can level up by just battling. However, there are special battles you can complete and training you can undergo to level up faster.

Early in the story, you'll unlock the training areas. There are four: level up, strike, support, and tech. As the name of the first area implies, heading into this training ground will help a sync pair gain extra experience and level up faster. The latter three allow you to earn items that assist sync pairs in learning new moves and passive skills without the use of TMs. All four training areas can be completed multiple times. You should do them as often as you can too since sync pairs will level up and grow stronger faster as a result. And once they're strong enough, you can send your sync pairs into the supercourses.

Supercourses And Rare Items

The supercourses are the more difficult but more rewarding variations of the training areas. You progressively unlock more difficult and rewarding supercourses with each one you complete. However, each supercourse can only be completed three times a day so you need to consider which pairs need the power-up boost more.

Although rare items can be found or bought, you typically won't run into them until a good deal into Masters' campaign. Until you reach that point, the supercourses are the easiest way to unlock them. Your team will need to be very strong to take on the higher-level supercourses, but it's there that you can unlock valuable items like Ultra Buff Blend. In contrast, 50 Great Buff Blends are needed to buy an Ultra Buff Blend from the in-game shop--something that's far easier to do but will take you a lot longer to acquire.

Co-Op Play

If you open your Poryphone, you can find your personal ID that allows you to become friends with other players and battle together. In co-op, battles play out the same way but you're only a third of a team and thus need to communicate with your fellow humans.

"Even in person, co-op play isn't easy; I was surprised at how close some of the battles ended up, even on the easier of the two difficulties available," Kallie wrote in GameSpot's Pokemon Masters preview. "There's also a special 'unity attack' you can unlock if you chain enough attacks as a team without taking damage, which takes a bit of coordination or luck to execute."

Evolving The Pokemon Within Your Sync Pairs

Both evolving Pokemon and unlocking their Mega Evolutions are accomplished very differently in Masters in comparison to the simple hurdles in previous games. It honestly has way too many steps, and only certain Pokemon can evolve. We know the Pokemon listed below can evolve and Mega Evolve, but we're still testing the game. Given Rosa and Snivy's usefulness in the early game, getting Snivy to evolve into Servine might be where you want to start.

Sync Pairs With Pokemon That Can Evolve In Pokemon Masters

  • Barry and Piplup (evolves into Prinplup and then Empoleon)
  • Kris and Totodile (evolves into Croconaw and then Feraligatr)
  • Lyra and Chikorita (evolves into Bayleef and Meganium)
  • Pryce and Seel (evolves into Dewgong)
  • Rosa and Snivy (evolves into Servine and then Serperior)
  • Viola and Surskit (evolves into Masquerain)

Sync Pairs With Pokemon That Can Mega Evolve In Pokemon Masters

  • Agatha and Gengar
  • Blue and Pidgeot
  • Bugsy and Beedrill
  • Karen and Houndoom
  • Korrina and Lucario
  • Noland and Pinsir

Daily Missions And Special Events

Every day, new daily missions will unlock in Masters--one of which is always just turning on and logging into the game. The daily counter resets at 11 PM PT / 2 AM ET / 7 AM BST / 4 PM AEDT, so you have until then to complete your missions for the day. Completing your daily missions allows you to earn in-game items. Masters also just has general missions that can be completed at any time, though these count more as achievements/trophies than ways to earn in-game items and rewards.

Once you complete chapter five in Masters' story, you'll be able to participate in the in-game limited-time events. These events will be built with different sync pairs in mind, so it's best to be on the lookout for which event is next so you know which pairs to focus on in preparation for them. Completing the challenges in these events will net you limited-time rewards.

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