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How to get Excellent Throws in "Pokémon Go"

Updated on March 14, 2020
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Matt Bird writes all sorts of nonsense, but he dedicates a large chunk of his time to writing game walkthroughs.

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As a free-to-play mobile game, Pokémon Go does its level best to ensure that its players run through their stores of items as quickly as possible without seeming unfair. Nowhere is this more evident than with Poké Balls, the red-and-white, magical spheres used to catch new Pokémon. It is very easy to run through all of your balls in no time flat, especially if you're a beginner - and if you don't live near Poké Stops, it can be difficult to replenish your stock of balls in a hurry.

Fortunately, there is a way to make the most of each throw... it just takes a little practice to get the gist of the technique.

(If you understand the mechanics of Pokémon Go already, you can skip down to the second major section of this article. The first covers stuff you probably already know.)

The Targeting Ring

Whenever you attempt to throw a Poké Ball at a target you will see a colored ring on your screen. The color of the ring indicates how difficult it is to catch the Pokémon; deep, bright green rings mean that the Pokémon is likely to be caught in a single throw, while deep red rings describe a Pokémon that won't go down without a serious fight. There are four ways to improve your chances of catching a Pokémon:

  1. Use a higher tier of Poké Ball. Normal Poké Balls are the most common, but they also stink against more powerful Pokémon. Great Balls are of middling strength, while Ultra Balls (the rarest) are the best you can get. Your chances of netting a Pokémon with a ball toss is substantially higher when using an Ultra Ball.
  2. Use a Berry before throwing your ball. Berries are single-use items that bestow a variety of effects. Razz Berries, Golden Razz Berries, and Silver Pinap Berries all make it easier to catch Pokémon, with Golden Razz Berries having the greatest effect. Save these for rarer Raid Pokémon.
  3. Curve the Poké Ball upon throwing. Curving your Poké Ball requires you to spin the ball on the screen and throw it as you're twirling your finger. We'll get into this a bit later.
  4. Get your Poké Ball within the targeting ring. This one is what we're here to discuss.

The targeting ring is of paramount importance to catching a Pokémon because getting your Poké Ball inside it during a throw can greatly increase your chances of catching your target. That said, how much your chances increase depends on when you get it in the targeting ring. The ring constantly changes size, shrinking down to a tiny pinprick before springing back to full size again moments later, and to make the most of your throw you need to land it in the targeting ring when it is as small as possible. There are three levels of targeting:

  • If you get a Poké Ball inside the targeting ring when it is at its largest or slightly smaller, you will get a Nice Throw. Nice Throws are good, but they don't improve your chances of getting a Pokémon all that much. They're mainly good for ensuring that Pokémon with green or yellow targeting rings wind up trapped.
  • If you get a Poké Ball inside the targeting ring when it is at half size or lower you wind up with a Great Throw. Once you're a near-pro at lobbing Poké Balls you usually aim for Great Throws, since they're not as risky as the final tier and go a long way to catching Pokémon. When working on a Raid you want to get a Great Throw at a minimum just about every time you throw a ball, because your resources are extremely limited.
  • If you get a Poké Ball inside the targeting ring when it is at about a sixth of its full size you get an Excellent Throw. Throws don't get better than Excellent Throws, and if you don't catch a Pokémon after getting an Excellent, well, you have poor luck. (It happens.)

You're never guaranteed to catch a Pokémon with a throw unless it's a weak Pokémon, so it behooves players to get as good of throws as they can, as often as they can.

The Throwing Technique

Pro Pokémon Go players probably all have their own ways of getting good throws, and there are doubtless a ton of ways to land Excellents with fair consistency. This method works best for me.

Your first instinct when tossing a Poké Ball will probably be to throw your balls from the center of the screen. This is not ideal, as you have less control over where your ball winds up. My preference is to start in either the bottom-left or bottom-right corners of the screen. I prefer bottom-right, but either side works. Use whichever feels more comfortable to you.

Once you've positioned your Poké Ball, begin twirling your finger. This will cause the ball to spin and spew sparks. This is the beginning of a curve ball. Curve balls do as their name suggests, skewing slightly away from the direction you're throwing them and heading towards the center of the screen - you know, where your target Pokémon is usually sitting. Curve balls feel a little weird when you start throwing them, but they increase the chances of catching a Pokémon regardless of where (or if) they hit the targeting ring, so I recommend practicing curves until they become second nature. Once you can throw a solid curve you'll never want to lob Poké Balls normally again.

At this point it becomes a waiting game. You need the targeting ring to shrink to approximately this size, with a bit of wiggle room on the larger and smaller sides:

At this point flick your finger diagonally up towards just below the middle of the screen, releasing the screen immediately to throw the ball. Assuming you curved your ball correctly, it should lean in towards the Pokémon as it flies forward and nail it more or less right in the middle of the targeting ring. Hopefully you'll then see this:

And that's that! You've landed an Excellent Throw! Congrats!

... of course, that probably isn't what's going to happen the first time you try it. Or the second. Or the fifth. Or even the twenty-fifth. Getting reliable Excellent Throws is quite difficult, and you'll probably need to chuck hundreds upon hundreds of balls before you really get the feel of this throwing technique. You may even devise your own techniques in the process. Regardless of how you do at first, curving from the right or left will almost certainly save you Poké Balls in the long run, as you'll land far more Nice and Great hits than with a straight throw. Practice makes perfect.

Additional Tips

All of this assumes that you're facing a Pokémon that is standing perfectly still. This is not the case most of the time, since Pokémon are jittery little creatures. Here are some further tips to help you improve your throwing game and land those lucrative Excellent Throws.

  • Practice on Pokémon with large hit boxes whenever you can. You'll learn the ins and outs of throwing more quickly if you're trying to catch, say, Wailmers, as opposed to Caterpies. Fortunately, most Legendary Pokémon encountered in Raids fall into this category, as they tend to have huge hit boxes. Practicing on Raids gives you the extra advantage of having a Poké Ball limit, because there's nothing better for improving your aim than the added element of stress. (Or maybe that's just me.)
  • Wait for Pokémon to be in the center of the screen, right in their starting position, to throw a Poké Ball. This technique is difficult to land when a Pokémon is off to the side or way up in the air.
  • Wait for the Pokémon to be still. Ideally you want to wait until just after a Pokémon has either moved (jumped or floated around) or performed a little attack (usually hand / roaring gestures) to throw your ball. This gives you the longest window of time before it does something like that again.
  • If you really need to catch a particular Pokémon and it won't stay still, consider using a Nanab Berry. Under normal circumstances Nanab Berries are the 'worst' of the berries, but they can be quite helpful in nailing down a fidgety Pokémon.
  • Adjust your technique to match your prey. Pokémon Go is all over the place when it comes to hit box size and target distance, and some Pokémon are a lot further away than they look. You may need to add a bit of extra strength to your flick to get the ball all the way into the targeting ring - and, on the flip side, you may need to hold back to ensure that your ball doesn't go flying over the target. Every Pokémon is different in this regard, so you'll need to experiment with the various species to see how they all work.
  • Watch your target for a few seconds to see how it acts. Some Pokémon will stand nicely in the middle of the screen and let you do as you please; others will freak out immediately and hop all over the place. Watching the Pokémon for a few seconds will help you gauge just how rowdy it wants to be, allowing you to time your throws accordingly.
  • Be patient. Don't chuck Poké Balls willy-nilly and hope for the best. If you need to wait an extra twenty seconds for an Excellent-sized targeting ring to appear just after a Pokémon has jumped, wait out the time. Pokémon won't run away until you've unsuccessfully tried to catch one, so you lose nothing (besides your own time) by giving yourself an extra half a minute of prep before you throw a Poké Ball.

© 2020 Matt Bird

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