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A Pokémon Master's Guide: The Best Way to Use Stardust

Joseph has been playing Pokemon Go since 2016, and been a fan of the Pokemon series since Pokemon Red and Blue.


There are currently only four uses for stardust in Pokémon GO:

  • Powering up Pokémon
  • Trading with another Trainer
  • Learning a second charge move
  • Purifying Shadow Pokémon

In my previous guide I went over every single way to earn stardust, and in this guide I'll be going more in-depth with the above mechanics as well as how to be more efficient with your stardust usage.

Powering Up Pokémon

As your Pokémon grow stronger the amount of stardust required also increases.

As your Pokémon grow stronger the amount of stardust required also increases.

This is the main use of stardust, and where the bulk of your collected stardust will be invested. The cost for powering up Pokémon gets incredibly expensive - the total cost of leveling a level 1 non-lucky/shadow/purified Pokémon all the way to level 40 being over 200,000 stardust! So, unless you're a "stardust millionaire" you won't be walking around with all your Pokémon being at level 40 any time soon. That's okay though!

There are only a few instances, and a few Pokémon, that actually need to be at level 40 in order to maximize their usefulness. You can get by with only having Pokémon at level 25, 30, or 35 depending on the situation and their uses. In general, it is better to have several well-rounded Pokémon than one or two that are maxed out

The cumulative cost for leveling up from 1 to 40 is 270,000. However, you won't always be catching Pokémon that are at level one. As you increase your Trainer Level, the level cap of the Pokémon you can encounter in the wild also increases. Once you are Trainer Level 35, you'll potentially be able to encounter weather boosted Pokémon that are level 35 themselves.

The Pokémon you encounter from raids have a set level, as well as from research. These Pokémon also have a set minimum for each of their stats, i.e. raid bosses can't have a stat below 10. The combination of these two factors make raid bosses, and research rewards, prime candidates for powering up.

  • Research - Level 15
  • Raids - Level 20
  • Weather Boosted Raids - Level 25
  • Wild Encounters - Up to Level 30
  • Weather Boosted Wild Encounters - Up to Level 35
The cost to level 40 seems steep, but it may actually be cheaper than you realize.

The cost to level 40 seems steep, but it may actually be cheaper than you realize.

Trading Pokémon

Stardust is also used to trade Pokémon with your friends. The higher your friendship level, the lower the cost of trading. So if you plan on doing a lot of trading make sure you are sending gifts to your friends every day. It takes 90 days to reach the Best Friend level with a new friend, and the reduction in stardust cost per trade makes the effort more than worth it.

Make sure you send a gift to your friends every day so you can become Best Friends as quick as possible.

Make sure you send a gift to your friends every day so you can become Best Friends as quick as possible.

As you can see, the biggest reduction in stardust once you reach Best Friends is for Pokémon you don't own ("New") and as well as for legendaries. This will save you literally millions of stardust as you try trading for a Lucky legendary.

It should be noted that you can only do one "special" trade a day. This includes trading shiny and legendary Pokémon.

Lucky Pokémon

The main appeal to trading with friends is Lucky Pokémon.

According to the Silph Road, the chance at obtaining a Lucky Pokémon from a trade ranges from 5% - 75% depending on the age of the Pokémon. The older the Pokémon, the higher the chance at it becoming Lucky. If you have less than 10 lucky Pokémon, and you trade with a friend using a Pokémon caught from June - August of 2016, it's guaranteed to be Lucky.

What's so good about Lucky Pokémon though?

The chances increase the older a Pokémon becomes.

The chances increase the older a Pokémon becomes.

The benefits of having a Lucky Pokémon are that they have higher minimum stats (12 across the board), as well as having a 50% stardust discount when powering up. That's right, a 50% discount on stardust. Instead of it costing a total of 270,000 stardust to get a Pokémon from level 1 to level 40, it now only costs 135,000.

Always prioritize leveling up Lucky Pokémon to reduce how much stardust you're using.

Always prioritize leveling up Lucky Pokémon to reduce how much stardust you're using.

Since the chance at obtaining a Lucky Pokémon is so low, you will have to do a lot of trades. This means you'll want to become Best Friends with the people you're trading with as quick as possible to reduce the amount of stardust you're using. There is also an added bonus to becoming Best Friends with someone.

There is about a 5% chance every day that you will become "Lucky Friends" with one of your Best Friends when doing an activity with them - sending gifts, battling, trading, etc. This means that the first trade you do with them will be a guaranteed Lucky Pokémon. If you have a shiny legendary Pokémon you're wanting to trade for, make sure you wait until you're Lucky Friends with someone.

A Lucky Friend, and a Lucky Metagross

A Lucky Friend, and a Lucky Metagross

Second Charge Move

This is arguably the second most important use of stardust after power ups. In Pokémon GO, Pokémon can normally only have two attacks; a fast move, and a charge move. However, you are now able to unlock a second charge move on each of your Pokémon in exchange for stardust and candies of the Pokémon in question.

The price varies from Pokémon to Pokémon, with babies and the starters having the cheapest price and legendaries being the most expensive. The value of a second charge move is mostly seen in PVP scenerios, like with Azumarill needing Play Rough and another move for coverage. So before you start adding extra charge moves onto your Pokémon, make sure you've done your research and you know who on your team will make the most use of it.

The evolved forms of all the starters will still only have the 10,000 stardust requirement.

The evolved forms of all the starters will still only have the 10,000 stardust requirement.

Shadow Pokémon

Shadow Pokémon are a relatively new addition to Pokémon GO. They are only available to catch after you've defeated a Rocket Grunt or Leader and are untradable. If you choose to purify these Pokémon it will come at the cost of stardust and candies, but not nearly as much as adding a second charge move though.

Just like with the cost for unlocking a second charge move, the cost for purifying Shadow Pokémon are also tied to the Pokémon's buddy distance.

  • 1km - 1,000 stardust
  • 3km - 3,000 stardust
  • 5km - 5,000 stardust
  • 20km - 20,000 stardust
The various costs for purifying Shadow Pokémon.

The various costs for purifying Shadow Pokémon.

The benefits of purifying a Pokémon are that it reduces the candies required to power up them up, as well as reducing the stardust required by 10%. Not only that, but when purified, the Pokémon will receive +2 to all of its stats and also immediately become level 25 - saving you stardust.

If you trade a purified Pokémon, and it becomes lucky, the reduction in stardust required to power it up does stack slightly. You'll receive a 55% stardust discount. The chances of this happening are slim as mentioned above, but if you hold out until you're lucky friends with someone before trading a purified Pokémon you could make it much easier to have a powerful Pokémon on your team.

Should you choose to keep your Pokémon in its shadow form, there is a benefit to that as well which is offset by a few negatives. You will be able to deal 20% more damage in fights, at the cost of taking 20% more damage too. Shadow Pokémon also require 20% more stardust to power them up.

You currently can't get a level 1 Shadow Pokémon anymore.

You currently can't get a level 1 Shadow Pokémon anymore.

The only way to catch Shadow Pokémon currently is from defeating Rocket Grunts and Leaders. The level of the Pokémon caught will range from 8 to 13, but can be weather boosted for a max possible level of 15.

Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Mewtwo were available in their shadow forms through research rewards during Pokémon GO Fest 2020, but other than that Shadow Pokémon have not appeared in researches or in raids at the time of this writing.

Optimizing Your Stardust Usage

So now that we've covered how stardust is used in Pokémon GO, let's get into how to start really optimizing our stardust usage. This process can be broken down into four areas:

  • Become Best Friends
  • Complete Raids/Researches
  • Purify Shadow Pokemon
  • Research PVP Teams

As you are doing other activities in the game, make sure you're leveling up your friendship with as many people as possible. Remember, there is that 5% chance every day of becoming Lucky Friends with one of your Best Friends. The more Best Friends you have, the higher your chance of this happening with at least one of them.

Lucky Pokémon are the main way to drastically reduce how much stardust you're using, saving you upwards of 135,000 stardust. On Community Days, considering spending the last hour of the event trading the featured Pokémon with friends to try to get a Lucky variant if you don't have one already.

It's also important to make sure you're building friendship levels with people who are local to you. As much fun as it is to send gifts back and forth with people who are in different countries, it's also impossible to trade with them over such a long distance. There are few things worse than becoming Lucky Friends with someone in a different country.

Only Best Friends have the chance to become Lucky Friends.

Only Best Friends have the chance to become Lucky Friends.

As mentioned above, Pokémon caught from research rewards and raids will have at least 10 in all their stats as well as being a set level when caught.

  • Research - Level 15
  • Raids - Level 20
  • Weather Boosted Raids - Level 25

The more researches and raids you do will increase your chances at finding a perfect Pokémon - one that has 15 in all of its stats - as well as save you some stardust. The biggest tip to saving stardust is to wait. You don't want to power up the first legendary you get, or first of any kind of Pokémon you capture. There is always a chance to capture a better one - unless of course it's already perfect.

The roster for raid bosses changes from month to month, so don't be in a hurry to immediately power up any of them. Once the roster changes, look at everything you caught during that month and decide if there is anything you want to invest stardust into. If you don't feel like you have any Pokémon worth the investment, just hang on to them and wait until they are back in raids for you to try again. The biggest advice when it comes to stardust management is to not give in to FOMO.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don't need all your Pokémon to be at level 40. GamePress is a fantastic resource that goes in depth about each of the raid bosses, current and old, and will tell you which Pokémon are viable at different levels. For example, if you are doing a Rayquaza raid, you only need Mamoswine to be at level 25 in order for it to be doing optimal damage.

So keep this in mind when you're looking through your Pokémon storage trying to decide who needs to be powered up. You might find that none of them do, and you can keep on saving stardust for something else instead.

This ties directly into the final two bullet points about purifying Shadow Pokémon and researching PVP teams.

Shadow Pokémon are extremely useful in raids, but their value really shines in PVP environments. It may seem tempting to purify them immediately so you can get that stat bonus, immediate level up, and stardust discount. However, you should hold off on doing so.

A great example of the benefits of not immediately purifying is Shadow Mewtwo. A 0% Shadow Mewtwo is stronger than a 100% Normal/Purified Mewtwo. Since there was only one way to get Shadow Mewtwo in Pokémon GO (i.e. Pokémon GO Fest 2020), it's best to not purify it should you happen to have one.

So when you capture a Shadow Pokémon hold on to it for a while. There just might be a niche for it somewhere. Plus, the Shadow Pokémon available for capture after defeating a member of Team GO Rocket also changes periodically meaning that it might be a while before you're able to capture a certain one - if ever again at all.

The Shadow Pokémon available to capture from Rocket Leaders are also subject to rotation.

The Shadow Pokémon available to capture from Rocket Leaders are also subject to rotation.

When it comes to building PVP teams, and choosing which of these Pokémon will receive a second charge move, it's best to wait and do some research.

If you have an idea for a team, look up what their optimal stats and moves are. A great resource for checking what the optimal PVP stats are for a Pokémon is Stadium Gaming.

This is currently the best way to check how your Pokémon's rank competitively, and it will also give you an idea on whether or not you should keep waiting.

For example, if you check the stats of an Azumarill you just caught and see that it ranks 2,587, you should consider waiting until you catch a better one since the chances of that happening are in your favor. You don't want to waste resources on a Pokémon that might very well be outclassed in a week or two when you catch a better one.

However, if you check the stats and see that it ranks in the top 10, then that would be a solid option to invest your stardust into since it might take you months to get a better one.

This also extends to researching which Pokémon benefit from having a second charge move taught to them. This not only takes stardust, but will also require you to use Charge TMs to get the moves you want/need, so it's imperative you take your time before committing to teaching a second charge move.

A Machamp with two charge moves.

A Machamp with two charge moves.

Again, GamePress is a great resource to use in this regard. They have breakdowns on how each move ranks for each Pokémon and what the optimal moves are for PVE and PVP environments.

In Summary

There are only a few ways to use the stardust that you collect. However, with the cost of each of these mechanics being fairly expensive, you will inevitably find yourself completely out of stardust.

The best advice anyone can give when it comes to stardust conservation is simply to wait. Do your research, and really figure out if you need to level up certain Pokémon, or if there is a better option for learning a second charge move. This alone will save you so much stardust in the long run.

Lucky Pokémon are also crucial for saving stardust, and really compliment the notion of waiting since it may take you a while to obtain one unless you're trading constantly.

I hope you found this useful, and if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I'll answer them the best I can. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you in the next one.