Pokémon Go is what you make it.

Back in 2016, we were all running around looking for Dragonites, but over time, the game's become so much more than that. You can work together with your fellow trainers to take on Raids. You can fight Team Rocket to liberate Shadow Pokémon. You can even compete against other players in Go Battle League, putting your skills to the test on a global ladder.

There are countless events, from weekly Raid Hours and Spotlight Hours to bigger affairs that last weeks. On the smaller scale, Research Tasks are bite-sized quests delivered at the spin of a PokéStop, and the same 'stops deliver Gifts you can send to your curated list of friends. Safari Zones and the annual Go Fests bring together thousands of players in person, and the bigger ones feel a bit like Woodstock for Pokémon.

There are as many different ways to play Pokémon Go as there are players. I have friends that collect one of each 'mon for a living Pokédex. Others go a step further, collecting Level 1 'mons for their "Onedo Dex," or going after two Pokémon of each species so they can have one of each gender. Many Pokémon actually look different in their male and female forms.

Pikachu's a classic example: the male has a lightning bolt tail, while the female has a heart-shaped tail. That might be nothing to you and me, but for some PoGo players it's enough of a difference that they work to complete their Pokémon journey twice.

Everybody plays PoGo a little differently; the game lets you choose your goals, and with millions of players worldwide – Pokémon Go just had one of its most successful months ever this August– they can be vocal about what they like and don't like. Different players like different things, and your personal style can lead you to what can feel like a totally different game.

That said, shiny Pokémon are the closest thing to a universal draw in Pokémon Go – uber rare 'mons with different colors than their regular versions. Some shiny Pokémon aren't that far off the originals, but some of them are pretty crazy: an orange Pokémon can shift to black, a drab brown can become a brilliant lime, purple can turn a blazing red, blue can become hot pink and so on.

In a game that's become so personal, cosmetic upgrades are huge.

Shiny Pokémon are status symbols and coveted trophies. For hardcore collectors they can be the ultimate prize, and even if you're not a serious shiny hunter, finding a rare shiny is still pretty cool. People love shiny 'mons and Niantic knows it: they use them as marquee attractions in big events, and the solid trickle of new shiny 'mons every few weeks is a staple of the PoGo end game.

Unfortunately, tracking down Shiny Pokémon can be difficult. Some are fairly easy: monthly Community Days deliver a featured shiny 'mon at about a 1:24 rate, and Limited Research like the Snubbull event in May have similar odds. Some Special Research quest lines feature a guaranteed shiny, like the shiny Eevee in the Jump-Start research line. But for the most part, shiny 'mons in the wild will only appear at around a 1:450 or 1:500 encounter rate. Pokémon that normally only hatch from eggs, like baby Pokémon and most Alolans, have a 1:50 rate. Raid Pokémon start at 1:20 for Legendaries, but the odds are far more difficult for Raid 'mons like Shinx, Klink and Timburr.

Finding more shiny Pokémon in Raids and eggs largely just means paying coins to raid and hatch more, but it's those wild encounters where the right techniques can give you a big edge. There are lots of rumors in Pokémon Go about certain accounts getting special treatment, or pay-2-play types getting more shinies, or returning players experiencing better odds as a form of player retention. But none of it's ever been proven. Instead, there are verified tricks that can speed up the process of searching for shiny Pokémon. And they do actually work.

You know that one player who always has great luck with shinies? This is how they're doing it.

First up...

Stop Catching All Those Pokémon

If you're not familiar with this tip, it's going to sound weird, but the best way to catch more Shiny Pokémon is to stop catching so many Pokemon. When you're just searching for shinies you're not really trying to catch 'em all. Instead, you just want to look at as many Pokémon as possible that could be shiny, so you can keep rolling the dice until you hit the jackpot. Eventually the law of large numbers wins out.

Throwing balls, feeding berries, and waiting to see if a Pokémon stops wiggling around in their new home all takes time. Heck, even if you skip some of those steps with fast catching, you're still going to spend time choosing your Poké Ball, swiping the screen and making your throw. Normally you want to catch everything you can to farm Stardust. But when you're looking for shinies you want to be constantly on the move, checking as many Pokémon as you can in as little time as possible.

Some of the best shiny hunting opportunities like Spotlight Hours, Safari Zones, and seasonal events are only around for a limited time, and you can only spend so many hours playing PoGo anyways. You want to make the most of the time you have; if you're truly focused on shinies you want to tap each Pokémon and leave the encounter immediately if it's not shiny. If a shiny Pokémon has a dramatic color difference it's often easy to spot, but in cases where the colors are more subtle, look for that shiny icon above the Pokemon's name and CP, as well as the burst of stars at the start of the encounter.

If you catch everything you find, you'll only see a fraction of the Pokémon you could encounter. Shiny checking is a well-known technique that can boost your chances, and it's so common you probably already knew about it. But here's a trick way fewer people know.

Start Using AR Mode

This one might sound like nothing, but when you get used to it the benefits are incredible.

First, go into the Settings screen, scroll down to the "AR" section and make sure "Niantic AR" is not checkmarked. Then, instead of using the regular encounter mode the next time you click a Pokémon, switch on AR mode using the toggle in the upper right of the encounter screen. AR Mode replaces that field-and-forest background with whatever your phone's camera is pointing at.

For this trick you don't really care what's in the background; I usually have the cover of my phone case folded over the camera lens anyway. What matters is the difference in behavior when you enter an encounter in regular mode, versus AR mode.

When you click into an encounter in regular mode, you start zoomed in on the Pokemon, overlaid with the message, "A wild [Pokemon] appeared!" From there the game stalls a moment, the camera swoops up and backwards to adjust your perspective, and then the user interface (UI) appears. You have to wait for that UI to pop in with your berries, your Poké Balls, and most importantly, the run button. You can't leave the encounter until the camera finishes moving.

AR mode is different. When you click into an encounter with AR on, the entire UI loads all at once. There's no stall and no camera swoop, so the moment you see that the Pokémon isn't shiny, you can run immediately and move onto the next one.

It sounds like a tiny difference, but multiplied over dozens or hundreds of Pokémon in a day it's actually huge. In multi-hour events like Safari Zones and Community Days, it usually buffs my number of shiny encounters by 50 percent or more. All those seconds you save really add up.

Know Your Neighborhood (And Find Your Best Route) 

Checking each Pokemon as quickly as you can is great, but you need to find a steady stream of Pokémon to apply those techniques to. Random Pokémon appear at the same spawn points on a regular schedule, and the extra spawns activated in events are always at consistent locations.

Scope out your neighborhood and find the best cluster spawns, then figure out the best route between them. You'll want to create a loop that sends you back to your start so you can keep cycling through spawns again and again. Just remember: Pokémon only respawn once per hour, so you want to give those spawn points time to kick out a new Pokémon. If your loop is too short, you'll risk missing out on fresh spawns. Worse yet, you could wind up checking the same Pokémon you already clicked earlier, wasting your time without even realizing it.

Here's an example of a cluster spawn in one of my favorite routes. You can only see about 25 Pokémon on the screen, but there are about 40 more as you move through this little spot on the waterfront. This kind of dense cluster is what you're looking for. If you can string a few of them together, you can easily check 300 to 400 'mons in a single Spotlight hour, even on foot.

Make sure not to trip yourself up in those big clusters. Avoid feeding your buddy Pokémon before you go shiny hunting, because if your buddy's following you on the map it can interfere as you try to click on potential shinies. If you have a Rocket Balloon on screen, that can get in the way too.

The biggest problem you'll want to avoid is checking the same Pokémon more than once when you're surrounded by them. It gets tough to keep track, but luckily when you tap a Pokémon and run, the Pokémon will turn to face your avatar once you're back on the map. If you tap only the Pokémon that are facing random directions, and avoid the ones facing you, you'll dodge the ones you've already clicked.

Incense is great as well, helping you encounter more Pokémon as you move around. But be careful, because incense 'mons drop right on top of you, making them tough to spot. Watch for the little pink ring of smoke that circles a freshly incensed Pokémon; it'll show you when a new spawn drops into your cluster.

Catching Accessories

Nintendo offers two official accessories that can sync up with Pokémon Go and let you catch Pokémon with the push of a button, even when the app is running in the background: the Poké Ball Plus and the Pokémon Go Plus.

Both devices pair with your phone via Bluetooth, lighting up and vibrating to tell you you're near a Pokemon. When that happens, pressing the button throws a normal Poké Ball in game, and you either catch the Pokémon then and there or it flees immediately.

These accessories can help you catch Pokémon you don't have time to check, but the one-and-done mechanic operates by the rules of regular catch rates; you won't catch many tough Pokemon, the types that would have a red catch ring in an encounter. But they work well for catching easier, green ring Pokémon, and if you couldn't give the app your attention to shiny check that Pokémon manually, it's all pure gains.

There are also third party accessories that are similar, but can add automated catching into the mix; your catch rate won't be any higher than a regular Plus device, but removing the need to keep pressing the "Yes, I Really Do Want To Throw A Ball At That Pokémon" button means you can catch while you're walking, while you're at work, or any other situation where you can't play normally.

The most popular third party option is the Go-Tcha line by Datel. They offer a few different versions, but the basic model looks a lot like a fitness tracker; it's a slim capsule that pops into a wristband. It's got a rechargeable battery, adjustable vibration settings, and if you don't want everyone to see you playing PoGo, it's a subtle alternative to the Ball Plus and Go Plus.

Whether a machine that sucks up Pokémon like some kind of nefarious Team Rocket invention is in the spirit of the game is up to you; technically, third party devices like the Go-Tcha are probably breaking Pokémon Go's Terms of Service. But Niantic and Nintendo have never made moves to stop those accessories, and most people view them like a third party controller for a game console.

The rule of "ABC" applies in shiny hunting strategy: "Always Be Catching." These types of accessories can deliver impressive results in your quest for shiny 'mons, turning your downtime into more catches.

Set Your Expectations

Lastly, one of the best decisions you can make searching for shiny Pokémon is to set realistic expectations: know the odds of finding what you're looking for, and keep records so you don't get discouraged.

If you're looking for a shiny Pokémon at that 1:450 rate, that doesn't mean you'll catch one as soon as you shiny check 450 'mons. In fact, if you bust out the calculator and run the numbers, checking 450 of that Pokémon will only give you a 63% chance of finding a shiny. If you want a 90% chance, you'll have to check a whopping 1050 Pokémon. P337 has a fantastic tool that can show you the odds of finding a shiny Pokémon, plugging in your target numbers so you can see your percentage chance of success.

The odds may be worse than you thought, but knowing what you're up against can help you keep a cool head. And on the flip side, it's super fun when you nab that new event shiny in twelve encounters, so you can see just how lucky you were!

If you don't know the shiny rate of a wild Pokemon, you can check a running count that refreshes regularly at ShinyRates.com. Some wild Pokémon, like Scyther, Sneasel, and Onix, actually have far better odds than others, often as good as 1:50!

Sometimes Pokémon have better shiny rates during events, too. Right now it's Fashion Week in Pokémon Go, and that event introduced Kricketot's shiny form. Normally a new shiny Pokémon drops at a the 1:450 or 1:500 rate, but that tool has tracked over 230,000 Kricketot and found that the rate's actually 1:125. (At least for now!) That's a huge boost, so it's a great time to try and grab some dapper bugs.

Finally, lots of players overestimate the number of shiny checks they've made and get frustrated when they don't find a shiny. I've had the conversation hundreds of times: a down-in-the-dumps player tells me, "This sucks, I've seen 1400 Magikarp and none of them were shiny." Later I check out their Pokédex and they've only encountered 400.

Awkward.

Honestly, I do it myself if I don't have a system in place; it's easy to get caught up in the chase and overestimate the number of Pokémon you've seen. But the Pokédex doesn't lie. Before a new event starts, I like to screenshot the entry in my Pokédex for every Pokémon I'll be looking for. That way when I don't find one by a certain time, I can at least see how many checks I've made and keep a healthy perspective.

People will tell you that finding shiny Pokémon comes down to luck. And they're not wrong--a little luck never hurts! But in my experience, the players who put in the time and use the best techniques are the ones who always seem to get the new shinies. Shiny hunting is more under your own control than most players realize, and with these tricks you can maximize your success, minimize your time spent, and have fun doing it.

While we're on the topic, let's take a quick trip into the Pokémon TCG's past and look at how shiny Pokémon debuted in the card game. Just like in the main series games, the first shiny 'mons in the PTCG were Shining Magikarp and Shining Gyarados, which arrived back in 2001 in Neo Revelation. They both featured the multi-energy attacks that would come to be the hallmark of shiny Pokémon.

Shining Magikarp and Shining Gyarados were cool and players like me ate them up, but stuff really kicked off in the next set, Neo Destiny. That release brought a whopping eight new Shining Pokémon into the game, and this time they had a special triple-star rarity icon and never-before-seen reflective foil treatments on the Pokémon themselves. They were absolutely stunning, and they've remained huge favorites for collectors.

You really have to see these things in person to get it. Each Pokémon pops off the card with that reflective foil, almost glowing when it catches the light. They look awesome today, but nineteen years ago there was nothing like this in the world of trading card games. Shining Pokémon were mind blowing, and looking at them now is a massive nostalgia bomb. Simply put, they are some of the coolest Pokémon cards ever printed.

Whether it's Pokémon Go, the main series, or the Pokémon TCG, shiny 'mons are one of the most exciting parts of the Pokémon games. If you're searching for new event shinies in Pokémon Go or tracking down those old gems in the TCG, good luck in the hunt!