The stories behind my top 10 rare catches in Pokemon GO

Exactly 1 month after downloading Pokemon GO, I was able to successfully catch ‘em all! (well, the 142 that are obtainable in North America) While it took some time, I had the advantage of working right near Grand Army Plaza (one of the greatest places in the world to catch Pokemon) which helped me catch a lot of the Pokemon on this list. I was also drawn to Pokemon GO because I’m a huge Phish fan and one of my favorite parts of seeing Phish is catching rarities and “bustouts” — hello 6.19.11 Harpua and 12.31.13 Icculus! — and surprisingly, catching rare Pokemon gave me a very similar feeling. Furthermore, in addition to Pokemon GO being incredibly fun and letting me experience my favorite part of seeing my favorite band, it also allowed me to time-travel to Camp Mesorah 1998 and hang out with the 12-year-old-Pokemon-Red-playing-version of me. With all this in mind, I decided to compile a top 10 list of my favorite catches.

10. Aerodactyl

Aerodactyl was the first Pokemon I caught through use of Pokevision (RIP), which was an incredible third party tracking app that notified you when specific Pokemon spawned nearby. Anyhow, on Wednesday July 27th after having woken up at about 6:10am, I was going through my usual morning routine of checking Facebook, Twitter, Timehop and then decided to check Pokevision. Upon opening it up, I noticed that an Aerodactyl was 5 blocks away from my apartment. I immediately jumped out of bed, put on my sneakers, ran down the street and arrived just in time to catch it. An added bonus to this Aerodactyl catch was that on the way back to my apartment I caught my first Lickitung, another rare Pokemon.

9. Blastoise

Blastoise is one of two Pokemon on this list that I obtained via doing the evolution rather than catching in the wild (the other being Gyarados). Still, while I didn’t catch a wild Blastoise, I did catch a rare Wartortle in addition to all of those Squirtles — who surprisingly always put up a tough fight when I tried catching them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While I was wrapping up this blogpost, a Blastoise shockingly popped up in my living room (you can see me editing this post on my Mac in the background). Pretty wild, right?

Granted, it’s a terrible cp- but hey, it’s a wild Blastoise that popped up in my living room!

8. Porygon

A few weeks ago, I was reading an article listing the 10 rarest Pokemon in Pokemon GO and it had Porygon clocking in at #4. Porygon’s rarity is further noteworthy, as the world’s first Pokemaster said it was his hardest Pokemon to find. Anyhow, one night on Twitter I saw a tweet from my friend Alex Taub and noticed he had a Porygon.

I immediately asked him:

Alex responded he had hatched it — Porygons can surprisingly be hatched in 5k eggs instead of 10k eggs.

Having witnessed the greatness of Pokevision through my Aerodactyl catch, I periodically checked Pokevision while at work to see if any rare Pokemon would pop up nearby. During one of these times I opened up Pokevision, and saw that there was a Porygon only 11 blocks away from me! I immediately got up, ran the 11 blocks and caught it just as the buzzer expired! I felt a little bad celebrating my catch since a few guys who arrived right after me had just missed it and were crestfallen — but I’m sure they got a Porygon eventually.

7. Gyarados

For the majority of Pokemon GO players, Gyarados is the embodiment of persistence. Gyarados is super rare and one of the best Pokemon to use for fighting at a gym… but getting a Gyarados is an unbelievable headache. Since it’s virtually impossible to find a Gyarados in the wild, the only way to get one is to evolve it from a Magikarp. The final evolutions of the hardest Pokemon require 100 candies — but Gyarados is THE exception, requiring an absurd 400 candies. Yes there are lots of Magikarp around, but it takes a whole lot of time to get to a Gyarados.

6. Snorlax

Snorlax is a running joke in my family — when my youngest brother was obsessed with Pokemon in the late 90’s, he was once showing our Dad some of his cards and when he got to Snorlax, my Dad ate it up and thought it was one of the greatest bits ever 😂.

How rare is Snorlax? Check out this video in the tweet below.

The story of how I caught a Snorlax — I know I’m starting to repeat myself, but again — I was at my desk and deciding whether the feature I needed to implement in the project I was working on required jQuery or just vanilla JavaScript. While mulling it over, I opened Pokevision and saw a Snorlax had appeared in Central Park! I immediately headed out and 2 minutes later I caught him. I returned to my office with a huge smile… and decided that jQuery was the right choice.

I would’ve ranked Snorlax higher on this list, except after having caught my initial one I hatched an additional 3(!) from 10k eggs.

5. Kabutops

On Saturday night August 6th, my roommate told me he was hosting his fantasy football draft in our apartment. Wanting to finish Pokemon GO within a month (I had downloaded it July 7th) I decided this would be the perfect time to head to Grand Army Plaza to catch the ones I was missing. I had caught 140 at this point — the only 2 I still needed were a Kabutops and an Omastar. Both of these Pokemon are super rare so I didn’t expect to actually catch them — rather I’d catch their unevolved forms and evolve to them. I needed 5 Kabutos for a Kabutops and 3 Omanytes for an Omastar. With the help of Go Radar (Pokevision’s successor) I quickly caught 2 Omanytes and 1 Kabuto. I checked Go Radar again and saw that a Kabutops had popped up in the middle of Central Park, but since it would only be there for 2 minutes I didn’t give it much thought. That is… until I saw an angry mob of joggers coming up to knock me down (“Esther” reference). Ah what the hell I thought, I’ll join them even though we probably won’t get there in time. However much to my surprise and with a couple of seconds to spare before he despawned, I saw the Kabutops pop up on my app! I caught him and was thrilled — and here’s a pic of all us happy nerds.

Sidenote: later that day I also caught the last Omanyte I needed to evolve to an Omastar and completed my Pokedex.

4. Chansey

Chansey holds a special place on this list. Besides being the centerpiece of fun stories in Business Insider and Slate, Chansey was the last “standalone” (ie unevolvable) rare Pokemon that I needed. Every time I got a 10k egg I was hoping for a Chansey. One morning in late July I left work for a short break and took a quick stroll around Grand Army Plaza. I caught a few Pidgeys and Weedles, hit a couple of Pokestops — you know, nothing major. As I was heading back to my office, lo and behold… a Chansey popped up out of nowhere!!! Super excited, I turned on AR to take a screenshot anticipating I’d write this blogpost, and then quickly caught it. Since this was like 11:38am, I gave the 5 people in Grand Army Plaza high fives and we all remarked about how crazy it was that a Chansey popped up.


Pokemon Go is a strange game. Chansey is one of the rarest Pokemon in the game, so obviously the day I FINALLY caught one… I hatched another one later that day, and even caught another one later that night.

3. Dragonite

While it appears that a Dragonite literally mans every gym, Dragonite is probably the rarest Pokemon in Pokemon GO. It’s difficult to state how rare it is to come across a Dragonite. How rare is it?

As this article notes:

Firstly, [Dragonite’s most basic] form, Dratini, is even fairly rare; so rare, in fact, that they are hatched in 10km eggs. That’s right, Dragonites [or even Dragonairs!] are not even hatchable in the current egg system within Pokémon GO.

So how was I able to catch one? Stop me if you’ve heard this one already: Grand Army Plaza. Having spent 6 hours working on a project on Sunday, I left work and walked to Grand Army Plaza. I was only there for a few minutes when all of a sudden I saw HUNDREDS of people start bolting uptown. I was about to ask what it was until I heard people shriek “DRAGONITE!!!” at the top of their lungs. Of course I joined these people and started running to where they said the Dragonite was, and I could not believe it when a Dragonite popped up on my screen! All it took was some Razz Berries, sore calfs, and 3 Ultra Balls and I had a Dragonite!

The reaction after having caught this Dragonite was insane — it was like a sports team had won a championship. There were hundreds of people cheering in the streets, cars honking, and cops stopping traffic to high five kids. Granted Pokemon GO is just a game, but everyone’s reaction to catching this Dragonite was so memorable that it’s something I’ll never forget.

2. Lapras

Lapras is one of the rarest Pokemon in the game, and it also may have been my favorite one to catch. How rare is a Lapras? Well, a TimeOut article titled “Where to find 20 of the best and rarest Pokemon in NYC” is actually quite misleading — because while it DOES gives advice on where to find 19 of the rarest Pokemon, when it come to Lapras the only advice it gives for finding one is: “good luck with that.” What made my catching of this Lapras all the more special is the way it came about. For a lot of the Pokemon on this list, I got the Pokemon by evolving to it or checking a Pokemon tracker and running to that location — this Lapras was unlike any of those. I was in an Uber on the way to work and since I was passing Grand Army Plaza, I decided to open Pokemon GO just to get some goodies from a couple of Pokestops. Upon opening the app I saw this Lapras and did a double take. I couldn’t believe it!! Here was a Lapras just chilling out in Grand Army Plaza! I immediately got out of my Uber, caught it, was all smiles and had a great day.

Just for fun, here’s a video of a Labras mob in Central Park.

1. Charizard

This was always going to be number 1, as the nostalgia factor for me for Charizard is too strong. For example:

  1. When my middle brother and I played Pokemon Red in the late 90's, we always chose Chamander as our starter Pokemon just so we could eventually evolve to a Charizard.
  2. One of my youngest brother’s first Pokemon cards was a Charizard.
  3. There’s a 4 foot Charizard doll in my parent’s basement that I won in 2000 by hitting a basketball shot on the Santa Monica Pier.
  4. I have a full back tattoo of Charizard (ok I made that one up).

Unless you know about the Charmander nest by the Museum of Natural History (which you do now #yourewelcome) coming across a wild Charmander is uncommon, and I hadn’t even come across a wild Charmeleon — let alone a Charizard.

Anyhow on Friday August 5th I had just gotten to work and was at my desk starting up my computer, when all of a sudden I saw Charizard appear on Go Radar! I tried to be as calm as this Reddit guy, but calculating that I could totally cover 12 blocks in 9 minutes had me sprinting out the door. The best part of this story is that as I was getting closer to the Charizard’s location and passed by people walking in the opposite direction they each asked me a one word question: “Charizard?” Each time I nodded, and all of us laughed since they had obviously done the same. I arrived at the location with a minute to spare and after only 2 Razz Berries and 2 Ultra Balls — I had my Charizard! Sure I may have had to spent the next few hours of the day in sweaty clothes, but it was totally worth it 👍🏻.

and yes… while it “technically” may be considered a crappy Charizard — dude: it’s still a Charizard!

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