Pokemon Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - Core, Weather and Field Effects

Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 - 10:30 | By: Robert Grosso
Developer
Game Freak
Publisher
Nintendo
Release Date
November 15, 2019
Multiplayer modes
Online, Online Features
Platforms
Nintendo Switch
Monetization
Expansion DLC, One Time Purchase
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
Amazon nintendo.com
The Team Takes Shape with our Core

Last time in our Pokemon Sword and Shield battle academy, I mentioned that a major principle for competitive play is building a team around a core Pokemon, which in turn synergizes with that Pokemon’s strengths by covering its weaknesses. Once you have your core chosen, other teammates will begin to fall into place as viable members. 

The best way to demonstrate this is to go through the whole process one at a time. So, for example, let’s say I want to build a team around Drednaw, a Rock/Water-type introduced in Generation VIII. The first thing we need to do is look at the basic stats of Drednaw:

 
 
Drednaw Banner
The first member of our team. 

The banner above shows off its base stats and abilities. Drednaw is a pretty powerful on the physical side, with a high 115 Attack. It’s HP and Defense are also strong at 90 apiece, while its Special Defense is low at 68. Its Speed is also pretty middling at 74, which can make it a liability, and its Water/Rock-typing comes with a crippling 4x Grass weakness, along with Fighting, Ground, and Electric weaknesses to consider.

So the question now is how do we use Drednaw? Clearly it should be a physical attacker, and it needs to have good coverage to compensate for its weaknesses, especially Grass. First, however, we need to address its Speed. One thing that Drednaw does have to help is Swift Swim, a powerful ability that doubles its Speed in the rain. 

Of course what does that mean when it comes to rain? Outside of stat manipulation and Speed control, other strategies that become incredibly viable in competitive play come in the form of weather control and field effects, which can really enhance the strength of a Pokemon in the field. 

Pokemon Sword and Shield - Weather Control

Pokemon Sword Shield Weather
Take advantage of Weather Effects whenever you can!

Weather control is one of the major strategies employed in doubles format, mostly because it can manipulate a lot of moves and abilities for multiple Pokemon. Weather is an all-terrain effect that changes the battle environment for everyone on the field. This can include powering up certain moves, activating abilities, and even doing damage. There are four total weather effects: Sunlight, Rain, Sandstorm, and Hail. Here is a rundown of all of their abilities.

Harsh Sunlight

Started by Sunny Day or the Drought Ability, harsh sunlight is arguably the weather condition that affects the most Pokemon and abilities. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, only Torkoal and Ninetails have access to the Drought Ability, an automatic Sunny Day when they switch in. The effects of sunlight include the following: 

  • Increasing the power of Fire-type moves by 50%.
  • Decreasing the power of Water-type moves by 50%.
  • Changes Weather Ball to a Fire-type move and doubles its power.
  • Prevents Pokemon from becoming frozen.
  • Increases the healing of Synthesis, Morning Sun, and Moonlight to 2/3 of the max HP.
  • Growth raises Attack and Special Attack by two stages instead of one. 
  • Allows Solar Beam and Solar Blade to be used instantly, instead of taking two turns to charge up.
  • Lowers the accuracy of Thunder and Hurricane to 50%.

Harsh sunlight activates the following abilities: 

  • Chlorophyll – Pokemon with this ability have their Speed doubled in harsh sunlight. 
  • Dry Skin – Pokemon with this ability will lose 1/8 of their HP in harsh sunlight. Fire-type attacks do 25% more damage. 
  • Flower Gift – The signature move of Cherrim, it raises Cherrim’s Attack and Special Defense in the sun.
  • Harvest - Pokemon with this ability have a 50% chance to restore a consumed berry each turn. In the sun, this becomes a 100% guarantee. 
  • Leaf Guard – Pokemon with this ability will not be affected by status conditions when harsh sunlight is up.
  • Solar Power –Pokemon with this ability will lose 1/8th of their HP each turn, but will receive a 1.5x Special Attack boost. 

Rain

Started by Rain Dance or the Drizzle Ability, the rain is a powerful weather that heavily affects Water types. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, only Pelipper has access to the Drizzle Ability, an automatic Rain Dance when they switch in. The effects of Rain include the following:

  • Increasing the power of Water-type moves by 50%.
  • Decreasing the power of Fire-type moves by 50%.
  • Changes Weather Ball to a Water-type move and doubles its power.
  • Increases the accuracy of Thunder and Hurricane to 100%. 
  • Halves the power of Solar Beam and Solar Blade.
  • Decreases the healing of Synthesis, Morning Sun, and Moonlight to 1/4 of the max HP. 

Rain activates the following abilities:

 
  • Dry Skin – Pokemon with this ability will recover 1/8th of its maximum HP in the rain, and will have its HP restored by one quarter of its maximum HP when hit by a Water-type move.
  • Hydration – Pokemon with this ability will have their status conditions healed in the rain.
  • Rain Dish – Pokemon with this ability will recover 1/16th of their max HP in the rain.
  • Swift Swim – Pokemon with this ability will have their Speed doubled in the rain. 

Sandstorm – Started by Sandstorm, or the abilities Sand Spit and Sand Stream, which benefits Rock, Ground, and Steel-types more than any other types. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, only Gigalith and Tyranitar have the Sand Stream Ability, an automatic Sandstorm when they switch in. Sandaconda has the Sand Spit ability, which activates a Sandstorm when it is hit by a physical move. Sandstorm includes the following effects:

  • Damages each non-Rock, non-Steel, or non-Ground Pokemon for 1/16th of their maximum HP. Can be negated by the Abilities Sand Force, Sand Rush, Sand Veil, Magic Guard, and Overcoat, or by holding Safety Goggles.  
  • Raises the Special Defense of all Rock-type Pokemon by 50%. 
  • Changes Weather Ball to a Rock-type move and doubles its power. 
  • Halves the power of Solar Beam and Solar Blade.
  • Decreases the amount healed by Synthesis, Morning Sun, and Moonlight to ¼ of the max HP. 

Sandstorm activates the following abilities: 

  • Sand Force – Pokemon with this ability will have the power of Rock-, Ground- or Steel-type moves increased by 30%. They become immune to sandstorm damage.
  • Sand Rush – Pokemon with this ability will have their Speed doubled in a sandstorm. They become immune to sandstorm damage.
  • Sand Veil – Pokemon with this ability will have the accuracy of opponent’s moves modified by a factor of 4/5, making it harder to hit.  They become immune to sandstorm damage. 

Hail

Started by Hail, or the ability Snow Warning, Hail heavily benefits the Ice-type, but is often considered the hardest weather to use in-game because of its niche appeal. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, only Abomasnow and Vanilluxe have the Snow Warning Ability, an automatic Hail when they switch in.  Hail includes the following effects:

  • Damages all non-Ice-type Pokemon for 1/16 of its maximum HP. Can be negated by the Abilities Ice Body, Snow Cloak, Magic Guard, or Overcoat, or by holding Safety Goggles.
  • Allows the move Aurora Veil to be used, which increases the Defense and Special Defense of the player's team for five turns. The effect continues if the weather changes.
  • Changes Weather Ball to an Ice-type move and doubles its power.
  • Increases the accuracy of Blizzard to 100%.
  • Halves the power of Solar Beam and Solar Blade.
  • Decreases the amount healed by Synthesis, Morning Sun, and Moonlight to ¼ of the max HP.

Hail activates the following Abilities:

 
  • Ice Body – Pokemon with this ability will regain 1/16th of their HP in the hail. They become immune to hail damage. 
  • Slush Rush – Pokemon with this ability have their Speed doubled in hail.
  • Snow Cloak – Pokemon with this ability will have the accuracy of opponent’s moves modified by a factor of 4/5, making it harder to hit.  They become immune to hail damage.

Pokemon Sword and Shield - Field Effects, Rooms, and Screens

Pokemon Sword Shield Light Screen
Field Effects can help turn the tide of a battle in your favor. 

Outside of weather, in general Field Effects can also manipulate stats and abilities in battle. Some field effects are activated by specific moves, while others are activated by abilities. In general, there are four categories of field effects: Rooms, Screens, Hazards, and Terrains. There are also two extra effects–Tailwind and Gravity–that are not in either of the other categories. 

  • Tailwind – A move that increases the Speed of the player’s Pokemon and the user’s party by 50% for four turns. Arguably one of the more popular effects that can be employed, because of its Speed control. 
     
  • Gravity – A move that increases the gravity of the field for five turns. This increases the accuracy of Pokemon moves and grounds any Flying-type Pokemon, Pokemon with Levitate, or Pokemon holding an Air Balloon, meaning they can be hit by Ground-type moves, entry hazards, abilities, and terrains. Moves including Flying Press, Magnet Rise, Bounce, Fly, High Jump Kick, and Splash will also fail. 

Rooms refer to the following three moves:

  • Trick Room – The most common room effect, Trick Room reverses the move order within each priority bracket on the field for five turns. This means the Pokemons' Speeds are reversed; slower Pokemon will go first, and faster ones will go last. 
  • Magic Room – The least common room effect, Magic Room prevents the use of items held by all Pokemon on the field for five turns.
  • Wonder Room – Wonder Room swaps the Defense and Special Defense stats of all Pokemon for five turns. It does not consider any stat changes, however, so raised or lower defenses still remain. 

Screens refer to the following three moves: 

  • Reflect – Halves the damage of physical attacks towards user’s team by 50%. Reflect can last five turns, or eight if a Pokemon using Reflect is holding the Light Clay item. The moves Brick Break, Psychic Fangs, or Defog can end Reflect, while the move Court Change switches the side that Reflect is on. The ability Infiltrator ignores Reflect.
  • Light Screen - Halves the damage of special attacks towards user’s team by 50%. Light Screen can last five turns, or eight if a Pokemon using Reflect is holding the Light Clay item. The moves Brick Break, Psychic Fangs, or Defog can end Light Screen, while the move Court Change switches the side that Light Screen is on. The ability Infiltrator ignores Light Screen. 
  • Aurora Veil – Halves the damage of both physical and special attacks towards the user’s team by 50%. In battles with allies, Aurora Veil reduces damage by a third rather than by half. Aurora Veil can last five turns, or eight if a Pokemon who used Aurora Veil is holding the Light Clay item. Aurora Veil can only be activated during the hail weather condition, but can remain after hail disappears. The moves Brick Break, Psychic Fangs, or Defog can end Aurora Veil, while the move Court Change switches the side that Light Screen is on. The ability Infiltrator ignores Aurora Veil. 

Pokemon Sword and Shield - Entry Hazards

Pokemon Sword Shield Hazards
Watch out for the spikes!

Entry hazards refer to hazards that can be deployed on the battlefield. These abilities are designed to do 'chip damage' in most instances, and in the case of two hazards, come with secondary effects. 

Hazards are rarely used in double battles, because the time it takes to set them up is often costly. For single competition, however, hazards are one of the necessary conditions players must be prepared for. Though we will likely not run into hazards in VGC games, they are worth talking about nonetheless because of their utility.  There are four kinds of entry hazards: Stealth Rock, Spikes, Toxic Spikes, and Sticky Web. 

  • Stealth Rock - The most common entry hazard, it causes pointed stones to float on the battlefield, dealing Rock-type damage to any Pokemon who switch into them. Because the damage is typed, Pokemon weak to Rock-type attacks take double, and in some cases, quadruple damage if doubly weak to Rock-type moves. Pokemon that resist Rock-type moves only receive half to a quarter damage. 
  • Spikes - A layer of spikes are thrown along the floor, dealing damage to all grounded Pokemon as they switch in. Spikes can be set up three times, with each layer of spikes dealing more damage to Pokemon, from 1/8, to 1/6, to 1/4 of its HP. 
  • Toxic Spikes - A layer of poisonous spikes are thrown along the floor, poisoning all grounded Pokemon as they switch in. Two layers of toxic spikes can give the "badly poisoned" status condition to opposing Pokemon. Only Steel and Poison-types are immune to Toxic Spikes, with poison-types absorbing them, removing them from the field. 
  • Sticky Web - Puts a layer of sticky webbing on the battlefield, lowering the Speed stat of all grounded Pokemon as they switch in. Pokemon with abilities that block or alter stat-manipulation, such as White Smoke, Clear Body, or Defiant, still activate. 

It should be noted that all entry hazards can be removed by two moves: Rapid Spin and Defog. Rapid Spin eliminates the entry hazards on the player's side of the field, while Defog eliminates all entry hazards on the battlefield. 

Pokemon Sword and Shield -Terrain Effects 

Pokemon Sword Shield Terrain
Ride that Electric Wave if you dare!


Terrains are perhaps the most complex of the field effects, as they cause several conditions to apply to all Pokemon in battle. They also have the most versatility when it comes to competitive strategies, making them a popular field effect for double battles. 

There are four types of terrains: Electric, Psychic, Grassy, and Misty Terrain. All terrains last for five turns, or eight turns if a Pokemon activates the terrain while holding a terrain extender. 

Electric Terrain – Electricity engulfs the battlefield, affecting all Pokemon on the ground with the following: 

  • Prevents Pokemon from being afflicted by sleep or yawn. 
  • Boosts the power of Electric-type moves by 30%.
  • Pokemon holding the Electric Seed item will consume the Electric Seed, and have their Defense raised by one stage. 
  • The ability Electric Surge automatically activates Electric Terrain. Only Pincurchin has the Electric Surge ability. 

Grassy Terrain – Grass engulfs the battlefield, affecting all Pokemon on the ground with the following: 

  • Restores the HP of all Pokemon on the ground by 1/16 of its maximum HP. 
  • Boosts the power of Grass-type moves by 30%. 
  • Reduces the power of Bulldoze and Earthquake by 50%. 
  • Pokemon holding the Grassy Seed item will consume the Grassy Seed, and have their Defense raised by one stage. 
  • The ability Grassy Surge automatically activates Grassy Terrain. Only Rillaboom has the Grassy Surge ability (currently unavailable) 

Psychic Terrain – The battlefield gets weird, affecting all Pokemon on the ground with the following: 

  • Prevents Pokemon from being hit by moves with increased priority, including moves boosted by Prankster. 
  • Boosts the power of Psychic-type moves by 30%.
  • Pokemon holding the Psychic Seed item will consume the Psychic Seed, and have their Special Defense raised by one stage. 
  • The ability Psychic Surge automatically activates Psychic Terrain. Only Indeedee has the Psychic Surge ability. 

Misty Terrain - The battlefield is engulfed in mist, affecting all Pokemon on the ground with the following:

  • Prevents all Pokemon from being afflicted by status conditions, including confused, poisoned, paralysis, burn, sleep, and frozen.
  • Lowers the power of Dragon-type moves by 50%.
  • Pokemon holding the Misty Seed item will consume the Misty Seed, and have their Special Defense raised by one stage.
  • The ability Misty Surge automatically activates Misty Terrain. Only Galarian Wheezing has the Misty Surge ability. 

Pokemon Sword and Shield - Enter Pelipper 

Pelipper Banner
The next member of our team. 

With all of this in consideration, using weather will help boost our Drednaw’s Speed and give it a bit more power. Our best bet is to have a Pokemon with Drizzle, with Pelipper being the only choice in Generation VIII for us.

Pelipper is a decent Pokemon, and the boosted power of the Rain will give it 100% accurate Hurricane Flying-STAB and utility with Scald. Its bigger weaknesses are its middling stats. Base 100 Defense is good, but not great, and base 95 Special Attack allows it to hit opponents decently, but not make killing blows. Pelipper itself also has only 65 base Speed, which does not help its chances in the rain either. However, Pelipper does get access to Tailwind, which can boost the entire team's Speed as well. This, combined with Swift Swim, will certainly make Drednaw one of the fastest Pokemon on the field when the rain is activated, bar field effects like Trick Room.

One of the advantages Pelipper does have, however, is a ton of support moves like Tailwind to help it in battle. Its dual-STAB is a potent combo in taking down some of Drednaw's more deadly threats, especially frail Grass-type sweepers and bulky Ground-types. Pelipper, like Drednaw, serves as what's called a 'check' to certain Pokemon because of their typing. Pelipper, being Water/Flying-type, does very well against most Ground and Grass-types, and the boosted Speed by Tailwind gives it a ton of mileage as a surprise special-hitter who can also heal up with Roost or be used as a pivot to keep up momentum in a battle.

Pokemon Sword and Shield - A Rain Team Core

Pokemon Sword Shield Battle Tower Doubles
Two down, four to go! 


With this, Drednaw and Pelipper are a solid core for the beginning of a Rain team. Both complement each other decently, and without much work we can set up a primary strategy early on to bring rain onto the field to help mitigate any Speed issues. Access to early Tailwind also helps with Speed problems, in case the rain is removed by another weather effect, and powerful STAB Rock, Flying, and Water attacks cover a lot of opposing Pokemon types. 

The combination is not without its flaws, however. For one, both are weak to Electric attacks and have mediocre defenses that can be punched through by powerhouse Pokemon. Bulky Pokemon may also survive a few hits if we're not careful, and while we have strong coverage, Steel-, Ghost-, Psychic-, and Dragon-types can heavily resist all our STAB attacks. Finally, Trick Room is arguably the biggest threat to this core, as it negates any Speed control we attempt to do, leaving both open to be hit first.

The question now is what other Pokemon can join in to help compensate for the team's glaring weaknesses? Let’s find out next time, as we move onto move and stat selection as we continue to build our team around our Drednaw core. Until then, class is dismissed. 
 


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Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Enjoys penning long-form articles that few probably read. Love the art of gaming, preservation, collecting and RPGs. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over ten years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.