With Pokemon Sword and Shield out now, the eighth generation is now in the spotlight for many new additions. With tons of rare Pokemon to find, shiny hunting to do, and even new mini-games such as cooking to play around with, Sword and Shield is chock full of content for players to sink their teeth into. Yet one constant in the Pokemon franchise is the focus on competitive play between the hardcore crowd.
Competitive Pokemon is a strange beast thanks in part to the large number of mechanics players need to track. There are a ton of variables that need to be considered before getting involved in competitive play, but the gist of it boils down to the following steps:
- IV and EV training Pokemon for viable stats.
- Understanding the fundamentals of balanced typing, coverage, team roles and general strategies.
- Selecting a 'core' Pokemon or strategy to build your team around.
- Team building to complement your Pokemon strengths and weaknesses with team synergy.
While this seems simple, to be effective in competitive matches, players really need to consider building a team that is multi-dimensional enough to withstand various strategies at once. Players need to consider everything, from their Pokemon's stats to movesets, natures, abilities, and items, to tweak their strategies further.
For newcomers this may seem daunting, but thankfully Sword and Shield simplifies the process for players immensely thanks in part to new mechanics. So the objective of this multi-part guide is simple; we will go through all four steps to walk through what players will need to build their own competitive Pokémon team. Welcome to the Battle Academy for Pokemon Sword and Shield.
A Note About Competitive Pokemon Formats
The first thing players need to consider is what kind of competitive format they wish to participate in. In general, there are two main formats: One officially endorsed by The Pokemon Company, and the unofficial casual competitive format.
The official tournament format sponsored by Nintendo and The Pokemon Company is the Video Game Championship Series. The main focus of the VGC is a double battles (2 v 2) format that is tiered based on your age bracket. Players participating in VGC can also earn enough points for the Video Game World Championships, the international championship finals, and are subject to various rule changes such as banned Pokemon in some seasons.
The unofficial competitive format is known as Smogon, one of the longest fan-run competitive formats in Pokemon. Smogon follows single battle (1 v 1) format with tier listings, where it lists each Pokemon in various tiers of play for fair matchups. Smogon is also involved in banning or limiting several Pokemon and strategies, such as banning Baton Pass strategies or certain Mega-Evolutions in previous generations.
So which one will you play? In truth there is no shame in creating competitive Pokemon for both formats, as both have strengths and weaknesses to their rules, tiering and more. For the purposes of the Battle Academy guides, as well as any analysis given to individual Pokemon in the future, we will be focusing on VGC format. This is primarily because it is the official format for competitive play, so for many hoping to get involved in competitive Pokemon, it is the main starting point for official events and tournaments. Of course, Smogon from time to time will be mentioned, but for the most part, the focus will be on double battle format for VGC.
Sword and Shield - IV Explanation
Every Pokemon in the game has base stats, which are a number total that are divided among six different statistics: HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed. Individual Values, or IVs, are a hidden stat value that each Pokemon has on top of their base stat totals, with a number that ranges from 0 to 31. So a Pokemon with an IV stat of 31 in their HP mean's their HP stat without training will be one of the highest it can be in the game, and likewise for every stat your Pokemon has.
To fully calculate what this means, let's use Pikachu as an example. The base stat total for Pikachu, 320, puts its highest stat total in Speed at 90. So a Pikachu with untrained Speed IVs, at level 50, would only have a Speed stat of 95. A Pikachu with perfect IVs in Speed would instead have 110. Keep in mind, this is not taking into account any EV training or natures, which also manipulate your stat numbers. Objectively though, a 31 Speed IV Pikachu is faster than the 0 IV Speed Pikachu, which is a major edge in competitive play.
The inclusion of IVs makes each Pokemon unique, but for competitive purposes, most players look for perfect IVs for their Pokemon in all of their viable stats. So attackers, for example, would want perfect IVs on Speed and their primary attack stat at least, while defensive walls might want perfect IVs in HP and both Defenses. Of course, this depends on the role players want their Pokemon to play, which definitely falls into a more advanced discussion on team composition and strategies.
To find out your Pokemon's IVs, players can get the IV checker in the post-game. To obtain it, you need to win six battles and face Leon in the Battle Tower in Wyndon. After you achieve this, the IV checker is given to you, which can be accessed in the Pokemon PC menu with the 'Judge' button (+ button). The rundown of what each stat means is as follows:
- No Good: 0
- Decent: 1-10
- Pretty Good: 11-20
- Very Good: 21-29
- Fantastic: 30
- Best: 31
So the question now is, how do you get good IVs? There are two methods in Sword and Shield which overlap each other somewhat: breeding Pokemon and Max Raid Battles.
Sword and Shield - Getting Best IVs
The best method to get good IVs for Pokemon is Max Raid Battles. Raid battles always have a chance to give you perfect IVs in stats and are dependent on the number of stars for the raid. Both common and rare dens can range from one to five stars, but almost all rare raids guarantee at least one perfect IV in a stat. The more stars in a rare raid, the more likely you will get multiple perfect IVs.
Since every Pokemon in the game can be found in a den, it is possible to farm for perfect IVs without ever touching breeding, getting competitive Pokemon relatively quickly. For players looking to target specific Pokemon, they can check out Serebii's listing of Pokemon dens in the Wild Area, which give the rundown of both common and rare den finds, rewards, and percentage chances.
Breeding is its own discussion in Pokemon Sword and Shield. For the most part, you need your Pokemon to be in a similar egg group, a Pokemon with Flame Body (or similar abilities), and two items: the Destiny Knot and an Everstone. You also might need a Ditto as well, which can easily be found in a rare den (which mean guaranteed IVs) in the Stony Wilderness, near the Wild Area's Daycare.
You simply want to pair a male and female Pokemon with the best IVs with each other, or with a Ditto with high IVs. You then need to give one of the Pokemon the Destiny Knot, which can be purchased by the BP seller in the Hammerlocke Pokecenter. The Destiny Knot has a chance of transferring over IV stats to your Pokemon's offspring, making the breeding of perfect IVs easy. Now you simply collect the eggs as they come. Have the Pokemon with Flame Body at the front of your party, so that the number of steps you need to hatch the eggs are cut in half.
Both breeding and raiding are viable methods, and when combined, they can make Pokemon with perfect IVs pretty easy to get. Max Raid Battles, however, are arguably the best method in the end to obtain near-competitive level Pokemon. Farming Max Raid Battles also gives players tons of items and TRs, which will be a massive boon for EV training and team composition later.
One more thing to note about IVs: Once your Pokemon reaches level 100, they can be hyper trained at the Battle Tower in Wyndon. Hyper training requires a bottle cap, but it can instantly transform your Pokemon's IVs into perfect stats. Two types of bottle caps are found in Sword and Shield: standard bottle caps, which can be used to hyper train one stat, and gold bottle caps, which can hyper train every stat.
Sword and Shield IV Farming - Final Thoughts
While the above is just the basic information you need for IV training, remember that for competitive play, Pokemon need more than just perfect IVs in their Attack, Speed, or whatever stats you want to focus on. That said, obtaining a Pokemon that has excellent IVs will increase your viability for competitive play, so it is well worth sinking some time into. Thankfully with Max Raid Battles, that time is rewarding for players, making the obtaining of perfect IVs easier compared to previous generations.
To really get down to the nitty gritty of tailoring your Pokemon, players need to also understand how the aforementioned EVs work as well. That, however, will be the subject of our next article in the Battle Academy series. Until then, class is dismissed for now.