Last time in the battle academy, we went over EV training in Pokemon Sword and Shield. With that, and IV training covered, now players should have several viable Pokemon ready for competitive play. The question then is where do we go from here?
There is honestly no easy answer for that, as competitive Pokemon is a game about strategy, move sets, team building, and understanding the inner mechanics that are found in game. It is possible to slap together a team of your favorite Pokemon, but realistically, you want Pokemon that cover strengths and weaknesses, have a defined role on a team, and maybe a strategy that synergizes well with each team member.
The easy part though is over. The hard part is now building a strong team of Pokemon. So welcome to the first of several guides that will cover everything you need to know about competitive play.
Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - VGC Format and Rules for Competitive Pokemon
The first thing we need to understand is the current rules for competitive play. This past week, VGC announced their 2020 rule set for competitive Pokemon this year. As stated previously, these guides will focus primarily on VGC play, so the key rules are as follows:
- All matches will be double battles, and players will select a team of four out of six Pokemon.
- Team preview will last 90 seconds per match.
- Players must bring their own Nintendo Switch with either Pokemon Sword or Shield to competitive events.
- Pokemon must be caught in the Galar region to be tournament legal. Pokemon must pass a hack check at events to determine if they are legal. Any hacked Pokemon can lead to disqualification.
- All Pokemon in the Galar Regional Pokedex are allowed, except for mythical and certain legendary Pokemon. Pokemon will be equalized to Level 50, including those below Level 50 for competitive battles.
- No duplicate Pokemon or held items are allowed on a team.
- Players will have 15 minutes per match to play, with 45 seconds allotted for each move, and a time bank of seven minutes per player. If a player runs out of time in their time bank, they forfeit the match.
In addition to all these rules, only a small pool of Gigantamax Pokemon will be allowed in VGC at this time. The list includes the following:
- Charizard (Blaze Ability Only)
Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - Some Poke-math
Breaking down the Galar Pokedex, we have, 214 competitively viable Pokemon out of the 400+ that can be found in game. The chart above goes into the breakdown of how many Pokemon there are by type. Also included in these numbers are various forms or gender differences that change stats, move pools, or abilities, including the likes of Meowstic, Indeedee, and Gourgeist, for example. The only Pokemon not included in the list is Silvally, which can technically be every type in the game thanks to its ability, RKS System. So, if you add all of Silvally's types into the mix, add one more number to each type except Normal.
That leaves a lot of options with a lot of overlap due to dual-type Pokemon. Type advantage is a primary consideration that can help in VGC. For starters, every Pokemon has access to STAB, or same type attack bonus. STAB increased the power of your moves by 50% so long as they have the same typing as the move. So the move Earthquake would get a 50% power boost if a Ground-type used the move. Not only is STAB important, but so are type advantages and disadvantages, which is already well known by Pokemon players.
Most strategies also follow a theme for their team. You may have heard the phrases ‘Rain Team’ or ‘Trick Room Team’ before, for example. The rule of thumb when team building is usually picking a “core” Pokemon at the team’s center and building around it. Before we get to team building with a core Pokemon, however, I want to go through various principles, moves, and strategies to consider for team building. Specifically two important components: speed control and stat manipulation.
Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - Speed Control
If there is one rule to take away from competitive Pokemon, it is the principal of speed control. Speed is arguably the most important statistic in a Pokemon battle as it determines who attacks first. Moving first has many advantages, especially when it comes to doing damage, setting up your team with offense or defense, or even disrupting the other team.
Typically, in a one-on-one scenario, the faster Pokemon goes first, with ties letting one of the monsters to go first randomly. There are, of course, exceptions to this, as the speed stat can be easily manipulated in battle through various means. This can include increased priority moves, abilities that increase priority or speed if certain conditions are met, moves that increase or decrease speed, or even items that can boost your speed. The status condition paralysis also halves a Pokemon’s speed and has a 25% chance of preventing them from attacking as well.
All this needs to be taken into consideration when teambuilding; if you don’t have a way to ‘control’ speed that benefits or hinders your opponent, you may find yourself knocked out quickly. It should be noted that in Sword and Shield, speed boosts and drops act on the turn they occur, instead of enacting next turn. This is important because it can fundamentally change strategies for teams to try and gain a speed boost early to benefit their team or their partner.
Because of the importance of speed control, multiple strategies often incorporate speed into their strategies. The following are the most common competitive moves and abilities that can manipulate speed. Please note, this is not a comprehensive list of all moves that affect speed, just some of the most used moves that do.
Moves that Affect Speed:
|Agility||Raises the user's speed by two stages.|
|Bulldoze||A Ground-type move that does damage and lowers opponent's speed by one.|
|Clangorous Soul||Signature move for Kommo-o, raises all of it’s stats at the expense of some HP.|
|Cotton Spore||Lowers the opponent's speed by two stages.|
|Curse||For Non-Ghost-types, lowers speed, but raises attack and defense. For Ghost-types, it cuts their HP in half to inflict a curse on the opponent.|
|Dragon Dance||Raises the user's attack and speed by one.|
|Drum Beating||Signature move of Rillaboom. A Grass-type move that does damage and lowers the opponents speed by one.|
|Electroweb||A Electric-type move that does damage and lowers the opponents speed, affects both opponents.|
|Icy Wind||A Ice-type move that does damage and lowers the opponents speed, affects both opponents.|
|Low Sweep||A Fighting-type move that does damage and lowers the opponents speed by one.|
|No Retreat||The signature move of Falinks, raises all of its stats but can’t retreat from battle.|
|Quiver Dance||Raises the user's special attack, special defense, and speed by one.|
|Rapid Spin||A Normal-type move that damage, raises speed, and removes entry hazards.|
|Rock Polish||Raises the user's speed by two stages.|
|Scary Face||Lowers the opponents speed by two stages, affects both opponents.|
|Shell Smash||Raises the users attack, special attack, and speed by two stages, lowers the defense and special defense by one stage.|
|Shift Gear||Raises the user's speed by two stages and attack by one stage.|
|Sticky Web||Entry hazard that lowers the opponent's speed stat by one when they switch in. Does not affect Flying-types, Pokemon with Levitate, or Pokemon holding the Air Balloon.|
|String Shot||Lowers the opponents speed by two stages, affects both opponents.|
|Tailwind||Doubles the speed of the whole team for four turns.|
|Thunder Wave||Guaranteed paralysis to the opponent if it connects, except for Ground-types.|
|Trick Room||Reverses Speed of all Pokemon on the field, making slower Pokemon go first.|
Abilities that Affect Speed:
|Contrary||Raises stats when they would normally be lowered, lowers stats when they would normally be raised.|
|Prankster||Gives priority to non-damage dealing moves, allowing the Pokemon to move first.|
|Sand Rush||Doubles speed in sandstorms.|
|Slush Rush||Doubles speed in hail.|
|Speed Boost||Raises speed once a turn.|
|Steam Engine||The signature ability of Coalossal, When hit by a Water or Fire-type move, raises speed by two stages.|
|Swift Swim||Doubles speed in the rain.|
|Unburden||Doubles speed when the Pokemon’s held item is lost.|
|Weak Armor||When a Pokemon is hit by a physical attack, it loses its defense by one, but its speed is raised by two stages.|
Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - Stat Manipulation
While speed control is one of the keys to a competitive Pokemon battle, stat manipulation in general is an important factor to competitive play. Abilities like intimidate, for example, are valuable because they lower the attack stat of a Pokemon by one stage automatically, making physical attackers weaker before they can land a blow. Other boosting moves can raise or lower multiple stats as once, such as popular boosting moves Quiver Dance and Shell Smash that can set up Pokemon for sweeping. Status moves are also important to keep in mind as well; paralysis, as previously mentioned, halves a Pokemon’s speed, but the burn status can halve a Pokemon’s attack power as well.
This section covers moves and abilities that increase or decrease other stats outside of speed. Note that some moves already mentioned in the speed control section will not be mentioned here, but have previously been noted what stats they manipulate.
Moves that Affect Attack:
|Belly Drum||Cuts HP in half to raise attack to six stages.|
|Bulk Up||Raises the user's attack and defense by one.|
|Calm Mind||Raises the user's special attack and special defense by one.|
|Coil||Raises the user's attack, defense and accuracy by one.|
|Draco Meteor||A Dragon-type move that does damage but lowers the user's special attack by two stages.|
|Growth||Raises the user's attack and special attack by one, or two stages in the sun.|
|King's Shield||The signature move of Aegislash. Protects the Pokemon and lowers the opponent's attack stat by one stage if it makes contact.|
|Lunge||A Bug-type move that does damage and has a chance to lower the opponent's attack by one.|
|Moonblast||A Fairy-type move that does damage and has a chance to lower the opponent's special attack by one.|
|Mystical Fire||A Fire-type move that does damage and lowers the opponent's special attack by one.|
|Nasty Plot||Raises the user's special attack by two stages.|
|Parting Shot||Switches out the user, but lowers the opponent's attack and special attack by one.|
|Play Rough||A Fairy-type move that does damage and has a chance to lower the opponent's attack by one.|
|Power Split||Averages out the user and target Pokemon’s attack and special attack.|
|Power Trick||Switches the user's raw attack and raw defense stats. Stat modifiers are not swapped.|
|Power-up Punch||A Fighting-type move that does damage and raises the user's attack by one.|
|Snarl||A Dark-type move that does damage and lowers the opponent's special attack by one.|
|Strength Sap||Lowers the opponent's attack by one, heals the user based on the effective amount of the opponent's attack.|
|Superpower||A Fighting-type move that does damage but lowers the users attack and defense by one.|
|Swagger||Raises the opponent's attack stat by two stages, causes confusion.|
|Swords Dance||Raises the user's attack stat by two stages.|
|Trop Kick||The signature move of Tsareena, a Grass-type move that does damage and lowers the opponent's attack by one.|
Abilities that Affect Attack:
|Berserk||The signature ability of Drampa. When the user's HP is at half, the Pokemon’s special attack stat is raised by one.|
|Defiant||When the user's stats are lowered, the Pokemon’s attack stat raises by two stages.|
|Flower Gift||The signature ability of Cherrim, raises its attack and special defense in the sun.|
|Guts||Doubles the attack stat of the user when afflicted with a status condition, such as Burn, Poison, or Paralysis.|
|Huge Power||Doubles the attack stat of the user when afflicted with a status condition, such as Burn, Poison, or Paralysis.|
|Intimidate||Lower the opponent's attack by one stage upon entering the battle.|
|Justified||When hit by a Dark-type move, the users attack is raised by one stage.|
|Lightning Rod||Makes the user immune to Electric-type attacks, attracts all Electric-type attacks, and raises special attack by one.|
|Moxie||When the user knocks out a Pokemon, its attack is raised by one.|
|Sap Sipper||Makes the user immune to Grass-type attacks, raises the users attack by one.|
|Storm Drain||Makes the user immune to Water-type attacks, attracts all Water-type attacks, and raises it's special attack by one.|
Moves that Affect Defense:
|Acid Armor||Raises the user's defense by two stages.|
|Amnesia||Raises the user's special defense by two stages.|
|Bug Buzz||A Bug-type attack that does damage and lowers the opponent's special defense by one.|
|Close Combat||A Fighting-type attack that does damage and lowers the users defense and special defense by one.|
|Cosmic Power||Raises the user's defense and special defense by one.|
|Cotton Guard||Raises the user's defense by three stages.|
|Crunch||A Dark-type attack that does damage and has a chance to lower the opponent's defense by one.|
|Fire Lash||A Fire-type attack that does damage and lowers the opponents defense by one.|
|Flash Cannon||A Steel-type attack that does damage and has a chance to lower the opponent's special defense by one.|
|Guard Split||Averages out the user's and target Pokemon’s defense and special defense.|
|Iron Defense||Raises the user's defense by two stages.|
|Liquidation||A Water-type attack that does damage and lowers the opponents defense by one.|
|Obstruct||The signature move of Obstagoon. Protects the Pokemon and lowers the opponent's defense stat by two stages if it makes contact.|
|Octolock||The signature move of Grapploct. Traps the opponent and lowers their defense and special defense by one each turn.|
|Shadow Ball||A Ghost-type attack that does damage and lowers the opponent's special defense by one.|
|Steel Wing||A Steel-type attack that does damage and lowers the opponent's defense by one.|
|Stockpile||Raises the user's defense and special defense by one. Can be used three times.|
|Psychic||A Psychic-type attack that does damage and lowers the opponent's special defense by one.|
Abilities that Affect Defense:
|Stamina||The signature ability of Mudsdale, raises its defense by one whenever hit with a physical move.|
|Marvel Scale||Defense is increased by 50% when hit with a status condition.|
Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - Dynamaxing in Competitive Play
One more thing to take into consideration is Dynamax moves. Dynamaxing transforms every attacking move into a specific typed move, with each having an extra effect during battle. The power of Dynamax moves is dependent on the move you use, but the extra effect stay the same based on your type. Status moves all turn into Max Guards, which prevent all damage like protect.
The following are all the effects of Dynamax moves:
Raising and Lowering Stats:
- Max Knuckle - Fighting-type moves that will raise the attack of the user’s team.
- Max Steelspike - Steel-type moves that will raise the user’s defense.
- Max Ooze - Poison-type moves that raises the special attack of the user’s team.
- Max Quake - Ground-type moves that will raise the special defense of the user’s team.
- Max Airstream - Flying-type moves that will raise the user's speed.
- Max Wyrmwind - Dragon-type moves that will lower the opponent’s attack.
- Max Phantasm - Ghost-type moves that will lower the opponent's defense.
- Max Flutterby - Bug-type moves that will lower the opponent's special attack.
- Max Darkness - Dark-type moves that will lower the opponent's special defense.
- Max Strike - Normal-type moves that lower opponent's speed.
Weather and Terrain Effects:
- Max Flare - Fire-types moves which will summon sunlight.
- Max Geyser - Water-type moves which will summon rain.
- Max Hailstorm - Ice-type moves which will summon hail.
- Max Rockfall - Rock-type moves which will summon a sandstorm.
- Max Lightning - Electric-type moves which will summon Electric Terrain.
- Max Overgrowth - Grass-type moves which will summon Grassy Terrain.
- Max Mindstorm - Psychic-type moves which will summon Psychic Terrain.
- Max Starfall - Fairy-type moves which will summon Misty Terrain.
Sword and Shield Competitive Guide - Final Thoughts
This is, of course, only scratching the surface of competitive play. Stat-changing moves, especially those that affect the speed stat, are key components to help turn the tide in battle against your opponents and can make the difference between winning and losing in a pinch. This doesn't mean that a Pokemon or a team will be ready to go immediately without a plan though.
The next time we meet up for the battle academy, we will be covering some plans together. This includes going over weather effects, terrain, trick room, and entry hazards. All of these are used as viable competitive strategies that can give Pokemon an edge both offensively and defensively when used in tandem with a proper strategy. Until then, class is dismissed.