The Right Way to Play Pokemon Sword and Shield

This was not an easy guide to write. It’s obvious why; it’s because shortly after the outset of the game, you’re placed into the Wild Area, where you get so many team choices, it’s easy to be sunk by indecision.

This guide takes on the difficult task of determining the best team to use to play through the game out of the many, many different pokemon available. It’s not about building a competitive team, it’s about picking among the most practical choices for a fast, efficient playthrough so you can quickly get to the meaty, delicious postgame.

This guide makes the assumption that the DLC bonuses found due to the purchase of the Expansion Pass aren’t being considered. If they were, the matter of smashing your in-game opponents would be largely trivial. If you have access to the Crown Tundra, you’d have access to randomized over-leveled legendary pokemon, and much of the game wouldn’t pose any challenge.

If you’re in a hurry to win, but wanted someone else to do the nerding-out for you, then this guide is for you.

The first pokemon on this team is Sobble, and it’s easy to find, as it’s a starter pokemon, and the starter for this particular run. If you pick one of the other two, you might be getting a pokemon you prefer, but then this team might not work.

As much as I’d like to recommend Scorbunny for you, the starter for this run would be Sobble. It’s great on it’s own, especially thanks to the fact that its final form, Intelleon, is fast and hits hard. But Intelleon works well with the rest of the pokemon on this team, so the nod goes to Sobble.

Shortly after starting out, you’re going to be heading to the Wild Area. The place is huge, but it’s possible to get to the next destination quickly. But before you do, there’s a couple items you’ll want to seek out before leaving.

One of which is the Thunder Stone. The Thunder Stone is located on an elevated area on the northeast of the Lake Miloch area. It’s in a red item ball near a cliff.

The other is the Fire Stone. The Fire Stone is located in the Motostoke Riverbank area, north of the bridge, on the west side of the area by a group of three pipes. It’s also in an easy-to-find red item ball.

Both these items will come in handy for other pokemon on this list, and when you have them, you’d be glad you had these items on hand.

The next pokemon on this team depends on which version you are playing: Vulpix (the Fire-type Kantonian variant) if you are playing Pokemon Sword, or Growlithe if you are playing Pokemon Shield. Either one can be found on Route 3.

These two pokemon may have been overlooked when GameFreak was balancing the game, and both break the game in the same way. Either one can be evolved immediately after you capture it using the Fire Stone, giving you a pokemon with end-game base-stats before the first gym, albeit at early-game levels.

As if that weren’t sweet enough for you, you can teach these pokemon any move in their level-up learnsets, for free, at any Pokemon Center. Both can learn Flamethrower, but Arcanine can learn Crunch and Flare Blitz, and Ninetales can learn Nasty Plot and Extrasensory.

Also, they have a type advantage against the first gym.

The next pokemon for this team is Tyrogue, which you can also find on Route 3. The idea is to evolve the guy into Hitmonchan. However, Tyrogue is one of those pokemon with an abstract evolutionary method, and it might end up becoming something you weren’t planning on if you weren’t paying attention.

Tyrogue starts evolving at level 20. If its Defense stat is higher than its Attack when it starts evolving, it’ll become a Hitmonchan. There are a couple methods you can use to help this to happen. One is to catch a small handful of Tyrogue, and go with one which has a Defense that is significantly higher than its Attack. Also, you can send your Tyrogue to a Defense Seminar Poke Job to give its defense stat a boost.

Hitmonlee is a great pokemon for its high Attack and Speed, but the reason Hitmonchan works better for this playthrough is because it learns punching moves of different types which can help Hitmonchan against a variety of opponents. Ice Punch is super-valuable, and if it also has Thunder Punch, Hitmonchan will have coverage that most opponents won’t be able to resist. Hitmonchan learns these moves at level 24.

Drilbur is located in Galar Mine. No ridiculous evolution method required, Drilbur evolves to Excadrill at level 31. But when that happens, Excadrill picks up the super-useful Steel typing, and its attacks come harder from its high Attack stat. At level 40, Excadrill learns Swords Dance, giving an already-mighty pokemon the ability to sweep entire teams with ease.

Are you skeptical that Pokemon’s signature hug-em-squeeze-em, Pikachu, made the team? Remember the Thunder Stone you picked up in the Wild Area? Because we’re about to pull a Lieutenant Surge and use a Thunder Stone on a Pikachu right after catching it!

Now, why would we do that? Because Raichu benefits similarly to Ninetales and Arcanine, that’s why! You’ll have a long list of awesome moves to teach it at a Pokemon Center, including Thunderbolt, Nasty Plot, Nuzzle, the list goes on.

You’d have yet another endgame tier pokemon with an excellent moveset, with the only drawback being that it has early-game levels. And you still haven’t made it to the first gym.

By the way, if you’re playing the Shield version, you might want to settle for an Eevee, instead. It seems GameFreak decided to be cute and made the Sword version into the Pikachu version, and the Shield version into the Eevee version, by giving Pikachu a 5% appearance rate in Sword, but only 1% in Shield. The rates are the reverse for Eevee in the Shield version, so it might not be a bad idea to go with Eevee in the Shield version. Jolteon is still a strong Electric type, but it takes longer to teach it it’s power moves. But hey, you’d save the sanity you might have lost searching for a Pikachu.

This team is rounded out by a Morgrem you can catch much later on in Glimwood Tangle. You can also catch an Impidimp in the same area, but Morgrem is already evolved, and comes at a higher level. Morgrem evolves to Grimmsnarl at level 42.

If you can obtain a Morgrem with the Prankster ability, that would be strongly preferred, because then he can help you turn things around against strong opponents by giving priority to status moves. Aside from that, his typing makes him an excellent choice against this game’s many strong Dragon types, as well as Psychic, Dark, and even Fighting types that appear often in the late game.

That team should get you through the game, with power-leveling at a minimum. But here’s the point in which some of you might be asking, “But what about…” There are a lot of great pokemon that could have made this team.

A. Lot. Of. Them.

The Wild Area gives options, and plenty of them, and much of the difficulty in writing this guide had to do with considering from among the many pokemon that are available there. There are many viable pokemon that could have made the list.

Some players might be wondering why I didn’t include Zacian or Zamazenta. Those two are seriously strong pokemon, but neither of the two are available until the post-game, so they don’t get considered for a playthrough. Eternatus is another strong pokemon, but by the time you catch it, you’re one battle away from the post-game, and it’s comparable to what would already be on your team.

Do you like Scorbunny? So do I. But Ninetales and Arcanine offer amazing power for the point in the game that they become available, and it’s hard for another pokemon of the same type to compete with that. Gyarados packs a wallop, and it boosts its own stats with Dragon Dance. Gengar hits hard and fast, and comes with helpful type immunities.

And there’s more. The list goes on and on.

But hey, now you know what works, so you don’t have to guess around.

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