If you are new to online or competitive battling in Pokemon, you might have come across some particularly devastating teams that can destroy anyone who is unprepared to face off against the best of the best. While competitive battling has something of a steep learning curve when it comes to predictions and bluffing, you can easily gain some experience in the matter by picking a team more suited to online battles.
There are several different strategies floating around at the moment, though not all of them are equal. Some teams are fairly predictable, loading up on the strongest Pokemon you can obtain in Sword & Shield, most of which being top tier choices for many years, while others began as rogue strategies that have gained significant traction as a result of their success.
One of the most common competitive strategies in Pokemon is Trick Room, where you use a team loaded up with slow, bulky Pokemon that can take advantage of the reversed turn order while simultaneously crippling any team that relies solely on their speed to win. With this in mind, many speed-focused teams will have a dedicated counter to Trick Room in the form of Imprison or Taunt, though this doesn’t always work out in their favor. In Sword & Shield, the main Trick Room team uses Dusclops, Porygon2, or Stakataka as its Trick Room setter, with supporting powerhouses like Spectrier, Rhypherior, and Haterene to deal the bulk of the damage to the opponent’s team. Redirection support in the form of Amoongus‘ Rage Powder or Clefairy and Togekiss‘ Follow Me also help ensure that the Pokemon focused on dealing damage doesn’t faint themselves, while also being on the slower side and being able to capitalize on Trick Room.
Weather teams are always great in Pokemon, especially Sun and Rain teams, although, in Sword & Shield, Sun teams seem to have the best chance competitively this time around. Alongside Drought Torkoal, which can also make great use of Trick Room, Chlorophyll Venusaur also got a massive boost in power with its Gigantamax form as its G-Max move, G-Max Vine Lash, can deal a large amount of damage to the opponent’s team if they don’t have any Grass-type Pokemon on their side.
Powerful Pokemon like Landorus-T, that benefit greatly from the reduced damage output of Water-type moves in the Sun, are also common team members for a Sun focused team alongside Porygon2 or Dusclops as a Trick Room setter. Regieleki, despite arguably doing better on a Rain team, also brings a blisteringly fast special attacker that can decimate Water-type Pokemon that would otherwise threaten Torkoal’s existence while also acting as speed control thanks to Electroweb.
What was once an odd rogue strategy is now a very common team build thanks in no small part to well-known players like Wolfe Glick putting it on the map. The general idea is to use Gigantamax Steam Engine Coalossal with the Weakness Policy held item and setting off both its ability and held item by using a Water-type attack. The most common partner for Coalossal is, surprisingly, Dracopult, which takes a supporting role rather than the sweeping attacker that it once was. Using moves like Surf, Light Screen, Reflect, and Will-o-Wisp, Dracopult is not only able to ensure that Coalossal can survive as long as possible, but its ridiculous speed means that it can usually trigger Steam Engine before any other Pokemon acts, ensuring that Coalossal often goes second in battle immediately afterwards.
Common partners can include Rillaboom or Incineroar that provide either passive healing through Grassy Surge, Fake Out flinching support, or other support in Parting Shot and Taunt. Togekiss is also a common pick due to its high defensive stats and redirection abilities with Follow Me, while both styles of Urshifu provide coverage moves as well as potential Water-type attacks in Aqua Jet with the Rapid-Strike form.
The Best of the Best
While many players will opt for a particular battle strategy, some will simply choose the best of the best and form a team around those particular Pokemon, and is one of the more common teams you are likely to come across. While they can be harder to play around due to the higher chance of rogue elements being implemented, most team picks will be standard in one way or another. The most common Pokemon you are likely to see is Intimidate Incineroar, taking the top spot once again after dominating competitive teams during the Sun & Moon era. Joining Incineroar from Alola is Tapu Fini, who also dominated Sun & Moon’s competitive scene thanks to its defensive prowess and Misty Surge protecting your team from status moves.
New to the “best of the best” strategy is Glastrier, which is not only one of the best Pokemon in Sword & Shield, but may have potentially changed how players view Ice-type Pokemon going forward. Alongside a ridiculous attack stat, great defense, and an ability that can quickly snowball out of control, there is very little reason to not use Spectrier on your team. Since both Landorus-T and Amoongus are now available to use, it should be no surprise that they are also found on most teams thanks to Landorus’s Intimidate ability and powerful stats alongside Amoongus‘ ability to be incredibly annoying with Rage Powder, Spore, and the Regenerator ability.
All-Out Attack Porygon-Z
Porygon-Z saw some competitive play in the Sun & Moon era thanks to Z-Conversion, which changed its type based on the first move in its moveset alongside giving Porygon-Z an omni-boost in the process. While this strategy is dead thanks to the lack of Z-Crystals in Sword & Shield, it hasn’t stopped Porygon-Z from being a legitimate offensive threat. While it may not have Z-Conversion, it does have the ability Adaptability, which increases the damage of the same type attack bonus from 1.5x to 2x. Paired with its great special attack stat, the Life Orb held item, and the HP increase that comes with the Dynamax mechanic, Porygon-Z can tear through teams with ease and is one of the few Pokemon that can effectively use Hyper Beam.
While it can deal a lot of damage, focusing only on Normal-type attacks means that it has a few weak spots, which is where Porygon-Z’s teammates come in. Common allies include power attackers like Talonflame, Single-Strike Urshifu, and Dracovish, which counter Porygon-Z’s weakness to Ghost, Steel, and Rock-type Pokemon as well as cover its Fighting-type weakness. Other supporting Pokemon like Clefairy and Amoongus are also common, with both covering its Fighting-type weakness as well as providing redirection support in Follow Me and Rage Power.
While Trick Room is one of the more common means of speed control in Pokemon, it isn’t the only way to get ahead in battle. By using Prankster Pokemon like Whimsicott, Thundurus, and Grimmsnarl, which can use Tailwind and Thunder Wave respectively, you can ensure that your team is always going first in battle and able to knock out your opponent’s team before they get a chance to do the same to you. In order to get the most out of your speed control, common team members include Libero Cinderace and Spectrier, which are some of the fastest Pokemon in Sword & Shield, Regieleki, which is the fastest Pokemon in the series, and Dracovish. While most Dracovish use the Choice Scarf held item to help ensure Fishious Rend deals increased damage, combined with Tailwind, there is little that can outpace the fossil Pokemon and ensures that it is not only always going first, but always dealing a ridiculous amount of damage in the process.
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Callum Archer is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia. He is an avid gamer, Nintendo fanboy, and lover of weird sci-fi novels, who also dabbles in manga from time to time, usually dark and twisted work like Uzumaki and Death Note.
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