Be it competitive battling or a casual playthrough, everyone wants a strong team. Obviously, Sword and Shield ‘s legendaries are top tier but what about the regular Pokemon? Can you form a strong team out of only non-legendary Pokemon? If so, what are my five top recommendations?
Aegislash: The Literal Sword and Shield Pokemon
Let’s start out all guns, or swords, blazing. Aegislash is generation eight’s best non-legendary by far. For those not in the know, the literal Sword and Shield Pokemon has one of the best abilities in the game, Stance Change. Stance Change allows Aegislash to switch between Shield Forme and Blade Forme.
So what’s so special about these forms? In Shield Forme, Aegislash has 140 in both defences. In Blade Forme, he moves these stats to both attack stats instead. This unique ability to completely change his stats so drastically on the go makes Aegislash very versatile. In Sword and Shield especially, much of his competition isn’t present in the Pokedex. It’s very possible Aegislash could find himself on the ban list for competitive play.
Despite also having the great typing of Steel/Ghost, Aegislash isn’t untouchable by any means. At the end of the day, his abilities are capped by his awkward 60 base speed. It’s neither quick enough to consistently sweep or slow enough to function in a Trick Room set up. Regardless of these minor downsides, Aegislash is a power pick who only has one serious counter to worry about in generation eight, Ferrothorn.
Ferrothorn: Sword and Shield ‘s Defining Hazard Setter
Ferrothorn is an evil hazard setter who can make his opponent’s life a misery. The Thorn Pod Pokémon’s biggest strength lies in three different areas. First of all, he possesses impressive bulk that gives him time to set up everything required. Secondly, his Steel/Grass typing is ideal for forcing switches as opponents will likely need either a fighting or fire type move to deal with him. Finally, Ferrothorn gets access to a range of the best hazard setting moves in the game.
As for move choices, you can either run Spikes or Stealth Rock. Interestingly, Ferrothorn can run both simultaneously for stacked damage on swap ins. Obviously this comes at the cost of a balanced move set but is a legitimate strategy to consider for screwing over your opponent long-term. Equally, Ferrothorn gets access to over-time damage moves like Leech Seed and Toxic. Pairing these with Protect can be an effective way to stall out some free damage.
Historically, Ferrothorn’s big problem has been dealing with powerful fire types. However, in Pokemon Sword and Shield, most of these didn’t make the cut. Both Heatran and Volcarona are uncatchable. Similarly, whilst Charizard is present, it was actually his mega evolutions that caused the biggest problems. However, it’s possible his Dynamax form could replicate the same levels of success. This makes Protect seem more important as successfully stalling out a turn of Dynamax could be game-winning.
Dragapult: Shocking, the Psuedo-Legendary Is Good
It’s no secret that pseudo-legendaries tend to be pretty good. Dragapult is no different. Pokemon Sword and Shield’s 600 base stat Dragon/Ghost possesses some scary stats. Having both 120 Attack and 100 Special Attack makes Dragapult relatively unpredictable. Equally, his 142 Speed places him third overall in the entire Galar Pokedex. The Pokemon ahead of him, Ninjask and Accelgor, aren’t strong enough to concern Dragapult in the first place.
Knowing that you’re guaranteed to go first with good typing, great attack stats and surprisingly passable bulk makes Dragapult lethal. Unbelievably, it gets even better. Dragapult’s hidden ability is Infiltrator. Infiltrator allows the user to pass through Reflect, Light Screen, Safeguard, Mist, and Substitute. Outside of Protect and Toxic, there are very limited methods of stalling out Dragapult.
For STAB moves you are probably going to run Draco Meteor and Shadow Ball. Alternatively, a physical set can be run to surprise your opponent. In so, Dragon Rush and a non-STAB secondary like Psychic Fangs could be an option. Unfortunately, the only notable Ghost-type physical move Dragapult learns is Phantom Force. Running a fixed two-turn move gives the opponent a free window to prepare and set up.
Assuming you keep with a special set, Dragapult gets access to many meta coverage moves. The likes of Thunder, Hydro Pump, and Fire Blast all come to mind. Thunder, in particular, stands out as otherwise, Corviknight will hard counter you. In saying that, Corviknight’s stats aren’t all that and the lack of counters in Sword and Shield help Dragapult shred.
Generally speaking, you want to make the most out of Dragapult’s capabilities as a top-tier sweeper. I wouldn’t recommend messing around with any support or set up moves.
Excadrill: He’s Quick, He Hits Hard, He Has Swords Dance. That’s all.
Excadrill has always been strong even when his counters are in play. Now most of them are gone, he’s better than ever. He has a great combination of 135 Attack and 88 Speed to quickly and confidently dish out damage. His typing of Ground/Steel is also great, both defensively and offensively. Being part Ground allows him to use STAB Earthquake whilst Iron Head makes for a decent Steel STAB option.
Perhaps his most appealing feature is that due to his 110 HP, Excadrill can usually tank a hit allowing him to set up Swords Dance. Finally, Rapid Spin makes for a nice support move to clear hazards and irritating stall moves like Leech Seed. Game Freak was even kind enough to bring its base power up to 50 from 20, and let it boost Speed by one stage.
If that’s not enough, Pokemon Sword and Shield happens to include his partner in crime. One of Excadrill’s hidden abilities is Sand Rush. Simply, when the user fights during a sandstorm, their speed is doubled. Happily enough, another top tier brawler, Tyranitar, happens to possess an ability that calls in a sandstorm in when triggered. Leading with Tyranitar and switching into Excadrill can be a great way of setting up for a mean s
Galarian Darmanitan: One Hell of an Upgrade
The original Darmanitan was not all that great. He had some purpose in UU thanks to his decent typing coupled with a 140 physical Attack stat. He wasn’t quite quick enough to be a sweeper or tanky enough to take more than one hit at best. It left him in a strange spot where you give him a Choice Band, spam Flare Blitz, and hope for a kill or two.
The general idea hasn’t changed that much but its impact certainly has. Galarian Darmanitan gets access to the signature ability, Gorilla Tactics. Gorillas Tactics acts the same as a Choice Band. Darmanitan receives an attack bonus at the cost of only being about to use one move. More importantly, Gorilla Tactics stacks with Choice Band, effectively doubling Galarian Darmanitan’s Attack stat.
All of a sudden, that already strong 140 Attack becomes a sensational 280 instead. It’s no secret either that his new Ice typing happens to be a very strong attacking type. Of course, Ice is also the worst defensive typing but the importance of that lessens when you can one-shot most Pokemon.
Icicle Crash makes for a great primary STAB move. Of course, since you’re locked into one move good coverage is necessary. Fortunately, Darmanitan has access to both Earthquake and Flare Blitz. The former is a great way of dealing with pesky Fire and Rock types. Thanks to Darmanitan’s insanely high Attack, STAB isn’t even required to one-shot most Pokemon. Somehow, Game Freak has made Darmanitan the best hard hitter in Pokemon Sword and Shield.