Top 10 Competitive Pokémon in Sword & Shield and How To Play them

Here are the top 10 Competitive Pokémon for Sword & Shield that currently define the metagame and will have a huge impact on how to build your team for ranked battle.
Before you build your team, check on how to properly breed your competitive Pokémon and learn how to raise their EV.

And don’t forget to sign up for the first Pokémon Sword & Shield Online Ranked Battle Tournament in early December!

#10 – Hawlucha

Hawlucha - The Setup Sweeter

Hawlucha – The Setup Sweeper – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Hawlucha

Item: Electric Seed
Ability: Unburden
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Brave Bird
– Thunder Punch
– Close Combat
– Swords Dance

How to play Hawlucha

Even though this moveset originated in the monotype tier, it works fantastically well in the current VS Battle meta. Hawlucha acts as the fastest Flying setup sweeper available thanks to Unburden and Max Airstream boosting its Speed beyond even that of Swift Swim and Sand Rush sweepers. With Thunder Punch, it can use Max Lightning to activate its Electric Seed and its ability, giving it a Defense boost and doubling its Speed. Typically, you should look to use Swords Dance before Dynamaxing so that Hawlucha is extremely powerful right off the bat; however, Max Knuckle allows it to easily boost its Attack during Dynamax as well. While Hawlucha is reliant on Dynamax to activate Unburden to sweep late-game, it is also capable of simply wallbreaking early-game with its powerful 120-Base Power STAB attacks backed by Swords Dance to allow its teammates to use Dynamax’s powerful boosts instead.

#9 – Mimikyu

Mimikyu - The Setup Sweeper

Mimikyu – The Setup Sweeper – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Mimikyu

Item: Life Orb
Ability: Disguise
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Swords Dance
– Shadow Sneak
– Play Rough
– Shadow Claw

How to play Mimikyu

Mimikyu holds a niche in the metagame due to its unique typing and ability Disguise, which gives it a free turn to attack or set up. Defensively, Mimikyu can act as a blanket check to many threats. Ghost- and Fairy-type STAB moves allow Mimikyu to hit the entire metagame for at least neutral damage. Decent Attack along with access to Swords Dance and great STAB coverage allows Mimikyu to clean easily. However, Mimikyu struggles to break common defensive Pokemon such Toxapex. Also, once Disguise is broken, Mimikyu is very easy to revenge kill, as it is very frail and isn’t very fast.

Swords Dance allows Mimikyu to boost its below-average Attack stat. Shadow Sneak makes up for Mimikyu’s low Speed and is used to revenge kill faster threats. Play Rough is Mimikyu’s strongest move, hitting Pokemon such as Dragapult, Grimmsnarl and Tyranitar for massive damage. Finally, Shadow Claw has nearly perfect neutral coverage with Play Rough and can hit any meta Pokémon for at least neutral damage.

Life Orb is the preferred item, as it gives Mimikyu a consistent boost in power, allowing it to hit much harder. Maximum Speed and Attack investment allows Mimikyu to hit as hard and be as fast as possible. An Adamant nature allows Mimikyu to do much more damage to Pokemon, especially after a Swords Dance, and it is the preferred nature on Sticky Web teams. However, a Jolly nature allows Mimikyu to outpace some other Jolly threats, but the preferred nature is definitely Adamant.

Mimikyu’s Disguise should be saved until the mid- or late-game, as Disguise can be used to stop a setup sweeper. However, it is acceptable to use up Mimikyu’s Disguise early-game to weaken early threats. Try to use Swords Dance when Mimikyu has a clear shot at sweeping or when you need to break through the opposing Pokemon.

#8 – Ferrothorn

Ferrothorn - The Hazard Setter

Ferrothorn – The Hazard Setter – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Ferrothorn

Item: Leftovers
Ability: Iron Barbs
EVs: 252 HP / 24 Def / 232 SpD
IVs: 0 Spe
Sassy Nature
– Spikes / Stealth Rock
– Leech Seed
– Gyro Ball
– Power Whip / Knock Off

How to play Ferrothorn

Ferrothorn is a premier hazard setter in the metagame, as it has access to both Spikes and Stealth Rock. They are very important in pressuring opposing teams as they switch Pokemon, which is why Ferrothorn is so successful. Ferrothorn can also annoy other teams with moves like Leech Seed and Knock Off, which whittle or cripple opposing Pokemon. Thanks to solid defenses and an excellent Grass / Steel typing that provides plenty of resistances, it finds many opportunities to set up entry hazards or fire off moves to annoy the opposing team. Ferrothorn is naturally a good check to many Pokemon in the current metagame. While Ferrothorn is a very good Pokemon, it is extremely slow, which hampers its offensive presence, since it will practically always be outsped. Fortunately, it has high-Base Power STAB moves, so it is not completely passive. Ferrothorn is also 4x weak to Fire, so it should be wary. The removal of the move Hidden Power in Gen8 makes Ferrothorn even better than it was in Sun&Moon.

#7 – Excadrill

Excadrill - The Revenge Killer

Excadrill – The Revenge Killer – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Excadrill

Item: Life Orb / Air Balloon / Heavy-Duty Boots
Ability: Sand Rush
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Iron Head
– Rapid Spin
– Rock Slide

How to play Excadrill

Excadrill is an ideal revenge killer under sand, as it is only outsped by a few boosted Pokemon and its STAB Earthquake is excellent against the plethora of Ground-weak Pokemon in the metagame. It also gets good coverage and, with the introduction of Dynamax, this generation allows Excadrill to shine, as it’s one of the premier choices to use the mechanic. When Dynamaxed, Excadrill’s two STAB moves in Earthquake and Iron Head have the effects of raising its Special Defense and Defense, respectively, as well as Max Rockfall having the ability to create its own Sandstorm. For its item, you can use Life Orb just to boost Excadrill’s damage output further, while Air Balloon gives Excadrill immunity to being revenge killed by an opposing Ditto or Excadrill, which tend to be the best offensive checks to it. Otherwise, Heavy-Duty Boots allows Excadrill to ignore the Speed drop from Sticky Webs and Spikes damage.

Pokemon that hinder Excadrill include Quagsire, Hippowdon, and Corviknight; therefore, a good teammate to help Excadrill handle these would be Gothitelle, as it has the potential to trap them while shutting them down. A few more Pokemon with the potential to defensively and offensively threaten them include Ferrothorn, Gyarados, Galarian Darmanitan, and Eternatus. Corviknight itself is also a good partner for Excadrill, as it helps to cover its omnipresent Ground weakness. Sand setters such as Hippowdon and Tyranitar can be staples for teams revolving around Sand Rush Excadrill, as they activate its ability without it having to use Max Rockfall.

#6 – Toxapex

Toxapex - The Switch-In Wall

Toxapex – The Switch-In Wall – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Toxapex

Item: Black Sludge
Ability: Regenerator
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
Bold Nature
– Scald
– Recover
– Haze
– Toxic / Toxic Spikes / Baneful Bunker

How to play Toxapex

This set’s purpose is to switch into strong attackers like Galarian Darmanitan, Dragapult, Barraskewda, and Aegislash and force them out by walling them, giving Toxapex opportunities to spread status with Scald and Toxic, set Toxic Spikes, and recover health with Recover. Additionally, Toxapex is able to prevent setup sweepers like non-Earthquake Gyarados and Corviknight from snowballing out of control thanks to Haze. Toxapex’s EVs and nature enable it to switch into threats it’s meant to check as best as possible, such as Galarian Darmanitan and Gyarados, and make it harder for Dugtrio to trap it. A specially defensive spread is also viable, letting Toxapex switch into Dragapult more reliably. While Toxic is generally preferred to cripple Pokemon like Mandibuzz, Dragapult, and Rotom-W, Toxapex’s great bulk gives it ample opportunities to set Toxic Spikes, which is nice for wearing down entire teams as opposed to a single Pokemon. Baneful Bunker is also an option to make Toxapex a better Dragapult check and let it scout Pokemon like Galarian Darmanitan.

Toxapex has good defensive synergy with Pokemon like Clefable and Ferrothorn that appreciate its ability to switch into Poison- and Fire-type attacks with ease. Pokemon like Aegislash and Tyranitar benefit from Toxapex crippling checks such as Mandibuzz and Seismitoad with status. Toxapex is vulnerable to Ground-types like Excadrill and Mamoswine; pair it with Pokemon like Corviknight that can take attacks from such Pokemon.

#5 – Barraskewda

Barraskewda - The Glass Cannon

Barraskewda – The Glass Cannon – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

 

Moveset for Barraskewda

Item: Choice Band
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Liquidation
– Close Combat
– Psychic Fangs
– Poison Jab

How to play Barraskewda

Barraskewda is the definition of a glass cannon. It’s impressive offensive Attack is made scarier thanks to it’s crazy base 136 speed- making it outright one of the fastest Pokemon in the metagame- naturally outspeeding fast threats like Jolteon, Hawlucha and Weavile. As if it weren’t fast enough, it also has access to Swift Swim, doubling it’s already typhoon-like speed to massive levels. Barraskewda is more than just a fast fish, too, with a reef of offensive coverage in Close Combat, Psychic Fangs and Poison jab. Flow like a river, crash like a tsunami.

Utilizing Barraskewda is fairly straightforward. Get it in rain and start smashing heads. Dynamax helps this fish soar, giving it wildly powerful Fighting and Psychic coverage- each with fairly good benefits to Barraskewda itself. Max-Fighting is Barraskewda’s only way to boost it’s Attack, while Psychic can set up Psychic Terrain, not only boosting its own damage, but preventing priority users from taking advantage of Barraskewda’s poor defenses. Water, of course, let’s it set up its own Rain, making it a fairly potent breaker in it’s own right.

#4 – Grimmsnarl

Grimmsnarl - The Defogger

Grimmsnarl – The Defogger – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Grimmsnarl

Item: Light Clay
Ability: Prankster
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
Impish Nature
– Reflect
– Light Screen
– Taunt
– Spirit Break / Darkest Lariat / Foul Play

How to play Grimmsnarl

Grimmsnarl’s typing and already decent bulk make it very hard to OHKO behind a screen, and Prankster guarantees it goes up. Once screens are up, pokemon like Hawlucha and Gyarados have a very easy time of coming in, setting up, and sweeping. Taunt shuts down Defog, as well as Pokémon like Toxapex, Ferrothorn and Hippowdown that try to take advantage of this set’s passivity to set up Hazards or Recover off damage. It also shuts down opposing Webs/Screens in the Offense mirror, which gives you a huge advantage when trying to sweep. This set suffers from only having one slot to attack with, however, so against a lot of the bulky pokemon in the tier, after setting up screens and taunting them, you have to switch out.

#3 – Dragapult

Dragapult - The Special Attacker

Dragapult – The Special Attacker – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Dragapult

Item: Choice Specs / Expert Belt
Ability: Infiltrator
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Draco Meteor
– Shadow Ball
– Fire Blast
– Thunderbolt / U-Turn

How to play Dragapult

Dragapult acts as a strong offensive attacker and pivot in the SWSH metagame. A very expansive special movepool and a blistering Speed stat allow it to pose a threat to numerous teams. Fire Blast is crucial for Steel-types that avoid a 2HKO from Shadow Ball, namely Ferrothorn and Corviknight, while also being Dragapult’s best option to damage Grimmsnarl. Thunderbolt is very useful for breaking past Mandibuzz, after chip damage, and especially physically defensive Toxapex, as well as having a more accurate hit on the aforementioned Corviknight. However, U-turn can be used to get Dragapult on a more favorable position instead of Thunderbolt on Choice Specs set. Choice Specs boosts Dragapult’s Special Attack to lofty levels, and if needed, Dragapult can Dynamax to switch moves. Expert Belt is inherently weaker but allows Dragapult to switch moves and maintains its boost upon Dynamaxing, both of which can be very valuable traits. Timid is preferred to outspeed +1 Excadrill and +1 Gyarados, as well as Speed tying with other Dragapult. Modest is also a good choice for the added damage, especially on Toxapex. Lastly, Infiltrator is the preferred ability to ignore Substitute from Corviknight, Zen-Mode Darmanitan and Gyarados while bringing other miscellaneous advantages, like ignoring Reflect, Light Screen, and Aurora Veil.

Dragapult can usually find itself on balance teams, appreciating a strong defensive backbone that gives it more opportunities to come in; however, it can be used on some more offensive teams as well. Teammates that can reliably deal with Dragapult’s few checks are very important, most notably Toxapex and Mandibuzz. Rotom-W and Rotom-H help fill that role for the most part and can bring Dragapult safely in with Volt Switch. Psychic-types, especially those immune to Toxic, like Hatterene and Reuniclus, can also take on Toxapex, easing prediction when it comes to Thunderbolt. Stronger wallbreakers like Galarian Darmanitan and Dracozolt can also help handle bulkier teams that could give Dragapult some trouble.

#2 – Galarian Darmanitan

Galarian Darmanitan - The Wall Breaker

Galarian Darmanitan – The Wall Breaker – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Galarian Darmanitan

Item: Choice Scarf
Ability: Gorilla Tactics
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Icicle Crash
– Flare Blitz
– Earthquake
– U-turn

How to play Galarian Darmanitan

Gorilla Tactics combined with a Choice Scarf gives Galarian Daramanitan both immediate power and speed. This set serves best as an early-game wallbreaker or late-game cleaner. Icicle Crash is Darmanitan’s main STAB move, and Flare Blitz covers the Steel-types that resist it. Earthquake rounds out Darmanitan’s coverage, notably allowing it to hit Toxapex. Superpower can also be used to hit Tyranitar harder and provides an opportunity for +1 Attack while Dynamaxed. U-turn provides momentum for Darmantian’s team while also dealing a considerable amount of damage to common switch-ins, like Rotom-W. Dynamax allows Galarian Darmanitan to bypass the locking effects of Gorilla Tactics and Choice Scarf, giving it the opportunity to muscle through walls like Ferrothorn and Toxapex even if it has locked itself into an inappropriate move. Doing so, however, takes away from other potential Dynamax options, so it should be used against bulkier teams. The given EV spread allows Darmanitan to hit as hard and fast as possible, and Jolly is needed in order to outspeed Zacian-C.

However, while Darmanitan is certainly not slow, its base 95 Speed does leave a bit to be desired, so it has to be wary of faster Choice Scarf users. Additionally, when Dynamaxed, it is outsped and taken out by common threats like Zacian and Zamazenta. A weakness to all forms of entry hazards and recoil from Flare Blitz can limit Darmanitan’s longevity, making it fairly prediction-reliant, especially after its team’s Dynamax has been spent. Additionally, Darmanitan provides very little to no defensive utility outside of revenge killing, making it sometimes difficult to fit into a team.

 

#1 – Corviknight

Corviknight - The Allrounder

Corviknight – The Allrounder – Competitive Guide for Pokémon Sword & Shield

Moveset for Corviknight

Item: Leftovers
Ability: Pressure
EVs: 252 HP / 32 Def / 136 SpD / 88 Spe
Careful Nature
– Brave Bird
– Substitute
– Bulk Up
– Roost

How to play Corviknight

Corviknight makes for an excellent wincon in the SWSH metagame, capable of overwhelming common defensive Pokemon such as Toxapex, Ferrothorn, and Galarian Corsola if it’s running Hex. On top of that, Corviknight is one of the best checks to Excadrill. Due to the tier’s lack of solid Flying-resistant Pokemon, Corviknight can overwhelm many bulkier builds with just Brave Bird. Running Brave Bird also has the added benefit of Max Airstream while Dynamaxed, allowing Corviknight to rack up multiple Speed boosts and making it lethal against offensively oriented teams. Substitute enables Corviknight to avoid being burned by Toxapex’s Scald and Galarian Corsola’s Will-O-Wisp while also letting it PP stall and overwhelm many more passive Pokemon in tandem with Pressure and Bulk Up. Although Mirror Armor may seem like an appealing option in order to deny stat drops in general, Pressure is the preferred ability because it allows Corviknight to PP stall most notably Toxapex but many other Pokemon as well. The given EV spread allows Corviknight to survive two Swords Dance-boosted Max Steelspikes from Excadrill after using Bulk Up. 88 Speed EVs enable Corviknight to outrun Modest Dragapult at +2, which Corviknight can attain through Dynamaxing and using Max Airstream. The rest of the EVs alongside a Careful nature make Corviknight as specially bulky as possible, minimizing the damage taken from threats like Dragapult and Toxapex.

Honorable Mentions

Of course these choices include a lot of personal experience from Ranked Battles and reducing the dozens of great meta Pokémon from Sword & Shield into 10 Top Choices is a difficult task. A lot of Pokémon that were considered for this list haven’t made the cut, but should receive their honorable mention here:

  • Ditto
  • Rotom-W
  • Gyarados
  • Aegislash
  • Togekiss
  • Mandibuzz
  • Galarian Corsola
  • Sylveon
  • Dracovish

 

We’d like to keep the list up-to-date, so let us know if you find a great moveset that will dominate the meta.

Don’t forget to check out our breeding guide for competitive Pokémon and learn how to raise their EV.

Thanks to Smogon University for their stat evaluations, movesets and in-depth guides.

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