Get a detailed breakdown of all-important held items in Pokémon UNITE.
By Teeds, Contributing Writer
Today, we're taking a look at held items in Pokémon UNITE! Held items are a critical part of the game, and having a good understanding of them will get you closer to more victories. Whether you're a new player or a veteran player in Pokémon UNITE's ever-changing metagame, it can sometimes be challenging to determine which items are best for your favorite Pokémon.
Don't worry! We're here to help you understand how held items work and give you the best combination of items for every Pokémon and role!
What Are Held Items?
Held items are key to helping you achieve victory in Unite Battles. Understanding what each held item does and which ones work best with your Pokémon will give you the extra edge you need.
Your Pokémon can hold up to three different held items at once. These items provide stat bonuses that apply to your Pokémon right away, such as increased Attack, Sp. Atk, movement speed, and more.
On top of these stat bonuses, all held items have their own unique passive effects. These passives effects aren't always active—sometimes they trigger only in certain situations. Many players select which held items to give their Pokémon largely based on these effects. More is explained further down, so keep reading!
If you're starting out in Pokémon UNITE as a new player, you'll have access to only one held item slot. As your Trainer level increases, you'll gain access to more held item slots, with new slots added at Trainer levels 7 and 10 for a maximum of three slots.
You can gain Trainer levels by participating in the various different battles that Pokémon UNITE has to offer. Your Trainer level will be displayed in the top-left corner of the main menu.
You can manage your held items and view their stats by opening the Battle Prep menu during the preparation period before a battle. Under Battle Prep, select the Edit button under Held Items to see the stats of your held items, as well as set up your held items for each Pokémon.
Attack Damage vs. Sp. Atk Damage in Pokémon UNITE
It is important to understand that damage dealt by Pokémon in Pokémon UNITE comes in two forms: Attack damage and Sp. Atk damage. Understanding the differences between them will help you choose the right held items.
A Pokémon's moves will deal either Attack damage or Sp. Atk damage, and this will inform the combination of held items you give your Pokémon. For example, a Pokémon whose moves deal Attack damage will not benefit from items that increase Sp. Atk. However, you should note that every Pokémon's basic attack deals Attack damage. A Pokémon can use its basic attack at any time by pressing the A Button or B Button when playing on Nintendo Switch.
Every Pokémon also has a boosted attack that is triggered after using a certain number of basic attacks. Unlike basic attacks, some boosted attacks do deal Sp. Atk damage, while others still only deal Attack damage.
Breaking Down Pokémon UNITE's Held Items
Let's get into the held items themselves before we look at builds for every Pokémon. You can level up every held item with item enhancers to increase their stats and passive effects. Each item can be enhanced up to grade 30. Item enhancers can be earned as in-game rewards, or you can purchase them from Aeos Emporium with Aeos tickets.
It's important to know which items work best with your playstyle to gain the most out of them. Currently, Pokémon UNITE offers 16 different held items, each with their own stats and unique passive effects that cater to different situations. While all held items have their own uses, let's first go through the items that are the strongest and most viable at the moment!
Note: All held item stats listed below are from grade 30.
The Pokémon's basic attacks deal additional damage based on the target's remaining HP.
Basic Attack Speed +7.5%
Muscle Band is a held item you can give to almost any Pokémon to make its basic attacks faster and deal more damage. Since every Pokémon's basic attacks deal Attack damage, and basic attacks are probably the most-used method of attacking in the game, Muscle Band is arguably the strongest offensive held item.
When the Pokémon drops to low HP, then each second for three seconds, it recovers some of the HP it lost. (90-second cooldown)
Sp. Def +30
Focus Band is a defensive item, and survivability is very important in Pokémon UNITE. Focus Band is viable on almost every Pokémon. The HP recovery can keep you in fights longer, return you to the action quicker, and save you from getting knocked out.
Increases the Pokémon's Sp. Atk by a percentage.
Sp. Atk +39
Wise Glasses is a great held item for Pokémon that deal Sp. Atk damage, as it provides both a flat increase and a percentage-based increase to Sp. Atk. This makes it more viable than an offensive held item like Shell Bell, which only provides a flat increase to Sp. Atk.
When the Pokémon uses its Unite Move, that Pokémon and the nearest ally Pokémon with the lowest HP are each granted a shield. (8-second duration)
Buddy Barrier is a very strong defensive held item that currently outclasses most of the other defensive held items in the game, such as Assault Vest and Rocky Helmet. Buddy Barrier shines in team fights, giving a shield to you and your ally with the lowest HP in range when you use your Unite Move.
It's easy to see how valuable this effect is given how much Pokémon UNITE is focused on team battle. This can save both you and your teammate from getting knocked out, and it can also turn your Zapdos fights around.
The only downside to Buddy Barrier is that its passive effect only triggers when you use your Unite Move. The rest of the time, Buddy Barrier only provides increased max HP, which isn't necessarily bad.
The next items are also very powerful, but they can be pretty dependent on where you find yourself during a match.
After the Pokémon uses its Unite Move, it deals increased damage for a short time. (4-second duration)
Unite Move Charge Rate +6%
Energy Amplifier gives you a ton of extra damage after you use your Unite Move. It also increases how quickly your Unite Move charges up. Pairing Buddy Barrier and Energy Amplifier together will add up to a lot of damage and survivability. It's a recipe for disaster…for the enemy, of course!
Note that it does run into the same issue as Buddy Barrier in that its passive effect only triggers when you use your Unite Move. Some players may not like to depend on held items with passive effects that won't trigger without their Unite Move. While other held items have passive effects that are more readily available, Buddy Barrier's passive effect is too valuable to ignore.
Shields the Pokémon as it attempts to score a goal. Scoring cannot be interrupted while the shield remains active. (6-second cooldown)
Score Shield is a very interesting item that you can do some neat tricks with. Score Shield works by preventing your opponent from interrupting you while you score. However, what makes this item even stronger is that the shield it provides stacks with Buddy Barrier, which also gives you a shield.
Furthermore, Score Shield doesn't just prevent scoring from being interrupted while its own shield is active—it can also combine with any other shield effect in the game. If Buddy Barrier's shield, Eldegoss's Cotton Guard shield, and the shield provided by Lucario's Ability are all active at the same time, you'll be protected from interruption for as long as those combined shields last. This protection can be huge when trying to score a lot of points at once in enemy goal zones. It will prevent you from being interrupted by damage or by enemies landing near you via their superjump springboard (which can throw you and interrupt your score attempt).
Score Shield works best on Pokémon with high base health since the shield it provides scales with the holder's HP. These are usually Defenders or Supporters like Snorlax, Wigglytuff, Crustle, and Slowbro, but you can still find success giving this held item to Pokémon like Lucario.
The downside of Score Shield is that it won't do much in skirmishes besides increase the holder's maximum HP. Score Shield's passive effect is specifically geared toward scoring goals, meaning you'll be without a useful passive effect in a team fight.
These six items are versatile in terms of which Pokémon they work well on—you can give them to nearly any Pokémon in the game!
The Pokémon gains a shield against Sp. Atk damage while out of combat. (8 seconds after leaving combat)
Sp. Def +42
The Pokémon recovers health over time while out of combat. (8 seconds after leaving combat)
HP Recovery +9
After the Pokémon receives enough damage, nearby opponents are dealt damage equal to a percentage of their max HP. (2-second cooldown)
When the Pokémon scores a goal, its maximum HP is increased for the rest of the match. (Caps at 6 stacks)
Buddy Barrier, Score Shield, and Focus Band are your best bets, but there are several defensive held items that have their own strengths and weaknesses. They just aren't first choice because their passive effects aren't as good.
Assault Vest sometimes reduces the damage from your foes' moves that deal Sp. Atk damage. This can be pretty situational, making Assault Vest a weaker pick than Focus Band or Buddy Barrier.
Between Leftovers and Focus Band, the nod must go to Focus Band. Focus Band provides more healing than Leftovers does, and Leftovers requires you to be out of combat for its passive effect to activate, while Focus Band can take effect during fights. Since you have to be out of combat for eight seconds for Leftovers to activate, you'll be sidelined a lot longer. With goal zones and Berries providing faster healing, Leftovers isn't an optimal choice at the moment.
Rocky Helmet is a fun item—it damages your enemies after you've taken enough damage yourself. Again, the other items bring more to team fights, so this is a pretty niche item to use. Generally, it would be better to use held items whose passive effects can help you or your team survive longer.
Aeos Cookie increases your max health every time you score a goal. That may be harder to do in some games, making the value of this held item somewhat inconsistent and dependent on which Pokémon you're playing as. Frankly, it's better to use held items that give you their benefits right away.
Speaking of held items that depend on your ability to score goals, let's look at two other held items.
Sp. Atk Specs
When the Pokémon scores a goal, its Sp. Atk is increased for the rest of the match. (Caps at 6 stacks)
Sp. Attack +24
When the Pokémon scores a goal, its Attack is increased for the rest of the match. (Caps at 6 stacks)
Sp. Atk Specs and Attack Weight strongly depend on you scoring goals. Again, this can be hard to do in some matches. Instead, stick with items that provide benefits right away, as that will give you instant results!
While your Pokémon has the fewest Exp. Points on its team, it passively receives Exp. Points. In addition, when a nearby teammate defeats a wild Pokémon, that teammate gains slightly more Exp. Points.
Movement Speed +150
It can be tempting to give this held item to Supporters and Defenders. The current issue with that is that this item is highly dependent on being on a coordinated team. It may work well if you're in a premade party of five, but it doesn't work as well if you're jumping into matches as a solo player.
Exp. Share also requires the player using it to be the lowest level on their team to passively gain Exp. Points, but sometimes that can be out of your control. If another player is lower level than you, Exp. Share's passive effect won't apply, making this item essentially unusable until you are the lowest level.
It's a situational item that is better for coordinated teams with voice communication.
Increases movement speed while out of combat. (8 seconds after leaving combat)
Movement Speed +120
At first, this item seemed staple for Speedsters who mainly play in the central area on Remoat Stadium.
In Pokémon UNITE, you always want to be farming Exp. Points, and the best way to do that is by attacking wild Pokémon. This effectively means you'll always be in combat, making it hard to be out of combat for eight seconds to trigger Float Stone's passive effect. For that reason, Float Stone is better replaced with another item.
The Pokémon recovers HP when it lands a move. The higher the Pokémon's Sp. Atk, the more HP it recovers. (10-second cooldown)
Sp. Atk +24
Shell Bell is similar to Focus Band in how it heals your Pokémon. The difference is, Focus Band heals your Pokémon after it's been attacked while Shell Bell heals your Pokémon while it's attacking.
To trigger Shell Bell's healing effect, you'll need to land a move on an opposing Pokémon, which will restore HP based on how high your Sp. Attack is. Shell Bell can also be combined with Wise Glasses to further boost Sp. Atk damage and the healing effect. This will make your Pokémon a bit of a glass cannon, though, so add a defensive held item with Wise Glasses and Shell Bell.
It's important to note that Shell Bell's healing effect has a cooldown period—your Pokémon will not be healed every time it successfully lands a move.
Increase the damage of basic attack critical hits. The higher the Pokémon's Attack, the more the damage is increased. (1-second cooldown)
Critical-Hit Rate +6%
Critical-Hit Damage +12%
The Scope Lens boosts the damage of basic attack critical hits, which normally deal double damage. Its passive effect only triggers when the Pokémon's critical-hit rate has already been increased by some other means, such as through the Pokémon's Ability, the effects of certain moves, or even Scope Lens itself.
Scope Lens is a great held item for Pokémon that can already increase their critical-hit rate, such as Absol and Machamp. But for most other Pokémon, this held item just doesn't work very well.
Held Item Pokémon Build Suggestions
Now that we have a brief description of each item, let's get into optimal combinations of Pokémon and held items. Below, you'll find a recommended build for every Pokémon currently available in Pokémon UNITE. However, with the number of items Pokémon UNITE has to offer, feel free to adjust these builds to what works best with your own playstyle!
Currently, the metagame seems to favor survivability. Most Pokémon can deal a lot of damage with their base stats alone, so survival is key to winning team fights.
The top four items—Focus Band, Buddy Barrier, Muscle Band, and Wise Glasses—are core in any item build, while the rest are situational and dependent on your team makeup and personal playstyle.
Next to each Pokémon, you'll find the type of damage it deals in parentheses.
Pikachu (Sp. Atk)
Pikachu is one of several Pokémon that are tactically versatile. You'll want to customize its held items based on how you expect to use it in battle.
Alolan Ninetales (Sp. Atk)
You can swap out Focus Band or Muscle Band for Wise Glasses if you'd like Alolan Ninetales to have more Sp. Atk.
Cramorant (Sp. Atk)
Cramorant is one of the few Pokémon that strongly benefit from holding both Energy Amplifier and Buddy Barrier. This is due to its Unite Move, which deals enough damage to take down many opponents in one go!
Venusaur (Sp. Atk)
Despite Venusaur's moves and boosted attacks dealing Sp. Atk damage, Muscle Band is a good fit for it. Muscle Band provides increased attack speed, giving you more boosted attacks quicker! You can also go for a more defensive Venusaur build that is focused on using its Unite Move.
Gardevoir (Sp. Atk)
Gardevoir's basic attacks are valuable and unique in the sense that they lower the target's Sp. Def. Because of this, Muscle Band works well with Gardevoir, and the basic attack speed is a nice bonus.
Buddy Barrier is core on Greninja, especially with how Greninja's Unite Move works. It puts you right into the fight.
Cinderace with a defensive build is a favorite—Cinderace is already able to do massive amounts of damage without Scope Lens. However, Scope Lens on Cinderace is also incredibly fun, and with good positioning, you can chunk your opponents even easier!
Slowbro (Sp. Atk)
It's standard to run Buddy Barrier, Focus Band, and Score Shield on Snorlax and Slowbro simply because the combinations work so well together. The Pokémon's high defensive stats are what allow these held items to offer them so much survivability.
Crustle has one of the highest HP stats in the game, and it can also deal a ton of damage. Try using Scope Lens if you'd like to try a fun build that works competitively, too!
Absol is one of the few Pokémon that strongly benefits from Scope Lens—arguably the best Pokémon to hold it. This build should have you taking out opponents with ease while being able to get away.
Gengar (Sp. Atk)
Gengar is one of the Pokémon that benefits from Shell Bell's healing. The Pokémon is really strong, but it can be easy to take down, and Buddy Barrier will help with that!
Zeraora's base damage is already incredible, and with the right build, you'll be able to take down your opponents quickly while surviving most fights!
Talonflame deals a ton of damage, but it also commits to encounters without a reliable means of escape. You'll want to either take out your opponents quickly or have enough health to survive an escape attempt.
Since Talonflame's Unite Move puts it right in the fight, Buddy Barrier works well with it.
Wigglytuff (Sp. Atk)
Mr. Mime (Sp. Atk)
Eldegoss (Sp. Atk)
Blissey (Sp. Atk)
It's best to use Exp. Share only if you're on a premade team with other players. Exp. Share is hard to track as a solo player, especially if you're unable to communicate with your teammates. Blissey is a new release, but it could be as good a holder of Exp. Share as other Pokémon in the Supporter role.
Charizard works very well with Buddy Barrier and Energy Amplifier, as it has a very powerful Unite Move. Once Charizard uses its Unite Move, it becomes very difficult to take down as it deals massive amounts of damage.
Garchomp deals Attack damage, and it benefits greatly from holding Muscle Band, which will increase its basic attack speed and damage.
This build is particularly viable for Lucario. Lucario's Ability grants it a shield, so it benefits from holding Score Shield. If you'd like to deal even more damage, you could give it Muscle Band instead.
Machamp is one of the few Pokémon that can benefit from Scope Lens due to its Cross Chop and Submission moves, as both of these moves have an increased critical-hit rate.
These are perhaps the most viable builds for every Pokémon in Pokémon UNITE. Of course, the metagame is always changing, and it'll be interesting to see how held item builds will change in the future! But for now, you can depend on these builds for your next match!
Enjoy many victories in your Unite Battles! Be sure to keep checking Pokemon.com/Strategy for more Pokémon UNITE tips and analysis.