When you first face off against a Master Ball Tier opponent in Ranked Battles or watch exquisitely trained Pokémon in tournament streams, it can be an eye-opening experience. Pokémon in high-level battles deal jaw-dropping damage or casually brush off massive attacks. You may think that these Trainers are doing something you'll never be able to do, but there's nothing going on that you can't replicate—these Pokémon are so effective in battle simply because they've been carefully trained.
With a little effort, anyone can train their Pokémon to stand out in even the toughest battles, and in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, getting Pokémon in tip-top condition is easier than ever. While building a team full of powerful Pokémon previously required wearing a track into the ground from cycling around Pokémon Nurseries, you can now take a Pokémon straight from a Max Raid Battle into competitive play just by leveling it up, using a mint, and Hyper Training with a Bottle Cap or two.
Read on to find out which items you might want to get before you get started, like a Destiny Knot or Bottle Caps. Then we'll give some tips on catching Pokémon, hatching Pokémon, and training Pokémon and some advice on when each might save you time. We'll even go into how to quickly make money in order to purchase nutritious drinks and other items to give your Pokémon.
It's probably best to enjoy the main story using whichever Pokémon you have the most fun with before worrying about training up top-tier competitors for competitive battles. After you become Champion and crush the first few rounds in the Battle Tower, you can then turn your focus toward developing competitive Pokémon. It's at this point that you'll unlock the Judge function, which is your means of evaluating individual strengths of your Pokémon. Individual strengths represent the affinity each individual Pokémon has for each stat. A Pokémon with a higher individual strength for Attack will have its Attack increase faster and have a higher maximum Attack stat than a Pokémon of the same species with a lower individual strength for Attack. Not surprisingly, to optimize a Pokémon's performance in battle, you should shoot for a “Best” individual strength in each stat that Pokémon will be using.
In addition to the stat increases your Pokémon derives from individual strengths, there are a few other factors that go into preparing a Pokémon for competitive battles. Aim for Pokémon that have all the following:
“Best” individual strengths in each stat. You can use Hyper Training to bring a Pokémon that didn't start with perfect potential up to par.
A Nature that suits the role you plan for your Pokémon to play in battle. Your Pokémon's Nature increases the growth of one of its stats (that stat's name is red on your Pokémon's summary screen) at the expense of another stat (which has its name in blue). You can give your Pokémon a mint to change the stats affected by its Nature.
The Ability you want your Pokémon to have. Pokémon typically have one of two potential Abilities when discovered in the wild, and Pokémon you catch in Max Raid Battles may instead have their Hidden Ability, which is rarer. You can give your Pokémon an Ability Capsule to swap between its two more common Abilities (like Growlithe's Intimidate and Flash Fire), but it won't be able to help a Pokémon swap to or from its Hidden Ability (such as Growlithe's Hidden Ability, Justified).
There are also several useful items you may want to acquire to aid in Pokémon development. We'll explain what some of them are for as we go. Most of these items cost BP, which you can earn by battling in the Battle Tower. It's probably best to buy these items only as they're needed. Veteran Pokémon Trainers will note the lack of the “Power” items (like the Power Bracer) below, for although such items can still be useful, they're no longer as essential as they were during past adventures.
Purchase at the Battle Tower with BP
Purchase at the Battle Tower with BP, or receive rarely from Max Raid Battles and the Digging Duo in the Wild Area
Purchase from the BP Shop in the central Hammerlocke Pokémon Center with BP
Exp. Candy XL, Rare Candy, and similar
Most readily acquired by winning Max Raid Battles
Get from the chef in Hulbury after helping him make deliveries
Purchase at the Battle Tower with BP
Get Ready Fast with Max Raid Battles and Hyper Training
Hatching Eggs was once unquestionably the best way to develop top-tier Pokémon, but that familiar method is not always the most efficient option these days. Now, the fastest way to get a Pokémon with perfect individual strengths is to catch a Pokémon that already has strong individual strengths in most of its stats and then doing Hyper Training at the Battle Tower by using Bottle Caps. Hyper Training is possible only for Pokémon that are Lv. 100, and the trade-off of this speedy approach is that it'll burn through some of your rarer items quickly. It's also a great choice for Pokémon that have no gender or are always the same gender, which can be a little frustrating to find Eggs for.
If you don't already have a Pokémon of the species you desire with high individual strengths, the easiest way to get one is from a Max Raid Battle. This is also necessary if you want that Pokémon to have a Hidden Ability, because Pokémon you find roaming Galar will never have their Hidden Abilities. Max Raid Battles are also useful because you can earn Exp. Candy XL, Exp. Candy L, and Rare Candy, all of which making leveling up Pokémon quicker. Check out our Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield Max Raid Battle Tips for more on Max Raid Battles.
Once you catch a Pokémon in a Max Raid Battle, check out its Nature, individual strengths, and Ability by going to the Pokémon Boxes and using the Judge function. If the Pokémon has the Ability you're looking for and “Best” individual strengths in many of the stats you need, skip hatching Eggs and power up this Pokémon instead. If it also has the desired Nature, you've really hit the gold mine and should definitely power this Pokémon up instead of hatching a new one. And if you'd like to battle using a Pokémon capable of Gigantamaxing, this is the only means of obtaining high individual strengths, since the Gigantamax Factor doesn't pass down to Pokémon Eggs.
Any Pokémon caught in Max Raid Battles will usually be a pretty high level, so it shouldn't take too much Exp. Candy to help it get to Lv. 100. Once it gets there, you can go to the Battle Tower and give Bottle Caps to the gentleman behind the desk on the far right to max out the individual strengths your Pokémon isn't already “Best” at. Once you do, you'll see its new designation is “Hyper trained!”—this confers the same stats as “Best” but won't pass down to any Eggs. You can also use a super-rare Gold Bottle Cap, which will increase all of a Pokémon's individual strengths to the max.
As we mentioned earlier, to shift the stat effects from your Pokémon's Nature to be more to your liking, you should give your Pokémon a mint, which will cause it to take on the effects of the Nature in the mint's name. For instance, if you'd like your Rotom to be excellent at damaging foes with special moves, you could give it a Modest Mint (which promotes Sp. Atk at the expense of Attack). Mints cost 50 BP and Bottle Caps cost 25 BP from vendors in the Battle Tower in Wyndon.
Hatching Pokémon, Galar Style
Even as Hyper Training has become much more accessible, hatching Eggs you receive from the Pokémon Nursery still has its place. Eggs are great when you don't have a high-potential Pokémon of the species you're looking for but you do have a bunch of Ditto or male Pokémon with great individual strengths (check out the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield Max Raid Battle Tips for a den with lots of Ditto). Perhaps the best use of the Pokémon Nursery is to easily get a Pokémon with your desired Nature, saving you 50 BP you'd otherwise spend on a mint. Hatching Eggs for Pokémon with perfect individual strengths tends to be much more time-consuming than Hyper Training, but the advantage is that you significantly cut down on the number of hard-to-get items you have to use to reach the same goal.
In Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, there are two Pokémon Nurseries, both functionally the same—one on Route 5 and one toward the center of the Wild Area in the Bridge Field. To have an Egg appear at the Pokémon Nursery, you must leave two of your own Pokémon with the attendant—one male and one female of the same Egg Group, or a Ditto and any Pokémon from any other Egg Group except the No Eggs Discovered group. There are 15 Egg Groups consisting of Pokémon that tend to have similar characteristics, and every Pokémon belongs to at least one. For example, the Mineral Group features lots of inorganic, sturdy Pokémon, such as Onix, Solrock, and Baltoy. When all conditions are met, you'll eventually find an Egg that will hatch into the earliest of the female Pokémon's (or the non-Ditto's) Evolutionary line. You can find a full listing of Egg Groups in Pokémon Sword & Pokémon Shield: The Official Galar Region Strategy Guide.
There are four main benefits to leaving Pokémon in the Nursery as you work toward training a team of top-notch Pokémon.
Getting the right Nature. Let's say you're working toward a Raichu with a Timid Nature. Start out by putting a female Pikachu or Raichu in the Pokémon Nursery. Then, find a Ditto or compatible male Pokémon with a Timid Nature, and give that Pokémon an Everstone before you place it in the Nursery. Each resulting Egg you find will contain a Pichu, the earliest in Raichu's Evolutionary line, that has the Timid Nature. That's 50 BP saved!
Getting perfect individual strengths. Getting great individual strengths by hatching Eggs is a laborious but reliable means of acquiring great Pokémon. You'll need Pokémon with several “Best” individual strengths to start with—Hyper Training is no substitute. Pokémon that hatch from Eggs will typically have three individual strengths that match those of the Pokémon that were in the Nursery when you found their Egg. If you have either of the Nursery Pokémon hold a Destiny Knot, five of their individual strengths will pass down instead, leaving only one fully to chance. If you can put two Pokémon in the Nursery that between them have maximum individual strengths in each stat you're looking for, you should eventually end up with a Pokémon that inherits the best individual strengths from both Pokémon. You can increase your odds by continually replacing the Pokémon in the Nursery with new ones that have better and better individual strengths.
Getting Egg Moves. In the past, Egg Moves—moves that the Pokémon aren't normally be able to learn through more common means, like leveling up or using TMs—could be learned only by newly hatched Pokémon, but you can be a little more flexible in Galar. The most common method to obtain an Egg Move is to start out with a female Pokémon from your desired species and a compatible Pokémon that knows the Egg Move you're looking for. This will produce an Egg of the species you want that knows the Egg Move.
But there's a new method in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. You can now teach Egg Moves to existing Pokémon instead of starting anew. Make sure the Pokémon you want to learn the Egg Move knows three or fewer moves, then leave it at the Pokémon Nursery with a Pokémon of the same species that knows the desired Egg Move. (Remember that the jack-of-all-trades behind the counter on the left in any Pokémon Center will help a Pokémon forget a move.) After just a short while, the empty move slot will be replaced with the Egg Move. This is also the only way to teach Pokémon with the Gigantamax Factor Egg Moves!
Swapping Abilities. You can also hatch Eggs to obtain Pokémon of the same species but that have a different Ability, although the process isn't totally reliable. Typically, Eggs have the same Ability that the female Pokémon in the Nursery had (or the non-Ditto Pokémon, if you're working with Ditto), but sometimes an Egg will hatch with a different Ability instead. Likewise, an Egg that can inherit a Hidden Ability could also inherit one of the more common Abilities instead, but a Hidden Ability will never appear if neither of the Pokémon in the Nursery already has it.
Training Pokémon for Battle
Once you have the Pokémon you want to train ready, the final step is to raise its base points. Base points are underlying values that help determine a Pokémon's six major stats—HP, Attack, Defense, Sp. Atk, Sp. Def, and Speed. They start at zero but can be increased by defeating Pokémon, participating in certain Poké Jobs, or using specific kinds of items. You won't be able to train your Pokémon to have the highest amount of base points in every stat because there is a limit to how many total base points you can have across all six stats. This limit of total base points allows you to either hit the maximum in two stats with a tiny bit left over for a third or spread your Pokémon's training more evenly across a greater number of stats.
We suggest focusing on maximizing two of your Pokémon's stats. For Pokémon intended to focus on attacking, usually Speed and either Attack or Sp. Atk work well, and for more defensively oriented Pokémon, usually HP and either Defense or Sp. Def work well.
By far the fastest and simplest way to increase a Pokémon's stats is by using nutritious drinks, which can be purchased in the front Pokémon Center in Wyndon. Give your Pokémon 26 drinks that match the two stats you'd like them to excel in—for instance, HP Up and Protein if you'd like the Pokémon to have great HP and Attack—and you'll be well on your way. You can see if a stat is maxed out by checking the second tab of the Pokémon's summary screen (which features the stat graph) and then pressing the X Button to view the second graph. Once a Pokémon has the full allotment of base points in a stat, there will be a sparkling effect around the stat's name. If you accidentally train the wrong stats for your Pokémon, you can reduce them by using a Qualot Berry (for Defense) or other, similar Berries.
Train your Pokémon's stats fully before putting your Pokémon in your party, because if you defeat any Pokémon that awards Exp. Points, your Pokémon will gain base points based on the species of the defeated Pokémon. If you intend to do Hyper Training with a Pokémon and want to gain Exp. Points by defeating enemy Pokémon instead of by using items exclusively, make sure to use the nutritious drinks before leveling the Pokémon up.
Best Ways to Make Money in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield
Training with items is extremely expensive, so you're going to need a way to earn some extra cash. Here are two quick ways to earn lots of money in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.
Gold rush. A special Meowth capable of Gigantamaxing was made available as a Mystery Gift until January 15, 2020. Meowth isn't the most ferocious battler, so you probably won't want it for your tournament team, but it's truly fantastic at helping you acquire shiny objects. Its G-Max Move, G-Max Gold Rush, scatters coins all over the area, like a much more powerful Pay Day. If you give one of the Pokémon participating in battle an Amulet Coin to hold and have Meowth at Lv. 100, you'll net an additional 99,999 in cash on top of your usual prize money every time your Meowth successfully uses G-Max Gold Rush three times in the same battle. You can Gigantamax Meowth only in certain battles, but you can compete in as many Champion tournaments in Wyndon as you'd like after you become Champion, so you can Gigantamax Meowth in those tournaments to quickly earn lots of dough.
A life of luxury. Another easy method of generating some extra income is collecting Watts in the Wild Area—especially the big chunks of 2,000 Watts you get for checking an active Pokémon Den after you become Champion—and trading those Watts for items that you can then sell. Keep an eye out for Rotom Rallyists selling Luxury Balls, then swap your Watts in for Luxury Balls and watch your wallet expand the next time you visit a Poké Mart.
Train the Pokémon team of your dreams, Trainers! Enjoy putting together a powerful squad to take on the mightiest opponents. Don't forget to check back to Pokemon.com/Strategy for more tips about Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield and other Pokémon games, and check out Pokémon Sword & Pokémon Shield: The Official Galar Region Strategy Guide for even more info.