We’re now a couple weeks into Pokemon Sword and Shield and competitive players around the world are just beginning to discover the ins and outs of the new metagame. With all of the new items and mechanics that the eighth generation brought to the table, players are surely in over their head with tons new strategies to test out on the battlefield.
But, of course, the quintessential newest pieces to competitive play are the Pokemon themselves, and the Galar Region certainly brought a colorful cast of new and unique Pokemon to play with. This list is totally subject to change as competitive play for Sword and Shield begins to develop, but here are the (initial) top five competitively viable Pokemon introduced in the eighth generation (in no particular order).
This generation’s “pseudo-legendary” does not disappoint in the slightest. Dragapult boasts an insanely high speed stat with impressive offensive stats on both sides of the spectrum. Dragon/Ghost is a typing that was formerly unique to Giratina, and Dragapult inherits this typing well.
What’s so great about Dragapult, other than its stats, is its versatility. While it’s mainly designated the speedy attacker role, it can accomplish this both on the physical and special side since its move pool is so diverse. Some players have even been testing more supportive variants of Dragapult with singles players testing out move sets utilizing the trapping move Infestation, while some doubles players have been experimenting with Beat Up next to a Pokemon with the Justified ability.
Dragapult is a true jack-of-all-trades, and its shaping up to be one of the defining competitive Pokemon to come from the Galar Region.
Galar introduced a new batch of regional variants, and while some are certainly better than others, none seem to come close to the monster that is Galarian Darmanitan. Regular Darmanitan was already a beast with its decent speed and monstrous attack combined with the ability Sheer Force, but Galarian Darmanitan’s new ability known as “Gorilla Tactics” bumps up Darmanitan’s might to absurd levels. Gorilla Tactics essentially acts like the Choice Band item by restricting Darmanitan into using a single move while its on the field, but with the trade-off being that it gets a significant attack boost. What’s even crazier is that this ability can be supplemented with either a Choice Band for more power or a Choice Scarf to boost Darmanitan’s speed.
Not to mention the new and improved “Zen Mode” ability which can further boost Darmanitan’s Attack and Speed stats once it falls below 50% of its HP. It’s still a risky strategy for sure, but with a well-timed Belly Drum, it likely means the end for any opponent.
Galarian Darmanitan hits like an absolute truck, and this theme continues into the next entry on this list.
The fossil Pokemon in Galar are unique abominations that can be mixed and matched to create four different Pokemon. The one that’s been getting the most hype is Dracovish and its hilariously named signature move known as “Fishious Rend”. This move is nothing to write home about on the surface being only 85 base power, but factor in that its power doubles when Dracovish moves before the opponent, the boost it gets from the Strong Jaw ability and a further potential boost in power from either rain or a boosting item, and you’re looking at an attack that can KO resisted targets. Under the right circumstances, Dracovish is a monster.
As players begin to pull off more and more sweeps with Dracovish, its fanbase will only grow further. Wolfe Glick has already been having a field day with this Pokemon which should be an indicator that this Pokemon is likely pretty good.
Grimmsnarl is an interesting case since players aren’t really sure what to do with it yet. It gets the fantastic supportive ability in Prankster with great support moves to utilize it, but it also has a solid offensive niche too. Fairy/Dark is a fantastic unique typing to have, and its offensive move pool allows it to round out its attacking tool belt well. Grimmsnarl even has a Gigantamax form which, to be honest, isn’t meta-breaking by any means, but it gives it a further offensive option that it can utilize quite effectively. Plus, it hard counters the aforementioned Dragapult which definitely gives it some brownie points right off the bat.
What Grimmsnarl has is versatility, and perhaps the best way to make this Pokemon the best it can be is to find a happy medium between its supportive and offensive capabilities.
Putting a legendary Pokemon on this list seems like cheating, but the potential for Zacian is showing signs of it being one of the strongest Pokemon of all time. In a recent video from popular competitive Pokemon YouTuber Blunder, he makes the argument that Zacian could potentially be stronger than Mega Rayquaza.
For those unfamiliar, Mega Rayquaza was deemed to be too strong by the Smogon competitive player base in the Ubers tier (the typical place for battling with legendary Pokemon) so it was banned to a brand new tier known as “Anything Goes”. Mega Rayquaza was so strong that it created its own tier, and with Mega Evolutions now being removed from Pokemon Sword and Shield, Zacian could be the new king.
The reasoning is rather simple. Zacian has amazing stats with its most notable being its Attack and Speed, with some solid HP and defenses as well. Zacian’s base attack falls just short of Mega Rayquaza’s until you factor in its ability, Intrepid Sword, which automatically boosts Zacian’s Attack by one stage when it enters the battle. Fairy/Steel has already proven itself to be an amazing offensive and defensive typing with Zacian also getting the moves it needs to not only abuses its same-type-attack-bonus, but also some fantastic coverage to cover for its weaker matchups.
The Smogon Ubers tier for Sword and Shield is still very underdeveloped since there are only three Pokemon who reside in it currently, but with Zacian being the best of the bunch right now, it looks to be the strongest Pokemon in the game thus far.
Images from Pokemon Sword and Shield and The Pokemon Company International