It has been about 25 days since the launch of Sword and Shield. In this post, I am presenting summaries and countermeasures for the main strategies currently used in Ranked Doubles. A lift of the bans for Pokémon obtained via Pokémon Home and Gigantamax Pokémon is expected, but I believe that the strategies introduced here will still be around even in that new meta.
The exemplary Sand team since the 5th Generation. Boosting its defenses using Max Quake and Max Steelspike, Excadrill can reduce the impact of the opponent’s counter-attacks while beating up the opponent, which is unreasonably strong in the damage race.
To make the most of the Defense and Special Defense boosts, a lot of times Tyranitar will be holding Weakness Policy. Depending on the situation, Tyranitar can Dynamax instead, allowing Excadrill to hit it with Earthquake as a way to activate Weakness Policy.
In this generation, a weather change will trigger abilities such as Sand Rush on the same turn. You can now switch out Excadrill’s partner and bring in Tyranitar, and launch a surprise attack with the Speed increase of Sand Rush, allowing for more lead options.
Because it is difficult to use Intimidate and Fighting-types in the current meta, typical countermeasures include utilizing Corviknight’s Max Steelspike to boost Defense, and Rotom-W’s Will-O-Wisp to reduce the opponent’s damage. Rotom-W’s Will-O-Wisp is especially safe, since it won’t activate Weakness Policy. If you bring two Pokémon with Levitate or Flying-type, Max Quake can’t be used, so the Special Defense boosts won’t activate either.
Weakness Policy Rhyperior can be a strong Excadrill-killer. It can also make use of the Sandstorm put up by the opponent to boost its own Special Defense.
Another good option is to use Max Flare or Max Geyser to hit their weaknesses, while changing the weather at the same time. Especially in the case of Hydreigon, it’s great that it can change the weather with Dynamax to snatch away Excadrill’s Speed advantage for the following turn. You can also combine a Pokémon that changes weather, such as Pelipper or Abomasnow, with a Pokémon that is naturally faster than Excadrill to take away its Sand Rush and then attack it with that Pokémon.
Rain trio. Barraskewda is a new Swift Swim Pokémon joining the lineup, adding to Rain’s offensive options. A commonly seen moveset would be Liquidation as the main move, with Close Combat and Throat Chop as coverage options. They target the weaknesses of Water-resistant Pokémon, such as Ferrothorn, Hydreigon, and Dragapult.
Traditionally, you would lead Drizzle Pelipper + Swift Swim user, but with the changes to weather a variety of lead options are available. Leading with Barraskewda and Ludicolo, Barraskewda can use its base 136 Speed stat to set Rain with Max Geyser, allowing Ludicolo to attack right afterwards thanks to Swift Swim. Or you can switch out one of them for Pelipper to activate Swift Swim right away, as well.
Tanking the hits with Water-type resistant Pokémon like Dragapult and Ferrothorn and hitting back is a good countermeasure, but if they are not properly trained defensively they could get knocked out by coverage moves easily.
To counteract that, having them Dynamax so they will withstand a hit from a coverage move regardless is a reliable method. Using the Flying-type weakness of Ludicolo as a starting point, Rain teams are weak to the likes of Dynamax Braviary and Corviknight.
Even if you were to change the weather with Max Flare, it can be easily reverted by Barraskewda on the next turn. However, the damage output of Max Geyser will be reduced for a turn, creating a tricky situation.
A combination that will get Trick Room set up guaranteed. Despite both of them being Psychic-type, thanks to their secondary typing, their weaknesses don’t overlap.
Indeedee blocks Fake Out with Psychic Terrain, while redirecting attacks with Follow Me. Hatterene renders Taunt and Roar useless, making them extraordinarily strong against Trick Room counters.
After setting up Trick Room, they can decimate the opponent with two Psychic Terrain-boosted Psychics, or Helping Hand-boosted Max Mindstorm.
As long as you don’t reverse Trick Room with your own, stopping it from going up is difficult. Duraludon can ignore Follow Me thanks to Stalwart and hit Hatterene’s Steel-type weakness, but they tend to counteract that with Babiri Berry.
It would be better to give up on preventing the Trick Room setup, and instead use the turn of Follow Me + Trick Room to set up Light Screen, use Snarl, Substitute, Max Quake, etc. to build up your defenses. It’s also a good idea to use Max Starfall or Max Overgrowth to change the terrain. Knocking Indeedee out with a double target would be bad, as that allows them to bring in their Torkoal uncontested for an easy win inside Trick Room, so you should avoid doing that. It is best to try and make it through the first Trick Room without taking too much damage, and then do everything you can to stop it from going up a second time.
Note that Indeedee♀ can’t actually learn Trick Room (Indeedee♂ can, but it doesn’t learn Follow Me), so you only have to be wary of Hatterene setting up Trick Room.
They are the stars of the Trick Room attackers, with Torkoal covering for Rhyperior’s Water-, Grass-, and Steel-type weaknesses, which is why they are often paired together. In particular, Torkoal can easily take out Rhyperior’s natural enemy under Trick Room, Ferrothorn. The interaction of Drought reducing the damage of Water-type attacks, allowing Rhyperior’s Weakness Policy to activate is also great.
For Trick Room setters, the aforementioned Hatterene, but also Mimikyu and Bronzong, are commonly used.
There is almost no Pokémon that can win in a one-on-one against Dynamax Solid Rock Weakness Policy Rhyperior, and even hitting the 4x weaknesses might sometimes not even reduce its HP by half, while Rhyperior can oftentimes knock the opposing Pokémon out in one hit.
You will want to stall with Will-O-Wisp, Reflect, Max Guard and smart switches, and then attack once Trick Room and Dynamax run out. It would also be good to chip away at Hatterene and Indeedee without actually knocking them out, so you prevent Rhyperior and Torkoal from getting on the field next to each other.
You can also bring slow Pokémon to use in Trick Room, or use items such as Iron Ball and Room Service. Pokémon that underspeed minimum Speed Rhyperior are recommended.
Galar version of Terracott. The goal is to activate Arcanine’s Justified using Beat Up, increasing its Attack by four stages. Suitable Beat Up users are Whimsicott and Dragapult. Other options would be Dugtrio and Weavile. For Justified users, there’s also Lucario and Gallade.
By Dynamaxing Arcanine, you can increase its durability as well as remove the negative side-effects of Flare Blitz and Close Combat. However, by doing so, you lose access to Extreme Speed.
There’s a wide array of countermeasures, such as redirecting Beat Up with Follow Me, using Excadrill or Barraskewda to apply pressure to Arcanine, or knocking out Whimsicott with fast Pokémon or increased priority attacks.
The Beat Up combo doesn’t excel in the late game (the number of hits from Beat Up decreases with the number of fainted Pokémon), so it is important to be mindful of the early game.
The annoying thing is that all the parts of the combo (Arcanine, Whimsicott, and Dragapult) are strong Pokémon, so they can be easily put on any team. It is common that you would prepare for the Beat Up combo with your leads, just to realize that the team wasn’t utilizing the combo at all. Because of that, it is important to go into the match up with a generally strong, non-specialized lead.
A strategy that revolves around activating Coalossal’s Steam Engine ability and Weakness Policy item by hitting it with a Water-type attack.
The Water-type attack user is usually Choice Scarf Surf Dragapult, with its immunity to Fake Out and high enough Speed to outpace Sand Rush Excadrill. Other options would be Surf Weavile or Sneasel, Aqua Jet Inteleon, or Water Shuriken Accelgor. Even though you’re attacking your partner with a four times weakness, it’s not all that much damage when using Dynamax.
Coalossal is often played as a special attacker, as it has better coverage thanks to Max Overgrowth with Solar Beam as the base move.
For everything other than Surf (Aqua Jet and Water Shuriken) you can use Follow Me, Rage Powder, or Storm Drain to redirect the attack.
Even with an activated Weakness Policy, Coalossal isn’t very strong because of its base 80 Special Attack stat, so a Dynamax Pokémon that can withstand one of its attacks can easily counter attack with Max Quake or Max Geyser.
A combination of two of the top attackers in this format. With the overlap of types between Excadrill and Corviknight, pairing Excadrill with Braviary is recommended.
With Excadrill dealing with Pokémon like Rotom, Mimikyu, and Bronzong, which would otherwise trouble Braviary, and Braviary being able to scare off Intimidate thanks to Defiant, as well as having access to both Max Airstream and Max Knuckle, these two have great synergy. It’s also possible to use the timeless combination of Earthquake + Flying-type.
Corviknight can wall both Excadrill and Braviary, but since Excadrill has access to Horn Drill, you can’t be completely reliant on it.
Since both Pokémon aren’t very fast, boosting your Defense with Max Steelspike or Reflect or reducing the opponents Attack with Will-O-Wisp are reliable options. Since this Excadrill doesn’t use Sand Rush, you can also use Charizard or your own Sand Rush Excadrill to deal with it.
Similar to Tapu Fini+Incineroar in the previous games, a typical combination for standard teams. They have good synergy, and because there’s barely any attacks that can cover both of them, switching around a lot to waste Dynamax turns is easy to do.
By utilizing moves like Intimidate, Snarl, Will-O-Wisp, Thunder Wave, Reflect, Light Screen, and Ally Switch, you can control the opponent’s damage output.
Dragon-types such as Hydreigon and Dragapult have an easy time fighting them. Abilities like Defiant, Competitive, Mold Breaker, Storm Drain and Lightning Rod can take advantage of their abilities and typing, so those are good countermeasures.
Since they won’t be dealing much damage outside of spreading Will-O-Wisp, using Follow Me or Safeguard combined with setup moves would be good as well.