By Contributing Writer Aaron Zheng
The brand-new Dynamax feature introduced in Pokémon
Sword and Pokémon Shield has drastically impacted how competitors
approach battling at all levels of competition. After multiple Regional
Championships and an International Championship, it’s time to take a deep dive
into what Dynamaxing is, how top Trainers are utilizing it, and how it has affected
In addition to making a Pokémon look bigger,
Dynamaxing has several effects in battle that affects competitive play. When a Pokémon
Dynamaxes, its current HP and maximum HP double. Plus, all of the Pokémon’s
moves become Max Moves, which are generally strong attacks that never miss
(except the one defensive Max Move, Max Shield). Max Moves can also have
secondary effects that correspond to the base move’s type. For example,
Water-type attacks turn into Max Geyser, which summons rain to the battlefield.
Each Trainer may only Dynamax one Pokémon in a battle, and the effect lasts for
exactly three turns. If a player switches out their Dynamax Pokémon before the
effect ends, the Pokémon loses the effect for the remainder of the battle. Once
the Dynamax effect ends, a Pokémon’s max HP is reduced back to normal, and the
Pokémon maintains the same percentage of current HP that it had while it was
Max Moves are some of the strongest attacks in
the game. There are several advantages to Max Moves, including that they never
miss, regardless of the accuracy of the initial move. As a result, Trainers
will sometimes give lower-accuracy moves to Pokémon that they tend to Dynamax
to maximize damage output.
Similarly, since the base power of Max Moves
is determined by the base power of the original move, Trainers occasionally opt
for attacks with the highest base power, such as Blast Burn on Charizard or
Hydro Cannon on Inteleon. These attacks normally aren’t consistent enough to be
used in competitive battles. But with Dynamaxing, the slight increase in base
power once the base move is turned into a Max Move can be the difference
between a Pokémon being left with a bit of health or getting knocked out.
Top Trainers utilize the side effects of Max
Moves to great effect. Aaron Traylor’s winning team from Dallas Regionals featured
a Duraludon with Thunderbolt (which becomes Max Lightning) to set up Electric
Terrain, preventing grounded Pokémon from falling asleep. This one move gave
Aaron a significant advantage against strategies that prioritize sleep, such as
teams with Butterfree that know Sleep Powder. Many teams with Togekiss often
utilize the Fairy-type Max Move, Max Starfall, to set up Misty Terrain and
accomplish similar results.
Marco Silva’s winning team from the Oceania
International Championships also featured a Duraludon. Marco’s Duraludon had
the move Body Press, which boosted the Attack of Duraludon and its allies after
that move became Max Knuckle. While Duraludon itself did not benefit much from increased
Attack, Marco’s team had several other physical attackers that did, including Conkeldurr
The Flying-type Max Move, Max Airstream, is
also commonly used to boost the Speed of the user and its partner by one stage.
Of course it’s used by Flying-type Pokémon, such as Charizard, Togekiss, and
Corviknight, but it’s also occasionally seen on other Pokémon with access to
Flying-type attacks, such as Inteleon and Dragapult. Moving before your
opponent is incredibly important in competitive Pokémon battles, and Max
Airstream offers another dimension to Speed control that did not exist in
Ground-type and Steel-type attacks are also
great options in VGC 2020 for two main reasons—they can hit a wide variety of Pokémon
for regular or supereffective damage, and they offer excellent secondary
effects when they become Max Moves. Max Steelspike increases the Defense of the
user and its partner by one stage, while Max Quake does the same for Sp. Def.
Fire-type, Water-type, Ice-type, and Rock-type
attacks all change the weather when they become Max Moves. Trainers often use
these moves to counter opposing weather, especially since sandstorm teams with
Tyranitar and Excadrill are very common in the current competitive scene.
Trainers can also use these moves to benefit from weather themselves. For
example, Charizard can use Max Flare to set up harsh sunlight and take
advantage of its Hidden Ability, Solar Power, while Excadrill (with Sand Rush)
can use Max Rockfall to whip up a sandstorm and increase its own Speed.
Because the VGC format uses Double Battles,
Max Moves are often used to benefit not only the user but also its partner. Winning
Trainers should always ask themselves how they can maximize the value from
their Max Moves outside of just pure damage output.
One thing that often sets the great Trainers apart
from the good is the ability to maximize the overall impact Dynamaxing has, and
this is reflected even when they begin team building. Competitors rarely rely
on Dynamaxing just one Pokémon, instead building their teams to have several
strong Dynamax options. To make this work, Pokémon that are great both when
they’re Dynamaxed and not Dynamaxed become a focus. Pokémon that fit this bill
include Tyranitar, Togekiss, Rotom, Excadrill, and Conkeldurr.
When the matches begin, another thing that top
Trainers share is great game awareness. They are typically able to identify both
which is the best Pokémon to Dynamax given the current situation and the
best time in the game to do so. Competitors must constantly ask themselves
whether or not they can afford to let their opponent Dynamax first. If they can
keep their Dynamax until after their opponent’s Dynamax has ended, then they
will have a huge advantage for the remainder of the battle. However, if their
opponent gains too much of a superior position by Dynamaxing, it can become
impossible to come back. Thus, it’s important to evaluate whether it is
appropriate to Dynamax on a turn-by-turn basis.
It’s also critical to consider the possibility
of Dynamaxing virtually any Pokémon on the team. For example, while support-oriented
Pokémon such as Arcanine, Whimsicott, and Incineroar usually do not Dynamax due
to their lack of offensive moves, smart Trainers are able to identify specific
scenarios where Dynamaxing these Pokémon could lead to a win. As we saw at the
2020 Oceania International Championships, several competitors chose to Dynamax
their Arcanine throughout the course of the tournament to change the weather using
Max Flare and do large amounts of damage to Pokémon weak to Fire-type attacks.
One of the more important things about Dynamaxing
is that there is no single “correct” way of utilizing it. We’ve seen some Trainers
use it offensively and focus on the pure damage output from Max Moves, while
others have prioritized boosting their team’s defenses as much as possible. The
best teams typically have a balance between using the Dynamax effect both
offensively and defensively.
Trainers who opt for heavily offensive Dynamax
Pokémon, such as Durant, Inteleon, and Dragapult, are often focused on picking
up multiple knockouts while the Dynamax effect is active. These offensive Pokémon
can be incredibly frail and need the Dynamax HP boost to survive supereffective
attacks. They are also often paired with support Pokémon, such as Whimsicott—which
gets access to moves such as Fake Tears, Helping Hand, and Tailwind—and
Grimmsnarl, which also gets access to Fake Tears, as well as Fake Out and Thunder
Wave. These moves disrupt the opposing side and make it easier for the
offensive Dynamax Pokémon to pick up big knockouts.
Sometimes Trainers will instead use Dynamaxing
defensively, getting multiple stat boosts from Max Quake or Max Steelspike,
making the Pokémon that Dynamaxed very difficult to knock out even after the Dynamax
effect has ended. Examples of Pokémon that use this strategy include Gastrodon
and Corviknight, which can restore their own HP with Recover and Roost
respectively after they are no longer Dynamaxed.
Top Trainers are often able to use their Dynamax
both offensively and defensively on the same team and occasionally even at the same time. For example, Andrew
Ding was able to win the Collinsville Regional Championships by Dynamaxing Durant,
one of the frailest Pokémon in the game. Competitors tolerate Durant’s weak
defensive stats because of its high Speed and power. But Andrew was able to use
Durant’s strong Max Moves (Max Steelspike and Max Quake) to give Durant and its
partners (bulkier Pokémon, such as Milotic and Sylveon) multiple defensive
boosts while Durant’s high damage output applied lots of pressure.
Another interesting mechanic revolving around
Dynamax Pokémon is that they cannot flinch. As a result, Trainers have to be
more careful with the move Fake Out, which was one of the most common attacks
in previous VGC formats. Fake Out is still commonly seen on Pokémon such as
Incineroar and Grimmsnarl, but Trainers have to think twice before using Fake
Out if their opponent has not Dynamaxed a Pokémon yet.
Dynamaxing has also impacted how Trainers view
Speed control. In Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, changes to Speed
take effect immediately rather than
at the start of the following turn, which was the case in previous games. As a
result, Trainers can use Max Moves to boost a partner Pokémon’s Speed and have that
partner attack earlier than their opponent is expecting. For example, Togekiss
can use Max Airstream to help a slower partner become faster on the same turn.
Togekiss can also use Max Flare to set up harsh sunlight, boosting the Speed of
Pokémon with the Ability Chlorophyll, such as Venusaur.
The Weakness Policy held item has been a
standout in tournament battles in Galar, and it’s often attached to bulky Pokémon
that prefer to Dynamax, such as Lapras, Tyranitar, Rhyperior, Togekiss, and Coalossal.
These Dynamax Pokémon are incredibly threatening for two main reasons: their
increased damage output when Weakness Policy actually activates…and the mere possibility that they could carry Weakness Policy. This often leaves opposing Trainers hesitant
to use supereffective attacks until those bulky Pokémon are no longer Dynamaxed.
Teams that have a Pokémon holding Weakness
Policy also often have ways to activate that item themselves. For example, one
of Rhyperior’s most common partners is Dusclops, which can activate Rhyperior’s
Weakness Policy with a supereffective attack such as Brick Break or Bulldoze.
Gigantamax Lapras also often carries Weakness Policy and is paired with
partners that can hit it with supereffective attacks.
Life Orb continues to be popular as well. It has
historically been one of the best competitive items in the game, but thanks to
the power of Max Moves, Dynamax Pokémon derive even more value from Life Orb than
other Pokémon. Dynamax Pokémon also take the same amount of recoil damage from
Life Orb as they would if they weren’t Dynamaxed, which means a smaller
percentage of their overall health. Many of the top Pokémon, such as Rotom,
Excadrill, Durant, Duraludon, and Dragapult, often carry Life Orbs to maximize
their damage output, especially since Choice Band and Choice Specs do not
increase the damage of Max Moves.
Dynamax Pokémon may be strong, but they’re not
unbeatable. Throughout the first few months of the VGC 2020 season, Trainers have
utilized several strategies to mitigate opposing Dynamax Pokémon. Several of
these strategies focus on stalling out the three turns of Dynamax.
Naturally, one of the best ways to counter
Dynamax Pokémon is to use your own Dynamax
Pokémon. Some Trainers opt to fight power with power, using their Dynamax Pokémon
to do as much damage as possible. Other Trainers take a more defensive approach,
using Max Moves to raise their defenses, to lower the opposing side’s offensive
stats, or to block attacks, hoping to weather their opponent’s three turns of
Dynamax as well as possible. Trainers can also reduce the power of Dynamax Pokémon
by lowering their stats with regular moves such as Charm, Parting Shot, Snarl, and
Will-O-Wisp or through the Ability Intimidate.
Berries that reduce the damage of supereffective
attacks are also used to survive powerful Max Moves. For example, Togekiss
often carries Babiri Berry, which allows it to survive supereffective
Steel-type attacks from Excadrill, Durant, and Duraludon—some of the strongest Pokémon
in the format. Kasib and Colbur Berries, which reduce supereffective hits from
Ghost-type and Dark-type attacks respectively, are often used on Pokémon that
aim to set up Trick Room, such as Bronzong, Jellicent, and Gourgeist.
Another great way to shut down Dynamax Pokémon
is to put them to sleep. Yawn was seldom used in previous VGC formats, but it’s
seen more and more on Pokémon such as Gastrodon or Togekiss. Yawn puts pressure
on opposing Dynamax Pokémon, forcing them to either fall asleep the next turn
or switch out and give up their Dynamax transformation. Sleep Powder, while
more inconsistent than Yawn, is also used by Pokémon such as Venusaur, Butterfree,
and Roserade to put Dynamax Pokémon to sleep immediately.
One clever way to shut down Dynamax Pokémon is
by attaching an Eject Button to a Pokémon with the Prankster Ability and giving
the Eject Button to opposing Dynamax Pokémon through the move Trick. Trainers
who opt for this strategy also often add another increased-priority attack,
such as a Quick Attack from Sylveon, to force opposing Dynamax Pokémon to
switch out immediately. This option is less consistent and more niche, but it can
have devastating results when used correctly.
Finally, it’s more important than ever to have
Pokémon that resist or are immune to common attacks. Switching in a Pokémon
with a type resistance or immunity to a Max Move burns one turn of Dynamax,
which can go a long way when there are only three turns of Dynamax total.
In addition to the potential for nearly any
Pokémon to Dynamax, there is a select group of Pokémon that are allowed to
Gigantamax in Championship Series events. These Gigantamax Pokémon have access
to both Max Moves and unique G-Max Moves that have special secondary effects,
allowing for several creative strategies.
We’ve already seen Trainers use some of these
Gigantamax forms to great success. Aaron Traylor won the Dallas Regional
Championships with Gigantamax Charizard, utilizing G-Max Wildfire’s side effect
to slowly chip away at opposing teams. Tobias Koschitzki won the Malmö Regional
Championships with Gigantamax Butterfree and Gigantamax Hatterene, allowing him
to inflict multiple status conditions with G-Max Befuddle and G-Max Smite. It’s
important to note that these Trainers did not focus their strategies solely on
their Gigantamax Pokémon. Aaron’s team also had strong attackers, such as Conkeldurr
and Duraludon, while Tobias’s Trick Room team was centered primarily around
Rhyperior. However, their teams offered them the flexibility to Gigantamax when
appropriate and gave them more options to work with.
Expect to see Trainers explore more options as
the list of Gigantamax Pokémon allowed in the Championship Series continues to
grow. The newly added Gigantamax Lapras, for example, will undoubtedly have a
major impact on the format as Trainers try to take advantage of its G-Max Move,
G-Max Resonance, which sets up Aurora Veil, reducing the damage of physical and
Dynamax is a fascinating feature in Pokémon
Sword and Pokémon Shield that creates incredibly interesting battles.
As the metagame in the Galar region continues to develop, competitors will also
find new ways to use the Dynamax feature. One thing is for sure, though—seeing
how top Trainers utilize Dynamax Pokémon against each other never disappoints!
Be sure to check Pokemon.com/Strategy for more Pokémon TCG and video game tips and analysis.