Confession: when I first went through most Pokémon games, I didn't use much in the way of "strategy". Blaziken, use Blaze Kick. Enemy resistant to Fire? Blaziken... use Double Kick!
And you know what? It worked!
But now I pay my penance. Pokémon Sword and Shield, I'd say, are overall on the shorter and easier side of things. That's not necessarily a criticism, but I admit to being a bit letdown when I first played Sword. Still, that ease makes it a fun little testing ground: what's Pokémon like when you embrace status moves completely?
The goal is to beat Leon and become Champion of Galar in the most frustrating way he'll ever see: solely using status moves and never directly attacking. Additionally, I'm putting a bit of a soft-block on using moves like Copycat or Metronome to essentially 'replicate' regular attacks.
I never really know when starting a challenge which'll be the most interesting, fun or time-consuming, so I don't really make any promises about definitively getting to the end. I do hope, however, that -- regardless of how far it goes -- the journey proves a fun read.
Part One: Early Struggles
We begin as any other run does. Run along, get a starter, begin the journey in earnest. Now, in some games the starter would be obvious: in Red and Blue you'd bring along Bulbasaur for Poison Powder and the like. But by my reckoning, none of the Galar starters have much to offer us; if they learn any status-dealing, non-damaging moves, they do so via egg moves, TMs or after I'd already have access to better options.
In essence, then, we're less choosing our own team and more rounding out Hop's and Leon's. Hop, of course, will pick the starter *weak* to ours. Leon, meanwhile, gets the one *strong* against us and then someone else to balance his team.
There's probably a tactical decision to made there, but I picked Sobble because I'd picked Scorbunny in my first playthrough... and because Sobble looked kinda sad. Not that you'll see him after this fight, granted, but let's call him an honorary team member.
Of course, unlike most runs we're going to lose our first battle against Hop. Our Growls can only do so much! But it's the last loss we'll have to take. Sorry, James.
Now we start team-building in earnest. You can technically lose the first two fights against Hop, but I figure we may as well start his existential crisis ASAP. But how?
First, we'll need to deal with the trainers on the way to him. I pick up a Wooloo ('Shaggy') and a Purrloin ('Arsène'). Between Shaggy's defense and Arsène's Sand Attack, they can infuriatingly stall each trainer until they Struggle themselves to death.
Poor kid. We could adopt the same strategy with Hop, but with three Pokémon it'd make for a pretty infuriating battle. Instead, we'll pick up a Caterpie. I had bad luck running into the famous bug, but once I did find one she was level 5 (the highest I could've found). Swings and roundabouts.
"What's so great about Caterpie?", you might ask. It'll mean some early grinding, but once we get one to level 12 they'll become a Butterfree with access to Poison, Stun and Sleep Powder.
Reaching that level is easy enough. We'll use our free PokéBalls (plus a 10 Poké Ball purchase from the Poké Mart) to catch Pokémon. Easy XP and we get to start filling out the Pokédex. At this stage in the game Wooloo has a fairly high base XP, but Route 2 Pokémon are a little more consistently higher level.
It doesn't take too long, and once ready it's time to attack. At the start of Hop's second fight, our team stands as:
Blusher the Butterfree, level 12. For now, Blusher is primarily our source of the Poison condition, though she also knows the ever-powerful move Harden. For this battle, she'll just apply Poison then get out.
Shaggy the Wooloo, level 8. With Defense Curl, Growl and the Fluffy ability, Shaggy acts as a sort of tank, able to stay in place while the enemy runs out of moves or Blusher's Poison Powder works its magic.
Arsène the Purrloin, level 8. Growl and Sand Attack place Arsène as a sort of debuffer. Here he'll be primarily useful against our rival's Scorbunny, after Shaggy's been worn down by others.
I thought giving the rival a Scorbunny might hurt us here; Blusher's a Bug type and Shaggy, thanks to her ability, is pseudo-weak to Fire. But in the end Scorbunny never even used Ember, resorting to Growls as he slowly died of poison. So it went for all of Hop's Pokémon. He doesn't take it well.
Still, we clearly out-level Hop, taking a bit of shine out of the victory. In general I don't like to just level-grind as a solution, so we'll try to take on the rest of the challenges we face at levels more in-line with the game's level curve.
But! While the journey's just begun, that might be it for this incarnation of the team. In this post, we had two starter routes to pick a team from. (And just the one fashion shop to pick an outfit!) Next time, we'll be making our first trip to the Wild Area. I'll have to rack my brain on what's best available.
I decided that I wouldn't be doing any raids with internet people. Two reasons for that. First, when doing challenges I like to not lean on others too hard. Second, it probably wouldn't be fair to the other players; imagine joining a raid and one of your teammates is a Butterfree spamming Harden!
That said, it's time to go ghost hunting. Duskull and Gastly are two similar Pokémon with similar movesets, Confuse Ray and Curse being highlights of interest to us. To my mind, Gastly comes online earlier: learning Curse at level 20 means he learns it just in time for the Grass Gym.
But he's also rarer. When I turn up at the Watchtower Ruins it's hailing and he's off-the-table. This isn't a problem; Duskull ('Smiles') will still be useful overall. For now, he has Leer, Disable and Confuse Ray. We'll also pick up a Drifloom ('Drifter'), who'll have to take a backseat for now.
With that, it's on with the plot. Deal with some ruffians in the lobby, then get introduced to the Gym Challenge. The first Team Yell member goes down a treat: their Zigzagoon is poisoned by Blusher, then has their Lick disabled by Smiles. That leaves them -- when they don't hit themselves in confusion -- with Tackle, which Smiles is immune to. With the second Yell's Nickit, there's no need to even Disable any moves.
After a brief team-up with him, I immediately pull the same trick on Hop when we fight, poisoning him then switching to Duskull and rendering his Wooloo useless:
In the next route we pick up two Pokémon: Vulpix ('Ashlyn') and Trubbish ('Gabby'). In truth, I had completely forgotten Trubbish was here -- but she could be a valuable team member! Toxic Spikes is a way to 'badly poison' enemy Pokémon when they switch in, which does gradually more damage than regular poisoning. (For later on, Trubbish is also a natural learner of Toxic, which can immediately apply this condition to opponents.) Vulpix, meanwhile, immediately provides an alternate source of Disable and adds a bit of type variety to our team.
With these two new members, Arsène is boxed, probably for good. We'll remember him. We also catch a Stunky, another Pokémon who can pick up Toxic later, but for now they haven't made the cut to join the team.
I won't bore you with details of every trainer on Route 3, most of whom went down to strategies we already used. There was only one with any complications: Schoolboy Marvin. First, Marvin's Budew is immune to poisoning. But it only knows Absorb; when disabled it's immediately forced into Struggling. Gossifleur, meanwhile, is immune to Poison Powder but not Trubbish's Poison Gas. Thanks, Gabby! Proving your use immediately.
Next, the Galar Mine. Get through here, and the rest of the road to Turffield will be plain sailing. By this point, Gabby knew Toxic Spikes and was leading the team. While a little fragile, she was doing a fine job and the combination of her and Smiles was enough to get through most trainers. The exit to daylight glimmered.
There was just one man in our way: Bede. See, despite our level advantage and that we actually have a full team, Bede specifically counters us. His predilection for Psychic Pokémon stands in direct opposition to our Ghost and Poison heavy team. Worse, his first Pokémon (Solosis) starts with Magic Guard -- it is immune to damage from conditions. And yes, he'll one-shot our Trubbish.
The battle starts with Ashlyn, who baits out a Confusion and disables it. This gives Gabby just enough time to plant two Toxic Spikes then switch to Smiles. But as you might have twigged, the Disable has a double purpose. Solosis knows two moves, Endeavor and Confusion... and the first only has 5 PP.
Smiles keeps Confusion locked, and Solosis struggles itself to death. Bede's Gothita switches in, badly poisoned, setting the stage for our victory. From this point on, it's just a matter of stalling.
Unfortunately, keeping Solosis locked left Smiles with barely any HP. And I say, why sacrifice a team member if you don't have to? I switch him out. First, to Wooloo, then to whoever has enough health to bear another strike.
In the end Drifloom takes the last hit, leaving him at 15 HP and everyone else exhausted... as Bede's final Pokémon runs out of health. No casualties, no items used. Bede, flexed on.
In hindsight, we could've made that a lot easier for ourselves by catching a Roselia back in the Wild Area, since it's a Pokémon with Worry Seed (changes foe ability) and Leech Seed. But that should be the final big obstacle. There are trainers ahead, but none of them should prove much trouble. Next entry, we get our first gym badge.
Ashlyn, lv. 14 Vulpix. Hasty nature.
Shaggy, lv. 15 Wooloo. Hardy, with the Fluffy ability.
Like I said, the road ahead was relatively simple. Our only issue was a Galarian Meowth; as a Steel-type, he's immune to our poisons. Fortunately, we had enough luck with Confuse Ray that it wasn't a serious issue.
Still, it was becoming obvious we couldn't just rely on poison for everything. Although they wouldn't be much help in the gym ahead, I picked up a Pumpkaboo ('Leech'): a learner of Leech Seed and Worry Seed. While I might switch them out with another Pokémon later, it'll be good not to get caught with our trousers down when facing Bede, not to mention any Tom, Dick or Harry with a Steel-type.
To the gym! I'll let you in on a secret: only the first of three Gym Trainers needs to be fought. Why's this important? While I'm loath to give up on XP, it's because the second two have Oddish -- a Grass/Poison Pokémon immune to both Leech Seed and the Poison condition. It's not insurmoutable, but it is a pain and I was keen to get on with the main attraction.
Speaking of, for the fight against Milo I boxed all but two Pokémon. Poor Milo, a veritable gym leader mind you, only has two Pokémon and that'd give us a tremendous advantage. Nerts to that. We enter with a team similar to his:
Gabby. At level 18, Gabby is actually slightly under Milo's lv. 19 Gossifleur.
Smiles. Meanwhile, Smiles is a lv. 20 match for Milo's Eldegoss. Of course, he's also a Ghost...
The fight begins with Gabby using Poison Cloud and then two Toxic Spikes. Stall time!
We switch to Smiles, get hit by a Magical Leaf, and disable it. Gossifleur is stuck using useless Normal-type moves as it succumbs to the poison.
We won't get so lucky with Eldegoss, who knows two Grass moves. And of course, it's time for our first Dynamax foe...
Eldegoss spams Max Overgrowth, but my giant Duskull spams Max Guard. Smiles protects on the first turn, fails on the second, and protects again on the third -- meaning he takes one Overgrowth to the face. But then everyone shrinks back to normal.
Eldegoss gets the benefit of Overgrowth's healing for a few more turns, but that's the nice thing about the 'badly poisoned' condition -- it increases over time. The second nice thing: while Duskull levitates, Eldegoss's Grass field heals Gabby as well. Once switched back in, Gabby starts using Amnesia, and in a couple of turns...
We're victorious. Sorry, Milo.
And that marks the first badge. They won't all be so easy, but we'll take them as they come.
With the Grass Gym behind us, it's time to put Leech -- my briefly-mentioned new Pumpkaboo -- to proper use. It soon becomes tough to imagine things without her: Leech Seed can be combined with the Poison condition to speed things up and to help generate a bit of health as we stall. It's also along this route that Smiles picks up Will-O-Wisp -- a move that inflicts Burn. Burn can't be combined with Poison, but it can be used instead. As a bonus, burning a foe has the unmentioned benefit of halving the damage of most opponent's physical attacks.
Beyond that, a lot happens on this route that I don't have that much to say about. We fight Team Yell and get a bike. Hop challenges us...
...and goes down like a punk. Sorry, Hop. We pass the Daycare for the first time. If I were a more hardcore player, breeding Pokémon to have better egg moves would probably be possible, but right now I don't think the effort is necessary.
I do pick up a few new Pokémon, but right now they're just in the PC. A Minccino is caught, and immediately traded away to an NPC for a Cottonee. We pick up a Wobbuffet in the wild -- an interesting Pokémon with possibilities, though you should be aware we can't use his signature Counter or Mirror Coat. Finally, we catch an Applin. Were we in Shield, Applin would be able to become the defensive Appletun, and would probably be a good fit for the team; as-is, it can still become Flapple.
After a brief runaround, where we get an invitation to coffee from Chairman Rose and convince Nessa to go do her job, it's time to take on the Water Gym. It's not particularly tough, but everyone's surprisingly impressed at my ability to press buttons.
With that, Gym Leader time. And as we did with Milo, it's time to shorten up our team in the name of fair play. Nessa uses three Pokémon: a level 22 Goldeen, a level 23 Arrokuda, and a level 24 Drednaw. Which means we'll enter with...
Leech the Pumpkaboo, level 22.
Gabby the Trubbish, level 23.
Smiles the Duskull, level 24.
I'm not sure this is the best team we could've gone with, but it should be enough. This team doesn't particularly trounce in type match-ups, since Nessa's Pokémon have access to Dark moves, but they've been the mainstays of the team for the previous route. Let's go.
Leech begins by seeding Nessa's Goldeen, before we switch in Gabby to plant two sets of Toxic Spikes. This part of the fight goes off without a hitch: by the time Goldeen goes down, Leech and Gabby are at full health.
The fight with Arrokuda, however, wears Leech and Smiles down, but the Arrokuda is defeated nonetheless.
With that, it's time for the final Pokémon, who'll of course Dynamax immediately.
Leech is out and at low health, so I decide to sacrifice them to the Dreadnaw. Sorry about that, Leech. (I am, incidentally, playing on Set Mode.)
Smiles is next out, and is immediately Dynamaxed so he can Max Guard. He absorbs one move, takes a Max Geyser to the face, then Max Guards against the Dreadnaw's first normal attack. Moreorless what you'd expect.
This isn't the flawless victory we had against Milo, but I think we can still win this without items. Smiles does go down to the Dreadnaw...
But as Gabby arrives on the scene, it's too late. Throughout all this the toxic poison has been working its way through Dreadnaw. Gabby survives one hit, and Dreadnaw goes down.
Water badge achieved. But today's journey has just a small bit left to it.
Rose begins a discussion that I don't really pay attention to, but presumably contains exposition and foreshadowing. Then he nigh-immediately leaves. Good talk! But with that, we can blow this town.
We could immediately charge ahead, but with the latest badge we can catch up to level 30. It could be wise to revisit the Wild Area first, take a second chance at getting a Gastly. But then, our team is getting quite Ghost-heavy. And do we really want a Wooloo on team as our token tank?
Well. I do know one high-defensive Pokémon in the mine ahead... but he's an odd one and I'm not sure he'd actually be the better pick. I'll think on it.
I originally meant for this to be one update, but I ran away with my words. Whoops! So I've split it into two parts.
Part Five: Second Showdown in the Mines
As I hinted last time, there are some spoils we can get from the Wild Area. First, I do grab a Gastly ('Wisp'). There's a trade-off here. We're a team that's quite Ghost- and Poison-heavy -- remember, Gastly is both -- but Curse really can be impactful and Smiles won't learn it until level 36. If you're unfamiliar: used by a Ghost Pokémon, Curse causes the opponent to lose a quarter of their health each round. The downside: Curse ends if the opponent switches out and when first used damages you for half your max HP.
Speaking of running a Poison-heavy team, we also fish for a Mareanie ('Pat') at Giant's Mirror. This is mainly a Pokémon we want for later, and I considered holding off, but they're another that can learn Toxic Spikes and Toxic. I'm hoping, down the line, Pat will prove pretty valuable. For now I put them both in the PC, because they're already at levels high enough to face the gym leader.
Finally, we grab a level 15 Roselia ('Masque') and I remember that the Protect TM is actually available for sale back in Motostoke. Now, there are higher-level Roselia's available in the Wild Area (weather depending), but a level 15 Wanderer is available in most weather and makes for a convenient option.
See, remember when I said it'd be good to not get caught out by Bede again? When I wrote that, I forgot he showed up in the second mine area. It's rival time, and our Pumpkaboo hasn't learnt Worry Seed yet. But our level 15 Roselia? She knows it right off the bat.
Masque gets in the Worry Seed then, being level 15, is one-shot. But that's all we needed. Smiles and Leech go in, applying Will-O-Wisp and Leech Seed. At one point Smiles uses Confuse Ray and I attempt to cheekily get Gabby in to apply two Toxic Spikes, but she's immediately one-shot. Sorry, girl!
But don't let the lack of toxic poison fool you. With Leech and Smiles both now knowing Protect, they're quite the stallers. Smiles tries to keep the high-damage moves disabled, while they both apply confusion and protect every other turn. Briefly Wooloo comes in, but takes a Psybeam to the face; she survives but I pull her out.
Bede's first three Pokémon go down, but it leaves Smiles a little too health to bring in without just dying. I decide to just let Leech Seed do its magic, having Blusher apply Sleep Powder. Blusher gets low...
...but the seeds do the work in the nick of time. Not the cleanest fight, but I'm glad to keep casualties to a relative minimum (sorry, Gabby!) and it's another foe defeated in my signature frustrating manner.
There's some more story beats, a brief team-up with Hop, etc. I briefly betray Hop by Confuse Ray-ing him, but other than that there's not much to say about those beats. But we do get some Pokémon from the rest of the cave and just outside: Koffing, Sudowoodo, and Shuckle. Finally, Wooloo evolves into Dubwool while in the mines.
Koffing and Shuckle are the ones I caught as potential team-members. Koffing is another Poison-type we could use for Toxic, so we're getting to the point where we'll need to make some judgement calls over who to train and bring along.
Shuckle, meanwhile, is the high-defensive Pokémon I mentioned last update -- but this little Bug/Rock's an odd one. I've never found a place for him in a team before, despite sort of liking the oddball, due to his pitiful damage. Might this be his chance? Well, despite his extravagant defenses he pays for it with practically dumped HP and Speed, stats we do care about. But thanks to his ability he also can't be one-hit KO'd and in most fights we'll have set-up Leech Seed... I haven't really made up my mind yet.
Sudowoodo, meanwhile, just might be a smart one to have along for the Fire Gym due to type match-ups. Pseudo-woodo is a Rock-type masquerading as a Grass-type, which means he's resistant to Fire. Useful, no?
The last thing before we can take on the gym is our first fight with our third rival, Marnie. This is another fight without much to it. But I thought I'd mention how her Croagunk does nothing but fail to use Sucker Punch, since we never actually ready an attack.
Part Six: Battle for the Fire Badge
We begin the Gym Challenge, and this one is a little more interesting. We're teamed up with other gym trainers and have to defeat or catch a set of wild Pokémon. The catch: these trainers want to get the defeat on the Pokémon themselves, so may attack us as we fight together. We can ignore them or attack right back.
In the end we defeat a Vulpix and catch two Pokémon: Litwick and Sizzlipede. We probably won't use either, but I think they're neat.
For the gym, I dump all but three Pokémon again. This time we have a slight level advantage, but it shouldn't make too much of a difference:
Gabby the Trubbish, level 27.
Pat the Mareanie, level 26.
Woody the Sudowoodo, level 26.
In hindsight, I regret how I essentially left most of my team to die in the last gym. That's not very nice! So I consciously try to play a bit nicer this time. Gabby goes out, poisons and lays Toxic Spikes, then I go to get her out of there.
...But I forget that Kabu's Ninetales can use Fire Spin to prevent switching. Gabby's stuck in, and while her job's done, she still goes down before I can swap her for anyone else.
Next out is Woody, and he works better than I expected. Although Ninetales burns him with Will-O-Wisp, he otherwise takes little damage from either her or the Arcanine that follows. Still, the Burn works away, and as Arcanine goes down I pull Woody out. Time for the final showdown, Pat vs. Centiskorch.
Naturally Kabu immediately dynamaxes, and naturally I follow suit with three Max Guards. And naturally the second of the three Guards fails, with Pat taking a G-Max Centiferno to the face. It actually does quite a bit, despite not being very effective, reducing Pat to just over half-health. Still, I wasn't worried.
Then Kabu immediately scores a critical hit. Pat barely holds on. But that was Kabu's last chance: Pat begins spamming Recover and there's nothing Kabu can do as my health pops back up and his lowers and lowers.