Your guide to matchmaking, raid strategy, and more.
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Pokemon Sword and Shield mark the eighth generation of Pokemon games, and they of course introduce new features and Pokemon to the series. One of the biggest additions is the Wild Area, an open-world stretch of land in which you and wild Pokemon can roam freely. It covers the space between the bottom part of the map and Motostoke and then extends up along the eastern side of Motostoke to Hammerlocke. This space is home to a wide variety of Pokemon that come and go with the weather, and you'll even encounter Pokemon so powerful that you won't be able to fight them at first.
On top of that, the Wild Area is also home to the new Max Raids. These 4v1 battles pit you and three other players (or NPCs) against one Dynamaxed Pokemon, which is both enormous and extra powerful. They start out easy, but make no mistake--the high-level raids can be intensely challenging. Here's everything you need to know about Max Raids.
First things first--you can do raids solo with NPCs, but it's a lot easier with at least one other real person. By pressing Y and going to the social screen, you can connect to the internet and interact with other people online. From this screen, you can join other people's raids provided they're seeking help and there's still room. In order to invite others to your raid, you have to initiate a raid from a den and select "invite others," and other players can join both locally and online.
Max Raid Basics
Raid Pokemon are separate from the powerful Pokemon you see walking around. You have to go up to a raid den to start a raid--you'll know a Pokemon is inside if there's a red or pinkish-purple beam of light shooting out of it. When you interact with the den, you'll see a screen showing the silhouette of the raid Pokemon and its type so you can prepare. Max Raids vary in challenge from one star to five stars, which will be indicated on this screen as well.
In a Max Raid, four players fight one Dynamaxed (or Gigantamaxed) Pokemon. By virtue of being Dynamaxed, these Pokemon get boosts to their moves and stats, and they will often move twice in a row or put up shields. If you defeat the raid Pokemon, you get a chance to catch it. You can decide whether you want to do the raid solo (with three NPCs) or search for other players locally or online; each person only brings one Pokemon. The battle is over when 10 turns go by or Pokemon faint four times--a fainted Pokemon will automatically be revived after a turn, so it could be any combination of Pokemon fainting, even if it's the same Pokemon fainting multiple times.
One Pokemon on your side is allowed to Dynamax during the raid. The player who initiated the raid has the opportunity to Dynamax first, but if they don't, the Dynamax power moves to the next person on the list (including NPCs) until someone uses it. While the raid Pokemon will be Dynamaxed the whole time, the Pokemon on your side will only remain Dynamaxed for three turns as normal.
If you defeat the Pokemon, you have a chance to catch it. If you defeat it and fail to catch it due to bad luck, the Pokemon will be gone (though you still get all the other rewards, like berries and TRs); if you simply lose, you can try again from the same raid den. You can use a Wishing Piece, which you can find or buy from various Wild Area vendors using Watts, to trigger a raid even if the den is currently empty, though it may not even be the same species of Pokemon.
Max Raid Battle Tips
Max Raid battles themselves work mostly like normal battles. Each of the five Pokemon on the field will move according to their speed stat, though the raid Pokemon gets to cheat and use moves multiple times in a turn. After it's been damaged a bit, the raid Pokemon will put up a shield, which can take anywhere from two to six hits to break down; this shield blocks it from most damage and all status effects. A Max move from a Dynamaxed Pokemon on your side will take down two shield slots, though moves that hit multiple times, like Fury Swipes or Double Kick, will only break one shield slot.
The raid Pokemon will occasionally nullify all stat changes on your side of the field, so powerup moves like Dragon Dance aren't recommended. Instead, super-effective attacks are your best bet, as strong ones will usually cause a bit of damage even through a shield. Breaking a shield will damage the Pokemon and lower its defenses, too, so you'll want to prioritize breaking the shield with standard attacks rather than using something like Helping Hand to power up an ally's moves.
You're also better off using a move with middling damage over an all-out move that causes damage to the user, like Wild Charge. Staying alive is paramount, as four faints will get you tossed out of the raid den, so moves that heal allies, like Life Dew, can be helpful too--you can only use items from your bag to heal your own Pokemon.
For especially tough raids, you should also take into account the raid Pokemon's stats--Turtonator, for example, has extremely high defense but much lower special defense (on average), so using special attacks can make all the difference.
Wishing Pieces And Triggering More Raids
Only a few dens in the Wild Area will be "active" at a time. If you want to trigger a raid encounter at an inactive den, you can throw a Wishing Piece in it to instantly spawn a raid Pokemon. You can buy Wishing Pieces from various vendors around the Wild Area--see our guide on Watts and where to spend them for more details.
Each raid den has a set of Pokemon that can spawn there, and some only spawn during specific weather patterns. Wishing Pieces are useful for initiating a raid at a specific den, but if you just want more raids, you can also complete all the existing raids, at which point more will pop up throughout the Wild Area--and at least one should be a strong purple pillar of light, which signals a rare Pokemon.
Rare Pokemon, Gigantamax Forms, And Purple Beams Of Light
The Pokemon you catch in raids are much likelier to have perfect stats and hidden abilities, and the likelihood goes up as the difficulty of the raid goes up. Every five-star raid Pokemon I've caught has had several perfect stats, and the maximum I've seen is five out of six perfect stats from a raid. You might also see a strong purple pillar of light instead of the usual red one; that means the raid Pokemon there is more likely to be a rare spawn, and there are some rare Pokemon you can only find in raids.
At the five-star tier, you may also encounter Gigantamax Pokemon, which are individual Pokemon of select species that change forms when Dynamaxed. See our Gigantamax guide for more details on how to find these Pokemon.