Pokemon Sword & Shield gained a lot from the release of the Crown Tundra DLC, but the largest impact it made was undoubtedly in the online Battle Stadium. Both casual and competitive trainers were given a massive roster of new and old legendary Pokemon through Dynamax Adventures, the new story, and transfers through Pokemon Home.
This has massively altered the metagame, with nearly every team needing to consider what legendaries are worth including. Alternately, many trainers may just need to know what they’re going to run into, as certain legendaries have started running rampant across the online battle scene.
Updated May 21, 2021, by Gene Cole: Pokemon Sword & Shield has recently seen a Ranked Battle Season with restricted and banned legendaries being allowed in your team, making some legal legendaries feel underwhelming. However, this major metagame shift ended up giving us a whole new set of powerful legendaries to consider, and the best legendary Pokemon in Sword and Shield is a more difficult choice than ever before.
15 Galarian Articuno
Of all the new and best legendaries in Sword and Shield, Galarian Articuno may be the most underrated addition to the roster. Its ability Competitive lives up to its name by doubling its Special Attack in response to any stat decreases, something extremely common thanks to various Max Moves and the overpowered Intimidate ability.
This is alongside a great suite of Flying and Psychic-type moves, supporting your team through Tailwind while bashing with the unique Freezing Glare and powerful Hurricane. It doesn’t have as much range or uniqueness compared to the other Galarian birds, but it’s absolutely including as your go-to Psychic-type teammate.
Heatran was plenty common in Pokemon Diamond & Pearl’s online metagame, and it continues to remain dominant among the legendaries in Sword & Shield. This Fire and Steel-type is nearly one-of-a-kind in its type combination, and it makes for a menace thanks to powerful moves like Lava Plume, Steel Beam, and even Ancient Power.
Its ability and long list of weaknesses helps it remain balanced, but it makes up for these flaws through an overpowered Special Attack stat and weirdly high defenses. It’ll shatter against most Ground-type moves, but otherwise Heatran is very much worth the risk.
The Ghost-type steed of Calyrex isn’t as famous as its Crown Tundra sibling, Glastrier, but it’s important to mention how effective Spectrier is in its own right. It has a wicked Speed stat that’s matched with a more impressive Special Attack stat than most other Ghost-types, but it’s often overlooked due to some poor attack types.
As a result, it works much better as a support member, decreasing your foe’s Special Attack stat with Snarl and lowering their Speed with Bulldoze. Once Spectrier’s stat decreases aren’t going to help you, just blast them with Shadow Ball until your horse needs to rest.
Rock-type Pokemon show up quite rarely in competitive Pokemon, primarily due to their abyssmal Speed stats. This is not the case for Terrakion, an alarmingly fast member of Unova’s Swords of Justice with an intense combination of Speed, Attack, and various physical attacks to expose any opponent’s weakness.
It’s easily the most commonly-used Sword of Justice thanks to its aggressive nature, and it only gets stronger when hit by Dark-type moves thanks to its unusual Justified ability. If you want something that’ll ram through your opponents with zero hesitation, you could do plenty worse than Terrakion.
Not only is Kanto’s Zapdos one of the best legendaries in Sword and Shield, it may very well be one of the best legendaries in competitive Pokemon history. Its strengths are incredibly simple, having few weaknesses thanks to its Electric and Flying-type combination and a great mix of Speed and Special Attack.
It even sees new tools in each game, having learned Heat Wave in recent generations and Rising Voltage in Galar. It just needs a quick stat boost from an item like a Life Orb, and it’ll immediately have enough power to take on most of the strongest Pokemon in the entire series.
The return of the Regi family has been a blessing for online play, as every original member is a powerful tank that’s unlike any typical Pokemon. While Regirock can make a great physical attacker and Regice provides a unique range of special attacks, the powerful Steel-type Registeel is the king of the old Regis thanks to its mixed defenses and new tools.
Registeel’s greatest new move in Galar is Body Press, which can deal damage using the user’s Defense stat rather than its Attack. Registeel’s offense isn’t terrible, but this can combo with Iron Defense to maximize defenses while supplying its own offensive boost. Add in moves like Amnesia to give some Special Defense for Fire-type foes, and Registeel can be indestructible.
Landorus’s Therian Forme has always been quite dominant in competitive play, and it’s easy to see why in Galar’s online battles. The Intimidate Ability is an excellent way to eliminate the power of physical attackers, and its Ground and Flying-type combination provide a spectacular utility that no other Pokemon in Galar can match.
Those playing against it, though, have many options of countering it. Many old abilities have received nerfs in Pokemon Sword & Shield to prevent it from working, while others like Dragapult’s Clear Body and Milotic’s Competitive can negate it or raise your stats instead. Its power is there, but using Landorus requires a lot of caution so as not to backfire.
Cresselia is similarly bulky to Registeel, having some solid all-around defenses despite a disappointing amount of speed and offense. Cresselia isn’t generally as indestructible as Registeel, but its utility is even greater thanks to a wide range of status moves that it’ll always be able to use before fainting.
This includes battlefield effects like Trick Room, which usually need slow and defensive teams to utilize best already. Other moves like Lunar Healing will make the user faint to fully heal an incoming Pokemon, meaning Cresselia can give perfect care to your damaged team late in the game.
Another powerful legendary from Sinnoh comes in the form of Azelf, a member of the Lake Guardian trio that also includes Uxie and Mesprit. These two have some solid defensive stats, but are mostly outclassed by other legendary tanks like Cresselia and Registeel. Instead, Azelf provides a more diverse offensive suite to your team than nearly any other option.
Azelf learns several moves of varying types, featuring Psychic and Ghost-type moves that fit its Psychic-type nature alongside many elemental attacks like Thunderbolt and Flamethrower. If you need a physical fighter, Azelf can also punch just as hard with its hands, learning moves like Fire Punch and Stone Edge to catch your foes off guard.
Entei has historically remained one of the least common of Johto’s Legendary Beasts to appear in online play. Raikou’s unsettling speed and Suicune’s unique support moves like Roar and Tailwind make them usual frontrunners for teams, but Entei’s taken much more claim over Galar after very little time in the spotlight.
This is mostly because newer powerful items like the Assault Vest and Weakness Policy give spectacular stat boosts to Entei. Without them, its stats are relatively average for most competitive Pokemon, but these can give just enough extra damage or defenses to make an astounding fighter and great target for your Dynamax power.
Nearly all of the Ultra Beasts are solid inclusions in your Battle Stadium teams, mostly due to their high stats and unique Beast Boost ability to increase their stats when defeating opponents. Unfortunately, many are quite predictable, having very limited strategies to succeed with and few ways to trick opponents.
This is what Celesteela excels at, as its only low stat is its Speed. With this great mix, and a wonderful Flying and Steel-type combination, it can fill nearly any role on your team. Special attackers will adore moves like Meteor Beam and Flamethrower, while physical attackers can enjoy ludicrous attacks like Rock Slide and Heavy Slam. Lastly, those who want an unbeatable tank can raise its defenses and teach it Leech Seed to cause an endless stream of self-healing.
4 Tapu Fini
Not nearly enough players often understand how powerful Terrain is in competitive battles. Much like weather effects, Terrains nullify several effects while empowering many moves, with one of the strongest being Misty Terrain’s ability to prevent status ailments from hitting any Pokemon standing on the ground.
Given this defensive boost, getting Misty Terrain in play can prevent many popular strategies from disabling your team, and Alola’s Tapu Fini has an ability called Misty Surge that can do just that upon entering battle. That free utility already makes it a strong player in any team, but it also just functions as a strong special attacker, especially in Double Battles as it can hit multiple foes using Muddy Water and Dazzling Gleam.
With so many returns, the Crown Tundra has become a point of concern for many players. Classic overpowered Pokemon and many unbeatable strategies have returned, making the metagame far less fresh than before Galar’s Pokedex was expanded. That having been said, many of the Crown Tundra’s brand new legendaries have helped prevent battles from being stale, as many are spectacular inclusions to nearly any team.
One of these includes Glastrier, the frozen steed of Calyrex encountered in the Crown Tundra’s story. The Ghost-type Spectrier makes for a solid speedy special attacker, but Glastrier has likely made more of an impact thanks to its unique pure Ice-type body. Most Ice-type Pokemon tend to be Special Attackers, but Glastrier’s ludicrous defense and physical attack stats help provide a physical tank that’s unlike any other Pokemon in the game.
2 Galarian Moltres
While Glastrier might be bringing something new to the table, the new Dark-type Galarian Moltres is more powerful due to its ability to perfectly utilize recent special attacker strategies. This Pokemon strives when using Dynamax, as it can use the Dark and Flying-type Max Moves to lower an opposing team’s Special Defense while raising its Speed.
If that wasn’t enough, its large number of weaknesses help it utilize the powerful new Weakness Policy item, which sharply raises its offensive stats when hit by Super Effective moves. Its high defenses and additional health mean it’ll almost always survive these hits, and they’ll often deal just enough damage to trigger its Berserk ability to raise its Special Attack even higher.
It’s impossible to describe Regieleki as anything but a menace in competitive battles. This Pokemon has the highest Speed stat of any Pokemon in the series, meaning it can use moves like Electro Ball with high power nearly every time to annihilate foes. Alternately, moves like Thunder Cage and Eerie Impulse can restrict foes and lower stats, and easily make up for Regieleki’s shallow list of non-Electric attacks.
Amazingly, though, Regieleki has more options than just a deadly attacker. Since Regieleki’s only weakness is Ground-type moves, its poor defensive stats don’t even prevent it from surviving big hits if you need it to play more defensively. Additionally, it can work just as well as a support option by using moves like Reflect and Light Screen to maximize your entire team’s defenses, while sticking to Electroweb as a primary attack to keep opponents perpetually slow.
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