Pokemon Sword and Shield Guide: How to Use IV Breeding and EV Training for Competitive Battle

This in-depth competitive training guide will get you well on your way to becoming a Pokemon Master in Pokemon Sword and Shield.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, the latest mainline entries in the Pokemon franchise, released on Nintendo Switch late last year. Sword and Shield made many changes to the Pokemon formula, including making it easier than ever to battle competitively. Millions play Pokemon casually, but the battle system is actually a lot deeper than it appears at first glance. The Pokemon you encounter in the wild will almost never be ideal for competitive battle. To have the best chances in intense battles with friends and to destroy five-star raids, you’ll want the best Pokemon available. That will involve breeding Pokemon with perfect IVs (individual values), and training those Pokemon to have ideal EVs (effort values).

With the upcoming DLC expansions and an endgame filled with raids, it’s a great time to get into Pokemon‘s complicated side. Thankfully, Game Freak has made this easier than ever before, and I’ll be telling you how to do everything step by step if you want to dig into the world of competitive Pokemon.

Step 1 – Unlocking the Judge Feature

The first step is to unlock the Judge feature. The Judge feature allows you to see your Pokemon’s IVs, which stands for “Individual Values”: these are the stats that Pokemon are given at birth, like Pokemon genetics. A Pokemon with perfect IVs is going to be more powerful than a Pokemon of the same species with lower IVs.

Game Freak kindly allows players to use the Judge feature from anywhere in Sword and Shield. Previously, you would have to show your Pokemon to a specific NPC in order to view IVs, so this is a very welcome change. Fortunately, the Judge feature is easily unlocked by winning six battles at the battle tower in Wyndon. Therefore, step one is technically beating the game, but I’m going to assume you’ve already done that. Once you’ve unlocked the Judge feature, you can press the “+” button to view Pokemon’s IVs inside of your PC boxes. When a stat says “best,” then you’ve got perfect IVs for that stat.

Step 2 – Catching a High/Perfect IV Ditto

The most important Pokemon for any breeder to have is Ditto, since Ditto can breed with any non-legendary Pokemon, regardless of their gender. Therefore having Ditto eliminates grinding to obtain a female Pokemon. More importantly, you’ll be able to use Ditto when you breed any Pokemon, plus you’ll be able to use items to pass down Ditto’s IVs.

In previous Pokemon games, finding a high IV Ditto was extremely difficult and completely up to luck. Thankfully in Sword and Shield, one of the possible five-star raid battles is Ditto. Pokemon in these difficult raid battles are guaranteed to have a minimum of four stats with perfect IVs, meaning that with multiple attempts you’ll eventually find one with all six stats perfectly maxed out.

You can find the best den for Ditto raids by flying to “Bridge Field” in the Wild Area. From there, you’ll want to go forward while staying slightly right. Cross under the furthest right pillars of the big bridge, and you’ll see a den with a small tree behind it. This den regularly spawns Ditto raids. In order to keep Ditto raids coming, you can collect wishing pieces from the left digging brother, or you can buy them with Watts.

Step 3 – Acquiring Important Breeding Items and Understanding Natures

There are two items that are absolutely necessary for IV breeding. The first is called a “Destiny Knot”. When held by a Pokemon while breeding, it guarantees that five IVs will be passed down from the parent Pokemon. You’re going to want to give this item to your Ditto. Luckily, the Destiny Knot can be purchased with 10 BP at the Battle Tower, an easy expense after unlocking the Judge feature.

The second item is an Everstone; known for not allowing the Pokemon holding it to evolve, the Everstone has an important use when breeding. When a Pokemon holds an Everstone while breeding, all of its offspring will have the same nature as the original Pokemon had. This item will be held by the Pokemon you are breeding with Ditto, once you’ve found one with the nature you want.

Obviously, if you don’t understand natures you’re probably lost right now, but to help clarify things, every Pokemon’s nature affects its stats. You can see this in your storage boxes; stats in red are boosted, while stats in blue are weakened. There are only a few natures important for competitive battle, and I’ll list them below along with their effects:

  • Adamant: + attack, – special attack
  • Bold: + defense, – attack
  • Impish: + defense, – special attack
  • Modest: + special attack, – attack
  • Calm: + special defense, – attack
  • Careful: + special defense, – special attack
  • Jolly: + speed, – special attack
  • Timid: + speed, – attack

These are essentially the only natures you will ever want to use in competitive battles. You may have noticed every nature I listed has a weakened stat of attack or special attack. This is because whenever you train a Pokemon for battle, you’re only going to be attacking with one type of move; special attack, or regular attack based, not both. For example, Tyranitar has an amazing move-set and base stats to be an attacker, while Gengar’s move-set and stats are ideal for a special attacker. You’ll never want to have the defense, special defense or speed stats weakened. This is because every Pokemon’s defense stats are used when it’s attacked, and out-speeding your opponent is a massive advantage. If you don’t know which Pokemon are good or which nature is ideal for them, Pokemon sites like Smogon are great resources.

It’s important to mention that you’ll also want to find a Pokemon that has your desired ability. Abilities are passed on from breeding, so you have to make sure the initial Pokemon you catch to breed with Ditto has the ability you desire.

Step 4 – Pokemon Breeding Process

Once you have your Ditto, Destiny Knot, and Everstone, you’re ready to start breeding. The process is very repetitive, but not very difficult. First, you’re going to need to catch a Pokemon you want to breed. You’ll want to breed that Pokemon with your Ditto (holding the Destiny Knot). At this point, you don’t want to do anything with the Everstone yet. Keep breeding this pair together until you hatch a Pokemon with the preferred nature you’re looking for.

At this point, you’ll want to give the Pokemon with the preferred nature the Everstone and put it in the nursery, replacing the previous Pokemon. For example, if I am breeding a Larvitar that has a modest nature with my Ditto, I’m going to keep breeding them together until I hatch an adamant nature Larvitar. Then I would take the modest nature Larvitar out of the nursery, give the adamant nature Larvitar the Everstone, and place the adamant nature Larvitar into the nursery.

Getting the correct nature is probably the most time-consuming part of breeding a new competitive Pokemon for your team. There is a faster method, though; natures can also be changed with Mints that can be purchased with 50 BP in the Battle Tower. However, I wouldn’t recommend that method, as it is more time consuming, and there are better, cheaper items to spend BP on.

Once you have your desired nature, the breeding process becomes very rinse-and-repeat. Every time you hatch a group of eggs, if one of the offspring has better IVs, you give that Pokemon the Everstone and put it into the nursery. This will slowly increase your odds of hatching a Pokemon with perfect IVs. Most importantly, you don’t need every stat to say “best” and have a perfect IV; you’ll want to disregard the one stat that you aren’t using. In my example, I have bred an adamant Larvitar. Because my Larvitar is adamant–which gives it plus attack, minus special attack–it doesn’t matter what its special attack IV is, simply because it won’t be using any.

Now that you have a perfect IV Pokemon, it’s time to EV train. Thankfully, EV training is extremely easy in Sword and Shield and will only take a few minutes. Meaning, most of your work from this point on is done.

Step 5 – EV Training Pokemon

Each Pokemon can only earn 510 EVs, and each stat is maxed at 252 EVs; four EVs translates to one stat point. This means through EV training, you can raise your total stats for a Pokemon by 127. Whether you realized it or not, every time you’ve played a Pokemon game, you’ve actually EV trained your party throughout the game; however, you didn’t focus in on the important stats. In general, the most important stats to EV train are your attack/special attack, and your speed, with the extra EVs going into HP or a defensive stat, but I’ll go into that in more detail later.

Ultimately, Sword and Shield have made EV training easier than ever compared to past games with multiple methods, some of which take no time at all. Regardless, I’ll list every method below, starting with my favorite.

Vitamin Method – Vitamins are, in my opinion, the easiest way to EV train, and the only way I EV train my Pokemon. Vitamins are items that raise a given stat by 10 EVs. There is a Vitamin item that corresponds to each stat, and they can be purchased in the Wyndon Pokemon Center for 10,000 Pokédollars each. This means that to fully EV train one Pokemon, you’ll need 530,000 Pokédollars. It’s a large sum of currency, but I certainly prefer it to the other methods.

Additionally, I’ll spend all my Watts on the Digging Duo, and sell my rewards to fund my EV training; this way, I don’t have to do any real grinding in order to EV train my Pokemon. For my Larvitar, I want to max EV train its attack and speed; therefore I’ll purchase 26 Protein and 26 Carbos, and use them all on Larvitar. With two stats maxed, Larvitar can now only earn one more stat point, which I’ll allocate into HP by purchasing and using an HP Up. This is undoubtedly the easiest and fastest EV training method.

Traditional Method – The traditional method for EV training is always an option. If you’re interested in trying this method, the first thing you should do is go to the Hammerlocke Pokemon Center with 60 BP and talk to the League Trainer on the right. Once there, you will be able to buy Power items. There are six different Power items: the Weight, Bracer, Lens, Belt, Band, and Anklet. These six items double EV gain for HP, attack, special attack, defense, special defense, and speed respectively. The only downside is that they cut your Pokemon’s speed in half while being held.

Once you have your Power items, you’re ready to EV train. You gain EVs based on the highest stat of a Pokemon that you defeat. For example, if I’m trying to EV train my Larvitar’s speed, I’d give it the Power Anklet and grind battles against Rookidee. Rookidee’s highest base stat is speed, so it’s the Pokemon that I would go to for EV training speed.

For more information on base stats to choose which Pokemon to EV train against, I’d refer to Pokemon sites like Serebii and Bulbapedia. While doing this method, you can have Pokemon contract a disease called “Pokérus” which doubles EV gain. Pokérus is pretty rare, but once one a Pokemon is infected, it will spread to other members of your party; even after the disease is gone, that Pokemon’s EVs will always be earned twice as fast.

It’s easy to see how this method would be extremely time-consuming. Personally, I don’t recommend the traditional method, but if you’re tight on Pokédollars and don’t want to blow your Watts on the Digging Duo, it can be a good option.

Job Method – The job method is a brand new method introduced in Pokemon Sword and Shield, which is very simple and requires literally no work; however, this method easily takes the most time, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re in a rush.

The first step for this method is to buy the Power items I mentioned under the “Traditional Method” section. You then give the Pokemon you are training the Power item correlating to the stat you want to train in. Then, simply walk into a Pokemon Center and select “Check Poké Jobs.”

If you scroll down to the bottom you should see six different seminars, one for each stat. Sending Pokemon to these seminars will reward 4 EVs each hour. The options are 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 12, and 24 hours, meaning the maximum amount of EVs you can get from one seminar is 96 plus a bonus 8 for holding the corresponding Power item.

This method technically allows you to EV train 60 Pokemon at once–or 10 per stat–but ultimately, it takes five days to EV train one Pokemon. Personally, I’d rather spend 530,000 Pokédollars, but it’s always an opportunity to passively EV train while competing in the Battle Tower, or for finishing up the last few EVs on a Pokemon without buying vitamins.

Help! I Trained the Wrong Stat! – If you accidentally EV trained the wrong stat, you can still save that Pokemon. There are six different Berries, each of which lowers a Pokemon’s EVs by 10. These Berries are listed below alongside their corresponding stat:

  • Pomeg: HP
  • Kelpsy: attack
  • Qualot: defense
  • Hondew: special attack
  • Grepa: special defense
  • Tamato: speed

Concluding Thoughts and Advice

This guide includes a ton of information, and your first time training a perfect Pokemon will feel like a grind. However, once you have that perfect Ditto, the process really speeds up. I’ve bred some perfect Pokemon in about 20 minutes, but the process could easily take an hour or two with bad luck. Ultimately though, you only need six Pokemon in order to have a competitive teaml after that you can simply breed, whenever you want different options. 

Sword and Shield definitely have made the complex process of IV breed and EV training far easier than ever before, and having these more competitive Pokemon is a massive advantage in raids and battles against friends. If IVs seem complicated, then it’s perfectly fine to only worry about nature and EVs; at the minimum, breeding and training a competitive team will give you something to do in the lacking endgame while waiting for the expansions to release.

Finally, if you are looking to dive deeper into breeding and training the perfect Pokemong, there are sites like Smogon where you can see other people’s competitive teams: that includes their IVs, EVs, natures, movesets, abilities, and held items. These sites are great places to choose which Pokemon you want to train next and how you should train them. Besides having type coverage, in building a competitive team you’ll need tanks, physical sweepers, special sweepers, leads to set-up hazards, and a Pokemon that can clear enemy hazards. Sites like Pokemon Showdown enable you to battle against people online with any team you want, allowing you to test any Pokemon you’re thinking about breeding before making the time commitment in Sword and Shield.

In conclusion, there is a lot more to battling in Pokemon than the simple rock-paper-scissors formula that people assume it is. Diving into competitive battle, or even just breeding Pokemon for max raids, is a huge advantage and can infinitely increase the amount of time you sink into Sword and Shield. Regardless of whether or not you decide to venture into the realm of IV breeding and EV training, I hope this guide helps you understand some of the deeper mechanics underlying the latest installments in one of the world’s most beloved gaming franchises.

Josh Starr

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