Pokémon Sword & Shield Starter Rankings: Nuzlocke Edition

Pokémon Sword and Shield introduced players to the UK-inspired Galar region, and to plenty of new Pokémon, including three new starters. As always, which Pokémon you choose to start your journey with will have a big impact on your experience, and this is especially true in a Nuzlocke challenge where team composition can be unpredictable. To help you make a choice you’re happy with, we’ve ranked the Galar starters based on their usefulness in a Nuzlocke run of Pokémon Sword or Shield (considering the different Gyms in each region when appropriate) along with our reasoning and thoughts.

For some general tips on how to select the best starter Pokémon in any generation , check out our four tips for choosing the right starter Pokémon.

Note – because of Sword and Shield’s gym structure, which places the Grass, Water, and Fire-type gyms at the start of the game, early-game type advantage against Gym leaders is less of a differentiating factor in this generation than in others, as each starter will have one type advantage and one type weakness in these first three Gyms, but is still mentioned in our analyses where relevant.

Generation Eight: Sword & Shield

  1. Grookey

It’s close, but the Grass-type starter Grookey gets our number-one pick in generation eight. It performs well in the early-game, resisting the Grass-type first Gym, and having a type advantage against the Water-type second, although it is weak to the Fire-type third Gym. It has great bulk and physical Attack stats, making it easier to keep alive than the other two starters, and its one major stat weakness, Speed, is mitigated by its signature move Drum Beating, which lowers the opponent’s Speed. While its usefulness falls off somewhat in the late-game due to its pure Grass-typing, by this point the player will have a varied and versatile team to handle opponents, as the Galar region provides lots of good Pokémon of different types and the Wild Area makes catching a variety of types easy. A final deciding factor in our decision was the early-game access to good Fire-types, such as Vulpix, Growlithe, or Sizzlipede, and Water-types, such as Chewtle, Wimpod, and Gyarados, contrasted with the lack of great Grass-type alternatives (Oddish and Gossifleur being two available early on). The other starters are easier to go without, as there are better alternatives available to fill their roles on a team. This, paired with the Grookey line’s bulk and usefulness in the all-important early-game, make it our top pick for the generation eight Pokémon Nuzlocke challenge.

2. Scorbunny

Scorbunny is a great late-game Pokémon, boasting excellent Speed and physical Attack stats, as well as the signature move Pyro Ball, which is essentially a more powerful, more accurate, physical Fire Blast and one of the best Fire-type moves in the entire franchise. These excellent traits, along with access to a wide range of coverage moves, make it an excellent offensive leader for any team. Its viability is further boosted by a type advantage against the very first Gym leader, the Grass-type user Milo. However, Scorbunny does have some minor issues which hold it back slightly. Its pure Fire-typing, while not atrocious, is mediocre defensively, and this, in combination with its middling defensive stats, will require players to play Scorbunny carefully to ensure it survives to the late-game. As well, if the player finds themselves approaching the Water-type second Gym without having encountered and caught a Grass or Electric-type Pokémon (for which early-game options are somewhat limited in terms of distribution and quality), they can run into trouble early on. Despite these limitations, Scorbunny is a great Pokémon with excellent stats, the movepool to take advantage of those stats, and the typing to take on many of the more challenging trainers in Galar, making it a close second in our starter rankings for Pokémon Sword and Shield.

3. Sobble

In a similar situation to our Hoenn starter rankings, Sobble’s position as our third-place pick for the Galar region speaks more to the high quality of the other starters, rather than Sobble’s flaws. It’s an excellent Pokémon in its own right, it just falls slightly behind its counterparts in a few key ways. First, the positive: Sobble’s Speed and Special Attack stats are incredible, even higher than the Speed and physical Attack of the Scorbunny line. This makes it the best pure attacker of all the Galar starters. In addition, its Water-typing is surprisingly strong against many of Galar’s most threatening trainers and Pokémon, such as the Rock-type Gym in Pokémon Sword, the Fire-type Kabu, Leon’s Charizard, and others. However, Sobble’s great attacking stats are paired with the lowest defensive stats of all the starters, making it something of a glass cannon. While not an issue in a regular playthrough, this becomes a fairly serious concern in a Nuzlocke, and it limits Sobble’s ability to switch in and stay in against threatening Pokémon. As well, its signature move, Snipe Shot, has the secondary effect of ignoring redirection moves such as Follow Me, which is useful in Doubles but useless in Single battles which make up the overwhelming majority of these games. As a result, Sobble’s signature move is just an 80 BP special move, strictly inferior to other Water-type moves with higher BP or more useful secondary effects, such as Surf or Scald. A type weakness against the region’s first Gym is certainly a disadvantage as well, especially in a Nuzlocke where early teambuilding options can be limited, and encountering a Flying-type like Rookidee before the first Gym is not guaranteed. Overall, glass cannon stats, early typing challenges, and lack of a useful signature move make the Sobble line our third-place choice for starters in the Galar region.

That concludes our ranking of the starter Pokémon for Sword and Shield. These rankings were very close, especially between Grookey and Scorbunny, and we had greater difficulty ranking the starters here than in some other generations. As a result, we’re sure there’ll be disagreements and differing opinions as to where each Pokémon should land, and we encourage you to politely share your thoughts in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our Guides and Articles section for more tips, rankings, guides, tier lists, and other Nuzlocke content. Happy Nuzlocking!


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