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Pokémon Sword and Shield: Guide to Max Raid Battles

How to catch yourself an extra-large Pokémon

A Pokemon trainer throwing an extra large Gyrados Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

The big, new feature in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is the addition of massive Pokémon — Dynamax or Gigantamax. The Galar region, where Sword and Shield is set, is the only region where Pokémon can Dynamax or Gigantamax, which makes them super strong, and, of course, extra large.

There are a few ways to fight Dynamax or Gigantamax Pokémon in Sword and Shield: You’ll fight Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon during gym battles, but you can battle and catch them in Sword and Shield’s new Wild Area.

The Wild Area is a wide open space, larger than any singular area in a Pokémon game before. It’s where wild Pokémon — some extremely over-leveled — roam free. Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon hide out in dens across the Wild Area, and battles are a bit different than with regular Pokémon.

How do I find a den?

A Pokemon trainer looking at a Pokemon den Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo

You’ll notice the neon pink lights shooting up into the sky when you enter the Wild Area. These are Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon dens. The light is emitted from a glowing, pink hole in the ground. (The holes are dotted around the Wild Area, but don’t always have Pokémon in them — the light is a designation that you’ll find a Pokémon there.)

When you approach a den with a Pokémon inside, you’ll be prompted to a new screen to start the battle. Sword and Shield won’t tell you what Pokémon, exactly, is inside the den, but you’ll see a shadow outline and its type. Above the type is a rating that shows how challenging a den is — on a scale from one star to five stars. From there, you’ll choose to invite others, which means inviting other real-life trainers, to your battle. If you choose “Don’t Invite Others,” you’ll battle Pokémon with NPCs.

There’s also an option to “Switch Pokémon” or to quit.

There are two different types of den. One has the purely pink neon light, but there are also dens that have a purple swirl, too. Those award you more Watts, but are also harder. This is what it looks like:

A pokemon trainer looking at a Dynamax den Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo

What if there are no Pokémon in the dens?

If you aren’t seeing any Pokémon in the dens, you can attract them using a Wishing Piece. Wishing Pieces are sold by Watt Traders in the Wild Area for 3,000 Watts a piece. When you approach an empty den, you’ll first be awarded some watts. Click on it again and — if you have a Wishing Piece — you’ll be asked whether you want to throw in a Wishing Piece or not. Selecting Yes will attract a Pokémon to that specific den.

How do Max Raid Battles work?

A Dynamax Togepi Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo via Polygon

Max Raid Battles work a bit different than your typical match-ups. For one, you’re battling Pokémon with three other trainers — either other people playing Sword and Shield or NPCs. The Pokémon you’re battling will remain Dynamax or Gigantamax for the whole battle, but the battling trainers will cycle through the ability to use Dynamax through the match. Dynamax for the battling trainers lasts three turns, and only one person can use the ability at a time.

You’ll choose moves just like in regular battles, but if you’re using a Dynamax Pokémon, you’ll have access to more powerful ones depending on your Pokémon. The tricky thing about Max Raid Battles is creating a strategy with the players available, to ensure you’re battling in an effective way. There are limits to Max Raid Battles, and you’ll get kicked out of a den after a set number of terms, which is displayed at the first prompt.

Wild Dynamax Pokémon can also do multiple moves in one turn, and also have the ability to turn on shields — which are very annoying.

What Pokémon can spawn?

Dynamax or Gigantamax Pokémon will spawn in dens according to the weather. For instance, a water-type Pokémon is more likely to spawn when it’s raining. Gigantamax Pokémon are much more rare, but developer Game Freak will run events that make certain types more common at times.

Can I catch them?

Yes! Once you’ve whittled down a wild Dynamax or Gigantamax Pokémon’s health to zero, you’ll have the option to catch the Pokémon — it’s simply displayed with a “Catch” or “Don’t catch” option. If you choose Catch, you’ll throw an extra large Poké Ball. There’s a very high success rate for lower starred battles, but success rate seems to lower as battles are ranked higher.

Whether you catch it or not, you’ll get an assortment of rewards, including berries, TRs, and candies.

Catching a Dynamax Pokemon Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo via Polygon

Advice for battling in Max Raid Battles

As you take on Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon of increasing skill levels, the Max Raid Battles will get harder and harder. There’s no easy way to fly through these — especially if you’re playing with NPCs — but your best bet is through type-matching. Turns in the Max Raid Battles are precious; you’ll get kicked out of battle after a set number.

You can use items to heal your Pokémon and make them stronger during Max Raid Battles, but you’ll also forgo an attack to do so. When playing with NPCs, you’re more than likely the most powerful trainer — trainers matched seem to be random, and not type matched. You can’t rely on them, so skipping a move to use an item a risk. (However, if your Pokémon faints, you’ll skip a turn, too, but come back for the next round of moves.)

Like we mentioned earlier, you won’t know what Pokémon you’re matched up with, unless you can identify its shadow. But types are listed, so pay attention to those to make sure you’ve got the strongest match-up.