Hello everyone! My name is Jake AKA jackofspadesman
! After talking to my friends more often with the drop of Crown Tundra and Series 7, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on how different teambuilding in Sword and Shield is with the addition of Dynamax. I’ve discussed in an earlier write up
how to utilize Dynamax Pokémon to their fullest (which you should go check out!), but how about building a team around it? Well, the first step in my eyes is identifying on a scale of 1 to 5 how frequently a Pokémon wants to Dynamax in any given game. This idea was brought to me at the start of 2020 by head vgc
honcho himself u/ErrantRailer
and I feel as though it’s a fantastic way to think about how to compose one’s team. So the scale of 1 to 5 we’ll define as such:
- Never wants to max in a game unless necessary. Think supportive Pokémon without much offensive presence like Dusclops, Amoonguss, and Whimsicott.
- Doesn’t want to Dynamax, but can if it’s a good opportunity. Think supportive Pokémon with offensive options like Porygon2, Pokémon holding Choice items that will lose their effect upon Dynamaxing, or Urshifu which loses some power by sacrificing Wicked Blow and Close Combat for Max Moves.
- Can Dynamax, but does not have to in order to function. These are your run of the mill offensive Pokémon that do just fine on their own, like Kartana, Rotom, and Tapu Fini.
- Want to Dynamax, but can still find success out of Dynamax if need be. These are Pokémon like Zapdos, Tyranitar, and Glastrier.
- Almost always needs to max in order to function. These are Pokémon which are underwhelming without Max Moves for one reason or another and really need to be thought of as “if I’m not maxing it in this game, why am I bringing it?” These are Pokémon like Defiant Thundurus-Incarnate Forme, Galarian Moltres, and Physically Offensive Dragapult.
So why is this so important to lay out? Well, let’s look at some successful teams and how they were composed with this scale in mind. Just to speed things along, I’ll rank these Pokémon on the Dynamax scale and then get to my point after a few teams are discussed. This is Aaron Traylor’s winning team from Dallas Regionals 2020, full details here
Gigantamax Charizard, Supportive Whimsicott, Assault Vest Conkeldurr, Life Orb Duraludon, Offensive Supportive Jellicent, Supportive Togekiss
For these ratings, let’s look at this match
of Aaron vs Justin Burns in Top 4, which was played in Series 2. Dynamaxes occur at 3:50, 15:50, and 25:30.
- Charizard is undoubtedly a 5. When Charizard comes, it needs to Dynamax in order to get the most of its power with strong Max Airstreams and G-Max Wildfires. Without it, it loses a lot of its offensive presence with Air Slash and Solar Beam at its disposable and Blast Burn making it vulnerable after use.
- Duraludon is a 4. While it prefers to Dynamax to get the most offensive pressure, it can function just fine without it and makes a great option that isn’t Charizard. We saw it used just fine in Games 1 and 2 without Dynamax, but Aaron was able to get the edge in Game 3 by dropping Charizard and Dynamaxing Duraludon.
- Conkeldurr is a 2 or a 3 on Aaron’s team. Conkeldurr’s moveset on Aaron’s team benefits from not maxing by using Drain Punch and Mach Punch as utility while having Close Combat as a stronger move than its Max Knuckle counterpart. If needed for the survivability of Dynamax at an inconvenient time, it has no trouble bringing the heat.
- Jellicent is a 2. Its supportive moveset is what it tends to want to utilize with Trick Room and Strength Sap, not to mention being able to launch spread damage with Water Spout. Unlike Conkeldurr, which is focused on offense, Jellicent is a supportive Pokémon on this team where damage from it seems to come second.
- Whimsicott is a 1. It’s there to support Charizard and Duraludon to their fullest with Tailwind, Fake Tears, and Charm. Nothing else.
- Aaron’s Togekiss is a 1, unlike Justin’s in this set. It’s also there to support everything around it with Follow Me and Yawn.
With Aaron’s team, there’s clearly a focus on a main Dynamax user, or Gigantamax in this case, with another option that can function just fine without it. This is a great way to balance out how a team functions with clear cut roles.
Next is Andrew Ding’s team which won Collinsville Regionals 2020, full details here
Offensive Support Sylveon, Coil + Hypnosis Milotic, Weakness Policy Tyranitar, Life Orb Durant, Support Gothitelle, and Support Arcanine
As a reference for this team, let’s look at this match
of Andrew vs Bingjie Wang in Top 8, which was played in Series 2. Dynamaxes occur at 2:20, 17:30, and 28:40.
- Durant is a 5, I’d say the most 5 Pokémon popular in Series 2. Thanks to Durant’s Hustle, it can get off incredibly strong moves boosted by the ability with no reduction in accuracy. Without Dynamaxing, Durant is rolling dice on every move it uses and makes it a really risky choice.
- Tyranitar is a 4. As we saw in Game 1, it Dynamaxed with Durant not brought to the match. However, in Game 3, it was able to fulfill its role as an attacker without Dynamaxing just fine and seal up the game for Andrew!
- Sylveon is a 2. It likes to Hyper Voice for spread damage, Quick Attack to pick off Pokémon and activate Tyranitar’s Weakness Policy, and Yawn for support. Dynamaxing it wouldn’t fit its supportive offense, but if it needs to get off that Max Starfall then it can do so.
- Milotic is another 2. Coil, Hypnosis, Muddy Water. That’s what it does and it’s sticking to it. Maxing can be be an option if needed, but it definitely isn’t its purpose.
- Arcanine is yet another 2. Its main function is to Intimidate, Will-O-Wisp, and Snarl to boost the survivability of the rest of its team. Again, it has the offensive power to Dynamax if somehow necessary, but it wants to support its team!
- Gothitelle is a 1. It doesn’t have a true offensive presence and is strictly there for Shadow Tag and allowing its Dynamax partner to succeed.
Andrew's team is another fantastic one where one primary Dynamax candidate exists and a secondary Dynamax, that is less reliant on it, succeeded in a large tournament.
A different approach to building around Dynamax can be seen with Santino Tarquinio’s Players Cup champion team, full details here
Supportive Togekiss, Choice Band Rillaboom, Offensive Gigantamax Rapid Strike Style Urshifu, Supportive Dragapult, Gigantamax Coalossal, and Assault Vest Offensive Support Incineroar
To analyze Santi’s team, let’s look at this match
of Winners Finals where Santi faces Jiseok Lee, which was played in Series 5. Dynamaxes are used at 3:40, 15:00, and 25:10.
- Coalossal is a 5. This team has a full focus on Gigantamaxing Coalossal as it gets a Steam Engine + Weakness Policy boost from one of its partners. According to Santi, he Gigantamaxed Coalossal in every game he played of Players Cup and never strayed from his gameplan.
- Rillaboom, Urshifu, and Incineroar are all 2s. They’re there to offensively support Coalossal and clean up for it, but are certainly candidates for Dynamax because of their offensive presence in a pinch.
- Dragapult and Togekiss are 1s. They exist solely to support Coalossal and don’t pose any true offensive presence.
We can see with this sort of team, there’s less emphasis on flexibility of the Dynamax and more focus on building up one Pokémon as the true offensive powerhouse of the team.
So what was the point of all this? Take note that none of these players used more than one 5 ranked Pokémon. These Pokémon are all terrifying to face when they’re Dynamaxed, but when they aren’t they truly lack a lot of power that make them shine. So you have a team with Defiant Thundurus, Dragapult, and Galarian Moltres and you think “wow how is anybody going to break through these offensive monsters?” Well, simply put you can only Dynamax one of them making the other two a lot easier to handle. If you have two Pokémon on a team that truly need
to Dynamax, it’s going to be awkward when you potentially want to bring both to a game! Some Pokémon hardly function out of Dynamax! That’s what my point is: limiting your need to Dynamax Pokémon on your team. I say this for more reasons than just the one. In addition to not having to worry about fighting for who gets to Dynamax, using only one 5 on a team allows you to build better around that one Pokémon and build a more cohesive team. With that, it’s okay to not use a 5 on your team and will certainly lend itself to more flexibility on your team!
Keep in mind, a Pokémon itself doesn’t inherently have a Dynamax rating on this scale. How you build that Pokémon to function gives it that grade. As a general rule, I personally try to limit every team to two 1s, three 2s, three 3s, two 4s, and one 5. Naturally you don’t need to stick to this as law. Some teams that have had success that have completely broken this mold. For example, Adi Subramanian’s Players Cup team
used what are arguably three 5s (some may see them as 4s) and three 1s given the team composition. This team worked for a similar reason to Santi’s though: each of those three 5s were focalized by the three 1s. When teambuilding for VGC in Sword and Shield, Dynamaxing should be at the forefront of your mind. Be sure to think about the Dynamax scale any time you build a new team!