5 Weird new abilities in Pokemon Sword and Shield, and how they might work in competitive

Pokemon Galar Region

Ever thought about diving into the competitive scene of… Pokemon? Believe it or not, the online competitive community in Pokemon has been alive and thriving since 2011, reaching new heights with brand new installments debuting November of this year, Pokemon Sword and Shield.

With many trailers dropping recently over the span of several weeks, these games promise to appeal to both legacy fans and newer players alike, adding additional features along with the original package dedicated towards those delving deeper into competitive aspect of Pokemon.

Scene from Pokemon Sword and Shield

Among many, features such as Max Raid Battles come to mind — a cool new co-op feature encouraging players to work together and come up with strategies to defeat stronger, more hostile Pokemon in the wild. Other features may include a new occupation system known tentatively as “Pokemon Jobs”; you assign real-world jobs, they get paid afterwards in stats.

Players also get to look forward to discovering Gen 8 exclusive attacks, hold items, and abilities that are beneficial to those in the competitive realm, such as Breaking Swipe, Room Service, and Mirror Armor. These, and newer gameplay mechanics such as Dynamax evolution give fans plenty of tools in arsenal as they explore the foreign lands of the Galar region. 

Morpeko from Pokemon Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch

Potentially the most important combat feature of this generation and the ones that came before it is the mechanic of abilities.

In Pokemon, an ability gives each creature unique perks on and off the battlefield, like the ability to summon harsh sunlight when entering the field, stat debuffs such as lowering the opponents attack, or even quirky things such as the ability to occasionally pick up items while walking around the overworld.  Each Pokemon’s individual ability may vary by species, though Pokemon do have some abilities in common.

In essence, abilities are most likely the hidden factor you may not have thought about while playing through the core story of the game (if you are a casual player). But, for competitive players, optimal strategies require a strict knowledge of all the Pokemon and their abilities.

Of the many abilities revealed in Pokemon Sword and Shield thus far, here are just a few I took notice of that may be useful competitively or during the core game, or are just really dang interesting! 

Ability 1 – Gulp Missile 

Cramorant, a new Flying/Water type Pokemon, has a very unique ability with properties we haven’t seen yet in the Pokemon series, known as Gulp Missile.

By using marine attacks in battle, such as Surf or Dive, Gulp Missile allows Cramorant to occasionally retrieve a fish out of water, which can then be used as a missile to deal extra damage. As of now, it’s not clear the potential damage output of these projectile fish. For now though, we can still speculate on cool ways in which this ability could be useful in competitive situations. Here is just one possible scenario!

Sitting Cramorant next to a Pokemon with the ability Water Absorb during a two versus two battle (such as Quagsire or Seismitoad) will allow Cramorant to spam Surf, a full arena-based attack, dealing damage to the opposition while inversely healing Quagsire or Seismitoad instead of potentially damaging them, thanks to their Water Absorb ability. Cramorant can then shoot a fishy missile at the enemy, doling out even more damage, completely free of charge! Pro tip: all chip damage is good damage in competitive!

Quagsire is also a good choice partner for Cramorant in general; as ground type coverage, Cramorant can safely float above land as a Flying type whilst Quagsire spams Earthquake on electric type threats, allowing Cramorant to dole out extra damage with it’s duck and dive marine offensive. The opponent won’t even know what hit ’em! 

Ability 2 – Neutralizing Gas 

Galarian Weezing has quickly become sort of a fan favorite for many long-time vets of the Pokemon series. With its new hidden ability (recently revealed) Weezing fans will have an even bigger reason to fall in love with this spiffy top-hat cloud of contradictions (the first Poison/Fairy type Pokemon in series). This ability is also quickly being hailed by many as potentially the most *broken* of all in Pokemon Sword and Shield!

With the ability Neutralizing Gas in play, Galarian Weezing cancels out all abilities just by sitting on the field! Neutralizing Gas not only protects you from harmful abilities such as Intimidate or Snow Warning, but it may also be used cheekily to cancel out useless or undesirable abilities on your team as well!

Discourse in the competitive community has been all the rage about Galarian Weezing’s Neutralizing Gas. Talks have included cancelling out Truant, an ability possessed by the very overpowered Slaking, which serves to balance out its already oppressive might, forcing it to attack only every other turn. Next to Galarian Weezing, Slaking is free to hit as hard and as fast as it wants to with no recharge period, thanks to its Truancy being Neutralized.

Devastating, and also terrifying… and the same thing applies to Regigigas’ counterproductive Slow Start ability. The purifying mists of Galarian Weezing will safely allow Regigigas to attack full force right from turn one instead of waiting five turns to build up on a slow creep. 

In many ways, Neutralizing Gas is a temporary Gastro Acid that applies as long as G.Weezing is on the field. It may only be useful in the most ideal circumstances, but because of this, it’s also a lot easier to abuse!

Ability 3 – Mirror Armor 

Corviknight’s sheer strength and sleek armor make it not only a reliable taxi cab pilot in all seasons of the Galar region, the avian cavalier’s well-endowed body plate is also very useful for defensive maneuvers during combat!

With Mirror Armor, Corviknight is not affected by status debuffs from the opposite end of the field whilst deflecting them right back at the opponent! Sticks, stones, words… seemingly nothing can penetrate Corviknight Mirror Armor. Can you say… broken?!

The likes of Incineroar, a popular Pokemon often abused by jumping in and out of the arena, Intimidating foes and lower their attack stats, will certainly be nerfed by Corviknight’s new ability. Other common stat drops such as speed (due to Electroweb and Icy Wind) or accuracy (reduced occasionally by Muddy Water) will just bounce right back onto the original user. Great way to send the opposition packing! 

Ability 4 – Ball Fetch 

Yamper has definitely become one of the most well-received Galar-exclusive Pokemon thus far, due to its irresistible cuteness and playful energy (along with Wooloo, of course). I mean, just look at it. Who wouldn’t want a poofy, energetic corgi along their side in the Pokemon realm?

With Ball Fetch, Yamper will go out and happily retrieve a Pokeball that fails to make the catch, just as long as Yamper isn‘t already holding an item. This is a particularly handy ability for shiny hunters or generally style-savvy trainers that like to catch their Pokemon in specific balls (like the suave Beast Ball or the luxurious Luxury Ball).

Ball Fetch will also save the user money in the long run, and will allow them to use more rare and coveted balls like the Heavy Ball and the Quick Ball without fear of wasting them.

Author’s note: this will not work on Master Balls. Master Balls will never fail to catch a Pokemon. Nice try, though.

Ability 5 – Hunger Switch

Morpeko from Pokemon Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch

Lastly, I want to talk about “hangry mode”, and the precarious ability associated with it called “Hunger Switch.” This new Pikachu Clone of the Galar Region known as Morpeko has a tendency of getting very… hangry.

Being “hangry” apparently “triggers more aggressive and volatile behavior” (can confirm) as well as converting Morpeko’s signature move Aura Wheel from an electric type move to a dark type move.

Just how aggressive and volatile does Morpeko become when it is without its fruit snacks? Are there any added effects associated with Aura Wheel? How strong is this little bipolar mouse anyway, and what triggers Hunger Switch exactly? These are indeed many questions for the future.

My speculation is that Morpeko will go full Hangry Mode after a certain amount of turns, or after taking a certain amount of damage and not holding a berry. Judging by the forms of both Aura Wheel’s animations during battle, I’m assuming Aura Wheel not only changes its damage potential, but also its range and direction. Here’s why!

Morpeko's Aura Wheel from Pokemon Sword and Shield on Nintendo Switch
Another view of Morpeko's Aura Wheel from Pokemon Sword and Shield on Nintendo Switch

Base form Morpeko using Aura Wheel (when it’s not “hangry”) involves it running in place at a very high speed in order to charge up and trigger a rotating spark of energy which can then be launched directly at the opponent. This is a single target move, from what has been seen in recent trailers.

After Hunger Switch, however, Morpeko’s Aura Wheel will be executed as a radiated pulse of dark energy, spreading towards the other side of the field and dealing damage. In recent trailers, this move is shown targeting only Mimikyu (on a one vs one battle). However, the move itself seems to be a full-on outward emission of some sort of aura, which gives off vibes of an area of effect move, similar to Brutal Swing.

It’s kind of hard to say, but I’m thinking that both versions of Aura Wheel will have very unique and distinct effects from each other in battle beyond damage output and typing. The dark version of Aura Wheel may possibly target every single Pokemon on the field, if not just the Pokemon on the opponent’s side. But don’t take my word for it just yet. Part of what makes Pokemon such a compelling experience for many is the process of discovery. And we all definitely have a lot to look forward to in the coming months!

Well then, are you excited for Pokemon Sword and Shield’s new abilities? Are there any new ones that haven’t been covered here that you’ve taken a particular interest in? Personally, I’m very curious to know exactly how Gulp Missile works in battle. I understand how crucial chip damage can be in determining the final outcome of a match.

For me, Cramorant’s ability seems useful for “rain teams” — teams which rely predominantly on rain, or the weather effects of Drizzle. Typically these teams have two or three water type Pokemon, a strong electric type, and two powerful coverage types. Cramorant, Pelipper/Kyogre, and Gastrodon seem to be a good core for this sort of mechanic.

That being said, I am very curious to know if you have any sorts of strategies that you’re looking forward to in these new games. I’m new to this blog space and will be covering all things gaming in Pokemon and other things Nintendo, so be sure to leave a comment or even shoot me a message on Twitter if you have any creative ideas or just fun stuff you like discussing about video games in general.

Oh, and let me know if you’re getting Pokemon Sword or Shield as well. Fun fact: I like to make the odd and uncommon choice, so it’s definitely gonna be Shield for me! 🙂

Catch you all, later!

– Quinn

*all images provided by The Official Pokemon Channel (YouTube) and Pokémon™ website.

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