While they’re newer to the Pokemon series than most other types, Dark-type Pokemon are an important staple of competitive Pokemon battles. Very few existed early in Pokemon history, but Pokemon Sword & Shield contains more powerful tricksters and sweepers than ever before.
Like all Pokemon types, there are some that you should never bother using, but there’s an especially large number of effective fighters for online battles this time around. These are just some of the Pokemon you can use in your teams if you dream of being a true Dark-type expert in online play.
Krookodile is one of the most straightforward Pokemon you can use in any team, being built with great overall stats and a wide number of useful abilities. Intimidate is likely to be the most powerful by decreasing your foe’s Attack stat, but others like Moxie give Krookadile a huge power boost when it assuredly knocks down a foe.
It’s somewhat limited in strategies since it’s primarily just a physical attacker, but attaching useful items like the Assault Vest to raise its Special Defense can give some more staying power. It also suffers from many weaknesses, but elemental moves like Thunder Fang and Fire Fang let you deal with any frightening Water or Grass-types with ease.
Tyranitar suffers from many more weaknesses than even Krookadile thanks to its Rock-type body, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth the risk. This strong defensive tank is most known for its Sand Stream ability, putting a damaging sandstorm into play as soon as it enters battle.
This ability not only boosts your other Pokemon with abilities like Sand Force or Sand Rush, but will most likely deal damage to your foes and counter defensive items like the popular Focus Sash. Tyranitar also makes a good choice to use your Dynamax on, since the extra health will likely help it survive at least one Super Effective move.
Few special attackers can ever stand close to Unova’s own Hydreigon, a remarkable Dark and Dragon-type with more speed and offense than it needs. With great stats and a wide set of unusual moves for Dark-types like the powerful Earth Power and Draco Meteor, your opponent will have to deal with it almost immediately to not lose their entire team.
Hydreigon, alongside many other Dark and Dragon-type Pokemon, did receive an unfortunate nerf in Pokemon X & Y due to the introduction of Fairy-type Pokemon, but Hydreigon’s Speed stat is high enough to outrun most Fairy-types that might give it trouble. If you still fear these moves, Hydreigon makes a great carrier for the Choice Scarf to help it fly even faster.
Galar features many wonderfully aggressive Dark-type Pokemon, but it’s important to recognize their skill as support players. Several have incredible speed and disruptive moves like Fake Out and Switcheroo, which can halt moves and steal items that many Pokemon rely on to succeed.
While many are quite fragile like Thievul and Sableye, Grimmsnarl stands out as one of the bulkiest members of this club. Its high HP stat gives it great defense even before using Reflect and Light Screen, but its Prankster ability means all status moves strike immediately before your opponents get hits in. Plan correctly, and Grimmsnarl can keep your team buffed through nearly the entire battle.
Absol was never originally an all-star Pokemon in competitive play. Despite learning a wide variety of moves, this popular version-exclusive from Pokemon Ruby has always lacked high Speed or defenses to carry it past its Dark-type peers. That all changed in Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, when it received a huge buff in the form of the ability Super Luck.
This rare ability is most known for its attachment to Farfetch’d, granting a higher Critical Hit chance to all a Pokemon’s moves. Absol makes debatably better use of this by having several moves that have a naturally high Critical Hit rate, such as Night Slash and Stone Edge, which can combine even further with the Scope Lens item to provide near-guaranteed Critical Hits with every attack for some ludicrous damage.
Similar to Tyranitar, Bisharp has several unfortunate features that make it seem much less effective than it is. Its poor Special Defense can make its Steel-type weaknesses to Fire moves a liability, and its Speed is barely able to deal with powerful Fighting-type Pokemon.
However, these are primarily countered by an incredibly strong ability, Defiant, which doubles the user’s Attack stat when any of its stats are lowered by opponents. This is easy to activate through opponents using Max Moves, but this ability is especially powerful for countering the popular Intimidate ability that lowers the target’s attack. As a result, Bisharp’s strength will very often outweigh its vulnerabilities.
Simply put, Weavile is one of the fastest Pokemon in the game. Its high base speed of 125 gives it the ability to outrun nearly any Psychic or Flying-type Pokemon, and a high Attack stat means it can often annihilate opponents like Gardevoir and Togekiss that primarily rely on Special Defense.
However, Weavile gained even more notoriety with the Isle of Armor expansion, as the area’s new Move Tutor provided the powerful Ice-type move Triple Axel. This move has very few powerful users due to the trend of speedy Ice-type Pokemon having low physical attack stats, but Weavile is the main exception that can reliably use its intense power and multiple hits to defeat nearly any Dragon-type foe in one shot.
For a much less traditional special attacker, Zoroark does a surprisingly good job of messing with your opponent’s plans. Its signature ability Illusion allows it to take the appearance and name of another member of your team, specifically the last member of your party.
The trick to this is to use Pokemon that tricks opponents into using moves that aren’t very effective. Taking the form of a Poison or Fighting-type Pokemon is one of the best options, since Psychic-type moves will be completely ineffective while you either deal great damage with Dark or Fire-type moves, or raise your offensive stats with status moves like Nasty Plot.
Pokemon Sword & Shield had several viable Dark-types at its release, but the new Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra expansions undoubtedly brought the best of these species into the online metagame. This particularly includes Urshifu, who can be a Dark and Fighting-type combination given that you evolved your first Kubfu at the Tower of Darkness.
Your reward is an incredibly fast physical fighter with two great perks. The first is its ability Unseen Fist, which lets all physical contact moves hit through standard protection moves like Protect. Just as powerful is its overpowered signature move Wicked Blow which strikes as a guaranteed Critical Hit, meaning it’ll deal ridiculous damage while ignoring most stat changes.
1 Galarian Moltres
It’s hard to compare any other Dark-types to Galarian Moltres, who’s grown immensely in popularity online. Like all the Galarian legendary birds, Moltres has supreme defensive stats to go with its speed and offense, meaning it can survive big hits easily to trigger its Berserk ability to raise its Special Attack further.
What makes Moltres especially powerful, though, is that its Max Moves end up synergizing with itself more than most other Pokemon. The Dark-type Max Darkness lowers your foe’s Special Defense, meaning you can always hit harder the second time with any move, while the Flying-type Max Airstream can increase your Speed enough to outrun nearly any opponent in the game.
Next: Pokémon: The Best Dark-Type Pokémon From Every Generation, Ranked
- Pokémon Sword and Shield
Gene Cole is a Canadian freelance writer with a B.A. in psychology and criminology. He works hard to keep an open mind towards a huge variety of games, and loves learning about how different people make and play them. In his free time he loves wandering aimlessly in Slime Rancher, fiddling with competitive games like Poker and Magic: The Gathering, and (amateurishly) attempting to speedrun Super Mario Odyssey.
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