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Pokemon Sword and Shield Starters: starter evolutions and help choosing the best starter for you

It's time to answer that age-old question. You pick up Pokemon Sword or Pokemon Shield, you start playing... and then you have to pick your starter. That brings up the question: which is the best starter Pokemon in Sword and Shield? Well... we have thoughts.

First of all, it's important to meet the starters. They are:

  • Grookey, a grass-type chimp-like Pokemon that wields a little stick.
  • Scorbunny, a fast-paced, high-energy fire-type Pokemon with big feet and powerful kicks.
  • Sobble, a nervous, sweet little water-type Pokemon that uses its lizard powers to turn invisible.

So, which of these should you actually choose? Well, that's a more difficult question to answer. Read on for our impressions of the starters...

Pokemon Sword and Shield Best Starter - which starting Pokemon should you choose?

Before we get into the statistics of the individual starters, there's some things we should cover more broadly about which might be the best starter Pokemon for you - simple facts that impact all three of the starter Pokemon. So let's do that.

  • As you can see, the three Pokemon follow the series tradition of being of the grass, water and fire-types. But here's something important: unlike most every starter Pokemon in the series, the Sword and Shield starters will stick with their type even when they evolve. A lot of past starters have gained a sub-type later on, like Torchic becoming fire and fighting when it becomes Blaziken. Not so here: Grookey stays a pure grass-type, Scorbunny stays a pure fire-type, and Sobble remains pure water-type.
  • You will see starters you don't pick again. Your friend and rival will choose the starter that's weak to your pick - so if you grab fire-type Scorbunny, he'll get grass-type Grookey. The Champion, meanwhile, will take off with the remaining starter.
  • Surprisingly, none of the starters have Gigantimax forms. One of the tentpole features of the game isn't actually compatible with the starters. We've got a full Gigantimax Form list if you'd like to know more.
  • Exactly how useful each starter is for the main story is determined by the gyms - and in Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield the gyms are slightly different.
    • Out of the gate, Grookey will be most useful, as it's resistant to Milo's first gym, which is also Grass-type. Second you'll face Nessa, which is a water-type gym leader - meaning Grookey will be super-effective there.
    • Later on in Shield, Scorbunny will be more useful - the sixth gym leader in that game is an ice-type user.
    • But in Sword, Grookey or Sobble will be arguably more useful, as they face off with a rock-type gym leader. 

With the three above points noted, it's worth saying the most important thing you'll read on this page: your choice of starter Pokemon should be an emotional one. The best starter Pokemon is the one you like most

We know that sounds wishy-washy, but hear us out: all three starter Pokemon are perfectly viable for the main critical path of Pokemon Sword and Shield. The game is balanced so all will work out great as a companion for the story. If you then choose to play more competitively, there's a very strong chance you won't be using any of the starting three in  your team - so try not to sweat it too much. 

If you really want our recommendation, however, we'd say the overall best starter is Scorbunny, as it has moves and abilities that allow it to grow into the most formidable of the three. All three are the best starter in their own way, however. 

With that said, here's the information you need to know about each of the starters and, crucially, their evolutions - to help you make an informed decision. Obviously this section contains spoilers for the appearance of the starter evolutions.

Grookey: the grass starter and its evolutions, Thwackey and Rillaboom

Grookey is a cute little chimp that eventually evolves into the adolescent-looking Thwackey at Level 16 and then huge ape Rillaboom at Level 35. Here's some broad facts about how the Grookey evolutionary line, which culminates in Rillaboom, plays.

  • The Ability of Grookey, Thwackey and Rillaboom is Overgrow. This move means that when your HP is below one third full, the power of all grass-type moves is boosted by 50%. 
  • The Hidden Ability of the Grookey line is Grassy Surge, which turns the battlefield into Grassy Terrain for five turns when these Pokemon enter the battle.
  • Through natural evolution, the Grookey evolutionary line will learn Grass, Normal and Dark type moves. Through TMs and TRs, they can learn a greater range, including a few Ground, Flying and Fighting moves. 
  • Rillaboom is a mostly physical Pokemon, with all but two of its damaging moves being physicals. 
  • The unique move for the Grookey line is Branch Poke, a move where the three forms use their sticks to prod or bash the enemy.
  • Grookey's Base stats feature high attack and HP, making it an ideal brawler.

Scorbunny: the fire starter and its evolutions, Raboot and Cinderace

Scorbunny is a fast little thing - it runs around so fast that its feet set on fire, and it kicks around stones like footballs. When it evolves into Raboot at level 16 and then Cinderace at level 35, it begins more and more to resemble a pro soccer player, and gets a signature move to match. Here's some key facts:

  • Scorbunny, Raboot and Cinderace have the ability Blaze. When HP is below a third, the power of fire-type moves is raised by 50%. 
  • The Scorbunny evolutionary line has a great Hidden Ability - Libero. This is similar to a favorite past ability, and changes Cinderace's type to that of the move it's about to use, leading to better bonus damage.
  • Leveling up Scorbunny and its evolutions will see it learn Fire, Normal and Fighting-type attack moves - plus a Psychic support move and a single flying-type attack. Via TMs and TRs you can also pick up Dark, Ground and even Ghost-type moves.
  • Scorbunny is almost entirely physical with its natural level-up move set - it only has one Special type move, the classic Ember.
  • Cinderace's unique move is Pyro Ball, and it comes with one of the best animations in the name. It dishes out lots of physical fire damage and has a chance to burn the opponent.
  • Scorbunny has weak defense, but has excellent speed and physical attack stats. It'll need to knock opponents out fast to win. 

Sobble: the water starter and its evolutions, Drizzile and Inteleon

Sobble may start out as a blubbering, crying, nervous little thing, but it becomes a cool customer indeed - and what better job for a chameleon than a spy? It grows up when it evolves into Drizzile at Level 16 and then truly comes into its own when it becomes Inteleon at Level 35. Inteleon is the super spy of the Pokemon world - and like a spy it's all about sniping and hitting with surprise and from afar. Here's facts about Sobble and its evolutions' move sets and utility:

  • Sobble, Drizzile and Inteleon's Ability is Torrent. When their HP is below a third, the power of all water-type moves used is boosted by half.
  • The Hidden Ability for Sobble and its evolutions is Sniper, appropriately. This ability boosts the power of crtical hit moves so instead of dealing 150% damage, they deal 225% - a huge boost.
  • The natural level up and evolution process for Sobble will net you a lot of Water-type moves, plus one each of Flying, Dark and Bug types. These types remain true in the TM and TR move pool, too, but you can get some very powerful Normal-type moves, plus a few Ice and Ground-type moves, if you choose.
  • Compared to the other two starters Sobble is more rounded in terms of its move set - there's quite a few Special-type moves as well as Physical moves
  • Inteleon's big unique move is Snipe Shot, which hits out with great special water-type damage, but also ignores any draw in moves - meaning it'll hit anyway. As a sniper should.

 

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