Pokemon Sword and Shield gym leader guide: how to beat every gym leader

By Darryn Bonthuys, Monday, 18 November 2019 14:46 GMT


You’ve just been given a Pokémon partner, there’s a gorgeous new region to explore and plenty of cities to visit. So where does the newest Pokémon trainer on the block start? With a first step on the road to glory as the Pokémon League readies itself for a challenger who can finally dethrone the undefeatable champion Leon from his throne.

Before you can even think of stepping onto the pitch to face off against Leon, you’re going to need to prove yourself by defeating all eight of the Galar region’s Gym Leaders. They’re spread throughout the land, have mastered a wide variety of Pokémon types and they’re more than ready to see if you have what it takes to reach the top.

If you’re just getting started in Pokemon Sword and Shield, we can help you with choosing your starter Pokemon, how to change volume levels, and give you the lowdown on every new ability and attack.

Milo, Turffield Gym Leader

Every journey starts somewhere, and the first stop on the Gym Challenge quest is a showdown against the master of Grass-type Pokémon, Milo! The burly gym leader is your first obstacle, but not an insurmountable one. In the Turffield Gym after you herd several unruly Wooloo into their pens, you’ll have plenty of options to field in battle against Milo’s green squad especially if you chose the Fire-type Scorbunny as your starter Pokémon and have by now levelled it up to its first evolutionary form, Raboot.

Otherwise, a solid flying type such as Rookiedee once it evolves into Corvisquire or a Bug-Type such as Caterpie evolved into Butterfree will help you score your first victory goal. Here’s a look at Milo’s team:

  • Gossifleur – Level 19 Grass-type
  • Eldegoss – Level 20 Grass-type, can be Dynamaxed

With Milo down for the count, you’ve just completed the first step on the road to Pokémon glory. For your hard work, you’ll earn the Grass Badge, the Grass Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 25 and TM10 Magical Leaf. Once Gym Leader down, another seven to go!

Nessa, Hullbury Gym Leader

The next stop on the road to being the best like no one ever was, just so happens to be in Hulbury. Home to Nessa, this Gym Leader is a master of Water-type Pokémon and she won’t waste a chance to rain on your parade if you give her an opening. Nessa’s gym challenge is a simple task of turning a few valves and defeating her resident gym trainers, but you’ll need to pack some Grass, Flying or Electric-type firepower in your team if you want to claim victory.

If you chose Grookey and have already evolved it into Thwackey, you don’t have much to worry about at this early stage in Pokémon Sword and Shield. If you need some type advantage muscle however, the hills have plenty of options for you to explore. Bounsweet can be found in many sections of the Wild Area, Shield players have exclusive access to wild Lotad on Route 2 while Sword players can grab a Seedot in the same area. Both Pokémon evolve into formidable anti Water-type forms, or alternatively you can be given a Toxel at the Pokémon Nursery on Route 05.

Get Toxel up to level 30, and you’ll have a mighty counter to all three of Nessa’s Pokémon, especially when she Dynamaxes her Drednaw in battle against you. Here’s a breakdown of her team:

  • Goldeen – Level 22 Water-type
  • Arrokuda – Level 23 Water-type
  • Drednaw – Level 24 Water and Rock-type

Once you’ve defeated Nessa, you’ll be awarded with the Water Badge, the Water Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 30 and TM36 Whirlpool. It’s time for the next challenge back in Motostoke City, as the cunning Kabu awaits your arrival in the stadium.

Kabu, Motostoke Gym Leader

So far, the road to Pokémon Cup Challenge hasn’t been too daunting. That all changes with your third Gym challenge, as Kabu is ready to burn to ashes any who dare stand in his way. After facing Gym Leaders who favoured Grass and Water, Kabu is pretty much the final introductory challenge in Pokémon’s signature system of elemental rock-paper-scissors, and you better believe that you’ll want to have a few Pokémon who are capable of dousing his flames.

Kabu’s gym challenge isn’t too difficult. You’ll be tasked with capturing or knocking out Pokémon: Either the wild ones in the grass around you, or you can quickly take out the gym trainers who send their own critters into the field to make your life a bit of a hassle. On the bonus side, you’ll be able to keep any Pokémon that you catch here, such as a handy Litwick which can evolve into a Chandelure or a Sizzlipede, whose ultimate form you’ll get acquainted with real soon.

Water-types are the natural answer to Kabu’s team, and if you went with Sobble as your starter Pokémon originally then you already have a huge advantage especially if it happens to have evolved into Sizzile. Other options include Rolycoly whose evolved form Carkol makes it a heavyweight bruiser against Kabu’s team, while other Rock and Ground-type Pokémon found in the Galar mine such as Diglett are also formidable options. Otherwise, stick to Water-types found during fishing expeditions and you won’t go wrong when Kabu takes to the field and eventually burns out. Here’s a look at his team:

  • Ninetales – Level 25 Fire-type
  • Arcanine – Level 25 Fire-type
  • Centiskorch – Level 27 Fire and Bug-type

With Kabu’s fire extinguished, you’ll be awarded the Fire Badge, the Fire Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 35 and TM38 Will-o-The-Wisp. Your next challenge awaits you in Stow-On-Side, past the dustiest hills and most ancient of ruins that foretold of the Darkest Day.

Bea, Stow-On-Side Gym Leader

Surprise! In a first for the Pokémon series, your Gym Leader challenge is also delving into the idea of exclusivity depending on which version of the catch ‘em all game you purchased. Pokémon Sword players looking to add a fourth badge to their collection will face off against Bea, martial arts master and Stow-On-Side’s resident Gym Leader.

Bea’s gym has a fondness for carnival rides, as you’ll have to navigate your vehicle through an easy obstacle course using the tightest of analogue stick rotations. Or risk getting slammed into a corner by a giant boxing glove, but hey that’s life. Three of these sections await you, with a gym trainer at the end of each one.

Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, it’s time to face off against Bea. With Fighting-types at her beck and call, you’re going to want to make certain that your team has a combination of Flying, Psychic, Fairy and Poison-types ready to hit the field. The Toxel you grabbed at the Route 5 Pokémon Day-Care should be a mighty Toxtricity by now, whose Poison-type attributes make it a natural counter for Bea’s team.

On your journey, Rookiedee in its final evolved state of Corviknight should be a glass cannon due to its secondary Steel-type attributes, but if its quick off the mark it can still dish out some heavy damage with Flying-type attacks. The best bet though is to make certain that you have a Fairy-Type ready to rock and roll, with a stop on Route 5 to capture a Swirlix being the obvious choice for a quick victory. Even if it hasn’t evolved into Slurpuff (due to the nature of it needing a rare item and a trade from a friend to reach that higher state), it’s still able to give Bea’s Pangoro a hard time, keeping your team Psychic-types fresh for when she summons Machamp and Dynamaxes it into its terrifying and titanic form.
Bea’s team includes:

  • Hitmontop – Level 34 Fighting-type
  • Pangoro – Level 34 Fighting and Dark-type
  • Sirfetch’d – Level 35 Fighting-type
  • Machamp – Level 36 Fighting-type

Once Bea is down for the count, you’ll be awarded the Fighting Badge, the Fighting Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 40 and TM42 Revenge. You’re halfway done with the Gym Leader Challenge, and it’s now time to head towards the small town of Ballonlea where a pink-obsessed master of Fairy-types awaits your arrival.

Allister, Stow-On-Side Gym Leader

Pokémon Sword may have Bea and her team of Fighting-type pocket monsters, but Pokémon Shield players will have to deal with a far spookier opponent on the fourth stop of the Gym Leader challenge. Allister waits for you in Stow-On-Side’s , and he has a gang of Ghost-type Pokémon who are ready to take you on. Just like Bea, his gym will have you manipulating a carnival ride through a gentle obstacle course, each of the three sections manned by a gym trainer of the spooky variety.

Once you’re past his flunkies, it’s time to ready your team. Ghost-type Pokémon are naturally weak against their own elemental attacks, making them a bit of a gamble to use in such match-ups unless you’re confident in your team’s speed stats. Normal-type Pokémon who know a few elemental moves outside of their wheelhouse can attack without having to worry about taking damage from Ghost-type moves, but Allister’s team is made up of dual-type Pokémon to cover this weakness.

Your best bet here is to bank on Dark-type Pokémon to take down Allister, such as an Impidimp and its evolved Morgrem which can be found in the Motostoke Outskirt or a Sneasel over in the Motostoke Wild Area whenever snowy weather pops up. Maybe even a Gentleman thief Nicket, evolved into its dapper form of Thievul could be useful. Here’s the team that Allister wants to spook you out with:

  • Yamask – Level 34 Ground and Ghost-type
  • Mimikyu – Level 34 Ghost and Fairy-type
  • Cursola – Level 35 Ghost-type
  • Gengar – Level 36 Ghost and Poison-type

After a bit of fright or flight, Allister is defeated and you happen to have just earned yourself the Ghost Badge, the Ghost Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 40 and TM77 Hex. You’re halfway done with the Gym Leader Challenge, and it’s now time to head towards the small town of Ballonlea where a pink-obsessed master of Fairy-types awaits your arrival.

Opal, Ballonlea Gym Leader

Pink! Ballonlea’s gym leader just loves seeing that colour on other people and she won’t hesitate to repeat this fact several times. Pink also happens to be the primary colour of the Fairy-Type Pokémon, the pocket monsters that Opal specialises in. Over at her gym, the challenge ahead of you is a simple one: Battle three gym trainers in a row, and answer a question during every match. Get it right and you’ll earn a stat boost for the round. Get it wrong and prepare for a temporary downgrade.

Most of these questions are tricky to answer, so don’t gravitate towards the obvious answer if you can. As a Fairy-type Gym Leader, Opal’s team is naturally strong against the likes of Fighting, Dragon and Dark-type Pokémon. They massively weak against Poison and Steel-types though, so make certain that your team has a few toxic and heavy metal options ready.

If you caught a Rookiedee earlier in the game, it should have evolved into Corviknight by now, a sturdy Flying and Steel-type Pokémon that can dish out big damage. The Toxel you picked up at the Route 5 Pokémon Day Care should have also learnt Poison Jab after it evolved into Toxtricity, or you can grab a few other Poison-type and Steel-type pocket monsters to pad out your team: Think Skorupi on Route 6, Meowth’s Galar region variant on Route 4 or a Koffing found in the Motostoke Outskirts. With your squad sorted, here’s the team that Opal will send against you:

  • Weezing – Level 36 Poison and Fairy-type
  • Mawile – Level 36 Fairy and Flying-type
  • Togekiss – Level 37 Fairy and Steel-type
  • Alcremie – Level 38 Fairy-type

With book closed on Opal’s fairy tale, you’ll have earned the Fairy Badge, the Fairy Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 45 and TM87 Draining Kiss. You’re now down to just three more gyms to conquer, although the road ahead will see some version exclusivity once again.

Gordie, Circhester Gym Leader

He’s the Rock-type master and a rock star of fashion! Gordie is over in Circhester for Pokémon Sword players, and his rock-solid defense is no joke. In his Circhester gym, Gordie’s challenge is particularly tricky: You’ve got a pair of rods, a room full of pitfalls and several gym trainers to defeat. Once your controller starts vibrating, you just know a trap is near you so walk carefully and slowly to avoid them.

Or trigger all of them and just walk around them when you get warped back to the start of the room. With the pitfalls cleared, Gordie is ready to rock and roll: His team is naturally weak towards Grass, Steel, Water and Fighting-types, so players who chose anyone but Scorbunny have an advantage here. As Rock-type Pokémon though, Gordie’s critters still have an incredible defense that can withstand most one-hit knockouts, with Barbaracle being especially dangerous to everything but Grass-types once it starts powering up.

In addition to a fully evolved Grookey or Sobble, heavyweights such as Lotad, Seedot and Diglett from your gym challenges against Nessa and Kabu should help take some of the load off of your starter, but a powered up Water-type will be your safest option for when Gordie summons his Coalossal and Dynamaxes it. Provided that you can get through the rest of his team first that is:

  • Barbaracle – Level 40 Water and Rock-type
  • Shuckle – Level 40 Rock and Bug-type
  • Stonjourner – Level 41 Rock-type
  • Coalossal – Level 42 Rock and Fire-type

Once you’ve demolished Gordie’s defense, you’ll have won the Rock Badge, the Rock Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 50 and TM48 Rock Tomb. Next stop, Spikemuth!

Melony, Circhester Gym Leader

Over in Circhester, Pokémon Shield players have a cool customer to deal with. Or to be more exact, local Gym Leader Melony. Just like Gordie, Melony’s gym is comprised of a surface that is hiding many a pitfall. You’ll have to use the rods you’re provided to avoid them, or throw caution to the wind and take a tumble as you eliminate every option through sheer clumsiness. Several gym trainers are also waiting to wear you down, so prepare for a challenge.

Once you’ve blasted past that room, it’s time for a chilly reception! As the mistress of ice, Melony’s pocket monsters are vulnerable to Fire, Steel, Rock and Fighting-type attacks. A Scorbunny evolved into Cinderace can dish out some devastating damage here, as can a Coalossal that has evolved from a Rolycoly that you picked up in Galar Mine or Route 3.

If you’re looking for some Fighting-type options, Tyrogues which can evolve into Hitmonchan,Hitmonlee or Hitmontop can be found on Route 3, Steel-type Meowth which evolve into Perrserker can be caught on Route 4 and you can even find Vulpix on Route 3 in areas with sunny weather. You’ll need them to bring the heat, because Melony’s team includes:

  • Frosmorth – Level 40 Bug and Ice-type
  • Darmanitan – Level 40 Ice-type
  • Eiscue – Level 41 Ice-type
  • Lapras – Level 42 Water and Ice-type

Now that the ice has cracked, Melony will hand over the Ice Badge, the Ice Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 50 and TM27 Icy Wind. Next stop, Spikemuth!

Piers, Spikemuth Gym Leader

You’ve finally made it to Spikemuth! The penultimate gym challenge awaits you, provided that you have what it takes to overpower Piers and his rock band of Dark-type Pokémon. After you’ve cleared a simple gym challenge that involves you taking on a quartet of Team Yell members, Piers will be ready to face you.

There’s no Dynamax element present in the Spikemuth Gym, but Piers is far from a pushover if you go into this match unprepared. For this gym, your best bet is to field a team that includes a mix of Fairy, Fighting and Bug-type Pokémon. At this point, you should have grabbed an Impidimp in the forest before reaching the town of Ballonlea, as the dual Dark and Fairy-type nature of that Pokémon once it evolves into Grimmsnarl makes it a real powerhouse. Here’s a breakdown of the team that Piers sends into battle:

  • Scrafty – Level 44 Dark and Fighting type
  • Malamar – Level 45 Dark and Psychic type
  • Skuntank – Level 45 Dark and Poison type
  • Obstagoon – Level 46 Dark and Normal type

With Piers silenced, you’ll be awarded with the Dark Badge, the ability to catch Pokémon of up to level 55, the Dark Uniform and TM85 Snarl. All that’s left now, is to take on Raihan and claim the final badge in the Gym Challenger quest.

Raihan, Hammerlocke Gym Leader

At long last, the final gym stands before you. Hammerlocke’s mightiest trainer and Leon’s self-proclaimed rival has deemed you worthy of facing him at long last, but you’ll need to be ready to play a few games of double if you want to best him. Raihan doesn’t waste any time getting you ready for the challenge that lies ahead, as he’ll task you with defeating three of his gym trainers in two on two Pokémon battles. The first trainer battles you with the duo of Pelipper and Sliggoo, the second trailer has Ninetales and Turtanator and the final hurdle throws Abomasnow and Hakama-o at you.

With those gym trainers beaten, it’s time to take on Raihan in his favourite format of Pokémon battling. He may favour dragons, but his team still makes an efforts to cover any holes in his defence and his true strength lies in altering the playing field to give his team an advantage. Sandstorm will hinder any non Ground or Rock-type Pokémon, while his Gigalith will also use Stealth rock to damage your Pokémon whenever you switch them in and out of battle. For Raihan’s two dragons, you’ll want to fight back with a dragon of your own or a Fairy-type preferably.

You can grab an Axew and evolve it into Haxorus over on Route 6, although an Impidimp evolved into a Grimmsnarl may be a safer bet. Ice-types are also a safe bet, such as Darumaka which can be found on Route 8. For Raihan’s Duraludon, you’ll want to make certain that you have a tough Fire-type such as a Cinderace or Skuntank (catch a Stunkey on Route 3, Giant’s Cap or Dappled Grove), while you take down his Gigalith with a Grass-type such as an evolved Seedot/Lotad from Route 2. Or just about any of the many Water-types that you can fish for in the Wild Areas. Raihan’s team includes:

  • Gigalith – Level 46 Rock-type
  • Flygon – Level 47 Ground and Dragon-type
  • Sandaconda – Level 46 Ground-type
  • Duraludon – Level 48 Dragon and Steel-type

Congratulations, you’ve just beaten one of the toughest trainers in the Galar region! Raihan’s defeat rewards you with the Dragon Badge, the Dragon Uniform, the ability to catch Pokémon up to level 60 and TM99 Breaking Swipe. You’ve got all eight gym badges now, but your journey is far from over as you head towards the Pokémon League and the ultimate showdown against Leon the Undefeated Champion of the Galar region.

If you’ve reached the end of Pokemon Sword and Shield you might want to check out what you can do post-game.

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