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Pokémon Sword & Shield: Competitive Guide Vol.2 – Effort Values and EXP

Learn how to use vitamins, berries, and more to optimize your team.

pokemon sword and shield exploring
Image: Nintendo

This is the second in a multiple-volume guide on competitive Pokémon Sword & Shield. In case you missed it, part one covers basic terminology and where to best find additional information on the games and part 3 looks at breeding.


Pokémon Sword & Shield dropped just a few weeks ago and players have been absolutely eating them up – and rightfully so.

With so many new players in the series and so many quality of life changes, I want to dig in on the nuts and bolts of how to make your team The Very Best™. In these guides, you’ll learn everything you need to know.

Getting Ready

nintendo Pokémon sword and shield

Image: Nintendo

  1. Beat the game. If you haven’t beaten the game, you shouldn’t be worrying about competitive Pokémon yet.
  2. Remember the Pokémon you picked for your homework assignment last time? The first thing you need to do is get one of those that have never been in battle (which also means never having been in your party to get experience points from being in your party). Catch it in a raid, catch it in the wild, breed it, whatever you already know how to do. This is important so we can avoid more complicated subjects for now. This is your first competitive Pokémon and we want to keep it simple for now!
  3. Save up 530,000 Pokédollars. If you’re running low, make sure you’ve gotten Long Meowth (Menu > Mystery Gift > Get a Mystery Gift > Get via Internet. Gigantamax Meowth is only available until January 15th, 2020). For easy money, run the championship rematch, Dynamax your Meowth, and use G-Max Gold Rush repeatedly to rake in the cash. Don’t forget to have it hold a Luck Incense or an Amulet Coin to double your earnings!
  4. With cash in hand, head to the Wyndon Pokémon Center.
  5. Buy 26 vitamins for the stat that’s most important to you, 26 for the stat that’s second most important, and 1 for a third stat. For example, if I was training a Jolteon I would probably by 26 Calcium for special attack, 26 Carbos for speed, and 1 HP Up for HP.

We just set aside a Pokémon we’re interested in training, made sure it had zero EVs, and got all of the items necessary to EV-train it to maximum all at once. When you’re ready, use all 53 of those items on your Pokémon! When you’re done, congratulations on your new EV-trained monster!

A few things that are worthwhile to note so far

pokemon sword and shield pikachu

Image: Nintendo

  • For now, we have ignored moves, abilities, natures, and IVs. We’ll get there.
  • What we just did was max out effort values. 26 vitamins are the magic number because each gives 10 EVs and the maximum for a stat is 252, so we round up to evenly hit the maximum. This gives us +31 in one stat, +31 in another, and +1 in a third, because the bonuses are Effort Value divided by 4.
  • You can actually spread EVs around any way you want, but most competitive builds will max two stats unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise.
  • At any point during this process, you can go to the Pokémon menu, click on a Pokémon, click Check Summary, go to the second tab, and press X. This is your Effort Value screen, which is new to Pokémon Sword & Shield!
    • The pale yellow shape represents a Pokémon’s base values
    • The dark yellow shape represents a Pokémon’s effort values
    • If a stat is sparkling, that stat is maxed out at 252 EVs! Adding more EVs to that stat will do nothing
    • If the dark yellow shape changes to pale blue, that Pokémon’s overall EVs are maxed, meaning it has earned 510 EVs
sword and shield meowth

The pale yellow shape represents a Pokémon’s base stats. The darker yellow shape represents this Meowth’s current effort values. It is dark yellow because Meowth is not EV-capped yet. (Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie)

pokemon sword and shield weavile

This Weavile is maxed out on EVs, so its EV shape turns from dark yellow to pale blue. This kind of shape is common when you aren’t focused in your EV training and you can see that there are a lot of wasted points in special attack that Weavile doesn’t use. (Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie)

Why Vitamins?

Let’s say you want to max a Pokémon’s speed EVs. What are your options?

  1. EVs from battle: You could fight 252 Rookidees, for example. Rookidee yields 1 speed EV (you can check this on Bulbapedia and Serebii), so everyone in your party when you defeat one gets 1 speed EV. Maybe you check Route 2 and decide to fight them there. Well, now you have to be careful because Skwovet also spawns there and yields 1 HP EV if you defeat it, which you don’t want. So now you have to run away from all Skwovets if you bump into them.
  2. EV boosts from Power items: If you’ve already beaten the Battle Tower a few times, which maybe you have, you can buy Power items for BP (Battle Points). For example, you could get a Power Anklet, which increases speed gains. Power items give the Pokémon holding that item +8 EVs for that stat for every Pokémon defeated (while it was in the party, regardless of it it ever fought). In the above example, each defeated Rookidee would give 9 speed EVs, while each defeated Skwovet would yield 1 HP EV and 8 speed EVs. Better, but not the best.
  3. EV boosts from Macho Brace: The Macho Brace is another training item purchasable for Battle Points, but I don’t recommend it. While held, it doubles EV gains from battle, so Rookidee would yield 2 speed EVs and Skwovet would yield 2 HP EVs. Not great.
  4. EV boosts from Pokérus: If you ever notice a weird little smiley face icon on your Pokémon’s summary or if a Pokécenter technician tells you about a virus, that means your Pokémon has contracted the pokérus, a wholly beneficial virus.
    1. Pokémon who have the virus (or have the cured version) receive double EVs from battle.
    2. The virus can be contagious or cured (the symbol will change). The virus will cure itself if a Pokémon is in your party at the time of daily reset. Uncured Pokémon in your boxes will remain contagious forever, so once you have the virus try to ALWAYS keep a contagious Pokémon safe in a box!
    3. If you have a contagious Pokémon in your party, every completed battle is a high chance to spread the virus to other Pokémon in your party.
  5. EVs from Jobs: With the advent of wanton capitalism in Sword & Shield, you can now send Pokémon on jobs. Late in the game, you can unlock EV-training jobs where you can send Pokémon off to train in a specific stat. Jobs are 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 12, or 24 hours long and Pokémon get 4 EVs per hour, meaning it’s 127 real hours per Pokémon. This option sounds great at first, but I personally think it’s by far the worst option.
  6. Vitamins: All Vitamins are 10,000 pokédollars and raise an EV by 10. For the first time ever, there’s no limit to how many Vitamins you can give a Pokémon (It used to cap at 10 per stat, which still left you with 152 EVs to get from other sources).

With how much money comes from raid item sales and how easy it is to re-run the championship with a Gigantamax Meowth that just spews money, you can see why Vitamins are the way to go here.

sword and shield lucario build

This is what a properly EV-trained Pokémon should look like. Lucario’s special attack and speed are both maxed – which is why they sparkle – and you can see there are no wasted points in less important stats. (Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie)

pokemon sword and shield thievul build

When a Pokémon is infected, that purple symbol with the word “POKÉRUS” shows up. A cured virus loses the word and just shows a symbol. Thank you to Kate Gray for giving me the pokérus! (Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie)

What if I make a mistake?

It IS possible to undo EV training at any time! You could even take a fully-trained Pokémon and nuke its EVs back to zero if you were so inclined. You do this with berries! Specifically Pomeg, Kelpsy, Hondew, Qualot, Grepa, and Tamato berries. Save these if you can (and don’t worry about remembering their names, because the effect is in the description).

They work in two ways:

  1. If a Pokémon has over 100 EVs in the affected stat, the first berry drops that stat’s EVs to 100.
  2. If a Pokémon is at or below 100 EVs in the affected stat, berries reduce EVs by 10.

So worst-case scenario, let’s say you trained HP and you changed your mind to go Defense instead. Without knowing what your HP EVs are, you would need at most 11 Pomeg berries. After feeding your Pokémon gross Pomeg berries, you can then drop your 26 Irons to raise Defense to 252.

Berries are moderately abundant in Sword & Shieldbut try not to rely on using them to reset EVs if you can avoid it. You can’t readily farm the exact berry you need, so it can be a pain to rebuild your supply.

Okay, now how do I level up?

pokemon sword and shield battles

Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

Once you have a fully EV-trained Pokémon of your liking, now you need to get it to level 100! There are three solid options here.

  1. Experience Items. You can farm these by beating raids, which you probably want to be doing anyway! Harder raids give more/better items.
  2. Rare Candy. This is a special level-enhancing item that increases a Pokémon’s level by 1. Save these to climb through the 90s, honestly. They drop from max raid battles or you can buy them for a hefty 20 BP each.
  3. Battle. You can always keep fighting Pokémon either in the championship rematch or in the wild, but their levels only go so high. If you’re going to do this, at least get the Lucky Egg first! The Lucky Egg DOUBLES experience gains from combat.
    1. To find the Lucky Egg, first head back to Hulbury.
    2. Go to the Seafood Restaurant you were at earlier in the game and speak to the owner at the counter.
    3. You’ll be sent off on a series of food delivery quests, all of which are very short. Complete all three and the Lucky Egg is yours.

That’s it! Enough of the above and you’ll have a level 100 Pokémon that’s EV trained!

pokemon sword and shield restaurant

This is the seafood restaurant where you can pick up the Lucky Egg quest line post-game. It takes about five minutes to do. (Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie)

Your homework this time is much more time-consuming than last time:

Take that Pokémon you set aside and prepare all of the above steps. Beat the game, get the money, get the vitamins, get your lucky egg, and hoard a bunch of experience items. If you’re happy with your Pokémon’s moves, ability, and nature, by all means use everything and go for it! If not, simply hold on to these things for now.

How do you get better natures? Can you change a Pokémon’s ability? How do you get egg moves? Can you get better IVs? We’ll cover the bulk of these next time when we dig into Breeding.

What do you think? How is your training going? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Jake is a writer and game designer in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He loves action, exploration, building, filling bars, and turning numbers into bigger numbers. Someday he'll release a video game.

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