Max Raids are a primary focus in Pokémon Sword/Shield, and with gathering Pokémon being gated behind weather, version exclusivity, and low encounter rates, Max Raids are one of the best, yet frustrating ways to fill the missing spots in your Pokédex. Unfortunately, due to poorly implemented online services, we are usually stuck soloing the five star Max Raids with underpowered NPC teammates. And, let’s be honest, the only expectations we can have of the underpowered NPC teammates is for them to break the barrier that the Dynamax/Gigantamax Pokémon put up at certain percentages. Unfortunately, they don’t even meet those expectations. The issue is they get one-shot and spend their valuable turns buffing instead of assisting with the barrier. This often leads to wipes and wasted time. Let’s look at how we can avoid this and make the experience with Max Raids smoother, more rewarding, and overall more enjoyable.
What is the answer to clearing Max Raids fast while doing it solo? Zacian, Zamazenta and Eternatus–the three legendary Pokémon in Sword and Shield. Both legendary dogs have Iron Head as one of their moves. When entering battle and transforming from their “Hero of Many Battles” state into their “Crowned” state, Iron Head also changes. Zacian’s move is called Behemoth Blade while Zamazenta gets Behemoth Bash. Eternatus’s unique move is Dynamax Cannon. All three moves boast a hefty base power and an accuracy of 100, the only downside being a PP of 5 (with a max of 8 through PP Up). This, though, is more than enough for a single raid. This is because all three deal double damage to Dynamax targets–a permanent state of our opponent.
All Pokémon damage through barriers, but the damage is often so minor that you won’t notice the health bar moving. I’m not exactly sure what causes this as the moves do not explicitly state it (I assume it’s due to the double damage), but a sizable portion of damage dealt from Behemoth Blade/Bash and Dynamax Cannon bypasses the barriers of Max Raid Pokémon. You do not deal 100% of the damage that you would deal before the barrier, but it does a sizable amount that allows you to force the Max Raid boss into a position where it must refresh the barrier or die. This is due to five star raids having two sets of barrier applications (one at high percentages, the other at lower percentages).
The barriers that Max Raid Pokémon produce slow the encounter down to a snail’s pace. This mechanic, in theory, is fine. Its intention is to force you and your team to make a mix of offensive and defensive choices. The reality of it, however, is that all defense is thrown out the window to attain a fast clear. The main reason for this is because the NPCs we are handed are lacking in the throughput and survivability departments. This leaves you having to deal with most of the barrier and health damage by yourself in an attempt to beat the death counter. Some encounters have higher barrier health, others have AoE moves that make quick work of your NPC teammates. That isn’t a concern with the three legendary Pokémon.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the performance of all three units. First up, Zacian. Zacian, so far in my testing, is the best unit in Max Raids. She has the highest base offensive stat of the three with 170 Attack (in her “Crowned” state) and the highest base Speed, clocking in at 148. With a base Attack of 170, this ranks Zacian in a three-way tie for seventh highest base Attack across all generations of Pokémon. Technically, she has the highest Attack and the second highest Speed of any Pokemon in Sword/Shield. Zacian will outspeed everything you encounter in raids. Partner that with a 100 Power/Accuracy move that benefits from STAB while dealing double damage to Dynamax targets and you have one of the best offensive units in all of Pokémon. Oh, and she enters battle with a +1 to Attack due to her Intrepid Sword ability. TL;DR? She’s queen.
Next, Eternatus. While this Pokémon falls behind in terms of power to Zacian, it makes up for its slightly weaker offensive prowess with higher health. This isn’t too important, though, since all three of them have good enough defensive stats to survive long enough to succeed (Zacian has one of, if not the best defensive typings in the game). The lower Sp. Attack in comparison to Zacian’s Attack is the reason why I have Eternatus ranked as the second best. Fighting against Pokémon with high Defense can bump Eternatus up a little bit.
And the final of the three, Zamazenta. I do not have any experience playing as Zamazenta in Max Raids due to me playing on PokémonSword, but his stats and Behemoth Bash tell the story. Zamazenta does what Zacian does as a physical attacker in Max Raids, just not as efficiently. This does not mean that Zamazenta is bad for doing Max Raids. He’s still in my top three unless we see adjustments made to Max Raids. Zacian gets +1 Attack upon entry to battle, Zamazenta gains +1 to Defense. If you play on Pokémon Shield and do not have access to Zacian, I suggest that you take some time to play with both Zamazenta and Eternatus to see which one brings you the most success. I recommend that you EV train each legendary in their respective offensive stat, but Zamazenta especially. When it comes to speedrunning Max Raids, he is the inferior of the siblings. You will benefit greatly from an even more potent Attack trained Zamazenta.
I highly recommend Zacian as she can clear anything by herself, but all three of them fulfill the same role in chipping away at the health through barriers. All three of them do it well enough. I’ve yet to experience any Pokémon that can do it as efficiently as these three, though. However, with the game being new and there being lots of stats and strategies to explore, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I am sleeping on something. If you are having issues with speed and consistently clearing five-star Max Raids, try one of these three Pokémon. But don’t ignore the possibilities of the other Pokémon available to you. This list’s intention is only to lessen the frustration of solo play and Nintendo/GameFreak’s poor online experience.