The Crown Tundra has brought with it an all-new challenging mode that prioritizes strategy over brute force. While similar to the Max Raids introduced when the game launched, taking on a Max Lair will require you and your Pokémon to work smarter, not harder.
While a Max Raid involves bringing four trainers together to battle a single Pokémon, the new Max Lair involves a series of four Max Raid style battles. You won’t be able to bring your own perfectly trained and prepped Pokémon with you, but instead will have to borrow from a selection the game provides.
The in-game story explanation for this is that each Max Lair is highly charged with particles that can make them dangerous for Pokémon not specifically prepared for that environment.
However, it’s likely the designers chose this to challenge players and keep them from bringing powerful legendary Pokémon with them to make things easier.
One of the most difficult things about completing a Max Lair is that the parameters for being ejected from the Max Lair and seeing your challenge end are the same as a Max Raid. However, you have to finish four consecutive battles instead of just one.
If four Pokémon (yours or one of your allies’) faint, your Max Lair will come to an end. If any individual battle takes more than ten turns, your Max Lair will also come to an end. If just one of the four battles goes south and two or more Pokémon faint, it can leave you at an early disadvantage.
There is one big difference in these battles, as compared to a regular Max Raid, that works to your advantage. Regular Max Raids see the opposing Pokémon put up big defensive shields that protect them from most damage, but that isn’t the case in a Max Lair.
What are the benefits of completing a Max Lair?
The benefits of knowing how to take down a Max Lair are significant, as they’re the primary method of acquiring many of the legendary Pokémon reintroduced in The Crown Tundra DLC. On top of that, you’ll acquire Dynite Ore every time you complete a Max Lair.
Dynite Ore can be used as a form of currency with a vendor at the front of each Max Lair. The items available to purchase include Exp. Candy, Vitamins, Armorite Ore, special Poké Balls, Bottle Caps, Ability Capsules, the new Ability Patch, and more.
The most interesting item you can acquire this way, and one of the most costly, is the Ability Patch. This item, newly introduced with The Crown Tundra DLC, can be used to switch a Pokémon’s Ability with their difficult to acquire Hidden Ability.
It’s not fully clear just yet exactly which legendary Pokémon are available in which Max Lair. The one you end up encountering could be relatively random, but there’s surely some factors at play and some legendaries are believed to be exclusive to either Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield.
While playing Pokémon Shield, the first Max Lair I tried had Suicune at the end. My second Max Lair ended with Cresselia, and you’ll be happy to know that when my first attempt failed, I was able to pursue Cresselia again.
Once you’ve attempted a Max Lair against a legendary Pokémon, you’ll be given the option at the start of your next Max Lair in that same location to go after the legendary Pokémon you failed to capture the first time around.
My third Max Lair, again in this same initial location, ended with Xerneas. My fourth ended with Xerneas again, but I wasn’t able to capture it a second time.
My fifth Max Lair, still in the same location, was against the legendary Pokémon Zygarde. You can rest assured legendary Pokémon are quickly in abundance within The Crown Tundra.
Max Lair Tip #1: Go it alone, at first
This is suggested by the game when you’re given an explanation for what to expect in a Max Lair, and it’s a good idea to take the advice that’s been given. Tackling a Max Lair can be intimidating at first, especially because many of your decisions are on a timer.
Pokémon games have a tendency to work in a turn-based way that makes split second decisions relatively uncommon, but you’ll have to think on your feet in a Max Lair.
You’ll need to decide which Pokémon to borrow, potentially swap it out as you’re going, and choose your path after each battle.
These are difficult decisions to begin with, but you’re working on a time limit when making most of them. It can be a lot to process, and other players that join with you will also vote on the path you take.
If you’re playing alone, you have the benefit of the path taken being whichever you choose. Don’t get married to the idea of taking on a Max Lair by yourself, though.
Once you’re used to the way a Max Lair works, you’ll realize you do want other people along for the adventure with you. Computer controlled trainers that join you don’t seem to ever Dynamax their Pokémon, and generally aren’t going to make the best battle decisions when compared to a human player.
Max Lair Tip #2: Check your moves
When you play through a Max Lair, you’ll be choosing Pokémon to borrow that you aren’t used to using. Because of that, you may also be seeing movesets you aren’t familiar with.
When choosing a Pokémon, try to take a moment to look over their moveset before making your decision. Ideally, you want a Pokémon that has offensive moves of various types in order to maximize how many super-effective options you’ll have for various opponents.
Once you’re in battle, don’t forget that you can press Y to get more info about the moves you’re choosing from. This is especially helpful if you’re seeing ones you don’t recognize, and helps you strategize moving forward.
After each successful battle, or when encountering a scientist, you’ll have the option to swap the Pokémon you’re currently using out. When making that decision, you’ll also want to check the moves of these new options while keeping in mind what your current Pokémon has available.
Also, while you’re facing what seem to be giant extra-strong opponents, they’re not invulnerable to status effects. Even the legendary Pokémon you could face at the end of a Max Lair can be frozen, paralyzed, put to sleep, etc.
Don’t forget to check your move descriptions to see if any can cause these status effects. Cresselia was frozen in one of my battles, giving us several turns without damage and majorly helping the encounter.
Max Lair Tip #3: Choose your path carefully
This is something that will take some time to know how best to approach, but the path you choose in a Max Lair can make a big difference in how that attempt goes. You don’t have unlimited time in making the decision, but can take a few seconds to move your view to see where you’re headed.
Which path you take early will affect the types of Pokémon you’ll end up facing further along in the Max Lair. This is especially difficult when you’re playing online, as the group votes on a path and may not choose the direction you’d prefer.
This is another reason that, while you’re still learning how to handle a Max Lair, it’s helpful to go it alone so your decisions will always determine the path you take.
You’re only shown a single type for the Pokémon you’ll battle at each stage, but if you look carefully through the mist, you might be able to recognize the silhouette and know exactly which Pokémon you’ll be up against.
Backpacker, Scientist, and Berries
Throughout the Max Lair, there are three different helpful things you can encounter between battles. You might pass by a scientist, a backpacker, or a pile of berries.
If you run into a scientist, you’ll be given the option to swap the Pokémon you’re using with a new one. This is a good idea if your Pokémon was significantly hurt in a previous battle or if your current Pokémon’s type is a bad matchup against future battles.
If you run into a backpacker, you’ll be given the option to choose between five items for your Pokémon to hold in later battles. The items you’ll be able to choose from vary, but be sure to read the descriptions of them if you’re unfamiliar in order to know what to select.
Finally, the simplest but perhaps most helpful thing you’ll run across is a simple pile of berries. When passing by it, your Pokémon will eat the berries and recover some health, which can be a big help going into the next battle.
Max Lair Tip #4: Don’t hesitate to swap Pokémon
It can be tempting to stick with the Pokémon you’ve got at the beginning of a Max Lair. This is especially the case if it’s an advantageous type matchup against the Pokémon you’ll be facing at the end of the Max Lair.
However, don’t be afraid to change it up. Your Pokémon may get hurt as you’re progressing, and a wounded Pokémon is much more likely to faint in a subsequent battle.
On top of having the option to swap when encountering a scientist, each battle you finish will give you the ability to capture that Pokémon.
You can swap to a fully-healed version of that newly captured Pokémon for the rest of the Max Lair, or until you make another switch.
When you’re battling online with others, it can be difficult at times to get the swap you desire. After each battle, or when encountering a scientist, only one of the four trainers will be able to make the swap.
This means those interested will speak up, and you might not end up being the one who actually gets to make the swap. When you’re going it alone, you’ll always get the swap you request.
Max Lair Tip #5: Know your type matchups
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of various types in Pokémon is going to be an enormous asset while playing a Max Lair. When choosing a path, you’ll often have to consider how effective the Pokémon you’re currently using will be against your next potential opponent.
The Pokémon at the end of your Max Lair is one you’ll want to have a type advantage against by the time you reach them. It’s alright if you don’t have that advantage from the start, as you’ll be able to look for an advantageous choice to switch to as you progress.
Bulbapedia and Pokémon Database each have a great type chart that shows the strengths and weaknesses of various types.
If you don’t know your type matchups off the top of your head, it might be a good idea to have a chart pulled up on your phone or a nearby computer and look over it before and during the Max Lair.
You’ll get some help from the game, as it will usually tell you during a battle which of your moves are going to be effective, not very effective, or super effective.
However, for the split-second decisions needed while choosing a path or a Pokémon, you’ll be better off if you know some type matchups without having to check.
Bonus Tip: Don’t get discouraged
Trust me, it can seem daunting at first to go up against a Max Lair. You’re having to learn new strategies, keep information at hand about type matchups, make quick decisions, and hoping in the end that you’ll get a powerful legendary Pokémon. Sometimes, you’re going to fail.
My first few Max Lair attempts went well, but a little bad luck on a single run could spell disaster right from the start. I’ve also had Max Lair attempts seem to go off nearly perfectly, with not a single Pokémon fainting before the final battle and all of our Pokémon heading into that fight with nearly max health.
Despite all of that, I’ve had that near-perfect run come to a grinding and disastrous end. My first attempt at Zygarde seemed to be going great, and I had others playing with me to help in the battles.
No victory is guaranteed
Even with all of that going our way, four of us fainted in the final fight with Zygarde. After all that work, we all got blown out of the Max Lair and weren’t able to capture it.
It’s frustrating when that happens, but that Pokémon isn’t lost. You’ll get the opportunity to pursue it again, and you’ll have another chance to score a victory and capture it.
Even though failing a Max Lair can be discouraging, your attempt will also still net you some Dynite Ore. While you get more for a successful run, you won’t leave empty-handed.
Finally, have fun with these. It’s a exciting new challenge for Pokémon Sword and Shield which comes with equally exciting rewards when you do pull it off.