In Pokémon games gone by, the status quo was to either use your one and only Master Ball on the first legendary Pokémon – often the cover Pokémon – or to wait for the other post-game legendary Pokémon encounter. It’s quite different now.
There are three legendary Pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield: two are the same in both titles, Shield players have a chance to get Zamazenta, and Sword players have a chance to get Zacian.
With a bit of running around and a massive battle, the non-cover legendary Pokémon in Sword and Shield are all-but given to you.
So, when do you get the Master Ball and when should you use your Master Ball in Pokémon Sword and Shield?
Be warned, this article contains many spoilers.
How to defeat and catch Eternatus and Eternamax
The first legendary Pokémon that you’ll meet in Pokémon Sword and Shield is Eternatus. Eternatus is a Gigantic Pokémon, with the core of its chest absorbing energy from the Galar region to stay alive.
It’s a powerful Pokémon and a worthy first legendary encounter. Eternatus is a poison-dragon type Pokémon that you cannot catch in the first encounter. All you have to do is defeat the Pokémon.
Those of you who picked Grookey as your starter are a bit out of luck with Rillaboom’s strongest moves due to grass-type attacks being the least effective against Eternatus. Fire, water, electric, fighting, poison, and bug-type moves are also not very effective.
As you only need to defeat Eternatus before it picks apart your team, you’ll want to use ice, ground, psychic, and dragon-type moves against the legendary Pokémon.
Once you defeat Eternatus, it re-emerges in its Eternamax form. Once again, you cannot catch this legendary Pokémon in battle. You must defeat Eternatus in its strongest form, with powerful ice, ground, psychic, and dragon-type moves still being the best to use.
If you come out of the colossal battle and best Eternamax, you’ll then have the chance to catch the legendary Pokémon.
The secret here that you’re not told is that you will catch the Pokémon regardless of what ball you throw. Eternatus is a guaranteed catch in Pokémon Sword and Shield. So, pick the Poké Ball that you like the look of the most and launch it at the humbled Eternatus.
With the two main legendary Pokémon, Zacian and Zamazenta, present, you’d think that this is your chance to catch them, but you’d be wrong. You go on to fight Leon to try and become the Champion of Galar.
How to get the Master Ball in Pokémon Sword and Shield
Once you defeat the champion, the credits roll, and then you get to commence the post-game story.
Coming back into the game, you will awaken in your bed. Once you leave your room, you’ll find Professor Magnolia awaiting you in your house. Speak to her, and she’ll congratulate you on becoming the champion and reward you with a Master Ball.
Aside from potentially winning one in the Loto-ID, found at the Rotom System in each PokéCentre, this will be your only Master Ball.
Using it guarantees the catch, and many people use the ball on one of the remaining legendary Pokémon in the game – but you may not want to use it in this way.
How to find and catch Type: Null
While Eternatus was a guaranteed catch, the legendary Pokémon did put up a tremendous fight. When looking to catch your second legendary Pokémon in Sword and Shield, you could have a whole team of level-one Magikarp.
Having defeated the champion and picked up your Master Ball, make your way back up north to Battle Tower in Wyndon. By using the map to travel to Wyndon via Flying Taxi, you’ll arrive at the doors to Battle Tower.
When you’re outside the Battle Tower, go through the doors and turn left to find a League Staff member waiting in the lobby with a very peculiar-looking Pokémon.
Go up to the League Staff member next to the odd Pokémon and talk to them. They will explain the Pokémon, known as Type: Null, and its evolution process. Then, to commemorate your achievements, they give you Type: Null – no questions asked.
How to find and catch Zacian or Zamazenta
By following the post-game storyline of Pokémon Sword and Shield, you will eventually find yourself in an encounter with the legendary Pokémon that features on the cover of your game.
The faceoff with Zamazenta for Pokémon Shield players or Zacian for Pokémon Sword players is returns you to the regular method of battling and trying to catch a legendary Pokémon.
So, go to the Options page from the menu and turn off Autosave. Then, before you approach the Pokémon and trigger the battle, you must save the game. This way, if you accidentally defeat the legendary Pokémon, you’ll be able to revert back and try again.
The regular method of catching a legendary Pokémon is to enter the battle and throw a Master Ball at it, capturing it immediately. In Pokémon Sword and Shield, Zamazenta and Zacian are the last legendary Pokémon to catch, so this approach would make sense, and yet you don’t have to use the Master Ball.
It is possible to use a Poké Ball that isn’t the Master Ball to catch Zamazenta or Zacian. The ball of choice outside of the Master Ball for either legendary Pokémon is the Timer Ball as it is quite easy to make full use of its catch rate-enhancing effect.
With Timer Balls in stock, the name of the game is to reduce the health of the legendary Pokémon into the red, possibly induce a status like paralysis or sleep, and then drag out the battle for as long as possible. To prepare, you’ll want plenty of revives and max revives.
Both are very strong and can take down a high-level Pokémon in one attack during this encounter – especially Zacian, which will use Swords Dance to up its attack stats. So, keep on reviving and healing to prolong the battle.
When the opposing Zamazenta or Zacian has a red bar of health, and you’ve been battling for many turns – 30 or more is a good area to shoot for – try to catch it with a Timer Ball.
Zamazenta, when you battle it in its Crowned Shield form, is a fighting-steel type Pokémon. You may want to use fighting, ground, and fire-type moves to quickly take off larger chunks of its health as they are super effective against the legendary Pokémon.
While Zamazenta is immune to poison-type attacks, to do smaller amounts of damage when it is in the red zone of health, use the not very effective attack types of normal, rock, bug, steel, grass, ice, dragon, or dark.
With Zacian, the legendary Pokémon is a fairy-steel type in its Crowned Sword form. Zacian is immune to dragon and poison-type moves, but ground and fire attacks are super effective.
To clip off smaller sections of its health bar, use normal, flying, rock, bug, grass, psychic, ice, dark, or fairy moves as they’re not very effective against Zacian.
Save your Master Ball for a Gigantamax Max Raid Battle
By using a different Poké Ball to catch Zamazenta or Zacian, you then have it ready for a difficult future encounter, such as in a Gigantamax Max Raid Battle.
In Max Raid Battles, you only have one shot at catching the Pokémon. If that Pokémon appears in its rare or event-promoted Gigantamax form, you won’t want to miss out. If the Pokémon breaks out of an attempted catch after you defeat it in a Max Raid Battle, it will flee.
While Gigantamax Snorlax is an appealing Pokémon, a Heavy Ball would be the smarter play given its incredible mass. If they keep hold of the Master Ball, most players would probably save it for the likes of Gigantamax Charizard.
You don’t need to use the Master Ball on any of the legendary Pokémon in Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield. You’re much better off saving it for the one-chance Max Raid Battles if there’s a particularly powerful Gigantamax Pokémon that you want in your team.
Looking for more Pokemon Sword and Shield Guides?
Want to evolve your Pokemon?
*Outsider Gaming may receive a small commission if you click a link from one of our articles onto a retail website and make a purchase. All prices listed were accurate at the time of publishing.