In Pokemon Sword and Shield there is a mechanic known as Surprise Trading. Surprise trading involves you sending out a Pokemon to a random trainer in return for one of theirs. There is no way to control what you are given or who you trade with.
The idea is that by doing this you can get access to Pokemon outside of your reach. For example, version exclusives, multiple starters and rare shiny Pokemon. I wanted to find out if this is an efficient way of filling out your Pokedex and what your odds are on getting favorable trades.
Preparing To Surprise Trade
First things first, don’t be that guy. No one wants to receive Route 1 garbage. Even if it is a random trade, there’s no harm in trying to make it favorable for both parties. Fortunately, there’s many good ways to fill out your collection with trade-worthy Pokemon.
The simplest and most obvious is trying to complete the Pokedex yourself. This is bound to leave you with an array of unusual, somewhat rare Pokemon to trade. Consider the likes of Dreepy, Sinistea, Ditto, Rotom etc. Whilst hardly uncatchable for the average player, they’re a hell of a lot more appealing than Skwovet or Nickit.
A better option would be to mass breed something interesting. By up-breeding you can ensure that pretty much everything you hatch will have decent IVs. Combo that with a nice shiny you want to hunt and you’ll have boxes of tradable Pokemon in no time. Case in point, on Ultra Sun and Moon I have fifteen boxes worth of Emolga.
The Less Obvious Benefits of Surprise Trades
Sure, you get a chance at obtaining version exclusives, shinies, and unique starters. However, that’s not necessarily the best reason to Surprise Trade.
In Pokemon Sword and Shield there is a lottery like most other Pokemon games. This lottery works by comparing a random set of five numbers against that of all your Pokemon trainers’ IDs. By matching a certain amount of numbers, you can win various prizes.
One matched number nets you one Moomoo Milk. Two matched numbers gets you a PP UP whilst three is a PP Max. Four earns you a Rare Candy and last, but certainly not least, five gets you a Master Ball.
By mass Surprise Trading, you greatly increase the odds of getting better prizes. For comparison, with no trading you have roughly a 1/30000 chance of winning a Master Ball. Without exploits, you can only roll the Loto-ID once per day. That means on average it would take over 82 years to get a single Master Ball.
By adding more and more trainer IDs to your collection via Surprise Trades, you can bring down these odds drastically. Exact numbers are difficult to gauge but getting multiple Master Balls fairly quickly isn’t out of the question. Especially, if you combine this method with Austin John’s infinite Master Ball method.
Surprisingly, Master Balls are seriously valuable in Sword and Shield. As a guest in a shiny Gigantamax raid, you only have a 9% chance of a successful catch. Having an item that skips that chance roll is invaluable in the face of a one-shot shiny Pokemon. In many Pokemon Discord channels, people will trade shinies and perfect IV Pokemon just to get a Master Ball.
Are the Pokemon Worth It?
Most people choose to Surprise Trade for their shot at version exclusives, shinies, and starters. After all, it’s one of the few ways to still obtain version exclusives since Game Freak gutted the Global Trade System. Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend this method as a way to complete your Pokedex.
I surprise traded for a total of three hours to gather information for this article. In that time I received seven version exclusives. In order: Spritzee, Galarian Ponyta, Larvitar, Deino, Larvitar, Deino, and Galarian Corsola. Since I am playing Pokemon Sword, both Deinos were obtainable anyway leaving me with just 5 unobtainable Pokemon. Two of these were duplicates bringing us to a total of four version exclusive Pokedex entries in three hours.
To be fair, you can evolve Larvitar into two other forms, Spritzee once, Corsola once, and Ponyta once. This would make for 9 Shield exclusive Pokedex entries out of the total of the 30 available. If I could say confidently that nine hours of Surprise Trading would net you every version exclusive, I’d say this was worth it. After all, it’s not like you have to do much whilst trading.
Unfortunately, as you trade more and more the odds of receiving what you want go down. I already received multiple duplicates this early on so you can imagine how frustrating it can get in the later stages.
Also, some version exclusives just aren’t traded very often. Notice how the ones I tend to get are arguably the more interesting of them. Hardly anyone is going to trade a Lotad, Lunatone, Scraggy or Rufflet.
Conclusion? It’s Alright.
Yeah, that’s about it really. Surprise Trades may be a okay method of obtaining a few version exclusives here and there. However, I doubt you’ll be able to complete your Pokedex with this alone. I’d instead recommend checking out trading discords like Ditto’s Den, Toto’s Gen 8 Pokemon League, and StarDust VS.
These all have trading channels and their friendly communities will no doubt be happy to help you out. For more dedicated, competitive focused fans there are plenty of opportunities to trade for good IV Pokemon there too.
The final method you can use is rerolling raids. Although you can only receive raids for your own version’s exclusive Pokemon, other people can broadcast their otherwise unobtainable exclusives. In other words, if you wanted a Galarian Rapidash, you can technically catch them being shared on the Y-COMM. This isn’t an overly reliable method but is certainly an option, especially whilst waiting for Surprise Trades to go through.