After finishing Pokémon Sword and Shield's Isle of Armor expansion, I know one thing to be true: Diglett suck.
Over the course of the past 24 hours, I found every single one of the 150 Alolan Diglett scattered about the Isle of Armor. I finished the new entries in the Pokédex. I even managed to get both versions of Urshifu, the evolved form of the expansion's signature legendary Pokémon, Kubfu.
The grind was real. The payoff? A mixed bag.
Here are some of the things I learned while traversing the Isle of Armor and recommendations for new and veteran players alike.
1. Take it slow
As you might expect, this is not a huge DLC. The story content itself, depending on how you approach it, can amount to just a couple of hours. Don't do what I did and fly through it in order to get all the shiny new toys; it'll leave you in the same spot you probably were in once you originally finished Sword and Shield.
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Unless shiny hunting is your jam or you're a completionist like me, take your time and mosey about the island landscape. Take on some Max Raid Battles. Set your sights on some weather-specific Pokémon. Try to outrun Sharpedo and reel in that massive Wailord in the Workout Sea.
2. Sword > Shield (kind of)
If you own both and don't know which game you want the expansion pass for, go with Sword. Please. I'm begging you.
In terms of new rivals, there's no comparison. Sword's addition, Klara, has some actual character to her and is an interesting foil to the happy-go-lucky Hop in the base game. Avery is an absolute bore of a human being and deserves none of your attention or effort. I actually felt bad for Klara by the end of the story in Sword; meanwhile, I wanted nothing more than Avery to make like his Abra and disappear from the Isle of Armor forever.
That said, Shield soundly wins the version-exclusive battle. Facts only: Heracross is way cooler than Pinsir, and Dragalge is actually useful in the ranked ladder as opposed to Clawitzer, who is as terrible as Avery.
3. Grab those shiny things
There is stuff on the ground e v e r y w h e r e in the expansion. Although it might seem tedious, there is a good incentive for going up to every item spot and nabbing what's there. That incentive: the item used to evolve your Galarian Slowpoke.
Galarica Twigs are a sort-of-rare world drop that appear mostly near trees. I found one in a cave once. It was weird. Whatever. The point is, you need eight of them to create a Galarica Cuff, which you then give to a Slowpoke to evolve it into the awesome-looking Galarian Slowbro. Just look at this absolute unit.
Someone make a "you dropped this, king" meme with the cuff being handed to a Slowbro right now. I'll pay.
4. Embrace the Darkness with Urshifu
I admit, this comes down to preference, but after some hyper training and testing with friends, I'm confident in saying that Single Strike Urshifu, the Dark- and Fighting-type version of Kubfu's evolution, is a better way to go than the Water/Fighting Rapid Strike Style.
Here's the deal: Regardless of which way you go with Urshifu, you get a move that delivers critical hits on every attack. The Single Strike signature is Wicked Blow, which packs all of Urshifu's Dark power into one punch, while Rapid Strike gives you Surging Strikes, a Water move that hits three times, each for a critical hit.
Now, on to the nerdy competitive Pokémon stat stuff.
The thing that really swayed me on which to pick was the presence of Poison Jab as a learnable move for Urshifu and the fact that its ability, Unseen Fist, cuts through Protect and Detect.
That Dark/Fighting combo makes Urshifu very vulnerable to Fairy-type attacks, but Poison Jab, combined with Urshifu's base 97 speed, lets it outspeed all but 12 Fairy-type variants, with only Zacian, Tapu Koko and Xerneas posing a realistic threat to him. If you decide to slap a Choice Scarf on Urshifu, it can make a move before any Fairy type out there that doesn't have a Choice Scarf of its own.
Throw in the ability to Dynamax and break off the Scarf limitation of using only one move, and you have a sweeper that has no real checks in the current Pokémon metagame except maybe a Clefable that has its walling abilities up already.
Once you break through any Fairy-type threats, Wicked Blow can destroy the rest of your opponents regardless of resistances. The attack has 80 base damage, which doesn't sound amazing until you factor in a same-type attack bonus of 50% and a guaranteed critical hit multiplier of 1.5 times that damage. The result? A move with 180 base power unless the other Pokémon has Shell Armor, an ability that blocks critical hits. Shell Armor, like most of the Fairy types that could outspeed Urshifu, is almost nonexistent in the Pokémon metagame.
Unless you're hurting for a Pokémon with Water-type STAB moves on your team, go with Single Strike Style Urshifu. After a couple hours theorycrafting it, I still have no idea what could reliably take this thing down.
5. Cheat on the Diglett hunt
I decided I was going to find every single Diglett on my own. That was a bad choice. The rewards are solid if you're into the Alolan (or, in Slowpoke's case, Kantonian) versions of Pokémon, and the gift for reaching 100 Diglett is pretty great, but if you get stumped, use a guide. There's no point to prolonging the search for those three little hairs poking up above the ground. The reward for catching 'em all isn't worth the time.
If you don't want spoilers for what you get from milestones for finding the Diglett, stop here. If you're curious whether you want to power through Korok Seed Lite search, here's what you get from it. Each of the Pokémon have a special ability to make the prize a little sweeter, with the exception of the reward for 40.
Five Diglett returned: Alolan Meowth Ability: Rattled -- Dark-, Ghost- and Bug-type moves scare the Pokémon and boost its Speed stat.
10: Kantonian Slowpoke Ability: Regenerator -- restores a little HP when withdrawn from battle.
20: Alolan Vulpix
Ability: Snow Warning -- the Pokémon summons a hailstorm when it enters a battle.
30: Alolan Sandshrew Ability: Slush Rush -- boosts the Pokémon's Speed stat in a hailstorm.
40: Alolan Raichu with Signature Ability Ability: Surge Surfer -- doubles the Pokémon's Speed stat on Electric Terrain.
50: Alolan Marowak Ability: Rock Head -- protects the Pokémon from recoil damage.
75: Alolan Exeggutor Ability: Harvest -- may create another Berry after one is used.
100: An Alolan starter based on your base game starter choice
If you picked Grookey: Rowlet Ability: Long Reach -- The Pokémon uses its moves without making contact with the target.
If you picked Sobble: Popplio Ability: Liquid Voice -- All sound-based moves become Water-type moves.
If you picked Scorbunny: Litten Ability: Intimidate -- The Pokémon intimidates opposing Pokémon upon entering battle, lowering their Attack stat.
151: Alolan Diglett Ability: Sand Force -- Boosts the power of Rock-, Ground- and Steel-type moves in a sandstorm.
Side note: This dude is actually astonished that you found all of his Diglett. He absolutely does not care about them, nor do they care about him. The first Diglett you find actually begs to leave buddy's care after you find the rest of his friends. I would not be surprised if these little guys bail on him the second you turn around. This time, they'd be better off leaving their heads far below ground, just in case.