The GTS may be gone, but Wonder Trade is still around under a new name.
Pokémon Sword and Shield removed a number of staples from the Pokémon franchise. The Global Trade System that enabled trainers to trade all over the world was part of the cut. But the popular, Caterpie-ridden Wonder Trade lived to see this generation with a new name. The Surprise Trade found in the Y-Comm system is Pokémon Sword and Shield’s version of the Wonder Trade.
The Surprise Trade feature may not be the same as the GTS, but it does have an addictive, gambling-like quality to it. It’s Nintendo’s version of a loot box system where players can disappoint or thrill each other with Pokémon sent. It can also be a valuable tool for those hoping to get some international Pokémon to use in the Masuda Method to breed shinies. It’s all up to random chance, though. You may get lucky and be paired with someone breeding Dreepy from across the world or you could be paired with your neighbor sending a Caterpie into the system.
How to use the Surprise Trade
The Surprise Trade functions exactly like the old Wonder Trade system with one major catch. Unless you’re in the room with multiple people all accessing the Surprise Trade, you’ll need a Nintendo Online subscription to participate. Trades can be done over local internet, but what’s the point of a Surprise Trade if you’re sitting in the room with the person? You might as well just do a Link Trade in that case.
Since it accesses the internet instead of just local connection, it does require a subscription to Nintendo’s online service. The once free feature is now locked behind a subscription.
You can only access the Y-Comm system after getting the Pokédex and interacting with Professor Magnolia on Route 6. Once you’ve done that, all trading options will open.
Once you have the Y-Comm system and a Nintendo Online subscription, hit Y on your Switch controller to open the Y-Comm. Hit the “+” to connect to the internet. After you’ve connected to the internet, select the second option, Surprise Trade. The game will briefly inform you of what it is through a random trade with another person also using the feature. After agreeing to proceed, you’ll be told to pick a Pokémon from your boxes. You can’t trade a Pokémon from your party.
Select your Pokémon and go about your business. The system will automatically link you with another participant somewhere in the world. In the bottom left corner, you’ll see a “searching” bar next to the Y-Comm icon. Unlike Link Trades, the game won’t pull you into the trade process and cutscene once it completes the Surprise Trade.
When the trade has been completed, the bar at the bottom will turn blue and say “Trade Complete.” Hit Y to initiate the trade cutscene and reveal your new Pokémon.
The newer the game, the more likely you are to get low level Caterpie or early game, first stage Pokémon. As the game ages and more players breed for IVs and shiny Pokémon, the Surprise Trade will become saturated with low level, rarer Pokémon.