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Triple battles are a new style of battling introduced in Generation 5 where you send out three Pokemon at once on the field, similar to how you send two Pokemon out at once in doubles. However, in triple battles, an additional element is involved: the positioning of your Pokemon on the battlefield. Pokemon can either be positioned at either end of the field (positions 1 and 3 in Team Preview), or they can be in the center (position 2). Pokemon that are at the corners can only attack the central Pokemon of either side and the Pokemon opposite them, with the exception of certain attacks such as Acrobatics, and they can also only be attacked by these Pokemon. On the other hand, Pokemon in the center on either side can both attack and be attacked by every other Pokemon on the field.
How does this affect battles? Deciding which Pokemon should be in the center is very important, as this Pokemon is the best-placed offensively on your team, but also the worst-placed defensively. As the central Pokemon is very vulnerable to being KOed, Protect is an excellent choice to allow it to survive an extra turn and also potentially waste an opponent's attacks. The central Pokemon is often the subject of several mindgames in triple battles, and must hence be given careful thought.
With two extra Pokemon on the field compared to doubles, the level of prediction is increased considerably from doubles. You must now consider what three different Pokemon might do while deciding your moves, and in the case of a team built around a powerful strategy such as spamming spread moves, one wrong step can you put you back by a long way.
Similar to doubles, triples has an abundant selection of global effects that players can build teams around. Sun, rain, sandstorm, Trick Room and Tailwind—and to a lesser extent, Gravity—are all available to players to use in their teams. Sun, rain, and sandstorm all aid different sweepers that you need no introduction to, Trick Room transforms several slow sweepers into offensive powerhouses, and Tailwind does the same for many Pokemon that lie in the middle Speed tiers. Gravity is a bit of an oddball, but its boost in accuracy to several powerful moves can allow Pokemon to hit harder than usual.
However, global effects are not the only options you have! Teams can be built around different support options as well. Follow Me and Rage Powder are very useful to allow a Pokemon to set up, while Helping Hand can be used to aid a sweeper in doling the pain out on its opponents. Double Helping Hand is a niche strategy that is built around providing the central Pokemon two Helping Hands each turn to help it sweep an opponent with a spread move. It isn't the most effective strategy out there, but it can take someone unawares and destroy their team.
Fake Out is a very valuable move in triples, just as in doubles, as interrupting an opponent's strategy, even if in part and for just one turn can be game-changing. Quick Guard helps to counter the otherwise common priority moves by preventing them from having any effect for a whole turn. This can sometimes help a weakened sweeper survive an extra turn and do more damage. Wide Guard on the other hand acts as a counter to spread moves, preventing them from doing damage at all for the whole turn. In case of a team built around spamming spread moves, going a turn without doing damage can be a major setback.
Like doubles, triples offers a myriad of playstyles. Even under the different playstyles, people opt for various sub-strategies based on the Pokemon they select. However, nearly all teams fall under one (or more) of the following categories:
Similar to doubles, sun is a common strategy in Triples. With close to no entry hazards to rain on its parade, sun becomes dramatically more useful. Ninetales is always present on these teams for obvious reasons, and is likely to be seen as a lead in the corner. Several Fire-types have access to Heat Wave, which they can use as their spread move of choice. Backed by STAB and sunlight, it does quite a number even when doing neutral damage. Sun is one of the reasons hail is very badly off, as even under hail, fast sun sweepers can burn their opponents to a crisp. However, sun must fear rain and sand, as their sweepers have a great advantage over sun's.
Rain is a very powerful playstyle in triples, with a variety of sweepers it can pick to fill the five slots alongside Politoed. Generally, Kingdra, Kabutops, Ludicolo, Thundurus, Tornadus are the sweepers you might possibly encounter when playing a rain team. all of whom are capable of washing the game away. Rain sweepers hit hard and fast, and are difficult to take down. Even a Pokemon such as Toxicroak might find room on a rain team by virtue of its access to priority and the small benefits it derives from the weather, making rain teams highly unpredictable, and nigh-unbeatable if played well.
Sand is the third weather-based playstyle that dominates triple Battles. Sand teams usually use a Tyranitar rather than Hippowdon because of its offensive presence and rely on the spread moves Rock Slide(which has an infuriating 30% chance of flinching) and Earthquake to do a lot of damage. Excadrill, Landorus and Garchomp are prominent members of these teams. The passive damage side-effect is not used much in triple Battles due to the fast-paced nature of the metagame, with the exception of KOing Pokemon that survived due to a Focus Sash. Battles between sand and rain Teams often come down to which team gets their weather up at the start, as switching carries a very high opportunity cost in triples.
Trick Room is the saving grace of those Pokemon you always wanted to use, but were too slow. Trick Room becomes even better in triples than it is in doubles, with two lethal sweepers capable of piling on the damage in the four turns they have. With the Trick Room inducer in one corner, with some luck, the opponent's best shot at eliminating the sweeper might be at the opposite corner, giving you free reign to attempt to rip through the entire team. With the fast-paced play of triples, it is generally unsafe to use your own Trick Room to reverse the opponent's as there is the potential of being teamed up upon by the other Pokemon. Fortunately, dealing with Trick Room users that use Follow Me to guarantee setup has become a lot easier as Fake Out has been bumped up to the same priority as Follow Me, but this in no way reduces the potential threat they can pose.
Gravity is a lesser seen playstyle in triples, but by no means is it ineffective. Gravity teams aim to utilize the 66% accuracy boost they gain to use powerful, inaccurate moves. The boost in power they derive from using these moves allows them to deal more damage, which is crucial to using priority attacks as well. As a bonus, Gravity teams can function to a limited extent outside the global effect in a pinch, though the lower accuracy on their main moves is a cause for concern.
Tailwind is the playstyle of choice for teams aiming to use Pokemon that are too fast for Trick Room. These teams can stand up to the Speed of sun-boosted Chlorophyll sweepers, rain-boosted Swift Swim ones, and even the Excadrill on sand teams. However, they have a major weakness to Trick Room teams, which is a detrimental factor when using such teams, though Prankster Taunt users can mitigate this weakness to an extent. Another problem these teams face is that Tailwind lasts for only four rounds, including the turn it is used, which can be insufficient to sweep the other team. However, a smart player can attempt to play around these weaknesses, and Tailwind teams should not be underestimated.
Goodstuffs is the term used for teams that do not use any particular global effect based strategy, but rather focus on team synergy to overcome the other team. Several teams of this genre resort to tactics such as spamming spread moves and abusing Helping Hand, but there are also teams that aim to use their wide coverage to deal with a wide range of Pokemon. Priority is very common on these teams, as they do not have power boosts from weather to OHKO all their opponents. Even if they are not built around spread moves, these teams are likely to have one or two somewhere for the purposes of dealing with multiple Pokemon at once. These teams are very dangerous, and should not be underestimated.
I hope this article educated you on the basics of triple battles. The triples metagame is more different from doubles than you would realize at first, with the positioning mechanic. Triples is available as a format on Pokemon Online, so get out there and try it out!
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