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So you've conquered every ladder PS! has to offer. OU? Check. Ubers? Check. NU? Check. Balanced Hackmons? Check. Maybe you even got voiced for breaking 1900 on RandBats. But there's a new tier in town, one that can't simply be topped by a couple of broken set-up sweepers and a Scizor: Smogon Doubles.
Smogon Doubles is an interesting hybrid of Ubers, OU, and VGC. With its minimalist banlist and (obviously) different format, you may expect it to tend to lean toward the latter, but bringing six Pokemon, as opposed to four, really does make a world of difference, so don't expect your favorite VGC team to be dominating the meta any time soon, either. In all, Smogon Doubles is like nothing you've ever seen before, a fresh meta just waiting to be explored. Frankly, even though I'm writing this guide, I can't purport to know half of what's good in the tier, because some of it's simply never been tried. Maybe you'll be the one to find something new and spectacular! But before you do, you need to know the basics, and that's where this guide comes in.
Bulk, like everything else, takes on a different role in Doubles, but is at the same time tantalizingly similar to singles. One thing to note is that, though Pokemon can still make use of their typing, those that lack a good defensive typing but do pack the raw stats (such as Cresselia and Dusknoir) can make a splash. Frail Pokemon are especially risky in this meta; while it'd be a lie to say they have no place, they need to be more careful of where they tread. Since the offensive pressure of double-targeting makes switching out of a resist less than ideal, and having to KO /two/ enemies before they can move is a lot harder than KOing just one, sweepers often only get one shot at their job. That's not to say they don't have their place. Anyone mourning the death of stall in OU will be absolutely horrified by this tier. It's impossible to win by walling hits—the only time your Pokemon should be taking an attack is if it needs to set up or if it gets to hit back harder. In general, the art of surviving in Doubles isn't to wall hits; it's to avoid getting hit in the first place via smart play with Protect, attacks, and switches.
The speed game in Doubles can't be refined to a number and set of EVs as in singles because it's just such a mess. A whole host of ways to tilt the field in your favor, such as Trick Room, Tailwind, Icy Wind, Discharge, and weather, become instantly more viable thanks to the extra Pokemon on the field to take advantage of the effect. However, this makes the field nigh-on vertigo inducing when it comes to speed, with the fastest Pokemon changing every couple turns, even if nobody switches out! This makes strategies that rely solely on outspeeding the opponent notoriously unreliable; I'd suggest that you make sure all of your Pokemon, except maybe a suicide lead, have a contingency plan in case they can't outspeed what they were expected to. At this point, you might be tempted to just throw up your hands and say "screw speed tiers! I'll just use a bunch of slow, bulky Pokemon and tank my way through!" I'd caution you against that too. Double battles means double firepower, and there's nothing as upsetting as getting a bunch of walls focus fired to death. In general, a good starting point for those new to doubles is 1) EV your Pokemon like you would in singles and 2) go with the flow.
One thing that instantly struck me when I started playing Doubles was the lack of switching. I found that the concept of momentum and pressure is, in general, a lot less rigid than it is in singles. There are definitely turns where you have the upper or lower hand; however, teammates are a lot more dispensable in this meta, so don't expect to "force a switch." A better idea for maintaining the momentum in a Doubles battle is not to have your best counter in at any given time, but to have a Pokemon in the backseat which forces your opponent to play cautiously, giving you the advantage.
In Doubles, you're still playing with six individual Pokemon. However, a team of six good Pokemon that don't mesh well in a 2v2 situation is like the NFL Pro Bowl: fun to play and full of interesting characters, but overall still a joke. At the same time, a tragic mistake I see all too often from Doubles players is to make three separate "mini-teams" of gimmick strategies that may actually work together but don't mesh with the rest of the team. This is basically a mistake made when you forget your opponent gets a team too, and everything won't go as planned. A good Doubles team is fluid, where every member can be thrown into a situation with all or most other team members to handle what the opponent has to offer. When you truly maximize your team's potential, it'll feel like playing with more than six Pokemon as each combination unlocks new ways to mess with your opponent.
As Ben Franklin once said, "In life, nothing is certain except death and [haxes]." This sage advice certainly holds true in Doubles. Your opponent's team has a win strategy out of the gate too, and I guarantee it's in direct conflict with yours, so the most important thing to remember when teambuilding is that you can't always bank on hail, screens, or Trick Room being up when you want them. The end result is that teams become interesting "half-"somethings as you try to maximize the benefit you get from a favorable field condition while minimizing how crippled you are when things aren't going your way. An Abomasnow on a team of five random Pokemon won't do you too much good; at the same time, please pack a Water resist on your sun team.
Rain is the playstyle for people who just like to let it loose and KO things. Boasting three strong spread moves in Surf, Muddy Water, and Water Spout; a whole host of Swift Swim Pokemon; a strong focus move in Hydro Pump; and a weather starter with surprising staying power and Helping Hand, it's almost as if rain was made for Doubles hyper offense. Defensive synergy plays a minimal role on most rain teams as they instead opt for offensive synergy, making sure that if one Pokemon can't blast a foe to death, another sweeper will be able to.
Hail's main draw is its inherent advantage over other weather teams. While those with primarily singles experience may be shocked to hear it, Abomasnow is the strongest weather starter in Doubles, as it beats all of the others (save for Ninetales) one-on-one and its low Speed means its weather will prevail in the case of a double switch or first-turn scenario. After the opponent's weather is six feet under, it becomes a very uphill battle for them, as you're spamming perfect accuracy Blizzards—which hit both foes, and almost as hard as an Ice Beam would hit one.
If rain is the playstyle for players who like to wreck things, sun is for those who prefer to be a bit more... precise. While it packs its own powerful spread moves in Heat Wave, Lava Plume, and Eruption, sun is truly at its best when it avoids typestacking in favor of a balanced playstyle. Sun confers plenty of small defensive bonuses that make reserved play a real possibility, such as Chlorophyll Sleep Powders, 2/3 Moonlight recoveries *cough*CRESSELIA*cough*, and, when you finally get down to sweeping, a Water neutrality for Pokemon like Volcarona and Victini. Those transferring to the meta from OU will probably find the most comfort in running a sun team; it's more reminiscent of singles than most other playstyles, and incredibly powerful to boot.
Playing sand is made easy by the fact that it only has one real abuser in Excadrill. There are Pokemon that get marginal benefits from its presence such as Landorus and Terrakion, but honestly all you need is a creative way to beat rain, a Sand Streamer (both Hippowdon and Tyranitar have their merits), an Excadrill, and a couple of just plain goodstuffs Pokemon, and you're set. All good sand teams should be prepared for Shaymin-S and any Water-type.
The draw of Trick Room is in its ability to trump the other main field effects. While weathers have to fight it out with each other, a Trick Room team blissfully sets up and pummels away without caring what you have to say about it. Its crippling flaw is its reliance on Trick Room being up to actually accomplish much at all. When playing with a Trick Room team, pay special care to make sure your Trick Room setters are insulated from pain via a Rage Powder or Follow Me user (Amoonguss is a strong choice). Most importantly, remember that just because you have Trick Room up doesn't mean the battle is yours; your opponent can still hit back, even if they're hitting second.
Of course, when you're done with those fancy strategies and just want to get down and roll, you've got your standard Goodstuffs teams. There is a lot that makes these teams viable, but one of the most notable is Tailwind, which allows them to stand a fighting chance against Chlorophyll and its clones. In general, most goodstuffs teams will be Hyper Offense, focused on killing the opponent before it kills them. Typical Pokemon you will see are Dragon-types, Metagross, Shaymin-S, Terrakion, and Thundurus. By focusing on a wide range of offensive coverage and really taking advantage of the fact that they have no most important teammate, Goodstuffs teams can certainly make their mark on the ladder.
Kyurem-B is useful for one thing and one thing only: tearing the opponent up with Dragon Claw. If you have something you want dead, he can probably make it happen. Defensively, he's no slouch either. Though a weakness to Rock Slide hurts, a typical unSTABed one will still only chip away 30-40% of his health thanks to a massive 125 base HP, so you can only imagine what he can do to rain with that Water resistance. Wait—I lied; it has two functions. Kyurem-B on a hail team has the added utility of a mixed set with a super-powered Blizzard, the most reliable spread move in Doubles. [Singles players note: Outrage may sound nice, but it doesn't allow you to select a target, so it's not anywhere near as reliable.]
Gastrodon may be a surprising entry into this threat list, but the same unique typing and ability that serve it so well in singles matches do equally well in doubles. Recall that Storm Drain actually serves to redirect strong Hydro Pumps (including your own) and that Ground STAB is essential in dealing with sun teams, and its placement in the usage stats will make sense.
When you think bulky, ubiquitous Doubles Pokemon, you had better think Cresselia. 120/120/130 defensive stats are the best mixed defenses in the tier, and the plethora of support moves it carries make it a perfect fit on almost any balanced team. With options like Helping Hand, Icy Wind, dual screens, and Thunder Wave, if you can't find a use for Cresselia on your team, it probably just means you're not looking hard enough.
Musharna may look like a poor man's Cresselia, but it has a niche in the Doubles tier of which you'd better be aware if you want to succeed: Telepathy. The ability lets it not be hit by the partner's spread moves, making it the perfect supporter for (typically Choiced) Pokemon who love to spam them. With supportive moves like Imprison (to stop Protects and Trick Rooms), Gravity (for Earthquakes, mostly) and Helping Hand, you'd better be prepared for a blitzkrieg of spread when you see Musharna in Team Preview.
Hitmontop is another quintessential Doubles support Pokemon. While Cresselia specializes in bolstering your own team, Hitmontop is notable for his ability to disrupt the opponent's with timeless Doubles moves such as Wide Guard, Fake Out, and Sucker Punch, and the indescribably useful Intimidate, which drops both foes' Attack stats. Furthermore, he rocks Helping Hand, Feint, and Role Play, an interesting move which can be used to reactivate weather abilities. Don't load him too full, though, because Fighting is an exceptional STAB—you'll want to leave room for a Fighting Gem Close Combat, which is virtually guaranteed to one-shot anything that doesn't resist it.
That's right, the only Pokemon to be unanimously banned from OU returns to the playing field in Smogon Doubles. It's just as strong and powerful in this tier, so you'd better watch out. If you're running a rain or sand team, make sure you have a dedicated counter for Skymin that can outspeed and smack it with an Ice move, because its Seed Flares bring the pain. Fortunately, Air Slash only flinches one Pokemon at a time.
Now I've officially taught you all I know about Doubles. Well, except for anything that might make you good enough to beat me. If you want to get that knowledge (and I'm sure you do!), then there's only one thing left for you to do: go play!
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