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Entering a metagame for the first time is always difficult, more so if the metagame in question is different from the plethora of singles metagames Smogon has to offer. While singles is considered the default in competitive play, Doubles brings a fresh spin on things with its fast-paced 2v2 format. Starting out in Doubles can be a hard ride, though, as the lack of knowledge and biases picked up from singles play can lead to mistakes and misconceptions that would only hinder your growth early on. What this article plans to do is to clear up those misconceptions and provide you, dear reader, with facts in order to help you improve as a Doubles player. Whether you're a newbie to competitive Pokémon or have experience in some other metagame, this article should help ease your adjustment to competitive Doubles.
Doubles battles are about applying offensive pressure due to how quickly damage can occur, as each side has two active Pokémon at a time. Because of how quickly things can shift and change, Doubles games are quick compared to singles; think 8-15 turns compared to singles's 20-ish or more (possibly a hundred-ish if it's something like stall vs. stall x_x).
While you might face opponents packing stall or similar defense-oriented teams in singles, you'll find none of those in the Doubles metagame. In Doubles, playing passively or defensively and hoping to win through passive damage is ineffective because such a style can easily get overrun when dealing with two strong attackers at a time. In this kind of metagame, there are only attackers, the ones who lay the hurt on foes, and supporters, Pokémon that help the attackers do their jobs through numerous methods such as redirection support or Speed control. There are no walls on a team to block threats and prevent foes from doing damage. A reason these walls, with examples being Skarmory, Chansey, and Hippowdon, are ineffective is they can't realistically cover both opposing Pokémon at once and can even succumb to double targeting, all while being a dud on the field, as, aside from taking hits and waiting for foes to faint, they can't really do much else.
That basically means that running stall or similar styles in Doubles wouldn't be a good idea. Anyway, you can deal more damage to the opponent's team by just simply attacking than by stalling because games don't last long enough for passive damage to take its toll. On a similar note, entry hazards are rare in Doubles because there are less turns in which battlers can rack up damage and also less switching in general. One hazard that's uncommonly seen is Stealth Rock because of how much easier it is to set compared with other hazards while having considerable perks, such as turning some 2HKOs into OHKOs, hitting floating foes, dealing with Mega Charizard Y and Talonflame for teams weak to them, and doing considerable damage with just one layer. Because entry hazards rarely pose a threat in Doubles, forms of entry hazard control such as Rapid Spin and Defog are non-necessities.
There are numerous moves, tactics, and mechanics that, while nearly non-existent in singles, are something to keep in mind in Doubles play. One of the most important moves in Doubles to consider is Protect. While it only has niche uses in singles play, such as for scouting and stalling for recovery from Poison Heal or Leech Seed, Protect is arguably the most useful move in Doubles and a staple on many common sets. Protect's main claim to fame is its utility; it's useful for letting a Pokémon avoid damage without needing to switch out and let a teammate take the incoming hit, as well as stopping an opposing Pokémon's attack while possibly letting a partner take out the attacker. Aside from that, Protect's other uses include blocking incoming Fake Outs and stalling out field conditions such as Trick Room, weather, or an opponent's Tailwind. Protect's cousins, Wide Guard and the lesser used Quick Guard, are also prevalent, as they prevent both the user and its partner from receiving damage from spread moves (more on this later) and priority moves respectively, albeit only those moves.
Another Doubles-specific tactic to watch out for is redirection support. Redirection support involves a move used by a Pokémon to "redirect" an attack aimed at a partner, causing it to target the user instead. This gives the redirector's partner freedom to KO an opponent or set up without fear of receiving damage. Redirection comes in the form of Follow Me and Rage Powder, most commonly from Togekiss and Amoonguss respectively, though Jirachi and Volcarona are also good users of the move (watch out, though, as Rage Powder can't redirect attacks from Grass-types!). This tactic is less effective in the face of spread moves, however, as they can hit both foes at once and effectively render the support useless. On that note, another mechanic to remember is spread moves, which hit both foes at once. Spread moves are useful for damaging an opposing team more efficiently than a single-target move would, with the most notable examples being Rock Slide, Heat Wave, and Earthquake. However, while they can hit both opponents, spread moves that can hit a partner, such as Discharge and Surf, are not recommended, as they can damage your own team, with the only exception being Earthquake because Pokémon that float and have a Ground-type immunity are generally common. Another thing to note is that spread moves that hit two foes are reduced to 75% percent of their listed Base Power.
There's also some other minor stuff to keep in mind. For one, a Sitrus Berry is generally more useful than Leftovers for most Pokémon that would like recovery, as a Sitrus Berry can recover much more health at a quicker rate compared with Leftovers, and most Pokémon don't stay on the field long enough for Leftovers to match up. The exception would be Substitute users, as they often stay on the field for extended periods of time and, when paired with Protect, they make better use of the gradual healing. Others to remember would include Fake Out, which is useful for stopping the opponent for a turn and allowing a partner to set up, and Helping Hand, which is nifty for boosting the damage output of a partner to ensure KOs.
Speed has always been important even in singles play, but in Doubles, it's even more fundamental. Speed is one of the more important factors to take into account while playing Doubles. As stated in the first section, Doubles is an offensive metagame, meaning that you have to, in a sense, have better offense than your opponent. Well, to do that, you need the offensive advantage in order to pressure opposing Pokémon and get KOs, and generally, to have that advantage, your Pokémon has to outspeed your opponent's Pokémon.
Basically, the side of the field with the Speed advantage is the stronger side, as that side has more actively threatening Pokémon and thus applies greater pressure. The presence of Pokémon that can outspeed their foes, such as Shaymin-S and Choice Scarf Landorus-T, can be invaluable; with their Speed, they can provide "support" by being able to pressure and take out foes that would otherwise threaten a partner. This also applies to weather-based sweepers, namely Chlorophyll Venusaur and Swift Swim Ludicolo and Kingdra, as they can outspeed and pressure most foes and, in Venusaur's case, incapacitate a threat of its choosing with Sleep Powder (note the lack of Sleep Clause in Doubles!).
Of course, because Speed is very important, means of achieving and maintaining it, dubbed "Speed control", are assets to any team; every good team has one way or another of achieving and maintaining the Speed advantage. Tailwind is a useful field condition, as it doubles the Speed of your team members for four turns, turning what would be Pokémon with middling Speed into Speed demons. Another similar field condition is Trick Room, which instead reverses turn order per priority bracket, essentially making what would be slow Pokémon such as Amoonguss and Mega Camerupt "fast" for five turns. However, this doesn't reverse priority order, meaning that moves such as Aqua Jet still have priority over other moves. Thunder Wave, unlike the previous two, has a much smaller scale but a much more lasting effect; paralyzed opponents have their Speed reduced to 25% and would be outsped by a majority of Pokémon. The spread moves Icy Wind and Electroweb lower the Speed of opposing Pokémon by one stage, making it a nifty, more situational form of Speed control, but it's better off supplementing a team already running Tailwind.
If you compare OU's banlist to DOU's, you'll notice that the singles metagame has more banned Pokémon. Indeed, you'll find that some Pokémon that are normally off-limits in singles are free to be used in Doubles, with examples including Mega Kangaskhan and Aegislash. The Doubles metagame is different from singles and thus has separate tiering; for example, Deoxys-D's entry hazard-laying potential that was once considered too much for OU to handle isn't enough to make it relevant in DOU. Another example would be the lack of Sleep Clause in Doubles because, unlike in singles, there are ways to counterplay sleep. However, Dark Void is still banned, as it's a spread move that can put two Pokémon to sleep at a time.
By nature, Doubles is a fairly self-balancing metagame, as there are at least four active Pokémon in a single turn, which means that it would be hard to consider one specific Pokémon "broken" unless it had exceptional qualities that proved otherwise. Don't worry about any of the "Ubers in singles" Pokémon being too good, though; while some of them are useful in their own right, such as Mega Kangaskhan, Aegislash, and Shaymin-S, others aren't even that threatening and are barely relevant, including Deoxys-D and Greninja. Simply put, these Pokémon are just additional threats to keep in mind, so don't fret too much when you face one of them! :D
As a rule of thumb, only 670+ BST Pokémon that are banned in singles are also banned here in Doubles.
Doubles is not a metagame where gimmicks can thrive; rather, gimmicks are very bad. If you don't know what to consider a gimmick, in Doubles, they're basically seemingly effective strategies that involve a Pokémon interacting with a partner but have a tendency to fail in reality. There are (sadly) too many examples to give; a few examples of gimmicks are Skill Swap + Regigigas / Slaking, Discharge + Volt Absorb / Lightning Rod, and Frost Breath / Storm Throw + Anger Point. While these strategies might look good on paper, they lose to any reasonably good player, who could then stop a setup. Relying on these gimmicks means that, if your opponent stops your setup, you're at a pretty huge disadvantage, especially considering that most Pokémon used in these strategies are pretty bad to begin with (Spinda x_x).
Remember that, while you try setting up, your opponent can easily intervene and prevent your gimmick from succeeding, quickly putting a halt to your game plan. Relying on a gimmick in Doubles can only lead to multiple losses on the ladder and will make other community members look down on you for using such "nooby" strategies. Instead of trying to build a team with gimmicks, one should build a team like how they would in singles, by keeping in mind synergy as well as Doubles strategies and trends. If you have trouble, though, it doesn't hurt to try using a sample team to get a feel for the meta and how it plays.
Doubles can be a hard metagame to get into, but it can also prove to be one of the most fun metagames around! If you want any help, feel free to join #doubles on IRC or the PS! Doubles Room where we also discuss Doubles as a whole. Don't forget to read some of our resource threads, such as the Doubles Overview, Benchmarks, and Q&A and the Viability Rankings. Watching replays of high-level matches doesn't hurt either if you want to see how great players think and play. Finally, remember that learning how to play Doubles isn't just about reading threads and watching replays; go and try the metagame for yourself! Now get out there and have fun in Doubles. :D
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