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The Video Game Championships (VGC) is a yearly tournament, created by The Pokemon Company International in order to give video game players a large-scale ingame competition, similar to what they have already for the Trading Card Game. The rules, however, are very different from the standard metagame we have created here at Smogon.
The biggest change between the Smogon standard and the VGC rules is that battles are primarily doubles instead of singles. Because of time constraints involved with hosting large-scale tournaments in a single day, doubles was chosen for the faster paced metagame and the inability to stall due to the number of attacks being thrown around each turn. Doubles allows for certain strategies such as Trick Room and Gravity to be more effective, and people going into the VGC with a singles mindset will be unprepared for the myriad of strategies being used.
Another major difference is the level 50 limit, which helps certain Pokemon do things they normally cannot do at level 100. Timid Max Speed Scarf Abomasnow normally hits 360 Speed at level 100; a +Speed Azelf will outspeed Scarf Abomasnow by 1 point. However, at level 50, the same Abomasnow will hit 184 Speed while the same Azelf will only hit 183 Speed. This is big as Abomasnow can now do damage to Azelf before Azelf can even move, something normally not possible in the standard Smogon metagame.
Item clause is another change standard players may not be familiar with: each Pokemon must have a different item from one another, which forces players to be creative when building a team. While creating a team, the creator has to keep this in mind, as one cannot just stick Leftovers or Life Orb on every Pokemon and call it a day. There is a large number of usable items, so finding an item for a certain purpose is not incredibly difficult; the problem arises when you have two similar Pokemon that would love to have the same item, so finding a useful substitute can be difficult.
A concept that might seem foreign to singles players is the lack of entry hazards. Doubles battles are so fast paced and have very few switches that entry hazards are almost non-existent outside of the rare Stealth Rock. What this means is not only an increase in the use of items like Focus Sash and Pokemon like Shedinja and Ho-oh, but that you can no longer rely on including Stealth Rock and Spikes when doing damage calculations while creating a team. VGC teams only consist of 4 Pokemon during the actual battle, severely limiting the effectiveness of trying to stack Spikes or putting Stealth Rock on the field. In nearly every case it is often a better strategy to just attack your opponent, as you will be doing more damage overall than entry hazards would do over the course of the battle.
Formerly, the VGC had banned Uber tier Pokemon such as Kyogre, Mewtwo, and Dialga. Howerver, starting with this year's VGC, a new rule has been added to allow several of these Pokemon, with the only banned Pokemon comprising of the following: Arceus, Celebi, Darkrai, Deoxys, Jirachi, Manaphy, Mew, Phione, and Shaymin. The new rule allows players to use up to two of the following on their team: Dialga, Giratina, Groudon, Ho-Oh, Kyogre, Lugia, Mewtwo, Palkia, and Rayquaza. This is significant, as new strategies will begin to appear and old strategies for previous tournaments will either need to be updated or may not work at all. Weather control will play a large part in this year's VGC with Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza each playing parts in controlling the weather. Rain teams were a popular team archetype with the old rule set, and they will almost certainly increase in popularity with the addition of Kyogre and its ability Drizzle bringing automatic rain.
Similarly to how singles has different team archetypes such as stall, hyper offense, rain, etc., the VGC and doubles in general has quite a few viable team archetypes. The "Big 3" in the past have been Goodstuffs, Trick Room, and Rain Dance. Other types of teams are certainly viable, but these three are best because of their ease of use and great tournament track record. Goodstuffs is just a name given to teams that use Pokemon with no real strategy, but do not mistake no strategy for no synergy: the Pokemon on a Goodstuff team work very well together, covering each other's weaknesses and hitting hard and fast. Trick Room teams make use of the move Trick Room, allowing slower Pokemon to go first for 5 turns, creating a powerful combination of bulk, attacking power, and speed that is tough to deal with. The last of the "Big 3", Rain Dance, is simple: use Rain Dance and sweep the opposing team with Swift Swimmers and rain-boosted Water attacks.
In the upcoming VGC, there are bound to be teams that are better than the rest. Stay tuned to Smogon as the year goes on to discover which team archetypes are among the best, and when and where you can join this year's Video Game Championships!
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