On Chansey in SM DOU, and How We Got Here

By Memoric. Released: 2019/10/06.
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Art by MiniArchitect

Art by MiniArchitect.

You've probably seen some SM DOU games like this one, looked at one of the teams, and gone something like, "huh, why does it feel like they just slapped a Chansey on it?" Maybe you're a singles player, a casual follower of doubles who's heard that stall doesn't work there and that, according to this pretty damn old article, "doubles is an offense-oriented metagame" where "running stall or similar styles in Doubles wouldn't be a good idea" or some nonsense; maybe you're an old veteran of Smogon Doubles who recently came back to the scene, having left it around the time Deoxys-A and the boys were terrorizing the metagame circa 2017; or maybe you're just a DOU player who's curious or confused to how we got here, to the point where we're running Chansey, of all Pokémon, in a tier where every maxim, precept, koan, verse, word of wisdom that we ever had before the generation started pointed that we literally should be doing the exact opposite, and you ask yourself:

"What the heck happened in Doubles?"

Setting the Stage

Smogon Doubles has historically had a relatively fast playing field, at least compared to Smogon's flagship singles tiers. With two Pokémon on each side, the dynamic had always been for teams to constantly trade blows and fight for an offensive advantage at a breakneck pace. Sure, while some passive support Pokémon like Amoonguss and Cresselia do make their appearances, that's all they ever are—support Pokémon; DOU does not really have the space and time to allow stall builds and strategies to thrive. This is pretty much why the initial rise of Chansey, (one of) the most heinous Pokémon in singles OU and stall epitomized, was as perplexing as it was, but over time it solidified itself as one of the tier's sturdiest supporters, as it capitalized on what has been a peculiar environment in SM, at least in comparison to the past BW and XY metagames.

If anyone told me before SM that Snorlax was going to be sent to DUbers and Chansey was going to see relevant usage, I would have thought they were insane. However, the former actually happened, and this article is a spotlight of the latter... so clearly SM was a generation of epic plot twists. Indeed—with a ban on Mega Kangaskhan as well earlier in the generation, SM DOU surprisingly stands as the generation of the rise of fat Normal-types (2/3 of which use Seismic Toss). We can all point the blame for why the metagame went where it did to the environment of SM itself, and it all starts out with the Alolan Guardians; the presence of a dominant Fairy-type in nearly every team made Fighting-types quite hard to utilize. Next up were Mega Salamence and Mega Metagross, both stalwart build-around Mega Evolutions that also sent Fighting-types packing on the regular. Deoxys-A also terrorized DOU once, and Landorus-T is still a constant presence... just in terms of fit alone, Fighting-types stood no chance.

Of course, this is a Chansey article—and I still have yet to explain how it's able to get away with its paltry Defense. This is even considering that this is a doubles format, where it can easily find itself overrun by double targeting. Well, one only has to look at the DOU Viability Rankings to see that the first two Pokémon on the list are the Intimidating Landorus-T and Incineroar; their chokehold on the metagame is so tight, I actually linked the DOU VR thread knowing that line will never get outdated (sue me if they actually drop). With Intimidate being present on teams one way or another, whether it be through the two cats, Mega Salamence through its regular forme, another top Mega Evolution in Mega Manectric, or the niche Scrafty, physical attackers can easily find their blows stifled to a point Chansey can tolerate—and this isn't even considering the fact that some teams even run two Intimidate users! SM DOU is simply so unkind to physical attackers, with special attackers being much more in favor; this is manifested in its most apparent form in Landorus-T commonly running special sets with Earth Power, Hidden Power Ice, and utility moves. Chansey capitalizes on this development to its most extreme; with the metagame being comprised of attackers that barely dent it, Chansey stands as an effective pick that can favorably match up against most foes.

Though this is a minor point compared to the last two, it also plays into Chansey's favor that the speed of play in SM DOU is as low as it is, with the past BW and XY metagames being much faster. With less demand on offensive positioning and dynamic trades, Chansey can have the time it needs to actually fulfill its job as a nifty supporter; this also lets it get away with running only Seismic Toss as an attack, with chip damage being more significant when teams are generally bulky and Pokémon don't simply drop at the snap of a finger.

Chansey, Metagaming Fiend

If we know anything about Chansey, it's that the best thing it can do at any given time is just sit on the field, do a bunch of utility jobs, and chip down a foe or three. That's what it did in singles OU—and what it continues to do in DOU, bless its soul. It can soak up attacks like nobody's business, all the while taking advantage of what its vast support movepool has on offer. With various tools such as Heal Pulse, Stealth Rock, Icy Wind, Helping Hand, Ally Switch... the possibilities are endless, as aside from the mandatory Seismic Toss and Soft-Boiled, its moveset is quite customizable to one's needs and preferences.

Now, going back to the very first question raised in this article, why does it look like people just slap on a Chansey on their teams? Well, with how Doubles is and what Chansey does, that is pretty much exactly what happens. Chansey serves as a stellar general-purpose pivot thanks to the numerous favorable matchups it has, allowing it to spruce teams up by providing them a nifty piece for a defensive backbone and a support option in one. Its ability to provide handy healing with Heal Pulse or additional leverage in prediction with Ally Switch, on top of its ability to soak up hits like a sponge, makes it a nifty choice for teams in need of a defensive piece, with its support kit useful for getting tactical value over time. Generally speaking, its ability to come in on key threats and put in chip damage with Seismic Toss defines its role in the teams it gets selected for; the fact that it can cover so much on a very catch-all basis makes it a generally good choice for teams.

In addition, depending on the matchup, it can come out as a situational wincon that can take games single-handedly; with Toxic in its arsenal and opposing physical attackers down and out, Chansey can find itself capable of chipping opposing teams to submission. This quality of being a Pokémon that can win games outright is something that few have, and in DOU it's often only belonging to setup sweepers like Volcarona. Even outside of outright victories, Chansey can utilize Toxic to put bulky foes such as Porygon2 and Mega Latias on a timer, and the incremental increase in damage is generally nifty, as Chansey supports its teammates within the same timeframe the poison ticks down.

However, don't take this as an invitation to think that maybe, maybe stall is viable in SM DOU. It is indeed true that Chansey is getting away with running Toxic, and the metagame is slower than it was in the past gens; realize, though, that Toxic is merely a tech option, albeit a great one, for certain key matchups, and the circumstances that have always kept stalling strategies at bay are still the same. Stall teams will always face the problem of having to deal with double targeting, as well as finding actual ways to generate chip damage. The nature of facing two threats at once means that individual Pokémon are unlikely to wall an opposing side, constantly finding themselves threatened one way or another. It can also be difficult to utilize entry hazards for long-term plans; not only are they difficult to stack up, games also do not go as long as singles ones, i.e. the chip damage won't have the time to rack up and be fatal. Chansey's excellence in DOU is purely at the individual level, as its role is not exactly to stall for a win but rather to pivot, soak up hits, and provide handy support; while it can take some victories with Toxic at times, this is not the primary reason for it being viable but rather a circumstantial bonus. Simply put, Skarmory, Toxapex, Mega Sableye and the rest of the goons should stay in singles OU where they belong.

An In-depth Look

Chansey

Simply put, Chansey is primarily focused on supporting its teammates while having the fewest possible problems with physical attackers. This reflects in the ideal EV spread and item choice for it; Eviolite is what allows Chansey to wall threats the way it does, jacking up its Special Defense to colossal heights and its Defense to a plane of respectability, with the full EV investment in Defense and a Bold nature allowing it to squeeze out as much as it can from the 1.5x boost. Eviolite is pretty much why Chansey is used over Blissey, since the increased physical sturdiness is much preferred. While status moves are not necessarily favored in SM DOU due to Tapu Fini's popularity discouraging their use, Natural Cure is handy, as it can heal poison from stray Toxics that specifically target the kind of bulky Pokémon that Chansey belongs to; if you're not overly concerned with this due to preferring to play faster or already having a Tapu Fini on a team, Healer can be a decent alternative to instead patch up teammates, though this is much more situational and unreliable.

Seismic Toss and Soft-Boiled are the set's non-negotiables, with the former preventing Chansey from being a sitting duck as it deals notable chip damage and the latter granting it the longevity to continue supporting its team and pivoting. These two moves accomplish the two basic objectives that Chansey will be doing on the field, which are to whittle foes down to a point where teammates can easily finish them off and keep itself healthy so it can actually do its countless other jobs. The other moves are basically up to preference or team composition, though Heal Pulse and Toxic are among the most favored in its vast arsenal simply due to their relatively more universal utility. Heal Pulse allows Chansey to handily support its bulky teammates like Zygarde, Tapu Fini, and Kyurem-B by keeping their HP up, allowing them to keep doing their thing throughout a battle. Toxic, meanwhile, provides Chansey with a way to apply continuous pressure as it does other tasks; in particular, Toxic is a handy tool for shutting down bulky foes such as Mega Latias, Porygon2, opposing Chansey, and Tapu Fini (after dispelling Misty Terrain).

Stealth Rock finds respectable use as well; the entry hazard is generally useful for racking up chip damage over time, especially considering how Chansey can force switches into specific answers. Ally Switch, a nifty tool for a more aggressive style of play, can be very handy for allowing Chansey to cover frailer partners, allowing them to attack another day. Other unlisted alternatives also exist, such as Helping Hand to provide a cheeky damage boost and Icy Wind for some handy speed control. Regardless, when thinking of how you want to customize your Chansey, think of what you specifically want it to offer for your team and how it fits; while Heal Pulse and Toxic are generally all-purpose and cover the most ground, switching them up for a better fit can pay dividends—but this also come at particular opportunity costs. For example, while you may find running Stealth Rock really handy for the chip damage, it comes at the cost of Chansey's ability to heal allies or poison foes. There aren't necessarily any wrong choices, but as Chansey does have a bit of four-moveslot syndrome, it's best to think critically.

Building with the Blob

Mega Charizard Y Kyurem-B Mega Salamence

Now, building with Chansey can be a pretty simple task really; after all, people can get away with just slapping it on teams. Considering it's a Normal-type, it's unlikely that adding it to a team will create the problem of stacking weaknesses. The one and foremost consideration that needs to be made with Chansey is, simply, to make sure that the team does not become too passive. Chansey is already the definition of durdle in Pokémon; it's critical to realize that a support Pokémon's effectiveness in doubles play hinges on what it's actually supporting, and if a team does not have enough pieces to capitalize on Chansey's support, things will often just go south really fast. That being said, pairing Chansey up with hard hitters such as Mega Charizard Y, Kyurem-B, and Mega Salamence can prove to be really effective, as they all appreciate Chansey's ability to soak up hits and rejuvenate them. It's important to strike a balance of supporters and attackers in a team; with Chansey already taking up a full slot to take hits, it's imperative that the rest of the crew be bulky attackers if you're still interested in having a dedicated defensive backbone.

Incineroar Landorus-T Mega Manectric

Pokémon that have Intimidate make for particularly fine partners, as they are pretty handy insurance against the few physical attackers that can break Chansey, such as Subzero Slammer Kyurem-B, Kartana, and Tapu Bulu. With Chansey's laughably pathetic Defense, it can find itself quickly overrun by opposing physical hitters if they're left unchecked, limiting Chansey considerably. Incineroar, Landorus-T, and Mega Manectric all make fine examples here, as aside from being already top metagame threats, they can provide the Intimidate support that Chansey appreciates. The three of them having a solid matchup against Kartana and Mega Metagross is a nice bonus as well.

Mega Metagross Tapu Fini Zygarde

Bulky attackers will appreciate having Chansey as a teammate; while Chansey can pivot for them on demand, this type of Pokémon can also maximize the gains from having Heal Pulse support. Mega Metagross, by far the metagame's best all-purpose attacker, will appreciate Chansey's treatment greatly, as it often capitalizes on its bulk and nifty typing to wrest for position; with Heal Pulse, Mega Metagross can have its second wind, as the health grants its team more tactical leverage. Setup attackers also appreciate Chansey's Heal Pulse greatly; Calm Mind Tapu Fini, which practically doubles as both a pivot and nifty mid- to late-game sweeper, will love having actual recovery paired with its already formidable bulk. Both Choice Band and Dragon Dance variants of Zygarde also value Chansey; whether it be for the ability to keep coming onto the field and breaking or the additional chances to set up and sweep, Heal Pulse support will keep Zygarde constantly churning its value throughout the battle.

Tapu Bulu Tapu Koko Tapu Lele

If you're running Toxic, having an Alolan Guardian that can override Misty Terrain can be quite handy, as they can allow Chansey to poison foes unabated. All three of them are also solid teammates in their own right outside of the Terrain, boasting the attacking prowess that can can cover for Chansey's lack of presence. Tapu Koko in particular can activate Electric Terrain to negate Spore from Amoonguss and be a positional fiend with fast Volt Switch, while Tapu Bulu can provide Chansey with some nifty passive recovery; Tapu Lele, while its Psychic Terrain doesn't provide much utility for Chansey, poses as the hardest hitter of all three, with its Psychic capable of decimating pretty much anything it hits. While having a Tapu that can dispel Misty Terrain isn't a total requirement for running Toxic, their presence can make using it much easier; of course, Toxic Chansey builds with Tapu Fini are nevertheless viable, though much more demanding of technical skill and foresight.

Chansey in Action

Ezrael vs Human, SPL X, Week 7

This game is a masterful display of how Chansey can leverage its astronomical bulk and advantageous matchups to continuously pressure the opposing team with Seismic Toss. After simply trading damage turn 1 and setting Stealth Rock the next, Chansey quickly asserted itself as Human found his physical attackers out of position; Human's Incineroar quickly found itself neutralized by Ezrael's Zygarde, as Stealth Rock, on top of the damage it already took, made it unlikely to contribute any further, while Human's Zygarde never really had a chance of breaking just by looking at the damage it dealt turn 1. Human's Kartana, while capable of threatening Chansey off the field, could have easily found itself suppressed by Ezrael's Mega Manectric and thus had to tread carefully, lest it just sap any offensive momentum its side had. Ezrael was pretty much free to continuously trade damage with his Chansey, with the Seismic Tosses allowing the key KOs on Zygarde and Tapu Fini and also slowing down Mega Latias. The nail in the coffin for Human was Chansey getting the Toxic off on Mega Latias, putting it on a timer and securing the win, as Kartana was unlikely to pull through against both Mega Manectric and Incineroar.

emforbes vs Kiichikos, USM DOU Spring Seasonals, Grand Finals (Set #2)

This battle is a prime example of how a properly supported Chansey can go uncontested and dominate an entire game, with it coming in on the field turn 3 and never switching out until it finished off the opposing side by turn 28. The support from Intimidate really proved its worth in this game, as it allowed Chansey to devour Mega Salamence's Double-Edge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Chansey was eventually able to come out on top as the Mega Salamence fell to a single Seismic Toss, with the rest of the damage it took all coming from the recoil. From there, Kiichikos never really stood a chance, as all emforbes had to do was to keep the trades even, with the inevitability of Chansey always being able to beat whatever's left standing, as all other Pokémon Kiichikos had left were special attackers. emforbes did all that he had to do, slowly dissecting the opposing squad while making sure Chansey was never in any real danger; Volcanion did get a burn on Chansey eventually, but this was also a mixed bag, as it meant that Chansey no longer could be put to sleep with Spore from Amoonguss. Chansey eventually pulled it out handily, every single one of the 14 Seismic Toss PP spent being more than worth the price of the Seasonal title.

In Closing

Once one of the most laughable sights in the doubles scene, Chansey now stands as a manifestation of SM DOU's development at its most extreme. Though it still has to watch out for Taunt and Knock Off, times are truly shifting. Indeed, DOU has been letting go the shackles of tradition, as once venerated maxims are now falling out of favor—or mayhaps, a new perspective is all that we really needed. After all, even Lao Tzu once said, "the heavy is of the light the root, and rest is motion's master." All in all, with Fighting-types pretty much gone and the metagame biased to special attackers, Chansey stands as one of the SM DOU metagame's finest supporters. To answer the question of what even happened in doubles, Chansey basically rose to the ranks of actually-usable-Pokémon in DOU due to circumstances outside of its control—but hey, it surely ain't ungrateful about having a job that's not just in a shoddy Pokémon Center!

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