Differences Between Smogon Doubles and VGC

By lucariojr and Audiosurfer. Art by Bummer.
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While Smogon Doubles (henceforth known as simply "Doubles") and VGC are played in the same Doubles format as opposed to the Singles format many Smogonites are used to, the two formats have enough small differences to be largely separate from each other. The extent of these differences will be explored in this article, mostly for the benefit of anyone playing Doubles who's thinking about joining an official VGC tournament and vice versa, and in part to help clear up any misconceptions about the formats' similarities.

Bring 6, pick 4

This is a major sticking point in VGC formats, though it only became relevant during the recent VGC11 format. This rule means that you have to pick 4 of your 6 Pokémon after viewing Team Preview, as opposed to just bringing every Pokémon. This means you can leave out some Pokémon that can be dead weight in a certain situation (such as Volcarona vs heavy rain) or leave out two of your speed demons in order to utilize Trick Room. This can also keep your opponent guessing, as they can sometimes be forced to guess at your last Pokémon and waste turns conserving a threat that may or may not be useful, depending on which Pokémon you decided to bring.

In Doubles, however, you merely pick your two leading Pokémon. This rules out some interesting team combos such as semi-Trick Room, and you and your opponent know exactly what to expect Pokémon-wise during the match, allowing you to conserve certain Pokémon to take out certain threats more easily. You may also know when to play fast and loose with relatively unhelpful teammates with such information, which is very useful for catching an opponent off-guard.

This also rules out team techs, which is commonplace in VGC. Team techs are basically two Pokémon slapped on a team with a solid core in order to better handle team archetypes the core can't handle. An example of a 'techmon' would be Senior World Champion Toler Webb's Sunny Day Ludicolo, which was added to his team mostly because his team was weak to Drizzle-based teams. In fact, rain teams are by far the most heavily teched against, which may help explain the high usage of Pokémon such as Thundurus-I and Rotom-W. Without the option of teching a team against certain threats, Doubles teams can be crippled by dead-weight techs in some matchups, forcing teambuilders to incorporate checks to rain and Trick Room into their main strategies.

Item Clause

Item Clause means that you can't have more than one of the same item, such as two Life Orbs on two different Pokémon. This is another major team limitation of the VGC formats, though arguably less so because even in Doubles there is rarely room for multiple items, besides perhaps Focus Sash and Sitrus Berry. On some teams, this forces players to make tough calls during teambuilding and can go as far as to influence a change of Pokémon or moveset.

An example of this is having both a bulky Thundurus and Cresselia on a given team, both vying for that ever-useful Sitrus Berry. Cresselia would love to have it to bolster her capability to tank hits and continue to support her team, but Thundurus might need it more should it be relied upon to tank Draco Meteors and spread paralysis and confusion among the opponent's Pokémon. Cresselia could opt for different items such as Leftovers and Chesto Berry should Thundurus need it more, and Thundurus could allocate more EVs into Special Attack in order to make use of an Electric Gem. Either way, one will have to suffer the loss of the best healing item in the metagame.

In Doubles, obviously this doesn't happen as often, as both Cresselia and Thundurus can both reap the benefits of a nutritious Sitrus Berry. This also makes teambuilding slightly more flexible, though it doesn't tend to be much of an issue because many teams use a wide variety of items, which mirrors the wide variety of team roles that are frequently present in the doubles format.

You could also argue that VGC's Item Clause encourages variety, as it discourages the scenario described earlier, which often results in Thundurus ending up with the more offensive item choice. It could also encourage team testing where a player is forced to test their team to make an educated decision of who deserves the Sitrus more. To conclude, Item Clause is a teambuilding factor no matter how you look at it, and both can leave positive and negative effects on a team. Thus, their inclusion or exclusion isn't objectively a bad thing.

Event Pokémon


One of the major differences between VGC and Doubles is the fact that multiple event Pokémon are unbanned in the Doubles metagame that are not available for use in the VGC metagame. One of the biggest examples of this is Jirachi. While in VGC one would never have to consider it as an option, in Doubles Jirachi is a large threat, especially with a recent event granting it the prized support move Follow Me, which it uses to great effect thanks to its slew of resistances. Kyurem-B is another Pokémon available in Doubles but missing in VGC, and it hits like a truck. Thanks to its base 170 Attack in conjunction with its excellent bulk and useful resistances to Water, Electric, and Grass, Kyurem has no trouble switching in on common Pokémon such as Rotom-W and Politoed and proceeding to blast holes in the opposing team. Manaphy is another very powerful event Pokémon, thanks to Tail Glow allowing it to power through teams with +3 spread moves. Hydration is also very useful, as it allows Manaphy to restore its health with Rest and cure itself of pesky status such as paralysis while Rain is up. Victini is another important addition to the Doubles metagame because it packs a humongous punch, with its V-create dealing more damage than even Kyurem-B's Outrage, allowing it to easily be among the hardest-hitting Pokémon in the Doubles metagame.

Shaymin-S is not as versatile as other Pokémon in the metagame, but its high Speed and STAB moves allow it to be a huge threat to common team archetypes. In addition, Air Slash is still as obnoxious as ever in flinching opposing Pokémon. Deoxys-A was initially overlooked by many people due to its poor bulk, but it can still shine despite this. It makes a fantastic lead, being able to easily apply pressure to other teams due to its offensive stats, and can basically pick and choose what it would like dead, as few Pokémon are bulky enough to avoid an OHKO. Genesect is still just as threatening as it was in Singles, with its nice offensive stats and great coverage making it immediately threatening to most teams. Darkrai was dealt a huge blow due to the banning of Dark Void. Despite this, it's still viable due to its high Speed and Special Attack, good offensive coverage, and nice set of utility moves. Mew is often overshadowed by Cresselia, but its amazing movepool and superior offensive stats mean that it can still make a great option for a team.

Due to the addition of these Pokémon, teams in Doubles must be prepared to tackle levels of power that are not seen in VGC. This means that when doing things such as selecting team members and EVing Pokémon, one must be sure to remember to account for these threats, so things such as making sure your sun check can survive a V-create in sunlight are reasonable benchmarks in Doubles, even though preparing for that amount of damage output would be wasteful in VGC. It also means that when creating teams of your own, remembering to explore these Pokémon as potential team members can often be what is needed to take your teams to the next level. Plenty of team styles can use these Pokémon to great effect, so ignoring them altogether will often put you at a disadvantage against other teams. This is not to say that they control the metagame, as VGC mainstays such as Cresselia are still very prevalent, nor does it mean that you must have one of these on your team. However, their power should not be understated and is something to keep in mind when comparing VGC and Doubles.

Sleep Clause

The first major Doubles exclusive rule on this list, Sleep Clause is something you're all probably familiar with; it prevents two Pokémon from being put to sleep at any given time. While sleep is still a powerful status condition, it's not nearly as useful as it is in Singles, because technically you can still attack after one Spore goes off. In VGC, you have to tread lightly around Spore users, which are basically just Breloom and Amoonguss, because if given the chance, both Pokémon will be more than happy to render your entire team useless. Amoonguss is the main beneficiary of the absence of Sleep Clause, as its low Speed allows it to check unprepared Trick Room teams, underspeeding just about everything on the opponent's team (especially if it's level 49). It does that job so well, in fact, that it's the backbone of some teams' Trick Room modes. In Doubles, however, Amoonguss only gets to put one Pokémon to sleep before it's relegated to sponging hits with Rage Powder and maybe deal chip damage with Giga Drain.

Breloom is also much more manageable with Sleep Clause, though it's actually capable of dealing damage afterwards. Breloom's partners however don't perform as well as they would with Sleep Clause. Liepard is the main example, as it formed an annoying combination with Breloom that consisted of Fake Outing a faster Pokémon while Breloom Spored the slower Pokémon. The beauty of this combination was that Liepard had access to priority Encore to lock a Pokémon into Protect, Swagger to possibly buy Breloom another turn to do whatever it wanted to, and Foul Play, which was boosted by Swagger. With Sleep Slause, this combination is basically unheard of, which goes to show the importance of Spore in the VGC metagame.

While Breloom and Amoonguss were huge and almost unmanageable during their primes, the VGC metagame has basically grown to encompass them. During Nationals, many teams had at least two Pokémon that could deal with Breloom, and some Cresselia forwent the arguably more useful Psyshock in favor of Psychic's ability to more easily OHKO Breloom. Even before US Nationals, there were some people that would use Lum or Chesto Berry Rage Powder or Follow Me Pokémon just to stop Spore spam, though Thundurus's priority Thunder Wave was a factor in this as well. I might even venture to say that the two mushrooms were the main drive behind Volcarona's popularity leading up to US nationals, even when Choice Scarf Tyranitar was another incredibly common Pokémon. While Spore is definitely not the center of the VGC metagame, it, like Trick Room, is certainly a factor that a team has to prepare for if they don't want to automatically lose.

Given this, Doubles might see more Trick Room teams or perhaps less Volcarona than what VGCers would be used to. Some will argue that Sleep Clause will encourage bad team building, such as foregoing (what would be seen as) proper Trick Room support or simply having a team that doesn't have many ways to check the two mushrooms because Sleep Clause basically does half of the work for them. While Sleep Clause will most likely be tested (come gen 6), should the current clause stay in effect, it would be interesting to see what Pokémon are more popular without the two mushrooms' interference.


VGC is technically pretty old, with the first VGC-esque tournament being Journey Across America (JAA), which was back in 2006. Though specific rules might've changed from time to time, the core Doubles mechanics aren't anything new for veterans of VGC. Doubles is like a newborn child compared to VGC, with the OM thread dated at this past December. Some Doubles players (myself included) groaned and rolled their eyes at Skill Swap+Slaking and Guard Split Shuckle shenanigans, wondering how in the world a ladder could be so bad as to let one of those strategies get to the #1 position. While these strategies are far from extinct today, the ladder has undergone some improvement in that regard, with more conventional strategies emerging on more and more teams, even if they sometimes lack synergy.

The main problem Smogon players seem to face is the transition from Singles to a doubles format. The transition may not seem like much; you just use one more Pokémon at a time, right? This is far from the truth, as many veterans and beginning Doubles players will tell you. In Singles (from the point of view of someone that plays doubles formats exclusively, anyway), the extent of team synergy is good type synergy that lets you switch in and out comfortably and not stepping on your teammate's toes with conflicting weathers. In both doubles formats however, team synergy is a whole different can of beans. Synergy includes Speed control, more dynamic type synergy (for moves such as Earthquake and Follow Me), more offensively-oriented support (Helping Hand and possibly Icy Wind), and so on. Protect-oriented predictions are also a roadblock for beginning trainers, as the omnipresence of Protect makes predictions more difficult; they may try to gang up on one threatening Pokémon only to be blocked by a Protect and watch their key Pokémon get KOed by the partner.

Other bad habits Singles players seem to have is the urge to use entry hazards. While I certainly don't appreciate my Volcarona being crippled, just about anything else not holding a Focus Sash couldn't care less about Stealth Rock and Spikes because of the relative rarity of switching compared to Singles. In fact, regulars of #doubles will post your replay just to laugh at you if you do set up Stealth Rock or use Forretress for the sole reason of entry hazard removal. This brings me to another bad habit any aspiring Doubles or VGC newcomer should avoid: Trick Room teams without support. While I admit I made my start in VGC using a Kecleon-Swampert duo as a Trick Room team, I will say that as soon as I met a competent player my team quickly fell apart. Trick Room, as well as any other kind of setup strategy, depends on some sort of support from its partner, mainly to keep the heat off of that Pokémon in order to set up. If you want, you may think of Fake Out and Follow me as the Stealth Rocks of the doubles formats for this exact reason. Incapacitating an opponent or redirecting an attack can mean the difference between your Musharna getting Taunted and unable to set up Trick Room and a successful setup where your Conkeldurr or Heatran absolutely wrecks your opponent.

Veteran VGC players keep these tips at the back of their mind every time they teambuild or battle. If you watch some VGC videos, you can clearly see some predictions that center around Protect or who's going to set up Trick Room. While it's certainly OK to make some beginner's mistakes, you shouldn't continuously spam entry hazards on the Doubles ladder and expect to win (or do; #doubles people need a good laugh).

Other Minor Differences

Evasion isn't banned in VGC, but isn't abused for the most part. The most notable beneficiary is Garchomp, which, as I'm sure you're all aware, uses its Sand Veil ability to come back from grim circumstances with a clutch Ice Beam miss courtesy of Tyranitar's popularity. Of course, being able to take multiple shots at it in one turn, as well as the fact that Garchomp has paltry 75-80 base power STAB moves (Earthquake is weakened by spread damage reduction) to deal damage with makes it far from broken in doubles formats. However, many a player will tell you horror stories of a missed Ice Shard or some other 100% accurate move, and I'm sure it caused heartbreak in single-elimination formats at some point.

While the current VGC13 metagame mirrors Smogon's Doubles metagame, it's important to remember that VGC is managed by TPCi and not a fanbase. Smogon has control over its Doubles format, while VGC players have to live with whatever gimmick TPCi decides to go with for the season. VGC has seen some odd formats (JAA, Ubers '10, and Unova '11) and while people did enjoy them or remember them fondly, they remind us that VGC can be unpredictable in its rulesets from season to season. Smogon Doubles promises to be more consistent in its ruleset, though only time will tell what kind of metagame emerges from a fan-based doubles ruleset, especially since it's the first of its kind.

The final minor difference between Doubles and VGC is the fact that Doubles is played at level 100, while VGC is played at level 50, most likely to save players the trouble of leveling Pokémon up to 100. This change is important because EV spreads for VGC may not be as efficient if they are copied over to Doubles. A simple example of this would be a Hidden Power Fire Latios, with 30 IVs in both Speed and Special Attack. In VGC, you would use 248 EVs in both stats to avoid wasting a total of 8 EVs and put those in Defense and Special Defense. In Doubles, however, you would simply put 252 in both Speed and Special Attack regardless of the imperfect IVs because the extra 4 EVs actually make a difference at level 100. Additionally, at level 50, it takes more EVs to raise a stat by one point. Again, using the Latios as an example, you would have 12 EVs after allocating 248 in both Speed and Special Attack. You should either put all 12 in HP or spread them evenly across its defenses, because even with a perfect 31 IV, 8 EVs yield the same stat as 4. This goes for 16 EVs, 24 EVs, 32 EVs, and so on. In general, you should look into tweaking your EVs if you're carrying over a team from VGC to Doubles or the other way around.


While VGC and Doubles have some differences, you can easily convert a Doubles team to fit a (current) VGC format and vice versa without completely changing your team. Think of it as stepping over into UU after playing OU for a breath of fresh air, although in this case there aren't many changes in the banlist apart from event legendaries. Both formats are great to practice with for upcoming VGC events or simply to test out some neat Doubles cores, but it's always good to know the differences between the formats so you don't get caught during VGC's hack checks with a Jirachi in your party. Just keep these differences and similarities in mind as you venture forth into the wild, wild world of double battling, and you'll have no problem battling with the best.

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