The Art of Switching in Doubles

By youngjake93. Art by ZapDraws.
« Previous Article Home Next Article »

Note: This guide is meant for people with experience in Doubles and who would like to be more successful against good opponents. There are a few resources that I recommend reading prior to this:

Blissey by ZapDraws

Too often, I hear "switching is rare in Doubles." Yet when you see high-level matches, sometimes they average one switch per turn or more! Why is there such a disconnect from initial perception and reality? Well, there are a few reasons:

  1. A lot of people use BW2 VGC as a gauge for what to expect. There are two things wrong with that. In the shift from BW2 to XY, we lost elemental gems, which have served to slow the pace for a lot of teams and make switching more worthwhile. Also, one of the key differences between Smogon Doubles and VGC is that you can use six Pokémon! Because of this, your team will be packing Pokémon that can switch in with little cost much more often, and the risk is smaller because a Pokémon is only one-sixth of your team.

  2. Initial perceptions are gauged on an inexperienced ladder. You often find gimmicks that boost your opponent to +6 in a single turn, which makes it disadvantageous for either of you to switch. Also, if your opponents aren't usually switching, you may be inclined to label switches as uncommon.

  3. Switching sometimes comes with huge opportunity costs. A switch could mean not being able to do anything while your two opponents have a turn to do whatever they want. As such, it takes familiarity with the metagame to evaluate when is a good time to switch. This could result with unfamiliar battlers steering away from the mechanic altogether and lowering their chances at success.

Let's get straight to the point: why should you switch? Well, the simplest answer is "to put yourself in a more favorable position." A more favorable position could be having Heatran out against Charizard rather than Amoonguss, or it could mean having Cresselia out against Hitmontop. In order to help evaluate when to switch and how to be successful at it, here is an outline of advice as well as common scenarios.

Evaluate Opportunity Cost

Before you switch, figure out if it is a good idea. Think, is switching worth the damage your Pokémon could do this turn instead? Is switching worth the damage your Pokémon could take? Is switching worth the free turn you could be giving up? You even have to consider whether switching early-game is worth letting the opponent into your head because you showed what you consider a simple prediction. It might not be so simple the second time it happens. If you can answer yes to all of these questions or you have evaluated the scenario and switching is the most cost-effective option, then you have already decided the appropriate next step.

For example, there is rarely a scenario that I will not switch in a Grass-type tank against Politoed and Kingdra. Even though my tank is at the threat of Draco Meteor, Ice Beam, and Hypnosis on the switch, I evaluate the scenario and realize that tanking neutral or super effective Hydro Pumps and Muddy Waters with what is already in is usually not worth it. I also make sure that my partner targets Kingdra so that it can't Substitute freely and use the switch against me.

Build your team with defensive synergy

If you have a Heatran out, but the opponent has a Landorus-T out, then you can probably figure out what is going to happen next. However, if your Heatran just used Protect, are you really going to risk a double Protect early-game when there is only a one-third chance of it succeeding? You're probably hoping at this point that you remembered to pack a Flying-type or Levitate Pokémon to come in free of charge.

The key to Doubles, though, is that two Pokémon have to eat that Landorus-T's Earthquake, two Pokémon have to tank that Mega Charizard-Y's Heat Wave. Also, you have to be wary that either of your Pokémon are at risk to that Choice Band Talonflame's Brave Bird or Rotom-W's Hydro Pump, not just one. In addition, both of your Pokémon are under the threat of TWO opponents, not just one. This is where teambuilding can get pretty tricky and why Rotom-W is so good. Let's take a look at our favorite washing machine. It has one uncommon weakness (Grass), an immunity to Ground, and resistances to Steel, Flying, Water, Fire, and Ice. In order to be in a favorable position using Rotom-W, you simply need to not be up against any Grass-types or let it be accompanied by a Pokémon that poses a serious threat to Grass-types. That's something to think about when teambuilding, but how does this apply to switching?

Well, thanks to its resistances and bulk, Rotom-W can switch in on a whopping six different types, while only being forced out by one. If you partner Rotom-W with Heatran, Rotom-W can tag in for Heatran against Landorus-T while Heatran can tag in against Ferrothorn. If Ferrothorn and Landorus-T are BOTH out, then you can get crafty. Switching Rotom-W to Hitmontop and Protecting with Heatran can put you in a position to threaten the opponent with Fake Out and Heat Wave, while Landorus-T is already neutered with -1 Attack.

Although you can check a Pokémon with a single Pokémon, sometimes you need THREE or more Pokémon to effectively counter one. Keep this in mind when building your teams and do not only carry one check to top threats or you will fair poorly.


Your team: Gardevoir / Heatran / Rotom-W / Breloom / Hitmontop / Jirachi
Opponent's team: Amoonguss / Landorus-T / Gallade / Rotom-W / Heatran / Scizor

Go! Hitmontop!
Go! Heatran!
Opponent sent out Scizor!
Opponent sent out Amoonguss!

In this situation, Scizor has absolutely zero reason to stay in. Heatran is capable of melting it, it has -1 Attack, Hitmontop still has its Fake Out, and it poses minimal threat to the other team. This is an obvious switch.

Amoonguss can tank a Heat Wave and wall Hitmontop while threatening with Spore, although it is in a highly unfavorable position. Amoonguss can't do anything to Heatran, and Hitmontop hasn't used Fake Out yet.

So we can deduce that Scizor and Amoonguss are in unfavorable positions, Hitmontop is in an ok position, and Heatran has a completely free turn as it is not yet threatened.

Let's find out what happens next.

Hitmontop, come back!
Go! Breloom!
Opponent withdrew Scizor!
Opponent sent out Rotom-W!
The opposing Amoonguss used Protect!
Heatran used Substitute!

Heatran capitalizes on the free turn in the best way, but the opponent switches in their best Heatran check. Since you know that Rotom-W is their best Heatran check and your Hitmontop is at the risk of Spore, you smartly bring in Breloom. The momentum is now largely in your favor because you mastered the art of smart switching. Never again will you make the rookie mistake of drooling at the prospect of Heat Wave giving you a quick advantage and the debilitating potential of Fake Out.

« Previous Article Home Next Article »