Bad to the Core: How Not to Build a Doubles Team

By Level 51. Art by TeraVolt.
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Doubles is, without a doubt, an extremely complex metagame. When building teams, players are forced to consider the four Pokémon on the field at any given time, as opposed to just two in Singles. Given the number of threats a team has to deal with at a time, it's incredibly hard to construct a solid team capable of weathering all kinds of different threats. As such, it's no surprise that some players attempt to circumvent this difficulty altogether by using gimmicky cores, which, while reasonably effective in lower-ladder play, completely fall apart when placed in front of any reasonably skilled player. This article will showcase some of these tactics, and explain why they shouldn't be used by any serious player. Ever wanted to know why utilizing Guard Split Shuckle isn't ever a good idea, or why using TerraCott doesn't actually guarantee you a complete sweep? Read on!

Skill Swap + Truant / Slow Start


Suppose you've decided that Slaking and Regigigas must be good Pokémon to use. After all, you've seen their base stats, you've seen the havoc they wreak in damage calculations, and maybe you've even seen them KO an opposing Pokémon or two in a battle. Unfortunately, that's where the benefits of the two behemoths end, as they are continually neutered by their terrible abilities, Truant and Slow Start respectively.

Then you get a flash of inspiration—why not Skill Swap these abilities away from them, and maybe even use them to cripple your foes while the monsters are free to wreck face? Well, as with all two-Pokémon setup strategies, this is easily foiled. For one, either of your Pokémon could be hit by a Fake Out, delaying your strategy while the opponent's other Pokémon is afforded a free hit. In the case of Slaking, this is even more disastrous, as Slaking will be unable to move the next turn due to Truant. Furthermore, Skill Swap could be redirected by a Rage Powder or Follow Me, rendering your bulky behemoth dead weight. Worst of all, your attacker could be double targeted and KOed, leaving you at a 6-5 disadvantage, possibly even with your Skill Swap Pokémon stuck with a terrible ability! While most people hardly consider these possibilities, they happen more commonly than one might think, especially when against players of a higher caliber.

Skill Swap + OP Ability


Perhaps you've been playing a bit of Balanced or Pure Hackmons and you're liking the idea of Contrary + V-create, or maybe Pure Power on some strong physical attacker. Where is the only other place this combination could possibly appear? Doubles, of course! Which is why you immediately troop down to the teambuilder to do some Skill Swapping action. While this might seem like a better idea than the one above—for one, you won't have a terrible ability getting in the way of your own antics, it's still as easily disrupted as ever. Worse, the Skill Swappers you'll be using are often incredibly niche picks—want Skill Swap Contrary? Have fun with Spinda's amazing 60/60/60/60/60/60 stat spread. Or how about Skill Swap Simple? Have fun watching your Swoobat getting OHKOed by just about any physical attack. Really, though, give it up; even if you do pull it off, it won't be nearly as destructive as you might imagine it to be.

Mimic + Entrainment + Wonder Guard + Electric Type + Air Balloon

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This is a classic example of a team that works well on paper, but usually fails completely in practice. On the surface, it seems foolproof: use Mimic Shedinja to learn Entrainment from Audino, then swap out Audino for an Air Balloon-wielding Plusle and go to town with an indestructible force. As if that isn't enough, Plusle also learns Entrainment, enabling you to pass this wonderful ability on to the rest of your team. Finally, Audino learns Heal Bell, allowing you to remove pesky status conditions that threaten the immortality of your Plusle!

It is true that once this strategy is successfully played out, it becomes very difficult to stop. However, that in itself is the weakness of this strategy: when fighting any reasonably good player, it is nigh impossible to get the strategy set up properly. This strategy is obvious from Team Preview, allowing opponents to send out appropriate leads. This in itself is not hard, given that the strategy can be broken through in numerous ways: the common Fake Out, Rage Powder, and Follow Me, as well as any form of double targeting on the Shedinja as it tries to Mimic Entrainment or pass Wonder Guard to the Electric-type in question. In addition, weather provides chip damage, which bypasses Wonder Guard, and unless the Wonder Guard user has a Substitute up, status conditions and Leech Seed also win the day. Finally, any team with a suitable Mold Breaker or Teravolt user has nothing to fear from this strategy, as they can ignore the effects of Wonder Guard and damage the Wonder Guard user regardless.

Guard Split


For those more inclined towards stall, you may have considered using Guard Split Shuckle before. What Guard Split does is that it averages the Defense and Special Defense stats of the user and the target, which replaces their original Defense stats. If this sounds like an incredibly niche move at first, that's because it is—surely the only Pokémon capable of using it to its fullest potential would be something like Shuckle, right?

Fortuitously, we find that Shuckle indeed learns Guard Split! This strategy seems easy enough to pull off—all we need to do is get Shuckle to use Guard Split on its ally, whatever it might be, to make it invincible. Indeed, you may have come across lower-ladder teams that pair Shuckle with Chansey to create a wall indestructible by normal means. While this works well to absolutely destroy lower-ladder teams, it falls apart at higher-level play, just like most of the other strategies mentioned here. Like all of its contemporaries, Rage Powder and Follow Me are the bane of this core, redirecting this amazing form of support to the opponent's side. Furthermore, Shuckle is incredibly slow, and there's a high chance that Shuckle will be put out of commission by a simple double target originating from the opposing side, ruining your entire strategy. Finally, even if you do manage to get the Guard Split off, Chansey is far from indestructible—Leech Seed, weather, and status effects all wear down Chansey slowly but surely. Chansey itself doesn't even pack that much of an offensive presence, allowing your opponent to take out the rest of your team, and then bombard the Chansey non-stop while you are forced on the defensive. Eventually, when Soft-Boiled's PP expires, Chansey's time on the field will as well.

Honorable Mentions



Round seems like a great move in theory: you have two Pokémon, one hitting with a 60 Base Power move, and the next with a 120 Base Power move. When used in conjunction with Pixilate or Refrigerate, this seems like a very promising option. Even better, the second Pokémon gets to move right after the first, so it doesn't need to invest in Speed! Great idea, right? Wrong. While the second use of Round is very powerful, the first use is still a weak Normal-type move with 60 Base Power, unless you happen to be running two -ate Pokémon. Since Round is a single-target move, you'll likely have to double target a single Pokémon in order to deal any good damage; furthermore, the strategy can be easily stopped by Protect, a common move at higher-level play. In general, Round is largely outclassed by simple offense: a solid Hyper Voice from that Gardevoir and a Hurricane from Noivern could easily outdamage any Round-based strategy.



I'm sure we've all seen this one: Manectric and Thundurus-T using Discharge non-stop to paralyze foes, raise Manectric's Special Attack, and heal Thundurus-Therian. While this is without doubt a very powerful strategy at lower- to middle-level play, it usually fails at higher-level play, regardless of coverage options or items on the two Pokémon in play. This seems like a good strategy at first, since Manectric and Thundurus-Therian share no weaknesses, are both relatively fast, and there's always Hidden Power Ice or Grass for the odd Ground-type. However, Discharge tends to be a relatively weak move, with only 80 Base Power, weakened significantly further by spread damage mechanics. Moreover, most users of Discharge are quite frail, opening holes in the strategy for most priority or bulky offense teams to barrel straight through them. While a Discharge pair could be a good combination to reserve for the sideboard of a team, it fails to merit an entire team being built around it.

Pledge Moves

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Since their creation in Gen V, the Pledge moves have been one of the most interesting moves in terms of their mechanics. When both moves are used in the same turn of a Doubles battle, the latter user gets to launch their move with double power, though the first move is 'combined' into the second move and doesn't deal any damage of its own. In addition, based on the combination, a secondary effect comes into play: Fire Pledge + Grass Pledge creates a 'sea of fire' around your opponent's side of the field that lasts for four turns, causing your foes to lose 1/8 of their maximum HP each turn; Grass Pledge + Water Pledge creates a swamp around your opponent's side of the field, halving their Speed for four turns; finally, Water Pledge + Fire Pledge causes a rainbow to appear on your side of the field, granting your team the effects of Serene Grace for its four-turn duration. At a decent 80 Base Power, it seems like these moves could find their way onto some serious teams.

These side effects are indubitably incredibly useful. However, the other half of this move's mechanics aren't quite so great—the move essentially forces you to perform a double target should you wish to use it, which could be potentially disastrous in Doubles for several reasons. If the opponent chooses to Protect the Pokémon you've targeted, for example, you've just wasted your entire turn; also, if for some reason your slower Pokémon fails to get its Pledge move off, your entire turn is also wasted, since the first Pledge move is not executed. When these factors are taken into consideration, it becomes apparent that the Pledge moves really aren't as good as they seem.



For those reading this who are unaware of what TerraCott is: TerraCott is simply the general name given to a strategy that involves using Beat Up on your allied Pokémon to trigger Justified up to 6 times, raising their Attack by one stage each time.

TerraCott is actually a rather odd case, since it seems to work reasonably well, even against higher-level players. Indeed, while TerraCott is often dismissed as the stuff of bottom-tier players and teams, it has been proven to be an effective strategy several times; besides featuring on more than one high-tier ladder team, R Inanimate brought the team to some of his SPL battles, and proved it to be quite a legitimate strategy in the right hands. Regardless, in either case, it is important to note that while these teams featured TerraCott, they were not built around having TerraCott as their sole winning condition. So why is getting Beat Up off on your Terrakion not equivalent to an instant win?

Firstly, Terrakion—and many other Justified users for that matter—is highly susceptible to priority moves. For example, Terrakion can be taken out of commission by a simple Bullet Punch, Mach Punch, or Aqua Jet, among others. Furthermore, the common Follow Me (though not Rage Powder, since Whimsicott is a Grass-type!) also ruins this combination, redirecting Beat Up from its intended target. Terrakion can also be outsped fairly easily if Whimsicott hasn't gotten to use Tailwind yet, as most Choice Scarf users can put a large dent in Terrakion's HP from turn 1. Finally, most Pokémon with a Focus Sash or that can otherwise survive one of Terrakion's attacks can usually launch a counterattack to stop this strategy in its tracks.


While gimmicks have their uses, it's easy to see that most bad lower-ladder gimmicks simply aren't worth the moveslots or the teamspots. However, more refined gimmicks could have their place in higher-level play simply due to the element of surprise they present—for example, TerraCott can have a devastating effect on an unprepared opponent once most of their checks and counters for Terrakion are gone.

Of course, it's practically impossible to create an effective team based entirely around a gimmick—simply put, your gimmick must not be at the core of your team. Instead, try to have a solid core for your team, and then—if you must use a gimmick—use the gimmick to support your team. Depending 100% on the gimmick for your win condition usually causes silly losses, public ridicule, and general hate from the rest of the serious Doubles community.

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