With the recent announcement of the Video Game Championships (link), I started seriously looking at competitive Double Battle teams in the Pokémon: Platinum video game. Much to my chagrin, I noticed there wasn't much of a community for this important part of Pokémon battling.
Double Battle Strategies: A Brief Overview
by Bryan Varnell
April 26, 2009
Format: VGC Rules: Double Battle, Lv. 50, Restricted Legendaries
Most online battling focuses on Single Battles, and not much information has been compiled with Wi-Fi or Pokémon Battle Revolution data for the Double Battle system. Simply put, Double Battles aren't very popular. I sort of knew this going in, but I was shocked at how little even hardcore video game sites had to say on the matter. Sure, there is a thread here or there or a RMT buried on the forums, but there is really no metagame. I will attempt to analyze the Double Battle metagame and provide an overview of the major strategies both to use and look out for in that metagame. Most of this is hypothetical, but I hope that a broader understanding among the video game community will allow for deeper and more fun battling.
Double Battles (DB) were first introduced in Pokémon: Ruby and Sapphire. They were largely a novelty with very little use in the actual story except for one Gym. In Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl, DBs were kept around. This time, they were given an expanded role. Instead of one Gym, DBs were used in several semi-side quests where the hero would team up with another trainer to battle their way through a forest or cave. DBs were still largely ignored in the core gaming front and therefore on the competitive front.
So why aren't Double Battles as popular? The obvious reason is that they are so radically different from Single Battles. Most trainers who enjoy the highly competitive Single Battle metagame don't devote time to training an entirely different team. That isn't to say that DBs aren't as competitive or strategic as Single Battles. Instead, I will attempt to prove the opposite.
III. The Basics
This section will detail the major differences that set Double Battling apart from its Singles counterpart.
Firstly and most obviously, since two Pokémon battle at once, there is less emphasis placed on type coverage on more on support and power. This leads into the primary DB rule, two Pokémon often team up to be more devastating than they could be alone. This will be the crux of this article. DBs also tend to go by much more quickly than Single Battles. This is due to the fact that two Pokémon are vunerable at once and only four Pokémon are used total. This has several far-reaching effects. Switching isn't as common, so Spikes and Stealth Rock are negligible. Also total field effects (weather, trick room, etc) last a larger portion of the battle and are exponentially more popular. Defenses also become more important in DBs. Instead of the standard EV investment, a few EVs added to the defenses can change a 1HKO to a 2-3HKO. Lastly, I previously mentioned support, but support moves (like Protect, Follow Me, Helping Hand, and Trick Room) are used to extend the battle and setup a sweeper much more effectively than in Singles.
These are the main things to know about DBs.
Next, I will list the major strategies I have observed and read about, followed by the common Pokémon used in that strategy.
- Trick Room
Trick Room swaps the battle order so that the slowest Pokémon goes first. This can be used as part of a couple of strategies. Dusknoir is the most common Pokémon to use Trick Room.
- Low Speed - Anything that would traditionally be disadvantaged by speed is instantly made better. This includes slow attackers like Rhyperior and Metagross as well as defenders like Dusknoir itself. An important subset of this strategy is the low level Smeargle who's wide variety of attacks will allow it to be extra dangerous when attacking first. (See Focus Sash/Endeavor/Extremespeed).
- Quick Exploders - Anything with extra high attack can get a quick Explosion in before the opponent has time to react. Common slow exploders are Azelf, Metagross, or anything with a big attack.
This has already been mentioned above, but Explosion is also a popular move without Trick Room. Often the exploder's partner will use protect to shield itself from the explosive damage. Common exploders are Metagross, Snorlax, Licklicky, and Gengar. Watch out for the ability Damp on a Golduck, as it will prevent exploding.
- Endure - As mentioned above, Pokémon in pairs require a great deal of synergy. This is where the Endure/Explosion combo comes in. The Pokémon who endures the explosion is set for a sweep with a move like Reversal and a Salac Berry. This is true for Heracross and Lucario.
- Ghosts - Exploders are often paired with Ghosts since they are not affected by Explosion. Also, the Ghost can usually turn right around and blow itself up. Gengar and Dusknoir are the obvious choices.
- Setup - Often the Exploder can be setup to allow for the maximum attack. This is often used with Trick Room, Protect, or Follow Me support. Belly Drum Snorlax while the partner uses Follow Me is a prime example. Snorlax is then free to explode at maximum attack. Using Swagger on a Lickylicky with the Own Tempo ability effectively doubles its explosion for free.
Weather is huge DBs. I will discuss each effect in as much detail as possible. There are also two ways to start each weather effect. Either with an auto-starter or the specialized attack.
- Rain - Rain is the most used of the weather effects. The primary strategy behind most of the other weather effects are anti-Rain. And there is a good reason Rain is the most common: it has the most available strategies. Rain must be activated by the Rain Dance since Kyogre isn't available in this set of rules.
- Speed - Anything with Swift Swim is important to the Rain strategy. Swift Swim turns something with mediocre speed into a viable sweeper. Kingdra, Ludicolo, and sometimes Golduck are common users.
- HP Abuse - Several Pokémon can abuse the Rain with the Water Absorb or Dry Skin ability. Since Surf hits all Pokémon, it can simultaneously hurt the opponents and heal the partner in the Rain. The great defense-oriented Vaporeon, Lapras, and Toxicroak all abuse this Rain Dance strategy.
- Electric - Anything with Thunder benefits from the 100% accuracy afforded by Rain Dance. Most notably is probably Jolteon and Zapdos.
- Hail - Hail is mainly sent out to disrupt the rain. It also benefits from having an auto-starter in Abomasnow, but can also be started with the move Hail. It also gives Blizzard 100% accuracy which can be deadly to Flying, Ground, and Dragon types. Glaceon is another common Pokémon to benefit from Hail.
- Sun - Sun must be called with Sunny Day without Groudon, so it is less used in DBs. The strategy with Sun is similar to the HP Abuse Rain strategy using Heat Wave and Flash Fire. There is some Solarbeam abuse also.
- Sand - Sand can be auto-called with Hippowdon in this format (but losses the beastlyTyranitar). Using Sandstorm an alternative to Hippowdon or to keep the sand around if Hippowdon is KO'ed. This is probably the least used of the weather effects since not many Pokémon benefit from it. The notable exception is Garchomp. Since Garchomp is allowed in this format (it is considered an Uber in Singles), it gets added evasion in the sand.
- Skill Swap
Skill Swap is an attractive looking attack in DBs, but is often too complicated to actually pull off. It is important to mention none-the-less.
- Self - It can be used to get rid of a harmful ability or add a useful ability on yourself. This can be seen when removing Traunt from Slaking, No Guard from Machamp onto something that needs the added accuracy more, moving Serene Grace onto an effective flincher, and many other random combos.
- Disruption - Skill Swap can also give a useless ability to the opponent or remove a helpful ability like Levitate.
- Follow Me
Follow Me is important to discuss because it has no use in Singles, but is extremely useful in DBs. Follow Me draws all attacks to the user. The most common Follow Me users are Togekiss and Clefable for their high defenses. While the opponent is busy attacking the Follow Me user, the partner is free to set up and sweep. However, attacks that hit multiple opponents will still hit the non-user.
- Lightning Rod
Lightning Rod is also important to mention. Rhyperior and Marowak are common for their ability to provide protection to a Water or Flying partner.
- Motor Drive
Motor Drive is similar to the Water Absorb and other abilities, but is much more specialized on Electrivire. Often used with Zapdos/Discharge.
- Perish Song
This is a very risky attack that can pay off huge in doubles. Perish Song can potentially KO half of the opponent's team in three turns. There are a couple of ways to effectively use Perish Song without also crippling your team.
- Exploder - Exploding sure is a common strategy, right? At least in my book it is. By leading with an exploder, ideally you can take out two of your opponent's Pokémon. Then the Perish Singer can be brought in the exploder's spot and set up the song with no way for the opponent to switch out. They are basically destined to perish unless they can KO all of your Pokémon in those three turns. Attacks like Protect and Endure can hopefully stall long enough for the Perish Song to win out.
- Shadow Tag/Arena Trap - This is similar to above, but Shadow Tag and Arena Trap are abilities that guarantee the opponent can't switch out. They are unique to Wobbuffet and Dugtrio, respectively, in the fully evolved category. The downside is that they, too, must go down with the count, but it could be worth it.
- Soundproof - This ability on your partner makes the song lopsided since it will not be affected at all by Perish Song. You still have to keep the opponent from switching out, though.
As you can see from above, most of these strategies involve a few turns to setup before they are effective. As a result, anti-setup is a huge factor to consider. Several moves are common.
- Taunt - Taunt doesn't let the opponent use any non-attacking moves. So Protect, Follow Me, Trick Room, Rain Dance, stat uppers, etc are unusable.
- Imprison - Mainly used on Dusknoir, Imprison doesn't let the opponent use any moves that the user has. So a Dusknoir with Imprison/Protect/Trick Room/Shadow Sneak can shut down several popular strategies.
- Fast Power - The main example is Fake Out. A lot of Pokémon on DB teams pack Fake Out because it basically gives your partner a free turn of setup. Fake Out is guaranteed to flinch, so it can neutralize the biggest threat to its partner for that all important one turn. Anything fast with a high flinch rate like Aerodactyl/Rock Slide is also popular.
- Straight Attacking
There are also of course the pure attack teams. These teams will have up to 8 different attack types in both Physical and Special to cover just about everything. These are usually teams cannibalized from Single Battles. This isn't as effective as most straight attacking duos are outclassed by the more creative DB combos above.
That is a lot of strategies! I hope to have proved that Double Battles are just as deep and fun as Single Battles. Also, I want to encourage greater competition in the format for the upcoming Video Game Championship. Lastly and most importantly, I wanted to generate a conversation about the Double Battle format so that the metagame can be refined and become as popular as the Single Battles.
Please comment below. I encourage comments about why my strategies are wrong, inclusions/ommisions I can make in each strategy above, and new strategies to add. Mainly I want discussion!