Double Trouble: Faking It
Prepare for trouble and make it Double, Puclonians! Double Trouble of course, the weekly series about the VGC format and double battles, now back to regularly scheduled non-holiday Wednesdays. It is 2015 now; you are probably either still giving lip service to New Year resolutions that you know you won’t actualize or not even bothering with resolutions just because the year changed. Unless you are a part of a small sliver of people rarer than Jirachi (unless you know Thatch) that actually set goals every year and meet them.
Whichever category you fall under, my entirely unsolicited advice to you is the same: fake it ’til you make it. And when you play the VGC, you can change that to Fake Out ’til you make out, because the first topic Double Trouble is covering in 2015 is the move Fake Out. So New Year-schoozing aside, let’s Dive into it like a Hoenn HM Slave.
For anyone unfamiliar with the move, Fake Out is a 40 Base Power Nornal Type attack with a priority of +3 that has a 100% chance to make the target flinch but which can only be used the first turn a Pokémon is out in battle (which does reset when switched). This combination of characteristics makes it a very unique move. Fake Out is an especially fascinating move in competitive Pokémon because while there are moves that are literally only used in double battles, Fake Out sees use in both single battles and double battles but it serves very different purposes in each.
In singles, when Fake Out is used, it is because it provides guaranteed free damage every time the Pokémon using it comes in which can add up over the course of a battle. In doubles, however, where it is much more common, Fake Out could do absolutely no damage and still probably see just as much use as it does now because it is one of the best support moves in the format. Due to the nature of double battles, flinching an opposing Pokémon when there are two other Pokémon on the field has much broader ramifications which births the true merit of Fake Out in the VGC. Because so much more can happen in just one turn of a double battle, controlling how much your opponent can accomplish in a single turn by flinching one of their Pokémon greatly reduces their options that turn, which can produce a number of opportunities to seize to set yourself up in an advantageous position for the entire battle.
Probably the most common use of Fake Out simply because it can fit in with any type of team is using it in combination with another attack to take advantage of a change in move order that turn. Speed and move order can be so essential to battle outcomes and Fake Out support creates all sorts of instances that allow a player to defeat faster Pokémon that would instead have defeated them first the same turn if not for Fake Out’s fantastic +3 priority flinching. An extension of this most general use of Fake Out is using it with one of your Pokémon and switching the other, supposing you wind up starting with a disadvantageous lead match up but have a Pokémon in the back that would turn the tables. Fake Out makes it much safer to allow switch ins to come in with reduced risk of taking unwanted damage if only one of the opponent’s Pokémon would be a threat to it.
While the most common use of Fake Out is general utility applicable in varied situations, it is also frequently used to produce specific situations such as safely using a move that will alter the order of attacks in future turns such as Trick Room, Tailwind, or (for whatever reason) manual weather. Teams reliant on setting up such conditions are especially likely to have access to Fake Out because it makes it so much easier to set up their desired conditions when you prevent the opponent from honing in on the Pokémon creating the conditions with both of their Pokémon. It is also worth noting that various Fake Out users are more inclined to be on certain styles of Team. Scrafty and Hariyama, for example, are much more commonly seen on Trick Room teams, while Ludicolo is known for having the fastest Fake Out in the game when in Rain.
Yet another more specific combination Fake Out is often used for is combining it with a stat-boosting set up move. Stat boosting moves are much less common in double battles than single battles because it is typically much more dangerous to attempt to set up when two different Pokémon can attack you, but yet again, Fake Out support makes it much safer to do so for a single turn. Although an archaic combination and one I have referenced before as an example, Hitmontop combined with Volcarona, better known as TopMoth, illustrates the potential synergy of this use of Fake Out really well. On top of providing Intimidate support and Wide Guard support, Hitmontop provides Fake Out support to Volcarona which much more reliably allows Volcarona to get off a Quiver Dance and then proceed to tear up opponents. This example is especially useful because it features a set up move that boosts Speed, which can alter the attack order in future turns, which greatly increases the payoff of the Fake Out. Perhaps more current examples would be Dragon Dance Mega Salamence and the especially ballsy Belly Drum Azumarill which can get around not boosting Speed thanks to Aqua Jet. As always, consider what Fake Out user best works with your team and especially its set up partner if you want to try this combination. Azumarill is well known for being paired with Mega Kangaskhan or Raichu, for example.
The ways Fake Out can support and strengthen a team definitely do not end here, although the uses discussed above are the most common. One move that sees more use in double battles than you might expect is Substitute, for example. It sees the use that it does, in this format, in part because of potential Fake Out support. If there is ever something you would like to try in double battles but find it difficult to safely execute, definitely look into Fake Out and see if that makes whatever you are trying more viable or not. Unless you play in a double format, you may be surprised at how surprisingly decent its distribution is since while it technically is used in singles, it is rare and generally used on very few Pokémon. Weavile is the naturally fastest Fake Out user and often carries Fling in combination with a King’s Rock in order to reliably cause flinches for two turns in a row. Mega Blastoise is another user much more likely to carry the move in double battles only, as another example. If you are interested in running Fake Out support on a team, definitely take a good long look at what is available to provide it – it may surprise you.
Because of the omnipresence of Fake Out in the format and its capacity to both enable its user’s side as well as disrupt its opponent, when teambuilding you need to consider it not just for yourself but also for your opponent, because you will definitely be facing opponents who use Fake Out. If an opponent gets off a Fake Out against you in certain circumstances, what are the consequences on your end? There are a number of ways to make yourself less vulnerable to Fake Out shenanigans.
The first and most common is good old-fashioned Protect, the most common move in double battles. Since Protect is so common already this will likely already be a given on teams, but it is worth noting it is also the most situational solution to Fake Out. If an opponent is using Fake Out on one of your Pokémon and they plan to have both of their Pokémon attack just one of yours that turn with the intention of getting a KO, Protect can burn out the Fake Out turn. This situation is most relevant when Fake Out is used on a target that outspeeds or can instantly threaten the opposing side and the flinch reverses that situation for a turn. If the opponent is using Fake Out to allow a partner to set up, however, Protect will not be of much help that turn. In that instance, if the set up is inevitable, your best option may be to switch out to something that will better handle the situation the opponent will force.
A more permanent answer than Protect is Ghost type Pokémon with their inherent immunity to Fake Out, preventing it from disrupting certain strategies. Many Trick Room teams, for example, carry a Ghost type Trick Room user because it is much harder to prevent them from setting Trick Room up, since they are immune to the disruption caused by the Normal type move. The dynamics of this are changing, however. Consider that the most popular Pokémon in the VGC is Mega Kangaskhan who often carries Fake Out, and also has access to the Scrappy ability before Mega Evolving; it is quite common for Kangaskhan to delay Mega Evolution for a turn in order to Fake Out Ghost types since they tend to be some of the best answers against the maternal kangaroo Pokémon. The introduction of Mega Lopunny who also learns Fake Out poses an even bigger threat to Ghosts, although how popular it will be remains to be seen, and will never be as popular as Mega Kangaskhan.
Of course, the strongest solution to Fake Out is the Inner Focus ability. Often considered a mediocre ability in singles and an excuse for people to lament for Mega Gallade, Inner Focus is really solid in doubles. Immunity to flinching not only means you never have to worry about Fake Out, but also the other random flinching opportunites in double battles like the common Rock Slide. The ability is not too common but a number of Pokémon that have it really like it in the VGC, such as Mienshao, Crobat, and Lucario, among others. So it is definitely worth being aware of should you find yourself using a Pokémon with access to it.
Remember, Puclonians: when it doubt, Fake out ‘til you make out. See you next week. Until then, it looks like I’m blasting off again.