Prepare for Trouble, and make it Double! And this week’s topic is indeed a frequently troublesome one for many a VGC player: Trick Room! For those unfamiliar with Trick Room, it is a move that “twists the dimensions” of a battle for five turns, making slower Pokémon attack before their faster counterparts while it is active (the move also has a negative priority bracket, effectively always going last in a turn order when used).
Of all the strategies that become more viable in a Doubles format compared to in Singles play, Trick Room is very easily the strongest, most prominent, and most consistently successful. This is extremely high praise, but no exaggeration. Although each year’s slightly different format has impacted whether Trick Room is especially strong or slightly weaker in comparison to the formats of other years, Trick Room has been a powerful force since the very inception of the VGC when cover legendaries were allowed. And you would be amazed at the Groudons, Kyogres, and even Mewtwos running Iron Ball and even Macho Brace (because of the Items Clause) as their item just to make them better in Trick Room back then.
Ray Rizzo’s first World Championship-winning team from 2010 was a Trick Room team, and his winning 2012 World Championship team featured Trick Room as well . Wolfe Glick’s 2011 team was a Trick Room team (and his 9th place team at the World Championships this last year had Trick Room as well, for that matter). The runner-up of the 2013 World Championships and Japanese Champion, Ryosuke Kosuge, used Trick Room that entire year (his Trick Room team in particular I would consider to be both iconic and hugely influential on the broader metagame of that year’s format). A multiple-World Championship winning strategy that consistently reaches the very highest echelons of play year after year is clearly good.
So what makes it so good? Obviously, as is also the case with things such as weather, having two Pokémon out at a time to utilize the conditions you have set up effectively doubles the bang for your buck compares to in a Singles format. And the shorter amount of turns VGC games takes also means the turns Trick Room is active occupies a larger portion of a game overall, giving it much more presence in a match.
Something perhaps less obvious but arguably just as important to the overall effectiveness of Trick Room in the VGC is the fact that when you are playing Trick Room, in a way you have more EVs to work with since none need to be put into Speed, allowing you to more fully invest in both power and bulk whereas non-Trick Room teams so frequently pump a LOT of EVs into Speed to meet specific Speed Benchmarks. With Trick Room, you not only get to maximize the use of your EVs, but you also make any EVs your opponent has put into Speed worthless, effectively giving them less. Also, virtually every team features some form or other of Speed control; most focus on making one’s team faster or on opponent’s team slower. Trick Room is the only form of Speed control that capitalizes on the opposite, rendering all opposing forms of speed control useless if not in fact benefiting the Trick Room team directly!
If Trick Room’s incredibly impressive track record and the advantages it offers have you interested in trying it out, you may now be wondering how to go about doing so. As an archetype, Trick Room teams have demonstrated tremendous diversity over the years with there being multiple ways to implement it onto a team successfully. Additionally, it is often paired with other archetypes and team strategies (HailRoom, Trick Rain) or compromises only part of a team so that it features a Trick Room mode but does not exclusively rely on Trick Room to win battles. With this in mind, I intend for this article to only go over some basic considerations as starting points.
First and foremost, you obviously need a Pokémon with the move Trick Room. When deciding on a Pokémon to carry Trick Room, it may come to your attention that the vast majority of Pokémon that learn it are either Psychic or Ghost types (with a couple of Fairy types and a few wildcards out there as well). Even so, there is a good amount of diversity which many various options providing different services best suited to different teams: Gothitelle offers Shadow Tag which makes setting Trick Room up far easier if your opponent cannot threaten you, Reuniclus’s Magic Guard makes it a common choice on teams with Mega Abomasnow, Chandelure has the advantage of hitting extremely hard after using Trick Room, Aromatisse does not have to worry about Taunts, and Musharna is more easily paired with partners using certain spread moves, etc…. Team slots are precious. Consider what your Trick Room user is offering to the team besides Trick Room itself.
Another thing you need to consider is how heavily invested your team is in using Trick Room and whether it is better for you to run just one Pokémon with it, or two. Plenty of teams have Trick Room available to them when it advantageous to use it, but have faster Pokémon on the team as well, with whether Trick Room gets used or not depending on the team match-ups. Teams more fully invested in using Trick Room (Hard Trick Room) may want to consider having two Trick Room users with different typing so you are much more likely to have one that can be used effectively against teams that obliterate the other.
After you have a Pokémon or two that can use Trick Room, you also want to ensure are safely able to do so because when you have a bunch of really slow Pokémon showing during Team Preview, your opponent is probably going to know you run it, and will likely gun for your Pokémon that can learn Trick Room immediately. Fortunately, in a Double Battle format like the VGC, there a good number of ways to support the Pokémon responsible for setting up Trick Room for your team to better ensure it does so successfully. You could add a Fake Out user to flinch whichever one of your opponent’s Pokémon threatens your Trick Room setter more. Hariyama and Scrafty are currently two of the better known options for this role thanks to their low speed combined with the high priority of Fake Out allowing them to function well after the Trick Room is set up. You could also add a Pokémon with redirection available to it to divert attacks away from your Trick Room setter while it sets up. The item you give to the Trick Room setter can help as well. Focus Sashes will guarantee you are almost certain to require more than one hit before you are unable to use Trick Room, while a Mental Herb will stave off any Taunts aimed at you (and they will be).
The last essential thing to consider is the Pokémon that will be exploiting the Trick Room while it is active. There are a lot of really slow Pokémon to pick from for this purpose, but almost more important than being slow is hitting hard, or at least taking advantage of the Trick Room conditions in a meaningful way (Amoonguss might not hit hard but spamming Spore under Trick Room is also deadly). Remember: Trick Room is on a timer. You need to make those turns count and hit as hard as you can while you have the upper hand. The advent of Mega Evolutions has made this easier than ever before, though, with there being a variety of slow but extremely strong Mega Evolutions to consider. Consider, for example, the Pokémon with the highest Attack stat in the entire game: Mega Mawile loves Trick Room and almost every team featuring Trick Room at Worlds last year featured Mawile as its Mega Evolution. There are plenty of non-Mega hard hitters out there too, however.
So if you are not using Trick Room yourself and want to be able to play against it, what is a VGC player to do? Ideally, you want to prevent Trick Room from being set up in the first place. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. A fast (or even better, priority) Taunt is one good option (especially since Trick Room will always go last). Be aware of the very real possibility that an opponent’s Trick Room setter is carrying a Mental Herb precisely to get around Taunt. And remember that Aromatisse Aroma Veil ability prevents Taunt from working at all on it or its partner.
Another way to prevent Trick Room from being set up is directly knocking out the Pokémon that will set it up. Yet again, it is advantageous that Trick Room always goes last. It also helps that, while exceptions exist, there is for the most part very little type diversity in the Pokémon that learn Trick Room: the overwhelming majority are Psychic or Ghost types, conveniently sharing two weaknesses in common! But yet again there are things that can make this harder than it may sound: many Trick Room setters are either really bulky to help them survive until they set up, while those that are not often carry Focus Sash. You also need to be aware of disruptive support such as redirection paired with a Trick Room setter to divert attacks away from the Trick Room setter.
And if do you fail to stop your opponent from using Trick Room, all hope is not lost. Trick Room does only last five turns with the turn it is used counting as one despite it going last. So really, it only lasts four turns. Here is where you will be really glad Protect is as ubiquitous as it is in the VGC. Using Protect liberally and effectively can cut that four turns in half (be aware of the ways around this though – Feint is my favorite move for a reason). Many teams also carry an anti-Trick Room member that does not need it to function on your team but can punish opponents that set it up (Amoonguss in particular is the poster child of this), which can greatly improve your match-up against Trick Room teams.
Godspeed Arceus Extremespeed. Or the reverse if you run Trick Room. Until next time, Puclonians! Looks like I’m blasting off again!