Double Trouble: Spread Moves Pt. 1
Prepare for trouble, Puclonians! And make it double – a double battle, that is! It is time for another installment of Double Trouble, discussing double battles and the VGC format. This week we begin to look at spread moves, one of the most essential qualities that differentiate double battles from single battles.
Even if you never play the VGC format or other doubles formats competitively, just about every Pokémon trainer out there knows that there are moves which function differently in double battles than they do in singles – moves that affect multiple targets at once. And as you would expect, they tend to be very popular in such a format. For anyone with interest in even just trying out VGCs, knowing how these types of attacks work, and to expect them from opponents, is a fundamental part of setting yourself up for success. Regardless of the format you prefer to play in, knowledge is power. And there may be more to know about spread moves than you originally thought.
One of the most important things to know about spread moves is that any damaging attack which hits multiple targets will only have 75% of its original strength. It is essential to remember this, especially if you do damage calculations while team building, because attacks you are used to seeing OHKOs with might not nab them so reliably. This was actually part of what made current World Champion Sejun Park’s infamous Pachirisu able to survive an Earthquake attack, and part of what made it a smart pick for him. By virtue of its typing, Pachirisu is only weak to Ground type attacks and by a very large margin the most common Ground type attack in VGCs is Earthquake. To know the one super effective attack you will probably see used against you is going to deal reduced damage definitely makes surviving the hit more feasible.
This one caveat for being able to damage both opponents, while certainly doing more damage overall , does sometimes mean an attack that only targets one opposing Pokémon can be a better choice in certain circumstances. Spread attacks are an incredible tool and ubiquitous in double battles for good reason, but they are not universally Serperior. If you have to pick between doing good damage to two targets or knocking one out, it will usually be better to take the knock out. Just keep in mind that while spread moves are extremely useful and potent, you should always weigh all of your options in any situation to determine the best course of action.
Another really important point to know about spread moves is that they do not all function the same way. Basically, spread moves can be divided into two main categories: those that target only the opponent’s Pokémon, and those that target ALL other Pokémon on the field, including the attacker’s partner. Any time you use a spread move, it is essential to know which category it falls under. You do not want to be the person brand new to VGCs who inadvertently KOs your own Pokémon because you did not know your chosen spread attack targets everybody until the battle started.
Here is a list of more common spread moves that only target the opponent’s Pokémon:
-Dark Void (seen on Smeargle)
The above list is not a comprehensive of all spread attacks that only target both opposing Pokémon, but just about every other such spread attack is of this nature is too weak to be seriously considered for competitive use (things like Bubble, Acid, and Leer). Any of the attacks on the list above can be used safely without repercussions to your own Pokémon. The list also serves as a good starting point for learning about some of the really cool perks of using spread attacks and how certain attacks that might be lackluster in 6-on-6 singles play can shine in VGC.
Rock Slide, for example, is rather rarely used in singles because it is so much weaker than Stone Edge. Yet it is one of the most common attacks in VGC, targeting both opposing Pokémon unlike Stone Edge. Damaging both targets is not why Rock Slide is so popular however. Reduced to a 56 Base Power after factoring in the power drop from hitting multiple targets, unless you are hitting something quadruple weak to Rock (which DOES happen often enough: Volcarona, Talonflame, Mega Charizard Y) the damage from Rock Slide is probably not going to be too impressive. What makes Rock Slide so popular in this format is the 30% flinch chance applied to BOTH targets on top of the damage. Assuming both targets are hit before they attack, there is 51% chance that at LEAST one of the opposing Pokémon will flinch and a 9% chance that both of them will! Let that sink in for a moment. Many, many VGC battles have had their outcomes determined by Rock Slide flinches and Rock Slide misses (that damnable 90% accuracy) over the years. The joke amongst the VGC community is that your Rock Slide is either going to get a double flinch or a double miss at the most inopportune moment.
Rock Slide beautifully illustrates that the damage of a spread move is not always what makes them so dangerous. Oftentimes it is the effects of a move on top of the damage that make certain spread moves appealing. Some spread moves are more useful because of the support they provide, with the damage dealt being an added bonus. Icy Wind and Snarl are both very lackluster in terms of damage output, reduced to 41.25 Base Power when they have two targets. But Icy Wind has been a very popular move in VGC throughout the years because of the speed control it provides, lowering the speed of all Pokémon it hits by a stage. Snarl is a Dark type equivalent, but lowering Special Attack instead.
Sometimes, it is just the damage that matters though. And even with only 75% of their original power, some spread moves can still be insanely strong. Water Spout and Eruption require a good amount of support to pull off well, but if you manage to fire off one of the attacks from a Pokémon of that type at full health, you’re looking at a 168 Base Power attack on both opponents. For an even simpler to use spread move of equal power, Mega Charizard Y’s Heat Wave in the sun reaches 168 Base Power as well and was one of the most common spread attacks used in the last year of VGC. Since Heat Wave is a move tutor attack in ORAS, although most Pokémon cannot match Mega Charizard Y’s potency with it, the attack will definitely not be going out of style any time soon.
One move that gets to cheat the spread attack power reduction is Hyper Voice, which I guarantee you will see more use next year than ever before thanks to Pixilate, Aerilate, and Refrigerate. While they sound like a legendary trio from a new region, all the “ate”-abilities can be found on Pokémon that learn Hyper Voice. And the 30% boost the abilities grant counteracts the 25% reduction in power for hitting multiple targets. Factor in the guaranteed STAB and you are looking at some scary, completely accurate spread attackers. Sylveon with an item boosting its power further like Choice Specs is insanely powerful. But the biggest Hyper Voice to watch out for come VGC 2015 is, without a doubt, Mega Salamence. This might surprise anyone only familiar with battling in singles, but Salamence is practically always a Special Attacker in VGC. This is largely because of how popular Intimidate is (Salamence itself provides Intimidate support, after all). Flying type Hyper Voice coming off of Mega ‘Mence clocks in at 131 Base Power after the spread damage reduction. Between Mega Salamence’s power, speed, and inevitable popularity, I can guarantee you being able to survive this attack is going to be a relevant benchmark in the next year.
Spread moves are such a broad topic with a wide amount of information to cover. So tune in next week for the conclusion to this two-part special to learn about spread moves involving friendly-fire, combos unique to this format, and defending yourself against these distinct attacks!
See you on the flip-flop!