Double Trouble: Spread Moves Pt. 2
Welcome back, Puclonians! It is time for yet another installment of everyone’s favorite double battle and VGC-oriented series, Double Trouble. Grab a Flying type because we have more Ground to cover than a STAB Earthquake, picking right up where last week left off. As this is a two-part article, if you have not yet read Part 1, I would advise you to read it first here. And with that established, we can jump right in.
While the spread moves listed last week are all generally very safe to use, spread moves that target ALL other Pokémon out on the field also need to be considered, too. Keep in mind that although they have three targets instead of only two like those already covered, the reduced power of these attacks remains the same.
Here is a list of spread attacks that target ALL other Pokémon on the field:
You may be thinking that these moves should simply be avoided, but moves that target everybody actually allow for strategies and combos that otherwise would not be possible. And there are also multiple ways to avoid hurting your own partner. These moves are basically more complex to make work but their higher difficulty can lead to higher reward.
For example, a number of the above moves are attributed to types for which there are abilities that grant immunities to them and even incentivize getting hit by attacks of that type. As a simple example, when you have Pokémon with Storm Drain or Water Absorb, spamming Surf suddenly becomes a boon. You can power up with Sap Sipper and Flash Fire, or stay healthy with Volt Absorb and Dry Skin. Some types are also simply immune to certain spread attacks without needing a particular ability, too. Ghosts get around Boomburst and Explosion, Ground types ignore Discharge, and Steel types are immune to Sludge Wave. And while neither a typing or an ability that benefits you from the hit, many good Pokémon get Levitate to circumvent Earthquake as well, just like Flying types. When you consider all the possible Pokémon combinations that exploit these immunities and take advantage of them, there are definitely plenty of instances in which the above spread attacks suddenly justify a move slot more easily.
Some of them can even be used in conjunction. The cliché example of combining spread attacks and avoiding any damage to your teammates is Discharge and Earthquake, or DisQuake for short. Zapdos and Garchomp were the poster-children for it as far back as Gen IV when the VGC was just starting out. Because of their typings, Zapdos could ignore Garchomp’s Earthquakes while Garchomp was immune to Zapdos using Discharge. And because the only immunity to Ground (not counting Levitators), Flying, is weak to Discharge there was even more synergy in their combined coverage. Discharge also has a 30% chance of paralysis on each target (just like Rock Slide’s flinch rate) so the odds of something getting paralyzed were further in your favor. And after they were paralyzed, Garchomp could switch to Rock Slide for insidious ParaFlinch shenanigans. This classic combination has seen a number of updates and reinventions over the years, too, with the Rotom formes serving as popular substitutes in place of Zapdos, and Thundurus and Landorus capable of every aspect of it together as well. There has not yet been a rule set for VGC in all its history where a form of this combination was not possible.
There is another ability I am a big fan of that can get you around damage from teammates. And unlike specialized abilities that let you avoid spread damage from a specific type, this one makes you immune to ALL spread attacks from allies: Telepathy. If you find yourself considering multiple spread attacks that target all Pokémon on the field on a single team, a Pokémon with Telepathy becomes everyone’s best friend. As a hypothetical, let us expand on a standard DisQuake duo such as Garchomp and Rotom-Wash and throw in a Telepathy Gardevoir with Dazzling Gleam. Between the three of them, they are all immune to each other’s spread moves and provide five possible spread attack combinations of different combined types based on match-ups. Without the particular combination of typings and abilities, four of those five combinations involve spread attacks that could damage one of your own Pokémon, but will not not. The existence of Telepathy lends to an even greater number of scenarios justifying these spread moves.
In even more complex combinations that exist because of these spread attacks, you may even WANT to take the damage from your teammate. It is not unheard of for rain teams to have either Kingdra or Ludicolo, the two most common rain sweepers of VGC, to hold an Absorb Bulb, boosting their Special Attack by a stage when hit by a Water type move. Since both Pokémon are quadruple resistant to Water, they could comfortably afford to soak up a Surf from Politoed in exchange for the boost to their power; a Swift Swim Speed boost combined with a 50% higher Special Attack on top of STAB and weather boosts to their own Water attacks can easily be overwhelming if one is not prepared for it. Items like Cell Battery and Luminous Moss function similarly to the Absorb Bulb and could be used as part of comparable combos.
Sometimes these sorts of synergies will not be possible or you will have two Pokémon from your team out together whose spread moves do not work well with each other, specifically. Although not ideal, one option any Pokémon can turn to in order to avoid friendly-fire is using Protect the same turn its partner fires off a spread attack that would hit it. As ubiquitous as Protect is in double battles, there is a strong possibility you are carrying the move already anyway and it lets you fire off a spread attack that would target everyone when your opponent does not expect you to BECAUSE it targets everyone. Combining Protect with such spread attacks definitely contributes to what makes it such a common element of the format.
But while Protect is the more common move used to avoid your own spread attacks, there is another option, and it delves directly into combating spread attacks from your opponent: Wide Guard. Much like how spread attacks that target everyone are trickier to use but can offer more reward than spread attacks that only target the opponent, Wide Guard is also trickier than Protect but can also be more rewarding in the right circumstances. So how does Wide Guard work, exactly? Wide Guard works very similarly to Protect but it only defends you from spread attacks. Unlike Protect, however, the effect is applied to BOTH of your Pokémon out in battle and it will work on spread attacks from both you AND your opponent the turn it is used. So if both players use spread moves that attack everyone the same turn but one uses Wide Guard, they get to protect both their Pokémon from attacks from both sides and ideally get their spread attack to hit! If you have a Pokémon weak to types that are more typically seen as Spread moves, it means you can defend it with an ally instead of it having to defend itself.
More good news about Wide Guard: unlike Protect, it can be used every turn consecutively and without fail. This means you could have a choice-locked Earthquake spammer and spam to your heart’s content with a Wide Guard partner if you wanted. This was a change applied to the move in the transition to Gen VI, and has made the move more useful than ever before. There is a condition to using it every turn, however: while you can use Wide Guard repeatedly without fail, if you try to use Protect (or Detect, Endure, Quick Guard, Spiky Shield, or King’s Shield) after using Wide Guard on the same Pokémon, it will be as if you used Protect more than once in a row and that move will likely fail. Of course, most Pokémon do not carry more than one of those moves at a time. Wide Guard also has a priority bracket of +3 so Speed is not relevant in defending against faster spread attackers.
A couple of years ago in VGC (definitely before Talonflame which now wrecks it anyway) a popular combo to use in VGC was Volcarona paired with Hitmontop, often referred to as TopMoth. Hitmontop provided huge support to Volcarona between Intimidate, Fake Out, and – most relevant here – Wide Guard. Between all of those things, Hitmontop’s presence made it much more feasible for Volcarona to nab a Quiver Dance or two and then tear things apart. Unless using a Charti Berry, Rock Slide is one of the easiest ways to take out Volcarona, but not when Hitmontop can use Wide Guard to protect its partner while she sets up. It was a combination you needed to have an answer to in order to be successful, and it is also an example of defensive combos against spread moves as opposed to just pairing spread attackers together.
Wide Guard is essentially “Defense Against the Spread Attacks 101” because of how effective it is at countering them from both sides for you simultaneously and its reliability. The catch is that it is not a TM so distribution of the move is very limited. A number of Pokémon that have it see more use than they would otherwise specifically because they can learn Wide Guard. If you find your team carries multiple spread attacks that target everyone or you have multiple Pokémon weak to common spread attacks, definitely consider adding Wide Guard support. And that concludes this two-part special all about spread attacks. It really was Double the Trouble!
Be sure to tune in next Wednesday for another installment of Double Trouble and until then, it looks like I’m blasting off again!