Double Trouble: Switch & Switch, or, How to Win Worlds
Prepare for Trouble, and make it a post-Worlds Double! Worlds transpired not too long ago, y’all. And it was a glorious, nail-biting stream to watch on Twitch (or see in person if you are lucky enough to be Scron). And in a wonderful tale of vindication, triumph, and the values of hard work meted with persistence, one of the most decorated, seasoned, and innovative VGC players who has come extremely close to winning it all multiple times before finally did win it all, with Wolfe Glick as our new Masters Division World Champion for 2016.
His performance at Worlds this year was about as immaculate as Arceus itself. It bears emphasizing. He had to play through Day 1 of Worlds (which not everyone has to do) where he went undefeated, 6-0, and then make the Top Cut during Day 2 which he did with a dazzling 6-1 record. That, alone, is remarkable. But then he had to win all his matches in the Top Cut to win the whole thing. That is a lot more Pokémon battles than most everyone else had to Endure. And it is exhausting to do so, playing at your best the entire time.
So in celebration of Glick’s success in finally becoming the VGC Masters Division World Champion, I thought, “why not write about switching in the VGC?” Switching is, after all, a huge facet of Wolfe Glick’s play style.
Glick is famous for his defensive, minimal-to-zero risk play style which features a lot of switches, measured use of Protect, and being cognizant of the timer. The team he won with reflects that, rightly being identified as a very-Wolfe team; Glick was continuously switching in and out his Hitmontop and Raichu, both of which had Fake Out, allowing him to have access to strategically flinching his opponent a great many number of turns. On top of that, frequently switching his Hitmontop, which even had an Eject Button as its item to switch it out just to be switched in again, allowed for him to apply and reapply Intimidate – something less common this year but extremely useful against physical juggernauts like Primal Groudon and Mega Rayquaza. And his extremely creative Assault Vest Raichu with Endeavour could be switched in to redirect Thunders and Thunder Waves with Lightning Rod aimed at his precious restricted Pokémon, Primal Kyogre and Mega Rayquaza. Just in his final match, he switched in Raichu more than once to successfully redirect dangerous Thunders aimed at his restricted Pokémon.
With that in your Calm Mind, it should be evident that switching can be extremely useful in the VGC. And that is true, but because the VGC is a much faster-paced format compared to Singles, and because you only take four of you six Pokémon into a battle, it is commonly thought that switching is far less common. And it IS less common. That is, after all, a big part of why entry hazards are such a rare sight. But not happening as often and not happening are very different things.
So when are you supposed to switch? Well… as is always the case, it depends. If you can constantly predict precisely what your opponent is going to do every turn, you would always know when to switch and to what. But in a format where there are SOOOOO many possible actions to take every single turn and many more combinations, far more than when there is only one Pokémon out on each side, that is difficult to infinity. But there are definitely particular things worth noting.
For example, if you can predict when your opponent uses Fake Out, Protect, or Wide Guard, it is not only safer to switch, but to an extent you ruin their turn, having them waste an action. The purpose of Fake Out is to cause a flinch, but if you switch that turn, the flinch is wasted and cannot be reapplied without them switching out. And Protect and Wide Guard are moves one uses to prevent damage. But again, if you are instead switching you were not doing damage anyway which makes such moves a lost opportunity for your opponent when they instead could have been damaging your switch-in.
On the flip side of the coin, with good defensive synergy, rather than using Protect yourself, you can capitalize on the attacks of your opponents with good switches. An already mentioned example would be Raichu being switched in to redirect Electric type attacks. Manectric has been used in the same manner the last couple of VGC formats as well.
Yet another aspect of switching especially worthy of addressing is using a switch to reset or activate an effect or option. The primal weather wars of VGC 16 is a perfect example of this. With the abilities of Primal Kyogre, Primal Groudon, and Mega Rayquaza bringing back permanent weather until another permanent weather appears, being able to switch your own weather out and in to ensure it gets the last say is often of huge importance. But weather wars are far from the only example of this. A Pokémon with the Intimidate ability can be switched out strategically in order to apply the Intimidate once more. Moves can also be reset in this manner; since Fake Out can only be used the first turn a Pokémon is out, switching a Pokémon with that move out allows you to utilize it yet again another turn. Glick’s team is a obvious and excellent demonstration of all of these examples between his Mega Rayquaza and Primal Kyogre, double Fake Out, and Intimidate Hitmontop. And there are plenty of other instances where switching allows you to reset and reapply besides the ones addressed here, of course.
And if one thinks about it, it is because switching is such a valuable and integral aspect of playing Pokémon that losing the option to do so is such a big deal and why Shadow Tag is such an extremely powerful Ability… which ALSO won Worlds this year on Glick’s team. AND came in second place via Jonathan Evans. AND one of the semifinalist’s teams via Markus Stradter. Three of the top four Masters Division teams featured Mega Gengar. Because Shadow is extremely good to begin with and even better in a format where game-determining mechanics are attached to the ability to switch in and out. But in ANY format, preventing your opponent from switching is extremely powerful largely because of negating all of the wonderful things switching can do for you discussed above.
It goes to show you sometimes you do not appreciate what you have until you no longer have it… or preferably, your opponent no longer has it. And on that note, until next time, it looks like I’m switching out again!