Hey, EzraelVGC here. I write this guide to make DOU accessible to VGC players; in particular, players who have played VGC 2018. Learning to play DOU was a really fun experience, and I currently enjoy DOU more than VGC 2019 by a decent margin. A lot of VGC players would have fun with DOU, but don’t know the common sets or the way that people play the game. After this guide, hopefully you have a better understanding of how DOU works and can play it in tournaments!
DOU functions like a traditional Smogon metagame: Pokémon are legal until they are banned. This means that DOU tends to look a lot like the national dex format of the respective gen. For instance, ORAS DOU looks a lot like VGC ’15, with Kangaskhan, Thundurus and Landorus-T appearing on many teams. Similarly, USUM DOU looks a lot like VGC 18; Landorus, Incineroar, Tapu Fini, Tapu Koko, and Mega Metagross are common sights on high quality teams. Indeed, these are the only Pokémon rated as tier 1 in the viability rankings for DOU. However, there are a few differences that allow the format to be new and different from VGC metagames. Since DOU doesn’t have the accessibility concerns that VGC has, many more Pokémon are available.
First, DOU allows the use of mythical Pokémon. Genesect, Volcanion, and, to a lesser extent, Mew are all common sights in DOU. The full list of additional Pokémon will be included at the bottom, but the most used are Genesect, Volcanion, Kyurem-B, and Zygarde. Further, Pokémon can be any set that can potentially be acquired in the game. For example, Kangaskhan only learns Seismic Toss in Gen 3 or earlier. You want to use Stoss Kang? That’s no problem, as long as the other moves you have line up with it (also, it’s banned).
Second, DOU doesn’t have Item Clause. This never comes up, especially since the addition of Super Sitrus berries. Surprisingly, you really don’t want multiple of the same item on a team.
The third big distinction is that DOU is 6v6 as opposed to 4v4. This leads to a bunch of differences, some of which are obvious and some less so. For example, games tend to last a few turns longer than VGC, as one would expect. However, there are a few changes that one might not expect, and in order to properly understand them I need to explain the concepts of tempo and value.
‘Tempo’ and ‘Value’ are terms commonly used in Hearthstone, but I feel that they are underutilized when it comes to Pokémon. A tempo play is a play that takes advantage of the situation to do damage. A value play is a play that sets up better situations, i.e. creates more value for the player making it. A tempo play might be using Rock Slide with your Scarf Landorus to hit a Charizard or doubling a slot to hit a switch in safely. A value play might be setting up speed control, boosting your stats, setting up a status like Toxic or Paralysis, or switching for better positioning.
In DOU, value is more valuable and accessible than it is in VGC.
Value is better relative to tempo in DOU than in VGC for a number of reasons. First, any individual instance of damage is less valuable because it represents a smaller fraction of a team’s overall health, so any individual tempo play progresses the game less. Second, teams can afford to run more value generating Pokémon. Normally in VGC, you have to bring a high amount of damage dealers to a game. However, because you can bring more Pokémon to a game in DOU, value generating Pokémon are a smaller fraction of the Pokémon you have in a game, which means you can have more of them on your team.
When games last longer and each individual instance of damage is less meaningful, games are, to me, more interesting. Not that every game should be a stall fest, but the ability to find many different ways to accrue value with your Pokémon, play around different conditions, and not immediately lose to certain board positions is very gratifying. There are a few ways this value skew shows up in DOU, and I’ll give some examples
First, hard Trick Room is a more compelling archetype in DOU than it is in VGC. A player using hard TR got to finals of Seasonals (a community individual tournament) by using it in many games, and it has gotten wins across a bunch of different SPL matches. Part of what makes hard TR better in DOU is that you can bring more TR setters to each game without sacrificing your overall damage potential. For instance, a common team would be something like: Diancie, Scrafty, Bulu, M-Camerupt, Stakataka, Porygon2. The team maintains its high offensive peaks with Camerupt and Bulu, but the structure of the mons you bring to a game is a bit different. For Gavin’s hard TR team in 2017, consisting of Mimikyu, Porygon2, Magnezone, Hariyama, Snorlax, and Araquanid, he only had 2 setters and you were usually forced to bring them both if you didn’t want to lose. Your damage output would often be limited, or a bit more limited to the one truly offensive Pokémon you could bring (Hariyama frequently had to be brought to set up TR). Otherwise, you might forgo the second Trick Room and try to win in 5 turns. For the Camel team, on the other hand, it is simpler to preserve the setters and get TR up again. This is in part because every game the team brings all of its damage dealers, and there’s less trade off to bringing setters and the dealers at the same time.
Second, Chansey is viable in DOU when it was not viable in VGC 18 (note: Guard Split doesn’t count). Chansey is at its core a value-oriented Pokémon: Chansey doesn’t put out much offensive pressure and instead gets most of its value from taking attacks, healing the damage off and exerting defensive pressure. Chansey can do chip with Seismic Toss and put things on timers with Toxic, but mostly Chansey generates value as a late game win condition. Chansey didn’t work in VGC 18 for two main reasons. First, Incineroar was pretty much ubiquitous across the format. Bringing Chansey into a game meant that you were bringing it against a Pokémon that had Knock Off and was 25% of your opponent’s brought Pokémon. Second, if your opponent had 3 physical attackers and 3 special attackers, there is a decent chance they would bring all 3 physical attackers in order to deal with Chansey, leaving you fighting 3 v 4, as Chansey would be pretty useless. DOU changes things for Chansey for a few reasons.
First, physical attackers are a smaller fraction of your opponent’s brought Pokémon because they have to bring all 6 Pokémon on their team. For standard teams with a roughly even split of physical and special attackers, half of the Pokémon your opponent brings to the game will be physical attackers, as opposed to the 75% of VGC. This has several benefits for Chansey. First it means that there are fewer Pokémon that it is necessary to deal with before Chansey wins the game. For reference, check out this game that I played vs. Human where all I had to do was take out the Incineroar and Chansey won. Of course, this game slightly exaggerates Chansey’s usefulness; Chansey is good and not broken. But it is a game that couldn’t have happened in VGC. If we had to choose 4 mons, Human would have just brought Zygarde Incin Kart and Latias, and Chansey would have had a hard time doing anything.
The second benefit for Chansey is that there are far more likely to be positions where your opponent has two special attackers out than there are in a VGC game. This allows Chansey to act as a defensive pivot in some positions, and to be more useful overall.
Third, Chansey has a lot of value generating moves that are very powerful in DOU despite being less powerful in VGC. Chansey has access to Toxic, Heal Pulse, Stealth Rock, and Icy Wind, most of which are solid options on it. Stealth Rock in particular is very strong; having access to it gives Chansey a niche on teams that don’t want to use Landorus as their Rocker but still want Rocks up.
While I have spent a long time talking about Chansey in particular, the factors that make Chansey good apply to a few more Pokémon. Gothitelle without Snorlax, fully support oriented Tapu Fini, support Volcarona, and Mew are all good Pokémon that don’t provide as much tempo as you would expect from a Pokémon in VGC, but are still powerful in DOU.
Finally, and most interestingly, Stealth Rock is very powerful in DOU. Many people have tried to make Stealth Rock work as a move in VGC and they have, without exception, failed to make a dent on the metagame. In contrast, Stealth Rock is one of the most powerful moves in DOU and sees play on most common teams. It’s hard to explain precisely why Stealth Rock is so good, but I’ll do my best. Because your opponent brings 6 Pokémon as opposed to 4, Stealth Rock ends up doing a bunch of damage over time. It really affects your 2HKO calcs and your ability to switch when you take an extra 12.5% (or 25%, or even 50%) every time you switch in. SR creates more avenues for bulky teams to do damage while maintaining their health, take knockouts on weakened Pokémon, and be generally useful. However, SR becomes far less powerful as the game goes on, unless you are using it to take knockouts on weakened Pokémon in the back. This is because SR is a value move, and tempo becomes more valuable as the game goes on.
Two side notes about Stealth Rock. First, Stealth Rock can sometimes be used to take these knockouts because preserving low HP Pokémon is more valuable in DOU than it is in VGC, as switch ins tend to be more safe and low HP Pokémon have more chances to get utility above and beyond sacking them to get health on the Pokémon you would switch in.
Second, SR being so common has led to a not insignificant amount of Defog and Rapid Spin usage. In case you were not aware, if you Defog your partner, it will remove the hazards from your side of the field and not your opponent’s side of the field. Just another small wrinkle to DOU.
Now, while value is more valuable/accessible in DOU than it is in VGC, not all value generating moves are equal. Tailwind does less in DOU than it does in VGC, as the amount of time speed is doubled is a smaller fraction of the game. However, because there is more time in the game and more positions to consider, there are more scenarios is which it is possible to set up Tailwind. This means that Tailwind, even though a single use of it is less powerful, can be a more powerful move in general. This also shows up a little bit with boosting moves, is part of why Gothitelle is much stronger, how Goth Lax was so busted it had to be banned, and so forth.
The main point of this discussion is to highlight a tendency of play in DOU players, which they’re not wrong to have.
DOU players play more for value than VGC players would expect.
Sometimes when you’re playing games of DOU you feel like your switches are getting read a little bit too much—your opponent keeps U-Turning instead of using Fake Out and so forth—as if they’re much better than you. They’re not. They are just more used to needing to play for value, as making a bunch of tempo plays can lose to consistent value plays. This is not necessarily a hard and fast rule, but consider turn 1 of this game: Biosci is in a dominant position. His M-Tar faces down my Zard-Y, and his Scarf Gene outspeeds my Scarf Lando. If I make the value play of switching to Fini and Kartana, which is definitely reasonable, Biosci will be in a bad position if he goes for Ice Beam on the Lando and Stone Edges the Charizard and will need to make a set of somewhat awkward plays to recover. I, knowing that DOU players like to make value plays, instead make a very tempo focused play and punish Biosci for making the value play of U-Turn + SR. I lose the game anyway because I get outplayed in the late game, but the first turn is a good example of what I want to demonstrate.
To be clear, this does not say that DOU players will always play for value, nor does it mean that all DOU players play the same. Playing for tempo is important depending on the situation in DOU, and similarly for value in VGC. It’s merely a question as to the type of plays that get made in general. People tend to read switches a little bit more than they do in VGC, because they have to.
Finally, separate from this discussion, DOU team tournaments are frequently played in Bo1 as opposed to Bo3, and when Bo3 is played, players can change teams between games. I believe that this is a generally positive thing for DOU, contrary to what one might believe. In VGC, Bo1 would be terrible, because with only 4 Pokémon, there is often not enough room on one’s team to make up for any particular piece of revealed information. Gimmicks are slightly too powerful in VGC Bo1, which is why Bo3 is important to safeguard against that. In DOU, gimmicks are far less powerful, because you have 6 mons to deal with them instead of 4, and you can include anti-gimmick techs like Taunt more easily on your team because fewer of your Pokémon need to deal damage, although of course they would like to.
Bo3 often reverts to the mean in matchups, an undesirable outcome (if all games were decided on matchup, what would be the point of playing?). For example, against Emforbes in NPA 2018, I was using Sejun Sand vs Gengar Kommo-o, an atrocious, unwinnable matchup. I was able to win in g1 because I came up with an elegant gameplan, but I couldn’t repeat my success for g2 and g3, and at the end of the day, the set went the way of the matchup. Playing Bo1, or Bo3 without team locking, as is done in DOU, allows players to reveal information to win matchups that are unfavorable, while still having tools to recover from the revealing of your opponents’ information.