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An In-Depth Guide to the VGC Format

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»rap tap    20154

Hello DG, and welcome to my guide for Pokemon's official format for its competitive video games, aptly dubbed "Video Game Championships" or "VGC". For those of you who are used to Smogon's singles format, like OU, UU, Ubers, or Randbats, VGC is a nice change of pace and unlike the singles formats, has live events like premier challenges, regionals, and national championships. The 2015 VGC National Championship recently concluded, so this guide will be more of an attempt to capture the general feel of what VGC is rather than prepare you for the VGC 2015 metagame, though hopefully this guide does a bit of that too. But without further ado, let's get into what VGC's format actually is:


I. A General Overview


VGC has, since its inception, been a doubles format, meaning of course that both players control 2 Pokemon at once. One interesting difference from Smog Doubles though is that in VGC, you do not bring all six pokemon to the battle. At the beginning of every game, you are given a brief period of time to decide which four Pokemon you wish to bring, based on what you see on your opponent's team preview, where you are allowed to view their six. I'll go into more detail about Team Preview in another section, though.




Another unique aspect of VGC is the timer. For those of you who play primarily on Showdown, the timer is usually that button you click at the beginning of the match because you're an impatient fuck or because your opponent went AFK. The timer in VGC games is a bit more strict. At a regional level (or higher) you are given 45 seconds per move and 15 minutes overall. If you run out of move time, your moves are auto-selected for you, and if you run out of match time, the game is decided by who has the greater number of remaining Pokemon, or if equal, whose Pokemon have the higher remaining HP. Battle Spot Doubles, the online ladder on the 3DS that mimics the VGC format, gives 60 seconds per turn and 30 minutes per game.




Another thing of note is Item Clause. No two Pokemon are allowed to carry the same held item. Fairly self-explanatory. You may have two different Pokemon holding different Mega Stones, such as Kangaskhanite and Gardevoirite, however.




As far as which Pokemon are banned, TCPi does not typically ban Pokemon, moves, or abilities in order to balance the game midway through a format. This is the current banlist:

Soul Dew



Mewtwo, Mew, Ho-oh, Lugia, Celebi, Kyogre, Groudon, Rayquaza, Jirachi, Deoxys, Giratina, Dialga, Palkia, Darkrai, Shaymin, Manaphy, Phione, Arceus, Reshiram, Zekrom, Kyurem, Keldeo, Genesect, Meloetta, Xerneas, Yveltal, Zygarde, Diancie, Hoopa*, Volcanion*


*These Pokemon are not officially released currently




II. Differences From Singles


First and foremost, the majority of singles formats have Pokemon at lv. 100, whereas VGC has them at lv. 50. At lv. 50, Pokemon generally speaking, take slightly more damage from attacks, which places a greater emphasis on defensive investment. To illustrate:


252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Kangaskhan: 151-178 (83.4 - 98.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO (calc'd at lv. 50)
252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Kangaskhan: 288-340 (81.8 - 96.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO (calc'd at lv. 100)
It may not seem like much, but it's important because when making spreads for Pokemon to survive certain attacks, it's important that you do these calcs at lv. 50. There's a resource section later in the guide to give you further information and helpful links where I'll include a link to a damage calculator specifically designed for the VGC metagame
Another thing unique to lv. 50 is that it slightly changes mechanics with EVs, or Effort Values. At lv. 100, every 4 points you invest in a given stat translates to a point. This is not always the case at lv. 50.
As you can see, Charizard has no investment in any stat with a Modest nature. So let's invest four points into Sp. Atk and see what happens.
Neat! We got not one but two points of Sp. Atk by investing 4 EVs into the stat. Let's see what happens when we invest another 4 points!
So unfortunately, investing another 4 points fails to yield another point, meaning that a Charizard with 4 Sp. Atk will hit just as hard as one with 8 Sp. Atk.
But this idea holds constant throughout all Pokemon at lv. 50. Showdown defaults all Pokemon to level 100, so be sure to change it to lv. 50 (this will not affect anything if you choose to ladder in any format where the Pokemon is changed to 50) and play around with the stats. It's important to do this to make sure you're not wasting any points in your spread. Every 8 EVs invested in a stat will yield a point, and certain numbers from 0 to 252 will yield 2 points instead of 1 (4, 84, 164, 244)
Hidden Powers will affect these bump values sometimes. For example, Hidden Power Ground means the Pokemon must have a Sp. Atk IV of 30, which would change Charizard's "bump" points to 8, 88, 168, and 248. HP Ground Charizard will also have the same Sp. Atk at 0 EVs as it would at 4 EVs
In any case, just be sure to play with this before EV training the Pokemon in game. Haste makes waste!
Another difference in singles is the viability of certain moves and abilities. Abilities like Telepathy, which prevent damage to the Pokemon done by its partner, are useless in Singles as the Pokemon never has a partner. Abilities like Lightningrod and Storm Drain, while not useless in singles, find greater utility in doubles, where their ability to redirect attacks comes into play. So let's dive in
Redirection is, as the name implies, any move or ability that a Pokemon can use to keep attacks off of its partner. Moves such as Follow Me and Rage Powder, and abilities such as Storm Drain and Lightningrod fall into this category. Pokemon with these traits are typically bulkier sorts, capable of surviving the attacks that their partners would prefer not to take, which allows the partner to attack with a little more insurance or even set up a Substitute or a boosting move.
Speed Control:
In Singles, Thunder Wave is a fairly common move that reduces the opposing Pokemon's speed to 1/4 and forces it to take a 25% chance of not attacking that turn. Some Pokemon in singles use Tailwind and Icy Wind as well, but in VGC, Speed Control is a common strategy with lots of different methods of implementation. Because there are two Pokemon out at a time, it's difficult to be the slowest Pokemon around, because you'll end up having to take one or even two hits before you're allowed to retaliate. So Speed Control is often used to alleviate this issue on Pokemon with lower speed tiers

Thunder Wave: Similar to its role in Singles, Thunder Wave's main purpose is to slow down threats and allow otherwise slower Pokemon to outspeed them. The most common user of this move in VGC is by far, Thundurus-I, but other Pokemon like Cresselia, Zapdos, Rotom-H, Rotom-W and Gyarados have been known to potentially carry the move.
Tailwind: Rather uncommon in Singles, and usually seen on Pokemon like Talonflame, Tailwind doubles the team's speed for the next 3 turns, which benefits slower stronger Pokemon with awkward speed tiers like Bisharp, Breloom, Sylveon, and so forth. Common users are Talonflame, Zapdos, Whimsicott, Suicune, and Togekiss.
Icy Wind: Icy Wind is a spread move (meaning it damages both opposing Pokemon) that reduces each opposing Pokemon's speed by 1 Stage, effectively meaning they operate at 66% of their normal speed stat. Common users include Milotic, Politoed, Suicune, Gengar, and Gastrodon.
Trick Room: Trick Room is a very unique form of Speed Control that very often finds itself being the core of entire teams. For five turns, it inverts the turn order, meaning that within the same priority bracket, the Pokemon with the lowest speed will go first. Another unique aspect of Trick Room is that because Pokemon want their speed to be as low as possible they're free to invest in bulk to compensate for the complete lack of speed EVs. Common Trick Room users include Cresselia, Chandelure, Gardevoir, Jellicent, and Gothitelle, and common Pokemon seen in Trick Room include Mawile, Camerupt, Heatran, Sylveon, Abomasnow, Hariyama, Conkeldurr, and Gastrodon.
Quash: Rather low in distribution, Quash is a move that "postpones" another Pokemon's turn. What this means is that Pokemon will go last within its own priority bracket. Common users include Sableye and really nothing else.
Perhaps the most common move overall in VGC is Protect. While Protect does see usage in singles sometimes, its role is often very specific to that Pokemon. In VGC, almost all Pokemon carry Protect, as it can keep that Pokemon safe from being focused on, it can help scout moves, it can make switches easier, it can stall out Trick Room or Tailwind turns, it can stall out weather, or it can give a Pokemon a safe turn to Mega Evolve, which is relevant for Pokemon whose speed tier changes upon Mega Evolving, such as Metagross, Gardevoir, or Salamence. Really there's not a lot of things that Protect can't do. That isn't to say Protect is necessary on absolutely every Pokemon, but it is probably one of the highest utility moves in the metagame, and is one of the biggest reasons why prediction is so important.
Protect has a 50% decay after each successive use. 100%, 50%, 25%, 12.5%, so on.
Helping Hand boosts the power of a move used by a partner by 1.5x. This isn't a thing in singles. Not much to say here.
Stealth Rock and other entry hazards are much less effective in doubles where games are shorter and switches are far less frequent. In short, you probably shouldn't be using them.
Boosting moves like Swords Dance, Dragon Dance, Quiver Dance, Calm Mind, and so on are inherently worse in VGC. They're harder to pull off due to the aggressive nature of the format, but not without merit. Just as in singles, if you can find those scenarios where neither of the opposing Pokemon can do anything meaningful, you can set up your boosting move of choice fairly easily. Redirection tends to help with this issue as well, keeping the heat off of the setup Pokemon so that it doesn't have to endure damage or take a KO whilst setting up.
III. Team Preview
At the beginning of team preview, you are allowed to see your opponent's six Pokemon and choose your four Pokemon to bring based on what you think they'll be doing. Being able to look at six Pokemon at a glance and pick out which items and moves they'll be using is a skill that comes with practice and is fairly metagame dependent, but this article does a very good job at breaking down the various strategies that become evident at team preview and allow you to aptly prepare for them.
As a general idea, the best way to utilize team preview is to identify the Pokemon on your team that does the best against the largest amount of Pokemon on their team, and from their either neutralizing the check/counter to that threat, or preserving your threat for as long as you can. It sounds pretty vague, but that's another thing that comes with time.
No matter how you've played Pokemon, whether a casual fan of the main games, a competitive player in any format, or even a fan of the Mystery Dungeon spin-off games, you're well aware of the existence of RNG, also commonly referred to as "hax". You can virtually never control when a critical hit is going to land, or when a move that you have a 98.3% chance of surviving kills you because it rolled on that 1.7% chance, so you have to be prepared. Scald will burn you, Rock Slide will flinch you, Swagger will cause you to hit yourself, and your opponent will land double Protects. There are ways to minimize hax though, such as running Quick Guard to block out Thundurus' Prankster attacks, or Wide Guard to keep Rock Slide from damaging and thus flinching either of your Pokemon. Conkeldurr appreciates Scald burns as they hugely increase his damage output due to Guts. Mega Salamence outspeeds Terrakion with a boosting speed nature and can hit it before incurring Rock Slide damage, nulling the chance of a potential flinch. Mega Slowbro cannot be critically hit, due to its Shell Armor ability.
There are always certain workarounds, and relying on hax to win games isn't a worthwhile strategy. The majority of times you win, you'll have won because you played better than your opponent or had a strong team matchup, and you will take a few wins to hax yourself. Best-of-3 sets, which are typical of regional and premier challenge top cuts, as well as all rounds during US Nationals (as this year is setting the precedent for it seems) are good at keeping hax to a minimum.
It's a part of the game, and it's largely what makes Pokemon what it is, but going on tilt from being on the receiving end of some bad RNG usually has a negative effect on later games.
Another thing is that some people tend to mislabel "hax" especially with regard to damage rolls. For example, say Terrakion goes for Close Combat on Mega Kangaskhan, and Mega Kangaskhan survives, Low Kicks Terrakion, and OHKOs back. The Terrakion player may assume that Kangaskhan got lucky and survived, but if the Kangaskhan has some bulk, it may be guaranteed to survive that attack
252 Atk Terrakion Close Combat vs. 252 HP / 148 Def Mega Kangaskhan: 176-210 (83 - 99%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
While you can pick up on items, moves, abilities, and Mega evolutions of Pokemon after playing a match, one thing that you likely won't learn is a Pokemon's spread. You can make inferences based on what attacks it survives or how great its damage output is, but because EVs and stats are not public information, it's very dangerous to assume that just because your opponent survived an attack you thought they wouldn't that it was "just a roll".
V. EVing your Pokemon
Many spreads in the Singles metagame are 252/252/4 spreads simply because they're the most effective at doing what that Pokemon has to do. This concept holds true for some pokemon in VGC, but not most. Since we were talking about Charizard earlier, let's use his Mega as an example. Let's start with the 4 HP / 252 Sp. Atk / 252 Speed spread and heck, let's give it a Modest nature so that it's just an outright nuke. Here's some offensive calculations to demonstrate it's raw strength:
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Sun: 115-136 (63.5 - 75.1%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Sun: 213-252 (117.6 - 139.2%) -- guaranteed OHKO
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Landorus-T in Sun: 138-163 (83.6 - 98.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Landorus-T in Sun: 255-301 (154.5 - 182.4%) -- guaranteed OHKO
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 212 HP / 76 SpD Thundurus in Sun: 127-150 (70.1 - 82.8%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 212 HP / 76 SpD Thundurus in Sun: 232-274 (128.1 - 151.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Sylveon in Sun: 93-109 (46 - 53.9%) -- 46.5% chance to 2HKO
252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Sylveon in Sun: 169-199 (83.6 - 98.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
Now these calculations seem impressive, that's for sure. But Charizard's defenses are 78/78/115, which means it's somewhat frail, especially on the physical side of things. So how well does he take attacks from those same Pokemon?
252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Charizard Y: 184-218 (119.4 - 141.5%) -- guaranteed OHKO
252+ Atk Landorus-T Rock Slide vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Charizard Y: 184-220 (119.4 - 142.8%) -- guaranteed OHKO
4 SpA Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 110-132 (71.4 - 85.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Choice Specs Pixilate Sylveon Hyper Voice vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 48-57 (31.1 - 37%) -- 81.3% chance to 3HKO
OHKO'd by Jolly Mega Kangaskhan, Adamant Landorus-T, 2KO'd by 4 Sp. Atk Thundurus-I, and 3KO'd by Sylveon, whose Hyper Voice Charizard resists. So Charizard has to avoid getting attacked all game to really shine? No, not at all, it just needs a little bit of defensive investment. Let's take another Charizard, this time, one used by Yan Sym, who piloted this spread to a 5th place finish at a UK Regionals:
220 HP / 148 Def / 4 SpA / 12 SpD / 124 Spe / Modest nature
Now let's look at the offensive calcs with this Charizard, who is noticeably less powerful than the above
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Sun: 99-117 (54.6 - 64.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Sun: 183-216 (101.1 - 119.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Landorus-T in Sun: 118-141 (71.5 - 85.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Landorus-T in Sun: 219-258 (132.7 - 156.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 212 HP / 76 SpD Thundurus in Sun: 109-130 (60.2 - 71.8%) -- 94.1% chance to 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 212 HP / 76 SpD Thundurus in Sun: 198-234 (109.3 - 129.2%) -- guaranteed OHKO
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Sylveon in Sun: 79-94 (39.3 - 46.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
4+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Heat Wave vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Sylveon in Sun: 79-94 (39.3 - 46.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
The only difference in the calcs against these four Pokemon is that against Thundurus, Charizard only has a 94.1% chance of a 2KO vs a guaranteed 2KO with max investment, and Heat Wave is a possible 2KO with max investment vs. a guaranteed 3KO against Sylveon. Each of the other offensive benchmarks it still reaches, however. Let's see how well Charizard takes the same hits the 4/0 version took though:
252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 220 HP / 148 Def Mega Charizard Y: 153-182 (84.5 - 100.5%) -- 1.6% chance to OHKO
252+ Atk Landorus-T Rock Slide vs. 220 HP / 148 Def Mega Charizard Y: 156-184 (86.1 - 101.6%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
4 SpA Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. 220 HP / 12 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 110-132 (60.7 - 72.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Choice Specs Pixilate Sylveon Hyper Voice vs. 220 HP / 12 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 48-57 (26.5 - 31.4%) -- guaranteed 4HKO
While it still struggles with Thundurus, it now is almost guaranteed survival against Khan's Double Edge and Landorus-T's Rock Slide, as well as changing Hyper Voice into a 4KO.
Spread building will almost always be metagame dependent. If your Pokemon gets OHKO'd by Choice Specs Exploud's Boomburst, don't fret, you probably won't see it too often. Offensive and defensive benchmarks should be based on the Pokemon you expect to see, which you can view usage stats for on Pokemon's global link website.
VI. Resources
The following is a list of very good articles and resources to use to learn more about the game.
Naturally, showdown is the quickest and easiest way to build teams and test them against other players on a ladder. There are a couple notable differences with Showdown and Battle Spot such as the timer, and that Showdown will remind you how many turns something has left (such as Sun or Trick Room) whereas Battle Spot does not.
This is a calculator designed for the VGC metagame. Pokemon on this calculator are defaulted to lv. 50, and many sets featured in articles and reports on Nuggetbridge are cached here to pull for reference. The Thundurus used in the calcs earlier, for example, was Major Bowman's Winter Thundurus.
Another intro to VGC guide, explaining the many differences in a bit greater detail of the differences between single and double battles.
Another team preview guide, highlighting common team archetypes and how to pick out Pokemon that will carry specific moves, such as Fake Out or Tailwind, or auto-weather starters.
A YouTube channel of a high-level Pokemon player with several accolades, including 2 National Championships in the Seniors Division, and as of this year a top 4 placing in the Masters Division. The channel features a series where he climbs the Battle Spot Doubles ladder with various teams on a week by week basis and explains each of his moves in a bit of detail. Also features team analyses and individual Pokemon analyses as well as general tips for competing at VGC events like note-taking and best-of-3.
Shows you the top 12 Pokemon of the format (iirc there's a thread on nuggetbridge where someone datamined the rankings of Pokemon past the t12 but I can't find it) and allows you to look any Pokemon and find out the most common moves, items, natures, abilities, and partners for that pokemon. Very very useful tool.
How to create efficient EV spreads!
Another useful, albeit a bit simplistic, tool to help calculate defensive benchmarks
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»rap tap    20154

and i'll probably be updating this guide little by little with things i remember as i go, i wrote this in like a 2 hour spurt

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»Satchmo    3222

Thank you so much, I'm gonna try and break down and digest this when I get a chance

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