Breaking Down Doubles: Basics

kc - February 14, 2018

Everyone knows doubles is very chaotic. You have to keep your eyes on your opponents, two instead of one, and on top of that you need to know the position of your teammate so you don't accidentally hit him. Your attention is divided across 4 different points. To the player, a vastly different set of skills is needed to thrive in doubles. To a spectator, it is a welcome retreat for anybody who thinks smash 4 singles is too slow. This article aims to break down doubles into tangible patterns, so a new player or spectator is able to understand doubles and appreciate its teamwork.

The current ruleset is 3 stocks each, 8 mins per game. There are 4 players, so 12 stocks total. To win a game, evenly matched players usually take 10 stocks from each other within 8 minutes. That is about 1 stock every 48 seconds. With stocks flying left and right, it is very hard to keep up with the action in doubles if you're a beginner. Does that mean doubles is faster? Probably. The ruleset is certainly similar to 3 stock singles but at least timeouts are unheard of in doubles. 

Doubles Options

What makes doubles so different from singles? Simply because, with a teammate, your advantage state has more options. Oh, your target flew a bit too far away to continue your combo? Your teammate can help you continue it before the hitstun wears off. Your opponent has such good air speed that your character cannot catch up? Your partner can catch that landing instead. Your range, speed and power as a team drastically increases from the gameplay of singles.

^A classic volleyball sequence setup by Void and Nakat

Not to mention, even if you decide to engage in two singles matches instead, the stage is limited and your friend and his other opponent become stage hazards. Running away becomes much more difficult without help.

Your defensive options increase as well. You need to land but your opponent is pressuring you? You can call on your partner to protect your landing by attacking your pursuer. Getting comboed to death? Your teammate can help you interrupt them by punishing the endlag on those moves or knocking your opponent away before he hits you. Need a breather? You can turtle on one side of the stage. If your opponent manages to get past your partner, usually you can punish it, so generally they will be slightly more hesitant to approach. You're getting gimped offstage? He could hit you to refresh your up special move.


Now, combine these options and you have doubles.

^Many situations happen in this single gif feat. komorikiri (2gg komo), Mkleo (Leo), Ally and Blacktwins (GV~Kun)

Situation 1: komo (komorikiri) grabs blacktwins and throws to Leo. As Leo successfully follows up on Blacktwins, Ally attacks komo, disabling his followup, therefore helping Blacktwins escape a juggle situation. This is an example of how teams make use of their defensive options.

Situation 2: Leo grabs Ally, recognising that Blacktwins would punish his backthrow, he throws forward instead. Blacktwins gets hit by the throw and is sent backwards, while Ally is tossed foward. In the time that Ally recovers from the throw, komo and Leo get quality 2v1 volleyball damage on Blacktwins. komo and Leo successfully extend their advantage state.

note both Ally and komorikiri's simultaneous (and whiffed) attempts to save their respective partners after MKLeo completes the juggle in situation 2. komo proceeds to cover part of Ally's options while Leo pressures Ally on the platform

What it means to be a team

Above I have briefly described very standard doubles advantage and disadvantage states. They are the 'fundamentals' of doubles. In short, doubles is all about maximising the risk-reward of those states. All will require the team to work as one.

If your teammate is getting comboed and took a lot of damage, whose fault is it? Your teammate got himself into that sticky situation. He didn't adapt fast enough or the opponents were just lucky to get that hit in. It could be yours. You didn't disrupt the combo in time, or you were too far away because you got hit earlier. Or it could be that your opponents are just too good.

The two of you pull off a sucessful fthrow to upsmash combo. Who gets the credit? The person who won the head-to-head and successfully grabbing, or the person who avoided the other opponent and positioned himself to upsmash? The one who timed the throw or the one who timed the smash?

Usually it is difficult to say who carried who. Maybe the players themselves will probably know. You ended the game with 2 stocks? Was it because you had good evading skills or because your partner always cut short your opponent's combos? Did you fulfill your share of damage while you played defensive? It's all hard to tell immediately. 

^an early stage of team KEN/Tsu. KEN would continuously evade everybody as much as possible while Tsu handles 2v1s.

Did KEN carry as a stock tank? Maybe. But they definitely planned their team to play this way.

Teamwork is a combination of these numerous individual factors. The blame and credit cannot lie on one single player. You work as a team so you take the win or loss as a team. 

Synergy is not everything 

Nevertheless, doubles fundamentals are built upon singles fundamentals. You still need to know how to adapt and play mindgames, as well as tech skill and control over your character, or you would be too reliant on your teammate. This is why you can put two good players together and they can place well simply by brute-forcing their way through the bracket. If you can't hit them, how will you set up the combo?

Still, synergy is a very important structure of doubles. It determines which roles are more important and how your team can maximise/minimise damage. That would take a whole other article. 


Author's note: I originally wanted to start this article series last year but real life has been crazy. It's unfortunate but the clips and gifs I have won't be recent in this and any subsequent articles. After all, this is published late and the static teams have dissolved so it's hard to get quality recent footage. I am still studying so the next article won't come soon.


-, taken from ZeRo/Nairo vs Larry/Jk at SSC2017

- SSC2017, Blacktwins/Ally vs komorikiri/MkLeo

- CEO Dreamland 2017, Void/Nakat vs Zero/Nairo

- Frostbite 2017, KEN/Tsu vs Ally/MkLeo


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