The average skill in Melee doubles is painfully low. One of the most common misconceptions is that you need a static teammate in order to have good synergy. If you have the knowledge and decent situational awareness, you should be able to team with anyone else who does. I hope that through my guides, commentary, and even gameplay, I can help motivated individuals hone their doubles play so that we will all have better tournament experiences. Teams 101 is a reasonably comprehensive doubles guide, so remind yourself of its contents at textuploader.com/6aln. This guide will have overlap but is focused on lucidly explaining concepts through prose. See my advanced guide to look for situational tricks to optimize your conversions. I will use strong language in this guide, making rules sound rigid and universal, but just like in good writing, you start by obeying the rules then break them once you are approaching mastery of your craft.
Time is the most important resource. In singles, when you land a hit, you earn position and an opportunity to follow up. In doubles, when you land a hit, you earn position, an opportunity to follow up, and time to allow you to eye the whole screen. Looking at the entire screen is guaranteed but following up is not necessarily. Look at everyone on the screen every time you don’t have a guaranteed follow up and whenever you can manage to do it even when you do have a guaranteed follow up. Grabs, tech chases, or vertical launchers should invariably allow you to look at the whole screen. Many times, after landing a hit, you should immediately run across the stage and 2v1 or help your teammate recover. It’s much better to get a guaranteed kill, like a grab combo, than it is to try to continue a tech chase or other combo with a reset. Helping recoveries should also generally be prioritized over getting kills.
Using time efficiently means you often have to drop what you are doing in favor of another opportunity. Feel the urgency of doubles. Don’t play neutral unnecessarily. Once one person is offstage, everyone should collapse on that ledge because that is the point of contention where important action is about to take place. If you are waiting for someone to land after you launched them vertically, you are fucking up. Don’t wait. Waiting is bad. Unless you’ve hit two floaties high in the air or far off stage, there is always something useful that you can do. Baiting is also much worse in doubles; brute force is favored.
Don’t switch from defense to offense. There’s a spectrum of defense, neutral, and offense. If you are on defense, you are in an intrinsically bad position to start offense. When you are shielding, on knockdown, or on the ledge, you have infinitely fewer options than someone with freedom of movement. If you and your teammate are in good formation and your front line is forced to play defense, this is time for him to rotate out and let the back line start offense. Why would you try to start offense when you are in a worse situation than your teammate to start offense? After recovering from defense to neutral, you can choose to immediately rotate back in. If the back line’s offense managed to be successful, he may choose to push the advantage further before rotating out. Use discretion in these situations—it’s better to rotate out and get your front line back in the action once there is a reset than stubbornly trying to push after the window of opportunity has closed. Notable exceptions to these rules include Fox’s invincible ledgedash and shine OOS when your teammate’s options are too slow. Situations involving shield drops are the only especially tricky times with regards to knowing who should start offense.
Cover options with your teammate. Don’t overlap. This is most relevant in ledge play, where one player should always cover the ledge and the other should always cover on stage recoveries. Start extremely simple to make coordination easy, then expand upon these things by using more complex options when sensible, in the same vein as expansion on musical themes in a well written composition. Add more tricks to your repertoire gradually. Discussing roles and situations ahead of time greatly expedites improvement in this area. Obeying other rules like not switching from defense to offense makes it easier to cover options together because it makes it easier to be one mind. At high levels of play, most of the time someone hits their teammate, it is the fault of the person who got hit for not correctly covering options together. Crossing streams/jumping over your teammate, going off stage for ledge guards, and trying to follow up after your teammate lands a launcher are common things that mess up coordination.
If you are playing a support role, you should spend 90% of your time watching your teammate. When you are in formation, this will let you react to any development. If you taking the lead, you will need to watch your opponents the vast majority of the time because you are playing on reaction to them, whereas the support is playing on reaction to you. Follow previous guidelines about finding time to eye the whole screen. Opportunities for big conversions are frequently dropped because the carry player is not cognizant of what their support has set up, so try your best to minimize this. Conversely, if you are playing support and you are not cognizant of situations that your carry has set up, you are not doing your job. Support players who don’t cover options with their teammate are literally useless.
Don’t break formation for no reason. Maintaining position is of utmost importance, so breaking position needs to be warranted. One person attacking at a time is generally preferable. When only one person is engaging the other team, this leaves the most options open for your team. You can be ready to double team, zone out the other player, save your teammate, etc. A good support should be ready to punish laggy moves that hit his teammate or his teammate’s shield. If you both engage, there are three possible outcomes. Worst case scenario, you both lose your engagements, which is obviously bad. Best case scenario is that you both win your exchanges, but in this scenario, you might be too far apart to team ledge guard, which means neither kill is necessarily guaranteed, and thus it might not even be better than just winning one exchange. Lastly, one of you could win your exchange while the other loses, which obligates one teammate to help the other. This is much worse than your teammate winning his exchange with you there ready to double team and is the same as your teammate losing the exchange and you helping. Don’t tunnel vision on a combo or ledge guard if you are going to expose yourself by doing so. The worst part about doing this isn’t potentially forfeiting your own stock, but the fact that you obligate your teammate to come help you. Regardless of whether the other teammate gets a reprisal kill on you, your teammate will have to try to help you while whoever you killed comes down with invincibility. This almost always results in both of you cornered. If someone comes down with invincibility and both opponents are in the corner with one of them obligated to help the other recover, this can easily turn this into a double kill. If you go off stage for a ledge guard and have to up+b, you are putting your teammate into a Catch-22 situation where he either has to let you die or choose to put himself at risk, exposing your team to a possibility to losing two stocks. Only do this if you are very cognizant of everyone’s position and have the confidence to know you won’t get counter-hunted, or if you want to trade stocks.
When you are against a fast faller, a Marth, or anyone teaming with a floatie, you will have a preference to kill these characters. When someone is at high percent, you will have a desire to kill them. If you are focused on killing one person, you are on the hunt. You don’t want your opponent to sniff out that you are on the hunt. If your prey knows that you’ve mentally committed to killing him, he can make the cost of hunting him too high. For this reason, you should almost never hunt floaties. If they are just trying to stay safe, they are extremely unlikely to be contributing to the action in a meaningful way. It is much easier to try to keep them away and punish them when they try to come in than it is to attack them on defense. If they are out of the fray, they are useless, so there is no need to kill them. Remember, people open themselves up to being hit when they approach, so just punish the floatie once he tries to get into the fray.
Because time is your most valuable resource, it is not worth hunting someone who is putting himself in a defensive position that is difficult to contest. Mask your hunt by moving deceptively and by switching targets whenever opportune. If you read that someone is on the hunt, don’t play reactively. Read their aggression right away and punish them. Top players have the awareness and spacing to avoid getting counter-hunted, but people on the hunt are in poor mental state more often than not. The compulsion to kill people at high percent instead of team comboing their teammate is strong. If you fully anticipate your opponent throwing out a move, you get amazing opportunities to punish. Always assess the mental state of your opponents if someone on your team is living forever. If someone is at 200% and 4 stocks while their teammate is at 0% and 2 stocks, it’s still almost always better to double team the person at 0. Seeing one person with 4 stocks while their teammate is getting to their last tends to be a good situation because it’s probably indicative that you have been going for the opportune target.
Pick stages that play to your strengths or that neuter the other team’s strengths. Poor understanding of stage selection is a chronic problem, at least in commentary. Don’t pick stages because of advantages in singles that are irrelevant in your match. Here’s a little rundown of every stage:
FD is the Battlefield of doubles. It is by far the most common starter. It favors good teamwork because team combos cannot be escaped via platforms, team ledge guards are simplified because there are no platforms (though Fox can do M2K angles), and reestablishing team formation can be near impossible because there is no way to circumvent zoning characters.
Dreamland is probably the most interesting stage to talk about. It has a lot of ground space, a high top platform, plenty of room to move around on platforms, and huge blast zones. The boons for mobile characters often outweigh the survivability buff for floaties. Living longer is obviously good. However, if you are recovering more than you are on the stage, this is all time that can be used to double team your teammate. Sometimes it is better to not kill a floatie and to take advantage of their slow recoveries, intentionally not hitting them with finishers so you can get additional time to double team their teammate. Having an incredible amount of space to maneuver also makes it easier for fast characters to pick their spots against slow characters, and most importantly, it lets fast characters reset to neutral with ease. If you are playing a fast character and want to stay out of the fray while your teammate plays neutral, this is ideal because you can avoid engagements so easily. With all that said, it can still be good for floaties because of blast zones, particularly if your team composition is not susceptible to someone being double teamed during lengthy recoveries. Wispy complicates team ledge guards because you can get pushed off platforms and have no lag, buffing characters with a lot of up+b lag.
YS is a shitshow but it is by no means random, nor should it be neglected. Despite me being a Falcon player, my teammate and I almost invariably pick this stage. Having to fight in close quarters with your teammate makes it favor teams with better teamwork. Team coverage on platform tech chases are ridiculously easy here because of small platforms at low heights. Randall and wall jumps significantly alter recovery possibilities. Small blast zones buff characters with strong kill power and nerf those who rely on surviving as a strength. Hitboxes cover way more of this stage than any other, so being able to hold and control space is hugely important, thereby buffing characters with large hitboxes. It does offer a top platform, which can be used to find breathing room and to disengage against floaties. It is easier to close distance here, so if you are getting camped and want to force them to fight, consider Yoshi’s. Double Peach and Peach Sheik are teams you want to ban this stage against. Marth’s sword can control a lot of this stage, but it can be really challenging for him to not hit his teammate.
PS does not loan itself to strategic advantages as much as other stages. When double Fox picks Stadium, it’s a buff to their muscles and does not indicate any strategy, meaning they are unlikely to have a plan like “smother them” or “camp them.” Stadium gives transformations, which favor Fox, and which also favor big swings. If you are at high percent, it can be a very good idea to push and try to establish an even stronger advantage. You will have little to lose and a lot to gain because walls destroy the correlation between losing a stock and having high percent.
Battlefield is perhaps the least interesting stage. It has a high top platform, allowing characters with good vertical mobility to choose their spots carefully. It nerfs Fox recovery. It is the only middle sized stage, so if big or small doesn’t sound good, you should go here. There is only one small stage in doubles, so if you want small and can’t pick Yoshi’s, you should go here.
People are painfully bad at 1v2. To be good at 1v2, you need to be as threatening as you can while as noncommittal as possible. Don’t over commit on the person at high percent and don’t over commit on ledge guards that expose you once you finish them. Move a lot. Moves have lag, movement doesn’t. Try as hard as you can to be slippery and to make it unclear which opponent you will attack. Being predictable will get you locked down. Once you aren’t moving, you are probably dead. Crossups are especially good in 1v2, though you should be wary of potentially putting yourself in sandwich situations. It should go without saying that you want to avoid shielding. And for the love of god, don’t grab. A good way to practice 1v2 and 2v1 is to play with three players. Have one of them on a team with one stock each while the other player starts with three stocks. This definitely favors the team. It forces good teamwork, and once the team has decent teamwork, it will force you to be slippery in order to beat them. Here is an example of a good 1v2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAxTvyYvxxw&t=15m34s. Note that Marth has fast throws with favorable knockback angles, so he can sometimes get away with grabbing in 1v2.
About the author: NMW is an aspiring Falcon player from NorCal, currently ranked 9th on the NorCal power ranking. Doubles accomplishments include 5th at INY and 13th at Genesis with L, and winning SSS, Mayhem, and Emerald City III with SFAT.
Here are some doubles gameplay highlights:
And some commentary as well: