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Opponent Switch

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"Hey! No fair! Where does it say they can switch?"
Jack Spicer, Xiaolin Showdown

Our group of heroes are fighting against the Psycho Rangers, Evil Twins, or opponents skilled or specialized against certain techniques against them, individually, fighting to, at best, a stalemate. One of the heroes realizes it's futile fighting against their equals, so all of them switch opponents, which wins them the battle. For some reason this almost never leads to Evil Twin A being defeated by Twin B but Evil Twin B defeating Twin A, as might be expected if they're actual equal to their doubles, nor the evil ones winning due to the change. There just seems to be some rule that switching opponents automatically guarantees heroic victory, even if it doesn't make sense. A common subversion of the Plot Tailored to the Party. May be justified in that the villans use techniques that are only useful against their chosen enemy, meaning they would be useless against anyone else. Another justification that makes more sense is that the heroes don't know their own weaknesses as well as they know those of their teammates, so when they switch, their teammates know the weaknesses of their teammate and thus the Evil Twin they're up against and can thus defeat them.

Compare Counterpart Combat Coordination and Midfight Weapon Exchange. A "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder is similar, but planned beforehand, and usually executed by villains.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Uryu and Chad switch opponents in their first battle in Hueco Mundo and successfully defeat them. Note that it also went in an opposite direction: initially, the speedy archer Uryu was fighting against a giant and The Big Guy Chad has been fighting against a fast shooting Arrancar. Then they switched to Mirror Match of sorts, by fighting opponents strong in the same fields as they - and completely overwhelmed them.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Mahito ends up in a uniquely disadvantageous situation fighting Yuji while his clone faces Nobara. Only the main body can use Idle Transfiguration on other people, which he can't use on Yuji because of Sukuna, while Nobara's Sympathetic Magic directly damages his soul even when she attacks his clone. Mahito's solution is to discreetly switch places so the main body can use Idle Transfiguration on Nobara.
  • Medaka Box: Medaka, Zenkichi, Kumagawa, and Ajimu were stalemated by their respective doubles. The answer? Have Medaka defeat Zenkichi's double, Zenkichi beat Kumagawa's, Kumagawa beat Ajimu, and have Ajimu defeat Medaka.
  • One Piece. This happens a few times in the Enies Lobby arc. Nami gets Kumadori's key but is unable to defeat him due to his superior strength and close- to mid-range fighting, resulting in Chopper stepping in to help. Sanji is stronger than Kalifa but is unable to hit a girl, and after his defeat, Nami saves him, winning because she can counter Kalifa's bubble powers with her Clima-tact. Usopp is not strong enough to defeat Jyabura, so Sanji steps in while telling Usopp to go save Robin, defeating Jyabura with his ability to break through his specialized tekkai. Usopp manages to snipe Spandam and the guards from a distance, something no one else could do. Only Zoro and Franky end up defeating their original opponents; Kaku was a swordsman like Zoro, but Fukurou relied on speed and hand-to-hand combat, in contrast to Franky's mix of close-quarters and ranged attacks.
  • In Pokémon the Series: Black & White, Ash's companions gets a rival of their own (Ash gets three, and Iris and Cilan have one apiece), in spite of not getting involved in some sort of major competition. Best Wishes would wind up having the largest number of multi-episode Tournament Arcs outside of the traditional regional competition (Club Battle, Clubsplosion, and Junior Cup) just so Ash, Iris and Cilan (as well as Dawn during the Junior Cup) can go up against their rivals. However, matchups in these tournaments where a protagonist faces a different rival (i.e. Iris' rival Georgia being Ash's second round opponent during the Club Battle) is actually commonplace.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers:
    • This is a common tactic ordered by Captain America while leading them into battle.
    • When the Thunderbolts are ordered by the government to rough up the New Avengers (who are looking into things they don't like), the Avengers try to do this only to find out the Thunderbolts predicted it.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • The team used this same trick decades earlier than the above Peter Porker example in one of the Silver Age Galactus stories, and in another Silver Age story involving robot doubles fighting them.
    • Inverted in another early story when they were up against elemental constructs. The elementals were under strict instructions from their creator to avoid going up against their opposite numbers (Reed/Water, Sue/Air, Thing/Earth, Torch/Fire) and each ends up being defeated by its counterpart.
  • This is part of the premise of the Marvel Universe crossover Acts of Vengeance. This, of course, lead to some very odd, but memorable match ups, with a variety of tones ranging from almost wacky comedy to deadly serious. Memorable stories included Daredevil vs. Ultron, the Punisher vs Doctor Doom, the Power Pack against Typhoid Mary, a group of Spidey's D-listers against the Fantastic Four, and Magneto (a Holocaust survivor) vs the Red Skull (a Nazi).
  • Inverted in the very first Justice League story featuring the Crime Syndicate of America. While the first battle saw the male heroes unintentionally switch opponents when their foes moved from their initial location before the hero arrived, resulting in Ultraman VS Flash, Owlman VS Green Lantern, Johnny Quick VS Batman and Power Ring VS Superman), in their rematch with the Justice League, the JLAers only won when each member took on their specific counterparts with a series of Overclocking Attacks.
    • A variant of this happened in a Silver Age story where the Justice League were summoned to Earth Prime to deal with a superbeing by the name of Ultraa, and they had to team up to stop Earth-Prime's first supervillain, the evil Maxitron. Maxitron sought to destroy Ultraa and the League by putting them in Death Traps catered to each of their weaknesses. Unfortunately for him, he was defeated when Green Lantern disguised Superman and Ultraa as each other, resulting in the traps that should have killed them (ultrasonic pounding for Ultraa and red solar radiation for Superman) doing nothing to the latter. In the meantime, Green Lantern overpowered the Tiger-Bear sent after him (and whose yellow fur was impervious to his ring) through sheer guts and determination.
  • Runaways does this during the final fight of the first volume, when the kids confront their parents. Gert's dinosaur companion Old Lace is incapable of attacking any of her family, and Karolina's family's powers don't work on each other. "Ready... set... switch!"
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • This happens when Sonic and the Freedom Fighters fight their evil mirror universe doppelgangers.
    • Subverted in Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide. Mega Man and Sonic are fighting Bass and Metal Sonic, respectively, in a stalemate. When the heroes decide to switch (thinking that their knockoffs are only programmed to beat their counterparts), they get overwhelmed instead. They decide to team up against one at a time to beat their evil doubles.
      Mega Man: "Works every time", huh?
      Sonic: Oh, cute, you were programmed with sarcasm.
  • Spider-Ham: A backup story in Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham has the Fantastic Fur meet an evil set of themselves, and they predictably go after their doppelgangers as per usual. Then the Reed Richards says that they should change opponents — so the Thing fights the Invisible Girl and Reed fights the Torch — then the Thing gets an idea... rather than fighting each other, they should fight the bad guy versions of themselves.
  • Spider-Man: In the newspaper comic strip The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man is battling Kingpin while Iron Fist is battling another martial arts user, Golden Claw. The villains have studied their respective heroes moves for so long it's a stalemate until Spider-Man suggests they switch and the villains are promptly defeated.
  • Superman:
    • In Public Enemies, Superman and Batman attempt this when Captain Marvel and Hawkman fight them. It doesn't work since Marvel and Hawkman expected it and each was prepared to fight either opponent anyway. Hawkman used a special gauntlet to hit Superman hard enough that even he would be knocked out, and Marvel exploited Batman's soft spot for kids by briefly reverting to Billy Batson. Superman and Batman beat them off-screen later.
    • In Reign of Doomsday, slightly weaker clones of Doomsday were specifically designed to take out Supergirl, Superboy, Steel, and the Cyborg Superman. After getting curb-stomped the first time, they switched and defeated them.
  • X-Men: The team do this in The Dark Phoenix Saga. Colossus, Storm and Wolverine find themselves facing three of the Hellfire Club's Elite Mooks with power armors customized for their individual powers. Switching things up works nicely.
  • In the original Young Justice comic, they're up against fake nemeses; Robin versus Joker, Superboy versus Metallo, Impulse versus Grodd. Robin works out that they need to switch. He beats Metallo, Superboy beats Grodd, and so annoying that he drives The Joker nuts with frustration.

    Fan Works 
  • All Things Probable Series. In a rare villainous example, Team Probable do this against Team Possible with Rhonda fighting Kim and Grimm fighting Ron. Unfortunately for the heroes, it works.
  • Comes up in the final battle of the Avengers of the Ring sequel Return of the Avengers; despite Thor’s personal history with Malekith, he recognises that letting the iron-wearing Tony Stark battle the Dark Elf with the weakness to iron is the better choice, while he is better-suited to battling the Balrog Malekith has unleashed.
  • In Always a Ranger- an AU of the confrontation with Thrax where he attacked the SPD B-Squad rather than the Operation Overdrive team- at one point the SPD Rangers travel to Phaedos to acquire a legendary sword, but as part of this they have to face five magically-created warriors, each specially configured to oppose that specific Ranger. However, once Bridge realises what makes their particular opponents dangerous (as his own relatively passive power doesn't make much difference in a combat situation), he is able to advise the others to switch opponents, such as Jack facing Sky's opponent.
  • A Hollow in Equestria has Ulquiorra and Rainbow Dash each facing off against manifestations generated by Nightmare Moon to combat them; the fully Hollowfied Ichigo Kurosaki for Ulquiorra, and Mare Do Well for Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash decides to immediately invokes this trope.
  • My Little Avengers: Pops up during the Final Battle. Except for Big Mac, who goes after Loki in order to reclaim Thor's powers, the rest of the Avengers switch which of the Dark Avengers they take on. This is due to the fact that during their previous encounter, the Dark Avengers were able to curb-stomp them.
  • This Bites!: This is how Vivi and Conis beat their opponents Marine Captains Sharinguru and Gorilla during the Enies Lobby fight. Gorilla is tough, strong and straightforward enough to hammer through all of Conis' arsenal, but his Consummate Professionalism makes him vulnerable to Vivi's newly-unlocked Sovereign's Will. On the other hand, Sharinguru is fast and strong enough to deflect Vivi's weapons and zealous enough to fight off her Sovereign's Will, but Conis' esoteric Sky Warfare weaponry is sufficient to stop him in his tracks.
  • Time and Again. Naruto switches with Kakashi when he realizes Kakashi's lightning jutsu are needed to beat Naruto's opponent's earth-elemental armor.

  • Done in the climax of Hitman (1998), a 90s action film starring Jet Li as the protagonist while Simon Yam plays The Lancer. The final showdown begins with Li taking on main villain Eiji's lackey, the Tall Man while Yam tackles Eiji himself, but after a while the heroes are losing their edge, so Li and Yam swaps their targets, leading to Yam and the Tall Man facing each other in a Lancer vs. Dragon fight while Li continues fighting Eiji.


    Live Action TV 
  • Denji Sentai Megaranger/Power Rangers in Space does this with the Nejirangers / the original Psycho Rangers.
    • Each Psycho Ranger has absorbed the fighting knowledge of his/her opposing Power Ranger, and is thus able to properly defend and retaliate. At first, the Power Rangers do the normal "switch opponents" variant, but since the rangers are Color-Coded for Your Convenience, the Psychos just find their Rangers again and switch back. Then the Power Rangers go in all dressed like the Blue Ranger. And for good measure, they get Zhane to come in dressed as a Silver Psycho Ranger. This works due to a) the Psychos not being able to work with one another naturally, and b) the Psychos not expecting a Sixth Ranger.
    • After that, the three surviving Psychos memorize each Ranger's voice so that they won't fall for that trick either. Possibly the most justified case for a show not going with this trope for more than one episode.
  • Not "opponents" in the traditional sense, but one episode of The Magicians (2016) has the title characters given a test where they each have to perform a different task using a tool that's obviously unsuitable for said task. It takes them a while to figure out that they're meant to swap tasks with each other, as each person has a tool that's useful for another person's task.
  • Seijuu Sentai Gingaman/Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Copis/Chameliac, a Monster of the Week that is able to copy and counter the rangers' fighting style gets outsmarted when the rangers switch fighting styles with each other, confusing the monster. Then, in the Megazord fight, he copies the Megazords' powers as well. When the Stratoforce Megazord shows up, he copies it...only for it pull out the Centaurus Megazord's gun and shoot him.
  • In the series finale of Cloak & Dagger (2018), Andre Deschain/D'Spayre pits Tyrone and Tandy against opponents specifically tailored to them: An Evil Twin for Tyrone and a representation of her abusive father for Tandy. After struggling for a bit against their own opponents, they switched places and fought each other's until Andre forced them to switch back.

    • This is how the Toa Mata defeated their shadow counterparts in Tales of the Masks. The encyclopedia Retconned it, however — in the new version, the Toa understand that the Shadow Toa were actually their inner evil, and reabsorb them by accepting it.
    • Each year there were also frequently sets of enemies who were similarly color coded, such as the Bohrok, the Rahkshi, the Vahki and so on. However the Toa didn't generally express any particular desire to specifically go after their same color.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions supplement Red Doom. One of the Supreme Soviets' standard combat maneuvers was "Soccer Ball", in which the team members switched opponents until they found one that was vulnerable to their attacks.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto V: In the "Deathwish" ending, each of the three protagonists goes after the member of the Big Bad Ensemble they have the smallest connection to, reasoning that it would be easier for a stranger to get close to the target than a known enemy.
  • Pokémon: After defeating an opponent's Mon, the game informs you of which Mon that is and allows you to switch out accordingly if the type disparity is too strong or your Mon is near-fainting. You can also switch out mid-battle, but this costs you your turn (although doing so with a stronger one is an efficient way of powerleveling a low-level Mon since participating in a battle splits the experience between the participants).

  • Brawl in the Family has Bowser and Ganondorf agreeing to take on the other's rival; Bowser under the assumption that his thick shell would protect him from Link's arrows, and Ganondorf feeling confident that his magic could easily dispatch a middle-aged plumber. It works, but, when they decide that they both want to be top dog, they release their respective prisoners to attack the other, allowing Mario and Link to defeat them once again.
  • The Order of the Stick
    • When the Linear Guild is failing to make progress against the Order, Nale suggests to Thog that they trade opponents. This actually makes things worse for him, as Elan's normally useless bardic magic is effective against Thog, and Roy has been holding back a strong urge to beat the tar out of Nale's twin brother Elan for quite some time.
    • The Linear Guild strikes again much later. With Roy getting the tar kicked out of him by Thog, Elan fleeing Nale, and V unable to get through Zz'dtri's magical defences, V then realises that Zz'dtri's achilles heel is best countered by someone else and invokes this trope - by using the Guild's own archer specialist, to boot. Even better, when Zz'dtri's spells hit said archer, suddenly the Suggestion spell gets a lot easier.

    Web Original 
  • "Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy" in the Whateley Universe: when fighting New Olympians best suited to combatting them (even Person of Mass Destruction Tennyo), Team Kimba manages to trade opponents one by one until they defeat enough opponents that they can double-team the last couple.

    Western Animation 
  • Avengers Assemble: When the All-New Avengers face off against the Leader's new Cabal, they have difficulty with the fight until they hit upon the idea of switching up. That works for a time, until it turns out the Cabal have their own ideas.
  • A Season 3 episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold features the villains setting this up in order to get the upper hand against their respective Archenemy. The Joker fights Wonder Woman, Cheetah deals with Superman, leaving Lex Luthor with Batman.
  • While antagonism at the level of actually fighting doesn't last long enough for them to switch, the Futurama episode where the gang travels to a parallel universe lampshades why this trope might be a good idea.
    Leela-A: We're exactly alike. I know all her moves, so that gives me the upper hand.
    (The two Leelas flying jump kick at each other, knocking each other down.)
    Professor-A: Now, now, perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything.
  • The Hercules: The Animated Series and Aladdin: The Series crossover "Hercules and the Arabian Night" had Hades and Jafar team up. They decide to take on each other's enemy. Jafar says Hercules should be easy for him because Hercules isn't very agile nor clever, and Hades thinks Aladdin is worthless because he doesn't have Super-Strength. The heroes defeat them anyway. Afterwards, the villains try Plan B: Let's You and Him Fight.
  • Subverted in the The Hollow episode "Hollow Games". When corned by the embodiment of their childhood fears, they figure that this is the solution, only to fail miserably after several minutes of fighting (and polite talking). It's only when Kai has to save Adam from being eaten that they realize this is a straight-forward Face Your Fears situation.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, when Luthor-Brainiac merged being pits the League against their own Evil Twins, The Flash, Batman, and Martian Manhunter are able to defeat their doubles on their own, while the rest eventually switch opponents. Leads to an amusing exchange between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, who both comment that the other one enjoys whacking their opponent a little too much.
    Green Lantern: Just letting off some steam. She broke my heart, you know.
    Hawkgirl: (knocks Lord!GL's head clean off) Likewise, I'm sure.
  • Inverted in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) where three crooks dress up as the Powerpuff Girls. When the Girls and the crooks throw down, both sides end up attacking their teammates by mistake before Blossom says they should just fight their counterparts to keep things simple. The whole episode is taken into Refuge in Audacity territory because the crooks' disguises are blatantly obvious to the viewernote  and yet everyone including the real Powerpuff Girls and the crooks still confuses them for the real thing.
  • The Reboot Episode "Wizards Warriors and a Word From Our Sponsors" has Bob, Dot, Enzo and Mike the TV fight off their evil doppelgangers in a fantasy game. It doesn't go well until Mike inadvertently switches opponents by bumping into Evil Dot (who runs screaming from Mike's incessant infomercials).
  • Teen Titans (2003): Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Starfire fight against their Evil Knockoffs, switching in the end to defeat them (Starfire to Evil Cyborg, Beast Boy to Evil Starfire, and Cyborg to Evil Beast Boy).
    Cyborg: Told you I could kick your butt.
  • One episode of of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had Baxter Stockman create a Turtle Robot that scanned each of the TMNT as they went to attack it, once scanned the robot could replicate their weapons and fighting style, which worked, until the TMNT switched weapons with each other.
  • This is how Spider-Man and his teammates defeat the Sinister Six for the first time in Ultimate Spider-Man (2012). Kinda weird, considering that unlike usual examples, the Sinister Six are not The Psycho Rangers, but villains who have nothing to do with the team, and yet each one of them get curb stomped. Including those like Beetle, Kraven, and Electro, would could give the entire team a hard time...
  • Happens in Xiaolin Showdown, when a Sheng Gong Wu creates physical manifestations of each warrior's worst fear. Defied later on the episode when the duel of the day specified they must fight their respective fear.
  • In X-Men: The Animated Series, the X-Men once fought their evenly-matched counterparts in X-Factor until Professor X suggested they switch.
  • In the Young Justice (2010) episode "Terrors", Superboy (disguised as the villain Tommy Terror) fights Mammoth and Blockbuster, who are stronger than him, while Icicle Jr. fights Mister Freeze, who is a more skilled ice user. They win by switching.

Alternative Title(s): Rock Paper Switch