Basically have a team of heroes face off against a team of villains where each hero pairs off with another villain, mano a mano. In some cases, it's their enemy rivals and in some cases the heroes are fighting off their evil counterparts (which invariably leads to starting off with everyone fighting themselves). This unfortunately leads to potential complications, as usually the one they're fighting against has the upper hand, because being their rival means knowing their moves and how to counter it.
So in a stroke of obvious brilliance, have the heroes trade enemies. This leads to quick defeat as now the heroes are fighting to their strengths, and the matches are one by one brought to a close.
The degree of Genre Blindness which affects teams presented with their evil copies is amazing. They have to let themselves get smacked around excessively before coming up with this, and they always say it like it's not always the answer to this particular plot complication.
- An early Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog comic had the Freedom Fighter's beating their evil selves from another dimension like this.
- The old X-Men comics used this a lot. There were always mooks whose Applied Phlebotinum allowed each mook to completely counter the powers of one certain X Man apiece... so the X Men switched sparring partners. and it never dawns on the mooks to develop the ability to counter the powers of multiple X Men at a time.
- This happend in a lot of Avengers issue as well, often when the team fought the Masters of Evil, which was a team consisting of their individual enemies.
- This was inverted by the villains in the Crisis Crossover Acts of Vengeance which saw mostly Avengers villains going after different heroes in hopes of finally ridding them of the good guys once and for all.
- Sūn Bìn's trick (see Real Life below) is almost exactly replicated in one Piers Anthony's Battle Circle books, albeit involving fighters. They then start discussing what happens when the other side is as savvy, or it's uncertain who's the best, etc.
- In Power Rangers in Space, this happened with the original Psycho Rangers, who had previously downloaded all their opponents fighting styles. Unfortunately, the Psychos proved to be quite clever about it:
- The first time the Psychos just fought off their current opponent, and then went to their main one and wailed on them. T.J. got an especially brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- T.J. then got the idea of having all the Rangers appear in a blue uniform to confuse the Psychos; but, they then just pulled back and blasted everyone allowing them to still win the fight.
- After that, the surviving Psychos analyzed the voices of each of the Rangers, allowing them to distinguish them regardless of disguise or being unmorphed.
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy had a variation of it, where there was only one monster. Chameliac scanned the Rangers unique fighting moves or specific weapons allowing him to dominate the fight. In round 2, they used each others fighting moves/weapons. It even extended to the weapons one of their Zords used. This confused him enough to allow them to destroy him.
- Something like this occurred in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "That Which Survives". A computer generated construct had the power to kill a specific human target by touch. When the Enterprise crew members facing it realized this, they interposed someone else between the opponent and its target, foiling the attack. Eventually the computer wised up and created a construct for each crew member, so the crew switched around until each was facing a construct meant for someone else.
- The Order of the Stick had a villain version, as well as subverting it, when Nale traded enemies with Thog, only to end up with a worse match-off.
- The Dubious Company teams of start off running at their Evil Counterpart during the showdown in Kreedor's castle, only to trade up immediately for defensive or vendetta reasons. It ends with Sal vs Izor, Walter vs Mary, Tiren vs Gary, Elly vs Marty, and Leeroy vs Sue.
- Done in a later episode of the '90s X-Men animated series, where some of the X-Men are facing X-Factor and having a stalemate (Cyclops vs. Havok; Wolverine vs. Multiple Man; Beast vs. Wolfsbane; etc.). The X-Men switch it up and get the upper hand.
- An episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command had the heroes each take advantage of a teammate's clone this way (for instance, "Feara" believed she was chasing Mira using her intangibility powers, which wear her out, but she was actually chasing a hologram by XR, causing Feara to be the one to wear out.)
- The Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon had an episode in which the characters were trying to defeat their worst fears. They fail, and suddenly decide to switch and fight each others' fears.
- Justice League Unlimited had this when the seven heroes went up against Brainithor. This had Wonder Woman and Superman trading off, as well as Hawk Girl and Green Lantern. Batman and Flash already destroyed their opponents, J'onn beats his off screen.
- An episode of The Powerpuff Girls had them facing impostors in Paper Thin Disguises, which nonetheless fooled the girls (and the crooks) into attacking each other until they got the idea to only attack their own counterpart—the inverse of the trope.
- Reboot in Wizards, Warriors, and a Word From Our Sponsors had Mike and Dot trade against their evil counterparts and quickly won.
- Season Four finale of Teen Titans when Trigon created evil duplicates of Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy. Beast Boy took on Evil Starfire, Cyborg took on Evil Beast Boy, and Starfire took on Evil Cyborg. It's also semi-justified that they don't switch until late in the fight, since they're not trying to win, they're trying to keep Trigon's attention on them instead of Robin's secret mission, and only become concerned with winning once Trigon admits he knows what they're doing.
- Xiaolin Showdown also did the Greatest Fear switch.
- Older Than Feudalism. Sun Tzu's descendant Sūn Bìn reportedly advised a variant of this in a series of horse races in the mid-4th century BCE: "Match your third string against his first, your best against his second, and your second best against his weakest." So they won two out of three races and cleaned up on the betting.
- This is considered unsportsmanly at best in high school tennis leagues.
- Or in pretty much any other sporting contest where people compete in one-on-one matches and this is possible (e.g., not much of a problem in wrestling, because the matchups there are determined by weight class, not ability).
- Inverted in the case of Wild Weasels. American aircraft were being shot down by Anti-Aircraft missiles over North Vietnam, a classic Rock beats Scissors if there ever was one. Planes were then specifically sent to destroy said AA sites and it WORKED. Almost like giving Scissors missiles made of Paper to take out Rock.