Over the last couple of months, I’ve made many predictions on a good deal of characters across the upcoming “Smash Ultimate” cast. This will be the last article I can publish before the game will release. In lieu of this, it’s time to take all of these predictions and make my complete idea of the opening day metagame!
As a precursor to a general idea of each tier’s base viability:
Top 10: These are the characters who are going to be winning tournaments. They will be omnipresent on stream, they will litter the worldwide PR, they will generally have many advantages that characters in lower tiers do not, and generally set the precedent for how a good character of their particular model should play (ex: Olimar shapes the campy play metagame).
Top 20: These are characters who represent the fiercest competition for the Top 10. Some of them figure to make for great counterpicks, such as Rosalina against Olimar or Link against the Belmonts. They do have some minor deficiencies that do hold them back from being Top 10, or they simply aren’t as overbearing as those in the Top 10. But they are absolutely metagame viable and should have popular, top level representation fairly quickly.
Middle of the pack: These are characters who, while definitely viable, will struggle to stand out and do great things, such as win national tournaments. They aren’t necessarily bad, but they will need to be carried in order to reach deep stages of a tournament bracket. In some cases, they can be good counterpicks against higher tiered characters. Additionally, most of them aren’t outclassed to the point of uselessness, and because they have enough good attributes about them, they should still at least yield a respectable return to a player investing themselves in learning them.
Bottom 20: These are characters who have a growing list of drawbacks that calls into question their very viability. They are mostly outclassed versions of other characters, and in many cases, will not warrant optimal usage. They can still function against some of the better characters in the game, which means they will not be immense handicaps in some cases, but there will virtually always be a better character in a higher tier for whatever you are trying to get out of these characters.
Bottom 10: These characters have been cursed by Nintendo to be very, very bad, and will not be viable or, as a best case scenario, might be viable but are so blatantly outclassed by something higher tiered that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to use them. In most cases, these characters don’t even make for appealing counterpicks, and should largely be kept on the shelf for ‘fun’ play or something like that.
Now, some specific notes I want to make on certain characters:
Diddy Kong: I didn’t even bother to write up an analysis on this character, because right from the get go, it was an automatic that we were largely going to be seeing the same thing out of this guy. Diddy Kong fits the new game like a mitten. In fact, Diddy’s general dynamic isn’t even different from Smash 4. As such, perhaps a player looking to acclimate themselves to the new game could start off with Diddy Kong as a learning crutch until such an adjustment has been made.
King K. Rool: K. Rool’s newly discovered armor mechanics, kill confirm and threatening neutral make him the strongest competitor for the top ten in the game. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he overtakes Ike and gets into the top ten. The only reason I didn’t do that myself is, he’s still a heavy with a massive hurtbox. In a fast paced game, that’s still a pretty big problem.
Lucina/Marth: Believe me, I am certainly not taking a side in this Lucina vs Marth debate. Really, I only put Lucina first because I wanted to order them alphabetically. Funny enough, with M coming after L in the alphabet, this is still a really close competition. That said, these are virtually the same characters, just with Marth having more of a risk/reward factor than Lucina. Generally, if you can be good with one, you can probably be good with the other. Totally a personal choice.
Snake: I know I said a couple months ago that I thought Snake was a top tier character, but over time, this sentiment simply hasn’t held up. Snake still looks very, very good, but he just doesn’t look quite as overbearing as those ahead of him. Having a tall hurtbox as a heavy spells trouble for him as well, and it’s just enough for me to not want him quite in the Top 20 either. Still a very good character, though.
Daisy/Peach: Same idea as Lucina/Marth, only there is literally not a single difference between these two characters. At least “D” isn’t right next to “P” in the alphabet.
Fox/Wolf: While not the same character, they do have a similar dynamic. Wolf, more than virtually anybody in the cast, would benefit greatly from having a kill confirm; not having a reliable kill setup is his only actual deficiency. As you can clearly see, it’s a really bad, nagging deficiency. Fox is in a similar boat, but he’s a bit faster. Still lost a lot of his tricks from Smash 4, and still being a very fast faller doesn’t help.
Palutena: She got a bit faster, and got some nice new mechanic changes to her moves. Perhaps a plausible anti-metagame character? Well, she still does an atrocious job dealing with offensive pressure, which really hurts in this game. I could see her functioning well enough against Olimar, the Belmonts, maybe Bayonetta.
Pokemon Trainer: I bumped him up a bit. It seems Ivysaur has a respectable enough kill setup and an okay-ish zoning game. Charizard’s Up Throw also has some solid kill power. This means there is some merit, albeit still not much, with all three of his Pokemon, which can unlock a bit of the potential he conceptually should have.
Lucas/Greninja: Both of these characters lost pretty much the only things making them good in Smash 4; their kill confirms. Lucas’ grab has also been nerfed to the point of near uselessness.
Bowser: We recently learned that Bowser will get super armor on all of his smash attacks and tilts. That was enough for me to drag him from the depths of the bottom ten into the still-uninspiring bottom 20. Barely.
Pichu/Dr Mario: Yawn. Outclassed blatantly by something that is pretty much them in a different skin. Next!
Additionally, I also constructed a character difficulty projection chart. Worth clarifying is that this is not a chart meant to depict how ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ winning a tourney will be with a given character, as that would be largely redundant with the viability tier list. It is a chart meant to show how difficult it will be to properly learn to utilize a character’s good traits in an average tournament matchup in an optimal way. Perhaps a character requires more good prediction than another, or maybe a character has a kill confirm which is less situational and easier to land than another. In general, this list will depict how easy it will be to comfortable use a character in an adequate way:
The easy-bake characters are just that; everyone knows what these guys do, and you probably do too. Will probably be the most splashable characters in the game on lower levels, and because they happen to be incidentally viable (four of them are in my top ten, and all but Mario are in my Top 20) they will also probably have a presence at higher play as well. The ‘rather easy’ list is the way it is because these characters’ dynamics generally haven’t changed from Smash 4, and because they weren’t really difficult to begin with, they should be fairly straightforward to re-learn in the new metagame. Below that, we have a slew of characters who are mostly lacking in a bread-n-butter combo game or kill confirm. A complex setup in Zelda’s case, or maybe carefully conditioning your opponent to do something exploitable that you need to pick up a kill like Duck Hunt are some examples. The Star Fox trio lacks a kill confirm at all, so actually picking up a kill is what drives their difficulty rating up. King K. Rool’s kill confirm is deadly but requires a lot of prediction and fast decision making, which could be tough in a tense, potentially tightly contested and maybe even hostile tournament environment. Bottom tier viable characters like Dedede are bottom tier here as well because trying to get any sort of use or effectiveness out of them will be like trying to draw blood from a stone. You have to be so much more skilled than your opponent in order to win with characters like Dedede, Samus or Bowser Jr that the enormousness of the skill gap will need to be enough to make them seriously difficult to play. Then you have Ryu/Ken, Peach/Daisy and Shulk – absolutely viable, but might not be splashable because of their unique, challenging dynamics. Of course, Street Fighter players may laugh at me for making this claim, as they likely know the many inputs you need to know to be effective with Ryu/Ken like the back of their own hand. However, if you don’t have a Street Fighter background but want to play Ryu/Ken, that will take lots of time and you will likely misinput. A lot.
And that’s about it! As previously noted, the next time I will be able to have an article published, it will be December 8, one day after this game releases. The only thing left for me to really do at this point is decide who I will be taking, myself, to tournaments. With that being a process which could take weeks, much like the metagame rounding into form, we will have to see what happens!