8 burning questions for the pro Smash Bros Ultimate scene

Last Updated January 23rd, 2022

Smash Ultimate is getting an incredible reception by hardcore and casual players alike. However, hardcore players are going to have to do some work before Ultimate can take off in the e-sports scene, and no I’m not talking about
unlocking all the characters

Ultimate’s new options throw a lot of tournament standards in question and many of these questions need to be answered before the scene can really start building up steam.

How many stocks and what time limit should be used in tournament play?

If we were going by Smash 4 rulesets, matches would be three stock with an eight minute time limit, but this isn’t Smash 4. It’s faster and more combo-heavy. Many matches end with time left to spare when the old ruleset is used.

Does this mean that we have to lower the time limit? Does it mean that we should add another stock, as was experimented with in the early melee days? Or is this just a function of the meta being new, and the three stock, eight-minute ruleset will fit the game perfectly once the community starts to figure Smash Ultimate out?

Which stages are tournament viable with hazards turned off?

Figuring out which stages were tournament legal in prior Smashes was easy. Take all the stages with major stage hazards and throw them away. Then start deciding which of the leftover stages were fair for all players and which were only fair as counter-picks. There was still a lot of decision making going on but the general set of tournament viable stages was small.

Now that you can turn stage hazards off, the amount of tournament viable stages has significantly grown. Some stages will still be banned, like scrolling stages or stages like Big Blue. However, many will likely get shifted into counter-pick territory. Considering that there are 103 stages in Smash Ultimate this stage review process is bound to take quite a while.

Will the final smash meter be used in competitive play?

The new final smash meter has made many fans believe that final smashes can now be used in competitive play. Not only are final smashes weaker when used with the meter, they are also granted as a factor of gameplay, not by grabbing a random item.

The problem is that final smashes still aren’t balanced. Some are hard to hit and do little damage (like PK Starstorm) while others are nearly impossible to dodge and can land insta-kills on anyone around 60 (like Zelda’s Triforce Seal). While supers aren’t completely balanced in other fighting games, some characters might play entirely around their final smash. Then again, some people think this is perfectly fine so long as no one character dominates the tier list.

All things considered, the pro community will probably stick with what they know and turn final smashes off, but there is a real argument that turning the final smash meter on might make for an engaging experience both for competitors and spectators.

Is Squad Strike a competitive mode, and should it be used in tournament play?

If you think about it, there’s no real reason that Squad Strike couldn’t be used as a competitive tournament mode. It plays out exactly like any other Smash match, with tournament rulesets and everything. The only difference is that each of your stocks is a different character.

It’s not like there haven’t been major fighting games with this mechanic in the past. Just look at The King of Fighters. It’s practically built on that mechanic.

I personally think that Squad Strike could add a lot of depthto tournament play, allowing players to counter-pick in character selection and creating this interesting strategy in choosing a team. Do you want your best character to be your point or your anchor? Should you choose a character that is good at dealing damage but bad at scoring kills, with the thought that you’ll mop up with a heavy hitter later? Should you choose characters who are able to self-death but take the opponent with them just to push the team to a more favorable matchup?

Not to mention that this mode could moderate some of the problems that inevitably come about when tier lists solidify. If you can only play as a top-tier character as one of your stocks, they become much less of a problem. Similarly, characters that are low tier because they, say, lack mobility but excel in knockoff power and weight might be fantastic anchors in this format, even if they are bad in 1v1 matches.

Should the game be balanced by the community?

Smash Ultimate offers a new option that lets you balance the game character by character. This is great, in theory. If a character rises to the top of the tier list, you can balance them down a bit by reducing their damage and knockoff. Meanwhile, if a character camps out at the bottom of the tier list you can raise their stats just the same. On paper, this should allow the Smash community to keep the roster balanced at around the same tier of competitiveness.

But will they? Fighting gamers tend to have an aversion to fiddling with the base state of the game. Then again, Smash players already do that by turning items off. I think it would be really interesting to see this option put into play once tier lists have been figured out, to see if it can effectively keep the roster mostly balanced.
Is Smashdown a viable tournament mode?

Smashdown is one of the most interesting modes in the game. It’s essentially a draft mode, where players fight multiple matches with each consecutive match removing the characters that were just played. It sounds like a great idea for “first to ten” style matches, but there is a problem. It takes forever! A full Smashdown experience could take literally hours if it follows tournament rules. Granted, Smashdown might be better if you reduced the amount of rounds and stocks, but then you are just playing a clunky version of Squad Strike.

Should stage morph be used in lieu of stage counter-picking (or perhaps in combination)?

Stage selection has always kind of been a complicated part of professional Smash. It’s clear that certain characters are better on certain stages. In the past, the pro community has handled this by allowing the losing player to pick a stage as a possible counter-pick. However, the new stage morph system would allow both players to play on their stage of choice at the same time.

Perhaps the loser could choose whether they play on their stage of choice first or second, but still it seems like it’s an option that could be integrated into pro play for a more balanced experience.

Can the Mii Fighters be used in competitive play?

Finally, the Mii Fighters still present an issue. They have no base move-set. They are the only characters that retain the customizable moves from Smash 4, which were such an interesting idea but never were implemented in a way that could really be used in competitive play. The Mii Fighters each have their own “basic” move-set which they start with as long as you unlock them in The World of Light, but that’s all we have to really go on.

So the question is: will Mii Fighters be able to be used at all in competitive play, or will they be banned for their customizable elements?

What questions do you think the pro Smash community has to answer now that Ultimate is out? Let us know in the comments.

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