With one loud crack of a booted heel meeting a glass bubble helmet, Canada’s Super Smash Bros. pro player Ally slammed the books shut on Pound 2019 – and, to muddle the metaphor a bit, also turned the pages on the game franchise’s latest iteration’s second chapter. Pound 2019 wasn’t just the return of the Maryland/Virginia region’s biggest Smash tournament after a three-year hiatus: Ally’s Snake was the very last title-bearer before the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate scene switched wholesale over to Patch 3.0.0, which brought both the new character Joker from Persona 5 and a massive balance patch to fundamentally shake things up.
That means a lot of preconceived notions about relative character strength – and relative player strength – will drift substantially before the next major tournament. Prior to the patch, the state of the game could be accurately described as an outboxer’s heaven: projectile characters’ long-range attacks had more than enough power to be threatening, even risking a shield pop, forcing their opponents to take dangerous risks just to try and keep things on an even keel. But for most of the cast, excepting one or two crucial exceptions, that may no longer be true.
While some players may find themselves lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a direct or indirect buff, others may soon be shopping elsewhere among the game’s giant roster for an option that hasn’t become as obsolete.
Here are what fortunes Patch 3.0.0 will bring to the game’s current top competitors.
With a roster made up predominantly of Fire Emblem characters - most notably featuring Lucina and Ike - Mexico’s Mk Leo received mostly indirect buffs to complement his already-oppressive mid-range game. True, Lucina did receive a grab range increase, making it all the more dangerous to shield or whiff against him. But the real buff is to Leo’s defensive play, as the across-the-board projectiles nerf on shield damage means it will be that much harder to turn the pressure up against his characters.
That’s not to say that he’s going to have an easy time of it, as while the projectile nerfs might’ve hurt most of the big winners of Pound 2019, there is one very important exception…
Shuton, Myran, Dabuz
Japan’s Shuton had one of the deadliest Olimars on the planet. He still has one of the deadliest, but he also had one. The fact that Olimar was buffed in 3.0.0 only further cements the difficulty international players can expect when facing his Pikmin, or that of western players Dabuz and Myran. Whereas pre-patch Olimar had a buggy smash attack that wouldn’t increase in power as it was charged, it all works just fine now, with nary a tweak to the rest of his kit.
While Olimar’s Pikmin tosses hurt shields less, like with most projectiles in the game, it was never the risk of a shield pop that made them so frustrating in the first place. Instead, each colored Pikmin had a modifier to Olimar’s general capabilities – red for damage, white for grabs, etc. Most importantly, purple Pikmin was a killer, and the boosts they added to smash attacks are only more potent after the patch. The fact that Pikmin now deal less damage when thrown at shields doesn’t really make up for the fact that their punish game is somehow even scarier than it was before.
Also important: a projected rise in Joker mains at the competitive level indirectly favors Olimar players. Olimar’s short stature sneaks its way under some of Joker’s high-level attacks, making the new character struggle to connect a good hit against what is already looking to be the king of the patch.
Let’s just say that characters built entirely around projectile-spamming aren’t exactly happy about Patch 3.0.0. This is true if you’re Tweek, whose Young Link is entirely built around boomerangs, bombs, and bows. This is twice as true if you’re a Snake main like MVD, who didn’t just lose some pressure from his projectiles, but also saw more direct nerfs to crucial parts of Snake’s kit.
Most importantly: Snake’s edgeguarding game with Nikita was hurt by a reduction in his airborne missile range, increasing windows of recovery for all of his opponents. As Nikita-guarding the edge was previously one of the most reliable ways for Snake to actually take stocks and win games, the flight time reduction arguably hurts a lot more than the on-shield damage reduction, which wouldn’t be applicable when opponents are mid-air.
Japan’s best Pichu player, as well as all others that heed the call of what was once merely a joke character in Melee, is already used to long odds and tightrope acts. Though Pichu’s sheer power makes it a serious threat this generation, it is also the textbook reason for why the term “glass cannon” exists: a few errors or misreads is all it takes for a beefier opponent to send it spiraling into the distance, winking out as a KO star.
Previously, they made up for this risk in two ways. One, by being the fastest baby to ever come out of a Pokeball, thanks to Quick Attack and generally favorable runspeed and frame data. Second, by being incredibly hard to hit in the first place, thanks to a dinky hurtbox favorably positioned in most circumstances. That may no longer be true. Under Patch 3.0.0, Pichu’s hurtboxes are more vulnerable when they’ve been hit in the air, or after landing on the ground – in each circumstance, making it far easier for opponents to follow up with a dangerous hit.
As Pichu was already a high-risk/high-reward character, this may ultimately be what tips the scale too far over to the high risk side of things.
A New Challenger
There are, of course, a few additional wrinkles when scoping out the competitive future of Patch 3.0.0: first, simply, that the individual changes can often run conservative, even as the patch notes themselves run for pages. Unlike the dirge played for Smash Bros. Wii U Sheik, many of these characters are still viable in the current state of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, especially since the vast gulf of sheer skill between the players above and the general field of competitors is left untouched.
Even so, minor adjustments can make a big difference. Take Sheik players, whose hitbox changes on this patch has returned to them their infamous short-hop forward air combos against shorter opponents. And that’s not to mention Joker, whose singular presence and immediate popularity rewrites the books on matchups to prioritize practice against, and has most notably caught Leo’s avaricious eyes.
With Evo 2019 looming upon the horizon, the impact of changes both minor and major will be magnified as the contenders sharpen up for this year’s title.