Choosing a Main in Super Smash Bros.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. That means you’ll be joining together with family and friends, and you know the relatives around your age are gonna want to play some Super Smash Bros.! So get ready to bust out your main and lay down some heat!

A “main” is something that anyone in a competitive fighting game can toss around – it’s the character you use the most; the character that you’re trying to win with; the character you have the most fun with. It doesn’t just encompass competitive play – even casual players have a “main” character that they’ll use amongst friends and challengers.

Picking your main is an important part of Super Smash Bros. This is the character you’ll be putting in most of your time practicing and playing with. It’s the character you’ll do research on, learn match-ups for, and try to win with.

So, how do you pick one? There are a lot of characters and a lot of different styles of play. I’m going to break this down, because finding a main happens even in casual play, and I’d like to address those players in this post as well.

The first thing I want to cover applies to every level, but especially competitive players, and that’s style.

I won’t go over this in too much detail (but I highly recommend you go look some of this stuff up or ask me personally to break it down further), but when I say “style” I’m referring to the style the character brings out. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms, “Aggressive Falco”, or “Defensive Mario”. Aggressive and Defensive are both styles of play. Let me give you a list of the common ones and a small definition of them:

Aggressive/Offensive: Focuses on applying pressure to win. Often will throw out many attacks.

Defensive/Campy: Focuses on defense and punishing. Tends to attack much less and throws out projectiles if able instead of running at the opponent.

Bait and Punish: Utilizes pressure and defense to fool opponent and punish them hard. Also likes to use frame traps to force 50/50 situations (you guess wrong you get punished, you guess right you’re safe).

Now, a player is not strictly one of these styles. I would say a player combines a blend of these styles but leans towards one more than the others.

So what does this have to do with picking a character?

Well, characters have certain styles that fit them better. Take the character I use: Kirby. Kirby doesn’t excel very well in the offensive department – he has slow ground and air speed and so doesn’t have the luxury of moving in and out quickly and just throwing out attacks. Kirby’s best played with a Bait and Punish style. He lures characters in and then punishes hard. If you lean more towards an Offensive style, Kirby might not feel right for you.

When you’re picking a character, you want to find one that fits ‘you’, the player. If you don’t feel comfortable playing a certain way, but that character begs to be played that way, I suggest you look for another character, or learn to play that style better. I actually lean heavily towards Offensive, but due to my experience I’m able to turn Kirby into a character that can be played my way. That takes a very long time – long after you’ve improved.

Okay, let’s dive a little deeper into the levels of play and how they should think about main selection.

Casual

If you’re playing at a more casual level, I highly recommend that your main be who you have the most fun with. Or, if you’ve got character loyalty, go ahead and continue being loyal. At this level of play, characters are pretty balanced. No one really understands the ways to abuse a character’s strong points and exploit their weak points.

Why would someone casual have a main? C’mon, Smash is still a competition, and people like to win. Even if you’re casual, there’s gonna be kids who want to challenge you. You gotta have a character to lay the smack down with. It’s definitely not as important, but identifying yourself with a character definitely helps you bond with other players (“Oh, you play Fox? Cool! I play Ike.”). That conversation happens a lot in any level of play.

Style is important, but really, your style isn’t as refined here, so you can get away with playing basically everyone.

Casual-Competitive

This is for the players who are casual but might be interested in joining the competitive scene or are just naturally competitive and play much more than their casual counterpart, or are players who are part of the competitive scene but don’t have a burning desire to improve (AKA ME).

At this point your style has been refined. You probably can recognize how you play and are able to pinpoint which characters suit your style. If you’re not worried about how you place or if you want to develop a character that’s not top tier, go ahead. If they suit your style, go for it!

The bottom line for this level and the other level is that you shouldn’t sweat who your main is. Pick who you like and who you have fun with! Try and further a character’s meta along. Who knows? That character might become the next top tier fad.

If you want to win and really improve results-wise, however…

Competitive

Pick a current high – top tier character. You want to win and to improve. You want results. If you don’t, you’re Casual-Competitive, and that’s okay. But for those that want glory, pick a character that’s high on the tier list and that fits your style. Don’t try to mold a character – pick one that flows with the style you lean towards naturally – you’ll improve much faster when you’re not battling your main’s preferred style. And don’t try to change your own style yet – wait until you’ve got some experience. You want a character that lets you lean towards your own style, which means you can utilize their tools effectively.

Characters like Mario and Sheik are all great characters to pick because they mesh well with basically all three styles of play and allow you to lean towards any style and not feel like you’re battling the character.

If your character falls out of favor and is deemed less than high tier? Stick with it for at least a year (as I mentioned in my improvement post about character loyalty) and then consider changing. At that point you’ve got enough experience to make a solid decision yourself, provided you’ve been improving often and not hitting a plateau.

———

Your main is a part of you. Don’t take picking one lightly, but also don’t put too much thought into it. It is just a character in a game after all. I suggest, for every skill level, you play around with the characters available to you and feel each one out. Then you can make an informed decision about which one you want to pick.

And if you’re competitive: stick to the main you’ve chosen. That means put in the appropriate time to pick one and not regret it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – have fun Smashing with family and friends! 🙂

Just Sayin’

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Improvement in Smash 4 VIII – Character Loyalty

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

This will be my last official post on improving in Smash 4. It’s been quite the journey, but I’ve had fun writing these for you guys, and I hope you’ve taken something from them and improved because of it. While this will be my last official post, fret not! I still have plenty of content aimed at improving in Super Smash Bros.: there are a few collaborative posts in the works, I’ve got some topics I received from the Chicago Smash 4 community after asking about topics they’d like me to cover that aren’t necessarily improvement-focused, and I’ll be starting a video series aimed at improvement to supplement this series. This will all be coming in the following months, so stay tuned for that!

And now, without further adieu, let’s talk about character loyalty!

Character Loyalty is a term generally used for a player that will stick with their character, no matter what. Maybe they love the character’s franchise, the character themselves, or the style of play the character provides. Either way, the player has their reasons for sticking with them. I’m going to go over another kind of character loyalty: the kind that will improve your play.

Your Main

The character that you eventually choose as your main is the character you’ll be spending the most time playing, watching, studying, and experimenting with. After all, you’re trying to win tournaments with this character. Now, while Smash 4 is a game that benefits from playing at least one other character (having a secondary), it’s a good idea to master your main before you even think about picking up a secondary. While a veteran can adapt to new character MU’s and player MU’s on the fly, it’s hard to stay consistent if you keep switching characters. Even veterans can become inconsistent if they keep switching for months because they’re struggling.

Let me lay this out for you plainly: you have not mastered your character until you’ve been playing for at least a year.

If you’re playing as many different people as possible, traveling out of state, and attending whenever out of state competition comes, it takes about a year to accumulate all the knowledge you’ve gained as a player to master your main, and that’s assuming you’ve only been using your main in tournament.

All the research, techniques, and intricacies of your character that you need to learn for every single character MU and to adapt well to players takes a long time. Add onto that the general techniques you need to learn to execute if they help your character, and you’ve got quite a lot on your plate to practice. And then, you need to be able to utilize all of those techniques and information in a tournament settings. Being able to do it in Training Mode alone isn’t enough. And that’s why it can take so long to master your character.

If you switch your characters, you’ve effectively barred your progress. And no, playing another character isn’t going to transfer over to your main. Smash 4 is in a stage where learning new things is still very possible and currently happening. When you return, you’re not suddenly going to be performing better because you don’t know every nook and cranny of the character to begin with: how can you possibly transfer skills from another character over when it might not even be effective?

You could transfer over play style knowledge, but be wary that you might start playing the character in a way that’s really not efficient. For all the efficient ways to play character X, there’s also very inefficient ways.

Now, most of these rules apply to new players who have picked up Super Smash Bros. when Smash 4 came out. Veterans, generally, have the fundamental know-how to switch a character and still perform decently, although they, too, will have to put some practice in before they achieve mastery, although it will take them a significantly less time to do so.

My bottom line is this: if you’re new to the scene, stick to character loyalty before making the switch. At least master your character. You’ll gain valuable knowledge that will help you when you finally decide it’s time to pick up a secondary or change your main entirely. If you really can’t stand using your main now and want to switch, then you switch and you don’t look back. Do NOT use your old main in tournament. You’ll run into the same problems.

Be loyal to your character, and you’ll succeed far more than juggling characters.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow