If anything was proven at Frostbite this past weekend, it’s that the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate meta has developed immensely over the course of the past few weeks. Just a few weeks ago at Genesis 6, the room for creativity and development at the highest level was immense. And although we were beginning to see top tier characters start to emerge and a meta start to form, the level of individualism at that tournament was still unbelievable. At Frostbite, however, things took a turn for the solid as the beginnings of a competitive meta are finally taking root in a strong fashion.
Last month at Genesis, the game took major strides in terms of diversity and character inclusion, as the tournament saw 16 players repeat characters in the top 64 with another 13 players sporting picks that were unique to them. Just a few weeks ago, it was starting to become obvious that the strongest characters in the game (or at least the ones who were perceived to be) were Olimar, Peach, Fox, Wolf, Pichu, Ness, Palutena, Mario, Snake, and R.O.B., as all of those fighters were played by a wider range of players than most – each of them being represented by at least three individual players at G6.
At Frostbite however, things started to formulate in a bit of a tighter sense, as the final stages of the tournament saw only a certain handful of characters rise to the top, especially the ones who made waves at Genesis.
The most notable example was Peach, who still holds a massive amount of sway over the game. With five separate Peach players across the board, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the character is by miles the strongest available option in all of Ultimate. Right up there with her, Palutena also received 5 picks across the top 48, while Pichu was prioritized by 4 players. Additionally, Wolf and Olimar rounded out the tournament’s top-tier showings with 3 picks apiece.
Speaking of Olimar, the space captain demonstrates an especially interesting case, as his presence as the most popular and perhaps effective character in the game at Genesis was knocked down a few pegs as the number of players featuring him at Frostbite was essentially halved. Additionally, the fact that we saw Palutena tied at the top when it came to player representation was probably the most interesting development when it came to upward trends, as a character like her – who was consistently on the cusp of immense popularity – is finally breaking her ceiling.
Even still, the fact that we saw half of the most popular characters from Genesis drop out of contention for the popularity title just three weeks after the tournament is seriously remarkable. If anything, Frostbite showed us that the meta is becoming more focused, and that the top tier characters are getting top tier results.
The top 8 showcased characters who are all considered to be top tier, as even the unique, individualized picks like Inkling, played by Brian “Cosmos” Kalu and Snake, played by Jestise “MVD” Negron, are still high up on the ladder when compared to the rest of the cast. Even Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, who secured the title by taking his trademarked Wario all the way to the finish line (and even whipped out a classic pick in his Donkey Kong), proved that unique picks can perform incredibly well at the highest level. With this in mind, it’s definitely fair to say that while Frostbite was proven to be one of the the first steps of many when it comes to developing a competitive meta, there’s still plenty of room for the game’s best players to succeed on unique, signature picks.
Perhaps the most intriguing picks at the tournament belonged to the Japanese phenoms. Lea, Tea, and Shuto “Shuton” Moriya all busted out unique characters at some point in the tournament, with each of them finding solid results and showing their mechanical prowess. With Tea’s Pac-Man finishing in 13th place and Lea taking Greninja (who many Japanese players believe to be a top-10 character) deep into the tournament and snagging a 9th place finish, it’s clear that top tier players from the Japanese scene are able to invent and create strategies that work for themselves, often bringing a sense of flair and individualism to the competitive scene. Additionally, in Shuton’s case, he showed his strength through diversity as his Olimar (which is by no means a unique pick) was able to progress him into the top 8, but upon facing Robert “Myran” Herrin for the second time in the tournament, it was his Richter play that caused an uproar and nearly secured him a spot in the top 3.
Regardless, Frostbite proved that a competitive meta is finally solidifying itself and that top-tier characters are dominating at the highest level. Even still, diversity is strong as unique characters like Pac-Man and Richter are able to come out of nowhere shine profusely when put in the right hands. Diversity is blooming in Ultimate and as we stand nearly three months into the game’s life cycle, it’s fair to say that the competitive meta is stronger now than it has been at any point in any Smash game.
And now, as we progress further into the year, with one, if not multiple majors scheduled for each month going forward from here on out, it will definitely be interesting to see the game evolve and solidify in the coming weeks. Over the course of the next month, be sure to keep an eye out for Smash Ultimate Summit (March 8-10), Collision (March 16-17), and Full Bloom 5 (March 23-24), all of which will prove to show developments in the competitive meta as the game continues to grow even more so than it already has. However, if one thing’s for certain, it’s that Frostbite gave us a definitive glimpse into the future.
Screencap Credit: @ComeToFrostbite