If last year’s installment of Frostbite showed us a meta that was quickly solidifying and defining the early stages of Smash Ultimate, this year’s tournament showcased a meta that has evolved immensely since then. Over the course of the past year, the game has introduced 5 new DLC characters as well as several balance patches, changing the landscape of the competitive scene almost entirely.
This year, the tournament’s top 8 featured 6 completely different players from 2019, with only Leonardo “MkLeo” Lopez and Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey making the tournament’s final round a second year in a row. Additionally, what’s even more impressive, is the fact that the characters who were featured in last year’s top 8 at Frostbite were largely abandoned coming into 2020.
If anything, the slate was wiped completely clean. Characters like Olimar, who were prominently used in the hands of players like Shuto “Shuton” Moriya and Robert “Myran” Herrin, were dropped almost completely from the bracket (save by Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, who took the character for a spin in a 3-1 Winners Semis loss to Enrique “Maister” Hernandez). In fact, Olimar was the only character to be played in both 2019 and 2020 by different players altogether.
And although certain characters did reappear at Frostbite 2020 in comparison to last year, a large majority of the scene’s top players had totally different gameplans and weapons in their back pocket this time around. Even Tweek, who largely focused his efforts into Wario last year, prioritized characters that he had the chance to polish since last year’s tourney – Pokemon Trainer and Wolf, namely.
MkLeo, last year’s runner-up and this year’s eventual champion, dropped his 2019 mains of Ike and Lucina in favor of his now notorious Joker.
However, regardless of what the meta looks like at the very top level of the game in comparison to last year’s Frostbite, it’s becoming more and more clear that just a year and some change into the lifespan of Smash Ultimate, the game is proving to be incredibly friendly to a new wave of players and their somewhat unorthodox mains. Even those who established themselves at the top of the game’s hierarchy are being forced to live in a world where characters like Sonic, Young Link, and Mr. Game and Watch can reach the top 8 at a supermajor.
And as we move forward into 2020, we’ve already seen two S-tier tournaments in Genesis 7 and Frostbite give us incredibly different landscapes. Only MkLeo and Maister made the top 8 at both tournaments. Not even Genesis champ Tyler “Marss” Martins cracked the top 8 at Frostbite. Even more impressive is the fact that Frostbite 2020 showed just as much difference when compared to last year as when it’s compared to last month.
The amount of room at the top of competitive Smash Ultimate isn’t completely narrow, as it seems like almost anyone can break into the top tier of an event on any given weekend. Beyond the idea of character diversity, which is still a point of triumph for the game, the concept of any player having a real shot at making waves in the final stages of a tournament is something that the Smash community can be extremely proud of.
Looking ahead, and with Frostbite 2020 serving as definitive evidence, it’s definitely fair to say that Smash Ultimate is not only balanced in terms of its characters, but with its players as well.
Photo Credit: Nintendo, VGBootCamp, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate