Since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in early December, the game has been featured at two major-level tournaments, providing valuable data for members of the Smash community looking to create a tier list to rank the game’s 74 characters. Unfortunately for prospective tier list makers, the results of these events—Don’t Park On The Grass 2018 in Seattle and Let’s Make Moves in Somerset, New Jersey—provide very contradictory information about which characters are strongest in the early Ultimate metagame.
At Don’t Park, Snake main Jestise “MVD” Negron took home first place, defeating his practice partner and teammate, Pikachu main Eric “ESAM” Lew, in grand finals. Other characters that saw use during the event’s Top 8 include Donkey Kong, King DeDeDe, Peach, Captain Falcon, Mario, Ness, Young Link, Toon Link, Pichu, and Incineroar. Let’s Make Moves was topped by Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, who used Wario for much of his bracket run; other competitors in the event’s finals used Olimar, Fox, Peach, and Palutena.
With very little overlap between these results, top players have had to lean heavily on theorycrafting in order to construct their tier lists, leading to vastly different interpretations of characters’ potential. In a video, top Super Smash Bros. Melee player William “Leffen” Hjelte sparked controversy when he gave Snake a relatively low ranking, leading Smash 4 player Saleem “Salem” Akiel Young to disparage both Leffen and the Melee community as a whole. MVD’s early success with Snake may indicate that Leffen was mistaken, but it’s equally possible that the Panda Global member’s experience as a longtime Super Smash Bros. Brawl Snake main gave him an advantage over the competition—an argument that could also be used to explain ESAM’s early success with Pikachu.
On the other hand, a number of top players have openly stated that characters such as Inkling and Chrom, who have not yet seen success in major Top 8s, are likely members of Smash Ultimate’s top tier. Both of these characters have powerful kill setups and devastating combinations, so it isn’t hard to understand why players like Leffen and ZeRo have ranked them highly. As high-level competitors become more comfortable using these Smash newcomers, their results may improve.
Smash Ultimate has been out for less than a month, but the game’s tournament scene is quickly starting to build up momentum. If you’re a player looking to get involved in competitive Ultimate play, your best bet at this point might be to disregard any tier list you see and just play the character that feels good to you. As Leffen stated in his tier list video, every character feels good in this game—and it’s all but guaranteed that surprising characters will rise as the metagame settles.