The Smash Bros community was shaken to its core back on October 1st as series creator Masahiro Sakurai announced Minecraft would be invading Super Smash Bros Ultimate later in the month.
Steve, Alex, Zombie, and Enderman have now had a few weeks to shine, and the competitive scene wasted no time figuring out all of this new character’s odds and ends.
However, now that the dust has settled and Steve’s announcement/release are in the rear view, has the blocky brawler made the same impact on the Smash Bros competitive meta as he did on gaming as a whole?
Building a New Meta with Steve in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
To answer this, first let’s take a look at the tier list over at EventHubs.com, one of the premier fighting game websites on the Internet.
The folks at EH create their lists “by community voting, [which] requires an EventHubs account to vote, but anyone may browse the various pages to look up how the match ups and overall breakdown looks.”
There’s a master tier list with all characters, and then we can click on Steve and look at his individual matchups. First, the general list:
Steve currently finds himself in 37th place among the roster’s 78 entries, two spots above the middle of the pack.
This puts him above series stalwarts like Sheik and Samus, but below another veteran in Captain Falcon and a fellow DLC character in Banjo-Kazooie. Now that we’ve seen his total placement, let’s take a look at his individual matchups.
(A quick side note: the “match average” statistic that decides the below rankings is based on a 10-match series where the two characters face off. For example, in a matchup between Steve and #10 on the below list Bowser Jr, Steve is expected to win 5.6 of the 10 matches on average).
This list comprises the 25 characters Steve best matches up with, with Little Mac being his best matchup. Based on who’s listed it seems Steve makes a great pick against heavier characters like Donkey Kong and King Dedede, as well as swordsmen like Mii Swordfighter and Meta Knight.
It is noteworthy that the weekly changes column — the last column with data in it, shows that these matchups are not trending in Steve’s favor, so it’ll be interesting to see how long Steve can keep this placement.
Conversely, let’s look at Steve’s worst matchups:
Here we see that Steve earns the least victories against Shulk in a ten-match set, averaging about 3.9 wins per set. Speed seems to be an Achilles’ heel for the Minecraft crew, with Zero Suit Samus, Pikachu, and Sonic all within the 10 worst matchups.
When analyzing the rest of the roster, this really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. If we take a look at the top ten ranked characters and compare to Steve’s worst matchups…
… you note that all ten of these characters appear in Steve’s worst matchup list, with the exception of Palutena. These characters are consistently the top of the food chain, so Steve players will be facing the same obstacles as everyone else.
In fact, reading that chart a bit further, Pikachu only has four unfavorable matchups across the entire roster, and Peach and her Echo Fighter Daisy only have two.
So based on this list Steve doesn’t seem to have shaken the competitive meta very much, but because of the subjective nature of tier lists there’s not a single concrete list. With that said, it’s time to analyze some fight footage and see what Steve is doing differently than everyone else.
The YouTube channel VGBootCamp regularly uploads matches from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments across the Northeastern US, so let’s start with the most recent Steve match, the seasoned Smash pro Abadango taking on a Bowser player named Hero.
Watching this match, the risk/reward nature of the Minecraft characters immediately becomes apparent. Abadango does a good job of keeping his Enderman’s resources up, but he’s not finding the gold or diamond he needs to make the most powerful weapons.
Furthermore, while he’s getting Bowser to high percentages, his attacks have trouble landing the killing blow. These two things go hand in hand, as a gold or diamond weapon would have scored those crucial KOs sooner and kept the match close. Instead, Abadango only scores one KO in each of the two matches and loses the series two games to zero.
(If it makes Steve fans feel any better, Hero and his Bowser would go on to win the entire tournament, so at least Steve fell to the eventual champ.)
Shockingly, Abadango vs Hero is the only match featuring a Minecraft character on VGBootCamp’s channel since the DLC launched that wasn’t part of a special all-Steve exhibition. Those exhibition matches, while fun to watch, won’t give us anything worth analyzing about the character because he’s just facing himself.
However, there is one other match we can check out: MVG Salem, a Hero/Snake main hailing from Orlando, Florida, became the first Smash pro in the world to win an entire tournament with Steve, taking 1st place at Fragsmash Online.
A highlight reel was uploaded to MVG’s YouTube page, so let’s see how Salem did it.
In every one of these matches Salem can be seen mining for materials whenever an opponent is away from him, giving him the gold and diamond Abadango lacked, while also making great use of Steve’s Down Air attack (the anvil dropping) and his Up Smash (the magma block).
Also, the use of the Mine Cart special in the air against Lucas in that first round serves as an amazing mixup that confuses the Lucas player multiple times, allowing Salem to take advantage.
So what’s the verdict? Has Steve fundamentally changed the way competitive Smash Bros is played, or has he simply become a new variable in the same meta? The answer, after three weeks of play at least, is firmly the latter.
Steve has plenty of tools at his disposal in order to achieve victory — as Salem made abundantly clear — but his luck-based mining mechanic plus his limited launching power with lesser weapons keep him from ascending to the upper echelons of the Smash Bros Ultimate roster.
Simply put, he’s not breaking the game like Hero did in July 2019, but he has enough tools that competitive Smashers should make a game plan.