Should you take amiibo training seriously?

Probably not. Wait, what? If you’re new to the amiibo training community, that answer might surprise you. After all, our metagame is just as complex as any other (maybe), so doesn’t that make it worth taking seriously? In my opinion, not really. That being said, amiibo training in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate still has a lot to offer! Let’s take a look at some core components of the competitive scene and why taking it too seriously could be bad for the community as a whole.

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There will always be a “best character”

We’ll start off with a simple scenario. Imagine you’re playing a game of rock-paper-scissors with somebody. Except in addition to rock, paper, and scissors, there are seventy-two other hand formations you can use. Except about sixty of those hand formations never win. You throw out a symbol at random, win the game, and your opponent gets upset. That’s amiibo training for you!

Now imagine that one or two of those hand formations have a 90% chance to win. Everybody starts using them, and then when somebody loses, they get upset because they thought they had the best chance to win. That is, once again, amiibo training! For the rest of this section, let’s take a look at our well-established amiibo tier list for both Smash 4 and Smash Ultimate.

As somebody who has actively participated in both and Ultimate, I can safely say that tiers between both games are very similar. Not the characters, no – but the way they work. In Smash 4, tournaments were dominated by the same few characters: Marth, Lucina, Bowser, Link, and Ganondorf. The same five fighters always popped up in competitions and, along the same line, almost always won them. Tournament hosts tried banning the five of them to open up character diversity, but they were just replaced by the next best five.

And this is very much the case in Ultimate. First it was Bowser, then it was Incineroar, and now it’s Ness, not to mention the rising-star “B list” characters such as Pit, Zelda, King Dedede, and the like (they’re more like “A list” according to our tiers, but you get the point). Now more than ever I have noticed tournament hosts banning top-tiers for the sake of entrant diversity. And that’s fine! Seeing the same characters win over and over again? It gets boring. I get it. We all do. And by all means, I encourage competitions like these, because it helps break up the repetition of the EarthBound and Metroid victory themes playing over and over again.

That being said, there’s an unrealistic expectation that we will eventually create a balanced metagame. But we’re very far from that right now. If you’ve trained both of these amiibo, compare Ridley and Bayonetta to each other. You’ll quickly find out they don’t compare, because Ridley wins many, many more matches than Bayonetta can ever hope to. No matter what rules we put in place, there will always be large gaps in character viability. Low tiers will always be low tiers, and high tiers will always be high tiers (but dedicated trainers can help change that to a degree).

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You can’t go against the grain

Here’s an obvious one: you can’t take control of your amiibo during its tournament matches. Or any of its matches. It’s controlled by an AI. Let’s get a common misconception out of the way: amiibo do learn. They always did. In Smash 4 and especially in Smash Ultimate. Each character has its own “base AI” that is then modified in real-time with tendencies it’s picked up from its opponents. So yes, you can teach your amiibo, but you can’t control it.

Why am I specifically mentioning controlling it? Because even the strongest amiibo makes bad decisions. Let’s take my Ness, for example. It is considered one of the strongest contenders in our current format and has won me more than a few handfuls of tournaments. No matter how extensively I train it, Ness’s base AI will always handle its recovery poorly. No matter how extensively I train it, I can’t go against the grain of its base AI and teach it to recover better. Some AI tendencies are permanent, and working against them might do more harm than good.

An excellent example of this is Pikachu’s amiibo in Smash 4. At first, it was one of the stupidest entities I ever had the displeasure of coming into contact with. It did nothing but spam Thunder, which took a moment to even produce a hitbox. Why would it do this? We had no idea. Eventually, we discovered the custom move Thunder Burst and realized that the apex of the Smash 4 Pikachu amiibo was spamming it. In this case, an AI quirk we wrote off as negative actually ended up being a positive!

Of course, there are no custom moves in Ultimate (at least, not at the time of writing), and many of the character’s AI flaws are negative. But I feel like a lot of us trainers focus on fixing Figure Players’ unchangeable AI flaws rather than enhancing its strengths. Ness, as mentioned before, is a perfect example of this. On-stage, he’s a menace that can rack up damage and get KOs in the blink of an eye. Off-stage, he’s probably dead before you can even blink that eye.

So what’s my point here? You can train the strongest amiibo and it will still make poor decisions. There will always be something you can’t control, and that something will sometimes cost you a tournament championship. But that’s okay! FPs were never intended to have a metagame built around them (the perpetual imbalance of Spirits helps confirm this), and it’s fun to see which fighters reign supreme in an environment that doesn’t even exist in another timeline.

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It’s good to take breaks

All of the top amiibo trainers have taken breaks at some point. Even though top-tiers such as Ness and Ridley are strong, they can be difficult to train too. Even Bowser sometimes refused to cooperate. If you’re having trouble strengthening your FP and are becoming frustrated, it might be time for a break. And contrary to public opinion, breaks are good! There’s no point in grinding something when you feel like you’re at a standstill. Take a few days and come back with a fresh approach.

At the end of the day, I feel like people who become upset at losses might be taking amiibo training too seriously. Now, this doesn’t mean anyone who is disappointed by a tournament lost is unreasonable. I just think we have high expectations for a metagame that only exists due to sheer persistence and resolve. We have to embrace the fact that we can’t control everything. That’s why tournaments with unique rules are good for the scene: they break up repetition.

Maybe you need a bit of inspiration before you get back at it. In that case, I’d recommend checking out our resident amiibo tournament streamer, Splice. He’s uploaded edited versions of some of his tournament streams if you’d like to see how the strongest amiibo play against each other. You can find his channel here, and a few of his best videos here, here, here, and here. Lots of “heres” today, but thanks for bearing with me. As always, any questions can be directed to our Discord server. Thank you for reading and until next time, happy training!

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