The Super Smash Bros. 4 amiibo metagame officially began alongside the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and the first wave of amiibo figures on November 21, 2014; however, online tournaments did not become common until 2016. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that the metagame began sometime between November 21, 2014 and January 10, 2016.
For many players, Figure Players in Super Smash Bros. 4 were nothing short of a disappointment. This is for a variety of reasons; one such reason is that FPs are incapable of taunting. At Level 1, FPs taunt after their opponent is KOed or self-destructs, but by Level 50, the game’s base AI does not taunt under any circumstance (with the exception of Luigi, who is hard-coded to down taunt at the edge).
Another disappointing aspect to FPs in Smash 4 is that they were mostly incapable of going off-stage. If a trainer tried to teach their amiibo to leave the stage and gimp opponents, the FP may leave the stage but often decides against attacking and recovers back to the ledge. On rare occasions, FPs would go off-stage and use an aerial, but this was so infrequent and inconsistent that the best tournament FPs were just trained to stay on the stage instead.
A heavy point of contention with Smash 4 CPUs in general (as well as amiibo) is their heavily defensive playstyle. Level 9 CPUs and Level 50 Figure Players have a reaction time of one frame, and could be trained to flawlessly perfect shield almost any attack. This was, of course, unrealistic; a human player takes much longer than one frame to react, so FPs were not very good training partners for human players. As a result of the AI’s defensive prowess, early amiibo tournaments revolved around which FPs could perfect shield the most attacks, and so matches were slow-paced. A full list of flaws, quirks, and tendencies in Smash 4’s AI can be found here; please note that each one applies to FPs as well (as they inherit Level 9 CPU base AI).
Glenn and his amiibo training website, Amiibo Trainer, were an early advocate for the then-developing amiibo metagame and were the first known amiibo training-centric website. The site helped define the early metagame by suggesting defensive play as the strongest playstyle for FPs. It also brought the “Rock-Paper-Scissors” equipment setup to light, this consisted of Critical-hit capability, Explosive perfect shield, and Improved escapability. This setup is considered the best bonus build to this day. Early tournaments allowed all equipment, and so the outcome of a match was often determined by which FP could get a critical hit first or use Explosive perfect shield against the highest number of attacks.
In terms of characters, Little Mac was considered the best in the game. With the help of equipment (+200 Attack and Critical-hit capability, specifically), a single forward smash could shatter a full shield and then a charged forward smash could one-hit KO the opponent afterwards. Bowser and Ganondorf performed very well in the early metagame as well, and were extremely common picks.
In late 2015, Amiibo Dan and the Amiibo Dojo teamed up to host and advertise online amiibo tournaments, which had previously been impossible. Super Smash Bros. 4 did not natively support amiibo in online lobbies, so trainers had to take online competition into their own hands. With the help of Amiibo Powersaves, trainers could send a backup file of their amiibo to a tournament host who could use it on their Wii U console as if they had the actual figure. The first major online competition was the first Amiibo World Tournament, but online tours really took off after Amiibo World Tournament 3.
Soon after Amiibo World Tournament 3, Little Mac was banned from competitive tournaments, marking the first time a character was banned from an amiibo metagame. There was very little counterplay for his shield-shattering forward smashes, and so the community collectively decided to disallow the character going forward. By this point, the top six fighters were Bowser, Ganondorf, Ness, Rosalina & Luma, Marth, and Link.
In late 2016, the community collectively banned Critical-hit capability and Explosive perfect shield. As mentioned before, matches had devolved into a contest of which FP could land a critical hit first. In the case of Explosive perfect shield, matches had devolved into which FP could perfect shield more often. To shift the focus of amiibo training to a trainer’s skill rather than the FP’s defensiveness, these two bonuses were banned. Without them present, the metagame actually became more offensive. In the past, throwing out an attack meant risking being hit by Explosive perfect shield. As a result, it became safe to throw out jabs and tilts whereas previously they would have spelled doom at high percentages.
Characters like Link, Pac-Man, and Charizard – who had fast and useful jabs – became much stronger, and Link eventually became S-tier as a result. Marth and Lucina quickly became the best fighters available. Their side special move, Dancing Blade, was especially effective against FPs. They’d perfect shield the first hit, but drop their guard and get hit by the rest of the move. This is an AI flaw that was retained in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Bowser and Ganondorf remained strong choices as well. Little Mac was soon unbanned, but was not allowed to run any Attack investment nor any Attack-boosting bonus effects.
From this point on, the metagame did not change much. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had been announced, and many trainers temporarily put amiibo training aside so they would not be burnt out when they trained their FPs in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
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