There’s been a lot of discussion recently about Ice Climbers’ place within Super Smash Bros. Melee. After Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez’s meteoric rise to 11th place on the 2017 SSBMRank and a similar climb from Bananas this year to 19th, Ice Climbers have rarely in Melee’s history been more prominent in the metagame. But with this prominence comes community discussion. Here’s what you need to know about the current wobbling ban discussion.
Nobody really knows how this new wobbling ban debate came about. For those not in the know, wobbling is an infinite combo that Ice Climbers can use to take a stock off a single grab. It’s the most devastating punish in the game and has been controversial as far back as the MLG era in 2006, where ChuDat would use it all along the MLG circuit.
Throughout 2007-2013, tournaments were back and forth as to whether wobbling would be banned. In 2007, while Pound 2 had wobbling banned, FC Diamond had wobbling legal. In 2009, wobbling was illegal at Epita Smash Arena 3 and Revival of Melee 2 while legal at Mango Juice and Genesis. In 2011, The Big House banned wobbling while it was legal at Revival of Melee 4 and Genesis 2 the same year. It’s a myth that wobbling was banned by consensus until 2013, although there is some truth in that 2013 was a year of change for wobbling.
Wobbling was legal at Kings of Cali 2, NorCal Regionals and Zenith in 2013, as well as EVO, of course. EVO 2013 certainly put wobbling into the spotlight, as Wobbles, for whom the technique is named, used it to defeat multiple gods on his way to 2nd, the best placement for Ice Climbers at a major since ChuDat at Pound 2. From this point on, the only major tournament to continue to ban wobbling was The Big House, which banned it until The Big House 5 in 2015.
Discussion of a wobbling ban is not new at all. In fact, it’s probably one of the oldest in Melee that’s still a divisive issue. What’s the difference now?
First a quick summary of the arguments. On the pro-ban side:
- Wobbling hurts viewership
- Wobbling is the only true infinite in the game; every other punish involves DI and Smash DI
- Wobbling takes a whole stock and is easily doable even by very new players
- Wobbling dominates low levels of the game due to its ease of use
- Ice Climbers players make tons of upsets due to the strength of wobbling
- Ice Climbers players can do well without wobbling, as Jeremy “Fly Amanita” Westfahl did years ago
- Handoffs are an effective stand-in for wobbling and don’t significantly cripple the character
- There is no evidence that wobbling hurts viewership, and even if it did, Ice Climbers are not a common enough character that wobbling would be the sole cause
- Many strategies are broken at low levels, like wobbling, but players learn to adapt to them as they play more and become more skilled at the game
- While wobbling is a devastating punish, getting a wobble going at high levels is very difficult and requires an intimate knowledge of many setups
- Upsets happen with many different characters, not just Ice Climbers, and those that do happen could be explained by matchup inexperience as opposed to the power of wobbling
- Some Ice Climbers players will probably quit or otherwise feel unwelcome or targeted if wobbling is banned
- Ice Climbers are unviable even with wobbling, and removing wobbling would make them not worth playing
- Handoffs are completely up to chance unless the ICs player is near a ledge, which increases the variance of Ice Climbers matches
So far, a number of states have banned wobbling, either for a trial period or permanently. Washington has decided on a trial wobbling ban from March 1st until July 1st. Oregon, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, Kentucky, Connecticut and Alabama have all banned wobbling as well, but permanently. Tennessee has a ban in some parts of the state, but not others. The most notable bans yet are those in Maryland/Virginia (aka MD/VA) and Texas. Both MD/VA and Texas have high level Ice Climbers players in addition to being very large and strong scenes. As for Canada, Alberta and British Columbia have elected to ban wobbling as well. Get On My Level 2019 in Canada will be the first major North American tournament to ban wobbling this tme around. Among other major regions, SoCal recently had a poll which, despite meeting a majority of players, didn’t meet the 55% threshold that the vote required to ban wobbling.
It’s not certain what this will mean for Ice Climbers players. We could see a return to the pre-documentary era of Melee, where any individual tournament could have wobbling banned. We could see a total ban on wobbling, or we could even see a scaling back of wobbling bans. Given the speed at which this development has occurred, it’s anyone’s guess as to where it will go. Players such as Tyler “Sharkz” Bass from North Carolina have expressed that they feel that taking a step back from Melee is the right approach given a wobbling ban, because they don’t feel that they should have to play what feels like a new character. On the other hand, perhaps some new players will emerge who wouldn’t have played Melee otherwise due to the threat of wobbling.
One thing is clear: this isn’t the last we’re going to hear of wobbling.
Editor’s Note: What’s your opinion on wobbling? Let me know in the comments!