When do tier lists matter?

Do tiers matter under high level?

  • Yes

    Votes: 1 11.1%
  • No

    Votes: 8 88.9%

  • Total voters

Deleted member

I was recently told that tiers don't matter outside of high-level play, and that every character can do something to win. I find this difficult to believe, as I struggle harder with characters I actually like (:ultdk:and especially :ultkrool:, the latter of whom I have an incredibly low opinion) than characters I play because they're top tier (:ultjoker:) or who I lose a lot to (half of high tier).

I don't plan on climbing to the top; I take the game as a means of enjoyment, but I get very competitive if things don't go right. I even went as far as to tell people not to main these "bad" characters and got scolded for it.

What do you think? Are tiers not important at my level?

Ben Holt

Smash Champion
Mar 30, 2013
Switch FC
5283 2130 1160
The good thing about Ultimate over Melee, Brawl, and 64 is that the game is intentionally balanced and gets regular updates.
So, pretty much any character in this game is at least somewhat viable with maybe the exception of Little Mac.


Smash Journeyman
Jan 30, 2019
Raleigh, North Carolina
Switch FC
What level of play would you define as high level?

Would high level be attending weeklies? Would it be playing in Elite online? Would it be trying to beat that friend that's better than you are? Or would you define high level as only the largest tourneys where all the best show up and compete.

The definition of high level certainly matters here.

I'd rank the above-mentioned thresholds as, at least for my case,

Trying to beat that friend that's better than you are is < Elite Smash
Elite Smash < attending weeklies
attending weeklies < competing in large tourneys.

As a lower tier main myself, I started to feel the tier when I went to weeklies. The players at the weekly were quite good, and most of them played higher tier characters and I did feel that I was playing from a disadvantaged state, given how hard I would get comboed or edge-guarded, and just generally being aware of the limited options I had at any time, as people there would punish instantly for any mistake, weakness, blunder, or hole they could find in your play or defenses.

From my personal opinion, tier lists start to matter once you break out of playing with just a friend group and attending real-life, in-person events where smash players compete against one-another in a tournament setting, such as a weekly. For anything less than this level of competition, it seems to not really matter, as player skill deficiencies, mistakes, and habits are the primary things I use to win when I'm playing in a more casual setting. Higher level play, it starts to matter a lot more what options your character is capable of taking at any particular level, as the other things you can use to your advantage start to disappear.

Players at that level simply aren't whiffing side smashes in neutral as often, opening themselves for a grab, for example. That's one less opening I have to work with.

That does not mean you cannot compete with a lower tier character at weeklies and beyond. It just means, in my opinion, that's where you start to feel the low-tier'ness, and have to work a bit harder to be on equal grounds with an opponent who chooses a higher tier character with a favorable matchup against you.
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Smash Journeyman
Dec 11, 2018
People say tiers don't matter until top level, because the gap between players matters much more than the gap between characters. If you look at ZeRo's run in Smash 4, he would go to lesser tournaments and locals with whatever character he was wanting to train as a secondary and proceed to solo every top tier main there. I don't remember the name, but there was one he used Lucina at and beat everyone with her, including Ned's Cloud, even though Ned was one of the better Clouds and Cloud was considered second best in the game.

That's because his fundamentals were at a level that dwarfed any tier lists. He didn't need to use Diddy Kong until majors where he fought other top level players, who were much closer in skill to him. Because you see a lot of diminishing returns in fundamental improvement at the top level, that character differences start to matter. There are only so many skilled players in the world and the best player has no more players above him and thus nothing to strive for or improve against and can really only maintain the status quo.

While it's true that character differences will matter with equal players at any level, it's more important to focus on improving fundamentals, since that is where the biggest boost in results will be and there is quite a lot of room to improve at lower levels. You can improve fundamentals with any character and the differences in even large tier gaps aren't that much comparatively. You aren't going to see a significant improvement in results just simply switching to a top tier, without the skill and understanding needed to take advantage of those differences.

And that's kind of the issue with immediately suggesting people switch to a top tier, is that picking a top tier expecting to get a boost in results is the wrong mentality to have. You want to pick top tiers because they offer more options and nuances in advanced play, not to brute force your way to a victory. You can't take advantage of those options, if you aren't capable of navigating advanced play in the first place.

I've seen plenty of people complain their character is holding them back and switching to a top tier, only to not do much better with said top tier than they were before. Because it was their fundamentals holding them back. Or they complain about their character, but refuse to switch, instead being content to just endlessly complain and clamor for buffs, probably because deep down they know it's them not their character but don't want to admit it.

As such, if you aren't routinely getting top 8 at majors or top 16 at super majors, you should focus more on your personal improvement before worrying about your character. The most important thing in choosing a main, is whether you can stand playing them or not. Getting to the above mentioned level is probably the most frustrating and difficult part of improvement, so having a character you really like and enjoy playing to get you through those difficult times is important. Once you actually reach that level, you can play most characters anyways, so can make the decision to switch if you feel that's necessary.

TL:DR: Stop worrying about whether your character is viable at a level you haven't reached yet and have fun learning and playing the game instead.

Crooked Crow

drank from lakes of sorrow
Jun 11, 2007
Tiers do not matter unless you are playing at top, professional levels. Then you'll probably get bopped. In Tekken 7, Rangchu won EVO with Panda; but I don't think that would ever happen in Smash.


Smash Lord
Feb 24, 2019
Battle Ground, WA
Switch FC
SW 2367 4933 3404
Tiers matter at a competitive level. If you're in Elite Smash and/or going to weeklies and not getting three stocked by everyone present, you're at a competitive level. It definitely matters before EVO level, and it definitely does not matter between two second graders playing on the couch.


Smash Journeyman
Aug 27, 2018
just like matchups..because people say a certain character is better or you are in a advantage/disadvantage really says nothing..if i had to believe the matchups i seen online i should be losing or struggling in alot of matches cause the character i play is in a disadvantage..well let me tell you that's not how it always went, cause it honestly all depends on who is more skilled.

if you are good with a character then you got a big chance to win! buuut if you are bad or not to great with a character..for me it's Fox & Lucina to name a example ^^''
then yup i kinda struggle with them even towards characters i normally got not much issue with if i had picked 1 of the characters i consider myself good with.

Beth Uriel

Ghastly Grinner
Aug 13, 2001
Baragoon Tunnel
Switch FC
As noted, tiers matter at the top level of play. Some high-level too. You can still find competitive local tournaments anywhere. Every player is different, after all.

What's worth noting is that when it comes characters being good, these things are more relative than hard data alone. Patches change it up too, but sometimes one of the best characters won't matter if they aren't played as anyway. Players also are what drives a tier list's creation and statistics. Without top players playing a character, it's far harder to tell where they are on the tier list. That's why they're everchanging. Even Melee had an update within the last 5 years, no less. Brawl removed the single top tier from Meta Knight, another example. And so on. People discover new techniques and tricks extremely often, which can make or break a single match.

The tier list is worth paying attention to for top level play, but if you solely use it, you can't really figure out how to play other characters who still have potential to be higher than they are currently rated. It's a useful tool, but taking it too seriously leads to a stagnant game. Always try to improve, and it doesn't matter who you pick to some degree to accomplish that. You absolutely will have characters who are better than others in some way. That's the nature of the beast of "more than 1 character" by design. There's no such thing as two characters with no real tier differences at even the tiniest degree. Albeit, Ultimate probably comes close with some of the Echoes, but there's no way to tell if, say, Daisy having better hitboxes, could actually matter at some point. I'm inclined to believe it's unlikely, but who knows. That's ignoring how tier lists are designed so characters still are given a placement. I don't honestly remember Ultimate literally having two characters share a spot. Stuff like A Tier still has an order of who is best to worst. Though maybe I'm reading the tier list maker design wrong? I never really looked into the exact specifics of that. Left to right being best to worst is something I saw consistently, so I didn't really think to check if there was some other designs intended. I feel like it's kind of common sense, though(which admittedly I actually kind of suck at for some reason).
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