This week as part of my Character Crisis I made Duck Hunt my main, a strange character that I realized has unlimited potential for creative play.
Preconceptions on Duck Hunt
What started off as a way to sell plastic knick-knacks to consumers eventually lead to the inclusion of Duck Hunt Duo as a playable character in Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Duck Hunt had a totally unique playstyle which was interesting to see but made him difficult to pick up and play. This, combined with Duck Hunt not being an IP as iconic as Mario or Zelda meant that the playerbase for Duck Hunt mains was never going to be the largest. But for the few players who took the time to learn how to play Duck Hunt, they would soon realize that he’s actually one of the sickest characters ever made in platform fighter history.
Duck Hunt Duo is a misleading term because in reality the fighter is composed of three characters, the dog, the duck, and the player shooting at the screen. Duck Hunt’s Neutral-B Can is practically another character in the same vein as Ice Climbers and Luma. Without proper usage of Can, Duck Hunt is a mediocre character with average to bad moves and feels very unsatisfying to play as. But once you learn how to use Can the level of creativity that is possible is unparalled for just one move.
Shortly after Ultimate’s release Duck Hunt would receive his highest placing at a major tournament with Raito piloting them to a 3rd place finish at Umebura 2019. However, ever since the best Duck Hunt player in the world stopped maining them to pick up Banjo and Kazooie, Duck Hunt hasn’t seen a placement higher than 13th. While he may have a small playerbase, this may actually be to their advantage. Smash Ultimate is a huge game and as a result even those who play this game professionally are unfamiliar with the Duck Hunt matchup. This gives these players an edge that they wouldn’t get by playing a popular character like Roy or Palutena. Even though the community may have decided he’s nothing more than a mid-tier, mains of the character know that the potential for Duck Hunt is unlimited.
Duck Hunt Training Mode
The very first thing you should spend your time learning is how to control the Can. This move is an essential part of his kit, and once you learn how to control it the sky’s the limit. Whenever you throw out a Can there are a few things to keep in mind. First, gravity affecting the Can changes based on how many times you ping it. It starts off floaty but will eventually drop like a rock after you hit it enough times. The next thing to learn is how each of your moves will affect the knockback of the can. Generally speaking, most attacks will make the next ping move the Can in the direction it got launched. But some moves such as Back-Air and Up-Tilt will allow you to ping the Can backwards which will help you schmix unsuspecting opponents.
Can is incredibly versatile in what it can do. Use it to combo, ledge trap, edge-guard, force air dodges, control the stage, cover your laggy smash attacks, shield next to it to blow up aggressive opponents, and even escape combos! Because Can comes out on the first frame after you press the B-button you can mash it during combos to explode both players. Frame 1 options are extremely rare in Ultimate, with most characters having to settle for their fastest escape option being a frame 3 Air-Dodge. Can is only limited by your imagination.
Duck Hunt is more than just one button though. Another move that is very important in his kit that is difficult to use effectively is his Side-Special Clay Pigeon. Unlike many other moves in Smash Bros, Clay Pigeon is not a move you can mash with mindlessly. Once thrown out this move literally takes more than a second for you to be actionable which means if you whiff it there’s nothing you can do to stop your opponent from hitting you. The reason this move is so important is because it is one of the strongest combo tools in the entire game. If you hit them with Clay Pigeon you get to control when it detonates which traps the opponent in hitstun for a very long time. Follow it up with any move you want, even another Clay Pigeon, and carry them all the way to the blast zone. The Clay Pigeon also spawns on frame 1, which means that Duck Hunt has access to not just one but two frame 1 options. Talk about privilege.
Duck Hunt is an unpopular character and I feel that has to do with how weird he is to play at first. If you spend even just 10 minutes in training mode it honestly feels like unlocking DLC for another character in the game. I’m excited to share what is possible with this character so I hope you’ll enjoy this combo video I made.
Duck Hunt Tournament Report
For the last few weeks I have gone 2-2 at every tournament I have entered which is great consistency to see despite my Character Crisis. My last few chararacters all share the quality of being high tiers or top tiers. Duck Hunt, despite how much potential he has, is probably not a character who can be placed in the same tier as Steve and Roy. His complex and unique zoning tools make him a more difficult character to play as compared to Incineroar. Would my streak of going 2-2 finally end now that I was playing as a gimmicky mid-tier? Let’s find out!
Beat – Corrin
Beat is one of my closest friends in the Smash scene and is also the person who designed the logo for Character Crisis! (@Beat1055 on Twitter). We’re both around the same skill level which makes any set between us incredibly fun, albeit stressful. I take game 1 keeping him guessing with all of my different projectiles. Game 2 I have the lead but an instant pin catches me off guard and kills me from center stage, swinging the momentum in his favor for the rest of the game. I take him back to Pokemon Stadium but thanks to my gunman, he was able to extend his Up-Smash long enough to catch my tech. I then severely struggle to take his first stock and end up getting my shield broken and was unable to mount a comeback. Besides that game 3, I felt like I was playing well although I definitely relied too much on Clay Pigeon as a neutral tool, despite how laggy it is.
Arthur’s Dog Dad – Pikachu
A new player to our scene the Arthur’s Dog Dad got to fight me, another dog lover. Pikachu’s thunderjolts proved to be quite a nuisance in the matchup since they could knock out my gunmen. I was able to play around this by running in front of my gunmen to protect them while they fired. Another annoying thing about this matchup was Pikachu’s ability to low profile my Clay Pigeon nerfing one of my best combo starters. At the end of the day though, matchup unfamiliarity on his part carried me to victory.
Electric Wind Girlfriend – Meta Knight and Donkey Kong
Meta Knight was a character that I was scared to fight at first due to having good matchups against floaty characters and being able to edge guard so well. However, I learned that Duck Hunt’s small size was enough to escape his combos and I had enough mixups when recovering to keep him away. Game 2 he switched to Donkey Kong and the shift in tempo caught me off guard. At the end of the game I saw a Clay Pigeon connect but he was able to super armor through it and destroy my stock. In game 3 I was able to abuse his large hurtbox and land Clay Pigeon after Clay Pigeon, leading into huge combos and stifling all of his approaches.
Fasian – Samus
Fasian is a top 20 player in Utah but going into this I knew I had a chance to win. Duck Hunt has a favorable matchup against Samus thanks to all of my projectiles blocking hers. Things start off incredibly well as I practically get a 0-Death. Fasian plays his advantage state really well though and brings it back to even by the final stock. It’s super close but he catches me off guard with an Up-Throw to take the first game. By the time game 2 had started our set had actually gathered a small crowd. People were cheering for me to beat Fasian which was awesome, but I think it actually hurt me in the end. I held the lead for the entire game and almost won but I flubbed my input and got an Up-Air instead of Fair. I then started playing worse knowing that a crowd was watching and made mistake after mistake leading to me losing the set. Despite my tournament nerves getting in the way at the end, I was honestly playing really well and am happy that I was able to continue my streak of going 2-2 even if this time it was with a wacky mid-tier.
Duck Hunt was a character that intimidated me at first. I was under the impression that he would be incredibly difficult to get used to considering he was such a weird character in the first place. But once I got used to controlling the Can everything else about the duo began to make sense. Unlike many other projectile based characters in the game, Duck Hunt has a lot of control over when and where their projectiles are put to use. This brings a very unique element to his zoning that lets you mix up the timing of your opponent and control the stage in a powerful way.
Him being such an uncommon character in the meta also worked to my advantage because hardly anyone knew how to fight against him. I got to throw out so many Clay Pigeons that weren’t safe simply because my opponent didn’t know it wasn’t safe. Up-Air is a criminally underrated move that can combo, juggle, and kill. I’d even go so far to say it’s a top 5 Up-Air in the game. With access to two frame 1 options on top of being small and floaty it’s nearly impossible to combo him back. Duck Hunt has a lot more going for him than I initially expected and I found him to be incredibly fun to learn how to play as. I don’t know if I’d be confident enough to claim he isn’t a mid-tier but I wouldn’t be surprised if players like Raito or Fawn were able to make deep bracket runs in the future.
My Character Crisis doesn’t end with Duck Hunt. Going forward I just want to say that I’ll be attending Crown III! It’s practically happening in my backyard so I’ll be there all weekend. If you see me feel free to come up and say hi and see if I want to play any games! There won’t be a poll this week as I have plans for who I’m going to main for Crown. (Hint: They’re in the Character Crisis logo). I wouldn’t want Twitter to choose some weirdo character like Olimar for me to play. See you on Tuesday!