This week I played as Marth, an old favorite of mine who is the reason I am now having a Character Crisis.
Preconceptions on Marth
Marth is one of the Smash series most iconic characters. With his introduction in Super Smash Bros Melee, Marth became the archetype upon which sword wielding characters were based on. Marth is one of Melee’s perennial top tiers and he has been an excellent character throughout the series always reaching the status of high tier. That is until the release of Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
Marth was my introduction to competitive Smash Bros back in Smash 4. Watching MKLeo perform perfect pivot Forward-Smashes and become a dominant player even during the reign of Bayonetta was inspiring. With the release of Smash Ultimate and new techniques such as Pivot-Cancel tilts Marth was looking like he would be better than ever. But as I tried to become familiar with the new engine I slowly realized that Marth was not as good as he was in Smash 4. After getting frustrated with Marth, I switched over to Lucina and was able to get her into Elite Smash before I could with my old main. This is the story of Marth in Smash Ultimate. Why play Marth when you can perform better with less effort as Lucina. When MKLeo was playing Ike and Lucina instead of Marth, it signaled the end of an era for Marth in competitive Smash.
But here’s the thing. We’re no longer playing Smash in 2019. The metagame of Smash Bros Ultimate has completely changed. We’ve become more skilled players of this game. Our spacing has improved thanks to the discovery of techniques like slingshot and through mastery of the physics engine of the game. Meanwhile, Marth was buffed throughout several different patches while the only changes Lucina got were nerfs. The conversation about which character is better hasn’t changed despite the underlying characters being vastly different from when we first started playing this game. Marth is good now, and I’m tired of pretending he’s worse than Lucina.
Marth Training Mode
The underlying difference between Marth and Lucina comes down to how their swords function. Lucina’s sword behaves the same from hilt to tip and has consistent knockback and damage. Marth has a mechanic called tippers which means that if you hit an opponent with the tip of the sword you’ll be rewarded with significantly more damage and knockback as a result. However, if you hit with any other part of the sword you’ll get a sourspot which is weaker than if you had hit someone with Lucina’s sword. In 2019 Marth’s tippers were really hard to connect with which made Lucina the more consistent choice for tournament play. But with patch 8.0 Marth received massive changes to his aerials which made landing tippers far easier than ever before.
Marth demands mastery of spacing if you want to push this character to the limit. There are two techniques in Smash Ultimate that will allow you to correctly space your moves, pivot-cancel tilts and slingshot. If you have your C-Stick set to Tilts instead of Smash Attacks you gain the ability to perform Tilt attacks during the run animation. To perform this technique first dash far enough that your initial dash changes into the run animation. Then flick back on the control stick to start a turnaround animation. During the 11 frames of this animation you can input a direction on the C-Stick to perform the appropriate tilt. Marth’s tilts are really powerful and can easily tipper opponents who are standing on platforms. This technique is one of the main playstyle differences between Marth and Lucina and is a major contributor to why Marth has a better ground game than Lucina.
Slingshot is another important technique for Marth but wasn’t discovered until last year by GimR. Slingshot allows you to change the way your character is facing when they jump off the ground. This is significant because it allows you to use more aerials and also more importantly for Marth, subtly influence your spacing. To perform a slingshot simply dash in a direction, and while you are in your initial dash animation, flick the stick back and down and input a jump. If done correctly your character will be facing the opposite direction from which you dashed but will maintain momentum from the dash as you fly through the air.
Marth will not give you tippers for free. His buffs were important but did not take away from the skill that is needed when piloting this character. But the reward for landing a tipper is huge and more than makes up for the time spent learning the character. Not many fighters are capable of consistent setups that can kill at 30% or safe tilt attacks that will kill at 80%! If you take the time to learn how this character works, what it means to space tippers for different attacks, and master movement techniques you’ll do great with Marth. But don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself what can happen when my Marth is played at my best.
Marth Combo Video
Marth Tournament Report
I care a lot about Marth. When Smash Ultimate came out and I realized Marth was bad I was crestfallen. He’s my main in both Melee and Smash 4. Ultimately I ended up maining Princess Daisy but I still missed the character. Last year was when I first began to experience my character crisis. One day I chose Marth on a whim and for some reason he finally clicked with me. I decided to make him my co-main again and less than a month after this decision I took a set off the 5th best player in Utah, the biggest upset of my career! I would have continued pushing my Marth but then I had the idea to make this series and chose to drop Marth in favor of making content.
However, as soon as I started the series I knew that I would pick Marth up again when the time arose. Crown the Third was a supermajor that my local community was running. Crown was going to be the first supermajor I had ever attended and I knew I needed to bring a character I cared about if I wanted to do well. It also helps that Marth is royalty. Leading up to Crown I grinded to learn this character. I truly believe in Marth’s potential and I wanted to prove that he is as good if not better than Lucina.
Lan King Weekly
I attended a local one week before Crown was supposed to happen. Here I was paired up against SinVex, a Lucina main. This was my chance to prove that Marth could compete with Lucina. It’s a dead even match but after I go down to my last stock I mess up and make multiple small mistakes in a row that eventually ended up with my shield getting broken. Game 2 is a similar story with the games being even until I get to my last stock where SinVex is able to turn an inch into a mile. SinVex played well but I was still disappointed I wasn’t able to take a game. My next set had me up against SpicE Mario who promptly knocked me out of the bracket.
Going 0-2 a week before heading into Crown was worrying. Even though I was playing one of my favorite characters it wasn’t enough. Granted I fought two excellent players in a row but I don’t have the excuse of never playing as this character before. What I realized is that just like when I played as Link, I was putting pressure on myself to succeed. To me succeeding was necessary to prove that Marth is viable now and facing a Lucina brought that to the forefront of my mind. Going into Crown I knew that it was vital I didn’t put pressure on myself to succeed and instead focused on just performing at my best.
Crown the Third
On the day of Crown I was excited to compete. I still had nerves about doing well but I was careful to not let that get to my head. I got to play doubles with an old coach of mine TLK777 and we were able to get 49th out of 99 teams with a 1-2 set record. A few hours later and it was finally time for me to start playing in the main bracket!
Round 1 Kip
To start off my tournament I had to fight Cloud a character that I did not enjoy fighting as Daisy. Game 1 I was able to abuse Cloud’s poor recovery and edge-guarded him multiple times for the win. He brought me to Town and City and there he was able to mixup his recovery by air dodging to platforms. He caught me mashing with a limit blade beam and we were onto our final game. I took him back to Pokemon Stadium 2 and played more patient forcing him into the corner where I was able to edge-guard him and finally win the set.
Round 2 Nexus
My next opponent was Nexus a strong Falco main from California. In game 1 things were going well until a laser takes my jump without me realizing and I die at 44%. In game 2 I’m playing nervous and I pull the trigger too quick on a few Up-B’s out of shield which leads to me getting heavily punished. Had I tried to relax more and play patient like I had done against Kip, I feel like I could have done much better in this set.
Round 3 Dahobbler
I brought some of this nervous energy into my next set against Dahobbler, a Pichu main, but after a self-destruct on his part I could tell we were both a little nervous. I got an F-Tilt into F-Tilt which killed him at 63% taking game 1. Game 2 had both of us playing a lot more patiently, however, I was able to use Marth’s superior range to keep Pichu out and Up-B to stop any potential combos or shield pressure. Finally, Dahobbler missed the ledge when going for a tight Quick Attack angle and I was able to take the set and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at bare minimum I had placed my seed.
Round 4 Willis
Willis is a Young Link main who I’ve fought before and knew was a good player. I started off playing more patient than I ever had before and had a dominant lead. However, I started overhearing a conversation mid-match that distracted me and lead to Willis comboing me and taking the lead. I was unable to regain my focus or reclaim the lead. I took him to Town and City and tried to follow the same strategy. But with my tournament life on the line the nerves got to me and I wasn’t able to clutch it out. Willis was on one that day though and his set vs OA to make top 64 was legendary.
At the end of the day I was able to achieve my seed and placed 193rd out of 421 competitors. There were a lot of things that I could have done differently but overall I’m happy with how I performed. I think my biggest weakness this weekend was a combination of tournament nerves and being unprepared to deal with a loud and distracting environment. Going forward I’m going to try to incorporate using headphones while I play since outside distractions have been an issue for me at my last few tournaments. Crown ended up being a very fun tournament to attend and even after I was out of the bracket there was still plenty of things for me to do such as watching people dance with fire and enjoying top 8 in a hot tub. Crown is awesome, I love the event my community has put together, and I’d love to see you at Crown the Fourth next year!
Me going 2-2 at a supermajor is never going to be enough to convince people that Marth is good now. But I’m not the only Marth main in Utah. Kreeg, who plays on Boxx, recently took the title of best player in Utah over Scend who was ranked as the 31st best player in the world last year. At Crown he was able to place 33rd with (mostly) solo Marth. Ignaize is another Marth main who is PR in Southern California, one of the most competitive regions Smash Ultimate has to offer.
If Marth is capable of reaching PR in multiple different regions there is no reason to believe that these players would be performing better if they were playing as Lucina instead. Marth has all the tools he needs to succeed as a solo-viable character now and I wish people would recognize that instead of parroting an argument that is four years old. I got a chance to ask MKLeo his opinion on Marth at Crown and he said “He’s a difficult character but once you click with him he’s better than Lucina in some matchups.”
Marth definitely was worse than Lucina for a long time. But this is simply no longer the case. If you love Marth and want to make him work, you can. Choosing Marth over Lucina isn’t a strictly worse decision in 2023. They do different things and I’ll go into that more when I eventually get to play as Lucina. She won’t be my next character though. The fans have chosen and voted for the character that ended up taking the Crown this weekend. If you want to participate in the next poll the link is in the description below. It’s time for me to play with the infamous Robotic Operating Buddy aka R.O.B.! See you on Tuesday!