What if all the currently legal stages were banned? Smash Bros Ultimate is a huge game with tons of different stages to choose from. This is great in a casual setting and adds a ton of variety to the game. But for the sweaty tryhards, myself included, many of these stages introduce elements that can be considered uncompetitive. This has led the scene to develop rulesets for what stages are considered legal for tournament play. These stages are chosen to create an equal playing field between players and are widely agreed upon to be good competitive stages. So what would happen if a tournament just decided to ban them instead?
Out of Smash Ultimate’s 114 stages only about 11 of them are consistently used in tournament play. While different regions may have slightly different rulesets it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of these stages listed. So with 103 stages left to choose from are there still stages that would be good enough for tournament play? Absolutely! Just because the competitive community has narrowed it down to such a small selection of stages doesn’t mean that every other stage in the game is only fun in 8 player free-for-alls with items turned to high. That being said, there’s still some guidelines that should be followed when creating a ruleset for 1v1 tournament play.
Stage size is one of the first things that needs to be considered. Temple may be one of the best casual stages of all-time but in a competitive setting there’s nothing stopping a Sonic player from hitting you once and then running away until the timer runs out. Walk-offs are a no-go because there’s nothing stopping someone from camping the blast zone waiting for someone to come within grab range. Finally stages with walls are problematic due to how easy infinite combos become.
I’m only going to be talking about the stages that made my ruleset. If you feel like there’s an argument for a stage that isn’t listed here leave a comment and we can chat about it there.
These stages are chosen to promote an equal playing field regardless of what characters you end up picking. Something that’s a little quirky about this ruleset is that many of these stages would be considered counterpicks in a ruleset that also included traditional stages. But for the most part I feel as if these stages do a fine job of enabling a balanced competitive environment, and would make for decent starters.
Unova Pokemon League
Let’s start off with one of my favorite stages that hasn’t seen any tournament play since 2019. The main thing that sets Unova Pokemon League apart from practically every other stage in the game is that the platforms require a full hop to reach instead of the usual short hop. This simple difference matters a lot in everything from the way neutral is played to how combos are executed. Jumping to a platform is more of a commitment on this stage. Combos that utilize platforms are either not possible on this stage or have to adjust how they’re done. These platforms offer unique defensive characteristics that you don’t usually see and all that was changed was where they were placed. Another thing to note is that characters who teleport have to be careful when recovering but as long as you’re aware of how the stage is sloped it’s not that big of an issue. I’m a big fan of this stage and I would love it if tournaments reconsidered it in their ruleset.
This stage is a classic amongst the competitive smash scene. In Smash 64 Dream Land is the only stage that tournament sets are played on. Yet for Ultimate, even though we have the ability to turn off the only random element of the stage it never sees the light of day. I think that’s a shame since I believe Dream Land has elements to it that would be interesting for tournament play. Dream Land is unique in that it has some of the largest blast zones in the game. This changes the percent at which characters would die which means that characters with great recoveries or who are simply heavy would benefit greatly from this stage being legal. Larger blast zones means more opportunities to recover which would encourage more edge guarding, something which you don’t see happen as often in Ultimate. While it may not see any play in traditional rulesets feel free to clap along to the beat if you’re playing in my tournament.
When this stage was first revealed as part of Hero’s DLC many players were excited to try it out in their local scene. Even though it didn’t make the final cut there’s not a lot stopping it from appearing in a competitive setting. Some players may be nervous about the stage lifting off the ground but unlike other stages it does it slowly enough that there’s plenty of time to react and make it to the ledge safely. Just like Town and City it offers unique layouts while also being Final Destination for large portions of the match. The main difference from Town and City besides the different platform layouts is that the blast zones are the same as Dream Lands. Yggdrasil’s Altar has some really cool layouts and it’s a fun change of pace from what we are used to playing on.
Fox only, no items, Wily’s Castle. Without Final Destination this stage is one of the frontrunners for a completely neutral battlefield. There are some key differences between this stage and Final Destination. This stage has a wall which gives people the chance to tech spikes and use wall-jumps. It doesn’t always come up, but I like it when a stage has a wall because it can lead to awesome moments. However, the wall isn’t the biggest difference between Wily’s Castle and Final Destination. It’s the top blast zone. Wily’s Castle’s top blast zone extends much further than Final Destination’s and can lead to moves killing up to 12% later than they would on Final Destination. In all other regards, however, this is as basic as a stage can get in Smash Ultimate which makes it a good candidate for this list.
While the previous stages may have all been considered for tournament play at one point or another Skyloft is a stage that I feel is severely underlooked. It’s platform layout, while unconventional, isn’t necessarily an issue. The real reason this stage isn’t allowed in tournament play is due to something called sharking. Sharking is a term for when you attack someone from underneath the stage. This issue came to a head in Brawl when Meta Knight, the indisputed best character in the game, took advantage of a similar stage in a way that was considered unhealthy. However, I’d argue that sharking isn’t as large of an issue in Smash Ultimate and can actually lead to really creative gameplay. Just look at what my friend was able to do as Donkey Kong while playing with me on Skyloft. While I understand why it will probably never see play at any serious Smash Ultimate tournament this stage is sick and I want more people to realize that. #LegalizeSkyloft
Counterpick stages are where it gets really fun and what is considered ok for a stage can be expanded a little more. There’s a lot of different stages that could have been included here but I think the ones I chose each offer something unique and would give you a reason to counterpick to them.
I’m sure many of you saw this coming. WarioWare is one of the most hotly debated stages that is considered for legality. It has an awesome platform layout and a small stage size which is something that the traditional ruleset does not offer. But the reason this stage rarely sees any play is because the horizontal blast zones are very close to the stage. If you get clipped by an F-Smash on this stage you’ll die 15% sooner than you would on Final Destination. While many players aren’t a fan of this for my ruleset I think it’s great! A lot of the starter stages have large blast zones and WarioWare is an option that stands in stark contrast to that. This stage puts a lot of pressure on characters who rely on comeback mechanics and zoners who’ll run out of space to work with. WarioWare is an interesting stage in large part due to how extreme it is, but I think that suits this ruleset perfectly.
I needed an option for a long stage with a long platform in the middle and my other two options got banned. Yoshi’s Island was briefly considered at the beginning of Ultimate but was quickly ruled out due to having slants. While this can be annoying to deal with I think that’s part of what makes this a great counterpick. The slants can get in the way of certain characters such as Peaches float. While that is a perfectly valid argument as to why this stage should remain banned I think it fits the spirit of this ruleset. I’m a big fan of Smashville and Hollow Bastion’s central platform and would like to see that in this ruleset.
King of Fighter’s Stadium
Hear me out! One of the main things that determines a characters viability in Smash is how good their recovery is. Being knocked off stage and being able to return safely is often the difference between a low tier and top tier. King of Fighter’s Stadium is an opportunity for low tiers to skip that aspect of the game and to instead show off who has the stronger attacks. This stage is unique in that it makes Smash play more like a traditional fighter which has a different definition of corner pressure. No other stage can offer something as unique as that, which is why I believe it would make for a fantastic counterpick.
There are legitimate reasons why competitive players limit what stages they play on. A smaller list of stages gives the metagame something to focus on and with how many characters are in Smash this is very important. Less stages also means less time choosing a stage to play on which matters when tournaments can last an entire day. Stages should also for the most part fade into the background with the attention of the players being on the characters they are playing as or against.
But I find that competitive players have a tendency to focus on a very small subset of Smash, and ignore everything else about the game. I’m of the opinion that we should be open to experimentation and even if it won’t affect anything in the official rulesets, it’s fun to see how things could be different. Several stages surprised me with how fun they were for 1v1 play such as Skyloft. Our self-imposed ruleset impacts the competitive landscape more than we may care to admit. For example, while Lylat doesn’t see as frequent play as it once used to, Steve the best character in the game, struggles on that stage because of the resources he’s forced to mine. If King of Fighter’s Stadium were the only legal stage the tierlist would look radically different.
I hope you found this thought experiment to be as interesting as I did. Stages are one of the most important parts of platform fighters and Smash is no exception. What stages we play on have a powerful influence on the way we perceive the game and there’s nothing stopping us from including WarioWare at the next supermajor. I’m overall happy with the stages that we’re currently playing on but if it comes down to it I’d much rather see us change our self-imposed ruleset before we start banning any characters. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you on Tuesday!
If you want more Super Smash Bros content check out my series Character Crisis!