This week I played as Shulk a character who is infamous for his complexity but was far easier to pick up than I expected.
I have an announcement to make. I am starting a Patreon! If you would like to get bonus content, desktop and phone backgrounds, and more control over which character I play next in this series please check out the link below. I’m proud of what I’ve created and I hope it’s of interest to some of you. Back to the video!
Preconceptions on Shulk
Xenoblade Chronicles was a relatively unknown series before Shulk’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. With the addition of yet another anime swordfighter in the series players didn’t know what to expect from this obscure character. But what Shulk had over every other sword character in the game was the power of the Monado. With the push of a button Shulk can change his base attributes to combat any challenge that comes his way. On the surface this move is pretty easy to understand. But as players began to learn more about Shulk they realized that the Monado may actually be one of the most technical moves in the game.
Mastering the Monado is the hardest thing about playing Shulk. The depth and potential of this one move is unparalleled. Not only are you learning 5 different stances that change the way you play the game but even the act of going into your arts has a massive amount of depth to it that makes it even better than it already is. The Monado combined with Shulk’s absurd range makes Shulk the hardest matchup for multiple different characters in the game. This has led many players to give Shulk the title of Mr. Potential, yet after almost 5 years of competitive Ultimate Shulk is still an unpopular character.
Because of Shulk’s potential depth as a character many people don’t feel comfortable picking up Shulk unless they are going to main him. Even though he has a fantastic matchup spread against most of the cast, many would rather pick up someone like Mr. Game and Watch without even considering Shulk as an option. The advanced techniques of the Monado scare people from giving Shulk a chance when the reality is Shulk is easier than you think. Shulk is a character who can be optimized in a way few characters can and the ceiling on this character is near limitless. But once you learn how to use Shulk in his 5 different Monado states you’re already 90% of the way towards becoming a Shulk main. Shulk’s moveset outside of the Monado is very simple to use and after I teach you the essential Monado technique everything else is simply extra credit you can learn to take your Shulk to the next level.
Shulk Training Mode
Before you learn any advanced Monado techniques one must first learn how to use Monado arts. Each Monado Art has different strengths and weaknesses associated with it and while the strengths are far greater than the weaknesses, being aware of them is very important when playing as Shulk. This infographic does a great job of explaining how each of the Monado Arts change Shulk’s attributes. While there are obvious use cases for each Art, something that surprised me is how much creativity you can have with each Art. I’d like to share one unique thing about each art that I learned while playing as Shulk.
Jump Art is obviously fantastic for recovering but because of the increased jump height at ledge Shulk can escape ledge trapping scenarios very easily. Speed Art may halve your jump height but if you don’t have Jump Monado available and get sent off stage, you can use Speed Art to recover thanks to your improved air physics. Shield Art regenerates your Shield twice as fast as usual which I was able to use to recharge my shield whenever I was scared of it getting broken. Buster Arts reduced knockback actually helps out Shulk by giving him combos that he doesn’t have in base form. Finally because Smash Art increases the knockback you take, I found that being in Smash Art actually allowed me to escape moves such as PK Fire much more easily.
Understanding the different Mondado Arts is the most important part of playing Shulk. But if you want to take your Shulk to the next level you need to understand what happens when you choose a Monado Art. While there is a lot you can learn about this part of Shulk, easily the most crucial aspect of it is that Shulk can change his Monados even while he is getting hit. No other character in the game can use a move during hitstun but if you’re ever in the middle of a combo you can still pull out the Monado menu. Just hold down the B-Button and choose Shield Art to cheat your way out of certain death. There is a lot more you can learn regarding Monado Arts, but you don’t need to know everything to have an effective Shulk.
The Monado is one of the most interesting moves in Smash and taking the time to master it can be extremely rewarding. But truthfully once you get good at switching between Monado Arts for whatever task you have at hand, you’ve already done most of the work to get good at Shulk. At the end of the day Shulk is just another anime swordfighter with a really good big sword. I hope the combos I was able to land with my week 1 Shulk convinces you that he’s not as hard as he sounds.
Shulk Combo Video
Shulk Tournament Report
Shulk is a character I had a lot of fun playing as. Generally speaking I enjoy playing characters with swords and Shulk did not disappoint. The range on his attacks genuinely shocked me at times and getting good at using the Monado was very satisfying. Whether it was learning advanced techniques or simply using my arts in creative ways I felt like there was a lot I could explore with this character. I also got to play Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time, an important part of the journey for any aspiring Shulk main. But Tuesday must come eventually and it was time to put what I learned to the test.
Round 1 Grimace
A long time ago I mained Donkey Kong and Grimace made a guest appearance as someone who gave my DK some much needed guidance. This time I got to finally fight him in bracket and while I have beaten him once before that was when I still mained Daisy. And while Shulk may be another top tier, my experience as a Donkey Kong main informed me that this could actually be a bad matchup for Shulk. Shulk’s biggest weakness is his frame data and while his range is incredible DK can match that range and bully him for trying to push buttons. While Grimace disagreed with that statement and claimed it was an even matchup, his DK still made my Shulk look foolish.
Round 2 Losers AGuyNamedZac
Zac is one of my favorite people in the local scene in large part because he’s willing to run the wacky side brackets nobody else would. (My favorite so far was using an Amiibo as your doubles partner). He picks Young Link and things start off incredibly well for me. I have a great lead in the first game until a surprise stage spike ends up killing me. I maintain my lead and go for the game winning Forward-Air only to barely not grab the ledge and self-destruct first. A little tilted I go into the next game. I’m doing well until I SD again and am one stock away from going 0-2. I pull it together and bring it to a game 3 in which I immediately SD after trying to change my Monado off-stage. I am really not feeling it. But despite that I manage to play well, abuse Shulk’s range and take the set without dropping another stock.
Round 3 Losers Koru
I was excited to face Koru again. He’s a great player and while my Mario did not get the job done I was feeling good about the Shulk. That is until I SD’d not once but twice in the first minute of the game. At this point I’m fuming and there were some choice words said while I was on that platform. He switches to Joker, and while it is a much more competitive game at the end of it he catches my roll-in with an F-Smash while I was in Smash Art, killing me at 52%.
I managed to SD 6 times in bracket this week. A new record! Does this mean that I’m wrong and that Shulk is actually really hard? I wouldn’t say so. These SD’s were caused by me barely not grabbing the ledge or trying to pull out the Monado menu to choose Jump, risking a backslash, when I instead could simply press the B button once. However, that being said, Shulk is not an easy character either. Playing as Shulk feels like learning the same character 6 different times. Applying advanced Monado tech in game can also be really difficult. But for the majority of people who play this game your Shulk is going to be good enough as long as you spend a little bit of time learning how the Monado works.
After playing as Shulk I wish more people would take the time to have a secondary or pocket Shulk. This character can sometimes just win matchups for you. There’s no point in learning MALLCs and Dial Storage if Shulk already beats them +3. And if you end up really enjoying the character you can absolutely spend the time learning his more advanced techniques. But you don’t need those advanced techniques to beat most people who play this game. Fundies Shulk is still a great character and I highly recommend you give him a chance.
While I could continue grinding my Shulk techskill it’s time for me to pick up a new character. Follow the link below to vote on the last poll on this YouTube channel. From here on out polls will be on my Patreon which I’d appreciate you taking a look at if you’re interested. It looks like I just called in for my appointment with the Doctor. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you on Tuesday!