This week I mained Hero, a character with so many random elements the competitive Smash community tried to ban him at first!
Preconceptions on Hero
When Hero was first introduced in Smash Ultimate nobody knew what to expect from him. The competitive Smash Bros scene is infamous for trying to reduce variance in their games by banning items and stages that have random elements. While characters with random elements already existed in Smash none were as extreme as Hero and his menu. With effects ranging from attacks having a chance to be a critical hit, becoming invincible, instakilling your opponent, and blowing yourself up it was impossible to tell what Hero was capable of. Because this character was so reliant on random effects some scenes even chose to ban Hero rather than deal with the RNG.
As time passed the larger Smash Ultimate scene decided that Hero wasn’t as big of a problem as initially expected. While the language barrier is problematic, the random elements in Hero’s kit were deemed to be ok for competitive play. While many players choose to avoid characters that can be inconsistent some competitors decided to embrace it and tried to maximize Hero’s potential despite the randomness.
Contrary to what many people think, maining Hero means reducing random chance as much as possible. Hero has a lot of broken stuff he can do. Against every character in the game Hero has something powerful he can do against them. One of the main challenges of playing Hero is choosing the correct option for each situation. By minimizing randomness you can reliably choose the best options and win games more consistently. While Hero may seem entirely dependent on RNG on the surface there are a lot of tricks you can employ to have the RNG come up in your favor.
Hero Training Mode
Hero is balanced almost entirely around one move, that being his Menu. With 21 spells to choose ranging from broken to awful Hero wants to open up his Menu as much as possible to find the right spell for the job. However, when you first start playing as Hero I recommend you don’t use Menu. When the slot machine gets you a kill stupidly early it’s easy to fall into the trap of using Menu too much. Improper use of Menu can put you in bad situations and give your opponents opportunities to punish you. While Menu is strong there are three other spells that you always have access to. They are powerful but most importantly are consistent options that you can always rely on. These spells are important for giving you the space you need in order to read your Menu and not just top deck in a panic.
Now, what if I told you that Menu actually has 5 options instead of 4? Menu defines the way that Hero plays and this core aspect of the character heavily influences the way opponents play against you. Nobody wants to see Hero glowing like a Christmas tree come flying at them so a lot of players will try to do something to stop Hero from reaching this state. By pulling out your Menu and then watching your opponent instead of reading the Menu you can learn what your opponent wants to do to stop you from using it. You can use your shield to cancel your Menu and then punish your opponents attempts to stop you. Menu is one the strongest tools in the game at conditioning your opponent since it often makes your opponent play in predictable ways.
Once you’ve finally created some space for yourself and know what your opponent likes to do in response to your Menu now is the time you can finally use it. Menu has some interesting properties to it that makes certain spells more likely to appear. If a spell appeared in the previous 4 options it will never show up in the next Menu. Spells such as Zoom are more likely to appear when you are closer to the blast zone. However, if you can recover to stage using just your Up-B you should do that instead of risking the chance of not finding Zoom and dying as a result. And while top decking can be a risky strategy to go for, the average spell from Menu is really strong and it comes out so fast your opponent won’t have a chance to react.
Hero is a weird character to play. But he’s also a lot of fun! Anything is possible as Hero and this combo video I made is proof of that.
Hero Combo Video
Hero Tournament Report
While I had a lot of fun playing as Hero I didn’t feel like I was very good with him yet. Hero sometimes felt very slow and clunky to use. He was the kind of character that required you to put a lot of time into playing as him to get an idea of what all of his options are. But my goal for this tournament wasn’t necessarily to win. This was my only chance to play Hero in bracket and I wanted to live a little. If I couldn’t win through pure skill yet why not try to win through luck instead? Let’s see how lucky I got in bracket!
Round 1 Winners – Saxum
Saxum is a player I’ve never faced before who plays Wario. I take an early lead and even with some suboptimal Hocus Pocuses I take game 1. Game 2 I take the lead again and try to make my own luck. It definitely could have gone better but it’s not game over yet. For the rest of the set I use his bike to keep him away and farm buffs eventually taking the set 2-0.
Round 2 Winners – JayFlyT
JayFlyT is one of the stronger players in Utah and is usually ranked in the top 15. However, as good as he is I have beaten him once before. And with Hero anything is possible. Game 1 he decides to try out Falco. Fun fact Psyche Up and Oomph make half of Hero’s move break shield in 1 hit :). It’s close, mostly because I’m not a coward and get a bad Hocus Pocus, but I win the last hit last stock situation. However, once he switches back to his main Wii Fit I’m suddenly at a loss at how to fight him. He takes the next two games in quick succession and knocks me into losers bracket.
Round 3 Losers – SinVex
This was the third time I have fought SinVex in the Character Crisis series and if I’m being perfectly honest he’s been dicing me up as of late. Game 1 is super close but ends with me holding shield a little too long at the ledge giving SinVex the chance he needs to take the game. Game 2 he is way more aggressive than I expect and catches me off-guard. Even though I managed to get a crit on him his new playstyle is too much for me and he knocks me out of the bracket.
Hero may seem easy on the surface. And while you can rely on luck to win you some games, getting good with Hero requires you to manage risk and reward more than any other character. Hero has incredible highs and lows and maximizing the former is key to pushing this character as far as possible. I decided to use Hocus Pocus every time I could in bracket and it more often than not put me in a worse situation since I didn’t know what would happen after using it.
Luck is a factor when playing as Hero but a more important thing to consider is that Hero doesn’t need to rely on luck to win. Even without Menu Hero has a ton of options at his disposal that can be used to swing a matchup in your favor. Something as simple as what level of spell to use can change based on the matchup. Hero can be played in a lot of different ways and finding your playstyle as Hero is important to doing well with the character. But most important of all, great Hero mains are those who can find consistency even with all of the RNG at Hero’s disposal.
While my Hero wasn’t the luckiest it could have been at the tournament I still learned a lot while playing him. But I think there is still more that I can learn in my Character Crisis. If you want to help choose my next character you can do so by following the link to my Patreon down below. My Patrons have chosen and it’s finally time for me to learn for myself whether or not Zero Suit Samus actually sucks. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you on Tuesday!