The latest patch for Smash 4, 1.1.5, has come, and now our community members have had a good amount of time to scrub the game files to see what exactly has changed. Many of the changes affect the former top and high tier characters; Metaknight’s U-air U-air Up-B kill chains are a thing of the past. Cloud’s aerial Finishing Touch was hit, killing significantly later now. Greninja benefits from some minor start up buffs to dash attack and standing grab, in addition to having some landing lag shaved off of his fair and bair. Zero Suit Samus lost some damage output across the board, and lost some of her consistency off of early D-throw combos. Bayonetta has less duration on successive Witch Time attempts, and Corrin lost a bit of damage output across the board, including her charged dragon shot and her counter, effectively lowering the knockback growths of those moves.
(Fun fact of the day; the damage of an attack is directly factored in for the KnockBack Growth formula. Even if the numerical value for KBG is unchanged, less damage means less KBG overall.)
Several of the weaker members of the cast had some fairly significant changes, as well. Charizard received landing lag reductions across all of his aerials, Samus received some small buffs across the board, and many other characters like Ganondorf, Pac-man, Robin, Palutena, Mewtwo and Link received minor buffs.
One of the biggest changes, however, is that Sheik was nerfed, and in a significant way. Now that the patch has had some time to settle, let’s take a look at what those changes were, and how they affect the character in the long term.
The day that Nintendo has decided to finally nerf Sheik down has come, and naturally the community has seen lots of discussion about it. She received a number of minor changes; some adjustment on the Z axis positioning of her fair, improvement on her down-smash’s knockback growth, a bit of range reduction to her needles and a bit of a weight decrease.
The biggest change, however, is in her throw game; forward-throw and down-throw both have increased knockback growth and a slightly tweaked angle. This hasn’t affected her early percent throw game at all; she still gets bouncing fish and forward-air set ups off of f-throws up until moderate percents. The major change is at the higher percents; the increased knockback growth on d-throw greatly changes her ability to set up for the “jump or airdodge” 50-50 that Sheik has relied on for netting kills in previous revisions of the game. Depending on the character you’re fighting against and their exact percents, you might be able to still find the opportunity to put opponents into those traps, but the window between when opponents will be at high enough percent to kill with U-air or Up-B and not too high percent to be sent too high up to simply jump away to safety is now small, and not something Sheik can expect to be relying on for regular kill set ups.
Ending opponent’s stocks is arguably one of the most important parts of a character’s kit; after all, you can’t win the game if you don’t take your opponent’s stocks, regardless of how many times you hit them or how much damage you rack up.
Now that the 50-50 kill set up is a thing of the past, what can Sheik do to set up for ending their opponent’s stocks?
One KO option that Sheik can look for is bouncing fish off of F-throw. In some situations, bouncing fish can catch an opponent out of their jump if they try to jump immediately, and choosing to airdodge instead is an option that could potentially be baited out; not likely to be as reliable as the old 50-50, but another option to consider.
And realistically, Sheik has a lot of other KO options to fall back on. Her edgeguarding is some of the best in the game. Bouncing fish alone is a great burst movement KO tool, useful for calling out certain actions from a safe distance, smothering opponents in bad positions, and getting confirms off of aerial needles. Up-smash and F-smash are still solid KO options, with D-smash being perhaps added to that list with its new knockback growth. With long enough control and proper management of the stale moves queue, even F-air can be used to clinch out the KO, eventually!
So, realistically, how do the changes actually affect the character from a competitive stand point?
“Sheik is still easily top 3,” says Ramin ‘Mr-R’ Delshad, world-class Sheik main from the Netherlands. “The main difference between her and other top tiers is that she controls the pace of the game and neutral much better. As long as you stay consistent and not make TOO many mistakes, she still has a big advantage against a lot of characters in neutral.”
Clearly, the nerfs have an effect; her reliable KO power has taken a bit of a hit, and as such Sheik mains will have to be contending with opponents at high percents (and dangerously high rage) more often…but her overall combo game is still as potent as ever, and with clean play, tight neutral, and proper applications of the character’s highly diverse toolset, Sheik is still looking like one character to keep an eye out for in tournament for 2016.
Ideas? Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to drop Sethlon a line on his twitter; @S3thlon