Wolf: From Powerhouse to Barely a Pocket Pick
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The early meta of “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate” was defined by a much different group of characters than what is popularly seen today. In the beginning of the game’s competitive lifespan, characters fell into two main groups based on their strengths. Either they had ridiculously strong combo games, such as Pichu and Olimar, or they rewarded strong fundamentals and game knowledge, such as Lucina.
Wolf falls into the latter category, and was indeed an incredibly strong character. He was introduced in “Super Smash Brothers Brawl” and has since been a fan favorite. His return in “Smash Ultimate” came with the support of nearly everyone.
Not only are many of his moves somewhat disjointed, meaning the hit-box of those moves is separated from the rest of the character, Many of his moves serve as combo starters, including his down throw, up throw, forward aerial, and many others. Wolf at his core rewards those who are aware of his advantages and know how to play the game on a more fundamental level.
This, in large part, explains his popularity among the competitive scene at the time. His reliance on fundamentals to do well made him easier to pick up, and his strong reward because of his easier combos and strong down smash used for reads made him well worth the relatively small time investment.
This lead to many top players, including Nairo, Void, MKLeo, and Zachray, to picking up the character as a secondary and many more to outright main the character. In fact, on the first PGRU, the official ranking of top smash players created by Panda Global, lists wolf five times, with most of his appearances in the top half of the list.
However, after the first few months of the game, many began developing the meta for other characters, most notably MKLeo rising in skill with his Joker, Nairo with Palutena, Marss with ZSS, Samsora with Peach, and Ally with Snake.
Wolf also suffered from some compromising nerfs, which included a base knockback reduction on his down smash, and a increase in ending lag on his blaster. While he did get lots of other minor buffs, overall the character seemed to lose more than he gained.
Both of these things, combined with Wolf’s lackluster offstage options, lead many to abandoning the character. By the time the second official PGRU rolled around in the following fall, Wolf’s appearances went from five to just one in the form of Zachray, who only occasional played the character in specific match-ups.
While his popularity has certainly been at a low point, not all hope is lost for the furry villain. Many regions across the United States have a number of prominent Wolfs. Of these regions, SoCal stands out the most, who is home top Smash 4 player Larry Lurr, as well as rising star Charlie “Charliedaking” Haruno, the latter of whom recently made an incredible run at Genesis 7, getting ninth out of over 1,600 entrants and who almost beat current number six Maister.
Current number three Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey has also show much interest in the character as of late, using him most recently at Frostbite 2020 and getting third out of over 1,200 players. Even Zachray, who lost faith in the character fairly early on, has continued to use him sparingly in tournament play.
While it is hard to see the character’s widespread popularity returning anytime soon, his history in “Smash Ultimate” is interesting. At the end of the day, Wolf alongside others like Lucina felt a lot like characters that people were just messing around with while they got a feel for the game. Even despite the competitive scene’s strange online transition, it is possible that Wolf may see a minor return in the form of new and old top players.
Something a little different, this time around. I haven’t spent much time talking about competitive smash on this blog, most recently because pretty much all offline tournaments have grinded to a halt. However, I had a sudden inspiration and so this is the final product. Who is your favorite “Smash Bros” character? Let me know in the comments.
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