Last night, Amiibrawl 45 happened. It’s sort of the staple tournament of the amiibo metagame, as most trainers enter it and many people watch the livestream on Youtube. Amiibrawl is the longest-running tournament series, and it’s generally quite fun.
Cloud and I both submitted an Ice Climbers amiibo to Amiibrawl, and neither of us expected to win. I tend to submit my Ice Climbers when I’m not too interested in a tournament but I want to participate, and I don’t put much training into any individual amiibo anyways so it doesn’t matter much to me how they perform. It’s easier to just go through and train when you have time as opposed to a dedicated regimen, and that’s what I tend to stick with.
As you can see here, both Cloud’s Ice Climbers and mine made it out of round 1. It’s stunning that one of them did, it’s utterly groundbreaking that both of them did. Granted, they were both eliminated in round 2, but that’s not the point. Cloud, having expected his Icies to lose, revealed in the Discord channel that they were not normally trained Ice Climbers: his Icies were a brain transplant. He had had the same hunch that I’ve been having and transplanted his Bowser onto his Icies, and what do you know? They eliminated their upper mid-tier Pokemon Trainer opponent. This is basically the first time the Ice Climbers have accomplished anything of importance, and it showed in their playstyle too. I recommend going through and watching the match. It’s pretty clear that he solved a lot of their main AI issues with the transplant.
My match came up a bit later, and it was equally awesome. Unlike Cloud’s Icies, mine didn’t have a brain transplant: they were just trained naturally. I fought a Lucario, and made a best-of-3 comeback to take the set.
What does all this mean? Well, first it means that Ice Climbers will probably have to rely on some sort of brain transplant in order to be competitive in the metagame. I know that my Icies didn’t have a brain transplant and won, but Lucario’s not that good of an amiibo, and they’ve lost literally every other set I’ve ever sent them to. I suspect Amiibrawl was a bit of a fluke in that regard. But at the very least, it means that there is in fact a use for brain transplants, and the Ice Climbers can make some sort of impact now.
(Of course, this all happens right after I go through the trouble of writing In case I haven’t said it enough…)
Also, I observed something while watching Cloud’s Ice Climbers battle the Pokemon Trainer. They had a very easy time against Squirtle, and a pretty easy time against Ivysaur. It seems to me (and this is supported by my Icies getting destroyed by the second-placing Ridley) that the Icies have a hard time against heavyweights. They were demolished by Charizard, who could send both of them flying, and if both Climbers are sent flying at slightly different angles, then they get separated after a short distance. Brain transplanted Ice Climbers don’t seem to have as much of a problem with separation as naturally trained ones, so it seems plausible that brain transplants may be the only viable path for Ice Climbers should the metagame become even more populated with heavyweights. Given that Snake, Incineroar and the Belmonts are all on the horizon, that seems likely.
Does any of this mean that the Icies are going to be viable at the highest level of amiibo competition? No. They can only ever be mid-tier at best, even with massive character buffs. To use the Utility formula as a frame of reference, we’ve made improvements in their training variable (the theta) with brain transplants, but unless we have a large buff with the C variable they’re still going to be flash-in-the-pan victors.