The Benefits of Detriments

The perpetual complaint in the competitive amiibo scene is that of metagame balance. The issuers of the complaint are usually complaining about the same situation: a generally high-tier amiibo has won a tournament over generally low-tier amiibo. The complaint typically houses a secondary complaint, which is that the victor earned their victory through a playstyle that is unentertaining or otherwise unpleasant to watch. Often as a tertiary complaint, the issuer will suggest that the victorious amiibo be banned from future tournaments to prevent more undesirable play.

Given enough time, that tertiary complaint will either fizzle out and stay confined to the original issuer of the complaint, or other trainers will come to the same conclusion and a consensus in the scene will form. Then the scene will make a decision to ban that character from future amiibo tournaments for one of a few purposes.

In the aftermath of that ban, a new character which was previously beaten by the previously banned amiibo will rise to take the place of the aforementioned amiibo, and the cycle will start over. I refer to this as the Slippery Slope of Bans, because agreeing on one ban means that another character will rise to the occasion and become worthy of a ban as well.

The difficulty of supporting bans with amiibo is that there is no logical end to this cycle. There is no definable point at which character bans should stop completely – how could one objectively claim that banning X, Y and Z is reasonable, but not W? The unbanning of X, Y and Z means that a W ban is no longer necessary, as they have been removed from their position as the best character.

In these scenarios, we are also assuming that we’re not blind to issues of representation. Most would believe that as the amiibo metagame shifts and shapes up, it takes on a pseudo-random distribution of amiibo representation. That assumption is not realistic: while there are trends to the amiibo that are submitted to tournaments, the competitive scene has such a low population that a single individual can intentionally create these trends to fit their suppositions. A tournament host could rig a bracket to put a Ness against other Nesses to lower the likelihood of Ness winning, which would lower the likelihood of a Ness ban. A trainer could submit four of the same character to a tournament to increase the likelihood of that ban. Ruleset creators could rig a stagelist to intentionally harm a specific character or archetype of character.

This is all much ado about nothing. It’s actually good that a hierarchy of amiibo competency exists, and bans tend to ruin that competency in most cases.

Imagine, if you will, a scenario in which the entire amiibo metagame can be summed up as such:

Every amiibo is equal to every other amiibo and is just as capable of winning a tournament as its peers. There is nothing notable to be had from success with low tiers because there are no low tiers. There are no high tiers to learn to beat. Each tournament is effectively an equal luck of the draw, with no room for trainers to improve their training methods. Amiibo research is unnecessary.

Does that sound like fun?

It seems preferable that high tiers would be victorious more often than low tiers, than having no tiers at all. In a hierarchical system, trainers can improve their competencies and test them by working for success with low tier amiibo. They can learn to innovate existing material and earn the right to say they’re a better trainer than they were. Other people can learn from that trainer, and that cycle continues. That’s how the metagame self-perpetuates.

Maybe the issuers of those complaints ought to stop complaining about the detriments of the low-tier amiibo, and start to appreciate the benefits of detriments.

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