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by Lady Cucco, Guest Contributor
I’ve been trying to prove that Robin deserves a higher placement on the tier list since early Ultimate. As a result, my Robin, Cypera, became one of the most-entered Robins in Ultimate history by a good margin – her 51 tournament entries represent almost half of all vanilla Robin entries across the high-level competitive servers. Towards the end of 2019, my efforts have started to come to fruition when Cypera went to Grand Finals repeatedly and was only stopped by a Bowser in the end.
In the beginning of 2020 she finally made it and took a standard tournament as the first Robin to claim victory. As a result, Robin slowly started to climb out of the bottom tier section and is now (July 2020) even in the upper half of the community tier list.
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Robin’s AI issues are all centered around the consumable weapons. The character is notorious for starting out strong but then “lose their teeth”, especially during longer battles. The reason for this seems to be that the weapons they are trained to use run out, and then Robin somehow has to keep fighting without them.
As a result, the AI adapts around being unable to use any consumables, which can gradually make them use the alternative options like tilts or Dash Attack (which only utilize the Bronze Sword) more – but they’ll also use defensive options like jumping and general idle behavior, which we don’t want.
The real problem occurs when, after a while, Robin doesn’t want to add their attacks back into their combat routine, even when the weapons have respawned! Unfortunately, the Bronze Sword alone isn’t really suitable to take stocks so an opponent surviving to 200% after Robin has already had more than a stock lead earlier in the match isn’t a rare occurrence.
Do keep in mind that there is no objective proof for this theory, though (and there likely won’t be unless Nintendo releases the source code for Robin’s AI). It’s mainly based on observing various Robin amiibo using different fighting styles under different conditions and also the simple fact that training methods which specifically try to work around this issue so far have been the most successful ones.
Another minor issue takes hold when Elwind runs out – they won’t chase an opponent offstage because they have no idea how many charges exactly are left. The full Up Special recovery uses 2 charges so if only a single charge is left, the amiibo will overestimate their recovery potential and may go so deep that they won’t make it back to the stage.
Due to their limited weapons availability, Robins need to be versatile and need to use as many of their consumables as possible. Not relying too much on a small number of skills will mitigate the main AI issue by always giving the amiibo an equally lethal alternative to switch to when one weapon runs out. That allows them to keep fighting without changing their main fighting style and keeps them deadly for an extended period of time. At the same time, Robin shouldn’t get too used to their Bronze Sword during training so they’re less likely to shift their entire attack pattern to it.
Despite the limited charges, Elwind is still a high-end recovery option that brings Robin back to the ledge from almost the bottom blast line. In addition, aerials using the Levin Sword are about as strong as a Smash attack, which makes the tactician a powerful offstage fighter. An opponent that finds themselves below a recovering Robin may even get dunked by the meteor hitbox of the Elwind projectiles. It does happen that a Robin dies as a result of a depleted Elwind tome, but it is fairly rare (especially because the tome’s cooldown isn’t that long) and thus their lethal offstage game far outweighs a potential risk of a whiffed recovery.
How to train Robin
Thunders: Amiibo are generally reluctant to use any charged attacks – they enjoy charging them up but then they will often just hold on to their charge until the match ends. This means if you want Robin to actually attack with their Neutral Special, you need to spam them quite a bit. Ideally you use Elthunder for this. Thoron drains the tome so quickly that you can’t spam it enough for the amiibo to pick it up, whereas uncharged thunder is too weak and doesn’t give your amiibo something to remember.
As long as you have a thunder tome ready during training, spam Elthunder whenever your Robin is out of range for Arcfire. The amiibo can’t distinguish between the different thunder spells, so if they have time to charge up a Thoron, they will use that. If they have less time, they may just go for Elthunder or even spam uncharged thunders. Once you just see them empty their tome while not even being close to a position where they can actually hit the opponent and never take the time to charge it up, then you overshot and need to use thunders somewhat less.
Arcfire: You definitely want Robin to use this since it builds damage, severely disrupts an opponent’s attack patterns and also is the start of the most lethal kill option Robin has without being offstage (which is the Arcfire to short hop Forward air combo). Definitely teach them this combo or alternatively Arcfire into Up Smash. You can also use the opportunity to hit the amiibo with Nosferatu while it’s trapped by the flames. If you see Robin use 2 Arcfires in a row (typically missing with the second one), either use Arcfire somewhat less or go for those combos more.
Nosferatu is an optional skill. If you can get a hit with it, definitely go for it. It’s another option for Robin while other skills are on cooldown, and the healing can sometimes makes a difference in a match’s outcome. However, if you have trouble hitting with it, then don’t waste too much time here.
Neutral Options Without Consumable Weapons: You generally shouldn’t use the Bronze Sword too often to avoid the AI flaw mentioned above. You can throw in some dash attack, which has a disjointed hitbox and comes out quickly. That means it isn’t likely to get punished unless the opponent is particularly eager to parry.
You can also use some Up Tilts when Robin is above you, as there is not much else you could spam in that situation. Apart from that, using the Bronze Sword is not recommended. If you want to use some Jabs, definitely stay away from the infinite Jab (the green flurry attack) as this drains your recovery tome!
A true neutral options at close range are the Grabs. The type of Throw the amiibo will use can’t be trained, but all four of them have their uses. Down Throw can combo into Forward Air, which can make for an alternative to Arcfire => Forward air while that tome is on cooldown. Up throw can be followed up with and Up air or other aerials. Forward throw can sometimes lead into a nasty Thoron snipe and Back Throw can even kill when used at the ledge.
Kill options on and above the stage: While some of the options listed above can get kills in certain situations, all reliable kill moves of a Robin amiibo require the Levin Sword. It is therefore important that you don’t overspam Smash Attacks so your Robin doesn’t waste the sword before they need it.
The only recommended use of Forward smash is as a punish out of parry. Down Smash can be used at the ledge – it has a wide hitbox and thus has a good chance to catch a recovering opponent, which will likely seal the stock. Up smash can be used if Robin is above you, but don’t overuse it either.
The best use of the Levin Sword is the aerials. Their power rivals that of the smash attacks, but Robin won’t get parry-punished in the air, which makes those skills more reliable. You can either go for horizontal kills with the side aerials (make sure Robin knows Back air as well!) or for vertical kills with Up air (for example, out of an Up smash or Up throw). Ideally use most aerials out of short hops or else your Robin might get too jumpy! Try setting up combos with either Arcfire or throws before going for the kill with an aerial or else the opponent might just air dodge them and waste your Robin’s Levin Sword.
Kill Options Off Stage: Here, you can still use the same options as when above the stage. In addition to that, you can also go for the meteor kill with Down Air. It is a relatively powerful meteor attack with a good hitbox and decent reaction time that can close stocks early. If you want a less risky option, you can use Neutral Air close to the ledge. It hits on both sides and has a good change of gimping an opponent without the need to go very deep or very far, but of course it lacks the raw killing power of the down aerial. An alternative that lets you stay on the stage yourself would be to snipe the recovering opponent with Thoron, or at higher percentages with Elthunder. Robin amiibo can sometimes pull this off so it definitely doesn’t hurt to teach them, though it’s still a much less reliable kill option than a solid off stage aerial.
Last Words on Training: I would not recommend you to train your Robin up until level 50 or even beyond that, but to instead turn learning off once you have taught them all the skills you want them to know and finish the remaining levels with learning off. The higher the amiibo is, the more likely it will randomly discover and start to like skills you don’t want them to know!
Why it Works
Robin amiibo trained with this method are pretty versatile and thus don’t have many hard counters.
Their thunders give them a good countermeasure against projectile-spamming amiibo, which will often give the tactician the upper hand against even Missile Gunners. The use of aerials gives them options against parry-heavy amiibo, and also against opponents that force them to jump to avoid attacks or to follow them into the air. The powerful offstage game allows Robin to kill heavyweights early, which would otherwise survive until very high percentages. The combination of thunders (including the uncharged spam) and Arcfire can keep the opponent at bay and deals a good amount of damage while the Levin Sword regenerates.
Robin amiibo may never be your all-dominating top dog that destroys their competition in every tournament, but they can hold their own even against a number of top tiers and are always good for a comeback. They make for a very interesting fighter that keeps you at the edge of your seat match after match and will never have you lose all hope, even against the most powerful opponents!