Historically, counter moves haven’t functioned properly in Smash Ultimate’s amiibo AI. You can teach your amiibo to use the counter, but it will use it randomly and almost never use it in a predictive manner – which is the exact intended purpose of counter moves. So we’ve never had to worry about counter moves having an impact on the amiibo meta.
However, I’ve been hearing scattered reports that some amiibo can now use their counters with some level of success. Most of these reports are involving either Palutena or Incineroar, so I’ll have to lab them out on my own time. This demands the question – supposing that every counter-type move (meaning a move that is meant to absorb a predicted incoming attack with a predetermined counterattack) functioned properly, what would happen to the amiibo tier list?
First, here’s a list of all the characters with counter-esque moves. Joker’s Rebel Guard and Marth’s Counter and Incineroar’s Revenge all count, because you have to predict an incoming attack and it provides a benefit to you.
I’m not including moves like PSI Magnet because that’s already partially functional in the AI, and appears to have its own set of rules. And we’re assuming that the amiibo can use the counter correctly 90% of the time or more.
Short answer: expect everything on this list except for Incineroar and possibly King K. Rool to move up on the tier list. Incineroar can’t move up to a theoretical S+ tier because his optimal playstyle is Alolan Whip spam, and using Revenge would just leave him vulnerable to another Incineroar using Alolan Whip. King K. Rool could benefit from using a counter, but his optimal playstyle generally does fine on its own anyway. It’s difficult to see him becoming an S tier because there’s a significant gap between S tier and A+.
Counters can beat Melee-only opponents
Theoretically, most melee attacks that the opponent used could be rejected with a counter. One could completely nullify any non-projectile or non-grab attack by using their counter move. Multihit moves would be more situational, but many of them would also be interrupted by a counter.
There’s some exceptions to this: Joker and Bayonetta’s counters are very unique. Rebel Guard is intended to push Joker’s gauge closer to Arsene, and then Arsene’s Rebel Guard functions like both a reflector and melee counter. So Joker’s only melee-proof half the time, but the other half is very potent.
Bayonetta’s counter is an entirely different animal. Bayonetta’s Witch Time puts the opponent into a slow-motion Matrix-style animation for a period of time. This allows Bayonetta to land a free smash attack, or even use her new 8.0 AI to start the ladder combo. I expect that being able to counter would benefit Bayonetta moreso than almost any other amiibo, partially because of her low placement on the tier list and partially because it suddenly gives her options where she previously had none. Bayonetta has a notoriously hard time KOing.
What about Counter vs. Projectiles?
Projectiles would ultimately beat counters if the amiibo focused on using its counter. Most counters, besides the two listed above, are very close-range effective and require the opponent to be immediately adjacent to the user for the counter to land. Projectiles, by their nature, are meant for longer-distance fighting.
So if you have, say, a Marth who is fighting a Mii Gunner with missile spam, the Marth still has to get up close to be effective. Melee-only fighting styles are still going to get murdered by projectiles, and counters would be ineffective against that. Projectiles would be significantly harmed by reflectors becoming widely available, but that’s not currently on the horizon for amiibo.
Basically, projectiles win over counters.
Surely Command Grabs can do something?
Yes! Command grabs are also a counter to… counters. Grab hitboxes circumvent counters completely, and don’t even activate the second part of the move. With rare exceptions (Isabelle’s Fishing Rod and Terry’s Go! move being the only two), command grabs can’t be shielded or blocked by anything. So most command grabs would beat counters.
If counter-based playstyles became viable, then command grab styles would become more viable as well. After all, when using a counter one is completely stationary, so command grabs get easier to land.
It’s not as if command grabs aren’t already dominant in the meta, so I don’t expect that it’ll change a lot on the tier list.
Which counters would be more potent than others?
Generally speaking, the power of the counterattack is what would probably determine its usefulness. I don’t expect counters like Palutena’s would warrant a significant rise on the tier list, as they’re generally not as useful and take a higher percent to KO. However, there’s two counters that you should really keep an eye on…
- Mii Brawler
Mii Brawler’s Counter Throw is a 1.5x damage multiplier. It’s incredibly fast, and throws at a reasonably low angle that could make it difficult for some opponents to return to the stage. If it misses, Brawler can try again in 38 frames, much faster than most other counters.
Amiibo are frame-perfect opponents and are capable of throwing out a counter immediately after seeing the anticipated hitbox. Mii Brawler might be able to counter almost everything thrown at it.
2. King K. Rool
King K. Rool is already massively important in the amiibo meta. He’s been a contender for A+ tier for nearly his entire existence, and he’s already incredibly powerful. It’s difficult to imagine that a counter could bump him up even further considering the major jump between S and A+ tier, but… it would probably make him a contender for A++, if such a tier existed.
The only way to kill King K. Rool is to use enough power that he goes straight to the blastzone, or far enough away that his excellent recovery can’t get him back to the stage. He’s massively girthy, and his belly armor occasionally blocks moves that by all rights should end him. K. Rool’s a tank among tanks.
Having the possibility that a move that should kill King K. Rool could be blocked by a counter is very good news for K. Rool. It means that he’s that much less likely to die. Unfortunately for everyone else, his counter also has a 1.5x damage multiplier, and it’s also a great KO move to boot. Unless you’re coming after King K. Rool with command grabs or projectiles, you’re probably going to lose.
What can we do about it?
Pray that the reports are false.