by Plantasia – Guest Contributor
Hello, my name is Plantasia. You may be thinking “Wait, I’m not supposed to be in the Piranha Plant page! Why am I here?” Don’t worry, I’m here to discuss Isabelle and what is best to do for training and what to avoid. For PAL season 4 qualifiers, My Isabelle has beaten many top tiers and was the highest mid tier in the bracket getting all the way to winners final (but then I had to fight a Piranha Plant… how Ironic).
Isabelle does have 1 major AI problem, fishing rod. Isabelle can and will use a fishing rod to attack, but if the initial throw happens to miss, Isabelle can just… stand there…. waiting… The reason for this is most likely because she is waiting for the opponent to stand in between her and the hook to grab them when reeling back in the rod. The problem is the opponent can most likely get in a strong attack if they are on the opposite side of the Isabelle, physically unable to be grabbed by the rod. And even then the opponent may get in an attack before Isabelle reels them in. Also side note with fishing rod, she doesn’t seem able to use it offstage to throw them directly into the blast zone… what a shame. She can also use it offstage and fall REALLY close to the blast zone, but I have yet to see her actually die from it. It is a risk tho. Also in an arena, Isabelel will act… strange. She will use Rod more and also use generally less aerials.
Now I want to quickly talk about Isabelle’s moves so you have a better understanding of why you want to prioritise some moves over others, so if you are wanting to experiment yourself, there is somewhere you can start!
Isabelle has fantastic aerials, with a strong up and down air, projectile forward and back air to edge guard and even kill at a decent percent, and alright get-off-me neutral air. These are a must use and are your main strategies to attacking. Primarily focus on all but neutral air, as while it is nice, her other aerials are significantly better to use as they kill and have better range (still use it every once and a while tho).
Her smash attacks are no slouch either. Forward smash is decently strong and with little lag makes it mostly safe. Down smash is fast, sends at a low angle, and can catch rolls, but isn’t too strong. Up-Smash is a nice anti-air, but can be hard to land as it doesn’t have a wide hitbox and is in front of Isabelle. Forward smash is your go to smash attack of choice, but down smash is also good to use. Up smash is too risky and inconsistent to attack with, but useful when used in moderation.
Isabelle’s tilts and a vital bit to her overall playstyle (more on that later) and should be used always, but some more than others. Forward tilt is quick and has long reach. It can clank with other attacks including even sword smash attacks. This is your go to get-off-me attack on stage, but shouldn’t be used too much. Down tilt is strong and hits in front, but forward smash is simply stronger and forward tilt is faster, so use this either extremely little or never. Up tilt is the most important tilt to use, it is the best anti-air move to use on the ground due to the disjoint and range it covers, it clanks with long reach moves like DK’s forward AND up tilt, and can even hit most opponents in front or behind her if (and most characters are) they are tall enough. The main reason however to use this attack is because it leads perfectly into itself over and over again and ends with a strong up-air, and is Isabelle’s easiest way to launch opponents into the air and allows her to use aerial attacks quicker and kill sooner. Overall, use forward tilt in moderation, use a lot of up tilt, and avoid down tilt.
Dash Attack and Jab:
Dash attack is a really nice projectile. It launches at a nice angle and can be properly spaced to keep Isabelle safe. It also is a great way to rack up damage, so it should be used. Jab is very meh on Isabelle as all it may allow it to follow up into an up tilt or grab. The problem is the range of the moves it follows into has better range and jab can take away from Isabelle using other attacks. Up to you if you want to use it as I have seen some Isabelle use jab well, but it is just more hassle than it’s worth.
The grabs on Isabelle are useful as they either get the opponent off stage (forward and back throw), lead directly into moves such as forward and neutral air (down throw), or puts the opponent well into the air to allow follow-ups such as up, down, forward, and back air (up throw). Use well, but don’t over use as it can put Isabelle into a bad position and can take away from her tilt attacks.
Okay, simply put, avoid using neutral and down special. Neutral special is built in and she automatically knows how to use it properly against projectiles. Using it during training will cause her to just spam it even if there is no projectile, SO DON’T USE IT. Down special should be avoided for a different reason. Down special places a lloyd into the ground, and if the opponent steps on it or Isabelle presses down be again it launches into the air. The problem is she can’t use it like humans, as it was designed to predict player movement and wall off areas. She will just use it randomly on stage, and even if it does land, the best it will do is kill later than when up air would. All it mostly does is put Isabelle into an animation where the opponent can get in a free hit. Simply just avoid it, it’s not worth it. The only special move to consider using as an attack is side special. Side special is a great attack as it is a grab from a range, and can be used to up the opponent in a bad location, or kill at decent percent. The problem (as I stated above) is if she doesn’t land the attack, she may just stand there. This isn’t always, but it isn’t avoidable when using the move. Best way to use this is to use it sparingly, to gain it’s benefits while minimizing the chance of the freeze occurring, at the cost of simply using it less of course. Quick note about her up special, it’s a great recovery. It goes far and the balloons have a hitbox. The hit box can REALLY screw up some revoveries, such as the Ice Climbers (sorry Peridot). It can be gimped unlike any other recovery (except villagers of course) and a swift attack at the right angle can send Isabelle right into the blast zone, however the benefit of this unusual recovery is the opponent AI doesn’t and can’t understand that attacking th balloons is how you gimb isabelle and typically will just attack normally hitting both AND Isabelle.
Now with her moves understood and out of the way, let’s move on to her most optimal strategy of aerial combat
Beginners (The Aerial Menace):
You want to maximise air attacks, so you want to have a jumpy character. Not ONLY jumping mind you, as your ground attacks lead into her great aerials, but above average jumping for an amiibo. This is different from other aerial characters like Rosalina, because almost all of Isabelle’s aerials are fantastic in most situations and don’t require too much set up to get going, and down air makes some opponents simply unable to attack your landing. Edgeguarding is by far more important. Isabelle has unbelievable gimping capabilities with down, forward, and back air, so she should be going in to attack every time the opponent is offstage. Do not edgeguard from the stage as it seems to take away from off stage attacks and with such a great recovery she can afford to go deep to spike or gimp the opponent. I suggest having your isabelle able to parry really well, as out of a parry she can use up tilt/smash and forward tilt/smash. She also uses down tilt if you teach her… but don’t.
Advanced (The Sweep and Beet):
There is another valid strategie where you primarily use up tilt on stage. You mostly sacrifice the use of dash attack and now actually use up smash. The reasoning for this strategy is mostly due to how the ai uses up tilt. Isabelle will follow up with up air once up tilt would no longer connect or when the opponent is launched high enough into the air because of the weights set on jump and aerials, but there is a chance depending on the weight of up smash that she would follow up with an up smash. You want to get up smash to be a high enough value where she has a reasonable chance of using it out of up tilt, but not to use it much else. This is a more tricky version to train, and is more risky depending on the matchup. This is more advanced due to the fact that you need to be very careful around how you use up smash, and allowing Isabelle to use it over up tilt is REALLY bad.
How to Train the Isabelle Amiibo in Smash Ultimate
The suggested training method isn’t to train to level 50 yourself. The reasoning for this is due to the specific weights you want to get too, and when you get past level 25 it can be hard to avoid moves you don’t want Isabelle to over use. The suggested training method is to first train from level 1 – 10 all of her grounded moves on final destination, and to edgeguard almost every time your Isabelle is offstage. You need that value really high. If you are using the advanced technique, this is where you use up tilt above all else except aerials. From level 10-20, I suggest you get a custom stage where you have strong vertical wind and you move the stage on a track behind a horizontal wind barrier. This method allows 2 things. 1 is unlike ladder method, it won’t teach ledgeguarding, or where the Amiibo defends the ledge by attacking from the stage instead of edgeguarding. And 2, the Amiibo won’t attack after about 30 seconds because they will be trying to only recover back to the stage. This allows you to land aerials for free and increase the aerial value without fear of a counter attack.
(Portal is optional)
From level 20-25 play how you want your amiibo to play, all her tilts, smash attacks, and most importantly aerials. Then once that is done and you aren’t quite satisfied, go to level 30 with that style. After that turn learning off and level up your amiibo to level 50 in any way that you like. If after you hit level 50 and your Isabelle isn’t what you want, either turn learning back on and bring her to the custom stage from before and train her for about 10 minutes. If after that she isn’t closer, restart.
Why It Works
Isabelle excels against opponents without wide hitboxes due to the ridiculous aerial game she has, and opponents who struggle with recovery also get dominated by her. This is a decent selection of the cast, even top tiers like Shulk, as most optimol amiibo are very grounded. Overall an interesting style with interesting strengths!
Now this isn’t a part of the normal guides, but I feel like having this will help new players understand if their character is ready, or if you are just testing it against the wrong characters. What do I mean by this? What I mean is sometimes your character is actually really good, but you compare it to the wrong character and such you get the wrong idea. So here I want to talk about some things to look out for while TESTING your amiibo to get a better understanding of what she is good at and not.
Good Matchups For Isabelle:
- Poor recovery character: With Isabelle’s fantastic recovery and aerials, shulk and mario struggle.
- Extremely Grounded characters: With a few exceptions, if the opponent is really grounded or has bad aerial moves. Isabelle’s disjointed up and down smash give characters a hard time, and tend to be untrained in aerial combat like some aerial trained DK and even some Ridley’s
- Poor Reach: Without good reach, the opponent can’t challenge some of Isabelle’s moves, such as pikachu (except forward smash) and luigi.
Matchups To Look Out For As Isabelle:
- Sword characters or similar: With a few exceptions, characters like King DeeDeeDee and Hero negat most of Isabelle’s attacks by out-ranging her and forcing Isabelle to attack more on the ground causing some very dodgy situations for Isabelle.
- Heavy Characters: Some characters are too heavy for Isabelle to deal with, like King Dee Dee Dee and K-rool, and just shrug off some of her attacks.
- Really Hard Hitters: Some characters hit Isabelle too hard and kill her due to her weight, such as DK and even Dr. Mario (however in the case of Dr Mario, he ha a lot of bad weaknesses also so it tends to be less of a wash over Isabelle and more even or in your favor)
- Characters that can punish landings well: What I DON’T mean by this is characters who stop landings, like normal up tilt spam, I mean characters like Mario that are able to allow the opponent to land, but punish the end lag of landing with a well timed grab or forward smash. This is a much more niche counter to Isabelle and is a dime in a dozen.
The most problemsome characters mix and match the above weaknesses, but can be a favorable matchup if Isabelle exploits a really bad weakness they have.
Example 1: DK has poor recovery and Isabelle’s air game makes it hard for DK to sometimes get in, but his reach on the ground, heavy weight, and powerful attacks still make the game in DK’s favor, if not then even
Example 2: Shulk has a long disjointed reach and has decent air game, but his recovery is much too exploitable, strangely making it a favorable matchup for Isabelle if she edgeguards, but a really bad one if she doesn’t.
Example 3: Dr. Mario, while has poor reach and recovery, plays such a strong air game, hits so hard, able to punish landings, and can even vary his recovery enough with his down b, Isabelle either washes over Dr. Mario, or Dr. Mario Washes over her.
There are also stages to consider. As an aerial fighter, Isabelle favors platforms due to her air game, but in some cases less platforms are better. Now keep in mind that most tournaments don’t allow counter picking stages, but tournaments like SUAL have a randomized selection of stages, and Wumbo allows counter picking characters and stages.
- Final Destination: By far her worst stage to play on, with being the only stage with no platforms whatsoever. However, this is a stage of choice if you are facing a character with a better air game than you, as sometimes forcing more on stage play will be to your advantage. It should go without saying however, that if you are facing someone who loves to be on the ground, DON’T GO HERE.
- Battlefield: This is the most common platform stage chosen, and good thing it isn’t too bad for Isabelle. With platforms you can poke through and get nice hits with up air, and up smash can reach through platforms also. There is a time and place for this stage however, as sword fighters or characters with long reach can often turn the platforms from a blessing into a curse. So I would swap to a stage with either less or more spaced out platforms to make sure Isabelle can get away from characters who love to use platforms.
- Other (Pokemon stadium, Town and City, etc.):This is the goldilocks stage selection for Isabelle’s. Allows high control in the air, but not too many platforms for the opponent to use them against you. Use this stage against both favorable and unfavorable matchups, unless one of the other two are superior.
In order to make a proper stage choice, you need to know what the opponent is TRULY weak too or what they excel at.
Example 1: You have to face Zelda, and you know her up air and side airs is a huge problem, but other than that she likes to use up smash and forward smash. Something in the other category would be your best bet in winning, because so can’t beat her on the ground, but too many platforms make her up in the air too easy to land, so you need to go for something in the middle. It will still be a hard matchup, but it is most likely your best bet.
Example 2: You have to face a Shulk, and you know Shulk LOVES forward smash and forward air, but has a bad recovery. You need to avoid Final Destination at all costs, as that only plays into Shulk’s strengths. Either the other or Battlefield are your choices, as even tho he attacks with forward air and sometimes up smash, you need to force an air game to get him off stage to get quick and easy stocks.
Example 3: It’s an Isabelle ditto, and you know your opponent has theirs more trained for the air as they took training method 1 from this guide, but you chose option 2 and are more grounded. Final destination is your best option. If you know the opposing Isabelle is better in the air, but you are better on the ground, forcing no platforms hurts you both, but the opponent will be hurting more.
There are many complexities that go into matchups, but I hope this will help you get a better understanding of what to look out for.