The Beginner’s Guide to Training the Joker amiibo in Smash Ultimate

by Leeya, Guest Contributor, who definitely isn’t Luckman, she promises

Heya!  I’m Leeya, the author of this guide!  I began competitive Amiibo in May 2020!  Ever since the Joker Amiibo released, I was driven to train a stunning one.  My first iteration, HarryPottr looked quite promising and was soon refined to Potter!, my second iteration and earliest successful Joker.  Potter! got the first ever ranked Joker win!  Seeing where Forward Smash, Up Smash, Dash Attack and Down Tilt fundamentals got Potter!, I knew it was a good foundation. 

After that success, I trained my third Joker, named Erik.  He was quite different from Potter!, as I experimented more with Specials.  He was also my first Joker that could gun dash, which was very captivating.  Erik was beating a lot of high tiers on Amiibots.com and in tournaments.  From this, I knew that Erik was another good layer to my foundation.  This brings us to my latest Joker, NEET.  NEET is a mix of both Potter! and Erik.  He exceeded my expectations, consistently beating low and high tiers alike.  He continues to place very strongly in higher tier tournaments.  Currently he has a 60% win rate and 28.05 rating on Amiibots for 65 games!

Joker is one of the most intriguing and mysterious Amiibo in Smash Ultimate!  With the knowledge of my experiences, I hope from this guide, you can train your own marvelous Joker!

AI Issues

Now, before I divulge all the Joker training secrets, he does have quite the number of AI flaws that should be taken into consideration.  They center around his Up Special (Grappling Hook / Wings of Rebellion), Neutral Special (Gun / Gun Special) and Down Special (Rebel’s Guard / Tetrakarn / Makarakarn).

  • Up Special:  Joker’s Up Special, Grappling Hook is a tether recovery that doubles as an attack, where Joker shoots a grappling hook upwards, with a slight angle, depending on the direction he faces.  When Joker gets Arsène, his Up Special turns into Wings of Rebellion, a hitbox-less angleable move where Joker flies upwards.  The primary issue is Joker can not differentiate between when he has Arsène or not just yet.  This means that using Up Special for Grappling Hook as an onstage attack is not the safest bet, since consequently, you will have trained Joker to use Wings of Rebellion onstage too.  This goes for the rest of his moves as well— try your best to train Joker with moves that are good when he has Arsène and when he does not!
  • Neutral Special:  Joker’s Neutral Special, Gun, disguises itself with the appearance of a projectile move, when in reality, it is a far ranged move, complete with indirect strikes and disconnected hitboxes.  This means that his gun can not be blocked by a character’s accessory shield, for example the shield Hero carries.  It also can not be reflected by a character’s reflective moves, such as Zelda’s Neutral Special.  You can fire one shot by tapping the specials button or multiple, by holding it.  When Joker gets Arsène, it turns into Gun Special, where the move shoots multiple bullets per shot.  Joker’s main issue with Neutral B is he will fire shots randomly in pursuit of avoiding the opponent below him, especially when he has Arsène.  This leads to him being punished, usually with an Up Smash attack or a similar move attacking Joker’s hurtbox.  However, Neutral Special has also proven to be very useful due to it’s large hitbox, locking abilities and low end lag, so read on to the “How to Train” section to see the optimal use for this move!
  • Down Special:  Joker’s Down Special, Rebel’s Guard, is Joker’s defensive stance where he attempts to build his Rebel’s Gauge.  When it is used and an opponent attacks, the damage Joker takes reduces to 0.4x the initial amount and Joker finishes with a small strike that sends opponents away.  This helps build his Rebel’s Gauge by a lot.  When he does obtain Arsène, Makarakarn acts as a reflective move against projectiles and Tetrakarn as a counter move against melee attacks.  The issue with Joker’s Down Special is predominantly, AI.  Joker can use Makarakarn quite well, against far ranged and closer ranged projectiles, since general Amiibo AI are hard-coded to use a character’s reflective moves against projectiles, if applicable.  He does not use Makarakarn 100% of the time, however he does still use it quite often.  Rebel’s Guard and Tetrakarn are Joker’s main AI problems, however.  This is generally because Amiibo AI can not use their counter moves very well and often throw them out at unfavourable times.  However, Joker’s Down Special is also one of his most valuable moves.  It’s quite unfortunate the AI is not fully optimized to use it just yet, but I have high hopes it will be in the near future!  For now, in the “How to Train” section below, I discuss ways you can implement Down Special into training, despite it’s AI flaws, so read on to find out!

Overall Playstyle

Now that we got that out of the way, it’s time for the juicy bits!  You may be wondering “Well, what would an optimal Joker amiibo look like?”  You want your Joker to have a good blend of both grounded and aerial maneuvers, with a dominance in grounded.  Joker’s kit is very strong in both areas, so it is imperative to take advantage of his wide variety and versatility as an Amiibo!  Joker’s grounded moves should mainly consist of Forward Tilt, Forward Smash, Up Smash, Down Tilt and Dash Attack up close and a little bit of Neutral Special and Side Special from afar.  Joker’s aerial moves should mainly be Forward Aerial and Back Aerial, with the occasional Neutral Aerial, and some Down Aerial.  You should also go offstage sometimes, as Joker’s Arsène recovery is impeccable.  However, since his tether recovery is quite unreliable, make sure to mix in edgeguarding with Down Smash, Forward Smash and Up Smash.

How to Train the Joker amiibo

When training a Joker amiibo, you want to focus on using a few specific moves in specific different scenarios.  Disclaimer – any combos I mention, you do not have to do the entirety of the combo.  Be sure to teach Joker the starting move and he should do the rest himself!

When you are far away, use Down Tilt, a little bit of Neutral Special (Gun / Gun Special), a little bit of Side Special (Eiha / Eigaon) and some Dash Attack.

  • Down Tilt:  Joker’s Down Tilt is a baseball-like slide motion where Joker slides under his opponent, propping them up.  It is a considerably reliable move for a Down Tilt, which stays strong from the early to late hitboxes.  It can get parried since it is a one-hit move, but it has great range and is not punished too easily since Joker’s hurtbox is low to the ground.  Down Tilt is arguably one of Joker’s best combo starter options, here are a few of the combos:
    • [Down Tilt → Up Tilt → Drag Down Up Aerial / Down Smash]
    • [Down Tilt → Aerials (including both Forward Aerial 1 and 2)]
    • [Down Tilt → Forward Smash / Up Smash]

For its great approachability and solid combos, use Down Tilt as a primary approaching tool when training Joker.

  • Neutral Special:  As mentioned above Joker’s Neutral Special does have AI complications directly pertaining to his hurtbox and punishability after using Neutral Special.  If Neutral Special is used too much up close, Joker has a tendency to use it in lieu of better options, such as smash attacks and aerials.  Also mentioned above, it is a great move to stop opponents in their tracks and follow up with an attack with large damage output and knockback.  Since it is easily punished up close, use his Neutral Special sporadically, as far as you can away from the Amiibo, but still hitting.
  • Side Special:  Eiha is a very valuable projectile move that acts sort of like a bootleg PK fire.  It inflicts miniscule damage right away, but the move’s effects last and the opponent takes in more damage overtime.  Eiha is great as a combo starter and connector.  When Arsène arrives, Joker’s Side Special turns into Eigaon, which is a faster, farther, multihit version of Eiha, complete with higher damage and knockback output.  This move can also keep its multi hit hitbox on the opponent, which is valuable to stop opponents in their tracks and is great for area / stage control.  However, Joker does have a tendency to use Side Special too much.  For this reason, use Side Special somewhat often and try to space it so Joker is as far away as possible from the Amiibo when it hits.
  • Dash Attack:  Joker’s Dash attack is a double kick dash attack.  This move has considerable damage and knockback output, and comes out very speedily.  It is a great move for punishing as well as a combo connector and finisher.  Opponents have a hard time parrying it due to its multi-hit attribute.  When Arsène arrives, this move becomes even stronger and can KO at the ledge when the average opponent is just over 100% in damage.  However, using dash moves does make Joker get dashy as he continues to level up.  So be cautious when teaching Dash Attack and try not to run too much when training.  Use sporadically when you are far away from the opponent to approach.

When the opponent is in front of you, use Forward Tilt, Forward Smash, some Grab and a hint of Up Tilt.

  • Forward Tilt:  Joker’s Forward Tilt is one of his best moves by far.  This double thrust, multi-hit angleable move is great.  It has far range, moving Joker slightly forward after the first hit.  This allows Joker to space this attack quite well.  It also has a large and lasting hitbox, which extends from Joker’s elbow to over his knife on both hits.  In addition, it has really good damage and knockback output, especially for a move with low start-up lag.  It is hardly punished from parrying or otherwise due to its angle ability, speed and multi-hit attribute.  Use Forward Tilt very often when the opponent is in front of you.
  • Forward Smash:  Joker’s Forward Smash is Joker’s strongest move.  It can KO at mid-70% at the ledge without Arsène, and at a whopping 55% with Arsène!  As good as a Forward Smash spam Joker may seem, there are quite a few drawbacks to using it.  First, it’s range and hitbox is mediocre, despite the move pushing Joker forward as he carries it out.  In addition, it is one of Joker’s slowest moves.  It has high start-up lag and end lag compared to the rest of his kit, making it easy to punish.  Furthermore, it is a single-hit move, so it is often parried.  Even though the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks, with all the drawbacks combined, you should take caution and use Forward Smash somewhat often.
  • Grab / Throws:  Joker’s Grab is alright.  His throws are primarily meant for combos, as they are the only moves not affected by Arsène.  Joker does not have much grab range, which leads him to get punished often when it is not landed.  That being said, since his Grab is integral to his combos, it should be used only supplementary to Down Tilt.  Here are some of the bread and butter maneuvers Joker can do for each throw:
    • [Up Throw → Up Aerial (and strings) / Drag Down Up Aerial]
    • [Down Throw → Forward Aerial 1 and 2 (and strings) / Dash Attack / Up Smash]
    • [Back Throw → Back Aerial (and strings) / Forward Aerial / Neutral Aerial]
    • [Forward Throw → Neutral Aerial / Dash Attack / Forward Smash]

Although Joker has quite a few good options out of his throws, Down Tilt will do most of the same and more.  In addition, Down Tilt is a lot more reliable, as explained above.  Furthermore, using too many grabs makes Joker dashy as he levels up.  Therefore, use Grab only a few times during training.  You might be wondering which throw to use when training for Grab.  Since Down Throw has the best follow up moves, you probably want to use that the most.  One more very important thing to take note of— only use Up Aerial twice during training!  Joker tends to overuse Up Aerial a lot, which veers him from using his better aerial options and thus makes less use of his great aerial kit.

  • Up Tilt:  Up Tilt is a pretty good move for Joker.  He starts from the ground of the side he is facing and swings his arm up, throwing his knife at the peak of his arm’s height.  It has a fairly large and lasting hitbox.  It is pretty good as an anti-air, but it also allows Joker to prop the opponent upwards, when they’re next to him.  With Arsène, this move can even KO at around 150%.  In terms of combos, he can do a few out of Up Tilt, the most notable being:
    • [Up Tilt → Drag Down Up Aerial → Down Smash]
    • [Up Tilt → Up Smash]
    • [Up Tilt → Up Aerial (and strings)]

Since Joker has quite the amount of reliable hard-coded combos out of Up Tilt, you can use Up Tilt sporadically when the opponent is next to you and a few times as an anti-air.

When the opponent is above you (anti-air), use a lot of Up Smash.

  • Up Smash:  Up Smash is Joker’s best anti-air.  Joker starts from the ground at the side he is facing and swipes his arm up around him as he jumps.  Starting from the ground, his hurtbox is quite low and it therefore can not be too easily punished at that stage.  However, it is a single hit move and can get parried sometimes.  That being said, since it’s primary usage would be as an anti-air, getting Up Smash parried is far less of a possibility.  When it comes to the hitbox, it doesn’t last long but it is very large.  Up Smash is also Joker’s fastest smash attack and one of his most powerful, KO-ing at 130% without Arsène, and 100% with Arsène.  He can use it to catch opponents when recovering (if the opponent recovers from above the stage), when landing, and when standing on platforms.  He can also use it out of his Up Throw and Up Tilt, to name a few.  Use Up Smash as often as possible as an anti-air.

When you are landing on and offstage, use Back Aerial, some Neutral Aerial, some Down Aerial and a pinch of Down Special (Rebel’s Guard / Tetrakarn / Makarakarn).

  • Back Aerial:  Joker’s Back Aerial is a really great and underrated move.  Joker jumps and swipes in an upwards motion, opposite to the side he was facing.  This move has some great vertical coverage, seeing as the hitboxes cover almost the same area as the size of Joker’s body.  It is a really quick back aerial attack, with small end lag, and has very high knockback.  It can KO at 120% at the ledge without Arsène, and at 80% with Arsène.  Back Aerial is also a great combo finisher and connector.  Since Back Aerial is arguably a harder aerial to perform, use Back Aerial as much as possible when training.  A good tactic to do so is when you are landing, drift behind Joker and use Back Aerial.
  • Neutral Aerial:  Joker’s Neutral Aerial is a great landing option.  Joker jumps up and spins around a full 360°, swinging his arm around him to attack.  This move has a pretty large radius, so Joker’s hitbox is considerably far away from him, despite the hitbox’s small size.  It also covers the area all around Joker, making it a great spacing tool, which is integral for a good landing option.  In addition, it can apply good pressure on the opponent, sometimes resulting in Joker following Neutral Aerial with a Down Tilt or Grab combo.  Neutral Aerial is also a great combo connector, allowing Joker’s aerial mobility to guide him safely to the ground.  When it comes to offstage, Joker uses Neutral Aerial as a get-off-me move and can even stage spike opponents at higher percentages.  Due to its reliability, use Neutral Aerial often when landing.
  • Down Aerial:  Joker’s Down Aerial is also a great landing option.  It has a slight bit of start-up lag, however it can serve as a good landing option since Joker’s hitbox covers almost a full 180° above the opponent.  Offstage, this move can send opponents at a nasty angle, which allows for early gimps.  With Arsène, this move has great combo potential, due to it’s meteor smash ability.  This leads to the kill confirm:
    • [Down Aerial → Up Smash]

Down Aerial can even spike opponents if Joker is landing from above the stage to the ledge, or if the opponent is below Joker offstage.  However, due to its start-up lag and lack of full coverage, it can often be an unreliable landing option in many scenarios.  So, proceed with caution and use Down Aerial somewhat often when landing.

  • Down Special:  Rebel’s Guard, Tetrakarn and Makarakarn are all pretty good landing options.  Rebel’s Guard allows Joker to take very little damage from an opponent and escape when they are using an anti-air, or trying to juggle Joker.  Tetrakarn is also a pretty good landing option, since it has great coverage and allows for Joker to follow up and have a state of advantage.  Makarakarn is not conventionally used by Joker when landing, because the opponent would usually be right below Joker, punishing with a melee attack, such as Up Smash.  However, even when a projectile is used towards Joker, Makarakarn will reflect it, allowing Joker to follow up with a punish or combo.  As good as this may seem, there are those AI flaws we have to take into consideration.  Since Amiibo can not use their counter moves all too well, this leads to Joker often getting punished for using Down Special, especially since all iterations have quite the amount of start-up lag and rely on precise timing in order to be optimized.  When it comes to his reflect move, however, there is no need to worry about extra training, since amiibo are hard-coded to use such moves when bombarded by projectiles.  That being said, using Down Special for landing once or twice in training lets Joker reap the benefits as much as he can without too many consequences.

When in the air (to follow up Down Tilt, Grab and offstage), use Forward Aerial and Back Aerial.

  • Forward Aerial:  Joker’s Forward Aerial is a great move.  It is a two part aerial kick, which has pretty good knockback and has a pretty decent hitbox.  This move allows Joker to move very quickly in the air (often fast falling), which leads into combos.  He can combo with both Forward Aerial 1 and 2.  Here are some of the combos he can do out of Forward Aerial:
    • [Forward Aerial → Forward Aerial (1 and 2) → Dash Attack]
    • [Forward Aerial → Forward Aerial 1 → Up Smash]
    • [Forward Aerial → Forward Aerial] (potential kill confirm offstage with / without Arsène)
    • [Forward Aerial → Aerials] (can combo to Neutral, Back and Up Aerial too)

With Arsène, all of these benefits are enhanced, though Joker can better use Forward Aerial with Arsène as a combo finisher rather than a starter when the opponent is at higher damage.  He can even KO at 100% at the ledge, which makes Forward Aerial a good edgeguarding option, too.  Use Forward Aerial often.

  • Back Aerial:  As mentioned previously, Joker’ Back Aerial is a really excellent move.  It has a lot of knockback, is very quick and is one of the best Back Aerials in the game.  It can KO very early, making it especially a good option to use offstage.  It is also a good combo connector and finisher, out of Down Tilt, Grab and Dash attack.  Use Back Aerial often.

At the ledge, use Down Smash, Forward Smash, Up Smash (as an anti-air only), some Forward Aerial and some Back Aerial.

  • Down Smash:  Down Smash is Joker’s best ledge option.  It is a generally quick smash attack, as Joker sweeps the ground with his attacking arm.  Joker is also predominantly low to the ground for the bulk of this move, allowing his hurtbox to be low to the ground and making it harder to punish.  It is a multi-hit smash attack, so opponents will have a harder time to parry punish as well.  Down Smash can KO at around 115% without Arsène, and around 75% with Arsène.  Arsène boosts its range and knockback.  Although it doesn’t have the smallest amount of start-up and end lag compared to Joker’s other moves, it is a good tool to use as a get-off-me move, easily flinging opponents offstage for an early gimp or to allow Joker to follow up with an aerial attack.  Use Down Smash very often when ledgeguarding.
  • Forward Smash:  As mentioned previously, Joker’s Forward Smash is very strong, but has a lot of lag compared to the rest of his kit, and is a single hit move.  Due to its sheer ability to KO so early at the ledge (mid-70% without Arsène, 55% with Arsène), use Forward Smash quite often when ledgeguarding.
  • Up Smash:  Again, as mentioned before, Up Smash is Joker’s best anti-air.  When the opponent recovers from above the stage, use Up Smash as much as possible, since it can easily catch opponents and punish well with it’s speed and strength.
  • Forward Aerial:  As mentioned above, Forward Aerial has a good hitbox and considerable knockback.  It can also KO when used at the ledge at quite early percent.  Forward Aerial can combo into and out of multitudes of moves, making it a good finisher for ledge maneuvers.  Use Forward Aerial sometimes to catch opponents approaching the ledge in the air.
  • Back Aerial:  Also mentioned above, Joker’s Back Aerial has strong knockback and is a very quick move.  It can KO very early because of it’s knockback, making it a great option to use at the ledge.  Use Back Aerial sometimes to catch opponents approaching the lege in the air.

General Training Method – The most successful way to train Joker is to use a few moves at the beginning and slowly incorporate more as he levels up.  I used omega stages, with 3-4 10 stock games.  Use the moves in the order that I write for each section (for example, in the At the ledge section, I prioritized Down Smash since that was the first move mentioned).  Then, as Joker levels up, go down the sentence and incorporate the next moves (for example, when he leveled up a little more, in the At the ledge section, I added in some Forward Smash complimentary to Down Smash).  Try your best to walk with Joker as much as possible, since he starts running a lot as he levels up.  Once he reached level 35, I saved him and did a 10 stock match of parrying (using the parry spirit), before saving and turning learning off.  Last, I leveled him up to 50.  Finally, as I mentioned before, the key idea is to teach Joker moves that would be good with and without Arsène.  As you can see through the guide, I mentioned to only teach the moves that would benefit Joker whether he has Arsène or not.

Why It Works

To conclude, Joker is such a fun Amiibo to train, definitely one of my favourites!  His versatility of being able to use almost all his moves optimally serves for a really cool Amiibo.  It is truly a treat to sit back, relax and watch you Joker Amiibo perform after training him.  He can be a little tricky, so you should have a general plan as to what moves to use before attempting to train, but it is definitely worth it!  He is currently a mid-low tier Amiibo, mainly because of his AI quirks.  However, due to these complications, Joker is a most intriguing amiibo because of his sheer potential!  But do not fret!  If training a Joker seems like a tough feat, just remember— Arsène has your back!

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