Amiibo University: Why Do Low Tier Amiibo Win?

by Doc – Owner, Founder, Refuses to Win With High Tiers

If you’ve engaged in competitive amiibo for long enough, you start to see a handful of patterns in new trainers. By far the most common question that new trainers ask is “Hey, what’s the best personality/spirit loadout for this amiibo?”. That typically results in someone linking them to this video.

However, the second most common question is “Why is the Joker amiibo (or any other amiibo) so low on the amiibo tier list? My Joker amiibo can beat my Bowser amiibo half the time.” This is a significantly more complicated question, and often has several correct answers.

So… why do low tier amiibo win?

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Poorly-Trained High Tiers

In the given example, the new person states that their Joker amiibo beats their Bowser pretty often. That’s not a ridiculous claim at all – it’s possible that their Bowser is just very, very bad. If a Joker is trained well enough, and a Bowser is very poorly trained, then it’s certainly possible that the Joker can beat a Bowser. Separately, it could be that Bowser has a hard time against certain types of moves (say, being juggled buy Joker’s Up air), and isn’t trained to deal with them. That’s a matchup, which we’ll explain later.

Incredibly Good Low Tiers

The inverse of the above, the possibility remains that this person’s low tier amiibo is incredibly good. Typically new trainers want to believe that this is true, and that they’re better at training this amiibo than any of the trainers that came before them. This has happened, but it’s very, very rare. If you think you’re that trainer, you probably aren’t, statistically speaking.

Regardless, low tiers have potential too. If I can beat this person’s Bowser amiibo by playing as Joker, then surely there’s a theoretical set of Joker amiibo behavior data that can also beat the Bowser. This leads us to our next reason…

Nothing is 100-0 in amiibo

There are no unwinnable matchups, given that both amiibo are on equal footing (meaning that they’re both vanilla, or they have equally useful and competent spirits loadouts). Due to the fact that amiibo operate off of randomness, there is always the possibility that the high tier amiibo may have horrible RNG while the low tier amiibo may have great RNG, which would result in the low tier winning.

This plays out in a few interesting ways. Looking at MARIA, we can see that Bayonetta, the worst amiibo in the game as of this writing, once took a game off of Zelda, who is typically considered an A tier amiibo. That’s a D tier amiibo beating an A tier, but it only happened once out of thirteen sets. If Bayonetta is good enough to beat Zelda, why’d it only happen once?

Well, it was random, and doesn’t happen often.

Think of it like this: suppose we had a graphic that displayed the skill of an amiibo versus the skill of another amiibo, and took the game-specific RNG into account. Such as… this one.

This is a pretty straightforward graph – as you go to the right, the quality of Bayonetta’s amiibo training increases. As you go up, the quality of Zelda’s amiibo training increases. If you “calculate” the skill of Zelda and Bayonetta, and it’s a bad Bayonetta and a decent Zelda, Zelda wins. If it’s a great Zelda, Zelda wins. If it’s a bad Zelda but a fantastic Bayonetta, Bayonetta may win – depending on the RNG.

Of course, because amiibo are partially informed by RNG, it’s not as easy as having a simple graph. The above graph assumes that RNG has already been applied, but in reality you watch the RNG get applied in real-time by watching the match. There’s a lot of other factors to be taken into play, which the rest of this article will address.

Matchups can be anti-tier list

It’s generally common knowledge among Mega Man amiibo trainers that Mega Man does unusually well against King K. Rool. Currently, MARIA lists the Mega Man/King K. Rool matchup as a 75% Mega Man’s favor. This is a tad high in my opinion, but it’s a small sample size of only 8 matches.

However, consider what a new trainer would say. “Why’s Mega Man so low? He always beats my King K. Rool amiibo.” We know that King K. Rool is one of the best legal amiibo in the game, and that Mega Man isn’t. Thus, we should inform him that Mega Man specifically has a good matchup against King K. Rool, and having one good matchup doesn’t necessitate moving him higher on the tier list.


One of the recent arguments in the competitive amiibo scene is that Pokemon Trainer is an A tier amiibo. Historically, prior to the foundation of this argument, Pokemon Trainer was considered C or C+ tier. However, a few good tournament placements occurred in a short span of time, leading to the belief that Pokemon Trainer could be higher than his original position.

Consider how you would rebutt the new trainer who says “Why is Pokemon Trainer so low? He won a tournament against my higher tier amiibo.” You might point out that Pokemon Trainer only has his best Pokemon (Charizard) one-third of the time, or that his switching is relatively random and uncontrollable. You could point out that major tournament victories have become significantly less frequent since that spike in good placements.

In other words, Pokemon Trainer is inconsistently good. He’s a low tier, but he doesn’t win as often as an A tier because he is only sometimes punching above his weight.

Inconsistency can be due to RNG creating many different possible playstyles for the same amiibo, which is an AI problem, or due to the character itself. Mr. Game and Watch’s Judge move is the easiest example of inconsistent moves – the outcome of his Judge is literally inconsistent by design. Either way, he’s inconsistent.

Differing Rulesets

Short and sweet – sometimes different trainers and tournaments have different rulesets. My tournaments use the recommended stagelist, but some don’t. Perhaps a new trainer is using items, Final Smashes, or unusual stages that is causing their results to be statistically worthless.

Outright Lying So People Take Them Seriously

…yeah, that happens sometimes too.

At the end of the day, low tiers do sometimes win – the amiibo tier list is not a hard and fast predictor of every matchup, and amiibo RNG only serves to complicate things. While the tier list is a great way to determine what’s the most likely amiibo to win, it’s only the most likely. Nothing is completely determined in amiibo.


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