Hey, I’m Omen with an A, your friendly neighborhood Palu trainer. I’m writing this because, as the USAC Spring 2022 tier list comes out soon, I’m expecting to see our favorite playable goddess in Smash Bros. advance to B tier. However, as I sit back and mull over my set records, I think, “Where does she really belong? Could she be higher?” And that’s where we are now.
Recently, my Palutena amiibo Thalia has performed exceptionally well in several tours that she’s entered, perhaps because she plays somewhat differently than other prominent Palutena amiibo. She has 2-3 fantastic placements in A+ and S tier majors, a B tier supermajor win, and more. While this may seem like I am simply listing my qualifications, (or bragging if you’re especially judgmental) I would like to establish something here. Thalia clearly performs above her seed if you only look at the tier list. It’s an injustice to everyone if Palutena can rampage the lower tiers and still get away with it, so she has to be moved.
There are three main points I’d like to use in order to make my argument: The quality of Palutena’s AI and character, the value of her tools, and some cold, hard data to back me up. It should be noted that I’m somewhat biased towards the character, and I’m currently pushing for Palu to be considered B+ tier specifically simply to see if it will work.
Palutena’s amiibo AI
First off, I’d like to talk about the Palutena amiibo herself. From a broad perspective, Palutena as a character doesn’t have anything that is very exploitable holding her back. Her recovery is very solid, and she doesn’t have any outlying flaws in her AI. Palu trades a hit box on her Up Special for better frame data and conserved momentum afterwards, making her difficult to bother offstage. She uses several moves well out of shield, and is unlikely to use something absolutely useless. Therefore, there is very little holding her back from improving.
Palutena’s Character Tools
Likewise, Palutena has many strengths as a character also. She has a fantastic zoning tool in Auto-reticle, which can hit most characters dashing towards her, even the shorter ones. If the enemy can close in, she has her quick Forward Tilt, powerful Forward Smash, and tall Up Smash to handle approaches. Up close, she also has a combo throw for solid damage at low percents. Her Up Smash’s hitbox is outrageous, but her Up Air and Up Tilt are also very good tools either under platforms or to anti-air. The majority of her kills come at the ledge, where she dominates most characters, and is rarely worried when hit there herself. She is rarely bothered by much of C+ and B tier’s offstage pressure, and is capable of disposing of many of them with her strong Back Throw, low-angled Forward Tilt, spiking Down Air or auto-targeting Neutral Special.
Thus, if Palutena has a great kit and a relatively solid AI to abuse it, why isn’t she already in B tier? Well, the funny part is that she should be, at least statistically.
Cold, Hard Data
My theory is that, if you take a given amiibo, look at them on the tier list, and chart their matchups, there will be a rough statistical correlation in the matchups between tiers. My theory is that a given amiibo, in a best of 3, should perform about 50-50 set-wise on average vs. its tier-mates, 65-35 against the tier of amiibo below it, and 35-65 against its competition above it. Obviously this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it will more or less hold up for many amiibo. The most important part is that a character beats the amiibo in the tier below it. It isn’t quite as important that they be competitive in the tier higher than them, but it is unreasonable to leave them in a tier where they can get easy results against weaker opponents.
I ran the numbers for the Palutena amiibo using a public Amiibots database as well as cross-checked about 90 percent of Thalia’s tournament results. As a result, I was able to see how Palutenas as a whole fare against competition from C+ tier to A tier.
C+ tier- .669
Palutena beats literally everyone but Falco (.45), and barely goes even with Ryu, Mewtwo, and Lucario.
B tier- .48
Here, her matchups range from .36 (Luigi) to .58 (Lucina). She also beats Isabelle, Cloud and sometimes Joker, goes even with Wolf and Pac-Man, and loses to everyone else (.42-.47).
B+ tier- .436
Palu does slightly worse here, performing worse overall but with some solid matchups. She beats Little Mac (.68) and Chrom (.6), goes even with Pokémon Trainer, and loses to the rest of the tier on a scale of poorly from between Ike (.29) and Kirby (.36).
A tier- .373
Here, Palutena has no winning matchups. She goes even with Snake and Donkey Kong, and would go at about .35 to .45 with the rest of A tier if not for characters like Zelda (.26), Olimar (.18), or the Pits (.24).
Therefore, at a glance, Palutena is an anomaly. She fits the model from below to guarantee herself a B tier slot with a respectable record against C+ characters. She would supposedly fit right into B tier with her near-even win rates there. However, her record against B+ is intriguing, and her record against A would also fit the model. It’s almost like if a Palutena who sufficiently outclasses every other Palutena could pass for a B+ tier… One like Thalia perhaps? Or even a successor from a more talented trainer? We’ll have to see how the next vote goes, but if such a monstrosity could be unleashed upon the mid-tiers before the list is finalized (or left to terrorize them over the summer), then the Palutena B+ dream might still be alive. Needless to say, the data is there and her tournament records only keep improving. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the character, and I hope you all are too.
Good luck, and Happy Training!