An interesting detail of the Super Smash Bros Ultimate competitive scene is that it’s now spent more time in the online-only tournament era, brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, for longer than it has in the more common offline space.
Most fighting games players had to be content with the reality of playing from far away and living with poor netcode when taking part in competitions. For some, this was not that painful, particularly titles with robust netcode protocols like rollback. But for many others, especially with Japanese titles, it was a little bit of a nightmare scenario for international players.
There was a painful transition for Smash Ultimate tournaments as the game does not always have a very reliable connection on the best of days. But, we are over halfway through 2021, and some pretty significant events have been held both in-person and online, with its expected shortfalls.
Here are the most important events for these SSBU pros entering the final quarter of the year, their transition from online to offline, and what the future holds.
MKLeo – Smash Ultimate Summit 3
It is hard for one of the most accomplished players in the scene to pinpoint a single event that would define his 2021 so far, but thankfully, we don’t need to look too deep. Second place at Smash Ultimate Summit 3 is no easy feat. Players from all over the world were either invited or voted in to compete in the year’s event.
Coming in as one of the higher seeds, it makes sense to see MKLeo land a strong finish, but he has been steadily declining in terms of win rate since the start of online and with a very volatile seed performance. This means that, as we approach a more fully realised offline environment, MKLeo could once again take the reigns as the best player in Smash Ultimate.
Tweek – Smash Ultimate Summit 3
Suppose we were talking about performances that’d go down in history as career-defining – Tweek’s first place finish at Summit should be at the very top of 2021 dream results. What is most impressive is that it wasn’t a fluke. This is a player tearing the scene in the weeks leading up to events.
To think, a year ago, he had also competed in Summit 2 and was knocked out of the top bracket by MKLeo, yes, the same person he had now beaten in the very final game of Summit 3. Not only that, in Summit 2, he only achieved two set wins. Both came against Leffen.
Tweek is a player with an insane level of rebound. No other player knocked out of losers in round one could have done what he did in just one year, and that is saying a lot, knowing that VoID, RFang, and Armada are on that list.
Marss – Get on my Level 2020 NA Finals
Though not technically in 2021 (it was in November 2020), this was a big event for Marss as someone considered among the best players in the North American scene, if not the best, not necessarily because he won but because it was effectively his last attempt at trying to make online competition work for him.
He’s expressed his disdain for Ultimate’s netcode numerous times, and after a year of working through its issues, he simply moved away from it. What followed was uncertainty. Most people knew that he was still a fantastic player, but doubts set in with no results in most of 2021.
The competition drought would only end months later with the return of Push the Limit and his top three finishes. Thankfully, we haven’t lost one of the greats in the scene.
Maister – Smash World Tour Central America Regionals
Another Mexican legend of the game, Maiser, had to suffer through the online environment. In the end, it was worth it. Coming in second behind MKLeo at the Smash World Tour Regional Finals guaranteed him a place at the SWT Finals later on. Although a top six finish would have been enough, it was clear he wanted more.
The two had already had a scrap pre-online at Frostbite. At that time, Maiser was the player with the better plan and won over MKLeo. The two could have met again at Summit, but the luck of the draw had them at the wrong place and time for a rematch.
What is essential for Maiser going forward is to get back to form. Finishing ninth at Summit is good, but it’s in the lower half of the standings. With SWT Finals and other significant events on the horizon, where top players will compete at the very best, he will need to work hard to fulfil the potential he already showed he is capable of.