The Radiant Hero.
Hello and welcome to our Smash Column. This week, we’ll be discussing the Radiant Hero of Legend, Ike. Known for his huge KO power and his great reach, Ike is arguably the strongest hitter out of any swordsman in the game. Despite having an incredibly strong start in the early meta, however, Ike’s weaknesses have become more apparent, pushing him away from the Smash community’s initial, more favorable impressions. In this column, we’ll be discussing Ike’s rise, his fall, and his current place in the meta.
Ike’s tenure in Smash Ultimate kicked off in January 2019 at Smash Conference United. This tournament would serve both as Ike’s first major victory in Smash as well as the start of MKLeo’s illustrious rise. Despite being considered a low-tier character in both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Smash 4, Ike’s many buffs from the past game turned him into a monster character.
Some months later, another prominent player would pick up Ike in tournaments. Marss, a Zero Suit Samus main from Smash 4, began using him as a secondary. He would eventually gain success against Esam at Get On My Level 2019 (GOML).
The Fall of Ike.
As the meta progressed, however, Ike began losing status in the community. MKLeo began suffering losses at the hands of players, such as the beast, Light. MKLeo would eventually switch mains, switching Wolf, Lucina, and eventually, Joker.
The growing meta would establish Palutena, Snake, Pikachu, and others climbing over Ike in results. The Radiant Hero’s strengths included out-of-this-world KO power off several moves, including kill confrims. Ultimately, it would not be enough to save him from his poor recovery, fairly slow mobility, disadvantage state, or lack of options against certain zoner characters.
Even Ryuga, a prominent Ike player from the days of Brawl and Smash 4, would fight MKLeo using the latter’s former main. This loss, coupled with Ike’s less prominent appearances at tournaments, made a case that he was no longer relevant in the current meta.
Amidst other tournament results, the Ike main would share his mixed feelings about the character.
Marss would later echo similar sentiments.
A New Beginning
While Ike began facing mid-tier status among the roster, not everyone was convinced that this was the end. One example includes San, a noteworthy Smash 4 and Brawl Ike main. Despite not appearing as much, in tournaments, throughout Ultimate’s lifespan, he would return to Frostbite and secure 65th place out of 1,280 entrants.
Another prominent example includes Ravenking, an Ike main from Illinois, would consistently maintain high placings at Chicago weeklies. Perhaps his most prominent success, so far, was taking 33rd which was also at Frostbite. Prior to the end of his run, he managed to take one game off of Tweek, the #3 ranked Smash player in the world.
A New Lease on Life?
Maister, a player from Mexico, recently made waves through innovating the Mr. Game & Watch meta. Going from a relatively unknown character into the Smash community’s latest pariah, Mr. Game & Watch has helped propel Maister through stardom over the last year. Most recently, this includes his grand finals set with MKLeo at Frostbite. Despite this, however, Maister has insisted that Ike is one of Mr. Game & Watch’s losing matchups. For players who fear the 2D Flat-Zone warrior, and potential top tier character, perhaps a certain mercenary might be their ideal counterpick.
It stands to reason that Ike places around the upper tier placings, or the “B” Tier. In other words, he won’t place among the ranks of Pikachu, Roy, Olimar, or Palutena. On the flip side, he has a reasonable matchup spread good enough to take down most threats. My personal matchup chart can serve for reference. -2 means heavily losing while +2 means heavily winning.
In short, while I find Roy and ROB to be on the difficult end of the spectrum, the matchups aren’t guaranteed unwinnable. With that said, Ike does much better against the roster than he did in past Smash titles. Players may argue that Roy, Chrom, Lucina, or Shulk would be better choices for a sword user. But at the end of the day, it comes down to what playstyle is most comfortable with you. If you click better with Ike, forcing yourself to play as Lucina or Cloud won’t net you better results. Furthermore, having the right secondaries to back you up will change the tide in battle when you’re struggling. Smash is not a title where you can main one character and expect them to win all your matchups. As a result, it becomes imperative that every competing player learns more than one character.
No character in Smash is solo-viable. Even MKLeo has swapped out from Joker during bracket matches. It stands to reason that every player, including top players, benefit from learning multiple characters. Top and high tiers have a better chance against others due to their advantageous matchup spread. But in the end, even their players will find a time to switch out in order to survive against a capable opponent.
In this case, Ike is no exception. What started as the first character to win a Smash Ultimate major dwindled out of the top leagues. But, still maintaining consistency among his most dedicated players, Ike stands in an upper tier location; lower than high tier, but higher than mid tier. Unlike Marth and Lucina, he plays with a more aggressive combat style. And unlike Roy and Chrom, he has slightly better reach. Ike has plenty of strengths and plenty left in the tank. As the meta continues to develop over time, it’s just going to take the right hands to keep him consistent and continue to make big waves in tournaments.