Last Saturday had several regional tournaments of note for the competitive Melee scene. Zain won Michigan’s Here Be Mid Tiers 5 over the surprise second place placer Quang, a local Fox and Ice Climbers player, who upset KJH earlier at the event.
For other tourneys, Bananas won Texas’ No Fun Allowed 3 over the visiting Fiction, eliminating him twice. Over in Pennsylvania, lloD won A Close 2-0, and Shippu won Japan’s Battle Gateway 24.
In other news, the normal bell-and-whistles community conversations about banning wobbling have continued, but with far more substance. Reeve announced that the Kentucky Melee scene has banned wobbling, and after much confusion, four of the six major sub-regions in Tennessee voted to do so as well.
Wobbling banned in Kentucky for the foreseeable future. I encourage other scenes to take initiative as well otherwise change will never happen.
— Dark Reeve (@ReeveIsMe) February 7, 2019
This has led speculation as to the future of the WTFox 3, which ran a Twitter poll about a wobbling ban. The greater community discourse on wobbling as of now can be attributed to Full Bloom series TO Jackzilla recently considering a wobbling ban on an episode of his podcast, Save Melee, before deciding to keep the technique legal at Full Bloom 5.
However, the topic of banning Jigglypuff has joined the usual Smash post-supermajor “community conversation” topics of banning wobbling and pushing for ledge grab limits. I’ve made my thoughts clear on wobbling in the past, so today’s column will be focused on Jigglypuff and proposed measures to limit her for the metagame.
I’m not really sure what started the conversation about Jigglypuff this time. Honestly, I still don’t think anyone is serious about implementing a character ban right now. The long story short; it feels too drastic, unfair and reactive of a rule change, which even Leffen – the premier Jigglypuff-hater-in-chief – isn’t willing to support yet. Additionally, because there’s no chance a major TO would ever go through with it, I won’t go into more detail on the ramifications of a character ban, since it’s not relevant right now.
However, what absolutely seems to be a greater consideration is the idea of implementing rule changes to “nerf” Jigglypuff. Putting aside the inherent difficulty in assessing whether her dominance at the top level is more due to Hungrybox’s skill or her inherent strengths, there’s no question as to her current status as a meta-centralizing character.
Before any Jigglypuff player jumps on me, I don’t actually support any of the following measures I’m about to analyze. Outside of my thoughts on what is competitively legitimate and what isn’t, this is due to reasoning that can be summarized as “I don’t think Jigglypuff is that good, and even if she is, the following measures either won’t make a difference or will promote degenerative gameplay.”
That said, it’s important to take a look at potential courses of action. If a character ban is out of the question and we all agree that Jigglypuff is game-killingly broken, what can we do?
Stage Bans in Best-of-Five
Independent of Jigglypuff on Dreamland, we already have only six stages worth anything in competitive Melee. Even that’s up for debate with the anti-Stadium crowd. Stage bans in best-of-five are also effectively matchup bans.
Saying bye to Jigglypuff on Dreamland means no more Marth on Final Destination against spacies, Fox on Stadium vs. floaties, etc. You could try to implement this with a parallel version of Dave’s Stupid Rule – that you can’t ban the same stage twice – but this would either give an unfair advantage to the person who won the first game in the set or simply a strong counterpick for later in a set. As a whole, I’m skeptical of the idea that the benefits from stage bans in best-of-five against Jigglypuff would outweigh the costs in other matchups.
I’m also not sure how banning Dreamland would limit Jigglypuff at the top level. Hungrybox has been absurdly successful on the stage against people like Mango, Leffen and Mew2King, but he has still dropped games on it against other opponents like Wizzrobe, Zain and more over the last year. He’s also still dominant on other stages, including his competition’s counterpicks, which would now be thrown out the window against him.
If we’re serious about trying to take steps to nerf Jigglypuff, we could ban Dreamland entirely, though it would drastically hurt floaties and Captain Falcon, as well as crazily buff Marth across all of his matchups. It’s interesting to note that the Brawl community tried “nerfing” Meta Knight through limiting the stage list, and it ended up buffing Ice Climbers, another character many in the Smash community hated.
Banning the specific combination of “Dreamland and Puff” could gain community approval. There’s also no serious precedent for a character/stage hybrid ban in Melee history though.
While I’m not stupid enough to say “slippery slope” as an honest response to banning one specific character/stage combination, it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of smashers actually are that stupid. TOs would have to deal with balancing one side of the community who sees Jigglypuff on Dreamland as unbeatable with another side of the community making different “whataboutism” arguments that would be hard to practically address.
Imagine dealing with community politics in the wake of a specific character/stage ban. That’s not worth fighting about.
Ledge Grab Limits/Stalling Clauses
From Hax’s friendly sessions with Mew2King’s Jigglypuff to Hungrybox camping the ledge at FC Return and countless dudutsai matches, Jigglypuff’s planking has been a tactic that’s been simultaneously explored and underdeveloped. Talking with Montreal No. 1 and Jigglypuff/Marth dual main Legend, he told me he thinks that most of her mains actually don’t even “camp correctly.” He also noted that doing so successfully with a lead would likely necessitate extreme game-killing, ruthless discipline. As a result, most Jigglypuff players haven’t perfected their game near the ledge, Legend admitted so for himself too.
However, this doesn’t make planking any more or less broken as a tactic if the endgame is that devastating. So let’s assume that a LGL is put forth, where above a certain number of ledge grabs, a timeout ends in an automatic Jigglypuff loss. Does this really help nerf Jigglypuff or cure metagame woes?
I doubt it. It gets rid of one tactic and could incentivize other non-interactive strategies in turn. Pound stalling is bannable, so what about spamming light shield on side platforms or back airing at unpunishable distances for several minutes? Jigglypuff boasts countless options to otherwise disengage from bad situations. You could argue that the presence of a LGL wouldn’t change anything about her other strategies, but then what’s the point?
One idea I’ve seen proposed was a timed “air stall” clause in the rules. This would be a logistical nightmare and far harder to legislate than percent bans during wobbling, different stalling rules and pretty much anything else in Melee. I also think that a timeout clause that ends in an auto-loss for Jigglypuff regardless of ledge grabs could just encourage more degenerate and non-interactive play from her opponents.
If a wobbling ban ever happens, the rationale used for it would be likely similar to a proposed Rest ban, although I do not think the two techniques are similar enough to where this could ever gain traction. Regardless, if Rest were banned, it would completely change the risk/reward of any skirmish with Jigglypuff, making Falcon, Sheik, Marth and other characters that much more powerful.
This goes back into the problem I mentioned before: it’s just going to force Jigglypuff players to play that much more defensive and non-interactive. Instead of banning Rest, you could limit the amount of Rests per set. But even assuming that TOs agreed on a Rest limit, it would still fundamentally cause Jigglypuff to play more defensive, and of course, this isn’t accounting for the wrath of every Jigglypuff main on the planet who would lose their most terrifying option. It’s not a realistic rule change.
The beauty of the Melee community is that we’re still grassroots. At smaller events, we could experiment with anything if we really wanted to, with little to no consequence. TOs can and should be willing to take risks for the comfort and happiness of their attendees, as well as balance their own moral codes regarding what is “right” for their scene. But we have to be honest about our intentions. Are we trying to protect the future of our metagame through proactively banning degenerative tactics? Are we trying to discourage people from playing Jigglypuff?
Here’s my take: she may or may not be the best character in Melee, but the reality is that she just sucks for the metagame and for the scene. Her inherently “broken” traits aren’t factors you can reasonably limit through legislation outside of banning the damn character herself. Putting aside lazy “get good” responses to genuine complaints about her character, the risk/reward of trying to limit her is so tilted against TOs.
Ban Rest and you’re getting rid of Jigglypuff’s best reward for interacting with her opponent. Ban planking and it might not do anything at all. Try any or all of the methods above to limit and her and be prepared to have an entire demographic of players deem you a scrub, traitor and coward. Moreover, the fears of Jigglypuff’s “endgame” don’t affect 99 percent of the community, who either don’t attend tournaments or are nowhere good enough to ever seriously worry about Jigglypuff affecting their performances.
These points aren’t so much intellectual arguments against the inherent legitimacy of any rule changes for the health of Melee’s metagame. They’re inevitable considerations that TOs have to make. Ultimately, trying to limit Jigglypuff or ban her through rule changes is just not worth it. We’re stuck with her.