In the early days of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s competitive life, many were not impressed with Zero Suit Samus. It appeared as though she had lost many of her greatest tools from the previous game, to the point where Nairo, the best ZSS player back in the Wii U days, dropped her entirely.
Along came Marss, another top ZSS player from Wii U, who won back-to-back tournaments and continued to rack up solid placements with Zero Suit Samus. There was still debate over whether or not she was a “good” character, but Marss’ increasingly impressive results could not be ignored.
With Marss’ second place finish at CEO this past weekend along with ZeRo placing ZSS in the “Top Tier” category in his most recent tier list video series, there are likely to be a lot of new ZSS players out there.
As a ZSS main, I found myself taking a ton of mental notes while watching Marss’ run at CEO, and I think that there is a lot to take away from Marss’ play that could be beneficial to a new batch of aspiring ZSS mains.
Use Her Grab Aerial (or Z-air) More
Zero Suit Samus’ tether grab translates to a ranged aerial when used in the air, which is commonly referred to as a Z-air. I noticed Marss throwing this move out consistently, and most of the time, it led into a lot of his approaches.
While it can be quite finicky to aim and land successfully, connecting Z-air onto an opponent can lead into a bunch of different followups. Some of the most consistent follow-ups include dash attack and even a grab which can lead into further combos. This approach works well against with character with and without range as it gives you a means of contesting opposing projectiles or keeping space from characters lacking range. However, this move can easily be punished if missed which makes it crucial that it’s used from longer range to avoid a punish or up close to ensure a hit.
It’s no secret that ZSS’s Z-air is one of her best moves in neutral, but maybe its time to start using it more often.
Use Her Normal Grab Sparingly
Unfortunately, one of the biggest things ZSS lost in the transition to Ultimate is her amazing down-throw or any value from her throws. Her once cookie-cutter down-throw to up-air chain is almost totally non-existent in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and her other throw options are nothing special. Still, her forward throw can lead to tech-chase situations, her back throw can send opponents slightly upward and her up-throw can KO at very high percents or be another tool to move the fight to the air.
But even with all of that, the end lag for her grab remains as horrid and slow as it did post-nerf in Wii U. If this grabbed is whiffed, it can be costly and this was the case for many of Marss’ lost stocks. It makes me wonder if this grab is worth using at all, but there are a lot of opportunities for ZSS to punish with her grab so that alone makes it useful.
Short Characters Are Beatable
Those who know anything about ZSS is her hate towards the plethora of Ultimate’s short characters. Many of her most reliable attacks are just not meant to take on shorter characters which makes these matchups nearly unwinnable for ZSS… Or so we thought.
I was shocked when Marss decided to use ZSS in his Top 8 qualifier match against ESAM’s Pikachu because not only was Marss choosing ZSS for a very unfavorable matchup, but against the best Pikachu in the world. Yet he won.
Marss also did very well against Puppeh’s Squirtle in their Top 8 set, with a highlight from that match being Marss’s dominant three-stock in game two. During Puppeh’s second stock, Marss was able to deal over 60% to Squirtle which forced Puppeh to switch out into Ivysaur. Without Squirtle’s ability to take the early percent lead, especially against ZSS, there was little Puppeh could do.
Damn @Marss_NE did some ratchet things that set LOL
End up in 9th at my last PGR event for this season
Top 15 free
— ESAM (Panda Global) (@PG_ESAM) June 30, 2019
So how was Marss able to do so well against these short characters? What ESAM called “ratchet stuff” is what I’m assuming was Marss’ liberal use of ZSS’s down-air. This move is usually not one of ZSS’s best options due to its high ending lag, but against ESAM and Puppeh this move was great at forcing them into the air where ZSS is able to score hits much easier. Keeping these characters in the air with moves like down-air, side-special and down-tilt seem to be the keys to beating shorter characters, and Marss was able to show us that the matchup isn’t as bad as you might think.
Get Creative With Scoring KOs
ZSS exists in a weird position where she’s able to score KOs, but sometimes they don’t come easy. ZSS’s overall damage output is less compared to other top-tier characters, making her playstyle more rush-down and focused on landing as many hits as possible. While scoring KOs may not be the easiest when playing ZSS, there are a lot of ways to do so.
One of the most interesting options I noticed Marss was consistently landing was neutral-air into back-air which netted him a lot of stocks. This option is not a “true” confirm and likely requires reading your opponent’s landing and DI, but when executed correctly, this confirm can KO at lower percents if pulled off near the edges of a stage.
Next would be the up-special confirms which can be a bit risky, but up-special is one of ZSS’s best KO options. The best way to set up one of these would be off of ZSS’s paralyzer (either with neutral-special or down-smash) since this stuns the opponent allowing ZSS to run up and land a safe up-special. You can also lead into up-special after an up-air string, but this option is a little less reliable nowadays since these up-air strings are much harder to pull off. Even though up-special is one of ZSS’ best KO tools, it must be used sparingly as it has an enormous amount of ending lag making it very easy to punish.
Finally, there’s the plasma whip or side-special. This move has been buffed in Ultimate which now makes it a pretty reliable KO option at higher percents. This move is great because it’s ranged and easy to use as a mix-up when dashing away from your opponent. The dash-back technique is a great option at the ledge since its able to catch most non-jumping ledge recovery options and even score earlier KO’s since the opponent will be closer to the side blast zones.
If there’s any player out there that I recommend watching the most for any aspiring ZSS mains, it’s definitely Marss. With this most recent placing, he’ll likely be ranked within the top five players in the world come the next PGR rankings, and he’ll have accomplished that with a character no one ever thought would be as good as she used to be.
Images from Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Nintendo, VGBootCamp and CEO 2019.