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Super Smash Bros. Melee: Stage Bans in Best of 5 Sets

In addition to a ban on the heinous practice of Wobbling, the Melee community is also toying with the idea of allowing each player a ban in best of five sets (Bo5’s). Will this have its intended effect within Melee’s best players?

A stage ban is a rule that allows a player to rule out one stage of their choice before their opponent selects a stage. The ban idea is arising at the same time as a strong anti-Jigglypuff sentiment. It would certainly help fast-fallers against characters with chain-grabs like Marth and Pikachu. However, the largest goal of the new system is to reduce the potency of Jigglypuff by eliminating her Dream Land counterpick.

Will it Work?

Smash Bros. Stage Bans
Courtesy of Red Bull Esports

Per Liquidpedia’s Head-to-Head tool, Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma is another beast entirely on Dream Land. Since 2016, he boasts a 74.4% win rate on the extra large map when facing the other members of the top six (excluding Adam “Armada” Lindgren, who has since retired). The only map he loses on is Pokemon Stadium. He still wins 46.7% of the time.

This kind of counterpick is unprecedented in its potency. For reference, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, as Marth against Fox and Falco, only has a 62.5% win rate on Final Destination. No top six player has a win rate of even 70% against their fellow gods.

Given that these effects will permeate beyond the top six, it will dial back the power of characters with brutal counterpicks.

Hidden Costs

Expect more shutouts. The nature of a counterpick is that when Player A loses, they take Player B to a stage they think they have the best chance of winning on. Taking away that stage decreases the ability of the player who lost the previous match to win the next. Stage bans in Bo5’s make it easier to push the advantage after a win.

A number of upsets may be significantly harder to pull off. Against Joseph “Mango” Marquez, Jeffery “Axe” Williamson relies on his Final Destination counterpick to secure a win. It’s his only winning stage against Mango. Upsets like this one, with specific counterpicks, may start to fade away.

Allowing players to remove stages from sets will do just that, remove the number of stages the fans get to see. Jigglypuffs will never get to experience the warm breeze of Whispy Woods pushing them off a platform ever again. Fans will see very little of the stage as well. Pikachus and Marths across the world will never again roam wild across the long plains of final destination. The community will run out of incredible Final Destination combo reels of Marths juggling Foxes like bowling pins.

The Asterix Era of Melee: Currently, there are proposals for banning Wobbling and stage bans in Bo5’s. If these bans pass, the Melee community could enter a new phase of the game. There may be few shifts in rankings, games, and top eights… Or we may usher in the dawn of a new age for the nearly two-decade-old game. In this scenario, the achievements earned in the BW (Before Wobbling) era carry a reminder that they happened when winning was “easier”.

Is the Ban Worth It?

Despite a number of drawbacks, the ban wouldn’t be proposed if it didn’t offer great benefits. Stages have been banned entirely in the past. Obviously many stages have no place in competitive play.

Some fall in a grey area but are deemed unworthy, like Congo Jungle. In the end, the community has arrived at the point that some stages are not fair for competitive play outright. While others are fair but can shift the tides of a best of three match too much. This is the reason for bans in Bo3’s.

Smash Bros. Stage Bans
Courtesy of Liquidpedia

The rule-set in any competitive game is designed to show the viewers who is the best at the game, given a playing field oriented to bring that out. This is the reason stages are banned. Evading the opponent for eight minutes on Kongo Jungle doesn’t show who is the better combatant.

Likewise, some characters may just have a specific advantage on a stage that isn’t worthy of competitive play. Axe has been on the other end of this type of exchange as well. He’s struggled mightily against Hungrybox’s Puff on Dream Land. 

Finally, the fans’ interests are at stake. Rules are made to force a competitive environment but they are also a great tool in promoting entertainment. Without fans attending tournaments, watching online, and producing content, top players can’t earn sponsorships. The community can’t grow.

If a player can choose a stage that nearly predetermines a win, fans aren’t incentivized to watch in anticipation. The outcome of that map is much closer to known and the suspense dissipates.

Melee isn’t a game of perfect balance. It’s the community’s job to balance it as best as possible. Stage bans in are the next balance patch for a game older than some of its players.


Featured image courtesy of Smash Wiki.

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