Marth (マルス, Marth) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. He was announced on the official website on November 7th, 2013; years before, four Fire Emblem games were released within a similar time frame; Fire Emblem on November 3rd, 2003 in North America, The Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance on November 4th, 2005 in Europe, and Radiant Dawn on November 11th, 2007 in North America. He was among the first wave of amiibo figures that are compatible with SSB4, released on the same day as the Wii U version of the game. He is voiced once again by Hikaru Midorikawa in all regions, albeit using recycled voice clips from Brawl.
Marth is ranked 11th out of 55 characters on the tier list, tied with Ryu in the bottom of A tier. This is a minor fall from his 5th place position out of 38 in Brawl and is technically his worst placement in the series to date, albeit by a small margin. However, due to the expansion of tiers in SSB4, Marth remains a top tier character, as in all of his past appearances. Marth's positives include good overall mobility and relatively long disjointed range on all of his attacks. As with previous incarnations, all of Marth's sword-based attacks are quite rewarding if they land only at the tip of his sword, with the buffs to his tippered moves now causing them to deal very high knockback despite their quick startup, most notably in the case of forward smash, forward/back aerials, and Shield Breaker. The changes to shield mechanics also indirectly grant his tippers more safety due to them causing higher shieldstun, making it difficult for opponents to punish tippers on shield. In addition, his overall frame data is very good, such as possessing one of the lowest landing lag averages in the game, and as alluded to above, the startup of his moves is also very fast, with most of his moveset coming out before frame 10, and certain moves having little endlag to complement this further (neutral attack, forward, up, and down tilts respectively). All in all, Marth's overall speed in regards to both attacks and mobility give him a dependable neutral game, with optimal spacing being very rewarding due to the danger of his powerful tippers.
Marth's primary flaw is his emphasis on spacing, moreso than in his previous appearances, owing to the reduction in power and efficacy of his sourspotted moves. Furthermore, many of Marth's sourspotted attacks have poor shieldstun, potentially leading to punishes if Marth does not properly space his attacks. Marth is also susceptible to pressure tactics, as he lacks combo breaker attacks and his lack of a projectile prevents him from easily dealing with projectile-based camping. Like in his previous appearances, Marth also suffers from a linear, predictable recovery, and even with ledge trumping and larger ledge sweetspots, Marth is still prone to gimping.
Initially considered a low-tier character in Smash 4 while struggling to make notable tournament impacts, Marth was buffed via updates to the game, particularly in 1.1.4, owing to improvements to his reach, damage, interruptibility, and combo game. Since then, he amassed a large playerbase and above-average tournament representation.
Marth is emblematic of sword characters, making extensive use of disjointed hitboxes and his unique tipper mechanic. His attributes remain present: he has high overall mobility, sporting the fastest walking speed in the game (tied with his clone, Lucina), a fast dashing speed, average air speed, above average air acceleration, moderate falling speed, and low gravity, all of which is coupled with slightly below average weight.
Marth's playstyle has remained fundamentally intact from past iterations, being characterized by the properties of his sword, Falchion. His attacks deal significantly more damage and knockback if struck with the tip of the sword, encouraging and rewarding proper spacing. Being a sword-user, Marth also has the benefit of disjointed hitboxes. Many of his moves possess good range, fast startup, and cover wide arcs (e.g, his jab, up tilt, and forward aerial). As such, Marth aims to fight a step away from danger, where he can pressure the opponent without leaving himself open to punishment.
Marth's neutral game relies heavily on effective spacing. As mentioned before, Marth possesses one of the longest overall ranges in the game, which plays a vital role in his neutral, as his mobility allows him to maneuver around opponents and space attacks with relative ease, with multiple moves that are safe to throw out at tipper range or further. In comparison to Melee and Brawl, Marth's neutral game is mainly ground based, with the first hit of his jab being the cornerstone. Said move is fast, disjointed, has high range, low start up, deceptively low cooldown, and due to its hitbox arc, also acts as an anti-air. All of these traits make it exceptionally difficult to challenge. It also has excellent combo potential into many of his moves.
While his tipper is considered the most optimal, Marth's sourspot also provides benefits when he wins in the neutral, as the lower knockback on his sourspot allows him to more easily combo moves into themselves. Marth's neutral game is also unique by scaling with percent, as set-ups and combos become more rewarding at higher percents (e.g, jab 1 to forward tilt serves as a KO set-up at later percents). He also benefits from being one of the few characters in the game who can outright KO through playing his neutral and spacing game; essentially, while Marth's neutral reward is not as rewarding or damaging as other characters, Marth has the ability to win neutral exchanges with relative ease and safety, as well as having consistent set-ups and follow-ups.
Marth's special moveset has high utility. His neutral special, Shield Breaker, deals high shield damage even when uncharged, and is useful for punishing rolls or covering landings. It also grants some horizontal recovery, moreso when fully charged, and a tippered blow deals enough knockback to KO at reasonably low percents. Side special Dancing Blade is a four-hit combo that can be used to punish sidesteps and rolls, is an effective damage racker, dealing 15-20% if all hits connect, has combo and mix-up potential, and at later percents, serves as an effective KO option. It can also be used to stall in the air, giving Marth mix-up opportunities to recover, land, and edgeguard. Counter, his down special, provides him with the capability to reverse attacks with 1.2x the damage, KOing if the attack was strong enough; it can also be used against opponents with easily predictable recoveries. His up special, Dolphin Slash, has quick startup, provides slight intangibility during its startup frames, is relatively strong when it first comes out, and has high knockback scaling. These attributes make it an excellent out of shield option and combo-breaker. It is also Marth's primary method of recovery, as its speed can make it difficult to intercept, and it can stage spike reckless edgeguarders.
Marth's low gravity and average falling speed allow him to maneuver effectively in the air, and his disjointed range provides him with an innately strong edgeguarding capability. His forward and back aerials have fast startup and good range, and are strong when tippered. Down aerial is relatively quick, and it will powerfully meteor smash opponents if it hits at the center of the arc, though its timing is very strict at one frame. Forward smash's range makes it a good choice against opponents aiming their recoveries towards the ledge, and down tilt's range and speed make it good at 2-framing opponents. Both have the ability to hit below the ledge as well.
Despite his strengths, Marth is not without flaws. Due to both the changes to shield mechanics and further polarization of his sweetspots and sourspots, his heavier reliance on tippers and spacing ability gives him a relatively subpar up-close game at higher percents, which makes it more difficult for Marth to KO and threaten faster/smaller characters. The low shieldstun and hitstun generated by non-tippered moves make it possible for opponents to act out quicker than he can, causing Marth to struggle against shields if his aerials are improperly spaced, and Shield Breaker is highly punishable if predicted. His tipper mechanic can equally disadvantage him when attempting to KO, as his attacks don't generate much knockback if not spaced properly, making his KO potential very inconsistent without proper spacing (most notably with forward smash, forward tilt and aerials). Lastly, his edgeguarding ability, though strong, is flawed, both due to the need for tippers and the moderately high ending lag on his aerials. As a result, Marth is reliant on being in a certain distance for his moves to be safe while retaining the neutral, and to KO effectively without setups.
Marth's weak throws tie into his inconsistent KO power. Except for up throw, they have low knockback scaling, preventing them from KOing at realistic percents, while up throw can only KO starting at 160%, if Marth has no rage. His throw game is poor as well; aside from having a fairly fast pummel, Marth's throws deal low damage and have high base knockback, making them poor for combos and damage-racking outside of very low percents, such as aerials at 0%. However, it should be noted that the high base knockback of his throws allow Marth to take advantage of his good edgeguarding capability, especially at the edge.
As a solely sword-based character, Marth's neutral also suffers from a lack of a projectile, and he can struggle against projectile heavy characters and playstyles. This ties in with his vulnerability once he loses the neutral: despite having below average weight and only average falling speed, Marth is susceptible to combos, and his tall hurtbox provides an easy target. Dolphin Slash is his only reliable combo-breaker, but as it leaves him helpless, it can inadvertently put him in an even worse position. Also, while Counter can be used defensively, it leaves Marth extremely vulnerable to punishment should it whiff. Marth also has little defense against juggling, as his aerials are ineffective at relieving pressure; though his attacks have quick startup, many of them come with high ending and landing lag, and also suffer from short hitbox durations (e.g, his forward aerial has a hitbox that lasts only 3 frames, comparatively high ending lag and noticeable landing lag, and along with its very strict autocancel window, it is a surprisingly poor approach option).
Marth himself is somewhat vulnerable to edgeguarding, though he has options for mix-ups with his recovery. Dolphin Slash is his only reliable vertical recovery option, and while it is still a threat to edgeguarders due to its speed and high stage spike ability, its path is linear and its distance fixed, making it fairly predictable. Additionally since this move grants little horizontal distance, Marth is vulnerable to semi-spikes. While Shield Breaker can aid his horizontal recovery, it covers little distance without charging. Marth's also heavily reliant on his double jump for mix-ups in his recovery, and is in significant danger if offstage without it.
With custom moves enabled, Marth gains options to address some of his drawbacks, at the cost of creating different ones. Dashing Assault allows him to punish landings and rolls, create trap situations, and can force opponents off the stage; but it loses the power and utility of Shield Breaker. Crescent Slash provides more horizontal recovery, but less vertical recovery. Also, while it grants him a fairly reliable follow-up from his forward throw and aerials at low percents, and can punish airdodge landings, it loses out of shield functionality. Dolphin Jump provides Marth more vertical distance and greater horizontal control, but loses all of its offensive use. Iai Counter has quicker startup (active from frame 3), increased utility, and deals electric damage as well; however it requires significantly stricter timing.
Overall, Marth's strengths considerably outweigh his flaws. He possesses notable advantages in his tipper mechanic, effective disjoint, fast mobility, above-average frame data, and a sourspot to benefit his combo game; however, his spacing and overall safety is so overly centered on his tipper mechanic that it hinders him in many ways, making his punishes unreliable due to their inconsistency. At his purest, Marth is most rewarding for players with good fundamentals, with many playstyles applicable to him due to his flaws being easily worked around with careful play. Marth has a dedicated playerbase in competitive play, with notable players such as MkLeo, Mr.E, Pugwest, and False achieving strong results at results at top-level play. As such, while he is noticeably nerfed from Brawl, he has proven to be a solid pick in competitive play after his buffs.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Possibly as a result of his strengths in previous appearances, Marth has been nerfed overall in his transition from Brawl to Smash 4 (especially during the initial release of the game). While Marth's disjoint has been slightly increased, he has less range owing to the hitboxes on most of his moves either being smaller or (in a few cases) removed entirely. This makes his range shorter relative to the cast when combined with some returning veterans having increased range overall as well as with a number of newcomers possessing many disjointed attacks, slightly hindering his key advantage from past games (though he still has one of the longest ranges in the game). As a result, this makes it slightly harder for him to control space. Arguably the largest nerf he has received is to his aerial game, another strength in previous iterations: his forward and down aerials are laggier; with the former being laggier in every regard having more startup lag with a shorter hitbox duration, higher ending and landing lag (with it no longer being possible to perform two forward aerials in a short hop), and auto-cancels much later, hindering his main approach option from Brawl, while the latter has more startup lag and the meteor smash is smaller, weaker, only lasts one frame and no longer reaches in front of him, hurting its edgeguarding utility despite the removal of meteor canceling.
Marth's overall damage output has been reduced and his frame data is worse which further exacerbate his worse spacing capabilities and the weakened power of his non-tippered attacks, the smaller hitboxes on his tippered attacks and increased ending lag, his KO power is more inconsistent than before. The base knockback on his throws has been significantly increased, making them even more ineffective for combos past extremely low percents despite the changes to hitstun canceling and DI, and removes his ability to tech-chase. However, their knockback scaling is still low, and so, aside from up throw, they cannot KO realistically. This is further compounded by the removal of chain grabbing, as the low damage output of his throws is more pronounced. The changes to aerial grab releases also hurts his grab game as Marth was one of the characters who could abuse aerial grab releases the most. His aerials are also less effective for comboing and juggling due to their increased landing lag and (in the case of forward aerial) ending lag. Marth has also seen a couple of nerfs to his specials as Dancing Blade's first hit is much laggier and Dancing Blade connects less reliably as each hit is stronger and transitions more slowly while Dolphin Slash is weaker and has less intangibility when used on the ground.
However, Marth has received noticeable buffs in other areas. Shield Breaker has improved utility especially when fully charged due to the weaker shields and higher shieldstun, and Counter reflects attacks with significantly increased knockback. Some of his moves are stronger when tippered, an example being forward smash, which is now the third strongest in the game. As Dolphin Slash was relatively susceptible to edge-hogging and suffered from the landing lag glitch, it greatly benefits from the new ledge mechanics, improving Marth's recovery. His ground game has also been buffed in some ways, with his neutral attack, forward tilt, up tilt and down smash all having decreased ending lag, as well as jab launching opponents vertically. While this removes its ability to jab lock, it allows for many new combo and KO setups he lacked in previous games, which compensates for the loss of the combo ability in his throws. Many of his tipper hitboxes have moved further along his sword, and largely benefit from both the increased shieldstun and shield damage and moves with above average hitlag multipliers being safer on shield, improving his spacing game. His grounded mobility options are also improved, such as possessing a faster dashing speed, having one of the most useful extended dash dances of the game, and the changes to perfect pivots gives him a greater microspacing option. Both of these aid his ground game further and give him options to extend his bait and punish options. These changes give him a better grounded spacing and combo game at the cost of having to more properly space and time his aerials. Marth also benefits from the introduction of rage as while it reduces his own endurance combined with the changes to hitstun canceling, it improves his own KO potential most notably with his tippers and his up throw making it easier for him to close out stocks.
In the end, while Marth was previously considered to be one of the characters to have been the most severely nerfed in the transition to Smash 4 (alongside Meta Knight, King Dedede, Dr. Mario, Falco, Olimar, and Wario), game updates brought useful buffs that significantly increased his effectiveness, while his key strengths remain from his previous two iterations were retained albeit to a lesser extent. While he is still nerfed from Brawl overall, the changes to the game's mechanics benefit him (despite receiving some noticeable nerfs from them) and most other returning veterans who were in Brawl's higher tiers saw a similar treatment which has lead him to being similarly effective relative to the cast and he is still be considered as a viable character in Smash 4's metagame.
Marth has been considerably buffed ever since patch 1.0.6, giving him more follow-up options, and drastically improved frame data on all of his aerials and some special moves; however, it is unclear whether the many changes to shield mechanics in 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 have affected Marth for the better or for the worse. While these changes to shield mechanics make Marth's tippered attacks much safer on shield, the same changes reduce his sourspotted attacks safety even further, due to their lower hitlag, making them overall less safe than those of his moveset clone, Lucina. These changes make precise spacing of his attacks mandatory, as the decreased safety of his sourspotted moves can result in heavy punishment; though when properly spaced, they are almost unpunishable. Shield Breaker also deals less shield damage, making it more difficult to wear down shields when partially charged, though the increased shield damage of tippered aerials can mitigate this. The small landing lag reduction on all of his aerials and ending lag on all of his ground attacks have helped mitigate the lag issues with most of his moves and improved his combo game, giving him a more offensive playstyle with fewer flaws in defending. The strengthening of up tilt and Dolphin Slash, and the multiple buffs to Dancing Blade so its hits link better together have also noticeably improved three of his moves that were previously considered situational. Marth was significantly buffed in patch 1.1.4, with increased damage improving his previously poor damage racking, better frame data, and the increased tipper hitboxes that not only address his worsened range, but also improved his aerial game and juggle abilities. Overall, Marth has been significantly buffed and is more viable since the original version, but he still remains rather nerfed compared to Brawl.
Technical changelist 1.0.8
Technical changelist 1.1.3
For simplicity if, for example, Marth's blade does 4% damage while the tip does 6%, and the attack has no other hitboxes, it is written as 4%/6%.
For a gallery of Marth's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
In the early lifespan of Smash 4, players quickly recognized the changes and nerfs to Marth's moveset, with players mostly criticizing on his range; while still notable, and even improved in some aspects from Brawl, it was nowhere near as impressive due to other characters receiving significant range increases. This culminated in Marth being widely regarded poorly early on; however, Marth received small buffs in balance patches, and by the time of updates 1.0.8 and 1.1.0, Marth received some notable buffs that helped mitigate some of his initial issues, which contributed to the growth of his playerbase, thanks to dedicated players such as False, Mr E and Pugwest. While Marth's results were still poor overall, the buffs improved his perception as a character, culminating in him being ranked 41st on the first 4BR tier list.
Marth would continue to improve with time, and gained his most significant buffs in updates 1.1.3 and 1.1.4. These buffs, supplemented with previous ones, allowed Marth's game to flow far more consistently, and allowed his playerbase to gain significantly better and more consistent results. As an example, Fuwa was able to achieve strong placings in Japan, a region considered to be difficult for him to earn high results. In the USA and Canada, Mr E was able to place 5th at KTAR XVII, 17th at GOML 2016 and 13th at EVO 2016 (defeating ZeRo 2-1 in the latter tournament), while Pugwest placed 17th at Pound 2016 and EVO 2016, and False placed 17th at GOML 2016, with such finishes prior to the patch being almost unspoken of for him. Most notably, MkLeo begun bringing in his share of highlights: this included 1st place at Smash Factor 5 while using Marth through a majority of the tournament, and notably resetting the Grand Finals bracket against Mr.R's Sheik 3-0. Overall, Marth gained between the 12th and 16th best overall tournament results from patch 1.1.4 to present time, and all of these traits allowed Marth to rise to 19th on the second official tier list, gaining the second largest rise between the first and second tier lists.
While his placement on the second tier list was considered to be fairly accurate, some top players (e.g, ZeRo and Dabuz) believed Marth to be too low, and his increasing tournament success further called his placement into question: Leo won Canada Cup 2016 after beating Ally in very close sets of Grand Finals with Marth, he beat ZeRo 3-0 at 2GGT: ZeRo Saga in Losers Semi-finals and turned around a harsh deficit in Grand Finals against Larry Lurr using only Marth, and he won GENESIS 4 using Marth for the entirety of Top 8 (although he used Cloud exclusively prior to this). These even stronger results have helped Marth rise further in the third and current tier list, at 10th place, this tier rise being the third highest between the second and third tier lists.
However, while Marth has continued to perform well in the current metagame and has achieved strong results, his current placement has been recently disputed due to some smashers viewing Leo as the only Marth player to place very high at major tournaments, while Leo himself has used his other main, Cloud, more frequently over Marth. Mr E had also began to use Lucina more often in tournament. In addition, characters ranked below him on the tier list such as Corrin have placed higher than Marth in tournaments as of late. As a result of this, Marth dropped one spot to 11th place, now sharing the spot with Ryu. In spite of these slight downturns, he has tremendously improved throughout the competitive lifespan of the game, and is one of the characters that had its meta developed the most, alongside Mewtwo.
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