Meta Knight (SSB4)
Meta Knight (メタナイト, Meta Knight) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. After initially being teased as a Mii Fighter costume in a Director's Room Miiverse post on August 11, 2014, his return to the series was announced in a Director's Room Miiverse post two days later. Eric Newsome and Atsushi Kisa'ichi both reprise their roles as Meta Knight's voice actors in the English and Japanese releases, respectively, albeit via voice clips recycled from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Meta Knight is currently ranked 16th out of 55 on the tier list, placing him in the B tier. This is a moderate drop from his top-tier placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 1st out of 38. Meta Knight's already impressive mobility has been improved: his already fast dashing and falling speeds have become even faster, while his extremely slow air speed has become drastically faster. Meta Knight's overall frame data remains extremely fast and Galaxia grants him disjointed range, which collectively enable him to retain his formidable combo game and edge-guarding potential. Incidentally, he also boasts an impressive recovery: in addition to his multiple double jumps, all of his special moves are reliable at bringing him back on-stage.
However, Meta Knight received heavy nerfs in the transition to SSB4, likely owing to his dominance in Brawl. His outstanding frame data and range, long-distanced recovery and overall damage output have been toned down, while his approach has been weakened because of the total removal of Galaxia's transcendent priority. When combined with his continued lack of a projectile, these changes result in Meta Knight having a more difficult time overcoming camping strategies. Meta Knight's very quick falling speed is also a double-edged sword: while it is an important aspect of his mobility, it is also detrimental because of his light weight, as it leaves him vulnerable to both combos and KOs. His endurance is also exacerbated by the nerfs to his recovery, with the most notable example being the removal of gliding.
Regardless, Meta Knight retains many of his key advantages from Brawl, which have enabled him to secure strong tournament representation and results.
Meta Knight is an unusual blend of character archetypes. He is very small, to the point of being roughly the same size as Kirby, and is the ninth lightest character, yet he has the tenth highest gravity and an unusually fast falling speed. Like his fellow Kirby representatives, Meta Knight has multiple double jumps, but unlike most other characters who share this trait, his mobility is overall fast: he has above average walking speed, fast dashing speed, slightly below-average air speed and average air acceleration. Due to it lasting 13 frames, Meta Knight's initial dash animation is relatively long, which gives him a slow extended dash-dance and a long fox-trot. However, his perfect pivot is rather long and therefore useful for re-positioning and evading attacks. Meta Knight also benefits from a jumpsquat that is 4 frames long, as well as a low short hop, which enable him to transition very quickly between his ground and air games. As such, Meta Knight's mobility is the most well-balanced among characters of his archetypes.
Meta Knight's most valued strength is his frame data: much like Sheik and Luigi, the overwhelming majority of his attacks have little delay, either in regard to start-up, ending lag, or both. In fact, all but four of his moves have fewer than 10 frames of start-up, and their generally low ending lag is quite unusual for a swordsman. Meta Knight's sword, Galaxia, also grants him disjointed range. His dash attack is a reliable approach option thanks to its low ending lag, disjointed range, and the speed boost it grants. His dash grab covers a long distance, making it relatively hard to punish. His down aerial is one of the fastest of its kind, while his forward smash has low ending lag, making both useful for spacing. His out of shield options are also a defining part of his neutral game. He has fast, long-distanced rolls, and Shuttle Loop and his down aerial are quick, with the former's power making it deadly against opponents who land punishable moves on his shield. He can also opt for a grab, which gives him the opportunity to start combos and rack up heavy damage. Altogether, these traits grant Meta Knight an effective neutral game, the ability to mix-up his approach, and keep his opponents guessing.
Boasting five midair jumps and a special moveset full of recovery options, Meta Knight has an outstanding recovery. Mach Tornado covers a large amount of horizontal recovery, especially if mashed. Drill Rush can be used as a horizontal recovery, and can be angled. Shuttle Loop covers a high amount of vertical distance and grants a fully controllable amount of horizontal distance. Dimensional Cape makes Meta Knight invisible, and allows him to move in any direction, making it the most unpredictable move in his arsenal and a good option for mindgames. His recovery, when combined with his quick and disjointed aerial attacks, contributes to a deadly off-stage game. Furthermore, his aerial prowess makes him among the most difficult characters to juggle consistently.
Meta Knight's grab game is effective. While his pummel is slow and his standing grab range is short, the former is highly damaging and the latter is made up for by his long-ranged dash grab. His forward and down throws can combo into other moves even at higher percentages, his back throw is useful for launching opponents off-stage, and his up throw can KO at very high percentages so long as it lands on a platform. Partly due to his throw set-ups, Meta Knight possesses a good combo game. He can launch opponents into the air with his dash attack and throws, and these moves can combo into his up tilt, up smash, any aerial, Mach Tornado and Shuttle Loop, and his up aerial can reliably lead into his other aerials. His back aerial uses the auto-link angle, allowing Meta Knight to drag opponents to the ground and jab reset with his down tilt, and the latter move can trip opponents and lead into combos, before opening up tech-chases at high percentages. With proper mastery of his combos, he can potentially zero-to-death his opponents, most infamously with the Rufio, a staple combo in his metagame that consists of a series of up aerials, which can then lead into a Shuttle Loop near the upper blast line for a virtually ensured KO.
Lastly, Meta Knight has high power for a lightweight. His forward and up smashes have long ranges; the former is his strongest finisher and is very safe because of its low ending lag, while the latter has minimal start-up and acceptable power. His most reliable KOing option, Shuttle Loop, boasts speed, power, and incredible range, and is lethal either from out of shield or as a combo finisher. Dimensional Cape is strong and covers distance quickly, allowing him to punish laggy attacks from afar. Furthermore, Meta Knight's edge-guarding potential is among the greatest in the game, while his ability to gimp his opponents is also potent. Neutral and back aerials have long-lasting hitboxes and deal high knockback. Forward aerial has long range, a favorable launch angle, and decent power, and down aerial is the fastest semi-spike in the game. Due to these moves' low start-up and ending lag, Meta Knight can perform variations of the wall of pain without fear of reprisal, thanks to his recovery practically ensuring his safety. Lastly, he also has the aforementioned zero-to-death combo, which is particularly potent on floaty characters.
However, Meta Knight has noticeable weaknesses. He lacks a projectile, leaving him susceptible to camping strategies from characters such as Villager, which holds back his otherwise strong neutral game. His disjointed range, although good for his size, is still short in comparison to other sword-wielding characters, making it necessary to rely on his mobility and attack speed to capitalize on openings. Lastly, his fast attack speed is held back by most of his moves having very short-lasting hitboxes (with forward smash, down smash and up/down aerial's hitboxes lasting only 1 frame), which necessitates proper attack timings to pull off effective combos.
His combo potential is limited at higher percents, as down throw is easy to DI and dash attack has high knockback scaling, forcing him to rely on reads to land follow-ups. Meta Knight's KO potential is also largely inconsistent. Shuttle Loop is highly punishable if it misses, difficult to use without a read or set-up, and is frequently staled, and his KOing combos related to up aerial are difficult to perform consistently. Additionally, even though all of his special moves are useful for recovery to some extent when used correctly, they leave Meta Knight helpless, so accuracy is crucial. Up throw requires platforms to KO at reasonable percentages, and up smash is ineffective outside of a slide or protection from above. Dimensional Cape and forward smash have high start-up, making them predictable. Finally, despite his small size and light weight, his rather fast falling speed, the unusual shape of his hurtbox, and his lack of a reliable combo breaker leave him surprisingly susceptible to combos, especially against Sheik and Zero Suit Samus. At the same time, his endurance is poor because of the problematic combination of his light weight, very fast falling speed and high gravity collectively hindering his ability to survive strong hits.
Some of Meta Knight's custom moves possess a few benefits. Entangling Tornado draws opponents in and deals more knockback, but also has much more start-up, deals much less damage, and cannot be controlled as easily. Dreadful Tornado hits much harder, but cannot stall him in the air and is slower. High-Speed Drill is faster and moves further, but cannot be aimed and has less power. Shieldbreaker Drill can break shields very reliably, but cannot be used to attack or recover effectively. Lazy Shuttle Loop hits even harder and covers much more distance than the default, but is very slow, making it difficult to hit the opponent. Shield Piercer is unblockable and moves farther, but is weaker. However, the advantages granted are much more situational overall and sacrifice the versatility of the default specials, which results in none of his custom options being especially worthwhile.
Overall, Meta Knight's strengths outweigh his flaws, but unlike in Brawl, he is essentially a "high-risk, high-reward" character. This is evident with his high learning curve, as his most notable combos require precise spacing and timing to pull off consistently, while his disadvantage against camping often forces players to play patiently in the neutral game. Yet once he finds an opening, Meta Knight can pose a significant threat once players find an opening and make the most of it with his extensive combo game and strong edge-guarding ability.
Changes from Brawl
Meta Knight was infamous for being by far the best character in Brawl, to the point of being considered by many as broken, thanks to his numerous and extreme advantages. Possibly as a result, Meta Knight was nerfed significantly in the transition to SSB4.
Having been nearly unmatched in Brawl, Meta Knight's frame data has been toned down. Many of his attacks now have slower start-up lag, reduced active frames, and higher ending and landing lag, with his up aerial being a good example in all these aspects. His range has been shortened, which makes his spacing ability much weaker and thus forces him to adopt a more aggressive playstyle. To further compound this, all of his tilts and aerials now deal less damage, resulting in his overall damage output now being below average. With the nerfs to several of his most pivotal neutral game options, such as down tilt, forward aerial, and Mach Tornado, and the loss of gliding and the transcendent priority on his moves, Meta Knight's neutral game is overall significantly worse, leaving him more vulnerable to camping and zoning, especially with his lack of a projectile. The removal of edge-hogging, his shorter recovery, and the generally improved recoveries of the majority of the cast have collectively hurt Meta Knight's edge-guarding potential, and the loss of gliding removes some of his off-stage mix-ups. With his faster falling speed and the changes to hitstun canceling, Meta Knight can no longer momentum cancel and is more vulnerable to combos, worsening his already poor endurance.
However, Meta Knight has received some noteworthy buffs. His already good mobility has been improved: his air speed is drastically faster, he dashes and falls faster, and he has gained a new movement option in his long perfect pivot. Several of his attacks are stronger, most notably his forward and up smashes, back aerial, and Dimensional Cape. Due to the changes to hitstun canceling and the updated gameplay physics, Meta Knight can perform true combos more reliably, and his grab game is both more rewarding and more consistent, somewhat making up for the nerfs to his damage output. Meta Knight has also received buffs over time via game updates, and while they are helpful, they do not nearly compensate for the loss of his overwhelming strengths from Brawl, making him one of the few characters to have been truly nerfed in their initial transition to SSB4, alongside King Dedede, Falco, Jigglypuff, Marth, and Olimar. Due to retaining the majority of his key advantages from Brawl, however, Meta Knight is widely considered to be a viable character, which has been reflected by his tournament success and his consistent status as a high-tier character throughout SSB4's lifespan.
Meta Knight has been buffed via game updates. In updates 1.0.4 and 1.0.8, his damage outputs, knockback, range and attack speed were all improved. Update 1.1.0 reduced the number of Galaxia's trails on his moves to match his moves' hitboxes, considerably improving his accuracy. The specific buffs to his neutral attack, forward tilt, and neutral aerial have given him more options with which to relieve pressure, and the increased power of his neutral and back aerials have enhanced his KO and edge-guarding potential. Update 1.1.1's changes to shield mechanics have also been beneficial for Meta Knight: thanks to several of his attacks hitting multiple times and/or having high hitlag modifiers, most notably forward aerial, forward smash, and Shieldbreaker Drill, his neutral game was improved and his weakened out of shield options were generally compensated.
While these buffs do not make Meta Knight nearly as potent as he was in Brawl, they are still helpful additions that have, over time, allowed him to recoup some of his initially weakened offensive potential. Furthermore, Meta Knight has achieved notable tournament success thanks to these buffs. However, update 1.1.5 nerfed Meta Knight. Although its decrease of forward aerial's landing lag made it into a new approach option, it altered up aerial's angle and increased its SDI multiplier, both of which make it much harder for up aerial to combo into itself for early vertical KOs on most characters. However, the same update and update 1.1.6 also brought significant nerfs to Sheik, Zero Suit Samus and Bayonetta, who were some of his most challenging matchups prior to these updates. Overall, Meta Knight has improved since the initial release of SSB4.
Technical changelist 1.0.8
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Upon SSB4's release, Meta Knight's heavy nerfs were quickly noticed. The severity of his shorter recovery, hitbox durations and range, lack of transcendent priority, and slightly slower attack speed all contributed to the perception that he was a mid-tier character at best, as he now required a much more aggressive playstyle. However, after being buffed over several game updates and seeing increasingly noteworthy results from some of his players from Brawl and new players across different regions, most famously MkLeo, top players such as ZeRo reevaluated their opinions on Meta Knight. This saw a subsequent rise in Meta Knight's popularity; Mr.R and Nairo occasionally used him and Abadango decided to main him, with his perceived advantageous matchup against the top-tier Rosalina & Luma boosting his metagame even further due to it rendering him as a valuable counterpick.
Players started to acknowledge Meta Knight's KO potential, superb frame data and proficiency at edge-guarding as being reliable against the entire cast, while his Rufio combo could KO any character at some of the lowest percentages possible if performed correctly, all of which were traits that he retained from Brawl. As a result, Meta Knight was subsequently ranked at 10th on the first 4BR tier list. However, many players believed he should have been ranked even higher, with a major reason being that he was considered to lack notably disadvantageous matchups aside from Sheik.
However, Meta Knight's status went into a sudden decline after his up aerial combos, which were pivotal to his success, had been nerfed in update 1.1.5. As a result, several of his best players either began to co-main him (such as Tyrant adopting Sheik and Diddy Kong), transition him into a secondary (such as MkLeo adopting Cloud and Marth as his new mains), or even drop him entirely (such as Katakiri and Seibrik). Although Meta Knight has maintained his high-tier status throughout SSB4's lifespan thanks to his solid punishment game, popularity as a counterpick to Rosalina & Luma, and his playerbase consistently achieving good results, he has steadily dropped on subsequent tier lists regardless. He has since dropped to 13th on the second tier list, then to 14th on the third tier list and, despite Leo bringing better results after using him once again, he has recently dropped once again to 16th on the fourth and current tier list, although this was before Leo's stellar performance with Meta Knight at 2GG Championship.
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