Meta Knight (SSB4)
Meta Knight (メタナイト, Meta Knight) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. Initially teased as a Mii Fighter costume on August 11, 2014, his return to the series was confirmed 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 using recycled voice clips from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Meta Knight is currently ranked 14th out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the B tier. This is a noticeable drop from his top-tier placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 1st out of 38. Meta Knight retains his quick mobility from Brawl, which was also been improved: he sports fast dashing and falling speeds, as well as five double jumps. This also extends to his offense, as Meta Knight's attacks possess very quick start-up and disjointed ranges, granting him a formidable combo game which can also zero-to-death opponents and allows him to easily edge-guard due to his double jumps. He also boasts an impressive recovery thanks to his double jumps and having three special moves that are reliable at bringing him back on-stage.
However, likely due to his dominance in Brawl, he received heavy nerfs in the transition to SSB4: his unrivaled attack speed, range, recovery and overall damage output have been toned down, while the transcendent priority on his attacks has been completely removed, weakening his approach options. When combined with his lack of a projectile, these changes give him a harder time overcoming camping strategies. Although Meta Knight's high falling speed is an important aspect of his mobility, it is also detrimental due to his light weight, as they leave him vulnerable to both combos and KOs. His survivability 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 has enabled him to secure strong tournament representation and results.
Meta Knight is an unusual blend of character archetypes. He is small, 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 quick overall due to an above average walking speed, a fast dashing speed, slightly below average air speed and average air acceleration. Meta Knight's initial dash animation is relatively long due to lasting 13 frames, giving 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, and he benefits from a jumpsquat that is 4 frames long as well as a low short hop, allowing 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. Along with Sheik, almost all of his attacks have little delay, either in terms of 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. Although his overall range is average, his sword, Galaxia, makes it disjointed, especially in relation to his size. As he is the only small character who wields a sword, these strengths grant him an effective neutral game. 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. With these varied options, Meta Knight has 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. 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 far-reaching dash grab. His forward and down throws can combo into other moves even at higher percents, his back throw is useful for launching opponents off-stage, and his up throw can KO at very high percents 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 higher percents. 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.
Finally, Meta Knight has high KOing power for a lightweight. His forward and up smashes have long range; the former is his strongest finisher and is very safe due to 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 his main combo finisher. Dimensional Cape is strong and covers distance quickly, allowing him to punish laggy attacks from afar. Furthermore, Meta Knight's edge-guarding game is among the most feared, along with his ability to gimp his opponents. His 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 due 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, while good for his size, is still short in comparison to other swordfighters (especially Shulk, Cloud and Ike), making it necessary to rely on his mobility and attack speed to capitalize on openings. Finally, 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 areial'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. Up throw requires platforms to KO at reasonable percents, 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 due to his light weight and high gravity greatly hindering his ability to survive strong hits.
Meta Knight can gain some benefits from his custom moves. 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 gives much more distance than the default, but only hits once, 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.
Ultimately, Meta Knight's strengths overall outweigh his flaws, and 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 due to possessing numerous and extreme advantages that resulted in his ranking of 1st on the Brawl tier list. Possibly as a result, Meta Knight was nerfed immensely 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, as seen in his down and forward tilts and all of his aerials (sans forward aerial), making his spacing ability much weaker and forcing him to adopt a more aggressive playstyle. All of his tilts and aerials deal less damage, resulting in his damage output being below average. With the nerfs to several of his most pivotal neutral 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 strategies, especially with his continued lack of a projectile. The removal of edge-hogging, his shorter recovery, and the generally improved recoveries of the rest of the cast 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 and the new physics, Meta Knight can perform true combos more reliably, and his grab reward is much 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. However, the retention of the majority of his key advantages from Brawl has led many to still consider him a viable character, to the point of even being a top-tier at one point in time.
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 on his neutral and back aerials have enhanced his KO and edge-guarding potentials. Update 1.1.1's changes to shield mechanics have been beneficial overall for Meta Knight. Many of his attacks are safer due to their high hitlag modifiers, most notably forward aerial, forward smash and his custom move Shieldbreaker Drill, which improves his neutral game and generally compensates for his weakened out of shield options.
While these buffs do not make him nearly as potent as he was in Brawl, they are still helpful additions that have, over time, allowed him to recoup some of his initial lost offensive capability. Furthermore, Meta Knight has achieved notable tournament success thanks to these buffs. However, update 1.1.5 nerfed Meta Knight. Forward aerial's decreased landing lag gives him a new approach option. On the other hand, up aerial launches at a less favorable angle for combos and has an increased SDI multiplier, making it much harder to chain into itself for early vertical KOs on most characters. However, the same update and update 1.1.6 brought significant nerfs to Sheik, Zero Suit Samus and Bayonetta, who were some of his most challenging match-up prior to these updates. Overall, Meta Knight has improved since the initial release.
Technical changelist 1.0.8
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Upon SSB4's release, Meta Knight's heavy nerfs were quickly noticed. His shorter recovery, lack of transcendent priority, slightly slower attack speed and shorter range all contributed to players stating that Meta Knight was heavily overshadowed by his appearance in Brawl and that his nerfs were harsh enough to render him as a mid-tier character at best, as he now required a much more aggressive playstyle, especially with the fact that many of his attacks lasted for only 1 frame. 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 Leo in Mexico, 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 Rosalina & Luma, a character ranked above him, 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 Kinght 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 a driving force behind his success, had been nerfed in update 1.1.5. As a result, several of his best players began to use secondaries more often, such as Tyrant with Sheik and Diddy Kong, and Leo with Cloud and Marth, whereas others like Katakiri and Seibrik dropped him entirely. While he retains a solid punishment game, popularity as a counterpick to Rosalina & Luma, and continues to achieve fairly good results, all of which allow him to maintain his high-tier position, he has steadily dropped on subsequent tier lists. After being ranked 13th the second tier list, which was a slight drop from his previous ranking, Meta Knight has since been ranked 14th on the third and current tier list.
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