Monado Arts (モナドアーツ, Monado Arts) is Shulk's neutral special move. Shulk has access to five Arts: Jump, Speed, Shield, Buster, and Smash, with each Art acting as a buff-type move that temporarily enhances certain abilities in exchange for weakening others.
Each of the five Arts is indicated by a colored kanji character. When the special button is pressed, a character will appear behind him, beginning with Jump and following the order of Speed, Shield, Buster, and Smash for each consecutive button press. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it can also be "quick-selected" by holding down the special button then the directional stick to the Art, then releasing the special button. While an Art is active, several of Shulk's attributes are modified for the duration of its effect, which vary based on the Art chosen.
When an Art is activated, colored auras appear in areas of Shulk's body that pertain to the effect of the Art itself. For example, Jump and Speed have an aura around Shulk's shoes, while Buster's aura will appear around the Monado. Shield's aura will appear around Shulk's body and Smash's aura appears around Shulk's hands. Also, in the Wii U version, the Art's kanji appears at the top left corner of Shulk's portrait (which blinks faster and faster when the Art is almost ready to deactivate), and Shulk additionally gains a colored trailing aura effect while he moves.
Also, for all Arts in the Japanese version, Shulk yells out for each respective one: 跳ぶ! (Leap!), 走る! (Run!), 守る! (Protect/Defend!), 叩く! (Thrash!), 打っ飛ばす! (Fly away!)
Activation, Duration and Effects
To activate an Art, the special button must not be pressed for a few frames until the colored aura appears on Shulk. While scrolling through the Arts, he will be unable to perform any other special moves until one is activated, although Shulk can still move, dodge and attack normally. In Ultimate, it can also be "quick-selected" by holding down the special button, holding the directional stick mapped to the Art, then releasing the special key. The "quick select" wheel is mapped to the following: up for Smash, upper left for Jump, lower left for Speed, upper right for Buster, and lower right for Shield. If Shulk activates an Art while staying still, he poses and announces the activated Art's name upon activation.
Each Art lasts for 15 seconds before stats return to normal. The Arts can be cancelled by pressing the special button three times in succession, or by holding down the special button for about one full second. Once an Art activates or is canceled early, it cannot be activated again until 10 seconds has passed. Before then, its corresponding kanji will be grayed out when selecting another Art. The cooldown on all Monado Arts resets when Shulk is knocked out. No two Monado Arts can run at the same time; if one is active, and a different Art is chosen, the previous Art is overwritten and enters cooldown.
Each Monado Art also affects Shulk's attacking power with battering items like the Beam Sword (eg. Smash reduces hitlag and damage while increasing knockback). However, they do not affect firing weapons like the Ray Gun or thrown items such as the Capsule.
Shulk's Final Smash, Chain Attack, is also affected by the Monado Arts. With Buster, this attack becomes highly damaging, often likely sending the opponent into KO percents if the Art lasts the duration of the full attack, but cannot KO as effectively. With Smash, Shulk can KO at significantly earlier percents but should the attack not clear the stock, Shulk will have hardly done as much damage to the opponent as desired, making it arguably riskier than with Buster. Speed and Shield will only reduce its effectiveness while Jump has no effect whatsoever. Interestingly, the Arts can run out in the middle of the Final Smash, so awareness of their durations and the situation is advised.
The animation of Shulk announcing the Art's name grants 14 frames of intangibility (unless canceled into another action), and Shulk will perfect shield any attack that connects with his body during that period should he raise his shield. It will also replace landing lag animations (reducing it to 5 frames). These factors make it possible to perform multiple techniques, shown in the sections below.
Kirby's Copy Ability
Kirby is able to copy the Monado Arts with his Inhale and can receive effects from these Arts when he uses this Copy Ability. This can give Kirby incredible benefits and new previously-unseen options, as Jump gives him high jumps that can easily pass the upper blast line after three jumps and, as a result, can extend his throw combos to pursue his opponent. Buster can trap opponents in a string of attacks far past realistic KO percentages; particularly his up tilt which can juggle most characters for longer than usual to rack up large amounts of damage. Speed also gives Kirby the longest perfect pivot in the game. Conversely, both Speed and Shield make Kirby's jumps the most ineffective in the game, and Smash makes him the lightest fighter in the game. And unlike Shulk, Kirby's up special moves gain no benefit from the Jump Art.
Like Shulk, Kirby's Ultra Sword Final Smash can be affected by the Monado Arts in all of their respective ways to alter its damage and knockback properties. Despite having his own version of the Monado, Kirby does not use it to directly attack his opponent whatsoever, nor does he gain a unique hat from it.
Even though Kirby's Monado Arts only gives him massive versatility against a Shulk in 1v1 matches, a Kirby/Shulk team in Doubles with Team Attack turned on can easily allow both characters to use such versatile techniques in tandem, especially with MALLC as explained below.
Monado Art Landing Lag Cancel
An advanced technique, named the Monado Art Landing Lag Cancel (abbreviated MALLC) allows Shulk to remove part of landing lag of his aerials or air dodge, which allows him to apply safer pressure with his aerials, escape from juggles, perform longer combos or strings, and even take advantage of the few frames of intangibility during art activation to land safely onto stage. As Shulk cannot act out of an Art's pose for 5 frames, this technique does not fully eliminate landing lag, but reduces it significantly.
To perform this the player should start the activation of any Monado Art while in midair, use an aerial attack, and land with the aerial just before the Art fully activates. Shulk performs a pose after any Art activates (provided he isn't in a non landing lag animation), and this pose will replace the landing lag animation. The pose can be immediately canceled as if Shulk is standing still, allowing him to bypass the usually high landing lag of his aerials. Advanced players can even use this technique to B-reverse in midair, which gives opportunities for unique combos or a quick getaway.
MALLC's timings are affected by what the player hits: if Shulk misses or clashes against a shield (even if perfect/powershielded), he will cancel successfully, but if Shulk hits an opponent, it will cause more hitlag and cause him to land with ending lag. Therefore, MALLCs are safer if the opponent dodges or shields, as it grants Shulk more options straight after (i.e dodging a punish with intangibility), while MALLC on hit is less safe, but grants Shulk more combo options.
This technique is especially beneficial to Shulk because none of his aerials regularly cancel out of a full jump (and most do not cancel even from a double jump). In particular, his back aerial benefits the most from this, as it suffers from high landing lag while having the longest range and good KO power, while his up and down aerials are difficult to Art-cancel as connecting both hits of these moves cause too much hitlag to land at the correct time. This technique comes with the added benefit of giving Shulk a few frames of intangibility right when he poses, allowing him a chance to dodge possible punishes from his opponents.
Due to the changes to shield mechanics made in 1.1.1, cancelling a back air into Buster, and immediately following with a forward smash can instantly break a full-health shield without giving the target a chance to drop shield, provided the initial attack isn't perfect shielded, or aimed at another Shulk or Kirby with the Shield Art active.
Erico9001 first explained the timings of MALLC in his YouTube video here. Later, Jerm provided a more in-depth video guide on the timings and added details of the technique, which can be found here. Finally, Paradigm/Erico9001 uploaded a video providing the exact frames to successful Art Cancel different moves on varying stages, which can be seen here.
Examples of Beneficial Art Cancels
Other Advanced Techniques Utilizing Monado Arts
Monado Art Run Cancel
The Monado Art Run Cancel, or MARC, uses the cancellation of an Art to negate the ending lag/braking animation of the character's run in order to change their running direction in an instant, or to perform tilts immediately out of a run. This allows both Shulk and Kirby to weave in-and-out with the proper art utilized to bait attacks and punish them, or to bait another option that can be punished with an attack, such as baiting out a jump and punishing with an instant up-tilt out of the MARC.
Though clips of the tech had been seen prior, MARC was first explained by Catalyst.
Monado Art Buffered Deactivation
Monado Art Buffered Deactivation, or MABD, allows Shulk to retain his jumping, walking and/or running speed immediately after canceling an Art. The effect will last until Shulk does another action, such as an attack. This has several uses, including fakeouts or doing attacks/combos that requires Monado Speed's mobility without being penalized by its lower damage.
Performing this requires the player to buffer-cancel an active Monado Art during an uninterruptible animation (i.e dropping shield or dodging), while also buffering a movement option during that time. If successful, the Art will cancel, but Shulk will technically begin moving before the Art disappears, causing him to gain the increased movement speed that is provided by the Art until another command is inputted. However, any movement speed gained will slowly change back to the default speed after a while: in the case of running, Shulk will initially start at the speed of Monado Speed or Monado Shield and then either slow down or speed up, respectively.
Uniquely, MABD enhances Shulk's jump height if Monado Jump is canceled and a jump is buffered as well. This is due to Shulk keeping Monado Jump's increased jump height, but not the increased falling speed, causing him to travel higher. This is pivotal for the Monado Purge combo (up throw to jumping up aerial) as the extra height turns the combo into a 50-50 that is only escapable with an air dodge at higher percents.
One can perform a MonaDACUS (Monado Deactivated Art Canceled Up Smash, previously referred to as the SABDJCUS or Speed Art Buffered Deactivation Jump Cancelled Up Smash) in a similar vein to the DACUS technique in Brawl (as referenced by the name), using the previously mentioned MABD technique.
By canceling out of the Speed Art during an animation where Shulk can buffer an Art deactivation, Shulk will keep the increased ground speed of his previous Art for a few frames, while losing Monado Speed's increased ground friction, allowing him to slide even further and punish opponents with a jump-canceled up smash. This helps Shulk hit opponents that he usually wouldn't be able to reach. As the technique also involves canceling the Speed Art, it also deals more damage compared to staying in Speed Art and up smashing, as Speed reduces damage output. It should be noted that this technique gains almost no distance without a jump-canceled up smash, and Shulk's up smash is unsafe on shield regardless, so care should be taken.
Monado Art Ledge Snap
The Monado Art Ledge Snap or MALS allows Shulk/Kirby to laglessly get up from his ledge hanging animation, with the added benefit of the Art activation's intangibility. This allows him to both quickly return onto stage as well as avoid certain ledge traps, such as R.O.B's Gyro.
It is performed by cycling to an art prior to grabbing the ledge, dropping from the ledge, and double jumping onto the stage as the Art is activating. The Art's activation pose effectively 'clips' Shulk/Kirby through the ledge as his hurtbox suddenly changes shape, forcing the game to snap him onto the stage. While difficult to time, this technique provides a much faster get-up option for Shulk/Kirby compared to simply using a standard get-up from ledge. Aside from avoiding ledge traps, MALS can also be used offensively after a ledge trump to immediately return onto stage, allowing Shulk/Kirby to perform a strong punish regardless of the opponent's actions.
The timing varies depending on the Monado Art being activated; for example, the window of success for a Monado Jump ledge snap is the largest, while the timing for Monado Smash is much harder to do consistently.
The technique cannot be performed on all stages. Of the legal (or formerly legal) stages, it can be performed on Battlefield, Smashville, Umbra Clock Tower, and the last transformation of Castle Siege. It can be performed on several Ω forms of stages as well-- including a few which this technique cannot be done on otherwise. These Ω forms include: Battlefield, Midgar, Umbra Clock Tower, Luigi's Mansion, Jungle Hijinxs, Skyloft, Temple, Halberd, Kalos Pokémon League, Pokémon Stadium 2, Onett, Castle Siege, Gamer, Town and City, Boxing Ring, Duck Hunt, Windy Hill Zone, and Suzaku Castle.
MALS was first discovered and explained by GetShulked, and summarized by Paradigm.
Special Move customization was added in Super Smash Bros. 4. These are the variations:
In Xenoblade Chronicles, all special attacks and abilities are categorized as Arts, and the term is used as such to describe both playable and enemy character abilities. The wielder of the Monado has access to two additional Arts that are accessed by using their signature ability (or "Talent Art"), "Activate Monado", with more being unlocked as the story progresses for an ending total of eight, three of which return for Super Smash Bros. Unlike what SSB4 depicts, not all Monado Arts are buff-type moves, as several are status-inducing skills or powerful attacks. In addition, two Monado Arts, Jump and Smash, were tailor-made for the Smash Bros. series and as such do not exist in the original game.
Battle Arts in Xenoblade Chronicles have cooldown times, with different Arts having differing cooldown times. However, this only applies to Battle Arts; Monado Arts are part of Shulk's Talent Art, "Activate Monado", and instead require Shulk to use part of his Talent Gauge to activate them, which can only be refilled by auto-attacking enemies.
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