Sandbagging

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Super Smash Bros. series Competitive.png
This article is about the competitive term. For the item, see Sandbag.

Sandbagging, sometimes formally referred to as "intentional underperformance", is the act of playing poorly on purpose. Originating from Billiards slang, referring to the concealment of one's ability to play, sandbagging in the Super Smash Bros. series generally consists of players using characters that are not their main characters or selecting stages that normally counter their character, amongst other actions. Sandbagging can occur at any level of play, and even at top-level tournaments players have sandbagged on occasion, with some smashers, such as Isai and Mew2King, being well-known for their frequent sandbagging.

Sandbagging is sometimes done in friendlies in order to prevent spectators or opponents from learning their playstyle with their mains. If the skill difference between two players is particularly significant, higher-skilled players can also potentially sandbag. The reasoning for sandbagging can vary, though in both cases, it can be used by players to relax in lower-stress matches, as well as potentially allow for an opportunity to work on other characters; in the case of differences in skill, the sandbagging player can also give their opponent a "fairer" match.

Sandbagging, however, can be seen as a sign of disrespect when done in serious settings, as it is seen as the player not treating their opponent as an equal nor as a threat, as well as depriving their opponent of a pure competitive match. Due to compromising a tournament's competitive integrity and disrupting the natural progress of the tournament bracket, it is not uncommon for tournaments to have a rule forbidding intentional underperforming at the threat of being disqualified from the tournament altogether. This is a controversial ruling though, as it is not always clear if a player is sandbagging, thus making it difficult to enforce. Additionally, some players claim it is the right of the player to perform however and use whatever character they want. There is also the argument that a player may simply enjoy playing as the character even if they do not normally play them.

Notable incidents of sandbagging[edit]

  • Mango went through a period where he adopted the persona of "Scorpion Master", and used Mario at several tournaments; the most well-known of these instances was Apex 2010, where he placed 25th in Melee singles instead of his usual top 4 placing.
  • American Smash 64 player Isai is infamous for his frequent sandbagging at tournaments for the game, often by refusing to use his main Pikachu in high-stakes matches or by using low or bottom tiered characters throughout a tournament.
    • At Apex 2012, Isai only used the bottom-tiered Link en route to a second place finish to SuperBoomFan. In an exhibition match against Captain Jack in Melee at the same tournament, Isai used his Melee main, Captain Falcon, but played in an obvious sandbagging manner against Captain Jack.
    • At the Smash 64 tournament in Apex 2013, Isai again sandbagged with his character choice, this time using Mario, despite the crowd yelling for him to use Pikachu several times. He placed second again, this time defeating SuperBoomFan, but losing to Kikoushi in winners' and grand finals.
    • At the Smash 64 tournament in Apex 2014, Isai once again sandbagged by exclusively using the low-tiered Jigglypuff. Unlike Apex 2012 and 2013, however, Isai placed first in singles without losing a single set, with Moyashi placing second below Isai.
  • Canadian Fox main, Ryan Ford, incited controversy at Revival of Melee 5 by refusing to play his main against Mew2King in the grand finals, claiming to be tired, likely as a result of the controversy that had already occurred.
    • Ford would then cause similar controversy in NEC 13 by again sandbagging against Mew2King in winners' bracket.
  • Mew2King regularly sandbags in Melee, mostly in locals, smaller tournaments, or pools against opponents he does not deem to be competent enough, or if he is already guaranteed first seed in a given pool. This is done mostly to give himself more of a challenge and entertain spectators, and most of his opponents have reportedly not minded this habit. Mew2King's sandbagging generally consists of using bottom-tiered characters like Pichu, Mewtwo, Roy, and Mr. Game & Watch; if he is using Sheik, he may also opt to transform into Zelda at the end of a clearly uphill match. Mew2King also allows the opponent to choose any stage they want via the Gentleman's Rule, and may even allow players to turn items on or use the game's various Special modes, resulting in unusual tournament matches. Notable examples include:

See also[edit]

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