Shulk (シュルク, Shulk) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He was confirmed on June 12th, 2018. Shulk is classified as fighter #57.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
With the exception of the third method, Shulk must then be defeated on Gaur Plain.
Shulk is a middleweight, with his walking speed, dashing speed, falling speed, and gravity being average, his air speed being above-average, and his air acceleration being below-average. As such, Shulk overall has average mobility, without any obvious advantages or disadvantages.
Shulk's greatest strength is his disjointed range: thanks to the Monado, Shulk possesses some of the longest overall disjointed range in the game. Shulk's excellent range allows him to punish careless moves by retaliating at a distance, or create space by challenging his opponent with his disjointed attacks. His most useful grounded moves are his up tilt and smash attacks, each of which possess distinct perks. His up tilt boasts outstanding vertical range, can cover multiple get-up options from the edge, and can KO at very high percentages, whereas his smash attacks boast high power and long ranges.
Shulk also boasts a powerful aerial moveset, which plays a key role in his approach and spacing games. Both his neutral and forward aerials possess wide-arced ranges with low landing lag, making them Shulk's best approach options. The former is useful for anything from starting combos to covering landing options thanks to its long-lasting hitbox and low landing lag, while the latter's wide range and dependable speed makes it a very good edge-guarding and spacing option. His back aerial is a capable KOing option due to it being Shulk's most powerful aerial, with its high horizontal range also allowing it to space or poke from a distance. Lastly, his up and down aerials are, like his back aerial, thrusts instead of slashes. As such, they have minimal horizontal ranges, but can KO surprisingly early should they hit, with the former being potent near the upper blast line, whereas the latter is capable of meteor smashing.
Much like in his home game, Shulk is a character who revolves around adapting to different situations with his attribute-enhancing Monado Arts. Each Art tweaks his attributes considerably for 6 seconds and can be manually canceled at any time, even immediately after hitstun ends or during landing lag. With this freedom, Shulk can activate an Art to open up options for virtually any situation while still being able to switch or cancel them if he is in a challenging position. Jump grants him significant aerial mobility by making his jumps the highest in the game while improving both his air speed and Air Slash's height. This allows him to recover from almost anywhere off-stage, edge-guard more aggressively and even perform several KO combos, such as a wall of pain leading to a sacrificial Air Slash at medium percentages.
Speed amplifies his usually average ground speed while reducing his jump height, making his ground-to-air transitions more efficient for aerial combos and spacing, while allowing him to approach and retreat noncommittally. It also lowers traction, making Shulk's pivot grab amongst the longest in the game for its duration. These two Arts grant him outstanding mobility, and when combined with the large hitboxes of his attacks, Shulk can effectively space opponents out of a specific side of the stage with either Jump or Speed, making him very difficult to approach on stages with platforms.
Shield bolsters Shulk's defensive game by reducing both damage and knockback received, which allows him to survive for a much longer period of time and resist getting trapped in combos. His shield also becomes much more durable, making it harder to break with shield-breaking attacks such as Bowser Bomb. Buster reduces his overall knockback, but increases his overall damage output, allowing him to rack up damage extremely quickly. Buster also makes up and down throws effective and damaging combo starters at 0%, while the increased damage and shieldstun make Shulk's moves both safer on shield and capable of pressuring shields. Lastly, Smash boosts his entire moveset's knockback, making almost all of Shulk's attacks KOing options (especially with rage), and his down throw becomes the strongest in the game while it is active.
Thanks to the Monado Arts, Shulk is highly adaptive, and usually has an easier time mixing up his playstyle compared to other characters so long as his Arts are used effectively and in tandem with his powerful air game. Such an example would be constantly switching from Jump and Shield to stall a losing match, or activating different arts while being juggled to affect Shulk's falling speed, and hence mess up an opponent's combo. It also allows him to use rage effectively, especially when combined with Shield in order to survive and accumulate rage, or with Smash for a risky, yet powerful boost in knockback.
Due to the technical aspects of activating Monado Arts, Shulk also has access to multiple unique advanced techniques, the most notable of which is known as Monado Art Landing Lag Canceling. By jumping and timing the activation of an Art just before landing, Shulk can reduce the landing lag of his aerials to 5 frames while gaining intangibility for 14 frames (1 frame less than the length granted by his sidestep). While difficult to perform, it allows Shulk to avoid punishment before immediately responding with a punish of his own, or start shield break combos, such as an Art canceled back aerial to forward smash. It can even let him retreat by pivoting in midair, or extend the invincibility of air dodging via an aerial Art activation. This technique is the only viable way to make some of Shulk's moves (such as back aerial) safe on shield against faster characters.
Several other techniques include the Monado Purge, a 50/50 KO set-up consisting of an up throw to up aerial at high percentages, and Monado Art Edge Snapping, which bypasses edge get-up animations while protecting the user with brief intangibility. When mastered, Shulk's Monado Art techniques can be very effective and unpredictable mix-up options that are inaccessible by any other character.
Excluding his Arts, Shulk's special moveset shares his overall high range, and all have their own forms of utility. Back Slash is very powerful when striking the opponent's back and has long range regardless, making it a great surprise attack as well as a decent spacing tool. Air Slash grants a good amount of vertical distance, comes out quickly, and has strong knockback growth, making it a good recovery move and an even better out of shield option. The distance and knockback of Air Slash can additionally be affected by the Jump and Smash Arts respectively, allowing the move to gain even more vertical distance, or be used as a combo finisher in the air or a KO option out-of-shield. Lastly, Vision is tied with Double Team for having the longest lasting counterattack window in the game when fresh while also having the longest range, both of which give Shulk one of the most effective counters of any character. Its alternate counterattack, which is performed when Shulk inputs the direction from which the triggered attack came from, also rivals Counter Surge as the strongest counterattack in the game.
However, Shulk has some glaringly exploitable weaknesses. Despite his outstanding range, his moveset is sluggish. Despite being buffed in Ultimate, his moveset is still slightly sluggish. Aside from his neutral attack, standing grab and Vision, the remainder of his attacks do not hit before frame 9, and majority of his moveset has more than 25 frames of ending lag. Like the aforementioned heavyweights, this means he has to rely on careful reads to land a hit, as a missed attack can easily be capitalized upon. This is made worse by the low shieldstun of his attacks (unless Buster is active), making his attacks inherently unsafe up close and on shield, while still unsafe if spaced against faster characters prevalent in the metagame. Additionally, despite his excellent range, most of Shulk's moves deal more damage with the Monado's blade rather than its beam blade, while several of his strongest combos (such as a landing neutral aerial to a grab or a forward aerial wall of pain) rely on him being extremely close to his opponent/affected by rage to be inescapable, due to his beam blade's lower hitstun. As a result, Shulk is sometimes required to take risks before he can start performing any significant combos.
His sluggish frame data also extends to his aerials. While he is uniquely the only character who can interrupt the ending lag of his aerials with a jump, air dodge or another air attack, all of Shulk's aerials have disproportionately high ending lag, with neutral aerial in particular having 40 frames of ending lag. In addition, Shulk is the only character who cannot auto-cancel any of his aerials, forcing him to endure landing lag every time he starts an aerial attack, even from a double jump (with the exception of forward aerial). While Monado Art Landing Lag Canceling can negate this, it is considerably more complicated to perform compared to auto-canceling, making it very difficult and unwieldy to perform consistently. Essentially, this makes every attack very committal, and makes it important for Shulk to space his attacks carefully as he can easily be punished for missing. Additionally, moves such as back aerial or up aerial are unsafe to use upon landing; unlike many other characters' aerials, their hitboxes only appear after a pause, making it possible to land before an attack even comes out while causing Shulk to suffer from landing lag.
Due to his weight and stature, Shulk is an easy target for combos and juggles, as his tall height, slow air acceleration, and lack of quick combo breakers (with his fastest aerial, neutral aerial, hitting on frame 13 and beginning behind himself) makes it difficult to break out of combos. His lack of a projectile and anti-projectile options also makes it difficult to pressure his opponent from a distance, while making it hard for him to approach against projectile users as well. Even pressure on the ground can be hard to escape from, as Shulk has the fifth lowest traction in the game. This gives him a poor out of shield game without Air Slash, which is punishable when missed. Shulk's special attacks are also flawed in some ways. Back Slash's knockback is exceptionally weak if hitting the opponent's front, has considerable ending lag, and is notorious for its inability to edge sweetspot. Air Slash provides very little horizontal momentum and does not sweetspot edges immediately unless the second slash is inputted right beside an edge, thus making his recovery predictable, even with Jump. Lastly, Vision's counter window decays upon consecutive use, which discourages frequent usage.
The Monado Arts also have debuffs to compensate for their buffs: if an Art is active, it causes some of his other attributes to drop, weakening some of his abilities. A careful opponent can potentially take advantage of them to gain the upper hand, making his Arts a double-edged sword due to his reliance on them to approach and/or perform combos. Jump makes him very vulnerable to damage, and when combined with his slow moveset, makes it even riskier to whiff a move. Speed lowers his damage output, requiring him to deal more hits for the same amount of damage and reduces his jump force to the point of hindering his vertical mobility.
Shield drastically reduces his mobility and damage output to the point of making his recovery and offensive potential among the worst in the game. When coupled with his worsened mobility, Shield's increased knockback defense also leaves Shulk heavily susceptible to combos and juggling. Buster increases his vulnerability to damage, albeit not to degree of Jump, while its lower knockback drastically lowers Shulk's KO potential to the point that his smash attacks will not KO until past 150%. Finally, Smash drastically lowers his endurance, hinders his combo game, and makes his attacks the least damaging in the game.
Even having no Arts active is disadvantageous, as Shulk's balanced attributes do not allow him to easily approach or catch up with opponents. Having no Arts active also hinders him offensively: very few of Shulk's moves possess combo potential past low percentages, and all his smash attacks are punishable because of their high ending lag. This forces Shulk to be reliant on edge-guarding and spacing while waiting for an Art to refresh, and requires him to capitalize on the duration of a needed Art to the fullest in order to perform certain techniques (such as combo strings or approaching), compared to other characters who may have the ability to do so at any time.
Overall, Shulk's optimal playstyle consists of warding off pressure and having extensive knowledge of his opponent. While his weaknesses are exploitable when fighting head-on, his adaptability allows him to excel when played patiently and while exploiting openings. Regardless, Shulk has an extremely high learning curve because of a combination of sluggish attacks and very demanding techniques, as extensive knowledge of Monado Arts, reads and patient play are each required for him to thrive. Shulk also has a notable player base, and is considered by some of the world's top players to be a high tier character, with a few considering Shulk to be the best character in the game.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
Shulk was considerably buffed in his transition to Ultimate. His infamously sluggish moveset has been sped up in several ways, most notably from the universal reduction of landing lag and lag reduction for some of his most commonly used moves, alongside the ability to autocancel some aerials, a trait he was previously notable for lacking. This eliminates his biggest weakness in Smash 4, as his aerial landings were notoriously punishable. In addition, his KO moves are now stronger, the implementation of canceling a dash with any ground move allows him to approach with his high-ranged tilts, and the addition of pseudo-dash dancing alleviates his previously low traction and turnaround time.
Shulk's defining Monado Arts have also been altered significantly, now performing much like Hyper Monado Arts from Smash 4. Their benefits have been boosted: Speed and Buster now grant Shulk true followups and throw combos, Shield allows him to stay grounded even after withstanding smash attacks at high percents, and Smash now buffs Shulk's KO potential to such an extent that he is capable of KOing extremely early with throws and tilts. Moreover, Shulk retains the ability to switch Monado Arts while in hitstun, which can allow him to disrupt or outright escape true combos and KO setups, mainly by switching to Shield. However, his Monado Arts also last significantly shorter, have much longer recharge times, and their drawbacks have been amplified, making each Art even riskier to use but much more rewarding.
Shulk's nerfs were noticeable however. His previously heavy weight has been reduced, his very damaging and long-reaching neutral attack has been significantly toned down, his back aerial has lost its large early body hitbox, and his throws are all less damaging except up throw, with down throw no longer being the strongest in the game. His infamous Vision had its knockback reduced, making it less effective for KOs at at high percents, and it is no longer unblockable. The changes to his Monado Arts improve its strengths but also its weaknesses. Lastly, Shulk still has most of his noticeable flaws, such as poor approach, an awful frame data, and poor out of shield options.
As a result, Shulk's playstyle revolves less around taking advantage of Monado Arts at all times, and he now depends on using his improved kit to make use of his stronger, shorter-lasting Monado Art abilities. Despite his continued issues with frame data, and the changes that his playstyle has received and the loss of many advanced techniques, Shulk’s results in Ultimate’s competitive scene are much stronger than in Smash 4 due to the benefits he gained from engine changes and his own buffs. This has resulted in him having relatively low, but strong representation from players such as Nicko and Salem. This has led to the perception of Shulk by the community to be that of a high tier character instead of the low-mid tier he was in Smash 4, with some pro players even arguing he has top tier potential. Conversely, some players have began doubting how much "potential" Shulk truly has, as he lacks significant tournament results and representation of other high tiers. However, as of recent, his tournament results have started to reflect that of a high and top tier character, with Kome placing 1st at Sumabato SP 10 and 2nd at EVO Japan 2020. Overall, it's clear he is significantly stronger than he was in Smash 4, but whether all these changes are enough to place him as a high or top tier is still up to debate.
Throws and other attacks
Shulk's changes via patch updates have primarily been buffs and glitch fixes. One of his most notable buffs are to his already good range. Jab 2, floor attack, and edge attack all have more range. Up smash connects better, forward aerial autocancels earlier, and up aerial now grabs ledges after the move.
For a gallery of Shulk's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
In competitive play
Early in Ultimate's lifespan, many pro players placed Shulk as a high tier or even occasionally a top tier character in their own tier lists; however, Shulk lacked the strong results and representation of many other high tiers and top tiers at the time. Part of this could be attributed to his high learning curve and usage of advanced techniques such as Dial Storage, resulting in fewer players using the character. As such, Shulk remained a rare yet dangerous character in the early meta. Shulk players have gradually seen more success, with Kome placing 2nd at EVO Japan 2020 and Nicko winning Play With Heart and placing 2nd at Port Priority 5. Due to these results, Shulk now has the some of the best results out of any sword wielding character in the game along with Roy and Lucina, with some considering him as the best swordfighter in the game. Players often cite his large disjoints and usage of Monado Arts to escape combos or kill confirms as some of the character's best strengths. Overall opinion on Shulk's placement in the game's tier list has been slowly shifting into unanimous high tier or top tier status, and ESAM thinks the character is top 5 while Marss thinks the character is top 3.
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Fall 2019 PGRU, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from July 13th, 2019 to December 15th, 2019.
Classic Mode: Witness the Monado's Power
Each of the opponents represent one of Shulk's Monado Arts and are fought in the cycling order of each art in Super Smash Bros. 4. The penultimate battle against Mega Man, continuing the theme, represents Monado Enchant from Xenoblade Chronicles (represented by the kanji for "Machine"), which shares the Monado's ability to damage Mechon armor with his party.
Role in World of Light
Shulk was among the fighters that were summoned to fight the army of Master Hands.
After the Master Hands begin turning into energy for Galeem to absorb, Shulk experiences a vision of the future, where all of the fighters are annihilated and the universe engulfed in light. Shulk turns back attempting to warn everyone, but remains speechless. Unfortunately, his vision comes true when Galeem unleashes a shower of light that vaporizes Shulk off-screen and imprisons him with the rest of the fighters except for Kirby.
In the mode proper, he can be found right over a cliff that leads to a waterfall. The area Shulk can be found at is rocky and grassy with many water features, reminiscent to the appearance of Gaur Plain. The Camilla spirit must be defeated right before he can be challenged.
Shulk's Fighter Spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 500 coins. Unlocking Shulk in World of Light allows the player to preview the spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a Fighter Spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. Each Fighter Spirit has an alternate version that replaces them with their artwork in Ultimate.
In Spirit battles
As the main opponent
As a minion
Character Showcase Video