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Tournament rulesets (SSBB)

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This is the ruleset for Brawl. For other rulesets and general info on tournament legal settings, see Tournament rulesets.

Tournament legal describes the rules and settings that are accepted for use in competitive Smash tournaments by the American and Canadian Smash communities. In Brawl, the competitive community is extremely divided on what constitutes a proper ruleset (particularly about the legal stagelist), and many players in the community have been vehemently opposed to attempts to create a standardized ruleset from the Brawl Back Room and Unity Ruleset Committee. So unlike Melee and Smash 4, there is no "standard ruleset" that is consistently seen across all Brawl tournaments. While the general format remains the same (3 stock, no items, no broken stages), the specific rules of Brawl tournaments differ from tournament to tournament.

General universal rules[edit]

  • 3 stock.
  • 8 minutes.*
  • Items are turned to off and none.
  • Pause is disabled.**
  • A ledge grab limit of some number***. If a match goes to time, the end of match statistics are used to see how many times each player grabbed the ledge, and if a player exceeded the ledge grab limit, they lose the match regardless of stock or percent lead (if both players exceed the limit however, normal time out rules apply). This rule is implemented to limit planking.
  • Stalling is banned. Stalling is intentionally making the game unplayable; examples include becoming invisible, continuing infinites, chain grabs, or uninterruptible moves past 300%, and reaching a position that cannot be reached by the opponent.
  • Any action that can prevent the game from continuing (i.e., freezing, disappearing characters, game reset, etc.) will result in a forfeit of that match for the player that initiated the action. Players are responsible for being aware of these possibilities.
  • If time runs out, and neither player exceeds the ledge grab limit or both exceed the limit, the winner is determined by remaining stock, and then by ending damage percentage.
    • If both stock and percentage are identical, or a game ends with both players being KO'd simultaneously, then a tiebreaker is played. A tiebreaker is a 1 stock, 3 minute match with the same characters and the same stage.

*Some tournaments use a 10 minute timer instead.

**This rule isn't strictly enforced, and as such, a rule regarding accidental pausing is enacted.

***The ledge grab limit is typically between 30 to 50 ledge grabs, and sometimes Meta Knight is given a lower ledge grab limit of around 10 to 15 less ledge grabs (though is usually only done in tournaments that run a higher ledge grab limit).

Universal Doubles rules[edit]

  • Double Meta Knight is banned; tournaments that keep Meta Knight legal will not allow players on the same team to both use Meta Knight.
  • Team attack is on.
  • Sharing stocks is allowed.
  • If time runs out and either player on a team breaks their ledge grab limit, their team loses. If players on both teams exceed the limit this rule is ignored.
  • If the clock expires and the total number of stocks of each team is equal, use the sum of the final percentage of the players on each team as the tiebreaker; whichever team has a lower sum wins. (A player who has been eliminated has 0 stocks and 0%).

Miscellaneous rules[edit]

The following are miscellaneous gameplay rules that see usage at tournaments.

  • Banning Meta Knight: Usage of Meta Knight in any capacity is not allowed in the tournament. If a player chooses random and gets Meta Knight that way, they will be required to restart the match until they don’t get Meta Knight through random. This rule is implemented either due to the TO believing Meta Knight to be broken/overcentralising, wanting to host a tournament that presents something different, or just to appease the tournament's attendees. The rule's usage varies greatly from region to region as Meta Knight's legality is one of the most controversial and divided subjects in the Brawl competitive community; Meta Knight is commonly banned in Southern regions such as Texas, but is usually not banned in the Tristate Area, for example. On the whole though, Meta Knight has usually not been banned in more significant tournaments.
  • The Gentleman Rule: The most basic form of the rule dictates players may play on any stage, including banned stages, if all players in the match agree to it. While rarely actually used to play on banned stages (as even if a player wanted to play on a banned stage, it's highly unlikely the opponent would agree to it), the rule is often used by players in game one of sets to bypass stage striking (by a player suggesting a starter stage to just go to, typically Smashville, which the opponent then agrees to or refuses and stage strikes). The rule also sees frequent use when a player faces off against a player of a much lower skill level (and usually much younger), where the player allows the lower skilled player to choose any stage they want to play on, whether as a sign of courtesy and/or the player not seeing their opponent as a threat and thus not caring about the stage chosen. The rule is near universally seen, and even if the rules don't explicitly allow it, players often enact it regardless of if it's written in the rules or not. While TOs usually don't impose any restrictions on the Gentleman Rule, they may occasionally explicitly disallow banned stages from being played on at all regardless of the rule.
  • The Colorblind Rule: During doubles matches, if either team has Lucario, Sonic, or the Pokémon Trainer on their team, a player on either team can invoke this rule to choose the team colors of their team and the opposing team, so that they can more easily discern team colors between both sides whenever they are actually colorblind. This rule is implemented due to the subtle color differences in those characters' team palette swaps that can make it difficult for players to discern them between a teammate and opponent in the heat of a match. Also, while the use of texture hacks is often discouraged in tournaments, it's acceptable to use simple full color texture hacks on these characters' team palettes to make their color differences obvious. The colorblind rule sees universal usage.
  • The Suicide Rule: If a match ends by both remaining players losing their last stock at the same time due to a suicide move (such as by Bowser's Flying Slam and Ganondorf's aerial Flame Choke), then the initiator of the suicide move is considered the winner of the match regardless of what the results screen says, and no tiebreaker is played. Early on in competitive Brawl's life this rule was just used with the aforementioned Flying Slam and Flame Choke suicide finishes, but the rule later been used for all suicide KO moves. This rule is implemented as it is generally seen that the player initiating a suicide move had the advantage at the match's end, and the fact the game's inconsistent handling of suicide KO moves is considered unfair and nonsensical (for example, Bowser's Flying Slam uses port priority to determine if Bowser wins, and Ganondorf's Flame Choke is simply unpredictable with whether it'll initiate Sudden Death or declare Ganondorf the loser). While the rule is often used, it's not universal, as some players maintain that the winner of the match should be what the game declares.
  • Banning of Scrooging: The act of scrooging (where a player glides underneath the stage to the other side) is often limited or banned in tournaments, especially those that keep Meta Knight legal, due to its capacity to easily stall time. The rule will either forbid Meta Knight from scrooging twice without landing on the stage in-between, or ban any use of scrooging altogether.
  • Banning of certain infinites: While tournament keep the usage of zero-deaths and infinites legal, some tournaments will ban certain infinites/zero-deaths deemed to be too powerful and easy to use, such as King Dedede's standing infinite chain throw and Marth's zero-death chain grab release on the PK kids. While more common in early Brawl, such rules fell out of favor and were rarely seen in tournaments outside some fringe locals, with tournaments generally making it clear that all infinites and zero-deaths are legal. The only rule against infinites that tournaments typically run is that a player can't continue one well beyond reasonable KO percentage (usually listed as 300%).
  • Air Time Rule: Instead of using a ledge grab limit, tournaments may try to limit planking (and air camping) by using an Air Time Rule. The rule dictates that if a match goes to the time, the end of match statistics are viewed to see how long each player was in the air, and the player with the greater air time is declared the loser regardless of remaining stock and damage. While the rule is common in Japan and Mexico, the rule doesn't see real usage elsewhere, as players in other countries heavily criticise the rule (for things such as heavily favoring ground-based characters, overriding the game's usual time out ruling, and the fact it can reward victory to a player who was clearly outplayed while no real planking (or even camping) was going on), and instead vastly prefer using a ledge grab limit to limit planking.

Set format[edit]

Tournament sets typically progress in the following manner.

  1. Player priority is agreed on (or determined).
  2. Each team selects players' controller ports. In doubles, the teammate of the player that picks first must pick last (i.e. selection is in the order 1-2-2-1).
  3. Each team selects a character. Any player may enforce a double-blind pick (where all players tell a third party their character choice or write their character choice down, and then select the character they said they would choose, where the third party then enforces the prior announced character choices).
  4. The first stage is selected from the list of starter stages, either through mutual agreement, or by stage striking.*
  5. The first game is played.
  6. The loser of the game may opt to repick controller ports, starting with themselves.
  7. The winner of the game may ban a stage if they have not already done so in the set.**
  8. The loser of the game chooses a stage from the list of starter and counterpick stages. A stage cannot be chosen if the other side has banned it or the chooser has already won on the stage in this match.***
  9. The winner selects their character.
  10. The loser selects their character.
  11. The next game is played.
  12. Repeat from step 6 until the sufficient amount of games have been played to determine a winner.

*Stage striking either proceeds in a 1-2-1-2-etc. order, or a 1-2-2-1 order, with the players each getting one more initial strike for every 2 stage increase in the starter list.

**Tournaments will occasionally implement two stage bans, especially if a larger stage list is being used and/or Dave's Stupid Rule isn't being implemented.

***Known as Dave's Stupid Rule, a player cannot choose a stage they won on prior. While often used, sometimes an additional stage ban is used instead of enforcing Dave's Stupid Rule.

Player priority[edit]

The team that initiates the stage-striking procedure is always the team that did not initiate the controller port selection. If there is a dispute over who does which, then either rock-paper-scissors, a coin flip, or seeing which player gets the higher number from Judge in-game, will determine it - the winner gets to choose whether they wish to pick ports or start the stage striking.


For an explanation as to why stages are counter-picked or banned, see Stage legality.

The stagelist is the most heavily disputed area of Brawl rulesets, with there being little universal agreement on what constitutes a legal or starter stage, with some stages more heavily disputed than others. As such, this section will categorise stages based on their status across various different Brawl tournaments.

Stages are divided up in tournaments into starter, counterpick, and banned. Starter stages are the only stages that are used in the first game of a match. After that, the loser may pick any stage, starter or counterpick, that is not banned. Each player also gets to ban the opponent from choosing a stage throughout the whole set, as explained prior in the set procedure.

Some tournaments throw out the idea of starters and counterpicks, and instead just have players strike from the entire legal stagelist for game 1, though such tournaments are uncommon and this is never done in major tournaments.

Universal starters[edit]

The following three stages are on the starter lists of virtually all tournaments, and if a tournament runs a three-stage starter list, such as in the Japanese ruleset, it will typically contain these three stages (though Final Destination is occasionally swapped for Yoshi's Island on three-stage starter lists and is relegated to being a counterpick).

Near-universal starter/Universal counterpick[edit]

Yoshi's Island is universally seen in five stage starter lists, though Final Destination is often chosen over it in the less common three stage starter lists. If it isn't a starter, it's still always allowed as a counterpick, leaving the stage universally legal.

Other common starters/Universal counterpick[edit]

One of the following two stages is often seen in the common five stage starter lists in conjunction with the above stages (with Lylat Cruise being the more common fifth starter stage), and both stages are universally seen on the starter lists of the less common seven stage starter lists. When not a starter, both of these stages are always allowed as a counterpick, leaving these stages universally legal.

Uncommon starter/Near-universal counterpick[edit]

Castle Siege is never seen as a starter stage on three and five stage starter lists, though when tournaments run a seven stage starter list, Castle Siege is the universal seventh starter. If not a starter, it's a near-universal counterpick that is very common to see legal, though especially restrictive stagelists, such as the Japanese ruleset, may ban it.

Common counterpicks[edit]

The following three stages are common counterpicks that are seen legal in most tournaments, though especially restrictive stagelists may ban them. Noteworthy is that many consider Meta Knight too powerful on these stages, and so Meta Knight-banned tournaments tend to keep these stages universally legal (as the main reason for banning these stages is Meta Knight's prowess on them). In tournaments that keep Meta Knight legal, the TO may opt to ban only one or two of these stages (thus allowing players opposing Meta Knight to use their stage ban on the remaining stage to prevent Meta Knight from exploiting it, while still allowing the stage to be used in other matches). Alternatively, these stages may be kept legal, but a rule is enacted that bans Meta Knight players from choosing these stages (while allowing opponents facing Meta Knight to counterpick these stages if they choose so).

Disputed counterpick[edit]

Pokémon Stadium 2 is perhaps the most disputed stage in Brawl, with the competitive community's views on it sharply divided. While it is almost never seen legal in more stage conservative regions such as the Tristate Area, as many players in these regions see it on the level of the universally banned stages, it often sees usage in more stage liberal regions such as the midwest and Canada, where it is seen as a perfectly fine and neutral stage, and some TOs, who vehemently support it, adamantly kept it legal. Nowadays, some tournaments will run Frozen Pokémon Stadium 2, but these tournaments are mostly online.

Legality dependent on Meta Knight's legality[edit]

Whether the two stages are legal or not is dependent on whether Meta Knight is legal. As Meta Knight is seen to have such an extreme advantage on these stages, they are universally banned in tournaments that keep Meta Knight legal. Tournaments that ban Meta Knight may have these stages as legal counterpicks, though even when Meta Knight is banned, they aren't too common.

Near-universally banned[edit]

The following stages were never seen in major tournaments beyond early Brawl, and were rarely seen even in locals after the first two years of competitive play. Some smaller tournaments though may have one or more of these stages legal, whether to experiment, or the TO having a more liberal definition of what constitutes a legal counterpick.

Universally banned[edit]

The following stages are never legal in any serious tournament, and are only ever seen legal in explicitly casual events (such as All Brawl side events).

Additionally, the sample stages included with Brawl to demonstrate the Stage Builder are not considered official stages, and are thus banned by default. (Nevertheless, it is very easy to reason why the stages would be banned anyway were they to be competitively considered.)

General universal player conduct rules[edit]

The following are general rules tournaments have regarding player conduct. How strictly they're enforced depends on the TO however.

  • Players are expected to bring their own controller and be prepared for every tournament set (often known as BYOC; Bring Your Own Controller), though tournaments may occasionally have a few controllers that players can borrow.
  • If pausing is left on, and a player pauses, the pausing player generally must forfeit their current stock immediately; some tournaments only require players to forfeit upon their opponent's request, while other rulesets force any pausing player to forfeit regardless of the opponent's request. There are a few tournaments, however, where a TO must resolve the situation in the following way. Unpausing before a TO arrives and without the opposing player's consent typically results in a loss of stock for the unpauser.
    • If the situation is neutral, the match is resumed with no further action once all players are ready.
    • If the player who paused is at a disadvantage, once the game resumes they are to be placed either on the edge of the stage or in an opponent's grab if they were being chain grabbed.
    • If the player who paused is in a "death situation", their current stock is forfeited immediately.
  • Players who use the Wii Remote must take the batteries out of the Wii Remote when not playing; lingering Wiimotes may interfere with the controls of a Wii they're connected to and disrupt a match. If problems persist, the offender may be disqualified.
  • Players are responsible for their own controls and name tag. Any malfunctions (including battery power) is the player's responsibility. Both sides must agree to restart a match because of such a problem.
  • No substitutions are allowed for singles or doubles.
  • DQ Rule: Arriving too late for a match will result in a DQ. Player(s) will usually have between 5 to 10 minutes to show up, and if they fail to do so without getting prior TO consent to be late, will result in a loss of the first match. 5 to 10 more minutes without showing up results in a loss of the entire set. For doubles, both players on a team need to be present in order to play.
  • The tournament organizer has the right to save/record any tournament match if possible and has the right to upload said match.

Other player conduct rules[edit]

The following rules are commonly seen in tournaments, though TOs may opt against implementing one or multiple of them.

  • Intentional forfeiting, match fixing, splitting, and any other forms of bracket manipulation is not allowed and punishable by the TO, typically by automatic DQ, denial of prize money, and potentially being banned from future tournaments.
  • During gameplay, any coaching parties must remain a finite distance determined by the TO away from the players in order to give players equal access to all coached information. Ear-side coaching may be prohibited during games but acceptable between games. Failure to adhere to this will lead to punishment at the TO's discretion, which could include the coach's removal from the venue or a call to replay the game that the coaching interfered with.
  • Disrupting an opponent physically or intending to disrupt their play (through something such as screaming in a player's ear) will result in a warning. Repeated action may result in disqualification from the tournament and possibly ejection from the venue. Observers who physically disrupt players are dealt with as the Tournament Organiser sees fit. Disqualification is the most common recourse, as well as ejection. While physically disrupting another player is never allowed, the TO may not enforce against disrupting an opposing player through nonphysical means (such as via shouting).
  • Regarding textures and other game hacks:
    • If texture hacks aren't completely forbidden, players may request that any texture, stage, or other hacks to be disabled during a tournament set. If this is unable to be done, they may switch to a different setup if available.
    • When such hacks are allowed, intrusive texture and stage hacks are explicitly disallowed.
    • Players are not allowed to use any game-altering hacks, such as no-tripping or moveset hacks. Someone caught setting up a system they brought with such hacks enabled can face punishment at the TO's discretion.

General handling of pool ties[edit]

In the event two or more players are tied at the conclusion of a round of pools at a tournament, the following is the typical procedure TOs follow:

  • Players will be compared with each other on various criteria in this ordered precedence: Set Wins, Head to Head, Wins, Losses, and One Game Rematch.
  • If players are still tied on a step, the TO moves down to the next one. For instance, if Player A and B both go 3-2 in sets in a round of pools, the TO will then proceed to the Head to Head step (who won the set between those players). Whoever won vs the other will proceed at the top of the tie.
  • If Head to Head can not decide a tie, then the TO would move down to the Wins step. This may occur in a three way tie where all three players defeated each other (however note that if one person in a three way tie defeats both other players, then the Head to Head comparison will be used).
  • If the tie breaker reaches all the way to the One Game Rematch step, this game will play out similar to the first game of any set (though doing best of one), where users will stage strike for the stage, and may double blind characters.
  • If at any point a tie of three or more players is partially resolved, still leaving two or more players tied, the tie between the remaining players will be decided by starting the tie breaker process over for them. For instance, if in a three way tie in the Wins step, one player has six wins while the others have 5, the player with 6 wins will be the top of the 3. The remaining two players will start back at Sets Wins to determine who is higher between the two instead of proceeding onto the Losses step right away.

See also[edit]