Wobbling is an infinite combo exclusive to the Ice Climbers in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Opponents cannot break out of Popo's grab and will continuously get hit by Nana. The technique can be performed on all characters in the game except against another pair of Ice Climbers. Wobbling received its name as a reference to American smasher and Ice Climbers main Wobbles, with Ken coining the term after Wobbles claimed 9th place in NCT2 with considerable use of the technique.
While his name is attached to the technique, Wobbles did not actually discover Wobbling; he learned of the technique's existence after watching videos of Japanese Ice Climbers players.
Although only the Ice Climbers can perform true wobbling, the term "wobble" is sometimes used by competitive players as a pejorative term for any guaranteed, powerful combo that is very easy to perform.
In team games, a team wobble can be performed by having one player grab the enemy while the teammate attacks, in a similar fashion to the normal wobble. However, this can only be done reliably in a 2 vs. 1 situation and requires good spacing from the attacker; it is therefore uncommon.
In Super Smash Bros. Melee
Wobbling begins with a grab by Popo. Following this, the Ice Climbers player must use one of many methods to desynch the Ice Climbers, and have Popo pummel while Nana forward tilts or down tilts. This is achieved by slowly tilting the Control Stick in the middle of Popo's pummel animation; if done too fast, either Popo will throw the opponent or Nana will knock them away with a smash attack. While the aforementioned tilts are easiest and most dominant for wobbling, wobbling can also be done with staled forward smash and down smash, back air, neutral air in conjunction with back air, back air in conjunction with up tilt, or any other move that allows for proper rhythm to be had to keep the opponent in a special form of grab hitstun during the grab. If done correctly, Popo and Nana will hit the enemy repeatedly in an alternating rhythm (exactly 200 BPM) which cannot be escaped. This can lead to a KO if Nana performs a non-stale smash attack after sufficient damage has been inflicted.
In addition to standard Wobbling, a variation called Blizzobbling can also be performed, where Nana instead uses Blizzard to attack opponents instead of using a tilt. Like Wobbling, it is also inescapable.
Wobbling works by the existence of a mechanics exploit in Melee. When an opponent is grabbed, they cannot get out of the grab while they are in a special form of grab hitstun. In conjunction with any move that does damage and can go in rhythm with pummels, easiest with ftilt and dtilt, the opponent will constantly be in this form of hitstun and unable to escape the grab, allowing the wobble to work.
In later titles
Wobbling is impossible to perform in Brawl, due to changes in the game's grab mechanics. Despite this, the Ice Climbers gained a new, infinite chain grab that, while more difficult to perform, still guarantees a KO if properly performed. Although the technique acts differently from wobbling, it is still often referred to as “wobbling” by competitive players. In Melee, Ice Climbers players almost never drop a wobble, but because the new chaingrabs are more technically demanding, Brawl Ice Climbers players were known to frequently drop the guaranteed combo in tournament. As such, the loss of wobbling is technically a nerf to the Ice Climbers. However, the Ice Climbers are considered far more tournament viable in Brawl, and were recognized as the second best character in the game behind Meta Knight. This is because the game’s reduced shield lag, buffed powershield, and the removal of advanced movement options such as wavedashing made it much easier for the Ice Climbers to land a grab.
In Ultimate, Nana can no longer act at all when Popo grabs opponents (and instead cheers for him) unless she is in the air, meaning that even if the grab mechanics were unaltered from Melee, wobbling would be impossible to perform.
The term "wobbling" is also loosely used to refer to indefinite or long lasting chains of the same attack, which is usually made possible by certain stage elements. For example, in Ultimate Isabelle has a pseudo-infinite with her jab when hitting opponents at an edge, due to it possessing low knockback and a high hitstun modifier, and should the victim fail to SDI out of it the combo can last until absurdly high percentages.
In competitive play
Due to its perceived overpowering potential, Wobbling has been a controversial technique within the Melee community, and there is debate over whether or not the technique should be banned. Stalling is universally banned when done to explicitly delay tournaments, and as such, wobbling performed past a percent which guarantees a kill (usually 300 percent) is always forbidden.
Supporters of a full ban claim that the technique is too powerful, as it is inescapable and almost always leads to a KO. They argue that wobbling's guaranteed stock loss punishes opponents too severely for making small mistakes, and forces opponents into a playstyle of avoiding the grab at all costs, which creates frustrating and overcentralizing gameplay. Supporters of a ban also note that there are other ways for the Ice Climbers to punish off a grab, such as their hand-off chain grabs, which are more difficult to perform and have a higher chance of being dropped due to a misinput by the performer. They also claim that Wobbling is an uninteresting technique to watch in matches, potentially deterring spectators from wanting to view streamed matches where wobbling is taking place.
Opponents of a ban claim that Wobbling is a legitimate tactic, acting no different from other zero-to-death combos, such as Fox's shine spike at the edge, Marth's back throw to down tilt edgeguard on the space animals, and Jigglypuff's up throw to Rest combo on the space animals. As Wobbling itself requires falling into the Ice Climbers' below-average grab range, they argue that consistently being Wobbled or losing matches solely to Wobbling also reflects poor fundamental play and matchup experience. Opponents of the ban also argue that Wobbling compensates for the many weaknesses that the Ice Climbers have at top-level play, such as their poor aerial combat, and that all characters, Ice Climbers included, should be allowed to have as many advantages as possible to succeed. They point out that Wobbling can allow for upsets to occur in tournaments, and improves character diversity at top-level play (for example, by improving Peach's tournament viability, as she is considered the hardest counter to the Ice Climbers). At EVO 2013, for instance, Wobbles defeated several top-level players en route to a second-place finish, including Lord, Shroomed, PPMD, Hungrybox, and Mango.
History of wobbling bans
Prior to 2013, when Melee communities were more scattered, every tournament had their own stance on wobbling; some tournaments allowed the technique, while others banned it. Following EVO 2013 (where wobbling was legal), and Melee's ensuing rise in popularity, tournament rulesets generally became more unified, and as a result, wobbling was legal at nearly all tournaments form 2013 to the beginning of 2019. Juggleguy was well-known as a fierce opposer of legalizing wobbling, and he banned it at his events in Michigan, including The Big House. He eventually decided to allow wobbling at his events, arguing that Michigan smashers needed practice fighting against the technique should they choose to compete in other regions.
However, in 2018, around the time of the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the discussion regarding wobbling started to grow again, and more and more Melee community members began to support a wobbling ban, beginning to outnumber those opposed to a ban for the first time. The "Platinum Age" saw an increasing amount of top-level Ice Climbers mains using wobbling to make deep bracket runs at major tournaments, including ChuDat, Nintendude, dizzkidboogie, InfiniteNumbers, Bananas, and ARMY, upsetting many players on their way. As wobbling's presence in Melee grew, many players were concerned about the long-term health of the game, arguing that the unpopularity of wobbling would both discourage players from competing and turn away spectators at major tournaments; top players were known to often grow extremely frustrated when fighting the Ice Climbers. Many top players, including Axe and n0ne, openly supported a wobbling ban.
In early 2019, the pro-ban movement gradually began to take off as local and regional tournament scenes began banning wobbling at their events. On February 8th, 2019, the Tennessee Smash Community made a reddit post announcing that wobbling would be banned at tournaments in several Tennessee cities. The official ruleset limited the Ice Climbers, upon grabbing the opponent, to eight separate attacks before regrabbing; violating these rules would result in a warning, game loss, or set loss at the tournament organizer's discretion. As news of the ban spread around the Melee community, other regions began announcing their own bans of various degrees, including Georgia, Maryland/Virginia, Mississippi, Chicago, and the United Kingdom.
Get On My Level 2019 was the first major to officially announce a wobbling ban. Throughout 2019 and 2020, various majors announced their own bans of the technique, including Low Tier City 7, The Big House 9, Pound 2020, and Smash World Tour. Today, wobbling is banned at most tournaments, although some smaller events may choose to legalize the technique at their own discretion.
"Wobbler" is a slang term used to refer to an Ice Climbers player who relies heavily on landing a grab to wobble their opponent.