Football has Monday Morning Quarterback. Melee has Monday Morning Marth. Now get ready for Monday Tuesday Morning Pikachu, here to tackle the topic on all your minds in January - Super Smash Con.

Everyone wants to make top 8 at SSC and play on the big stage, but what does it take to get there? There are some players that we expect to be a shoo-in to make it any year they’re there,, like Isai, SuPeRbOoMfAn, Kurabba, Wario, and (recently) Nax. But there are rarely 8 players of this caliber in attendance, leaving 1 or 2 spots open for the much larger group of players on the bubble. Some examples of those who went the distance include Josh Brody in 2019, Shihman in 2022, and Stranded in 2023. I’m going to group these players by character, and look at who you’d need to beat if you want to take that spot.

Group 1 - Yoshi Mains

Examples include Shihman, Tacos, Stranded, and Take. These players often have secondaries, but they tend to be somewhat erratic in how they use them, with Kirby being the most frequent target for a character switch. They’ve had a strong track record recently, and with 4 (5 if you count Kero) Yoshi players in top 8 at SSC 2023 and Shihman right behind them at 9th, Yoshi stock is at an all-time high.

Group 2 - Falcon-led Dual/Tri Mains

Examples include Zero, KD3, Dogs Johnson, and JaimeHR. These players are strongest with Falcon, but they’ve developed their other top tiers to the point that they’re co-mains. They tend to use Pikachu a lot more than those in Group 1, and they’re far more likely to play the Pika ditto and use him in more obscure matchups like Mario or Puff.

These players vary widely in how much they like the Falcon ditto, from considering it their best matchup (Dogs) to avoiding it entirely (Lowww). Despite their strong co-mains, they tend to get their best wins with Falcon, often against Pikachu players. This setup is very popular among American players (many of whom start out as falcon mains), and while we haven’t seen a Group 2 player make top 8 in a few years, they’re very numerous in the 9th and 13th spots and have the skill to break through with the right bracket.

Group 3 - Pikachu Solo Mains

Examples include Josh Brody, Maha, Joshi, and Kix. These players are the least likely to have secondaries of the 3 groups, only occasionally pulling out a Kirby if their backs are against the wall. They tend to have the edge in Pika dittos against players of the other two groups, but sometimes struggle against either Yoshi or Falcon. Peruvian Pikachu players like Alvin and Joshi often have a lack of experience against Yoshi, and Pikas from Japan are sometimes surprised by Falcon’s popularity overseas, which can be tough for them combined with the version differences. The best role model for Group 3 players looking to make a run might be KeroKeroppi, who broke out from 9th at SSC 2016 and 2018 to a string of top 8 finishes in ‘19, ‘22, and ‘23, using almost exclusively Pikachu. The path is there for the next Pikachu player that can put all the puzzle pieces together.

On Kirby

People might be wondering, “Where are the kirby mains?”, and it’s a reasonable question. Kirby’s had a bit of a rough run since the glory days of Fukurou crushing the competition in 2017, and he’s never been especially popular as a main at the bubble level. Laying out the groups this way shows why that might be, as all 3 groups commonly use Pikachu against him, a matchup Kirby players rarely enjoy.

On the other hand, in 2023 we saw Falcon mains like Dogs and Jaime trending closer towards using falcon in every set, yoshi mains’ secondaries are as random as always, and Pikachu mains may be starting to get complacent in the matchup. If a Kirby player can make a breakthrough in the rat matchup and has the stamina to play it again and again, there is room to see a Kirby main on the big stage.

Mid and Low Tiers

SSC 23 saw two players make top 32 using characters outside the big 4 as their primary weapon, Fray on Ness and Waxy:Joe on Jigglypuff. KD3 also deserves a mention for using Puff in multiple D1 sets. 2022 had a few more, with Fray’s Ness and CTG’s Puff joined by Raychu on Ness and Freean on Luigi.

While being comfortable against these characters is definitely a prerequisite for a top 8 run, their best result between the two post-pandemic years was Raychu’s ‘22 17th place; going further than that will require beating some Group 1-3 players no matter who you’re using.

Wrapping Up

So what does it take to make top 8 in 2023? First off, a strong foundation, being able to rise through D2 without issues and being comfortable against the weaker characters, especially Ness and Jigglypuff. Then, you’ll need to be ready for the 3 main groups. If you’re a solo main, it’s as simple as being ready to fight Yoshi, Falcon, Pikachu, and Kirby.

If you play multiple characters though, you’ll need to be ready for each group. Who do you play against a Yoshi with a Fox secondary? What’s your double-blind pick for a Falcon tri-main that’s good at the ditto? Who are you relying on against a Peruvian Pika? If you’re looking to make a run to top 8, it’s never too early to start thinking about those answers. See you guys on Dreamland.