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Get Your Head Out of the Clouds! (Banning Cloud in Smash 4 Doubles)

Hey everyone and welcome to my first article! (If you'd prefer to listen to all this information instead of reading it, check out the video here.)

If you have been keeping up with SM4SH, you know that right now there is a lot of drama going on in regards to Cloud in doubles. Many top players are starting to voice their opinions about how cloud is making doubles boring/not worth playing due to how he is centralizing the doubles metagame. This due to the fact that he has an excellent combo game, incredible movement speed, some of the largest disjointed moves in the game, in addition to a move that can kill people around 60% if their teammate throws towards them. We are going to be discussing all the data behind how often cloud is showing up in top 8s and how frequently he is taking home the gold. All of the data presented was collected from tournaments listed as majors on ssbwiki up until SSC. Without further adieu, let's talk about the stats.

I want to discuss a quote from Sirlin, a game designer, before we move forward. It should be noted that he was lead designer of Street Fighter HD and has helped run Evo for years.

"Only in the most extreme, rare cases should something be banned because it is 'too good'. This will be the most common type of ban requested by players, and almost all of their requests will be foolish. Banning a tactic simply because it is 'the best' isn’t even warranted. That only reduces the game to all the 'second best' tactics, which isn’t necessarily any better of a game than the original game. In fact, it’s often worse!"

It's important to note, as we move forward looking at the data, that we are looking for something that is not just better than everything else, but it centralizes the game into either you playing Cloud or a counter to him (I.E. a character that is very good at edge guarding). The quote above stresses the fact that we shouldn't be banning something just because it is perceived as the best, it's when there is no good reason for you to rely on characters you would normally play if you can just go Cloud. There was attempts at banning Meta Knight in Brawl that had very little (to no) success at all due to players not wanting to travel to events that had the ban, and we actually did see a ruling going through that did ban double MK, but I feel like we are in a different situation than Brawl doubles which I will explain later.

First, we will be looking at the data collected by myself and Seraphy to show how often Cloud has showed up in Top 8s at majors in doubles.

This will give us a way to see the usage in the year and a half that all the characters have been in the game. Starting off with the most representation is Cloud, with 191 appearances. The next person comes in with 107 less appearances than Cloud, and that will be Sheik at 84. Following after is Diddy Kong at 76, Mario at 74 and Bayonetta at 60. After this, the list dips down to Zero Suit Samus at 36 and continues a slow downward trend for most characters until you run to 0, where there are 9 characters who have yet to make Top 8 appearance at any major. These statistics show that Cloud has appeared in Top 8s more frequently than Sheik & Diddy combined. It should be noted that there are only 2 recorded majors that Cloud has not been a part of Top 8 for doubles and that was FOW and KTAR Saga. That means Cloud has been a part of every Top 8 for over a year.

As these stats show, Cloud is seeing an enormously high pick rate amongst the 16 players who make it into each Top 8. In 2016, Cloud was on average picked by 3.04 of the 16 players in Top 8, with that average rising to 4.16 for 2017.  The highest recorded number of Clouds in a specific Top 8 was at GOML 2017 with 7 of the 16 players choosing him. The highest amount of a specific character used in doubles that isn't Cloud is a tie between Marth & Sheik with 4 out of 16 players using them at some point in Top 8. Lastly, with all the recorded Top 8s, we see Cloud being picked 191 times with there being a total of 816 players being a part of doubles Top 8 at majors. This means that Cloud's pick rate by Top 8 players since the last DLC was released is 23.4% in regards to characters used in Top 8.

Next, we are going to delve specifically into who is a part of the winning teams of the majors.

Cloud's number of wins is just under 3 times higher than the character with the next highest amount of wins. When compared to everyone else, Cloud only has 15 less wins than everyone else combined. This data also shows us that he is part of the winning team at a major 42.86% of the time.

As you would expect, MKLeo contributes the most wins with Cloud at 13 major doubles wins. Nairo is close behind with 11, Komo at 9 and M2K rounds out the Top 4 with 6 wins.

So, if we remove the Top 3 Clouds in teams, you still have a character that has won more doubles majors than any other on the roster.

We also need to dispel the myth that we can fix the problem by banning double Cloud teams. Double Cloud has won 10 of the recorded 52 majors and we have seen MKLeo be a part of all of those teams. This is my argument to why I don't think a ban on just double Cloud fixes anything other than making either Leo or his teammate play someone else (which we see he has success with his static partner Javi going Sheik). I think the reason we are seeing such a high success rate of double Cloud in comparison to any other team is just because, right now, MKLeo might be the best doubles player in the world. If you looked at the stats of 2016, you might have said Diddy with ZSS/Lucina/Cloud was broken because of how Zero and Nairo at the time were considered the best. You aren't fixing our current problem with the win rate by just hurting MKLeo slightly. It's much larger than just him winning with a Cloud teammate. Unlike Brawl, this double Cloud team is a problem for one player who is just the best at teams and also plays Cloud. It's not that two of the character are running rampant anywhere else. Outside of MKLeo's wins, we don't see that many instances of double Cloud in Top 8 anywhere.

Lastly, My Opinion:

After looking at a lot of the data, I noticed tournaments that would not be considered S/A-tier were the ones listed as majors that brought down Cloud's average usage. Another interesting thing to note is that the Clouds were usually top heavy when it came to Top 8s. That meaning that I was much more likely to find Clouds in the top 3/4 placing teams vs. the bottom half of Top 8. With all that information presented above, along with the discontent from top players consistently across the board, I have come to the conclusion that it's time to try out a ban on Cloud in doubles. I hate that there will be people who will learn that their main is someone who can't be used in doubles because I've always been a stickler of "Don't complain, adapt" when it comes to things being the best or overwhelmingly good, but at this point, nothing is coming close to having the same record Cloud does and it's becoming common to discuss how to beat Cloud in doubles and team compositions seem to start shifting towards that. I believe this should be instigated in the next PGR season so that there isn't the problem of people being booked for an event coming soon that changes its rules and then those people demand refunds. I do not feel like anything is lost waiting for a bit to make sure no one has events change rules on them last minute and we give it one last shot at trying to adjust to Cloud existing in doubles.

I want to make it clear that this is my opinion coming from being a spectator and mid-level player. I think this is a topic that needs a long, thought-out discussion before any decisions are made because we will be setting the precedent of having banned something in SM4SH related to characters, not just stages.

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