Super Smash Bros Competitive Tournament Do’s and Don’ts Guide
Hi there! I’m Full_Bloom, aka. Derps, a longtime tournament smash player from New Jersey. With the release of Smash Ultimate, a lot of new players are looking to get into the competitive scene and attend a tournament. If you are on the fence, I’d encourage you to try them out. While the competition can be tough, the friends you’ll make, skills you’ll learn, and experiences that you’ll remember will make it worth it.
Here is a pretty comprehensive list of things I’d say to do and don’t do at your first tournament. I tried not to assume anything about how much you do or don’t know already, so please forgive me if some of these comes across as obvious. I hope this guide can alert you to at least one thing you hadn’t thought about already, and calm any nerves you may have about attending your first tournament. If you are adequately prepared, know how the rules of the scene and the tournament function, and keep a positive mindset, you’ll have a great first tournament experience.
- The night before the tournament, get a good night’s sleep so that you can be alert and awake for when you have to compete.
- Likewise, eat a good breakfast/lunch/dinner. You’ll need a lot of energy.
- Shower, wear deodorant, and brush your teeth beforehand. It is unfortunately necessary to say this because some Smash players are less than good at it. Please be hygienic.
- Show up early. Most of the time the registration for the bracket closes somewhere between 15 mins to an hour before the start of the tournament. I’d recommend showing up at least an hour or more before the start of the tournament if you want to get some time to play friendly, non-tournament games (aka “friendlies”).
- Bring your own controller, and a backup, if you have it. You are expected to have your own controller and keep track of it. A backup is good for peace of mind, in case it breaks.
- Bring water and some snacks. Tournaments can be pretty long, and it is important to stay hydrated. Some tournaments are in venues like game stores where you can often buy food, but not all are.
- Bring cash. Many tournaments accept entry fees with credit cards or debit cards, but some tournaments only accept cash because that cash is used to pay out to the top placers.
- Ask politely for friendlies. When you walk in to the tournament, there will likely be many televisions with people currently playing games at each one. The proper procedure for asking for a friendly is to ask the players in between games or stocks if you could play next game. This is a normal question to ask, and nobody will find it rude or anything. The players playing may say no because they are in the middle of playing a money match (where they bet on the winner of a multiple game set), or because there are already multiple other people waiting to play, and if they do, be respectful and try to find another setup. There should be multiple setups where you are able to get in and play.
- When playing friendlies, if you lose, let the next player waiting to play get in and play. Friendlies at tournaments are
alwaysoften winner-stays-in (EDIT: As many have pointed out in the comments, they are not always winner-stays-in. Sometimes, people play rotations where everyone plays for an equal amount of time, regardless of who wins. If you are in doubt about what kind of rotation you are playing, just ask. Thank you to those in the comments who pointed this out). You can feel free to keep your controller plugged in/connected if you want to wait patiently until you have a chance to play again, or unplug/disconnect your controller and try to find other friendlies.
- Before and during the tournament, locate the Tournament Organizer (TO) and ask them any questions you have. Don’t be shy or worry about looking dumb; TOs love to see new players and should be more than happy to help you out. If you ever have any questions about the rule set, make sure to ask the TO.
- Tournament matches are usually played in best-of-three sets, with 3 stock, a timer between 6-8 minutes, and no items as the preferred rule set for each game. Typically, the procedure goes like this: Both players choose their character, and then work together to choose a stage. Every tournament has a list of stages that are legal to play on the very first game of a set, and (typically) stages that are legal only on the second or third game in a set. Usually, there is a form of stage striking for the first game. Stage striking means that you and your opponent look at the list of acceptable “starter” stages and take turns “striking” ones that you don’t want to play on in the first game. Each player takes turns striking until one stage is left, and then you play the first game on that stage. After the first game, the winner bans stages they don’t want to play on from the list of acceptable stages, then the loser selects a stage from the ones remaining to play on, then the winner can change their character, and finally the the loser can change their character. The same process happens again, if necessary, for game 3. I know that sounded like a lot, but don’t worry. You don’t have to know that whole (admittedly pretty complicated) process in order to enter or play in tournament. Many players will be happy to fill you in about how stage bans and stage striking work. For the exact stage list and rules, ask the TO or check out the event page on Facebook/wherever it is.
- When the set is over, typically the winner of the set reports the outcome of the match to the TO. Virtually all tournaments run a double elimination bracket, meaning that a player must lose two sets before they are eliminated. So if you win, good job! Keep going! And if you lose, don’t worry! You still have another shot!
- Put pressure on yourself. Nobody does well at their first tournament. No matter how good you think you are, I can guarantee there will be people at the tournament who are so good you will think “How I could possibly beat this guy?” That is totally normal. It takes a lot of experience to do well in tournament. For your first tournament, it is much more important to have fun, learn as much as you can, make some friends, and get used to the atmosphere.
- Ask the TO where you are in the bracket and when your match will be called. Almost all tournament now use online brackets that anyone can check from their phone, like on Smash.gg or on Challonge.com. If you have a smartphone, get the link for the bracket and check it on your own if you want to see where you are. If you don’t have a smartphone, ask someone who does.
- As long as you are still in the tournament, don’t leave the venue for any extended period of time without alerting the TO. If you’re going outside to smoke briefly, then you should be fine. But if you are going to leave to get food or otherwise, make sure the TO knows so that they don’t disqualify you for not showing up when they call your match.
- Complain when you lose. There is a famous phrase in the smash community: “No Johns.” This means “Stop making excuses for why you lost, and accept the fact that you lost.” Nobody likes a whiner. If you get frustrated, it is best to take a breather and try to relax. Everybody can get frustrated at times, but try not to make it other people’s problem.
- As an extension of the previous bullet, if you find yourself really frustrated, please do what you can to remove yourself from the situation and calm down. It’s not common, but I’ve seen people throw controllers, stand up, hit chairs, yell, and perform every other kind of salty behavior you can imagine. Please don’t be that guy. Seriously, it’s not cool.
- Be distracting to people playing in tournament. If you’re watching a match and getting excited about it, it is okay to verbalize it with “Let’s go [player I like]!” or otherwise. I’m sure you’ll meet some pretty vocal spectators who like to yell hilarious stuff. But keep it controlled; an outburst or a yell over a very hype moment is a big part of the fun, but save the scream for when it counts.
- And speaking of fun, don’t forget to have fun! This is a game we play for fun after all. Laugh, relax, have a good time, and meet new friends. Most smash players are very friendly and just excited to meet somebody who else plays, especially if they play the same character as you.
Bonus Tips! While not strictly necessary for your first tournament, these are good habits if you want to improve at the game and make the most of your experience:
- When you lose a tournament set, it is acceptable to ask your opponent for tips/help in improving. Most will be glad to offer up a tip to you. Try to make your question as specific as possible, though. While “What could I have done better?” can work sometimes, you’re much more likely to get a helpful response when you are specific. For example, if you lost to an Inkling player who hit you a lot with splat roller, the side b that buries you in the ground, you could ask “What can I do to deal with your side-b?” Highly knowledgeable players have a much easier time giving you good, specific advice when you direct them to the precise thing that you are having trouble with.
- Play a lot of friendlies before and after the tournament. The best way to learn is through experience.
- As the tournament is happening, seek out matches you find interesting and watch them. Pay close attention to what options the players choose, and what kinds of moves they go for. If you can find somebody who plays your character, all the better.
- You might not be able to stick around to see Grand Finals of the tournament, but if you are, definitely watch it. In addition to the excitement of finding out the winner, you’ll learn lots of useful stuff from watching good players duke it out with money on the line. And be sure to get hype!!
- If you had a great experience and wanna go to more tournaments, ask the TO or other players where/how you can find them. They’ll hopefully direct you to a discord, Facebook group, or other online page where you can see what upcoming tournaments there are in your area.
Sorry that this post is so long, but I just wanted to be thorough : ) In summary, I’d say the basics of a good first tournament are preparation (doing what you need to do to be alert and focused, and bringing what you need in order to participate), rule set (knowing how the tournament and the community functions) and most importantly, mindset (keeping a positive attitude and focusing on learning). If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me!
- The r/smashbros comprehensive list of regional Facebook groups, for finding tournaments in your area.
- Smashcords, a website that gathers all smash-related discords together so that you can easily find a discord for your character or region.
- Great YouTube channels for learning/improving at the game: Izaw, Beefy Smash Doods, Zero, My Smash Corner.
- A few of the many great Smash Ultimate Twitch streamers: Zero, Nairo, Armada, Leffen.
- Great YouTube channels for watching highlights or tournament game play: Even Matchup Gaming, VGBootCamp.