Tier lists won't always win you tournaments

2 min read
Tier lists won't always win you tournaments

Sajam explains why

Whatever game you play, if it has a thriving competitive scene, then it receives balances, fixes, and updates. These tend to change the status quo in the game, so it's often left to the pros to help the larger community figure out what's changed for the good and bad, in the form of tier lists, rankings, etc. 

This is especially true with fighting games. Just last month Street Fighter V was upgraded to Champion Edition, bringing lots of changes that have led to many players sharing their views on the roster's current strengths and weaknesses. Even a game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate which changed up its meta about two months ago still has players dropping tier lists. 

A helpful tool for most, tier lists has also become something of a crutch for those players that neither have the time nor patience to figure out how deeply an update has changed their characters. Since these lists are created by top players that win tournaments, the usual assumption is that using the winner's tier list could help you make the right picks and see better success competitively. 

However, this isn't always the case. Not only are tier lists the personal opinion of those that create them, but they also don't take into consideration a lot of factors that are peculiar to tournaments. Popular fighting game caster, Stephen "Sajam" Lyon took the time to explain this further on his stream. 

"The characters that win in tournaments are often not the best in the game. That's just not how that works." 

Tier lists highlight characters with the right tools for success, but that means many players will use these characters too. As a result, a tournament could predominantly consist of the strongest characters according to popular tier lists and their counterpicks. At the end of the day, a counterpick that sits somewhere near the bottom of a tier list in anonymity could end up winning a tournament because not much attention was ever paid to it before. 

According to Sajam, viable tournament characters would need to have a series of favorable matchups, have game plans that are simple to execute, be easy to use and a reasonable amount of options at their disposal. More complex characters are often not as valuable as their lower-tier counterparts because they require a high level of skill, solid execution and familiarity with most matchups to be of value in a tournament. 

In the end, tier lists should be used to strike up a conversation between players and not serve as a legendary guide to tournament wins. Tier lists represent the player's preference in play style and their way of thinking. This gives insight into matchups they struggle with, their strengths and other interesting little tidbits. 

So next time you're looking for a new main and choose to follow a tier list you found, check out what's going on in tournaments as well so you can figure out where exactly the two align and use that knowledge to your advantage. 

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