On Tailoring Movesets For Rivals | Beneath The Ledge

Since there are no ledge-grabs in Rivals of Aether, a low-recovery situation means that players have to force their way over the ledge with nothing but wall-jumps, wall-techs and an air-dodge to protect them. This works surprisingly well in the base game – but over the length of Rivals Workshop’s lifetime, I’ve started to consider if there are any nuances we’ve neglected that are needed to make the system tick. Remembering a history of… interesting, let’s say, turnouts in the competitive workshop scene, I think that this topic is one that should be explored a bit more. This topic would perhaps be better tackled by a high-level Rivals player or tester, but nonetheless I can try to write out my perspective, connect the dots, and ultimately give my take on it.

Broken down as much as possible, the character that is recovering is limited in how close they can get to the opponent along the x-axis, since the wall is physically stopping them from moving their hitboxes any closer. The edge-guarding character can take advantage of this, since they can freely move over the ledge to attack, or stay behind the ledge and throw out attacks with relative safety. The recovering player will eventually have to cross past the edge-guarder’s attacks to get back on stage, but the edge-guarder has no obligation to move into their x-axis where they can be hit. It’s an elegant solution on paper, though I do think it is a solution that needs to be carefully implemented for it to work.

I think that Rivals’s low-recovery metagame hinges on the idea that players are ‘safe’ from an opponent who is on-stage, until their hurtbox pokes up above the ledge. As long as they haven’t jumped too high, any manner of Strong Attacks and linear projectiles thrown overhead won’t be able to reach them. With Sylvanos as the exception to the rule, there are extremely few attacks in the base game which can reach a far distance below the ledge, while standing ‘safely’ above (with their hitbox kept behind the ledge). The best non-Sylvanos example is Clairen D-Air, a fairly slow attack with a large amount of landing lag. Even then, when used ‘safely’ it doesn’t reach incredibly far. Grounded and Aerial attacks in Rivals all tend to favor hitboxes that extend sideways and above the character’s hurtbox, but rarely ever below. Just imagine Clairen’s Up-Special but upside-down, and it’ll paint a good picture of why character moves appear to be strictly designed this way.

Of course, they can still challenge the opponent in a more unsafe manner by falling, jumping or leaning over the edge. Doing this has much greater threat and reward, especially for Clairen D-Air and other meteor aerials. However, the trade-off is that doing this involves putting your hurtbox in line of the opponent in a game where most characters have larger upward attacks than downward attacks. If you choose to fall, then you’ll have to climb back up again if your attack misses, and risk the edgeguard situation being reversed. Moves like Clairen’s D-Air shine when used this way, since using it ‘safely’ off-stage covers only a small space and incurs a large amount of landing lag.

Similarly, it’s also interesting to note that there aren’t any projectiles that travel straight down. Ranno’s needles and Etalus’s icicles conveniently fall at an angle which misses most of the ledge. Absa’s Side-Special can be angled down, but that too can’t pass through the corner of the stage. Shovel Knight’s down-B technically fits the bill, but its long animation time means that it doesn’t get used as an attack very often. It’s another subtle design choice which pushes players towards choosing aggressive, riskier options instead.

There’s one more category of attack that tends to be strong in low edge-guard situations, and that is having a disjointed, unbreakable attack that threatens the entire ledge corner for a long length of time. This can happen either with a delayable activation (Absa’s cloud pop for example), or an attack which persists over the ledge corner for a long duration (like Elliana’s charged missile, by virtue of how big it is). When timed right, options like these can cover several recovery timing mixups and airdodges at once, while also stopping the other player from contesting the edge-guarder with an attack. With the given examples, one has fairly small reward and requires setup, while the other costs lots of time and can’t be delayed after it’s fully charged. Even so, it’s easy to see how moves like these could be devastating if they had even slightly more utility or power than they currently have.

So why bring all of this up? While the base game has all of these aspects down, I feel that it is something that past – and some present – workshop characters could be lacking. It’s an especially odd case in that while Workshop characters often borrow tropes from Smash Bros characters, the trend of strong ledgeguard options doesn’t appear to be inspired by Smash Bros nor Rivals. It has been common to see characters with fast D-Tilt meteor attacks hitting under the ledge, F-Airs with huge diagonal reach and little endlag to compensate, transcendent projectiles which cleanly cover the face of a wall from a safe distance, and floating article gimmicks that simply cannot be avoided once the opponent is put into a low recovery situation. When character matchups are complained about, the problem discussed often falls into one of these four groups. Perhaps there are ways around them, perhaps the defending player just needed to wall-tech more, but it’s always worth considering balance issues like this from both sides.

With all of this said, I’ll conclude on the point that Sylvanos exists to disprove all of the above. His FAir is monstrously big and reaches below his hurtbox. His B-Air, although reactable, can pierce right through the ledge to hit an opponent on the wall. His F-Tilt projectiles are angled when they fall, but to a much smaller extent than other projectiles. And his repeating Jab, while unreliable, can cover a good portion of the ledge for as long as he wishes. On one hand, this rant could help explain why Sylvanos is such a divisive character, and why dealing with him takes a different approach compared to the rest of the roster. On the other hand, the fact that Sylvanos’s matchups aren’t completely polarized could mean that most of the points here really aren’t a big deal. As always, the intent is to raise some awareness and get people thinking about it, for the sake of making Rivals Workshop more fun as a whole.






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