Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: How to play Byleth

So Byleth has joined the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster. Happy? Angry? Doesn’t matter. The real question is, how do they play?

Smash pros were a little worried when Byleth was first unveiled because one of the first things Sakurai said was that Byleth would be slow, and slow characters tend to be low tier. And while it’s true, Byleth’s ground speed is much slower than average, their air speed isn’t. That coupled with the range of their normals makes them a bigger threat than you might think. Byleth certainly won’t be topping any tier charts any time soon, but they are certainly fun and have potential to at least be a viable tournament counter-pick.

So let’s dive into Byleth’s move-list and figure out how to play the latest character in Fire Emblem Fighters… I mean wait… what did I say?

Ground speed

Let’s get this clear right off the bat. Byleth is slow on the ground. They are slow to turn, slow to walk, and slow to run. What this means is, don’t spend a lot of time on the ground. It’s just not the best place for you. If you are using a grounded move it is probably going to be because you just finished a jump.

Air speed

Byleth’s air speed is decidedly average. Not good, just average. You’ll be wanting to use the air as your main method of movement most of the time. Short hops will allow you to cover distance horizontally while full jumps will allow you to cover distance vertically.

Jab

Byleth’s Jab is abysmal. Even though they have a weapon, their jab uses their fists, which I guess is a callout to the gauntlet weapon in Three Houses? Either way, the range on this is pitiful and the start up is slower than most jabs that have better range. There aren’t going to be many situations when you use it.

Jab combo

If you do manage to land a jab, Byleth’s jab combo is semi-decent. Byleth is a poking character and the end of this combo knocks the opponent away, not hard enough for a kill but hard enough to reset your opponent into neutral.

Jab flurry

This is actually OK. It has a lot of range on it, and requires the opponent to DI heavily to get out of it, allowing you to rack up quite a bit of damage. It only triggers if you manage to hit with a starting jab, though, which is very unlikely in most Byleth matches.

Dash attack

Really only useful as a combo ender. At low percents it can possibly create a follow-up situation for a forward smash, but that’s risky. Can set up edge guard situations at higher percents. Can also be used as a tech chase, but once again, risky. You really don’t want to commit to Byleth’s dash when you could be moving through the air.

Forward tilt

Another OK move. There isn’t much combo potential here, but it makes for an OK combo finisher. It covers a lot of space in front of Byleth and is faster than most of Byleth’s other moves. It can be used to force the opponent off the stage and into an edge guarding situation. It can also be used to punish sloppy slow approaches, though for the most part Byleth has better ground tools.

Down tilt

Now this, this is one of Byleth’s better grounded moves. It has more range than most of their other moves, can poke underneath shields, and pops the enemy up for followups at the right percentages. You can follow this up with up tilt, up b, up smash, neutral air, up air, even forward, back, or down air if they DI the right way. If you find yourself in close quarters combat, this is one of the move you want to fish for.

Up tilt

Another great move. Much like Marth’s up tilt, this covers a pretty wide arc around Byleth’s body. At low percentages it can be used to combo into itself before starting a juggle situation or even a drag down combo with up air or neutral air. At higher percentages, it sets you up for an up b combo. Byleth is quite good at juggling so make the most out of this tilt.

Forward smash

Step 1: DO NOT THROW THIS OUT RAW! Ok, once you get that through your head, this is actually a really good move. Its range is enormous, and that makes it a great tool for combo ending or tech chasing. It’s also quite powerful. If you manage to land the tip, you will either get an edge guard situation or a kill. I just want to reiterate DON’T THROW THIS OUT RAW! You have to put your opponent into a situation where this is likely to hit. It comes out too slow to be used in neutral.

Down smash

Basically a dead move. It starts slow, it has a ton of end lag, it has way less range than forward smash, it doesn’t pack nearly as much kill power, there’s just nothing good about it. If you are using this move, it’s a mistake.

Up smash

Fantastic. It does multiple hits, starts up quick, and can even hit standing opponents at the correct range. It’s rage extends so far above Byleth and it lasts so long that not only is it a good anti-air option, it will catch the end of anyone trying to air dodge through your anti-air. It’s just a very, very good move. End juggles with it. Combo into it with your tilts. Snipe people from below platforms with it. It’s just very versatile.

Neutral air

This move is deceiving. It’s fast and it covers Byleth on most sides, but its range isn’t nearly as good as spinning neutral airs of the same variety. It’s best used as a combo tool after something like a down tilt, or in the middle of an air juggle. Many characters use their neutral air as an approaching tool but Byleth’s neutral air can be easily outranged. The main purpose of this tool is to rack up damage in combos.

Forward air

Great. Absolutely great. While it doesn’t cover an arc in front of Byleth, its range is just absurd. You can use this to wall off opponents easily, just throwing this out as a poke and fishing for a hit. Not only that, but it hits hard enough to kill at mid to high percentages.

Back air

Similar to Forward air, this is just a fantastic long range poking tool that can be used to wall off the opponent and fish for kills. If you can land this off the edge, you will likely get a gimp kill or either a full kill. It’s just very very good. Both of these moves come out decently quick and cover enough range to be used as primary spacing tools. Just be wary of attacks from above or below its hit-box.

Down air

Deceptively good. This move starts up slow but hits like a truck. It’s one of the best spikes in the game, able to kill fliers and floaters at near 0 percent. In fact, it’s so powerful that at mid to high percents, landing this on a grounded opponent will bounce them off the ground so hard that they will get killed off the top of the stage! No one ever expects this coming in your neutral game, but if you and your opponent are trading blows and they have come in closer than the range of your forward and back airs will guard, then throw this out and you might just get a kill. It’s also worth noting that it has deceptive range. The hit-box extends down much further than the axe would have you believe.

Up air

Another absolutely fantastic move. It’s basically Byleth’s up smash, but in the air. It covers a TON of range and is super wide, catching even opponents that approach from the left and right. It hits multiple times, can create drag down combos, can very easily juggle anyone falling on you, Once again it’s just a really, really good tool.

Neutral B

Mostly a dead move. The arrow takes way too long to charge, and while it is very powerful when charged all the way, no one will ever get hit by it. The best way to use this is to harass anyone trying to recover if you don’t feel confident heading off the stage to contest. Or, if you are playing casuals or free for alls, this isn’t a bad move to hang back and spam.

Side B

This is a fantastic move. You can’t just throw it out because it has slow start-up but its range and coverage is insane. It covers nearly a full circle around Byleth and sticks out several character widths in from of them. Not only that, but the smash version on the ground causes Byleth to step forward another few character widths. The air version covers even MORE area around Byleth at the expense of horizontal distance, but you can use it near an edge to attack through the platform and grab it at the same time. Not only that, but it’s powerful. Scoring a hit with the tip can get you kills. You can use this to interrupt approaches, finish combos, play air-spacing games, it’s just another great tool. Remember that Byleth’s whole theme is spacing. They win when they out poke the opponent. So keep your distance and swing that spear!

Down B

Another dead move. It takes somewhere between Falcon Punch and Warlock Punch time to charge up, and you see how often they land in competitive play. (Note: they don’t) It does have a ton of armor, so you can catch people sleeping here or there by dropping through platforms, spinning around and hitting them if they are too relentlessly aggressive. It’s also a fantastic troll move to throw out in casual free for alls. Just jump into a crowd, execute this move, and watch everyone scatter. However, for the most part it’s better to simply avoid this move all together.

Up B

Now this, this is one of Byleth’s defining moves. First of all, it’s a tether recovery with absolutely absurd range. You should have complete confidence jumping off the stage because you can come back from incredible distances. On some stages, you can grapple from a short distance away from the blast zone! That’s how crazy this recovery is.

Then there are its attack properties. First of all, it hits from the ground making it an OK out of shield option. It also has incredible range and a disjointed hit-box allowing you to snipe people who are above you with ease. At high percent’s it spikes, so if you are guarding the edge and having a mid-air battle, use this and you will pretty much win AND secure a recovery for yourself. Any hit also propels Byleth upward, allowing you to cover yet more distance. At low percentages, it pops the enemy up for combo opportunities. Byleth even has a hilarious zero to death combo against Donkey Kong using this.

Simply put, it’s one of Byleth’s best tools. Combo with it. Poke with it. Edgeguard with it. Recover with it. Just have a blast.

Grab

Byleth’s grab is pretty bad, which is a shame because their throws are all pretty good. It has short range and starts up slow. You are only going to land this off a read, specifically when you know your opponent is shielding. Both the grab and dash grab just don’t cut the mustard in neutral play.

Pummel

Also pretty bad. Slow and low damage, but there’s no reason not to throw a few pummels in if you land a grab.

Forward throw

Pretty good. Sets up for forward smash or dash attack at low percents. Mostly used to reset the enemy into neutral.

Back throw

Probably Byleth’s worst throw. Back throws tend to be kill throws but Byleth just can’t seem to kill practically with it. Unless you are using it to throw an opponent off the ledge to set up an edge guard situation, any other throw is probably better.

Down throw

One of Byleth’s better throws. Keeps the opponent relatively close. At low percents this can lead into up tilts, up smashes, neutral airs and the like. At slightly higher percents you can follow up with forward and back airs to start an offense.

Up throw

Your go-to throw for mid to high percents. Sets up juggles with up air and eventually leads into up b if you don’t manage a kill.

General strategy

Byleth is a poking character. They never want to be right up in your face. They are just too slow to do much good there. They also don’t have many true combos to speak of, aside from the hilarious zero to death combo on Donkey Kong. They aren’t really a zoner, to speak of, but they do live and die on their spacing game.

Your goal is to keep the opponent a character width or two away from you, basically always at the tip of your spear distance. Your spear attacks are some of your most powerful tools and will lead into many of your kills. Short hop forward and back airs are really fantastic at walling off the opponent and keeping them in your comfort zone.

Byleth is also very comfortable when the opponent is above them. Up B and up air are two of their best tools. They are very good at juggling opponents because their aerial tools will beat out just about anyone else’s downward attacks. In fact, they are so disjointed you can hit an opponent who is countering and avoid the counter completely, depending on who is countering and how you are spaced.

If you are going to play Byleth you have to be comfortable going off the edge. Byleth’s forward b, forward air, down air, and up b are brutal kill tools when you pursue the opponent off the side of the stage. For a majority of the cast, hitting any of these will secure a kill. For fliers, you might have to do some extra work, but landing down air will still secure a kill. Down air is just one of the best spikes in the game.

So that’s Byleth in a nutshell. Space the opponent out, pursue them off the stage, and make the best use of your spear and sword. Once again, you probably won’t top the tier charts with Byleth, but you can do some serious work and frustrate even some of the better characters in the game with your huge hit-boxes.