Analysis of Nairo's Ganon vs. Light at Collision 2019
Fri 29th Mar 2019 - 8:14pm
The setting is Losers Semis at Collision 2019. Nairo finds himself down 0-2 against Light, with both Palutena and Zero Suit Samus, two of his strongest characters, coming up short against the dynamic Fox main. To the awe and excitement of the commentators and viewers alike, Nairo switches to Ganondorf, a character considered mid-tier at best by many players. Even more impressive, he wins.
To some, this character switch is hardly surprising. On his stream, Nairo has been decently successful with Ganondorf against top players like Samsora and Cosmos. And yet, pulling off a reverse 3-0 in tournament against an arguably top 10 player in a less-than-stellar match-up is a feat impressive enough to leave many asking “How did that happen?” This article will answer just that, analyzing Nairo’s strategy and execution with Ganon and how it allowed him to score one of the most unexpected wins in Smash Ultimate to date.
Covering Ganon’s Weaknesses:
Though Ganondorf has subpar defensive options and a difficult time approaching or recovering, Nairo had creative ways of working around those weaknesses in order to keep up with and overcome Light. Though Ganondorf has a hard time approaching a quick character like Fox, Nairo was able to catch onto Light’s approaches, specifically his falling neutral-air approaches. As a result, he knew when to shield and how to properly punish out of shield, allowing him to get a lot of mileage with a controlled neutral and Ganon’s strong punish game without having to rely on Ganon’s mediocre approach.
Nairo had a fairly strong defensive game in this set, despite Ganon’s poor disadvantage state. This included using Ganon’s dash attack in order to force his way out of the corner of the stage. Additionally, he made good use of options like shield, spotdodge, and Ganon’s jumps to avoid getting overwhelmed by attacks from his speedy opponent. Nairo also recovered quite well with one of the weakest recoveries in the game at his disposal. When recovering from below the stage, he would cover the ledge with a rising up-air to potentially knock Light away and ensure that he would not get shine spiked or otherwise edgeguarded. He also did a good job conserving his double jumps, knowing when he could afford to use a directional air dodge, and even making use of unorthodox recovery options like Down-B.
Nairo’s movement while facing Light was also quite good, or at least as good as one can expect from a Ganondorf. He knew when to foxtrot in order to cover large distances faster, and when to slow down his movement in order to properly space his own moves. In a few instances, Nairo would double foxtrot away from Light’s approach option, allowing him to avoid the attack while staying close enough to punish Light with either a dash attack or a Side-B. Instances like these show the creative ways Nairo worked around Ganon’s weaknesses in order to keep the match competitive against a strictly better character.
Abusing Ganon’s Strengths:
Naturally, Nairo not only worked around Ganondorf’s weak points, but took full advantage of his strong points, such as his large, strong hitboxes and his ability to set up tech chases. Whenever Light tried to approach Nairo recklessly, Nairo was able to contest it easily with Ganon’s strong, far-reaching forward-air. Nairo also made good use of Ganon’s neutral-air in the neutral, as it allowed him to fall to the ground safely, wall out any approaches from Light, and prevent Light from landing some of his follow-ups.
Coupled with his good movement and spacing, Nairo made excellent use of Ganon’s Side-B, one of his best approach tools alongside dash attack. After landing a Side-B, Nairo could initiate a tech chase, occasionally ending with a kill. Even if he could not get a kill, putting Light in a disadvantageous position was an obvious plus for Nairo, and landing just one follow-up hit could result in huge damage.
Nairo understood the situations in which he needed to play patient, and those in which he could afford to push his offense. Whenever Light was offstage, Nairo displayed a willingness to aggressively edgeguard with moves like down-air, neutral-air, and back-air. Although Nairo relied little on Ganondorf’s forward smash, which has become one of the character’s most infamous moves, it is worth noting that a forward smash that caught Light’s jump from behind Nairo forced Light offstage and set up for Nairo’s set-winning edgeguard.
Capitalizing on Key Opportunities:
Along with his excellent control of all of Ganondorf’s tools, Nairo made big decisions at pivotal points in the game that were able to swing momentum in his favor. In Game 3, when Light tried to aggressively edgeguard Nairo, Nairo responded with a Ganondorf up-air and stage spiked Light. As a result of this interaction, Light’s edgeguard attempts were tempered for the remainder of the set, giving Nairo an easier time recovering.
Nairo’s edgeguards were immaculate, with a couple of perfectly-spaced down-airs finishing off two of the games in the set. When another one of his down-airs missed, he had still positioned himself perfectly to catch Light with a back-air, hitting him against the stage and leaving him unable to tech. In conjunction with his edgeguards, Nairo made use of Ganon’s back throw whenever he was near the ledge, knowing he could force Light off for a potential early kill, or at least that he could rack up plenty of damage in the process.
In Game 4, Nairo got a kill by landing three attacks when Light was at only 27%; he caught Light running in with a neutral-air, then punished his roll in on the Kalos platform with a forward-air, and finished by reading Light’s jump offstage and killing him with an unexpected Down-B. In Game 5, Nairo caught Light’s roll with a dash attack, and then punished his landing attempt with an up smash in order to rack up an easy 51%. Moments like these showed Nairo’s awareness of how to use Ganondorf to the fullest, and how to turn things in his favor with only a few hits.
Going forward, fans will undoubtedly be interested to see if Ganondorf will become a regular member of Nairo’s tournament line-up, akin to his Bowser in Smash 4. They may also wonder if Nairo’s Ganon will find success against other players, or if top players will begin to catch on to his playstyle. In any case, the Collision set proves Nairo’s excellence with the character and his ability to claw his way back from defeat in a totally unexpected way.
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