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Life of a Low-Tier Hero: The Top-Heavy Meta of Street Fighter 5

Not since the early-2000s has a game been as top-heavy as Street Fighter 5. The "haves," have quite a bit, and the "have nots" don't have much at all. TG's Jeff Kotuby examines how this imbalance affects players at all levels.

Editor's Note (5/14/2018 - 3:10PM PT): An edit has been made to the section titled "The Top Tiers in Street Fighter 5" regarding a certain region of the FGC. While we encourage personal opinion or editorialization on matters of competition and gaming, we also believe this phrasing both distracted from the overall argument being made and unnecessarily blanketed the legitmate competitors of that region and their contributions to the fighting scene. As such, the section has been altered with respect to that region and its competitors and we apologize to those offended by the phrasing of the original copy.

I’ve done my best to try to tell you that it’s not about the character you use in a fighting games that measures your success - it’s the space between your ears that dictates how far you’ll go. But in some games, the truth is that you need to be using strong characters in order to compete. A game like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a perfect example of this - if you’re not playing some combination of Cable, Storm, Sentinel, Magneto, Psylocke, Iron Man, Dr. Doom, or Strider, (with special considerations for Blackheart, Cyclops, and Spiral) paired with assist-only characters like Captain Commando and Tron Bonne, then you, quite frankly, don’t have a chance of winning at high levels. The top characters have some combination of infinites, flight combos, or just flat out high damage capabilities, or all three in some cases. If your character doesn’t, you’re beat. Here’s an hour and a half of some of the best MvC2 I’ve ever seen, just because: 

Why do I bring this up? Because there’s a new top-heavy game in town: Street Fighter 5. If you aren’t playing a top-10 character in Street Fighter 5, then you need to start playing one now.

The Top Tiers in Street Fighter 5

According to a number of lists I’ve seen from pros and joes alike, the top characters in SF5 are, in somewhat of a particular order: Cammy, Guile, Akuma, Menat, Urien, Necalli, Bison, and Karin. The bottom two in the Top 10 are debatable, but for intents and purposes we’ll say Dhalsim and Ibuki. Now, let’s look at the Top 10 in the Capcom Cup standings. 

Other than Fuudo, a Japanese God, playing Mika, all those characters are among the Top 10 we showed above. Now, as you go further down that list, you’ll see Kens, Rashids, Abigails, and a number of other characters, due to them being more powerful in prior patches or seeing some breakout, unique, and/or extraordinary play in tournaments and events.

A Personal Touch

I realized after getting back into playing SF5 with Akuma, instead of Ryu, that not having to compensate for a weaker character anymore has made the game easier and more enjoyable for me, to the point where I want to play Street Fighter 5 again. Pros have followed suit - just look at those rankings for proof.

Even if you’re not a pro, it still might not be a bad idea to pick one of these characters up, if you haven’t already. You might find that you’re interested in competing professionally, and you might find that less powerful characters won’t cut the mustard at the highest levels. Utilizing netplay, social media, and apps like Discord can help you change course and learn to play your new character as if they were your old one.

Agree with me? Cool, I’ll see you online. Disagree with me? Prove me wrong - but don’t think I’ll be salty if you do. After all, the success of a “low tier hero” is good for the brand. 

Miss any of the Life of a Low Tier Hero entries? Don't worry, we've done the legwork and rounded up every Low-Tier Hero in this helpful little list. Check them out now!

How to Handle a Nerfed Character

A Throw By Any Other Name – Dealing with Normal & Command Grabs

How to Love (and Succeed) in a Low-Tier Game

Learning to Embrace Your (Touch of) Death

Neutral Game, Footsies, and Patience with SYN | Jaegar

Lab Work Makes The Winning Formula

AMKidd Helps Us Get Over the "Low-Tier" Mindset

Getting Over Canon and Spamming in Dragon Ball FighterZ

Exploring The Stiff World Of Assists

Smash Tiers with Pawclaw

Hayato’s Style Over Substance

Sean in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

Dan Hibiki

Tiers and Metagame

RustBeltPhilosopher -
Oh, please. Urien is doing measurably worse than Birdie, and Infil plays Juri half the time. Also, the CPT scoring system is nutty and has been a poor reflection of character strength for some time now - and on top of THAT, the CPT top 10 tells you more about who's been attending tournaments than it does about which characters are the strongest. Here's a much more rational representation of the balance of the game: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1gMojcNi4_EW9ZbAHUvAGgGCMc8HWGhNQTSZgHPuPnxM/edit?usp=sharing
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