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The Tier List Dilemma: A law to be followed or just a suggestion to be considered?

When choosing a character, should tier lists be considered or is there more to it?

Every fighting game has its own tier list, ranking all the fighters from the strongest to the weakest, but how much is reliable?

First of all, tier lists are built from player’s feedback and by comparing the results of tournaments. If a character possesses a good set of moves, valuable hit and hurtboxes, recovery, there is a good chance that this character could be classified as top tier.

If that fighter constantly reaches top 8 in tournaments, that could push its role as a solid choice for competitive play, as well as its position in tier ranking. However, even if this classification proves to be quite reliable, it doesn’t have to be taken too seriously for different reasons.

Many fighting games (including Tekken) take months and sometimes even years to be fully mastered. It means that usually the first versions of a tier list considers the characters effectiveness just based on raw power, but some characters can offer much more when the mechanics behind their fighting style are fully learned. That’s why the fighters making their way to top 8 may be different after a year or two of high level tournaments. That happens, maybe, just thanks to a player that ignored a tier list and chose a supposed-to-be mid-tier as his personal main, pulling the best out of it and scoring some impressive unexpected results.

Another reason is that everyone of us feels comfortable with a specific character while it tends to earn less traction with others. This is quite normal and may depend on commands, personal playing style, etc. So, the best choice could be to prefer ease of use as the first step to improve. Personally, I’ve gotten better results switching from a AA ranked fighter to a single-A one because the best one simply wasn’t fitting my approach to the game.

If your goal is to compete at a tournament the situation changes even more. If you just want to play a few times sitting on your sofa, taking a break anytime you want, you don’t have to worry about being tired. Things are different if you attend a live competition. Usually players are asked to spend the whole day at the same place, and even if there is free time between every match, the scenario could not be the best for relaxing thanks to the cheering crowd.

If you can’t keep your focus high for continuous hours it could be best to choose a fighter that’s easy to use. Some strong characters are indeed well rounded, but they can require strict timing, high concentration, and increases the risk of getting something wrong every second you play under pressure. If you are that kind of player, it could be better to give up some firepower if that means making it to the end of the day fresh and efficient. A lot of times you can watch a final and notice that some mistakes are made due to fatigue.

So basically, the meaning of this ranking serves just a guideline to have a general idea of the balance. Every player should be encouraged to try the full roster of a game and not rely too much on a tier list, that even if indeed holds some truth, it can be updated every day thanks to the effort of the tournament community.

He's a long-time Tekken player ever since someone told him, "Hey dude, there's a new arcade in town," back in 1995. After working as journalist in Italy for some time, he realized he wrote about everything, but rarely about games. Because he always plays games at "hard" difficulty, the choice to bring the same principle while treating about video games drove him to write in English even though he's Italian.

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