Tier list

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This page tracks changes in my opinion of how strong each character is. Changes are mostly me getting increased understanding of the game, but patches obviously change things too.

Explanation of tiers

S tier is for characters that overwhelmingly dominate the field. They at worst have a few “bad” matchups as specific counter-picks, but even those are close to even.

A tier is for characters with no clear weaknesses in addition to some uniquely powerful strengths.

B tier is for characters with no clear weaknesses, or characters with slight weaknesses but also some uniquely powerful strengths to compensate. This is the baseline for a balanced, competitive character.

C tier is for characters with clear weaknesses but also some uniquely powerful strengths to compensate. Against stronger characters they have a fighting chance, and they have some upset potential.

D tier is for characters with slight weaknesses and no uniquely powerful strengths to compensate. Against stronger characters they have a fighting chance, but there’s no reason to pick them.

E tier is for characters with clear weaknesses and no uniquely powerful strengths to compensate. Against players exploiting their weaknesses, they’re almost losing by force.

August 2020 (patch 3.32)

S Fahkumram
A Akuma, Geese, Julia, Leroy, Paul, Steve, Zafina
B Alisa, Bob, Bryan, Claudio, Devil Jin, Dragonuv, Eddy, Feng, Heihachi, Jack-7, Jin, Kazumi, Kazuya, King, Law, Lee, Marduk, Miguel, Shaheen, Xiaoyu
C Armor King, Bears, Eliza, Ganryu, Gigas, Hwoarang, Lars, Lei, Leo, Master Raven, Yoshimitsu
D Katarina, Negan, Noctis
E Anna, Asuka, Josie, Lili, Lucky Chloe, Nina

Very uncertain about Bob, Ganryu, Katarina, Lei, Leo, Miguel, and Raven.

Uncertain about Lars and Lili.

April 2021 (patch 4.10)

A Akuma, Bryan, Devil Jin, Fahkumram, Feng, Geese, Julia, Kunimitsu, Leroy, Lidia, Paul, Steve, Zafina
B Alisa, Anna, Bob, Claudio, Dragonuv, Heihachi, Jack-7, Jin, Kazuya, King, Law, Lee, Marduk, Miguel, Shaheen, Xiaoyu, Yoshimitsu
C Armor King, Asuka, Bears, Eddy, Eliza, Ganryu, Gigas, Hwoarang, Kazumi, Lars, Lei, Master Raven
D Katarina, Negan, Noctis
E Josie, Leo, Lili, Lucky Chloe, Nina

It’s possible that Zafina is S-tier despite receiving no buffs: Since her release she’s been otherwise overshadowed by Fahkumram and Leroy, and almost everyone else previously in A tier has gotten some big nerfs.

Changes as a result of patches

Bryan
Got serious buffs for some reason.
Devil Jin
Got serious buffs for some reason.
Fahkumram
Got enough nerfs that he’s not completely bullshit anymore.
Lidia

New character. Her supposed weaknesses are overblown: f,F+2 can be easily stepped, but f+1+2 is a totally viable answer for this. Similarly, even though you can duck and launch most of her strings, she has so many of them that doing so consistently with i15 moves is tough. If you can only get i12 punishes consistently, the fact that they all have a mid mixup makes this not that concerning. The reward on her risks are big, and the risk is not super high (mostly -10 or -11 or fast recovering highs), so I expect her to get strong results eventually if she isn’t nerfed.

Still, low risk is not no risk, which I think will make her only very popular with Japanese players. The only thing that makes me doubt this is that she probably has a bad matchup against any character with strong i10 punishers, so Akuma and Geese (and Gigas and Lee if we pretend they’re relevant) could be issues.

Kunimitsu

New character. Her supposed weaknesses are overblown: No real standing lows is irrelevant when her full crouch mixup is both the best in the game and easy to enforce. Similar to Yoshimitsu (see below), her d/f+1 is a big problem on block and you ultimately have to take the mixup. I remain unconvinced there are robust answers to her gimmicks, and her backdash is up there with Alisa in its ability to delete enemy options.

Like Lidia, I expect her to be unpopular with pros purely because of the bias players outside Japan have against high risk characters.

Changes as a result of more understanding

Anna
I thought her d/f+1,2 had poor tracking and didn’t jail. Neither of these are true: It’s both hard to step and a pretty good situation for her on block. There’s no robust way of getting around her pokes, so at some point you really do just have to guess. She’s probably the best character in the game at enforcing a strong mixup.
Asuka
I thought her 1 jab was slower than i10 and that she had to fight like Ganryu, i.e. unable to poke effectively. Truth is that her 1 jab is still strange, being -2 on block, and she has no real i10 punisher, but this doesn’t stop her from being able to play the game.
Eddy
Not sure why he was in B tier in the first place.
Feng
One thing learnt from Fahkumram is that a key low being -15 is grossly overrated as a weakness. Low parries are a thing. It’s not as though the Kazumis out there with their “safe” lows aren’t getting juggled off a read just as well. Having a -15 low is actually useful in making your other, safer lows better, because now your opponent doesn’t want to low parry. In any case, lows hit people a lot more than they get blocked. So Feng has strong pressure, and pressuring him back is a struggle given the amount of safe, evasive options he has.
Kazumi
Her d/b+4 is reactable, and with d/b+3 getting its damage nerfed people can just block and laugh at how little damage she does. The only way she can actually get damage is with a CH 4, but how are you supposed to get them to attack with just d/b+3?
Leo
All her critical lows are i20 or slower with distinct animations. A sharp opponent can block them on reaction (LowHigh’s argument), at which point she has no real capacity to apply pressure. The virtues of the rest of her moves are irrelevant if this is the case.
Yoshimitsu
Despite the often repeated claim that his weakness is lacking “fundamental tools”, he has a d/f+1 with solid range and tracking and two extensions. The high extension in particular is notable because there isn’t enough time to react to it not being done before taking the turn. I measured 13 frames from the start of the high animation to the end of the blockstun. So the choices are take the mixup or give up the mental frame advantage and make it effectively around +3 on block. So in reality the only real option is to take the mixup and risk the counter hit launch, which is not that bad (because you also launch him if you duck it), but this is so far from his d/f+1 being bad just because it’s -4 on block. In a similar vein, having no dickjab really doesn’t matter when he has flash and spin that does the same thing but way better.