Byleth, the main protagonist from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, is the latest character to join Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The sword-wielding hero (who is available in male and female variations) brings with them a strong set of moves at the cost of speed. They're relatively tanky, especially when compared to Marth, but for those who mainly play with Ike or Chrom, Byleth should be an easy transition.
Before we move further in this guide, let’s answer the question you’re probably wondering: is Byleth any good? The answer is maybe. Early analysis suggests that Byleth lands somewhere in the middle of the pack, not the best, but not the worst either. Where they are in the middle will depend on how her competitive meta develops.
Byleth is ultimately a slow character with some aerial mobility problems. While her kit does give her good combo options in-air, there are better characters that can achieve what she achieves, but more easily.
Should you main Byleth? Possibly, if you’re willing to really dig deep and practice with this character. Know that you might get stumped by faster, more agile characters, or those with great power and better frame data. But she has her options, and those options can be used well. However, if those options are used too often, then opponents can begin anticipating your next move. Ultimately there are other sword wielding characters like Shulk, Roy, and Chrom that are more ideal for competitive play.
In the character select screen, it’s possible to choose either a male or female version of Byleth. For the purposes of this review we’ll be using female pronouns.
Movement and approach
Byleth is not a fast character. Her run speed is about on-par with Ganondorf and her jumps are both low and slow. Her heavy weight can make for some momentum-based combos, but generally, players playing Byleth will have to read their opponents well. A lot of her moves have many frames of animation, meaning both the wind-up to a sword strike and the recovery from its inertia takes time.
While Byleth has a set of moves that could make for good aerial combos, overall her aerial mobility is cumbersome. So it doesn’t mean much when she can easily launch opponents upward if she can’t jump high or fast enough to connect with a follow-up attack.
Keep this in mind: If you do want to main Byleth, the most common way to approach the opponent is with neutral-air. This is simply done by jumping and pressing the A button in-air. This gives Byleth an opening to link with other attacks. I suspect many top Byleth players will use this as the best form of approach.
Stick with the Good Stuff: Specials
Byleth does have a good reservoir of moves that players should rely on. The main one being her side-b special. It has a wide range and covers the sword sweeps all around her. It can also be used either on the ground or in the air. At mid-to-high percentages it can kill.
Byleth’s down-b special is also incredibly powerful. It can charge up and like Thor’s hammer, smash the ground dealing a ton of damage. Of course, there’s a lod of lead-up for the animation to take place, so you’ll really have to trap your opponent to pull it off effectively. But on the ledge it can be used as a way to put pressure while your opponent is trying to get back onto the stage.
Bylet’s up-b is not only a great recovery tool, acting as a whip that can grab the ledge from far away, but can also be used to kill opponents off stage. There’s more that can be done with up-b, which will be discussed later in this guide.
Stick with the Good Stuff: Aerials and Tilts
A good way to rack up some damage quickly is to use short-hop into side on the c-stick. This will throw out Byleth’s forward or back-air, depending on how you’re facing your opponent. Her forward-air seems to have more range, but the idea here is to short jump, forward-air as quickly as possible, land on the ground, and repeat. If timed right, it can lead to a string of forward-air attacks that can add some quick and easy damage. Jump into practice mode and practice this with against large character like MewTwo.
Pro Tip: Her back-air is a great tool to use on the ledge if opponents are recovering laterally.
Byleth’s down-air is also a great potential combo starter. All it takes is running towards the opponent, jumping (can also be done with short-hopping, but you’ll need faster fingers), and quickly hitting down on the c-stick. This will allow Byleth’s weapon to slam her opponents head with her weapon like a hammer. It also deals a good amount of damage. Think of this move as Ganondorf’s stomp.
Pro Tip: While an opponent is recovering to the ledge vertically, jump above the ledge and throw out a down-air. The animation takes a bit, but if timed right, it can catch the opponent right as they reach the ledge and can become a quick kill.
Byleth’s up-tilt (used by tilting the stick slightly up and pressing the A button) is a good combo starter. It launches the opponent directly above and can be followed up with a quick aeril attack like neutral-air (jumping and just pressing the A button).
Down-tilt also works similarly to her up-tilt. Just press the stick down while on the ground and press the A button. Byleth will then launch her opponent directly above her, giving you ample time to jump up and attack with a quick up-air. Down-tilt easily connects to up-air and can kill.
Stick with the Good Stuff: Smash Attacks
Byleth’s side-smash might not seem too impressive based on the animation, but it packs a wallop. Her side-smash has long range, and can kill at mid-to-high percents.
Down-smash too is a solid kill option. The good thing about this move is that it’s a circular sweep along the ground, meaning it can hit the opponent if they’re either in front or behind you.
Quick Combos: Down-throw into Forward-air
With a character like Byleth, it’s important to find ways to rack up damage quickly, following up with a hard read and land a Smash attack. One easy quick combo is a down-throw into forward-air. It’s relatively easy to land and doesn’t take much practice. To do this you grab the opponent with either the Z button or pressing shield+A simultaneously, and press down. After Byleth throws them down, quickly jump and press forward on the c-stick.
Even if the opponent tries to use DI (directional influence) to move their body away from you after you throw them following a down-throw, it’s still very possible to hit them with a forward-air.
Remember, the best way to do this is to short-hop (quickly press the jump button) and mash left or right on the c-stick. I find that using the c-stick instead of the A button is faster, leading to a higher probability of the attack landing.
Quick Combos: Forward-air into dash attack
Okay, pay attention, this one is a little complicated. Earlier in this guide we talked about jumping and pressing side with the c-stick in the air to throw out a quick forward air. Byleth uses her weapon as a giant stick and swings it like a bat. But for this combo to work, you need to make sure it hits at the middle of the bat and not the tip. If you hit with the tip, your opponent will fly off too far.
Either way, using a forward-air and connecting at the midpoint will launch your opponent forward, run after them and use a simple dash attack. Pulling this combo off does an easy 19% damage.
Using Your Recovery To Kill
While Byleth might be slow, she has an excellent recovery option. Her up-b move is a whip that latches on to the side of the stage and has excellent range. So you can be flying far off stage and still find your way back on.
The cool thing is that Byleth, like Joker, can use her whip to attack opponents. It’s an awesome animation in which Byleth uses her whip to latch onto the opponent, swing herself towards them like Spider-Man, and then kick them towards the ground. It’s particularly awesome when your opponent is off-stage above you and you use this attack to launch them to their death.
Go into practice mode and definitely practice using her up-b to attack opponents. It takes a lot of practice to get the angle just right. But once you have it down, it’ll do wonders.
There will definitely be a lot of debate online about Byleth’s viability as a competitive character. Ignore that for now. Just focus on making yourself as good with Byleth as possible.
Key moves to perfect in practice mode are her forward-airs, back-airs, up-airs, side smashes, up-b, and down-airs. Byleth is a slow character, so practice her dashes. Quickly tap the stick back and forth, making her “dash-dance.” This is a good way to be constantly moving and make your opponent approach you. Smash Bros. is a sandbox style fighting game, so you have to use movement to find your own style.
And let’s assume that Byleth ends up not flipping the Smash community on its head, what you’ve learned through this guide are a key set of fundamentals. If you can master her moves and movement, you’ll be able to translate these skills to other characters if need be.