Skill Gate Characters

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Characters that are easy to use effectively for an amateur, but also easy to counter for an expert. These tend to be extremely slow, so that a faster character can bash them around without ever getting hit, or extremely frail (and possibly fast), with sturdier characters demonstrating that the most important Hit Point is the last. Crippling Overspecialization may also be at play. However, these characters may sometimes stay solid past the end of their "glory days" if used well enough and not have their once powerful weapon expected to be a Game Breaker.

Contrast the Lethal Joke Character, which is weak unless used by an expert player who knows the trick(s). Also contrast Difficult but Awesome, who is more obviously useful but appears worthless at first because (s)he/it is, well... difficult to use. Sometimes a Skill Gate can also be either, creating an inverted bell-curve where it does well at both the newbie and expert levels but appears to be horrid for average players. Not to be confused with a Crutch Character, which starts strong, but is inferior to other characters, sometimes because they have trouble keeping up. Compare "Wake-Up Call" Boss, which is a PvE encounter that similarly serves to separate new players from the experienced. Skill Gate Characters may be overly reliant on That One Attack and thus falter once the opponent learns how to counter it. Has some overlap with Awesome but Impractical, in which a skill or character has drawbacks that prevent it/him/her from being overpowered.

Examples of Skill Gate Characters include:

  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl has Pit, neither a Glass Cannon or a Mighty Glacier. Being based off of Cupid, Pit is annoying because he uses speedy arrows that cause interruption to make the lives of decent players miserable, and touching him, let alone gimping him, can be made bothersome what with him being able to fly. Aside from that, however, Pit has no glaring strengths and slightly sub-par melee (although said melee has multiple multi-hit attacks so it can't be all bad).
    • A much better example is Zelda, who has an amazing projectile, kills at ridiculously low percents, and outprioritizes everything... until you realize that her projectile can be spotdodged/powershielded/whatever on reaction. Then you realize her grab is slower then reaction time meaning she has no real answers to a shielding opponent, and suddenly her approach game becomes awful. Then you realize that her slow grab combined with slow moves out of shield means bad punishment and you get the idea. Furthermore, multi-hit moves are becoming less effective. This in turn makes characters that depended on them skill gate characters.
    • Some players consider Ike this as well. He's slow and cannot take as much punishment as the other Mighty Glacier's but he hits like a freight train, his moves are hard to interrupt, and his attacks have a wide reach. Again, he is a case of: stomps newbies, walked all over by more skilled opponents, DEADLY in skilled hands.
    • On a similar note, Super Smash Brothers Melee has a case of this in the top tiers. Early on Sheik was considered the undisputed best, and even considered for banning. However with the rise of improved technical ability, Fox showed that Sheik was, relative to him, a skill-gate character. Later Falco and Jigglypuff illustrated this as well.
    • In SSBM, Link is a very easy character to use at low-level play, with multiple killers that are easy to hit on slower-moving opponents and a powerful shield grab. However, as competitive players developed fast techniques such as wavedashing, dash-dancing, and l-canceling, Link lost the competitive edge due to his slow movements... paving the way for the rise of arguably Lethal Joke Character Young Link, who solves the speed problem.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin has Tabitha, who ties with the final boss for highest attack and defense bonus to allied units, but also has the smallest area of effect (initially just one unit.) She can annihilate lone units, but she has no good response to concentrated fire, especially from artillery and other indirect-attack units.
  • Zangief from Street Fighter IV. He has a spammable spinning attack that average/new players will get creamed against, but it is severely punishable by expert players.
    • That Damn Ken and his Hurricane Kick spam! Until you notice his upper body is completely unprotected...
    • The Shoto Clones are arguably an example of the "bell curve" type of Skill Gate Characters in IV. They are easy to use and get into, but tend to be very predictable to fight for average players. But they get better after that thanks to good players abusing their normal attacks with quick recovery...
    • Vega's speed and claw range would overwhelm new players until they learned his fairly simple patterns. He gets better in expert play though, because of the skill and timing required to perform his Difficult but Awesome tricks, such as the safe claw dive/grab mixup in II and IV, and his infinite combo in the Alpha series.
  • In Rise of Nations, the Russians were mildly overpowered in matches between casual players but were considered one of the worst factions by expert players. The developers didn't think this was a problem because there were nearly 20 factions to choose from.
    • A main reason for this is that the Russian national trait is that their territory causes additional attrition, as an implementation of "Never get involved in a land war in Asia"/"Never invade Russia in the winter". Seems awesome, because who doesn't want to watch invading forces shrivel and die without having to do anything?... but basic attrition is significant enough that strategists quickly learn not to invade anyone without accompanying supply vehicles to protect them, which eliminates any advantage the Russians have and forces them to confront armies whose national traits may allow them to field better units or more of them faster.
  • In Team Fortress 2, Pyros end up as these in higher levels of gameplay.
    • Pyros can seem overpowered to new players but at higher levels of gameplay, they lack any form of advanced movement (which is very important in this game) and are near useless outside of close range. Their only decent competitive tactic is reliant on the enemy to attack them with specific weapons they can deflect and is easily countered. However, it should be noted that expert Pyros may retain their usefulness by taking advantage of ambush tactics and the aforementioned deflector, as well as presenting constant threats to Spies and making enemies temporarily retreat. Only the W+M1 strategy is what makes newbies a bit dangerous.
    • Although not useless at high level per se, the Heavy also performs very well at low levels of play for his very simple spray-and-pray gameplay and lack of reliance on advanced movement, but gets countered easily by Snipers and Spys, two classes that perform extremely well in the hands of experienced players (but quite poorly otherwise), and is shunned and considered boring at high levels of play for his sluggishness. There is a saying among dedicated TF2 players: "There is no such thing as a Heavy main".
  • Hunters from World of Warcraft until halfway through Burning Crusade. High damage output by mashing three buttons, a pet to push back castbars, and plenty of ways to escape an opponent. Also had a 3-yard yellow zone between their melee and range radii wherein they couldn't do anything but watch their pet attack if you managed to root them in the appropriate place.
    • Warriors also have a 'donut of safety' where you're out of their melee range, but not far enough to get charged... Except Tauren Warriors, whose hitbox is 8 yards instead of 5, the minimum Charge range.
    • Hunters and Paladins have a version of this. Both are very good solo classes for new players that are easy to level in PVE, but that means a lot of them are suddenly and utterly stomped by the end-game content as they lack the relevant skills.
  • These crop up in various CCGs from time to time. One extreme example was Pokemon's Mulligan Mewtwo deck. Chances of defeating an expert player with a good deck? Near zero. Chances of defeating a new player who doesn't understand what it's trying to do? Near 100%. Naturally, it stopped showing up in tournaments rather quickly as people figured it out.
    • In Magic: The Gathering, the "4 of every Circle of Protection" deck. It can beat any deck that can only win by damage, has no enchantment removal or bounce, kills slowly enough that you can somehow win even while sinking mana into Circle activations every other words, only terrible decks.
      • But in fitting with the trope Circle of Protection can be very useful depending on the opponent's deck. Stopping that giant creature with trample and lifelink from ever doing damage is worth one mana a turn.
      • The pre-packaged decks Wizards of the Coast sells are generally skill gates in themselves: Competitive against each other, but will get crushed against tournament-level decks. But they are useful in teaching newer players how to modify their decks to win more (first tip: Buy two of the same pre-packaged decks and smoosh 'em together.)
  • BlazBlue's Jin Kisaragi, to an extent. Most new players crumple and die against ice car spam, but competent players can easily counter these tactics.
    • Note that ice car spam is nowhere near the best way to play Jin, and he does his Game Breaking in serious tournament play by having boatloads of invincibility frames and frame advantage. But Ice Car Jins are most certainly Skill Gate Characters.
    • Noel is also one easy-to-pick-up character whose confusing and seemingly relentless Drive attacks can overwhelm novices but can be taken apart by experts who recognise the openings.
    • Iron Tager has become this in Continuum Shift. His incredible power coupled with the fact that he is much easier to use than he looks makes him widely hated by new BlazBlue players. Expert players who can keep him at arm's length and not get magnetized, however, can skillfully dissect him. Ironically he was firmly on the Difficult side of Difficult but Awesome in Calamity Trigger.
      • It has reached a point where people at low levels are Rage Quit ing on the VS screen because of their opponent picking Tager.
  • Gado in Bloody Roar 2, degraded from a Game Breaker in the first game. Hits like a truck, and has some nice combos that can chew off life if you don't know how to handle it, but moves so slow. Seems devastating when your first fight against him or unlocked, but seems less and less fearsome as you understand the game and get better at it. Still makes a helluva annoying boss for new players. Unfortunately, in later games he was Nerfed to sheer uselessness.
  • There was a time during StarCraft's long lifespan when the (mostly average skilled) playerbase was complaining about how overpowered Zerg were (particularly Mutalisks) while many of the top players were playing Terran instead: Terran defenses combined with a sublime powers when microed (for example, the famous tank-and-dropship dance) made them far more powerful in skilled hands then the much simpler Zerg. Another example is stealth units: Against a good player, it's extremely difficult to pull off Dark Templars or nukes, but against a player who isn't good at detection management either can be an instant win.
    • Near the end of the Starcraft era however, "Fast Mutas" were considered to be the best Zerg opening, and most Terran and Protoss builds were judged against this build. Said Terran and Protoss builds were only considered viable if they were fast enough to outproduce or counter the initial Zerg Rush of Mutalisks. Certainly an example of the "bell curve" Skill Gate.
    • Most beginners and intermediate players gravitate to the Protoss because their playstyle is based around having fewer, stronger units without too many special abilities to make them 'work'. In armies of equal cost, it's typically easier to control 10 beefy units rather than 30 units that die instantly if you make a mistake. Add to this that building 30 units takes more work than building 10 and you'll see why most new players like the toss: easier micro and easier macro. Of course, once you get good none of that matters in any meaningful way anymore and player skill becomes increasingly important.
  • Eddy Gordo got this reputation in Tekken 3. Novice players would enjoy Button Mashing and the flips and spins he'd do, stymieing most others..except those who figured out his patterns. Or just picked Kuma and smashed him to bits before he could even get in range.
    • Eddy is an interesting case, because of two reasons. One is that until mastered, most players will do better with him if they just employ Button Mashing and joystick waggling. The other is that it takes a disproportionately high degree of skill to beat button mashing Eddy players consistently. Even experts that are below master caliber lose to button mashing Eddy players on occasion. This tends to start a lot of Trash Talking. The Tekken trash talking FAQ even mentions one of the prime reasons to trash talk is "You just lost to some psychotic crack-addicted button-mashing Eddy player and you feel it is your duty to comment on that particular playstyle."
  • One team tends to take on this role every season in Madden NFL, depending on whichever play or group of plays are considered Game Breakers that year.
  • League of Legends has a few:
    • Evelynn is an assassin type with invisibility and a stun attack. Against newbies she tends to get about 30 kills and carry the game. Anyone clever enough to figure out you need to buy an anti-invisibility potion will own her.
      • This has actually been established to be more of a massive oddity in effectiveness. When played by bad players? Does the above. Average players? Gets stomped. Very good players? Surprisingly effectual. GREAT players? ...enjoy getting dodged.
      • Now that people have began using her to jungle (kill neutral creeps instead of laning where the enemy can harass them), she's now considered massively frustrating and very good at all levels of play, since she can now get gold and levels, which she needs, without dealing with enemies who easily beat her up early game.
      • And follow the enemy jungler around while invisible, steal his kills, organise a gank on the jungler or simply wait for the junger to get heavily damaged by jungle creeps and then appear and kick his ass. This strategy was so effective and rage-inducing to play against that Evelynn was intentionally overnerfed just to make people stop doing that.
    • Tryndamere is a melee warrior with the highest sustained damage output of any champion in the game, an additional damage bonus when low on life, the ability to pass through walls for an easy escape, and an ultimate ability that makes him immortal for a short time. Many a lowbie has uninstalled the game after confronting this character and getting their ass kicked, only to watch Tryndamere escape through a wall once reinforcements arrived. It takes some experience with the game to figure out his weaknesses: he requires very large amounts of gold to afford his damage items and become useful, and critically his ultimate does not make him immune to disabling effects or damage over time. Add his awkward rune requirements (which are only relevant at higher levels) and low health and it is clear why Tryndamere is considered bottom tier.
    • Other pubstompers are Karthus (ultimate that hits everyone on the map; stays alive for a short time after death, often getting free kills in a chaotic teamfight; solution - magic resist and don't stand in his damage radius after he dies) and Katarina (offensive teleport and an immensely damaging channelled ultimate that can kill nearby champions in about two seconds; solution - almost all of her damage comes from said ultimate and any stun/bump/knockup/silence/fear/taunt ability interrupts it). Neither is viable against good players, but both will single-handedly win the game at low skill levels.
      • Karthus is definitely viable. He was used multiple times to good effect in the Dreamhack tournament, which had all the best League players across the globe playing. It's worth mentioning that he has the ability to place down a gigantic wall enemies can pass through that tremendously slows them and reduces their armor/MR that lasts for 7 seconds, is long range, and gives sight the whole time. This alone is absurdly useful.
        • Which still has nothing to do with the reason he stomps low level players. Using the wall requires skill. Dominating your lane opponent to get ahead, then using your global ultimate to terrorise his entire team does not. Low level players assumes what happens in mid lane stays in mid lane, until they lose half of their health to a laser beam on the head, giving Karthus a large number of free kills before the end of the laning phase.
    • Mordekaiser is statistically the best champion in the game. His high damage spells and incredible health give him a significant edge in a brawling match, and his regenerating shield makes it nearly impossible to scratch him in the lane. His weaknesses? Melee range, zero gap closers, zero crowd control and zero escape abilities. Eventually opponents learn how to kite, disable priority targets and generally not walk in a disorganised cluster towards the enemy. If he cannot reach you, he cannot regenerate his shield and dies like a useless potato sack.
      • His ultimate ability is a curse that damages an enemy player and creates a powerful ghost under his control if that player dies while cursed. Low level players tend to fight to the death rather than escaping at the last moment, meaning as soon as someone dies in a teamfight Mordekaiser gets a free ghost and the 5v5 battle just became 4v6.
    • Annie Manages to follow this trope in a sine wave: to the rookie, she's a fragile caster with a difficult-to-work gimmick. Once you have the basics like counting your spells and ability combos, her high burst damage and stunning passive make her a terror. These tricks become less godlike in the higher levels, but someone who's an expert with the Dark Child can make her extremely viable.
      • This trope is also what turns her training bot it an absolute nightmare against newbie players. Superhuman combo timing, perfect cooldown management and the ability to always land her stun perfectly are wonderful advantages for an AI to have when the character's effectiveness depends largely on those three things.
  • From the Soul Series, the nunchaku-wielders (Li Long and later Maxi) have somewhat erratic attack patterns and several easy-to-abuse moves that trap the opponent in them for multiple hits. For maxi, this is thanks to the Pure Soul Loop system. Pure Soul Loop allows you successfully button-mash forever, but at the same time, Maxi can only move in a straight line while combo-ing in general. Thus, stepping around him makes all the difference. Even still, Maxi has really high base attack, so Pure Soul Loop combos only have to succeed but a few times.
    • Kilik is a notorious "easy to pick up and defeat opponents" character. However, a patient user of Guard Impacts and parries can quickly dissect and destroy a button-mashing Kilik player with relative ease.
    • Necrid is generally considered this by those that don't call him a broken character because they think he's a Game Breaker. Necrid's movelist and gameplay tends to revolve entirely around Whoring, which means he can often get perfects against new players by simply pressing a button over and over. People that understand spacing and guard impacts, however, will usually curb-stomp Necrid since Spam Attacks are one of the only things his poorly-designed movelist is good for.
  • Shotia from Do Don Pachi dai ou jou. Powerful regular shot, starts off with 3 bombs and maxes out at 6 (most of any character in the game)...but she also moves very slowly when she's firing her laser, and if she dies she loses all laser power, which is a horrible thing to have happen to you against a boss or midboss.
  • Robot Arena 2 has EMERGENCY, whose powerful drive train and armor, and very powerful flipper make him a nuisance for new players... until you realize that flippers do almost no damage. Avoid edges with out-of-bounds zones and make sure your bot can (or doesn't need to) self-right.
  • Deidara in Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. He is also VERY easy to spam with.
    • To elaborate, Deidara's power consists exclusively of sculpting animals out of explosive clay and allowing them to move like the animals they're based on. There is a particular long-range combo where he throws clay birds of increasing size and intensity, culminating in him creating a gigantic one, riding on it, and ramming it into the opponent. What makes this combo difficult for people not prepared for it is that Deidara goes up into the air bit by bit, becoming unreachable towards the end of the combo; and Deidara moves across the field for that last strike. However, this can be dismantled through good timing with support characters or by using the Ninja Dash to get right up to Deidara when he begins the combo, because the Ninja Dash will outprioritize Deidara's clay birds.
  • Cloud in Dissidia Final Fantasy is easy to use for beginners but slow and predictable and therefore easy to block and counter. Though he has a couple of good wallrushing HP attacks that can hit hard if he has a decent amount of Brv, and he guard crushes in his ex-mode. In 012 his speed is improved on with aerial double cut, and assist combos means he has an easier time landing hits.
    • This is even lampshaded by Kefka for his pre-battle quote against Cloud in the first game:

"Ah, the smell of inexperience!!"

  • Frank West in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 can be this. He hits hard, but if you know how to avoid his slide and knee drop (his two main ways of getting in), he can be pretty easily dealt with, as he doesn't truly have any answers for people who fight at a distance.
    • Once past the Skill Gate of average play, Frank tends to be a monster in high levels and tournaments, where he's never around except as an annoying assist with his shopping cart, and during tag combos designed to land two or more Supers that also power up the range of his normal moves with his camera.
  • High acceleration characters/karts in Mario Kart Wii, in contrast to the earlier games where they were arguably the most useful overall. This is because they have high handling and acceleration stats, and hence can initially do well due to recovering from item hits and are easier to handle for newer players. But in higher level play (anything above about 100%), they just get overtaken by all the high speed karts and can't do as well as far as world records/time trial goes.
  • In the Touhou spinoff fighting game Touhou Hisoutensoku, Utsuho Reiuji will tear newbies apart due to her high-priority normal projectiles, full-screen lasers that do big damage, her Mighty Glacier traits being partially negated by her long dashes and a basic dial-A combo which takes out 1/4 of your health. Pros will be able to interrupt the long startup of every single move she attempts with any other character, stop her easily predictable approaches, spot all the holes in her blockstrings (none of them are airtight, relying on mixups to succeed) and take her offense apart with well timed attacks. Similarly, Yuyuko Saigyouji can utterly overwhelm newbies with her spam of butterflies and ghosts, but tactically, she has Glass Cannon characteristics similar to Utsuho, having rather slow movement and punishable abilities. And Aya Shameimaru's very fast movement, specials and and bullets can seem terrifying, but her bullets have terribly low density, and with some concentration it's possible to predict and counterhit her moves.
  • Full-Moon Riesbyfe Stridberg in Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code can be seen as this. With short but powerful chains that can easily do high damage, especially to more frail characters, she's held back by her absolute inability to deal with zoning in any capacity. As such, types such as Chaos can systematically take her apart.
  • A slightly different example is the four-move checkmate in Chess. White moves a pawn to free the bishop and the queen, moves the bishop to where the queen will go, and in two moves puts the queen in a position where only the king can capture - except that the queen is protected, which means mate. The problem is that any player who sees this coming can easily protect against it with one move, essentially putting the player who tried it three moves behind and in a bad starting position. Against a beginner, it's an easy win. Against an expert, it's an easy loss.