Singing In The Rain: A Defense of the Undercover Brella

USBs: Not just for spreading malware anymore.

Weapons in shooting games are generally offensive-minded (that’s why you use them, right?), but there are a rare few that also provide some defensive benefits, improving your safety while undermining that of your opponent. Overwatch‘s Reinhardt and his massive shield (which he can’t actually attack with) are perhaps the most-famous example, but Splatoon 2 provides a few options of its own with the its Brella weapon class, which was newly introduced for this game.

Splat Brellas provide a personal shield that can protect you from enemy fire and launch forward to ink a protected path, while Tenta Brellas are Reinhardt-sized nightmares that trade speed for power and frighteningly-good coverage. (Little-known fact: When Alan Jackson finished putting a hole in his wall, it was a Tenta Brella that provided the cover for him to drive a truck through it.) Like Reinhardt, however, you can’t shield and shoot at the same time (holding ZR makes the shield deploy and eventually shoot forward), forcing you to constantly spam the trigger to allow you to fight back. For someone as paranoid about repetitive motion injuries as I am, this was a total turn-off. If only there was a weapon that let me shoot and shield simultaneously without developing carpel tunnel or worrying about my shield departing at the worst possible moment.

Enter the Undercover Brella, which is best described as the inverse of the Tenta Brella⁠—it’s smaller, weaker, faster, and stays by your side until the bitter end (i.e., until a sharking paintbrush corners you).

Tenta Brella Splat Brella Undercover Brella
Shield Size Monstrous Personal Personal
Shield Strength Great (700 HP) Good (500 HP) Weak (200 HP)
Launches? Yes Yes No
Fuel Efficiency Hummer (10%/shot) Half-Ton (6.35%/shot) Hybrid (4%/shot)
Movement Speed Slow Moderate Fast
Fire Rate Really Slow Pretty Slow Kinda Slow
Range Above Average Below Average Slightly Below Average
X-Shot Kill X = 1-2 X = 2 X = 3-4

The rule of shooter games, of course, is if a weapon is super-good at one thing, people will exploit that strength and find ways to play around its weaknesses. Thus, the Tenta Brella (after a few serious buffs) is now a viable weapon at the top levels of play, while the Undercover Brella (which does a few things well but does nothing truly spectacular) is barely seen even in Turf Wars. If it wasn’t for the Ink Armor special of the Kensa Undercover Brella variant, you’d likely never see the weapon at all.

I, however, fell in love with the plucky-but-wimpy Undercover Brella, and have managed to get a ton of mileage out of it even at higher levels of ranked solo queue play. I spread the gospel of this thing almost as much as I preach about Midland, and I’m here today to convince you that this Brella deserves both a bit more respect and a bit more representation in ranked play.

So what does the Undercover Brella do well? Consider the clip, which highlights some of the weapon’s strengths:

  • The Undercover Brella is a great placeholder weapon: You find a place, and you hold it. With its less-than-stellar damage output and fire rate, you’re not going to win a ton of 1v1s battles. Still, your shield/shot combination gives you just enough health and firepower to make slayer-types think twice about challenging you head-on, and its light weight gives you the mobility to hop around and sidestep longer-range weapons (most longer-range weapons will try to keep their distance and avoid stepping to you). The result is a lot of drawn-out stalemates while the opposing team tries to figure out how to approach the weird guy that’s waving their umbrella around. Throw in sloping terrain or obstacles that discourage flanking and provide plenty of hiding places (such as the walls and bumpers in MakoMart above), and suddenly that Brella doesn’t seem so wimpy anymore.

In game modes centered around a fixed or slow-moving point (say, Splat Zones or Tower Control), time is money, and any second spent flailing around trying to move the Brella is a second that counts toward our objective. It’s a bit less effective in modes that require more-aggressive play like Rainmaker and Clam Blitz, but you can get some mileage out of being the first one through the door during a push.

  • The kits complement different ranked modes surprisingly well. There are three variants of the Undercover Brella: The basic vanilla kit (VUB), the Sorella version (USB), and the Kensa set (KUB). Let’s start with the kinda-sorta-meta kit first:
    • The Kensa Undercover Brella: Ink Armor is a useful special weapon in any mode, and while charging it isn’t the quickest thing in the world (at 200 points, it’s equivalent to running an N-Zap ’85), it’s not overly onerous either, and it’s the only Brella of any variety to support armor spam. Torpedos are a great sub weapon because they provide bomb support, solid paint coverage, and will also home in on nearby enemies, letting you flush out sharking opponents and force them to defend an attack from an awkward angle. This kit is more amenable to advancing and taking positions, so it’s the best option of the three for modes like Rainmaker or Clam Blitz.
    • The Undercover Sorella Brella: This thing is a beast in Splat Zones. Your default stalemate capabilities and solid painting coverage keep enemies from gaining a foothold on the zone and let you maintain map control, Splat Bombs are generally useful and let you attack from a safer distance, and at 180 points the thing absolutely farms Ballers, which a) gives you a get-out-of-jail-free option if you’re focused down, and b) as seen above, it gives you a quick and effective way to initiate back onto the zone if you lose it. On smaller maps with lots of cover (Moray Towers, MakoMart, Walleye Warehouse, and even Humpback Pump Track), this weapon is practically unmovable. It’s a great Splat Zones choice, and Baller gives you options in Rainmaker and Clam Blitz as well.
    • The Vanilla Undercover Brella: You never forgot your first Undercover Brella, but while this is my favorite Brella of the bunch, it’s also got the weakest set of the three: Ink Mines offer only limited control and visibility, and Splashdown remains a below-average special even after its recent buff (it’s just too easy for opponents to shoot you out of the air). It’s got very little push on its own, and doesn’t seem to defend as wide an area as the USB, which is why it doesn’t offer as much utility in Splat Zones. Tower Control, however, is a different story: You’re defending a dinky little piece of ground that moves along with you, so your mines are always in position to offer chip damage, and nothing says “Get off my plane tower” like Splashdown, especially if you’re super-jumping to a teammate. (Being able to farm Splashdowns at a mind-blowing 150 points doesn’t hurt either.) From there, you can use your mobility and the tower’s center pole to dance away from enemy shots (and occasionally step in front of the pole to avoid pressure from behind). The combination works far better on this mode than it has any right to, and it’s the only weapon/mode combination in which I’ve cracked the moderately-fabled 2300 barrier.
The true moral here is that good teammates are worth their weight in gold.

In other words, there’s a Undercover Brella for any occasion, even Turf War (it’s tolerable range and solid painting capability

  • If you’re ever in a 2v1 or 3v1, you’ve got an ace in the hole: The Undercover Brella is actually a vampire. Nintendo has been buffing the heck out of this thing trying to get people to use it, and one of the coolest post-launch abilities it received was auto-regenerating its shield if you got a splat or assist. That means that if your position is good and your aim is true, you can step out into the open and tank a few shots, knowing that if you get the KO, you’ll get a fully-restored shield to work with again. While I wouldn’t call this a terribly aggressive weapon, it’s a middle best for a center of the fight rather than the edges, and it life-draining functionality allows you to take calculated risks when you have to. (Even better, the Main Power Up ability speeds up the shield regeneration process in general, so you Kensa Pro mains in the audience might already have a workable gearset for this thing!)

Of course, this weapons is not considered for a reason, and if you play it, you have to be very aware of its shortcomings:

  • All the vampiric power in the world won’t save you from a bad angle. You can stare down multiple enemies with a UB, but if you can’t see all the whites of their eyes in the same glance, you’re doomed. If you’re ever attacked from multiple angles, you need to swallow your pride and get the heck out of Dodge. This means that maps that are too open (The Reef), too big (New Albacore Hotel), or offer too many ways around you (Shellendorf Institute) are probably not ones you want to bring a Brella to.
  • Certain weapons are your Kryptonite, even in a 1v1. Do not, under any circumstances, try to go toe-to-toe with a paintbrush, and avoid challenging blasters unless you’re confident that they have horrendous aim (or you can get close enough to make them shoot past you). Short-range, high-damage weapons that benefit from a damage multiplier against shields (Sploosh-o-matics, anyone?) can also be a problem if they get too close, so try to keep them at a distance with your range.
  • UBs are great for holding an advantage, but not necessarily for gaining one. Stalemates are only good for whoever benefits the most from the status quo, so if you’re stuck keeping an opponent at bay deep in your own territory, you’re not helping much. Ballers and Ink Armor can assist with a push, but without follow-up from your teammates, you’ll likely just find yourself in one of those triple-teamed, bad-angle situations discussed above.
  • Above it all, remember that you’re a brawler, but not a slayer. UBs are a three-shot splat at best (which means four shots 75% of the time), and landing that many hits against a highly-mobile enemy like a dualie player is an exercise in frustration. That said, always be ready to be the third person into a scrap (this isn’t hockey, so there’s no game misconduct penalty for doing so) to help chip in against a distracted opponent.
Be ready for your teammates to silently judge your splat counts after every match.

Given all this, it’s safe to say that the Undercover Brella is not a jack-of-all-trades that the N-Zap is. (It’s more of an eight of clubs, truthfully.) However, I’d argue it’s also not the useless weapon the current meta would have you believe: It the right situation, Undercover Brella can be formidable, even downright scary at times, and players can find a surprising amount of success behind its canopy. Now get out there and help me change the meta for good!