Now that I’ve been back from teaching at summer camp, I’ve thrown myself back into my local competitive Smash scene at EXP Gaming (link to their Facebook page at the bottom of this post). They hold a weekly tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Project M called “Wavedash Wednesdays”, and while I haven’t been there in months, I’ve been able to keep up with Chicagoland’s better players by playing CPU’s every day. But what, some players might ask, do I practice?
Execution, or as I call it: “Closet Training”!
I’ll admit it – my neutral game isn’t always on-point because I don’t play with people a lot. Sometimes I revert to bad habits and spacing in neutral, but I make up for it in combo and edge guard execution, meaning my punishes are hard and I generally convert a hit confirm into really big damage or a KO. Playing CPU’s is notoriously bad for neutral and habit-forming because you become accustomed to fighting an opponent that generally reacts the same way to different stimulus. You can even manipulate a CPU with movement to KO itself.
What you can do with a CPU is practice DI follow-ups on combos, bad recovery edge-guarding, and tech-chasing.
A CPU Marth and a human-controlled Marth both only have 3 options out of a tech: tech in place, tech roll right, or tech roll left. This ends up being really useful. You can practice reacting to different rolls and techs in place on the whole cast as CPU’s, and when it actually happens in a tournament, you’ll be ready for any of the 3 options available to that human-controlled Marth player.
A CPU will DI horribly , but sometimes they’ll DI incredibly well and do techs you wouldn’t dream your opponents could perform. But if they ever do, you’ll know if you can follow up such good DI and if you can, how to follow it up the most effectively depending on the character. You get to try out a ton of different combo scenarios and test your reactions on DI mix-ups because even CPU opponents will change their DI.
You’ll be able to test your reactions on hit confirms when both of you are attacking each other. You can see match-up specific interactions for moves. Can your character’s move beat a certain character’s move at this range? Can you edge guard against a move effectively?
The point I’m trying to make here is that, while you can’t really practice your neutral game solo, you can practice your execution game, which is just as important as neutral. You can practice your edge game so that you don’t suicide during a tournament match because you tried wave landing from ledge to get an invincible tilt or grab in to punish an opponent’s attempt at edge guarding you. You can practice your combo and punish game to make sure you get the most out of every hit you make. High-level Smash involves being able to capitalize on every situation that favors you – you can practice all of those situations solo.
Even if you play with others and work on neutral, I recommend players who really want to start placing high to play for a half hour every day and focus on execution and combo game. You’ll be surprised how much more mileage you get once your punish game is refined. No one wins games in Melee or Project M simply be winning in neutral for 5 minutes. That’s only half the battle, and sometimes makes the difference between a win or a loss in tournament.
Closet Training helped me finally achieve one of my goals in Smash, which was reaching top 5 at a tournament. Think of how much it can help you, too!