**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.
Last time, I talked about things you can do to practice by yourself. Now it’s time to talk about ways to practice when with a friend (or two, or three, or etc…)!
You can practice all the things you can practice on your own – Match-Up knowledge, your technical ability, and your fundamentals. You need to practice all 3 to be a great player. While I went over how to practice them very briefly in my post about creating a Training Regimen, this post will expand on those concepts.
Let’s start with MU knowledge.
You should try and learn all kill throw/combo % ranges with good DI when you’ve got a friend. Again, I suggest recording these with and without rage at key points of a stage.
Learning to fight against a character can be a double-edge sword here. You want to focus on move interactions/spacing, and habits that a player of said character might develop. While against a bot you can just practice move interactions and range, with a human you can practice spaced move interactions and the options that are opened/closed in the MU compared to fighting a bot.
It’s a good idea to talk about what the MU between your character and their character. Test out scenarios, get into the theory of it. Just don’t sit there and talk without doing anything. Just talking isn’t going to get you anywhere if you’re making assumptions about the way the MU should work. And don’t forget that your play style and its importance in the character MU should work its way into the discussion. With a human, I think talking is more effective than playing when it comes to MU training.
I’m going to be honest – I don’t think this is really the ideal way to practice your tech when you’re trying to become proficient at first. This is further along the road, once you’re comfortable executing in the middle of a match vs bots. When you’re playing with a friend, the goal here is to be able to incorporate your tech without messing up. You’ve already practiced becoming efficient in a controlled setting (Training Mode) and have some comfort in performing it on the fly (against bots, I hope), so now you can feel the pressure of someone reacting and playing to your tech. Does messing up cost you the stock in friendlies? It might be time to get back to execution in a controlled space. It shouldn’t matter when it’s useful – the goal here is to be able to execute it flawlessly mid-match with the pressure of another player looming over you.
This is really crucial – you don’t want to mess up execution when in a tournament match. As someone who played Project M, missing any kind of execution can and will result in the loss of your stock.
So make sure you play against friends as much as possible when getting to the home stretch of technique execution.
If you need a refresher on what fundamentals are, go check out my very first post on improving in Smash 4. Most of the fundamentals are easier to practice with a friend since a lot of them involve your abilities against another player.
The two you can practice on your own, Reactions & Punishes and Option Coverage, can be explored differently. Instead of exploring the mechanical side of them, you can simulate situations with a friend and test out different punishes, option coverage moves, etc… I still suggest you practice your reaction time, but with a human I suggest exploring the more open aspects of these two fundamentals. What options is a player feeling afraid likely to take, and how would you try to cover them? Can you react to their panic options? What’s your most optimal punish at x %? These are things a human player can help you simulate much more effectively than with a bot.
As before, try and practice both of these at the same time when playing normal friendlies.
Before I go into the ones you can practice with a human, I want to make a note here: watching a match with a friend (or friends) and discussing the match can be really helpful and beneficial instead of watching on your own. It’s not required, but it’s definitely something to look into.
Now onto the other fundamentals!
Practicing your Spacing is pretty simple. Test out maximum ranges for your character. Can you be punished? Is there an advantage to spacing close instead of at maximum range? This is very MU dependent, so make sure you’re practicing this and exploring your spacing against a lot of different players.
Positional Awareness is something I think is very hard to practice mid-match. This should be a heavily conversation-based. Start playing a friendly and when you feel like you don’t understand your advantages or disadvantages at that point, pause the game and start talking about it. Your opponent can voice his thoughts on the subject and a conversation can start about it (obviously, make sure you and your opponent are okay with the both of you suddenly pausing). While whether on the offensive or defensive can be apparent at times, it’s good to employ this during neutral and see if you truly are in neutral or on the defensive. The duration of true neutral (that being a point where neither opponent has an advantage or a disadvantage) in a single game can be as little as 10%.
Identifying Habits can be practiced by playing an opponent and trying to predict moves based on habits, but I think the best way to truly practice this is to watch a video with your friend (or watch two players play in front of you) and try to pick up on the habits of both players. Talk about it, see if you’re correct or incorrect. This is a great time to employ all the other fundamentals you’ve learned to try and pinpoint habits and when they’re exploited.
Obviously, you’ll need to practice identifying them mid-match or mid-set, but you need to create a solid foundation first.
As for Neutral: to be honest, practicing this is simply practicing everything else and being thoughtful while playing. Be thoughtful while practicing. Neutral, to me, is the combination of every other fundamental. It’s a skill that is the most important during true neutral. If you can’t win in true neutral, you’ll be disadvantaged more than advantaged, and that leads to losing. My advice for practicing this is playing friendlies and trying to employ everything you’ve been learning.
To reiterate: all of your fundamentals tie into MUs and your technical abilities. Remember that you need to combine all three together at some point to morph yourself into a truly great player.
Next time, I’ll be talking about training partners/groups.
Check out the BONUS series!