Improvement in Smash 4 II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups

**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.

Repeat after me: “MUs aren’t just numbers”.

If you were to ask me, “Kappy, what prevents players from improving?”, I would say without hesitation that one of the top things are, “match ups” (or, as everyone refers to them in text format, MUs). MUs describe the likelihood of a character beating another character, strictly speaking. The way it usually goes: If two players of equal skill play, character X has a XX:YY MU with character Y. This is usually categorized in this way:

50:50 – Even
55:45 – Small Advantage
60:40 – Advantage
70:30 – Big Advantage
80:20 – Huge Advantage
90:10 – Gigantic Advantage
100:0 – Guaranteed Win

I think there’s something inherently flawed about discussing MUs like this. Let me be perfectly clear – numerically showing how character X does against character Y is fine; in fact, I agree with it. The problem is how it’s discussed and approached.

Let me craft a scenario for you. Say you go up against a player who places the same as you in your local scene. You two seem to always get the same place, but you two have never met in bracket. This time, it’s different. You’re going up against him, and he’s using a character that has a 100:0 MU against yours. You two sit down to play, two supposed evenly-matched players, and you emerge the victor.

I’ve seen this happen before.

What’s happening here? The biggest problem approaching MUs with numbers is that character takes over player. It should be flipped. Player trumps Character. It might be an uphill battle for your character, but it’s not so simple as, “Character X walls Y. It’s hard for them to get in.” No, it’s not so cut and dry. Even with an equal skill level, a player’s tendencies can change how the MU actually is in practice.

What if you spun it as, “I struggle against hyper-defense. I find it difficult to approach.” This not only spins the blame to give you something to practice, it gets rid of blaming your character or the MU for losing. A number doesn’t define who you’ll win and lose to, who you’ll struggle and not struggle against.

So what can you do to stop thinking this way? Combine Player and Character into a single unit.

Combining player and character gives way to two distinct ways to view a MU, and both are essential to improving: Play Style and Character Interactions. What are these?

Play Style refers to how a player makes decisions during a match. Do they apply pressure, grab a lot, camp, etc… This is usually categorized further for generality – aggressive, defensive, etc… I won’t get too into that, but Play Style also encompasses a player’s reactions, emotions, etc… their style changes as they play, and if they don’t – well, if you can counter play it without them adapting, then you’re going to win no matter the character.

Character Interaction refers to on paper interactions between characters. This is usually discovered through experimentation on the player’s part. Let me list what I think this consists of:

– Move Priority
– Kill %’s
– Punishment Options

Move Priority refers to the interaction between two character’s moves. A good example would be Kirby’s Dair vs Marth Up Tilt. Marth’s Up Tilt beats Kirby’s Dair, so it wins and Kirby will (most likely) get hit.

Kill %’s are just that. When does X move KO at Y percent on character Z?

Punishment Options refers to options your character has to punish character X in any given situation. Can you shield grab an Fsmash? A Ftilt? Can you punish a whiffed move with a Smash/Tilt/etc…?

When I approach a MU, I think about these things instead of the numbers. I think about what I’m going to need to do to overcome any adversity the MU presents me with. If my character struggles against projectiles, I need to find ways to counter the player’s style with those projectiles. Do I have a move that’ll just outright beat the projectile? Does the player panic when I get too close? When should I start looking for a KO? (Notice how this is basically Adaptability)

——

Obviously, some characters do beat others. It’s the way a game like this works. And in a game like this, some characters have a lot of “bad” MUs. And they will struggle, and you can clearly see how a character struggles. However, simplifying the MU to the point where you’re going in expecting it to be incredibly hard or maybe impossible is neglecting the fact that there’s a person controlling that avatar. You’re forgetting about human error, human psychology, even human physiological responses during a set. This is stuff that you need to think about when it comes to MUs, and it’s reflected in their play style.

If you wanna use numbers when sitting at home thinking about MUs, fine. Don’t let me stop you. But you best believe that you shouldn’t be oversimplifying MUs when you’re about to play someone. Treat them as complex as they should be – it’s a character controlled by a player, not the other way around. Remember that.

When you’re giving advice, don’t just use the character. That’s for tier list/character interactions/theorycrafting discussion specifically. Otherwise, think about the player, too. Don’t let players ask, “how does X do against Y?” Demand they be more specific. No two players play the same way – acknowledge that in how you ask for and give out advice.

Repeat after me: “MUs aren’t just numbers.”

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

I – Fundamentals
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

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Youmacon 2012 Recap

As finals loom around the corner for me, I went with a couple friends to Youmacon the past weekend, and it was awesome! Here’s a small recap:

– My friend Mike’s rainbow radio.

– Circling the Renaissance Center 4 times before finally figuring out where to stop so I could go check in.

– Circling the Renaissance Center an additional 2 times to find parking. We got a fantastic spot!

– Detroit is a nice city at night. It looks awful during the day. And it was empty! There were a few homeless guys, but other than that, there was no one walking around except con-goers. It was a strange sight for someone who walks around Chicago almost every day.

– I forgot to bring Brawl, so I spent a couple hours looking for an ISO and downloading it, only to find that it didn’t work. In the couple nights that followed, we found that we didn’t have enough Wiimotes to play New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Mario Kart Wii kept freezing. At least Mario Party 2 and Smash 64 worked!

– Watching CPU’s in Mario Party 2 is hilarious. LOL.

– We waited 3 hours for pre-reg on Friday. The normal registration line moved faster than we were! On the flip side, I got over 30 passes in Pokémon just by waiting in line.

– When we found the casual game room, I went to go play Brawl, and cheered for some Link player who got absolutely bodied because of me. LOL.

– After he got up and I sat down, the kid who had just won (and told me when I asked if I could get in that he, “needed a challenge,” very rudely told me that I could enter my name at the character select screen instead of in the options, and I had to explain to him that I have my own personalized controls. I then proceeded to win.

– My friend Mike then sat down, and the kid told him, as Mike was entering his own controls, that his controls were fine. He was soooo salty that he lost to me the round before. LOL. I don’t like rude kids, so I went Mario, told Mike to go Luigi, and proceeded to absolutely annihilate him. Don’t be rude to ex-competitive Brawl players, son!

– We watched two godlike American Dad and Family Guy episodes.

– Room service for the Marriott is godlike. We got a pizza on a super-fancy table, complete with silverware and glasses of water! The pizza was the best food I had the entire weekend.

– I got an ice cream cone at McDonald’s, and the woman (who was clearly stressed out) gave me a huge-ass cone, and I accidentally said, “Holy shit,” as I got it, and told her that she made the best ice cream cone I’ve ever gotten, which I’m sure brightened her evening considering all the rude people she must’ve encountered.

– For the first time, I didn’t finish an ice cream cone from McDonald’s.

– LIVE ACTION MARIO PARTY!

– I participated in the dancing mini game and totally got jipped of winning my team 10 coins because the judge systematically kicked me and the other guy off, and let the two girls participating dance for another minute until making his decision. Next year I’m gonna bust out shit that’ll guarantee me a win!

– Hanging out with the Michigan Brawl scene was super fun. I wish I could see them more often.

– I beat some kid in Pokémon with just Sigilyph because he let me set up all 6 Cosmic Powers. He was mad. LOL.

– I need to make a shirt signifying that I’m not Ash Ketchum, but Slam Dunkum! I also need a B-Ball Pokéball to make the costume complete.

– Watching Marvel was hyyyyype! I gotta start stream monstering more.

– I think I should go to more panels. I only went to one: Live Action Mario Party.

– If I had a swag coach, he wouldn’t want me to tell people that I have a swag coach, so I do not have a swag coach

– SWAG!

– The Dealer’s Room was awesome, though not as good as ACen’s. Still, I got a sweet Youmacon shot glass and some sick art from Artist’s Alley. I didn’t buy anything crazy like I did at ACen, and I’m glad I didn’t. $80 for an Espeon plush? No thanks.

– It is nigh impossible to find Clannad merchandise, and it’s impossible to find Nagisa Furukawa. I just want one Nagisa plush, dammit! Is that too much to ask for?!

– On Sunday, I walked down 46 flights of stairs with my suitcase and backpack. My legs are still sore today!

– I bought 8-bit sunglasses and wore them inside and at night. During the car ride home, when the sun was in my eyes, I didn’t wear them. LOL.

And that’s it! Overall, the weekend was awesome. If I have enough money, I’ll definitely be attending next year!

Apex 2012: Meta Knight’s Last Hurrah

I would have posted this entry yesterday, but my head decided to transform into an anvil for a cold to strike down upon. I was sick three days before Christmas, and now, 17 days later from yesterday, I’m sick once again.

The other reason was the bracket for Apex  2012 had yet to be completely updated, which is what I’ll be writing about today. In the world of competitive fighting games, Super Smash Bros. has never really received a lot of attention (at least from I’ve seen. I could be wrong here). That ended last weekend when Over 1,300 entrants for both Brawl and Melee came (around 50 of those being international players) to attend Apex 2012, Smash’s biggest tournament in history.

While I wasn’t in attendance (I compete in Brawl), watching the stream was a lot of fun. I watched both Melee and Brawl, with a little bit of SFIV: 2012 and UMvC3 (two of the more traditional fighters that were also being played at Apex 2012). The highlight for me was Nairo vs Otori (Apex 2012’s Brawl champion). I usually don’t enjoy MK dittos due to most players not being too aggressive, but these two put on a show of skill souped up with flash, and it was very, very exciting.

If you’d like to see most of the videos from Apex 2012 (including Brawl, Melee, SFIV: 2012, and UMvC3), the links to those channels will be below!

Now, let’s get into one of the more interesting topics that I felt Apex 2012 really brought to the table: America‘s ban on MK.

Let me catch those who don’t know up. MK is the best character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. As such, a lot of players use him, and a lot feel that he is too good a character. Ever since I joined the Smash community a year and a half ago the debate for MK has been strong, and it had only continued to escalate in the past couple of months. After pages upon pages of debate, a consensus was reached: after Apex 2012, MK would be banned from all URC-run (Unity Ruleset Committee) tournaments.

Now, at Apex 2012 we had two Japanese players in Grand Finals for Brawl: Nietono, an Olimar player, and Otori, a MK player. While Otori plays MK, Nietono ran through many of America’s top MK players. I realize that Nietono is only one player, but this still brings a big question to the front lines of the ban debate – is the ban really the best choice?

I think it is, but not because of how good MK is. I’ll admit, I hate playing against MK, and all around me I saw players put in the work and beat him while I continued to lose to him. Apex 2012 gave me some new insight into how much work you need to put in to be the best of the best, and so I withdrew my stance that MK should be banned because of how good he is. Clearly, he can be beaten. You just need to put in the work. The Japanese have proven that.

However, I still support the ban because of how over centralizing he is. That’s simply it. A lot of players use MK. I believe over half of the players in America either main MK or use him as a secondary. And I believe that’s poisonous to a meta game in itself. I like variety, so I’m hoping there’ll be a lot more variety of characters now. I’m crossing my fingers that everyone doesn’t pick up Olimar.

What are your thoughts on Apex 2012? On the MK ban? Let me know!

Oh, and I think double MK is actually too good in doubles. One MK per team would be brilliant.

Just sayin’.

Link to apextournament:

http://www.youtube.com/user/apextournament?feature=g-u

Link to Jaxelrod:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Jaxelrod?feature=g-u