Paper Mario Talks — Why Pre-Hooktail Pit is the Perfect Challenge

There are many, many challenges in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door — Level Zero, No Jump No Hammer, Single Partner, BP Only, Double Damage, etc… but one among them all stands the test of time, for me, as the best TTYD challenge out there. That challenge…is Pre-Hooktail Pit.

A Pre-Hooktail Pit run is a run where the player completes the Pit of 100 Trials before completing Chapter 1, which is done by defeating Hooktail. Back in the old challenge running days, this was considered one of the top challenges. Today, I consider it to be one of the “gatekeeper” challenges, a challenge that breaks you into the higher tier of Paper Mario players. Despite my labeling it as a “gatekeeper” challenge, I think it’s the perfect challenge for upcoming challenge runners and veterans alike. Here’s why:

1) It tests everything

Remember my first blog post for Paper Mario Talks? I talked about the 4 skills of a challenge runner. Well, this challenge tests every single one of them and does so in an amazing way. You need to manage peril’d partners, choose the right badges/items for the job, work with on-the-fly RNG, and figure out strategies for all the various enemy loadouts you’ll encounter. Sometimes, you’ll be put in a tight spot and need to superguard and guard well or execute good Power Bounces, Multibonks, and Sweet Treats. Seriously, no other challenge tests everything at the same time so much.

What separates this from a challenge like Level Zero is it also tests your endurance. In full-game runs, you have the luxury of saving and quitting, only doing bite-sized chunks of the challenge. Pre-Hooktail Pit (and other Pit of 100 Trials challenges in general) provide no such luxury. You have to go through the whole thing, including Bonetail, before it is truly complete. And while I don’t consider endurance a particular skill of a Paper Mario challenge runner, it certainly is a skill that any player can benefit from. If you get too tired, you can start committing silly mistakes that can cost you a run.

2) It’s modular

Pre-Hooktail Pit is only the base form of its type of challenge. One can also choose to up the difficulty by including extra restrictions such as 10 HP (Mario cannot increase his HP above 10 in any way) or No Mega Rush P (cannot equip the badge Mega Rush P). You can also combine the two to create a devilishly difficult 10 HP No Mega Rush P restriction. All three of these add to the difficulty, but don’t take away too much from what it’s testing of the player. They all require a little more superguarding, but other than that they function mostly the same, and so provide a good stepping stone of challenges to attempt as you improve as a player. This is what allows newer challenge runners and veterans to continue performing this challenge.

What’s more, speedrunning the base form of the challenge is somewhat popular, and tests the player in a completely different way since you don’t have time to loaf around and prepare – you need to think on your metaphorical feet much faster than someone going through a normal Pre-Hooktail Pit run, who has all the time in the world to figure out a solution. While it’s a little too RNG-heavy to be a completely legitimate speedrun, it is a cool and interesting take on the challenge.

Now, other full-game challenges are also modular (it’s a nice thing about TTYD’s challenges – many are modular), but I particularly like the increase in difficulty the different restrictions of Pre-Hooktail Pit provide without sacrificing something. Many of the “step ups”, so to speak, of full game challenges omit or heavily downplay something crucial in terms of skills being used.

3) There are multiple ways to complete it

While most players follow a general rough guideline on stats, badges, and items to bring, the challenge itself can be completed in a myriad of ways. Some players will choose Heart Finder or Item Hog, Quick Change or Power Plus, Pretty Lucky or Close Call, etc… some decide to upgrade Goombella, others decide to upgrade Koops (or both!). Some will bring Life Shrooms, others will bring Courage Shells, Fire Flowers, POW Blocks, Mushrooms… in short, there’s a lot of variety depending on the player’s preference, and it changes how the run is tackled. While some strategies are definitely better than others, there are enough viable strategies to keep the run fresh and exciting for new players looking to enter challenge running and for veterans to try new things when doing the run.

Again, lots of full game runs offer this same level of variety, but I think an important distinction to make here is that many strategies will be developed on-the-fly that will vary. While you have time to prepare in a Pre-Hooktail Pit run, you have to work around your preparations in case something goes wrong. When you’re really only fighting bosses, you can prepare very well and not have to worry about something going wrong impacting your strategy too much.

And, well…that’s really all I have to say on the subject. I do want to say that most challenges, full game and Pre-Hooktail Pit, are very good, barring a select few I don’t think test all the skills I’d want it to. but if you ever want to get into the next tier of Paper Mario players, Pre-Hooktail Pit is a perfect place to start. There is no better challenge run. Give it a try!

Just Sayin’

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Paper Mario Talks — An Examination of Danger Mario

When Mario is at 5 HP or less, he’s in what’s known as Danger. If he has 1 HP, he’s in Peril. In Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, there are badges that only activate when you’re in Danger or Peril. These badges are as follows:

— Close Call (and partner variant) [Increases chance of enemies missing]
— Last Stand (and partner variant) [Halves damage Mario takes]
— Power Rush (and partner variant) [Increases damage Mario deals by 2]
— Mega Rush (and partner variant) [Increases damage Mario deals by 4 (64) / 5 (TTYD)]

These 4 badges are quite powerful and represent a “last chance” kind of effort for the player. It allows them to win by the skin of their teeth in normal gameplay, especially if you have Mega Rush equipped, which only activates when Mario’s in Peril. However, if a player is upgrading HP often, these badges become less useful because you can go entire battles without it activating. On the flip side… there is a badge setup known as Danger Mario. A character in both games called Chet Rippo allows Mario to swap stats around. This makes it possible to make Mario’s HP 5 instead of 10, effectively putting him in permanent Danger. This is the basis of Danger Mario, and it enhances these 4 badges beyond their normal usefulness.

Now, Danger Mario is quite notorious. Many players frown upon it, saying it’s powerful, but not fun. I’m inclined to agree, but I’ll save my opinions for later. For now, let’s jump into what makes Danger Mario so good. Let’s break down TTYD’s first, as it’s the one most well-known as the “Danger Mario” build.

There are quite a few builds of Danger Mario in TTYD. The first one is the most common: hyper offense.

Here’s the setup:

Hyper Offense Danger Mario

– FP Plus
– Spike Shield
– Ice Power
– Multibounce
– Power Bounce
– Quake Hammer
– Power Rush x20+

Now, you’re thinking “20+ Power Rushes? What??” Well, in the Pianta Parlor, you’re able to buy badges for tokens you win while at the parlor. One of them happens to be Power Rush. Buy enough, and you can make Mario a monster, dealing up to 99 damage per Jump if you buy and equip enough. With Spike Shield and Ice Power, Mario can jump on any enemy barring those on the ceiling, but that’s what Quake Hammer is for. Multibounce allows you to OHKO basically every enemy, and Power Bounce lets you destroy bosses in one turn. Truly, this is Mario’s most powerful form offensively.

This specific setup is the one everyone knows about. There are plenty of videos of it online. The reason it’s so powerful is that you can stack badges in TTYD, and there’s an infinite supply of Power Rush badges for Mario to equip. The other three badges can be stacked, but you need to grind badge drops from enemies, making builds focused around stacking them more tedious to implement. The other one I’ve seen used often is one with a bunch of Close Calls, which makes Mario an evasion tank that will never be hit.

Now let’s look at 64’s Danger Mario. Unlike in TTYD, you’re only able to get one of each badge. But, Last Stand functions differently in 64. Instead of being last in the damage calculation and rounding the damage taken up, Last Stand comes before Guarding & Damage Dodges, and rounds down. This is a significant difference and makes Danger Mario in 64 much more potent defensively than TTYD’s. It’s the only Danger Mario setup that can successfully use a Peril Mario setup.

Now, an offensive build in 64 is actually not incredibly potent. While you have Jump Charge/Hammer Charge, Mega Rush and Power Rush don’t stack with each other like they do in TTYD. Furthermore, Mega Rush only increases your ATK by 4. Without any other badges, you’re sitting at only 7 damage with Ultra Boots. Couple in the lack of partners using items AND lack of ATK-increasing items, and your only real way of powering up is Watt’s Turbo Charge, which makes your ATK 8. No, offense isn’t what makes Danger Mario in 64 so potent. It’s Mario’s defensive setup. Let’s look at Tank Mario.

Here’s the build skeleton:

Tank Danger Mario

– Last Stand
– Damage Dodge x2
– Defend Plus
– P-Down, D-Up
– Fire Shield

Without Last Stand active, Mario’s current DEF is 2. With a Guard and two Damage Dodges, Mario can reduce his total damage taken by 5. If you add in Sushie’s Water Block, that total is now 6. With Chill Out, it’s 9. If the move is a Fire move, Fire Shield blocks that for an extra 1 point of damage. Now, since Last Stand comes before guarding, a move reduced by Last Stand can have its damage output effectively reduced by 6 (7 for a fire move) before Last Stand takes effect.

Let’s see what Mario’s taking before he guards with Last Stand active!

  • Final Bowser’s Flame Breath (10) -> 3 / 2 -> 1
    • No Chill Out = 6 / 2 -> 3
      • No Water Block = 7 / 2 -> 3
  • Final Bowser’s Lightning Blast (10) -> 4 / 2 -> 2
    • No Chill Out = 7 / 2 -> 3
      • No Water Block = 8 / 2 -> 4
  • Star Rod Powered Final Bowser Flame Breath** (20) -> 16 / 2 -> 8
  • Huff N. Puff’s Full Power Ground Slam (15) -> 9 / 2 -> 4
  • Huff N. Puff’s Ground Lightning* (12) -> 7 / 2 -> 3
  • Anti Guy’s Flashy Attack (12) -> 6 / 2 -> 3
    • No Chill Out = 9 / 2 -> 4
      • No Water Block = 10 / 2 -> 5
    • No Water Block = 7 / 2 -> 3

*Huff N’ Puff’s Lightning Attacks go through Water Block’s 1 DEF increase.
**When Bowser has the Star Rod active, Chill Out will not work on him.

Look at that damage! Because no attacks pierce in 64, everything is affected by all DEF boosts Mario has. Now, let’s factor in Guarding and Damage Dodges!

  • Final Bowser’s Flame Breath = 0 damage
    • No Chill Out = 0 damage
      • No Water Block = 0 damage
  • Final Bowser’s Lightning Blast = 0 damage
    • No Chill Out = 0 damage
      • No Water Block = 1 damage
  • Star Rod Powered Final Bowser Flame Breath = 5 damage
  • Huff N. Puff’s Full Power Ground Slam = 1 damage
  • Huff N. Puff’s Ground Lightning = 0 damage
  • Anti Guy’s Flashy Attack = 0 damage
    • No Chill Out = 1 damage
      • No Water Block = 2 damage
    • No Water Block = 0 damage

So, with 6 badges equipped, Mario has successfully negated damage from all but a few attacks, and some don’t even need Water Block or Chill Out! The only move that truly defeats him is Final Bowser’s Flame Breath while being boosted with the Star Rod. That’s an insanely tanky Mario. Even without the extra badges increasing DEF, Last Stand rounding down coupled with Chill Out or Water Block can cripple most enemies and bosses for practically the whole game. And, unlike TTYD where you have to wait until after Chapter 5 to access permanent Danger Mario, you can access permanent Danger as early as pre-Chapter 2 in 64. You also don’t need to stack any badges to achieve this level of defensive prowess.

With only 6 badges equipped, you have more than enough BP to equip some badges that boost ATK, D-Down Jump, Flower Saver, HP Drain, and more! You can also equip Dodge Master for easier guarding. With this setup, Mario can basically emulate superguarding from TTYD by equipping Zap Tap and tanking his way through enemies.

So, now that we’ve broken down common builds of Danger Mario and how they function, what do I think of Danger Mario? I think 64 definitely has the more broken Danger Mario. It requires no grinding for stackable badges and only requires a few badges to be truly terrifying. Even Last Stand alone is ridiculous, and because Chill Out exists, it just cripples enemies.

And yet, for how broken 64 Danger Mario is, I find it fun to use when it’s needed. Using only 1 of each badge forces more strategic thinking and planning in both games. And with the exclusion of items like Point Swap and Trial Stew in 64, it becomes even more pronounced. And, because most damage is moderately high from more deadly enemies if you miss a guard, there’s still a feeling of tension. You can’t mindlessly run through the game Multibouncing everything in sight with +40 ATK. If you miss a couple guards, you’ll probably game over. I feel the same way about TTYD, but like I said earlier, that only applies with 1 of each badge equipped. Stacking a ton of them can be fun once just to see Mario run a train through every enemy and boss left, but being a challenge runner, I prefer being challenged and not mindlessly playing. Although, I will say I think the evasion tank build is quite hilarious and cool, and am a fan of it over the hyper offense setup.

All that being said, I do tend to stay away from Danger badges – especially Mega Rush in TTYD and Last Stand in 64 – if I can help it, but I’ll use them if I need to. Sometimes, the most elegant or most creative strategies require them.

Also, Close Call is incredible. Seriously.

Just Sayin’

Improvement in Smash 4 VI – Preparing for a Tournament

**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.

In a stroke of a luck, I actually have a tournament I’ll be attending this weekend! All of you who read this series and find it insightful can now meet me in person (if you haven’t already). Don’t worry, I’ll have a pen ready to sign autographs!

But blissful dreams aside, preparing for a tournament is a crucial part to how you’re going to play the day of. You need to be prepared if you want to maximize your chances of succeeding. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!

Research

The first thing you want to do is research. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local*/monthly/regional/national – you need to do your research. Are Miis allowed? Customs on or off? What about stage list?

*Obviously, if this is a local that you’re a regular at, you should know the rules

Next, research the players. Who’s attending? Any top names? Also try and find prominent local members of that area’s community. Are other players from different areas in the stage going? Who’s in the top 15 of the state/region/area?

What characters do all of those players use? What’s the area/state’s most popular character? Chicago, for example, is heavy on Mario and Sheik.

If you’re traveling, make sure you’ve got stuff planned. The more stress you can reduce before the tournament, the more you can focus on training and health.

Where are you going to eat? See the food options available at the venue.

Training

Here’s where you take your research and apply it to your training. When it comes to a monthly/regional/national, you need to change your regiment. Play a little more and narrow down your training. If you’re from State Y and you’re coming to a Chicago monthly, you’re going to want to practice a little more against Sheik and Mario. Obviously, don’t neglect any characters, but your focus should be more on the popular characters and top players in the region and those characters. Is someone Out of State coming that’s a top player? Prepare for them too.

When you’re watching videos, study the top players to get a feel for how they play.

For stages, make sure you practice all the stages legal for that tournament. Give special attention to stages that aren’t legal in your local scene.

Remember when I said play for 30 minutes a day? Bump that up to 45 minutes to an hour. Try and attend as many locals as you can. If you want to win, you need to put in the time and effort, and you wanna ramp up before a tournament to maximize how well you’re playing.

A Few Other Things

SLEEP – You may want to play into the night before a tournament, but believe me you want to be alert, and coffee ain’t gonna do it for you. Get proper rest. If you’re staying up hella late you’re cutting your chances of winning.

SHOWER – And let me be clear, this doesn’t just benefit everyone. Cleaning yourself gives you a better chance of warding off being sick. You play worse when you’re sick.

EAT WELL – Don’t get a goddamn McGriddle before you play. You want sustainable energy that’ll help keep you alert and not exhausted. So, seriously, try and eat better the day of. Get chicken instead of a burger. Get a salad instead of fries. Eat a meal bar or a protein bar.

WATER – Drink it. Love it. Be it. Don’t drink poison *coughsodaenergydrinksanythingnotwatercough* Stay hydrated.

At the Tournament

Play friendlies!!! I can’t stress this enough. Play as many friendlies with as many different people as possible, preferably with either your main or a very comfortable secondary. The goal here is to attain as much knowledge as possible about your prospective opponents. Even if it means throwing down a little cash, get in those games with top players and talk to them. Most top players are actually pretty nice, and should be more than happy to offer you some tips.

Also, friendlies are a very good way to learn without going through the stress of a tournament match, which helps you conserve energy. You’ll want to make sure you don’t burn out over the course of the day, so make sure you do whatever it takes to stay in tip top form all day.

Most Importantly

When you’re at a tournament, have fun. Your mood is crucial to how well you’re going to be playing that day, so make sure you’re not focused solely on winning and stressing yourself out. Enjoy yourself! Plenty of times you’ll read articles from top players where they play insanely well because they were just enjoying themselves and somehow ended up winning the biggest tournament of their life.

——

Seriously, come say hi to me if you’ll be at Mashfest this Saturday, September 5th, if you haven’t already met me in person. I’ll be there, available for questions, chatting, friendlies, etc… you’ll know it’s me because I’m super loud and I’ll be wearing a gray Fedora with a Paper Mario pin on it.

Also, one more blog post before I wrap up the improvement series!

Just Sayin’

The tournament I’m going to is called Mashfest. Check out the FB page for it! Go to it! Y’know…to get my autograph 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/events/724406491038862/

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
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

Improvement in Smash 4 I – Fundamentals

**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.

Lately, my local scene (Chicago/Chicagoland) for Super Smash Bros. Wii U (Smash 4) has had a big increase in new players that are hungry for improvement. Some are decent but not quite at that high level, some are completely new, and others are old vets trying to get back into Super Smash Bros. The most common questions I’m hearing from these guys are along the lines of “Where do I start?”, “What do I need to know if I really want to push myself to the next level?”, and “What MU’s do I need to focus on?”.

I’m here to help you, players! I’m going to be writing a couple blog posts aimed at my local scene to attempt to help them improve and become incredible players. Obviously, this small little series is going to be aimed at Super Smash Bros Wii U, so keep that in mind.

For all of you Chicago Smash 4 kids who may not know me and are probably asking “who’s this nerd thinkin’ he can give us advice?”, let me give you a quick introduction of myself. My tag in Smash is Kappy. I’ve been playing competitively since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out when I first attended a smash fest in my local area and got 3-stocked by a Ganondorf. Since then, I’ve taken a few breaks from Smash due to school and work, but when I was playing I managed to steal a spot in the top 10 of WIL’s (A combined PR of Wisconsin and IL’s Chicago scene) PR for one season after a couple years of competing (and then I took a break because school). I’ve been Honorable Mention multiple times in Brawl, and was a 2-time panelist for the official MU’s of Kirby (my main) during Tier List updates for Brawl.

After my break, I picked up Project M and played exclusively Meta Knight, where I managed to, again, reach the top 10 players in the Chicagoland area’s PR for EXP Gaming.

As for Smash 4, I’ve only entered 2 tournaments. I don’t know all the little intricacies of the game, but my fundamentals have allowed me to do well so far.

I could go on, but that’s the basic gist of my level of skill as a player. I’m no national monster, but I think I’m at a level where I could become one if I really dedicated myself; and you can definitely become a national monster! Here’s how to start that journey:

Where do I start?

Fundamentals. That’s it. You start with the basics of the game. These fundamentals are present in every iteration of Super Smash Bros.

What are fundamentals, you may ask? A lot of people may have slightly varying definitions of what the fundamentals of Smash 4 are, but here are the skills I think are fundamental to Smash:

– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage
– Reactions and Punishes
– Identifying habits (Adaptation)
– Neutral

Let’s dig a little deeper into what those things are.

Spacing is the concept of throwing out a move when it is hardest to punish it, when it out ranges another move, or when it creates an advantageous situation for you. If you’re Marth, and you throw out a Forward Air close enough that Mario can use his Neutral Air, that’s a problem, especially since Marth’s sword out ranges Mario’s Neutral Air.

Another good example is spacing an aerial in such a way that you can’t be shield-grabbed even if you hit their shield.

Positional Awareness ties into almost everything. It’s about being aware of where you are, where your opponent is, and what that means for you in terms of advantages/disadvantages. If you’re under a platform and you’re against someone who thrives being under someone, you should be aware of that and position yourself accordingly. Don’t try to force an engagement when you’re in a bad position unless you see your opponent putting themselves in a position that will suddenly benefit you.

Option Coverage is simple. In any given situation, there are choices you and your opponent must make. These are options. You can choose to cover certain options and not others. Learning which moves covers the most options in a given situation is something that every player needs to be proficient in.

Reactions and Punishes is just your reaction speed. If you can’t capitalize in a mistake, you’re going to lose more than win. This also entails knowing the right punish. If Jigglypuff misses Rest, don’t just jab combo her. Charge an attack, set up a KO combo, etc…

Identifying Habits refers to being able to pick up on an option your opponent takes often in a given situation. For instance, in the first 30 seconds I notice that whenever I run at my opponent, he rolls away from me. Next time, instead of throwing out an attack or grab, I follow his roll and punish him for it with a grab combo.

Neutral is the most abstract. Neutral is a state within fighting games that refers to when both players are “safe”. Neither one is being hit, neither one is easily seen to be on the defensive or offensive. It’s basically a culmination of all the fundamental skills because you have to navigate and win neutral to win the game.

This is where everything comes together. Winning neutral refers to winning exchanges made in neutral that transition to another state. If I space a Back Air with Mario and hit, I’ve transitioned to be offensive while my opponent has transition to being defensive. I have won that neutral exchange.

Neutral is difficult to master. Being aware of what options your opponent has at certain ranges of each other and where you two are (Spacing, Positional Awareness, Option Coverage) will allow you to more accurately predict (Identifying Habits) and punish (Reactions and Punishes) a mis-spaced aerial, grab, etc…

Being able to figure out your opponent’s game plan and win exchanges in neutral based on that knowledge is referred to as Adaptation.

So how do you practice your fundamental play? Obviously, attending tournaments and playing with people is the best way, but if you’re alone? Fear not! There are two simple ways to practice everything.

CPU’s and video watching.

What do you use to practice each technique? Here’s a quick’n’dirty list:

CPU’s
– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Reactions and Punishes
– Option Coverage

Videos
– Identifying Habits
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage

Human Players
– Neutral

Notice how fighting a human is basically practicing everything, while the other two let you hone in on specific skill sets (with a little overlap).

Let’s start from the top:

CPU’s

So, here’s an old adage I’m sure you’ve heard:

“CPU’s suck and help YOU form bad habits”

This is false.

If you’re conscious while practicing, you can make sure not to auto pilot and form those bad habits. CPU’s are great to space around and practice reaction time. If a CPU techs, they’re the exact same as a human. Practice punishing rolls and spot-dodges. CPU’s are great for nailing Air Dodge punishes on reaction or covering those options. Practice combos – CPU’s will either attack you or air dodge as soon as they can, so see how far you can go with a combo before that happens.

Practice reacting to DI. CPU’s are notorious for having either bad or godlike DI, so practice reacting to it. Don’t predict, just react.

Think about your advantages and disadvantages while on the ledge, platforms, center stage, in the air, etc… CPU’s are pretty notorious for having inhumane reaction time, so sometimes you can see weird holes in your play because of their flawless execution and reaction. Try to attack them – can a move of theirs outright beat the one you’re using? If so, think of different ways to get around it.

The most important thing about fighting CPU’s is to NOT AUTOPILOT. Be absolutely conscious while you’re training and really think about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to practice. React to them, do NOT try to predict them.

Videos

Here’s where a good chunk of your mental game comes into play. Watch any match – bad players, good players…whatever! I want you to pick a player and try and find their habits. Do they tech roll to the left? Do they always use get up attack if a player is running towards them and they missed their tech? Pick apart these habits. Try to predict a player’s habits mid-match. Try to predict their adaptation mid-match.

Look at an exchange between players – I think offstage or ledge play is most effective to begin with – and see what options are being covered and what options are present. As an example, Player A is grabbing the ledge. He has the option to:

– Normal get up
– Ledge get up attack
– Roll get up
– Jump get up
– Drop down and regrab ledge
– Drop down and come up with an attack

What is Player B doing to cover these options, and how many is he covering? What could Player B do to cover as many options as possible? Think about these as you watch. Pause the videos if you have to, but ideally you should strive to analyze these as the video plays without pausing.

Look at the positions of the players. Center Stage is a highly coveted spot in Smash. It allows the most safety and is the best place to mount both a defense and an offense. See how the players interact with that. Try to spot when players inadvertently put themselves in a terrible position, especially when they have the lead. Watch how that bad position translates to a big punish for their opponent. Watch how players attempt to set themselves up to always be in an advantageous position.

A really good idea is to get videos of yourself and watch yourself play. Pick yourself apart, see where you could have made better decisions or put yourself in a better position, and see where you played well. This can really help if you’re feeling like you’re approaching a plateau.

Human Players

This is where it all comes together. Obviously, this is one of the most effective ways to get better. When you’re playing friendlies, you get to practice everything. Remember to be conscious while practicing. Don’t just mindlessly play.

Here’s a helpful tidbit – don’t get mad about losing. Anyone who knows me can attest that when I play friendlies, I suicide quite a bit. Why? Because I experiment. This option isn’t working? Let me try something weird. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I now have experience about that particular decision.

Listen, you’re not going to learn what you can do just by watching others and heory-crafting about it. Try stuff out, especially when playing friendlies. Go for those crazy edge-guards. One day you might come upon a situation where that suicidal edge-guard will net you a win, especially if you’re ahead in stocks. You’ll thank yourself for having tried it out not only because you’ll win, but you’ll be lookin’ real fancy doing it.

If you’re playing on For Glory, take into account lag while playing. I don’t recommend For Glory for anything reaction-based because of lag, so if you are on it, try to predict more to practice that.

What about Match-Ups for my character?

I’m a firm believer that learning these fundamentals comes before even thinking about processing character v character match-ups. In fact, I think player v player is much more important, but I will be covering MU’s in my next bit of this series as well as stuff about picking a character and play styles.

So…how often should I be playing?

Every day. At least 30 minutes, no less. You want to get good? Play every day.

Play as long as you want, but realize that everyone has a limit before they start to burn out. At that point, STOP PLAYING. Or, at the very least, stop practicing and do something fun like Smash Tour. If you practice while you’re burnt out, you’ll become worse. Being burnt out is when you’ll start to autopilot and form awful habits. Me? I can play for probably 4-5 hours of serious play before I need a break.

——

I think Chicago’s scene has a lot of fire and potential, but not a lot of direction. I’m here to give you all who need it some direction so that you can all become amazing. Please, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Facebook or Skype (ID is ryan.klaproth) and ask about stuff like this or ask for some friendlies – I’m generally not available for them, but I’ll try to make time. I’m not the best player in Chicago, but I know how to talk about this stuff and break it down, and I can help you break down your own play styles, habits, explain these concepts in more detail, etc… And, you can always reach out to the top players in Chicago – they’ll be more than happy to help you, especially with character-specific stuff and MU knowledge.

Anyway, this is part 1. Save this post somewhere that’s easy to access and get practicing! Next time, I’ll be covering play style and anything more character-specific!

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

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

II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
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

Salt (and why it can be good for you)

Salty (Adjective) – To be (usually to a somewhat high degree) angry when losing. Generally used in competitive gaming.

I get angry when I lose in competitions.

Like, really angry.

I just want to punch whomever beat me in the face for outplaying me and taking advantage of things I did wrong. Why couldn’t I have done that instead? I should be the one advancing to the next round, I know I’m better than this. I want to rematch them right then and there to prove it. I want to beat whomever just beat me so badly.

And yet, here I am, writing about how it feels like my opponent chained me to a 300lb weight when I lose, and I’m unable to lift it. It’s incredibly frustrating.

How do people take losses so cleanly? I really don’t understand it. I can’t smile after I lose.

I’ve literally spent hours of my time looking up how to take losses better. I thought it was a problem that I couldn’t take my losses cleanly – that I wasn’t learning from them like the best players do.

Then it hit me earlier today while thinking of something to write about for today’s blog post; being angry about a loss is fine. I can be angry that I lost a match, as long as that anger can force me to look at the match and learn from it in a healthy way. Basically, channeling your anger into something useful so you don’t just sit there yelling at yourself on the inside.

Being angry can actually be an incredible motivator for improvement, but there’s a lot of stigma to being angry which prevents it from being used. “Going on Tilt” is to get angry and start playing at a sub par level, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re just getting angry and that’s it, of course you’re going to start playing worse. I think the problem is that people have a really negative impression about anger in competition, when I think it might be a great way to psyche yourself up and continue to play at your best. When I lose a stock in Super Smash Bros., I get angry. Did I really just let myself lose a stock? It’s not happening again. I’ll nod that my opponent made a good play, even tell him it was a good play, but I’m still angry that I’m one step closer to losing. That doesn’t make me play worse – I play better, harder. I don’t want to lose, because I loathe losing.

I think the reason people go “on Tilt” when they’re angry is because they realize they’re angry and don’t want to be, which affects them more than they may realize. I say be furious, but be in control of what you’re doing and feeling (mainly because if I were actually furious all the time I’d probably have a heart attack or something). Don’t just be angry – channel that emotion to have a purpose. You don’t want to just sit there and be angry and then play your next match. While it seems weird, it’s entirely possible to feel angry and motivated at the same time, and that’s the good kind of anger.

You can say good games at the end, admit your opponent played better than you, and be a good sport. But that doesn’t mean you’re not seething inside and are itching to beat them next time so you can pop off and say you’ve gotten better.

Just Sayin’

OPINION: Casual players have less fun than competitive players.

Do any of the following phrases sound familiar?

“I just want to have fun.

“I play for fun.”

“You’re ruining games by playing competitively.”

Maybe you’re one of those who says this to others when getting beaten to a pulp. That’s okay, I understand; I’m just going to point out that your ego is bigger than my ego, and I play games competitively.

Outrageous? Not at all. When hardcore and casual – especially in games with a competitive scene – collide, there’s an almost instant animosity: casuals do not like competitive. Why? Because we, the collective competitive, take away from the experience (apparently), and make games not fun.

Before I delve further, I’m going to define what a casual is for this post (as to not offend everyone. LOL). Casuals are not retired competitive players, they are not players who only play every once in a while, they are not players that respect competitive play; casuals are players who degrade competitive play and players, and complain when they lose to said competitive players by utilizing those three phrases (among others similar to those).

See, the problem with those three phrases are that they implant this kind of hierarchy onto “how to have fun”. “Having fun” is at the top, and “playing competitively” is at the bottom.

I guess now is as good a time as any – casuals, you’re not having as much fun as I am.

See, no one likes to lose. We like to succeed. When we lose, we stop having fun (this is somewhat true – you can learn to accept defeat and still have fun, but I’m digressing). When casuals say they want to play for fun, they’re not just playing a game to “have fun”. No, they’re playing with friends that they can beat, or with a randomness factor so large that sometimes you can’t tell who is better and winning is almost purely by chance (Mario Party comes to mind as an example).

Casuals say that playing a game at a high level takes away from the experience, but think about this: have you ever played through a game and not gotten better at it? Difficulty curve is part of game design; the game is designed to become more difficult as you progress and improve. That means all the casuals who are beating these games are doing so because they’re improving, getting better; they’re playing at a higher level.

They’re justifying their losses by putting down those who are better, or put in more time and effort than they do, but it’s still not fun to lose. They’d be having more fun if they accepted that they’re not going to put effort into a game and will lose to those who do most of the time, or if they start putting in that effort and seeing some results. They’d have more fun if they learned how to take a loss and still have fun instead of getting salty and trying to make excuses as to why they’re getting their ass beat. They’d have more fun if they respected competitive play.

Oh, you play for “fun”? Yeah, right. Everyone wants to be good at what they play. The difference between casual and competitive is that casual blames the competitive for their loss, while the competitive blames themselves (or the game. LOL) for their loss.

Just Sayin’.