Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS XII – Practice Methods III

**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.

Let’s talk about who you play with.

A good way to improve and grow as a player is to find a person (or a group of people) to practice with regularly. A Practice Partner or Practice Group (I would assume this could be called a crew) is the general term I’d use for this. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and they change how you practice compared to just grabbing a friend.

These people are more than just practice partners, though. Improving your own mindset and attitude is also a big component of Super Smash Bros., and even having just one practice partner can really help you with that. You’ll celebrate big wins, get through tough losses, and generally support each other as you both strive to improve and get better. If you’re in a group, those people are your best picks for doubles because of the synergy you’ll be building with each other. You’ll keep each other honest and not let you take crazy rash decisions. It’s a great experience to have that kind of support while improving. I highly recommend it.

But let’s get into the more technical aspect of practice partners/groups. There are some inherent advantages and disadvantages that come with this kind of practice that differs from playing with friends or in friendlies. These will be written as if you have one practice partner, but these all apply to a practice group as well.


– Deeper Conversation
: you can really take the time to talk out scenarios and explore each and every aspect of a MU or about fundamental aspects of your play. While you can achieve thoughtful conversation when playing friendlies, I’m telling you right now that it’s much easier to achieve with a practice partner. There’s a different atmosphere.

– MU Knowledge
: you’ll be playing this person so much that you’ll have a very solid understand if the more objective part of the MU between your character and theirs.

– Studying
: it’s much easier to ask a practice partner to sit down for a couple hours and watch videos of yourselves playing and talk about it.

– Doubles
: because you’re playing with each other so often, you’ll be better equipped to deal with their tendencies in doubles, and you can practice team combos/setups more easily.


– Playing In Bracket
: This is the one person you never want to see in bracket. They know how you play better than anyone, so it becomes a grueling duel of neutral when you two play. And it’s frustrating when you lose, even though you want to be happy for their win.

– MU Knowledge
: surprised? This is actually a double-edged sword. You become so used to their style of play that when you play someone else that uses that character, you might find it to be extremely difficult to win if they play differently. I’ve seen this happen countless times back in the Brawl days.

So, when I said that this is a person you practice with regularly, I’m talking at least twice a week outside of tournaments. This isn’t just a “hey, wanna hang and practice a bit?” thing. It’s a “yo, time to practice – my place or your place?” thing.

If you’re looking for a great way to jump start yourself on improvement, I suggest grabbing a practice partner or joining a crew (if any are around).


Being able to utilize this kind of practice can really help improve your game. Just try to be cognizant that while you’re also gaining MU knowledge, you’re also becoming conditioned towards a certain style of play. being caught unaware because of this can spell the end of your tournament life, and you don’t want that to happen when it really counts at a monthly/national/major.

Also, having a strong support group, especially when it comes time to travel to out of state tournaments and majors, is such a huge boon to you and to your mental game. You really have to experience it for yourself.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
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
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow


GUEST ARTICLE – 3 Steps to Training an Offensive Amiibo

Wow, what a week last week was! I was so busy I didn’t get to put up anything I wanted to. This week, you’ll get two posts – tonight’s guest article and my review of Steins;Gate tomorrow!

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Amiibos and the concept of “training” them. Hell, I’ve won a few money matches with my Kirby Amiibo, HUPBOYZ. This guy, Glenn Cravens, is a tournament Amiibo trainer, which I think is pretty cool. Unlike my style of keeping an Amiibo itemless, he attends events where utilizing different combinations of items and skills is the way to win. If you’re interested in something like this (I know I’ll definitely be doing it with at least one Amiibo!), you should check out his stuff! There’ll be some links at the end of the article.

This is an article he wrote about training an offensive Amiibo. Enjoy!


There are so many ways an Amiibo can be built and trained to dominate the competition. Some people like a balanced attack, while others prefer a defensive style or offensive style. I have tried several different Amiibo builds, including ones that are completely focused on offense. I use these Amiibos as sparring partners to get my main Amiibos ready for tournaments.

Recently, I had one of these offensive Amiibos play a few friendlies against other trainers’ Amiibos, and they dominated the competition. Perhaps this offensive Amiibo could be just as good if put in a tournament. Today, I want to share with you the five-step process I used to create one of these offensive juggernauts so you can build a similar Amiibo and take down fellow friends’ Amiibos.

First, I want to present to you my Charizard Amiibo. He is perhaps the most offensive-focused Amiibo I have and the greatest sparring partner for my main tournament Amiibos. Here are his stats:

  • 200 points Attack
  • 120 points Defense
  • -200 points Speed
  • Critical Hit
  • Double Improved Trade-Off Ability (60%)

I’m sharing with you how Charizard is built so you can get a quick idea of how I set him up to be heavily offensive. I’ll reference him a few times in this post. With that, let’s get to building your Amiibo.

It doesn’t matter whether your Amiibo is already at Level 50. Because Amiibos continue to learn even after Level 50, it should be able to take the lessons you are teaching it and apply it to future matches. For this lesson, I’m going to be teaching as if your Amiibo is already at Level 50.

Step 1: Visualization

The first thing I tell every trainer is to envision how their Amiibo will act under the build they are creating. So before we start, envision how your Amiibo will play in games as a heavily offensive character. It is going to do a lot of smash attacks and go for big damage early and often. It’s all about taking its power and using it to destroy everyone in its path. Spend a couple of moments envisioning your Amiibo in action destroying the competition.

Step 2: Creation

Now that you have an idea of how it will play, the next thing is to get to building said Amiibo. You’re going to enter into the Amiibo settings, where you can customize it with equipment upgrades and bonuses.

Since we’re going for power, I’ve saved you some time in trying to figure out what is best. First off, let’s start with the point distribution. You can feed your Amiibo equipment upgrades and bonuses to buff its Attack, Defense and Speed concentrations. For power purposes, there are three combinations you can go with. I’ll explain the reasoning behind all three.

  • 120 Attack, 0 Defense, 0 Speed: This is a typical offensive build. Since you’re allowed a maximum of 120 cumulative points without going into the negative on any concentration, it makes sense to slam it all toward Attack.
  • 200 Attack, 0 Defense, -80 Speed: You can go into the negative on one concentration in order to overload another concentration. That’s what this combination is all about. You’re giving the Attack concentration the most points possible to make its moves as strong as it can be. However, we’re taking away from the Speed concentration, which is OK because your Amiibo will still have some mobility. It should be able to recover if knocked off of the stage.
  • 200 Attack, 120 Defense, -200 Speed: With this combination, we’re maxing out the stats. Your Amiibo will be all power and will have a chance to withstand some attacks, but it will have no mobility, and if it is knocked off of the stage, there’s little chance it returns.

If your Amiibo has multiple jumps, I recommend 200/120/-200 because of the built-in advantage of returning to the stage should it get knocked off from there. That’s why I went with that combination for Charizard, given he has multiple recovery options in addition to his jumps.

Next, let’s focus on the bonuses we want to give our Amiibo. There are plenty that are geared toward offense, some better than others. I’ve come up with three specific combinations you should give your Amiibo if you’re focused on offense.

  • Critical Hit, Double Improved Trade-Off Attack (30%): Since Critical Hit is going to be in every combination I mention, let me break it down for a moment. With Critical Hit, any attack your Amiibo does has a 1-in-5 chance of doing extra damage. A single-digit percentage hit suddenly becomes 35 to 40 percent. A regular smash attack can turn into a one-hit KO. That’s how lethal Critical Hit can be. If you’re thinking offense, this is why you must have Critical Hit equipped as one of the three bonuses. With Improved Trade-Off Attack, your Amiibo starts off at 30 percent damage, but every hit does 1.15 times the damage. You can stack this bonus, which means starting off at a higher percentage but doing more damage. With this combination, your Amiibo is doing stronger attacks than normal, and there’s a chance it will get an additional attack boost.
  • Critical Hit, Double Improved Trade-Off Ability (60%): With Improved Trade-Off Ability, your Amiibo starts at 60 percent damage. However, the Amiibo slowly gains strength, defense and speed the longer it stays alive in the current stock. With two of these added, the Amiibo starts at 90 percent damage, but it gains twice as much strength, defense and speed. That’s why I have this equipped on my Charizard. Although Charizard is at minus-200 speed, it is regaining his mobility, and if he stays alive for a long time, the negative effect is gone. Oh, by the way, it’s also gaining attack power as well to go along with his already boosted attack.
  • Critical Hit, Double Improved Attack/Speed at 0 Percent: With the 0 percent bonus, an Amiibo gains a boost as long as it stays at 0 percent. Equipping two of these bonuses is huge, because one or two hits can result in a KO. However, the downside of the bonus is that even being at 1 percent means the bonus is gone. You can swap out one of the Improved Attack/Speed at 0 Percent bonuses for Auto-Heal, but you’re better off taking the risk of going for the early KO. If you can’t go with one of the previous two bonus combinations because you don’t have the bonuses available, consider this one.

Step 3: Training

Now that you’ve equipped your Amiibo, it’s time to train it to be the offensive juggernaut it should be. The training comes down to two lessons – grabbing and smash attacks.

If you went with one of the first two bonus combinations, your Amiibo will be at a percentage disadvantage as mentioned. Its mentality, even before you train it, will be to catch up in percentage to its opponent, which is probably starting off at 0 percent. The quickest way for your Amiibo to get there is by performing smash attacks, which your Amiibo will do constantly because it will feel it needs to pull even as soon as it can.

With this first game, we’re going to teach it to harness the power of its smash attack instead of just going for it randomly. Enter into a game against your Amiibo and play in a timed match, preferably five minutes. You can choose any character, although I prefer to use the Amiibo’s character. You’re going to play on an Omega-style stage or Final Destination.

When the game begins, walk up to your Amiibo and try to forward smash it. Even if you miss in this one attempt, make sure you do it. If you hit it, follow up with another forward smash. At some point, your Amiibo will predict it and attack you in some form.

When your Amiibo gets you, that’s when it’s time to change up. After recovering from whatever hit your Amiibo did, you’re going to wait for the Amiibo to attack again. When it does, roll dodge or spot dodge to get out of the way. If you get the dodge, then follow up with a smash attack. If your Amiibo dodges, then it will likely follow up with an attack of its own, which you’ll try to dodge, etc. This is the process you’re going to do for the full five minutes.

If you’re wondering about the outcome of the game, don’t. Winning and losing should not matter when you’re training your Amiibo. The ultimate goal is to teach it what you want it to learn, and in this game, we’re teaching it to rely on its forward smash.

After you’re done with the five-minute game, you’re going to play another five-minute game. In this game, our goal is to grab and throw the Amiibo. This is a tougher task because your Amiibo will attack you with the smash attacks you tried to teach it in the previous game. Like you did in the previous game, you can wait until the Amiibo attacks, spot dodge or roll dodge out of the way and then get the grab. You can also stand several body lengths away from the Amiibo and then do a dash grab.

Again, you’re not going to worry about the outcome of the game. Your goal in the second game should be to grab and throw the Amiibo as much as you can.

When you’re done with the two games, you have the option of going through the two games again or moving to the next step. It doesn’t hurt to give your Amiibos as much practice as you can, so feel free to go back and do the lessons a couple more times.

In the final step, we’re going to have our Amiibo go up against another opponent. It is preferred that the other opponent is an Amiibo. If you use a CPU character, be aware that it will take some of the lessons learned from what the CPU does. You can also have a friend or family member go up against it.

You’re going to have your Amiibo play under tournament settings: 2 out of 3 games, 2 stock, 6 minutes, Omega-style stage or Final Destination. You’re going to watch to see how your Amiibo does in action against its opponent. It should be going for power in some situations and grabs in other situations.

When the match is done, you’ve completed the guide! However, Amiibo training is nonstop, and to keep your Amiibo in top shape, you need to train it consistently. I suggest going back into training against your Amiibo and then putting it in more matches against other Amiibos. The more your Amiibo plays, the more experience it will have, which will make it stronger.

Happy training, and I hope to see your heavy hitter at a future tournament!

Glenn Cravens is the host of the Amiibo Trainer Podcast, which runs Monday through Friday on iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud. For a free training guide, head to


Just Sayin’

Improvement in Smash 4 III – Attitude

**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.

You’ve got your tech down. Your movement is crisp. Your spacing? Immaculate. You walk into the tournament venue, ready to take on the world…

and then you find out your first round is against a Mario player.

And you HATE Mario. You just can’t seem to win, no matter who’s using him. The second Mario enters the battlefield, you lose. He Does that stupid grab, Up Tilt combos, Uair combos, Up Smash is ridiculous, he’s such a brain dead character sakjdhenmfdenfrmewtrcnmrcewtUAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does for a lot of you. And to be frank, most players encounter a character like this. But hold up for a second. You’re not losing because Mario’s an incredible character. No, you’re losing because of the limits you’re mentally imposing on yourself.

While I’m of the opinion that you can never be perfect in your fundamentals and tech, once you’ve got a good grasp of those it’s time to move onto the next stage – your mental game. Having mental endurance is absolutely crucial to winning. If you lose your composure, you’ll fall apart, no matter how good you are.

There are a few things I want to address in this post, and they’re all related in one aspect of your mental game – Attitude.

Here’s a definition of attitude I pulled from Google: “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”.

Now, let’s translate this into Smash terms. Attitude is, basically, how you’re thinking and feeling about a)your level of play in comparison to others, and b)characters in the game. There’s more to it (likes how you think/feel about rules), but these two are the ones most important to improvement.

Let’s start with characters. I want to preface this by saying that your opinion of a character can change very quickly. And it really depends on your opponent’s style. You may beat down campy Luigi’s like it’s just a Tuesday for you, but the second an aggressive Luigi comes along, you’re toast. And suddenly, you’re thinking about Luigi differently. Now those campy Luigi players are suddenly doing better because you know what Luigi can really do to you, and it scares you. You start playing differently, but it’s not to adapt. You’re playing afraid, giving too much respect – that kind of stuff.

You start crying out that your character just can’t beat Luigi. It’s time to pick up someone else, but you start doing worse even if at first you felt better about it. You complain that Luigi is stupid. Why does he have all these tools? It’s unfair!

There are three big problems with this progression – the first one, as I mentioned in my post about MU’s, is that character is taking over the player. You’re placing too much emphasis on the character you’re playing, and not the player. That needs to stop. You may lose to an aggressive player playing Luigi, but those guys you were beating before? There’s no reason they should be beating you overnight just because you got floored by the aggressive one. Recognize who you’re playing, not their avatar.

The second problem here is your emotions. One of the reasons why players get so frustrated with characters like Sheik, Mario, and Luigi are that they have good ways to deal with a lot of different options. And when a Sheik hits you 5 times in a row and you feel like you can’t do anything, it can be hard to shake that feeling away. Being more conscientious of how you’re feeling is something you’ll need to work on.

I want you to think about this the next time you fight a character you despise (especially in friendlies). Why do they frustrate you? Is it a move, a combo, their movement? Do you just hate the character as a character? Is there a possibility it’s the player behind the character that’s frustrating you?

The third thing is that a lot of people have really awful, simple-minded perceptions of characters, and project these onto players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people complain about the throw combos from Sheik/Luigi/Mario/Ness, and how “anyone” can play these characters. Anyone can play Link, too.

But that’s not what they mean. This happens the most with Mario in Chicago, so I’ll use him. Mario, at least in the Chicago Smash 4 Scene, is considered “brain dead”, and “boring”. Anyone can pick him up and do well in a tournament.

I have never, in my 6 years of playing competitive Smash, seen this happen to an extreme degree. A guy picks up Mario and beats his friends, maybe moves from 17th to 13th? Cool. A guy picks up Mario and suddenly goes from 9th -> Top 3? NEVER.

Here’s the thing… there are exceptions, but look at the highest level of talent: world caliber players. When they pick up a new character, they have to put in the work before they see any substantial results, and if they don’t need to put in work then I can only see them as gifted players. These exceptions only happen with mid and low leveled players. I find those exceptions irrelevant because of that. No one’s aiming to be mid level when they want to win tournaments.

However, this was pretty prevalent in Brawl. Top-level players would switch to MK after losing game 1, and sometimes they’d win. Now, being that MK was actually a dominant character in Brawl and had incredible tools on paper that actually translated in-game, sometimes those pockets (as it was called) would win. It was rare, but I’ve seen it. Never, though, did a pocket MK win a tournament. It just didn’t. The better player usually won anyway, especially as you went farther into a bracket; that’s very much the case in every Smash Bros. iteration, including Wii U.

So back to Mario. He’s brain-dead and boring, and anyone can pick him up and do well. Here’s the thing…that’s wrong. Yup, wrong. Look, I understand – Mario has a straight-forward game plan, but why is it that he’s brain dead and boring and Luigi isn’t? Why isn’t Sheik? What about Sonic? Or Falcon? Falcon is literally Dthrow -> Uair/Nair -> Uair/Nair. Dthrow -> Knee or something along those lines for the KO. They’re try to stomp offstage or knee. I dunno…seems pretty brain-dead to me. I know I could pick him up pretty easily. Same with Luigi. Dthrow combos, Dthrow -> Up B, fireball to control space. Bam. Done. Luigi’s brain-dead and boring, too.

I hope you see where I’m going with this. Every character has an optimal game plan depending on the player and character they’re facing. They have good moves and bad moves. They can all be broken down easily, and they can all be seen as boring and brain-dead in my eyes. But I don’t see it that way. I see a character with tools that a player can uniquely utilize. Will two players use the same tools? Sure, it’s how games like this work, and sometimes they’ll be exactly the same, but more often than not, the utilization is different, and that’s what makes every character interesting. Only when every single player would use the same tool in every situation because it is clearly the best option every. Single. Time…will I find a character to be truly “brain-dead” and “boring”.

And this is how you should see this, too. A character may be simple, but not that simple.


Let’s talk about how good you think you are.

You’re undefeated amongst your friends, you’re callin’ kids in the top 10 of your local scene trash. You think your opinions are so insightful. You never think you should be losing.

That’s a bad way to approach your scene, buddy.

Listen, everyone likes a few hot heads, but you best believe it’s not helping you improve. Look, thinking you’re better than everyone is semi-good. You’ve got a lot of confidence in yourself and expect a lot. Buuuut, that’s where the problem starts. When you lose, it hurts. You should NEVER lose to Player X! But you did, and now you’re lookin’ bad because you were talkin’ trash earlier. Ouch.

You start getting mad quickly, and when you don’t live up to these expectations of being better than everyone, you can start disliking the game altogether. You’re only having fun if you’re beating everyone else, and don’t get me wrong – losing isn’t fun in a serious competition. But to get so angry that you want to stop? C’mon, now.

There’s a better way to look at this. Instead of thinking you’re better than someone, just have the confidence that you have the potential to be the best. Yes, you have the potential to be better than even ZeRo, but it takes time to get there. But as long as you believe in that potential, you can use that as a motivator.

Obviously, you have to put in the work, otherwise it’s a false belief, but you can use this confidence to motivate yourself. I go into every set, no matter who I’m playing, thinking I can win. I’ll even acknowledge that it’s gonna be hard, and if you came and talked to me beforehand I’d tell you I have a good shot at losing, but once I sit down to play I’m 100% convinced that I can win. Not that I will, mind you, but that I can.

It seems silly, but thinking you’re going to win really puts pressure on yourself. Just play the best you can and think you can win. if you don’t? You’ll get ’em next time. It sounds silly to utilize the whole “try, try again” mentality, but if you’re actively putting in the work, I think this is the best mindset you can have. Eventually, you’ll get those results. I have twice achieved status as a top 10 player in Chicago, once in Brawl and once in Project M. Twice I have used this mentality to help myself.

Believe me, I was an arrogant kid back when I first started getting good at Brawl. Then I got really angry when I lost and it frustrated me. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was approaching the game, and it all came together after months of hard work after realizing I had to change how I thought about the game.


So what usually happens with these bad attitudes? Well, the most obvious one is that these players tend to make excuses. Here are some common ones:

– I wasn’t trying
– I was tired/sick/hungry/too hot/too cold, etc…
– Character X is so stupid
– My C-Stick wasn’t working
– Crowd was too distracting
– Couldn’t hear the sound
– Too cramped of a venue
– My hands were cold
– It’s impossible for Character X to beat Character Y
– Move Z is broken
– I SD’d twice

These are all barriers that hold them back. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player from being consistent. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player back from being truly great.

Notice, for just a moment…that these are complaints to hide behind to take away from a player’s victory, and to bolster your bruised ego. You’re using a mid-tier and lose to Sheik. “Sheik’s so busted”. Okay. You knew what you were getting into. “I SD’d”. Okay. Maybe if you were more aware of your positioning you wouldn’t have put yourself in a situation to SD. “Physiological excuses”. Bruh. Really? Part of being good is taking care of yourself. It’s on you that you lost, still.

This mentality that players…I dunno, aren’t important? It’s ridiculous. You’re fighting another person. They’re sitting right next to you. Why doesn’t anyone ever complain about a player when it comes tournament time? Why don’t they just admit that another player is puttin’ in work and it’s paying off when they get beaten by said player? I don’t understand.

These are all things you can work on, but what I really want to stress before this ends is that there’s an intrinsic belief that character > player. I’ve been talking about this since my first blog post, and for good reason. Once you realize that it’s the player, not the character, that’s truly important, I guarantee your mindset will only improve.

Well, except for being arrogant. But we’ll let that slide.

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
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
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

Hat Trick!

Here it is, my third year of writing this blog! I didn’t write nearly as many posts this year, but with the end of school, work, Super Smash Bros. training, and preparing for interviews, it makes sense that my time got cut short. My putting up a blog every two weeks on Monday is still going to be the norm for now, but once I get a job I’ll be returning to my every week post!

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog! It means a lot to me 🙂

I’ll leave you with a few New Year’s Resolutions of mine:

– Win one of my Smash Bros. locals
– Place top 5 at Smash Bros. national
– Tame my sweet tooth

Here’s to another year!

Just Sayin’