Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS XI – Practice Methods II

**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.

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MU’s

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.

Technical Ability

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.

Fundamentals

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.

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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.

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
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

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Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS X – Practice Methods I

**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.

Before I begin, I have a quick but very exciting announcement! Sage of Unrivaled Tournaments and I are starting a new video series called “Better Buttons”! It will be a video series aimed at improving in Smash 4. We’ve already got a few episodes recorded and just need to be edited, and will be featured on Unrivaled Tournament’s YouTube Channel. I’m really excited for this because this is a great way to not only help Unrivaled Tournaments grow their content base, but also get this information out there.

I’ll be linking Unrivaled Tournaments stuff at the end, so be sure to check them out 🙂

Okay, onto the post!

Practice makes perfect, right? Not if your practice the wrong way. In this little mini-series, “Practice Methods”, I’ll be going over ways to practice and train. This’ll be about 3-4 entries, so get hype!

In order to improve, you need to do more than just play – you need to be aware of how you’re playing and dedicate time to improving your play and not just playing the game. However, we all can’t just grab a friend at our convenience and play. Sometimes, you have to practice on your own. So let’s learn how to do that!

There are a couple things you can practice – 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.

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MU’s

Here, you want to practice the more objective aspects of a Match-Up – KO %’s, moves that trade, moves that lose, moves that win, range differences, etc…

You can practice bad DI/no DI KO %’s in Training Mode. You don’t need to play a human to know when Back Throw KOs at center stage or either side of the stage. If you need good DI, either enlist the help of a friend or just grab a second controller and do the DI yourself. Write these %’s down and remember them.

When you’re recording these, I would record with and without rage, and with and without staling. The point here is to create a KO % range that you can then reference as you play. That way you don’t run into situations where your opponent is living insanely long and draining your patience.

For move interactions, this can be accomplished through playing a CPU or a human player. If you’re looking for a very specific move to test against, you’re better off grabbing a friend. Otherwise, just take notes when fighting CPU’s of the results of the move interactions you notice.

For range differences, I suggest you shadow box against a standing opponent or a CPU. Shadow boxing is a style of training where you visualize a standing opponent to be moving. The goal is not to hit your opponent, but rather pretend they’re attacking you and you responding to that. For example, go into training mode and visualize an MK dash attack and try and space around it. What’s a good range to be at to react safely, what’s not? Then go fight a MK CPU and stay at the maximum ‘safe’ range you have for Dash Attack. Is there anything else you’re feeling safe from or threatened by at that range? Do you feel you can punish effectively by always staying at that range?

Technical Ability

This is something I feel you need to practice by yourself before you start practicing with others. Like performing a choreographed dance, when you first start attempting these techniques you’re going to find yourself thinking about the inputs you’re making. If you attempt to use a new technique mid-match, you’ll most likely fail it and you’ll probably stop thinking about what’s currently going on in the match.

You need to commit all movements and inputs to memory, to the point that it feels like second nature and you can perform the technique flawlessly without error under stress.

So, there are three phases to perfecting a technique.

First Phase

Training Mode only. You should spend more time practicing the technique and starting to commit it to muscle memory. Don’t use it in friendlies. Don’t use it in a tournament set.

Once you can perform it near-flawlessly in Training Mode, it’s time to move onto the next phase.

Second Phase

Play against a CPU opponent. CPU opponents allow you to simulate an actual match and practice utilizing the technique as you move around in a relatively stress-free environment. This allows you to use it against moving opponents without feeling the pressure to win/impress/etc… and you can be fully concentrated on finding spots to use it most effectively. Once you can do this almost flawlessly, you move onto the final phase.

Third Phase

Play friendlies. Now that you’ve basically mastered this technique’s execution, it’s time to use it in friendlies. Friendlies incur at least a little bit of stress, which is what you now need to practice executing the technique under. I recommend playing a few higher-stakes money matches to help you even more. Again, the goal is to be able to do this almost flawlessly.

Once you’re feeling comfortable in friendlies and ONLY then should you start using the technique in tournament. You’ll find your use of it to be incredibly consistent utilizing this method, and you’ll be able to summon it in very stressful situations when you need it the most.

Fundamentals

If you need a refresher on what fundamentals are, go check out my very first post on improving in Smash 4.

Fundamentals are tricky by yourself. A lot of it you can’t practice without a human opponent, but before we get to those let’s get to the two facets of fundamentals you can practice by yourself: Reactions and Punishes and Option Coverage.

To practice Reactions and Punishes, fight a CPU and focus on reacting, not preemptively striking, the CPU. No reading, no throwing out moves to cover space. Just try and react to what the CPU does. If they’re in a knockdown, try and react to how they get up. Same as when they air dodge, roll, spot dodge, or do anything from the ledge. CPU’s have been coded to be perfect defense machines (in most close-range combat situations), so take advantage of this.

To practice Option Coverage, play a CPU and try and cover as many getup and ledge options as possible when they arise. Try and frame trap their air dodging. Throw out moves to cover space and see what option the CPU uses successfully and unsuccessfully. What’s nice about these two is you can combine practicing them. I wouldn’t recommend doing this until you’re a little proficient at both, but it’s quite effective.

As for the others, I recommend watching videos with a specific fundamental in mind. Watch, say, ZeRo vs. Dabuz Grand Finals at Genesis 3. First, watch it focusing on how the two space. Then watch it again and focus on how they position themselves. Then watch it again and focus on how they adapt. Watch it one more time and watch how they combine all the components of fundamentals into their neutral game.

Once you’re more proficient, try analyzing every component with just one viewing. If you watch it and found yourself lost while analyzing, watch it again.

This can take some time, but it will not only help you become a better player, this has the added bonus of helping you become a more analytical commentator (which we have very few of in the Chicago Smash 4 scene).

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As you can see, there’s a lot you can do on your own. Next time, I’ll be covering how to practice these methods with a human opponent!

Just Sayin’

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Check out the rest of the series!

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
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

 

 

Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS IX – The Plateau

**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.

If you’ve read my improvement series, then hopefully you’ve been, well, improving! Unfortunately, you might be hitting something that every level of player hits while improving – The Plateau.

The Plateau is a place where you start winning and losing against the same players. You don’t ever feel anything involving your level of play changing, and more often than not others around you can look like they’re leaping forward and suddenly beating a ton of players, including you. You can’t seem to find any answers to getting better, and it can be an incredibly frustrating experience, especially if it drags on for a long period of time.

Now, I’ve been seeing a lot of players talking about this lately in Chicago’s scene, and that’s good. Unfortunately, most of it (to me) looks like some players getting frustrated and not knowing what to do next. They’re sick of playing all the time and not seeing any visible improvement.

So, it’s time to dive deeper into the art of improvement and talk about ways you can plateau, and how to get back on track!

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So, how does one plateau? There are a lot of ways that one can start to slip, and many of these can be combined. In fact, most of them do. Here are the most common I see and how to deal with them:

You’re not practicing every day

Whether you’ve become busier due to outside factors (work, school, kids, significant other, etc…) or playing is starting to feel like a chore, you’re not practicing every day. Someone will tell you that doing something every day will make you better at it, and Smash is no exception. If you start slipping on practice, you’ll be as good as you are right now with no visible room for improvement.

I’m a perfect example of this. When I went to the first Mashfest, I took out a few notable players and my only losses were to top 10 players since I had started playing. Granted, I’ve only been to 4 or 5 tournaments, but the top players have generally remained the same. Fast forward to now, and I recently went to a weekly at Ignite Gaming Lounge, where I lost to two players I had never played before. Many of Chicago’s players that I probably could’ve handle 6 months ago have now accelerated to my level because I haven’t been practicing every day.

Now, practicing doesn’t necessarily mean playing – watching videos and theory-crafting can also be practice, especially if they’re videos of your own play. As a rule of thumb, actively play the game 4 days out of the week.

If you’re practicing for a long period of time and can’t fit that in your schedule anymore, try slimming the time you play down. I think 30 minutes is perfect – it’s enough to get something out of practicing, and it’s more time-efficient. You can squeeze in a quick 30 minutes in the morning before work/school, as a break to doing homework, or right before you go to bed.

You’re autopiloting

Autopiloting is a term that’s used to refer to the state of mind where you’re not cognitively thinking about what you’re doing while playing – you’re just playing. This leads to easily read habits that can be swiftly dealt with, and suddenly you’re down a stock without really knowing what adjustments you need to make mid-match.

There are a million reasons why you could be autopiloting, so there’s no easy fix for this. You need to work on being more cognitive of what you’re doing while playing. If the audience distracts you, try music. If you just suddenly feel drained, see what’s causing that and work to fix it. If you’re getting bored or frustrated, try and reset to neutral or take those whole 4-5 seconds of invincibility after losing a stock to recompose yourself.

You’re comfortable

This is a really big one. You go from top 25 to top 10. You’ve finally broken that barrier, and now you’re happy with how good you’ve gotten. You still want to get to top 5 and eventually be the best, but after all that work you’ve put in, you’re thinking, “I probably don’t need to practice today,” or, “tonight I just want to relax at the weekly. I’m gonna make top 10 anyway.”

These are not good thoughts. Being happy with where you are is great, but don’t let it stop you from improving. If you’re truly happy with top 10 and don’t have a burning desire to go all the way to #1, then great – you’ve accomplished your goal. But if you still want to get better, don’t slack off once you hit major milestones.

You’re cocky

Now that you’re a big hotshot player, you walk around like you own the place. You give advice that’s (probably) unwarranted, you talk smack to all the players you used to respect but are now better than, and you get really, really frustrated when people below your rank beat you. You belittle those wins as much as possible, and belittle wins of those that are ranked higher than you. You get angry when a new PR is released and you’re not where you thought you should be – why is Player X above me again? You play off your losses like it couldn’t’ve been your fault you lost. Well, it is – go humble yourself and show some respect. I’m all for a little edge and smack talk, but let’s not think we’re all that, okay? I suffered from this myself back in the Brawl days, when I finally hit the PR for the first time I got pretty angry when I lost, thinking that I should’ve been better and should be winning. I never bothered to reflect on why I was losing, I was just blinded by my own pride.

Clear your head and realize that you’re not some special celebrity. You’re good, sure, but you’ll never be great with that attitude.

You’re losing motivation

You had a reason why you wanted to be the best, but maybe that reason has changed or is invalid now. You don’t really know why you’re putting so much time into this game, so you put in less and less time.

There’s no easy fix for this one, either. This is all on you. Find a reason to reignite that fire, or just accept that this is where you’re going to be until you get that time back.

You’re just playing

Whether you don’t really know where to start or you’re not really focusing when practicing, you can play as much as you want, but at some point you’re going to fall flat when it comes to improvement. Yes, doing something every day will help you be better at it, but consciously thinking about what you’re doing and trying to understand all the finer details will help you even more.

When practicing, take the time to pause and think. Analyze different situations, try and visualize different options, and then execute on them when practicing. Don’t just play.

Also, don’t think you can substitute thoughtful play for playing every day. Do both.

You’re burnt out

A lot of players in Chicago play for many hours a day or binge on Super Smash Bros. a couple times a week. This can cause them to grow tired of the game, especially if they don’t see immediate results after playing for so long. Or, after playing so much they become bored and want to take a break. This can kill all motivation and your training regimen/habits. Don’t let burning out stop you.

If you feel like you’re growing tired of the game but still want to get better, take a small 1-2 week break. No tournaments, no playing (not even casually). All you should do is watch videos and streams to practice every day. If you do go to tournaments, don’t play friendlies – just socialize and watch. Actively play and enter tournaments once your break is over.

Practice can feel like a chore sometimes, and this is just one way to reignite the passion to play every day again. If you don’t want to watch videos or streams too, then so be it. Just. Don’t. Play. Do not touch the game for the time you’ve allotted yourself for a break.

And don’t let it be longer than a month. You want to be relatively fresh when you jump back in, and in my opinion, a month is too long for a break.

Your mentality is holding you back

I’ve written very briefly about some of the aspects of the mental game of Super Smash Bros., but in any competition, having a strong grip on your mental composure is crucial to your improvement and success as a player. I’m not going to get too into it here, but if you’re getting too frustrated from losing, too cocky from winning, or feeling hopeless mid-match after being combo’d, killed, etc… then you’re not going to improve. If you can’t calm your nerves when you need to perform something easy and mess it up, then you’re probably going to lose. If you raise top players onto a pedestal, you’re never going to beat them.

The hardest part for this specific example is that you might be in denial because your attitude is how you think and feel, and that doesn’t change easily. If people are talking about how you act during certain situations, how you complain/rant all the time, or about your negative attitude, it’s time to humble yourself and ask if your mentality is holding you back from being truly great.

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There are many, many more reasons as to why a player plateaus – these are just some common ones. I’ve gone through a couple of these myself, and I guarantee you will too.

Take a breath, work to fix the problem, and get yourself back out there. Just don’t be discouraged if it takes a while. Sometimes, it’s a slow ride back to improving. Other times, you’ll be back on track and improving after one small session.

Just Sayin’

Check out the rest of the series!

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!

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

 

Choosing a Main in Super Smash Bros.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. That means you’ll be joining together with family and friends, and you know the relatives around your age are gonna want to play some Super Smash Bros.! So get ready to bust out your main and lay down some heat!

A “main” is something that anyone in a competitive fighting game can toss around – it’s the character you use the most; the character that you’re trying to win with; the character you have the most fun with. It doesn’t just encompass competitive play – even casual players have a “main” character that they’ll use amongst friends and challengers.

Picking your main is an important part of Super Smash Bros. This is the character you’ll be putting in most of your time practicing and playing with. It’s the character you’ll do research on, learn match-ups for, and try to win with.

So, how do you pick one? There are a lot of characters and a lot of different styles of play. I’m going to break this down, because finding a main happens even in casual play, and I’d like to address those players in this post as well.

The first thing I want to cover applies to every level, but especially competitive players, and that’s style.

I won’t go over this in too much detail (but I highly recommend you go look some of this stuff up or ask me personally to break it down further), but when I say “style” I’m referring to the style the character brings out. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms, “Aggressive Falco”, or “Defensive Mario”. Aggressive and Defensive are both styles of play. Let me give you a list of the common ones and a small definition of them:

Aggressive/Offensive: Focuses on applying pressure to win. Often will throw out many attacks.

Defensive/Campy: Focuses on defense and punishing. Tends to attack much less and throws out projectiles if able instead of running at the opponent.

Bait and Punish: Utilizes pressure and defense to fool opponent and punish them hard. Also likes to use frame traps to force 50/50 situations (you guess wrong you get punished, you guess right you’re safe).

Now, a player is not strictly one of these styles. I would say a player combines a blend of these styles but leans towards one more than the others.

So what does this have to do with picking a character?

Well, characters have certain styles that fit them better. Take the character I use: Kirby. Kirby doesn’t excel very well in the offensive department – he has slow ground and air speed and so doesn’t have the luxury of moving in and out quickly and just throwing out attacks. Kirby’s best played with a Bait and Punish style. He lures characters in and then punishes hard. If you lean more towards an Offensive style, Kirby might not feel right for you.

When you’re picking a character, you want to find one that fits ‘you’, the player. If you don’t feel comfortable playing a certain way, but that character begs to be played that way, I suggest you look for another character, or learn to play that style better. I actually lean heavily towards Offensive, but due to my experience I’m able to turn Kirby into a character that can be played my way. That takes a very long time – long after you’ve improved.

Okay, let’s dive a little deeper into the levels of play and how they should think about main selection.

Casual

If you’re playing at a more casual level, I highly recommend that your main be who you have the most fun with. Or, if you’ve got character loyalty, go ahead and continue being loyal. At this level of play, characters are pretty balanced. No one really understands the ways to abuse a character’s strong points and exploit their weak points.

Why would someone casual have a main? C’mon, Smash is still a competition, and people like to win. Even if you’re casual, there’s gonna be kids who want to challenge you. You gotta have a character to lay the smack down with. It’s definitely not as important, but identifying yourself with a character definitely helps you bond with other players (“Oh, you play Fox? Cool! I play Ike.”). That conversation happens a lot in any level of play.

Style is important, but really, your style isn’t as refined here, so you can get away with playing basically everyone.

Casual-Competitive

This is for the players who are casual but might be interested in joining the competitive scene or are just naturally competitive and play much more than their casual counterpart, or are players who are part of the competitive scene but don’t have a burning desire to improve (AKA ME).

At this point your style has been refined. You probably can recognize how you play and are able to pinpoint which characters suit your style. If you’re not worried about how you place or if you want to develop a character that’s not top tier, go ahead. If they suit your style, go for it!

The bottom line for this level and the other level is that you shouldn’t sweat who your main is. Pick who you like and who you have fun with! Try and further a character’s meta along. Who knows? That character might become the next top tier fad.

If you want to win and really improve results-wise, however…

Competitive

Pick a current high – top tier character. You want to win and to improve. You want results. If you don’t, you’re Casual-Competitive, and that’s okay. But for those that want glory, pick a character that’s high on the tier list and that fits your style. Don’t try to mold a character – pick one that flows with the style you lean towards naturally – you’ll improve much faster when you’re not battling your main’s preferred style. And don’t try to change your own style yet – wait until you’ve got some experience. You want a character that lets you lean towards your own style, which means you can utilize their tools effectively.

Characters like Mario and Sheik are all great characters to pick because they mesh well with basically all three styles of play and allow you to lean towards any style and not feel like you’re battling the character.

If your character falls out of favor and is deemed less than high tier? Stick with it for at least a year (as I mentioned in my improvement post about character loyalty) and then consider changing. At that point you’ve got enough experience to make a solid decision yourself, provided you’ve been improving often and not hitting a plateau.

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Your main is a part of you. Don’t take picking one lightly, but also don’t put too much thought into it. It is just a character in a game after all. I suggest, for every skill level, you play around with the characters available to you and feel each one out. Then you can make an informed decision about which one you want to pick.

And if you’re competitive: stick to the main you’ve chosen. That means put in the appropriate time to pick one and not regret it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – have fun Smashing with family and friends! 🙂

Just Sayin’

Improvement in Smash 4 V – Stages

**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 stages.

Stages are tricky. They change how you play, how a match-up can work. Suddenly that low ceiling makes character X more adept at KO’ing from the top, and you panic more when above them. Maybe you get drained as you fire off another Smash attack and your opponent is living to 200%+ thanks to bigger blast zones. Whatever it may be, stages are the most dynamic part of Smash Bros, and one of the most important things to consider while practicing.

When it comes to stages, you’re at the mercy of the TO. They decide to use Halberd? You can’t say no. Delfino? Castle Siege? Tough luck, buddy. They’re gonna be there, and you may have to play on it.

But because of the unique way stage banning works, there are things you can do to practice efficiently (I’m assuming that you know how the stage banning process works. If you don’t, feel free to reach out to me personally or to someone else in the Chicago community. We can all help you with that).

Look at the Counter Pick list. Then look at your MU’s – is there a stage that doesn’t benefit you in any of your MU’s that you just don’t like? You don’t need to practice on it. If you’re going to be banning this stage almost every time and never take anyone there, there is zero reason to practice on it. Don’t waste your time. Likewise, if there’s a character you know you’ll never take a certain character to and always ban a certain stage for, don’t bother practicing that MU on that stage. If you happen to not have a stage that you’ll never play on – you practice every. Single. Stage. (that’s on the legal list of your tournament’s stages, of course).

Move around the stage. Execute a couple moves and look at your positioning. Make sure you practice every MU you think you’ll be playing on the stage, too. Look for spots on the stage where you see a positional advantage and make a note of it. See where your opponent will have the best advantage of your character.

Becoming comfortable with the stages you’ll be playing on will allow you to play better: you’re more comfortable with your character’s spacing there, you know the in’s and out’s of the stage, and you just feel better while playing on it. That can be the difference between a win and a loss sometimes, and it’s something you shouldn’t brush aside.

The bottom line about stages is this: Don’t let it be the stage that’s winning/losing when you’re counter picking/being counter picked.

Just Sayin’.

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

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