Friday, March 4, 2016

3 Marth things!

I know it's been forever since I posted...but I honestly haven't had anything I wanted to talk about, until now!

After a recent conversation with Zoso, I realized there was some marth stuff I do/know about that I felt like writing about. So here it is, three things that marth players don't do that they probably should. I'll go from least important to most important:

Reacting to tech in place on the ground with uptilt. This is particularly good because you will get the sourspot uptilt which sends them completely horizontal. Uptilt is fast enough that it is feasible to use it to react to tech in place. It's honestly a lot better than being forced to grab/up-b and if you uptilt sourspot a fox at like 80 he's probably dead. I've never really see anyone use this as a consistent option, but I think it is quite good. If marth wavelands on a platform after an upair string, this could also be useful. Waveland on platform, if they tech in place you send them off stage for an edgeguard. Just some food for thought.

The second thing I want to talk about is...using pivots to help tech chase on tech rolls. If marth stands on top of a fox/falco landing location, and the spacy does a tech roll then you might have seen me dash and up-b on reaction. While that isn't too bad, marth can actually do a lot better! The spacing/timing is different based on the exact landing spot and which character you are tech chasing, but here's an example of how it might work: 1) fox tech rolls behind you, just fsmash and it will tipper 2) fox tech rolls away, very short dash and pivot fsmash. On falco you might have to do a pivot on both techs, depending on the spacing. There are also ways you can incorporate dsmash into this, but I won't go into detail on that.

By combining the first two things, I'm suggesting that marth actually has a pretty good way to finish off spacies in mid-high% tech chase situatoins. Between sourspot uptilt and pivot fsmash he can turn any knockdown situation into a potential kill, provided they are at reasonably high %.

The last thing I want to talk about is fthrow vs upthrow as a DI mixup! Both of these throws are unreactable, which is very powerful. I'm sure a lot of people "know" that this exists, but it is absurdly underutilized/unoptimized. A basic example is marth fthrow on a spacy near the edge: they often DI away to avoid getting dtilted, so if you upthrow you can just dair and its a guaranteed kill. Now, why is this so unoptimized? Well, does anybody know the exact % where fthrow-->dair/dsmash/fsmash/regrab works? Let's say the fox DIs towards marth, and the marth does forward throw (which means marth "won" the mixup)...dtilt will hit with the middle of the sword, which isn't too great. If I mained marth, I'd test the exact % where I can fthrow  into each of my followups so that I know when the mixup is strongest. For example, if marth can combo fthrow to dair on a spacy, the % at which the combo works should be a 50% chance to kill the spacy immediately off the DI mixup.

Another example is in the marth ditto, or marth vs peach. I'm sure we've all seen marth do fthrow-->dash attack near the edge. The reason this works is because there is no stage to land on, so as marth/peach fall below the edge, the dash attack clips them. On stage they would be able to tech before the dash attack hits. The thing is, this does not work on DI down+away as far as I know; it only works on DI away. So, how is this information useful? Well, if the opponent is only DI'ing away, you get a free fthrow-->dash attack into whatever you want. But if they are trying to DI down+away, suddenly you know the exact DI they are doing and you can test the upthrow followups on that DI. I'm fairly certain that upthrow--> fair is guaranteed if they hold down+away, which is far stronger than whiffing fthrow-->dash attack and giving them the edge for free. Sure, upthrow fair is a known combo, but optimizing exactly how to fair to hit the DI down+away on upthrow could be very beneficial! If you drift+jump exactly correctly, you could probably get consistent tipper fairs into other stuff. So do they want to avoid getting upthrow faired? Well then they have to DI towards you, and fthrow becomes very dangerous (fthrow regrab, fthrow dair, fthrow into aerial combos, etc).

These are just a couple examples, though. Marth has a very strong mixup between the two throws which is very underutilized. Even for the marth mains that DO use this mixup and choose to upthrow near the edge...I'm pretty sure none of them have tested how to optimize their followups on specific DIs. To know which DIs to test it on, you have to understand the mixup (in the fthrow-->dash attack case, you would want to test upthrow-->fair on DI down+away).

That's all I've got for now, but I think it's some pretty important stuff! I didn't go into too much detail, but hopefully everyone reading can test things for themselves and be creative. This should also help people defend against marth near the edge better :)

If I post again soon, it will probably be about the "better player effect" that can often be observed...someone seems really good and hits their combos and followups, then they play someone good and suddenly they can't do anything??? What's going on? There are some pretty obvious answer to this question, but I think that I've figured out some interesting ideas on the topic that haven't been explored/discovered.

Also, even though I haven't been posting much, I *have* been trying to stream more! So check out my stream to hear me talk about this type of stuff and more ^__^

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Falco optimal fastfall timing

In this post I want to discuss a very simple thing, but it is something that I believe makes a big difference for falco! I am unaware of anyone in the current falco population implementing optimal fastfall timings when doing aerials, particularly when approaching the opponent.

First I will point out that melee players have been clasically taught to fastfall their aerials after the hitlag that results from hitting an opponent or a shield. While this is a very consistent method, it is not always the best thing to do in any given situation. In the case of falco doing a mid-height aerial, he can maximize frame advantage by fastfalling before the first active hitbox of the attack comes out. His short hop can be fastfalled beginning on frame 13. To get the lowest possible aerial (and thus, the maximum frame advantage on an opponent's shield) it is necessary to fastfall on the first frame possible, but executing this can be tricky! If you go for this optimal timing and are not frame perfect, you might end up inputting the fastfall too late, at which point your character is undergoing hitlag and your fastfall input will not register. If you do it a little early however, the game has a generous 3 frame buffer during which simply holding down will result in a fastfall on the first possible frame.

I would imagine that none of this seems particularly important to a lot of people who understand the game reasonably, as falco's mid-height nair approaches are generally pretty safe. The optimal fastfall timing is clearly much more delayed than the typical post-hitlag timing, however, and once I realized this I decided to test the frame data for myself. Here is what I came up with:

The following table is for inputting the fastfall so that it occurs the first frame possible AFTER hitlag:

Frame of SH that falco inputs nair Frame advantage on shield
 8 -5
 9 -4
 10 -4
 11 -4
 12 -3
 13 -3
 14 -3
 15 -3
 16 -2
 17 -2
 18 -1
 19 -1
 20 0

I only listed up to frame 20 of the SH because 0 is the maximum frame advantage falco can achieve from his nair.

The next table is for inputting a fastfall BEFORE hitlag occurs from the nair hitting the opponent's shield. To be clear, this means that the fastfall is inputted during the startup frames of the nair. The first frame falco can fastfall is frame 13 of his short hop as I mentioned above, Because of the 3 frame buffer, it is possible to buffer the fastfall the frame after inputting nair for the cases of nairing on frames 10 and 11 of your short hop (if you input nair on frame 12 of your short hop and fastfall the next frame, the buffer isn't useful since the next frame is the first frame you could input fastfall anyway). The information listed in the table begins with the first frame that it is actually possible to this method:

Frame of SH that falco inputs nair Frame advantage on shield
 10 -3
 11 -2
 12 -1
 13 -1
 14 -1
 15 0

So let's try to interpret this data meaningfully, with some context. There are a few aspects of it worth discussing. Clearly this method of fastfalling I have mentioned is not necessary to keep falco safe against shield grab. In fact, it is not even necessary to stay safe against falco shine out of shield or sheik nair out of shield (both of which hit on frame 6). This is clear because the method I described is only useful at frame 10 of the SH; the normal method is -4 if falco nairs on frame 10, which is sufficient time to shine before the opponent can counter attack with the options I named. That said...

1) Despite the fact that the normal method is sufficient for the purposes I named above (beating shield grab, etc), leniency is always preferred. If falco is -4, then he only has 1 frame of leniency with which to time his shine after the nair to tie with a frame perfect shine OoS from an opposing falco, and must be frame perfect in order to beat it. With the method I have described, the aggressing falco now has 2 frames of leniency, with no loss in any other aspect. To reiterate, the method I have described gives the aggressor extra leniency at no cost. In a game like melee where interactions can come down to who was one frame faster than the other, this is *extremely* valuable.

2) Raw frame advantage is inherently valuable. Even if you end up out of shine range after hitting their shield, having an extra 2 frames to potentially chase down an escape option is useful. Alternatively, those are an extra 2 frames you could use to back off after a spaced nair and setup your laser game/other pressure more safely.

3) This is perhaps the most important reason I think this method is beneficial. Rolls are invincible on frame 4, and fox shine out of shield hits on frame 4. With a typical mid-height nair executed anywhere from frames 8-11 of falco's short hop, fox can shine OoS or any opponent can roll away before the shine hits their shield. The latter in particular is very frustrating for falco, as it prevents him from actually forcing them to block and starting his pressure. He is forced to make movement reads on their OoS options, which leaves him vulnerable to counterplay. Even a nair executed with the traditional method on frames 12-15 requires frame perfection for falco to tie with a fox shine OoS, and an opponent can still roll before the shine hits them. Compare this to the method i have described: even a frame 10 nair can tie with a fox shine OoS (and as the aggressor, generally your timings should be better than the defender's). A frame 11 nair directly beats both fox's shine OoS and any roll attempts; a frame 12-14 nair beats those options with 1 frame of leniency!

This information is based on my personal testing in 20xx. I would recommend you test it for yourself, both to see it with your own eyes, as well as to confirm what I listed. It is possible I made a mistake on any individual piece of information, although I am fairly confident in it. At some point this week I will try to stream, and I will make sure to show what the nair looks like. I'll just highlight the relevant part of the stream and post the link later. I think this method of executing aerials with falco is surprisingly difficult, but very feasible. It is definitely something worth learning!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Random Smash (Sheik) Thoughts

I haven't honestly had anything in particular I wanted to write about lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about smash! I figured I would go ahead and write out a few of the things I've been thinking about lately, and maybe people would find it useful. After writing the whole thing, I'm coming back up here to say that I ended up writing about: sheik's upsmash in neutral, ASDI down as an option select during whiff punishes, and sheik vs ICs.

A big thing I've been messing around with is using sheik's upsmash in neutral, or at least in situations where the opponent isn't in hitstun/knocked down. I'll give a few examples of where I think this can be very effective.

If you have someone cornered (particularly a spacy) and you want a strong mixup after DD baiting or something similar. Unless you are very predictable with your timing, fox's only options to realistically avoid upsmash in the corner are shield and dash back (which he might not even have room to do, depending on the situation you do it in). If he tries to wait in place or move forward, upsmash is big enough to hit both (and can hit a late dash back). It also catches them jumping which is *huge* and the main reason I wanted to use it. A more "new meta" option that fox players have finally started to use is an aerial in place (especially drill) to counter sheik running at them; upsmash always trades or cleanly beats these options. Lastly, this is also a situation in which people tend to roll/spotdodge, and a well timed upsmash can effectively deal with these options.

Another example is if sheik takes no action/WDs backward/something similarly non commital while a fox full jumps nearby. If sheik waits and sees the full jump, dash into JC upsmash under fox is more or less guaranteed to hit unless he double jumps. This creates a fairly effective 50/50 situation, because sheik also has the option to wait out the DJ as a somewhat safe read and then react with an upair. If either the upsmash or upair callout hits the fox, he is very likely to die, or at least take a ton of damage.

One last example, all though I haven't really done this one much yet, is the situation where two people are dash dancing around each other (this is most common in sheik vs marth in my experience). There are situations where both people are overlapping and constantly crossing each other up; the fact that upsmash covers both sides means that unless they can outrun it, their only option is pretty much to shield (or roll/spotdodge preemptively, but this is very unlikely to be chosen). I think sheik having a high-reward attack option that hits on both sides is a fairly unique tool among characters with strong ground movement, and this usage should be explored more in matchups where both characters are often grounded near each other. As I said, this pretty much means...marth, and occasionally fox/sheik.

Another idea that should be fairly obvious but I don't think anyone consistently does is...ASDI'ing down when going for grabs in neutral. In particular, the situation where this is the most obviously useful is against a peach who whiffs a float canceled aerial in neutral and tries to use jab to prevent herself from being grabbed. It *is* possible to grab before she can jab obviously, but it's a pretty tight timing and very situational (based on your position/timing relative to her, etc). Because of this, holding down during the grab is sort of an option select that accounts for you being slightly late; I've had people say they don't want to do this because of the threat of dsmash, but that means you are 5 frames late on punishing the aerial...which is pretty bad. In general, there are many situations where people throw out an attack to "protect" themselves after a whiff, but this should be fairly easy to account for by ASDI'ing down. I've never seen anyone do this as a consistent option while attempting whiff punishes, and I fully intend to implement it; I'm honestly not sure why I have been so lazy about it, besides that it is pretty difficult to work so many improvements at once.

The last thing I'll say is that I think I'm going to play sheik vs ICs from now on, on every stage except FD. I managed to beat nintendude at MLG, and the sheik vs ICs games in particular were 3-1 in my favor (I lost a game with fox on FD to make it 3-2). I also played two MMs with dizzkidboogie at smash the record and won 5-1 with sheik overall (6-1 if you include the fox on FD game). I don't think I've discovered anything in particular about the matchup, but my shield drop game is by far the best (when my controller cooperates) in melee right now except for maybe plup (no clue who is better at using it in general). Having a good shield drop game makes my platform play vs ICs 100x more effective than most people's, so all I've honestly improved at is killing nana and not making stupid mistakes in micro interactions. Just those two things alone has been enough to be successful vs ICs thus far, and I'm nowhere near playing the matchup as well as I can.

I think I need to go for way more grabs, but that requires me to know when it is relatively safe to do so (based on separating them, or even when they are together if I know I will grab popo I can backthrow him). Needles causing a damage desync between them means that stray hits often cause some separation, but I'm currently pretty bad at recognizing and taking advantage of it. Currently I recognize it, but I still run away after I hit them LOL. I only do this because I'm confident in outplaying them in neutral again, but if I want to truly be good at the matchup then I need to milk every opportunity I get. Against the styles of ICs I have fought so far, I think sheik can win a stock vs. ICs in 2-3 interactions (which is pretty contrary to the typical view on the matchup). One strong outplay near a platform can get you around 24 damage if you manage to string together 2 aerials (I've found success with aerial'ing them out of the air and combo'ing into a rising aerial, which puts me safely back on the platform). Between getting this damage and then any damage desyncing you get from needles, the next hit you get should be sufficient to separate nana and win the stock from there, or one more interaction at worst. At that point it's just sopo, and while he can punish hard...sheik clearly destroys him. As a side note, I think I need to be more cognizant of how I can potentially convert my hits. I mentioned that I did an air-to-air aerial and converted it into a rising aerial which put me back on the platform; this was very effective and safe, but I could probably occasionally convert into an uptilt/upair after the aerial even at very low %s and keep them in a bad position from there. I'm not sure exactly when this would be a good idea and when it's worse than just going for the second rising aerial and landing back on the platform, so I want to experiment with this a bit more.

One last note: I've had several ICs mains claim that the chaingrab goes on very long, but around the early 40s I've had success jumping out by DI'ing up and in (to get the maximum height). If I get grabbed at low % I just try to mash out, DI away vs the chaingrab (to make sure nana gets desynced and I won't get wobbled, and SDI up on nana's dair (then DJ out) as my defensive options. I'm still pretty bad at it, but I'm definitely much better than I used to be. Both nintendude and dizz seemed to go for dthrow upsmash kills even at %s where it wouldn't kill if I correctly survival DI'd, but I kept DI'ing to survive fsmash/dsmash. Okay I lied, this is the last thing: switching to zelda and recovering to top platform is very good vs them (and most characters, actually). I'm surprised people don't do this more, but hopefully now they will!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tech Chasing!

Alright, it's about time I actually made a post about tech chasing. I'm sure lots of people want one, especially because it's *not* just applicable to sheik. Most characters have an application for tech chasing. Without further ado, let's begin...

First, some frame data. Tech in place lasts 26 frames, and tech rolls last 40 frames. This does not change based on the character. Grab hits on frame 7, which means to hit tech in place you can grab at the latest by frame 19. The other limiting factor is human reaction time, and I don't think any player is realistically capable of reacting before frame 18 on a very consistent basis. So to grab tech in place you need to be positioned close enough to their landing, and input grab on frame 18 or 19. The tech rolls are easier to hit since they take longer, provided that your character has a way to close the gap; in sheik's case I can boost grab, with marth and fox I can just dash into a JC grab, with peach I can dash attack etc. As the 20gx guys have mentioned, as long as you react by the frame 18 I just mentioned, falcon can even knee/stomp the tech roll away and behind, respectively.

There are many ways to tech chase effectively, and my best guess is that the more of them you are aware of, the better. At the very least, it can't hurt. So let's start by looking at the animations:

All 3 of fox's tech animations in real time:

Fox's forward tech:

Fox's backwards tech:

Fox's tech in place:

Miss tech is such a different animation than the others that I don't think you need to study images to recognize it. The character has no tech animation and there is a big green flash. I won't go into detail about how to cover it, because it is fairly character specific (both in terms of the character tech chasing, and the character being tech chased). At a later time I might write about it, or I could answer individual questions about it if anyone has them.

Note that in these images there's two major things you can pay attention to: 1) the animation/physical contortion of fox's body 2) the white and yellow lines that signify the tech. Studying these can be useful, and I am fairly certain that I at the very least subconsciously am aware of both of them.

Outside of using the actual animations, the other important way to approach tech chasing is by learning the timing/rhythm of the tech chase. So the key here is that after they hit the ground, you make a decision on frame 18 of their tech. A huge factor is that when you are watching a character tech and you are reacting, you just check if their character model is still in the same place they landed. If their character model hasn't changed physical locations during your reaction window *and* you see a tech animation at all, you know they must have teched in place. If by the end of your reaction window you realize the character is no where near their initial landing spot, you know it must have been some sort of tech roll. If you keep this in mind, then the real trick to tech chasing is learning the timing for what frame you need to make a decision.

One way of testing this is to go into 20xx's develop mode, and press y+down on dpad to turn on the animation counter. When you grab a fox with sheik let's say, down throw him and let him tech. Press start on the frame you think you need to react and would normally input grab for tech in place; if you are pausing on the 18th or 19th frame of the tech, you've found the timing! (in 20xx, this will be displayed as 17 and 18 because the game starts counting from 0, not 1)

The goal is to be able to consistently react on the correct frame. In that sense, tech chasing is as much of a rhythmic challenge as it is a reactionary challenge. Something I've been considering lately after talking to Dizzkidboogie about wobbling is that music/a metronome could also be used to help with tech chasing! If you think of the frame they hit the ground as the first "beat" and frame 18 (the point in time you need to make a decision) as the second "beat" then that means there is a beat every 18 frames. 18/60 = 3/10, so a beat every 3/10 of a second, which is 10 beats every 3 seconds -->200 beats per minute (the same as wobbling, funnily enough).

For reference:

Alternatively, music at 200 bpm:

While tech chasing in 20xx, I experimented with having the metronome on during tech chasing. I discovered that the times I didn't grab the tech in place, I was clearly too slow with respect to the beat. When I focused harder on just matching the tempo no matter what, I found myself hitting the options more consistently. Of course there is some bias because I already know how to tech chase, but I can see this being a very useful tool for learning the rhythm of tech chasing. Of course, it is generally unlikely that the music/metronome's beat will match up perfectly with when the character hits the ground; ideally you have a good enough intrinsic sense of the beat that you can sort of mentally shift it appropriately.

So let's say you have the rhythm down, you recognize the animations, the whole there anything else? Absolutely! It might depend on your character, but let's take sheik's down throw as an example. One of the things that takes attention away from purely focusing on the tech animations is their DI on the actual throw. The faster you react to the DI they did on the throw, the more time you can spend focusing on the actual tech reaction. If they DI away you should walk towards their landing, if they land in front of you directly you should do nothing, and if they are going to land behind you then you should turn around. With various slight DIs this can be ambiguous, but enough practice will help you recognize which side they will land on better and better. Improving your reaction to the DI on down throw as sheik is almost as important as being good at recognizing the techs; as I said, it takes up valuable mental focus for the reaction.

The last thing I will say is that my experience with tech chasing leads me to believe that discipline is one of the most important parts of this. People ask me how I got so good at it (even though I drop like half my tech chases in tournament LOL) or whether or not I would tech chase in a last stock situation where if I drop it I will die...the answer is yes, I will. The reason I'm better at it than everyone else is because I'm more committed to it; I'm willing to lose trying my best to do it, in hopes that I will eventually not mess it up. I've probably been tech in place shined more times than anyone in the entire history of the game, and that's not an exaggeration.

Have fun everyone, and happy tech chasing!

Monday, September 21, 2015

HTC Throwdown and Smash Society

Sorry I haven't posted in forever... I keep meaning to, but I can't seem to find a topic I really want to talk about. With HTC just finishing I have a lot to say, even if it's not about the game itself. So I want to take some time to talk about that as honestly as I can. A lot of my thoughts might seem arrogant or might not make sense to a viewer, but they're my honest interpretation of the events. This will be a pretty long post, the first part focusing on various social aspects, and the second part focusing on the actual gameplay. I'll label them, so feel free to skip around.

EDIT: On second thought, I'm just going to make this into two posts. I'll make this the social one, and make a separate one just about how I felt about my gameplay later on.

Social Stuff

First of all, what a crazy event! Props to the staff for efficiently running a huge (500?) man tournament in a single day; definitely unheard of in the tournament scene and that's absolutely amazing. Even though what I am about to say is a lot of negative stuff, let me be clear that what the TOs/staff accomplished here was nothing short of a miracle. Honestly, I did have a few personal complaints though, some about the tournament but more about the smash scene in general. First of all, I didn't get a VIP wristband despite HTC flying me out to the tournament .____. I mean I would totally understand if at some other tournament I didn't get one...I mean, who the fuck is druggedfox, right guys??? But when the ones throwing the tournament specifically paid for me to come, I feel like that's an inherent recognition of player skill. You could say it was an accident, but based on how I'm generally treated in the smash community it's unsurprising to me that this happened.

There's a ridiculous bias towards "top players" as well as an unfortunate social dynamic related to it. I talked to Jon (eBay, pgood falcon from Washington) about this a bit while at the tournament and he was so glad I pointed it out, wholeheartedly agreeing. People have known about me for years, but they have never acknowledged me. I don't mean acknowledged any sort of skill I may or may not have, I mean as a person. Prior to my performance at evo, do you think Leffen ever said hi to me as I passed by him? Do you think Shroomed ever stopped to have a conversation with me? I am *not* trying to put those specific players on blast; I was just giving examples to illustrate the concept. Note that these are situations where it would be considered fairly normal/expected for there to be some sort of social interaction; I'm not suggesting that they should arbitrarily go out of their way to do these things. I wouldn't mind this so much, if it wasn't for the fact that immediately following my evo performance...suddenly top level players *did* stop to talk to me. Even players I had never met would wave, say hello, strike up a conversation with me, etc. Obviously this is only a generalization and not true in every case by any means. A great example is s2j, who met me at Apex 2012 and talked to me a lot before ever playing me and knowing how good or not I was; I didn't see him again until we played at CEO 2015, and he acknowledged me and noted that he hadn't seen me in years, etc. Alternatively take Mango, who didn't talk to me before evo OR after evo LOOOL. But when we're both on stage, he'll take initiative to ask me questions or talk to me in a personable fashion.

Ignoring how smasher's treat each other and the VIP nonsense, let's look at seeding. The actual seeding used for the tournament, in my estimation, looked roughly like this:

1. Mango
2. Mew2king
3. Hungrybox
4. Leffen
5. Plup
6. Axe
7. PewPewU
8. Shroomed
9. Silent Wolf
10. Lucky
11. SFAT
12. MacD
13. S2j
14. Hugs
15. Colbol/Zhu
16. Wizzrobe
17. Druggedfox
18. Zhu/Colbol

I was told that Wizzy and I were supposed to be 15/16 (which means we wouldn't have to play round 1), and regardless of whether or not this was an honest mistake it really sucked. I'm good friends with Wizzy and teach him a lot of smash stuff, not to mention we are from Florida and Georgia and already play at some florida locals and various regionals. I can say with high certainty that such a regional/seeding consideration would not have been overlooked for someone in the top 8 seeds, for example.

This isn't the first negative experience I've had related (at least, imo) to my player skill. When I went to I'm Not Yelling there were various expectations of me as a player by the TOs/stream, but without any of the communication on their end that should have come along with it. I don't like being treated like less of a person because I'm perceived to be less of a player, but it's a consistent experience I have had in general.

Alright now let's talk about the crowd. I was so disappointed by the crowd at HTC, since the audience at a tournament is a huge part of the experience (for both the players and the audience). Never before have I seen so much emphasis on favoritism and regional bias, and so little love for GOOD GAMEPLAY. The crowd didn't make me play worse at HTC, it just made me sad (and it's not the first time I've experienced this, but it was the biggest offender for sure). Okay, I get it, I'm not from norcal, or even california. But when me vs colin happens and literally NOBODY cares even though it was one of the most insane sets of the just makes me so sad. He almost 4 stocked me. One game I read his attempt to gimp me and killed him with a needle at 0%. We just absolutely fucked each other up. Crazy comebacks were made, there were ridiculous suicides/risky attempts off stage on both ends. In any other context, this would be the shit that gets people hype. People WANT to see the crazy stuff. Nobody cared and it was just so depressing. I could do the sickest sheik shit, never seen before, everyone's quiet. I got waveshine upsmashed by silent wolf/sfat? Crowd goes nuts. It's just so fucking lame, and it's not even a sheik problem. I saw colin do tons of hype shit and nobody cared. Nobody cares about good gameplay, they just want to see their guy win. It just disappoints me so much, because part of what makes me love this game so much is being able to share it with thousands of people who all experience the same thing I am. When I witness crowds like that, it just makes me question that experience entirely, and it's disgusting.

That pretty much wraps up everything I want to comment on. As far as my personal behavior, I sincerely regret not giving silent wolf a better handshake after losing to him to get 4th. I tried to remedy it at the time by giving him a real handshake, but that was still really bad of me and I hope he didn't take it badly. I didn't mean to be disrespectful with the first handshake...I just literally didn't have the heart/energy to give him a real handshake. I tried, and my hands just couldn't do it. Losing the way I did was a huge mix of emotions for me, ranging from disbelief to being upset that my tournament was over, combined with the all the pent up hype/adrenaline from playing 3 sets in a row that all went to game 5. I just couldn't handle it, and I hope that with more experience that doesn't happen to me anymore. Something I *don't* regret at all was popping off at the crowd after beating SFAT. It was 100% unrelated to SFAT and I think he knows that, but I sure was wondering where all the norcal chants went after I killed their hopes and dreams for the tourney. Seriously, I hated that crowd with a passion. Shoutouts to anyone in that crowd that cared more about good melee than they did about seeing me choke so their favorite player could win.

This article was honestly pretty negative, and I didn't start writing it with that intention. I wanted to make a couple side comments spawning from my conversation with Jon, and then focus on HTC from a gameplay perspective...but all the thoughts I didn't really realize I was having came out. Most smashers that I've met and hung out with are honestly awesome people, but there are a lot of social factors that create the issues I mentioned. I don't necessarily expect anything to change from anyone reading this, but if anyone cares about my thoughts then they'll find them here.

I'll hopefully bring you guys a much different post with my discussion of the gameplay at HTC! If not, then I'll at least make a post about something melee related ^__^

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sheik Shield Pressure

Shield pressure with sheik is so exciting and underdeveloped!! First I will explain why I think it is relevant/useful...why do I even need to talk about this? Non sheik players will benefit from this as well, since I talk about how to beat things that sheik players normally do.

  • Ground moves on shield are so unsafe! Here is how most characters can punish your ground moves as a sheik player:
    •  Jab is shield grabbable at anything but *max* range, and the second jab is always CCable (well, ASDI down-able). I don't know how it isn't common yet, but as soon as someone sees a jab they can input shield grab and hold down. If sheik does a second jab it gets ASDI'd down into a grab, if she doesn't then she gets grabbed after the first time. No, jab-->spotdodge/dsmash/ftilt do not actually work if your opponent reacts effectively. At max range jab is a respectable tool to throw off your opponent's timing and still pressure them.
    • Forward tilt, even when spaced, is directly punishable by: fox, falco, marth, falcon, jigglypuff, and maybe sheik (I forget if nair OoS punishes at max range). Fox can wavedash into shine, as can falco; jigglypuff can wavedash and rest you. Marth can fair out of shield or shield grab. Falcon can nair/upair (though both can be ASDI'd down, so it's actually not that bad an option against him). Even if they don't have a direct punish, if they react fast enough they are at advantage! For example in the sheik mirror, I frequently wavedash forward if someone ftilts my shield. If I do it fast enough, I'm at roughly 3-4 frames of advantage (and thus can force a mixup, if I so choose), and if they throw out another move after the ftilt I can CC grab them and kill them.
    • Down tilt is punishable in the exact same ways as forward tilt, and is even more unsafe. Since you are crouching, it is slightly more effective vs. falcon than it otherwise would be, but otherwise it has all the same issues.
    • Down smash, unless it gets all 3 hits on your shield, is punishable by WD grab with every single character. Unless you shield DI towards sheik, she'll pretty much never get all 3 hits on your shield, even when she does it in your face. Even if she gets all 3 hits, it is about as safe as ftilt (aka still wavedash rest-able and you're gonna die LOL).
    • Uptilt is always punishable by shield grab in between the hits. If you get the second hit to hit their shield, I believe you are +2, which is admittedly pretty absurd. The biggest thing with this is that even if they react too slowly to punish in between the first and second hit, they can just ASDI down and punish the second hit. For example if you uptilt fox's shield, he can always just input shield grab on reaction (with no intention to punish the first hit) and simply hold down during the grab startup. He will then proceed to waveshine you across the entirety of FD (because you deserve it, for uptilting his shield) and probably kill you if he's any good, or at least get like 60 damage.
  • Grab is a good counter to shield, but if that's your only counter to shield then it becomes fairly easy to both avoid and call you out on it. Generally speaking, if you only have one effective way of beating a situation, a good player can design a counter strategy that will have strictly neutral to positive expected value. Your grabs will also be scarier if you have an appropriate mixup with them, for your opponent to fear.

Primarily for these two reasons (although there are others) I feel that exploring alternative forms of pressuring your opponent is beneficial. Additionally, sheik's aerial pressure options are actually really good, as opposed to just being useful for the aforementioned reasons.

I'm going to break down each aerial individually (roughly from worst to best), because they each have a use on shield.

  • Up air: Okay I lied, they don't all have a use. If you find yourself upairing someone's shield as sheik when they aren't above you, you should probably reset that match and try again >_>. It's her laggiest aerial (12 frames of lag, I believe), and pretty much does nothing lmao. I guess you can use it if you like being different.
  • Down air: Surprisingly good imo. Despite being a move that looks like it would be extremely laggy, it only has 10 frames of lag. Now, this is a little too unsafe to be doing point blank on someone's shield, but its not nearly as criminal as upairing someone's shield. Dair is actually very big, and has very high reward if it hits. You can use it when you expect someone to roll towards you, and if it whiffs you've pretty much lost nothing. If you want to be more aggressive with it (and think they might whiff an attack/grab) you can always drift behind them and be fairly safe against most of the cast. It's easily big enough that you can even space outside of falco and fox's shine out of shield. I wouldn't recommend doing this often, but it's not useless for sure. High reward, good drift options, can be spaced effectively and not have horrendous frame disadvantage.
  • Back air: Depending on the range, you can do weak bairs and dash before someone can shield grab you. This is definitely very spacing dependent if the opponent grabs as soon as possible, but situationally it is certainly usable. If you get a sweetspot bair on someone's shield (which will be rare) you will be anywhere from 0 to -2 (most likely) depending on how low you hit their shield. Since sheik outranges pretty much everyone, this is actually a pretty solid advantage given that you have a the space and time necessary to setup further pressure.
Before I continue, it is important to note that there is a way of doing aerials that sheik players currently do not do. It is generally standard to do your aerial first, and then fastfall during the startup frames of your aerial. The advantage to doing this is that you can actually start the aerial BEFORE sheik can actually fastfall, and then during the startup frames you will reach the point in your jump where you can fastfall. While this is optimal in certain situations for sure (when you want the aerial to be as soon as possible), it is not always. Sheik has a relatively high short hop, as well as fast aerials. This is a unique combination that allows her to short hop, input the fastfall, and then input the aerial as she is already fastfalling. This technique is very useful for doing aerials as low as possible on someone's shield, giving you the maximum possible frame advantage. It has other uses as well, but I want to focus on this particular use for now.

Relevant information regarding sheik's short hop and fastfall: The earliest possible frame for sheik to fastfall is frame 19 of her short hop. If you hold down starting on frame 16, it will buffer (so there is a 3 frame window, for frames 16, 17 and 18) your fastfall frame perfectly on the 19th frame.
  • Forward air: There are two ways to forward air on shield in terms of timing, and three ways in terms of spacing. As far as timing, you can either go for the auto cancel fair, or the lowest possible fair and l-cancel it. If fair is done at the lowest possible point relative to the ground, it is -1 on shield.  The auto cancel is also -1 if done perfectly, but in practice I feel like it is generally -2 (since if you're going for the auto cancel, you usually want to do the fair as early as possible to cover the possibility of them preemptively moving). To execute a fair that results in maximum frame advantage, you can input fair and fastfall on frame 16 of your short hop as long as don't let go of down until frame 19 (which is when the fastfall will begin). In relation to spacing, you can either space your fair totally outside of shield grab range, in shield grab range but still somewhat spaced, or point blank. In the first two cases, you can always dash backwards before the opponent can shield grab. In the last case, you can dash through your opponent before a shield grab will hit you. Auto cancel fair is generally better, because it allows you to attack earlier with similar frame advantage; mixing up your timing, however, is often beneficial in order to create a different set of expectations for your opponent, particularly when combined with varying visual cues.
  • Neutral air: If you use the technique where you fastfall into the nair, it is actually +0 on shield, which is incredible. This means that with port priority, you can actually grab your opponent before they can shield grab (because you have initiative as the aggressor, your timings should be better anyway, and port priority aside you should generally do all your actions more perfectly than your opponent will). Much like fair, you can also dash back before they can shield grab. After doing a delayed nair, sheik can also short hop (even point blank) over shield grab (even a marth height shield grab); this allows you to play reactively and potentially set up more pressure, or to go for a higher reward play which is still safe. For example, you can do a delayed nair-->SH setup, and react to what they do from there: if they whiff a grab, falling upair/nair/fair, but if they keep shielding reset your pressure with another delayed nair. If you want a higher reward, you can do a delayed nair-->SH dair (then drift behind them). Assuming they are out of ASDI down %, you can get a pretty juicy combo if they try to grab, while staying safe by drifting behind them (and depending on the character, actually pressuring them because they have mediocre options behind them). Even if your opponent doesn't just try to shield grab, the threat of delayed nair-->grab is pretty huge, since it will beat attempts to wavedash (a common higher level option vs. sheik, since most good players expect sheik to dash back after aerials to stay safe vs shield grab, they will either chase her down with a WD forward or escape with a WD back). Many fox players might even just full hop out of shield as soon as you hit their shield (and they all get destroyed by armada's upairs LOL), but if you just SH and prepare yourself to react, you are at an advantageous position below them.
I just listed some example uses, but there are, of course, more situations to consider. The tl;dr is that sheik's aerials (particularly fair, and especially nair) are actually quite effective if the opponent gives you enough setup time (which sheik can easily force!). Oh, and the rest of the tl;dr is that her ground moves are pretty much garbage on shield. I hope that, in particular, more sheik players mess around with fastfalling into an aerial rather than the other way around, and figuring out the many situations that it can be used in. I currently suspect that delay nair is probably an optimal combo tool in many situations, but I'll talk about that another time!

Thursday, July 9, 2015


It's been a couple weeks since CEO now, but I still want to take the time to get my thoughts down about it. I still want to post shield pressure stuff and vs. falco stuff, so both of those will probably happen within a week or so. For now though, CEO!

So I got there a few days early, which allowed me to attend the Tuesday local, as well as getting friendlies throughout the week with various players. The local went decently for me, but not great: I played a bunch of randoms until Eikelmann, beat him by pretty large margins, then lost to wizzy 2-1 and played pretty mediocre. I went to losers, played pretty mediocrely vs captain crunch and pengie...just couldn't play how I do in friendlies. I went up against gahtzu next and 3-1'd him, I think with two 3 stocks? The game he won he 3 stocked me though, and it got me featured in his 90 second combo video LOL:

I played a bit better but it was still not great (though I have learned to not let this negatively affect me). I come up on wizzy next, and I beat him 3-2. I'm glad I beat him, but I know I can play far, far better. I sorta rushed through all that to get to talking about loser's finals with hbox. God I was *sooooooooooo* motivated after losing to him 3-0. I never want to lose to hungrybox again, period. Every game we played was totally in my grasp, then I would misjudge a situation, or have a small mental lapse and just die...that matchup is something I need to brainstorm more. I've watched plup play it, and honestly there's a lot of stuff he does that works vs hbox that I don't want to do. Soft actually does a ton of sick stuff that hbox doesn't do and it changes the matchup drastically. Namely, every single tilt and smash attack is punishable on shield by REST. Ftilt, dtilt, and dsmash are all punishable by WD rest and it's actually pretty insane. Plup plays a game where he seems to go either full defense, or full offense (when he has an advantage) and pressure hbox, but so much of that pressure comes from potentially unsafe things. Not to say that he's not amazing at the matchup, beating hbox consistently now, but still. I've thought so much about it, but I need to keep working on it; I need a way to keep pressure on puff without resorting to doing unsafe things on her shield. I'm confident sheik wins, but executing it is definitely non trivial...especially if I want to win in a way that I can be happy about (i.e. not by dsmashing puff's shield).

Moving on, I stayed with harriet and got to play him, plup, abate, and tai in decently extended sessions. Playing harriet was lots of fun, and I like to think all our practice helped him beat chillin in winners pretty convincingly, but he probably coulda done that anyway to be honest. Playing plup went about as expected: pretty even, and our games look a lot different than most people's games. We have a fairly similar approach to the game at a fundamental level, and anytime I get to play him I feel like I can *actually* play melee for once. Playing tai was also super fun since I haven't seen/played that guy in forever; he'd improved a lot, and he did a lot of both good and creative things. That said, I had been working a lot on marth vs. sheik (ever since losing to the moon) and I think it really showed in how our games went. I mostly played falcon against abate and that honestly was fairly easy; falcon is just sooooooo easy to play vs. luigi. Abate is definitely really good, but I'm starting to realize more and more that all the luigi players are far too used to doing extremely punishable things that work vs most people. When I played blea later with falcon it went pretty much the same; they're both amazing players, but it is too easy to just rely on CC'ing their jabs and unsafe nairs, or attacking out of shield between double aerials. Like if luigi does a rising fair/dair/bair on my shield, as falcon I just nair OoS before the second aerial comes out and potentially death combo him, its great. I'd like to see more players keep the good luigi players honest, and see how it helps them improve!

CEO itself also went pretty mediocre for me, but again, it happens. I played a terrible set with milkman in winners semi's of our pool...he just played so badly, and I know he's way better than that. I go to play s2j on stream, I'm in control the entire first game, but I just don't close out any of the edgeguards and I end up suiciding at literally 0% and lose a last stock last hit game. I proceed to play terribly game 2, likely as a result of what happened game 1, and he honestly just dominates me. He definitely deserved to beat me, but I would like to play him again without being a total buster; I think it's pretty unlikely that I'll lose unless he plays notably better. I play milkman in the runback in loser's finals, and he plays far better which I was happy about; we had a dead even game 1 that he probably should have won, but I stepped it up game 2 and won very solidly. First round of bracket (loser's, since I lost in pools and its fgc style) I fight porkchops. Ever since I played zhu, even though I beat him, I worked a lot on cleaning up my vs. falco game; I had the right idea, but there were some rough spots. I'm pretty happy with 3 and 2 stocking porkchops, although its definitely a matchup he's not very familiar with, I definitely feel like I played it cleanly. I played wizzy afterwards, and lost 2-0 in last stock games. Game 2 was a little unfortunate, since SFAT got up from the setup next to me and blocked the screen long enough for me to get stomped at 0 (this led to a death combo, since its wizzy). I wasn't really salty, since I didn't particularly feel like I deserved to win anyway.

Outside of actual tournament matches, I did a 0 dollar MM with laudandus (we just agreed to play seriously) and won pretty solidly with chaingrabs. I did real MMs with darkrain (3-0 win), gahtzu (3-1 win), arc (3-0 and 3-2 wins), and colbol (3-1 win). I also played arc in about an hour of friendlies, and as I said with playing tai, my work vs marth definitely showed. Fuck marth though, that matchup is even or marth's favor LOL. Anyway, also got to play $mike (definite improvement from last time, dude is mad good) and frootloop(rusty tucan, bring him back to form!) in a decent number of friendlies which went well.

The last set of games I want to talk about is a friendly set I played with armada, which I was pretty happy about. I sat down to play him, and beat him in peach sheik in a last hit match on dreamland. Peach is my probably my worst matchup (see me 3 stocking macd, then getting dsmashed for 2 games straight Kappa) so I was actually really happy that I was able to play well (I don't care that much about the actual win, just that I played the matchup decently). It was just supposed to be a single game, but it turned into a set; he beat me in game 2 on FD which also went to last stock lsat hit. Game 3 he switched to fox and we got dreamland, though I'm not sure if it's because he got tired of peach vs. sheik or just because he wanted to try out his fox. I took the first 2 stocks without gimps, taking only 6%, and ended up winning the game pretty solidly (JV 2, though I had the JV 3 and was a buster on the edgeguard and got shined lmao). He immediately goes back to peach, and I guess we play a 3/5 now? He wins a last stock last hit game on yoshi's game 4, and then wins game 5 on battlefield, last stock and around 50% on him (not quite last hit, but still close). It was just a friendly set, but it still gives me confidence that if I can at least do decently in my worst matchup vs. armada, then I really just need to keep focusing on my tournament mentality and maintaining composure and everything else will work out from there.

Now it's time for evo, where I'll do the best I can, and move on from there! I'm super excited ^__^