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: http://imgur.com/a/Onsab

Fox's forward tech: http://imgur.com/gallery/sX7Ed

Fox's backwards tech: http://imgur.com/gallery/Qq6Pv/

Fox's tech in place: http://imgur.com/gallery/1E3eQ

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgk8AfY1u40

Alternatively, music at 200 bpm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7pF6_PeamU

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 shebang...is 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 tournament...it 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 (it is actually 1 frame more disadvantage than ftilt, if I recall correctly). 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

CEO!

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s9ox6Si6Tc

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 ^__^

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sheik On Peach Action

I haven't abandoned the blog, I have just  been playing a ton of melee! Later today, or maybe in the next couple days, I'm going to post a summary of the florida local/CEO for my own benefit (and if anyone is interested). For now though, I'm going to post a better arranged version of sheik dthrow on peach stuff. This will probably soon be followed up by some sheik vs. falco matchup ideas, and a sheik shield pressure post! I'm super excited to talk about shield pressure with sheik, but I've been holding off because I lost my capture card so I can't record examples...I'll probably make a post anyway, and trust that everyone can figure it out based on just text. Anyway, onto some sheik dthrowing peach:


DI Away

Chaingrab on DI away works, but is technically speaking port dependent. If sheik's port number is greater than the opponent's (4 being the greatest) then she has a true CG on peach which requires you to be frame perfect. I am not sure how long the CG goes, but I'd estimate 20-30%. If you are the lower port number peach has 1 frame to escape.

If she times her DJ correctly she'll jump out, and if she buffers a float she can punish your whiffed grab with fair-->combo.

Of course this also means she's at risk of losing her DJ if you opt for something besides regrab, and slightly delay it to catch her jump.

I'm fairly sure dash attack doesn't combo on DI away, but again, it forces them to jump to avoid it. In practice I've had success with it, but peach players don't seem to know the counter strats out of dthrow very well.

Finally, you can always go for SH or FH fair. FH fair can be good, especially if you have some charge of needles; this is because after the fair hits peach, she is directly at the 45 degree angle below you. This allows you to pressure with falling needles or falling fair/nair. If you go for the SH, your goal should be to auto cancel as soon as possible and go for a mixup afterwards. Depending on her DI, you can go for an immediate grab with high likelihood of success (if she doesn't go into the ground immediately, but also isn't high enough to mash nair out). Otherwise you can DD bait, ftilt, or set up more SH pressure.

I shortly explain usage for ftilt/nair on slight DI away that is relevant for this DI as well, so reference that.


Slight DI away

On slight DI away ftilt isn't that bad, but it's not that great either. You can always go for the regrab and just ASDI down in case of her mashing nair out, but again if she acutally buffers float or DJs out then you'll get punished. 

Dash SH upair does work, and while it won't true combo into anything it has its benefits. You can uptilt afterwards and it'll always hit her before she can jump/float out, though she can trade nair with this. More and more I'm realizing sheik has a lot of *almost* real combos in general, and I think option selecting an ASDI down with c stick at low % actually leads to great stuff. You can SH upair, auto cancel, uptilt then ASDI down; if she nairs it will trade with your uptilt and she'll be in normal stun, while you'll be able to move almost instantly because of the ASDI. Of course you can also just wait below her, DD grab or shieldgrab the nair, or even just crouch and wait/react (then throw out a move, react to her jumping, etc).

On even slighter DI, walk uptilt should combo, or at least hit her before a nair can startup. Again, the closer she is to you, the more viable ftilt is as an option. This includes being a decent option on DI behind. In general ftilt/nair can both be used for a similar purpose: if you can't true combo her, both are likely to put her high enough in the air to either be in an awkward position or land on a platform. This usage of ftilt/nair is also viable on full DI away.


No DI and DI behind

On no DI and DI behind, uptilt is probably your best bet until you can start upairing (which becomes viable at pretty low % vs peach in particular). Make sure to turn around uptilt on the DI behind, and ideally mix up your uptilt timing as much as possible (this is the case in every matchup). The more delayed the uptilt, the better, but this makes your timing predictable insofar as the opponent using SDI to escape a followup. The best SDI to escape is SDI'ing upwards on the uptilt, but then that is mediocre DI vs. ftilt.


Other stuff

Upsmash does not true combo off dthrow at any %, regardless of port as far as I can tell. At low % she can always nair out, at higher % she can DJ out. The fact that she has to DJ/float at higher % forces a mixup though. If she relies on jumping out, you can do delayed tilts or fairs to catch her out of a jump. If you fair peach out of a float/DJ at like 80 and she goes off stage, you probably get a guaranteed kill. If she refuses to jump, tipper upsmash kills at very low %.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Optimizing defensive timings to deal with pressure

So in a recent conversation I was discussing how I manage to deal with a particular mixup, namely fox double shining vs. shine grabbing on my shield. The objection was that somehow I managed to roll every single time my opponent went for shine-grab, despite never getting hit by the double shine. At this point most people defer to the standard "your opponent is being predictable" as an explanation, but after thinking about it more I realized that this is a concept that I've almost never heard discussed even though it's pretty important in melee. If you are familiar with more traditional fighting games, this is similar (and in some situations, identical) to crouch teching.

The real answer isn't that I knew what my opponent would do, but rather that I had a specific defensive timing optimized to deal with that particular mixup. Let me explain: fox's shine is +2 on block, so a perfect double shine will hit on the opponent's second actionable frame (3 frames of jump squat, shine hits on the 4th frame, but fox has a 2 frame advantage). If you buffer a roll to avoid a shine grab, you will be hit by the shine; roll is not invincible until frame 4, so fox actually has 1 frame of leniency for hitting this. Shine-grab, on the other hand, does not hit until the opponent's sixth actionable frame (JC grab out of the shine takes 8 frames, and again, fox is +2). So if, instead of buffering the roll, you time it on your 3rd actionable frame (well, you input it on the frame before this, because the game will read it on the next possible frame), you can avoid the shine-grab while also avoiding all double shine timings which beat a buffered roll! I'll put some tables below showing why this is the case, if it isn't clear already. For reference, after fox shines a shield there are 3 frames of hitlag and 3 frames he has to wait in shine before he can do anything; the +2 on block already takes that into account, so all the tables will just start counting from fox's first actionable frame (aka the first frame he can jump out of shine, which is 2 frames before the opponent can move).



0 delay double shine vs. buffer roll
Fox Not fox
 jump 1
 jump 2
 jump 3  you can move now, roll 1
 shine  roll 2 (you get hit here)
 roll 3
 roll 4 (invincible, too bad you already got hit!)



0 frame delay double shine vs. 1 frame delay roll
Fox Not fox
 jump 1
 jump 2
 jump 3  you can move now, delay 1
 shine  roll 1 (you get hit here)
 roll 2 (you already got hit, don't die!!)



0 frame delay double shine vs. 2 frame delay roll
Fox Not fox
 jump 1
 jump 2
 jump 3  you can move now, delay 1
 shine  delay 2
 roll 1 (nothing will happen because you're in shieldstun from the shine!)


0 frame delay shine-grab vs. 2 frame delay roll
Fox Not fox
 jump 1
 grab 1
 grab 2  you can move now, delay 1
 grab 3  delay 2
 grab 4  roll 1
 grab 5  roll 2 
 grab 6  roll 3
 grab 7  roll 4 (you're invincible the frame the grab hits!)


Hopefully the visuals help explain it a bit. Obviously varying degrees of perfection on each end greatly change the result. For example, if the fox isn't frame perfect shine-grabbing you can do a 3 frame delay before rolling to beat the shine-grab, which allows you to account for more potential double shine timings. This type of thinking isn't only useful vs fox and falco pressure! It can also be applied to other fairly common situations in melee; I'll give one more example, and beyond that I trust you to use this to brainstorm timings for various defensive situations.

Let's take the situation where sheik fairs your shield...what do you do? Well, consider it from sheik's side, for a moment. Unless she is already spaced outside of your grab range, she needs to account for an immediate shield grab somehow (unless she's willing to read that you won't shield grab immediately, a huge risk for her). So how can she beat someone who shield grabs her fair? She can buffer a roll or spotdodge, dash backwards after the fair, or throw out a move (jab or dsmash, for example). Given that she will generally take an action to stay safe after fair, you can time a WD OoS to account for all of those things! The trick is that you time the WD so that you don't get hit by an attack immediately after fair. I won't go through the trouble of making tables again, but if I recall correctly sheik's perfect fair is -2 (or sometthing like that) on block. So you take this into account, and delay your WD OoS so that you'd block her move right before trying to WD, but if she doesn't throw out a move you can escape before she can punish you. For example, most of the good sheiks in the current meta do a sequence along the lines of fair-->dash back-->dash back in-->grab (hypothetically, you may have missed a shield grab trying to punish her fair). I've seen a lot of players do things like a delayed shield grab to beat the sheik dashing back in, which is fine, but by employing the WD OoS at an optimized timing to account for her best options (dash back being probably her safest one) you're already gone by the time she dashes back towards you!

So if she throws out a move, you block it (although you attempted to input WD already, but shieldstun will prevent you from doing so) and punish it. If she tries to buffer a roll/spotdodge or dash back, you evade her before she can do anything to punish you. Her only way of countering this is by taking a meaningful risk (such as delaying her attack after the fair to catch your WD, but that makes her fair shield grabbable). I'm not saying that using this tactic is unbeatable for sheik, far from it. I am saying, however, that you force her to make a risky read to hit you, in a situation that's generally considered strong for sheik.

The essence of "optimizing" your defensive timings is that you take into account their strongest options that they need to use to avoid a standard response from you(i.e. sheik needs to account for an immediate shield grab from you after her fair). By assessing their strongest options, you can come up with a timing that simultaneously deals with many of their options, which will generally force them to take a risk if they want to call you out on it. This will be different for each character and situation of course, but developing a standardized option set in all these common situations can go a long way in improving your defensive gameplay.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ASDI Down

Hey guys, sorry it's been a while since I've posted anything. I've been playing a *lot* of melee, and especially with my permanent switch to sheik I've had a lot to work on. I'm going to post a more interesting article somewhat soon, but for now I'm going to talk briefly about something not so interesting (but very important!).

So there are actually a million ways ASDI (automatic smash DI) down is useful, but I'm just going to talk about a specific situation. First, I'll just briefly say this can be performed either by holding down on the control stick or the c-stick (though the c-stick takes priority for ASDI, and allows you to DI normally with the control stick). Now, if your opponent ASDIs down while they're in a grounded state (after a missed tech, for example) they can tech your attack sometimes. Whether or not they can tech the attack depends on the attack, the opposing character, and the opposing character's percent damage. On the other hand, if they teched recently (so they can't tech again) then ASDI down will simply ground them.

I might make a future post about how to option select with ASDI down, or some situational uses for it. For now, here are some useful percents to know for the three fastfallers! I'll update this in the future with the statistics for other characters, but since this is most applicable during tech chasing I figured I'd research the fastfallers first.

Fox:

Up smash - 31
Down smash - 110
Forward tilt - 69
Up tilt - 73
Down tilt (tipper) - 84
Down tilt (non tipper) - 95
Down aerial - 57
Up aerial - 44
Dash attack - 51

Falco:

Up smash - 31
Down smash - 110
Forward tilt - 68
Up tilt - 74
Down tilt (tipper) - 84
Down tilt (non tipper) - 94
Down aerial - 57
Up aerial - 43
Dash attack - 50

Falcon:

Up smash - 35
Down smash - 124
Forward tilt - 76
Up tilt - 83
Down tilt (tipper) - 93
Down tilt (non tipper) - 105
Down aerial - 64
Up aerial - 49
Dash attack - 57

Marth: I am listing the % where the move knocks him down, as opposed to the % where it breaks ASDI down. This is the relevant information vs. marth, because usually you'll have him on a platform and need to know the % where he can't just hold down on your aerials.

Up aerial - 23
Down aerial - 28

To be clear, these numbers are all *before* the hit. For example, sheik's upsmash does 13% when it isn't stale. So by listing 31% for fox, what this really means is that he will be launched if the upsmash puts him at 44% after it hits. This means that if it's staled to 12%, you need to wait until fox is at 32%; it also means that if you charge it slightly, it will launch him starting at 30% (because it would do 14% after a slight charge).

In case the implications of this aren't totally clear, I'll give an example. If a falco misses a tech and you're waiting to react, then you see him start to roll it's pretty common for the sheik to dash attack. If falco is below 50 and ASDIs down and techs it, the sheik will get punished. Knowing these numbers is pretty important for that reason. Here's an example in a Kirbykaze vs Mango set:



Alright, well that's it for now! Nothing too crazy, but the numbers are pretty useful honestly. I'll make a (hopefully) pretty interesting post about dealing with pressure somewhat soon.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Frame Advantage in Neutral

So I know I’ve been primarily talking about sheik, but I wanted to take some time to discuss a more general melee concept (fret not sheik players, I’ll talk more about her soon enough!). This is a concept that I think is fairly intuitive ultimately, yet I have never really seen it written nor talked about; after a recent trip to Orlando and throughout the course of a 7 hour car ride, I managed to formalize it a bit and decided to write about it…it being the concept of frame advantage, but in the context of neutral.

Let me take a step back, just in case the typical usage of frame advantage isn’t clear to anyone. Frame advantage traditionally is used in reference to a situation in which an opposing character either gets hit by, or blocks an attack. For example, if fox uptilts a shield his frame advantage is -11, which means that his opponent is actionable for 11 frames before he is. If peach does a float canceled aerial (well, except down air) at the lowest height possible, she is +4 on shield; again, this means that she can act 4 frames before the opponent can. In traditional fighters, frame advantage on hit is something that is talked about, though not so much in melee so I’ll skip that (though the concept is similar, shouldn’t be too hard to connect some dots).

Alright, so what does this have to do with the neutral game? Before I get to that, I’ll suggest that rather than viewing the goal as landing a hit on the opponent, we can view the game in terms that can be better generalized: the objective is to gain a significant enough frame advantage that the risk/reward in any given situation is skewed in one’s favor. An example of applying this very general (and I believe, more useful) definition to a specific situation is the case of baiting out an extremely laggy move…say, a marth forward smash. If marth’s forward smash can be successfully baited, then you have maneuvered the situation into one where you have a significant enough frame advantage that you have a guaranteed hit. This is a very simple example, and seemingly makes my redefinition of the game rather unnecessary. Once I discuss how this can be applied to the neutral game, I hope that it will seem more beneficial, even necessary to understand the game in this manner.

Let’s talk about falcon vs. sheik, as this is the situation I was originally thinking about when I formalized this concept; in particular, I want to talk about the falcon neutral air vs. sheik forward tilt interaction. Falcon’s nair is an amazing anti air and has great utility in that it protects him/his landing while also threatening the opponent on the ground, but if he wants to use this tool he needs to find ways to interact positively with sheik’s ftilt; this is because sheik primarily wants to stay grounded in the matchup, and ftilt is her best grounded anti air option that hits in front of her. Sheik’s ftilt hits on frame 5, but the part of the move that will realistically hit falcon isn’t until frame 6. Falcon’s nair, on the other hand, hits on frame 7; he has 4 frames of jump squat, so it effectively has a 10 frame startup (and hits on frame 11). Comparing the two leads to the conclusion that for falcon to nair without losing to ftilt, he needs to be “+6” in neutral (11-6 = 5, so with a 5 frame advantage nair would hit on the same frame that the relevant part of ftilt hits, and trade).

This frame advantage can be achieved through many means, and how much advantage you have determines whether or not it is a good idea to challenge the opponent in any given situation. Let’s say sheik whiffs an ftilt while falcon does not take any action that puts him in lag (either he already finished a wavedash/just landed from jumping while her ftilt is recovering, or perhaps he was just dashing) but he isn’t in range to whiff punish with grab. Falcon may not be able to directly punish the ftilt, but he has still gained some sort of frame advantage: he can act before sheik can. If he is able to position himself close enough to sheik after she whiffs the ftilt and gets there with at least 6 frames to spare, suddenly his nair actually *beats* the ftilt option!

Of course, nobody sees this game frame by frame, but the concept of “how much time” we have to execute an action in a situation is intuitive to all of us. Extrapolating this concept to the neutral game as a whole isn’t that difficult; every movement option chosen when players are “feeling each other out” is just a marginal risk taken to gauge what sort of advantage can be gained. Each player is trying to find a way to reposition relative to their opponent’s actions that gives them the highest chance of winning an ensuing interaction, and if it seems like the “timing” of the situation will not be advantageous, then there is an attempt to disengage and reestablish favorable positioning. If it is likely that an opponent will try to wavedash forward and that can be predicted, then that entirely changes the nature of potential interactions; even if this happens from very far away, a wavedash still gives the opponent ~14 frames of time to do whatever they want. Again, I’m not telling anyone that we can see the game frame by frame, but this is what many high level players intuitively do based on feel: they get a read on someone’s movement patterns, and although they might not think “this person will wavedash at this exact time”, there is still an instinctive action taken that allows them to gain an advantage while the other person repositions.

Honestly I wish I had more to say on the topic, but the specifics of it vary a great deal from matchup to matchup and interaction to interaction. What I really want everyone reading this to take away is a different way of thinking about how the game works. Each game state in melee can be fully described by variables of space and time: the positions of the two players, and their relative frame advantage. When thinking about and analyzing matchups it is important to think about both how interactions play out, given various amounts of frame advantage, as well as how effectively each character can influence the frame advantage from a neutral state.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Doing Bad Stuff to Marth 101

*Disclaimer* : I don't believe you can upsmash in dthrow combos on reaction and have it be a true combo a lot of the time. Because of this, I haven't experimented nearly enough with when it is optimal to upsmash...since generally it simply is not a good idea. I currently believe that it is rarely the best choice, but in very specific situations it might actually be quite good. I will not discuss upsmash out of dthrow for these reasons (a combination of lack of knowledge and it being usually bad). This isn't just in reference to the marth matchup, but all floaty combos I will discuss.

Punish game on marth off down throw on the 4 primary DIs you need to worry about:

  • On DI away you pretty much always want to regrab. The primary exception is the case where if you regrabbed it would put you in a position where you can't followup (for example, under a platform where if he DIs onto it the followup isn't 100% guaranteed). In these cases dash attack is actually pretty good. Eventually you just fair him off this, but you can actually regrab full DI away for a very very long time: I'm talking like 80% on marth.
  • On *most* slight DIs away, you can actually regrab, but I do believe there exists a slight DI that cannot be regrabbed. On this DI, at low percent, you should be able to take a step and uptilt. I'm not positive that this true combos, but he shouldn't have time to disrupt you meaningfully. You could try to ftilt in this situation, and just hope that he's in a bad enough situation afterwards that you can pseudo-combo or pressure him but I don't really like it... *shrug*. Once he gets to around even 15%, I would switch to SH upair, which is auto cancelable. You can actually fastfall for a couple frames right at the end of the SH upair and still get the auto cancel, and doing this perfectly puts you in a really good position. It won't generally true combo (though it can, but marth has very limited options to beat you uptilting or destroying him if he double jumps). One of the biggest issues with sheik combos off down throw that people don't realize is that the reaction is actually *very* difficult...I'd honestly compare it to tech chasing, once you get to the point of reacting to subtle differences in DI. For example, distinguishing between various slight DIs is rather difficult, so I honestly just dash SH upair all of them once he gets past the very low percents to remove ambiguity in my decision making (though purely optimal play might involve regrabbing certain slight DIs, even as his percent goes up a bit).
    • ***LOOK AT THIS*** Until 27% after the throw, starting at 0 (roughly 0-16 before the throw), if they DI slight away with the 45 degree angle notch you can regrab without dashing. On even slighter DI away (closer to no DI, than away) you can't regrab, but the uptilt hits guaranteed. You can also upair quite easily on this DI with no dash required.
  • On no DI you uptilt or upair; generally you want to delay the uptilt a little bit (though if you get predictable with your timing, it will be easy to SDI). The goal at low % is to get both hits of the uptilt, where it can lead to another uptilt, a regrab, a fair/nair, or an upair. FJ rising upair is super good around 20% (after the throw) onwards.
  • DI behind you is the same, but you want to turn around before the uptilt to make it possible to get both hits of the uptilt. In any case where you uptilt you need to be aware of how likely it is for you to get both hits of it (especially given potential DI from your opponent). In cases where you don't get the second hit even at low/mid percent, it's still usually possible to combo if you IASA pretty much perfectly; the hard part here is that occasionally it is ambiguous whether or not the second hit will get them. If you're too busy waiting for the second hit to connect, you won't IASA early enough to convert the uptilt into a fair/upair. Luckily if the opponent SDIs the first hit to avoid the second, it is usually pretty reactable. Again, FJ upair is probably the best thing starting at around 20%.

I didn't really go into depth about it, but pretty much all your uptilts should lead to fair/upair, and your upairs should combo into fair/bair OR put him on platforms (where you do more bad things to him).

Just as a reference, this is a great example of how to combo the DI that should make sheik players go oh babyyyyyyyy when they see it:


At the end, I turn around while on the platform after fairing him. This allows me to WD back, and if he falls low just grab the edge or bair him, and if he DJs I can DJ bair as a read (or reaction, depending on if he DJs early or not). I get a missed input and accidentally upair when he DJ fairs, or it would have been a 0-death.

In retrospect, uptilting while on the side platform instead of immediately fairing after the upair may have been optimal, but I probably was confident in the DJ read and wanted to keep him low when I faired to make it easier to cover all his recovery options (the higher up he is, the less useful fair is, since it doesn't send that far). It's probably debatable, but either way it's a great situation.

The last thing I think is super important off dthrow is killing him, which, again, is very difficult to do because of the reactions required. At 78% before the upsmash, tipper upsmash will kill on FD with optimal survival DI (which leads to my theory that FD might actually be better for sheik than people think). This means that if you grab him at 65, pummel twice, and dthrow you can kill him if he doesn't DI away on the throw. Here's how it works:

  • DI Behind: Upsmash (you don't even need to turn around, though at higher % you might need to)
  • No DI: Dash JC Upsmash
  • Slight DI away: Dash JC upsmash
  • DI away: regrab, walk ftilt, fair


Once you grab marth at this percent it's almost literally a guaranteed kill if you execute correctly. You can tipper upsmash everything as a true combo, except DI away. You can actually regrab the DI away at this very high %, and if he keeps DI'ing away you eventually get near the edge where you get dthrow-->fair into a guaranteed edgeguard. As a mixup with fair, you can walk into an ftilt and if they survival DI, you can upair/fair off the ftilt. I haven't practiced it much (beyond checking that it's a true combo in training mode) but as I said, the reaction is non trivial.

I would probably ideally talk about platforms somewhere in this post, but I'm not really sure what to say. You can often just waveland onto a platform and regrab everything, but if you don't have enough time he can tech in place-->spotdodge before you can grab. Something that every character can do that is fairly unexplored that would work for sheik is: 1)SH under platform 2) react to tech in place with an aerial or DJ aerial 3) react to tech roll with DJ waveland-->grab. This should be a perfectly reactionary coverage, but it's hard and people are lazy l0l. I think these are the only two variations of full option coverages that are really worth mentioning so I don't have much to say on it. I guess there's also the one where you can stay below the platform and AC fair the tech in place, land, then SH and instant aerial the tech roll. This should work, but requires a specific setup (you need to have already be at your peak and have your fair actively hitting vulnerable frames of tech in place so you can touch the ground asap) so I'm not exactly sure how often it is useful. Edit: Dthrow-->FJ-->autocancel fair on the tech in place/miss tech-->grab the tech roll is super good at higher %s. Dair also has its place in platform tech chasing, but it pretty much only covers all the options if you sort of land with them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Things Sheik Players Aren't Doing

Alright, so this is going to be my first blog post. It all started because I saw a thread on facebook talking about sheik stuff, so obviously I couldn't resist. One thing led to another, and somehow I ended up writing way too much. As the title suggests, this content was originally written in response to someone more or less asking what sheik players aren't doing, that they need to be.

I'll just post this in its (nearly) unadultered, pastebin glory. Enjoy:

Unsafe things: 


Don't do them unless you have a really good reason. That's all I'm going to say on this but it's going to kill sheik from viability if people don't stop it.

Boost grab: 


It allows you to punish backwards/safe movement amazingly well. As long as you're aware of how you move to various spacings, it deals with ground camping effectively. If you use it as more of a read, it can also prevent aggressive movement. Anytime someone tries to move forward to take space vs. sheik, you could hypothetically be boost grabbing them. This and dash attack are your furthest threat range from the ground, and you need to represent this in your gameplay.

Punish game: 


It isn't complicated, but it is definitely difficult. If the punish game isn't flowcharted for any sheik main out there, I can easily write out optimal (or near optimal) punishes off all the standard situations if anyone wants them in more detail. Versus the spacies + falcon you can tech chase every single option on reaction, period. Against non fastfallers you can chaingrab the DIs away, and use uptilt/turn uptilt/dash upair for the other DIs. Again, in 2015 none of this is a secret; it just requires discipline and hard work.

Needles: 


Amazing and totally underused...particularly aerial needles. The reason they're so amazing is because of the range they cover. What if someone wants to stay outside of your ftilt/grab/fair game? They put themselves in SH needle range. What if they want to respect that range, then move in? They put themselves in dash attack+boost grab range. What if they try to move back at the range that you can dash attack? Platform + full hop needles covers a huge area for their retreat. Every range versus sheik that allows them to challenge you at all is covered by her next level of options. Combine this with the fact that needles only have the standard 4 frames of landing lag, and any needle hit gives you frame advantage or is neutral (in the case where you're not falling/delaying the needles) and they're an incredible tool to both: 1) disrupt the opponent's flow in neutral 2) Counter them respecting your close range game. The fact that you can combo off needles in most situations, or very close to combo, is also very ridiculous. SH needle charge, or dash away SH turn around needle charge: totally covers their forward movement, can be canceled early enough at any point to still go into an AC fair. Lagless + ranged option-->cancel/bait into another lagless option, both of which you can convert off of? Sounds pretty good to me. That's just an example, of course. There are soooooooooo many uses, but the big issue is that they can't be useful unless you establish respect and control with the other elements of your neutral game.

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Fair, A Microcosm of Sheik's Gameplan in General: 


So first I'll talk about how to use sheik's fair in neutral. Essentially, you have your super safe SH backwards-->AC fair. There are two main variables here that most sheik players already mess up, and even our best sheik players don't do perfectly. If you get this part wrong you can't do ANY of the rest of sheik's stuff out of it, which sucks. 1) Don't jump at a range where if he runs at you immediately you'll either: a) get hit before you can set up the spacing, or b) whiff the fair as he's running at you, and then be in lag as he reaches you. This is specifically in reference to fox, as I think it's the best example of using the fair incorrectly, although it can be generalized easily (don't jump at ranges where immediate approaches threaten you, unless you have a read/good reason).

So now we've established that, ideally, you've jumped at a good spacing+timing relative to your opponent. Now what? Well, you can vary your fair timing. There is a large window during which it will auto cancel, and of course you don't even have to go for the auto cancel. You can just continuously delay it until at the last second you fair+l-cancel it. There are also mixups with when you fastfall during your SH. I'm still talking defensively here, so bear with me; there's a lot more you can do, but you need to be able to do this first. So you're doing your safe SH back, at a good spacing + timing, then you combine your reactions and expectations to vary your fastfall+aerial timing as necessary. Awesome! ...now what?

You have this area around you that you control now. This is where the fun part happens! It all goes back to my favorite thing ever in the history of melee: stage control! (yay). So I didn't actually explain sheik's defensive game at all in this...since this was a post about what people don't do effectively...but you need to have a strong defensive game for the fun stuff and this fair zoning is part of it. So how does this relate to my favorite thing ever? Well, you have this zone around you that you control. Your opponent is respecting at minimum, that much space, and the defensive options you have out of it are awesome: throw out a move, CC, WD backwards, fox trot/dash backwards. Between the fair and the defensive option afterwards, you're pretty much sending out a huge "fuck you" to approach options. Now here's the tricky part: Once you choose your defensive option, you need to use that as a reaction point for your decision making. Here's the example I have most often in my own gameplay: I fair, dash back....and see that they're not taking the space (because they're forced to respect an aggressive option after fair, like dash attack, or dash JC grab). So on reaction to this new spacing, I dash back to my original landing spot. Why is this so cool? You establish control of an area, and despite moving backwards, you get to TAKE THE SPACE BACK. So you essentially get a zoning option, that transitions into strong defense, that allows you multiple reaction points which are usable to take back the space you gave up to be safe in the first place. Following? I hope so. Maintaining stage control is key here, because now you need to *gain* space. Remember, after your (ideally well spaced/timed fair, you can throw out a move, SH again to zone, or dash attack etc. If they're respecting that range, that means its a ton of space that they're giving up to you! So now using options such as fair-->dash/WD forward actually becomes viable/strong. Not only is sheik effectively able to control the zone around her, and maintain stage control even when she gives up space... but she's also able to take stage away from her opponent by virtue of the strength of her options AFTER the fair.

So now I get to talk about the reason I wrote this all up in the first place, and how fair is a microcosm of sheik's gameplay in general. The strength of her defensive options in neutral allows her to establish control, and fluidly transition into more aggressive options. Fair-->dash forward is a perfect example of this, but dashing forward after a fair is a good way to die if you don't actually understand how to establish this level of control in neutral. Strong defense-->transition into strong offense is what it's all about. There are a million more things I could talk about, but this is the gist of it. Sheik doesn't really have any inherently strong aggressive options, but at a high level being aggressive will be as successful as your defense is strong. ***Learning how to do this with sheik is *really* about mastering defensive decision making and neutral in such a way that allows you to continuously react and easily change to the next set of options.***