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


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.


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


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


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.