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!