Friday, July 10, 2015

Sheik Shield Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Great article. Exactly what the community needs for higher level play and discussion.

    Do you think it would be safe to say that there are actually three timing options and not just two? Something lower level players don't catch on to while playing is when their opponent is doing non-fastfall l-cancelled aerials.

    The CC shield input grabs are something that I agree are not utilized enough. I see PP use them as Marth, but not too many other pros do it as often if at all.

  2. Whether or not that is its own usable timing depends on what you can and can't react to. Usually between the aerial startup frames+the lag of the aerial, that's enough of a window to react to whether they fastfall or not etc. So ideally you use that, and it's still two. It's totally possible that in any given scenario, there are more than two valuable timings of course. In the specific case of the aerial, I would imagine the difference is reactable, however!

  3. Hey sami, I noticed you didn't include needles in your set of Shield pressure options, why is that? Isn't needle +2 on shield?

    Needles/Nair/Fair/grab AFAIK are the only safe options you have on shield as sheik.

    Also what about Playing vs true and Psudo CC? How do you avoid getting owned by both form's of CC at low %s, and when do low %s become mid % for the purpose of psuedo CC (when moves start hard knockdown)

  4. Great point, I should have talked about needles!

    You'd just have to do the testing for the %s, but I can tell you that AC fair is -4 vs ASDI down I'm pretty sure.

  5. I had a couple questions about jab on shield.

    So when you said if someone attempts to jab twice on shield, if you shield grab in between while ASDI'ing down, even if you get hit by the 2nd jab, the grab will proceed to connect? Just wanted to make sure I'm understanding correctly.

    Also, I'm assuming this applies to other top tiers like Fox/Falco/Falcon/Peach when they jab your shield as it doesn't seem like they differ too much in jabs.

    And shield grabbing between 2 jabs isn't exactly reactable right? For sheik at least, the jab comes out on frame 2 if i remember correctly, and the 2nd jab comes very quickly, and human reaction time is in the double digits (around 15 frames or so)? I would have to read the jabs if i want to shieldgrab+asdi down

  6. You can react to the first jab with a shield grab. Jabs have a lot of recovery if they're not canceled into a second jab (which is why you're holding down, to ASDI down on the second one). Very doable tbh, though non trivial

  7. So I think Up tilt deserves more credit than being ASDI down able. Second Hit Up tilt will only hit on frame 21 and if you're lucky frame 22 and the IASA is 26. this means you will be either neutral or +1 on crouch cancel,