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!


  1. Hey Sami, nice writeup. Could I have your opinion on something related to this? How do you feel about purposefully manipulating your frame advantage on shield to bait out different options?

    For example, let's say I'm playing Fox against you, and I keep my nairs around -5 on your shield throughout our set, just enough for you to buffer rolls out of. How would you respond if I "slipped up" and did one that was -8 or -9? Would you be able to get that shine OoS on reaction, or would you just get the safe wavedash out and go from there?

    I dunno if this type of conditioning would work past a low level, do you think it'd be worth learning how to do?

  2. Doing something with less frame advantage won't ever be beneficial, because the shieldstun the opponent goes through is the same either way. Conditioning the opposite way could be beneficial, because the opponent is consistently respecting a slightly earlier aerial...then you delay your next aerial by a couple more frames.

  3. I'm not sure I really see a huge benefit in doing aerials that hit a frame before you land if you are planning on shining to protect yourself. If you're just spacing a bair or want to do aerial -> grab without shining first, sure, it makes sense to want those free frames before them, but if you're going to shine regardless then all a late aerial does is make it easy for them to realize they should not attempt to punish it.

    If you think they will shield grab, then you can do an aerial that is -6 to make them believe they can punish it and then you get a free shine opening by beating their shield grab attempt. If they properly identify the aerial as safe, you don't lose anything, and in fact you gained the opportunity to get your aerial out a little sooner than if you had committed to doing a totally late aerial.

  4. The later the aerial, the more timing mixups you have! It also prevents them from buffer rolling between your aerial and shine.

    Like if I do an aerial that's -2 on block, I have 4 different frames I can shine on, which makes it much harder to defend against. You can't really perfectly react to someone's shine hitting your shield, there has to be some element of expectation as the defender. So if you do a -6 aerial, there's only 1 frame you can shine on that beats shield grab. So if I wait for your shine, it pretty much guarantees that I can be frame perfect OoS to counter your next action if I want to be.

  5. This is really helpful for an aspiring Falco player like myself. Thanks for writing this.

  6. I have a question or two.

    Does this work in the same way fundamentally with any other ariels like dair?

    And also, does nair have the best frame advantage on shield out of all of faclo's ariels? Just the way you've phrased things seems to imply that.

  7. Yo did that stream ever happen/did you make a video or highlight demonstrating this? A little late to the party I know haha

  8. Hey, glad you wrote this. I caught onto this years ago and tried to bring it up but was shot down on the falco boards:

    1. LOOL I just saw this. Yea dude, you knew what was up.