I am a dedicated smash player who after playing for nearly a year, has finally grasped the fundamentals of the game. But think about it, it took me an entire year to grasp these concepts. Smash is no doubt a complex game and it can take some time to understand what you need to understand to improve. So to help out fellow smash players I will put all the knowledge I have gathered here in a way to simplify it as best I can. I hope this is somewhat useful lol.(this guide is for players who are already familiar with the game and wish to improve)
In smash, the main goal is to win. But to win you must be aware of and achieve several smaller objectives. There are generally 3 phases in a match. The neutral phase, the followup phase, and what I call the advantage phase. I will go over each of these individually.
1. The neutral phase
The neutral phase is when both players have approximately even stage control. In this phase each player is trying to gain an advantage. The neutral is a vital phase of the match. The person who wins the neutral the most usually wins 90% of the time. Some characters have advantages in the neutral like sheik who can cover alot of distance quickly and has a projectile to help control the stage. That said different chars in different matchups have different obstacles to overcome in the neutral. Example: Ganondorf vs Toon Link. In this matchup in the neutral Ganon has the problem of having to get past T.Link's projectiles as well as hinder his faster movement to gain an advantage. Toon Link has the problem of needing to keep Ganon away to get an an advantage.
In the neutral knowledge of spacing and zoning is vital. Both must be used to gain an advantage.
Spacing is the act of positioning your attacks and character to be able to attack without being punished, be able to react to an opponent's attacks, and to be able to capitalize on an opponent's mistakes. A good example of spacing is if you are playing a character with a sword you would want to strike with the very tip of the sword so in the event you miss or they shield, its less likely you'll get punished. As far as positioning your character you must take into account your character's and opponent's speed. If you are playing as Ike and your opponent is playing as Sonic you would want to position yourself with more space between you two since Sonic is fast and you'll need that extra time to react.
Zoning is the act of placing your attacks in a way to limit your opponent's options. To zone you can throw out short hop aerials to keep your opponent from approaching and force them to time their approach. You can also zone by simply short hopping and fast falling or even using quick tilts. The objective of zoning is to achieve good spacing by keeping your opponent where you can react to their options. An example of zoning would be a Pikachu throwing out short hop fairs to keep a Captain Falcon from approaching. Also the character you use affects how you zone as well as the matchup. In the matchup above pikachu posesses faster aerials and a projectile so Captain Falcon is forced to attempt to break Pikachu's zoning by finding an opening either landing a dash attack or a getting a grab.
Another concept that is important in the neutral is the mental aspect of it.
This consists of reading and conditioning your opponent.
Reading is the observing of your opponents habits. Things to observe are how they zone and space, how they approach, how they react to your zoning, spacing, and approaching, etc. This is what separates the pros from the casuals. In a match you can't just simply zone out and play on instinct. You must consciously be aware of the match, what your opponent is trying to do, or what the position you guys are in is. Pay attention to how often they like to grab, roll, spot dodge, dash attack, anything and everything. Now I know it is nearly impossible to pay attention to everything but with practice you'll start to naturally pay attention to your opponent's habits. You should also pay attention to your habits as well. Dont always do the same thing. Mix it up, keep them guessing. Dont always spot dodge everytime they run at you or they will pick up on it and pivot grab you. Instead mix it up between spot dodging, short hopping and throwing out an aerial, and even meeting them halfway with a dash attack or dash grab. The mental game of smash is attempting to read your opponent while also making it difficult for them to read you.
Conditioning is the act of provoking/encouraging certain habits. The objective of reading is to eventually punish your opponent for their habits. But in the event that your opponent's habits aren't that consistent or if you feel more comfortable punishing a certain thing over another, you can condition your opponent. Example: Your opponent is holding the ledge. You can condition them to roll onto stage by doing short hop aerials and fast falling them at the ledge. This will discourage them from doing a normal get up, jumping from the ledge, or doing a get up attack. The safest option will appear to be to roll onstage. How much you condition them is up to you. In the situation above you can either punish them immediately by running to them when they roll on and grabbing them and throwing them right back off stage or you can let them get away with rolling onstage until they get to higher percentages and you can run at them and up smash to kill them.
Baiting is another concept to understand. Baiting is the act of encouraging your opponent to try to punish you. It's basically making a fake mistake or simply inviting your opponent to approach. A bait I like to use is to walk away slowly and if they try to run at me I'll pivot forward smash them and if they don't run at me they are likely to slightly relax so I'll quickly dash grab them. Baiting is a good way to get your opponent to make a mistake. You can throw out a smash attack that doesn't have alot of endlag and most people will try to rush in and punish and then you can act on it. Or you can even do alot of short hop fast falls and if they try to approach you you can either hit them with a fast aerial as they do or fast fall and dash grab them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the concepts used in the neutral are also used in the follow up and advantage phase.
2. Followup phase
The followup phase is when one player's zone has been broken or a player has attempted to break an opponent's zone and failed. The followup zone begins once a player has landed an attack or gotten a grab. From this an opponent can either followup with a combo or simply take stage control. During the followup phase one can also perform a set up. A set up is the use of an attack or throw to land another attack or attacks to either take a stock or put the opponent into a bad position. An example is that at certain percentages fox can use a down air to send an opponent at an angle where he can run up and up smash to take the stock. As I said before concepts like spacing, reading, and baiting are present in all phases of a match. In the followup phase you wanna position your character to consistently be able to apply pressure on the opponent. You also wanna pay attention to how your opponent likes to escape your combos. Do they like to air dodge, attack, or jump out? Pay attention to these things so you can bait out air dodges by doing a combo and in between attacks pausing slightly so you can punish them. Also, in smash, you wont always win the neutral, so sometimes you'll be on the receiving end of someone's followups. So just like you should always do, mix up what you do. Dont always air dodge, jump, or attack out of combos. See what they like to do and choose accordingly. The objective of the followup phase is to obtain an advantage rather it be positional or percentage wise.
3. Advantage phase
The advantage phase is once a player has achieved a positional or percentage advantage. This can be one player having stage control, relatively lower percentage, or having the opponent offstage.
Stage control is having the most options in terms of stage movement and having the biggest stage presence. Stage control can be a player having control of the center of the stage or a player having their opponent in the air.
In the first case the player with stage control 's objective is to force the opponent to work with limited space and possibly force them offstage. In the second case the player with stage control would want to attempt to either keep the opponent in the air with aerials or punish their landing. Now in the event you are the one who has lost stage control don't panic. Simply apply safe pressure on your opponent with projectiles if you have them or by waiting for an opening to approach similar to in the neutral.
If you are in the air with your opponent below you, you have to try to confuse them. You can use b reversals to shift your momentum, you can use a move that causes your character to fall quickly(be careful, these tend to be easy to punish), or you can land while throwing out an aerial to cover your landing. You can also fast fall to throw off their timing. Air dodging is also an option but can be punished easily.
If you have your opponent at a significantly higher percentage then your objective should be to end their stock. But dont rush it. Apply pressure, since they are at a higher percentage they will be more on edge and more likely to make a hasty decision. Just wait for them to make a mistake and then you can punish. If you are the one at a higher percentage then you should start being a little more careful. But do not panic. Stay calm and think about what got you to that high percentage in the first place. Change up your game plan and do things differently.
Edgeguarding is the act of using your options to limit your opponent's options to return to the stage. As in other parts of the match, you should pay attention to what your opponent tends to do. Do they like to recover high or low? Do they jump immediately after being thrown off stage? By reading them you can find the best method to interrupt their recovery. You should also pay attention to how often they air dodge and what their options are. Ideally you would either want to hit them in the middle of their midair jump or after it. This way you their options are limited. Example: If your opponent is recovering low without their midair jump you can run offstage and back air them to stage spike them. Also if your opponent likes to air dodge you can jump at them, wait for their air dodge, then hit them. And as in every position, in the event you are the one being edgeguarded, mix it up. Don't always recover low or high, dont always air dodge, and dont always jump at the same point. Pay attention to what your opponent does and mix up your recovery accordingly. They like to run off and wait for an air dodge? Hit them with a fast aerial. They like to try to hit you out of your midair jump? Mix up when you use it. During the advantage phase the objective is to keep the advantage and convert it into taking a stock.
I hope this general overview of smash gameplay helped. Somethings I left out are to always DI attacks and throws. I'd like to thank Zero, Smash theory, and Smash central for giving me the information I needed to make this guide. Good luck fellow smash players!
- Applicable Games
- Smash 64, Melee, Brawl, Project M, Smash 3DS, Smash Wii U