- Applicable Games
- Smash 3DS, Smash Wii U
If you’ve ever watched a professional smash bros. match, you’ve seen reading. It is the art of knowing exactly where your opponent will be before they do and I’m going to teach you how to do it. You can know all the combos in the world but if your opponent can out-read you then they have the upper hand. This guide is to teach people how after barely playing ten seconds into the match to be able to know exactly how to play the match.
There are typically three types of people at the beginning of matches, those who rush in and go straight for attack, those who stay back and wait for you to come to them, and people who go to the middle of the stage and try to box you out (the latter doesn’t happen too often and is like a form of camping). First, I’ll go over people who rush straight for you. Also as a side note all references I make refer to Sm4sh but can apply to any game. (Please don’t comment saying there are 17 different ways to approach I’m being general)
If someone rushes for you, you typically have 6-7 options. Shield, spot dodge, roll back, roll forward, ground attack to challenge, air attack or use a projectile if you have one. Rolling backwards is usually not advised because it is easy to read and subsequently punish, but because of that it can catch people off guard. Never use this on online though since it was abused when the game first came out and now nearly everyone expects it. Blocking is alright but it can also be seen and simply grabbed through. Projectiles are typically your safest option if you have them except for Fox since his shots cause no knockback. Short hopping and throwing a fair or nair and then retreating or continuing to push in is ok, but not with all characters. Also some characters like Fox, Mario, and Jigglypuff can also short hop into dair. It is very important to watch how you are first approached in a match, because you will most likely be approached that way for the majority of the rest of the match. I once played a Yoshi who came at me with the same approach for the whole match so when you face those people make sure to make them pay for it.
Responding to people who lead with a jump-
If someone comes in with a jump, next time be ready for it and jump yourself throwing out an attack. These are some of the easiest to respond to typically since you can just throw out a fair or run forward and then do an up air. Shielding is also a very good option because when someone is in the air they can’t do anything about a shield and if they go in for an attack you can shield grab them (pressing A or the attack button while holding shield is shield grabbing and leaves you much less vulnerable than dropping your shield and then pressing the grab button). You can also roll back against most people who attack from the air as it is hard to punish unless you’re on the ground however it CAN be punished with projectiles or certain moves like Sheik and ZSS’s Down b. Overall though, respond by quickly doing an aerial yourself, guard their landing with dash attack or projectile, or block and grab if they are in range.
Responding to dash attacks-
If your opponent dash attacks, then shield and punish with a grab (this is cautionary since people may grab next time after they see their dash attack blocked). Dash attacks are by far the easiest to punish, and the easy way to punish is formerly mentioned, but it can actually be punished in many different ways. I noticed this while playing a close game against a Yoshi as Sheik (we were both on last stock and high percent) and when I got dash attacked instinctively short hopped although followed up with a back air just before hitting the ground (typically this only works with characters that have a low dash attack, but it can be made to work with higher ones as well by full jumping and fast falling). This is VERY useful and works against grabs as well, however it only works with people who can throw out a bair very quickly like Sheik and Mario, and can be devastating while using characters like Bowser who have a nasty bair. For certain characters like Diddy Kong who have a better fair than bair, you should face away from your opponent if you want to try this. Another common one is short hopping or jumping into a dair and can be used by pretty much all characters.
Responding to grabs-
Dash grabbing is another common way of approaching as are pivot grabs. If they grab, spot dodge then punish as you see fit but don’t do this often as they may adapt and pivot grab you which beats spot dodging. If they abuse the grab and run at you all the time, you can even f-smash before they get in range to grab you if your character has a quick f-smash and you are confident. Meeting them halfway and dash attacking is also a viable option but can be read and shielded. Pretty much all strategies for dash attacks apply here as well except shielding so I won’t go over them again.
Responding to baits-
Some players will approach you in the way of baiting. They will purposely whiff an attack and make you want to go in and punish it although they will jump or roll out of the way and make you pay. If someone does this, make sure to see it because they will most likely try it again although the next time you should be ready. Typical baits are moves that are purposely whiffed although have very little ending lag so that they can evade easily afterwards or moves that look like they are retreating before coming back in with an attack like Luigi’s down b which approaches quickly, trying to catch people by surprise. The rule for this is if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true so just wait it out and be ready next time.
There are several other ways of approaching quickly like leading with a projectile then following it, one being Villager players hiding behind their Lloid’s and either reading a shield and grabbing or using their annoying fair (I hate Villager’s fair and bair so much…) but I won’t go over those unless you have a specific one you want me to.
Camping tends to be the most annoying type of gameplay, and it is hard to punish with non projectile characters and forces heavy shielding. Common campers are Yoshi throwing his eggs, Fox and his lasers, and the ever infuriating Sheik needle juggle tactic. Unless you have a valid projectile or reflector, campers force you to approach them, especially Fox. Speedy characters don't really have a problem with projectiles as they can just run up between projectiles and then grab, dash attack, etc. However, slower characters have a tougher time and usually end up taking at least a little damage.
You can, when faced with this dash a bit, shield, dash a bit, shield, although this is easily punished by a grab so try to avoid holding shield for too long. Jumping is a viable option except against things like Yoshi’s eggs that can be used diagonally but you are also slightly vulnerable approaching in this way. Approaching with jumps then fast falling into shield works but you can still be grabbed so again don’t overuse the shield. What you really want to do is approach by going forward then shielding, then when they stop using projectiles, and come at you, use an option like jumping out of shield or rolling behind them. Don’t do this every time though as they will pick up on it. This works very well and if they start reading your shield and going for a grab, then read them back and jump out of shield and then dair or nair depending on your character or if they have a laggy grab like Link or Samus then spot dodge and f smash.
The hardest campers to combat are those with multiple or one quick range attack like Link and Toon Link and the absolute worst are those that also have a reflector so you can’t combat with your own ranged attack. With those typically you want to stay grounded and run up and shield, perfect shielding if you can, then immediately dropping the shield and running up to close distance giving you the chance to grab if their projectile is laggy or they aren't expecting it. Most campers are the same so there isn’t as much to go over as before.
After dying, you have about 3 seconds of invincibility starting when you get off the re-spawn platform. This is your time to capitalize on your opponent and gain the lead, but many times you can choke and get outrun until the invincibility runs out and the best you can do is gain stage control. This is pretty much the same as everything else I’ve said, but when you re-spawn, the opponent will typically stand at one side of the stage and shield, do the former but roll at you when you approach them, jump when you approach, or run under you when you’re on the platform and try to fake you out. For the first just run up and grab, for the second fast fall down, then run into an up smash where they will roll to, for a jump counter with an aerial of your own unless you have a special up smash that reaches high like ZSS, and for the last I would go for a fast fall into a well-timed down smash. Most players will change it up every time but if they get into a pattern then let them have it.
Definitely another good thing to know is how your opponent gets up off the edge. There are five options that people will typically use and one that is almost never used. The first five are jumping, regular get up, roll get up, get up attack, and pressing away from the ledge and then attacking right after. The sixth is simply dropping and returning to the ledge which can be punished with a down smash with most characters, a down tilt with some, and running off the stage and then immediately back airing to stage spike for most if not all characters. All of these work depending on character because the second time the edge is grabbed without being hit by an attack or landing on the stage, the invincibility is gone.
Jumping is best punished by a back air or if you are completely sure they will jump, an f smash can catch them as they go up and if you get a tipper in this manner as Marth then they will be dead at about 40%. I once played Fox against a Marth, got uncharged tipped f smashed while I was standing on the ledge, at 28% and it KOd me. Punish regular gets up with a grab, punish rolls by reading them and f or d smashing, punish get up attack by shielding then grabbing or if your character has a quick smash attack then using that, and pressing away from the ledge into an attack can be shielded then grabbed also.
You can also do certain things or act in a certain way that will make them use a certain option. Standing right on the ledge and shielding while your opponent is below you typically forces the opponent to either roll or jump and if they get into a habit of doing either one or the other then punish them for it. Also if you have a smash attack with very little ending lag you can throw it out right on the ledge, causing your opponent to think they are safe using a get up attack, but then hold shield and they will simply hit the shield and you can punish them. A smart strategy is if they constantly use the same get up every time, let them get away with it and let them get back to the stage although when they are at a high percent, read it and get a KO move when it counts most. You can also if you aren't close to the ledge, if you run at the ledge take note of which get up option it is (it is usually a roll and sometimes a jump but differs with each person) and punish it next time with a pivoted f smash for a roll and any aerial for a jump.
I would say the overall best strategy to guard against edge get ups is to stand about a half roll's distance away from the ledge in shield, shifting your shield towards the edge if you want. In this position, if they do a regular get up, get up attack, or press away from the ledge and do a fair/nair, you get a free shield grab if you are quick enough. If they roll behind you, you can just see it and then you want to drop your shield and either f tilt towards them or turn and grab. If they choose to jump then you can just jump out of shield into up air/nair or do a jump canceled up smash which is done be jumping out of shield and then immediately inputting an up smash (it isn't that hard to do as long as you are quick about the up smash and isn't even too difficult on the 3DS). Both of these are dependent on characters such as you really don't want to use Fox's up smash to cover a jump but ZSS's works very well and using a jump canceled up smash is more of a hard read.
With some characters like Ike and King Dedede who both have a very large range of above along with front and behind of where their up smash will hit, if you are positive that your opponent will not be patient and will use a get up option very quickly, before they get off the ledge in that same position of a half roll away from the ledge you can just charge an up smash. This covers many options, notably roll, regular get up, and jump. Possibly get up attack as well, although only if you don't get hit by the get up attack or you time the up smash very well.
In smash, a tech is pressing the shield button at the exact time that you hit a floor, wall or ceiling, to stop any and all momentum from being launched. First of all, establish whether or not your opponent knows how to tech. The first time they hit the ground look to see if they get up immediately with a little invincibility state, or roll backwards or forwards. This is vital for you. If you want to get even more technical, see what they do if you rush them and what they do if you are far away.
If they roll back when you are approaching them then just continue running and do whatever you would do if a back roll, and if they roll forward after getting read when going backwards, you’re in luck. Rolls towards you are by far the easiest and most satisfying to punish. Just like any other roll towards you, run into an up smash at the position they will roll to, nice and simple. If they are at high percent and you have a character with a viable kill throw, then switch that out for a pivot grab if you want.
You really only need to read techs when you are far away if you have a character with a range attack particularly a chargeable one such as Samus and Robin. If they roll toward you, let it fly since they have less time to react since they just put themselves closer to the blast zone. You can still use ranged attacks otherwise and the roll towards you is the only thing you need to look for if you are searching for a dead on hit with your Charge Blast or Thoron.
First of all, reading air dodges is amazing. Whenever one successfully reads an air dodge, it simply makes one feel incredible and puts their opponent in a state of shock. For an idea of the power of reading air dodges, see the following. I played Sheik on online for a time and quickly noticed one big problem Sheik has is killing. You may have heard this but it is ridiculous, people say her kill percent is 130% but that’s only if you can land a back air or bouncing fish offstage pretty much or get an up air near the the mid-top of the stage. At higher percents with Sheik you typically want to down throw into up air if you get a grab but at higher percents they fly higher then you can jump or can air dodge/jump before you can get to them. Now after getting a down throw and watching the person air dodge out of the follow up, I double jumped up and then used Sheik’s up b which has a bit of starting lag resulting in a kill for me. Essentially their dodge was over by the time Vanish (Sheik’s up b) activated which has killing properties when disappearing (although not reappearing) so easy kill by a simple air dodge read.
Reading air dodges can also result in meteor smashes with characters that can, or smash attacks if an air dodge is used near the ground since they have ending lag now. Another example is when playing as Ganondorf if you consistently fair your opponent when they are off the stage, the next time with for their air dodge, get above them and dair. If they live after that then they are at 0%, are from either the Kid Icarus or Animal Crossing series, and/or your dair is stale as heck. If you’re going for style and have a big lead, when someone is falling and you’re the captain, jump up hoping they air dodge expecting a knee or one of his other quick aerials, and use the falcon trademark as you’re falling, if they air dodge at exactly the right time and get ending lag you just might land this.
Anyways air dodge reading is a must for juggling by reading when the opponent will air dodge and waiting to throw out your aerial. You want to make people fear your attack and expect it to come, and then just wait a second before doing it. Some other examples of reading air dodges are using Marth’s down throw then simply moving to the side a bit and then up smashing to get a tippered up smash, charging a down smash after many up tilts with Fox, Diddy, Pikachu, etc., and down throwing with C. Falcon then jumping and waiting a moment before using fair. The same stays true for characters with counter, I was playing Marth as Fox and got him into the air at high percents so I went up with Fox to land his up air for the kill, although knowing Marth I knew he didn’t have enough hitstun for me to land the move safely. Utilizing Fox’s fast falling along with a tap downwards, I didn’t attack and watched as he countered. I jumped up again to put pressure and sure enough he countered again. This time he was near the ground so I just dropped down and up smashed.
My point is to effectively read air dodges and counters, become aware of when they will use them and use things like jumping into fast falling without attacking to apply pressure and force them to make a move. If they pick up on this and don’t take your bait, then actually attack them to switch things up and put them back on guard. Also know if your opponent will attempt a counter again after whiffing one or if they will attack you back or evade. If they attempt another counter, then you can just hold down your smash attack for longer until the counter is over.
This is a completely impractical example but I was playing a friends as Ike and he was Lucina and I held down b to charge Eruption (Ike's neutral b) when he was right in my face and I kept holding it and watched as he used counter three times in a row basically letting me charge it as long as I wanted and releasing it to kill him after the “counter portion” I’ll say of the third counter ended and it just went into ending lag. (Also someone please explain to me how a toad held by a princess can take a punch from a boxer who can KO Mike Tyson or a dropkick from a giant turtle to the face and not be completely destroyed)
Strange as it may sound, you can also read moves in Smash Bros. Occasionally when you play someone they will neglect a certain move, typically, but not always, a special move. Such as a Yoshi player will fast fall down every time they get sent into the air but then they will remember they have their down b and will start to use that to return to the ground, or a Pit player might suddenly start using his side b more. There are just those moments when you go "Oh hey I actually could be using this move more I should probably do it." These are things you should look for. Once a person uses that neglected move, especially if they land a hit with it, they will look for it again soon. When something like this happens then change your approaches or defenses specifically to fit that move, whatever it is.
This doesn't come up too often but it still happens and can be read in the right situation. Since this does usually happen with special moves you might have to get creative in how to combat it but typically it just involves shielding or moving slightly and putting a smash attack in the right place. Also, certain moves can be read in other ways like if a Greninja starts slowly walking towards you expect Shadow Sneak (Greninja's side b), and a bad habit I can occasionally show along with other Sheik players (as well as ZSS) is that if I start crouching or crouch walking then I am looking for a bouncing fish (Sheik's down b).
One of the easiest moves to read are counter moves. I was playing a tournament match against a Shulk and one time when I sent him into the air I jumped up to get a follow up and he used counter. Now the next time this happened, he was falling and was going to land right in front of me, so since he had just used counter once, I just stood there and charged a forward smash until the counter was done. This is probably the easiest type of special to read and you get the hardest punishes off it, so make sure to tell when your opponent will try it.
As important as it is to get combos, it is equally important to know how to get out of them. A good way to get out of a combo is using nair, some characters do it better than others such as Luigi and Ness who both do it spectacularly since their nairs come out very fast. If you have a counter this definitely works as well to stop combos in their tracks. Mid-combo if your opponent is right up in your face throwing out hitboxes left and right, counter is the perfect move to deter them, although only 9 characters (as well as mii swordfighter) can use a counter move, and Meta Knight has a move similar to a counter but not exactly a defined counter move. Other then that air dodge when you get an opening, although not too often or you can get read as I said above.
Another good way to get out of combo’s (specifically juggle combos) is using dairs that send the user straight down such as ZSS, Bowser, Sheik, and Toon Link, or down b with Yoshi, Bowser Captain Falcon, & Ganondorf. Use these sparingly though as they leave you vulnerable and only when your opponent chases you upwards. You can jump out of combos also, and the last thing you can really do is Charizard’s down b since it gives you super armor.
Command grabs are very crafty moves that only a small portion of the cast possess. The characters who have these moves are Wario, Ganondorf, Bowser, Yoshi, Robin, Captain Falcon, Kirby, Dedede, Lucario, (for Kirby, DDD, and Lucario you have to be very close to the opponent or it won't beat out shields), and Diddy Kong (Pac-Man has a move that is effective at beating out shields although it doesn't classify as a command grab). A command grab is any special move (b moves) that can beat out shields. A very common strategy for people to use is to approach with a jump and your first instinct is to shield right? Wrong. They will fall and then use their command grab, effectively beating out your shield. The thing that makes these moves so powerful is that they win over shields although you can use them in the air, whereas grabs are restricted to the ground. They are not however, without fault. They singular easiest way to stop a command grab is to spot dodge. Most of these moves have pretty bad end lag so if they miss it you can usually punish with a smash attack. Another thing you can do is challenge them in the air. If they jump at you and come down from above a lot, you can bait them in with shield, and then jump out of shield and use an appropriate aerial (usually up air). They are most likely conditioned to expect you to stay in shield so this can throw them for a loop. Also depending on the type of command grab they have and the character you are you can just crouch under it and then use any punish you want. Command grabs can be devastating for someone who isn’t prepared for them, but if you know how to deal with them then should just be another thing that you enjoy baiting out from your opponent and punishing.
I stated earlier that Pac-Man has a command grab-esque type move which is his up b. Because this move summons a trampoline, if you are in shield and on top of it it will force you to bounce upwards. This can be used to throw you upwards into a fruit recently placed, but only works if Pac-Man uses the move right where you are or you run into it. This is not usually a good approach, but it can be so if your opponent is using it then throw out some jabs when they come at you. This move also makes shielding at the ledge harder since they can do a regular get up then immediately up b since it comes out very fast. Overall you shouldn't be too worried about this move, just know that it comes out extremely fast and can be used as an effective mix up.
About as important as what your opponent does before they attack, is what they do AFTER they attack. Sometimes people will always dodge backward after a certain attack, or attack more and so on. One thing many Little Mac players do it dash attack you, and then since the attack has so little end lag, they use a jab combo. You have to know your opponents combos and figure out how to respond to them. If someone does what I previously stated as Little Mac, you can just hold your shield until the flurry attack ends and then run up and grab (just make sure to not drop your shield too early and even if you are out of range of the flurry, the finisher has slightly longer range so don’t think you’re safe just yet). Also teach yourself to know even before the person rushes in what they will look for.
Anyone who’s ever seen Diddy knows that he will always be fishing for grabs and will rarely dash attack, so when facing one of those types of characters try to avoid shielding as much as possible. Also certain characters who can kill with throws like Ness will look for grabs more at high percents so even though typically at higher percents you want to shield, make sure when playing these type of characters you are ready to counter their grab in a different way. People tend to shield a lot when they are at high percents because they want to preserve their stock, so even if you don’t have a kill throw repeatedly grab them and force them to not shield so much until you can net the KO.
On the other hand some characters rarely look for a grab because they have a terrible one such as Pac-man so you are in a safer position to shield more often. Also, if you notice something such as you always dodge backwards when approached and your opponent always reads it and follows you to punish, a hard read you can do is when they rush you, at the last second start charging a f smash attack behind you and when they run through you thinking you will dodge backwards, they will be on the receiving end of a f smash. Pick up on these ways that your opponent reads you, and then instead of playing right into their hands, make them play right into yours.
The most important part of reading is that most reads are one-hit wonders. This is very important to remember, because any smart player after seeing you pull off a successful read will not fall for it again. You typically don’t want to use a read more than once and never more than twice unless they fall for it every time.
Surprisingly, I find one of the best things you can do is stay still. People who have played for a while in matches have a mindset that “most people will do *blank* when I do *blank*” so I have had people leave themselves wide open when they try to read me and I simply stay still. As an example, they might assume that I will roll behind them so instead of going for me they forward smash behind them where they think I will roll, and since I stayed still this leaves them wide open for whatever I want to do. So if you are getting read for days, then try staying still, it could surprise you. Also you should pay attention for things that players consistently do when you play them. Such as with Sheik nearly every single time I needle someone when they're at the ledge they immediately jump back up at the perfect height for a sweet spotted up smash. Another common example is Mario's f throw, some players will use it to throw you offstage and more often than not you will want to jump back up. So some smart Mario players just said, "Hey, we have this fair spike and they jump right at the perfect height every time we f throw them offstage, we should probably use this more!" Hope this helped.