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A Guide to Playing Smash Competitively

SCOTU

Smash Hero
Joined
Mar 16, 2007
Messages
6,636
Location
Northville, MI
Complete Guide to Being Good at this Game

Part 1
I. Introduction
II. The very beginning: Building a foundation
III. Breaking into the Community
IV. A Deeper understanding of the mechanics
V. Training and Experience

Part 2
VI. Playing to Win
VII. Counterpicking
VIII. Playstyles
IX. Mixups
X. Observation
XI. Match Control
XII. Yomi & Prediction
XIII. Mindgames
XIV. Further Reading
XV. Conclusion

Part 1: Beginning

I. Introduction

At casual glance, Smash Bros is a fun, surface level, party game that you pop in at your friends when a bunch of people are over and mess around and have a good time. However, there's a side to this game that the vast majority of players never see. This side is the competitive scene. While the game may seem like a fun time-stall, it's actually has a good amount of depth to it, and a large community of tournament goers to make this game worth quite a lot of money in winnings. Thousands of dollars are won every month at Smash Bros tournaments, and a lot of players have stakes in those winnings.

This guide will start from the very beginning of smash, and cover every major topic needed to improve to the level where you can be a contender for cash too. More than 95% of everyone who will read this will be able to get something out of it, even if it's just a new way to think about stuff you already know.

This guide will no be aimed at a specific character, so I cannot cite specific examples for everything as it applies to which character you play. I will try to provide as many examples as are necessary to illustrate my point. While many of the topics covered here are very high level, abstract, and apply to every character, person, region, I will try to do my best to keep topics concrete and pragmatic, so that anyone can still take something out of it. Be warned however, that some stuff must simply remain in abstract form because it cannot be made concrete unless talking about very specific instances.

II. The Very Beginning: Building a Foundation

I know probably everyone reading this guide is past this stage because they already know about the site this is posted on, but I'm going to cover this anyway for completeness' sake, and if you're introducing the game to someone new, you can reference this to make them get up to your level the fastest.

The first thing a new player will realize is that they have this tendency to lose. No duh. You just started playing. I'm sure you can understand this. You need to realize that you will in fact lose, don't get down over it. Losing is not a bad thing entirely (ESPECIALLY at the lower levels of play). Yes, you're trying to win, but don't sweat it if you lose a match. You're always still learning. Even the best players in the world lose now and then. They don't know everything, and neither do you. You're bound to lose a fair amount in a smash career, just make a conscious effort to not care when you do, and to simply put your efforts into finding out why you lost, and how to fix that and improve. You don't really gain much out of winning a bunch of casual games with your friends other than bragging rights, so put all your focus on looking at what needs improvement when you lose as opposed to being upset (or worse: frustrated).

Playing smash is all about improving. You never stop improving your game. But for someone to improve, they need to start somewhere first. There are specific things you need to pick up on when first starting to play. The following apply even if you want to be playing on all stages with items in free for alls, so long as you want to start learning well. One thing that will easily detract from a new player's learning experience is being overwhelmed by stuff going on. Here are a few tips to limit this, and to maximize the knowledge and experience that a new player takes out of playing. Start off with only battlefield, Final Destination, Smashville, and Yoshi's Island (Brawl) on random, and play on all of those stages. The reason for this is because there's not much going on with these stages. They're pretty straightforward, and you don't need to keep track of anything, don't need to watch out for anything, don't need to really look for any patterns, etc... The next piece of advice is to play 1 v 1s. Even if you have more than 2 players present, cycle who's playing. If there is more than just 1 opponent it can be very difficult for a new player to follow what's going on. This encourages just throwing out whatever button inputs come to mind first, instead of paying attention to which moves do what. If you do have more than 2 players present, watch the other people playing when you're not. See what those characters can do, and what those people are trying out. Lastly, (this one will make a bunch of people cringe), you guessed it: play with items turned off. Why?!?! I'm not going into why items aren't used in the competitive scene here, this is just a good strategy to get the most out of your beginning experiences. If there are items going off here, and there, there's a whole bunch of stuff to distract you, and detract from your understanding of the game.

Here's another big suggestion: play as random characters as much as you can, or try to play as many characters as you can. Get your whole group of smashers to do so. This will give you access to a bunch of different characters to see who you like, who you don't, and what each character does, what to watch out for, etc... One last hint: don't think that things are cheap. Every tactic is beatable. If your friends are calling it cheap, that probably means its good. Keep up the good work.


III. Breaking into the Community

Smash is a multiplayer game, so it's critical to competitive smash that there exist a community, and that it's well organized. There are two websites that host the vast majority of the smash community (there is a large overlap between these two sites): Smash World Forums (SWF/ Smashboards) and All is Brawl (AiB). There two sites are both forums (with different goods/bads) that have a section for brawl strategies, individual character topics, and tournament listings and discussion. Odds are (drastically) that you're viewing this guide from one of these two sites (as that's where it's being posted originally lol). For General info on the tactics in brawl visit the "Brawl Tactical" or "Competitive Brawl" Discussion forums; for Character specific info, check out the "Character Specific" or "Character Chat" forum, with sub forums for each character; each site also has a "Regional Zones" forum to find out about stuff in your region (such as tournaments, smashfests, etc...)

I'll get some terms out of the way first:
A Tournament (aka "Tourney") is an event where smashers (typically) pay an entry fee, and compete to earn (typically) cash prizes. These are where you find the most players, the toughest competition, and the best place to get experience.
A "Smashfest" is an event typically hosted at someone's living place, or a convenient (semi-)public area to just have people come over and play smash. Smashfests are hosted with the intent of having fun, and playing a bunch of smash at no cost. The downside to tournaments is that they typically cost money to enter, and you can't be continuously (or close to it) playing. Smashfests have less people, but are free and give you an opportunity to just play a bunch of people almost continuously.

ok, now that you're at this tourney/smashfest all that's happening is you're just getting *****. This is where you get better. Stop focusing on winning, but rather focus on how to win. Find out what you're doing wrong, what the other person is doing right, and what you could be doing that would make you better. Ask the people that you're playing against for some feedback, ask how you could improve. Ask them what you kept doing wrong, most good players will be able to tell you a thing or two (or a whole bunch) of things that you kept doing that they would exploit. Try playing games where your biggest focus is on looking for what you're being punished for, and then try not doing those things at all.
Look not so much for what moves better people are using, but for the spacing that they use when they use any move. Identify what distance and angles people are at when they decide to attack (this is matchup specific).

So now you've been to some tourneys and some smashfests and have gotten a bit of feedback. You've also been fortunate enough to get vids recorded of some of your matches. If you have some on youtube, post them in the appropriate character boards on either SWF or AiB in a thread asking for critique. You don't need to link to all of them, only like 3. If you have to choose which vids to link, link the ones you lose in, because it'll be easier for people to give you helpful advice. That's the easy part. Here's the hard part: what advice to you listen to? It will be difficult, but try to identify users who know what they are talking about. Some indicators are (usually, but not limited to) things like being around on the boards for a while, belonging to a group of smashers who are honored for their knowledge. Once you identify which advice you believe will help you the most, try to incorporate it into your game. Try to find the contact info on the person who gave you the advice, because they probably have more that they can help you with. Most people (that matter) are nice enough to answer some questions or critique a vid if you IM them some questions or whatever.

Now you're probably at the point where you can probably start playing the game competitively. You've reached the step where you're a scrub. This is not a bad thing, it's a good thing. You're moving in the right direction. From here on out, to get better, you will have to attend many tournaments and smashfests. You'll have to play as many people as you can, the better the people, the better. Get an idea of who regularly places at local tourneys and make a point to play them every time you can. Be sure you're always focusing on how better people are processing situations and how they're coming up with strategies as they go.

IV. A Deeper Understanding of the Mechanics

To be a good player, you'll have to have a deep understanding of the game. The first understanding you can start to work on is the mechanics of the game.

You have your basic Actions: Jabs, Tilts, smashes, shields, grabs/throws, aerials, specials, air dodges, jumps, and fast falling.

Then you have more in depth stuff, like how attacks work: http://www.smashboards.com/showthread.php?t=155409
This guide goes into detail on how attacks work. Pay close attention to the section on DI.

You've probably noticed that attacks don't always send you the same way. This is not random, nor a mistake. This is Directional Influence (abbrv. "DI"). You've probably heard this term tossed around before (and most likely incorrectly). DI SOLELY refers to how you affect the angle at which you are hit away at. DI is what makes or breaks a player. You cannot be good without good DI. This means to DI weak hits so that they're difficult to follow up, and DI strong hits so they don't kill you.

Once you know which characters you'll be maining, visit those character's boards on SWF/AiB and look up specific techniques/ strategies for that character.

Then there's also a ton of stuff that you'll need to figure out on your own. These things are what setups work on which characters, how to recover effectively, the range of your attacks and other characters' attacks, which attacks beat out which other attacks, what attacks are safe to use where, etc... You'll never run out of stuff like this to find out for yourself.

V. Training and Experience

A HUGE part of being good at this game is play experience. You'll want to get experience against as many different people as you can (a constant player pool results in slower development for everyone in that pool). You'll want to play against as many people as you can who play different characters, so you can learn those character matchups. The best way to do all of this is simply to go to smashfests and tourneys as often as you can. You'll also want to make sure that you have ready access to friends that you can play the game with on a moment's notice on a whim. Make sure you're continuously trying out new things, trying to find what works in what situations, what doesn't work, figure out what spacings are effective in which matchups, etc...

There sometimes comes the issue of what to do when you have no one else around to play. The first and foremost thing is to mess around in practice mode or against level 1 CPUs to make sure you have an absolute control over your character. You know the range on all your attacks, and how to place/time them appropriately for every situation. Practice any other character specific techniques you may have read about and are necessary/ helpful to know so that you can do them all without having to put any thought/ effort into doing them.

The other thing you can do while no one's around to play is to watch videos. Try to find out who the best players are, and who the best players for the character you play are and watch videos of them play. A great source for these videos is SWF's Tournament Video Section. The big thing to watch for is how those players space themselves in a given matchup. Look for which strategies win, which ones lose. Look for how they punish mistakes, how they get the other player offstage, how they edgeguard, etc... Try to think to yourself what a player is doing as you're watching a match. Try to figure out what's going through they're mind.

Something to note about experience, especially that gained from tournaments is that you don't always notice the improvement consciously. Six months later you might be like, "wow I learned a bunch from that thing", but not necessarily right away. You might not be actively learning anything, but you're picking up on different tactics, playstyles. If nothing else than just adding it to memory so that later you can learn from it when you understand it better, you DO gain stuff out of tournaments, even if you don't always feel like it. Just so long as you're trying to take something away from it, you will. Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate improvement. Improving is actually a very slow process; don't worry, it's slow for almost everyone else too.

Part 2: Higher Level

Playing to Win: Don't do things the Hard Way

"Scrub" is a term you often find thrown around derogatorily in video game communities. Colloquially, it refers to a bad player; however, this is not fully correct. A scrub is a player who places artificial rules on himself solely to limit his skill. At first you might think: "Why would anyone do this? I mean, what can you possibly gain out of doing that?", and you'd be right in questioning that. However, players who limit themselves like that don't always think like that. They'll mask their self limiting w/ terms like "Honor" or "cheap", and claim they're "Playing the game the way it was meant to be played". All of these things, and a plethora of related beliefs, are sure-fire ways to make yourself worse than you should be. There is nothing in the game that is unbeatable (and if there is, it's banned and you don't have to worry about it). As for the "playing the game the way it was meant to", a game, more or less by definition, is just a set of rules that set up a system for interaction, and an objective to set an ending condition; it is the job of the players to interact within the bounds of that game's ruleset to compete to complete the objective. I'm sure by now, no one reading this has any problem with this concept of not being a scrub. If you do take issue to this, clearly, you're not trying to improve, and I don't know why you're wasting time reading this if you don't want to improve.

There is another topic that deserves covering here, and that is Efficiency. The main victory condition in smash is to remove all your opponent's stocks before all of yours are removed. It doesn't take a genius to figure out from this that removing your opponent's stocks in an efficient manner is preferable. In order to maximize your efficiency, identify the flaws of your opponent's character, and exploit them to their fullest. If a character is very prone to dying off the top, KO them off the top when you get the chance. If they're easy to edgeguard, hit them offstage as early as you can and edgeguard them to death. If they have a tether recovery as their main recovery, make sure to take full advantage of the weakness of edgehogging. If you're wasting a bunch of time trying to edgeguard a Metaknight, when you could've killed him off the top a long time ago, it seems like you're doing something wrong.
There's the flip side to this too that players often don't think about. You have to ensure that you're making it difficult for your opponent to KO you efficiently. You know your character's weaknesses, so play to minimize the risk of falling victim to them. If your character is highly susceptible to edgeguarding (i.e. fox), try not to put yourself offstage much and try not to get hit by moves that will obviously send you offstage (i.e. MK's dsmsash). If you're making your opponent work harder to kill you, you're doing something right.


VII. Counterpicking

An often under looked aspect of tournament play, Counterpicking provides a means for you, the player, to take full advantage of the cast of the game and all the legal stages to maximize your chances of success in a match. A player who knows how to counterpick stages and characters will have a SEVERE advantage over a player who just mains one character and has a favorite stage that they like to go to.

=====Things to consider when developing counterpicking strategies=======

Be Familiar with all the stages legal at your tournament. Make sure you've played on all of them with a decent amount of playtime. Pay attention to things such as ceiling height, how close the walls are, platform configurations, additional terrain features (i.e. a tree on the fire stage of PStadium), and any other character specific advantageous features (i.e. a walkoff edge for a DDD cg). Make sure you understand how the stage moves if it's a moving stage, and when platforms appear/ disappear. Make sure you know exactly where all the edges are on the stage. Make sure you know where to be on a stage to have the upper hand. First Priority is to make sure you're comfortable on a stage you're counterpicking.

Take an estimate of whether or not you think your opponent is comfortable on that stage. If they're always CPing neutral stages, they may be caught off guard when you counterpick some janky stage like Green Greens. Most good players will be well versed on all the legal stages, but some just may not be, so try to gauge your opponents comfortability levels for a stage. It's usually very advantageous to CP a stage that you're familiar with, and your opponent is not.

Pick stages that offer an advantage to a character you want to play. If your character KOs off the top easy, pick a stage with a low ceiling. Find out what platform configurations are best for your characters, and pick stages that go along with that. It makes a ton of sense to pick a stage that's advantageous to who you play as. Conversely, you can pick a stage that has a disadvantage for your opponents, ideally one that weakens their strongest point against you (i.e. pick a small stage against a camper). Using a stage to your advantage or an opponents disadvantage is critical.

One thing to note is that, due to the nature of brawl, most competitive players can play several characters, and are not limited to being stuck with a bad stage. If your opponent is such a player, then you cannot guarantee that they won't switch their character to one who has an advantage on the stage. This however, can be used to bait character switches. If you're losing really hard to one character, you can try picking an extremely disadvantageous stage for that character. Either they're stuck with a terrible stage for their character, or they'll switch characters to take advantage of the stage. If they do switch characters, you get to see who they're switching to before picking your character, so you can still ensure a good matchup for yourself.

A similar concept, is if you'd prefer to switch into a character with a good matchup, pick a stage that seems reasonable or good for the character they just won as, but switch your character to one who has a matchup advantage over their character on that stage.

All of these factors require a lot of thought and preparation. You must figure out what you like for most situations, and learn to be the best you can at abusing that counterpick.

This, however, is not the only stuff you have to think about counterpicking. If you win a game (which inevitably you will), you'll be facing the other player's counterpicking. They'll be going through the same thought process I described above, so make sure you're prepared to deal with that. It's best to play several characters, so that if you just can't handle a specific matchup or stage with one character, make sure you play another character that you put a lot of practice into on that stage/matchup with.

Each player in a set also gets one stage ban. This is a stage that the other player cannot counterpick you to. This is one of your most powerful tools to ensure that you don't hand your opponent a free game win. Undoubtedly there will be some stage that you just don't want to play on, or some matchup with a stage you don't want to play on (unless you're playing Metaknight lol). Even if there isn't, try to gauge which stage would be best for your opponent to counterpick (usually based on the character they were just playing as, or what you've seen them counterpick against other people), and ban it. Even if you're comfortable on the stage, your opponent still gains the advantage by being able to take you to it. That stage might be your opponent's favorite stage, or one that they really like for the matchup. If they'd want to counterpick it, there's obviously some reason they'd want to do so. Don't give them that choice. Don't waste your ban, though. I know a guy who always bans Green Greens in Melee (despite playing a character pool that can do well on that stage) just because he didn't like it. Instead of banning a good stage for his opponent, he banned green greens in a recent tourney, and after 2 stocking the guy game 1, he got 4 stocked game 2, and ended up losing on his counterpick for the set loss.

VIII. Playstyles

There are two major styles that one can play in brawl: the Aggressor and the Defender. It's critical that you understand how both operate, so that you know how you're supposed to be thinking, and just as importantly, how your opponent is supposed to be thinking. I've given a basic definition of both styles here and I go over the general thought process and strategy for using that style for beating the other style.

[The Defensive Style]
This player tries to force his opponent to come to him, and exploit the weaknesses of that approach. This player will often employ projectiles to force specific angles of approach (i.e. on platforms, sh air dodge -- SHAD is a ******** term, dash into shield, etc...) and then attempts to counter that approach angle through shielding or moving out of the way, or counterhitting attacks, dodging or moving out of the way of grabs, and grabbing shields. It is important for this type of player to be able to keep track of previous approach attempts through a certain projectile/ movement patter. It is also critical to have a reasonable reaction time to play defensively, since your goal is to have the perfect counter for their approach. It's best to wait for you to be sure they've committed to something before you commit to punishing it, making sure what you're doing is safe and effective. This style of play focuses on figuring out what you can do to make it hardest on you opponent to approach (where hardest = most prone to make a mistake/ be repetitive), and once they do approach, have a good idea what they're going to do when they get there, have a counter prepared, but also be watching for differences in their approach, as they're likely to mix up their approaches as best they can.

[The Aggressive Style]
This player plays a big giant game of Yomi (if you're unfamiliar with the term look up Sirlin's book on playing to win). Basically you have different options to approach with, with varying risk/reward combinations. You get to have fun figuring out the patterns of the defensive player and trying to exploit them. If they keep camping the same way, it's easy to get around. If they expect you to do one thing, mix it up and do something with a bigger risk & reward since they're less likely to see it coming. The main game of the aggressive player is to try to guess right every time by exploiting human thought patterns. Most approaches in brawl are heavily committing, leaving you with holding up (DI) when you realized you've messed up, since you know they get a free hit. Other options on less risky attacks include following with a fast move for a frame trap, or dodging/ rolling/ shielding to try to avoid a bad end and having to restart from day 4. Many players on defense have a tendency to do their defense in iterations, often times leaving them vulnerable at the start/end, when they try to change. If possible, try to vary your speed of approach as much as you can during a given approach and between approaches. Throwing of the Defensive player is the whole goal of being the aggressor: throw off the defensive player, hit with the best attack I can.


Obviously, you're not likely to play just one of these styles, and you're likely to switch between the two frequently in matches when it's advantageous to do so. It's important to recognize when you're doing the wrong style. For instance, if you're trying to play defensive, but they're out camping you, or you have no solid way to make them approach and they're pressuring you, you probably have to switch to aggressive until you can reset the game state. Alternatively, if the defensive player's just got a total fix on your approaches, try playing defensive for a bit and forcing them to approach. Oftentimes it takes camping right outside the enemy's range for an aggressive player to effectively switch to defense. It's key to recognize what style you should be playing at any given moment, based on player matchup, character matchup, stage, and current game state. If you ever find yourself doing worse than you should be try switching styles, oftentimes it'll help.

IX. Mixups

Imagine playing a game of rock-paper-scissors (RPS). Your opponent always throws scissors, even if you consistently throw rock. How hard is it going to be for you to beat your opponent? Not at all. Smash isn't as straightforward as RPS, though, so lets consider another example. Imagine playing RPS, but instead of doing the hand motions, you say what you're throwing, and a judge keeps a secret count on the score and announces when every 10 points have been won. Your opponent is well versed in how to say "scissors" in every language, and throws scissors every time, just in a different language every time. Since you don't know he's throwing scissors every time, you can't really predict him, and it becomes harder for you to win. Here's the catch. After playing this for a long time, or by studying how to say each throw in a bunch of different languages, you realize that you can just beat him by throwing rock every time, and the game is no different than in the first example. That's a lot more like smash, where you have a whole bunch of different things you can do to do the same thing. The point of this example is to teach you how to speak a bunch of languages because it helps you at smash show you that you need to mix up your options in order to win. You can't just get away with doing the same thing over and over, even if it doesn't look the same. If you're constantly jumping towards your opponent and doing an aerial, even if you change what aerial you're doing, you're probably leaving yourself vulnerable to the same punishment every time.

Many low level casuals, beginners, and other bad players don't see the need to do mixups, and they will lose to the same stuff over and over again. As you start picking up on this, you realize that you're just getting owned by the same stuff because you keep doing the same stuff. Many players at this point think that the solution is to use different attacks. However, they're missing the point. A mixup isn't a change in what you do (well, it is, but not in that sense); it's a change to avoid what your opponent is going to do, based on what they thought you were going to do. If, for example, you run forward and attack your opponent, but get marth fsmashed out of it, you might think to try again, but with an aerial. This doesn't really mix it up that much because he's still going to fsmash you out of it. You have to identify not just what to change, but you have to change that thing into something that doesn't get punished by the same action. In this instance, you could try running up and shielding, or air dodging instead of doing an aerial, or simply not running up.

Here's an interesting concept: When do you mix something up? When do you keep doing something, and when do you switch? This is a tough question that most players will answer differently. The key here lies in good observational skills. If you find out that your opponent falls victim to one thing more than others, you should use that more than the others. Just make sure that you keep saying "Scissors" in different languages to make it harder for them to catch on that you figured them out (i.e. if they're vulnerable to straight forward run up and attack -- for whatever reason lol -- you can fake mixup by running up and attacking, aerialing, grabbing, etc...). The other answer to this question is to always mix things up. Even if you find what works optimally, you should still keep mixing it up so that they never catch on to what you're doing, and every time you do something it'll be a guessing game for them. I believe the answer lies somewhere in between, however. Try a bunch of different things, until you find what's been working the best. Use that more often than other options, but still throw in mixups here and there so they're never exactly sure of what you're going to do. You must also make sure not to "Overthink" matchups. If someone is just blatantly falling for the same thing over and over, don't work your brain too hard. Keep beating them with what works, over and over again. Finally, if you're using one tactic more than the others because it's been working the best so far, and the opponent catches on, and starts baiting that, this is clearly a time for you to mix up your options and try out new things again, especially ones that look like the one you were just using (to bait their newly found punishment, and give you a chance to hit them in the face).

X. Observation

Playing smash competitively means that you have the ability to fully understand what's going on. To do so, you have to fully see everything that's going on, and make sense out of it. A common mistake of less experienced players is to look at your character while playing. There really isn't any need to look at your character, except for the peripheral vision recalibrations, you should already know what you're doing, and where you're doing it. I mean, you ARE the one pressing the buttons on your controller to tell your character where to go and what to do, you should know where you are and what you're doing. If you're not looking at your character, then what does this allow you to do? Look at other things. Most specifically, the other player's character. You can put all your focus on the other player's character. When you're doing this, you can begin to notice a lot of things you never did before. You can start to see how your opponent is thinking, and what patterns they're using.

There already is a perfectly written guide on this topic, so I'll just link to that here to save some duplicate writing and confusion: http://www.smashboards.com/showthread.php?t=103017
That thread was written before brawl, so the examples apply to Melee, but all of the topics apply just as much to brawl as the do Melee.

Basically, this all boils down to you putting all your focus on what your opponent is doing, why they're doing it, what they're messing up, and how to make use of all of these things in game.

XI. Match Control

Match Control is an extremely important element of being successful in smash. In order to ensure that you're going to come out ahead, you have to be in control of the match. "Match Control" refers to anything you do to ensure that you maintain in the advantageous position during a game. The major types of match control are zoning, pressuring, stage control, and tempo. I will break down what each of these are, and how they relate to playing brawl successfully through match control.

Zoning
Roughly speaking, zoning is the act of using movement and attacks to cut off options of your opponents while attempting to keep yourself safe. Proper zoning often involves aerials right before landing, aerials right after jumping, ingenious use of platforms, moving around sections of the stage, and often advancing with an aerial, and retreating with another (or with the same one). A common example of Zoning is a marth jumping forward with a fair (covering him while he advances), and then retreating in his short hop with a second fair (covering him while he's retreating/ landing). Zoning is a critical type of Match Control because it limits what your opponent can do. If they can do less, then they have less options that can hurt you, thus keeping you at the advantage.

Pressuring
Pressuring is the act of putting your opponent in a bad spot in hopes that they will mess up and leave themselves vulnerable. Pressuring often implements specific forms of zoning to "put your opponent on the spot", making it seem like you can hurt them, while it either looks like you're vulnerable when you're not, or it looks like you're not vulnerable when you are. Common types of pressuring involve using projectiles to pin down an opponent, zoning aerials at their max range against your opponent's shield/ max range, or otherwise just being in a position and stance threatening an attack. Pressuring is an important aspect of Match Control since it forces your opponent to make quick decisions where they lack all the information (like what you're going to do next), and increases the chances that they will make a mistake and you will be able to punish them. If your opponent is more likely to make a punishable mistake, you're in the advantage and controlling the match.

Stage Control
Sort of a mix between zoning and pressuring, stage control is ensuring that you move more freely around the stage than your opponent. Common types of Stage control include grenade camping, pushing someone to the edge of the stage, or blocking off areas of approach via projectiles. If you can move more freely about the stage, you're clearly at the advantage, and are controlling the match.

This is more important than the other ones here, so I will go more into detail on it. The nature of smash bros is to defeat your opponent by hitting them off the stage. Clearly you can deduce that there are better and worse places to be during the match, and Stage Control is about making sure you're in a better place than your opponent. Take for example one player standing around the mid stage mark (a bit closer to one edge) on FD, and the other between that player and the closest edge. The player closer to the center has the following options: stay put, advance to press advantage, retreat. The other player (with less stage to work with) has the following options: stay put, advance to break out of disadvantage. They don't really have the option to retreat to well, because they don't have much stage to work with (MK can retreat to the edge and edge camp, but only if he's in the lead). You'll note that since the one player has less options than the other, they're at a disadvantage. You'll also note that pressing advantage and staying put both beat out the other player's option of advancing to get out. Since staying put beats that out, and you're in the advantage, that's often the way to go (i.e. just wait there, and react to whatever they try with something to make them worse off).

Tempo Control
This is when you force the match to be played at the speed and rhythm you desire. This is done through specific types of zoning, projectile use, or just by moving around. There are several reasons why this is advantageous. One advantage is that your opponent must succumb to the speed you set, if they can't cope with it, they'll perform worse and leave openings for you to exploit. Another big advantage to controlling the tempo is that you can switch it around at will if you're good enough at it (and your character has the tools necessary to do so). This can throw opponents off balance and keep them that way, obviously keeping you in the advantaged situation.


Through the use of Zoning, Pressuring, Stage Control, and Tempo Control, you can acquire and maintain Match Control, an essential position to be in to be successful at smash.

XII. Yomi & Prediction

He's one of the biggest aspects of playing smash. "Yomi" is a term that refers to the interactions of different options players have. There are a few different "layers" to Yomi: Doing something random, Doing the Most optimal thing, Doing the Counter to the Most optimal thing, and Doing the Counter to the Counter to the most optimal thing.

Take for instance the game of Rock Paper Scissors (RPS). There's only one layer of Yomi in RPS, doing something random. However, let's redesign RPS a bit to make it yRPS (Yomi RPS): Winning with Rock is worth 5 points, winning with Scissors is worth 3 points, and winning with Paper is worth 1 point. This brings out all of the layers of yomi. At first you might just want to throw Rock, because winning with it is worth the most points. Here's the catch: "winning with it is worth the most points". You have to win to get those points. Someone could try to catch you in your greediness and simply beat out your rock with a paper. It's not worth many points, but he just got more points than you did when you threw rock to his paper. If you expect your opponent to go this "safe path" to beat out the greedy rock users, you could throw scissors to beat his paper. Watch out though, if you threw scissors, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to the deadly rock.

Lets apply this to smash: take for instance player A running up to player B

Player A's options:
  • Do an attack (beats: waiting; loses to: shield/grab, spot dodge, take a step back; neutral to: Attack)
  • Grab (beats: shield, waiting; loses to: spot dodge, take a step back; neutral to: attack)
  • Shield (beats: attack, spot dodge; loses to: wait; neutral to: shield, take a step back)
  • Spot dodge (beats: attack; loses to: shield/grab, take a step back, waiting; neutral to: spot dodge)
  • Run past and do an attack (beats: take a step back; loses to: attack, shield/grab, wait; neutral to: spot dodge)


Player B's options:
  • Attack (beats: run past and do an attack; loses to: shield, spot dodge; neutral to: attack, grab)
  • Shield/grab (beats: attack, spot dodge, run past and attack; neutral to: shield)
  • spot dodge (beats: attack, grab, run past attack; loses to: shield; neutral to: spot dodge)
  • take a step back (beats: attack, grab, spot dodge; loses to: run past attack; neutral to: shield)
  • Wait (beats: shield, spot dodge, run past attack; loses to: attack, grab)

You can see clearly how some options beat other options, while losing to yet others, and are often neutral to some more options. There are TONS of situations in brawl where yomi like this applies. Make sure you know your full options set for any given possibility, and know which options beat which options of your opponents. From here you get to play a game of Yomi. Identify which option has the biggest yield, which option of your opponent’s has the biggest yield, and what the counter to it, what is the counter to your opponent's counter to your biggest yield option, etc...

This is where prediction comes in. Because you have these different layers of yomi, you have to not just be aware of what your opponent can do, but what they're probably going to do. Yomi doesn't help just to know all the options, in the end, you've got to make good choices on which option you're going to take, and there are ways of determining which options to choose.

During a match, you're paying attention to how your opponent is playing. What sort of style are they using? are they the kind of player that likes to hit you whenever there's an opening? are they the kind of player who waits for you to do something and likes to shield it? do they like to dodge attacks by moving out of the way? do they anticipate shields much and grab? Try to figure out how they process things, and what they're likely to do so you can do the counter. If the other player's reading you all over, your choices are to do the counter to the counter of what you would normally have done there, or to just do something completely random.

No one can "Master" yomi, but you will need to grasp a firm understanding of how it works, how to apply it, and how to evaluate situations involving it and assess your choices so you can learn from mistakes.

XIII. Mindgames

This utterly overused word that almost always gets used wrong, simply refers to anything you do to out-think your opponent in a match. I've already covered most ways of doing this in this guide, I'll just wrap up a few more topics in this section.

[Baiting]
A critical technique for forcing openings in your opponents strategies. Try to find out at what spacings or situations your opponent likes to attack, with what attacks, and what the best thing to do to counter that is. For instance, you may have notice that your opponent (a marth) is at a medium range from you, he likes to jump forward with a forward air, and retreat away with another forward air to cover his landing. At first glance to a less experienced player, this seems impassable and that you'd need to bait the marth to stop doing that in order to hit him. However, there is a gap there: between the fairs you can hit him. You just need to be closer to him than you can get. If you dash forward and shield, you'll shield the first fair and slide while in shield, and be able to hit him from your shield before the 2nd fair. A simple way to set that up is to place yourself at that medium range he likes doing that at, and then perform your dashing shield counter if he starts doing it.

[Conditioning]
People have this tendency to think that if they see a pattern, it's likely to continue. Because of this, you can set up a pattern, but then break it as they try to punish it, by countering their counter to your original strategy. A simple example is that of a marth whiffing a utilt, doing another utilt or two, and then fsmashing when the opponent reacts. If you fake a pattern, your opponent may think that you're messing up and being predictable, when actually, they're messing up and being predictable by trying to "punish" your "pattern".

XIV. Further Reading + Credits

Further Reading

By same author (SCOTU):
Playstyles
Match Control
Developing Strategies for Counterpicking
You're Doing It Wrong
Glitches, Exploits, and Intentional
Your First Tournament
A Guide to Not Suck
Aiming to Miss
The Physics of Attacks

Other Materials:
Playing to Win (Sirlin) - An EXCELLENT book written by the most prominent gaming theorist
Reaching A Higher level - compilation (Binx/others) (articles from before brawl, but many still apply)
Observation (MookieRah)

Be sure to keep up with the competitive brawl and tactical brawl boards on SWF and AiB, as well as the character specific boards for the characters you play!

Credits

Main Author: SCOTU
Additional Content: Ankoku
Concepts borrowed from:
Sirlin
MookieRah​

XV. Conclusion

The road to becoming a good competitive smash player is long, and can be frustrating. In the end, it will be a lot of fun, you'll make a lot of friends and rivals, and you may even make some money. There's a very distinct mindset that helps you get better faster. This is the positive mindset that refuses to get frustrated or angry. It refuses to "sandbag" (intentionally play worse to just mess around). It also always knows they're not the best. There's always room to improve. It always holds itself to high standards of "good" so it has more to strive for. It strives for perfection.

I hope this guide helps at least a few people, and I hope everyone who takes the time to read any of it gets something out of it. If it needs be, I will update this when I get the time to do so.
 

Zankoku

Never Knows Best
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Locked.








I MEAN STICKIED. I'm STICKYING this thread. NOT locking it.
 

PK-ow!

Smash Lord
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This is where prediction comes in. Because you have these different layers of yomi, you have to not just be aware of what your opponent can do, but what they're probably going to do. Yomi doesn't help just to know all the options, in the end, you've got to make good choices on which option you're going to take, and there are ways of determining which options to choose.

During a match, you're paying attention to how your opponent is playing. What sort of style are they using? are they the kind of player that likes to hit you whenever there's an opening? are they the kind of player who waits for you to do something and likes to shield it? do they like to dodge attacks by moving out of the way? do they anticipate shields much and grab? Try to figure out how they process things, and what they're likely to do so you can do the counter. If the other player's reading you all over, your choices are to do the counter to the counter of what you would normally have done there, or to just do something completely random.

No one can "Master" yomi, but you will need to grasp a firm understanding of how it works, how to apply it, and how to evaluate situations involving it and assess your choices so you can learn from mistakes.
I don't see why it's important to grasp all this theory on Yomi. Isn't all you need just a matter of guessing what your opponent will do, and countering that? And "mixing up" - in the right sense you described earlier - to prevent him from doing the same?
 

SCOTU

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I don't see why it's important to grasp all this theory on Yomi. Isn't all you need just a matter of guessing what your opponent will do, and countering that? And "mixing up" - in the right sense you described earlier - to prevent him from doing the same?
understanding yomi is how you better your ability to predict what your opponent is going to do, and maximize your ability to punish.
 

SCOTU

Smash Hero
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Depends. You want to play the character that you'll do the best with if you're trying to win. MK isn't the character for everyone, although most people will find themselves winning easiest with higher tier characters (which is why they're high tier lol)
 

TP

Smash Master
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You forgot the single most important part of being able to play smash competetively: living on a coast.
 

SCOTU

Smash Hero
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You forgot the single most important part of being able to play smash competetively: living on a coast.
most people can't up and change that, though. If you can (or already do), then good for you!

Not bad.
But this might be a bit too much for new folks to take in.
New players can just read Part 1, and understand part 2 as they progress
 

MoblinMan

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The problem with stickying great threads like this as soon as they're made is that no one looks at the stickies. lol



I'm guilty of this
 

sMexy-Blu

Smash Lord
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Nice read, you're one of the mods that post a lot of useful stuff in here, keep up the good threads.
 

ozzie544

Smash Cadet
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wow you went all out dud that was so useful you also seperated catigores and i liked the first part for beginers that is so useful thanks.
 

Ehkoes

Smash Rookie
Joined
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Long Beach, CA
Because of this thread I think I'll ask for advice after losing (or maybe even after winning) a lot more often.
I also don't take that much consideration when picking a counter stage but I will from now on.

Thanks you've helped a lot.
 

PitMasta

Smash Journeyman
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Fantastic Guide, the Friend i referred is reading it!

dang good stuff to bad brawl sucks a huge weiner
Please Read the Forum Rules.

If your wanting to say "brawl sucks a huge weiner" go say that in the Melee Forums, not in the Brawl Forums!


but if i remember right, there shouldn't be any "brawl sucks" "melee sucks" in any of the forums at all.
 

Pr0phetic

Dodge the bullets!
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QQ more nub? besides i said it was a good guide *******
Still doesn't mean you can bypass the rule. we understand your opinion but yea he was right in saying that.

I agree with percon, the aiming to miss section was a good read.
 

Chileno4Live

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I've read almost the whole guide, i took 40 mins to completely understand what i've read and to get a picture in my head of how i should be playing. This helps alot SCOTU, i really learned alot actually. I'm seeing now what i'm doing wrong. I keep using my shield to much which gets me grabbed alot, and i roll a bit to much which makes me predictable and vulnerable. So the next time, i should use my shield less and use a different way of getting away or getting behind my opponent. I actually already know a few things that might help (Pivot Grab and Less time of holding shield). See, lol, i can see my mistakes. Thnx alot!!
 

JUDGE

Smash Lord
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wow
you must have very mucv patience to write such a huge thread!!
 
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