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DK Discussion: Basic Fundamentals & Mentality


Smash Rookie
Sep 14, 2010
Basic Fundamentals & Mentality

The first step in learning any character is adopting the mentality that you need to have while playing the character and learning the most common maneuvers, approaches, and attacks you'll be using throughout your matches. Once you have this, you can set up a mental plan before each match of how you're going to get stocks, how you're going to keep your opponent from getting yours, and what you're going to do to get there. I'm new to competitive Smash, and going in without a game plan ahead of time is probably my most fatal mistake, and it's something I've never actually done before because I don't think I've ever really fully understood a character I've played. This is an extremely important thing to get down when you're going to play a character. Really the first step in learning Smash itself is just knowing how the game works and how you win. This is taking that basic foundation one step further; learning your character, how it works, and what its options are, is part of learning how the game works.

This discussion is all about questions like this:
When going into a match as DK, what is the game plan? Is it balls to the wall hyper aggression to take stocks by force? Is it a more patient neutral game with more dash dancing and wave dashing, waiting for the punishes? Or is it some combination, or something different? If it depends and could be either one, what are the situations that would entail each strategy? What is my overall goal in terms of taking stocks - do I prioritize forcing my opponent off-stage for the ledge guards, or rack up percentage off stage and finish them off with strong finishing moves?

Here's a great post written by Planet Piss in the thread I made a couple of days ago about getting the forum going. It has a lot of great advice for do's and don'ts with DK and delves right into the subject of learning DK's fundamentals. I figured it'd be a good step in the right direction to get this discussion started.
Here are some of my ideas, but I'd like to hear others' suggestions for advancing the DK meta. Things are looking better than they have in early P:M days, though.

New meta was something that wasn't and largely still isn't huge in P:M DK. He's similar to his Melee self, but now all of his moves are good. For some reason, however, many still play him like he's 1) stuck in Melee and 2) only been buffed in a couple of areas. Some examples:
-Uairing repeatedly to rack up damage with no ultimate end goal
-Bairing the crap out of opponents in neutral with little to no emphasis placed on spacing or timing (this move is not as fast but has more active frames and reach than its Melee iteration.)
-Over-reliance on nair as if it is a sex kick, while in reality it has different utility

I don't mean to sound like I'm the only one who knows DK very well, but the fact that there are good DKs around doesn't mean that he is even half-developed in terms of meta. Basically, he's not Fox and doesn't get mileage out of stuff like cargo-uthrow into uair against floaties (unless it kills, of course.) DK players have to be creative. The notion of "playing safe" doesn't really apply to DK. You have to play smartly, creatively, and sometimes dangerously. You have to pick options that aren't necessarily "guaranteed". Ex. Replace an uair with a double bair and you can combo opponents for longer. Full jump weak bair into immediate (no jump) forward+b spike is, in chess terms, the "best move" at certain percents. Bair into bair or nair into nair is "guaranteed", but neither will kill opponents who can DI semi-proficiently. The success of strange options depends on tech skill as well as a bit of problem-solving.

In general, I'm discussing the use of gimmicky options for neutral game without using true mix-ups. Many characters in PM have character gimmicks that actually work competitively, and appear less raw than Melee characters because of their relative lack in necessity to use separate button inputs to get successful hits. Spacies' shine, in Melee, for example, is actually a reflector-shield (mind=blown). Fox/Falco are intended to reflect projectiles by holding the shine command, which is something that makes them unique--a gimmick of theirs. Falcon has Falcon Punch, Marth has shield-breaker, etc. These moves are character gimmicks that may or may not work well in tournament play. However, in P:M, character gimmicks (something perhaps canon and generally neutral-game based) are made with competitive play in mind, so projectiles like Mario's fireballs or several dash-attacks (DK's semi-included) give characters easier ins. Moves like Yoshi's egg roll combine approach into attack--other examples being Kirby's dash-attack, Link's items, and Sonic in general.

Where DK fits into this: He isn't as good at this as other characters. I know it's every P:M player's pet rebuttal that every character has its broken attributes, and I know it sounds a lot like "I have to work harder to play my character than you work for playing yours", but DK's success in neutral is barred from a high-level with gimmicky play. Simply put, DK can't fill the stage with fire, throw bombs and boomerangs while standing behind a shield, hammer on shields DGAF style, or move-in too fast to be punished. DK's dash-attack--and by slight extension, his dash-grab--are his only approach gimmicks, and against patient, mid-high level opponents, they won't be successful. My overall point is that DK has excellent potential in neutral which is often squandered in lieu of his incredible punish game. DK has to use a multitude of options, in neutral and while comboing, in order to be successful.

If you're playing a numbers game; if you run in with nair after a couple of dash-dances or risk crouch-cancel/shield punish on a mid-stage dash-attack, then your DK isn't what it could be. He's fast, but not fast enough to avoid most players' reactions. His falling speed is also somewhat fast, but he's no Falcon. He can't DJ into a FF dair (as reliably) to bait-and-switch shield-grabs. He's huge, and thereby extremely easy to combo, and he has no vertical recovery. He is a better contender than what he's made out to be, though, and has a ton of solid options for different circumstances, and these options almost all depend on mix-ups.
Here's a list of the stuff I use, and I'm sure there is more. Note: The things I listed previously aren't bad, but are used too frequently and gimmicky for DK to make a leap in meta.
P:M DK in general:
-Baits: player-player conditioning. This is necessary. You have to not only learn your opponents' habits, but with all these amazing new character builds, force them out as well.
-Spacing/timing split: Alternating between well-spaced and well-timed moves, based on my last point, will produce baits. Of course it's beneficial to both space and time moves well, but your opponents will learn your habits too easily if you don't mix-up.
-Fast fall vs. no fastfall (Thank Mango for this trick): Opponents expecting a fast-falled nair may come out of their shields early.
-Close-up vs. far away (The toes of bair vs' the quads, dtilt vs. jab, dash-grab vs. JC grab): Alternations between well-spaced moves and moves which come closer. Keeping opponents from coming in (defensive play), or going in (offensive). Poor spacing, when well-timed (low to the ground, generally), makes opponents think you messed-up. Try low bair on shield-->up+b.
-Intrinsic move differences, especially subtle differences: down+B for a tech read as opposed to going in and trying for grab, for example.
-Using literally all of his moves at some point or other
-Knowing percents
-Knowing specific hitboxes on moves and where/when they are active
-Knowing IASA timing
-Playing intuitively vs. playing on reaction: Hit-confirms as opposed to reaction-based combos, and vise-versa. Think Falcon's uair strings into knee vs. Falco's dash-attack into dair (spike kill).
-DI Mix-ups: Dash dance nair under a floaty who thinks you're trying to pursue a combo from below. Up+b opponents who are trying to use escape DI. Turning around repeatedly while in cargo-mode and/or mixing-up cargo b-throw and f-throw to get optimal DI for a kill. Cargo uthrow is not the end-all be-all; it's a complete myth that there is an objectively consistent way to get out of it, save for player reaction time.
-Reads in general: do them.
-Weak/strong hits​

This hits on a lot of really good points. Don't treat this post by Planet Piss as though it's the only thing to start discussing about or go forward from; I just thought it fits very well into this topic and sums a lot of things up nicely.​
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