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Learning to Improve: Using Mix-ups, and Fixing Bad Habits

Pierce7d

Wise Hermit
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Teaneck, North Bergen County, NJ, USA
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Often, when asked for advice, I don't like to just send it to one person, because all of us are always trying to get better, and I know that I benefited a lot by learning from others and reading guides and articles. Because of that, I'm often prompted to write new guides when someone asks me a question, in the hopes that many people can learn from it, or perhaps contribute and rewrite the way I see the game to improve upon my own perspective.

Today's topics: Improving over time, and Mix-ups.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To get
better at smash in general, you should pay attention to two main details: When do you land a hit, and when do you get hit?

When you land a hit, you have to ask yourself, "How did I convince the opponent to leave themselves open in a way I could hit them?" Did you anticipate an attack and parry or counter? Did you pressure them into picking a defensive option that lost to your option. If you're just throwing out attacks, and hoping they hit with no real method of how to maximize your offense, you're never going to reach higher level play.

When you get hit, instead begin considering, "Why did I get hit?" What situation were you in? What options did you have in that situation? Which options would probably be more consistent in minimizing the damage you take?"

Now, obviously, we're only human. We cannot analyze every single option that we select and our opponent selects, and optimize each decision every single time on the fly. However, if you set your focus on the key questions above, if you fix one little thing at a time, if you just get really good at dealing with one new situation every 20 matches, then you will get better at Smash overtime. When you are practicing, you can't just focus 100% on beating your opponent with everything you know. You have to constantly build upon what you know, and adapt and learn, so that you can beat more opponents in the future.

As you do this, you will develop a strategy and your own personal style. You will find options that you are comfortable using, and if you're good, option that consistently work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A lot of people complain that they have really bad habits, and want to know how to break them. First, let's define a habit. We cannot fix what we don't understand.

A habit is an option that you frequently select in a situation due to comfort.

Bad habits are going to be options you choose because to you, it is a natural response to the situation at hand. You are not picking that option because you feel it has the best possible solution. You are picking it because it feels "right". Instead of trying to win, you begin subconsciously "following the script".

He rolled behind me! Oh no, he's going to grab. Let's spot-dodge now!

This is a popular example of a bad habit. Even though the majority of options your opponent will select after a cross-up roll beat spot-dodge, and spot-dodge just resets the situation you're already in, you pick it quickly and subconsciously, because it's a comfortable reaction.

But if we understand this, why do so many players have such difficulty overcoming their bad habits?

The key is, you cannot simply get over a bad habit by realizing it's bad and deciding not to pick that option anymore. You must ANALYZE THE SITUATION, and REPLACE THE OPTION WITH A BETTER OPTION. Suppose your reaction to that situation is one of many support columns to a building. That option is a crumbling column, and it's not helping your building stand. But you can't just decide "Oh, this column is damaged. Let me remove it." You have to find a NEW COLUMN that can sustain the building. Otherwise, your building is still EQUALLY unsupported, and you'll find yourself relying on that same crumbling column.

This requires forethought and conscious effort. Next time your opponent rolls behind you, think to yourself, "Hmm, what can I do to MINIMIZE the damage I take? Can I somehow punish this roll on reaction? What do I think my opponent is going to do now? Should I make this read and punish that action?

So if you spotdodge, and you see your opponent waits, and then grabs, why not next time try a Dair or Usmash out of shield? If you see they are blocking, why not try dropping your shield and turning around and just grabbing to catch them off guard? Or, you can pick my own favorite option and just roll away the direction they just came from to reset the situation to neutral. You must DECIDE a NEW OPTION to use before you can replace the old bad habit. You cannot replace the bad habit if you have no option to replace it with.

As you implement the new option into place, that old bad habit will slowly start to fade away, and you will continue to write and rewrite your own unique style. If you understand the game well, or even if you can just keep consistently choosing better and better options that consistently result in you landing hits, and not getting hit, then you'll rise to become a great player.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Using mix-ups is not as hard as people make it sound sometimes, and you will get better and better at this as you become more experienced. Mix-ups are simply a library of options that can apply to the same situation, so that you can adapt to your opponent, and make it harder for your opponent to adapt to you.

Let's say your opponent is in the air, falling down. If you Uair them, you might be able to hit them back up, and reset the situation. However, if they airdodge, then they'll get to the ground, and you'll be above them, reversing the situation. So maybe it's best to just wait for the airdodge. But WAIT! What if they decide to fall with an attack? It might be better to Uair after all!

This is a common situation that players have to face all the time. So what's the right answer? Neither of those options, or both! You can't rely on the same option to work every time. Maybe you'll Uair the first time. If your opponent gets hit, they'll probably airdodge the next time. If your opponent airdodged and doesn't get hit, they'll probably airdodge the next time anyway since it worked the first time. So next time the opponent is falling from above, switch up that option, and grab that landing, instead of going for an Uair. Keep them guessing by switching up your options, so you don't get too predictable.

A player with good mix-ups has a selection of good options for one situation, and interchanges between them. As you build up your own personal styles and strategies, try and find more than one thing that works well, or solutions to options that beat your favorite option. This way, you can always keep your opponent's on their toes, and you won't find yourself stuck because the opponent knows how to react to one thing. Constantly adapting players will grow to become top players. I'm sure you'll get there soon, if you're not already there!

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tl;dr
If you're not willing to study, you're not going to get better anyway. I don't know why you clicked on a thread that's clearly a guide written by Pierce if you weren't ready to read an essay. I think this is one of my shorter ones =P
 

Master Raven

Smash Master
Joined
Mar 25, 2008
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SFL
I like this. I try to make it a point to mixup adequately in my matches, something that I think most players don't think about.

As for the bad habits bit, well, it'd be moot for me to say that I have some of my own; EVERYONE does, but that is good advice and next time I play I'm going to emphasize more on that.
 

-LzR-

Smash Hero
Joined
Jan 1, 2009
Messages
7,649
Location
Finland
An awesome read by Pierce, just as expected. I had never thought of replacing habits instead of removing them.

:phone:
 

Sephy95

Smash Lord
Joined
Aug 29, 2010
Messages
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Location
San Antonio, Texas
I'll definitely use this. Awesome thread. One bad habit I have is not mixing up my attacks and manuevers. I'll definitely work on that.
 

Gadiel_VaStar

Smash Champion
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Nov 12, 2009
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GadielVaStar
Thanks a lot Pierce, I appreciate it. I think something that I can work on is just having that open mind and mental discipline. It seems like I have a "mental laziness" when I play even though I'm subconsciously mixing up my options. If I can make my mind stronger and allow options to be thought out in different scenarios then maybe I can become a top player. I know I need to work on my DI more, but this is mainly to give a player a better conscious game.
 

Nanaki

Smash Lord
Joined
Jul 25, 2008
Messages
1,063
Location
The Golden Saucer
Was a really good read. One thing that I think always helps is to illustrate your points with video evidence, whether yourself or otherwise. Maybe an example of someone spotdodging after a roll once, then the next time doing a responsive roll to where the first roller came from. Probably more work than you're willing to put in on something like this, but would have helped drive the point home.

Nice work.
 

Supreme Dirt

King of the Railway
Joined
Sep 28, 2009
Messages
7,336
It's nice to see stuff which I sort of know in written form. It really helps.

Also I've never had that spotdodge habit. Probably comes from so much 64.
 

cheezetime

Smash Rookie
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Apr 23, 2011
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cheezetime
So I've been having this problem where in a 1v1 game my immediate response to roll dodge the opposite direction and follow up with an a-a (for bowser) or a-a-a (for mario) because of this i often find myself extremely vulnerable.i can't seem to fix this habit whenever i try I perform this action "unconsciously"
 

Inferno3044

Smash Master
Joined
Dec 31, 2008
Messages
3,755
Location
Teaneck, NJ/Richmond VA
I think you make the only walls of that I don't think "omg this guy has no idea what he's talking about." Good read. If you would care for my two cents on how to help someone with bad habits it's this: watch a vid of yourself. It's easier to notice a bad habit when you watch it than it is when you are actually playing. I watched a vid of myself from Pound 5 and I noticed that sometimes I airdodge stupidly early. Like so early that it doesn't benefit. I didn't notice this until I watched the vid trying to figure out why I lost.
 

Keys1281

Smash Journeyman
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
Messages
207
Location
Madison, AL
Awesome thread. This is vital to me, at my current level. It's not the control over my character or tech skill I'm missing, it's my bad habits and failure to keep my opponent guessing. :D

:phone:
 

Coolwhip

Smash Champion
Joined
Aug 3, 2010
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Chicago, IL
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Co0lwhip
This is really an awesome read, thanks alot pierce.
I''ll keep reading this over & over.
 

Albert.

Smash Master
Joined
Aug 1, 2008
Messages
3,539
Location
Boston, MA or Miami, FL
This is an exceptional guide, and helped to reinforce a lot of the **** I figured out through hard cold brick-and-mortar reavaluation of my game-play. I took apart my entire game play and fixed/edited a bunch of the bad stuff, to and change that I wasn't improving at competent speed.
 
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