Lexi Loses 1: Vs Haotwo

Welcome to the first edition of my new series Lexi Loses, in which I’ll be looking over some of my tournament losses in the hopes of identifying any bad habits I may have in my gameplay or areas that can be improved. I’m going to be questioning my decisions, looking for optimizations and hopefully becoming a stronger player by the end of this analysis.

The set I’m going to be looking at is the loser’s semifinals of a tournament named Fragsoc 4 which I attended on Saturday 18th June. My opponent is Haotwo who is currently ranked 9th best in the UK according to smashranking.eu. You can watch the full match below!

It doesn’t take long for me to find that my punish game is lacking. I get a nice shine (Was that a shield poke!?) but get a measly 13% from it. I was trying to do something overly fancy and freeform with the upair, a simple dair would have given me an easy uptilt or in the worst case scenario a tech chase. This shine could have led to a kill if I’d have used it better!  ezgif.com-crop
 ezgif.com-gif-maker  This is something that I’ve been catching myself doing all too often, my opponent is shielding close to me and I just dair into an easy shield grab. A much better response is wavedash forward shine and if they’re still shielding after the shine I can do standard shield pressure mixups.
 As a general rule, I don’t like upair for continuing combos, there’s almost always a better option. So why on Earth do I use it so much? The first upair could have been an uptilt with an easier follow up. The second and third upairs weren’t necessary at all, I could have wavelanded onto the platform and just crouched and covered every option Haotwo had. A get-up attack would have been an easy fsmash with me being at 6% crouch cancelling and regular get up or rolls would have started up a new combo.  ezgif.com-crop(1).gif
 ezgif.com-crop(5).gif  I get rekt pretty quickly on my first stock of game 3 and I don’t want this to happen again in the future. I get a grounded shine at 0% and my favourite followup is just to waveshine underneath them and shine them again, but I don’t do that here. I get impatient to attack, trying to take Haotwo to the top platform, a calmer player could have killed here instead of being killed themselves. My poor DI on the upair allowed Haotwo to followup easily and that double jump side-b was asking to be baired. A quick shine stall could have baited a move out and allowed me to double jump back to the stage and failing that I could have sweetspotted my side-b, at least demanding some precision from my opponent.
Where are my ledge dashes? During this set my choices from the ledge have been either to double laser or to ledge hop dair, both unsafe options a lot of the time. I have practised ledge dashes but didn’t employ them here for fear of SDing. I should have more confidence in my practice and ledge dash whenever it looks like the best option. Once I’ve revealed that I have ledge dash as a tool my opponent would be forced to respect it and given enough space, double lasers become safe again.  ezgif.com-crop(6).gif
 ezgif.com-crop(7).gif  Many times in this set my approaches are fluffed out by full hops and there’s a few ways I could have gotten round this. To start I need to space my lasers a bit better, the one in this example is much too aggressive. I can then dash dance in front of him and see what he does or looking at this GIF I’m pretty sure if I reacted quickly to the full hop I can do a turnaround uptilt. This full hop in response to approaches is something I need to start keeping track of against Fox, in the same way I keep a mental log of my opponents ledge, tech and recovery options.
“This should be a kill” says Faithless on the commentary. He’s not wrong, this should have been a very simple bair or even a shine tournaround dair if I wanted a couple of style points. Bad awareness from me here, I think I was over-excited to close out a kill and develop a stock lead at 0% instead of focusing on Haotwo’s position. Haotwo actually takes a stock after this recovery changing the tide of battle massively, it’s crucial to not throw these opportunities away.  ezgif.com-crop(8).gif
 ezgif.com-crop(9).gif  Here I could have finished the game with a jump-off dair but I just wasn’t brave enough to go for it. Kamikaze dairs are something I should keep in mind though whenever my opponent is on their last stock. The fsmash wasn’t an awful choice though, the lip of Pokemon Stadium may have saved Haotwo here.
When my opponent is recovering from afar I need to make grabbing the ledge a higher priority. In this example I’d already sniped Haotwo’s double jump leaving him with the options of sweetspotting his side-b or recovering high with firefox. Grabbing the ledge with a turnaround waveshine blocks his first option and sets me up to edgeguard his second option.  ezgif.com-crop(10).gif

Final thoughts

I’m relatively happy with my general game plan against Fox but watching these games leaves me with a lot to polish and brush up on. From here I need to put time into my punish game, capitalizing more heavily from my shines and using the platforms more confidently as opposed to upairing beneath them. I need to pay much more attention to my opponent whilst they are off stage, edgeguards are very important and they seem to be my weakest area at the moment. My ledge dashes need to have more impact on the sets that I play, if not directly getting something from them then threatening the option of the ledge dash and demanding respect at the edge. I didn’t perform a single shield drop in this set, something that I am capable of doing but evidently not at an unconscious on-demand level. This is something for me to work on in friendlies, it astounds me when watching top level players like Armada, Westballz and Plup how much they actually get from something as simple as a shield drop and it’s something I’d like available to me. I’m likely to face Haotwo again this weekend at Smashzilla 4 and I’m feeling confident about it. If I take in everything I learned from our games and practice then I can only get better.

If there is anything in this set that you think I’ve missed or could benefit from or if you just want to get in touch and stay updated with my blog please reach me on Twitter!

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Smashzilla 3

24th April 2016

On Saturday 23rd of April I attended an SSBM and Smash 4 tournament Smashzilla 3 in my hometown of Nottingham, hosted at The National Videogame Arcade. This event was organised by Benjamin ‘Kitton’ Leech and Louise Mossom who also run the sister event Geekzilla that runs weekly in-between tournaments. Assisting Ben and Louise in running the tournament was James ‘Geezaku’ Moon. I entered both singles and doubles for SSBM, pairing with Hao for teams who is a good friend and a top 10 player in the UK known primarily as a Marth main. My aim for this tournament was to finish within the top 3 for singles and to take 1st place in doubles. Looking at the signups on the Facebook event page the only players that I felt would present a challenge for me were Hao and Ahmad, with myself going even with Ahmad in our frequent friendlies and losing respectfully to Hao. Worth noting for this event is the absence of a lot of Midlands talent outside of Nottingham, notably the Leicester players and Bloodbowler who has recently moved out of the area. Smashzilla 3 was hosted on the same day as South Coast Regionals 10, a larger and more highly anticipated event and so a lot of the more dedicated players were traveling there.

Smashzilla 3

My day began at 6AM on the day of the tournament, waking up early to work an awkwardly placed shift at my workplace which luckily ended before the start of Smashzilla 3, allowing me to enter and compete. Arriving at the venue it wasn’t long until a surge of players emerged through the doors, a crowd of players packed themselves into the venue which quickly became hot and overcrowded. Despite SCR10 being hosted on the same date the turnout to Smashzilla 3 was fantastic, dwarfing Smashzilla 2 in terms of entrants. As usual I busied myself with friendlies and pleasantries with the familiar faces before the doubles bracket began and I was called for my first game of the tournament.

As top seed we were given a bye for first round and so first up were  Twin 1 and Twin 2 playing as a Marth/Sheik team. I don’t know either of these players on a personal level but I suspect they may be primarily Smash 4 players and I vaguely recognise their tags from past events. Despite Hao being known for his Marth he opted for Fox during this event. Both Twin 1 and Twin 2 seemed unfamiliar with spacie pressure and how to handle being rushed down during the set and I played relatively aggressively because of this. At times when I glanced over at Hao’s side of the stage he was bullying one or both of them with nair shine pressure and forcing them off the stage. As it was simple to get in and begin combos both me and Hao were free to split the stage in two and perform the kind of punishes seen in a singles bracket game. Together we swiftly took the set 2-0.

Next up in winner’s bracket was my crewmate Cravendale | Lactose Lad and Mom, a Fox/Peach team. Before this match I agreed with Hao that I should focus on the Fox and he on the Peach as I’m very confident with punishing fast-falling characters. This set my priorities were to play defensively as to avoid Peach’s downsmash and to also go for low-percent kills on the Fox. There were a few scary moments during this set where I found myself being downsmashed and hit off stage but Hao did an excellent job of shutting down their edgeguard attempts. For Fox a lot of my kills came from edgeguards, forward tilting his side-b attempts and dairing or bairing other recoveries whilst Hao ensured that the slow Peach couldn’t help out. We won 2-0.

Moving on and we are against Pete and Lumos, a Falco/Sheik team. These are both players that attend the Geekzilla weekly events and so I was somewhat aware of their playstyles and capabilities coming into this set. We won this set 3-0 and a big part of this was down to a lack of solid punishes from our opponents. There were times in this set where I felt I had made slight slip-ups in my tech or spacing but I almost always got away with it. Lumos was especially guilty of this, against Sheik I was expecting to get backthrown off the stage and edgeguarded but it didn’t happen. I did a lot of dashdancing this set and waited for good times to pounce and start up a combo. There was good synergy between Hao and I during this set, often we would hit an opponent towards each other and finish them off with a team combo.

Grand finals came and it was Squeechu and AlexTheAnt playing a double Puff team. Before the set began Hao and I agreed that a weakness of this team composition was that we could split them up and focus on one of them, whilst the other slowly tries to make their way over with Puff’s slow movement speed. We did exactly that, I would land a stray bair and displace one of the Puffs whilst the other got bullied. Lasers were nice in this set too, with both of us firing lasers at a far-away Puff the percentage racked up quick. During neutral I felt most comfortable on platforms, dropping with aerials to initiate. We took the set 3-0 and wrapped doubles up.

For singles bracket my first game in pools was against a Doc player called PG. PG seemed to be a newer player judging from his play, he was not going for  upthrow combos or attempting wavedash downsmashes. PG was also distinctly unfamiliar with Falco pressure or otherwise didn’t know how to handle it. My neutral in this set consisted of dash dancing and aggressive nairs, using uptilt and bair to combo and get quick kills. This set went 2-0 to myself.

Next was Cookie who played Falco in game 1 and Fox in game 2. I’d played Cookie during my Smashzilla 2  pools so I had an idea of what to expect. Cookie’s punish game was a lot weaker than my own and so the stock differential quickly shifted into my favour for both games. Like a lot of players I face in this phase of tournaments Cookie had trouble with my lasers and shield pressure. Should he have shine out of shield as an escape tool I’d have been forced to play more carefully and if he was able to respond to my lasers with wavedash out of shield or using platforms I may not have been able to steamroll quite in the manner that I did. 2-0 to me.

I faced Squeechu next who played Marth in game 1 and Puff in game 2. Squeechu was also in my pool for Smashzilla 2 so I was acquainted with his Marth before our set started. Squeechu seemed to have a competent control of his character and displayed some good reaction times but his weakness was in his strategy and decision making. Playing his Marth I sensed a desperation to close out each stock, an over-eagerness to get the kill. I abused this as I did the last time we faced, I spaced myself in his fsmash/fair range and shielded to which he would always fsmash. From there I just wavedashed forward and began the combos and stage control that carried me to a comfortable win. I’d have really liked to see a calmer neutral from Squeechu, dashdance grab was not a threat nor was wavedash backwards grab in response to my pounces. Game 2 Squeechu chose Puff and played a pretty standard game. On FD I would switch between hyper-defensive laser spam and all-out aggression whenever I sensed Squeechu was in ‘approach mode’ as opposed to ‘wall of pain’ mode. I took the set 2-0.

I played Pete next who I know to be a Falco main. In this set my punish game hit much harder, my kills being swifter and more efficient than his own. I was often looking for Pete to fall from platforms or from the air with a dair and so several times I waited for this and then initiated my combo. I was getting a lot of mileage from my shine out of shields too, Pete wasn’t going for shinegrabs in this set or fadeaway nairs after his shield pressure and so I was able to set combos up with this. I won 2-0 but saw a lot of promise in Pete, I know him from the Geekzilla weeklies and have seen his tech skill explode in recent weeks. I hope to see a good performance from him at Smashzilla 4.

Pools over and it’s time for me to play my first bracket game against Hy, a Marth main. Going into this set I didn’t know who Hy was or anything about him and so I had to figure him out quickly. Hy played pretty competently, seeming to have decent control over his character and an awareness of Marth’s strengths. One large problem I saw in Hy’s play was his over fondness of grabs, particularly upthrow. As I reached higher percentages I would shield and he would upthrow me, unable to follow up due to the percentage. Forward throws would have placed me more favourably for him, or even the forbidden Marth move backthrow. My neutral was all about baiting out a move from Hy with my movement  and then pouncing and starting a combo. I took the set 2-0.

I now had to play my milky brethren Cravendale | Lactose Lad who played Fox in game 1 and Ice Climbers in game 2. I play Lactose Lad often and so we both new each others playstyle and had a good idea of how the set would transpire. Lactose Lad started out really strongly in game 1, almost 0 to deathing me but flubbed whilst off stage and died to my singular dair. As we play regularly he was the first opponent I faced in bracket that was confident in playing around my lasers and had a developed neutral against Falco. I was able to dance around his approaches to start my combos and was also free to pressure his shield without the threat of a fast shine out of shield. Against Lactose Lad’s Ice Climbers I lasered heavily and did some crossover dairs when I saw him advancing. I used shine to split Nana and Popo up and used bairs to prevent Popo rejoining Nana. I took advantage of Nana’s AI when possible, fsmashing her predictable movements. I took this set 2-0.

My next game was against my other Cravendale crew member, Cravendale | Ahmad. At this point in the tournament I was extremely fatigued, doubles had overrun massively with many people waiting for two, even three hours in-between their doubles games. The singles bracket was also struggling to advance smoothly and I found myself running other pools to help organise people and get things rolling. With Melee singles and doubles running alongside Smash 4 singles and doubles, the players who had entered all events were in high demand and it was difficult to manage players in a way that all brackets could move forwards. Late sign-ups added to the problem, holding up pools even further.

Nevertheless I went ahead and played Ahmad and sleepwalked into a 0-2 defeat. I’m very unhappy with my performance in this set, I was losing in the neutral to patterns that I was dancing around earlier in the day during friendlies and was making errors in my shield pressure to which Ahmad happily abused with his developed punish game. My recoveries were also poor, I was unable to sweetspot and avoid Ahmad’s dtilts and I was getting fsmashed from my up-b despite there being angles available that could have avoided getting hit.

I was in loser’s now and was to face AlexTheAnt, the Puff player. My tiredness had reached it’s peak now to the point that I did not want to play any more Melee for the day and I would like to personally apologise to AlexTheAnt for my lack of enthusiasm during our set. My plan was as usual in this matchup to switch back and forth from very defensive to very aggressive depending on how my opponent was playing. AlexTheAnt did a good job of edgeguarding during our first game, capitalising on his backthrows as a good Puff should. I found myself on 1 stock whilst AlexTheAnt had 3 and thought I had lost game 1. The thought of dropping a game to someone that I was beating comfortably earlier in the day didn’t sit right with me and so despite fatigue I pushed myself into try-hard mode and cleaned up my movements and pressure. AlexTheAnt couldn’t handle my burst and I took game 1 and 2 by mixing up my playstyle and relying on autocancel bairs and laser fsmash traps to secure kills at midrange percents. AlexTheAnt also missed several rests during this set which was unfortunate, one of which being from an upthrow that I neglected to DI. I took this set 2-0.

Next up was a rematch between myself and Cravendale | Lactose Lad. Before our match I decided to leave briefly and get some coffee, if I had sat down in a particularly comfortable manner there is a good chance I’d have fallen asleep right there at the venue. I sat with Lactose Lad before the game and he gave me time to drink my coffee because he’s an absolute gent. Feeling more human after some caffeine Lactose Lad revealed he was going all Ice Climbers in this set which I think was a wise choice for him as my win rate against his Fox is so high. I played in a similar manner to how I did earlier in the tournament but I see the reason for me 3-0’ing him being two things: Firstly, Lactose Lad was not wobbling consistently, I mashed out of several grabs this set. Secondly is that I was adapting faster than he was, the first game was kind of close, second not so much and then the third game I won comfortably as I picked up on habits and patterns in neutral. I’m looking forward to seeing how his Ice Climbers develop in the future.

Next up was yet another Cravendale rematch against Ahmad, with all three of us representing our sponsor in the top 4. I was much happier with my performance in this set than I was about the set we played earlier in the bracket, my pressure was there and I was moving much more deliberately and playing a more complicated neutral against Ahmad. I was playing decently but so was he and so the set came down to the last game on Pokemon Stadium with the score tied at 2-2. The set actually came down to a last stock situation but Ahmad closed it out and took the set, he did a great job with his spacing with a lot of his combos ending in tippered fsmashes. I also found it hard to recover from the ledge and feel that I would have stood a better chance should I have had invincible ledge dash as an option to get around his edge pressure and force him to respect my space. Despite the loss I was happy to be done with Melee after a long day and also happy to see my crewmate advance to grand finals, well played Ahmad.

And so my tournament run was over! I took 3rd place in singles and 1st place in doubles. This was a fun event and the high turnout despite SCR10 makes me think that Nottingham could become a real hub for Midlands’ Smash community in the future. The downsides to this event would be that it could have been organised more wisely as there were hours between doubles games, pools that were overrunning badly and a hectic atmosphere of players not sure who they had to play or what was happening. I had a lot of fun at Smashzilla 3 and feel that Smashzilla 4 has the potential to be a great event that I’ll very much be looking forward to. I’m happy with my placements in both singles in doubles and also about all three players under the Cravendale sponsorship being in top 4. Congratulations to Hao on first place!

Full brackets:

Singles

Doubles

Falco Fridays #5

9th October 2015

Welcome to the 5th installment of Falco Fridays! Last week we looked over a game between Westballz and The Moon and this week I wanted to look at some Falco/Sheik action. It’s a recent game taken from The Big House 5 and is between Westballz yet again, and Swedish Delight. Those that have seen this set will know that Swedish Delight performs very well in this set and so I wanted to look at how he was able to compete toe to toe with a player such as Westballz, and how we Falcos can use this to better our play and understanding of the matchup.

Westballz loses his first stock via some reckless recovery choices. Being off stage or on the ledge against a Sheik is always going to be a rough spot to be in, but there are things we can do to try and increase our chances of survival. Given Sheiks original position here Westballz could have firebird stalled once or twice, or tried an invincible ledge dash. If by stalling we can get the Sheik to move out of position a bit then that’s something we can use to recover.

No birds allowed
No birds allowed

Personally, I prefer the air
Personally, I prefer the air
 Sheik is pretty great at controlling spaces  above her. Her back-air hits surprisingly high, her forward-air can clip through lower platforms and even her neutral-air is sort of high. Fighting Sheik could be compared to playing against a Marth in that perhaps it’s wiser to be beneath them. After all, Sheik’s available hitboxes beneath her are quite poor, her down-air certainly doesn’t threaten us given our up-tilt and back-air. It’s the grounded Sheiks that are scary, the airborne ones… not so much.
The more I play, watch and write about Falco the more I appreciate simply spacing back-airs. With Sheik on the ledge we can short-hop just out of forward-air range and as soon as she shows her face quickly hit her with Falco’s swift metallic leg.

All I do is bair bair bair no matter what~
All I do is bair bair bair no matter what~

Don't go over there!
Don’t go over there!
 Westballz chooses to do a side-B here that costs him his final stock. Again, being between Sheik and the ledge is very dangerous. She has all the tools she needs to kill a Falco from here, if the player is good enough you will die pretty much every time. Whilst Westballz could have perhaps survived by mixing up his recoveries slightly differently, the biggest thing to take from this is to just avoid the situation entirely. We may not always be able to prevent it but we can choose not to go there by choice.
Here is a great example of it being safe to chase a Sheik in the air. Westballz lands a triple up-air one after another whilst the Sheik doesn’t really have answers for it. She could throw out a down-air but it’s slow and easy to react to, and her other aerials do nothing in this situation. Should Sheik have been at a slightly lower percentage, full-hop down-airs work fine and lead to some relatively simple tech chases.

Up, up and away
Up, up and away

The triple scoop
The triple scoop
 So Sheik’s tilts are pretty good, and with improper DI this Falco could be you. Forward-tilt can be a difficult one to handle but DruggedFox’s blog suggests that Falco can shield the tilt and then punish it with a wavedash shine. I’ve not had chance to attempt this myself but I look forward to seeing it being implemented in pro-level play. If the Sheik pressures your shield with jabs, just shield-grab!

And that’s the set, Swedish Delight upsets Westballz 2-1 with some impressive modern Sheik play. Swedish Delight played amazingly well in the neutral, spacing lots of forward-airs which hit more often than not and covering as many options as he could at all times. Westballz’ approaches were handled excellently, whilst his punishes were good he wasn’t given the chance to set them up too often. Westballz did get a few ins by slowing the game down ever so slightly and spacing back-airs wisely as well as some laser approaches. Swedish Delight seemed to be a constant threat during this set, always covering something and when in control really pushed his lead, often taking a stock from one victory in neutral.

  If you have any suggestions for next week’s game then do link me in the comment section below or on Twitter @Lexi2Pro. If you think I missed something interesting or want to call me out on something I’ve been wrong on, just get in touch!

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MATE 5

6th October 2015

This Sunday I attended an SSBM tournament in Leicester: Melee At The Exchange. This event was run by a TO from Team Heir called Bradley Stafford and was hosted at a cafe and bar named The Exchange. I entered both the singles tournament as well as doubles, teaming with proficient Peach player and good friend BloodBowler. My aspirations before attending were to win first place in doubles and to take a top 3 position in singles, seeing as though a lot of local talent would not be entering such as Hao, Willz and Jin.https://scontent-lhr3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfl1/v/t1.0-9/12002915_10207644017002992_3681085598163048113_n.jpg?oh=282d468504e3e1b227831142785b06a8&oe=569A738A

The first event to run was doubles and I quickly used my first 20 minutes at the venue to play some friendlies to get warmed up. It had been a couple of weeks since I had last played the game and within this time my Falco went from an awful rusty mess to somewhat respectable. Unfortunately the tio file documenting the brackets had corrupted and I cannot recall all of the 12 teams that entered, however I can say that we were both confident for this event and that it was smooth sailing all the way up to winner’s finals where we were to play Frenzy and Calzum.

Frenzy and Calzum were also a Peach/Falco team, making this a doubles ditto. I found this matchup a little difficult to play, Frenzy and I were lasering above the heads of the Peach players in some sort of battle for air dominance whilst the constant threat of downsmash lurked on the ground. The strategy I eventually found comfort with in this set was to take the top platorm of the stage and bob downwards to snipe one of my opponents with an aerial. A back-air could easily finish off a high-percent Peach or push Falco into an edgeguard situation. The best case scenario would be if BloodBowler had one of them occupied and I was free to combo independantly in a singles-bracket mentality. We finished up winner’s finals taking it 3-1 and waited for the loser’s bracket to resolve to see who would be facing us in grand finals.

Low and behold Frenzy and Calzum re-emerged and once more it was Falco/Peach Vs. Falco/Peach. Our previous 3-1 win had me feeling confident but they seemed to step it up in grand finals, I was getting combo’d by Frenzy a lot more and falling into down-smashes. The games we had won before I felt that I was playing much more patiently and really milking each of my stocks for as much as I could but in grand finals I was perhaps trying to do a bit too much. My approaches against Frenzy were met by a shine out of shield and a crouch-cancelled down-smash with Calzum. We lost 3-2 and so with us coming from winner’s side the brackets had reset and a final best of five was to be played.

The final set played out very similarly to the previous one, I was being bullied off stage and then edgeguarded by Frenzy but when it was my turn to do the same I wasn’t finishing the job. By this point I had figured out Frenzy’s response to shield pressure and concluded that I could very easily get shine-grabs against him however in a doubles format this wasn’t a useful discovery, I couldn’t go for these grabs unless I wanted to get slapped by Peach or dash-attacked. My strategy of taking the top platform wasn’t working as well as before either, unlike before I wasn’t given full reign of the airspace and couldn’t get as many independant combos started. This set came all the way down to the last game and to a 1v1 situation between BloodBowler and Frenzy, it couldn’t have been more close. BloodBowler was at first dominating the stage, getting Frenzy to around 70% and was in an edgeguard situation but then at the last second found his head bonking beneath Battlefield’s ledge. We lost 3-2 once again and took 2nd place for doubles.

Time for singles now and and I’m feeling pretty good. I knew who I would struggle against here and who I would have an easier time with but felt that I had the potential to beat anyone if I played my absolute best and stayed within the game. I took a quick glance at my pool sheet to see who I was up against in order to qualify for the pro bracket and I didn’t recognise the names of any opponent on a personal level, so with that and having just placed 2nd in doubles I was very relaxed going into these games.

My first game was against Knocker, a Sheik main. The first stock of the first game was pretty even, I definitely slept on him a bit. He was Sheiking- following up on my rolls, abusing ftilt and dthrow, going for off-stage needles, all good stuff. I decided to mix up my approaches a bit more, faking my laser approaches by doing a short dash-dance before I pounced and sliding off platforms with an aerial to catch him out. I kept my Falco moving and Knocker seemed as though he didn’t have a plan to deal with a lot of my approaches, and my follow-up punishes were longer and harsher than what he was offering. Add laser control and uptilt anti-airs to this and I closed it 2-0. I’m looking forward to seeing how Knocker performs at future events.

Next was Jaysotee, a Marth player. Marth is a matchup that I quite enjoy and have a lot of experience with, I locked him down with lasers and kept just out of that sword range. Jaysotee seemed a bit overwhelmed by my Falco, throwing out some questionable forward-smashes and premature aerials that I was more than happy to punish. When a Marth is not utilising wavedash out of shield or dodging the lasers with the platforms, this matchup can become very one sided. Marth’s also pretty easy to combo with Falco once you know how, and Jaysotee’s sub-par combo DI allowed me to carry him across the stage. I took this set 2-0 and cannot stress enough the importance of wavedash out of shield and Marth’s grab in this matchup.

Final pool game now and it’s Cash£ and his Ganon. I smiled when I saw his character choice for a couple of reasons: It’s great to see people playing mid/high tier characters as they’re becoming rarer and rarer in the face of 20XX, and secondly I’m really confident in this matchup. The last Ganon I played was Eikelman so I was surprisingly prepared for the Ganon pick. My combos in this set were very long, he’s an easy character to beat on and his responses to laser spam are pretty poor. Cash£ made a few attempts to stomp me from above but with awareness I can dash-dance right out of the way and start the next combo. Cash£ did attempt the downthrow chaingrab a couple of times which was nice but wasn’t able to get much from them. There was also a distinct lack of jabs and waveland mobility too, I was given full control of this set and got the double four-stock 2-0.

Pools over, bracket time! My first game was called out and it was against a Fox main named Geezaku. The last time I had played this Fox I was dominant, I went into this set confident but perhaps too much so. Game one was really close and ended up coming down to the last stock. It took me a long time to dissect his neutral game and figure him out, he was adamant on holding the platforms and playing keep-away. I’m a lot more comfortable playing the horizontal game rather than traversing upwards and was caught out a few times as I was trying to chase him. A few times my techs were read and I was hit by a short-hop up-air which impressed and surprised me, those lead to some scary situations. My saving grace in this game were my punishes and my edgeguarding. My combo game was decent and more often than not I finished my food. I missed several side-b edgeguards however as the TV was muted and didn’t have the audio cue but this is something I should have checked prior to the game. Game two was much less close, Pokemon Stadium was a good counterpick traditionally but I felt as though it contradicted his playstyle a little bit, without that top platform I found him much easier to control and ended the set 2-0. I’d very much like to play more games against Geezaku, whilst I’m confident against Fox he plays a style that I struggle more against, I’d appreciate more time to figure out the neutral against him on stages like Battlefield and FoD.

Advancing through winner’s I am to face Calzum, the Peach main I faced in doubles. I have a mixed win record against Calzum, sometimes winning and sometimes losing but since we last played I had put more time into the Peach matchup. Game one and I’m struggling, this matchup is so punishing on my side. If I make a slight tech mistake I could be punished heavily and having not been able to practise anything tech-skill for many months I was making exactly these mistakes. I was getting shield-grabbed a lot which should not happen and Calzum was able to convert his grabs accordingly. I was able to get a few combos going but couldn’t finish them, I let him live a bit longer than I would have liked and don’t think I got a down-air kill for the entirety of game one. I lost on Battlefield and with Yoshi’s being banned was forced to go back to Battlefield again. This game I had an attitude change, a second wind. I wanted to get those quick kills that I knew were possible and took his first two stocks whilst on my first, going for some more risky, confident plays and not over-respecting him. The aggression really paid off and I took game two just by not fearing the big punishes Peach can do. Calzum took me to Final Destination next and it was a bit of a bloodbath. I didn’t have platforms to run to and laser control wasn’t happening with Peach floating at an awkward height. My poor shield-pressure gave him shield-grabs which in turn led to me being chain-grabbed and disposed of. In retrospect I should have played with full hops more, I tried to take him head on and it just didn’t work. I was sent to loser’s here 2-1.

Moth, a Fox main was waiting for me in the loser’s bracket. I’d played him a few times in the past and had a strong win record against him. I played very aggressively and relied on getting big conversions from my initial pounces. This Fox was very different to Geezaku’s in that Moth did not abuse Fox’s speed as much and seemed a bit easier to combo, developing good DI/SDI against Falco makes it way harder for me to combo. My plan was just to overwhelm with pressure and then to punish as hard as I can and it worked, I got the 2-0 victory.

Brado was next, a Jiggs main. Jiggs is the matchup I fear most and is one of my least played matchups in SSBM. I wasn’t especially confident going into this one just because of the unfamiliarity. I’d watched some Jiggs matches recently and even wrote a Falco Fridays on the matchup but nothing can prepare me as much as actually playing against a Jiggs and experimenting and playing for myself. I tried to space some uptilts against Brado but he was playing far too passively for them to connect, I was just getting back-aired. I tried some lasers to make him approach and spaced some back-airs which were more effective, and down-air pressure seemed to work very well. Our games were close but I never seemed to have a solid sense of control or a lead, we were chipping away at each other and trading but it was all in his favour. I got a few low-percent kills with laser forward-smash but they weren’t often enough to make up for Brado’s gimps and an up-throw rest. Again I feel full-hops would have been a good idea given Jiggs’ slow jump speed compared to mine. I’d like to play more friendlies with Brado at some point or just against Jiggs in general, I don’t feel as though it’s a bad matchup for Falco, more that I’m poorly versed in it.

And so in Melee singles I finished 7th place, quite far from the top 3 spot I wanted. I don’t beat myself up about it though, my Peach and Jiggs matchups are poor and my tech skill this tournament was way off. Once I reclaim my Melee setup I can prepare for these events a lot more, I shouldn’t have gotten shield-grabbed as much as I did during this tournament at all. My movements were sloppy too during MATE 5, there’s a lot for me to work on and I know exactly what I need to do to improve. Jiggs, Peach and Sheik are all on my list of matchups to grind and my tech skill tools need an update: I have Westballz pressure to learn, reverse shine down-air edgeguards to re-learn and lots of movement techniques to get down. I also need to just play a bit more confidently, it’s good to respect an opponent’s options but I have to take a few risks sometimes, they can really pay off.

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Falco Fridays #4

2nd October 2015

Welcome to the fourth edition of Falco Fridays! Last week we looked at a game from Zhu and Baxon as they played for pride in an intense Falco ditto but this week we turn our gaze once more to Westballz. This week’s game comes from CEO 2015 and Westballz is against The Moon in a loser’s top 8 game, both players on the verge of being eliminated fom the tournament.

A big combo to start off the game but notice that Westballz gets all of this from a shield-drop. Marths are usually very comfortable beneath those lower platforms, free to up-tilt or up-air as they please but if we can shield-drop reliably we can strip this character strength from them and actually punish. Shield-dropping is something I intend to invest time into myself, Westballz moreso than other Falco players really showcases how powerful of a technique it can be.

Surprise shield-drop
Surprise shield-drop

Killing me softly~
Killing me softly~
 Soft back-airs make for an elegant down-air setup. From centre-stage Westballz gets this by reading The Moon’s roll and chasing him with Falco’s generous full-hop. Marth’s weight makes him a great target for this but if we’re savvy enough with our percentages then the whole cast can be victim to back-air into down-air.
Back-air into back-air is fine too. I love this against Marth because it’s easy to get, after the first back-air has landed the Marth has very poor aerial options, all of them leaving him feeling vulnerable. Falco’s jumps are high and swift which makes this extremely hard to react to. We can implement this into other matchups as well, Peach having similar struggles against it and versus heavier opponents the second back-air is often a read against their use of double-jump.

Do people still say 'sex-kick'?
Do people still say ‘sex-kick’?

"Just roll so I can kill you"
“Just roll so I can kill you”
 Everybody knows Yoshi’s is great for Marth but why do so many Falco’s like it too? Because as Marth gets his easy tippers on those lower platforms, we get easy strong back-airs and even up-tilts with good spacing. As soon as The Moon hit that platform he was as good as dead, it’s effortless for a Falco in this position to punish any of Marth’s options.
Lasers lasers lasers! Here The Moon is a stock down and seems pretty intent on staying near the ledge, and as one of the most easily gimped characters in the game we should immediately be suspicious. Westballz uses the length of Dreamland to harass The Moon with lasers in order to draw him out of his comfort zone and hopefully commit to an unsafe approach.

Pew pew pew!
Pew pew pew!

BombSoldier we salute you
BombSoldier we salute you
 Final Destination, another stage favourable to both Marth and Falco. Marth of course has his chaingrab and Falco gets these long, Bombsoldier-esque pillar combos as demonstrated by Westballz here. Lots of down-airs, lots of full-hops with no pesky platforms to disrupt anything. Racking up percent with some old-school strategies Westballz finishes it with something more modern, the Mango. A fade-away down-air on The Moon’s shield baits out the shield-grab leaving him vulnerable to being blasted in the face with a forward-smash.
Laser-resets are even more satisfying to land than jab-resets, the punishes you can get from either of them are so exciting. The Moon doesn’t tech here and he ends up paying for it, and look at his percentage: he’s at 99%! A jab reset from the rest of the cast wouldn’t have been viable but Falco’s lasers are delicate enough to wake Marth up slowly, just in time to be forward-smashed.

Wakey wakey
Wakey wakey

A 3-2 victory for our Falco playing Westballz this week, progressing forwards through CEO 2015’s loser bracket. I found the neutral game from both of these players to be mesmerizing, when Westballz had control he didn’t let go or give The Moon room to breathe and similarly when The Moon had control he really did have it. With two strong neutral games the result was all about who got the biggest punishes and quickest kills and there’s no shame in losing to Westballz on that front. The final score of 3-2 really reflects how both players performed during this set, at points The Moon looked stronger and at other points Westballz seemed more dominant. A close set and a fun one to watch!

 If you have any suggestions for next week’s game then do link me in the comment section below! You can also follow me on Twitter @Lexi2Pro

Frame-perfect handshake into hug
Frame-perfect handshake into hug

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Falco Fridays #3

25th September 2015

Welcome to the third edition of Falco Fridays! Last week was a game from PPMD against Mango and this week I wanted to look at a game featuring a French player called Baxon. I’ve heard of this player for a while now and seen the odd tidbit of footage online but his playstyle caught my eye at Dreamhack London 2015 and I’d like to see more. Playing friendlies recently with Eikelman I was told that I ‘had to play’ Baxon for his Falco ditto excellance and so in my intrigue it made sense for this week to feature him. This game comes from HFLAN and Baxon will be facing Zhu in not a tournament game but a money match.

Early on Baxon combos a neutral-air into a forward-smash and it looks really painful. Zhu was at 31% before the neutral-air connected so my thinking is that at these lower percentages neutral-air is more reliable to set this up, but at a slightly higher percentage the forward-air forward-smash would become better.

Forward-smash always looks brutal
Forward-smash always looks brutal

My stage! Mine!
My stage! Mine!
 Run off down-airs are great. This kind of play is something we often see Sheik players do except they use their neutral-air, and our version with the down-air is much more potent. A potential danger going for this is being clipped by a side-B though it has quite a few startup frames as well as an audio cue so with good reactions we can avoid that. Do note that Zhu could have avoided the spike completely by shine stalling for a moment and sweetspotting to the ledge with his double-jump. This would have denied the kill but Baxon would still be in control of the stage making this worth going for.
So very unsafe. I guess he figured that he was at high percent and a stock up and that if the back-air hit it could have set up a kill, so it was worth it here to take a gamble in Baxon’s mind. It could also have been that he was anxious to close out the first game and got a little flustered. Either way I think there were better, more traditional options. Zhu here punished with a neutral-air but he could have done a nasty down-air trade, an easy shield grab, a forward tilt… anything really, this punish was difficult to miss. Fortunately Baxon doesn’t attempt this in later games of the set.

Desperation
Desperation

You're supposed to be dead
You’re supposed to be dead
 Landing a forward-smash in this matchup is almost always stock-winning and I commend Baxon’s flavourful use of the move. There are also rare times where it only gets you 17% damage. On a small stage like Yoshi’s or FoD the shine forward-smash would have set up for a kill but on a long stage like Final Destination or Dreamland it pays to watch your positioning. Here a down-air could have extended the combo to remain in control or even simply a a running shine. Zhu was smart to DI left here.
Let’s turn our eyes to Zhu for a moment as he teaches us a brief lesson on standard crisp Falco play. He uses the platforms as Falco should and insists on stage control at all times. Zhu takes the centre of the stage as Baxon’s body hits the top platform, knowing that his full-hop will cover anything. All the ingredients here are very simple but the result is a full stock lead!

This is how we do it~
This is how we do it~

"You know what I'm ending this combo with"
“You know what I’m ending this combo with”
 Baxon is quickly turning this week’s Falco Fridays into a forward-smash special. I love this combo, this is what I wanted to see on Final Destination earlier. Great positional awareness to opt for an up-tilt over a shine before the forward-smash here.

And so Baxon takes this set 3-2 over Zhu, winning his money match. This is the first Falco ditto I’ve covered so far on Falco Fridays and it was a good watch. Both players showed some great play whilst also having distinctly different styles. Zhu seemed to be more methodical and constructed than Baxon, using the platforms really well and relying on the tried and tested edge guard options. Baxon on the other hand played with a freelance creativity and threw out whatever seemed to feel right for him at the time, attempting a lot more psychological reads than Zhu and showcasing his forward-smash flair. There’s a lot for us to learn from these players and also for them to learn from each other. Baxon could look at Zhu’s edgeguarding and perhaps Zhu could throw out one of these zainy forward-smash setups every other game to keep his opponents on their feet. Too bad Potara earrings aren’t tournament-legal.

 As always if you have any suggestions for next week’s Falco Fridays then post them below!

D'aww
D’aww

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Falco Fridays #2

18th September 2015

Welcome to the second edition of Falco Fridays! Last week we looked at Westballz Vs. Hungrybox and I’d like to thank everyone who expressed interest in the Falco Fridays concept and to the people who reached out to me on Twitter and WordPress to comment on my writings and suggesting games for this week. Today is going to be PPMD Vs. Mango, two absolute titans of smash playing at SKTAR 3 in the winner’s finals.

I really like the way PPMD uses his grabs here. Whilst Falco has a relatively easy time getting grabs due to his lasers, his throws can sometimes be awkward to follow up on, upthrow often being the default option. Against spacies the backthrow can chaingrab but the opponent can DI downwards to escape this, but if we only do a single backthrow it’s very likely that we can regrab. Upon regrab PPMD chooses to downthrow and I wonder if it’s because he expect’s Mango to be DIing downwards to escape the expected chaingrab, instead getting shined. I commented last week on Westballz’ use of downthrow and how much I liked it to catch people off guard however Fuzzyness raised a good point that the NTSC downthrow behaves differently to PAL, the version that I play and so I’m going to need to experiment with it. Something I may toy with against spacies is backthrow upthrow, with the possibility of squeezing in a second backthrow against a player less respectable than Mango.

Fox the ragdoll
Fox the ragdoll

Stay down
Stay down
 The double lasers are great for edgeguarding and I’m a huge fan of them myself. They’re safe and they just cover a lot of options, if your opponent wants to jump they eat a laser, if they want to go for a fast side-B they eat a laser and if they want to drop below the stage and attempt to jump to the ledge we really don’t mind that either. For Falco it is so easy to edgeguard someone if they are recovering from below, we have down-air, downsmash and the forward-tilt twinkle toes so if we’re even vaguely near the ledge whilst they are recovering then we have an option.
How not to recover. Falco has a less than ideal recovery and Fox has a lot of edgeguarding options and so we have to be very careful and think a lot about how  we recover. Entering our up-B close to the stage like this is a huge no-no, our flames do not even have a hitbox unlike Fox’s and so this kill is completely free for Mango, a complete stock donation. A side-B onto the platform was an option, side-B to the ledge or even shortened side-B shenanigans would have been better. Mango may have been able to do something about all of these recoveries but it’s better than instantly dying.

Seeya!
Seeya!

Into the abyss with you
Into the abyss with you
 Backthrow down-air is so cheeky but I love it. The best part is that you’re completely free to attempt it and if it doesn’t hit then you’re still in a good position.
Upthrow Forward-smash, amazing. PPMD executes this whilst Fox is at around 30% and it all seems to line up perfectly if you have the reaction time to read the DI. There’s a chance Mango could have jumped out of this but it looks more than solid enough to attempt which I will be doing. It looks pretty slick too which is always a plus for a Falco main.

So cool
So cool

Some forward-air love
Some forward-air love
 So forward-air forward-smash is something a lot of Falcos have been using in recent years but when you’re carrying them to the edge of the stage, a brilliant but less obvious choice is the down-smash. The down-smash has good knockback but what’s really important is how awkward of a position it puts the Fox in, it sets up for an edgeguard that’s almost impossible to fail.

And so PPMD takes the set three games to one over Mango with some really crisp, well-practised methodical play. The last thing I want to touch on with PPMD is how he comes across as such a fast Falco and it’s because he is always on the move! He’s never not doing anything, and when there is nothing for him to do he is dash-dancing to stay unpredictable. This constant movement forces the opponent to keep thinking because with the dash-dance comes the possibility that he could dive in or he could throw a move out, not to mention that with Falco being such a momentum based character it’s nice to have your fingers constantly moving.

As always if you have any suggestions for next week’s Falco Fridays then post them below!

A winner is you!
A winner is you!

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