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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Falco Fridays #1

11th September 2015

Today I am starting a new weekly blog series in which I watch top level Falco SSBM players compete against different matchups. I’ll be looking for things that they do right and successful strategies as well as mistakes they made and how they happened. My aim is also to compare these players to myself and think about how I would have approached the situations, to identify improvements that could be made in my play or to appreciate areas I’m already strong in.

The game I’m going to be watching today is Tempo Westballz (Falco) Vs. Liquid Hungrybox (Jigglypuff) who are competing for their tournament lives in the loser’s semifinals of Paragon LA 2015.

 Only 20 seconds into game one and Westballz does something interesting. On the floor he was in a prime position to be jab-reset and rested, but manages to SDI the jab upwards and avoid death. SDIing jab reset attempts is something I currently make no effort to do but the rewards are evident, I can see this technique really paying off against Foxes and Sheiks too.

Not today!
Not today!

There's nnot much the Jiggs can do
There’s not much the Jiggs can do
Westballz takes his first stock with some dair pressure. I like going for dairs here because you can combo from the bounce, he was able to kill from it here but even in situations where you can’t get the double dunk, you can still bair from it for percentage and stage control. The jiggs here doesn’t really want to keep their shield down for too long either for fear of the autokill shield break, so against a grounded Jiggs dair pressure seems to be a really solid option.
I love the use of downthrow here against Hungrybox’s final stock, this is something I have to try, I can definitely see the pivot uptilt being used on Yoshi’s Island to set up for a shine kill. This works really well on a platform too, the Jiggs player can either eat the uptilt and a likely follow-up aerial, or they can attempt a get-up attack/roll which the Falco should be able to react to.

Downthrow is good?
Downthrow is good?

The Yoshi's Island dream
The Yoshi’s Island dream
 Simple but beautiful, this is what Falco players want every stock to look like. Westballz sets it up with an uptilt, a move that he seems to throw out a lot in this matchup as it has a large hitbox, and even when whiffed it’s tricky for the Jiggs to punish too much. One thing to note is that Hungrybox could have avoided this by DIing away from the top platform. That platform is exactly where we want Jiggs to be, and that goes for most of the floaty matchups too. The shine kill is just too satisfying.
 During this set Westballz has really struggled in the neutral game. He clearly has some good punishes planned out but getting them started is another challenge. One thing that rarely ever works in this matchup is diving in with a dry nair, this looks to me a sign of a flustered Falco, and given that Westballz is down a game on his last stock high percent, I think I may be right. There was a lot of space and time for lasers here but a good Jiggs will abuse impatience all day long.

No Westballz, no
No Westballz, no

The marshmallow scoop
The marshmallow scoop
 I found the wavedash uptilt to be a really nice spacing tool. He didn’t quite hit it here, but also important is that he didn’t get punished for attempting it either. If it had been hit, it could have potentially been a stock for Westballz. Wavedash forward pivot uptilt is also something that could be done to  catch the Jiggs out, this is something I’d like to incorporate myself.

Overall Westballz showed us that it is possible to kill Jiggs quickly and efficiently, that Falco does have the tools to combo Jiggs but it’s just a little different to other matchups. Getting into a position to perform these combos however  looks a little harder. The commentators made  a good point on Westballz’ use of vertical space with his full hops typically seen against Peach. Many times Westballz was looking to come down from above and catch Hungrybox out with a falling dair or bair but in a battle of air mobility Jiggs is too good, it was easy for Hungrybox to pluck the Falco from the air and guide him off stage.

 If you know of any games that would be good for next week’s edition of Falco Fridays  then post them below, be they modern 20XX sets or old classics.

You'll get him next time
You’ll get him next time

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Stourport Smash 3

This Sunday I travelled to an event in Stourport at a venue called The Civic; a Smash 4, Project M and Melee tournament which was run by a TO named Sherb Stead.ss3

I was kindly offered a lift to the venue and after an hour and a half of travelling we arrived at The Civic. I decided to only enter Melee as I struggle to enjoy Project M and have not yet played Smash 4, despite it being a very pretty looking game. As this was a small event there were no pools and so I started my tournament run straight from bracket, facing a player named Ahmad.

Ahmad is a player local to me and someone I had faced several times in the past, I felt very confident that I could win my first game. It was my Falco against his Marth in the first match and I simply overpowered him with pressure and laser approaches for which he had no response, this game became a swift four stock for myself. Game two and he decided to switch to Jigglypuff and to take me to Fountain of Dreams, partly no doubt due to my strong win record against his Marth and also perhaps due to his knowledge of my struggles against Jiggs’ in the past. My plan was to wall him out using lasers but with the awkward platforms on this stage I found this difficult, instead relying on Falco’s strong out-of-shield options and his auto-cancelled bairs. I took the game but forfeited two stocks, I still feel more practise is needed against Jigglypuff, that Falco has more abusable strengths that I’m not yet utilising fully.

Moving forward in winner’s bracket and I’m to face a player known as Frenzy. I’d had a few people hint to me that this player had picked up Falco himself and had been making drastic improvements, and before bracket began I was able to play several friendly games confirming that this player was good. He took several friendly games from me and it was clear that his punish game was fantastic, though I was somewhat comforted seeing that his neutral game was less developed. My plan going into our set was to take advantage of this and to insist on having laser control before moving in and executing my also respectable punishes. I lost the first Falco ditto to Frenzy’s consistent combos, it was a close game but I struggled to find an edge and to take a stock lead. The second game was similarly close but it was I this time with the slight edge, by this point I was able to more clearly read his approaches and applied a bit of patience to take the neutral game. Game three and I was feeling good about bringing it back, which showed in my play. I was able to maintain a sense of control and finished the game with two back to back zero to deaths of which I’m still kind of proud of.

Still in winner’s I progressed into R23, the favourite to take the tournament and eventual victor. During friendlies I beat him in our first game and so I entered  this set intimidated yet with a quiet optimistic confidence. This confidence was short lived with him besting me both in neutral and in punishes. I was overpowered by the unfamiliar Sheik pressure and the painful tech chases, and my dreadful edge-guarding this set did me no favours with him recovering far too easily. This was the best Sheik I had encountered and I was outplayed, before this event I considered myself reasonably strong against Sheik and as much as I dislike a loss, I’m also very excited that there is so much room for improvement for me to make in this matchup.

In loser’s now and I’m paired with ModestMajor, a Falco that I hadn’t heard of before and knew nothing about. Because of this I thought I had an easy game ahead of me but I was wrong and lost to him 3-1. I found his style difficult to play against as he relied heavily on lasers to lock me down and to dive in with. My weakness in this set was my impatience, the one game I won I made a point of using the platforms to take away his familiar laser approach, and to down-air if he tried to attack me from below. Using this strategy I was able to stifle his lasers and replace them with my own, taking control and the game. During the games I lost I wasn’t able to do this and fell into his trap of trying to approach on the ground, my lack of discipline was abused. Something I took away for future Falco dittos is that I wish I had held my shield down for longer and tested his shield pressure, not once did I force him to perform this or go for shinegrabs as I was pre-occupied with attempting unsafe shine out of shields.

With my loss to ModestMajor and with bitterness for falling to another Falco my tournament run was over and I had placed 5th. I’m happy with how I placed considering how many of my weaknesses I had become aware of and that without having a setup I’d been unable to prepare for the event. I’m looking forward to playing as many people as possible in the future and also refining some of my movements and tech in my spare time.
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