SSS #64

At the last SSS I had the opportunity to play a match against Absentpage on stream. Though at first it was difficult to watch, I’m really glad I lost game two of the match in the way that I did. Walking away from that set and going back and talking some specific parts of it over on the legendary Marth thread on Smashboards has been very eye opening on what the next stage of my growth as a player will look like. It was embarrassing to lose on a counter pick that hard of course but who knows, if I hadn’t lost maybe I wouldn’t have learned these lessons. After discussing the situations on the Smashboards thread I feel like I’ve come to the point to where I have the principles understood to a certain degree (and with more practice to come I’m sure I’ll learn more down the road but for now I’m feeling good with where my current understanding will guide me). A degree well enough to where practice of whats physically required will help in execution in playing matches with the principles deeply internalized. Self-testing, exploring my limits of how close or far I can be to react to opponents counters, and practicing the inputs that would be needed to execute against those counters. These things tie into how far I make my dashes and wavedashes, where I jump and how far I drift in or away. I’ve got to be able to overcome opponents I haven’t been able to overcome and these next steps have already been helping a lot. Solidifying the practice and understanding through repetition and exposure.

 

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Everything all at once.

On this passed Monday local I felt I had performed lower than my expectations. I felt frantic and indecisive in my matches, which was most certainly displayed in the color changes of my character after each game of my sets. Switching from my usual red to my original white then to blue then back to red again. I think this behavior was also symbolic of what I was trying to learn to improve, which I realized was everything all at once. A pitfall I tell new players to avoid, a pitfall I found myself in. Only after talking to a friend of mine after the tourney (albeit very late after the tourney) did we both realize what I had been trying to do. Taking in everything all at once even in small situations.

I had been playing netplay every day of the week prior to this local, so I was under the impression my preparation was more than enough to perform well or at least learn through my performance to get me to a placement I’d be somewhat content with. Quality over Quantity won this one. I wasn’t benefiting nearly as much from these repeated sessions as I could have had I been focusing on “chunking” information about concepts I need to practice in order to place more consistently. It seemed ironic to me that on one hand I could be aware of the options me and my opponent have, but on the other hand feel very polarized because of that awareness that I’d either freeze up or act haphazardly in an attempt to cover maybe one of the lets say four options in some situation. Had I not had such a personally lackluster performance at this local I wouldn’t have reached out to this friend for help with concepts I’ve been seeking to not only understand but implement without thinking. Engaging on my own terms is the primary concept I’d like to be practicing, and being bogged down by analysis paralysis by what can happen with even just one simple dash forward is going to stop me in my tracks. A bajillion things can happen in a set of Melee, but starting with small chunks, maybe the smallest of chunks, could help sort through the fast paced chaos of a match.

 

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” (Albert Einstein).

Getting wrecked.

I’ve been wrecked a bunch in Melee, which is why I’m at the skill level I’m at now. Players who are better than me are up against players who are better than me, have stronger punish game and neutral game understanding and beat up on those better players in even tougher ways than how I get beat up. It’s the losses and zero to deaths that make up the majority of why I’m at where I’m at. High level players are just STRONGER and more brutal to fight against than lower level players. You’ve got to go and get beat up in so many different ways to learn what you can and cannot get away with. Look at all the quick stocks taken from high level players on other high level players. That stuff is just brutal, and their own stocks are taken away from them in the same ways too. Part of the process is getting wrecked over and over in tons of different ways to all types of play-styles and characters. Lots of my motivation comes from watching the best of the best get rolled over in ways that do not happen to me often because I’ve yet to have the chance to play most of those guys, but that sort of exposure is something I believe you’ve got to throw yourself into. Exposing yourself to players who can expose you, show you your flaws, wreck you time and time again. Getting wrecked to getting good.

What to Practice?

During practice sessions I sometimes find it difficult to decide where my focus should go when it comes to what I should be practicing. Before when I used to go into long solo practice sessions I’d be be trying to do everything all at once, or whatever it takes to win. I thought that winning over and over or at least striving to win over and over (during sessions with people better than me) would help, and it did with certain things. It would hone my focus but eventually I couldn’t keep that “must win” focus any longer and I’d crumble and burn out. I discovered that I could still win almost as much if not as much while switching my focus on specific in game aspects like “Play without doing X, Focus on center stage, Practice grabbing more,” etc. The fun part about this is that while I focus on lets say handling center stage, I find that I’m still able to execute other parts of my game like edgeguarding or combos because I’ve practiced them. I’m not blindsiding myself or tunnel visioning ONLY on center stage and never leaving the spot, it’s just my main point of focus for practice. This switches periodically between different aspects of the game, which I believe is helpful for balance and well-roundness.

Habits (“No downtilt, no dashback, no shield”)

“No downtilt, no dashback, no shield”. I’ve begun to practice in a way where I limit myself to cutting those options out of my games. What it does is open up my eyes to situations where I may habitually or instinctively go for those specific options and forces me to think about other ways to handle those situations, or see that I really should be going for those options in the first place. It’s tricky though, because when the situations arise there’s a “stall” in my mind where the habit would normally take action and I stop and think “No, I have to do something else”. My brain then scrambles for an answer, I may roll, I may attack immediately, I may even go for the options I’m doing my best not to go for, which makes me think “Oh, ok. I have a habit to do those options here in this situation and I could be exposed for it”. The point is then to decrease the time this stall lasts and quicken my thinking and broaden the amount of options I’m aware of in the moment.

Genesis Five, Five days later.

The thing about majors, is that it feels like the city or hotel you’re staying in becomes this “Melee-City”. Where you walk down the street a couple of blocks late at night and run into some homies from a region not too far from your own. Conversation starters usually go “How was your pool?” “Did you make it out?” “How was playing *top player*?” It’s one of my favorite things about attending these events. You’re so far away from home, yet you feel like you’re at home. You feel you belong. I appreciate Smash so much for this. If you’ve never attended a major, go attend one, or two, or twelve. You will not regret it.

Genesis Five was the second Genesis I have attended, but it was the first one that I was able to compete in. I missed Genesis Four, and for Genesis Three I super-noobed and messed up my registration, only paying for venue fee and did not actually check “MELEE SINGLES” during sign up. I remember just being so sad that I couldn’t compete once I got to the venue on day one, seeing my name nowhere on any pool. I really love competing in Melee, and for that to have been taken away from me was the worst. Since Genesis Three, which feels like ages ago now, I’ve matured as a player, and this year I finally got to show what I can do on the big stage! It was actually a side-stage. Against Hugs. And during my set with Hugs I kept double jumping near the ledge and he would take my stocks for that every single time, leaving my head shaking at the end of the set and salty for a rematch in the future.

Day Zero of Genesis Five I flew into Oakland with my roommate, we packed all of our stuff into the Hotel room then headed out for lunch. We ate at this bomb-ass Katsu restaurant where after we finished our meals we both agreed that we would eat there every single day we were in Oakland, except the next day we found out that it was closed on weekends. The rest of the day we explored the many food choices around the hotel, grabbed groceries and alcohol at the Smart&Final, then I plopped myself in bed and played Breath of the Wild until it was time to pick up my badge.

Day One. At this point in time I tend to get the most nervous before my very first match. I practice avoiding using the word nervous to describe the feeling, usually opting to replace it with “excited”. Either way, I get the most “feeling” before my very first match in pools. You never know if you’re facing a sleeper, a hidden boss (Chillindude829 didn’t!) early in bracket. My round one was against a Sheik, a matchup I’ve been practicing a lot more lately so I felt ready. I reminded myself “tight dash-dancing, up throw punishes. Keep her in the air”. (A mental practice I’ve just started doing to help calm myself down before sets and get myself thinking about important in-game stuff). It worked well, I walked away from the set 2-0. I reported the score to the TO, put my headphones back in and absorbed the vibe from the crowd while I waited for my next match. The next match was against a Fox player. This time I thought to myself “Do anything it takes to win, up throw.” This match was a little trickier. The Fox player was spot-on with his ledge play and corner pressure, but not so much when it came to center-stage or platforms. He would get me up against the ledge and would make swift work of my stocks that way, but I edged it out by playing closer to the middle of the stage and juggling him, not giving him a chance to play his game. I won the first game, and was surprised that he took me to Pokemon Stadium game two, where it would take longer for him to get me to the ledge, and I had much more room to juggle him. I won the set 2-0.

I was soon told I had to play Hugs on the side-stream. I was able to warm up in the Secret Top Player Training Room behind some black curtains behind the main stage, where a few Secret Top Players were training! So exclusive! Hugs was there too, and he jokingly told me he didn’t want to play me in friendlies since we were about to play a tournament set. I think we had to wait about half an hour or so for other stream matches to finish before we could go on.

I’m honestly a little disappointed in how the set turned out. I think in neutral I did alright, but whenever he had me at the ledge I fell apart and haphazardly used my jumps way too often. My punishes were meh, but overall I have material to learn from and I’m definitely more ready and prepared for this matchup now that I know how it’s played at a high level.

After that set, I thought I was put into losers bracket so I spent the next 20 minutes frantically trying to find my TO so I could play my “next match”. I was eventually told that I was put into round two pools for day two, and that I was done for the day. I walked back to my hotel room and chilled for the later half of the evening before going downstairs and playing friendlies the night away and hanging with my roommates from San Diego.

Day Two. Day Two sucked and I lost to an Ice Climbers from Arizona my first round, the end. Just kidding, Day Two was pretty sweet. There was this awesome hipster coffee place right down the block from the venue called “Blue Bottle Coffee” which we went to every morning (Not closed on weekends!). I bought nine dollar avocado toast from them. Worth every penny. The hot coffee’s were delicious, and one even had flavour notes of Sweet Tomato. The cold brew and iced coffee’s were so smooth and roasty. Oakland had some pretty awesome food choices surprisingly and I’d definitely go back just to eat at some of the places we tried. My round two pools weren’t until four o’clock, so I was able to sleep in and chill and eat before an hour of practice with a friend from San Diego before my pool started. I arrived at my pool on time, put my headphones in and I watched Chudat’s set with a Samus player while I waited for my match.

It was an Ice Climbers player, and I got wrecked. I felt like I wasn’t good enough yet. I knew what to do in the matchup for the most part, but of course I didn’t know what to do to be able to secure a victory. I lost 0-2. I felt paralyzed during the match. It’s that sinking feeling in a match where you feel that it’s over before the match is actually over. I definitely felt that. I lost and then I was out of Genesis Five. I felt pretty bummed, so I walked over to the nearby marketplace across the street and ordered some Fish Tacos and ate my salt away. The rest of the evening was spent money matching and friendlies and alcohol in the hotel room.

I woke up the morning of Day Three with a soar throat and a cough. I didn’t want to get my roommates sick so I kept my distance from them and left all my water bottles by my suitcase. It’s strange, I felt sick but I had energy to play Melee. Picking up the controller and sitting down in front of the CRT gave me energy, but whenever I walked away from the setup I felt like collapsing. I somehow mustered up enough energy to take a trek to this far away cafe a roommate suggested, which was worth every single sneezing-step. This place was fucking delicious. I ordered the Salmon-Benedict and we shared a plate of nine-dollar donuts. (Which only came with three donuts). Worth every penny. Top 8 wasn’t until seven o’clock so we had lots of time to kill. And kill it we did, with friendlies and inside jokes and random conversations about who knows what. Overall I had an amazing time from start to finish, and I’m highly anticipating Genesis Six!

Thank you for reading 🙂

 

My 2017 Melee Year in Review

Yo!

2017 has been a pretty crazy, wild, and fun ride for me in Melee. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the game and myself, through all the losses and victories. There were many times where I felt bad and I thought maybe I should give up, but here I am today. I feel as if I have matured as both a competitor and a person and I’m very excited for a 2018 full of tournaments, travelling, and being with good friends.

One really cool lesson that I’ve learned, is to give credit where credit is due. Accept the small victories. Even if you’re not winning EVO or Genesis, you can win your own EVO’s at your local tournaments. It felt like I was winning an entire EVO just being able to overcome my own self-doubt and overcoming players who I had  lost to many times before. Enjoying any victory is an awesome feeling especially after working so hard to for it. The more you fall down, the greater the payoff will be once you finally succeed.

My favorite tournament match that I played this year has to be this one:

Almost beating Chillindude829 and beating Santiago in a Bo3 earlier this year was pretty sweet, but this match in particular felt so amazing to win. I had beaten Destroyah in Winners Semis in a super close tight match game five, so that felt incredible, and then I pretty much did the same thing at the end of this set, which felt even more incredible to have done it twice in a row in the same tournament. I made a come back game five, on a counterpick stage that he had won on pretty convincingly in our winners semis set. I definitely believe that the Marth vs Peach matchup is highly in Marth’s favor though, and this set definitely solidified that in me. There was also a moment in game three where I had thrown away my last stock and had to recollect myself mentally and find my focus again. Sometimes spectators might think that’s salt or something, but it’s definitely possible to reclaim your focus if you want to win bad enough. Playing Okami in grand finals at that same tournament was also awesome.

(My least favorite matches were all the ones I lost, luckily most of them were all off-stream :P)

I’ve learned a lot about stage positioning, intention with movement, combo-game, mentality and so much more. My goals for 2018 are to learn how to edge-guard spacies (A major goal…), how to handle defeat more constructively, and to just keep going and keep playing Melee.

Peace out!

-Kopaka