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.

Learning to Fight, Forgetting Reliance.

Recently I decided that I want to get better at Melee. It might take a rephrase to really nail home the point I am trying to get across here, so let me try again with some stylized font.

I want to get better… … …at Melee

Not so much getting better at Marth, but getting better at the game itself.

I started as a Marth main in August of 2013. I went through about a month or two long phase where I mained Sheik, but ended up going back to Marth afterward. I dabbled in very minor Falco practice here and there along the way as well. In the summer of this year, I have been exclusively practicing Marth, studying Marth videos, and working only on my Marth. In comparison to before dedicating my time with the game to only Marth, I have improved as a player of Marth. However, with that improvement has come some realizations of a lack of understanding of aspects of the game that I would like to understand. I came to these realizations a few nights ago while training with BW.

During our training session that night, I was not feeling great with my Marth, and was frustrated with how I could not meet my expectations of playing the character during this session. I decided to dedicate some of the time that night to practicing my Falco. It was during these games of my Falco vs his Fox and Marth, did I start to come all of these realizations.

I realized that I do not understand the fight. How to fight. How to fight back. How to play Melee. How to take my opponents “advantages” and hits and convert them into advantages and hits of my own.

To get really ranty, taking a break from playing Marth that night had helped me to see that I would like to learn…

How to not always rely on “classic” Marth (some would dare call a few of these things “PPMD-Esque”) play, like…

  • Looking to be “Whiff-Punishing” every move your opponent throws out…
  • Playing Marth because he “teaches fundamentals”…
  • Down-tilting in neutral all the time…
  • Dash-dancing all the time as “trickery”…
  • Using movement because Marth has great movement…
  • Dashing back (Way too Meme-y at this point but still extremely true…)

My reliance on many of these things is something that I was beginning to get frustrated with. About three months ago a training partner told me that he thought I was good at dashing underneath Fox in neutral. Back then, this was something I was clearly relying on very heavily in the matchup. It would work, but I have since craved how to understand so much more than just relying on something that I might be good at.  It feels completely awesome to have moments where you execute some of the techniques I listed above with grace and effectiveness and take stocks with them, instead of merely relying or falling back on them. To quote Bruce Lee, “…good technique includes quick changes, great variety and speed…”

 

To simplify, variety and adaptation are concepts that I crave to understand. To complicate, when I felt I was playing my best during this training session and recent training sessions, it felt as if I was not forcing variety in my play. I was just simply playing to the moment, and fighting back. Being sort of “All-of-the-above” in my play. Technique would happen in spontaneity, and when things would not go my way I could understand why with a greater amount of clarity than before. (I hope these do not come across as “z0mg I am s0 good in friendlies” statements, though deciding what you want in training is very important and is definitely something that can be measured once you decide what it is you want, something I go over in this post: Blinded by Goals and Improving the Quality of Practice. )

There are definitely other benefits to trying out other characters in practice, and one could write a ton about that subject entirely if they wanted to, but for me the biggest thing has been realizing that there is more to Melee than just swinging a sword and moving around all pretty all the time. A lack of understanding can sometimes be a blessing. It is with this lack of understanding that I have felt the most confident and motivated to practice lately.

 

Thank you for reading, keep competing.

Kopaka.

 

 


 

Yogurt covered raisins were the snack of choice while writing this post.

These fantastic pieces of music were the soundtracks to the proof-read.

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