Saturday, August 12, 2017

About Me and This Blog

Let me tell you a little about myself.  I started playing Melee late 2009, a couple months after I started playing Soul Calibur 4 competitively.  I focused much more on SC4 and SC5, and achieved some pretty good tournament results.

However, I remained bad at Melee, finally seeing steady improvement after I quit Soul Calibur (dead game, waiting for SC6) and started focusing entirely on Melee.  

Melee is quite different from Soul Calibur, being much faster, more chaotic, and more mechanically complex which greatly affects the mindset of the players.  In Soul Calibur and many other traditional fighters, learning and practicing your combos is one of the early steps you take before being a serious competitor, and the necessary information is readily available on their community sites.  However, it's difficult to find any good information on combos (or really anything else) in Melee.  Especially when I started playing, there were absolute seas of misinformation that endlessly frustrated me in their incompleteness or inaccuracy.  Combo videos were not demonstrations of basic combos, but montages of rarely applicable combos.  The differences in player mindsets certainly don't end there, but this is a problem that I feel capable of solving as a currently unranked (barely) San Diego player.

Take this old chaingrab guide for example:

  1. 1. 0 - 16%: Regular regrabs
  2. 2. 17 - 32%:
  3. 2a. No DI or slight behind DI: Pivot regrabs.
  4. 2b. Any other DI: Regular regrabs.
  5. 3.0. 33%:
  6. 3.0a. No DI: Turnaround uptilt -> regrab
  7. 3.0b. Slight behind DI: Uptilt -> regrab
  8. 3.0c. Any other DI: Regular regrab -> pummel
  9. 3.1. 34% (the reason it's different from 33% is that uptilt starts becoming unreliable against no DI because of its weird "not-upwards" hitboxes. If you actually get the correct hitbox, it'll still connect into a regrab, so if you feel confident that you can get it every time then just follow the chart for 33%):
  10. 3.1a. No DI: Rising SHFFL uair --> regrab
  11. 3.1b. Slight behind DI: Uptilt --> regrab
  12. 3.1c. Any other DI: Regular regrab
  13. 3.2. 35 - ~59%:
  14. 4a. No DI or slight behind DI: SHFFL uair -> regrab
  15. 4b. Any other DI: Regular regrab
  16. 5.0. ~60 - ~65%: Pummel at least once before throwing -> delayed SHFFL uair -> regrab (they should now have at least 80%, but less than 90%)
  17. 5.1. ~69 - ~75%: Pummel at least once before throwing -> delayed SHFFL uair -> tipper (post-tipper damage should be around 105%)
  18. 6.0. ~80 - ~84%: Pummel once or twice before throwing -> delayed SHFFL uair -> tipper (post-tipper damage should be around 110%)
  19. 6.1. ~85 - ~87%: Delayed SHFFL uair -> tipper (post-tipper damage should be around 115%)
  20. 7. 90+%: Either upthrow -> tipper or upthrow -> weak uair -> tipper

The problems with this guide are endless.  There's directions for 33% only, in a game where staling is going to affect slight differences? It isn't even true that utilt becomes unreliable due to hitboxes, it only arguably becomes unreliable due to higher knockback at later percents.  If you want the right hitbox, you want to do turnaround utilt.  30-33% is a fine place to do utilts that aren't too susceptible to escapes by SDI.  35-59 chaingrab on all DIs? That ain't Falco, and even the chaingrab on him ends at 52 on no DI.  No direction on how to uair against slight DI toward in that range.  66-68 and 76-79 are just skipped.  90+% you can't "uthrow -> tipper" and there's no details as to what do against side DIs.  No mention of uthrow->up-B?

This and guides like it are all people had to work with for years.  SSBM tutorials put out a chaingrab guide in 2016, but its directions for transitioning out of chaingrabbing into the juggle or finishers are vague, suboptimal and misleading.  And nobody gives any special attention to comboing Falco.  Kadano has put out great combo tables, but his Sheik data seems to contain mistakes.  His Falcon table was excellent, but overly detailed and lacking any guidance as to what followup one should choose.  What I mean by that is, nobody should be interested in learning every possible followup in every situation.  What's important is knowing the best followups for the situation -- not just what can be done, but what you should do.

Even my own guides on this blog have had their problems that have either fixed or saved for a later "advanced guide" to deal with advanced anti-combo techniques, which I have neglected to mention because I don't want non-Marth players to know about them until I've developed a good way of beating it.  

Just play by feel, they said...

Most of the time when I ask players about combo options, they reply "I just do it by feel."  This makes a lot of sense.  Most characters don't need to memorize combo percents, and can just look at the situation and see what they can continue the combo with.  The problem is, this doesn't work.  Players are not nearly maximizing their punishes unless they have done some kind of labbing.  Falcon players and Sheik players have quietly done their own homework on comboing Marth and other characters to their fullest, and Marth players need to do the same to catch up in the meta.

And it just isn't enough that Marth players know their stuff when it comes to combos on FD.  The only combo guide that takes into account platforms at all has been Kadano's uair platform tech chase guide, which, as it turns out, doesn't have as much applicability as many players seem to think.  Doing the setup right out of uthrow, which is to drift or FF uair on reaction to tech options, only covers tech in place with a tipper uair past 43% or so, and 50% for Falco, and something really high for Falcon.  It also won't cover all options if you're to the side of the platform and side DI'd to the platform.  And people have no idea what do out of those uairs, should they hit, they just go for more uairs, racking damage until they escape, with no good plan for a strong combo finisher.

Every other character often seems to have a well-developed metagame for their punishes, which are often much simpler than Marth's.  They often can get away by feel because they don't benefit much by thinking past the next hit.  Marth can actually be punished if he messes up some of his combos or if attempts to continue a combo when he should instead apply pressure or a tech chase mixup.  Marth seems to be the only character whose top players often seem to be flailing around in their combos without a plan.  You need a plan with Marth or else you won't finish your combo well.  I'm not as good as the top Marths, but knowing what I know now, they very often make obvious mistakes.

Playing by feel to some extent is unavoidable, given the amount of possibilities, but the more you know, the better at playing by feel you will seem to be.  If you know what you're doing, the gaps in knowledge that you encounter and need to close with intuition will be much smaller.

This blog is meant to give you the knowledge necessary to comfortably navigate the complex punish game of Marth.

What's to come

After months of labbing and testing in real matches I have a large portion of the uthrow combo game on platform stages mapped out, so hit that follow button.  I'll also tie up any loose ends in the FD combo guides.  My level of play isn't sufficient to take my suggestions only by my word, but I will be backing everything up with hard data and game theory.

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