Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Art of Juggling

The Falling Juggle

In the *video game* Super Smash Bros. Melee, in *Esports* competitive play (Adsense's crawler has no idea what this blog is about, just making it clear)...

Marth wrecks a lot of characters just by being below them, but somehow, they still make it down. Why? What's the best way making sure you never lose the exchange? What are they doing correctly when they manage to get down? I'm going to try and answer these questions. Marth's Uair beats everything head to head, so it seems like it should always win, but there are a few cases where it doesn't:

1. They hit you before it comes out
2. They trade favorably
3. You do it too early
4. They move too far to the side 

Sound familiar? The juggle situation is it's own kind of vertical footsies or "neutral game," except it's in your favor: they don't have the option to retreat or stay still except with an expendable double jump, and your hitboxes are more disjointed than theirs. So if you let them down, depending on the character, it's because you timed and positioned the uair wrong.

Here's how I suggest you make it easier:  Time and position the jump so that you encounter them with as little upward momentum as possible. This slows it down just in case they try and surprise you by closing the distance when you jump. If both players move toward each other, they close the distance twice as fast as normal, making it difficult to react and time the attack properly.

You also want to be as close to right below them as possible. If they are already drifting to the side, you should dash just past their current position. Their drift is aiming to avoid directly challenging Marth's uair from above, getting a better angle where they can pit their fair or bair against the side hit of your uair or your fair instead of trying to beat your uair with their dair.  Or they are trying to avoid challenging your aerial at all, by getting out of range, or enticing you toward them and suddenly changing their horizontal direction with a double jump or air dodge.  By the time you react to their change in direction, they may be too low to the ground and far away and you won't be able to continue your juggle.  This is especially the case if you jump toward them with momentum.  

In order to account for both possibilities, them drifting away and them changing momentum, I recommend shield stopping before jumping to stop horizontal momentum and staying close to the ground. To stay close to the ground, you either want to short hop or full hop to a platform. Instant double jump for that middle height jump might be useful too. If you jump too early, they have time to wait out your jump or move to the side. If you jump too late, you'll be rising right into them and your timing will have to be stricter and you're in worse position if you miss. The key is to get a sense of the right height the enemy character needs to be before you choose to jump, based on how fast they fall. Other than their double jump, they only have their fast fall timing, their aerial drift, or some character specific ability to vary where they will be in the near future behind the veil of reaction time.

Purple Rectangle has little choice but to fall into Blue Rectangle's attack.

Staying under them without too much horizontal momentum allows you to follow their drift with your own drift, and staying close to the ground allows you to land and disengage or throw out another attack, if need be.  You don't always have to time to attain this perfect positioning, especially after disengaging, but you want to get closest to this ideal as possible.  And as long as you're not completely overextending with high vertical or horizontal momentum, you can punish any air dodge attempts, as well.

You do want to kill them eventually, though.  Endless uairs doesn't do you much good. You want to lead them toward the edge of the stage, eventually offstage, without a double jump at high percent if possible, to secure an easy edgeguard. This can be done by staying slightly toward the side of center stage instead of right under them. Mixing in fairs and bairs will get the job done at high percent.  There are also mid percent ranges for each character where soft fair Ken combos become worth going for.  Look forward to a post about that in future.

Character specific stipulations

If you choose your jumping position, height and fastfall timing properly, there's little that many characters can do, but some have ways of handling it. Double jumps, fast fall speed, good downward hitboxes, and horizontal momentum can make it nearly impossible to consistently juggle a character. Against the fast fallers, they fall too fast so they have to be extremely high up for you to have time to get below them and jump early enough to not be on the way up by the time they get to you. Their FF is too fast to react to, so you have to guess their timing. If they double jump at the right timing, you can't continue the juggle easily. If you stay close to the ground, as with this strategy, you won't be flat out punished, though.  But you should mix in standard dash dancing more often than not.

On the other side of the extreme, Puff has enough horizontal momentum to sort aerial dash dance to throw off your below positioning, and can simply move to the side and beat you with a bair. You can still limit options if you execute this strategy well and mix it up, but you have to take great pains to maintain an offensive stance against so many double jumps.  The same is true against Kirby, except he has a more threatening dair and the down-B that punishes any over-extended aerial chase.

Middle weights are where you'll see the most difference using this strategy. Even if they double jump, you can simply fast fall to the ground and follow them with another dash shieldstop SH. Floaties will want to LRA+START and switch characters. 

Sheik and Pikachu (and Pichu) have very little to help them come down, though Sheik benefits greatly from getting to the side of you, and Pikachu's double jump is quick and low enough that any imperfection at executing this strategy can leave you with not enough time to consistently stop Pikachu's FF aerial after he does it.

In the Marth ditto (and against Roy), side-B and sideways aerial drift is used, but proper execution of this method makes it matter very little.  Only a very precise, non-boosted side-B which alters Marth's fall speed just enough and not too much can save him, and if you simply wait it out, it is punishable on reaction.  Mixing up the heights and timings of your aerials makes it pretty much impossible for side-B to ever work, nor will a falling aerial save him.

Peach will try to float just outside of your SH uair range, but you don't use rising aerials like it recommend, it won't matter if you whiff, you can just land and utilt or jump again before Peach can get to you.  You can just follow her drift and wait out her float, mixing between dash shield stop SHing and delaying the aerial and doing one right away.  The Peach player needs to hard read your aerial timing and drift within a limited period of time in order to get down.

Samus can bomb to avoid an attack, but if you are executing the falling juggle, this gains Samus nothing but a brief period of sideways drift which can throw you off.  You can repeatedly dash shield stop SH aerial against a bombing Samus until platforms force you to do something else.  Her only hope is use the bomb drift (she briefly gains the ability to nearly instantly change directions in the air) in those situations.  Just stay safe, you don't want to risk taking any damage against this character, as you need to hit her a lot more than she hits you, with the exception being when you can go for mid-percentage Ken combos.

The Marios tend to use their dairs or air dodges to get down, but this loses to the falling juggle.  Capes are about as ineffective as Marth's side-B.

Luigi and ICs can use their down-B and side-B respectively and mash just enough to get over your aerial and then fall into you.  In this case, the falling juggle still works, but you need to mix it up a bit.  Completely disengage, baiting it out, and you get a free punish.  Mix up your aerial timing and they'll be hard-pressed to get their hard read.

Falling uairs can still work against Ganon, DK and the Links, but the timing is not easy.  You definitely want to mix in baiting them out with dash dance and punishing their end lag to skew the risk/reward further in your favor.

Not sure what to do against Yoshi.  He can easily time his double jump armor on reaction to a falling aerial, and a rising aerial is really dangerous to do.  Maybe SH, fall, and shield or dash away? He must DJ and do an aerial if he wants to come down and be safe against an aerial.  There's also side-B to worry about as well, that pops him up a bit.  That's if you're going to jump at him at all, it might be better to just stay grounded, dash dancing and shield grabbing his aerials when he reaches that predictable spacing.

Let's see, who's left? Zelda's never getting down.  Mewtwo is almost always getting down with up-B, you have to hard read where he will go.  Ness is not getting down except if he gets to the side of you and tricks you with a DJ aerial that can suddenly come at you diagonally (just bait it out).  Bowser will be trying to up-B away, I think, just follow him.

Stage specific stipulations

Three-platform stages complicate things. You have to see what platform they are trying to land on and aim to land there with the double jump. If they make it ambiguous by being positioned between the platforms, wavelanding off or platform dropping off the top platform to a low platform can work well. 

Watch for air dodges into high platforms, this will beat this strategy.  The counter-play is to save your DJ, bait it out, and DJ with an aerial or a NIL grab, or to do an aerial that barely lands on the platform.

It can be quite easy to juggle opponents on FD and PS because they have no top platform for refuge, with the exception of PS transformations where they have very safe places to escape to.


So that's about it.  The TLDR is that you should shield stop under them, jump earlier than you might think and hit them with falling uairs as they fall toward you. Stay close to the ground or platforms when you're in the air to stay safe. Lead them off stage.  You can't always do this if they're not high enough above you.  Recognize when you can and can't do it, and acknowledge the weaknesses and understand the mixup when you can't do a falling juggle.  This really important part of Marth's game, as it replaces a combo-based punish game against characters that don't have elaborate tables and flowcharts of true combos to work with.

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