Getting into Competitive Smash Bros.

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So you’ve been wondering for a while, how do I get “git gud” for Super Smash Bros.? It might sound like a vague question but stop me if this sounds familiar, “I’ve been playing <insert title here> for <insert time period> and I don’t seem to be improving.” Or maybe it goes along the lines of “Everyone keeps beating me but I don’t how or what to change.” Well, whether you’ve been playing for week or two years, there is always room to grow and written below are hopefully a few ideas on how to help you get your game on.

Disclaimer: This guide is meant to help everyone who wants to get better at Super Smash Bros., regardless of expertise or game. That means, this is equally applicable to Smash 64, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS (or Sm4sh). Although it is somewhat targeted toward newer players, included within are a few ideas even veterans may find insightful.

1. Practice

This may seem quite obvious but it can’t be understated how important practice is toward getting better. Like a professional athlete, efficient practice is key to victory. Michael Jordan didn’t become who he is through casual free-throw shots or because he ran a few laps around the track. Instead, it was countless hours of shots around the basketball court, learning to work with his teammates, and expertly practicing several other critical aspects related to his craft. Now, Super Smash Bros. may not require the same type of skills as basketball or many other sports, but the principle still stands. Efficient practice is the most important factor for success.

  A. Tournaments

Yep. Tournaments are first on this list just like they should be on yours. Tournaments are by far the best way to practice and get better. Whether it is a paid or free tournament, double-entrant or single, customs or no customs, tournaments are the best tool toward getting better. The only thing that matters is that you attend as often as you deem possible. Tournaments usually invite an atmosphere of pressure and competition are central to the competitive community.  The only way to get become comfortable with such pressure, commonly called tournament nerves, is to confront the problem regularly until it doesn’t feel like a problem. It might feel uncomfortable for a while, but over time, the feeling of uneasiness and shakiness will grow in to confidence. The best part is even if you don’t win the tournament, usually there are a few setups dedicated to playing friendlies. Now, whether playing some friendlies or in a bracket, you are guaranteed to fight against three types of players.

               i. People who are better than you

Put simply, you’re going to lose. Probably a lot. You might not even place in a tournament for a while. That’s why they’re better than you. Especially when starting out, there might not even be too many people you can beat. Sometimes, you can get comboed so hard it feels like you can’t do anything. DO NOT GET FRUSTRATED. This is usually the point where some might quit playing the game. Despite the strong temptation, do not give in. Instead, view those players as future potential that you could achieve one day. Next, try to analyze your mistakes. Did you always recover low? Would you always go for the same predictable combo string? Did you mix up your Directional Influence? All of these are important questions that you should be asking yourself continually, whether at the end of a set, match, or stock. If you don’t know what went wrong, ask the other player. But rather than ask vague questions like, “What did I do wrong?” or “What can I do better?”, ask specific questions. Chances are they were paying more attention to playing the game than analyzing. So by asking, “Was [x] getting too predictable? In what situation? How would you suggest I change that?” By giving them specific information, they can offer something you might have not otherwise noticed. Thus, you now have a new personally-specific trait you know you can improve upon.

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               ii. People who are… less proficient

Typically, this won’t happen too much as you start engaging in the scene. But with new players joining the scene every day, you’re bound to meet someone not as experienced. Once that does start to happen, such players can be a two-edged sword. Lower level players might tempt you into developing bad habits (such as being overly stylish, tunnel vision, or overly aggressive) but instead offer the chance to winning efficiently. By nature, those who might be unfamiliar in specific situations can open new opportunities to snag a win earlier than previously thought. Now, the tables have turned from earlier. Now, people may be asking you for advice. Not only is it a great “Pay it Forward” but can help you fully realize why certain situations ended the way they did. It might not help with proficiency but it will help in knowledge both for them and you.

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iii. People who are at your skill level

This is who you want to spend a majority of your time practicing with. These are the people who know what you’re struggling with, can relate to, and provide the greatest challenge. Even more so than the players who are much better than you. With these people you can try out new strategies and ideas. Furthermore, because both people are about the same skill level, both people are going to make similar mistakes. This is why tournaments are so important. With any luck, you won’t face a Power Ranked player round 1 of the bracket. Hopefully, you’ll be able to fight your way against people who aren’t as equipped, those your level, and then those who might be better. As time goes on, and you have more tournaments under your belt, you’ll slowly move up and progress. Even if you do get immediately sent to loser’s bracket, or knocked out, people are more than willing to play a few friendlies.

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B. In a non-tournament setting

Unfortunately, playing in a non-tournament setting usually isn’t as exciting or grand as the alternative. This is probably the way you will be able to practice most. Therefore, finding the best way to practice is extremely important.

               i. CPU’s

Although this is the most common, training against computers is probably the worst way to practice. Many times, they are “too perfect” and able to react to opportunities human cannot. Level 9 computers, for example, can react with dodges or punishes within single frame windows. Meanwhile, level 7 computers are too random to provide any constructive practice. All in all, playing against CPU’s should only be done if there is no internet or while traveling.

               ii. For Glory/Anther’s Ladder

Provided you have internet and a working computer, Anther’s Ladder is a great tool for practicing from home. Anther’s Ladder is simply an online ranking system combined with an instant chat service (similar to Discord). After creating a profile, the system will ask what games you like to play that way you can play against other similar people. Combined with a friendly atmosphere, Anther’s Ladder is a fun system that feels very similar to going to a tournament but from the comfort of your home.

For Glory (Smash 4 exclusive) is slightly similar to Anther’s Ladder in that you can play against other people over the internet. However,  there is no chat and the people you play against is randomized every time you enter a room. Furthermore, since anybody with a copy of the game and access to the internet can play For Glory, connection with distant partners can become a constant struggle because of poor latency (lag). Again, if you have time, I suggest Anther’s Ladder but For Glory is always an option.

2. Continual Learning

Two sides of the same coin, knowledge perfectly complements practice. Where practice and playing is the body’s way of developing muscle memory, watching people play is the brain’s equivalent. Luckily, there are many different ways to be able to watch and learn. Below are just a sample of all that’s out there.

          A. Smashboards

Smashboards is Super Smash Bros.’ largest online community. It’s a mix between the words smash (derived from the game) and leaderboards. Put simply, this website is an easily accessible website that allows for anyone who is interested in smash and its community to communicate. With several paid full time authors, effective character guides, areas for competitive theorycraft, and many many other features, Smashboards is a great tool.

           B. KuroganeHammer

Not too many people study framerate or specific game mechanic qualities but KuroganeHammer has become the go-to source for such info. Too be honest, very few people have taken the time to fully understand many of the core aspects of Super Smash Bros., let alone specific characters. With numerous charts, hyper-detailed notes, and intuitive system make learning and comparing framerates between characters incredibly easy. Although KuroganeHammer may seem complex and even useless, knowing the same, if not more, knowledge about your opponent may lead to your victory.

C. YouTube

Perhaps the most common to watch Super Smash Bros, or any video games for that matter, is YouTube. Tournament sets, visual character guides, and even professionals can be found on YouTube. These professionals can offer unique advice to those interested. A combo guide on YouTube can help you see tricks, punishes, or mix-ups that you might not have seen before. can help players. Even simply watching tournament sets can help you see the potential a character and player can achieve. Plus, watching tournaments, when you can’t compete, is really fun. All of this applies to Twitch.tv as well.

3. Investing in Goals

Goal-setting is just as important, if not more, than learning and practicing. Yep, that’s right. Neither watching thousands of sets or entering a hundred tournaments are as important as setting a personal goal. Goals can give you the long-term aspiration and short-term motivation to accomplish it. Chances are when you decided to “go pro”, something happened to inspire it. Whether it was a friend praising how much fun he had at an event or seeing a professional player pop-off after the tournament winning K.O. The initial circumstances may differ slightly, but ultimately the end goal is the same for most. You want to prove to everyone you are the very best. Don’t be confused with how simple this section is, instead your goal will be the culmination of the previous two aspects.

 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the very best (like no one ever was). But with such an ambitious goal comes a lot of smaller goals that each need to be identified and accomplished. Motivation and constant persistence while adhering to your goals and believing in your personal ability are what will help you most. Learn from others. Put in the time to learn. Be humble. Acknowledge your faults. Help others when you can. Never let your passion and fire die. That’s the cycle of becoming a proficient Smash player and decent person. Smash isn’t as much competitive as it is a chance to meet new people and make new friends simply from a video game. The competitive nature makes the atmosphere difficult at times but in the end it can help you improve. After all, we’re all just a bunch of people duking it out with our favorite Nintendo characters and it’s awesome.

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