Guide to Picking a Main

Guys, if you want to get good, pick a fucking main.  Dual maining, or playing even more characters than that, is for people who are like top 50 in the world.  You are gonna suck for way longer than you need to if you don’t pick a character.  Learning how to play matchups that feel bad as your character teaches you to get good at the game.  As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t pick a main and are counterpicking when you can’t get out of pools, that means you don’t really want to get good at the game.  Changing characters for doubles is fine though because you don’t have to play neutral and try to salvage neutral game disadvantages the same way you do in singles.  Here’s a brief explanation of characters from my perspective, in the same vein as the “Are you an X main” SSBM Tutorials videos.

Ground movement stratum:

Fox – Fox has strong ground movement and by far the most diverse toolkit of anyone in the game.  What makes his ground movement so good, despite having a worse DD than Falcon and Marth, is how well he can threaten out of his ground movement.  Running or JC shine is a one frame move that can be used to call out other’s ground movement.  Nair is super strong and pretty safe.  Running/JC usmash can be very strong as an approach if you know what the enemy is going to do.  Even dtilt can be used as a strong ground to ground option.  If you want to feel in charge, Fox is probably the best character.  You get infinite room for creativity and a ton of freedom in how you choose to play matchups.

Falcon – Falcon plays more like a cheetah than a Falcon.  You wait for your moment, then pounce.  You run fast af and can leap through the air.  But you will rarely be able to win with brute force.  Your moves are slow af so it can be quite hard to play on reaction in many situations.  If you can trick your opponent as Falcon, the rewards are enormous.  Forcing one defensive error from an opponent frequently leads to stocks.  Conversely, one defensive error of your own can also lead to stocks because your character is combo food with terrible recovery.  If you dislike protracted ledge guards and want to combo someone to death or end it with a 1-2 piece ledge guard, Falcon is one of the only characters who can do this.  If you want to play safe all the time, this character probably isn’t for you.  He favors high risk/high reward play, though in a game like Melee, at a top level, everyone except n0ne plays relatively safe, so take that last statement with a grain of salt.

Marth – Marth is a really interesting character because of his dash dance.  The main thing that makes his DD comparable in usefulness to Fox’s and Falcon’s is that his hurtbox warps with his dash dance.  Falcon doesn’t have this benefit at all—that dude is tall and always a huge target.  Fox’s makes him really short.  But on top of making him short, Marth leans back the other way immensely once he changes direction.  This makes it so that if someone swings at where you were 1 frame before you dashed, they are likely to whiff because your hurtbox changes so much each time you dash.  This allows you to dance with people in really tight quarters, and to be incredibly evasive if you are good at dash dancing.  Using slippery ground movement and getting an opening like this pivot grab on a running shine https://gfycat.com/ConcernedPastDodobird, then comboing a spacie to death, feels real good.  His other strengths are that he has the best ground to ground poke in the game in his dtilt, so you can make it really taxing for other characters who want to stay grounded.  Between his dtilt and fair, he covers the space in front of him amazingly well.  He is probably the best character at forcing checkmate situations, but unlike some other characters, these situations where you take away all your opponent’s options don’t always lead to kills because you often have to hit people a dozen times.

Pikachu (maybe) – I don’t know too much about this character, but he is fast, and can be pretty threatening out of his dash dance because of nair.  He’s a tiny annoying rat.  People are going to get frustrated at the situations they encounter against you because your strengths are pretty obnoxious.  The frame data on his aerials is fantastic.  You can do some crazy ledge guards with him as well.  He is a good character for playing around at the ledge because of his up+b and uair.  He struggles to kill in matchups where ledge guards aren’t forthcoming, because despite having an awesome usmash, it can be very hard to set up.  Expect floaties to play extremely lame against you.

“Deal with it” stratum:

Falco – Of any character that forces people to deal with your obnoxious shit, Falco is by far the frontrunner, both in terms of how good he is and how ridiculous his strengths are.  The reason why so many top Fox players are bad against Falco is Falco is the character that most restricts the set of rules that Fox has to play within.  Lasers are really good.  Don’t listen to people who say they aren’t going to be effective as time goes on.  They are wrong. Powershields don’t counter lasers.  The fact that people think they do is a sign that they have no idea whatsoever about how lasers are used at high levels.  If anything, tanking lasers and SDIing/dashing out of them is going to be more of an answer to lasers as years pass.  Falco’s vertical mobility is stupidly strong.  If someone doesn’t read it/cover your jump preemptively, you can pretty much always just jump to safety.  Even the other characters with good vertical mobility like Falcon and Fox get completely left in the dust (this makes him the only character that can really do singles combos in doubles).  Lastly, his use of lasers in tandem with the AC bair and utilt can make people feel like they are in a catch-22, where they need to approach but they can’t approach.

Puff – Her aerial drift is comparable to Marth’s ground movement.  She can change her momentum so quickly.  This makes her back air entirely unpunishable when done in many situations.  Dash dance grab should never work on Puff because by the time she’s landed, she’s a mile from the outer edge of the disjoint of her back air.  Don’t pick Puff if you’re emotionally fragile or you can’t deal with a long, patient game.  People hate your character and they are going to camp the shit out of you.  Puff is for people who appreciate drawn out neutral games, where the road to winning the neutral often relies on calling out the character’s defensive escape option.

Peach – Once you’re good, fighting against you can be reminiscent of this scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujd9IbAbIo&t=20s.  Note that this is one of the rare times when ICs win a stupidly lopsided matchup.

Sheik – You want to feel like a fortress.  You want to make them feel like they can’t get in on you or escape their bad position.  You appreciate subtle movement and repositioning.  The utility of Sheik’s movement isn’t straightforward.  It’s crazy when you think about it that Sheik is such a grab reliant character when she doesn’t have the same movement tools to get grabs that other characters do.  But as she encroaches on you, she’s very threatening.  Her slow encroach on the ground is comparable to Peach floating at you.

“Weird motherfuckers” stratum:

ICs – I don’t think you need my input here.  Being such a weird and unique character makes it appeal to certain people and they probably know who they are.

Yoshi – You are down to put in a ton of work without as much reward as other characters get.  He has a lot of options but the floor for this character is so high that you have to be more 5x more technical to play him at a competitive level than anyone else.  He can do some sick things though, and his few good matchups seem like you can really make it frustrating for your opponents when you play to his strengths.  This guy isn’t a bad character if you are willing to put in the work.  If top Yoshi play speaks to you and you have a good work ethic, give him a shot.

Street Fighter stratum:

Samus – She’s bad.  She plays like a Street Fighter character.  She reminds me a lot of Ryu actually.  But put SF4 Ryu in a game with Marvelesque characters and it’s a struggle.  Feel free to pick her if that actually sounds like fun to you.  Personal bias here is that this character doesn’t seem very appealing to me so I struggle to find good things to say about her, though she does have a shitton of little tricks and gimmicks.  Lab monsters would like her I guess?  The Street Fighter analogy is quite accurate though imo.

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Melee is not Teleological

The Melee community is fantastic.  Part of what makes this so is that we have a culture of responsibility and self improvement.  “No johns” is ingrained into our culture, even though johns are often legitimate.  Our game attracts people with a tryhard, give it your all, work hard to become the best type attitude.  People like this—people like me—often think of our Melee journeys as a narrative, where we train hard until we become the best.  This isn’t how it tends to go.  This isn’t Pokemon where we catch 150 muthafuckas, beat some league culminating in a match against our rival, and the game ends.

I am good friends with a lot of the old guard in NorCal Melee.  I don’t know what Sheridan, Germ, and Boback were thinking when they were new to competitive Melee.  Their crew, which was the most influential of its time, was called “death by rape” for fuck’s sake (Sheridan might not have been in DBR).  But I am sure they didn’t expect to end up where they are now.  Who knew that Genesis would turn into what it has become today?  When I joined the community in 2012, Melee was not popping like it is today.  I didn’t think I would ever make any money off the game even if I did become one of the best players.  I didn’t think that Captain Falcon would have a renaissance, and if he did, I thought it would be because of me, not some guys in Florida.  I certainly didn’t think I would fall in love with Melee doubles, considering that I hate teamwork and I hate everything else involving teamwork, and I had never given teams a chance in any other game I played.

A lot of the older community members come out to tournaments to kick it with homies more than to play Melee.  Their friends mean more to them than the game.  But nonetheless, the reason we are close, is ultimately Melee.  Every now and then, even these people who don’t have that same fire to improve that they used to, watch some videos or have some conversations about the game, and it awakens their thirst to play.  The game is just so fucking good.  Don’t lose the fun because you are attached to results.  Sometimes just remembering to have fun can make you get better results.  I was very tryhard and serious at Big House 6.  I plan to take the opposite road at Genesis by competing in doubles, hopefully doing some commentary, and of course consuming tons of alcohol.  Knowing me, I might do just as well in singles.  We’ll see.

Remember that your journeys of improvement aren’t linearly upward; they are more like this:  globalmeantemperature.

Overall, your results should get better over time, but no one is going to be perfectly consistent.  Even the best baseball teams lose several dozen games a season.  You’ll have bad days.  You might switch characters.  You might become complacent because you don’t have good competition.  Don’t lose sight of your goals and remember that we push ourselves because of love for the game.  If you really have a deep love for the game, don’t let social things or other factors come between you and touching the controller.  Hell, we even have netplay now.  I never thought that would become popular in regions with people to play against.

Enjoy the ride and embrace that we aren’t in full control of where things go.  Part of the adventure of life is going forward into the unknown and faring it.  Life is more like sailing an ancient boat that couldn’t go upwind than it is like driving a car.  We have some limited control over how we steer, but we mostly go where the tradewinds take us.  Enjoy the people you meet in the community.  Be enriched by the diversity of Melee players (this community has some real fucking characters from so many walks of life).  Express yourself through the controller.  Be thankful that we found Melee, because the game is beautiful, and as someone who spent more than half of his life in competitive gaming, I can tell you that other games are not as satisfying, and their communities are much less awesome than ours.  Happy Thanksgiving friends.

Why The Foundry Isn’t Popping Anymore (from a Melee Perspective)

In case you haven’t been in several months, The Foundry is not awesome anymore.  It’s tragic.  I talked to some salient figures in the Melee community and they didn’t even know we still streamed it.  I was talking to CJ, the owner of Showdown eSports on Tuesday, and he asked me what was missing, and why things have gone downhill.  He pointed out that they are doing a lot more now to make Melee cool than it used to be, and yet, it doesn’t seem to be working.  I told him some things are better in written word than spoken, so here’s my reply.  Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane.

When The Foundry first opened, there was no real Melee tournament, no venue fee to get in, and no entry fee if we did have a little side tournament.  We brought our own setups, and maybe we had a little bracket, the winner of which got a beer.  In some sense, I think that was the pinnacle of the Foundry.  They’ve objectively made a ton of improvements since then, especially for the general public, but I am still nostalgic for those days in some regards.  It was just a smashfest in a bar.  It was casual, we got to play lots of Melee with homies, and there was nothing competitive about it.  Just good ol’ hanging out with your homies, having a great time like we would at anyone’s house, but with way more people, and IN A BAR!  That was a big deal at the time.  They also had a much better selection of beer back then, though I haven’t heard many people complain about this, except Boback, Toph, and me (seriously, their beers on tap suck now).

Then, we had a prosperous era, for about a year, when The Foundry was THE place to be.  Everyone always wanted to go, and everyone was sad when they couldn’t.  Even motherfuckin SILENTSPECTRE was there all the time.  In the history of NorCal Melee, that’s seriously fucking crazy.  I met LUNIN there years after anyone had seen him.  We had out of region guests making our stream incredibly popular because everyone wanted to be there.  This was before funday was a big thing, and bar tournaments in general hadn’t been a thing except Kings of Cali, so it was a big deal.  It was also the first time in years we could hear people just shooting the shit on the mic, not actually caring at all about the tournament.

Now, the turnouts are low, the viewership is also low, and it looks extremely doubtful that it’s going to improve in the foreseeable future.  I honestly think this trajectory should have been super obvious, so let me point to the factors that make it so.  I’ll go through these things in no particular order.

The cost at the door is now ten dollars, on top of five dollars to enter.  When the entry fee of five dollars was first introduced, NorCal Melee was super supportive, saying that we loved the place and we would be glad to help out by paying five dollars.  But now, fifteen dollars to enter a tournament, which many of the entrants don’t actually care that much about, is really steep for a smasher.  Smashers are poor.  Lots of smashers are very poor.  And even the smashers who are not poor tend to be very cheap.  No further analysis here, but believe me, those things are true.

Andrew TOing was awesome, and Spenser being the stream guy was also awesome.  Andrew is a funny guy who we all liked to see; he just felt like he belonged with the culture there and he ran it well.  Einstein has been a highlight of my Melee career.  I love that dog and I miss him.  This is one of my favorite Melee moments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWKfrpWsBCM&t=5m50s.  The decline of The Foundry can also be tied to the lack of Spenser, and his increasing stress/misery when he was there.  Having tablets and triple commentary with the right people was awesome.  Occasional banter with Spenser was also awesome.  We’d talk about player cams or whatever stupid shit we wanted.  VODs were uploaded right away, so we could always watch the highlights immediately, and while that happens now, there were several months where VODs weren’t uploaded, and we lost some of the greatest moments that I’ve been around for in my Melee career.

On top of Andrew and Spenser on the Showdown staff, lots of people who made The Foundry what it was went AWOL.  First, Alan moved to Santa Barbara.  He was very popular on the mic, very popular in person, and would occasionally share free drinks with people.  Boback got really busy with Genesis and stopped going.  Brandon got a girlfriend, who is very cool, and sometimes they come together, but even then, they tend to play their matches and spend most of the time hanging out with each other.  Sheridan goes less as well.  Morgan was the bartender we loved the most, and who would get us the most drunk, and we miss her dearly.  Of anyone leaving, she probably had the biggest impact.  We had three generations of Foundry drunks–me and Boback, then Germ and Dajuan, then Charlon and Liz.  Dajuan lives in San Jose and is generally less inclined to go regardless of geography, and Charlon and Germ moved away.  I talked to Liz on Tuesday about how The Foundry doesn’t seem worth going to anymore because it’s not fun.  Who’s going to take over and be the fourth generation?

People who go in a different spirit from the people mentioned in the previous paragraph became more prevalent.  No disrespect intended to their Melee play or to their life priorities, but the culture has changed significantly.  When The Foundry was newer, there was more of a homie vibe, and Melee “tryhards” were not as common there.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive, and I have only sandbagged about 5 times; regardless of how drunk I was, I always wanted to win.  But there were not that many people who took it very seriously, and only 1-2 people who did take it seriously who are actually not fun to play against.  No one cared when Ralph took it seriously because it’s fun to play him when you are hammered.  Azusa didn’t come often, and when he did, it was still usually pretty fun to have him there, because he would defend our region from OOR people, give drunk Dajuan or whoever good sets, and provide an amazing player cam to talk about.  The people who have been placing at the top of the Foundry for like 6 months now are sober people who are not fun to play against.  Please don’t think of this in terms of scrubbiness.  They are literally just not fun to play Melee against in an environment where you can’t warm up and you aren’t sober (and they don’t hang out with a lot of the people I mentioned earlier either).  I have been told they have also historically caused the streams to watch a lot of viewers when they play, so it seems they aren’t fun to watch either.  When S2J was in NorCal recently, he said how The Foundry sucked because of the reasons in this paragraph, and he asked us why we liked it… we basically said that we don’t anymore.

Commentary sucks now.  You may have noticed that when I said a lot of core attendees stopped going that these people tended to be popular commentators.  We had regulars on the mic who contributed their flavor.  Alan+Brandon is probably the most salient duo.  There was also me+Boback, Sheridan+whoever (often me, Zac, or Dajuan, and often in triple commentary), and later Me+W33dl0rd.  With Alan, Brandon, Boback, and me (forced in my case) gone from the mic, it was a lot harder to get cool people on the couch, not because the four of us are uniquely cool, but because other cool people liked to commentate with us.  SFAT and Dajuan explicitly told me that they only really liked commentating with me or Alan, so we don’t see them on the mic as often.  As a side note, I actually really regret leaving one of the best conversations of my life unfinished because Zac really wanted me to get on the mic with him, and since he wasn’t totally sober, I felt I had to oblige.  I suspect PewPewU would also like commentating with the aforementioned people over others.  And then of course, because it was more popping back in the day, we had other cool people there more often like JB, Phil, Darrell, Sage, Bertbusdriver, Peter Dill, etc.  Sheridan, JB, and Phil are pretty much the only other people I can think of that have that “I want to commentate with him!” vibe, but they aren’t the most frequent attendees.  Drunk Dajuan was fucking hilarious and I miss that shit on the mic.  After everyone I mentioned stopped getting on the mic, there was a time where W33dl0rd was the last person to be holding it down in the spirit that the rest of us had inaugurated.  That was sad at the time, and now even he’s gone.  Andrew wasn’t bad either.

The landscape of commentary changed when DC was hired as a dedicated commentator.  That guy seemed cool enough and was decently social and articulate.  But he was not one of us, and he was not really in the spirit of what made Foundry commentary great.  He doesn’t drink, which isn’t an issue in itself.  Brandon and Alan were usually sober; Sheridan always is.  But it helps illustrate my point.  The guy was trying to be professional on an intrinsically unprofessional platform.  He gave me shit on my birthday for heckling people on the stream when I was piss drunk.  The people playing even said that they didn’t care and they thought it was entertaining.  Then he still told me to STFU.  What the fuck?  Why?  This is a bar and a Melee tournament.  I’m allowed to do that at a local or any tournament where there’s not booze, much less one in a bar.  Has the guy even been to a Melee tournament?  He was also very unwilling to forfeit his spot on commentary when other people wanted to get on.  Now, we similarly have a bunch of eSports people on commentary who aren’t “one of us,” and they don’t even know shit about Melee.  I used to listen to The Foundry VODs at work on Wednesday, and it would make me way less productive because I would constantly have to put my head down on my desk so coworkers wouldn’t see me laughing hella hard.  Now, if I watch the VODs, I watch them muted.  And go figure, I watched ten seconds of a match unmuted because I did a combo on Tuesday, and they managed to say something incorrect about what I did in my combo.  That would be forgivable, if it weren’t for the fact that when The Foundry was cool, we didn’t even used to talk about the match, so they are even failing at their attempted real commentary.

Exacerbating the commentary issues is that it’s now upstairs, completely isolated from the rest of the bar.  Everyone I’ve mentioned positively so far is the kind of person who would stroll by the mic, see a homie on it or be bored and see it unoccupied and sit down.  The Foundry is a social experience.  You casually stroll up and shoot the shit with a homie.  Who the fuck wants to go upstairs and be isolated from everyone else?  Not to mention that you aren’t near a bar.  I read that they wanted to create commentary blocks where they scheduled people to be on.  That has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.  It’s totally counter to the impromptu nature of The Foundry.  People are standing around hanging out with homies, drinking booze, and you expect them to know ahead of time when they will feel like walking upstairs and isolating themselves?  I agree that it looks really cool on the stream to see the commentators upstairs.  But it’s seriously one of the worst ideas I’ve ever seen as far as making a stream cool, because no one cool is going to want to be up there.

Plup was there on Tuesday, and I think it’s almost certain that, if commentary were in a better state at The Foundry, we would have seen him on the mic, which would improve viewership, make more people want to come, etc.  As is, when guests are there, they aren’t even inclined to get on the mic and spew shit, like they did when Armada and Leffen were there.  I even heard that Foundry 100 was actually not that cool, even though there were a ton of people there.  I’m sure that the week after Genesis, and hopefully the week before as well, are going to be fucking awesome.  But I really doubt we are going to have many more moments like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8orJkb0LtaE Until then, I’ll cherish my more recent highlights, https://clips.twitch.tv/showdownsmash/EnthusiasticEmuBCouch and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOlIioW9bnE which I don’t see getting replicated any time soon.

P.S. sorry for the obvious “stroking myself” in this post.  I actually don’t like coming off this full of myself, but The Foundry was a really awesome place that a lot of us loved, and I think there were several of us who contributed to making it was it was.  As the title of my blog goes, no equivocation allowed.

Ego as an Impediment to Growth

Ego is one of the most common reasons why people plateau in their quest to become the best Melee players they can be.  Ego interferes with improvement in many different ways.  Even if you think you have your ego in check, you may realize in reading this that there are situations where it is at the heart of the problem, just not in an immediately apparent way.

With ego comes arrogance.  Arrogance results in difficulty taking feedback.  It can be hard to listen to someone who is way worse than you talk about the game.  I get triggered all the time listening to terrible players talk about Melee.  In spite of this, it would behoove us all to make sure we don’t neglect information about the game because it comes from an unexpected source.  I’ve had to tell top players for years that powershielding doesn’t reduce shieldstun.  Melee is a game full of mysterious mechanics, and no one knows everything about it.  More commonly, ego makes us unable to take criticism about our gameplay.  Sometimes players worse than you can notice bad habits or deficiencies that aren’t obvious to you.  Ego might even be what obfuscates these deficiencies.  Different players look at the game in different ways, so don’t ignore the possibility of insight from anyone.  This is particularly relevant if you are trying to level up in doubles, where ego is by far the most problematic thing in social dynamics between teammates.

Work ethic is important for improvement at anything and is one of the most common deficiencies in Melee players.  Ego can damage your work ethic because of complacency and arrogance.  You might have been able to do 100 perfect ledgedashes last week, so then you’ll feel like you don’t need to practice it anymore.  Reliable tech skill comes at the price of eternal vigilance.  Don’t neglect practicing your bread and butter “because you’re already good at it.”  How many hours do you think Armada and M2K have spent comboing CPUs, and yet, they still beat up CPUs before getting on stage.  Work ethic doesn’t just mean practicing tech skill either.  It means maintaining the same fire you had when you were getting wrecked by your rival month after month.  If you lost to someone for years, and then you beat them week after week, it’s easy to fall into complacency.  Regardless of how good you are, you still need to go to tournaments and work on implementing new things.  The beauty of Melee is that there is no skillcap; we should all strive to implement new things and polish our gameplay until the end of days.  Don’t tell yourself that after you lose a friendly to an arcadian that you would have won if it were tournament—think about what you can learn from the game you just played.  Don’t john to protect your ego.

Ego makes you isolate yourself from situations that potentially damage it.  We all have friends who do disproportionately well against us for what our supposed respective skill levels are.  Most of us hate playing these people.  Our egos hate that we do worse than we feel we should.  The fact of the matter is that these are people that you should actively seek out to play because their playstyle exploits weaknesses in your own.  Ego makes us want to avoid situations where we can get upset in tournament, or even avoid giving someone a runback after beating them.  Don’t avoid matches because you “have nothing to prove” and don’t seek out matches because you have to prove something for the sake of your ego.  To improve as rapidly as possible, you should play as much as possible against players who can potentially beat you.  It’s easy to attribute losing to factors outside of your control.  But factors outside your control are just that—outside your control.  Hence, it’s pointless to focus on them, because your own deficiencies are within your realm of influence.

Expectations for results are an understandable reality of being a competitor.  However, having your ego tied to these results can take you out of the moment.  Our lives are the cumulation of a series of present moments.  There is nothing you can do to change the past.  The present has a deterministic relationship to the future, such that the only way to affect the future is through the decisions we make in the present.  The future does not exist as anything except an intangible idea.

Don’t let your ego make you worry about intangible meaningless concerns.  When playing a tournament set, all your focus should be dedicated to what your opponent is doing, what he’s likely to do, and what options are available to you to counter theirs.  This is the last time you want to have thoughts creeping in about results.  The easiest way to get upset by someone you “should” beat is to start thinking about things like what people are going to say about you losing, how losing will affect your power ranking, how you should be winning, how you are so much better than your opponent, etc.  All of these thoughts are inextricably linked to your ego.  Focus on the game and not perception of your skill.  Learning to silence your ego and have stillness of mind will result in your performance being better and vastly more consistent.

Stage Selection in Singles and Doubles

When I listen to commentary, I hear constant incorrect predictions about what stage is going to be counterpicked.  When I watch Twitch VODs, I read constant disapproval of my counterpicks.  Let’s talk about each stage briefly and what they offer.

FD: Lots of space to retreat.  Approaches are more telegraphed because there are fewer options.  Camping is strong here.  Flowchart punishes are buffed.  Recovery options are generally reduced, though Fox can angle deeply into the stage, and wall jumps are also possible.  Ledge guarding someone by hitting them with a strong move into the stage is bad because the stage is so long.

Pokemon Stadium: Long stage with lots of room to retreat, but with a low ceiling and janky transformations.  The platforms are pretty small here and don’t always help recovery because they are a bit closer to the center of the stage.  Recovering can be difficult because you can’t see yourself under the stage, and angling into the stage is possible but not easy.  I would not recommend picking this stage unless you are somewhat comfortable on at least 3 transformations.

FoD: Small stage with high ceiling.  The fundamental opposite of FD in that it’s the most free flow and the least flowchart.  With constantly changing platforms, you have to constantly change your strategy.  There is always a top platform, though it’s somewhat low.  Some player opt to camp until the stage configuration is “Mini FD.”  Eyeing Fox recovery can be difficult here because he will be put into the magnifying lens even when he’s not very far off stage.  Allows for T-Drop and cool recoveries from low.

Yoshi’s: This stage is crazy!  You get close quarters fighting, low platforms, shy guys (fly guys for you snobs), Randall, Scar Jumps, and tiny blast zones.  This is the stage you go to if you want to fight.  Every character has traits that are stronger on this stage, so don’t neglect it because it’s “bad in a matchup.”

Dreamland: The opposite of Yoshi’s.  Big stage you go to when you want to live forever, camp, and be meticulous in neutral.  Platforms are high and can be hard to cover.  Sometimes Wispy messes up ledge guards.

Battlefield: The Goldilocks stage.  If other stages feel too big or too small, this is the stage you want.  Note that the top platform is very high, and the side platforms are quite wide, so it can be difficult to cover them. Also reduces recovery options because people can’t angle into the stage.

When striking in singles, you should have a very clear idea of what strategy you want to implement on the stage you strike to.  If you have a strategy that you want to implement on one stage (probably a losing stage), it might be wise to go to that stage first.  That way, if you win you come out ahead in counterpicks, and if you lose, you haven’t given your opponent information for how you’re going to play in the rest of the set.  Note that you shouldn’t do this if your opponent will still have a strong counterpick for game 3.

When you counterpick a stage, your stage should generally mitigate the factors that caused you to lose the previous game.  In my last 5 sets against good Falcos in NorCal, I’ve opted to CP Yoshi’s on match point each time.  Conceptually, I hate this idea.  I feel that that stage is risky and super good for Falco.  Regardless of this, I felt that the reason I was losing was that I couldn’t get in on Falco, so I wanted to go to the stage where it was easiest for me to close distance.  It worked every time.  Yoshi’s could also be a good pick as a floatie if your opponent banned FoD and beat you by camping you.  I hate watching floatie players pick Dreamland and then get wrecked by camping.

Melee has a lot more strategy than low level players realize.  There are numerous reasons why you would pick a stage or ban a stage.  Thinking you shouldn’t go somewhere because it’s bad in the matchup is often the wrong way to think about things.  You should pick a stage where you have a solid idea for how you are going to win there.  This is something that you learn by assessing what went wrong in the games you lost, and is thus a function of the opponent’s playstyle.  Don’t think of stages as “good” and “bad,” think of them in terms of what will work for the situation you’re in.

This is especially true in doubles.  Because you have to account for so many characters and playstyles on the screen, you should really think about your stage striking, bans, and counterpicks.  Dreamland is often a good stage to start on against floaties because it gives you the most time to find your footing.  Floaties win by capitalizing on a few small slipups per game, so even though Dreamland gives you more chances to mess up, it also gives you more time to pick your spots.  FD can also be a good starting stage because it simplifies teamwork/combos.  Since there’s no platforms to escape to, it really is mostly about maintaining your zone, thereby holding position and formation.

Yoshi’s is often neglected in teams because it feels too risky or chaotic.  But maybe that’s what you want.  Maybe you play Peach and you will get huge mileage off of pressing down on both sticks in chaotic situations.  Remember that if you play double floaties against a team with a fastfaller, dsmashing everyone is probably going to come out hugely in your favor.

Stadium and Battlefield don’t offer a ton in terms of strategic advantages in teams.  Battlefield’s top platform is a notable trait that you should consider when picking it, because lots of characters struggle to cover that space.  Put thought into what each stage offers you before you pick it.  I teamed with Vish at BH4, and we played against Eikelman and Bizzarro Flame.  I suggested we ban FD during striking and he was baffled.  Then I explained that, in singles, what you gain from the stage is lots of space to dash dance grab and do flowchart punishes.  In doubles, we’re just making it easier for us to get team comboed and for us to get trapped in bad positions.  We ended up striking to FD and it went exactly as I feared.

Picking stages based on some preconceived notions is usually the wrong way to go.  Why are you thinking about some abstract notion of how it should be played rather than what’s going on during your actual set?  Ask yourself why you lost the match and formulate a new game plan.  If you lost because of easily fixable mistakes, maybe you should run it back, even if you have a theoretically better stage.  While another stage might buff your character, you should consider the possibility that you are injecting new variables into the equation, and that your gameplan might not be relevant on this new stage.  If you can’t tell me exactly why you picked a stage during a set, then you didn’t put enough thought into it.

Finding Yourself as a Commentator

After writing my social dynamics article and listening to so many fantastic commentators at Summit, I want to write about discovering one’s self.  Trying to be someone that you aren’t on the mic is one of the easiest ways to be a terrible commentator.  This isn’t to say that being yourself guarantees a warm reception.  I’m going to talk about some of the most popular people in our community and why they are so beloved.  Scar, Mango, The Moon, HMW, Phil, Vish, Lovage, Blur, and Tafokints are some of the people in our community who garner the most adoration.

Scar and Mango are over the top characters.  Their mouth flows directly from their heart without much filtering.  They ride and die with their opinions, regardless of their validity.  They are stubborn motherfuckers who are unapologetic about being who they are.  They have dominant personalities that are extremely entertaining, making them natural born showmen.  Few people have problems with their jocular and assertive personalities because they own it so well.  Most of their haters are probably people who wish they were as cool.  Even if you don’t like them and resent their personalities, Melee would be dead if either of these people hadn’t been born, so you owe them some level of respect.

The Moon, HMW, and Phil are amazing human beings.  It’s hard to listen to these guys without having a good time.  They are quirky and make lots of references using hilarious diction that lots of people might not get, but even if someone doesn’t get what they are talking about, they will almost certainly still find it entertaining.  These guys make you feel like you’re there.  For people like me who know these people, and probably for many people who don’t know them, they make me want to hang out with them.  Since The Moon isn’t from NorCal, whenever I hear that man’s endearing Mike Tysonesque voice, I miss that motherfucker and have a compulsion to hang out with him imminently.

Vish and Lovage, not unlike Phil and others, are almost impossible to listen to and not have a good time.  They are chill homies who exude positivity.  Their nerdiness is unmistakable but it doesn’t come at the cost of charisma.  As people who have had some great tournament results in the past, they have lots of insight into the game, but their analysis comes second to them hanging out and having a good time.  Since they are having a good time, you feel like you’re having one too.  Listening to them nerd out about how sick things on screen are is always hype.

That brings me to my last pair, Blur and Tafo.  These guys are as big Melee nerds as any other people in the community.  Blur’s Marthgasms make everyone hype.  Blur yells shit like “WHAT AN AMAZING DRIFT!” when it’s actually mundane as fuck, but it’s still hype.  It’s hard to hate on someone for loving Melee so much that they wet themselves constantly.  Tafo, on the other hand, isn’t quite so hype, but everyone still loves what he brings to the table.  He’s the analysis guy who gives us actual concrete information.  Tafo might have the worst commentator voice of all time, but no one really finds it objectionable, because what he does is so valuable to us.

The point of all this is that you should not try to fit some preexisting mold.  Create your own mold.  People will appreciate you for who you are as long as you bring something to the table.  I would sound retarded if I yelled “THE PRESSHUH!” into the mic.  It’s not my thing.  It’s awkward if I do it.  DJ and The Moon have the stupidest names for shit and people still love hearing them talk about it.  Just act like you do around your friends and you’ll come off as much more personable.  I yelled “INDISCRIMINATE PUNISHMENT” when playing friendlies with PewFat for years.  I don’t want to hear anyone else saying that on commentary ever (and lucky me I don’t think I have to worry about this).

Bear in mind that different stages necessitate different commentary styles.  As far as I’m concerned, biased commentary is extremely closely correlated with how good commentary is, but I still wouldn’t want Evo top 8 to have biased commentary. Narrating the match, as if it’s a radio broadcast, is not something very useful or endearing (though I think it’s not a bad way of doing solo commentary).  I wrote a Reddit post about my opinions of commentators and their different stages before, so I’ll just copy and paste that below.

Here are Melee commentators that I think are good: Wobbles, Mango, Blur with Mango, Brandon+Phil, Toph/Scar sometimes, and DJ+Moon (for the same reason as Brandon+Phil, just pretty funny guys to listen to). Toph+Scar are hit and miss because Scar’s thing is being grumpy and spouting bullshit, which is sometimes funny but other times obnoxious. I also think Chroma and Vro are decent because they manage to say a lot about the game while avoiding inaccuracies. Vish is pretty good too just because you can tell how cool a dude he is. Lovage and Bob$ are the GOATs, because they’re real full packages that bring everything to the table, but unfortunately they are both semi-retired.

Commentators like you [Tafo] and Fly are ok for me, because I like commentary to learn, but there are many of us who lack the voice or charisma to go along with the knowledge. At least 80% of Melee commentators are way behind the meta. This has been really obvious with regards to how slow they were to notice shield dropping stuff. Almost every time there’s someone I didn’t list on the mic, their commentary is >95% boring platitudes (“nice bair”), memes (“air wobble to rest”), or actual inaccuracies (lots of commentators are actual shit players, it blows my mind that Chroma has managed to master inaccuracy-free commentary while being a noob). Even with Chroma in mind, it’s not necessary to feign knowledge to be a good commentator. Artosis and Tasteless, who most people regard to be some of the best eSports commentators, never have a problem admitting their confusion. They don’t bullshit. CrimsonBlur manages to say 500 things that are wrong in one commentary block.

Doubles is even worse. When I listen to doubles commentary, it feels like the screen is showing a CS stream but the commentators are talking about Overwatch. Every time there’s a counterpick, they say retarded things, that are not only inaccurate, but actually frame the game in the wrong context. E.G. “They probably won’t pick FD because Marth is so good against Fox there.” What the fuck are you talking about? Marth has literally nothing special against Fox on FD in doubles. Have you ever seen it come down to a 1v1 where a Marth chaingrabs a Fox on last stock? I sure as fuck haven’t. It also triggers me to hear that a team has a lead whenever they are up 1 stock but are both high percent against 2 fresh stocks. That is legitimately a disadvantage and if people had paid any attention, it would be obvious that it swings the other way the vast majority of the time.

In games like DOTA and StarCraft, the commentators are much more on top of the meta. DOTA commentators have their predictions manifested in the game within ~10 minutes like 90% of the time. Most of them have played at the highest level of the game, and even if they don’t currently, they tend to be pretty good. Unfortunately, most decent Melee players who commentate are bad at commentary. The days of Lovage and Bob$, who are some of the most hype and DEFINITELY among the most informative, are well behind us. Now, we have people like Zhu. I complained to Zhu that his commentary on a match sucked. He said the match wasn’t interesting. Does he actually think that’s a legit john? The job of the commentator is to make the experience enjoyable and to explain shit. If a match is bad, this is the best time to flex your commentary. Banter a bit, have some fun. I’ve never heard Lovage or Bob$ commentate a match poorly.

[Sorry Zhu, I wouldn’t have called you out for this on my blog post, but in the context of the reddit thread, it made more sense]

Laudandus and I had a conversation where we concluded Artosis+Tasteless+Wife would be better than 99% of Melee commentary despite their lack of knowledge. It would go something like this [If you are familiar with these commentators, please try to read it in their voices]:

T: HOLY SHIT, HE JUST KEEPS BLIPPING HIM BLUE ACROSS THE STAGE

W: That’s known as the waveshine. The first time Ken did that on the big stage, oh man, we went nuts.

A: Mmm, it seems like he’s going to be using this waveshine technique a lot. It really lets him take control of the pace.

T: I’LL SAY, ARTOSIS! CAN HE EVEN DO SHIT ABOUT THAT?

W: You never know, these kids, they can do stuff we’ve never even imagined. That’s the beauty of Melee

A: It seems like he can’t keep him off the stage! So even after he waveshines him, if he can still get back, he’ll be fine

T: HE’S GOTTA KILL THAT MOTHERFUCKER!

Anyway, point is, that would be vastly more entertaining, and honestly just as informative as typical eSports commentary. We have a bunch of people who try to puppet the most mainstream commentators because we’ve constructed archetypes of what commentary should be like, but these archetypes are actually fucking retarded. I think we have a lot of people who represent our community well. Some basic bitch eSports commentary is fine for Evo top 8. But in top 32 at Big House, I want real fucking commentary. Commentators who know what they are talking about. Commentators who are allowed to say “HOLY SHIT” when something super hype happens. Commentators who are not afraid to say when a player made an obvious terrible decision, like going for a combo extension instead of a guaranteed kill.

Lastly, if you say air wobble to rest, you should be banned from commentary. You are legitimately ruining our community by cultivating the demographic of retarded noobs who actually think this is a thing. Jokes shouldn’t be risk free and try to appeal to everyone. Memes are cancer. Watching Tastosis, they just banter and say random shit, and most people find it funny. They literally never say any memes. It’s all original and they aren’t trying to be low risk, parrot bullshit. Why did commentators copy each other and start saying “extra credit?” I’ve literally never once heard someone say extra credit a single time off commentary. It’s so fucking stupid

Hopefully this post helps clarify my point of view. I knew my original post would get downvoted because it’s incendiary and doesn’t have any detail, but since you asked, I’m really happy to vent and explain my point of view. I guarantee you there’s no other eSport where as many of the top players mute commentary as much as ours.

Edit: Just for the hell of it, I’ll put in my ideal commentary lineups. Evo top 8: D1+Toph [When writing this blog post, I might actually want Webs to be one of the people representing us at Evo]. Genesis top 8: Brandon+Phil. Big House top 8: Toph+Scar. I’m Not Yelling top 8: Wobbles+Tafo+Vish (some triple commentary anyway, good trios are actually fucking sick). SSS grand finals: Blur+Mango. Doubles top 8 at Pound 7: Me+Wife or Me+The Moon. Doubles top 8 at Genesis: Me+Toph. KoC5 top 8: Hammered Alex19+Blur. BH top 32: DJ+Moon. Genesis top 64: Vish+Vro. R1 pools at a national: Me+JB. Doubles top 32 at Genesis: Chroma + G$ (I don’t know if G$ is a good commentator, but he’s good at doubles and he’s fucking cool, so I imagine he would be). In this list, I tried to come up with people who could feasibly commentate, IE would be attending and who would not be averse to commentating due to their competing in the tournament. The point is that we can have commentators find their niche. Personally, I like doing doubles commentary on top doubles matches, and I like commentating shit singles matches where I get to banter a lot. Different people can represent us on different stages. Commentators have many different skillsets, and we shouldn’t be trying to get everyone to fit into a few preexisting molds.

List of Common Noob Habits You Should All Try to Break

I thought I’d write a list of problems that newer players consistently have. The list isn’t comprehensive, but if you’ve been playing for < 2 years, odds are you have at least a couple of these habits. I know I suffer from some of these bad habits as well, but at least I’m cognizant that I did something stupid and that I should try to avoid it in the future. If you can possibly watch footage of yourself, review it and note any of these habits. If you can’t watch yourself, then just try to think about these things next time you play.  Note that this isn’t a comprehensive list of bad habits.  It’s a list of bad habits that I commonly see if I sit down on the setup with a random.  For instance, tech rolling predictably is a bad habit, but I have come across <5 noobs in my life that invariably tech roll away, and >200 who repeatedly tech roll in.  Because I, and pretty much all other decent players, are cognizant of these bad habits, if you suffer from 2-3, you are likely to be punished extremely hard, to the point that you don’t have any chance of winning.

List of common noob habits:

Using your jump as soon as you get out of hitstun in the air

Recovering by jumping and attacking instead of jumping to the ledge

Attacking when cornered

Mindless full hops when cornered

Excessive rolling

Excessive spot dodges

Excessive shield grabs

Spamming finishing moves in the neutral instead of combo starters

Consistently doing survival DI instead of combo DI

Grabbing the ledge indiscriminately when ledge guarding from the stage is better

Not respecting crouch cancel

Going for hard reads when you don’t have a read

Going for a read in a reactable situation

Teching in place too much

Tech rolling toward the center of the stage too much

Only recovering in one way

Spamming ledgehop aerials, especially dair with spacies

Watching yourself getting comboed instead of trying to get out

Pointless movement, usually involving wavelands and platforms. Against Marth, for example, it’s hardly ever actually a good idea to go to platforms. Just because you can do a movement trick doesn’t mean you should

Spamming an option because it works and not because it’s good (specifically in friendlies)

Trying to do too many things–master specific setups and gradually build up your arsenal

Trying to use moves that are just bad