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]:


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.


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


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

NMW’s Guide to Getting Good at Melee (repost)

Plateaus exist at all levels of play in competitive gaming. Rather than lack of practice keeping players from improving, it is usually a lack of knowledge about how to practice intelligently. MIOM has had some articles about how to improve, and I hope to add to those by going through a basic flowchart of how to advance in Melee. The optimal way to improve is to learn things in an order based both on ease and usefulness. Though the list is stratified, the transition of focus is gradual. As you start to master one step, you will slowly shift your focus more and more to the next, until everything you learned from the previous steps is subconscious.

Though I feel strongly that this sequence is the best way to improve, it’s important to remember that during each of these steps, there are other things to practice. Your available practice partners will impact which things you can practice effectively. If you don’t have other people to practice with, coming up with new technology or highly situational techniques may be the only thing you can practice. Or maybe you just find solo practice to be a ton of fun. There are reasons to practice contrary to how I suggest. You as an individual will have your own weaknesses that will require different training. Spacing is a good example of something that, despite being deficient in many players, does not require specific attention. Someone could actually have good or bad spacing at any step. Though it may be the most important and fundamental aspect of the game, people normally pick it up over time without having to dedicate attention to it. Conversely, bad habits are something that are not shed the same way that bad spacing is. You should continually evaluate your habits at every step. It can be something simple, such as “My wavedashes are always shorter in game than in practice” or “I jump immediately whenever I get hit,” or something as complicated as “I always get mindgamed when Marth crosses up my shield, do something stupid out of shield, and get punished by pivot fsmash.” Old habits die hard, and this as true in Melee as any other game. Muscle memory is essential for getting your SHFFLs down, but autopilot is the enemy of mindful improvement, and thus muscle memory is often the biggest hindrance of growth.

It’s been said time and time again, but the first thing any new player should practice is tech skill. This starts with short hops, SHFFLs, and wavedashes. Once these are out of the way, more character specific technology awaits. Samus players might choose to practice Up+B OOS. Falcos need to learn reverse lasers. Falcons should master pivots. Different characters have different tech skill requirements, but no character is free from requiring tech skill. This phase is about learning basic tech skill and does not touch the truly difficult stuff, like haxdashes or invincible waveland usmashes. Nonetheless, to a new player, it would be supremely impressive to get past this phase in even in a few months. Experienced players often forget how hard it is to have any control over your character when starting out. Keep in mind that mastering a technique in solo practice is only the first step. After this, you have to learn to do it under pressure, and then you have to learn how to apply it. The application of any given thing is generally learned just by spamming it and then figuring out which situations it’s useful in through trial and error. You will start to have an idea of when wavedashing and some other techniques are good, but there’s no way to come close to understanding the application of everything at this step.

The next thing to focus on is a punish game. Though the neutral game is arguably more important, the punish game is easier to focus on. Neutral game improvement involves understanding of mindgames, positional advantages, etc. Knowledge of most of these things actually comes quite naturally with experience. The punish game is something that, like tech skill, is largely contingent on your own execution and not on interaction with the opponent. Waveshine usmash, stomp knee, chain grabs, frame perfect aerials, etc. can be practiced just by focusing on yourself during a match. Master your own hitboxes, learn your frame data, and learn to be precise with your character. This is the time when good players can most easily give good advice, so you should solicit it as soon as you feel your tech skill is solid. Bad move selection is a glaringly obvious deficiency in most new players, and it’s pretty easy to say “You should have usmashed there” or “You need to learn to use your invincibility to ledge guard that.” Most people plateau during this phase because they don’t give it adequate focus–there is a vast amount of progress to be made in this step. Improving your control and punish game is not only one of the easiest ways to improve but also one of the most gratifying. There are few other times when your improvements will be so immediately apparent both on the screen and in your results. When starting Melee, the first year, or maybe even two if you aren’t dedicating much time to it, is best spent learning to have perfect control over your own character.

The third step is DI. Although one may think that DI is a simple input and could be learned earlier, DI takes focus on the opponent. You have to watch them. Really, if you are a competent player, you should actually be watching your opponent all the time and never focusing on yourself. But this takes too much concentration to practice for a new player, and focusing on it sooner will impede improvement of other things that are more easily practicable. Moreover, after you start to notice and understand DI, this will help expand your repertoire of punishes. Many new players go for their killing moves in the first possible setup. Experienced players will do autocombos or bread and butter extensions into their killing moves. Great players will trick their opponents DI to artificially extend combos (PewPewU and S2J are two players who really seem to know when to go for their finisher and when to extend combos). But for any new player, it starts first with auto combos, then with standard but not automatic combos, and then somewhere down the line DI mixups come in. As you learn to watch your opponent and not yourself, you will start to gain some insight into the neutral game, though this knowledge may be subconscious. In order to have good DI, you need to understand when your opponent wants to attack.

The fourth step is the neutral game. This is when you are actually starting to play Melee in a way comparable to respected players. This is when you learn everything about every character. You learn their ranges, their recovery options, their frame data, their positional weaknesses, etc. It’s time to start theorycrafting and to truly understand the utility of all your options. You’ve probably been watching videos for your whole Smash career, but now is when you really learn to analyze them. Learn to understand why players choose to do what they do, not just admire how sick their combos are. Watch videos with analysis by top players and make sure you understand everything they say. You will now get hype over things that you didn’t notice before, and things you got hype over before will now seem standard. Though we have amazing resources like smash labs, where Melee’s elite have shared their insights going into their thought process, I find myself now thinking that the neutral game has some ineffable quality to it that makes it difficult for me to give useful advice at this stage. Once you have mastered control over your own character, and you have learned to watch the other player, things will start to click.

The beauty of the game doesn’t really shine through until you are at this stage. There are a few things that come to my mind that puzzled me for years. I always heard about stage control and about momentum of the match. Yet it was difficult to see how control of the match influences decisions about when to attack and when to evade. The lack of understanding of these concepts is obvious in new players because of how frequently throw out attacks from defensive situations. As your ability to understand other characters blossoms so will your ability to mindgame other people. After hearing “rolling is bad” for years, step 4 is when you should finally have enough situational understanding to bait and punish them. Once you understand the options a character has, the brilliance behind the decisions of top players becomes clear.

The last stage that I feel qualified to talk about is innovation. If you are at this step, you have watched many videos and you understand your own limitations. You are making few bad decisions when you play, and when you do make one, you either understand and regret it or solicit advice to deal with the situation. From step 2 onward, you have been expanding your bag of tricks. The movement options you practiced are now clear in their application. You don’t drop combos anymore and you have all the expected skills of a competitive player. Now you have beaten some respectable players, but you probably still aren’t at a level where you are a serious threat to your regional bosses. Your own style will have started to emerge in step 2, but this is where you harness your own strengths and introspect to search for small optimizations. As an aspiring player, you won’t be able to beat people better than you just by copying what they do. I believe it was Prog that spoke in the documentary about how no one can truly teach you Melee. They can show you 90% but this is that last 10%. Polish everything and incorporate every new thing into your game that you can. Deign to have truly difficult tech skill as consistent as easy tech skill. Make sure the most useful things are the things you dedicate the most time to be consistent with. This goes double for spacie players. If you aren’t beating good players yet, your multishines aren’t going to change that. It’s a waste of time to spam multishines until you are deep in step 4. Even then, remember that Melee has an absurd amount of borderline useful tech. Multishines are cool but SDI is way better.

Until you are in step 4, you aren’t really in a position to innovate. You can go do all the solo practice you want, and you can learn or invent some new technology, but you will almost certainly not be able to apply it in a match. The necessity for new movement options or any new technology is what will drive you to implement new things in your game. You need a deep understanding of positioning and situations that occur in game in order to implement new things. Step 5 is something that helps you break plateaus that you reach in step 4. It’s how you get new options to get out of sticky situations and how you trick other people with options that they didn’t expect. Remember that, in a close tournament set, if you use something once and it gets you one kill, it was worthwhile (and likely crucial).

These final two steps are the most blurred in their lines. No one ever truly masters the neutral game because it isn’t truly masterable. There are always mind games and new styles of play. Melee is a game with beautiful depth, and if you practice mindfully, your rate of improvement should generally increase as you get better. It’s like practicing violin–it’s going to take years to make anything worth listening to, but after some years, you are able to pick up new compositions rapidly and express yourself more fully. Learning matchups is terribly difficult if you are still in step 2, but it’s something you will pick up rapidly if you are in step 5. I would go as far as to say that, with the right partner, a matchup could go from being one of your worst to one of your best in a day. Most players face plateaus throughout their development, but it’s just because they don’t have direction. Now, with all the resources ranging from MIOM to Smashboards to Sirlin, there is a massive amount of content to help direct your practice.

As a final note, I’d like to say that, for not only the sake of fun, but also for your growth as a player, learning teams should happen during steps two and three. If you can precisely place attacks, you can play teams. DI is easier in teams because holding in is good most of the time. Rolling and bad tech habits are less problematic. At this level of play, you will also get a lot more out of playing continuously and practicing control over your character than you will losing every game you play in a four man rotation. The intricate dance of the singles neutral game can be entirely circumvented. All you need is to play your role. If you are a new player but have a partner who is good and with whom you have good synergy, you can definitely beat two great singles players who lack synergy. As a low level player, your chances of beating a good player or even a pair of good players is immensely higher in teams than in singles. I’m sure new players would love to have the accomplishment of beating two good singles players with their buddy in teams, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do this. Though the skillset is different in doubles, it’s actually much easier to do your role and be a good teams player than it is to learn the subtleties of the singles neutral game and its spacing.

Rock Paper Scissors, “What’s Good,” Playing Your Game, and Conditioning

The neutral game in Melee is the part of the game with the most depth and yet it still probably has the least content about it. While it’s easy to describe how matchups fundamentally “should” be played, it can be very hard to implement this knowledge. CrimsonBlur does an amazing job articulating how matchups should be played, and this is something where he is a pretty reliable source of information. The question is then, why, at a top level, are his descriptions so often inaccurate? I absolutely love that Marth vs. Sheik continues to be played out more and more the way it should happen in theory and I absolutely love that Marth vs Falcon does not. The reasons why this is the case are in the title of the article. Let’s start with RPS.

I have talked about RPS quite a lot in the past, so I can be relatively brief here. Fighting games, and most games with strategy, are ultimately a form of weighted RPS, where different options have different risk/reward ratios. Obviously things with better lower risk or higher rewards are preferable. Things that are virtually risk free will be chosen the most often. Things that have big rewards in Melee tend to be risky, though this isn’t always the case (for the sake of simplification, let’s just consider things that are easier to react to as more risky rather than a third consideration). Because there aren’t a lot of high reward options that are low risk, you can usually narrow down the number of high reward options that a player might opt to use to a small set, e.g. wavedash fsmash as Marth. Unless you are playing w33dl0rd or n0ne, you should be able to keep track of which risky options a player throws out. More often than not, high risk options are chosen on defense, because defensive situations don’t have as many good answers to them. Remember those things, and try to play around them in a low risk way. Once you have noted these habits, you can start baiting and punishing them.

What is good in Melee is mostly a function of risk/reward. Good things tend to be difficult to react to, i.e. have low risk, or are difficult to punish even when reacted to properly, e.g. Falco’s AC bair. Other good things counter specific options with devastating potency. These things might cost you your stock if you miss, but you’ll still consider using them if the situation arises. Some options, like fthrowing someone off with Marth or Falco then DJ dairing their sweetspot to the ledge, can be low risk and have a huge reward, but there are not a ton of options like this. That’s one option that hard counters a common defensive option, which is among the most sound for most of the cast in terms of risk/reward. That makes it a very sound offensive option, because not only is it devastating, but what it devastates is a good defensive option. However, almost every option in the game, no matter how stupid or sound, can be hard countered by something else. Most of these hard counters are not sound in terms of risk reward, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. It means you need to know when to do them. Here’s one of my favorite examples:

Hit shield –> bait bair oos, pivot fsmash or rboost . It works a shitton of the time. Finishing a set with a gimmick or “onesie” as Shroomed likes to call it is a fantastic way to close out a tense situation.  This brings me to a discussion of my favorite player to talk about, whose dick I’ve already sucked plenty on this blog: Lord. Lord has a huge bag of gimmicks.

I sometimes resent when commentators describe his play as gimmicky, because he’s smart, has a lot of depth, and is sound in terms of the basic fundamentals of the game. In spite of this, he is a gimmicky fuck. The dude has so many more gimmicks than anyone I’ve ever met. One time, I saw him hit Shroomed’s Sheik off and waveland onto the BF side platform. PPU said into the mic, “What’s the gimmick going to be?” and then he fucking FH nairs and FFs immediately, hitting Shroomed way below the stage. Now there is no way that shit should ever work. I am not going to steal that because it feels reactable as fuck to me and like it gives them an extra chance to live that you don’t need to give them. And yet, he knew in a tournament set to go for it, because he knew it was going to work. The man knows when to do specific tricks. If your head is up your ass and you are insistent on just doing “what’s good,” you are going to come across someone like Lord, n0ne, or Laudandus who dicks you and leaves you immensely frustrated (I assume Hax and Armada aren’t reading this).

I’ve said pretty much of all of this before. But the reason I bring Lord into this article is the idea of making someone else play your game. At Genesis 3, Gahtzu lost six stocks before taking one of Lord’s. People frequently compare my playstyle to Gahtzu, as well as my bag of tricks, and let me tell you, I have gone to Lord’s house and experienced the exact situations and emotions that were on that man’s face when facing Lord. I am good but not great at doing a lot of tricks that Lord does, especially involving crouch cancel. I have experienced the same RPS situations as Gahtzu, where Lord picked things that he knows beats your options, even though your options are strategically sound. The fact that he knows they are strategically sound makes it easier for him to read and then pick the correct counter. I even know the counters to the counters, and Gahtzu might have as well. But still, he is way better at these situations because he has been in them so many times and has so much experience reading people as they adapt to his options. The easiest one I can point out is after hitting someone’s shield, a lot of people like to jab. Well guess what, ASDI down grab beats that. Jab Lord’s shield and he usually grabs you. When he hits your shield, you think he’s gonna jab? Nope, he raptor boosts. Raptor boost is a fucking terrible option to do after hitting someone’s shield, but what option does it counter? ASDI down grab spamming. It beats literally no other options. I know this, and yet, when I play Lord, because it’s his strong point and something that I am just decent at, he manages to come out on top in these situations ~70% of the time. Laudandus thinks that picking the right option in RPS is not skill. I disagree. Force people to play your game and you can win despite a skill disparity. M2K has made a career out of cheesing people in situations at the ledge where he’s at no objective advantage using the disparity in situational knowledge and awareness.

I hope at this point it’s obvious how this ties into conditioning. If you are able to put people in mixup situations, especially ones that you are familiar with that they have to learn on the fly, you are likely to come out ahead, e.g. Lord punishing Flash whenever he tried to get back on stage. The best way to do this is to do something standard and low risk the first few times a situation comes up, then to mix them up later in the set. Sometimes it may be best to save your mixup for later in the set in order to trick them at a crucial moment, though I have ambivalent feelings about whether you should not take stocks because you want to save tricks for later. Don’t forget that, in some situations, not mixing it up can be a really strong mixup, and if successful, this tends to get in peoples’ heads and tilt them (Frootloop is a player who’s very good at this). Getting hit by Fox usmash a bunch of times makes people think “Fox is such bs.” If the flow of the match calls for it, don’t be afraid to go for some whack shit like that.

As a final point, let me come back to the beginning and use Marth vs. Sheik and Marth vs. Falcon to drive the point home. In theorycraftland, Marth vs. Sheik should be played by Marth dancing around Sheik, using his superior ground movement and dtilt to poke Sheik because she doesn’t want to jump. In practice, this matchup has usually come down to Marth’s having imperfect maneuvering and getting caught, then getting beat up by Sheik’s punish game, which is immensely easier to perform than Marth’s. Going into 2017, it seems like Marth players are finally getting to the level where they can move around and play the match the way it “should” play out. In theory, Marth vs. Falcon should be played by Marth stuffing or evading Falcon whenever he tries to throw out a move, and by using Marth’s dtilt to prevent Falcon from playing a one dimensional, move on the ground and fish for grabs type game. I think that, in theory, Falcon shouldn’t really be able to hit Marth (if you’ve ever played Tai in the matchup, he plays it the most like the way I’ve laid it out). However, in practice, Falcon can set up enough RPS situations using CC, raw grab, run up shield, instant uair, and raptor boost so that Marth players can’t just play it out the way it “should” go. If Falcon wins only a few RPS exchanges, or is able to call out Marth movement with a risky approach just a few times, Falcon can still win. Marth is getting better at avoiding situations where any mixup can happen against Sheik, but Falcon players are getting better at creating frustrating situations for Marth where you can trick them and get a juicy opening.

Here’s an excerpt from Luninspectra’s “7 Habits of a Professional Smasher,” which is one of the existing pieces of literature that I highly recommend reading, and which goes into detail about the subjects discussed in this article.  Please forgive him for his dark era Smashboards punctuation.
“case Constructions

The Amount Of Case Constructions You Have Determines The Ability You Have To Play Against New Players Comfortably. You Construct Cases To Mentally Minimize The Possible Actions Your Opponent Can Take. Here’s An Example:

rey Double-jumps As jeff Is Standing There
jeff Knows That rey Can Only:

1) Come Down With An Aerial
2) Firefox Or Illusion To Another Part Of The Stage
3) Waveland
4) Land
5) Airdodge

jeff Will Now Be A Statistician And Remember What rey Did When He Double-jumped. (you Don’t Actually Have To Use A Log Or Count…but If You Can That Will Be Amazing). Mostly At This Point, You Should Remember The Primary Action rey Will Take (coming Down With An Aerial), And The Secondary Action (wavelanding). You Can Then Minimize It Even More, Because rey Will Either Come Down With An Aerial Or Waveland. What Move Counters Both Of Them? Possibly The Raptor (falcon’s Forward+b).

Apply The Best Move For The Situation Or Use It By Chance/prediction. I Minimized The Actions To 2, Which Means The Lowest Chance You Have To Get Him Is 50% (assuming You Do The Right Moves). It Would Just Be A Little Hard, If rey Did An Airdodge To Avoid The Raptor Or Knee, Because He Never Did That At All In The Match Until Then.”

Wobbles’s The Four Aspects of Melee and 10,000 Words of Power by Little England are the other two articles I recommend reading for insight into fighting game fundamentals.  Here are links to these articles:

I don’t know why the spacing between paragraphs isn’t working properly in this article ;(

Social Dynamics for Smashers

It’s surreal to me that I feel compelled to write this article, but after talking to a lot of my close friends, I really think this can help a lot of people in our community.  If you watched the documentary and you came out with the impression that HBox is a victimized homie and Mango is a douche, read this article.  If you thought that story involving a noob, me, and W33dl0rd made me come off as a douche, read this article.  If you think I have Asperger’s, go fuck yourself; you almost certainly should read this article but I won’t expect you to do what’s best for yourself.  I’m going to tell some lengthy anecdotes here before getting to any sweeping claims or advice.  Anyone who knows me in real life knows I spend a shitton of time contextualizing stories, to the extent that it takes away from the visceral impact, but I will continue to do it anyway because I care about the value of context.

In the responses to a previous article, I got some flak for a story regarding an awkward noob.  This doesn’t surprise me because I don’t hold the social awareness of an average Internet random in high regard.  Being an awkward teenager isn’t something you need be ashamed of.  The vast majority of adults in the world were once like you, and this is even more true in nerdy communities like our own.  Let’s collectively try to shed our egos when reading this article.  Given the fact that you are reading an article entitled “Social Dynamics for Smashers,” I think you should be able to take a real honest look at yourself.  There was once a Reddit thread entitled “Why the hate for documentary kids?”  After some years, I realized that the reason for any lingering hate (the reasons were very different initially) is that there’s an age gap.  I replied that it’s because documentary kids are actually kids, and teenagers aren’t generally cool.  I understood my answer could trigger resentment.  Despite this, nothing could prepare me for this reply and the ensuing conversation I had with this Redditor.  His reply was, word for word, letter for letter, I shit you not, “Lmao im in hs and play spprts get ass and socialize i play netplay and go to tourneys in my freetime why r u calling me “Lame” and uncool”

To most of us, that reply speaks for itself.  I don’t need to explain to any of my friends why I’m compelled to facepalm when reading that.  They will all collectively laugh in disbelief at that reply.  I am not sure if I can actually explain how perfectly that embodies my mental image of random strangers on the Internet.  I can think of several reasons why that reply is absolutely ridiculous, but even to a wordsmith like me, there is a legitimately ineffable quality to that post.  I will remember to try to talk like that next time I’m trolling on PC gaming.  Anyway, the only reason for that aside is to provide context so people really understand why I’m writing this article and the mental level I believe much of our community is on.  If you don’t cringe when reading that post, you really should think deeply about this article.

Now, let’s talk about something that we can learn from.  That W33dl0rd+noob story I mentioned, which apparently made me come off as a douche.  If you think I’m a douche, that’s totally understandable—I can be abrasive and pompous.  But there is nothing about this story that puts me in the wrong.  I am going to go into extreme detail here to drive my point home.  From the top, it goes like this:

I was at a tournament on a 4 man rotation.  I would have liked to play teams, but NorCal’s hot up and comer Spark really wanted to play me.  Given that I won 100% of the games on the rotation, I was ok with playing singles, as my main objection with rotations is not getting to play as much as I would like.  On this setup, in addition to me and Spark, was W33dl0rd and a random Asian kid who played Fox and Doc.  We played for about an hour, and even though I won every game, Spark and W33dl0rd still seemed to be having quite a good time.  Spark, W33dl0rd, and I have an interesting social dynamic.  W33dl0rd is my in game apprentice, real life buddy, and a big troll.  I am also a troll but to a lesser extent, and usually more meta in my trolls.  Spark is an adorable 19 year old, whose positive attitude makes him a great competitor to be around.  Even though I find my in game interactions with Spark to be very boring, his good attitude towards the game means I still have fun playing him.  Better players will always admire the fire of up and comers.  In most other communities full of tryhards, it is not common to have better players eager to help their competition hone their skills, but because we have an amazing community, veterans are consistently apt to teach up and comers.  Spark consistently wrecks the worse tryhards who want to be on the comeup, usually by huge margins.  This leads to more than half the people in the venue being salty about how badly Spark shits on them, and they say ridiculous bullshit about his play.  I empathize with anyone in the community whose skills get played down.  Thus, W33dl0rd and I always troll Spark and invariably refer to him as Spork.  Most sentences start with “Reaction tech chase master Spork…” and then follow with some retarded statement like “is so much worse than __insert scrub here__ at neutral game but only wins because he plays so lame.”  Sitting on a setup with these two guys is just a great time all around.  Compounding our joy was the fact that w33dl0rd and I recently discovered the pleasure of Gould dashing, which is when you miss your dashdance and do a slow turn around.  Gould dashes worked about 18/20 times in this session with Spork, so every time I wanted to make him look stupid in game, I would Gould dash him and then w33dl0rd and I would make fun of him.  Again, this kid has a great attitude, so he never takes it badly.  We are all having a great time.  Now back to the point, if you forgot, there’s a 4th player on the TV.  This kid takes 0 stocks in an hour.  Literally not a single stock.  He also says 0 words in an hour.  0 words.  About seven games in, he fsmashes me off as Doc with me at around 80%.  He taunts and then drops the ledgeguard.  I 4 stock him.  Of course, I think to myself, “fucking idiot.”

Think about this kid from my point of view.  He’s sitting on a TV for an hour with three people being very social, obviously having a good time, not taking themselves too seriously, just shooting the shit.  He couldn’t make one joke, tell us his name, ask for tips in game, or do any interacting whatsoever?  The only way I could justify this is if he’s a prideful super tryhard, trying to study and think about the game, who doesn’t want to ask for help.  That would be respectable.  Everyone loves seeing motivated kids who show that they care about getting better.  But then he taunts and squanders his only chance to take a single stock.  Retrospectively, I wonder why the fuck he even sat on a setup with us.  He wasn’t getting shit out of it.  He had a super easy opportunity to make friends.  He could have solicited advice about how to improve his game.  Instead, he was awkward and got 4 stocked playing less than 15% of the time (games against Spark can be pretty long).  Why the fuck did this kid waste our time?  Why did he waste his time?  There is no fucking way I am going to ever invite him to a smashfest at my place.  This was a prime chance to actually get in with people who could help you get better at the game, and he squandered it completely.  You can take away from this that I am judgmental, but you cannot reasonably infer that I am a douchebag for not wanting to invite an awkward random noob who can’t take a stock to my house, as it should be obvious as fuck that people aren’t entitled to getting invited to a homie smashfest to train with good players.

Let’s now talk about how documentary kids reacted by concluding Mango is a douche and HBox is a victim.  I showed the documentary to two ex-girlfriends, neither of which knew anything about Melee or our scene, and they both expressed how badly HBox rubbed them the wrong way.  I was sure not to say anything about my personal opinions on the people in the documentary because I wanted to let them draw their own conclusions.  Then, at Big House 6, I met a sweet girl named Kayla.  She had a quote that resonated with me.  It went, “I can’t see how anyone can watch Hungrybox play, listen to him talk, and like him.”  Now personally, the way he plays does not irk me at all.  I think his Puff has actually produced some of the most hype sets in the last few years.  Armada’s YLink vs Hbox produced the worst Melee of all time, but times have changed, and HBox is rarely the player causing the game to be lame.  In spite of that, I agree wholeheartedly with Kayla’s words.  How can people watch the documentary, hear HBox talk, and arrive at the conclusion that he’s victimized?  The reason is simple.  Poor social awareness.

I know the documentary made Mango look bad.  And yet, both girls I dated didn’t have any resentment for Mango, and both strongly disliked HBox.  I have learned in my adult life that women tend to have way better social awareness than men (myself included), and that adults tend to be much better than teens or kids in this regard.  I first realized this by watching the movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley” with various populations.  Do the same and you’ll see how consistently some demographics pick up on nuances than others.  When an awkward teenager sees Mango and HBox in the documentary, they empathize more with HBox than with Mango.  The first reason is because HBox makes himself sound victimized, and most teenagers feel like they are victimized as well.  The second reason is that they are unable to recognize obvious posturing.  HBox talks one way because he wants to come off a certain way, and he is very deliberate with how he acts.  Being genuine, which Mango obviously is, is not something that teenagers recognize or value as much as adults.  The third reason is a little harder to articulate, but it has to do with recognizing what kind of person Mango is.  Teenagers who are likely to see the documentary are unlikely to be in a circle of “the cool kids.”  Now, I don’t think “the cool kids” are actually any cooler than other teenagers—they tend to be assholes with more confidence—but this is the kind of circle that a Mango type person probably exists in as a teenager.  If anything, Mango’s character is more likely to trigger them because they see him as some douche that they go to high school with, who is not part of their friend circle.  Believe me, I know what it’s like to think that all those other people at your high school are douchebags.  But the point is, Mango is actually quite the likable people person, and teenagers don’t pick up on the value of his character.  Seeing a drunk guy making a fool of himself in public is something that a teenager might look down on whereas a college kid is more likely to think “that’s funny, he’s probably fun to hang out with.”  In short, teenagers are likely to perceive Mango the way you’d perceive a douchey Guy Pearce character, which is just wrong.

Now, hopefully the disparity in how I described these things versus how you thought about some of these things has started to illustrate a difference in how people perceive situations.  So if you got this far, let’s get to the point of all this shit:

Embrace Melee as a social experience.  Getting better at the game almost always involves making new friends and bonding with the ones you already have.  If you think that you can become the best by yourself, you are wrong.  Even Mew2king made friends along the way.  Making more friends opens more possibilities for carpools, getting invited to smashfests, etc.  The Internet is not a nice place; people are assholes here.  People at Melee events tend to be very nice and helpful, especially in older and more established scenes.

Make conscious efforts to expand your social circles.  Playing a diversity of playstyles is extremely important to growth.  Top players can seem like they have a clique, but that’s really the wrong way to look at things.  They have a lot of common ground and years of history.  If you hang out with someone a few times a month for several years, you become inclined to chat with them and will likely become good friends.  They aren’t hanging out with each other because they are top players, they are doing it because they are friends with years of history.  If you have a tiny amount of confidence, you can usually become their friends too.

Build rapport with people by bonding over common feelings, preferably not negative ones.  Whining to build rapport is some of the most common and obnoxious shit that people who haven’t finished school love to do.  We all had shitty teachers with stupid homework, so that made a lot more sense as a way of bonding before we graduated.  Go on a date and whine about your boss and see how far that gets you.  Realistically, liking to smoke, drink, play doubles, play Around the World or Cactuar Stamina Pancake, are all things that can immediately be a point of bonding.  Just be fucking normal and show you are a human being* and you can be friends with top players instead of fans.  I’ve seen people hyperventilating over seeing Mango.  Do you think he’s actually going to want to hang out with that person after the tournament?

*As an aside, “be a normal fucking person” goes double for interacting with our fellow Smash Sisters or even girls outside our scene.  The fact that so many dudes are creepy and socially unaware is a primary reason that necessitates the existence of Smash Sisters as an organized thing.  Despite the fact that I have a bad reputation for making some allegedly sexist remarks, I tend to get along very well with girls I’ve interacted with in the community because I treat them like actual people.  I had one girl thank me for commentating on her play and not how she looks, because apparently I was the only commentator who does that.  Just think about how pathetic that is.

Don’t try to build rapport by bullshitting.  You aren’t giving a presentation to a class on some random topic.  I don’t want to hear about how 20GX is lame and S2J is sick.  I don’t want to hear any platitudes or memes used as a device to try to bond.  Trying to use commonly acceptable shit that’s frequently uttered as a means to bonding is obvious and obnoxious.  If you are trying to come off as an up and comer with a good competitive spirit, I don’t want to be able to tell that you are trying to do this.  If you are new, you might really want to feel like part of the community, but I really don’t need your validation, so please cut this shit out.  It isn’t remotely difficult to come up with something genuine to say like “sick combo” or “I like your Falcon.”  It’s honestly preferable to be an awkward fanboy than to make someone sit through these painful interactions.

Be who you are and own it.  We all have shortcomings.  Don’t be emo if you’re awkward and lack confidence.  We are all on journeys of self improvement.  Life is way too short to pretend to be someone that you aren’t.  Being true to yourself leads to some of the deepest satisfaction in life.  If you still have doubts about whether you can do this, just remember that Mango and Scar are pretty much the most popular people in our community, and they are very unapologetic about being themselves.  And if that’s not enough motivation, remember that people can sniff out phoniness and no one likes a phony.  But don’t let that restrict your growth as a person—you really can be whoever you want, not just act that way.

Keep context in mind when you interact with people.  The way someone reacts to you is going to depend on where and when you talk to them just as much as it is on what you say.  Don’t be surprised if a top player tells you “Fuck off” if you approach them at a bad time—it’s your fault for having bad social awareness.  When a top player is at a tournament before it starts, this is a great time to ask them some questions or play some friendlies.  Show them that you are a homie, show your positive attitude, ask to smoke them out, etc.  When they are salty after a loss, don’t ask for their autograph.  When they are stoned on a setup with the other best player there, don’t call next.  When they get eliminated from the tournament, see if they want to go take swigs from your flask.  Feel free to heckle your friends or a top player, but don’t heckle some noob at his first tournament.  Top players are expected to be able to deal with shit, but you really shouldn’t ruin a noob’s tournament experience.  You’re just a shit person if you do that.

Don’t be afraid to call people out for bullshit.  If someone spouts off bullshit, they deserve to be called out.  If they can’t take the heat, they shouldn’t have opened their mouth.  You don’t need people in your life who spew nonsense and are too sensitive to deal with criticism.  “Bullshit” is a broad notion.  Trying to claim a setup for a BO5 1 dollar MM constitutes bullshit in my book.  In my book, denying two people a MM to play friendlies without extenuating circumstances is also bullshit.

I hope this can help some of you become more full people.  An article like this would have helped me immensely when I was 15.  With my personality, which obviously invites people to shit on me, imagine how long ago I would have had a heart attack if I still cared about randoms in Twitch chat calling me a greasy virgin with Asperger’s.  To those of you who are old enough to have already found yourselves, I hope I’ve at least helped you cope with the amount of hate you’re likely to get if you’re ever prominent in any community (seriously, don’t have anything invested in the opinions of random idiots on the Internet).  Being more secure and confident will be more beneficial to your life than a college degree.  Quoting TMNT OOTS, “True acceptance only comes from within.”

Doubles for Singles Tryhards


­­­In a community largely composed of motivated young individuals who strive to climb to the peak of the mountain, investing time in doubles often seems like a diversion.  Being a good doubles player involves a different skillset, but honing your doubles skills can result in improvements in singles as well.  If you struggle with any of the following things, playing doubles will accelerate your growth as a singles player, probably even more than playing singles.

Fighting in close quarters/microspacing: Teams, especially on Yoshi’s, involves a shitton of hitboxes delicately spaced around both your opponent and teammate.  If you are antsy when people enter the edge of your range, this will quickly vanish from playing some good sessions of teams.  Your “bubble” is constantly violated, and you need to learn your hitboxes, their hitboxes, and how to drift/pivot/etc.  If you watched G3 GF, HMW+Phil talk about how Armada vs. Leffen matches tend to be played at mid and long range, but Mango vs. Armada was all being played at close range.  If you suck at close range, play teams.

Making decisions quickly: Situations arise much more quickly in teams.  Opportunities are fleeting.  In singles, you often camp in neutral, find your spot, then do your rehearsed punishes.  Teams has way more situations and infinitely more improv.  You will learn to recognize situations and to react quickly by practicing teams.

Being slippery and not getting locked down: Whenever your teammate dies, you need to be slippery.  Moves have frame commitments, but movement doesn’t necessarily.  Watching good doubles players like PPU, you can see how slippery they manage to be to avoid getting crushed in 2v1 situations.  If you are one of those people who consistently throws out moves at the same ranges instead of opting to maneuver around situations, playing teams, and especially 1v2, will immensely help you.

Seeing opportunities for crossups: Watch how PPU creates offense with crossups in 2v2.  Watch how he does it in 1v2 here In the same vein as how you will learn to maneuver better, you will learn to smell the right time for crossups.

Getting out of the corner: It’s very rare for you to get lucky and get out of the corner in teams.  Rolling in generally doesn’t work.  Dashing aerials are likely to get punished by the back line.  You have to get real good to reclaim stage position unless you can ledgedash like Hax.

Getting your moves out on the earliest possible frames: As mentioned before, singles has a lot of neutral.  Teams has a lot of “headsup” situations where you try to throw out your move to beat your opponent’s.  Getting your moves out as quickly as possible is super important.  You will learn to react to whiffs and hits on shield, as well as hit confirms because you need to get subsequent moves out quickly as well.

Dealing with crouch cancel: Crouch cancel is annoying.  Grabs tend to beat it.  Sometimes grabs are not a good option.  Learning how to space your moves and move quickly out of them to avoid getting CC punished is huge in teams.  If you play a team without a spacie, CC can wreck your day if you aren’t cognizant of it.  You’ll get really good at anticipating and playing around CC playing one of these compositions.

Ledge tech skill: Melee is a game played at the ledge.  Control of the ledge is way more important in teams than in singles.  More of teams is going to be played at the ledge.  You will be forced to ledgedash, refresh invincibility, and so on to reclaim stage position.

Getting out of shield: Shielding is better in teams because grabs there are way more situations where grabs aren’t threatening.  Not only does this result in you being in shield more, but you have to figure out how to get out in more challenging situations.  You can have your roll cutoff while you are getting shield pressured, or you can have two people sandwiching your shield with hitboxes like spacie utilts, staggering their shieldstun.  I shield way too much in singles, but at least I know to escape quickly.

Shield angling/shield DI/light shielding: As mentioned, you’ll be in shield a lot more.  Using these defensive techniques goes from being a nice helpful bonus to something essential as fuck.

Mashing: You gots to get outta grabz or else u gonna get fukt

Reading techs: Tech chasing with regrabs or things that slowly rack up damage is not a good idea.  Going for a hard punish based off a tech read is better the vast majority of the time.  It’s also easier to read techs in teams because more options are cut off.  Think of it like training wheels.  You’ll do it a lot more, and it’ll be a bit easier, so then you’ll be primed to do it when necessary in singles.

Anticipating recovery options/ledge guarding from the stage(admittedly, people tend to do this too much rather than not enough): Closing out ledgeguards as quickly as possible is important.  Protracted ledgeguards are bad.  You want to do a 1-2 step ledgeguard, not 5+ steps.  Therefore, reading and going for the coup de grace is better.  In spite of this, going offstage is often risky, so you’ll also learn to force people onstage and to ledgeguard them there.

Recovering with Randall: People go for Randall way more because the ledge is always covered.  Learn the timer.  Learn to use him.  Learn to stop people from using him.

Extending recoveries to get more opportunities to do so: Ledge teching 10 times, v-canceling, etc. are pointless a lot of the time in singles because they just reset you to a ledgeguard that anyone decent will hit.  If you Falcon kick after getting hit off at 100, you can keep living until 170, but you don’t gain any height most of the time.  Still, getting more chances is never a bad thing.  In doubles, it’s a SUPER good thing.  You’ll get better at living longer, and depending on which ledgeguard options your opponent opts for, you might even get to turn it around on them off a ledge tech.

L canceling against Ice Climbers: Hitting multiple targets, especially when you are unsure of how many you will hit, only happens in doubles and against ICs.  How this helps should be obvious.

Knowing when to get Nana (the answer is that you probably shouldn’t do this as much as commentators say): Target selection is another thing that’s only relevant against ICs.  “Always go for Nana” is bad advice.  Go for Popo when it’s a guaranteed kill.  It’s easy as fuck to knee ICs out of their side+b if it’s only Popo.  Popo’s recovery without Nana is seriously Falcon caliber.  In teams, you are often put in situations where you need to decide whether to ledgeguard or give it up and do something across the stage.  Like when facing ICs, it’s usually better to go for the guaranteed thing across the stage (team save, team combo, is like killing Nana) but sometimes you go for the kill on your side.  It’ll make it easier for you to decide when not to go for Nana, which is the default option.


Cultivating Interest in Teams

Melee doubles is not a very popular format.  Both in terms of viewership and number of competitors signed up, it trails far behind singles.  This is unsurprising.  Looking at tennis, which Melee takes after in many ways, we should expect doubles to be less popular.  Top players such as Armada, M2K, Shroomed, PewFat, and MacD often lament that doubles is lacking in popularity.  Though those people are outspoken advocates of doubles, there are many many more top players who also wish it were taken more seriously.  So the question is, “what do we do to make doubles more than a side event with a few connoisseurs?”  To investigate this question, first we must be cognizant of the reasons why doubles is not as popular.  In no particular order, the most salient reasons are difficulty to watch/understand, poor tournament schedules, lack of storylines, bad commentary, and bad attitudes.

Tournament scheduling is something that people probably haven’t thought of, but top players definitely have.  I expect that, in 2017, we can completely eliminate this issue and make a significant improvement both for competitors and for viewers.  Let’s start from the viewer perspective.  Day 1 streams at nationals, besides Genesis 3, have sucked almost invariably.  It’s 10 hours of lopsided matches with someone you’ve heard of stomping someone you haven’t.  In the past, I was critical that we did not put on mid level vs mid level player instead of high level vs low level.  However, with the increase in bad players at nationals, in addition to people potentially getting seeded out, getting competitive games out of R1 pools is pretty much impossible now.  So the status quo is that, there may be some cool exhibitions, but if that’s not the case, day 1 is always a terrible viewer experience, and nothing more than a formality for the higher level competition.

A significantly better experience, both for viewers and competitors, would be to do all of doubles on day 1 of a national.  That way, there’s a self contained storyline for all of day 1 (no one gives a fuck who won the matches at the end of day 1 normally), and the viewers get to see some actual good matches that matter by the end of the day.  This is MUCH better for competitors as well.  First of all, people could actually attend a 3 day national but miss the first day.  Even if some singles needs to be done on the first day, top players who get seeded out might still be able to come for day 2 and 3.  As a competitor, there’s a few significant problems with how doubles is currently run.  People don’t enter doubles because it infringes on their singles experience and performance.

Having to wake up at 9am because of doubles on the day where you play important singles matches sucks.  You did essentially nothing day 1, and then you have to wake up early to play something that you probably don’t care much about day 2.  Why not just not enter and focus on singles instead?  Moreover, tournaments are sometimes scheduled so you have to go back and forth between playing doubles and singles.  Teams is a different game with a different skillset.  It’s really taxing to go back and forth between playing the other formats.  Sometimes, you literally have to play matches back to back from differing formats.  Not to mention that entering both events can cut into your break time.  Based on which timeslots you’ve been scheduled into, it can be so bad that you don’t get a break between doubles bracket and singles R2 pools.  Holding top 8 of teams for late in the tournament is nice in theory, but I think it would be much better just to get it out of the way.  Imagine not having played doubles all day because you were practicing for your important singles matches, then you have to play the 7th place match to open doubles top 8.  It sucks to have to switch back to doubles when you aren’t in the groove because you are so far along in singles.  It’s a cool idea to try to give doubles a prime timeslot, but it detracts from the quality of the games, both by making the people who entered play worse and by deterring others from entering.  Get doubles done as early in the tournament as possible.

On the last point listed, bad attitudes, I found myself at a rare loss for words, trying to sum up this problem succinctly.  What I mean is that our culture, which starts at the most basic level, i.e. smashfests, avoids doubles like the plague.  People like to talk about how they don’t like doubles, but they have almost never given it a chance.  I can count on one hand the number of people who proclaim that they dislike doubles who have any idea how to play it.  This is the most difficult issue to fix because it’s pervasive in our culture.  Melee attracts people of a certain character archetype.  It takes a special type of person to get into a 15 year old game that you need a CRT to play.  This type of person tends to be competitive, self driven, tryhard, etc.  Team formats are less appealing to this character archetype than to average gamers.

If we can really drive just a few facts into our communal common knowledge, the initial aversion to doubles that newer players have can be overcome.  The first fact is that, for people who have been playing < 2 years, playing doubles is immensely better for improving your individual singles skill than losing every third game on a four man rotation.  If you are the guy winning a four man rotation, it probably isn’t very fun for you to stomp noobs.  It might be more fun and worthwhile to see if they’re down to play teams.  You can implant some knowledge in them, which might also result in a dramatic increase in their enjoyment of teams.  Subsequently, you might have more entrants in the teams bracket.  You don’t have to be selfless to help the community.  The next thing is to get people to realize that they don’t need a static teammate to do good teamwork.  Just understand a few basic things, that should honestly take ~3 minutes to explain, and you can have decent teamwork with most people.  In a lot of ways, teams is easier than singles.  Learn some basic things and you can actually be a pretty good teams player.  Everyone hates sucking.

If newer players knew how quickly they could not suck at teams, they would play way more.  If you have a friend who’s better than you, and you team with him for a week, you can beat another team who have way higher individual skill levels.  The first time I went on a roadtrip for Smash, I went like 1-7 in my singles pool, losing to CrimsonBlur.  In spite of this, my teammate Replicate and I got Mango and Westballz down to their last stock game 3.  I literally was a complete noob who learned a few situations and I still almost beat two of the best players.  It feels great to beat way better players, regardless of format. If newer players could feel this rush, they’d be hooked.

There are two last footnotes that I’d like to mention with regards to understanding some basic facts about teams.  First is that way more characters are viable in teams.  Newer players are often the whiniest about tiers, so this should make it more attractive to the demographic of players who act victimized because they picked a bad character.  Second is that most of the things that people whine about in Melee are much less impactful in teams.  Teams has some really lame things, and some lame things from singles transfer over.  But the things that really irk people about Melee are almost all nonfactors in teams, e.g. getting camped in the neutral or getting chaingrabbed.

Doubles has way more going on on the screen, so it’s never going to be as easy to watch or understand–that is an inherent quality of doubles that can’t be changed.  But good commentary is something that can alleviate the problem.  There’s some irony in what I’m about to say here given my reputation and credibility on the issue.  People who commentate doubles say all kinds of shit that they shouldn’t say.  I say “should” in the deontic sense, as in there are things that are in our collective best interest to not say on the mic.  For instance, people love to get on the mic, do a terrible job commentating, then talk about how hard doubles is to commentate.  Though there’s an iota of truth to this, it’s mostly bogus.  No one wants to listen to you whining about how commentary is hard.  Have any of us ever felt empathy with movie characters who have to deal with the struggles that come with being rich and famous?  What commentators actually mean when they say “teams is hard to commentate” is that they don’t know shit about teams so they don’t know what to say.  Well, no shit, it’s hard to talk about something that you don’t know about, big surprise.  This takes me to my next point.

Talking about how you don’t like doubles or how it’s stupid on the mic hurts the scene.  I might shit on CrimsonBlur for inaccuracies on the mic, but at least you can feel his palpable love for the game, both in singles and doubles.  For this reason, even if he were a random noob, it would still be better to have him on the mic than someone who more popular who sits there and shit talks what’s on the screen.  Zhu and Scar, for instance, are two of the worst doubles players of all time, who have absolutely no idea what doubles is about (I’m serious here,, but who still like to get on the mic and whine about teams being stupid.  Noobs are not going to enjoy what they are watching if the person on the mic is expressing their distaste for what’s on the screen.  It’s one thing to be ignorant of the meta and to lack knowledge, but to actively whine about what you’re commentating is just totally unacceptable.

The culture of Melee commentary has been shaped in a way that makes no sense, particularly with regards to when it’s ok to be negative. Somehow we’ve managed to make commentators feel obligated to talk about Peach vs. Samus without excessively whining, yet it’s ok to get on the mic during teams and talk about they hate teams. Commentators feel pressure to not shit on players even when they make an atrocious decision. This is a time when it makes sense to be negative. Conversely, why the fuck does anyone feel the need to get on the mic and talk about how they don’t like the content that they are casting? Even in SC2, where a lot of the first generation of pros hated the game, they would still keep their complaints off the mic, or at least put it in terms like “the game favors cheese more than its predecessor” rather than “it’s a shit game.” Just stay the fuck off the mic instead of using it as a platform to shit on stuff that other people like.

Chroma is bashful and talks about how he’s a bad doubles commentator.  He’s actually managed to assimilate some basic facts about teams and fills the air with accurate shit, making him one of the best teams commentators out there. A guy who is really truly terrible at teams (and singles) managed to be more insightful than all our other regular commentators by putting a tiny amount of effort into learning teams.  It’s pathetic that our standards are so low.  Given that most players don’t know how to play doubles, and most commentators don’t know jack about doubles, a typical stream watching experience is basically random chaotic shit on the screen with malarkey as narration.  It actually baffles me that teams has any following when our scene has done such an atrocious job cultivating interest in it.  Why would anyone want to watch something where they have no idea what’s going on?  Try showing someone Counterstrike who doesn’t even know the maps without explanatory commentary.  They aren’t going to have fun watching something they’re clueless about.

If you learn some basic talking points and things to watch for, you can easily fill the air with accurate commentary that will help guide most of the audience.  In 2 minutes, I managed to come up with a list of a dozen things you could point out:

Double team the fastfaller is a good strategy that they are implementing.  The player closer to the ledge should grab it to facilitate team ledge guards.  Grabbing when the other player’s teammate can punish you is bad.  Tech chasing or going for protracted combos is strongly correlated with bad awareness.  Going offstage to ledgeguard is often bad and often gets turned around on you.  Grabbing the ledge as soon as you hit someone often squanders opportunities elsewhere on the screen.  Waiting for floaties to recover to ledge guard them is generally bad.  Grabbing the ledge for a ledgeguard when the recovering player’s teammate comes down with invincibility is bad.  Approaching floaties if they have a non-floaty teammate is often a bad choice.  Holding shield is good because your teammate can help you get out of shield safely.  Waiting for someone to come down after hitting them in the air is bad.  Spamming spaced moves on both sides of an opponent (“sandwiching”) is good.

There you go. Literally point out those things when someone on the screen does them and you’ll fill 90% of the air unless you’re commentating top 8 at a national.  It’s really not that hard.  Don’t focus on individual confrontations but on the positioning of the team as a whole.  If anyone reading actually wants to build their knowledge of doubles, I wrote 3 guides (scroll down on this blog) and also put a bunch of content on my youtube channel

The final topic, which I don’t have a ton to say about, is the lack of storylines.  The best way to fix this is some kind of incentive or requirement involving static teammates.  Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that this is an area where the best interests of the individual competitors do not align with that of the viewer at this time.  The landscape of the tournament scene is such that we have majors every few weeks that have no relation to one another.  It’s not fair or feasible to require people to have the same teammates from tournament to tournament, especially considering that both teammates may not attend every tournament.  It might be possible to fly people out so we have the desired teams more often, but honestly, besides PewFat and UGS, who already have sponsors, which teams would we really want to see with regularity?  If at some point, we have a circuit like we did for MLG, then a requirement for static teammates will be more sensible.  Until then, I’ll just keep my hopes up that some teams will develop and hone their skills enough to become competitive enough to fight against two top singles players.  Good teamwork is extremely strongly rewarded in game.  Big House 6 looks like a promising event with teams such as Frootloop+Darkatma, Silentwolf+Bladewise, Lucky+Reno, S2J+Lovage, Shroomed+Alan, PewFat, and Team UGS to show the power of well developed teamwork.  It will be much more hype once we have more than one team that can go toe to toe with teams thrown together with two top 5 singles players.