Friday, October 23, 2015

Puff on Shield


Puff's bair disjoint and aerial mobility give her a strong zoning game that can easily lock opponents down. But despite the frequency with which characters shield puff players rarely see meaningful rewards. This is not because of a character limitation but because of a poorly developed/understood mixup game.

In my opinion Jigglypuff's mixups on shields are some of the most interesting in melee. Crouch, grab, uptilt, and upair mixups all frequently and reliably combo to rest. However, many OoS options (including grabs, shine, stomp, etc) can get her killed or immediately reset to neutral. In this way the stakes are relatively high and it behooves us to examine these interactions more closely.

It is rare for an opponent to sit in shield for long enough for you to pressure it to the point of breaking. However, after introducing punishes to OoS options they will frequently risk shieldpokes. Knowledge of punishes, shield health, and pokes will secure you combos/stocks. Good reactions and good reads can turn a latent threat into a set-winning KO.

Below I’ve listed common OoS options and the more feasible of the many possible punishes. Obviously your spacing/choices are going to differ according to the MU. Different characters have different priorities. These options are made stronger if your aerials hit low to the ground, minimizing time between hitlag and landing as well as strengthening the no aerial mixup. This assumes that you are grounded at the time that the OoS action starts.

* Grab (7f, low range)
crouch (3f)
space outside of it and fsmash (12f) / your choice of punish

* Roll Away (31f+, most range. This is difficult to cover without a prediction)
jump through rest
jump through w/aerial  (FH bair here pressures roll (with upair followup) or no roll)

* Roll In (31f+, meh range, reactable if free to act)
crouch and react with aerial/rest
space out and react with aerial/rest

* Jump/WD OoS (5-15f, mid range)
uptilt/upsmash (7/8f, be careful because often if done after an aerial this can whiff)
aerial to stuff it (minimum of 12f)

* Attack OoS
uptilt/upsmash (7/8f if able to catch jumpsquat/startup)
space outside of it fsmash (12f) / grab (7f) / whatever you want
shield (esp vs fast options like samus upB/shine)

Approximate lowest common denominators

* crouch can punish grab/roll in/sometimes jump/aerial. Loses to some aggressive options/roll away.
* uptilt pokes and can punish jump. Loses to pretty much everything else.
* crossup upair can poke and punish jump/aerial/roll away. Loses to roll in/fast attack.
* spacing out can punish grab/aerial/upsmash/roll in. Loses to away options.
* jab (5f) can punish many options by catching startup or by making OoS timing after shieldstun ambiguous and baiting an evasion. Its low startup and endlag can allow heavy punishes but jabs lose very hard to a patient opponent and some offensive options. Jab has 11f of endlag which is low enough to allow you to reactively pressure (but rarely directly punish) a triggered defensive option. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: jab is only 2 frames slower than grab. The real advantages of jab over grab are a) half as much endlag and b) the hitlag eats up any OoS inputs that they enter during that time.
Vs most relevant chars a jab then reaction to buffered roll in with rest has an about 3f leniency with a jump on frame 16 of the roll but only with fully spaced jab, so you probably want to react with WD grab instead. WD grab is not a true combo but it will catch startup of most anything but another buffered roll. In this instance because you're probably going to only get at most a grab consider just grabbing from the start (except against like samus/hella slow rollers).
Vs buffered roll away/good WDs from jab you can’t directly punish without a read unless stage cuts them off but second jab can mess them up.
Vs second jab buffered roll in rest is never real on reaction but you can get right up in his face then he shields then you can land behind him and uptilt rest.
Vs buffered roll away/good WDs from jab you can’t directly punish unless the stage cuts them off.

Because options/strength of varies by MU this is too generalized to be a perfect picture. You should consider your tools on a per-matchup basis with an eye to simplify your engagement by covering multiple options with one motion. I'll probably do that in list form at some point in the future for myself.
It is also good to note that you don't have to choose option vs option. You can put yourself in position then react (In a great design you want to identify which distinct positions offer maximum reward to feasible options on reaction).

(These notes assume no shield tilt. Just remember that if someone tilts to cover their ass then their head is exposed and vice versa. Note too that these options compliment GRAB. Empty land grabs are often just as good as pokes and should be used liberally when appropriate. Just because empty land grab only takes a sentence to describe vs what I'm gonna go into below doesn't make it less important.

I think that to play clean and deliberately there are 2 reliable shieldpokes:
* uptilt pokes feet early when facing them. #wow #godlike

* sh crossup upair pokes heads but you have to delay the input slightly so that it doesn’t come out on the shield (learned this from abu, ty based prince). Especially nice because you can start from a little further away from the shield, so it doesn't have to be telegraphed like standing next to them for uptilt may be. It can also hit them jumping out of shield or put you in position to cover a roll.

The Mississippi Unit

Knowledge of shield health is especially useful for puff because she has specific/reliable pokes that require certain healths. Shields last ~5 mississippis if you say mississippi quickly (It actually lasts 3.6 seconds but the system works better if you count “mississippi 1, mississippi 2" etc. It’s a good approximate system to learn to account for shield health).

* every aerial reduces their shield by 1 mississippi

* pound reduces it by 2 mississippis.

example application:
fresh shield, you count as descending “mississippi 1, missisippi 2” then hit with upair. Shield now has 2 mississippis left. While they’re unlikely to stay still, if you can force shield again then a slight delay to account for regeneration over that time and a pound should break the shield.

I don't think that it's necessary to try to keep track of how many mississppis they're at throughout the match. That would be stupid. I'm just using this temporarily unit for 1/5th of a shield as it is appropriate for this purpose and for learning the rhythmic relationship.

Character Vulnerability
(obv easier after more time than listed)

* Fox is vulnerable below (uptilt @ 2 mississippi) and above (sh upair @ 2 mississippi)
* Falco is vulnerable below (uptilt @ 1 mississippi) and above (sh upair @ 1 mississippi)
* Marth is vulnerable below(rear) (uptilt @ 1 mississippi) and above (sh upair @ fresh shield)
* Sheik is vulnerable below(rear) (uptilt @ 1 mississippi) and above (sh upair @ 2 mississippi)
* Falcon is vulnerable below(rear) (uptilt @ 1 mississippi) and above (sh upair @ 3 mississippi)
* Peach is vulnerable below(rear) (uptilt @ fresh shield) and above (sh upair @ 3 mississippi)
* Puff's ears/hands are vulnerable @ 1 mississippi, her peripheral @ 2 mississippi

Shieldpokes on Platforms

* FH nair shieldpokes from below exceedingly easily.

* Upair can almost always shieldpoke from below but you have to FH up at a diagonal past their shield tangentially and nick their feet (really hard vs fresh shield).

* after 1 mississippi or so bair and upair start to sheildpoke from below reliably.

* delayed rising pound can clip behind a shield.
* Generally speaking I recommend aiming for the back foot (easier on a lot of characters).

* Vs. shielddroppers you can aim for the opposite side that they favor. They’ll probably be buffering one direction a lot (I do right, myself). Aim for the left. Free poke. They probably won’t even notice.


In order to get shieldpokes your opponent must sit in shield for long enough to be poked. This means that you need to either predict when they'll shield and/or condition them to shield longer. How can we accomplish this?

1) Recognize when they shield. If someone shields in response to something that probably indicates that they're willing and likely to do so again until something changes.

2) Practice ambiguous movement. With tight control you can make it very unclear exactly when you intend to hit a shield. This makes engagements take longer thereby draining a shield and potentially forcing out a reactable and panicked out of shield option.

3) Recognize and punish their out of shield habits. Until you demonstrate that an out of shield option is unsafe, the opponent will (consciously or not) continue to abuse it. Keep in mind that many of these will be in response to specific situations. They are likely to react differently to a falling bair on shield vs an upair or even a rising bair. Identifying an out of shield habit is a huge, two part advantage. First, you now have the opportunity to predict and punish it. A grab, aerial, jump, roll, etc all have specific punishes that you can then wield liberally for free advantages/stocks. Your first task is to profit off of this habit until they reel it back. Don't get ahead of yourself and give up these free advantages waiting for them to give you an uptilt before you're confident (as opposed to hoping) that they will. Once you've conditioned them to fear the OoS punish sitting in shield seems less dangerous than moving. NOW you have the freedom to engineer a poke on in extreme cases a break.


Ultimately I think that most jigglypuff players have poorly developed, very predictable, and almost solely habit-based on shield games. These interactions rarely look like the super-interesting and potentially pivotal key moments that they actually are with puff on the field.
Recall that the complex, bullet time mixup game with baits, feints, and timing mixups that we think of when we think of spacie shield pressure comes directly from mango's jigglypuff. The same concepts still apply. They're just sitting there waiting for puff players to recognize, internalize, and abuse.


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