10 Different Bairs
Puff’s bair has decent frame data (hits 9-12, IASA at 31, AC at 25, 10f Lcancel lag) and good range (I know I know, it looks ridiculous when isolated but honestly that’s pretty standard for a good move in melee). But when you combine the raw frame data with Melee’s 1f of hitbox drag and Puff’s aerial mobility you end up with a move with great utility/flexibility.
In years past, Hungrybox would usually answer questions on smashboards with “Bair more.” The phrase wasn’t exactly wrong, but it was definitely unhelpful and contributed to a bad culture for learning. In order to bair better (or as Puff’s opponent, to punish bairs better), it’s important to recognize the different tasks that bair is used for.
To that end I’ve compiled a list of 10 fundamental uses for bair in neutral and attached a brief description to each.
1) retreating AC bair
This is basically a quick retreat that drags a huge hitbox behind you. Puff can choose mid-jump how much stage to give up based on risk-assessment. It is difficult to punish on reaction, but carries a stage cost. It can be punishable with a read. Note that with practice Puff can SH bair DJ bair. This makes it a little bit better on defense and offense.
2) advancing AC bair
This is a quick and flexible poke. Because Puff can be active as soon as f18 after hit (or SH bair DJ bair), it is particularly great for combos past a certain %. Puff can choose whether to continue to fade forward or begin to retreat as the hitbox comes out. Advancing AC bair is easily punished with FHs, CC, some OoS options, etc.
3) neutral rising FH bair
This is a flexible, relatively noncommittal poke. It’s generally used as a method to protect the ascent to FH height from an immediate attack from the opponent, at which point puff has more mobility (can immediately choose to go up, down, left, or right). It is difficult to punish, but can be blown up with by preemptive FH dair/nair or by running forward after the bair and pressuring Puff to retreat.
4) retreating rising FH bair
This is a quick retreat that is safer than an AC bair with a bit higher stage-cost and a different end position (puff at FH height rather than grounded). It is very difficult to punish directly but very easy to punish indirectly (just walk forward and take the free stage).
5) descending low bair
A spaced, low-as-possible, L-canceled bair is a great poke because it is almost never directly punishable except out of CC. It carries low reward until the % at which bair forces tech, at which point it earns at least hefty stage on hit. On some characters a low bair is safe on shield even when non-spaced provided that puff buffers a crouch. A descending bair is punishable with a preemptive attack/FH (think: dtilts), CC (difficult), or an indirect threat (example: Puff tipper low bairs Fox’s shield. He can’t get anything immediately OoS, but he can WD or SH and force her to shield/jump away/etc).
6) descending high bair fadeback
If puff chooses to bair at head-level as opposed to feet-level then she has time to mix up her drift pattern before landing. This kind of bair is especially strong against many character’s shields and can often shieldpoke, but because of the extra endlag from falling farther it is very bad against CC or on whiff.
7) descending high bair crossup
This bair is identical to the above but instead of fading back puff does a crossup. It is universally less safe and you normally don’t see it unless the puff player is a) bad or b) cutting corners because they’ve conditioned a level of respect. It’s worth noting here that a descending upair works in a similar way.
8) in place aerial DJ bair
When Puff is in the air, she can use a DJ bair to protect her air-space from attack. This is whiff punishable and can often be traded with.
9) fadeback aerial DJ bair
When Puff is in the air, she can use a fadeback DJ bair to protect her air-space from an attack more safely at the cost of a little bit more stage. The fadeback makes it effectively immune to trades and very difficult to whiff punish without a read on the drift.
10) low DJ bair
If Puff is descending (from any position, be it a FH, SH, or otherwise), she can DJ and bair at the last moment. This creates a situation very similar to a rising FH bair, with a couple notable differences. First, the bair does not hit as low. It won’t hit many crouching characters and will whiff completely vs shorter characters. Second, it comes out faster by virtue of not having any jumpsquat. This bair is often used to the FH effect and/or as a read on an opponent's FH, especially in the corner.
The next time you play or watch Puff, keep an eye out for these techniques and watch how they accent puff’s other options. Additionally, watch for any opportunities that her opponent takes or loses to punish any obvious bairs via option coverage or reads.