Crossups vs Shield
- Delayed Aerials
- Vertical Aerials
- Grounded Crossups
- Empty Land Grab
By shielding, your opponent severely limits their pool of options. Effective shield pressure exploits this limitation. Shield pressure is fun and interesting because out of shield options are manageable in number and relatively balanced, so the mixups involved are varied and can contain a lot of depth. Within this rough design, crossups can fill a valuable role. However, if misused or misunderstood they can also give your opponent a free punish or out. This article aims to clearly articulate their use and design.
Because different characters have different drifts, fall speeds, and options, crossups will work a little differently per character and even per MU. In the interest of brevity I won’t go into many exceptional specifics. Rather than the universal rules, consider the content of this article as the context.
There are two primary reasons to consider a crossup.
First, characters can’t shieldgrab behind them. Even though they can still shine/upB/bair/etc, the absence of high-reward grabs renders shield pressure more effective.
Second, crossups can be used to re-establish footing closer to center stage. Even if you’re hit away immediately after, it’s generally better to be hit toward center than off stage.
The process of crossing up after an aerial without getting grabbed can be tricky, but the basic idea is: All aerial crossups are grabbable if they take 7 or more frames to pass behind someone after shieldstun. That sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Shields are pretty wide and that distance takes time to cross. In order to spend less than 7 frames within grab range, you usually need to reduce that distance by bumping shieldstun back and/or attacking more vertically. Let’s look at each in turn.
1) Delayed Aerials
Let’s say that it takes 20f for your character to cross up a shield and your nair has 10f of shieldstun (I’m making these numbers up fyi). If you do the nair early then that still leaves 10f after shieldstun, which is 3 more than it takes to get grabbed. You’re gonna get grabbed basically every time. But if you delay your nair until after you’ve already started to cross up then you can nair when there are 16 or fewer frames of travel time left and your crossup is guaranteed to be safe (from grab). Pretty simple, but often contrary to your muscle memory. This technique is vulnerable to preemptive grabs/attacks, which are rare in this scenario so used semi-sparingly it’s very very strong.
2) Vertical Aerials
Let’s say that you attack a shield vertically from above. If you hit closer to the top of the shield, the drift needed to pass to the back of it is minimal. In this case avoiding the shieldgrab is easy peasy and the difficulty comes from keeping the drift slight/ambiguous enough that it isn’t telegraphed, i.e. if they see the crossup coming then they can just WD/roll/etc and you pull no profit.
It should be noted here that the big caveat to both of these ideas is Shine OoS. Shine is fast enough that usually a spacie player will opt out of any ambiguity and just shine anything that touches them. You’ll have to look at this on a per MU perspective to see how that influences things.
To emphasize: early, horizontal aerial crossups are almost never safe. Because they’re a free grab or bair on recognition they aren’t a mixup so much as a pretty darn low knowledge test. It’s a very common bad habit, particular on floaty mains.
Because of their posture, many characters’ hurtboxes are most vulnerable to pokes at the top of the head or the back heel. On a per MU basis you can err your timing toward a poke during your crossup or at the very least you’ll have easier access after.
If you are running at an opponent and they shield in expectation of an attack, you can instead run through them at which point you are threatening their back rather than their front. You can then punish them directly (by grabbing/attacking their back) or indirectly (by looking to punish their following option on reaction). Grounded crossups work because the opponent doesn’t have the time to react to your staying empty before you pass through them. As such, characters with high horizontal speed can do this well but it is not viable to attempt with slower characters. Should the opponent react to or guess your intention, they can grab or attack into it preemptively.
Empty Land Grabs
Empty land grabs work very similarly to grounded crossups. A well-executed empty land grab is done quickly enough that the opponent can’t react to your having landed empty in time to avoid the grab. In order for this tactic to be consistent, your opponent has to be watching for low aerials on shield. Otherwise they will recognize any emptiness as an empty land and FH away. If your aerials are habitually high then your empty land grab attempts are not a true unreactable mixup.
Note: it doesn’t matter if you empty land in front or behind the shield. In fact, landing behind the shield might make it slower. Usually grabbing from behind is a psychological idea rather than a tactical one.