Super Smash Bros Advanced Reading Guide by Showdow
If you’ve ever watched a professional smash bros. match, you’ve seen reading. It is the art of knowing exactly where your opponent will be before they do and I’m going to teach you how to do it. You can know all the combos in the world but if your opponent can out-read you then they have the upper hand. This guide is to teach people how after barely playing ten seconds into the match to be able to know exactly how to play the match.
There are typically three types of people at the beginning of matches, those who rush in and go straight for attack, those who stay back and wait for you to come to them, and people who go to the middle of the stage and try to box you out (the latter doesn’t happen too often and is like a form of camping). First, I’ll go over people who rush straight for you. Also as a side note all references I make refer to Sm4sh but can apply to any game. (Please don’t comment saying there are 17 different ways to approach I’m being general)
If someone rushes for you, you typically have 6-7 options. Shield, spot dodge, roll back, roll forward, ground attack to challenge, air attack or use a projectile if you have one. Rolling backwards is usually not advised because it is easy to read and subsequently punish, but because of that it can catch people off guard. Never use this on online though since it was abused when the game first came out and now nearly everyone expects it. Blocking is alright but it can also be seen and simply grabbed through. Projectiles are typically your safest option if you have them except for Fox since his shots cause no knockback. Short hopping and throwing a fair or nair is ok, but not with all characters. Also some characters like Fox, Mario, and Jigglypuff can also short hop into dair. It is very important to watch how you are first approached in a match, because you will most likely be approached that way for the majority of the rest of the match. I once played a Yoshi who came at me with the same approach for the whole match so when you face those people make sure to make them pay for it.
Responding to people who lead with a jump-
If someone comes in with a jump, next time be ready for it and jump yourself throwing out an attack. These are some of the easiest to respond to typically since you can just throw out a fair or run forward and then do an up air. Shielding is also a very good option because when someone is in the air they can’t do anything about a shield and if they go in for an attack you can shield grab them (pressing A or the attack button while holding shield is shield grabbing and leaves you much less vulnerable than dropping your shield and then pressing the grab button). You can also roll back against most people who attack from the air as it is hard to punish unless you’re on the ground however it CAN be punished with projectiles or certain moves like Sheik and ZSS’s Down b. Overall though, respond by quickly doing an aerial yourself, guard their landing with dash attack or projectile, or block and grab if they are in range.
Responding to dash attacks-
If your opponent dash attacks, then shield and punish with a grab (this is cautionary since people may grab next time after they see their dash attack blocked). Dash attacks are by far the easiest to punish, and the easy way to punish is formerly mentioned, but it can actually be punished in many different ways. I noticed this while playing a close game against a Yoshi as Sheik (we were both on last stock and high percent) and when I got dash attacked instinctively short hopped although followed up with a back air just before hitting the ground (typically this only works with characters that have a low dash attack, but it can be made to work with higher ones as well by full jumping and fast falling). This is VERY useful and works against grabs as well, however it only works with people who can throw out a bair very quickly like Sheik and Mario and can be devastating while using characters like Bowser who have a nasty bair. For certain characters like Diddy Kong who have a better fair than bair you should face away from your opponent if you can tell they will do this. Another common one is short hopping or jumping into a dair and can be used by pretty much all characters.
Responding to grabs-
Dash grabbing is another common way of approaching as are pivot grabs. If they grab, spot dodge then punish as you see fit but don’t do this often as they may adapt and pivot grab you which beats spot dodging. If they abuse the grab and run at you all the time, you can even f-smash before they get in range to grab you if your character has a quick f-smash and you are confident. Meeting them halfway and dash attacking is also a viable option but can be read and shielded. Pretty much all strategies for dash attacks apply here as well except shielding so I won’t go over them again.
Responding to baits-
Some players will approach you in the way of baiting. They will purposely whiff an attack and make you want to go in and punish it although they will jump or roll out of the way and make you pay. If someone does this, make sure to see it because they will most likely try it again although the next time you should be ready. Typical baits are moves that are purposely whiffed although have very little ending lag so that they can evade easily afterwards or moves that look like they are retreating before coming back in with an attack like Luigi’s down b which approaches quickly, trying to catch people by surprise. The rule for this is if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true so just wait it out and be ready next time.
There are several other ways of approaching quickly like leading with a projectile then following it, one being Villager players hiding behind their Lloid’s and either reading a shield and grabbing or using their annoying fair (I hate Villager’s fair and bair so much…) but I won’t go over those unless you have a specific one you want me to.
Camping tends to be the most annoying type of gameplay, and it is hard to punish with non projectile characters and forces heavy shielding. Common campers are Yoshi throwing his eggs, Fox and his lasers, and the ever infuriating Sheik needle juggle tactic. Unless you have a valid projectile or reflector, campers force you to approach them, especially Fox. Speedy characters don’t really have a problem with projectiles as they can just run up between projectiles and then grab, dash attack, etc. However, slower characters have a tougher time and usually end up taking at least a little damage. You can when faced with this dash a bit, shield, dash a bit, shield, although this is easily punished by a grab so try to avoid holding shield for too long. Jumping is a viable option except against things like Yoshi’s eggs that can be used diagonally but you are also slightly vulnerable approaching in this way. Approaching with jumps then fast falling into shield works but you can still be grabbed so again don’t overuse the shield. What you really want to do is approach by going forward then shielding, then when they stop using projectiles, and come at you, use an option like jumping out of shield or rolling behind them. Don’t do this every time though as they will pick up on it. This works very well and if they start reading your shield and going for a grab, then read them back and jump out of shield and then dair or nair depending on your character or if they have a laggy grab like Link or Samus then spot dodge and f smash. The hardest campers to combat are those with multiple or one quick range attack like Link and Toon Link and the absolute worst are those that also have a reflector so you can’t combat with your own ranged attack. With those typically you want to stay grounded and run up and shield, perfect shielding if you can, then immediately dropping the shield and running up to close distance. Most campers are the same so there isn’t as much to go over as before.
After dying, you have about 3 second of invincibility starting when you get off the respawn platform. This is your time to capitalize on your opponent and gain the lead but many times you choke and get outrun until it runs out and the best you can do is gain stage control. This is pretty much the same as everything else I’ve said, but the opponent will typically stand at one side of the stage and shield, do the former but roll at you when you approach them, jump when you approach, or run under you when you’re on the platform and try to fake you out. For the first just walk up and grab, for the second fast fall down, then run into an up smash where they will roll to, for a jump counter with an aerial of your own unless you have a special up smash that reaches high like ZSS, and for the last I would go for a well-timed down smash. Most players will change it up every time but if they get into a pattern the let them have it.
Definitely another good thing to know is how your opponent gets up off the edge. There are five options that people will typically use and one that is almost never used. The first five are jumping, regular get up, roll get up, get up attack, and pressing away from the ledge and then attacking right after. The sixth is simply dropping and returning to the ledge which can be punished with a down smash with most characters, a down tilt with some, and running off the stage and then immediately back airing to stage spike for most people. All of these work depending on character because the second time the edge is grabbed without being hit by an attack or landing on the stage, the invincibility is gone. Jumping is best punished by a back air, regular get up by a grab, roll by reading it and smash attacking, get up attack by shielding then grabbing or if your character has a quick smash attack then using that, and pressing away from the ledge into an attack can be shielded then grabbed also. Standing right on the ledge and shielding while your opponent is below you typically forces the opponent to either roll or jump and if they get into a habit of doing either one or the other then punish them for it. Also if you have a smash attack with very little ending lag you can throw it out right on the ledge, causing your opponent to think they are safe using a get up attack, but then hold shield and they will simply hit the shield and you can punish them. A smart strategy is if they constantly use the same get up every time, let them get away with it and let them get back to the stage although when they are at a high percent, read it and get a KO move when it counts most.
In smash, a tech is pressing the shield button at the exact time that you hit a floor, wall or ceiling, to stop any and all momentum from being launched. First of all, establish whether or not your opponent knows how to tech. The first time they hit the ground look to see if they get up immediately with a little invincibility state, or roll backwards or forwards. This is vital for you. If you get even more see what if you are rushing them and what they do if you are far away. If they roll back when you are approaching them then just continue running and do whatever you would do if a back roll, and if they roll forward after getting read when going backwards, you’re in luck. Rolls towards you are by far the easiest and most satisfying to punish, just like any other roll towards you, run into an up smash at the position they will roll to, nice and simple. If they are high percents and you have a character with a viable kill throw, then switch that out for a pivot grab if you want. You really only need to read techs when you are far away if you have a character with a range attack particularly a chargeable one such as Samus and Robin. If they roll toward you, let it fly since they have less time to react since they just put themselves closer to the blast zone. You can still use ranged attacks otherwise and the roll towards you is the only thing you need to look for if you are searching for a dead on hit with your charge blast or thoron.
First of all, reading air dodges is amazing. Whenever one successfully reads an air dodge, it simply makes one feel incredible and ones opponent in a state of shock. For an idea of the power of reading air dodges, see the following. I played Sheik on online for a time and quickly noticed one big problem Sheik has is killing, you may have heard this but it is ridiculous people say her kill percent is 130% but that’s only if you can land a back air or bouncing fish off the edge pretty much or get an up air near the the mid-top of the stage. At higher percents with Sheik you typically want to down throw into up air if you get a grab but at higher percents they fly higher then you can jump or can air dodge or jump before you can get to them. Now after getting a down throw and watching the person air dodge out of the follow up, I double jumped up and then used Sheik’s up b which has a bit of starting lag resulting in a kill for me. Essentially their dodge was over by the time Vanish (Sheik’s up b) activated with it’s killing properties when disappearing (although not reappearing) so easy kill by a simple air dodge read. Reading these can also result in meteor smashes with characters that can or smash attacks if an air dodge is used near the ground since they have ending lag now. Another example is when playing as Ganondorf if you consistently fair your opponent when they are off the stage, the next time with for their air dodge, get above them and dair. Anyone who lives after that has 0% and has “Pit” included in their name. If you’re going for style and have a big lead, when someone is falling and you’re the captain, jump up hoping they air dodge expecting a knee, and use the falcon trademark as you’re falling, if they air dodge at exactly the right time and get ending lag you just might land this. Anyways air dodge reading is a must for juggling by reading when the opponent will air dodge and waiting to throw out your aerial. The same stays true for characters with counter, I was playing Marth as Fox and got him into the air at high percents so I went up with Fox to land his up air for the kill, although knowing Marth I knew he didn’t have enough hitstun for me to land the move safely so utilizing Fox’s fast falling along with a tap downwards, I didn’t attack and watched as he countered. I’ve played over 1,000 1v1 online matches and have a growing win percent of 85% which I can increase by 1 every week and a half or so, (Not counting 3DS) so I have become acquainted with the move lag for things like Marth’s counter. I jumped up again to put pressure and sure enough he countered again. This time he was near the ground so I just dropped down and up smashed. My point is to effectively read air dodges and counters, become aware of when they will use them and use things like jumping into fast falling without attacking to apply pressure and force them to make a move. If they pick up on this and don’t take your bait, then actually attack them to switch things up and put them back on guard. Also know if your opponent will attempt a counter again after whiffing one or if they will attack you back or evade. If they attempt another counter, then you can just hold down your smash attack for longer until the counter is over. This is a completely impractical example but I was playing a friends as Ike and he was Lucina and I held down b to charge Eruption when he was right in my face and I kept holding it and watched as he used counter three times in a row basically letting me charge it as long as I wanted and releasing it to kill him after the “counter portion” I’ll say of the third counter ended and it just went into ending lag. (Also someone please explain to me how a toad held by a princess can take a punch from a boxer who can KO Mike Tyson or a dropkick from a giant turtle to the face and not be completely destroyed)
As important as it is to get combos, it is equally important to know how to get out of them. A good way to get out of a combo is using nair, some characters do it better than others such as Luigi and Ness who both do it spectacularly since their nairs come out very fast. If you have a counter definitely use it. Mid-combo if your opponent is right up in your face throwing out hitboxes left and right counter is the perfect move to deter them although only 9 characters (as well as mii swordfighter) can use a counter move, and Meta Knight has a move similar to a counter but not exactly a defined counter move. Other then that air dodge when you get an opening although not too often or you can get read as I said above. Another good way to get out of combo’s is using dairs that send the user straight down such as ZSS, Bowser, Sheik, and Toon Link, or down b with Yoshi, Bowser Captain Falcon, & Ganondorf only. Use these sparingly though as they leave you vulnerable and only when your opponent chases you upwards. You can jump out of combos also, and the last thing you can really do is Charizard’s down b since it gives you super armor.
About as important as what your opponent does before they attack, if what they do AFTER they attack. Sometimes people will always dodge backward after a certain attack, or attack more and so on. One thing many Little Mac players do it dash attack you, and then since the attack has so little end lag, they use a jab combo. You have to know your opponents combos and figure out how to respond to them. If someone does what I previously stated as little mac, you can just hold your shield until the flurry attack ends and then run up and grab (just make sure to not drop your shield too early and even if you are out of range of the flurry, the finisher has slightly longer range so don’t think you’re safe just yet). Also teach yourself to know even before the person rushes in what they will look for. Anyone who’s ever seen Diddy knows that he will always be looking for the grab and will rarely dash attack so when facing one of those types of characters try to avoid shielding as much as possible. Also certain characters who can kill with throws like Ness will look for grabs more at high percents so even though typically at higher percents you want to shield, make sure when playing these type of characters you are ready to counter their grab in a different way. People tend to shield a lot when they are at high percents because they want to preserve their stock, so even if you don’t have a kill throw repeatedly grab them and force them to not shield so much until you can net the KO. On the other hand some characters rarely look for a grab because they have a terrible one such as Pac-man so you are in a safer position to shield more often. Also, if you notice something such as you always dodge backwards when approached and your opponent always reads it and follows you to punish, a hard read you can do is when they rush you, at the last second start charging a f smash attack behind you and when they run through you thinking you will dodge backwards, they will be on the receiving end of a f smash. Pick up on these ways that your opponent reads you, and then instead of playing right into their hands, make them play right into yours.
The most important part of reading is that most reads are one-hit wonders. This is very important to remember because any smart player after seeing you pull off a successful read will not fall for it again. You typically don’t want to use a read more than once and never more than twice unless they fall for it every time. Surprisingly, one of the best things you can do is stay still. People who have played for a while in matches have a mindset that “most people will do *blank* when I do *blank*” so I have had people leave themselves wide open when they try to read me and I simply stay still such as they assume that I will roll behind them so instead of going for me they forward smash behind them, and since I stayed still this leaves them wide open for whatever I want to do. So if you are getting read for days, then try staying still, it could surprise you. I also highly recommend if you have both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game, to pick one to be your “main game” so to speak and play with all your might on there and on the other keep fighting if someone beats you to improve your game and not worry about losing games. For me I give it my all on the Wii U version but try to keep playing and improve my skills when I play on the 3DS. Hope this helped.Other Super Smash Bros Articles
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Smash 4 Custom Moves Collection Guide
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