Super Smash Bros New Competitive Player’s Guide
I’m new to playing Smash competitively! I don’t know where to go or what to do! Help!?
Whoa whoa, calm down there stranger. First of all, welcome to the world of competitive Smash! With tips compiled from many members of the /r/CrazyHand community, the aim of this post is to be an up-to-date, general FAQ that any new player can refer to in order to get a general idea of what the Smash community’s all about and to start getting involved. Whether you’re an avid casual player wanting to dip their toes into the more competitive side, or someone who’s barely played a Smash game before, there’s hopefully something for everyone in here to learn and improve.
Feel free to skim through the headings to find the appropriate sections for you.
Some of the contents of this guide:
- Basic mechanics and terminology
- All about your main
- Controller choice and button setup
- Local tournament prep
- Solo practice
- How to set up wired connection
- Streams to watch
- And more!
Without any further ado, let’s get started:
What’s a good overview of the basic mechanics?
Art of Smash Ultimate: Beginner is a great video guide for beginners from Izaw that goes over a lot of the core features in Smash, highly recommend watching just to make sure your basic knowledge is in order.
What do all these Smash terms mean?
Puzzled by pivots? Baffled by BKB? The SmashWiki Glossary and the Smash Dictionary are great compilations of common Smash terms with a small definition for each one. These resources alone vastly reduce the amount I have to write here, they go over a ton of basic mechanics, tournament jargon, features, tactics, and more. You don’t need to go through and memorise each one, but it’s nice to make liberal use of Ctrl+F whenever you see or hear something you don’t understand.
Who needs a main anyways?
Ultimate may have a lot of characters, but if you’re even at least semi-serious about improvement, it only makes sense to dedicate the majority of your competitive practice to a small handful of characters until your fundamentals are top notch (and I’m talking actual high level here). Our top post from Smash 4 is over 3 years old but the point still stands strong; Smash isn’t Pokemon. It might seem tempting to have a whole setup of counterpicks for different matchups, but you’ll just be spreading your practice thin. By getting more familiar with a limited amount of characters, you gain a much deeper understanding of their options and what you need to do in certain situations.
Of course, it’s still a good idea to mess around with other characters in friendlies often. Picking a character you struggle fighting against is a great way of learning a matchup, as you get to see their strengths and weaknesses from their side then take that back to your main character and apply what you learned.
But how do I pick my main?
Finding your main is really something only you can do for yourself. Play the game and see who clicks with you. Try to drop the concept of “character loyalty” or “tier loyalty” and go beyond your comfort zone – your main could be your favourite videogame character ever or a character from a game you’ve never played before, and they could be a low tier or the best character in the game, but at the end of the day the important part is how much fun you’re having playing as them in Smash. There’s no point in avoiding a character you enjoy simply because of some arbitrary self-imposed rules.
The best advice we can give is to go for whoever you feel most comfortable with and has the best tools to win while you learn the fundamental concepts of the game. Until you reach a certain level, the specific character you choose doesn’t matter too much, a lot of the areas you can improve in will be related to your overall fundamentals, like spacing, stage control, movement, and pattern recognition in your opponents.
Your character will likely have a few (or more) bad matchups, but you just have to take the good with the bad. At a low and mid level, the character matchups take a lot less precedence over the match’s result than player skill. Some matchups can be definitely uphill but if you’re getting beat it’s important to own up to the fact you’re likely just being outplayed rather than trying to blame the matchup or other related johns.
For further tips, I point you towards the greatest of all time main advice, the “Who should I main?” Megathread, now updated for Ultimate! Complete with a playstyle chart to give you a basic idea of what playstyle the character’s kit generally rewards.
Which controller should I use?
The one you’re most comfortable with! Use the one you feel gives you the best performance for you; however, bear in mind that some controllers weren’t particularly designed for hardcore gameplay, for example a single JoyCon obviously will have worse build quality and will take less of a beating than a more standard controller. Most competitive players opt to use GameCube Controller or Switch Pro Controller.
If you’re interested in GCC or Switch Pro but can’t decide which, the one to pick comes down mostly preference, though there are objective differences. GCC’s control stick has octagonal notches allowing for a bit more precision. Switch Pro has far better triggers and an extra bumper button, so more options for your control scheme. And of course, there are differences in the face button layout, so it’s whichever of those you like better.
Regarding input lag – the difference between most controllers is very very minimal. However, for Pro users, so I’d recommend using wireless since the wired Pro has around 1 frame more input lag. (source)
Which control scheme should I use?
Again, this is highly personal preference, but the recommendations you’ll see most often are tap jump set to off and c-stick set to tilts.
- For tap jump: The biggest argument against tap jump on is wasting your jump in situations where you don’t want to. Your midair jump is a very valuable resource and preserving it can increase your chances of survival; for example, you can use your up b to recover without using your jump in case you get intercepted, but with tap jump on, you risk accidentally burning your jump before the up b.
- For c-stick: Setting c-stick to attack, commonly referred to as “tilt stick”, is the most recommended and popular option. Tilts are used a lot more liberally than smash attacks in general and it’s nice to have that extra control over them. Consistently performing tilts out of a run manually is a lot harder than doing it with tilt stick, and there’s certain tech you can only perform with tilt stick such as pivot cancelling.
- For other buttons: there’s no real consensus. Set them to whatever you feel comfy with or what your character benefits from. Setting a bumper to jump makes aerials with the c-stick easier as you can always keep your right thumb on the stick instead of having to quickly switch to cstick from a jump on a face button.
How do I find local tournaments?
Facebook is great for finding local events. The smashbros sub has an amazing and up-to-date list of most of the Smash Facebook groups worldwide sorted by region. I know you might think Facebook’s pretty gross but it’s actually a great platform for event organisation since TOs can post updates on the page, there’s instant messaging, group chats, etc.
There’s also Smashcords which has quite a few Discords for getting involved with your local region’s community as well as character-specific communities.
How do I prep for tourneys, and what’s the basic etiquette?
Before you head out on tourney day, make sure you’re decently rested, don’t eat too much but also don’t go hungry, bring a bottle of water, and make sure you shower beforehand for God’s sake.
When you’re playing your sets, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. No matter how well you think you might perform, you’ll be seeded low for your first tournament (because they don’t know your skill level) and you’ll probably be matched up against the strongest players early on, so just play to learn and aim to get as much out of it as you can. Tourney nerves are a lot different from friendlies so play as well as you can without stressing yourself out, take deep breaths!
Play your sets as according to the ruleset your event provides. Tournament Organisers (TOs) and experienced players will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. After a set’s done, it’s common practice for the set winner to report the scores to the TO in charge of bracket.
Also, get on as many friendlies as you can. If someone’s sitting down in training mode you could ask them if they’d like to play some matches. Even if all the setups are taken you can go up to a friendlies setup between matches and ask nicely for rotations. Trust me, they may look busy, but more often than not they’re super happy to welcome a new person. It’s a great way to get practice and make friends in your community.
How should I go about solo practice/prep?
It’s good to know specifically what you want out of a training session before going into it, so during play sessions take notes of things to work on when you’re doing solo practice.
Training mode is great for input drills/routines. You can practice your execution of literally anything – movement, turnaround grabs, out of shield options, whatever you find yourself struggling with. Break things down into steps, use ½ or ¼ speed and build it up until you have the consistent inputs at full speed. You can practice strings and combos here but keep in mind that the training mode dummies don’t do optimal DI or escape options, so a lot of the combos you can pull off in training mode won’t work against a real opponent.
Saving and reviewing replays where you lose is incredibly important as you can directly see what you’re doing wrong and what you can improve on. Look at every time you got hit or lost an interaction, ask yourself why that happened (am I rolling too much? Am I misspacing my attacks? etc.), take short and specific notes where trends start showing up, then take that into your next play session and aim to actively apply what you learned. Asking others to help review replays can give you a whole new perspective on your play too.
Studying top players’ sets is also very useful, especially of your own character. You can see which options they pick in different situations, compare that to your own play, and see what you can implement from their playstyle to improve your own.
Is playing against CPUs good practice?
A level 9 CPU is good at the game, but not for the same reasons that a human player can be good. A level 9 will read your inputs and do frame-perfect dodges/parries for your attacks, but they lack the strategy and mindgames of a human player, which is why CPUs won’t prepare you for proper matches; however, CPUs are fine for basic input execution practice or just to get an overview of the kind of things a character can do.
Is playing online good practice?
It’s not quite as good as as playing offline with people, but online play is still valuable. You get access to a far broader group of opponents, allowing you to more easily practice different matchups from the comfort of your own home. In addition to the standard ingame online modes, there’s Anther’s Ladder which people can use for matchmaking and to practice tournament-style sets online.
Should I get a LAN adapter for online play?
Compared to wireless, a wired connection will greatly reduce latency and improve the consistency and stability of your connection. Smash online is player-to-player, so if your connection sucks, everyone you play against will feel it. Do the world a favour and upgrade to minimise your odds of laggy matches!
It might sound a bit technical/overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with this kind of thing, but really anyone can do it. If you’re capable of plugging in a wire, you have the full required skillset to set this up.
How do I set up a LAN connection?
If your Switch is close to your router:
Buy a gigabit/1000mbps USB3-to-ethernet adapter with the AX88179 chipset (bit of a mouthful, but that’s what’s native to the Switch and will work best). Then simply get an ethernet cable, pick the appropriate length to connect your adapter to your router.
Wow, now you have all the stuff you need! Just plug the USB adapter into your Switch’s dock and connect that to your router with the ethernet cable.
If your Switch is far from your router and wires for LAN connection would get messy, there’s two other pathways you can take:
- Powerline Adapter – Basically a LAN adapter that uses your house’s electrical system. The effectiveness depends on your house’s wiring, but unless your house is really old, you will get a nice boost out of it. Check here for a detailed review of various powerlines you can buy.
- 5Ghz Wifi – If your router supports dual 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz connections, make sure your Switch is on the right connection. 5Ghz wifi may perform better for you than Powerline for shorter distances, but if you’re close to your router you may as well just wire it up with the regular USB-to-ethernet adapter anyway.
Bada bing, bada boom. You now have a far more stable online experience. Now all you have to do is kick the rest of the family off Netflix!
What streams should I look out for?
Some major tournament streams
Some top player streams (more for entertainment, but you can still pick things up from watching them play)
There’s many others I could include but it would quickly become a very big list. Another thing you can do is go on the game category on Twitch and tune in to whatever you’re interested in.
Other miscellaneous things
- /r/CrazyHand’s Resource Compilation – This document compiled by the community contains a treasure trove of resources documented into different sections: Mindset, analysis, neutral and fundamentals, learning matchups, data, and health. There’s a lot of Smash 4 stuff in here, but the fundamental concepts will transfer over.
- Asking Better Questions – Some tips on how to ask more specific questions so people can help you out better.
- You can find upcoming major tournaments at smashgg.events, and Videos On Demand (VODs) of tournament sets at vods.co.
- Keep the Dunning-Kruger effect in mind! Even as your knowledge starts to grow, stay humble and open-minded to new ideas, you might gain another perspective which can really help your growth.
Remember: Improvement isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. This goes for not only Smash, but anything. It’s really easy to compare yourself to others and get hung up on how you’re doing compared to them, but people learn at different speeds and you never know how much work they’ve put in to get to their current level. Just do your best and things will come with time. It’s the start of a new game and a great time to start learning, improving and getting more involved with the scene. Happy Smashing!
If you think there’s a topic that could be addressed here or you have additional info for a topic, feel free to leave a comment!