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Getting Better

Zephyr - August 31, 2017

Lately, I've seen a number of players trying to work on getting better. I've worked with a few of them myself. Some players have had success with their attempts, and others are hitting roadblocks. I want to take some time to write about the process of getting better, some common pitfalls, and hopefully encourage everyone who wants to improve to continue to work towards their goal.

Topic 1: Goals

That's a perfect segue to the first point. Once you decide that you want to get better, you absolutely must set at least one goal for yourself.  It doesn't have to be an insane goal, but like all goals, it should be specific to your situation, and challenging, but attainable. When I decided to put my nose to the grindstone a couple of years ago, I wrote out my goals and posted them on Twitter so I could see them when I logged on. At that time, my goals were something like "Make the MD/VA PR", "Win a local", and "Get wins on multiple PR players". As time went on, I updated my goals accordingly. You should always have a longer-term goal that you're working towards, but I always tell people to also set shorter-term goals as well. Think of your progress like a route along a map. If you've got a long journey ahead of you, wouldn't you enjoy having checkpoints along the way so you can get an idea of how much progress you've made? The same applies to your goals.

A huge issue that people can run into with their goals is making them unrealistic to achieve at first. I'm going to share a cold, hard truth with you at this point - one that almost nobody talks about, because it sounds harsh - but here it is. Not everybody is good at this game, and devoting time and effort does not guarantee that you will ever be able to play at a high level. Still with me? Good. This is part of why it's so important to set a challenging, but realistic (and attainable) goal. If you're a player who struggles to break even in wins and losses (you frequently go 0-2 or 1-2), start small! Don't just say "my goal is to always go 2-2", because you're not really doing anything to achieve that, and you'll frustrate yourself if/when it doesn't happen. Instead, start by looking at the factors that you can actively change.

Topic 2: Learning From Your Matches

Not long after I began Zephyr's Grind Quest™, I found myself a bit frustrated by a lack of progress. I wasn't making ideal decisions in matches, but I couldn't remember the individual situations well enough to change what I was doing. I invested in an AverMedia recorder, took my setup to every venue, plugged it up, and asked the TO if I could play all of my tournament matches there so I could record them.  That's the first step - some how, some way, record your matches. If you can't afford a recording device, bring your setup to a venue, ask to play your matches on it, and save the replays afterwards. If you don't own a setup, or can't bring it to a venue, ask a friend to record your matches and send them to you. Personally, I often hated watching my recorded matches because of the mistakes I made - I didn't like having to relive my bad decisions and errors (that usually led to my defeat). Part of getting good, though, is being able to get past your embarrassment and look at the bad as well as the good.

Once you have your matches, start studying them. Go through each match, and break it down into individual segments. If you find yourself constantly getting punished by your opponent, look at each punish and figure out why you got punished. Did you get baited by something the opponent was doing? Did you do something unsafe? While you're watching the match, also stop to consider your opponent's actions. Try to figure out why they chose a move they did, or why they moved to an area of the stage. Look for things you did well, and also look for things you could have done better. Look for patterns, both from yourself and your opponent - in the case of yourself, ask yourself what you can do to break that pattern and make yourself less predictable (unless your pattern is working, in which case, don't change it but so much).

When I first started playing really seriously, I found that I had a tendency to throw out way too many smash attacks as Little Mac. It was a hard habit to break, because the feeling of super armoring through a blow to hit the opponent was a good one - it was a problem, though, because experienced players baited smash attacks and then punished them. I've been working on helping a lot of people lately, and overuse of smash attacks is one of the biggest problems that I see. You will kill your opponent more effectively with positioning and good decisions than smash attacks. I'm not saying to never use them, but when you do use them, they should be for a specific purpose - not just throwing them out and hoping the opponent will run into them.

Topic 3: Winning Isn't Everything

Returning to an earlier point - if you're constantly going 0-2 or 1-2 in bracket, make your first goals about your gameplay. Maybe you've noticed a tendency that you have to airdodge, and you're constantly getting punished for it. Maybe you're always picking the same ledge option. Maybe you're not able to take stocks. Identify your biggest opportunities for improvement and base your goal around that. Don't just tell yourself "I have to win more matches" - focus on what you can do throughout the match to help you win it, and the winning will come naturally over time. 

Too many people get discouraged when they don't make the progress they want to. Don't give up! Everyone hits a wall at some point. There are varying heights to the wall - typically, I've found that it's easier to progress from low-level play to mid-level, but that it's quite a bit harder to progress from mid-level to high-level. There will probably come a time when you feel that you're not making any progress, and that you aren't improving. Don't let that get you down!

Just don't forget to constantly reassess your goals as you meet them and set new ones for yourself.


- Set realistic, challenging (but attainable) goals for yourself, both short-term and long-term
- Design a "roadmap" on how to achieve said goals, including changes to your playstyle if needed
- Celebrate your progress and don't get discouraged when you struggle!
- Work with your friends and other players to help reach your goals faster! Don't be afraid to ask for help!

This blog post was written by a SSB World community member. Share your Smash 4 knowledge by creating your own blog post now.


Loved this. Thank you very much!
Jayy - September 1, 2017

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