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Becoming Self Aware Part 1: Goals

Spin - March 21, 2018


Hi everyone! I wanted to put pen to paper on some things I've been thinking about while trying to help myself improve. So to begin... Something I’ve noticed while talking to several people in the mid-level of the Smash community is we all tend to hit the same ceiling while we play. Sometimes there are several ceilings to go through before becoming the best version of yourself, this is true in life as well as Smash.

That being said, I think the first ceiling most people reach is being able to think while you play. Most people call it autopiloting. A lot of people have been there, you learned all the tech you can about your character. You lab and theorycraft your way through everything you can think of, and you feel like you can do some damage when you play a set. You may even be taking games off of top players, but you are never clutching out that round 3 to close the set. Chances are, the biggest factor in your losses is the fact that you are autopiloting. You are relying a lot on your instincts and you panic sometimes when both you and your opponent are at high percent, you want to make that kill happen so you over-commit and end up getting punished for it.

So there it is, you are in the loser’s bracket and you’ve taken a huge mental hit after losing out on what could’ve been your biggest upset. You take the swift 0-2 in losers and get a bit salty for what could have been. So now you are here, you’ve done all you can think of to improve and there doesn’t seem like anything left, may as well quit right?

Well, if you could do try one last thing for me, I suggest learning to unlock your mental psyche, and learn to overcome instincts and instead play the smart way. I hope to give you the key to that lock here, in a series of blog posts I will work on. This isn’t just for you, but for me as well, I feel writing there things down might help me more. So let’s get into the first topic!


Part 1A: Gooooooooooooooooalsssssss!!!

So if you are at all serious about playing Smash, your goal is probably to be the best in the biz at either your region or in the world. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your Smash career. We’ll assume you got the bases covered on learning everything you can about your character’s current meta. Wait hold on...beepbeepbeep Congrats!!! You’ve just achieved a goal. I swear we’d all do better if something in our vision just popped an “Achievement Unlocked” notification whenever we did something good. I suppose we could also peek at what the other achievements are in our life too, making this blog a bit of a moot point. But we don’t have anything like that, so you gotta make one yourself.

Anyway, as I was saying. You got your first goal done. Seriously write that down somewhere! Write you big goal too. Now we got two goals on paper with one already complete. Let’s write a few more. I’ll give you a few suggestions:

  1. Win a local/wifi tournament
  2. Get top 8 at a local/wifi tournament
  3. Beat X player(s) in a set
  4. Take a game versus X player(s)
  5. Freakin’ destroy that snot-nosed Ganondorf main that thinks he’s better than me
  6. Take stocks consistently without jeopardizing my own
  7. Win neutral consistently

So you might have noticed something. This list got less and less ambitious as I went through it. This is called compartmentalizing, and it’s a very important tool for two reasons. One, it keeps your thoughts in line so you know what to work on next, and two, it helps you keep track of your progress so you get less discouraged as you work toward your big goal. Lots of self help groups employ this method of doing this. Because it balances your growth with the reward of saying you actually accomplished something when you check that one goal off the list.

This is how you want to approach everything. Enough of the self help though, let’s see how you can apply goals to your thoughts DURING a match.


Part 1B: Know thine enemy, Know thyself

As ol’ Sun Tzu says, “Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles.” Meaning, if you know what your opponent wants, and you know what you want, there isn’t a reason to be scared of anything during the fight, as in everything can be calculated and predicted. Now there are so many crazy unpredictable things in Smash, but they don’t typically come out at random. Mr Game And Watch will typically go for judgement 9s off of a grab. Bayo probably got her combo off of a combo starter. You got sheikville’d because you DI’d wrong. Lots of stuff to consider. The trick is to not put yourself in a scenario where you allowed your opponent to achieve his goal, and to always put your opponent in scenarios where you can achieve your goal. So write a list of your goals first!

Let’s say you are a Fox main (God forgive you), now you may think all you want is that dash attack, uptilt, dair, or nair to start your combo. But that’s getting ahead of yourself! You need to figure out where you want your opponent to be before you even think about what you want to do first. Lucky for you Fox is a super versatile character when it comes to starting his combos, and he’s fast enough to stay in peoples faces so they can’t break their disadvantage. Ooh let’s focus in on that word, “Disadvantage”. You hear commentators and streamers say it a lot, but what does it mean. What does neutral mean for all that matter? I think before we go any further, we should define some terms.

According to Smashter’s Dictionary, the three terms define as follows:

Neutral: A state during gameplay in which neither player has a *clear* favorable position over each other.

Disadvantage: A state during gameplay in which one player is in an poor position over the other.

Advantage: A state during gameplay in which one player is in a favorable position over the other.

Stage Control: This occurs when one player maintains more space on the stage then the opponent. Typically meaning the opponent is in a corner or on a platform while the player is blocking his access to center stage. This also means the player has more stage to fall back on in case he needs to avoid attacks.

*The clear is important here, some characters just have a better neutral and that’s just the way it is.

So what I want you to do for your character is write goals that would allow your character to take a stock. In order to take a stock, you need to put your opponent in disadvantage. In order to get them in disadvantage, you need to manage the first couple seconds of the match carefully to make sure you gain stage control. Let’s talk about that. I believe it was Fatality that mentioned he likes to just play neutral for about 5-15 seconds at the start of the match. Only going in slightly but never making the first move. This is what I like to do too, I weave to the center and jump back to my spawn point. At this point I can immediately determine my opponent’s plan. If my opponent immediately dashes in and throws out an attack, he intends to start the match aggressively. If he mirrors my movement and fades back to his corner. He intends to make me whiff before starting his attack, and therefore is playing defensively.

Let’s say he picks the latter, I now know he is more likely to pick a defensive option when I approach, such as a shield, roll, or dash back. Because he does not want to commit to an attack. If he picks an aggressive option, I know I can probably make him whiff the attack and punish that way.

Of course this is all a suggestion. Lots of players open matches in many different ways. I suggest you find something that works for you. But above all, remember what tools your character has and what tools your opponent has. Let me give some examples for some starting goals of different characters:

Mewtwo, Fox, Bayonetta: Looking for their combo starters.

Mario, Roy, Captain Falcon: Looking for a grab, or to create an opening with an aerial

Marth, Lucina, Sheik: Looking to overwhelm with safely spaced moves.

Link, Mega Man, Villager: Looking to force options with frustrating projectile play

This is to name a few. There are many others you can discern yourself, but you’d probably be better off asking a character discord or a top player what they are trying to look at.



That’s really all I wanted to say about goals. My main point is to constantly think about what you want to do in any given situation. Learn what your character is good at and learn how to get your opponent in that position safely so you can take stocks without taking too much damage. Set a goal for each match you play and only go in when that goal has been accomplished. Learn to maintain your advantage state. Learn what you can do to prevent your opponent’s goals.

I hope this helps everyone, and I hope to discuss more topics soon! If you want, tweet @ me some stuff you’d like me to go into more detail on, and I’ll write an article about that. My twitter is right here: https://twitter.com/SirpoSpin

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