We all know that approaching is required to some degree in order to finish a fight. Whether you use a close-ranged combatant like Captain Falcon or a zoner like Min Min, sooner or later you’re going to have to press forward to keep the momentum going.
However, among the most basic reasons people lose matches is because they don’t approach carefully. Smash isn’t the type of game where you can rush in and apply pressure on an opponent. While this might work at lower levels of play, once you hit high levels of competition, players will actively watch for you to approach and punish you for it.
Baiting-and-punishing is more than just a playstyle. It’s a core fundamental of Smash Ultimate as well as fighting games in general. While other fighting games might encourage aggressive play more with mechanics such as negative tension, or stun meters, Smash relies heavily on a player’s ability to maintain a stage presence and whiff-punish. As such, getting caught for approaching carelessly in neutral, throwing out unsafe moves, or even a failing a string follow-up can bring in more punishment than what you had given.
Dangers of Approaching
When one thinks of approaching, they might think of simply dashing forward and into an enemy’s grasp. However, it goes beyond dashing back and forth. It can range anywhere from attempting to land an attack while in disadvantage state to throwing out unsafe moves like Falcon Kick or Burning Knuckle.
Remember that anything you do has endlag. Even the simplest of dashes and safe moves all have cooldown frames after you activate them. You can’t instantly get into your shield unless you’re walking or autocanceled an aerial. As such, even the slightest deficit of these frames can get you punished for overextending.
Granted, as mentioned earlier, approaching is simply a necessity of the game. The fundamental comes from your ability to approach without throwing out unsafe options. As such, I’ll give you a brief primer on a few options.
What to Look for When Approaching
It’s not uncommon for Smash matches to degenerate into players not landing any attacks for seconds at a time. In top-level competition, players wait for the opponent to make the first move before capitalizing. Though in some cases, this includes waiting for someone to dash in a little too closely before getting hit by a neutral combo starter such as Roy’s Nair.
Dashing back and forth can goad the opponent into entering your burst range in an attempt to punish you. If they get too close, you can capitalize with a swift attack of your choosing. If they throw out an aerial or an unsafe attack, you can whiff punish the move and attack on reaction. Keep in mind that some aerials come out safely and may end up baiting you into attacking a shield unwittingly and getting punished. Likewise, you can use this option to your advantage.
It’s also worth noting that players with a strong projectile game, such as Wolf or Link, will goad you into approaching using their specials. However, if you venture too closely into their territory, they might retaliate using a close-ranged attack. In the case of Link, Samus, several other zoners, they might have less-than-stellar close-ranged punish options. Take advantage of their failed dash attack, dash-grab, or other option, and whiff punish accordingly.
Knowing your approach tools boils down heavily to your ability to observe your opponent. Being able to read out your opponent’s options, capitalize on your best-punishing tools, and keeping yourself safe come culminate into important fundamentals for high-level competition. Remember this whenever you’re facing someone and realize you’re being punished too much for throwing out careless options.
Keep in mind that this is just a basic look at your options. It’s essentially meant to keep you from throwing out an attack the moment you get close to your opponent in neutral. Use your options to bait and punish whiffs. Sometimes, you can be the opener in a match. But if you feel like you’re getting caught one too many times, it might be time to switch to defense.
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