Smash Ultimate Tips: When NOT to Retaliate

In competitive fighting games, an all-too-common trait of most players is to strike back as soon as they’re attacked. In the case of Smash Ultimate, this could be from a brief exchange in neutral or to lash out the moment you’re sent into disadvantage state. As such, an opponent expecting you to hit the attack button will likely read and counter it, inflicting even more punishment on you.

This also includes hitting a Focus Attack which can lead to losing a stock at 80%.

One of the most common examples is when players land with an attack. They land and attempt to attack only to hit the opponent’s shield, parry, or even whiff the move entirely. While is this often meant as a deterrent to the opponent, it can also backfire and allow an opening for your opponent.

Keep in mind that, unless your aerials are autocanceled, they will always have ending lag or cooldown which will leave you vulnerable.

In today’s lesson, I want you to understand how to catch yourself when you attempt to retaliate against an opponent. This largely involves staying conscious of your actions throughout the match and breaking what might be potentially your worst habit.

What to Do When You’re Hit in Neutral

Let’s say you’re in a neutral exchange with someone. You take the first hit. Does that mean you bite back like it’s a turn-based RPG? Against a more skilled player, I wouldn’t recommend that.

While your percent deficit indicates that you may be the one approaching, playing smart and goading your opponent’s approach can help. At high-level play, opponents are far less forgiving and tend to play much better defense than your standard player. However, they may also have their guard dropped a bit since it’s less risk for them to take damage while maximizing offense.

When you’re at higher percents, however, you will surely need to think twice before retaliating. Sometimes it comes down to resetting neutral using a ledge attack, get-up attack, or a fast, neutral-punishing move like Quick Draw. Should you get the attack in, the ball is in your opponent’s court.

Landing from Disadvantage State

I’ve covered disadvantage state options in a previous entry. However, I want to emphasize the importance of not going for the attack as you begin landing on the stage. Keep in mind that your opponent may even goad you into attacking by faking-out jumps to keep you guessing.

For instance, if Cloud shorthop aerials and you airdodge into landing, he may punish your landing instead.

You have less landing lag from not attacking when you land. Unless you time your move to its autocancel frame or it has under 10 frames of recovery, it’s generally recommended to get yourself to safety. At the least, you can reset neutral and begin anew.

It’s also worth noting that you can look up the frame data for your character and discover the moves with the least bit of landing lag. Sometimes this can help you land quickly and right back on your feet without any cooldown. For instance, the first five frames of Ike’s Uair autocancel. Compared to his other aerials, this gives him the most safety from landing in disadvantage state.

Likewise, you could also land with Nair as it has only 8 frames of cooldown. However, keep in mind that, if you attack an opponent’s shield, you may be subjected to an out-of-shield punish such as an Up B.


Lastly, I want to talk about the neutral exchange. You ever share a few seconds with your opponent where you’re dodging each other’s attacks? It’s almost like it’s choreographed with each player throwing out safe moves and the other one dodging till one gets hit.

Dash away. Just move safely from the situation and reset neutral. It’s even more likely you’ll be the one getting hit if you use a slower character like Ike. Once you’ve successfully reset neutral, your opponent might approach. Once the exchange is over, if they come in, this could open up your chance for a counterattack on your own terms.

Final Thoughts

This is not to say retaliating isn’t a good idea all of the time. As with anything in Smash, it pays to know all of your options. Not retaliating is one of the safest ones in most cases and that largely includes while you land. When you realize your opponent is catching onto your attacks, that’s when you must pay heed to their movement and defense before mounting your retaliation.

Rather, I find it one of the most common ways I catch my opponents or even my students during training sessions. It’s often that they’ll try to hit back. If I’m hanging back waiting for a read, I got it. Otherwise, it goes back to neutral and I’m holding advantage state in center stage. Either way, sometimes it pays to wait just a sec and see what your opponent does first.

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