Improving your performance can be difficult, no matter what game you’re playing. It goes without saying that “practice makes perfect”, but effectively managing your efforts is tough when you don’t know where to start. This is especially true in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which boasts one of the largest rosters in fighting game history, clocking in at 75 characters (with another 6 to still be released). There’s a lot to learn if you want to level up, and free time can be hard to come by, so you have to make those training sessions count.
That’s why we’ve reached out to Michael “Riddles” Kim, considered one of, if not THE best Terry player in the world, to find out how he makes the most of his time. The following tips will help you out if you’re a casual player trying to move on from the chaos of playing 8 player smash with the squad, towards hanging in there at locals. However, they’re still worth reading even if you’re a journeyman smasher who regularly competes, but finds themselves strapped for time and needing to up their efficiency. Here are 6 tips to make the most of practice time in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
1. Get to know your character, or pick up a new one
Off the top, you have to choose a main. Maybe you’ve been playing casually for a while and have characters you connect with. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a character crisis because you find your current main’s toolset to be lacking. Improving with your current fighter or learning a new one starts with jumping into training mode and getting familiar with their moves.
“Try and see what playstyles fit you. Are you a grappler? Maybe someone like Luigi or Rob can fit you. Do you like Zoners? Maybe Samus, Megaman or Villager will appeal to you. Maybe you like Rushdown or Shoto characters,” says Riddles. If you’re aggressive or defensive, you can find a character that plays you.
Then you have to go through all their normal moves and special moves. Get comfortable with how long they take to come out, how long they take to recover, and the ranges they hit at. You have to know what you’re working with (and if you like it), then you can come up with a gameplan. There is a ton of archived match footage up on YouTube already, so seeing what players do on offense, defense, and in neutral will help you decide if a character is for you.
According to Riddles, watching top players is absolutely integral to picking up a new character or improving your use of one you already play. “Look up VODs and keep training mode on. Look at what top players do and try to apply that. You’ll get a fundamental idea of how their combos work, what their combo openings are and how their neutral works. See what their character does in specific situations.”
If you play along with what you see, you’ll get an idea of what situations you’ll run into with your character, and how other players navigate them. That gives you specific things to work on in your training mode sessions, so you can spend whatever amount of time you have actively practicing instead of just fumbling around doing special moves.
2. Use the training mode tools
Once you’ve settled on a main that you feel comfortable with, it’s time to start committing the stuff you learned during research to muscle memory. Starting with learning your characters BnBs is essential. BnB stands for Bread n Butter combo because those sequences are the ones you’re going to consistently eat off of. You need to be able to do those in your sleep because they’re the most consistent, and dropping them is basically giving up free damage. If you want to level up, you have to convert any openings you get into as much damage as possible and finish your plate.
What sets Smash apart from other one-on-one fighters is that you’re going to have different BnBs depending on your opponents current damage percentage. Training mode in Smash Ultimate may not have the most robust set of options like other games (such as being able to record sequences for the training dummy to carry out) but it does let you adjust the dummy’s damage percentage so you can get to work on your different BnBs.
“A forward-air to forward-air with someone like Sheik is a basic two hit combo. That would work at zero or early percent. But after 90%, that wouldn’t work with her. So you have to see what general percent range each move works in. That’s why I suggest looking at what top players do and seeing what moves they throw out at different percents,” explains Riddles.
One of the issues facing would-be lab-monsters in Smash Ultimate is the lack of varied training mode tools. This leaves netplay as one of the best places to mindfully practice before you’re ready for locals. The suite of tools at least includes options to see information on a character’s moves, set fixed damage percentages and turn on data such as when characters are invincible/intangible.
“If ultimate had a better training mode we could lab how to counteract specific scenarios just like every other fighting game. That’s the problem with Ultimate, but obviously it’s better than nothing, so you can still make use of it,” says Riddles.
3. Warm up before you go online
Netplay is where you’ll do the bulk of your training since most of us can’t make it to local events every day of the week. However, hopping into an arena or quickplay the second you get home from work, class, the gym, or wherever you may have been that didn’t involve playing Smash, might not be the best idea.
“I usually go into training mode to warm up, see how my character feels and then go online,” says Riddles who feels that, while netplay is inferior to offline play, it’s still a very valuable training tool. “I start with warming up my movement. That’s a pretty big part that Smash players should improve on. I just kind of mess around with all of my character’s tools and refresh myself on how certain moves lead into other moves.”
If you’ve been following along this guide step by step, you should have a pretty good idea of what things you want to add into your pre-online warmup. If you run through several different sequences each time you’re about to hop online, you refresh your memory and can work on ingraining your new knowledge.
Riddles recommends you move around how you would move in a real match. Practice movement on and off platforms, mid-stage, and on and off ledges. You don’t need a specific flowchart and can do whatever comes to mind, since you’ll have thoroughly put your character through its paces by this point and will have an outline of their options.
4. Have a gameplan for what you want to work on
Now you’re online. Of course, you’re trying to defeat people, but getting a bunch of internet points for cheesing a few opponents doesn’t mean that you’re actively improving. If you’re going online to train, you’re not just going there to win. You need to play mindfully and think about what you want to improve during your play session.
“This applies to any game, not just Smash. Generally, you shouldn’t just think about winning. You should think more about the learning process and how you improve. I try to do that, but I think it’s hard sometimes. Obviously, you should have winning as a goal, but if you’re practicing and trying to improve, it shouldn’t be your main thing,” says Riddles.
While watching tourney VODs will show you what the top level players do, it’s mostly showing you how other people play Smash. The reason top players are top players is because they have sound decision making, but they took all their knowledge and threw in some of their personality.
Playing online is a test of how you’ll employ all the skills you’ve picked up, and that will teach you a lot about how you want to play, giving you more to work on during your next run through training mode.
5. Play specific people to learn matchups
If you’re just hopping into quickplay, it may be tough to see any actual progress in your play. There is a wide swath of characters, being a multitude of ways, so the generic gameplans you’ve developed may not always work.
Smash is a really free form game, there are lots of ways you can play it. It’s one of the things that makes it special.
If you want to be confident against most of the cast, you’ll need matchup knowledge, so jumping out of quickplay and into battle arenas is crucial. In battle arenas, you can set your own preferred rules and you can lock the arena so only friends can join. This is where you’ll be able to have the most focused training time.
If you follow a few pro players on social media, you’ll often see them going out with requests for online matches against players who main specific characters. Often, this will be in preparation for a big tournament. When the brackets are released, some players like to look at who they may play against in the early stages, then play as many battle arenas as they can against players with the same mains.
It’s a good practice to get into if you’re having trouble against certain characters. Who better to get advice from, than someone who’s main fighter is the one causing you grief?
“Each character has something, and knowing what that something is, is really important for being competitive in this game. Learning matchups is the best thing you can do online,” says Riddles about why a lot of top players, including himself, reach out for specific matchup experience ahead of a tournament.
There’s so many options for each character, they’re hard to keep track of. Knowing what your opponents use is key.
6. Be consistent
Remember to be diligent. Riddles recommends you try to play an hour a day if you can.
“You can take breaks, but I feel like an hour a day is optimal. If you have a busy life, that’s the sweet spot, in my opinion,” says Riddles.
Your progress won’t be immediately apparent. If you’re using your local meetup or tournament as the testing ground for all you’ve learned, you might not get the results you wanted right away. But don’t get discouraged, it’s important to remember that, while you’re improving, everyone that you regularly play with is improving as well at a relatively similar rate. But you still need to compete.
“You should definitely go to your locals. Go to tournaments in general if you’re able to, they’re pretty important. Learn a lot, and improve with each other.”