Marth Mastery: Stage 2
Directional Influence Basics
To survive in Melee you're going to have to learn how to properly use Directional Influence, a.k.a "DI". By angling the analog stick in the proper direction you can alter the trajectory at which your character is launched after taking a hit. To achieve the maximum influence on your trajectory, the angle held must be perpendicular to the base knockback trajectory of the attack used. Lacking this knowledge is punishing; trying to DI in a direction parallel to an attack's knockback trajectory will have no influence at all. DI can be used to change your trajectory by as much as roughly 18 degrees in either perpendicular direction. Experience and Knowledge are required here, and understanding how various attacks will launch your character is critical to your survivability.
One of the primary uses of DI is to survive attacks that would ordinarily have KO'd your character. The Blast Zones making up the outer edge of all stages in Melee are square, so the furthest distance from the ground to the Blast Zone is towards one of the top corners of the stage. Meaning that to maximize your chance of regaining control of your character before hitting the blast zone you should DI towards one of the top corners of the stage.
Using survival DI will often position you too closely to your opponent during their combos, letting them reach you with followups more easily. Your goal while stuck in a combo should be to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to keep you there. In many common scenarios, increasing the distance between you and your opponent during their combos is either the only way to escape, or the best way to make the combo difficult for them to continue. Using DI to maximize your distance from your opponent in this way is known as Combo DI.
There is no 100% guaranteed rule to follow for having good DI, but generally speaking: Use Combo DI to angle away from faster attacks that have direct followups, and Survival DI when hit by large knockback moves or combo-finishing attacks.
During hit-stun/tumble in the air you can press a shield button before colliding with the ground or a wall to perform a Tech. This can be done up to at most 20 frames before hitting the ground, and timing your press correctly is important, because inputting a tech prevents doing so again for 40 frames. If timed correctly your character will gain brief invincibility and bounce shortly before standing upright. Holding either left or right on the analog stick while Teching will cause your character to roll in that direction instead of getting up in place. Teching left or right takes longer to complete than teching in place, but using all three of these options makes reactions/predictions more difficult for your opponent. The act of following and punishing your opponent's techs, whether through reactions or predictions, is known as Tech-Chasing.
Essentially the only time you shouldn't tech an attack when possible is when choosing to do a Getup-Attack. Although punishable if you miss or are blocked, Getup-Attacks can be used to hit opponents attempting to Tech-Chase you. To do a Getup-Attack simply press A or Z while your character is lying on the ground.
By crouching before being hit by an attack you can drastically reduce the hitstun and knockback recieved, often allowing you to stay grounded. However, Crouch Cancelling doesn't lower the amount of damage taken and doesn't work on certain attacks. Additionally, each different attack can only be crouch-cancelled if your character is below a certain percentage threshold. It's not vital that you memorize a huge amount of these percentage thresholds, but keeping a few in mind will help you out in the Neutral Game.
Notes on Crouch Cancels
Crouch cancel is effective at handling both getup attacks, and attacks from the ledge. Marth can crouch cancel and punish these options up to surprisingly high percentages against most characters.
Crouch Cancelling is particularly good when facing Sheik and Captain Falcon. It's pretty safe to say that these two characters tend to give Marth players trouble, and crouch cancelling is an essential tool for success in the matchups.
Marth has three incredibly powerful grounded options that when used properly can cover nearly everything your opponents can use against you. These three tools shouldn't be all that you do to win in the Neutral Game, but they will likely be the core of your grounded strategy.
1. Down Tilt
It's not a stretch to say that a large portion of Marth's overall strategy hinges on Dtilt. With a disjointed hit-box on frame 7, long range, and extremely low ending lag, Marth's Dtilt is undeniably one of the most powerful attacks in the entire game. Dtilt is used to approach, counter grounded options, and even pressure shields. Once you've established clearly the threat and pressure of Dtilt to your opponent, they must respect it. In an attempt to counter your Dtilts they are all but forced to start using aerial options. This is advantageous for you, since: You will be expecting it, Marth is more than capable of covering aerial approaches, and Marth's Punish game is brutal against aerial opponents.
Dtilt's IASA Frames
The animation of Dtilt lasts 49 frames, with an active hit-box from frame 7 through 9. The 40 frames of animation after the hit-box is no longer active would normally leave you vulnerable. Luckily, Dtilt has what are known as "Interruptible As Soon As Frames". IASA Frames are frame windows during certain animations that you can use certain actions to interrupt, which cancels the remainder of the animation. In the case of Marth's Dtilt, the IASA Frames begin at frame 20. Meaning that you can cut the animation short as early as 20 frames into Dtilting. Cutting over half of the ending lag for one of your best attacks is invaluable, and is one of the most important and beneficial techniques for you to master early.
Beyond grabbing's usefulness in countering shields, it's often the best option for punishing missed attacks and poor positioning. Grabbing opponents leads to some of Marth's strongest punishes; this is especially true when facing Fox and Falco. Good dash dancing and wavedashing are the keys to landing grabs in the Neutral Game.
Combining aerial drifts with different fast fall timings and delayed timings gives Marth's Fair great versatility. It can be used to defensively wall-out opponents, aggressively approach, or nearly anything in-between. If you input a Fair quickly after a short hop without fast-falling, then you can actually jump or use another aerial attack before landing. Many useful options are available due to this, but they are a bit difficult to both perform and implement, the details of this will be explained in the next stage.
Landing on the ground during the animation of aerial attacks prevents you from acting for a short period of time. The duration of the landing-lag experienced depends on the aerial move used, and generally is proportional to the move's strength. L-Cancelling, which stands for "Lag Cancelling", is a technique that halves the duration of landing-lag from aerial attacks. To L-Cancel an aerial attack you must press a shield button at most 7 frames before you hit the ground. Keep in mind that L-Cancelling only works for normal aerial attacks, and wont affect b-moves. For improving both your general offensive speed, as well as your safety upon landing after attacks, every one of your aerials should be L-Cancelled whenever possible.
There are few things that you can practice at this point that will benifit you more than L-Cancels. Try doing short hops and L-Cancelling each of your aerial attacks until you get a feel for when to press shield before landing. If you're having trouble telling whether you're getting the L-Cancel or not, holding shield after you do the input until Marth starts shielding on the ground will make it more obvious. Your shield will be visible twice as fast on successful timings.
One of the "Five Gods of Melee", and an indisputable master of Marth, PPMD often speaks of proper Marth movement as being "threatening". When asked how to move as well as he does, he once responded: "I can't teach movement without teaching the importance of what is attached to that movement. If you want to move well, you first have to learn why Dtilt/Fair/Grab are good." Before you can properly exert pressure through your movement, you need to get comfortable with some more advanced movement techniques.
Second to your Dash Dancing, Wavedashing is your primary method for positioning yourself on the ground. Performed by air-dodging diagonally into the ground, a Wavedash causes your character to slide along the ground without changing the direction they are facing.
There are many significant applications of Wavedashing. Wavedashing towards an opponent allows you to quickly attack them with grounded moves that cannot be used while dashing. Wavedashing back can be used to retreat from your opponent while still facing them, leaving more counter attacking options available to you. Wavedashing can be performed while dash dancing to create tricky and difficult-to-predict movement. It's also useful for grabbing the ledge of the stage to edgeguard opponents, which we'll cover in detail soon. The many applications of wavedashing will become integral to your gameplay as you improve with Marth.
You can think of Wavelanding as a Wavedash that's done from the air. When falling towards a surface, or jumping up to meet the height of one, you can perform a diagonal air-dodge towards the surface to slide onto it. Wavelanding out of jumps or certain aerial attacks is a powerful positioning tool. Possibly the most important use of Wavelanding is quickly maneuvering yourself across and between stage platforms.
Notes on Wavedashing
Although it's ok to learn Wavedashing by airdodging at a 45 degree angle downward, there are many other wavedash angles/distances that you shouldn't ignore. Most importantly, a perfect wavedash that achieves the maximum sliding distance is done by tilting the analog stick more forward than diagonally down/right. This can be difficult to learn, but it's better to start early.
Marth has the fourth longest Wavedash/Waveland in the game. His Wavedash length is only exceeded by Mewtwo, Ice Climbers, and Luigi.
Basic Recovery and Ledge Mechanics
At either end of every (legal) stage in Melee is a Ledge. The Ledge is one of the most important concepts for both Recovery, and Edge-Guarding. If you're in the air, facing the edge, and are close enough to it, your character will grab it. When you grab the edge of the stage, you are granted with temporary invincibility. This period of invincibility is short, but can be refreshed by grabbing the ledge again. While hanging from the ledge you prevent your opponent from grabbing it, and there are many options available to you for returning to the stage.
Basic Ledge Options
- Regular Getup: Pressing the analog stick towards the stage will cause your your character to climb onto it while briefly invincible. This action is significantly slower, and less safe, if you're above 100%.
- Getup Attack: Pressing an attack button will cause your character to climb onto the stage and attack while briefly invincible. This is slower than a regular getup, but is great for hitting opponents close to the ledge. Note that it is slower, but has slightly increased invincibility, when above 100%.
- Roll: Pressing a shield button will initiate a roll onto the stage while briefly invincible. This is slower, but also has slightly longer range, when above 100%.
- Jump: Pressing jump will cause you to jump onto the stage, with no invincibility frames. This options is very punishable, and rarely a good choice. For this reason it is jokingly known as a "Tournament Winner".
When you're knocked offstage, your goal is to return to the stage safely. The two most basic options you have available are to grab the ledge and then work your way onto the stage from there, or to land directly onto the stage itself. There are three primary tools at your disposal: Jump, Sideb, and Upb. Using the first slash of your Sideb towards the stage will increase your horizontal distance. This can be repeated with a slight delay in-between (5 frames is optimal), and is often necessary to survive. Your upB is more often used to grab the ledge from below, because it is easily punishable when used to land onto the stage otherwise.
Be careful to not use Sideb too close to the stage. Many characters are able to jump off the stage and punish this heavily.
When your opponent is attempting to recover from off-stage, your goal is to deny them by guarding the edge. Marth is one of the most dangerous edge-guarders in the game. Learning how to properly edge-guard will take time, and a lot of experience. As stated earlier, there are basically two scenarios that you have to cover to deny your opponents recovery: grabbing the ledge, and landing on the stage.
Covering Ledge Grab
If you think your opponent will grab the ledge, you can either hit them with an attack (usually Dtilt, Fsmash, Falling Fair, or Shield Breaker), or grab the ledge yourself before they do. Ideally, they will die before ever grabbing the ledge. If they do grab the ledge, you should space yourself from them and prepare to punish their recovery options from the ledge. Don't have the mindset that the edge-guard is over when they grab the ledge; the edge-guard is only over when they get to a safe position on the stage. Never give them this for free.
Covering Landing on the Stage
If you think that your opponent will land on the stage, your strategy is simple: Attack them. It will take some time before you're able to judge the areas they can reach with their aerial drift, but you should determine this as fast as possible and position yourself to punish them.
End of Stage
Congratulations! You've reached the end of Stage 2. At this point you have quite a lot to practice to do, but don't get discouraged if you feel like your skills aren't progressing quickly. Melee has a large barrier of entry and takes lots of time and effort to learn. If you feel comfortable with what you've read so far, move on to Stage 3!