Marth Mastery: Stage 3
Pressing shield during a dash causes you to stop instantly in place. Ending a dash like this by using aShield-Stop is useful beyond just for blocking attacks. For example, you can Shield-Stop to turn yourself around quickly during a dash dance, and follow-up with a quick Short Hop aerial attack. Doing a short hop like this causes you to jump straight up rather than in the direction you were previously dashing, effectively ending your momentum. This offers new versatility to your spacing on the ground, especially when combined with different aerial drifts.
As Marth, Wavedashing Out of Shield is an extremely important technique to master. The only real difference between doing this and performing a regular Wavedash is that you have to be careful not to Roll or Spot-Dodge accidentally. To avoid this, you can either: Wait to angle the analog stick to a Wavedash angle after you've pressed jump, or you can angle the analog stick slightly towards a Wavedash angle but not far enough to trigger a Roll or Spot-Dodge.
Turning around while in a running animation is usually very slow. As we discussed earlier you can Run-Cancel by pressing down during a run. Cactuar Dashing is done by dashing backwards after a run-cancel, and is used to turn around faster than is normally possible while running.
Practicing Isai Drops
You should spend some time landing on platforms with aerials and Isai dropping into another aerial as quickly as you can. Try to gain consistancy with the timing for landing the L-Cancel on the second attack as well.
In addition to usingL-Cancels, you can reduce the amount of landing-lag after aerial attacks by timing your landing at the correct time, called Auto-Cancelling. The correct timing for when you should land is different for each attack, but is always near the end of the animation. When an aerial attack is auto-cancelled, the amount of landing-lag is reduced to your characters regular jump landing-lag, in Marth's case this is 3 frames. To help learn the timings, you can tell if you successfully Auto-Cancelled an aerial by holding shield as you land. The amount of time before your shield is visible should make it clear if your timing was correct, since without an Auto-Cancel it will take significantly longer before your shield is visible.Marth Nair Auto-Cancel ComparisonConsecutive Auto-Cancelles Nairs
Short Hop Double Aerials
This is largely self explanatory, but can be difficult to learn. Marth is actually able to perform two aerial attacks during the duration of one short hop before hitting the ground. The only caveats to Short hop Double Aerials are: The first aerial must be a fair, and you must have extremely minimal or absolutely no Fast Fall. If you Fast Fall, there won't be enough time in the short hop to input the second aerial. Even if you don't though, the timing is still tight. If you're having trouble, concentrate on inputting the first fair very quickly after you jump, after that the second hit is all in learning the proper timing.
Very similar to the timing for inputting a short-hop double-fair, you can short-hop fair into a waveland forwards or backwards. This can be used as a positioning tool in Neutral.Example Short Hop Double AerialsExample Fair Waveland
Marth's Neutral-B can be used in the opposite direction you're facing while you're in the air. To do so, just tap the analog stick to the direction behind you, and then then release it to a neutral position before pressing B. B-Reversals are not often expected, and can sometimes be good mixups to catch people off-guard.
When you hit an opponent with a tippered fair, they are knocked back at an upwards angle. Following this up with a jump, and then a tipper Dair, is called a Ken Combo. Ken Combos are great ways to punish enemies offstage, or to end combos.
Other Types of Grabs
Jump Cancel Grab
A dash grab has more range than a standing grab, but it is also slower. You can perform a standing grab while dashing by pressing jump very shortly before inputting the grab. Jump Cancel Grabs, or "JC-grabs", are terrific for positioning precisely for grabs, as well as for more quickly grabbing opponents out of your Dash Dance.
To get the greatest distance out of your grab, you must use a Boost Grab. Shortly after inputting a dash attack there is a 3-frame window during which you can input a grab. If timed properly, you will perform the grab while still maintaining the momentum of the dash-attack. Marth's Boost Grab has ridiculously long range, and is actually the furthest reaching Boost Grab in the game.
When running away from an opponent, especially if you dodge an attack by doing so, turning around in your run and following up with a quick standing grab is called a Tree Grab. To use a Tree Grab, perform a Cactuar Dash followed by a Jump Canceled Grab.
Unlike 'true' spikes in Melee, the duration that you are stunned by Meteor-Spikes can be reduced with a well-timed jump or recovery move. The timing to optimally Meteor Cancel depends on the attack that caused the Meteor-Spike, because the earliest time to jump is immediately after the hitstun of the move has ended. Just like with Teching, pressing jump too early will cause you to wait 40 frames before being able to attempt to jump again.
During the pre-knockback freeze-frames of an attack your position can be slightly affected with inputs on either the Analog or C-Stick. During each frame the game will accept a single input from each stick. If a direction is detected, your character will be moved slightly in that direction. Using SDI is situational, and can be punishing if used incorrectly, but good SDI can be greatly benificial to your survivability.
The game detects SDI inputs on the last frame of Hitstun from an attack. If you are already holding a direction on the C-Stick or Analog stick at this time then the game will act as though you tapped the stick in that direction without you having to time an input. This allows you to automatically SDI in the direction held. The change in your position though is only roughly half of what regular SDI would have been.
It's important to understand what differentiates a "good position" from a "bad position" in the neutral game. Your goal should be to recognize what positions benefit you, take control of them, and push the advantage they offer you. The most clear example of this is center stage. When you're in control of the center of the stage your opponent is more limited in their options, you have more space to safely retreat into, and more distance to survive the knockback of attacks. If you can force your opponent towards the edge of the stage you improve your advantage even further. The less space they have, the less options they have, and the more options you can predict and cover.
Even without direct followups it's often benificial to force your opponents into the air above you, or onto platforms. Using Upair and Uptilt properly Marth can efficiently cover tech options on platforms, or deny opponents from landing in the first place.
As you gain experience you'll get a better feel of where you should be in different matchups/scenarios etc.. But a key point to remember is that punishing your opponent doesn't always mean damaging them. Punishing an opponent by seizing stage control can be just as effective.
When playing Marth, one of the most important differences between stages is the dimensions of the side platforms. Smaller platforms that are lower to the ground allow him to more easily cover opponent's tech options from below; primarily with Uptilt, short hop Upair, and Fsmash. Although he has great tools for covering platforms, Final Destination is often considered his strongest stage. The large amount of space and a lack of platforms combined with Marth's general ground dominance and powerful punish game makes Final Destination a good pick in most matchups. This is particularly true against Fox and Falco, due to their lack of options for escaping chaingrabs.
The size of the blast zone is another important factor to consider. Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, Marth has more difficulty killing opponents when they reach higher percents. Beyond a certain threshhold most of Marth's attacks will knock opponents too far away to allow for direct followups. This phenomenon has long been jokingly known as "Marthritis", and is more of an issue on stages with larger blast zones.
Dreamland has the highest side platforms of the legal stages, as well as the largest blast zone. Even though it has plenty of room for movement, it's for these reasons that Dreamland is often considered Marth's weakest stage. Pokemon Stadium and Yoshi's Story are often considered good stages, and Fountain of Dreams and Battlefield are the most commonly disliked among Marth players. However, stage preferance largely depends on playstyle, and much of the arguments regarding stages are subjective.
End of Stage
Congratulations! You've reached the end of Stage 3. A lot of what we covered in this stage, especially DI, are greatly benifitted by practicing against a human opponent. If you've got a Melee player to train with you should play quite a lot before moving on. In Stage 4 we'll introduce you to more complex techniques and strategies.