Sixty-Forty #1: Fox vs. Samus
Sat 10th Feb 2018 - 6:57pm
For the first article in the Sixty-Forty series, I thought it fitting to pay homage to Team Dignitas’ premier Melee players, Lucky and HugS. As a result, I decided the first match-up I should cover would be that of their respective mains, Fox and Samus. This match-up is one of the more peculiar ones in all of Melee, as Samus is often considered to be Fox’s toughest opponent outside of the top tiers. Of course, the match-up is still considered to be even at best, and is more realistically slightly Fox-favored.
Nevertheless, Samus has several unique defensive and offensive tools which can give her the upper hand if she plays precisely and intelligently. Throughout this article, I will explore the various options each of these characters has in the match-up and consider the dynamics which can make this match-up so back and forth.
Sets used for research:
Quite unsurprisingly, Fox’s approach options in this match-up are fairly simple. Due to his superior run speed, Fox can typically just dash in against Samus and initiate a combo with moves like shine, grab, dash attack, and the like. And if Fox should deem a grounded approach too dangerous, Fox’s aerial approach options are also stellar against Samus. Fox can leap in with just about any of his aerials to begin an interaction (with back-air and neutral-air being the most orthodox and reliable of these options), as Samus has very few options with which she can combat this.
As a whole, Fox can throw out hitboxes more quickly than Samus, allowing him to approach with significantly less risk than Samus. That being said, Samus has enough good options to counter a Fox who approaches too recklessly (beware of her down smash when approaching on the ground and her up tilt when approaching from the air), so Fox must play smart and look for appropriate openings.
As is the case in any match-up against slower characters, lasering is particularly effective for Fox against Samus. Similarly, it behooves Fox to move constantly, as Samus can be easily overwhelmed by Fox’s rapid movement. In the neutral, Fox seems to benefit immensely from constant jumping. Fox can jump around Samus’ shield, baiting her to come out of shield and throwing out aerials to catch her when she does so. This makes it harder for Samus to land her more effective grounded attacks, leaving her Up-B out of shield as her best punish option (which is only particularly dangerous on a small number of stages). In addition, it is good for Fox to jump and/or throw out aerials whenever he is coming out of shield. Since Fox’s aerials are by and large better than Samus’, Fox is typically safe challenging Samus in the air.
If Samus takes a projectile-heavy approach to the neutral, Fox should periodically throw out shine (or conversely power shield) in order to reflect incoming projectiles. The same strategy is useful whenever Fox is recovering, as Samus tends to utilize missiles to edgeguard Fox. Because of how slow Samus’ tether grab comes out, Fox can often jump over her grab, allowing for a free punish (up smash is typically the punish option in this scenario). And if Fox is able to knock Samus down while within his own crouch cancel percent, he can set up a fairly free tech chase scenario by simply crouching next to Samus; if she uses get-up attack, Fox can crouch cancel and punish, and if she rolls, Fox can easily follower her and punish due to Samus’ incredibly slow roll speed.
Naturally, Fox’s punish game against Samus is incredibly strong. At lower percents, Fox can crouch cancel Samus’ attacks and follow up with moves such as shine or down smash. Fox’s grab is still good in this match-up, and the pattern of throws he should use is similar to that of other floaty match-ups; up throw can lead into up-air at low percents, whereas down throw is best for setting up tech chases at high percents. As always, up smash is a fantastic kill move, whether it is at point-blank or part of a combo off of a wavedash-shine. If Fox wants to set up an edgeguard scenario, then wavedash-shine into down smash is another solid choice.
Fox’s down tilt is good for shield poking and can also act as a kill move at high percents. Up tilt can also kill at high percents and acts as a combo starter at low percents. Fox’s short hop aerials are generally solid as punish options, especially neutral-air and back-air, which do decent damage and can give Fox favorable positioning. Fox’s up-air also has a ton of utility. It is great for catching an airborne Samus, especially a Samus who has Up-B’ed to the top platform of a small stage. In addition, falling up-airs are a strong option in almost any punish situation, as long as Fox can execute it properly.
Because of Samus’ tricky recovery, Fox can sometimes struggle getting kills off of edgeguard situations. Nevertheless, Fox still has plenty of options for racking up damage while Samus is offstage, keeping her at the edge, and occasionally solidifying those edgeguard kills. Since Samus’ full recovery takes a long time to execute, Fox can rack up a lot of damage with lasers while she’s offstage. Fox’s back-air is a fundamental tool for edgeguarding in this match-up, and grabbing ledge or shining, followed by a back-air, can cover a lot of Samus’ options. Back-air can also be used to pressure Samus at the ledge, along with neutral-air.
If Samus is recovering from low, simply grabbing the ledge is a very effective option. Conversely, Fox can catch Samus with either down tilt or down smash if she fails to sweetspot the ledge. If Samus ends up above the ledge, a well-positioned forward smash can force Samus back offstage. In addition, Fox can jab Samus at the ledge, eat her jump, and force her to Up-B, leaving her in a vulnerable position. While Fox's shine spike is still an option in this match-up, the timing is a little trickier, since Fox has to make sure he doesn’t get caught by Samus’ bombs, tether, or Up-B in the process. This being the case, shine should be used rather cautiously as an edgeguarding tool against Samus.
Final Destination is one of Fox’s better stages in the match-up, not necessarily because he benefits from a lack of platforms, but because Samus suffers from a lack of platforms. Samus’ approach is very linear on FD, allowing Fox to get in against Samus much more easily than she can get in against him. In addition, the lack of platforms makes Samus’ Up-B out of shield much easier to punish.
Fox does surprisingly well against Samus on Dream Land. The large stage allows Fox to dash around Samus and laser safely. Fox also gets a lot of utility out of the platforms on Dream Land; they aid in his recovery options, they help Fox in keeping Samus stuck in the air, and they give him a place to retreat to if necessary since Samus has a much harder time traversing platforms than Fox. Fox also does quite well against Samus on Pokémon Stadium, as he has a huge advantage on the transformations. He also gets the benefit of Dream Land’s space, along with tighter blast zones which allow for easier kills.
Battlefield is fairly good for Fox, providing the same platform-based benefits as Dream Land without as much space. In addition to the obvious early kills Fox gets from Yoshi’s Story, the platforms provide Fox with unique movement options, and Fox benefits from Randall more than Samus does. Though Fountain of Dreams is the typical Samus counterpick, and counterpicking Samus to FoD would be kind of stupid as a result, Fox still has some cool stuff he can do there. Most notably, he can up smash Samus from below the lower platforms, which is particularly useful in tech trap situations.
Samus has to work a little bit harder than Fox in order to make an effective approach in this match-up. Wavedashing is a necessity for Samus in this match-up, since her run speed is so much slower than Fox’s. This being the case, Samus should wavedash in against Fox with moves like forward tilt and jab in order to start off her offense. Samus also makes good use of dash attack, which maintains an active hitbox for a decent distance and has the potential to knock down Fox (although Samus is left quite vulnerable if she fails to make contact).
Either forward-air or neutral-air should be used to approach if Fox is positioned above and ahead of Samus, and forward-air is also useful for approaching from the ledge. Up-air, though a little more unorthodox, can also help Samus get off the ledge, and is particularly good at putting Fox in an unfavorable position near the ledge. And if Samus is trying to approach from above Fox, she should use either neutral-air or down-air; either Fox will shield and Samus will at least land safely, or the attack will connect and Samus can begin comboing.
One major benefit of Samus’ tool kit is the vast supply of projectiles she has to employ in the neutral. At any time Fox is a safe distance away, Samus can launch missiles or charge up and launch her Charge Shot. Generally, it is best to drop from platforms and shoot projectiles rather than staying completely grounded, as to avoid a completely linear and punishable projectile game. Samus can also release bombs in neutral to try and catch an approaching Fox, or simply release them while in the air so that Fox has a harder time attacking the airborne Samus.
Perhaps the biggest tool Samus has in this match-up is her crouch cancel. At low percents, a crouching Samus can eat up many of Fox’s attacks and unleash devastating punishes. In addition, wavedash back is a classic bait-and-punish move which Samus can abuse against Fox players. Some other things for Samus players to note: first, Samus can Up-B out of Fox’s drill-grab combo, making her one of the best characters in the game at escaping it; and second, Samus players should be prepared to tech a Fox’s down smash at the ledge, as it will give them a second chance at recovering.
Samus boasts an incredibly strong punish game in this match-up, which is one of the biggest reasons Samus does well against Fox at all. Whether it be off of a crouch cancel, a wavedash back, or a raw punish, Samus’ down smash is her bread-and-butter punish against Fox. Her down smash can force Fox offstage, especially on smaller stages, allowing her to set up edgeguards. Forward smash is another strong option, specifically if Fox is not entirely grounded. Should Fox be leaping haphazardly around Samus’ shield, then Samus can quickly Up-B out of shield. On certain stages, this option can lead to devastating follow-ups; if not, it acts as a decent get-off-me option as long as Samus is not left too vulnerable afterwards. Samus’ up throw is her best choice when she lands a grab, as it can be followed by any of her aerials (circumstance determines which aerial will be more effective, of course), or even an aerial Charge Shot. And naturally, a fully charged Charge Shot is a deadly punish whenever Samus is able to land it.
Samus’ tilts have varying degrees of utility as punish tools. Samus’ down tilt can act as a combo starter or a tech chase opener at low percents and has high knockback at high percents. Up tilt acts as a decent anti-air and can initiate combos at low percents as well. Forward tilt is best used at high percents, since it can push Fox offstage and set up for edgeguard opportunities (the second hit of Samus’ jab works similarly, although it is generally inferior to her forward tilt). As for aerial punishes, platform drop back-air is a strong option which may catch Fox off-guard, and neutral-air is great for intercepting Fox’s aerial approaches. If Fox is knocked down on a platform, forward-air and up-air can be used for light damage and for starting combo strings, while neutral-air and back-air can do high knockback and even kill. Down-air could also be used in this scenario once Fox gets up, allowing for an aerial combo or a follow-up to take the stock.
Samus has quite a few tools which can allow her to edgeguard Fox successfully. If Fox is recovering from below the ledge, Samus can land an up tilt, assuming Fox doesn’t sweetspot. If Fox Up-B’s high, Samus can catch him with a neutral-air or back-air. Back-air can also be used if Fox is well below the edge, acting as an almost guaranteed kill move (of course, this would be best on stages like Yoshi’s or FoD where Samus can easily return from dipping that low). Should Fox land on the stage with his Up-B, Samus can wavedash back and forward smash or down smash to send him offstage again. Conversely, if Fox uses Side-B to land on stage, Samus can shield the hit, and then follow up with the same attacks to produce the same result. If Fox instead Side-B’s to a higher platform, Samus should retaliate with neutral-air, since it has a long-lasting hitbox which has the potential to hit Fox back off the stage.
Charge Shots and missiles can be used to complicate Fox’s recovery while he is offstage. By setting a missile just above the ledge, Samus may force Fox to Side-B directly to the ledge, allowing for an easy edgehog. Samus may also set bombs at the edge in order to eat Fox’s jump and make his recovery more difficult. Another solid tool for Samus to use while edgeguarding is her downward angled forward tilt, which can similarly eat Fox’s jump if timed properly. Finally, dash attacking to the ledge can work if Samus expects Fox to fade back to the ledge after a high Up-B, though this read requires a pretty hard commitment.
Without question, Fountain of Dreams is the premier counterpick for Samus in this match-up. Its small size means that Samus’ down smash can push Fox offstage at incredibly low percents, setting up for sooner edgeguards and making it harder for Fox to take a commanding hold of center stage. Samus can also Up-B from the stage and land on the top platform, resulting in easy follow-ups after Up-B if she is able to drag Fox up with her and forcing Fox to be wary around Samus' shield. When she’s beneath the lower platforms, she can up tilt a Fox who is above her, making it dangerous for Fox to attempt to abuse the platforms like he can on other stages. And of course, this stage is by far the best for Samus as far as recovering goes. Samus gains similar benefits from Yoshi’s, with the triple platform layout also allowing for up throw tech chases which aren’t possible on FoD. Fox does kill Samus more easily on this stage however, making it secondary to FoD in terms of counterpicking value.
Samus also enjoys Dream Land, as her weight often allows her to outlive Fox (a unique trait of hers among most floaties). In addition, the platform layout of this stage gives Samus some unique combo options, like forward-air strings. The rest of the stages, however, are pretty convincingly in Fox’s favor. On Battlefield, Samus’ Up-B out of shield is moderately safe if she’s able to land on the two lower platforms, though she cannot reach the top platform with this move, meaning she’ll be left open to attack if she stays in the middle after executing her Up-B.
Final Destination could be good if Samus fears that Fox who will platform camp her, although Samus tends to struggle to approach Fox on this stage. And frankly there is little to no good reason for Samus to take Fox to Pokémon Stadium. While she doesn't suffer too terribly on these stages, Fox benefits from them much more than she does.
Samus’ unique set of tools gives her a certain edge against Fox which no other floaty can boast, especially when she can take Fox to one of the smaller stages. Don’t be deceived however; this is a winning match-up for Fox, even if only by a slight margin. His simple approach options and consistent punishes enable him to deal with Samus much more easily than she can deal with him, not to mention the stage advantage he can boast. While Fox generally outplays Samus in the air, Samus does have incredibly dangerous grounded attacks, and more options for edgeguarding Fox than Fox has against her.
In general, Fox’s moveset gives him the edge over Samus, assuming Fox employs all of these moves correctly. However, Samus has the perfect moveset to combat any Fox who begins to play recklessly, which gives her somewhat of an advantage outside of the highest level of play. In short, the match-up is difficult but doable for Samus, and Fox must play at his best in order to avoid Samus’ hard hitting punishes.
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