How to Level Up Without a Setup: Using Free Time to Improve at Melee



Wed 12th Sep 2018 - 8:15pm

When trying to improve at Melee, it can feel like there just isn’t enough time in your day to improve at the rate you might want. This is a common problem in today’s busy world. One way to alleviate this issue is to maintain a scheduled practice routine to focus the use of your time on aspects you need to work on the most. But is this the only way to accelerate improvement when on a time squeeze? Other than optimizing your time on a setup, this guide will show you some tips and habits to make use of the free time when you can’t have a controller in hand.

Melee is a primarily mental game, and our time spent off of a setup will focus on this side of the game. Obviously, you can’t practice shield pressure or perfect your ledgedash while on the train to work, but what can be done is pondering how different moves, timings, and spacings will impact the shield situation. You can think about when to ledgedash and what to do out of it. Ask yourself questions such as, "How will an opponent respond to this option after I use it a few times in sequence?" and, "How can I avoid or setup this situation again?" Hypotheticals like these test your current understanding of the game, and inspect common situations in more depth. This is a habit you can keep on a daily commute, as you fall asleep, etc. No internet or setup required!

If the internet is available to you, watching vods is a super popular way to improve. As powerful as analysis is, even simply watching the best players can teach you plenty about Melee. Using free time to spectate top players can boost your rate of improvement fast. If you need to keep your eyes on the road, there are auditory means as well. Listening to important sound cues like the Armada shine can familiarize you with the timing subconsciously. Podcasts and interviews can also provide insight via audio only. Discussion posts and other guides like this can be a great use of reading time. Basically, anything that helps you start thinking deeply about Melee.

Another resource to take advantage of on the go is frame data. Watching gifs of each character’s moves and their hitboxes can elevate your usage of each one. By developing your knowledge of a move, you will become more precise and accurate with it. Implementing the move will come more naturally as your understanding of its purpose improves. To expand on this further, try drawing a flowchart of a punish from a combo starter. Identify how to respond to different DIs and defensive options from an opponent, and think about how each decision impacts the next one.

The last mental aspect of the game which can be practiced anywhere in the world is the tournament mentality. A solid headspace is critical in tournament Melee. It allows for proper execute and total focus. Building this mental foundation requires tournament experience, but you can complement and expedite this process by using free time to work on your focus. To practice refining my mental fortitude, I would imagine situations I do not like, such as having a three-stock lead and then losing two stocks unanswered. I would think about how I will probably react to this situation, and analyze if this reaction is healthy or destructive. Filter out bad reactions and use reason to flesh out any fears or anxious feelings before the situation becomes a reality. Even if you never encounter a situation like you imagine, this is a useful habit to hone your tournament mentality.

Much of Melee can be understood through thoughtful contemplation, which can come as a surprise to many. The common advice to newer players nowadays is to grind punish game and movement, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, movement and punish are important to practice and get down, but studying and theorizing when you aren’t on a setup will elevate your play to the next level.

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