Fox vs Ice Climbers: Common Mistakes to Avoid as Fox
Sat 11th May 2019 - 10:00am
Ice Climbers - the bane of many Melee players and a current hot topic of discussion in the community. The Ice Climbers have frustrated many Melee players for years due to the unique mechanics that come with being the only puppet character in the game, including having an easily executed infinite. Because of this, Ice Climbers are a character that many players struggle to beat despite them not being considered one of the top characters in the game.
One top tier that should dominate Ice Climbers is Fox, but many Fox mains seriously struggle against the duo. Fox players in particular seem to be split in this matchup. There are lower ranked Fox mains such as Milkman and Mojo that do much better than higher ranked Foxes against the Climbers. In this article, I will discuss the matchup from the perspective of an Ice Climbers main, looking at what good Fox players do that makes the matchup hard for the me and common mistakes from Foxes that allow me to capitalize.
There are two main ways most players (not just Fox mains) that are good against ICs approach the matchup: efficiently killing nana and abusing sopo or hard camping the climbers. Luckily for Fox, both of these strategies often intersect because his moveset allows him to play a defensive game that also lets him kill Nana quickly and efficiently.
Foxes that can intelligently play on platforms can make life very difficult for Ice Climbers. One of the main benefits of platform camping Ice Climbers is that it can bait them into leaving where they are the strongest; the ground. When a Fox is on a platform, ICs will generally try to get under and shark with up-airs. Because of this, being able to bait the Ice Climber into using a full hop up air or short hop up-air and then either with punishing with shine (shield drop or crouch cancel) or getting under the IC and up airing is key for Fox in this MU.
To properly platform camp and bait Ice Climbers, you have to have a solid understanding of ICs threat ranges and their movement. To hit you with up-air, the ICs must be close to directly under you, so keeping that in mind and positioning yourself accordingly is important. When the ICs position themselves under you, there are many ways Fox can respond. When the ICs get under the platform you’re on, try to react to their positioning then jump to the top platform. After they full hop up-air, drop down and punish their lag with a drop down shine. Another option is to just bait the up-air by dash dancing on the platform, then either running off or doing an empty shield drop and then punish their up-air with one of your own.
Playing Around Shield
Ice Climbers shield is one of the most important tools they have. Combined with their long wavedash, it allows them to safely take space and test their opponent's execution. A Fox player must be aware of how to play around the ICs' shield in a way that allows them to avoid getting shield grabbed or hit by an aerial out of shield.
One habit lots of Foxes have is full hopping away above the ICs' shield after applying pressure. Personally, this is one of the main things I look for when playing against Fox because it can be easily punished by a full hop up-air out of shield. Retreating horizontally with a backwards jump or a fade away aerial are much better options than full hoping above the ICs' shield. Similar to not full hopping away above ICs' shield, Fox should avoid attacking ICs' shield from directly above. When I notice a Fox is dropping down on my shield either with aerials or more often shine, I’ll just short hop up-air OOS to catch them landing on me.
If you notice the IC looking to catch you with up-air OOS, you can bait it out by doing an empty full hop and double jump away or an empty full hop into a waveland back. Once they commit to the up-air, you can dash under them and punish.
The best spots to hit the ICs' shield are diagonally on the front and on the back. They don’t have a strong out-of-shield hitbox on the front of their shield, so their main option is to shield grab.
You should also avoid doing things like waveshining through ICs' shield and using stale drill on shield.
Playing in the Corner
In most matchups, center stage is the stage position that is most desirable. There are a few exceptions to this such as Marth versus spacies or Jigglypuff in most of her matchups. Generally, Fox is a character that wants to maintain center stage while playing neutral because of how easy it is to gimp and edgeguard him, but Fox versus Ice Climbers is one matchup where Fox can use being in the corner to his advantage. The reason Fox can use the corner to his advantage is simple; it is easier to kill Nana when she is closer to the ledge. Baiting the Ice Climbers to approach you while in the corner then countering by jumping over them, crouch canceling their approach option or retreating to ledge and using an invincible option from a ledgedash are all very good ways to set up a Nana kill.
Earlier in Melee’s life, it was rare to see grabs used against ICs as it was believed to be too dangerous to use a move that can only hit one of the climbers. However, as Melee’s meta has evolved, players have learned that characters with fast grab and throw animations can actually greatly benefit from utilizing their grab game against Ice Climbers. Fox is one of these characters as his up-throw, down-throw and forward-throw all have uses in the matchup.
Up-throw is generally stronger when the ICs is at higher percent, around when up-air will kill. If you up-throw Popo, you can avoid Nana and either go for up-throw up-air (not a true combo) or just try to shark with up-air. Fox’s up-air pretty much always beats ICs' down-air, so it's a very strong option to use when the IC is trying to land with down-air.
Forward-throw is a strong option to use when the ICs are at lower percents and especially when the ICs are close to the ledge. If the IC is holding shield and you forward throw Popo, he will normally hit Nana, knocking her back further than Popo. This is a very strong option to use seperate the climbers and punish them for holding shield. If Nana is knocked off stage, she will almost immediately jump and is very vulnerable to a quick jump shine.
Lastly, down-throw can be a strong choice because of the lasting hitbox of the throw and because it sets up a techchase situation. The lasting hitbox of down throw make it tricky for Popo to punish if the Fox grabs Nana but if the ICs player knows the timing and hitbox, they will be able to punish. For this reason, I consider down-throw to have the highest risk and potentially lowest reward between the three throws but it is still a useful mix-up.
The easiest time to use grabs against ICs is when you respawn, since most ICs will just hold shield to wait out your invincibility. Running shine grab is a strong mix-up since it is common for Ice Climbers to simple hold shield during shield pressure situations and wait to shield grab when the opponent makes a mistake or wavedash/roll away when the opponent ends their pressure.
Ice Climbers can put Fox in a plethora of situations that can be tricky to DI correctly but, with the proper DI, Fox can often escape taking minimal damage and can even reverse dangerous positions into his favor. Here's a list of some of the most common wobble setups and how to DI them:
- Use slight DI away against IC up-throw to avoid follow ups. If you DI away, you can be dash attack regrabbed and if you do no DI or DI in you can be hit by up-air, up-tilt or up-smash.
- To escape down-throw down-air, hold down on the C stick and do down and away quarter circle SDI on the grey stick.
- To escape Blizzard, SDI up and away if in the air and SDI down and away if on the ground.
- DI away on down-throw up-smash to avoid the regrab. Just be ready to tech when you hit the ground or else you’ll most likely be jab reset.
- DI Sopo down-throw away to avoid down-smash.
Attack from the right angles; attacking ICs from directly above is generally a no-no. One of ICs' biggest strengths against Fox is the they can anti-air all his aerials with short up-air and up-tilt if the Fox is landing on them from directly above. Instead, try to focus on attacking ICs from diagonally above/in-front of them. They don’t really have any strong hitboxes to cover that space (this is one of the main reasons why Peach’s float cancelled forward-air is such a strong option against them).
Zone at the length of their wavedash; One thing that most of the Foxes that are good at this MU do really well is understanding where to place their moves to stuff ICs' approaches. Since ICs are one of the few characters that use wavedashing as their main form of movement, you need to make sure to place your moves accordingly. For Fox, this is best done by using fadeaway aerials. Fadeaway and in-place drill/nair are very strong tools for stuffing an ICs approaching you with a wavedash. Drill is particularly strong since it goes over down smash, cannot be crouch cancelled, and leads into shine at all percents unless the Ice Climber smash DIs it. You should be cautious using short hop drill if the IC has their back turned to you, as it will lose to a wavedash bair approach from them.
Fadeaway or in-place nair is also strong against ICs because it beats wavedash jab (one of, if not the, most common ICs approach) and is safe on shield. Consistently mixing up using drill and nair will make it very hard for the ICs player to choose the correct approach option. Fadeaway and in-place full hop aerials can have similar effects to their short hop counterparts. The main risk of overusing full hop aerials versus ICs is that they can read it and wavedash under you with an up-air or up-tilt. However, these full hop aerials can be used as a bait if you land on a platform and immediately shield drop through the platform with another aerial to catch them taking space or jumping at you. Up-tilt is another strong tool to use for zoning and stuffing wavedash approaches. The main problem is that it can be easily crouch cancelled and will lose to a wavedash shield approach.
Ice Climbers are a tricky, frustrating and often confusing character to play against but, with the right knowledge and mindset, you can make the matchup much easier for yourself. Hopefully, this article helps Fox mains understand how to avoid playing into the hands of the Ice Climbers.
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