Hunting the Prince - A Guide to Dealing with Marth's Defensive Movement as Fox



Thu 30th May 2019 - 3:00pm

A Short History Lesson

Since essentially the beginning of Melee’s competitive life, Fox has been considered a very strong tournament character. There’s even been points where Fox has been considered the best character by a large majority of players. Recently things have changed and part of that is due to the strengths of everyone’s favorite blue swordsman, Marth.

Whether Fox or Marth or even Jigglypuff is the best character is a discussion for a different time, but one thing is for sure and that’s that the struggle as a Fox player to beat Marth is at an all-time high. A huge reason for this struggle is the defensive capabilities of Marth. Marth’s great defense can be heavily attributed to his movement and especially that pesky dash back. Luckily though Fox does have ways to deal with that movement.

What Not to Do

This section is going to be very short, but it is arguably the most important part of this article. If you are trying to beat Marth’s defensive movement in any way, the biggest thing you want to avoid doing is attacking right at where Marth is standing. This will result in you getting grabbed a lot of the time.

I’m not saying that you should never do this. In fact, I especially think run-in grab is a very important option. However, that sort of option will not beat any variation of Marth’s defensive movement or the options out of it.


Overshooting is the act of aiming your attack for where you think your opponent will move to when you think they’re going to move backwards. Fox has many options to do this from running shine, to dash attack, overshooting your short-hop neutral air approach and more. Unfortunately, overshooting isn’t as simple for Foxes against Marth anymore, in part due to the addition of pivot aerials and pivot shields to Marth players’ game plans.

Now let’s divide Marth’s dash back options into three categories. There are times where Marth will dash back into a pivot aerial, there are times where Marth will dash back into a pivot shield, and there are times where Marth will dash back just to create space and wait or keep moving.

If you’re going to overshoot to beat Marth’s dash back pivot aerials, there are two way of going about this. The first way is to directly overshoot and the second way is to use a timing mix-up into an overshoot option.

If you’re going to directly overshoot in order deal with Marth using dash back pivot aerials as Fox, you need to think about two different types of aerials. Marth can either do an early aerial or a late aerial. To overshoot to beat Marth doing a dash back pivot late forward air for example, you want to hit him before the forward air comes out.

For this, Fox’s go-to option is going to be an overshoot short hop neutral air. To overshoot to beat Marth doing a dash pivot early forward air, you want to use an overshoot option to get underneath Marth after the forward air comes out.

For this, Fox’s go-to options are going to be dash attack or up smash depending on Marth’s percent.

Now, onto using timing mix-ups in order to beat Marth’s dash back pivot aerials. The idea here is that, after moving forward from your threat range, you use some sort of action before going into your overshoot. By delaying your overshoot this way, you can get Marth to whiff his zoning option and then be right on top of him with an attack as he’s in lag. Today, we’re going to go over two types of sequences you can use. The first type of sequence is dash in to dash back to an overshoot.

This is just simply adding one extra movement with your dash back in order to delay your overshoot. The next type of sequence is using an undershoot short hop aerial to dash back to overshoot.

This is a sequence you’ll see Mango use a lot, and for good reason too. The undershoot aerial allows you to protect your space while also setting up for a timing mixing. For both of these sequences, I recommend not overshooting with running shine because very often this will result in the shine hitting in the air and you not getting a follow-up.

To deal with Marth using dash back to pivot shield, you need to think about two different categories of options that Marth has from shield. The first category contains rolls, spot dodges, and up-B out of shield and the second category contains everything else. Fortunately to beat both of these categories of options, we’re going to be using an overshot running shine. However, what preemptive option you choose to do out of your running shine is going to differ. To beat those rolls, spot dodges, and up-Bs, your go-to option is going to be running shine to wavedash back.

By using running shine to wavedash back, you put yourself in a position to punish if Marth rolls in, spot dodges, or up-Bs and if Marth rolls away you still gain a better stage position. To beat everything else, your go-to option is going to be running shine grab.

If Marth doesn’t roll, spot dodge, or up-B out of shield, then shine grab on shield from Fox will result in a grab on Marth.

Finally, we have overshooting to beat Marth players that are just dashing back in order to wait or in order to transition into more movement. Now, you might be thinking that this will be the simplest section on overshooting since this implies Marth isn’t protecting himself upon moving away, so you can just overshoot with whatever you want. In a way, you would be right in thinking that, but the fact you have all of these different options available is what makes this part so complicated. A lot of this is going to be up to you to figure out what overshoot options are best depending on Marth’s percent, but there is a set of rules I like to follow. If Marth is at a low percent, overshoot with running shine. If Marth is at a mid to high percent, overshoot with a launcher like dash attack or down-tilt. Finally, if Marth is at a kill percent, overshoot with a kill move like neutral air or up-smash.

Taking Stage

In the context of Melee, taking stage is the act of moving forward either to get closer to your opponent or to gain a better stage position or sometimes even both. Again, Fox has plenty of ways to do this from dash in wavedash down all the way to approaching full hop empty land. Taking stage may not give you as much reward as overshooting, but there’s definitely less risk. It’ll really be up to you to determine how you deal with Marth’s defense.

Now it’s time for more categories. For this section, we’re going to divide taking stage as Fox into three categories of options. The first category is simply using your movement, the second category is using an undershoot short hop aerial, and the third category is using a full hop empty land.

If you’re going to take stage with ground movement, Fox has three main options and those are dash in wavedash down, running crouch, and dash in shield. All three of these have their strengths and weaknesses. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that Marth is moving away in all of the interactions discussed. In general, I like to use the following set of rules to determine what kind of grounded option I’m going to use if I want to take stage that way. If I’m far enough away to enter run and I’m at a low percent, I running crouch. If I think Marth is going to try to zone me out and I’m too close to enter run or I’m at a mid or higher percent, I dash in shield. Finally, if I think Marth is just going to move away or if I’m not sure what his defensive option will be, I dash in wavedash down. Next, let’s examine those options a little more closely.

First up, we have dash in wavedash down.

If you’re familiar at all with basketball, this is basically Fox’s version of a pump fake. This can be done at any range due to you being able to wavedash out of a dash. In addition, it keeps you more mobile than shielding would. The idea with this sequence is to accomplish one of the three following goals. You either get to gain a better position if your opponent moves away and waits, you position yourself close enough to punish aerials that would not normally be directly punishable if your opponent tries to zone you out at some point, or you can also get your opponent to do some sort of action just by using the visual of the wavedash down. The big weakness with this technique is that it doesn’t work so well if people attack into you since you’re not protecting yourself at all.

Next up, we have dash in shield.

Like dash in wavedash down, this can be done at any range due to you being able to shield out of dash. Before we continue though, it’s important to note the difference between dash in shield and running shield. If you shield during your dash, your momentum will just stop as opposed to if you shield after you enter run in which case you will slide forward. This distinction is very important for controlling Fox. The idea with this sequence is that you’re trying to accomplish the goal of invading the space where Marth is zoning. As Fox here, you’re trying to force a misspacing that will allow you get a punish. At the same time though, if Marth just moves away you’ve taken the stage space from him. Dash in shield’s weakness as compared to dash in wavedash down and running crouch is that you are less mobile now, but honestly, if you get good at moving out of shield, you’ll be fine.

Finally, we have running crouch.

When applicable, I would say this is Fox’s strongest option to take stage on the ground. This time I’ll start out with the big weaknesses. You can’t crouch out of dash, meaning you’ll have to enter run in order to use this technique. This reduces the number of ranges you can use this technique from. In addition, because you’re forced to enter full run to use this technique, you’re often forced to get close enough to Marth to allow him to hit you if he attempts to zone you out. This is fine a lot of the time because of crouch cancelling, but it’s a dangerous game to play if you’re approaching those higher percents. Fortunately, this technique is very strong when used correctly. First off, you have all your options available to you during crouch that you would when you’re standing, so you remain as mobile as possible. The idea with this sequence is that you accomplish one of the following goals. Either you invade Marth’s zoning space and you can counter hit after crouch cancelling a move, or you get to take space against him if he just moves away. You might be wondering why you don't just use dash in shield. Well, it’s because of those options you keep that you lose with running shield. Being in crouch allows you access to your dash which allows you to dash back or dash short hop aerial.

I do have to now mention the weakness that all of these techniques have and that’s run up grab. Fortunately enough, the next sections give you a couple of techniques that are pretty good at dealing with that too.

Earlier I said that one of the techniques to use was going to be undershoot short hop aerials which is true, but for this article that also encompasses fade back short hop aerials. These options are very strong to take stage if you think Marth might attack into you with something like a dash in grab or running down tilt. Fade back and undershoot aerials don’t allow you to follow up as hard if Marth is to move away or attempt to zone you out, but it protects you from more than any of the grounded movement options will and can often lead into a direct punish if one of the alternative situations does occur.

Now, for how to use undershoot and fade back aerials to take stage. For this situation, you can think about the difference in the applicability of undershoot and fade back aerials as follows. Undershoot short hop aerials allow you to take slightly more stage, but are a little riskier because of you moving slightly more forward than fade back short hop aerials.

Fade back short hop aerials give you less stage, but are safer due to you jumping back.

For now, I suggest messing around with fade back aerials since you can start out with the shortcut of dash in shield to fade back short hop aerial. This will halt your momentum and give you more freedom to control your fade back.

Finally, we have the two aerials you’re going to be using in these situations and those are short hop down air or drill and short hop neutral air. I’ve talked already talked about some rules I follow before using some techniques and I’m going to again, but honestly, these are pretty simple comparatively. If Marth is at a low percent where neutral air won’t lead to anything big, you use drill. If Marth is at a percent where drill will lead into a wave shine up-smash that will kill then you use drill, and those percents in between you use neutral air.

To finish this section off, we have approaching full hop empty land.

This is a technique that has popped up in more recent years and if you watched Crush’s Fox you probably saw this a fair bit. This technique is insanely powerful and I want to see way more Fox players use it, but it is not without its weaknesses.

First off if Marth preemptively zones with a move this technique allows you to get into a position to punish immediately after. If Marth moves away you get to take stage from him. Finally, if Marth attempts to attack into you then using an approaching full hop allows you to avoid that interaction and potentially set up for a whiff punish.

Now, you might be thinking, “This sounds great, why don’t I just full hop empty land all the time?” Well, unfortunately, this technique does have one big weakness and that is waiting. If Marth just waits for you to do this technique then you end up in a relatively bad spot. In this scenario, you either give Marth frame advantage or Marth reacts and zones you in the air with an aerial.

With that weakness in mind though I would still argue that approaching full hop empty land is still Fox’s best technique for taking stage on average, especially given that it can be used from any spacing and you don’t lose any mobility options upon landing.

Final Thoughts

While I have given you some rules to follows, ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out what techniques work best in what spots. Each of these techniques has their strengths and weakness and give different amounts of reward depending on the situation. The best advice I can give you now is to get out there and play some Melee. Those answers will come you as you test these techniques out more and more.

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