Smash Bros Melee: Marth Guide by DIG Lucky
Mon 10th Jun 2019 - 6:26pm
Feared by all characters, Marth has been a character that strikes terror into the heart of his opponents. Blessed with an incredible amount of range, fantastic speed, disjointed hitboxes and tools that give him a strong neutral game, Marth has become a popular pick amongst competitors and even veterans of the game have decided to give him a shot at tournament level. One of those being Lucky. Lucky gives his insight to the best way to play Marth and what his best moves are.
Marth is notoriously a god in the neutral. With a range of options that stuff out approaching characters, as Marth, you just have to be fast enough to execute. With the aid of Marth's dash dance, grabbing is one of Marth's most amazing options, especially against the spacies. Aside from the chaingrab advantages Marth gets on Fox and Falco, a grab on Falcon, Sheik or Puff can be equally as devastating. Marth can tech chase Falcon to the ledge providing the player is fast enough, and Sheik struggles when Marth throws her into the air. Marth has some great options off of grab in the neutral, whether it be down-tilt, up-throw or a tech chase situation.
Even in the ditto, Marth can link his forward throws on himself up to 10% in a and, without proper DI from the opponent, can get a free forward-smash. The list goes on with set-ups from grab; forward-throw on Peach can set up for a neutral-air or forward-smash, depending on DI. More recently, we've seen Zain use grab on Hungrybox and regrabbing him from back-throw when Hungrybox is using survival DI. Even in the cheesiest of ways, if the opponent doesn't tech a down-throw from Marth at a lower percent, Marth can get the free forward-smash. This is usually used as a mix-up on Fox and Falco; when getting chaingrabbed, the spacies are not expecting a down-throw so they miss the tech occasionally. Regardless of how you play the matchup, Marth has a magnificent array of options from grab and it is vital to his overall game play.
Down-tilt is one of Marth's safest approaches. It's quick, has huge range, and Marth can dash out of it immediately after the move animation has come to an end. It's very difficult for opponents to whiff punish as the range of Marth's dash compliments this move. Even when not spaced well, down-tilt is sometimes used to push opponents that are too close to a better distance. Occasionally, an opponent will crouch and Marth can start poking the opponent away to get a forward-smash. This especially happens in Marth dittos when both Marths are trying to utilise the down-tilt. Down-tilt can space your opponent perfectly to set up for a forward-smash. It's especially good as you're also in a crouch animation so if you get hit at a low percent, your knockback is massively decreased. Overall, this is Marth's absolute safest approach.
Lucky says: "Marth's down-tilt is a great option in general for most matchups, and learning to act out of the move with a dash back makes it even better. The idea is to space it out of your opponent's range. If your opponent moves forward, they run into the move and if they don't, you're usually safe. This is also a very quick move, so if opponents try to whiff punish it, you can cover yourself pretty consistently with a well-timed dash back. Now you can stuff out their whiff punish attempt with a pivot fair or a dash dance grab."
In addition to this, Marth tends to want to stay grounded most of the time in neutral as being above your opponent is usually a bad sign as Marth doesn't have many moves that help him come back down to safety. However, short hop fast fall aerials are quick and much safer than just your regular jump. Marth can catch out overshot aerials by fade back aerials such as forward-air and neutral-air. Forward-air is especially good as you have time to short hop double fair. Forward-air also has a massive range, so short hop forward-air is a great defensive tool in the neutral against rush down characters. Providing your timing is on point, stay in place aerials are equally as good. Marth players like to threaten and bait their opponents with short hop empty hops, which make characters afraid to approach as they fear getting hit. If they try their luck, a quick hit of the A button or C stick takes them out if you are prepared for their attack.
Attacks aside, Marth's most important neutral tool is his movement. Without this, Marth's potential to win the match decreases massively. Learn to switch up the timing of your dash dance. A predictable dash dance of just one rhythm will be punished as your opponent can just wait for you to dash back towards them at your usual pace and attack or grab you. Mixing in short and long range dash dances and adjusting the timing and pattern in game will make it tricky for the opponent to read your positioning. By adding a wavedash in occasionally too, the opponent will struggle massively. As previously mentioned, short hop empty hopping threatens and baits the opponent but when your movement is cleaner, you can opt to short dash, jump and waveland back to throw off your opponent's positioning. If the opponent expects you to land in a particular spot, it baits them to attack you, in which you can waveland back and punish their aggression.
Lucky says: "Ground movement with this character is everything. Practice long and short dash, dance dashing as much as you can. Learn to crouch D-tilt as soon as your dash animation ends, and learn to D-tilt out of wavedash. As great as the move is, you need to be able to add it in to your movement and use it at very different spacings. Practice movement into aerials that either stay in place or fade back. A lot of Marth players tend to move forward with their aerials too much or don't even acknowledge that they're moving forward. This isn't always a bad thing, but it's much easier to punish Marth's aerial attacks if he is moving forward with them. Being able to use short hop aerials out of a dash dance that fade back or stay in place will really help you out in the long run."
Lucky: "I think a flowchart punish game is vital to today's meta, period. Marth is one of the characters that can benefit so much off DI mix-ups and it looks damn good when it works. The thing is, if people DI these mix-ups correctly, you're basically giving your opponent a chance at not taking damage. Where when you stick to a flowchart, it's usually much more guaranteed damage or even an edge guard situation."
It's vital that Marth players keep an eye on percentage because in a tournament match, it becomes your best friend. At any percent, Marth has a particular tool that will work in that particular scenario. Watching top Marth players at certain percents will confirm what you, as the player, need to look for at that time. If solo play is the only outlet available to you as a player, dissecting low, mid and high percents is a fantastic idea as it gives you an idea of how the top Marths get the kills that they do. Many of the top Marth players also get creative with their combos and sometimes dip out of the regular flowchart; whether it be for style reasons or just trying new situations out. Marth is a character you can get creative with but spectating the higher level will confirm if the creativity in certain situations is a good idea or not. Look first how they get the combo started in the first place. What moves they use to transition into the mid percents. Check how they finish the kill and at what percent you would need to hit a particular move. What characters it works against.
Lucky says: "Watching videos of the top Marth players is obviously a go-to when you want to push your punish game to the next level. You just really need to learn to dissect how and why these Marth players are doing what they do. Pay attention to how a combo starts more than how it ends, at what percent it starts at, what move it started with and where on the stage it started. Learning the openings to a combo is just as important as the actual combo."
Some of Marth's best combo continuing moves are up-tilt and short hop fadeback up-air. Especially when it comes to the chaingrab on Fox and Falco, short hop up-air is great as it auto-cancels and you can quickly move into your next hit. You have time to react to their DI and follow up. Up-tilt and short hop up-air are great underneath platforms against other characters too. They can slide off after the hit but you will be aware of where their landing position will be, just be aware of your timing. Patience is the key with platform tech chases are you must watch if your opponent DIs or techs and rolls. These options of course, only work for so long as you are pushing them upwards. Using forward-air is ideal to push the opponent towards the ledge for an edgeguard situation. Using the hilt end of the sword will keep the opponent close enough to you so that you can continue the combo.
Lucky says: "Watching your opponent's percentage while you play is also a huge thing a lot of players forget to do (myself included). It can make the difference in your combo leading into a kill or you over extending your combo to the point where you can't get a follow-up. Download 20XX. You can have CPUs stand still while actually having random DI, making solo practice for your punish game much more progressive."
Recovery and Edgeguarding
Lucky says: "The main difference between a good Marth and a lower level Marth in terms of recovery is how they use their double jump. Learning to use your double jump when you absolutely need to instead of always spamming it out of hitstun is crucial to recovering vs all of the top-tier characters. Using it to get a double jump forward-air against someone jumping out at you or using it at the very last second to buy yourself time for your opponent's ledge invincibility to run out, learn to save it!"
Mixing up your recovery height when recovering is ideal and this can be changed with either a last minute double jump or by stalling with your forward-B move. Forward-B is a fantastic move to help with recovery but it does have some downsides. Be very careful about using it too close to the ledge when characters can refresh invincibility or you will definitely take an invincible back air right through your forward-B hitbox.
Recovery can be relatively easy to master when you recognise the patterns and mixups you can achieve offstage. However, edgeguarding can be a little harder. Though Marth has the tools, each character requires a different path to edgeguard them. Some follow a very standard edgeguard such as Fox and Falco but others require a little more thought. Marth can easily edgeguard Fox and Falco when they have fallen too low under the stage with either a back-to-the-ledge counter to stop their up-B recovery or if they are far enough away from the stage, you can opt to go out and forward air or dip down low to their up-B and reverse Dolphin Slash (up-B) them to their death. Marth can punish mid height up-B recovery with forward-air or forward-smash and if they decide to use their phantasm (side-B), it can be jabbed, grabbed or forward-smashed. If they opt to go to the ledge, you can down-tilt to deny the ledge from them. If you are already on the ledge yourself or at the edge of the stage, back-air catches them really well so Marth has a gigantic range of possible edgeguards that he can use against the spacies. Even down-air can be the most useful in certain situations.
However, edgeguarding other characters can be a little trickier. Sheik has a specific timing that she can use her recovery and if she lands on stage, luckily, it's punishable as her landing lag is very long. Part of edgeguarding Sheik is figuring out her final positioning and punishing accordingly, whether it's holding the ledge and waiting or punishing her lag on the stage. Captain Falcon is also fairly easy to edgeguard as his recovery lacks greatly. If you're still on stage and Captain Falcon doesn't sweetspot the edge, you can simply down-tilt. When Marth is already dangling from the ledge, he can forward-air, back-air, down-air or even just hold ledge against Captain Falcon. However, beware of Captain Falcon's up-B, as a mistimed aerial or jump from Marth and you could get caught out and put into a worse position than Captain Falcon. However, the hardest characters to edgeguard tend to be the floatier characters. Marths opt to kill on stage with a side-B up-tilt set-up or fish for a pivot forward-smash. Edgeguarding can get a little tricky with Jigglypuff's multiple jumps and strong aerial game, and Peach has mix-ups with her float and parasol timings.
Lucky says: "Edge guarding floaties can be a pretty big problem if you aren't careful about it. These characters would love nothing more than for you to over-extend off stage so they can turn your own edgeguard against you. Your best bet unfortunately is trying to hit them coming to the ledge with a short hop, fast fall forward-air or spaced down-tilt. Alternatively, abuse that fact that most of the floaty characters in the game can't abuse ledge invincibility that well to get back on the stage. Sadly, characters like Peach and Puff can recover far above most characters' ranges, you can't really do anything about this except shark where they will land and abuse your huge up-air."
With more than just the top-tier characters in mind, it's ideal to have a game plan prepared. Marth tends to want to play more ground based as some characters can catch him out for being in the air. How will you opt to keep rush down characters off you? How are they approaching you and what is your best counter move? Are they repeating the same approach? Are you mixing up in as many different ways as possible to throw your opponent off? How will you deal with projectiles? Learning situational instances and what your best options are will help you increase massively. For example, learning when to powershield, take laser and what to do do after 'take laser' against Falco is valuable knowledge. Learning when Captain Falcon is going to fish for stomp knee and how you'll persuade the neutral into your own hands so he doesn't execute it. Pay attention to not only what your strengths are in the match-up but also, what your strengths are against your opponent.
Lucky says: "You really want to get a feel for how your opponent moves and plays with Marth. Abuse those spaced down-tilts and dash dance game to really see how aggressive or passive your opponent will play and adjust accordingly. Then you can switch between stuffing out your opponent's approaches with down-tilts and fadeaway aerials to baiting out your opponents dash dance grabs with low commitment aerials that will lead to you landing a grab if they connect or allow you to dash back safely because you spaced it well."
Overall, if you've chosen Marth as your main character, you've signed up to a magnificent character that back talks his opponents with options and a terrifying neutral and punish game. Despite his greatness, he still requires perfect timing and spacing. Luckily for Marth, he has his fantastic range with disjointed hitboxes on his sword. His grab is one of the deadliest in the game and the combo game following it has been polished on the space animals for many years. When Marth's double jump is used correctly, his recovery is solid and clips opponents who don't know how to edgeguard Marth properly. He arguably has the best neutral in the game due to his lengthy dash dance and range.
Marth does have his weaknesses though. Marth can become combo food for certain characters around the mid percents. Marth also suffers from 'Marthritis', a term coined by the Smash community to note how much Marth can struggle to kill some of his opponents. At higher percents, Marth struggles to kill floatier characters. Without kill confirms, Marth has to work hard to fish for a set-up that will work, and it's not easy when your opponent is expecting them. They will often try to work around this and stay out of your range while chipping away at you with little moves to get you to kill percent.
Luckily, these aren't huge reasons to be turned away from our favourite hero king. Look at Marth combos and neutral mix-ups before your pools and throw yourself into it. Abuse Marth's advantages and you will eventually get a feel for what Marth can really do. Good luck in your pools!