Introduction:

Hello, my name is Tai (@TeeAyEye), and I am a Marth player hailing from the dry deserts of Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve been playing Melee competitively since the summer of 2007, and I have been a Marth main for about six years (I was a Marth main from the beginning, but I gravitated more towards Fox/Falco for about a year and a half from 2008 – 2009). I made a Marth combo video back in 2009 when I was in high school and had nothing better to do with my time (Check it out here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNwenAqVaBU).

That’s enough about me, let’s get to this guide! This guide is geared towards people who are new to the game/new to the character.

This being the case, I have tried to write it with an emphasis on the fundamentals of Smash. I want to briefly cover the how and what of how to play Smash and how to play Marth, but more importantly, I want to discuss WHY things are the way that they are. My intention is that by emphasizing the important fundamental skills, I can help foster a generation of players who make solid decisions based on these skills. Furthermore, I hope that emphasizing the fundamentals will help my readers become better learners and observers of Smash. I can’t spoonfeed you how to play this game (although this won’t stop me from trying, entirely). I can only help you help yourself. I believe that players of all characters will be able to learn from this guide. A lot of the things included in this guide are things that I teach to newer players of all characters, not just Marth!

ONE LAST DISCLAIMER: I may present things as being easier or more simple than they actually are. It’s not possible to 100% describe the thought that goes into Smash in language, so this guide is more of a model for teaching/learning purposes. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, and use it as material to feed your own ideas, rather than taking it as an instruction manual on how to play.

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

–George Box

Outline

  1. General
  2. Pros/Cons
  3. Fundamentals
  4. Move List
  5. Matchups

 1. General

So you want to know more about Marth. He is a very strong character who is easy to learn and hard to master. He is easier to pick up due to his basic moveset, long range, potential for low APM (i.e. slow, precise) play, extremely high payoff for landing f-smash, strong edgeguarding, and emphasis on fundamentals. He is difficult to master because of his need for precision and patience, lack of many “automatic” setups/finishers, concordant difficulty taking stocks at high percent, extreme mediocrity in close quarters, and emphasis on fundamentals.

Marth’s lack of “automatic” or close range tools makes him feel like a really underwhelming character in some situations where most other characters may shine (lol). However, Marth more than makes up for it by being an absolute MONSTER at neutral game situations. Where Marth is lacking an automatic solution, he can often set up a strongly favorable situation for himself, and his movement/disjointed range give him the control to win these situations, or more precisely, they give him the control to NOT LOSE these situations. Marth is a character who is all about positioning and control, and when everything comes together and you’re able to use these skills to land finishers and end stocks, he’s one of the most satisfying characters in the game to play.

 2. Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • PPMD, Mew2King, PewPewU (are Marth pros)
  • He is the only good character with a sword, and swords are cool
  • He effectively outranges every character in the game
  • He has some of the best movement in the game, due to his long/fast dash and his good wavedash
  • He is one of the best edgeguarders in the game
  • He has one of the best punish games vs fastfallers
  • He has amazing juggles vs everyone (except maybe Yoshi)
  • He has some of the most satisfying finishers in the game (d-air spike, up B, and tipper f-smash)
  • He very strongly emphasizes fundamentals

Cons:

  • He is not very good in extremely close quarters
  • Doesn’t have many persistent hitboxes (hitboxes that just stick out, like Fox’s nair). Most of his moves swing in an arc, which an opponent can exploit
  • His attacks can be pretty laggy
  • His attacks can be fairly weak
  • He sticks out his arm with his sword, extending a hurtbox that the opponent can hit.
  • He is very bad at trading
  • He is bad at closing out stocks at higher percentages
  • He requires a lot of precision
  • He requires a lot of patience
  • He very strongly emphasizes fundamentals

 3. Fundamentals

This is the most important part of this guide, by far. It’s very applicable and very good information no matter what character you use, but I just discuss it through a Marth lens!

As I mentioned earlier, Marth probably emphasizes fundamentals more than any other character in Melee. You can get a lot of mileage off a minimalistic gameplan based on strong fundamentals. On the flipside, he is also one of the characters that gets punished the hardest for not having strong fundamentals. Now that I’ve talked about how awesome these things are, let’s actually talk about WHAT they are.

What are fundamentals? Let’s start with the Merriam-Webster definition!

Fundamental:

(1) forming or relating to the most important part of something

(2) of or relating to the basic structure or function of something

In other words, fundamentals are the most basic, important concepts and skills you need to know in order to make things happen in Smash, or any fighting game, for that matter. They are the most important parts of your strategy. You learn fundamentals, you will get better with every character. You learn fundamentals, you will probably get better at every fighting game.

In this section of the guide, I will describe a few important fundamental concepts, why they are important, and why they are particularly important for Marth. Let’s get to it!

Spacing

Let’s start with the simplest fundamental concept: spacing. When beginners think of spacing, they generally think of it as nothing more than hitting with the right part of their attacks. However, this is merely a tiny piece in the grand puzzle of this wonderful game.

I think part of what throws beginners off is the word spacing. I think it’s a little misleading, and I believe a more accurate term to describe what I’m talking about is positioning. Positioning is extremely important in Smash because positioning is ultimately what defines what you and your opponent can and cannot do. Positioning is what defines how you interact with your opponent.

Having good spacing requires a good understanding of both your opponent’s and your own character. Understanding your opponent’s character allows you to position yourself in a way that minimizes your opponent’s threat to you, which makes them work harder and reach further to do anything to you. Understanding your own character allows you to see openings when they are presented to you, letting you know what actions you can take in a given situation.

How do you get started on developing your spacing? A good way is to try to visualize it when you are playing the game. When you are playing, try to imagine your opponent’s quickest, safest options (for example, Fox’s running SHFFL nair). The area that the opponent can cover with that option is their effective range (effective ranges vary depending on situation and matchup). Try to visualize this effective range, and then try interacting with it. See what happens whenever you position yourself right outside of it. See what happens when you go inside of it. Try to weave in, out, and around this range, and observe. I can’t give you a three-step lesson on how to space. I can only point you in the right direction.

The other side of the coin is understanding your own effective range. Personally, I think it is more important to focus on your opponent’s effective range rather than your own. However, I’m not saying that you should ignore your own effective range! I just think it’s more important to watch your opponent’s effective range because not getting hit is more important than getting a hit. Not getting hit is the first step to getting a hit! Secondly, focusing too hard on your own effective range can tunnel-vision you onto your own options, which can make you try to force things when you shouldn’t. Third, since you’re in control of your own character, you should naturally have a much better idea of where you can go and where you can attack, which simply means that you don’t need to dedicate as much active attention on that. However, since we’re not ignoring it, let’s talk about it! Understanding your own range is key in learning to control your character! Once again, an important tool in developing this skill is good old trial-and-error. The next time you play, try to pay very close attention to not only WHAT you want to do, but WHERE you want to do it. Let’s say you’re using Marth. If you want to use a fair, don’t just throw out a fair and think nothing else. Think about WHERE you want to throw out that fair and why you want to throw it out there. Go into training mode, pick out a few of your most trusty options: for example, SHFFL fair, wavedash in -> dtilt, run-in -> dtilt. Use them and pay attention to exactly how far they go.

Spacing is extremely important for Marth because he is a bad character in close quarters, but his movement and long, disjointed hitbox give him almost unparalleled ability to control the game from further away.

Why is he so bad in close quarters? First, his attacks are fairly slow (contrast with Fox/Falco shine, Peach d-smash) and most of them are big, swinging arcs (contrast with Falco dair or Fox nair), making it so that he needs to be really precise with how he throws his attacks out. Marth needs room to be able to use his sword safely and therefore make the most out of his influence, or else the opponent will easily force their way in on him before or after he swings his sword. Secondly, he has a tipper sweetspot, meaning his attacks are extremely weak at close range (they’re honestly not exceptionally strong tippered either, with exceptions), making them susceptible to crouch cancel, shield, and making it so that he will lose an outright trade with almost any other decent character. Third, he doesn’t have moves that engage the opponent very well. What I mean is, he doesn’t have any moves that, (a lot of the time) when landed, will DIRECTLY lead to a big punish. Moves like Fox’s nair and shine, Falco’s dair and shine, Peach’s fair and d-smash, Falcon’s stomp and knee. In other words, Marth is not good at landing strong, stray hits at close range. Whenever he *does* land stray hits, he doesn’t always get that much off of them.

So now I’m done depressing you with why Marth is so bad at close range, LET’S CHEER YOU UP AND TALK ABOUT WHY MARTH IS SO GOOD AT LONGER RANGE.

The first obvious reason is that 36-inch disjointed hitbox he carries around. Marth’s sword is what makes him so bad at close range, but it’s also what makes him god tier at long range. Whenever you interact with your opponent on YOUR terms (i.e. at a spacing that is good for you and bad for them), they WILL NOT win the exchange. The fact that they WILL NOT win the exchange gives the Marth player a lot of leverage to influence and control the match. Your sword forces your opponent to respect it, meaning the opponent needs to adjust their gameplan to deal with your sword. Your sword essentially lets you take options away from your opponent, because those options WILL NOT work against your sword when you use it right. After you take these options away, you can continue to use your movement and your sword to follow up on their actions after they respect your sword. However, you will not be able to effectively use Marth’s sword unless you have a good idea of when it is good and when it is bad, i.e. a strong grasp over Marth’s spacing.

The second reason that spacing is so important for Marth is his amazing movement. Marth probably has top 3 movement in Melee, along with Falcon and Fox. His movement gives him a lot of freedom and mobility. It lets him set up good positions for himself, and it lets him get out of good positions for the opponent. It lets him manipulate space in a very tricky way.  His speed lets him aggressively threaten the opponent. His speed lets him defensively evade the opponent and get grabs. Having a good handle on spacing is what allows you to understand how and where you should be moving with Marth.

Positional Advantage

When you apply your understanding of spacing to various situations, along comes the idea of positional advantage. Positional advantage is a pretty self-explanatory term, but it’s one that needs to be pointed out. There are many situations in this game that strongly favor one player, creating an advantage. These situations are defined by character matchup and stage positioning, i.e. positional advantage.

Being able to effectively use positional advantage hinges on being good at two things: 1) setting up good positions and 2) abusing good positions.

Setting up good positions is one of your most important goals in neutral and in your punish game. It’s how you create good situations for yourself, putting the odds of the guessing games in your favor.

However, setting up a good position is only half the battle. It only stacks the deck in your favor, but you still have to play. And knowing HOW to play is determined by the position you are in. You need to be able to evaluate each player’s options and determine the most effective routes of action in that position.

In my opinion, there are four major categories of situations that give a player huge positional advantage: 1) opponent knocked down 2) opponent off-stage 3) opponent above you 4) opponent in the corner. Understanding each of these is quite important, so I’ll briefly talk about each one.

1) Opponent knocked down:

This one is a no-brainer. An opponent that gets knocked over has very limited options. They can tech or they can not tech. If they do tech, they’ll end up in one of three places. If they don’t tech, they can either roll, stand, or get-up attack. Compare these options with a standing, grounded opponent, who has huge freedom of motion and access to a bunch of amazing moves, and you can clearly see why you would rather have your opponent knocked over.

This is one reason why percentage matters so much! At low percentages, people will not get knocked down by a lot of your attacks, which is why grabs are so vital. Marth’s dthrow will oftentimes throw the opponent on the ground and knock them over, allowing him to set up a good position at low percentages, where most stray hits don’t convert. Furthermore, this is also why Marth’s f-smash is very good at lower percentages, because it knocks the opponent over relatively early, where his other pokes and zoning moves don’t directly lead to much. Also, at low percentages, you can uthrow your opponent onto a platform and abuse the fact that they are above you *AND* the fact that they are knocked down. Getting good at platform techchases can make the difference between getting big damage from all of your grabs vs getting nothing and possibly letting them turn the tables on you.

2) Opponent off-stage:

It’s advantageous to have your opponent offstage, whether they’re completely offstage or merely on the ledge. I don’t think this is any surprise. First of all, when an opponent is offstage, their life is hanging by a thread. An offstage opponent has very limited options because they’re not grounded, they’re limited to the handful of options that allow them to live, and they need to do something quick or else they’re not coming back

Edgeguarding is one of the most unique situations in Melee, and it’s part of what makes the game so fun. Having strong edgeguarding is a must-have against the fast-fallers, and being able to edgeguard effectively requires you to understand your opponent’s limited off-stage options.

One tip that Armada has given on edgeguarding is to focus on and cover their best option(s) at a given time.  This sounds vague, but it’s actually pretty simple. For example, let’s say you’re edgeguarding Fox, having thrown him offstage. One of his best options (perhaps his best overall) is to jump and use a side B. Therefore, you should stay in a position where you can easily punish and get a stock off the side B if they decide to do it. Once they have come to a point where side B is no longer available to them (e.g. if they dropped down too low), you can more or less forget about covering side B, and then punish them beyond that.

When I refer to the opponent being off-stage, I am including the situation where the opponent is on the ledge. When an opponent is on the ledge, they have a very limited number of options, and their life is hanging by a thread. This situation can be abused in a similar way to the opponent being off-stage or the opponent being in the corner (one major option you need to watch for is the ledge wavedash).

3) Opponent above you:

Ground control is so important that I gave it its own section. However, I’ll briefly discuss some things in this section. The opponent being above you is one of the most important positions to exploit as a Marth player. Conveniently, you have a uthrow which allows you to make this situation happen very easily.

In general, an opponent that is in the air is severely limited. They lack their ground mobility ( they’re limited to their double jump and their aerial drift), they’re at the mercy of gravity, and most characters don’t have moves that cover their bottoms very well.

Marth is particularly good at exploiting an enemy in this situation because of his character design. Marth has a fantastic anti-air game. His fair, uair, utilt, ftilt, and fsmash are all EXTREMELY strong anti-air moves. Marth doesn’t have the ability to blindly combo these moves on the opponent from a throw (think about Sheik’s dthrow -> fair), but the strength of his anti-air game comes from the fact that he can force his opponent to deal with it or else take huge damage and the fact that HE STILL HAS HIS AMAZING GROUND GAME. In general, every character can exploit an aerial opponent by leveraging the mobility advantage in some way, even if it requires finesse.

That being said, the opponent above you doesn’t directly give you a free hit. You still need to work for it through your positioning, threatening to use your sword, and making the right calls to just go up there and hit them, but know that the odds are drastically in your favor, but only when you’re playing it right.

4) Opponent in the corner:

Learning to use the corner is a very important skill in Smash. When someone is cornered, they are limited. Because they have no space behind them, they have nowhere to retreat to if you decide to poke at them meaning they basically have to deal with your attacks on your terms. Furthermore, if you have someone cornered, they cannot jump at you very well because they don’t have the room to set up a running start. Because you are the one with all the space, you’re more or less the one that calls the shots, but you have to be smart and patient.

Trying to corner your opponent is one of the most important goals in the neutral game. When you throw out attacks or threaten to throw out attacks with your movement, the goal is to either hit the opponent or force an action. A big one of these actions is retreating. Whenever they retreat, you can punish them by moving forward and cornering them. If you read a retreat, this is the smart way to take advantage of it. It is good to call the retreat with an over-extended attack sometimes, but relying on that alone is risky. Learning to set up and abuse the corner is a big asset towards having an effective neutral game.

So now that I’ve spent all those words talking about positional advantage, WHY is it so important to Marth in particular? It more or less boils down to his strengths and weaknesses as a character. Marth is not good at doing things without considering positional advantage. Marth, for the reasons I listed earlier, is very bad at forcing things. His approaches aren’t that fast or safe, he’s very bad at trading, his moves don’t have that much brute force (i.e. His moves are kinda weak against defensive options. His moves can’t brute force their way through shield or crouch cancel the way that Fox/Falco/Peach can), and his moves don’t engage very well. On top of this, he doesn’t have many guaranteed true combos off grab the same way a lot of the other top tiers do, except vs fast fallers (e.g. Fox uthrow -> uair, Sheik dthrow -> fair, Falcon uthrow -> uair string/knee). These are some of Marth’s weaknesses.

What are Marth’s strengths? As I discussed earlier, Marth’s strengths in spacing are his giant sword and his amazing movement. These strengths make him one of the best characters in the game at setting up and capitalizing off positional advantage. His ability to limit, control, and counter the opponent’s options is amplified when you use them with the understanding of positional advantage. When Marth fights you on HIS terms, you cannot beat him. In other words, a lot of Marth’s punish game is understanding how to MAKE things happen on your own terms along with recognizing when you’re not playing on your own terms, so you can be a little more passive.

Even though his throws don’t lead to combos most of the time, his uthrow and dthrow are amazing at setting up positional advantage. His uthrow puts the opponent above him, which is a situation he can control and abuse. His dthrow oftentimes puts the opponent in the corner/knocked down, which is another situation he can control and abuse. Positional advantage should be one of your main objectives in neutral and in punishment. Whenever you’re comboing someone, you should make your decisions based on what actions will result in good damage AND what actions will result in positional advantage. Whenever you have no idea how to get good damage off a grab, a good rule of thumb is to throw them in a spot where you have positional advantage, and exploit that.

Personally, one reason I love Marth so much because his punish game embodies Smash to me. One of the often-cited greatest things about Smash is how interactive the punish game is, opting away from the true combos that more traditional fighters have, creating a much more organic, interactive system where both players have a lot of options, but the punishing player has a clear situational advantage that he can only fully exploit when he really understands the game. The punish game in Smash alone offers so much depth.

Ground control

The ground is where the majority of important neutral game takes place. Learning when you’re supposed to stay grounded is an invaluable skill in all fighting games, and a huge mistake that rookies make is jumping too much.

Why is the ground so important? The ground is important because it’s generally where a player has the most options and the safest options.

First, the ground is where you have the most mobility. When you’re on the ground, you can dash, wavedash, walk, and basically go anywhere, as opposed to being airborne, where you are limited to the relatively short arc of your jump. To visualize this, let’s think about the threat that Marth poses to you on the ground vs in the air. Whenever Marth is on the ground, you have to worry about the long range he controls with his tilts and his other ground moves, and you essentially have to respect a much larger area because he has a lot of freedom to go wherever he wants. Whenever he is in the air, his effective range becomes much shorter, limited to the max distance of his jump. Whenever he is airborne, not only is his effective range shorter, but he has much less freedom to control where his character goes (he’s limited to how far he can drift his own character along with his double jump). Double-jumping is a cool mechanic in Smash that gives you a little more maneuverability when you’re in the air, but ground control is still king.

The ground is generally where you have more tools available to you. Not only does the grounded player have a huge mobility advantage, but the person on the ground has access to their shield, crouch-canceling, along with a lot of their best attacks (smash attacks and tilts), still having the freedom to jump.

So whenever you jump at someone, they can look at you and KNOW that your mobility is limited, and they KNOW that you’re limited to a certain number of options, and they can act accordingly. However, in trying to stress the importance of ground control, I don’t mean that jumping is BAD. Jumping is, however, a commitment. You don’t want to commit mindlessly, otherwise you’re limiting your own potential for no good reason. You need to be able to pick your spots for jumping.

Ground control is ridiculously important for Marth because he probably has the best ground control in Melee.  Neglecting ground control is basically ignoring one of his biggest, un-contestable strengths. Why is his ground control so good? Well, put simply, it’s because of his amazing movement (top 3 in the game) and good ground moves, most notably (BY A HUGE MARGIN), his down-tilt. I will write several paragraphs about how amazing this move is in the “Move List” section of the guide, but it really is an amazing move. IMO it’s the most important move he has. If Marth’s dtilt (somehow) got nerfed, I would not think twice about quitting him, because it’s that amazing and it’s that crucial to playing Marth.

Having discussed how important the ground game is, it becomes clear that having such a strong ground game is a huge asset to Marth. Marth is a character that limits the opponent’s options, and this is largely because he has ground superiority vs practically every other character in Melee. His ground superiority gives him the ability to beat the opponent when they’re on the ground. In other words, his ground game allows him to limit his opponent’s options right at the core. Once you have effectively castrated your opponent, the rest of the match becomes a matter of recognizing and exploiting the positional advantage you have in a lot of situations, once the opponent is forced to play in a way that respects your ground game.

Marth needs to focus on a solid ground game largely because… well… he’s pretty weak otherwise. It’s almost all that he has in neutral. He can’t do aerial approaches the same way that characters like Fox and Falco do for a lot of reasons. The first reason is that in the air, he’s pretty slow. Whenever Marth jumps at you, it’s extremely easy to see him coming and just avoid him. The second reason is that his aerials are not good aggressive moves. They’re too laggy (His fair travels in an up-to-down arc, meaning that his lower-front side is vulnerable during its entire startup. His aerials are somewhat easy to beat/easy to avoid when he does them blindly), and they’re not very safe in any sense of the word. They’re relatively unsafe on shield. They can be unsafe on hit, depending on the circumstances. And if he misses, he doesn’t have any fast moves to cover himself (e.g. shine, fast jab, fast d-smash) or follow up.

This isn’t to say that Marth is BAD in the air. Marth’s air game is extremely important to playing him well. However, you need to understand when it’s appropriate to jump and when it’s appropriate to stay grounded. In general, Marth wants to go in the air when he needs to beat or zone off (threaten) the opponent’s aerial approaches, but, as you can imagine, the reality is not nearly this simple.

Offense, Defense, Patience

I’ll be cliche and start with a question: is Marth an aggressive or defensive character?

The most common answer, by far, to this question is “defensive character.” Intuitively, this makes some sense. Earlier, I discussed how Marth is really bad at “approaching” and forcing things. I also discussed how he’s VERY GOOD at hitting people out of their options or weaving around their options altogether. These things point to defense, right?

Of course, my initial question was rhetorical. The entire POINT of this discussion is to question and redefine your ideas of aggression and defense. Based on my definitions and my opinions, Marth is actually an aggressive character. However, we’ll need to talk on that.

SO MANY Smash players like to categorize things into false dilemmas (false dilemma: a fallacy in which a subject are improperly categorized into only two choices, when the reality is not black-and-white) with regards to playstyle. Aggressive vs defensive, approaching vs camping, you get the point.

Personally, I find this to be an offensive oversimplification of this game. A lot of the time, when people use these categories, they ignore how deep and interactive this game truly is. There are SO MANY intermediates that vary based on stage position, timing, conditioning, move choice, option coverage, that talking about things in an “approach vs camp” lens is insane to me. In fact, I think this kind of attitude can even stunt your growth as a player because it can lock you into a mindset that STOPS you from seeing options and seeing the depth in the game.

One of the big problems with the “approach vs camp” mindset is the implication that approaching means you need to go all-in and take a risk that will hopefully hit your opponent and hopefully lead to a follow-up. For a lot of people, the definition of approaching implies overextending prematurely. IN OTHER WORDS, for a lot of people, the definition of approaching ignores a good chunk of the possibilities and decision making that happens before and after an attack is thrown out (it also implies that an attack HAS to be thrown out, but more on that later). And from this poor definition, since “approaching” is bad, the only choice is to camp. There is nothing else you can do in this game.

To be honest, I really dislike the words “approach” and “camp.” I think they have toxic implications (not necessarily, but you run the risk), so you’re better off using more precise words to avoid being misleading.

So what terms should we use? Personally, I am a fan of proactive vs reactive. Instead of thinking of an aggressive player that approaches, you should think of a proactive player, that is trying to create opportunities and force the opponent’s hand. Instead of thinking of a defensive player who camps, you should think of a reactive player, who is waiting for more information from the game before committing to a decision. Being a good player requires you to be able to effectively use both in the proper situations. Instead of trying to typecast players as aggressive, defensive, whatever, you should think of every player as a unique individual who does what they think is best in a given situation. Sure, people have their tendencies, differences, and quirks, but you really should just be focusing on what you think is ideal in a given situation. Now, let’s get back to whether Marth is an aggressive or a passive character.

How good is Marth when he’s cornered? Bad. How good is Marth when the opponent is INSIDE his sword range (or in other words, how good is Marth at disengaging)? Awful. How good is Marth out of shield, roll, and spotdodge? Mediocre (compared to Sheik, Peach, and the space animals). How good is Marth at not-getting-comboed and not-getting-edgeguarded? Not exceptionally.

How good is Marth when his opponent is cornered? Amazing! How good is Marth when the opponent is a bit outside of sword range away from him? Amazing! How good is Marth at FORCING his opponent to respect and playing around his options? Amazing!

Get the point? Even though Marth’s kit is defensive, in the sense that he doesn’t engage extremely well and that his kit is more suited for countering the opponent’s aggressive options, he needs to apply it proactively/aggressively. If Marth plays too passively, he essentially gives the opponent the opportunity to walk all over him, pick THEIR favorite spots, and play on THEIR OWN TERMS, reducing him to a bad character with an amazing punish game. Being proactive/aggressive with Marth means that you have to be aggressive with your positioning and proactive with regards to forcing good positions.

This sounds fine and dandy, except there’s one problem. As I said, Marth’s kit is kinda defensive in nature. Even if you have the aggressive positioning and situation-forcing down, how do you actually execute it? The key is patience.

A lot of people equate patience with defensive or boring play, but this is really just a poor understanding of what patience actually is. Patience is not passive. Patience is waiting for the perfect moment to act. Patience is not cowardly. In fact, it’s QUITE the opposite, and heres why: impatience, a lot of the time, stems from the fear that you HAVE to do something, or else! Patience, on the other hand, requires you to have the wisdom, heart, and courage to be able to wait in the perfect spot and wait for the perfect moment, being very close to danger, but keeping calm, knowing that you have control.

Let’s talk more about WHAT patience actually is. Patience is one of the keys to solid decision-making in Smash, which is why it lends itself so well to Marth’s sword usage, but that’s only one application. Patience allows you to cover options. Patience allows you to win the neutral game. Patience is what lets you get the most out of positional advantage.

Whenever you perform an action in Smash, you are committed to that action, for some amount of time, making you completely unable to access all of your other options. Since you are committed to this action, the opponent may be able to act accordingly to gain some advantage or some opportunity, knowing you’re committed. IMPATIENCE is the error of making tons of unnecessary commitments, hoping one of them will work (and sometimes they do, otherwise people would learn faster).

Going from this, PATIENCE is the art of being comfortable waiting in a neutral position where you have a lot of options available, being calm and not committing to any of them unless you have a reason. If you are more patient than your opponent, they’ll oftentimes crack before you and they’ll GIVE YOU a free opportunity to make something happen. If your opponent is patient (or just really defensive, it varies from person to person), then you’ll have to finesse your way into something.

Here’s a bit on patience that is VERY important. A lot of Smash players will convince themselves that something is spammable JUST because it’s frame safe. In other words, because they will not get immediately hit or grabbed for it, people will think it’s okay to use liberally because “they’re not getting punished.” This is not the right way to think, and it has to do with the nature of getting punished, so listen carefully to this next bit.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET HIT TO GET PUNISHED. IF THE ENEMY GAINS ANY RELATIVE ADVANTAGE IN RESPONSE TO YOU DOING SOMETHING, YOU GOT PUNISHED.

Therefore, if you do an overly committed or unnecessary action, you are effectively punishing yourself by cutting down your own options from a situation where you had many.

A lesson that personally helped me develop my own patience is the idea that you are not in a rush to make anything happen! Let’s say you’re in an advantageous position, like having your opponent in the corner. A lot of Marth players will squander this opportunity by being impatient and overextend while trying to force an opportunity when there are none immediately present. The waiting game is in YOUR FAVOR! Advantageous positions don’t go stale! If 5 seconds pass and nothing happens (unlikely), your opponent is in no better shape than they were at the beginning! Keeping your opponent in a bad position indefinitely is a lot better than being impatient and losing the opportunity altogether.

Patience is particularly important to know with Marth because his sword usage requires a lot of discretion. Marth’s sword swings have really punishable lag whenever he doesn’t manage his space correctly, so you REALLY need to use your judgment for whether or not you actually want to commit to it. His sword is AMAZING at what it does, which is to limit and forbid the opponent’s aggressive options. However, it makes up for being amazing at what it does do by being awful at what it doesn’t do. In other words, it’s pretty mediocre vs defensive options, like crouch cancel, shield, evasion, certain trades, etc. For a counterexample from a different character, let’s think about Falco’s dair. It CAN be used to limit the opponent’s aggressive options, yes. However, if Falco hits a shielding/crouching opponent with his dair, he can STILL make something happen from it. The same applies for Peach’s fair, for another example. Marth cannot just force it to work a lot of the time, and trying to make it work like Fox, Falco, or Peach is playing a game you shouldn’t be playing. Because Marth is so bad in close quarters, being impatient will oftentimes make you overextend, and Marth is probably the viable character that gets punished hardest for overextending.

So does that mean Marth loses to defense? Not really. The thing is, whenever your opponent has shifted towards a more defensive style, that means he already respects your range. He has forfeited his aggressive options. In other words, your sword has already done its job!

Once your sword has done it’s job, it becomes YOUR job to follow up, not your sword’s job to keep doing more than it already has. Whenever your opponent’s aggression has been limited, he is essentially put in a position where his main choices are to stay back or to do an unsafe aggressive option (which you still need to be careful of). When your opponent is in this situation, THAT gives you the freedom to do so many things! It allows you to be more invasive with your positioning; it allows you to go for grabs more safely; it allows you to be more bait-heavy; it opens tons of doors.

For Avatar (TLA) fans, I will be using a quote from the show to wrap up the lesson. For everyone else, I’m using the quote anyway because I love it.

Aang: I don’t understand. Why didn’t you free yourself? Why did you surrender when Omashu was invaded? What’s the matter with you, Bumi?

Bumi: Listen to me, Aang. There are options in fighting, called jing. It’s a choice of how you direct your energy.

Aang: I know! There’s positive jing when you’re attacking, and negative jing when you’re retreating!

Bumi: And neutral jing when you do nothing!

Aang: There are three jings?

Bumi: Well, technically, there are eighty-five, but let’s just focus on the third. Neutral jing is the key to earthbending. It involves listening and waiting for the right moment to strike.

Aang: That’s why you surrendered, isn’t it?

Bumi: Yes, and it’s why I can’t leave now.

Aang: I guess I need to find someone else to teach me earthbending.

Bumi: Your teacher will be someone who has mastered neutral jing. You need to find someone who waits and listens before striking.

Zoning and Threatening

I’ve been speaking in fairly abstract terms about how Marth “limits options” and needs to “manage space,” and although I’ve gone into some detail with examples, I haven’t really touched on HOW you go about executing this. Two essential concepts that assist in achieving this goal are zoning and threatening. Both of these concepts revolve around HOW you use your attacks strategically in order to create opportunities for yourself. A lot of newer players (and unfortunately, even a lot of not-so-new players) don’t grasp these concepts: when they throw out attacks, their only goal is to hit the opponent. Hitting the opponent isn’t bad, of course (Although, in Smash, sometimes hitting people is disadvantageous, which is all the more reason you should pay attention to me), but there’s a lot more strategy behind attacking than just that.

Let’s get into some definitions and discussion, shall we? Keep in mind, these are my own definitions, tailored to what I am trying to say. I’ve heard conflicting definitions for what “zoning” actually means in a traditional fighter sense, so if I am using the term improperly, try to just bear with me and understand what I’m trying to say, rather than how I say it.

Zoning: throwing out an attack with the intent of creating a zone of control that your opponent must respect

The major implication here is that you do not need to connect with an attack for it to be worth using. Attacks aren’t solely meant to hit the opponent, but rather, they can also be used to influence and control the opponent… by banking on the fact that they don’t want to get hit.

In order to zone with an attack, it is necessary to space it a little bit further away, so your opponent can’t easily punish you for whiffing. If you try to use a zoning attack and you space it too close to your opponent, it’s not called zoning, it’s called overextending, and it completely defeats the purpose of forcing your opponent’s hand safely. However, you still need to be close enough to your opponent so that your attack actually accomplishes something, otherwise you are just swinging at the air for no reason. It’s up to you to figure out what these spacings are.

When you try to zone, you shouldn’t obsess too much over the chances of the opponent getting hit by the attack. In fact, I almost feel that with zoning, it’s the opponent’s choice whether or not they get hit. Whenever you zone, you’re ideally forcing your opponent into a lose-lose where you either get a hit or you get stage control.

A good way to think of zoning is that you’re aiming your attack at your opponent’s options, rather than your opponent himself. Zoning is an extremely valuable tool because it allows you to SAFELY find and create opportunities with your attacks without overextending.

A great example of zoning is the use of Marth’s fair. It’s not a very spammable move because it doesn’t interact very well with grounded opponents (it can, usually whenever they run into it, which is why you have to zone with it), it’s hard to aim at an opponent because it’s pretty laggy on startup and needs to be hit with a precisely timed swinging hitbox, and it’s even fairly punishable after he throws it out. However, whenever he spaces the move so that it’s safe to throw out and abandons the urgency to actually LAND the fair, it becomes an amazing tool for limiting your opponent’s aerial options and a decent tool for limiting their ground options.

Zoning is particularly pertinent to Marth for two primary reasons: 1) he is VERY bad at overextending, and zoning helps prevent you from going too deep, and 2) his sword is extremely good at it because its huge disjointed range almost guarantees that he will not lose the direct exchange.

Threatening: conditioning and tricking the opponent into expecting a certain attack or option from you

The major implication here is that you do not need to even throw out an attack to be able to gain advantage from that attack. Just the fact that you HAVE the attack available to you will force your opponent to factor it into their decision-making. Whenever the opponent starts to respect your threats, you adapt and do something else. For (a very simple) example, let’s say your opponent has five options. You establish threat to scare them away from using three of them, and then you pick your choice of the remaining two to cover.

Threatening is extremely complicated because its a lot more tied into the RPS-style guessing games of conditioning and being able to read your opponent. You have to be able to get a feel for how much they actually respect your threat. There are too many different ways to threaten that I can’t even begin to describe them all. I will, however, point out two things to keep in mind:

  1. You can establish threat by using an option more frequently. You want to deter your opponent from using the ground? Use more zoning dtilts! Once they respect your dtilt and start acting around it, you can adapt.
  2.  You can establish threat by making it look like you’re going to do something. For example, you can establish the threat of dtilt by just walking up to the range you like to d-tilt at and doing nothing. You can also establish the threat of dtilt by crouching because it looks like you’re about to use the attack.

Marth needs to learn how to effectively establish and capitalize on threat because it’s one of his best ways to get the ball rolling. Because Marth cannot brute-force his opportunities, he needs to be able to use the threat of his sword to set up traps for his opponent, otherwise he will need to rely on lucky guesses to land his initiation tools (e.g. grabs, strong attacks).

 4. Move List

Here’s a brief description of all of Marth’s moves. I will arrange them in approximate order of importance (not in exact order, but more important ones near the top, less important ones near the bottom).

Dtilt:

This attack is absolutely fantastic. It comes out on frame 7, it’s interruptable from frame 20 (out of 49 frames total), and it is one of Marth’s moves that does not have the problem of being a swinging, arcing hitbox, allowing it to be used like more of a persistent hitbox in one place, and that place happens to be in front of him, on the ground, which is an AMAZING place to have a fast, long-range, disjointed hitbox.

I believe this is Marth’s most important asset in neutral. It’s because of this move that Marth has such great ground control, and his ground control is largely what makes him a great character in the first place.

Dtilt is OP. However, one thing I must emphasize is that it’s only good if you use it intelligently!  It’s fairly punishable if you let the opponent jump over you or if you let them trade with your dtilt. Dtilt is very unlike other OP moves for this reason. It’s not a good move because it works pretty safely in a billion situations (e.g. Fox nair) and it’s not a good move because it converts into big damage (e.g. Peach dsmash) on-shield and/or on-hit. Dtilt is a good move because it opens so many doors for Marth, but it’s the responsibility of the player to follow up on them.  For example, if your opponent has resorted to jumping at you or trying to force a trade against you, then that gives you a lot of leverage to do… anything else. The rest of Marth’s kit is perfectly suited for evasion and anti-air, giving him plenty of tools to follow up on the threat of dtilt. I’d even go so far as to say that this move is what completes Marth as a character–what enables all of Marth’s other options to actually work.

In addition to its strength in zoning, dtilt is also a very good edgeguarding tool. It’s much faster than his fsmash, making it easier to land and easier to follow-up afterwards, and its on-hit trajectory is pretty good for edgeguarding.

A small little gimmick I have with dtilt is to immediately go in for a grab after hitting one. A lot of people will go defensive for a split second (shield, CC, or sometimes they’ll just get thrown off-guard) after you use your dtilt to put them in time-out or they’ll try to close in on you immediately to try getting an advantage from your dtilt’s end-lag, allowing you to just go for a grab. Don’t rely on this 100% obviously, but it’s very nifty.

Fair:

This is a great move. It’s his best and most versatile aerial, and it’s one of his best moves period.

As with most of Marth’s attacks, this is a fantastic zoning move. It’s amazing for aerial zoning AND it’s decent for ground zoning because it is a great anti-air that also hits well in front of him (counterexample: uair is also an amazing anti-air, but it does not cover his front very well).

Fair is a good move for edgeguarding, especially off-stage edgeguards simply because it’s his fastest aerial overall, hits in front of him, has good range allowing it to beat a lot of recoveries, and you can follow up after it fairly well due to its speed and trajectory.

This attack is also extremely useful for comboing (surprise, surprise). It’s vital to be able to manage your tippers vs non-tippers because both of these hitboxes will combo very differently. I feel like tipper fair is better most of the time (not all the time, obviously) because it hits the opponent upwards and stuns for a longer time, granting you the positional advantage, even if it doesn’t directly combo, whereas non-tipper fair is closer to horizontal, making it so that your opponent can DI into the ground or just DI in ways that make it a lot more difficult for you to follow up. Because your opponent can DI into the ground to make comboing off non-tipper fair more difficult, I believe non-tipper fair is much stronger high up than it is near the ground. All-in-all, non-tipper fairs are still essential for your combo game because of a different trajectory and because they are weaker than tipper fairs.

Fair is something to keep in mind when you are playing an extended anti-air game (i.e. whenever you launch someone in the air and try to repeatedly abuse and re-establish positional advantage). A lot of people rely exclusively on Marth’s up moves for these anti-air situations (uair, utilt), but don’t sleep on fair. Its tipper is very useful for popping them back up in the air; it hits in front of him better than uair/utilt, making it a better choice at some angles; and its non-tipper can swat them offstage and set up edgeguard situations.

When using your aerials (especially fair), it is important to distinguish between when you want to do a falling aerial or a rising aerial. Both have their applications.

A problem that a lot of Marths have with fair (and his aerials in general) IMO is being too aggressive or pushy with it, or being too spammy with it just because they think they can.

For example, a lot of Marth players will throw out fairs for no reason, thinking that it’s okay as long as they don’t get hit for it, ignoring the fact that they’re being wasteful in a situation where they should be establishing ground control or should be keeping a lot of options available to them.

A lot of Marth players will also improperly use their fair vs shield, just because it can be safe, given frames/range. Honestly, whenever you’re in the air vs someone’s shield, I personally think it’s better to not throw out an attack and just remain patient and uncommitted more than half the time. However, swinging your sword is situationally useful for some tricks or to deter some of their out of shield options. A classic Marth trick is Ken’s patented close fair -> dash behind the opponent. It IS safe against frame-perfect shieldgrabs if done correctly, and it’s probably safe vs most people’s shields, but just because it’s safe doesn’t mean it is a good choice. Swinging your sword is a commitment, and it’s up to you to decide if that commitment is worth it.

Something to keep in mind about the fair is that it swings in a top -> down arc. In other words, even though it comes out on frame 4, his lower front side is EXTREMELY vulnerable until it reaches down that low.

Nair:

This is an interesting move. It’s pretty good, but it’s very overrated by a lot of players because it loosely accomplishes some of the same things that other characters’ aerials do. For example, it doesn’t have a sweetspot (Strong Bad told me this. Apparently, there are different hitboxes with different sound effects, but all of the nair (second)-hitboxes have the same knockback and trajectory), meaning you don’t need to worry as much about your tipper. Secondly, it has stronger knockback than his fair, which makes it convert better than his fair, along with making it better in some cases where fair is too weak. Third, it is not an swinging arc, so it fits with how people like to use other aerials, like Fox’s nair. However, this third point is very iffy, because the first hit is so weak and so short.  Fourth, it has a very easy auto-cancel, which fits with Melee players’ obsession with low landing lag.

Even though these strengths are nice, there’s a problem: whenever you overuse Marth’s nair because of these strengths, you are playing him in a way that does not emphasize his strengths and weaknesses. A lot of people overrate nair because they only look at the positives.

For a lot of players, overuse of nair will distract from Marth’s primary goals, like ground control, playing for positional advantage, and staying at a safe distance. Having an auto-cancel on nair does not make up for the fact that Marth is a bad character at very close range and has no fast and reliable followups on the autocancel, like shine, dsmash (do you really need to ask whose dsmash I’m talking about?), and a lot of character’s jabs. Another weakness of nair is the fact that it has a very narrow zone of control BECAUSE it’s not a swinging arc, which can let people go over hit and bump your head or even go under it and hit your feet (because the first hit is so mediocre).

In neutral, nair is primarily another zoning tool. Whenever you set up nair on your own terms, you can maximize its strength and minimize its weaknesses, just like fair. Try it out, find out when it works, and find out why!

Nair has some other situational uses outside of the punish game. For example, it’s pretty good at shield poking and catching people out of shield. Whenever your opponent is sitting on the edge of a platform and waiting for you to push them off so they can do a bair, nair is good because the first hit can push them off the platform and set them up for the second hit.

In the punish game, nair is a pretty good combo move and a decent finisher. Against Fox and Falco at high percentages, uthrow -> nair can work fairly well in terms of hitting them offstage and setting up for a kill.

Fsmash:

The fsmash… yet another awesome move. It’s a great combo finisher. It’s a great edgeguard move. It’s a viable move in neutral if you can get the right read, and if you land it, BIG opportunities arise. Everyone is scared of Marth’s fsmash, and because of this alone, you get to threaten and bank off their fear, whether you actually use the attack or not. It’s a fairly straightforward move aside from that. An understated fact about fsmash is that its range is fairly deceptive because the upper-middle part of it actually reaches further than the bottom part of it.

Fsmash is great to land (duh) because it knocks the opponent over starting from a very low percent, and it has a good chance of knocking the opponent offstage for an edgeguard.

Although this is a great move, a lot of beginner Marths overuse it and rely on it as a crutch. If you find this is the case, try looking for other options. Don’t limit your search to just attacks, but also think about all the different movements and positions you can use, as well.

Uthrow:

This is one of your most important throws. This throw puts the opponent in the air above you (or on a platform above you, which is great for you, as well), immediately giving you a good chance to try and do some damage to them.

Something very important to consider when thinking about throw follow-ups is the weight of the opponent (THERE IS A VERY BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WEIGHT AND FALL SPEED. PEACH AND SAMUS ARE HEAVY CHARACTERS, FOX AND FALCO ARE LIGHT CHARACTERS). Throws are slower whenever your opponent is heavier (and therefore, faster when they are lighter). The additional time you spend in the throw animation wastes frames of hitstun from the throw. In other words, you have less frame advantage on throws the heavier your opponent is.

From this, it makes sense that you’re more likely to land true combos off uthrow against light characters because you have more frame advantage off throws. For example, Young Link and Link are two characters that have the same fall speed, but different weight. The uthrow will send both of them up the same distance, but you may be able to true combo an aerial from it against Young Link because he is lighter. On the other hand, you certainly will not true combo an aerial from a uthrow against Link at any percent or DI because he is too heavy. Knowing this, you need to accept that you won’t true combo these characters, and you’ll need to just throw for positional advantage and abuse that instead. Character weight differences are why Marth can chaingrab Fox and Falco on FD, but he cannot chaingrab Falcon on FD (for the most part).

Another thing to consider is fall-speed. Fall speed is essentially the only determining factor for vertical throw height between different characters because throws assume everyone has the same weight, but fall speed affects how quickly they accelerate downward, fighting your uthrow. You can chaingrab and get really big juggles on Fox and Falco because they are fastfallers, but slower-falling characters can, like heavy characters, force you to throw for positional advantage instead because they get sent up higher so it’s harder to combo.

Dthrow:

This is also one of Marth’s very important throws. It can knock the opponent over at lower percentages, it can send the opponent offstage when you are near the ledge, allowing for low percent edgeguard situations (and high percent edgeguard situations), it’s good for setting up corner position and techchases, and it can combo sometimes.

Like every throw, dthrow followups are dictated by fall-speed and weight. Most true combos from dthrow only work whenever the opponent DIs poorly. There are tricks you can use to mess up your opponent’s DI, but you need to not rely on the possibility of comboing off dthrow, but it’s fine to react to it when it happens. You need to be prepared to get damage off dthrow in other ways.

Fthrow:

This throw is useful, but it can also be pretty unreliable. I believe overusing fthrow is a common bad habit for Marth players.

Against bad DI, it’s arguably Marth’s best throw. You can get fthrow chaingrabs, fthrow into fsmash, fthrow dash attack, and sometimes other stuff.

Against good DI, it’s very fickle. It doesn’t set up positional advantage as cleanly as dthrow and uthrow do, and once they DI correctly, that’s almost all you’re going to get. I believe there are some situational combos with fthrow/dthrow into pivot tipper, but I do also know that pivot tipper STILL does not guarantee that you will get follow-ups from fthrow and dthrow if they DI correctly.

Uair:

Great attack. Allows him to chase people in the air and allows him to juggle. Something to note about it is that it has more range directly above his head and less range on the sides.

Utilt:

Another great move, but only when you use it right. Some Marths will overuse this move in neutral, but it has little to no influence on the ground and its end-lag can be pretty punishable, so it’s not very safe to use unless you’re fairly sure you can get away with it.

Dair:

I love this move. It’s one of the most satisfying finishers in the game, and it’s fairly good on-stage/in close quarters too. It doesn’t give you a lot of control and influence, but it allows you to win some situations where fair and nair won’t work.

Ftilt:

I like this move. It feels like a cross between his jab and his fsmash. It’s got a pretty nice tipper and a pretty decent non-tipper. I don’t have much to say about this move except that it seems fairly straightforward and that you should just try it out and see when it works.

Jab:

This move can be very useful. It’s pretty fast and hits higher than dtilt, so it’s an easy move to land when you want to just stop someone’s momentum. Also, you can IASA this move and dtilt into each other, which is pretty sweet. However, this move is very weak, so it’s more useful when your opponent is in the air (and can’t hold down), when they’re at really high percent (so the weakness isn’t a big deal), or if they’re stuck in the corner (so they don’t have space to really maneuver around your jabs)

Up B (Dolphin Slash):

This is your recovery move and it can be used as a strong kill/edgeguard move.

Everyone should know about using this move for recovery, more or less. You can slightly change the angle at which Marth up B’s by inputting a direction on your control stick when you throw it out. Also, a good tip for recovering with this move is to aim it slightly up and out from the ledge, allowing you to weave around some edgeguards and then grabbing the ledge afterwards with your magnet hands.

The lower-front part of this move is the strong part. IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE REVERSED TO GET THE STRONG HIT, NOR DOES THIS EXTEND HIS STRONG RANGE. THIS IS A LONG-STANDING MISCONCEPTION. Use it as a combo finisher, use it as an edgeguard, and you can also use it situationally as an on-stage kill move. It can be used out-of-shield, which is amazing when it works out.

The top of Marth’s up B isn’t that strong, but it’s a weird hitbox that lets you pop your opponents offstage when they’re high above you and at high percent. This is a pretty situational use for the move.

Bair:

This is an aerial that lets you hit things behind you. It’s fairly slow, so it’s not a big part of Marth’s game, but you can get some mileage from learning how to use it.

This move can be pretty good for hitting people who are above/behind you because it doesn’t have top-down swing, it has a Drake swing (started from the bottom). This makes it a fairly good move for edgeguarding people recovering higher (for example, I think it’s very good against Samus).

I find that people get hit by this move more than they should. I think people like to go offensive when Marth’s back is turned because a lot of Marths will spam DD grab and not cover their backs very well (because Marth as a character doesn’t), so learning when to use this move to cover your back can be helpful.

Bthrow:

This is a very situational throw. The other three throws are usually better, but bthrow has its moments.

One of the most common uses for bthrow is at high percentages when you’re near the ledge. The opponent will usually expect you to dthrow and DI in (because if they DI away at that percent, they’ll get sent too far away), which can allow you to land an fsmash or a bair.

Forward B:

This is an interesting move. It’s not an INCREDIBLE move, but it’s got its niches.

The first hit of forward B can be a pretty useful poke because you can use it seamlessly out of your dashdance. However, it is extremely weak and it’s pretty short, so it’s not that ridiculous.

At high percentages against floaty characters in the air (can’t hold down), forward B is nice because it has a very weak pop-up that can link into utilt for vertical kills.

I don’t like the later iterations of the side B too much, but it’s nice when it works out. Your opponent can escape if they hold in (because Marth steps forward) or hold down and shield, so I would only really use it when your opponent is not on the ground *and* if I have a read on their DI. Alternately, you can use them where you have the space to set up the later hits, but this is situational.

First hit of side B can be useful for edgeguarding space animals. Taj likes to call it “blowing out the candle” because of how it looks whenever you kill Fox or Falco’s up B with it.

Down B (Counter):

Not an AMAZING move, but it’s nice to know when it works when push comes to shove.

My favorite use for this move is ledgehop -> counter. This isn’t a spammable option at all, but because Marth’s ledge options are fairly slow, limited, and swingy (i.e. they’re mediocre), so lot of people will be very aggressive with you when you’re trying to recover from the ledge, so this is nice for keeping them off you if you think they’ll overextend. Although it’s not the best option, I think it’s decent at filling in some of the gaps in his ledge recovery.

This move has some situational use vs projectiles, out of shield, and if you’ve got a bait, but I think in most situations, there’s something more reliable that you can go for. I think this is just one of those moves that works out if you’ve got a read, but it shouldn’t be integral to your gameplan.

Dsmash:

Very situational move. It has an insanely strong tipper (about as strong as Fox’s usmash) and actually has very fast startup (frame 5), but it requires really weird and/or difficult setups.

Problem is, the tipper is difficult to land, and his non-tipper hitboxes for dsmash are pretty bad. Furthermore, the second swing makes the move really laggy.

I found a way to pretty consistently land tipper dsmash on a sleeping Puff. I think dsmash is marginally longer than jab, so if you use your jab as a meter stick to gauge your spacing, a tipper dsmash will connect whenever the jab BAAAAAARRREELY whiffs.

Sometimes dsmash is useful at high % because it has really fast startup, and at higher percentages, it doesn’t matter that his non-tippered hitboxes are mediocre because they are still strong enough to KO.

Usmash:

Very situational move. Sometimes you can land weak uair -> tipper usmash, but most tipper usmash setups are situational or gimmicky. Personally, I don’t use this attack at all, but I wouldn’t stop anyone from experimenting with it.

 6. Matchups

Matchups…. oh boy, matchups (will henceforth be referred to as MUs).

I’ll quickly talk generally about what MUs actually are before going into detail about the… details. A matchup is simply how two characters interact with each other, based on their strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, matchups can vary in advantage, and denying the existence of advantageous matchups is just silly.

I am not a big fan of matchup numbers. They seem too arbitrary to me. What I mean is… what does a 6/4 matchup even mean? I know it’s supposed to mean that two equal-skill players will have a 6-4 score after 10 games, but even then, there’s so much more going on. I think numbers fail to capture how complex matchups are. A matchup can be favorable at one level of play, but unfavorable at another. Matchups can fluctuate with player skillsets/styles, experience, level of play, tons of stuff. It’s never as simple as “this character has a favorable matchup.” An overall better player with a favorable matchup on his side can STILL lose, depending on how the match plays out.

Try not to look only at who wins and loses (and how much), but rather, try to just look at the BIG PICTURE of how the two characters’ strengths and weaknesses interact with each other, and avoid sweeping generalizations. This game is complicated. It follows naturally that matchups are complicated.

That being said, what follows is purely MY OPINION. I may be wrong, but I’ll try to explain and defend my views. Sue me.

Sheik:

Oh boy, the S-word. The character that almost every Marth player dreads fighting. The reason that Marth players bring out pocket characters.

I think the matchup is slightly in Sheik’s favor, ON PAPER. In practice, it’s a lot more than just slightly in Sheik’s favor because Sheik has a lot of easy-to-use tools that will DEVASTATE a Marth player if he doesn’t know how to deal with them. If he DOES know how to deal with them, they’re still a problem, but not so much that it’s a free win. I highly recommend watching how PP handles this matchup because he’s really on point with it.

  • Dtilt is amazing. It’s essential for zoning against her own pokes, her grab, and her dash attack. Dtilt is what allows you to leverage Marth’s strengths and set up good situations against Sheik. Don’t overuse it. She can whiff-punish or trade with it VERY easily.
  • Don’t get too antsy when dealing with her needles, that’s what she wants you to do
  • Don’t let her hit you with charged needles. Respect her needles.
  • Dashdance intelligently. Marth’s movement is way better than Sheik’s, but she’s got tools like needle, dash attack, etc. that can thwart you for not moving effectively.
  • GRABS ARE IMPORTANT. It allows you to bypass Sheik’s CC, and it allows you to set up some sick punishes. Uthrow! Marth’s can get fairly reliable combos on Sheik from uthrow in the 20-40ish range, and outside that range, Marth is still AMAZING at juggling Sheik and keeping her off the ground. Marth can get death combos pretty well on Sheik if he knows how to abuse positional advantage (watch PP’s Marth vs Sheik).
  • Learn to edgehog quickly, and learn to follow up if/when Sheik goes onstage. Sheik’s up B is pretty much an unbeatable auto-sweetspot if you let her get the ledge, but if you force her onto the stage, there’s a lot of punishable lag.
  • Learn to crouch cancel and punish from that. Sheik becomes a much weaker character from 0-40ish when you learn to hold down effectively.
  • PATIENCE IS KEY. Sheik has great defense, and she punishes you HARRRDDDD when you overextend. In many situations, you shouldn’t be looking for a way to hit her, you should be looking for a way to change or deal with the position you are in. TRADES FAVOR SHEIK ALMOST ALWAYS. DON’T TRY IT.
  • Her dash attack is a problem. You need to zone her and put her in positions where her dash attack isn’t as free. Also, Marth’s dair is surprisingly good at punishing Sheik’s ground approaches.
  • High percentages are trouble. Trades will kill you, you can’t crouch cancel anymore, and you have trouble killing. Learning to finish Sheik off is important.
  • Know when to WD and when to dash. WD allows you to protect yourself better, but DD gives a lot more maneuverability.

Fox:

I think this matchup is pretty close to even. It’s arguably Marth’s favor, but I can also see it being Fox’s favor. I don’t feel like assigning a winner.

  • PUNISHES. Marth has one of the best punishes on Fox in the game, and it’s pretty much essential to fighting space animals, no matter who you’re using.
  • Don’t be ashamed of chaingrabbing. Marth needs his chaingrab to not drop combos. On FD, you should be chaingrabbing Fox to around 60%. You ONLY need to use utilt and uair if the opponent does not DI all the way left or right in the 33-60ish range (i.e. if they have DIed in a way where chaingrabbing will not work), in which case you do utilt/uair INTO ANOTHER GRAB and keep going. Grounded techchasing is inferior to chaingrabbing unless you think you can get an edgeguard or other KO, and Marth’s non-chaingrab juggles are DI-dependent.
  • Edgeguarding is crucial. Watch for his side B and airdodge because those are two of his fastest recoveries. There are a lot of different ways for dealing with his up B, depending on situation.
  • Learning to smash DI Fox’s drill and his uthrow -> uair are important for survival.
  • Juggles. You can get ridiculous uair strings on Fox because of his fall speed.
  • Learning to platform techchase with uair and utilt is HUGE. This skill alone can make the difference between getting stocks from low percent grabs vs getting nothing.
  • Corner position is deadly against Fox. He doesn’t have amazing range and therefore doesn’t have a lot of the tools that help you play patiently from the corner. Also, if you win one exchange from this position, Fox is fairly likely to die.
  • RESPECT HIS LEDGEDASH. It has egregious amounts of invincibility.
  • Campy Fox players are a pain, but this is no reason to get impatient. A campy Fox wants you to overextend. If you hold position and zone/control space properly, you should be golden. If you see an opportunity for a hit, go for it, but be honest with yourself.
  • Learn to wavedash OOS against his shield pressure. Learn when it’s appropriate to roll.
  • As always, dtilt is godlike. Fox has a great dashdance, and proper use of your own DD and dtilt will limit that, forcing Fox into action, allowing you to grab him and swat him.
  • Be careful against Fox’s fullhop. Overextending WILL get you hit, and his fullhop shenanigans are oftentimes safe on landing. Learn to punish with position and learn to be patient when looking for your opportunities.
  • Know when to WD and when to DD. Fox players LOVE to push into Marth’s back when he’s retreating.

Falco:

This matchup is also close enough to even that I won’t bother assigning a winner.

  • Powershielding is nice. Something nice to know is that when Marth is in his dash animation, his body shifts forward and his powershield actually comes out slightly behind him. Meaning that if Falco shoots low lasers, it is impossible to PS while running at him. However, learning to powershield while dashing away is a pretty useful skill. This allows you to dashdance more against Falco because you can get easy powershields on your dash away.
  • PUNISHES. The punishes against Falco work more or less the same way as they do against Fox, except percentages are slightly shifted. The major differences are in edgeguarding. The first difference is obvious: Falco’s recovery is much shorter. His up B’s charge-up doesn’t burn you at all, so if he’s going to go for it, GO DOWN AND HIT HIM PLEASE. IT’S SO FREE. Two things to note about Falco’s recovery, though, are that his side B is slightly faster (and therefore harder to react to) and he has better aerials with which to jump back to the stage.
  • Be comfortable getting hit by lasers. A lot of noobier Falcos will automatically go in when they see you get hit by a laser, so you can just take the laser, and dash away. Something PewPewU (<3 Kevin) likes to do is jump at Falco, take the laser, and throw out an aerial afterwards. Shielding too much is a bad habit against Falco because it cuts a lot of your options from your repertoire, giving Falco a lot less to worry about and a lot more control (because Falco is like…pretty good against shields if I do say so myself). Just because lasers limit your movement does not mean that you CAN’T MOVE.
  • Dash attack is a cheap, gimmicky tool that works against Falco’s lasers sometimes. Definitely not a go-to strategy, but if you see an opportunity, go for it.
  • Learn to use platforms and the air vs Falco, but as always, stay patient. These places give you interesting positioning tools to get breathing room against Falco’s lasers, but Falco has a pretty good anti-air game with his utilt, bair, and just repositioning, so if you’re too aggressive in the air, you’re going to have a bad time.
  • Learning to smash DI Falco’s aerials is very useful. For example, if you smash DI dair, it will allow you to escape from (and possibly punish) Falco’s dair -> shine.

Marth:

This matchup is so even, that I will break my rule and say it’s 50/50.

  • Learn to DI Marth’s fthrow and dthrow. DI them down and away. Fthrow literally does not combo if you DI correctly. Dthrow gets a lot worse as well if you DI correctly. On the flipside, these moves give you ridiculous combos with improper DI. It’s helpful to be able to trick your opponent’s DI and/or be able to react to improper DI and be able to follow up.
  • Dtilt usage and dashdance are ridiculously important in this matchup. Do I even need to explain why anymore?
  • Uthrow is great. It doesn’t combo very reliably, but you know how Marth does when he puts people above him. Marth himself is not very good at escaping this position, so uthrow is particularly helpful. Even though this doesn’t combo RELIABLY, I find myself getting good throw -> aerial setups in this MU sometimes.
  • Crouch canceling is pretty helpful in this matchup, along with learning to shield properly. They help you get easy grabs and hits in when your opponent misspaces.
  • Recovery is pretty important. Marth can edgeguard himself very hard, and learning to ledgetech will help you survive, and learning to aim your recovery up and out from the ledge (and recovering with magnet hands) will help you survive.
  • Learn when you can punish dtilt. Whiff punishing can be tricky, but keep in mind that if you can force Marth to mis-space dtilt, you can just punish him by taking it with CC or shield.
  • Marth slayer (lightshield edgehog) is pretty strong. If you do it, watch out for airdodge.
  • Ledge game is very important. Marth has great control near the ledge, and he has a mediocre ledge recovery and is weak in the corner.

Falcon:

Marth is certainly one of Falcon’s better matchups in the viable cast, and a lot of people think Falcon beats Marth. Some people think the opposite. I personally lean towards it being Marth

favor in theory (when looking at options), but a little bit more Falcon’s favor in practice. Overall, I think this matchup is close to even.

  • Dtilt is key in this matchup (as usual), but its role is a little different. One of Falcon’s biggest assets is his ground movement, but his ground moves are very lacking (i.e. he attacks from the air a lot). Dtilt is very important for limiting his ground movement and for threatening the landing on his aerials, but it doesn’t do that much vs his micro game. Falcon’s attacks are actually pretty good against dtilt (since he’s got strong aerials and is fast enough to hit you with them) and can ruin your life for spamming dtilt (with knee or stomp), so you really need to understand when dtilt has already done its job, meaning you need to adapt to their workarounds.
  • Marth has a very strong anti-air game against Falcon, and this is largely how you adapt to his workarounds. Don’t get bloodthirsty and always try to counterattack or trade with Falcon. A lot of the time, this is how Falcon baits out moves that he can easily whiff-punish, so a lot of the time, you need to just space yourself outside his aerial range and look for a better opportunity. However, you need to hit him when he overextends with an aerial, so just learn to play this situation.
  • Crouch cancel is AMAZING against Falcon. His nair is very vulnerable to CC, meaning that effective use of CC/ASDI down alone can reduce a lot of Falcon’s effective speed and range, forcing him to switch to slower, stronger moves.
  • STAY GROUNDED FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Falcon’s nair, uair, and raptor boost are powerful, fast tools that can cost you your stock to get hit by them when you are airborne. Whenever you are grounded, you don’t have shield, CC, dtilt, or robust horizontal mobility. Going airborne should be used sparingly for anti-airs (and anti-air THREATS), certain trades/zoning, etc.
  • Marth’s uthrow combos against Falcon under around 45% are very unreliable (Kadano has a chart somewhere on SmashBoards showing some of them). For this reason, it becomes EXTREMELY important to get good at platform techchases (I personally do not recommend taking Falcon to FD, although you both get monstrous combos on each other, he’ll have an easier time at low percent), ground techchases, and converting when Falcon is in a bad position.
  • Falcon’s weak positions are particularly weak. He gets juggled like a ragdoll when you get him high enough in the air, and he’s very weak at escaping some weak spots because most of his good moves force him to jump, so it’s hard for Falcon to play a safe, incremental game when he’s knocked over/cornered/on ledge/in shield/etc.
  • Edgeguarding is certainly important against Falcon. Falcon gets gimped really easily, but otherwise, he can live for an extremely long time because he’s really heavy and because his recovery is actually pretty good when he’s far up and away. Edgehogging/controlling the ledge is pretty important because Falcon doesn’t have a hitbox (aside from the grab hitbox of his upB) on his recovery, meaning he can’t hit you with his upB when you’re on the ledge and his upB is really vulnerable to attacks as long as you make sure to not get hugged by him. If you DO get hugged, remember that you get your second jump back, and remember to try and tech it.

Peach:

This matchup is certainly Marth’s favor in theory, but Peach gets HUGE dividends off matchup inexperience and small mistakes. I strongly recommend watching PP’s Marth against Peach.

  • Spacing is really delicate against Peach. If you overextend a little bit, she can bite your face off. If you give her too much space, she gets to set up her obnoxous FC fair and turnip walls. However, the ball is mostly in your court, and if you do it right, Peach is fairly limited. You need to be close enough to be able to punish/threaten Peach for pulling turnips, but spaced so she can’t just… hit you. Furthermore, keeping her cornered is very good because she needs a lot of space to set up strong fair walls.
  • Respect her float cancel. It’s hard to directly punish her landing because it’s only got 4 frames of landing lag, so it’s generally safer to just hold position and try to cover/threaten the way she follows up her float cancel (e.g. d-smash, jabs, dash attack).
  • Turnips are a pain. One thing to note, though, is that there are some things Peach cannot do when she’s holding onto one, most notably, grab, dsmash, dash attack. There are a handful of tools for dealing with her turnips, like swatting them, jumping over them, catching them, countering them, shielding them and working OOS, nairing through aerial turnips, etc. However, it’s not a matter of getting THROUGH her turnips, it’s a matter of responding PROPERLY to the situations she creates with turnips. Turnips are not an aside to the neutral game; they are a PART of the neutral game.
  • I think learning to air-catch turnips is a helpful skill, especially with ledge recovery. A lot of Peach players will just lock you down with turnips when you’re cornered/on the ledge, and I think ledgehop -> turnip catch is helpful for this. Marth’s turnip throw is REEEEAAALLY slow, so sometimes you’re better off dropping it with Z, and sometimes you just need to make sure to give yourself space so you have time to throw it, file your taxes, grab a snack, and then continue to play (it’s REALLY slow)
  • Ground game is extremely important against Peach (*yawn*), but jumping is pretty important for controlling air-space and for anti-turnip mixups. I think your aerials are more for stopping Peach from claiming too much air-space than they are for actually stuffing her fairs…. because you don’t want to risk trades. Trades are DEVASTATING.
  • Uthrow. Peach is a fatty, so you can’t get u-throw -> aerial combos, but she suffers pretty heavily from being above the opponent because she’s slow, floaty, and doesn’t cover her underside very effectively.
  • Use side throws at your own discretion. Marth doesn’t get anything much from them unless you use them in the right spots (throwing her offstage/properly using corner) OR if Peach DIs incorrectly. If she does, then side throws become very good 😀
  • Her float lasts 2.5 seconds. It would behoove you to count.
  • You can sometimes get high % kills with side B -> utilt when she is above you.

Puff:

I think this MU is Marth’s favor on paper, but Puff does very well in practice. I think Marth’s mobility and disjointed range make it so that he has the numbers advantage in many situations, but Puff can land safe/strong hits on Marth REALLY easily when he overextends because of her own range and aerial mobility (e.g. she can reach in and kick you very easily), and she’s also pretty good at making Marth want to overextend since she spends a lot of time in the air and has deceptive aerial spacing.

  • Ground control is still important vs Puff. One, that is still the place where your own movement is maximized, so it’s basically how you will keep up with her aerial mobility (you will not easily be able to out-maneuver Puff when you yourself are airborne). Secondly, Puff doesn’t have infinite jumps, and she needs to land sometime, so being able to threaten her landing will allow you to bully her around a little bit more. Furthermore, just because she is a largely aerial character does not mean her ground game is nonexistent.
  • Be extra careful not to overextend. Puff can fly in and safely kick you in some situations where you would normally be safe
  • Aerial zoning is essential vs Puff because the balloon flies a lot. You can’t let her take space for free, but don’t get too bloodthirsty when you’re trying to perform an aerial exchange vs her, since she’ll be ready to punish.
  • Puff is the lightest character in the game, meaning you have better side-throw punishes against her than you do against most characters. She has a lot less time to react to the throw and DI it properly, so I would generally recommend throwing her ASAP without pummeling to try to catch her with bad DI. There are situations where you have guaranteed follow-ups regardless of DI. That being said, u-throw -> abuse position is still a strong (and necessary) option, despite this.
  • Shy away from using JC grabs. Puff can duck under them and rest you. If you do a regular (laggy) dash grab, you will be able to grab her a lot (most of?) of the time (Jigglypuff’s crouch state has varying heights, so sometimes she’s in your grab box, sometimes she isn’t).
  • Don’t let Puff u-tilt you if you don’t want to get rested.
  • This is a REALLY situational trick, but sometimes you can punish Puff’s missed rest with tipper d-smash (it’s roughly as strong as Fox’s u-smash). It’s very very slightly longer than Marth’s jab, so I like to use jab as a meter stick for landing tipper d-smash. If my jab BAAAAARRELY whiffs, tipper d-smash will land. Normally, you should punish Puff’s missed rest with a charged neutral B or a tipper fsmash. If you are confident in your ability to rack up damage from a throw combo, go for it.
  • I think Marth’s f-tilt is a fairly underrated move against Puff. It has coverage and strength like a poor man’s f-smash, but it’s far less laggy than f-smash. I think f-tilt’s coverage works a little better against Puff than it does against a lot of other characters.
  • Jigglypuff has 6 jumps (1 grounded and 5 midair). You should be aware of how many jumps she has because you will have a better idea of when she’s forced to land, allowing you to play accordingly. Furthermore, this knowledge is extremely useful for edgeguarding Puff.