Lucky Tips & Tricks: Different Ways to Use Fox's Up-air
Sun 11th Mar 2018 - 9:09pm
Fox’s up-air is one of the most diverse moves in his kit, meaning that it can fill multiple roles in different situations. This can lead to some pretty interesting option selections and can spice up your punish game in terms of swaggy combos, or just some overall optimal punishes. You can use it in the neutral in a couple interesting situations that might give you the advantage, and we’ll be taking a look at a couple different examples. All in all, up-air is a move that can do a lot of different things! It’s expressive of how a player wants to play, and I got the chance to ask Joey ‘Lucky’ Aldama about he thinks Fox’s up-air should be used going into 2018.
Some Background for Lucky’s Up-airs
Lucky has been known to be one of the most stylish Foxes of all time, and he’s consistently been playing at the highest level in the game. I wanted to see what Lucky thought about up-air in 2018’s meta, as he had made some previous videos involving up-air with SSBM Tutorials. One of these videos was being about how to cover tech-chase options using up-air, specifically using it to cover tech-in-place. I asked Lucky about how he felt this strategy could be applied in 2018, and he said that
“It is a bit outdated honestly. Every year that goes by the "optimal" punish is becoming more and more relevant. It's a battle of situational vs optimal. Up-air tech-chases can still have a place in your game play, it’s just that it usually comes with a decent amount of risk. It involves a bit more precision on short-hop timing and spacing. Not to mention the opponent’s percentage and DI matter a lot. Where grab is more or less good at every percentage and DI is much easier to react to.”
So basically what Lucky is saying is that using up-air to cover tech-in-place isn’t completely unviable, just that it has a gamble factor to it. It also requires a bit more execution than just reacting to your opponent’s tech and grabbing, and the follow-ups can be less guaranteed. When thinking about using up-air in a tech-chase, maybe just consider using it as a soft-read which you can dash and react out of. Usually if you aim to cover a tech-in-place with an up-air, you can react to your opponent’s choice with these options:
- Missed tech -> shine into a follow-up.
- Roll away -> Reaction option of your choice, I would usually aim for a grab or up-smash.
Fox’s grab is an incredibly strong tool, as it leads to a decent (if not strong) follow-up in pretty much any match-up. When you’re practicing your punish game, remember that while some options do deal damage and can lead to further follow-up moves, grab gives you a guaranteed punish with less risk, more or less. Obviously grab is still a move that can be punish, but if you watch matches of top players, you’ll generally see them using grabs to punish opponents more often than not, as they lead to longer combos.
Using Up-air in the Neutral, Strengths and Weaknesses
With crouch-cancelling being such a prevalent tool in today’s neutral game, Fox’s up-air doesn’t seem like it should have a place in the neutral. The first hit can get crouch-cancelled easily, and the second hit takes longer to come out, making it an easy-to-react-to move. Does this mean you shouldn’t use it at all? Well, there are some situations where up-air can be a move to your benefit. Before thinking about using up-air to catch your opponents off-guard, just remember that Fox’s down-air should be your go-to against crouch-cancelling. When you notice your opponent using crouch-cancels against your neutral-airs or other moves, start switching to down-airs to give you a grab or shine follow-up. Lucky had a couple pointers about how to use up-air in the neutral:
“However, [using up-air] against ASDI it is amazing in my opinion. First hit is unfortunately full of holes due to how impossible it is to react to the opponent’s smash DI. There is pretty much a proper response to most types of Smash DI but it becomes a guessing game for a swag combo, where second hit will guarantee a hard hit and a combo extension. Short hop up air is pretty much a hard read type of option. The start up on the move won’t make it a reliable punish or neutral option sadly. However, full hopping can do wonders since it gives you time to react and fall with an up-air if someone did something with a decent amount of end lag under you. If they didn’t you just hold off on the up-air and restart neutral.”
Let’s boil that down into a couple easy bullet-points from Lucky to remember:
- Up-air can be amazing against your opponent’s ASDI.
- The second-hit leads to more guaranteed options than the first-hit due to Smash DI.
- You can full-hop and react to your opponent’s decision (laggy moves, get-up-attacks, etc.) with a falling up-air if you want, or you can double-jump back to safety and choose another option.
Fox’s Up-air Mixups
There are some scenarios where you can use up-air instead of another move that might catch your opponent off-guard. Up-air is known as a move that has higher K.O. potential that some of Fox’s other moves, but due to the possible first-hit of up-air your opponent has the opportunity to Smash DI away from the second-hit and avoid the K.O. Some players might choose using Fox’s back-air over up-air, as back-air is both an easier to hit move that still has really good knock-back. You can also force your opponent to play a guessing game over which move you’ll use and depending on their DI you might be able to get a K.O. at lower percents or get a larger follow-up. Here’s what Lucky thinks about this mixup:
“I love testing people on their Smash DI with back-airs early on or late on in a set. Up-air is always going to be a solid choice over back-air or any other DI mix up since it will kill if it hits at those percents where you would go for a mix up.”
What Lucky is saying is that if the opportunity arises where you’re placed in the position to choose a follow-up move (for example, after up-throwing a Puff) that he thinks up-air should be the move you lean towards, because if the second-hit of the move connects you’ll get the K.O., whereas choosing back-air won’t take the stock until your opponent’s percent is higher. Like Lucky also said above, if you want to test your opponent’s Smash DI here’s a small checklist for you to think about and use when playing someone:
- Do I want to use back-airs earlier in the set to condition my opponent into thinking I’ll use back-airs later instead of up-airs?
- Should I focus on up-airs earlier in the set to observe and make a note of which way they Smash DI for later?
Fox’s Up-air in the Punish Game
Fox’s up-air is most notoriously known as a move that can land a K.O. on an opponent at high percents after Fox’s up-throw. The concept isn’t that complicated, if you land a grab as Fox, you throw your opponent up, react to the direction they were DI’ing, jump up and up-air them. This is generally a universal and simple punish tree, with a few exceptions (Samus and Doc being a couple of the main ones). The second hit of up-air has pretty high knockback, so contrary to most other moves (in the cast) it will lead to K.O.’s off the top at lower percents. As a general tip for Fox, you should want to try your best to land just the second-hit of up-air after up-throwing a target, as the second-hit is the move that deals more damage and knock-back. If you’re struggling to do this and can only seem to land both hits of up-air, just try slowing down your jump by a fraction of a second. If you wait to jump after your up-throw just a tiny bit longer than normal, landing the second-hit of up-air should be easier. Another alternative strategy to try especially against characters like Luigi, where they can put out their neutral-air out to counter your up-air, is to just aim a normal (not stalled) up-air underneath them. Even if Luigi puts out a neutral-air, your up-air should still connect and beat the neutral-air if you space it correctly. The hitbox is also rather big, at least bigger than most might think, so you have a good amount of range to actually hit your opponent with it.
Sometimes as a mix-up you can choose a punish game tree of up-throw -> short-hop-up-air instead of just going for an up-smash against fast-fallers. This can accomplish a couple things, this won’t send your opponent as far as an up-smash, so you might be able to follow-up on the up-air easier than an up-smash as your opponent isn’t knocked back as far. You might want to think about your opponent’s percents, as this mix-up works better in the mid-high percent ranges (usually between 60% and 80%, somewhere in there). The other thing this can net you is conditioning, if your opponent is expecting an up-air when you can up-smash, using up-smash can get you a stock easier than an up-air will.
You can also use a short-hop up-air closer to the ground into an up-tilt at lower percents, this has been one of the more stylish uses of up-air in today's game, but the up-air can still be Smash DI'ed, so be careful when thinking about utilizing this option into your game. Another fun use for up-air is during drop-zone combos. Most players would go for a drop-zone back-air, neutral-air, or shine, but up-air can work too! Up-air can be used to catch your opponent's DI in, when they hold towards the center of the stage up-air will send them up but not too far sideways allowing for possible follow-ups. It will pop your opponent up, so just be prepared to follow-up with something that works, like another up-air or back-air.
In the last couple years, up-air has been developed in the Fox ditto punish game famously by players like Armada and Leffen, causing other top level Foxes to follow suit. Armada’s use of the move in the ditto was unique at the time, as his punish game could be seen using falling second-hit up-airs to chain into another falling second-hit up-air. At the time, this form of punish game could be called something like “Swedish up-airs” or “European up-airs,” and after seeing how much damage and hitstun could come out of these chained up-airs, many players sought to optimize their play by following suit. I asked Lucky about his opinions on the up-air chain strategy going into 2018:
“I think it’s 100% optimal and you should almost always go for it once you hit a low to mid percent.”
I asked then what he thought about where your positioning on the stage is when thinking about up-air chains, and to this he replied;
“Definitely [where you are on the stage can affect this] but I think percent comes into play as well. Melee is a beautiful game as there are limitless options due to positioning, percentage and DI. If I were to give you a basic concept on this situation, though, I would definitely say you should stick to up-air chains around center stage. Near the corner you should go for a double shine or grab to forward throw.”
Up-air chains cause your opponent to really just go up, rather than horizontally. So you want to try using up-air chains when your opponent is in the middle 50% of the stage.
On smaller stages like Yoshi’s Story and Fountain of Dreams, you might have a harder time connecting your up-airs as your opponent can DI their way off-stage, but if you notice they’re slowly moving one way or another, you can throw a back-air out instead of an up-air to send them in that direction. If they’re DI’ing that direction already, your back-air will send them much farther and possibly K.O. them.
Up-air vs. Up-smash
Generally up-smash should be the move you aim to take stocks with: it has a huge hitbox, K.O.s earlier than most moves, and it can lead to other moves like up-air or back-air. There are times when Fox can put his opponent into enough hitstun that you can decide to up-air them instead of up-smash, but Lucky thinks that:
“I would imagine that any time you can K.O. with a short hop up-air you can usually K.O. with up-smash. Unless maybe you were reaching for the peak of the 2nd hit for up-air but even then you might want to go for a rising neutral-air or back-air to guarantee a hard hit and damage.”
There are some times when you might want to think about using up-air instead of up-smash, but you might not recognize that you can land the up-air. As Fox when your opponent is at a higher percent you can chain together soft aerials into an up-air instead of an up-smash. This works well against floaties that aren’t expecting you to get a follow-up for a softer aerial. Most Foxes know that a combo like soft-reverse-back-air connects into an up-smash against most characters at mid percents, but at higher percents (closer to 100% and a bit above) you can try doing a soft-aerial into a up-air. The height of your opponent can make this difficult, but if you try it out enough you should find more situations where it can work. Thinking about how this can work might help you out against Peach, Puff, or Samus. In general, this strategy will have higher risks, but if you practice situations in friendlies where you can land a soft-aerial against a floaty, give a running up-air a shot! It might surprise you how often you can hit it especially against opponents that think they’re in the clear from a follow up from you.
Hopefully this helped you think about up-airs a little bit differently, or helped you evaluate when you might want to use them as opposed to other options. This move definitely still has a lot of potential in the game, so try playing around with it in some new situations to find out what can and can’t work.