I'm a scrub-tier Smash player. I learned a ton of bad habits growing up because I was the absolute best Smash player in my local area and never needed to improve. I simply wasn't aware of the greater Smash scene in 2000-2007. With Smash 4 being released last year, I've finally found my way back into the scene. It's huge! And I suck.
What I don't suck at, though, is analysis. I've been trying to main Yoshi, so I've been painstakingly analyzing recorded Yoshi matches looking for differences in play. I've got a few SmashBoards posts (like this one) on them now and they've been favorably received by a number of top Yoshi players.
I've hit a bit of a wall with my Yoshi play, though, so I've been trying out other characters. The best players can play well with any character, so I figure this is a great time to branch out. Today, there was a Reddit thread asking what ZeRo has that others don't. Since I've been working on Diddy Kong a little bit lately, I figured I'd take a stab at trying to figure that out.
In my opinion, the two best Diddy Kong players at the moment are ZeRo and MVD. MVD still doesn't have the results that ZeRo does, but I think it's pretty obvious that he's a solid player. They also have something else in common: They've both played Mr. R toward the end of a recent major tournament. This lets us compare apples to apples.
The first match I'd like to analyze is Paragon LA Winner's Semi-Finals - MVD (Diddy Kong) vs. Mr. R (Sheik):
For each game, I've included some brief notes on the game and a full map of inputs. These are cribbed painstakingly from the footage by hand, so please note there may be slight errors.
MVD didn't play well during the first minute or so of this game, but eventually found his footing. He uses a lot of Diddy's available options throughout the game, keeping him un-predictable. The casters also noted his un-conventional use of Diddy's barrels offensively, which worked out well for (he secured the last kill with it).
Jab 2 Ftilt 4 Utilt 0 Dtilt 6 Fsmash 3 Usmash 1 Dsmash 0 DashAtk 0 Nair 4 Fair 21 Bair 4 Uair 3 Dair 2 Nspec 4 Fspec 9 Uspec 6 Dspec 10 Grab 4 Pummel 3 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 1 Dthrow 1 Bthrow 0 ItemToss 10 Shield 25 Roll 6 Dodge 5 ADodge 6 Tech 2 MissTech 0
MVD was completely and utterly out-played this game. Plain and simple. Just look at all the defensive options he spammed, all the whiffed smashes, and the extremely low use of good options like bananas.
I think he knew this, given that he waves off his coach at the end of the game.
Jab 1 Ftilt 0 Utilt 1 Dtilt 6 Fsmash 1 Usmash 2 Dsmash 1 DashAtk 0 Nair 1 Fair 13 Bair 3 Uair 6 Dair 0 Nspec 0 Fspec 11 Uspec 2 Dspec 3 Grab 5 Pummel 2 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 2 Dthrow 0 Bthrow 0 ItemToss 3 Shield 18 Roll 8 Dodge 10 ADodge 1 Tech 2 MissTech 1
MVD played significantly better this game. He made great use of bananas to all kinds of options (grab, multiple
smashes). He also used relatively safe strings of inputs like
Shield -> Roll -> Dtilt -> Grab to fish for setups.
That being said, he missed a lot of the opportunities he had set up for himself (like the whiffed up-smash at the
end of the game).
Jab 4 Ftilt 2 Utilt 0 Dtilt 12 Fsmash 4 Usmash 3 Dsmash 0 DashAtk 0 Nair 0 Fair 19 Bair 8 Uair 4 Dair 2 Nspec 5 Fspec 14 Uspec 1 Dspec 13 Grab 15 Pummel 9 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 5 Dthrow 0 Bthrow 1 ItemToss 15 Shield 30 Roll 19 Dodge 9 ADodge 2 Tech 3 MissTech 1
MVD started this match off a little shaky as well, but immediately got into a good groove. He made great use of
Grab -> (Pummel) -> Uthrow -> Uair and only whiffed a single smash attack. This game in particular showcases
MVD's usage of Dtilt to get in quick damage and allow for follow-ups.
Jab 0 Ftilt 1 Utilt 2 Dtilt 15 Fsmash 1 Usmash 0 Dsmash 1 DashAtk 1 Nair 1 Fair 10 Bair 10 Uair 7 Dair 1 Nspec 0 Fspec 11 Uspec 5 Dspec 10 Grab 10 Pummel 7 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 4 Dthrow 2 Bthrow 0 ItemToss 13 Shield 32 Roll 19 Dodge 5 ADodge 5 Tech 3 MissTech 1
I think it's obvious that MVD has a pretty good command of Diddy Kong's available options. It's also evident that he's a high level player due to how well he moves (which isn't entirely captured with just numbers). That being said, he sometimes chooses sub-optimal moves and he whiffs a good number of his inputs (particularly smash attacks).
Now, let's analyze the EVO 2015 Grand Finals - ZeRo (Diddy Kong) vs. Mr. R (Sheik):
Again, for each game, I've included some brief notes on the game and a full map of inputs. These are cribbed painstakingly from the footage by hand, so please note there may be slight errors.
In this game, ZeRo seemed to try to go for a string of
Dspec -> Shield -> Fair (Grab Item) -> Dash -> Toss Item ->
Grab (or some variant of that) very often. When Mr. R saw it coming, it was very safe. ZeRo was almost never
punished for trying this. When he was successful, though, he was often guaranteed 30-40% on his opponent.
Jab 0 Ftilt 0 Utilt 0 Dtilt 13 Fsmash 1 Usmash 1 Dsmash 0 DashAtk 0 Nair 0 Fair 21 Bair 14 Uair 4 Dair 2 Nspec 14 Fspec 12 Uspec 0 Dspec 22 Grab 16 Pummel 10 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 7 Dthrow 0 Bthrow 0 ItemToss 26 Shield 59 Roll 34 Dodge 1 ADodge 5 Tech 2 MissTech 0
ZeRo mixed things up more in this game, opting for far more spacing-oriented plays like the triple Bair towards the beginning of the game. It looks like he over-used defensive options in comparison to game 1, but that's only because he spent most of the game on his first stock.
Jab 0 Ftilt 0 Utilt 3 Dtilt 7 Fsmash 2 Usmash 1 Dsmash 0 DashAtk 0 Nair 2 Fair 12 Bair 11 Uair 2 Dair 2 Nspec 10 Fspec 17 Uspec 4 Dspec 12 Grab 9 Pummel 0 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 3 Dthrow 0 Bthrow 0 ItemToss 10 Shield 44 Roll 18 Dodge 1 ADodge 8 Tech 2 MissTech 0
ZeRo was off this game. He actually missed techs, barely bothered to go for his normal setups, and threw out
random smash attacks more (which he was punished for). He was forced to spend a ridiculous amount of time in
shield toward the end of the game since he was at 175% on his last stock. Fortunately, he was able to clutch out
the win with a sick
Dtilt -> Pummel (x2) -> Uthrow -> Dair -> Shield -> Grab -> Pummel (x2) -> Uthrow -> Uair
string to take Mr. R from 43% to 82% and seal the stock (the height from the platform helped him secure the early
Jab 0 Ftilt 1 Utilt 2 Dtilt 17 Fsmash 2 Usmash 3 Dsmash 0 DashAtk 1 Nair 0 Fair 22 Bair 10 Uair 8 Dair 1 Nspec 3 Fspec 19 Uspec 5 Dspec 15 Grab 13 Pummel 4 Fthrow 0 Uthrow 3 Dthrow 0 Bthrow 0 ItemToss 17 Shield 90 Roll 35 Dodge 1 ADodge 14 Tech 2 MissTech 2
It's actually interesting to watch ZeRo's game get less and less crisp as the match progressed. The first game was incredibly textbook and, in my opinion, was complete domination by ZeRo. The second game was a bit sloppier. The third game was nothing like the first two and it looked like ZeRo was unraveling a bit, but he still managed #JustZeRoThings to seal the deal.
Based entirely on these two players (and these two matches) and absolutely nothing else, I'd like to make an observation: The thing ZeRo has that MVD (and other players) don't is simply more optimal play.
This is immediately evident, I think, if you simply look at smash attacks. Over the course of each match, MVD used an average of 4.25 smash attacks and ZeRo used an average of 2.67. When ZeRo throws a smash attack? It kills. It's never stale and can't ever be punished because the opponent is simply dead. And ZeRo doesn't throw them out at all unless the opponent could be killed by them (unlike MVD, who tries to use them for big damage).
ZeRo is also far more likely to bide his time and wait for an opening. He spends a lot of time in shield or trying relatively "safe" set-ups with bananas. MVD is more likely to be in the thick of things. Check the huge number of dodges MVD does relative to ZeRo. This is mostly because MVD needs to extract himself from a bad situation more often.
If you think about it, this makes sense. The absolute perfect game of Smash is one where you choose exactly the right inputs to either hit your opponent or prevent being hit. The closer you are to that perfect game, the better you will perform. ZeRo has optimized his play closer to that point than anyone else.
This, I think, is the major takeaway for me as a player. It's not about combos or advanced tech. It's about proper spacing, smart choices, and paying attention to what your opponent is doing. ZeRo is simply better at these things right now, and that's why he wins. It might not be as flashy, but hey - it pays the bills!