Need to brush up on your Fox game, or are you not a hundred percent sure on what your first instincts should be? Are you having difficulties on certain stages against the Ice Climbers? In this guide, Ryan Ford shares some of his best tips and tricks based on his longtime experience.
There are many positions and situations that are hard for ICs to deal with. They have a difficult time covering the 30° – 60° angles above them. Your main options are; Desync blizzard, F/Up-smash or Fair.
- B-air if facing backwards
- Sometimes u-air will cover where b-air won’t.
- The ICs problems with each option is either they need to set up, or they can be a big commit. Possibly doubly dangerous if not a desync.
- Jumping can be dangerous since they are pretty floaty.
- You can look to intercept if they try to wd forward towards you with tilts/Up-smash, staying roughly in the middle of their full wd length, or around your d-tilt range.
- When they respect your ground game, then you can abuse full hops. Either drill on them, go behind them, or retreating bair. If they start playing around those, then you can play grounded– if you can get them to jump or start attempting to anti-air.
Your ultimate goal with Fox is to land a shine, drill into shine to either split them up, or push them to the edge if they’re playing grounded a lot. Running shine (or even just jumping in with a shine) is a good counter attack, or preemptive move to hit them before they set up.
If they’re in the air; you want to find an opening to anti-air them from directly underneath, or diagonally below either at a height where you can full jump b-air, or SH n-air them.
Alternatively, you can wait for them to land while you’re close (but still outside of their aerial range) and then go in. You can also try to tank d-air from above, or CC it to counter attack if you’ve managed to push them into an uncomfortable position.
Referring back to when I said you want to land a drill or shine, one of 4 outcomes will probably happen;
Outcome 1: The shine will send both Popo and Nana in opposite directions.
In this scenario, you want to target Nana and make a decision based off whether or not she’s grabbed the ledge. If she’s still on stage and close to the ledge, you can push her off with a shine and she won’t grab the ledge.
If she’s a little further onstage, you can remedy this by popping her up with a n-air and then shine to push her off. Gimp her with another shine after she uses her jump while offstage.
B-air if she’s above 42%, in order to put her into tumble and give Popo zero chance to save her. If you b-air below 42%, or close enough to grab the ledge, you have to shine her again before she gets saved or grabs the ledge.
In some scenarios, you may be able to strong reverse b-air Nana and still hit Popo while he’s trying to hit you from behind. Sometimes, you may have to be willing to take a hit at the edge from Popo to make sure you kill Nana. Usually it’s worth the risk, unless you’re going to die from a f/d-smash or b-air.
If you’ve sent Nana further off the stage, be ready to target switch and fight as Popo is trying to save her. Either force shield pressure, wall with moves, or just grab him and hold until you can let Nana die. There are also some specific gimmicks you can do, like back throw Popo into Nana to kill her with the dead-weight, but this doesn’t come up too often.
If Nana manages to grab the ledge at any point, make sure to stay outside of ledge attack range (or be ready to shield it), then attack her after her ledge option. Hopefully, she won’t do a ledge roll. She doesn’t ledge roll too often, but it could happen and it’ll end really badly if you’re not ready as she will cross you up.
Outcome 2: The shine will send both of them in the same direction.
With scenario 2, first I’ll go over if they get pushed to the ledge.
If you push them both to the edge, one climber is going to hog the other. In this case, if Popo hogs Nana, you can try to place a shine or aerial where she is going to jump. This way, you can force Popo to try to save her.
If they do a up-b, attack Nana after her invincibility runs out. You might also be able to just shine Popo if he tries to save her to get the gimp.
If Nana hogs Popo, attack her after her ledge option, but be sure to first stay outside of ledge attack range before you go in. If you want to take your chances trying to gimp Popo, be careful in case they double jump with an aerial, like an f-air or a u-air. They’re much harder to beat out when you don’t have time to space around them in an awkward position.
In the most likely situation, Popo will hog Nana due to her knockback armor, so in most cases he’ll get pushed to the ledge first.
If they don’t both get pushed offstage, you can try to overwhelm them with added pressure before they can move freely. It’s very likely that Popo will end up shielding your next attack, so be extremely wary of doing an early n-air– you may get shield grabbed and possibly wobbled. If you come in safely, you will hit Popo’s shield. Hit nana with a n-air and maybe a shine in order to push her to ledge. At this point, you can still continue to pressure Popo if he keeps shielding, or even attempt a Nana gimp.
Outcome 3: The shine only hits Popo, & Outcome 4: The shine only hits Nana.
In scenario 3 and 4, you want to try and make quick work of Nana while they’re split up. In my experience, scenario 3 is harder to straight up kill her when she’s center stage. Therefore, I think it’s good to at least land a few hits on her to make splitting them up easier on the next couple of exchanges.
Generally, your game plan on defense should be to always avoid getting grabbed, and avoid getting hit by things that will lead to a grab. Below 45%, you really need to watch out for dash attacks (even trades) as it will likely lead to a grab if you don’t manage to land on a platform. This move is oftentimes less likely to be used since it is very unsafe on both shield or whiff. It is a good anti-air tool, so be careful landing in dangerous spots.
Desync blizzard -> grab.
If you get hit by the blizzard, be ready to SDI away from ICs to maybe avoid getting grabbed. Always pay attention to what ICs are doing when you plan to approach. People get hit by this all the time when they are trying to running shine at them. You really want to look out for desync setups. The more common faster desync setups are:
- Turn -> f-tilt (you’ll see the Climbers f-tilt in opposite directions from each other.)
Usually, you want to set up a counter attack/better position if you see them setting up.
Jab -> grab. You can either crouch-cancel to punish the jabs, or buffer a roll/spotdodge to try and evade the grab.
U-tilt; pretty much used either to anti-air, or beat out running approaches. If you don’t DI out of the u-tilt, it will likely combo into a grab.
Vs solo Popo (Sopo)
When you’ve killed Nana and have to fight Sopo, you can fight the matchup almost like he’s a bad Luigi. You can bully him to the edge with shines and force corner pressure, or hold center stage and play in between his wavedash length.
The things to mostly look out for are WD approaches with smash attacks, grab, or jab -> grab/d-smash. Another thing to try to avoid; getting tricked by Autocancel b-air (whiff) -> D-smash. It’s such a common thing that people run into and usually people are not ready to DI during that kind of bait. Most of Sopo’s individual hits aren’t strong vs Fox and most can be cc’d for a while. Sopo also has a hard time dealing with full jump and platform game as long as you don’t let him get under you (or let him call out one of your jump trajectories).
You can sort of flowchart vs ICs recovery. If they have to up-b, you can go for Nana when her invincibility runs out (roughly around when she detaches from the belay). If Popo is doing the ledge stall with up-b in order to continually refresh Nana’s invincibility, you can b-air her during the very slight time she’s not invincible. (Unfortunately for them, it’s not a perfect stall.) Be careful because if you mis-time it, you may get hit and knocked over.
When they’re recovering with side-b, try to watch where they’re going and hit them. Keep an eye out for when they purposely go low to the stage, as they’re trying to hit you. It may intercept whatever you’re trying to do, in which case you can shield, try to punish when it ends, or CC it. If they have to take time to recover from lower than ledge height, you can go out and shine them, or even abuse ledge invincibility.
Edgeguarding Sopo: he can’t gain much height from his side-b, so this limits when he can start it up. At this point, you have two options.
- You can wait for him to land and then up-smash. Depending on stage, you could u-tilt -> u-air around 60% for a kill.
- Alternatively, you can b-air him out of his recovery over and over again, or shine above the squall hammer to make sure you don’t get hit. Another thing to keep in mind– if your percent is low enough, you can take the squall hammer hits and still walk up with a punish after. Just don’t try this at percents where it’ll wind up knocking you down.
The other two major things to cover are airdodges/air drift, and up-b sweetspot below the ledge. If they’re drifting, try to be wary of aerials and avoid being caught off guard by f-air or d-air.
It’s somewhat difficult for ICs to cover Fox’s recovery if he’s not too far offstage. Covering high angles/landing in a platform can be difficult to cover with a strong move. Generally, if you can edge-cancel off a platform, you should probably go for it. The exception is when they’re clearly covering it. In that case, mid shortens are great.
Make sure you DI away if you get hit by u-air, to avoid linking into b-air at the appropriate percents. Hitting them with your recovery when they commit/desync early on can be good decision as well. Going low and forcing a walltech is hard for them to beat due to their ledge options being poor and limited.
Going over the options again, you have:
- Side-b edgecancel
- Side-b platform land
- Side-b shortens
- Offensive side-b
- Firefox diagonal-down sweetspot
- Offensive Firefox
- Firefox to a platform
- Firefox low -> walltech
- Shine-stall to bait something.
In a best of 3 set, you probably want to ban FD.
Stage strikes and counterpicks will usually be the following:
- Yoshi’s Story,
- Maybe Battlefield (though limiting your recovery is not good).
Even though FoD can screw up ICs desyncs, the stage will more likely screw you instead of them. You’ll have lots of issues, like the little grass slope breaking a hit stun, making the shine not hit sometimes, etc. You’ll also run into other issues like the platforms randomly moving, causing Nana RNG. Just one slip up can cost a stock on your end, so I don’t think it’s worth going to. That being said, do whatever is most comfortable for you. You should be able to win on any stage anyway.