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Competitive Super Smash Bros.: The strategy behind Duck Hunt

Playing competitive “Super Smash Bros.” 4 has been a riveting, rewarding, challenging and frankly a fanatical experience for me. Really, the game is a lot more complex and harder than most people think. In particular, a character I particularly enjoy playing with and have found lots of success with is a character a lot of people think of, falsely, as being one of the most brain dead characters in the game.

I’m talking about Duck Hunt.

When played optimally, this duck and dog duo look like they’re just throwing out projectiles endlessly, recklessly, and with no sense of direction. However, there is a lot of thought and extremely fast reaction speed prepared in each action. Whether I want to call upon one of my Wild Gunmen, I want to put an Exploding Can in play, or toss out a Clay Pidgeon, doing so without precision will result in my defeat. Take this video below (please excuse the subpar quality):


In the interest of compressing this analysis, here’s a rough timeline of things I want to highlight:

0:29- here, I anticipate my opponent using Arc Thunder, and I promptly use a Clay Pidgeon to absorb the blow, allowing me to dodge the blow without making myself vulnerable to a grab by shielding the multi hit attack

0:46- I noticed how my opponent returned to the stage the first time I threw them off; they jumped over the edge and threw out an attack. This represents the second time I threw them off, but I caught them over the edge with a Clay Pidgeon, racking up important chip damage

1:06- I have a split second to realize the gunman I drew was one with a delayed shot; it was going to be about a full second until he shot my opponent. Knowing this, I can confidently shield through the Arc Thunder because my opponent can’t simultaneously punish me and avoid getting shot by the gunman. Here, they take my bait and try to grab me while I’m being immobilized by the thunder, only to get shot by my gunman.

1:14- I’ve conditioned my opponent into expecting a strict projectile game from me so much that I am able to simply run right up to them and catch them off guard with a dash attack.

1:20- After getting hit by my gunman the last time they were close to the edge, my opponent is so concerned with avoiding getting shot again that I get an easy grab against their shield, since they don’t want to risk dropping shield and getting shot.

2:25- Fearing my explosive can, my opponent, in an attempt to get through my defenses, attempts an aerial approach, I dodge it and am able to respond with a crucial Down Smash to take the first stock.

3:08- I really begin to press the issue. Rather than catching my opponent’s landing with a projectile, I commit to a riskier option in Up Smash, that pays off. (I do get a little greedy with a Forward Smash later, though that doesn’t pay off)

Let me explain, really quickly, how Duck Hunt’s “kit” works:

1.Explosive Cans (neutral B)

These are very typically used when I need to edgeguard my opponent, or more situationally, I may attempt a “canicide”, a technique where I set a can off right next to my opponent, blowing both of us up and, ideally, allowing me to combo this into a lethal aerial attack. Not my most used projectile, but can be useful against characters with poor recovery, especially those who need to recover low, such as Ganondorf, Captain Falcon, or Fox.

2.Clay Pidgeon (side B)

These are used, albeit at a distance, to rack up quality chip damage, catch my opponents when they’re midair, and occasionally, to absorb other projectiles since these cancel out a large majority of projectiles in the game. These are virtually worthless against really speed characters such as Sonic or Captain Falcon, but against slower characters such as King Dedede or Robin, I will lean on these heavily as a zoning tool.

3. Wild Gunmen (down B)

Arguably Duck Hunt’s best projectile of the three, these guys serve a multitude of purposes. A lot of them are psychological. They are quite effective used at about mid range against most characters. Just the appearance of them, despite not being too, too threatening, can scare a lot of players. When spawned, you have a number of options: run away and surrender stage position, allowing me to close in on you, shield the gunman shot while potentially leaving you vulnerable to me grabbing you, try to get in an attack on the gunman, potentially allowing me to freely retaliate, or jump over the gunman. If I predict your choice of option, I win neutral. Even if I don’t, unless I’m in a really bad position stage wise, I have little to lose. The beauty of these gunmen is how luck oriented they are; even I don’t know which gunman I will draw when I enter the command in. Both myself and the player have to react to the gunman that came out, which is fairly easy if you know how long they appear for before they shoot (as someone who knows this character quite well, I can confidently assert that I do!)

By nature, Duck Hunt is a defensive character. Duck Hunt is nationally and regionally underrepresented because of how deceptively difficult it can be to optimally play the character. You will have to work harder to win games than the game’s best characters (Bayonetta, Cloud, Rosalina, etc) to close stocks and win games very often. The advantage that you do have, however, is playing a character few people expect. In particular, new or inexperienced Smashers often get decimated by skilled Duck Hunt players because fighting one can be incredibly difficult. All in all, this is a character with high potential. With a good bit of mental homework, an uplifted spirit, and a patient frame of mind, you too can become a master Duck Hunt!

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