Out of shield
Out of shield (abbreviated as OoS) options are any moves or other actions that can be performed while a character is shielding. These moves are usually used in response to shield pressure from an opponent. Since only some actions can be performed out of shield, the player who is shielding has fewer options both for fighting back and for movement. A character's set of out of shield options consists both of "built-in" moves from shield such as grabs and rolls, as well as many other moves like wavedashes, aerials, and up smashes. Moves that have high ending lag or very little range are easiest to punish by performing a move OoS.
Of all of the options that a player has while shielding, the most important option is jumping. Players can cancel the startup of the jump with either an up smash or an up special. Any aerial can be performed immediately after jumping, or the player can wavedash or simply jump away. How soon a character will have access to their aerial options depends on the length of their jumpsquat. A shorter jumpsquat allows the player to access their aerials sooner, which is beneficial. While all up smashes and up specials are technically out of shield options, as they can be used while shielding, not many of them are effective. For example, Falco's Fire Bird in Melee can be used directly from shield, but is essentially useless due to its lack of hitbox while charging. The same goes for many characters' rolls or grabs, especially if they suffer from long lag. The quicker a move and the better its range, the better the move is OoS.
Starting in Melee, characters who can jump out of shield can also jump during their guard-off animation, providing all the same options as jumping OoS.
Differences between games
Between the different games in the Smash Bros. series, the amount of shieldstun has varied. As shieldstun disables a player's ability to use any of their out of shield options, the more shieldstun a game has, the more difficult it becomes to get out of shield. It is easiest to OoS in Brawl both because the amount of shieldstun is lower than in the other games, and because it takes only 7 frames for a player to drop a shield, making it viable for a player to drop their shield and then use any move. Conversely, it is the hardest to use OoS techniques in Smash 64 because of its high shieldstun. An example of this is that if a move deals 15%, it will have 28 frames of shieldstun in Smash 64 (30 in the Japanese version) but in Brawl, it will only have 5 frames of shieldstun.
The amount of time it takes to drop shield without any shieldstun also varies between games. It takes 7 frames to drop shield in Brawl and Smash 4, 11 frames in Smash 64 and Ultimate, and 15 frames in Melee. One exception with this, however, is with Yoshi prior to Smash 4. His shield drop is 15 frames long in Smash 64 and Brawl and 16 frames long in Melee.
When a character jumps out of shield in Smash 64, they are intangible for the first two frames of their jumpsquat. This can be used as a quick defensive option to avoid attacks, which can then lead into either an aerial or an up smash/up special. This was removed in all later entries, however. While Yoshi cannot jump out of shield in Melee he can still parry (which he also has access to in Smash 64), which is a potent out of shield option.
Another change which occurred in Brawl is that players can now perform an up special or an up smash during the first frame of their jumpsquat. In Smash 64 and Melee, the player would have to jump from one frame before they could up special or up smash. In Brawl, however, the player can now perform an up special/up smash the same frame as their jump begins, effectively allowing every chracter to perform their up special/up smash one frame earlier OoS. As an example of the effect this has, Marth's Dolphin Slash comes out on frame 5 in all games. In Melee, it cannot be done until frame 6 OoS but from Brawl onwards, it can now be performed on frame 5 OoS.
Melee introduced perfect shielding (also known as power shielding). If an attack hits a shield during its first 4 frames of startup, a power shield will occur. This has three useful effects. The first effect is that the player takes no shield damage. The second effect is that it can be used to reflect projectiles which is very useful against projectile users such as Falco. The third effect is that it allows the player to use any attack during their shield drop animation (known as power shield canceling), which can allow for punishes which would otherwise not be possible (Yoshi cannot perform this in Melee and Brawl.) Power shielding lost the ability to reflect projectiles in Brawl and its window was reduced to three frames, although it now induces much less shield pushback. In Smash 4, power shielding now reduces shieldstun.
Ultimate also allows players to use their up smash or up special out of shield without dropping shield or inputting a jump first. This makes it considerably easier for players to perform these options, especially as quickly as possible. Additionally, perfect shielding has been reworked in Ultimate. A perfect shield is now performed if a player drops shield within 5 frames of an attack. When successfully performed, this enables the player to act 3 frames earlier (in addition to having access to their entire moveset), allowing for harder punishes. Yet another change in Ultimate is that all characters have greatly increased traction, which makes OoS punishes easier to perform, especially with characters that had poor traction in previous games.
Understanding what the best OoS option to use is requires extensive knowledge of frame data. The player first needs to understand what their fastest options are and how useful they are. The faster a move is, the more moves it can punish. The usefulness of the option depends on its range, strength and reliability. For example, while Zelda's up smash in Melee is a frame 6 OoS option (her fastest option by a large margin), it is rather useless due to its abysmal range and reliability; with the move failing to hit multiple characters and even if it does, the opponent can easily escape the move. Bowser's Whirling Fortress in Melee is also a frame 6 OoS option but it is much more useful due to its greater range, ability to KO, its intangibility frames during its startup (which allows him to plow through moves, even if the move is not a guaranteed punish) and the fact that Bowser can move around while using it.
Knowing how fast an option is depends on what kind of option it is. An up special or an up smash simply requires knowing the normal startup frames of the move (in addition to an extra frame prior to Brawl). An aerial requires the jumpsquat frames as well as the startup of the aerial. In Ultimate, all jumpsquats are 3 frames so for every character, the speed of an aerial OoS is 3 + the aerial's startup frames. Jumpsquat lengths in the earlier games however depend on the character, so the player has to memorise their character's jumpsquat frames to make the most out of punishing OoS. A shield drop simply requires the player to add the length of the shield drop (which is 7, 11 or 15 frames depending on the game) to the startup lag of the move. For shields grabs, the player needs to know the startup frames of the grab and in Ultimate, the players needs to additionally add an extra 4 frames onto the startup.
The second important thing needed to understand the best OoS option to use is knowing the frame advantage the opponent's attack has on shield. Frame advantage in this case is the difference (in frames) between when the attacker can perform an option and when the shielding opponent can perform an OoS option. Shield advantage is determined by how much shieldstun the move causes and how much ending lag the move has. If a move has high shieldstun and low ending lag, it will grant a greater frame advantage than a move with lower shieldstun and higher ending lag. If the attacker can act the same frame that the opponent can drop shield or perform an out of shield option, the attack is neutral (or +/-0 frames) on shield. If the shielding opponent can act before the attacker, the move grants frame disadvantage (or - frames) on shield. If the attacker can act before the shielding opponent, the move will grant frame advantage (or + frames) on shield.
Most attacks in the Smash Bros. series (at least after Smash 64), grant a frame disadvantage on shield. Moves with a greater frame disadvantage on shield can be punished by a wider arrange of OoS options. For example, if Mario is shielding and he is hit by an attack which is only -4 on shield, his only guaranteed punish is his Super Jump Punch (as well as Mario Tornado in Smash 64), as the opponent can shield any other attack he has or they can use a defensive option (such as roll, spotdodge, or an attack with intangibility, invincibility or super armor if the character possesses an attack with one of those properties) to avoid his grab. If a move is -30 however, Mario has enough time to drop his shield and hit his opponent with a forward smash (or any other attack he has). The shielding opponent should always go for the strongest punish they can. Using Mario shielding a -30 attack as an example again, while Mario can Super Jump Punch, he shouldn't use it as it will not KO the opponent until very high percents. If Mario uses a forward smash, it will KO the opponent if their percent is high enough. As a result, Mario should opt to use to forward smash as it will grant him a greater reward. He should only use Super Jump Punch for less punishable moves when it is either his only option or if he has no other more effective practical option.
If an attack cannot be punished out of shield, it is considered to be "safe on shield". If an attack is safe, the attacking opponent can either shield, use a defensive option or use an attack to shield, avoid or even beat any of the shielding opponent's OoS options. Whether a move is safe or not can be character dependent as some characters can punish OoS earlier than others. When a move is universally safe however in all games is when an attack is -2 (so the attacker can only act 2 frames earlier than the shielding opponent) on shield or less. In this case, the shielding opponent should either keep shielding or perform a defensive option. While the shielding opponent can still use an OoS option, it is riskier as it is not guaranteed to hit the attacker (who can then potentially punish the failed OoS option). If a move grants frame advantage (+ frames) on shield, the attacker can act before the shielding opponent can. If the attacker throws out an attack before the shielding opponent can act, it will hit their shield before they can use any of their OoS options. In the most extreme cases, this can lead into a shield break combo.
When frame data resources state the frame advantage a move has on shield, it makes certain assumptions. For grounded moves, they assume that the move is landed on the first possible frame. For aerials, they assume that you land the frame after landing the move (Smash 64 and Melee resources will also take L-cancelling into account in this situation). Because of this, an attack may be safer or less safe than what is commonly stated within an actual match. As a result, a move can sometimes be punished, even if it should be safe in theory. Additionally, an unsafe move can go unpunished if the shielding opponent mistimes their OoS option (which is especially easy to do in earlier Smash titles) or if the attack is landed during its later active frames, giving the shielding opponent less time to punish.
This concept is not exclusive to the Smash Bros. series as it also applies to any other traditional fighting game. The main difference between Smash Bros. and other fighting games however is that in other fighting games, the player has access to their entire moveset immediately after blocking while in Smash, the player has restrictions on what they can do due to how shields work (except after perfect shielding).
Examples of OoS moves
- Grabbing (known as shield grabbing in this case) can be used to effectively punish attacks. Some characters like King Dedede in Brawl and Marth in Melee have fast grabs with great grab reach, allowing them to punish most attacks with a shield grab, while others like Ganondorf have very poor grabbing reach and will have to be very close to the opponent in order to punish with a shield grab. Tether grabs have even better reach than other grabs but are much slower. As such, they tend to be more effective at shield grabbing after being hit by a slow but strong attack that causes non-tether grabbers to slide too far away to shield grab but is less effective at shield grabbing weaker but faster moves, where they may be too slow to grab in time. In Ultimate, four additional frames of startup lag have been added when performing a shield grab after blocking an attack, making shield grabbing less effective than in previous games and more punishable overall.
- Jumping (not possible for Yoshi in Melee and Brawl).
- Many characters have many aerial moves that are quick and thus can be used as a response out of shield. In Ultimate, the short hop aerial shortcut allows aerial attacks to be used more effectively as out-of-shield options when combined with the universal 3-frame jumpsquat.
- Wavedashing can be used from a jump in Melee, to either retreat or advance. A wavedash straight down can also be used, since it is faster than dropping the shield for some characters.
- Fox and Falco's shines in Melee (and Smash 64 in Fox's case) can be used OoS by jumping and using them immediately after leaving the ground. The shine cancels the momentum from the jump and the character returns to the ground, allowing him to jump out of the shine. This technique is nearly identical to multishining. Fox's is more effective as an OoS option due to his 3-frame jumpsquat (as opposed to Falco's 5-frame jumpsquat) and its greater range.
- Any up special move can be used from a shielding position. While many moves have insufficient startup and/or range to be reliably used, or even lack a damaging hitbox altogether, others are a lot more effective. In Smash 64, Melee, Brawl and SSB4, jump-canceling is required in order to perform an up special out of shield (in Melee and Brawl, Yoshi cannot jump out of shield, so this is impossible for him), but in Ultimate, jump-canceling is not necessary in order to do so, as one can merely drop one's shield and bypass the shield-dropping animation entirely with an up special input; if the C-Stick is set to special moves, one can also merely flick it upward while shielding to perform an immediate up special out of shield.
- Bowser's Whirling Fortress, which has 5 frames of startup in Melee and 6 frames startup in all future titles, possesses adequate horizontal reach with significant damage and knockback. It also allows Bowser to move a considerable distance across the ground in either direction, allowing Bowser to escape pressure easily. Bowser is also intangible during its startup in Melee and Brawl, allowing him to escape pressure in cases most other character's cannot while in shield.
- Donkey Kong's Spinning Kong, which works similarly to Bowser's, except that as of Brawl, it is much slower, much weaker (except in Ultimate, where it is actually stronger), and while Donkey Kong can move just as far as Bowser's forward, he barely moves if he tries going backward. In Smash 64 and Melee however, it is a rather effective OoS option, being a frame 4 move in both games. In Smash 64, DK is intangible during the move's first 5 frames, although in Melee this was reduced to 3 frames once the hitboxes became active. In Melee, the move's initial hitbox is very powerful and can easily KO opponents once they pass 100%.
- Link's Spin Attack, which is decently fast with a great horizontal reach that strikes equally on both sides. It is a very powerful and effective option in all games, except in Brawl, where it is noticeably slower and weaker than in other entries.
- Mario's Super Jump Punch, is one of the fastest possible attacks out of shield, being a frame 3 OoS option (frame 4 in Melee). It deals low knockback, however, and is very punishable if it misses due to its helplessness and high landing lag, limiting its effectiveness. Additionally, prior to SSB4, the opponent could potentially SDI out of the move and punish Mario.
- Dr. Mario's Super Jump Punch also comes out on frame 3, and in SSB4 and Ultimate, it has a strong initial hit, making it a highly effective OoS option, especially when a move is perfect shielded.
- Marth's Dolphin Slash has a very fast frame 5 startup, with great horizontal reach, and striking powerfully. It is especially effective in Brawl, as it is not only stronger than in later entries but it also has intangibility during its first 5 frames, which can allow Marth to use it to escape pressure in situations most other characters cannot while in shield. While extremely effective and capable of punishing nearly any move out of shield, it carries great risk, as it leaves Marth helpless in the air, which leaves him wide open for a punish if he misses.
- Meta Knight's Shuttle Loop, which works similarly to Marth's Dolphin Slash, except it is slower, hits vertically and has less horizontal reach. In Brawl, Meta Knight initiates his glide after using Shuttle Loop, making it extremely difficult to punish. In Smash 4 and Ultimate however, Meta Knight is left helpless after using it, leaving him in a vulnerable position.
- Zelda's Farore's Wind in SSB4 and Ultimate is a very powerful and deadly OoS option. The first hit combos into the second; this combo is often called "the elevator". However, it is very risky to use carelessly as if she misses, she will be left open to punishes. Additionally, the second hit can often be escaped entirely using DI, though Zelda can typically react to this.
- Mr. Game & Watch's Fire is a useful OoS option in every game. In Melee, it is a frame 2 OoS option, making it the fastest OoS option not only in Melee, but in the entire series. This allows Mr. Game & Watch to punish moves that would be completely safe against any other character. In Brawl and SSB4, it does not come out until frame 9. However, Mr. Game & Watch now uses a parachute after using the move and he gains intangibility while jumping up, making it a great option to escape pressure. The move is most effective in Ultimate, however, where it not only retains the added benefits it received in Brawl, but has once again become an extremely effective attack out of shield due to its newly-added frame 3 hitbox with decent horizontal range, which hits on both sides and can be comboed directly into Mr. Game & Watch's own aerials.
- Chrom's Soaring Slash possesses immense range on the first hit and impressive damage output should all of its hits connect, which makes it an extremely effective out of shield option. The move's frame 10 startup is its biggest weakness, however, which can limit its usage against moves that are -9 or better on shield.
- Cloud's Climhazzard is a potent out-of-shield option good at punishing rolling opponents. It is an amazing tool at escaping up-close pressure due to its frame 7 startup and massive hitbox and does considerable damage if all hits connect. The move is even more potent with full Limit Charge, making it an extremely valuable offensive tool. Can even meteor smash at the ledge or offstage. However, DI will typically allow the opponent to escape the descending hitbox if Cloud's relative position is too close or too far from the opponent.
- Any up smash can be used from a shielding position. Many of these are situational, as they are either too slow or have an insufficient horizontal range to hit an attacking opponent out of shield. Others can be especially effective, however. In Smash 64, Melee, Brawl and SSB4, jump-canceling is required in order to perform an up smash out of shield (in Melee and Brawl, Yoshi cannot jump out of shield, so this is impossible for him), but in Ultimate, jump-canceling is not necessary in order to do so, as one can merely drop one's shield and bypass the shield-dropping animation entirely with an up smash input; if the C-Stick is set to smash attacks (which is used by default), one can also merely flick it upward while shielding to perform an immediate up smash out of shield.
- Charizard's, which is decently fast (being a frame 6 option in Brawl and Ultimate and a frame 7 option in SSB4) with large hitboxes that reach decently far horizontally, while also being quite powerful. It also strikes on both sides, but there is a delay to the second hit that strikes behind, which is usually too long for it to effectively hit an opponent attacking from behind.
- Fox's, which has a combination of fast startup, decent horizontal reach in front of him, and fearsome power (particularly in Smash 64, although he has fewer opportunities to use it as an OoS options compared to later games due to the game's high shieldstun). It cannot effectively punish those attacking from behind, however, as it does not reach behind until the very end of the move, and it has less horizontal reach from behind while becoming much weaker.
- Olimar's, while its horizontal reach is poor, strikes equally on both sides, and is very fast while being very powerful (especially if done with a Purple Pikmin), enough so that it can be even deadlier than Fox's. It is most effective in Brawl due to its lower startup lag, greater range and stronger hitboxes, although it is still a rather solid option in Ultimate.
- Marth's from Brawl onward, while it has some startup to it, possesses a moderately sized vacuum hitbox on both sides that launches opponents into the main attack, dealing very high damage to those who attack Marth's shield a bit too close. It is mainly useful if Marth's opponent is behind him.
- Diddy Kong's comes out on frame 5, making it the single fastest up smash in every game he appears in and a highly useful OoS option that can punish more moves than other up smashes.
- Wolf's has some startup lag to it, but its first hit has great horizontal reach that strikes equally on both sides, and when combined with Wolf's high traction (in Brawl), this makes it a fairly easy move to land. It allows Wolf to punish a variety of moves from various positions with it.
- Mario's, Luigi's, and Dr. Mario's have quick startup with large hitboxes behind them, high power (especially in Smash 64 though it is less applicable in that game for the same reasons as Fox's), and head intangibility that lets them negate multihits to an extent. However, it does not hit in front of them until the end of the move and has significantly less range when it does.
- Min Min's has quick startup, a large hitbox, exceptional power, and it is the only up smash (and one of the only three smash attacks, the others being Ness and Lucas's forward smashes) in Ultimate that can reflect projectiles. This makes it an invaluable tool in her arsenal.
- Rolling (which also allows glide tossing in Brawl).
- Spot dodge, while not especially effective at moving the player away from danger or countering with a hit, can be used out of shield. In Ultimate, the ending lag of spot dodges can be canceled into an attack, and Terry can even cancel his spot dodge into a unique attack that resembles his up tilt but functions differently.
- Quick shield-dropped moves (almost exclusively in Brawl and SSB4) like many jabs and tilts.
- Power shield canceling.
- Shield platform dropping while on a platform. This is not available for Yoshi in SSB4, and has been fully removed in Ultimate.
- Duck Hunt's special moves, when deployed, can be used while shielding, and this provides an attack option while defending.
- Oddly, Greninja's Shadow Sneak and its custom variants are usable while shielding, without it needing to jump first.