SSBU/Sora/Strategy

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Sora


Intro

While everything may not be covered due to a lack of sufficient data or proper theoretical approach to the game, this page will give a general gameplan of what Sora can and should do, as well as counterplay to these options. Gameplay in all game states is determined by the player matchup which in turn is influenced by the character matchup. Strategies will vary, and will be attempted to be covered across this and the matchup page. Nuances will be lost for the sake of communicating clarity for certain topics. Certain nuances have to either be discovered on your own through other resources and individual reflections. This is especially true for universal nuances. This is a character specific page and will focus on character specific nuances.

Gameplan/Strategy

Mixing Sora's options is "the key" to being successful with him. All moves have their roles, but some moves are less used (like D-Smash and D-Air ) due to their inflexible nature.

Core Sora specific Dynamics

N-Air/F-Air mixups

Understanding why it works

Sora's shares a gameplay mechanic with some of Bayonetta's aerials, which is that he bounces on hit and on shield with N-Air and F-Air. While they are true when chaining them in quick succession, they are not true "blockstrings" on shield. "Blockstrings" in FGC's refers to when you have continuous pressure of successive hits that cannot be countered unless the character has a specific gimmick or if the game has system mechanics that allows to escape blockstrings. The core point being that the one under blockstring cannot interact without risking getting hit, mostly due to trying to read when the opponent has gaps in their pressure, allowing for an escape. Smash has very little of it, but the reason why it is brought up here is because using Sora's N-Air and F-Air multihits on shield can feel like a blockstring for the opponent. The keyword is feel because there are significant gaps that are exploitable for most characters in the game depending on how the moves are spaced and so forth. If we take Sora's N-Air1 too N-Air2 gap for instance, there is atleast a 19f gap between those aerials, but they have very low shieldlag, making the moves effectively f22 to react too. If you have ever experienced a lowlag, but punishable move like Sheik D-tilt or F-tilt you have likely experienced how hard it is to punish those moves based on just their shield safety.

This tangent is very neccessary to understand why Sora's aerial pressure exists in the first place, because if it wasn't hard to react to these aerial options, a lot of his airgame would become obsolete. Furthermore it would also not explain why certain characters like Sheik, Mythra, Byleth(Because of their N-Air) or any character with a "sex kick" are difficult to counter with shields. Sora's N-Air123 and F-Air123 all have 5-6f of shieldlag, making them hard to react too. For refrence, this is about the same, or better than Sheik and Fox jabbing on your shield!

Note, even with this being very hard-unreactable, the opponent can still react. They have to be prepared however, since N-Air and F-Air work differently not just in frame data, but also in the spacing, successrate and reward.

List of mixups?

There is no good list. When attempting to do these mixups, there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • Doing N-Air and F-Air can be done for an indefinite amount of time. One can do N-Air12 or F-Air on repeat without touching the ground.
  • There are gaps that will allow pretty much any character in the game to get a punish. At worst, any character can just roll, but not without risk.

So instead of giving a list of mixups, there will be a list of frame advantage so that you can work out which option is more fitting at what time. Stating "-x" at best/worst, means that either with good or bad spacing outcomes, it will leave this much room for the opponent to react with an option. Essentially, this is the timeframe where Sora can be punished between hits. At "best" means that if you hit the last possible frame of the first hit and connect with the first possible frame of the second hit, and at "worst" refers to hitting the first frame of the first hit and the first frame of the the second hit. (For example, N-Air1 being the first hit and N-Air2 being second. Shield stun is accounted for in all examples.

N-Air

N-Air1 > N-Air2

  • at best (back hit) it leaves a -6 gap.
  • At worst it is -17

N-Air2 > N-Air3

  • At best it is -16
  • At worst it is -20
F-Air

F-Air1 > F-Air2

  • At best, it is -11
  • At worst it is -16

F-Air2 > F-Air3

  • At best it is -16
  • At worst it is -19


Other key differences

Both F-Air and N-Air are relatively the same, but in practice they have their different roles. While N-Air has the best combo potential, F-Air has more reach infront of him. Framewise, N-Air starts to have its hitbox below Sora at the 4th frame, whereas at the same frame, F-Air still has its hitboxes in a forward position. It is more active infront of Sora than any of his other aerials. The reason why it is safer on shield, is not only due to that the gaps between F-Air1 and F-Air2 are smaller, but because of its extra range, its easier to space out OoS options making his shield pressure more versatile. The angle F-Air3 sends at is more in favour for setting up corner situations (including edgeguarding and ledgetrapping). This is why F-Air is one of Sora's better tools in neutral.


Spell dynamics and cycling

Understanding this concept is very important, especially if the Sora player uses magic a lot. A part of Sora's overall gameplan is to cycle through his spells for specific needs, either if the character matchup requires you to cycle, or if the opposing player struggles vs a particular spell. The general consensus is that Thundaga is the worst spell due to it's low flexibility, Awkward hitboxes, inconsistencies, high endlag and lots of angles for a counter punish. In most matchups and game states, you want to find room to get rid of this of this spell, but it is not without it's cost. For example, most characters that are fast and have small hurtboxes (for example Sonic and Sheik) Can straight up run inbetween the Pillars of Thundaga. That doesn't make it useless. Thundaga is the only spell that can kill by itself, and it is very annoying to navigate as the opponent in certain situations, like when drifting in the air offstage. The final hit of Thundaga is also posetive in frame advantage on shield, and in very rare occurrences can true combo into U-Smash.

Because of this, having certain spells at the ready will create some interesting dynamics:

  • While having Firaga ready, Sora is the most flexible in terms of dealing with options. He can use it for any part of his gameplay. When he uses it however, he gets Thundaga
  • While Thundaga is ready, Sora is the least flexible, but has a kill option if not given the proper respect. Having this spell makes Sora more vulnerable since he will be playing around getting rid of it and how the opponent will punish him when trying to get rid of it. When used, he will get Blizzaga
  • While Blizzaga is ready, Sora gains a long lasting, coverage tool that gives Sora a variety of mixups. After being used, this allows him to get his flexible Firaga spell back.

How these dynamics play into each other in each game state will be covered more below.

Neutral

Up close/Approach

  • Establishing a characters burst range is also applied for Sora. Albeit very poor mobility in terms of general attributes for ground speed, jump and air speed, he does have very fast, but committal options both in the air and on the ground. In Kameme's guide on Sora's neutral, Dash Attack is probably one of the most important tools he has in neutral, so much so that he has stated that "(WIP Quote from hisYT vid). While it isn't a combo starter, it's fast and does setup good situations for Sora. Hitting this at medium percent will create an advantage state either through juggling, corner situation, ledgetrapping or even edgeguarding. It also kills. With all this in mind, the strongest counter to Dash Attack is shielding, but because it is unreactable, it will leave them up to Sora's other strong mixup tools as well as his Dash Grab which helps to deal with shield heavy opponents. N-Air is also decent, while not being safe on shield, it is very hard to react too, while also still contesting other options such as spotdodging, or contesting space with a hitbox.

Similar too Dash Attack, Side-B is Sora's aerial burst option, which is very unique for a character to have. Bayonetta's Side-B also shares this characteristic. Where Sora Side-B becomes stronger is it's mixup potential, both on hit and on whiff. Side-B Not strong if the opponent can see it coming, since it is very committal, and isn't as fast as Bayonetta's Side-B nor as ambigious as Dash Attack. While Sora is grounded , Sora has more access to more options, just like any other character. Side-B is generally less used because of this, and is often just used as a mixup when floating around. The opponent must still respect Side-B to some degree, if the opposing player does not see it coming, using Side-B can "condition" the opponent to respect your burst options more, which is exactly what Sora wants for him to utilize the rest of his tools.

Sora wants to get close to his opponents, with a few exceptions. Once he is within close-midrange, Sora wants to use his combo starters or other setup tools to get his rewarding options going. This section is mainly for when Sora has to approach his opponents instead of them approaching him, let's look on the flipside.

Long range / Keep away

Sora's magic spells reward Sora for playing long range. Not only in terms of hitting spells at long range, but also for spell cycling to the desired spell at a safer distance. There are certain matchups where you shouldn't use spells at all because of moves like Mr. Game & Watch Down-B or where the reward is disproportionately small in certain situations like when Steve or Pac-Man are gathering value with their Neutral-B. Nevertheless, there are still openings to use magic whether the purpose is to cycle or to hit the opponent. As mentioned in spell cycling, certain spells give different types of reward. In neutral you generally are stronger when Firaga and Blizzaga are available, and weakest when Thundaga is your option. There is a work around with the spell dynamic, which is doing Firaga in succession of each other, and when the opponent chooses to jump over, use Thundaga, either in anticipation or reaction. Usually it is done in anticipation because reaction is too little time. This gives Sora a quick access to his better neutral spells like Blizzaga and Firaga that have less punish windows and better suited hitboxes for neutral than Thundaga. This dynamic is better against slower characters and worse against fast characters. If Sora is stuck with Thundaga, it's usually better to use it until his opponent cannot reach him. This varies on matchup, even if this is an offstage situation. While cycling Thundaga and not hitting anyone seems silly at first, it is a small win in terms of getting the desired spells to get more options to transition into advantage state and avoiding/minimizing disadvantage


Advantage

(See the advantage page for additional info)

  • Since keeping up advantage state is a win condition, any option that either puts the opponent in disadvantage or extends this period should be considered a part of winning.

Juggling

Sora's U-Air is good tool for both starting and extending juggles. If the opponents character lacks proper mobility, Sora can often perpetually keep following them with U-Air timing mixups and open them to be affected by his other options such as his powerful N-Air combo starters. Sora does struggle to follow the opponent high in the air for juggles, not because of that he can't gain that height, he can infact reach the top blastzone by himself, but because that he lacks the fall speed to avoid certain reversals. Sora can use D-Air to have a fast option to cancel his double jump and return to ground quickly, which can cover the opponents airdodge and extend advantage state.

Edgeguarding

Sora's edgeguarding is very flexible in terms of what options he can use, but he is also committal because of his slow recovery. He usually has to commit to a certain area to cover, and then turn to ledge to keep his advantage state. Some edgeguards are too deep and will risk losing his chance to ledgetrap. It is better to know the opponents character limitations, as well as their player habits before committing to an edgeguard. Sora's ledgetrapping is overall great, so it is a great loss if Sora makes critical edgeguarding mistakes.

Sora's main strength in edgeguarding is he can always recover back to stage. If there is only one path the opponent can recover, and Sora covers all possible reversals, then Sora checkmates the opponent. Sora can also recover from Ganondorf or Bowser Side-B suicide attempts with ease. Please check the tech page for additional information on how to recovery further with Sora Side-B. Sora's core edgeguarding tools will be F-Air and B-Air due to their kill power consistency and hitbox coverage. Because of F-Air's multihit nature, Sora can cover a very large area, and mixup the opponents timing without being much at risk. The only problem is the endlag for whiffing said aerials. It is often better to get hit out of F-Air instead of whiffing and letting the opponent back to stage. Certain characters, who allegedly have "subpar" recoveries like Byleth have a very fast recovery time once, allowing to punish said whiffs. Not necessarily immediately, but by gaining stage control. Edgeguarding therefore is a better wincondition to rely on either if to cut their recovery paths quickly enough or if they are so limited that can be uses it to deal more damage.

Ledgetrapping

Sora's ledgetrapping falls into either coverage based or read based. It's very difficult for Sora to go for a jump read and then still cover the other options due to his fallspeed. Covering ledge jump is often committal since it unables him to properly cover roll, neutral and attack getup. If Sora does SHR B-Air. Sora can also opt to do N-Air before he lands to cover rolls.

Corner situation

Sora's N-Air and F-Air mixups are great for pressuring the opponent in the corner. Getting a hit confirm with N-Air will usually result in a stock with F-Smash.


Spell cycling

Spell cycling depends a lot on the situation. There are a lot of avenues to use spells for the purpose of getting a direct reward from them, but also cycle at the same time.


Disadvantage

  • Sora's disadvantage, other than being offstage, is not great. His floatiness along with slow double jump means he has a very hard time to escape juggles in comparison to other characters. Because of his fallspeed, he has a hard time landing and often has to resort using Aerials like N-air to hope for a reversal rather than Airdodging. This by no means a bad option since N-Air can chain into itself, and covers space with a disjoint. However there is still room to exploit this window.

There is also the case of D-Air which is allows Sora to move fast downwards with a hitboxes. This hitbox is often not reliable for hitting the opponent, since it has a predictable trajectory and high endlag on landing. The exception is when this move is auto canceled, but Sora has to be very high up for this to happen. The threat of this move is usually stronger than the move itself, since it does kill reasonably early off the top, and does make Sora hurtbox shift slightly upwards before falling down, avoiding some attacks in the process. This is usually more prevalent when the opponent is stringing aerial combos or when the opponent carelessly juggles Sora. The other drawback is because of its rotating hitboxes, most hitboxes can beat this move with proper timing. Some moves like Palutena U-Air can contest directly without risk.

At ledge

Because of these factors, it is preferable to retreat to the ledge in certain matchups since Sora still has decent planking options. Ledgetrapping is sometimes more beneficial for the opponent than going for juggles, so beware. Sora can plank well with Firaga + Blizzaga as well as his aerials. When his opponent is at a roll distance, he can pressure them with spells, and while they are right by ledge, he can hit them with unreactable N-Air and F-Air mixups. These mixups are also helped by his air acceleration, which can make him weave in and out the opponents threat bubbles. Certain bubbles are too great for Sora to contest, like Byleth F-smash along with Byleth Aerials, but he also have to guess/read what Sora will be doing, since Sora does have options versus those options. Against most brawler type characters however, these mixups can be very potent because of the brawlers disjointed hitboxes to directly contest Sora F-Air mixups. There is also a chance that Sora can kill confirm with F-Air1,2 from ledge. This can lead into D-tilt or even U-Smash depending on matchup. D-Air Does also help to get to ledge because it can give Sora the necessary angle to get to ledge faster than simply drifting to ledge.

Offstage

When offstage, Sora is very good at reversals, not only because his options to hit the opponent and mixup timings, but also because he can recover far, and stall with magic. The main problem for Sora is that his recovery paths are slow, and when predicted can be an easy stock for the opponent. This means that it isn't always practical for Sora to recover far away, but this does heavily depend on the matchup. While Sora's double jump is slow, it does allow him to gain considerable height, and can be cancel his height with airdodge. In tandem, having options to recover with and without a hitbox is a big strength, as well as being able to recover without being put in lag. What is often underappreciated with Sora's counter is that is can function like an airdodge for dodging certain attacks. If Samus fires her Neutral-B Sora can counter, and drift in while deflecting without wasting any of his other resources. In some scenarios this is way more preferable, but it is better used against predictable attacks, as failing to use it preemptively opens Sora for other options. Using Down-B resets his drift and air speed, unless a specific tech is used, but it requires to use Sora's doublejump so it isn't recommended for recovering.

Spell cycling

Spell cycling, while Firaga allows Sora to stall and drift in a slightly nuanced way for certain recoveries, it does get him Thundaga, which does sting for him when he enters other disadvantage states after getting onstage. It is useful against juggles, but it is very niche, often when the opponent either lacks reach or speed. At worst it delays the inevitable, but at best it can be used as a bait, or stall an upcoming attack. Thundaga is great for cycling offstage if the opponent cannot reach Sora due to character limitations. Even if it makes Sora's recovery more linear because of the endlag, it may not matter for the tradeoff. An example is Falco have a hard time finding the proper timing to punish the window between the Side-Bs as Sora recovers. And stage spiking Sora with from the side with Falco B-Air is often beneficial since if it is techable, Sora effectively trades his disadvantage with the opponents advantage state.



Stages

Sora has no "bad stages". There is strengths and weaknesses for Sora in stages even with slant layouts or no platforms. A lot of official tournaments have ceased to run slant layouts for a number of reasons, in Sora's case, it is mostly just going to hurt his combo game, but it does open some of his other tech options more like the super slide (Link in the tech page). The priority of the stages mainly play into Sora's core strengths where you take into account his overall mobility (base attributes and specials) along with his combo game. There are a lot of cases where you should pick stages based on the matchup instead of Sora's strengths as a character, but that does require research that won't get covered in this page. It will get more covered (WIP) in the matchups page.

StagesIt's all fun and games until you forget to ban FD VS Kazuya


  • Good Picks


These stages have platforms that enable Sora's combos while also providing ways for him to land. Sora is able to juggle his opponents effectively on these stages. The small ceilings of Hollow Bastion and SBF benefit his vertical kill power, while


  • Decent Picks



These stages are decent for a variety of reasons. Town and City has blastzones close to the ledge, so Sora is able to net kills earlier via combo finishers like Forward Smash or Edgeguard attempts. The ceiling is also very tall, so its harder to kill off the top. Smashville would be a top tier stage in terms of its size and platform layout if the platform was lower for easier exection on the combos as well as a small blastzone ceiling for earlier killpower. Pokemon Stadium 2 is horizontally bigger than most stages which can help the opponent exploits Sora's lacking mobility. It does have a okay platforms to combo with, and a small ceiling for it's horizontal size. Sora cannot float from one side to the other under the stage, so it eliminates a recovery mixup that is otherwise good against certain ledgetrap setups like Snake and Toon Link


  • Okay/Mediocre Picks


These stages generally lowers Sora's overall strengths, but are still worth when considering counterplay viability. The lack of platforms and size means that Sora can struggle to escape disavantage. Kalos give Sora a harder time to kill, and Like PS2, you also cannot go underneath it. Even if some players consider this his worst stage, it is still great in certain scenarios against characters like Little Mac who has significant reduced counterplay when using those platforms to camp him.


Win conditions

Combining all the factors above should give a rough idea on what Sora needs to do to win his games. He needs to setup good situations for him to hit the opponent. While Magic is great for creating unique options to deal with certain scenarios, they also function as a problem creation tool that the opponent has to respect. Making the opponent play around magic is one step to make Sora get close with the opponent, which will in turn enable his combo and punish game.

Not only do they have to deal with the "magic minigame" but they also have to deal with the aerial mixups he can do. As long as the opponent does not have a concrete read on what Sora's followup is, then it is pressure. N-Air and F-Air are very flexible in terms of how they give Sora advantages, and can be seen as flexible win conditions to get on the opponent. The main option Sora has to play around, is the opponents directional OoS options when hitting on shield, or their ranged options when attempting to score hits while both characters are moving.

Depending on the matchup, scoring any kind of hit to gain positional advantage for obtaining or retaining offstage or ledgetrap gamestates are vital, since that is where Sora is significantly strong. While against matchups that can pilot around this issue, hitting his powerful kill confirms makes up against superior mobility, but lower weight characters.



Counter strategies

Whether or not you are a Sora main or antagonist, this section can highlight processes to understand the depth of interactions that is going on between Sora and his opponent. While Sora doesn't need to be concerned with counterstrategies if they don't employ them, it is still important to go over incase a opponent who do shows up. Furthermore, it is in the Sora players best interest (usually) to communicate what counter strategies are important against him to grow as a player. While Sora can be played with "fundies" (playing mostly around with the games fundamentals) he does have gimmicks, and can severely cheese an unknowing opponent. This section is an attempt to remedy this fact and make Sora's opponents more knowing of his counterplay.

General Counterplay

Most of the general counterplay will be centered around exploiting his lack of speed and circumventing his hitboxes. While avoiding his combos are key, an overfocus on this can lead straight into his setplay.


Sora's weaknesses to exploit

As mentioned earlier. Sora does have lackluster speed attributes and a very committal double jump. He also has gaps in his aerial pressure, and it is hard to get the most optimal shield safety data for his aerials because of his gravity and fallspeed. These factors are why characters like Cloud do well against these Sora's weaknesses. Not only is Cloud faster in all aspects, but his aerials outrange Sora's aerials.

Even if Sora were to use his Side-B to estabilish burst range, there can only be so many times before he gets punished. Waiting at certain ranges can put Sora into unfavourable guessing games versus fast and long ranged archetypes. It is important to familiarize with both Dash Attack and Side-B's effective ranges in order to devise your own character specific punishes, since those are the furthest reaching burst range tools that he has.

Both N-Air and F-Air have mixups on shield and on hit. Please refer to "N-Air and F-Air" mixups within this page for more information on frame data. The TL;DR for the pressure is that as long as the opponent has a frame 10 option OoS or faster they can beat every aerial option if they can react. This is the best case scenario for Sora, since he doesn't have better shield safety for these mixups than F-Air1 into F-Air2. Core counterplay to this option is not only about reacting when these moves hit on shield, but also when Sora intends to do the first aerial of the sequence. Shutting Sora down at the first bounce consistently is very effective in terms of conditioning Sora to not play to some of his other core strengths, like his combo and upclose gameplay.

Spell rotation

The opponent should interfere Sora from freely rotating his magic spells either through creating problems (Steve mining, ChargeShot) or by putting pressure on him. Ideally, pressure Sora when he has Thundaga so that he cannot use it freely. Some characters like Sonic can run through the pillars, but others have issues going through. Letting Sora freely cycle his spells is a "small victory" for him. Thundaga is his weakest neutral spell. it has 69 total frames, and it is until 29 frames from the first visual of thunder. Because it is slow, it is still effective to maintain a midrange distance from Sora. While it does cover the midrange, it is not an effective midrange tool due to its slow startup and poor coverage of ground options. Big bodied characters like Donkey Kong can struggle to get past this move, especially while travelling through air. More often than not, Sora is very open to get punished by this.

Maintaining a midrange distance is more important for characters that struggle with Sora's closeup game while pressuring his thundaga. Most Sora players are keenly aware of how poor this move is upclose, and will either do this as a surprise or when the opponent pose no immediate threat.


Sora's strengths to avoid

Sora's main strengths as a character comes from his combo game, his mixups and his spells. If by some way the opponent can figure out a Sora's tendency when to go for a combo and not go for a combo based on character, stage positioning, state of the game, then those should be considered greatly since they heavily impacts the characters general risk reward. if one can be perfectly adjusted to Sora's timing, then up close the character will be relatively helpless because of a lack of speed. Sora's projectiles can condition, do good setplay and even kill, but they are pointless in a vacuum, they need to be complimented by his strong aerial game and ground pressure to be effective.

The main problem with characters that have poor closeup game like Sephiroth is that Sora's up close game is good. It is heavily discussed which assumed bad matchups are actually even or winning to this day. This is why a character like Byleth is better than Sephiroth in certain types of scenarios. The main drawback is that Byleth is slow, that is why that matchup is different, but doable.

Sora's fastest burst option is his Dash Attack. If you as Sora's opponent notice certain tendencies to use this move in certain situations, then playing around it is a great priority. Sora Dash Attack is one type of panic option if Sora wants a quick advantage state since it sets up a good situation. it isn't safe, so the type of player that you see using this as a panic option is rare.

Another panic option is rising aerials out of a shorthop. While this is a great neutral option, it does cost an oppurtunity for not being on the ground for half a second. There isn't always a possibility to punish rising N-Air or F-Air, but getting superior positioning afterwards and press Sora in the corner is one way of dealing with this option. It is critically important to avoid getting hit by N-Air at high percents. Shielding is more effective against that than F-Air. Pressing Sora to the corner successfully also alleviates the punish of getting hit by F-Air. With good DI, this move can't really kill cross stage, except when this is used as a kill confirm. Getting confirms with F-Air is rare, even on fastfallers (which is the main target for F-Air combo's).

Sora's spells, while it is a weakness to exploit, it also a strength to avoid. There are counterplay opportunities when it whiffs, but not every character has direct counterplay options even if the spells hit their shield or on midrange whiffs. While Bowser is very susceptible to getting hit by thundaga, he also has good speed for navigating around Firaga and punishing Sora for whiffing. While this seems great on paper, Bowser breaks about even with Sora's hitboxes, and loses in terms of general reward.


While Sora has advantage

While Sora has the advantage, his options that are otherwise inflexible become more open. Sora is more free to get rid of Thundaga depending on the matchup and what the win condition is. If the opponents character has a projectile for hitting Sora using this move, then that is certainly a possibility, even while being offstage. This needs to be considered since Sora gets a lot more leverage from his advantage state than any of the other game states.

Offstage

Sora's F-Air and N-Air can confusing to deal with offstage. The general rule of thumb is that Sora does not, and probably ever have frame advantage over the opponent. What makes these options offstage good is that they have the potential to "seamlessly" be linked into another 1-2 chain because of the low hitlag. For reference, there is less hitlag in Sora's N-Air123 or F-Air123 than Sheik's multihit component of up-Air. Still, an option that is faster than the startup of Sora's moves will beat them out. The issues lies in the spacings that he does. Sora can keep up the pressure no matter what option gets picked, but each of them have their own quirks and results:

  • First option is to mash a move, preferably a fast one
  • Second is to jump over
  • Third is to airdodge and recover from below
  • Fourth is just to wait/delay and keep the options open.

If Sora finishes his 123 cycle of any aerial, it alleviates the present pressure of these mixups. Sora can of course, followup with magic afterwards, but this is largely determined by matchups and his positioning.

B-Air is a stronger option, but very committal in terms of it's oppurtunity cost. While it does have less total frames than the other aerials, it doesn't have the followup option of F-Air and N-Air.

The most important factor to consider is how Sora has adjusted himself to the opponent vertically and horizontally. Sora has very little trouble micro adjusting himself horizontally due to his top air acceleration, but falls flat in vertical option selects. Sora has to commit to a certain verticality because he has a slow double jump. While Sora can still read the situation ahead of him, it is very difficult for Sora to adjust to ambiguous recovery options, not only because of his success chance, but also retaining his advantage on whiff. Firaga is Sora's primary option for adjust his fallspeed for most recoveries, since not only does he create a hitbox for the opponent, but he stays in place in the air for little cost. This can only be done once, since using Thundaga right afterwards doesn't half his fall as much, and leaves considerable room for the opponent given that they successfully navigate it. While Blizzaga also does have decent coverage, if the opponents mash is on point, they get popped upwards, making it easier to get above Sora with something like a Wolf Side B. There have been instances where Simon has been frozen below the ledge (on a verticality scale) but relatively far from it at 100%, and still manage to get back with a tether recovery. This means that if the opponent is good at mashing, this can become a problem. However, there are good players, even some top players that won't or can't mash well enough in general which makes this tactic effective. Therefore it is important that if Sora ever does Blizzaga against an opponent that is offstage, make sure to have good mash the first time to dissuade the Sora from attempting it again, since the opponent is not too much of a frame disadvantage when getting thawed out. Using Blizzaga offstage is a small commitment in terms of its successrate, let alone getting a follow up.

Ledge and corner situation

The opponent should mainly be looking to avoid carefree ledgehangs since Sora can hit ledgehangs in numerous of ways. Dash attack can hit most ledgehangs which is unreactable, and hitting N-Air1 or/and N-Air2 can setup for an confirm like fSmash Because of Sora's floatyness, he does leave considerable gaps to get out of ledge through either rolls, drown off jump ins and jump getups. Some matchups like Zero Suit Samus can quickly get out of the corner all together, which Sora can have trouble catching. This is not a big issue for Sora since a lot of his options does kill in neutral with enough percent, whether it be a confirm or stray U-Airs.

Being in the corner against Sora is tough since whiffing a move gives Sora an opening to Dash attack. This kills considerably earlier when by the corner and can make an unexperienced player in the matchup, panic with the wrong DI. What is difficult about this position is less about dying from the corner, but what Sora can gain from it afterwards. If the opponent is high up in the Air, U-Air will kill earlier, and if they are offstage, then that is his other win condition.

Juggle situation

While Sora's U-Air is in contention to be one of the best of its class in the entire game, Sora does struggle to juggle his opponents in certain scenarios. The issue for Sora is his mobility with is. Watching carefully when Sora jumps can leave windows to fastfall airdodge through his pressure. While this is an option, if the opponent has a hitbox that can challenge Sora on the side, it is better, especially if Sora's back is turned since B-Air is slow and has a tough time covering the opponents options when juggling. Being on Sora's backside when getting juggled also impairs his U-Air since it is slower to hit on the back.

While U-Air can directly challenge most downwards hitbox aerials in the entire game, it is still on Sora.

(Large committal with Side B, too floaty and slow to be effective like other chars. Large upAir hitbox)

While Sora is in disadvantage

The most important aspects to be mindful of while Sora is in disadvantage is how he has tools for reversals in any game state. Playing around these will leave windows of opportunity, big or small depending on which move he commits too.

Juggling

This is Sora's biggest weakness. The main tools to play around are his airdodge, N-Air and D-Air. Of Sora is getting stringed, it can be beneficial for him to use N-Air as it still gives him offensive options incase the opponent tries to do an airdodge read. It usually is better for Sora to eat a combo rather than to be subject to a Smash attack read. Sora falls very slowly, so unless he activates his fast fall neutral airdodge option, he is easy repeat juggling over and over again. Some Sora players will trade getting juggled for being in the corner instead. Understanding this desired trajectory whether in tumble or not can allow for a better ledgetrap setup especially if one plays a setup character like Simon or Toon Link. This is especially true if the opponents character can compete with Sora's aerials from below. While D-Air is great for quickly adjusting verticality in certain scenarios, it does have a lot of openings for a punish. The move peaks when the opponent barely cannot hit Sora from below, since it hurtbox shifts Sora slightly upwards, and its knockback angle favours killing towards the top blast zone. Playing around this is one way counterplay, but is only relevant in certain matchups like Falco where comboing and stringing is commonplace high in the air.

Some characters that are good at juggling can very easily juggle Sora because they either completely beat D-Air even if the hitboxes are directly contesting, or because of superior aerial verticality. Having both, like Palutena is an example of a character having the perfect tools for juggling him.

Offstage

Sora is generally strong offstage. His main weakness is that he is slow and lacks hitboxes to make up for it. He can be susceptible to 2 frames, counters, and spikes if he does Up-B. He also has gaps in his Side-B's, which any character can exploit, albeit hard to time and position accordingly too. How easy it will be to deal with these, or reasonable possibilities will largely depend on Sora's positioning. If Sora closer ledge then he is eligible for multiple recovery mixups.

The primary recovery mixups are as follows:

  • Airdodge
  • Double jump
  • Double jump + airdodge
  • Double jump + Up-B
  • Double jump + Side-B
  • Double jump + Up-B + Side-B
  • Up-B
  • Up-B + Side-B
  • Side-B

How many Side-B's he will do depends on his positioning. Generally it is hard to intercept Sora when he recovers from below the ledge with Side-B due to the disjointed hitboxes. Even with this in mind, there are options. One of the is setting up a good ledgetrap, and another is timing options like Bowser's f-tilt since he gets armour to sustain the disjoint.

The main options that snap to ledge is his Up-B after 20(?) frames and Side-B when the hitbox is over.


Corner pressure and ledgetrapping

The primary mixup options to look after are Side-B and Drop of and jump and F-Air or jump getup and N-Air besides the common options. As mentioned in the juggle section, Sora has a hard time landing, so doing jump getup is a bigger gamble for him relatively to other characters. Sora does have ambiguous roll and neutral getup animations, making it hard to precisely pinpoint which one he does.

As for corner pressure, Sora is relatively simple in theory, but hard in practice to corner pressure. Mostly the opponent should be playing around his committal burst options while safely pressuring Sora. Sora has a significant easier time being corner pressured than ledge trapped due to his Dash Attack low profiling some moves that are meant to wall him out. Side-B is less of a viable option, and is mostly a matchup check for opponents that lack sufficient OoS options and reaction to punish it on shield. Most of the time, if the opponent doesn't see it coming, they will rather wait in shield than getting hit. The main mixup is whether it will crossup or not. If the opponent is certain it wont, there should be a relatively free U-Smash OoS as long as it has a hitbox infront while being at least frame 18 or quicker on startup. Keep in mind that Sora's later Side-Bs are weaker than the prior ones. At worst, the last one is -43f on shield, and the first one is -25f.

Stages to pick and avoid

Sora has no "bad stage" and no "best" stage for any given matchup. The character matchup along with the player matchup defines what stage is better or terrible. Sora has combos for every stage layout, but some of his combos are better without platforms with regards to having access to shield when landing on a platform.

Stages can be picked based on what weakness the opponent wishes to exploit from Sora. While it is heavily recommended to pick stages based on the opponents character strengths, it is favourable to consider where Sora falls flat in stage picks.

The easiest and common Sora combos happens with low platforms with the likes of Battlefield and hollow bastion. Whereas harder to platforms to combo with are the higher platforms where Kalos and Smashville becomes hard. This is mainly due to Sora's full hop barely making it above the platforms. Other combo routes, like L > U-Air > FH > U-Air > (IDJ) U-Air becomes a thing on these stages, but have tighter percent windows than doing ladder combos with N-Air or F-Air due to U-Air's knockback scaling.

These are strictly for combos, when considering the playstyle and gamestates aspect of stages then Sora and his opponent must consider which stage favours which playstyles and techniques. Kalos, PS2 and T&C are very long stages that can help creating distance in several ways. T&C also has its ledge closest to the blast zone of any stages in the current meta. These are just a couple of examples of dynamics that factor in.

There is no concrete answer. Great opponents will find many ways to end a stock.

As for Sora's specific weaknesses for some stages, they include:

  • Sora has a tough chance getting his combos on slants. The slants mess up his timings, or can end the combo prematurely due to the difference in fallspeed. Yoshi's becomes an excellent option for this purpose. The downside is that with the top platform, Sora has a window to get an IDJ U-Air into a N-Air before landing on the top platform. This is the same case for battlefield.
  • If Sora struggles for dealing with the other characters mobility, or closing distance, then picking long stages such as T&C, PS2 and Kalos can be helpful. The stage wall can also help the opponent since it limits what trajectories Sora can do when being offstage. The platform layouts, even PS2 to a lesser extent, can make it awkward for Sora to pull off his combos.
  • If the Sora struggles for dealing with hitting his combo starters, then picking high ceiling stages like Kalos and battlefield can be helpful. Picking large stages with huge blast zones usually isn't a problem if Sora lands his confirm or manages to get stocks from offstage interactions. Sora can struggle to get stocks with stray hits, but again this differs not only on the character matchup, but also on the player matchup. Some players can frustrate Sora players because they won't get hit by N-Air, which can severely reduce Sora's effectiveness on Battlefield since it is in theory the stage where his combo game can be pushed to the max.

Most Sora players will prefer Hollow Bastion and Small Battlefield due to their layouts min-maxing their potential. These stages are beneficial to a lot of other characters, so it will happen where Sora gets to play on these stages with little effort due to common preference.

If the opponents Sora player struggle with execution on his combo game, then be sure to include a stage that isn't combo friendly. This is less important in higher leveled where strategy is more important than hitting the combo (unless it is a 0TD) but they are hard and sometimes inconsistent. Please refer to the "Ars Arcanum" chart (In combos) to see if the character Sora goes up against is eligible to be 0TD'ed within a true combo.

A summary of Sora's combo/setplay theory for counterplay (when do I airdodge?)

Sora's N-Air12 and F-Air12 usually cannot be DI'ed since they don't send into tumble. The exceptions are with specific hitboxes at high percent. Rage also plays a part in whether these will be tumble or no tumble. N-Air1 at the back hit will always send into tumble, when mentioning N-Air1 in this section, it is assumed that Sora will hit the front hitboxes.

N-Air and F-Air have gaps in which Sora needs to accurately time, otherwise opponents have possible escape windows to exploit. Directional airdodges can help dodging certain combos because of the initial "air dash" that they give. At certain percentages, it is impossible to dodge certain combos due to their sufficient hit advantage, but it is also tied to Sora's execution of said combos. In the example of Ars Arcanum, Sora needs rage or high percent to make the combo work on all possible characters. Getting this execution is very hard for the Sora to pull off, since they rely on Sora hitting the adequate hitboxes, which are influenced by the previous angles and knockback of the previous hitboxes, which are in turn influenced by rage and opponent percent. Rage can sometimes work against Sora, even if it gives him more hit advantage, that is why the opponent should atleast try to stay interactive with his combo tree.

The main points of weakness with Ars Arcanum, or any Sora combo that includes his N-Air and F-Air, are:

  • Being too high to connect with N-Air, especially N-Air2 since the hitstun drastically falls off from the third frame and onwards. Any followup that isn't N-Air3 or jab is not true. While U-tilt does have sufficient startup frames in startup, it does not hit above Sora 4 frames later, which is very the opponent usually is in this position.
  • F-Air2 has a 9f window when landed perfectly with no rage. IDJ N-Air Can hit the opponent as long as they have a f3 escape option or worse given that it is possible to connect with their hurtbox (which isn't always the case due to hurtbox shifting that is character dependant). Still, 1f window isn't generous for IDJ N-Air since it has a 11f startup. A lot of Sora players will avoid this mental stack and attempt this only when the numbers are right and go for a D-tilt if they want to extend their maximum damage potential. D-tilt does not work versus floaty characters in this scenario since F-Air1,2 wont be able to drag them down for D-tilt to connect.
  • For platform extensions with N-Air or F-Air it can difficult for the Sora to connect the ladder combos. The difficulty scales with how tall the platform is. Sora cannot buffer FH > Aerial, just like any other character. While it doesn't seem like an issue on stages like battlefield, it is a big issue on Kalos, where it is even questionable if Sora can hit these aerials. If Sora opts for a U-Air then that is more generous with his platform land timing, but at the same time requires timing the U-Air with the FH. Ontop of that, the opponent is in tumble, meaning DI will play a role. The platform extensions also are tricky for Sora with rage, since it can make the opponent pop off too high for Sora to connect.

Understanding these gaps in Sora's pressure, can give an idea when to airdodge. For sequences where F-Air2 is invovled, it can be beneficial to airdodge in to avoid N-Air. Airdodging in does a couple of things:

  • If the combo is tight on frames, or rather, if it can't be a true combo, some characters can escape the combo when they airdodge in. When airdodging in, all characters hurtbox shifts away from Sora and then "dodge" in with intangibility. While it isn't unheard of that Sora can connect with N-Air1 or N-Air2, it won't be in a good situation for Sora, and has to end the combo prematurely. Depending on the character, they completely escape the situation unscathed and be able to shield the next hit, or have a window of oppurunity to counter attack as long as they have faster startup moves. If Sora commits to IDJ N-Air and whiffs, that will at worst, relieve stage positioning for the opponent. At best they can directly counter attack. Sora does not fly up into the Air as long as he hits an aerial that can create a bounce, since that shifts his aerial verticality.
  • If the Sora blunders his execution, then airdodge out. Airdodging out has worse effect in terms of positioning, but if the Sora players does not use IDJ, then Sora can still hit the opponent when they airdodge in. If the opponent airdodges out however, unless Sora lands in time for a dash in followup, usually Dash Attack. The opponent must be very keen on the skill and what options the Sora favours before going for such a play, since this isn't a complete counter option. If Sora suspects the opponent going for this option, Sora can dash in and F-Smash for a severe punish. This should only be done if Sora blunders his execution, because if that isn't the case, then the opponent has helped Sora execute his combos since they hurtboxshift towards him. Some combos are ONLY possible if the opponent airdodges into Sora after every F-Air2.
  • As covered in the previous point, Sora can still convert these options into setplay. For airdodges in or out, he can follow the opponent by positioning himself for a punish. The opponent can in response to that option, either do a fast aerial or neutral airdodge. Fast, long lasting aerials like "sex kicks" (examples include Link and Fox N-Air) are great at stuffing Sora's reaction followups since those options cannot be reacted too. Furthermore they also possess relative shield safety. If Sora goes for shielding, his only direct counter option is to footstool OoS, preferably by parrying first. However, if Sora has trouble executing it whether it is because of execution checks or spacing reasons, this becomes an effective countermeasure. While neutral airdodge doesn't make Sora's combo game harder or easier, it does option select incase Sora is slightly off while being a relatively safe commitment. While directional airdodges can be seemingly punished on reaction, neutral airdodge cannot.
  • For ladder/platform conversions, do the escape options between his fullhops, and after his fullhop aerial. Because of Sora's mobility, it is very hard to recover a string from platforms.


Survival DI for Sora's confirms

Most of Sora's combos cannot be DI'ed, or even SDI'ed. For U-tilt the opponent can attempt to DI and SDI up. Not only because of the multihit component failing on occassion, but also since it stops Sora from getting F-Air123 at certain percents. This is very niche, since there are more DI directions one must be concerned with. While Smash has more angles than just the octagonal gates (360 degrees in total), this page will only illustrate DI with with the octagonal system since hitting the most optimal DI precisely 100% of the time for every move in the game is beyond human limitations. The most common good DI and DI mixups against Sora are as follows:

  • DI in
  • DI out
  • DI out and away
  • Neutral DI
  • DI in is good for surviving against kill moves such as F-tilt, F-Air3, F-Smash) and F-Smash). On occassion, this is also useful against Up-B when close to the horizontal blast zone. It also does interferes with aspects of Sora's combo game, like followups after U-tilt and D-tilt. Sora does have option selects for both of the tilt attack combo starters/extenders, but his optimal extender after is F-Air, so Di'ing it properly can give better results.
  • While DI out is a poor choice against Sora's usual kill options, it can be crippling for Sora's setplay and combo game if applied properly. DI in on D-tilt is not good if Sora follows it up with an IDJ U-Air, since the opponent will be behind Sora after D-tilt for DI in, it will allow U-Air to get the most hit advantage on hit and lead into true followups, even killing at certain percents. If Sora goes for this option when opponent DI's out, because of the drift Sora has to commit into, can lead into a complete whiff for a followup. In bizarre cases, the IDJ U-Air can even whiff on startup. The only issue is that D-tilt still has significant follow ups with DI out since that allows Sora to gain better dragdown conversions with F-Air. For U-tilt, it is almost always better to DI in than out since it is very unlikely Sora will connect doublejump U-Air after, unless the opponent doesn't plan to airdodge.
  • DI out is a decent option select versus both Dash Attack and Up-B center stage, but DI out and away is even better. While this is the worst option when closest to the horizontal blast zone, it is superior when tryning to survive the top blast zone. This DI is very easy to do since the most common application is against the final hit of Up-B which is easily reactable.
  • Neutral DI is decent for understanding what Sora looks out for in a game when it comes to his followups. It doesn't compromise, nor improves the situation. Where neutral DI is lacking, is against D-tilt, because the only true D-tilt > U-Smash confirm is against this DI, at least at kill percent. DI up is almost better in this scenario, but isn't good otherwise due to the terrible LSI influence.
  • While very niche, DI up can avoid D-tilt > U-Air followups, but DI in can create a similar problems for Sora anyway, so this isn't reccomended. DI Down usually improves most of his combo game, so this is not reccomended in the slightest.

Sora's win and "lose" conditions

Checking out the "win condition" sub chapter before counterplay chapter starts is important for perspective.

While context has been given where Sora is weak and strong, forming a basis on what his basis for victory is, it is important to note how they are tied together. For spells rotations, Sora will flat out lose against characters that can create stronger problems such as Pac-Man and Samus Neutral-B. Not only does their Neutral-B scale better with time, they can also flat out beat Sora's Neutral-B directly. This forces Sora to approach which puts him in a disadvantage. Steve can also force this approach due to his Neutral-B block mechanics. While Sora is not weak when he gets close to his opponent, he does suffer in the ranges where he can't keep his mobility up with the opponent and will whiff high committal options because of his inability to effectively be at important positions in the game.

While Sora is close and uses his aerial mixups on shield, it is very important to understand not just the startup frames of OoS punishes, but also their range. Sora can drift seamlessly in and out due to his high air acceleration, so even if the opponent does have an advantage in frames, doesn't mean that their desired countermove has the proper range. Once the opponent can option select against the primary bounce mixups, it forces Sora to get into the guessing game as well. While typically this is a guessing game for the opponent, it is in reality a double edge sword interaction since Sora also has to guess which mixups are appropriate to do. Once the options are established, it will help create bigger mental stacks for Sora. N-Air and F-Air are flexible win conditions for Sora, so shutting them down will make his pressure more predictable and open, exacerbated by his low mobility. A typical example is Sora doing SHR > N-Air1 > N-Air2 FF. If this is the same option Sora does for scenarios such as combo starters, or pressuring the opponents shield, then it is very easy to either parry either aerial, or punish the game between them, as long as the timing is known. Sora does have more options, and the opponent will sometimes prefer to hold shield because of spacing and timing mixups. A good Sora player will mixup their aerial bounce pressure in both timing, spacing and drift. It is only recommended to go for direct punishes for the aerial bounces once pattern has been discovered against the Sora player, which is easier said than done. What can be done is to understand the intention Sora wants to go for, since landing either N-Air3 or F-Air3 doesn't give as much potential reward as their previous counterparts. A typical example are the "combo/clip" players versus "fundamental based" players. Both of these archetypes have different intentions, while the "clip" players are trying to land combo starters and extenders, "fundamental" players will be on the safer side in terms of execution. The "clip" player archetype is slightly self explanatory on their weaknesses, "fundamental based" players also have weaknesses regarding their capacity or willingness to push their advantage. Typically the better and best players are well rounded in all aspects of play. Gaining information on players with rigid archetypes like these examples before or during a game can be a significant advantage in terms of deploying the appropriate counterplay, whereas for more well rounded players it is a lot harder to pinpoint their weakness(es).

N-Air and F-Air mixups are more threatning when the opponent is closer to mastery of both fundamental and punish game aspects. While a move like N-Air3 or F-Air3 doesn't have usually have true followups, they do give the Sora player a positional advantage. With every aforementioned about N-Air and F-Air this is why N-Air and F-Air are strong. The best course of action against Sora, is to outrange him. While outranging is burst range is possible, it is much easier to have a tool that beats these walling disjoints directly. Most characters does not have this option and must rely on the intricacies of his aerial pressure, which is why Sora is a strong character with a good neutral.

Sora is good at offstage disadvantage. Unless the opponent doesn't have multiple options to Sora's offstage reversals, then they shouldn't challenge Sora besides surprise attacks. Sora has multiple options for reversals, and can deal with any types off edge guard attempt as long as the has enough resources. Once the opponent has burned a resource, specifically, doublejump, Sora's recovery trajectories become more predictable and more exploitable. While it is true that just like any other character, Sora will die earlier if hit closer to the blast zone, he has plenty of counters, and is very hard to gimp (Yes he can be gimped, but this is only if Sora is far into the bottom corner with no double jump). An example is if Sora counters a strong move like Byleth Side-B offstage, because Byleth Side-B has very strong knockback and damage, it will easily lead into unteachable, even at sub 80 percent.

Sora is lacking in his tools to get off ledge. While he does have moves with good hitboxes, they have slow startup. Sora's double jump after ledge drop off lets him have use magic or F-Air to great effect in some situations with the exception of Thundaga. While he has Thundaga, it is very difficult for Sora to challenge roll-positional ledgetraps since they can effectively deal with all other aspects of his pressure. He can't ledgedrop double jump in and pressure because of his double jump limitations. He can still cancel this into Side-B, but that is a commitment.

To get the most out of Sora's disadvantage at ledge, the opponent has to mixup. Shield flashing, mixup up different positions for punishing ledge getups are great versus Sora, since if Sora guesses wrong, it is easy to catch up to him in position. If he does have Blizzaga, and has a habit of using it while opponent is at roll distance, then try jumping over or never sit in roll position. There is no "one-size for all" type of solution, since Sora does have answers to all of them with the correct guesses. However, on a wrong guess it is easy to capitalize on a followup option. Low endlag options are also effective since then Sora cannot react properly, but must be done with care since predictable options is something he has answers for, no matter which one it is.

Options that are not committal for the opponent are a lot beneficial relative to other characters. Sora is slow, and if there is no direct punish to his option, it is harder for him to get out of the corner with movement. While being juggled is a weakness for Sora, it isn't his biggest weakness in all matchups, just most of them.

TL;DR on counterplay

While Sora has a well rounded kit, he does have some weaknesses that a lot of characters can play around

  • It's important to know the player matchup and character matchup. There are different playstyles with Sora.
  • Picking and banning stages can play a huge role in the matchup. This does vary on character and player matchup.
  • Play around his low mobility movement attributes and high mobility committal options, like (Side-B and Dash Attack.
  • Avoid his main combo starters. If it's impossible, make it awkward to get those hits so Sora has a hard time confirming.
  • Familiarize with Sora's win conditions. The more nuanced the counterplay, the easier it is to find windows of opportunity. Spell rotations and gaps in his pressure is very important to understand.
  • None of his aerial bounce mixups are safe on shield, but are very hard to react properly too. Reacting to timings when he decides to engage these mixups can be more effective than reacting to when the hits connect on shield
  • Be careful when going for edgeguards since he has a lot of tools for reversals. Burning down his double jump is an important mixup recovery tool which can simplify his recovery paths for a punish.
  • There are gaps in his Side-B between them and after his Up-B. He won't snap to ledge with his Side-B until after the hitbox component is over.


(WIP) - Grammar - Weave in statements about magic more naturally, and redo the "spell cycling" paragraph about explaining the dynamic. - Elaborate more on win conditions, decide whether to make a section by itself, tie them in within each section where win conditions apply, or a combination of both. Make "lose conditions" too perhaps?

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