Mixups and Spirit

Once you've gained advantage on your opponent by forcing your opponent into a disadvantageous position; next comes the question of how to hit them. The answer is quite simple if your opponent simply allows you to hit them, however, most competent players will not simply allow themselves to be hit. Rather, competent players will tend to block correctly against your attacks, making it difficult for you to do any real harm.

Thus, in order to deal damage you must apply mixups. In order to mixup, you must unpredictably select an attack from a set of moves that must be defended against in different ways than each other. In IaMP, there's universally four kinds of mixups, and in the case of Youmu Konpaku there is also a fifth. But first, we must understand how the "Spirit" gauge system works in order to understand the virtues of mixups.

First of all, the spirit gauge is what allows you to fire bullets and perform special moves. However, it also allows you to air block and auto-block. So, what is auto-blocking? Well, in IaMP, blocking an attack incorrectly -- such as blocking a low attack with a standing block, or blocking low against a high attack -- will not immediately result in damage to your life and your guard being broken. Instead, blocking an attack incorrectly drains a chunk of your spirit. There are also guard crush attacks that are done with a 22A/B input that hit either high or low and will instantly drain all of your spirit if blocked incorrectly.

When the spirit gauge is drained it turns red, and this is called a "drained state". During this state, a few critical things change:
- You can not fire any bullets or special moves.
- You you can not air block any attack.
- You can not autoblock. Blocking an attack incorrectly will result in a hit or stagger.
- Your spirit recovers half as fast.

Most experienced players will manage their spirit gauge rather well so that they don't accidentally drain their own spirit. Therefor, it's in your best interest to forcefully drain your opponent so that you have an opportunity to land hits. And so that takes up back to mixups.

So, let's see what kind of mixups we have:
- High / Low
- Left / Right
- Melee / Bullet
- Attack / Defend

And in the special case of Youmu Konpaku we also have: Throw / Attack

However, it is very important to note that blocking is a very critical and ever-present third option in all of these mixups.

Sakuya High or Low mixup

Here we see Sakuya performing her 2A and then canceling into either 22A, which hits high -- or canceling into 22B, which hits low. If either of these 22* attacks are blocked wrong then the opponents spirit gauge will be instantly drained. The concept of unpredictably selecting either 22A or 22B after another attack is a basic High/Low mixup that most characters are able to use (with a few exceptions).

Yuyuko j.A Left or Right

Here we have Yuyuko Saigyouji performing a Left / Right mixup using her j.A, which is called a Cross-up. This attack has quite a huge range and hits from both sides of Yuyuko's body, making it an ideal crossup. In this picture, the image on the left shows Yuyuko timing her j.A a little late while above the opponents head, it hits from the left side (so the opponent must block right). And on the image to the right we have Yuyuko timing the attack a little early which causes a crossup, therefor it hits from the right side (so the opponent must block left). Crossups are universally familiar concepts for many 2D fighting games. However, it should be noted that a lot of crossups can be performed in this game using bullets: bullets can be fired at the opponent, then while the bullets are about to hit your opponent you can perform a crossup so that when the bullets connect the opponent must either block left or right, depending on where you are.

Sakuya Bullet or Melee

Here we have Sakuya performing a 5B in the first image. Next, Sakuya chooses between a 5C bullet string, which we see up top, or a 22A melee attack which we see on the bottom. This is a mixup because in between 5B and 5C there is a gap, which means the bullets don't connect quickly enough before the blockstun ends from the 5B. Technically, Sakuya could do a 2C instead and then the bullets would connect fast enough, but leaving a gap in between 5B and 5C is intentional. This is because it allows the opponent to graze through the bullets with either a high jump or dash. However, this is when it becomes a mixup. If the opponent attempts to high jump or dash after the 5B, and Sakuya did a 22A instead, the opponent would be hit by the 22A. The method to prevent getting hit with Sakuya's 22A is generally block, but the action of blocking allows Sakuya to continue the string by high jump canceling the 5C and then immediately performing an instant air dash into a j.B, which then allows her to continue the string further leading into more chip damage, spirit damage, and another mixup.

So, this is what the permutations would look like:
  • Opponent grazes : Sakuya 5B 22A -> opponent is hit, opens up a combo
  • Opponent blocks : Sakuya 5B 22A -> Safe on block, neutral position
  • Opponent grazes : Sakuya 5B 5C -> Opponent grazes, Sakuya chases with j.A or j.B
  • Opponent Blocks : Sakuya 5B 5C -> Sakuya IAD j.B j.C D6 j.B 2B/5B -> etc. Opponent takes spirit damage, chip damage, and must face another mixup when Sakuya lands.

And the final type of universal mixup is a mixup based on anticipation. Or rather, it exploits anticipation. Basically, it is taking advantage of an opponents poor reaction, or takes advantage of moments where it's impossible to react in time even with really good reaction. In other games, this is generally referred to as somewhat of a "Mindgame" moreso than a "Mixup". The well experienced player Bellreisa has dubbed the concept in regards to IaMP as "equity". To quote Bellreisa: "Basically, I use it to mean training the opponent" - "You're basically investing in using a certain action that gives you match equity in the form of reducing their potential reactions, giving you more freedom to work with". Sounds complicated, but it is actually quite simple and makes perfect sense. Let's take a look at a simple example:

Yuyuko 6B or 2A mixup

Here we see Yuyuko performing her 66B, and then either performing a 6B or 2A. Yuyuko's 6B may not look like much, but it's one of the more feared attacks in the game and is dubbed "The Flip". But before we get into that, the thing about 66B is that it is actually -7F on block, making it a disadvantageous move to use on block. However, the opponent Alice Margatroid's fastest move has a 7F startup, which is her 5B. So, in this situation Alice can not actually punish Yuyuko's 66B because the recovery ends fast enough for Yuyuko to block Alice's fastest retaliation. However, Alice is technically at an advantage here, if Alice performs a 5B it will technically beat almost anything that Yuyuko does, simply because the hit frame of Alice's 5B will connect on the first frame that Yuyuko recovers. Therefor, if Yuyuko performs any action then Alice's 5B will connect during that start-up of that action (including 2A).

That's where 6B comes in. Technically Yuyuko's 6B has invulnerability frames, including the first frame. Thus, if Yuyuko performs a 6B immediately after a 66B and Alice sticks out a 5B, then Yuyuko's 6B invulnerability will allow her to pass through Alice's 5B.

However, this is not particularly useful on it's own because if the opponent Alice simply blocks then Yuyuko's 6B will whiff, and Alice can punish the 6B with 6A. And that's where the mixup begins. Because if Alice anticipates that Yuyuko will perform a 6B, then she will block. If Yuyuko instead performs a 2A, then it will connect against the blocking Alice. On the other hand, Alice's 5B will beat Yuyuko's 2A after Yuyuko's 66B, but keep in mind that if Yuyuko does 6B instead then it will beat Alice's 5B.

So, labeling Yuyuko's 6B "The Flip" the permutations would look like this:
  • Yuyuko 66B, Alice Blocks, Yuyuko 2A -> 2A is blocked, Yuyuko continues attack string.
  • Yuyuko 66B, Alice Attacks, Yuyuko 2A -> Alice connects an attack.
  • Yuyuko 66B, Alice Blocks, Yuyuko 6B -> Yuyuko's Flip whiffs and Alice can punish with 6A
  • Yuyuko 66B, Alice Attacks, Yuyuko 6B -> Yuyuko's Flip counters Alice's Attack due to invulnerability frames.

As you can see, it's technically a disadvantageous situation for Yuyuko. However, if Alice always attempts an attack then Yuyuko can always beat this attack with 6B. Therefor, if Alice understands that her attacks will lose to 6B, she can instead choose to block, which is more advantageous because in every situation blocking doesn't result in failure for Alice, it only potentially results in blocking Yuyuko's 2A which leads into a blockstring and potential mixup.

Keep in mind though, that Yuyuko also has the option of simply blocking after the 66B, much as Alice does too. If Yuyuko chooses to block after the 66B she isn't technically vulnerable to a hit, although she is vulnerable to a mixup from Alice.

However, knowing this, Yuyuko can still take advantage of Alice's blocking by continuing the block string. And this is what Bellreisa refers to as "equity". But constantly using 6B after 66B, you "train" the opponent into blocking because you force them to fear/expect/respect/anticipate the 6B Flip, which they can not beat with a melee. And once you have gotten your opponent to fear/expect/respect/anticipate the 6B, you can take advantage of this by instead using 2A and continuing with a block string. To put it simply: Yuyuko's 6B can and should be used as a "threat", and not as an actual "weapon" (Such as: "All bark, no bite").

This concept in particular is nearly as old as the Fighting Game genre itself, or at least as old as Street Fighter 2.

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