Reading Yomi

Yomi is a Japanese word that literally translates to "read" or "reading". So the title of this post sorta means "Reading Reads". This will be a followup post to my previous post regarding Frames and Numbers.

What it refers to in Fighting Games is essentially the act of predicting (reading) the opponent based on educated guesses and weighted values. In some Fighting situations, there are some things that are simply too fast to react to, and in those cases you must use anticipation in order to take advantage of a situation. So, we must make assumptions about what will happen, done in advance. The difference between a reaction and an anticipation is simple; a reaction is done after you've already seen what is happening and "know", while an anticipation is done before you know what is going to happen and "assume" (or guess). Reactions can only fail if your execution fails or your reaction is slow, while anticipation can fail if you guess wrong.

There are different facets to Yomi which is referred to as Yomi layers, and there's three of these layers (or "levels"). If we label these layers as Layer-A, Layer-B, and Layer-C, then we can say that A < B < C < A (like math, A is less than B, and so on). While two layers of equal value nullify or cancel each other out, so A versus A = neutral. RPS LOL

In a way, it's a lot like the classic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors (shortened to "RPS"), since R < P < S < R, just like above. But with Fighting Yomi there's some weighted values behind each one which makes it more complicated than a simple random guessing game, because some correct guesses are more rewarding than others, or some incorrect guesses are more damaging than others. To explain how this works in Fighters, and why it's lopsided in Fighters, I'll refer to my previous example of Alice 66B against Suika and what happens after it's blocked. Now, in this situation there's a bunch of different things each player can do, and each of them is categorized as a Yomi layer. These are the things that can occur for each player after Suika blocks an Alice 66B: Suika blocks Alice 66B

- Suika layer C is to do the least risky thing, to guard by blocking standing/croching.
- Suika layer B is to perform a risky defensive action, to jump back and airguard.
- Suika layer A is to do something completely random, like 6B or 66b.

- Alice layer C is to take the correct action, which is back off and do 2A.
- Alice layer B is to perform a risky reset, which would be to do 6B or 66B again.
- Alice layer A is to perform something totally random, like an instant air j.C or sword-doll special move.

Again, neither player can react to what the other will do after blocking Alice 66B, since the following actions will be too fast to react to, the players must assume what will come next and perform their action on anticipation. And we know the formula is A > B > C > A. Indeed, the formula holds true in this situation as well.

If both players are on Layer-A, then random garbage tends to happen such as both players CH'ing each other or whiffing each other, and other such nonsense. The only reason this wouldn't result in "neutrality" is the difference between characters.

Alice's Boot CHs a button-mashing Suika

If the Alice player moves on to Layer-B, expecting the Suika to remain on Layer-A, then Suika outright loses for mashing buttons and gets an Alice Boot to the face as seen above. On the flipside, if Suika moves on to Layer-B while Alice remains at Layer-A, then Suika will be rewarded with a successful firepunch/bomb or even a jumping kick.

If both players are on Layer-B then the situation results in a neutralization, since Suika avoids Alice's follow up attacks, but doesn't really gain much in the process either.

Suika airblocks Alice 2A

If the Alice player moves on to Layer-C, expecting Suika to be on Layer-B, then Alice will be rewarded with the 2A countering Suika's backwards jump by either hitting it or chipping away at Suika's spirit bar for a guard crush, as seen above. On the flipside again, if Suika moves to Layer-C expecting Alice to be on Layer-B then Suika is rewarded with a correct block, which is in Suika's favor since Alice loses control over the situation and gains nothing.

But, here's the kicker. What happens when Layer-A and Layer-C collide? Well, that's what I like to call Negative Yomi (totally arbitrary name). As in the formula before, Layer-A wins. Even though Layer-C should have been the best choice for both players, it still loses outright to the random "stupidity" on Layer-A. These are the exchanges where good players on Layer-C are often left baffled and question "Why would you do that, don't you know what could happen?" to their opponent.

Alice 2A vs Suika 6B

To break it down, if Alice moves up to Layer-C, expecting Suika to be either on Layer-B or Layer-C, Alice will get hit by the random nonsense spewed out by Suika Layer-A like Suika 6B or 66B, since her 2A loses to Suika 6B and 66B as seen above. And on the flipside, if Suika is on Layer-C and blocks, then Alice is rewarded with a bullet lockdown into guard crush. Technically, neither player should still be on Layer-A since it's the least rewarding, and most risky, of the three layers. But alas, because it technically works, it can't be counted out entirely. It can be used to force the opponent to recalculate and readjust to the different Layers.

When you use all three options equally then you would in theory become unpredictable, and therefor unreadable. However, that also means that you're taking rather large risks that gain low rewards in the process, while the other player is not. And you would be doing this all just for the sake of throwing your opponent's game off. This is why you most often see Layer-C being the most used in tournament play, since it's the least risky and allows you to evaluate what Layer level your opponent is on.

With the above scenario, if the Alice player is on Layer-C all the time, they they are rewarded quite a bit for successful counters to Layer-B and are not harmed when the opponent chooses Layer-C as well. Now, the Alice does indeed get hit with random crap from Suika's Layer-A, but the payoff isn't nearly as good for Suika Layer-A>Layer-C as it is for Alice Layer-C>Layer-B. So even if you go through the trouble of using all three Layers, at the end of the day the payoff for Layer-C, when used consistently, ends up being better and stronger than the payoff of Layer-A. This is why many good players get frustrated when they bump into novice players relying on things somewhere between Layer-A and Layer-B. It forces them to "level down" their game to Layer-B and/or play even more aggressively than they'd like to.

Finally, you can't really classify all this as a Mixup, since a Mixup is defined by one player having absolute initiative and the other player being forced to defend against it. This also isn't a Mind-Game since again you don't have full initiative, and you're not technically forcing the opponent to do anything. This may be labeled as a Metagame since it relates to tactics and strategy, and is certainly preemptive. But for the most part, the Fighting Game community just labels it as "Yomi". And refers to bad Yomi as either "RPS" or "Mashing" because RPS is commonly seen as just random guessing.

In closing, I would like to say "anything truly predictable can be countered". However, reaction and execution time can get in the way of this. It's both the game's rules and the player abilities that determine what is and what's not rewarding/reliable per scenario.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Frames and Numbers

I've talked about Advantage in the past, but I know a lot of players look at frame data and just go "huh, numbers, wha?". And even if they somewhat understand what a + or - in a chart means, they really don't do the math on it or care about specifics. Now, I can relate to this because math hurts my head, I hate mathematics outside of geometry (which is the only form of math that I love) for the most part. Be that as it may, I want to look at some numbers and talk about how they effect the game.

Alice 6B with overlayed hitboxes

First, we're going to look at Alice's 6B or 66B, as seen above, both moves actually have the same data. And here are the stats:

Startup: 9F
Active: 3F
Block Advantage: +1F

First, what this means is that if the opponent blocks this attack (which we call the Boot), Alice will recover one frame before the opponent. So if both the opponent and Alice jump after that move is blocked, Alice leaves the ground first, by one frame. It also means if Alice were to immediately do it again after the first one, an opponent would need a move with 8F startup just to trade with it, and 7F startup in order to beat it. And this is assuming they both did it as soon as possible.

In my opinion, data isn't really hard to look at when looking at neutrality (rather than advantage/disadvantage). For example, If a move is +0 on block and the next move has 9F startup, then the opponent needs at least 9F to trade -- since that's frame for frame -- and 8F to beat it.

Now I know people sometimes wonder what any of that has to do with actual playing. And really, not many people (or possibly no one) actually thinks of those numbers while they are hitting buttons and playing. But it is something to think about before and after a game.

Here's why. If we look at Suika's move list, we can see the fastest move she has is an 8F startup move, and that's her 2B kick. That means the best Suika can do against Alice 66B followed immediately by Alice 6B is to trade with it, since Suika has no faster moves it's impossible to beat it. However, the Boot isn't even Alice's fastest move, Alice also has 2B which is 8F startup and 5B which is 7F startup, meaning they're faster than the Boot. So, what that means is Suika really has no hope of beating Alice's 5B or 2B after blocking a 66B. Suika's only real options are to jump away, or risk using either a 236B Firepunch or Bomb. In the case of both the Firepunch and Bomb, these moves have recovery time so they are baitable and therefor can be punished on block/whiff if Suika guesses wrong.

Suika hate books

And that's pretty much all there is to it. People sometimes get confused by this sort of thing because of random variables like execution and lag/latency. Occasionally a Suika player might just stick out a 2B there and it might actually work because the Alice screwed up, but this is why knowing the data is important to some people. When we "look at the facts" by reading the data, the fact is, Suika can't stop Alice's 5B or 2B after blocking Alice's 66B, and can only hope to trade with a well timed 6B after a 66B. Knowing that all this is fact, and not fiction or theory, can help both players. It can help the Alice player understand that, while a character like Hong can certainly stop this situation using a 5F move (Hong's 5A), a Suika player simply can not, and if Suika gets away with it, it means the Alice player's execution isn't as it could/should be. Likewise, it also lets Suika players know not to mindlessly attempt things that shouldn't/don't work.

Analyzing frames also let's us discover things like the correct way to escape Boot Rush in general. It also helps unravel the mysteries of why Youmu can escape tech traps when the rest of the cast can't, and why Yukari can escape aerial blockstrings when the rest of the cast can't -- it all comes down to frames and hitboxes.

But, So What;

Well, I will say that you don't actually need to look at frames, memorize them, or even understand how any of it works to be a good player. In fact, all of that information can be learned through trial and error experience. You don't need to know that none of Suika's moves are fast enough or not from looking at the data, not when you can experiment with each move in-game and discover that through gaming experience.

But as I pointed out before, there are random variables that effects us. Execution issues, and netplay lag/latency can sometimes create chaotic results. And rather than grinding until you have "proven" it through manual means, you could just look at the raw data, do a little math, and prove it at a glance. And there are some people who are stubborn or perhaps not so observant as to even notice this situation.

To quote Buktooth: "Match experience can replace knowing data, but knowing data can often let you come to conclusions that would otherwise require match experience.

In plainer English, being up on your knowledge helps you adapt to unknown situations faster

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Aerial Strife

Again, we start this post with a video, rather than an image:

High quality version: IaMP: All Character air traps

As we can see in the above video, blocking a move in the air can lead to disaster of varying levels. In the first half of the video we see the majority of the roster has a way to deal 100% spirit damage resulting in an air guard crush, which rewards the attacker with a juggle combo opportunity.

In the second half of the video we see that most of these aren't actually air-tight as far as frames go. The defender can drop their guard and intentionally be hit out of these strings in order to prevent themselves from being spirit crushed.

On the other hand, even when the opponent drops their guard, plenty of characters have some sort of follow up combo they can do. For example, Sakuya Izayoi can continue the combo rather seamlessly even if the opponent "takes the hit". But Patchouli Knowledge pretty much gets nothing if the opponent intentionally lowers their guard against j.B book and gets knocked down. But some aren't really even particularly good. Alice Margatroid's is very specific to the corner (and exceptionally difficult to pull off), while Suika Ibuki's also must be done near the corner and yet can be avoided altogether.

Reimu Hakurei doesn't appear in the second portion because Reimu's air string is actually completely airtight, and the opponent can't intentionally drop their guard against it. Hong Meirin and Yuyuko Saigyouji also don't appear in the video at all until the end (where they stand around and do nothing), because they aren't really able to take advantage of this functionality of the game. Both Yuyuko's bullets and melee are far too slow to be used in this way, and Hong simply has no real way of keeping the opponent high enough.

All characters, however, can intentionally land before their opponent and use a ground-based melee attack that can't be air guarded, in order to guard-break the opponent. This was left out of the video because I feel it should be rather obvious and should go without saying (or showing).

So, this brings up the subject of intentionally taking a hit in order to avoid something that's really worse. A sacrifice, if you will. This really isn't a mindgame or a mixup, it's simply a lockdown trap that forces the opponent to basically go kamikazi if they want to avoid a worse situation. But what does that mean for how the game flows? Well it's really rather simple: By being in the air mindlessly and uncovered, you risk being locked down in an air-to-air string or simply guard broke by a ground-to-air break, so don't be in the air recklessly.

Sakuya air tech trap

But more importantly, it also means a player shouldn't be using air-teching (mid air recovery) thoughtlessly. As most of these characters can and will use their air strings to tech trap you. This is particularly common practice among Reimu and Sakuya players, who regularly end their bread and butter combos in a way to provide them with an optimal tech trap situation. If the opponent foolishly techs into the trap they will be met with one of these air lockdown strings resulting in another crush or break, which leads to a reset-combo.

This isn't uncommon in other games with air-techs either. Games like Melty Blood, Guilty Gear, Marvel vs Capcom 2, and Street Fighter Alpha 3 all have players who regularly take advantage of the way tech recovery works in each game. Of course, learning how to do these consistently is also an important part of preventing your opponent from teching recklessly against you.

Remilia airdash

On a final side note, some characters have better chances of escaping air lockdown strings and air tech traps than others. Remilia Scarlet (seen above) has a rather unique airdash due to it's overall speed, and Remilia also comes equipped with the ability to do three of them instead of two, which can help to avoid a lot of traps. Youmu Konpaku also recovers from an air tech three frames faster than any other character. And Yukari Yakumo recovers two frames faster after airblocking than any other character. So it's nice to keep these sorts of things in mind when playing as or against these special characters.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Moving Backwards to Win

Moving the opposite direction of your opponent may sound like an odd way to win, but in IaMP it's not a bad idea.

Air Backdashing
Youmu j.A against Yuyuko j.A

In the above image we see that Yuyuko's j.A has a blind spot. What isn't apparent in the image is that Yuyuko's j.A is also incredibly slow with a very laggy 15F startup, while Youmu's j.A has a very quick 6F startup. Adding to that, Yuyuko's forward airdash isn't cancellable until after the 10th frame, whereas her air backdash is cancelable after the 7th frame.

Yuyuko j.D4A against Youmu j.A

So, instead of challenging Youmu in the air by moving forward, Yuyuko can instead move backwards and keep Youmu at her optimal distance, as we see in the above image. The attack box has quite a bit of range, while Youmu's doesn't quite reach. Therefor, moving away from Youmu is really much better for Yuyuko than moving forward.

But it's not limited to just the use of range, it also compensates for a lot of things. Baiting your opponent into trying to attack you in the air leaves them vulnerable when they whiff the attack, which you can capitalize on by using one airdash to first avoid their attack, then quickly using your second airdash to move forward and hit them as they are recovering from their move. Of course, it may be more satisfying to use superior range in order to CH your opponent and send them reeling, but even just forcing your opponent to block on the recovery of a whiffed move can reward you with a crush sequence, which is even better since you get both physical damage and spirit damage as a reward.

Alice IABD trigraze against Sakuya j.236C j.A/B

Here we have another air backdash situation, but this one's a little different. This one involves Alice starting on the ground, and Sakuya using bullets. This is referred to as a trigraze (triangle graze) because it involves a forward ground dash into a quick instant air backdash. Since you transition from a forward dash to a highjump and then immediately into an air backdash you are grazing the whole time, and most characters will continue to graze until they land.

Because Sakuya's knives have a laggy startup you can't really do the j.236C knives at point blank range, nor would you want to do them while on the ground. If Alice simply walks forward into the effective attack range then Sakuya is forced to back off before using the j.236C, or risk being sniped by Alice.

However, once the bullet coverage is set, Alice will not be able to counter it so easily. Pretty much any forward movement from Alice will result in Sakuya's melee attacks connecting. Instead, what Alice can do in this situation is a trigraze. This is because at that specific range Sakuya will attempt to hit Alice with a melee attack, but Alice is quickly moving backwards in the air which both avoids Sakuya's melee and grazes Sakuya's bullets.

Alice D4 against Marisa 22s

Here we have another situation where moving backwards can avoid problematic situations. In the above image we see Alice backdashing through Marisa's 22A and 22B that were canceled off a 6B. This would normally be a high/low mixup that is difficult to react to, but because backdashes contain six to nine frames of melee invulnerability (depending on character) plus grazing frames, they can be used to avoid some things. Now, being invulnerable for only 6F doesn't sound like a lot, and really it isn't, but it's just enough to pass through an attack.

Marisa is a bit special in this case because if she were to instead cancel the 6B into a 5C bullet then Alice would only graze the first two bullets, the third one fired would actually hit Alice for a knockdown. And that can discourage mindless backdash option selecting. But instead of doing mindless backdashing; you'll want to react to the fact that Marisa is doing a melee and not a bullet, or choose to delay your backdash right before an attack comes so that you'll naturally backdash right before a bullet instead of being much too early. But as said before, Marisa is special in that her bullets can cause knockdown on hit, while most bullets actually don't. Therefor even if you do mindlessly backdash out of a lot of situations, the worst that can happen is some minor damage caused from weak little bullets.

Youmu HJ7 away from Yukari bullet trap

In the above image we see Yukari starting with a 6B stopsign followed by a 2C and then cancelling the 2C with something (from top to bottom: hj9.2B, 623A, hj9.2A). This is a really effective bullet trap when used in the corner, since the opponent's movement is limited to either forwards or up. However, while midscreen, the opponent Youmu doesn't have the limitation and can therefor use options such as D4 or HJ7 (high jump 7).

What isn't shown in the image is what happens when Yukari doesn't use a bullet at all and goes straight for a 22x melee. Well, it's really dependent on the opponent and the 22x move used. In the case of Yukari, a 22B would fail since it has quite a low hitbox that can be jumped over, and in the case of 22A it depends on how close Youmu was when it was used. The problem is that 2C's effective firing range happens to have a gap, so it must be used from a bit further away, and from that distance 22A fails. Therefor, Youmu is rather free to simply use a HJ7 out of Yukari's trap while midscreen.

But, that's when the Yukari player will have to start using clever staggered melee, leaving a few frames gaps between a melee chain will cause a move to hit a recklessly HJ7'ing opponent. For example, if Yukari does a few 2A's to push the opponent into the 2C range, and then uses 2C, the opponent can escape with an HJ7 like before. But if Yukari instead does a few 2A's followed by a 6B, the sign will smack the opponent out of an HJ7 attempt. Thus, melee chains are used to discourage mindless option selecting.

Alice walking backwards

There is one other way to move backwards, and that's to simply walk backwards. Pretty simple sounding, isn't it?

Well, once again I'll mention that I come from a Fighting game background, and for many years the concept of walking backwards out of the range of a melee attack has been ingrained in my head. For example, if Ryu were to do a jump-in attack, rather than having to block it and suffer the -F disadvantage, or having to risk anti-airing it when he has options like VC/CC/parry that can potentially punish my anti-air, I can simply push 4 and move backwards our of it's range.

IaMP makes things a little difficult though because of the functionality of an airdash, and moves with gigantic range such as Alice's j.A dolls. When I first began playing I wondered how the hell one was supposed to walk away from Alice's effective range, since even if Alice started with her back to the corner she could cover basically the entire screen with an HJ9 and two forward air dashes.

But, this is when I realized that airdashes are rather limited, and it's in their limitation that you find the answer. Backwalking away from Alice forces her to use an airdash in order to keep you in range. But forward airdashes are laggy and move in a linear and predictable way. Alice's forward airdash requires 10F before it can be canceled, and her j.B and j.A have 10-16F startup (respectively). That gives you time to do things like dash forward under her or anti-air her. You could also choose to walk inward under her j.A or backward away from her j.B, since Alice is moving forward it means the player has lost the ability to use precise control, both the j.B and j.A are only able to hit specific areas which you can avoid. But in many cases, if Alice does use an airdash then the next attack won't be so quick, and the opponent can smack Alice with a well timed and spaced anti-air.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Passive and Direct Anti-Airs

Youmu j.A hitbox

We start this post with Youmu Konpaku performing a jumping A attack with the hitboxes overlayed on the image. As you can see, that jump attack is rather good. And what you may or may not realize is that very few characters in the game have moves that can hit directly above them, and therefor if a Youmu player positions the j.A directly over your head there's almost no normal moves that can actually beat it.

Now, I came from a Fighting game background with such games as Super Street Fighter 2 (and Turbo), Street Fighter Alpha 3, Capcom vs. SNK 2, and Street Fighter 3;3rd Strike. And so I was extremely use to the fact that a simple down+heavy = free guaranteed anti-air. And so, diving into games such as IaMP and MeltyBlood where you don't always get to punch some one out of the sky was really giving me quite a headache. But, fortunately, I've learned that I was simply looking at it the wrong way.

Sakuya dash under Youmu j.A

My first instinct was to get under the opponent, since I normally play the characters in other fighting games who can usually use some sort of crossunder trick like a slide or something. This actually works pretty well for characters that go really low to the ground during a forward dash, like Sakuya Izayoi in the above picture. But first of all, this wasn't working too well for the characters that didn't go low to the ground like Patchouli Knowledge or Yukari Yakumo. And second it wasn't really flipping the situation in my favor since forward dashes have a cool-down period and therefor I was still at a disadvantage.

Sakuya 2C successful anti-air

What I was looking for is what is seen in the above image. My precious one-button anti-air, Sakuya 2C. This move hits directly above Sakuya and it's what I thought to be the answer for all my troubles. However:

Sakuya 2C failed anti-air

As you can see, bullets can be air dashed through via the graze function. And I began to realize when I started to use this move was about passive control over the opponent's air movement and the controlling of certain vectors. See, I started to use Sakuya 2C as seen in the above image, but that wasn't working since Youmu can airdash through it and smack Sakuya anyway. But that's when things started to trigger in my head; instead of moving myself, I could force my opponent to move instead. And it's this movement that I wanted to take advantage of.

Sakuya 2C passive anti-air

Basically, if I positioned myself and fired 2C upwards at Youmu, the opponent would be forced to airdash through to bullets. But what I understood about airdashing is they only move in two directions, forwards and backwards. This essentially achieved the exact same thing I was doing in the first place, which was dashing under my opponent. But this was infinitely better because instead using forward dashing myself and losing my advantage, I was forcing my opponent to airdash and make them lose their advantage. As we see in the above image, if Youmu comes in at the angle in which to use j.A then Sakuya's 2C will hit, and a player paying attention would instead use an airdash to avoid being hit by the 2C. If the player does a backwards airdash then they are put well out of range to use any of Youmu's air melee attacks, and likewise if they airdash forwards they will overshoot Sakuya by quite a bit and Sakuya can hit from behind freely.

Now, while this isn't a direct "I'm going to punch you in the face" anti-air, it's still a very highly effective one. Especially in the case of Sakuya who can highjump cancel her 2C or special-cancel it as well, enabling Sakuya to hit Youmu out of the airdash or simply gain direct advantage and begin a lockdown string.

Youmu 5C j.A jump-in

So, in previous posts I talked about how using bullets can prevent an opponent from using a melee attack, and so tossing bullets and then performing a jump-in will prevent the opponent from using an attack to anti-air you. And the fact is, mindlessly jumping in at your opponent is pretty scrubby play in just about every game, including IaMP. In order to prevent Sakuya from having such a free and effective anti-air, the Youmu player should have been setting up an array of bullets in which to prevent the Sakuya from attacking in the right place at the right time. What we see in the image above is Youmu having used 5C before doing a hj9.A, this prevents the Sakuya player from "camping" the ideal anti-air space because the bullets fired by Youmu prevent Sakuya from attacking.

Once again, it all comes back to controlling space and zoning. If Youmu shot bullets in the spot where Sakuya intends to anti-air from, then the opponent Sakuya could not stand there and fire 2C, making Youmu's j.A once again safe to use. But this is where the game gets a little tricky, since now it's Sakuya's job to limit Youmu's ability to set up bullets, which Sakuya can do with f.A and 236C and 214A and j.C, etc.

Thus, our midrange game is again filled with fun and interesting dynamics.

- Copyright © Xenozip.


This will be a follow-up post for my previous post regarding Bullet Traps and Coverage, so make sure you view that a bit first.

The Yomi Therein;

When looking at the way corner bullet traps work (more specifically, bullet cancel traps), it may appear to be a mixup at first glance, but it is actually a "mind game", not a mixup, which is very significantly different, and I'll try to first explain how before I explain why.

Now as we see in the second video I posted "All Character Tech Traps" in my previous post, if the opponent chooses to highjump through the bullets, they risk getting counterhit by Marisa's j.B or j.A for a whopping 4,600 damage which is nearly half their lifebar. The punishment for moving forward is decidedly less, but still quite a bit being somewhere in the 3k damage area (and possibly more).

However, the punishment for simply blocking the bullets is only spirit damage and some very minor recoverable chip damage. On the other hand, as we see in the last Marisa clip, the situation loops back in on itself if Marisa chooses to cover forward movement with an instant air dash and the opponent blocks. Marisa can do it again, and again, provided the opponent either blocks or moves forward and doesn't move upward.

The result of these facts is what causes most top players not to recklessly highjump through bullets or spam laggy graze attacks. They are fully aware that choosing the incorrect option could lead to a loss in a heartbeat. Instead, they choose to block and be patient.

The reason is because, particularly against Marisa, blocking the bullets doesn't immediately result in a GC or any real direct damage. And even when it actually does result in a GC, they still have one more chance to block correctly or allow themselves to be staggered before they take any real damage. And even if Marisa manages to do all this, they really can just block low and the only way Marisa can hit them is with a 22A or a jumping attack, both of which are telegraphed and they can react to them with a high block. And even if Marisa manages to hit with a 22A, the defender will simply be knocked down and will take some minor damage and give the aggressor chips/point items, but the defender will also be able to tech roll out of the corner.

And then there's other important things to remember, like being able to D-Bomb a melee attack, or backdash through a 22 attack, or being able to reversal/DP through gaps. And then there's also the option of dashing forward and immediately blocking by inputting D6 [4], which is a pretty good option select for those with very quick dashes.

So, you might be thinking "So I should never move? Just block?", and the answer is actually "You should do both moving and not moving". If you simply block all the time, the opponent will have free reign to chip you, guard crush you, and possibly combo you if you block wrong. In the case of Sakuya and Alice, its very important to move when you are aware of the correct direction to move in. If you don't move they can 100% spirit damage GC you very easily and once that happens; Sakuya's 22s can actually lead to a B&B combo anyway, and Alice's boot attacks can keep you permanently staggered or break your guard into a 'boot loop' combo.

Thus, what they are doing isn't just pestering and baiting you into moving, there is actually a real threat in not moving as well, it's just that you have a lot more options when you block and you have a better chance of using reaction to your advantage. Since blocking means you will be reacting to what they do and trying to confirm before doing anything, but moving is entirely based on anticipation and is a guess where there is a right and a wrong with huge risk and low reward.

Mind Game;

So, as a result, we have a mindgame. The intention of a mindgame is to use a certain set of moves in order to force your opponent into making a bad decision, in which you can capitalize on. But there's much more to it than just that. To use a chess analogy, you can sacrifice several Pawns in order to bait out a really valuable piece like a Bishop. In fighting games like this one, the analogy applies in the sense that you can risk punishable movement for the opportunity to take away their life if they fall for the bait and allow themselves to take the risk of guessing right/wrong at the cost of potentially very high damage.

It becomes a mindgame when both players are aware of that and take carefully calculated measures to play to each other's yomi. After all, it isn't a mindgame if one of the players is mindless.

Here's the breakdown; In the case of Reimu, Marisa, and Sakuya as examples, if they go for that upwards movement coverage they have to highjump9 in order to do it. In the case of Marisa and Sakuya, if they do this when the opponent blocks they can simply take a step forward out of the corner and get behind Marisa/Sakuya, putting them in the corner. This is particularly bad for both of them since Sakuya can only hit behind her with her aerial 623 move and Marisa can't hit behind herself at all. Now that means they'd be put into the corner and the opponent would have direct frame advantage in which to do a jumping guard break or anti-air guard break for free damage plus corner knockdown. In the case of Reimu the opponent could D6 [4] to front step and then block, allowing them to jump up and hit Reimu from behind who is also unable to hit behind her with anything but her 421 teleports or air 236D Balls spellcards.

therefore, when the aggressor assumes the defender is a smart conservative player and will defend by blocking, they will ideally low IAD in order to keep the pressure string going and do additional spirit damage, as seen with the Sakuya and Marisa clips against the blocking opponent. The aggressor won't risk fishing for that huge damage with the highjump9 option because that risks completely losing momentum and they assume the opponent isn't crazy enough to risk using that option.

Now, a really smart and conservative aggressor would simply not cancel the bullets at all and wait to react to what the opponent does. Such as, if the opponent does a highjump, they lose the opportunity to net huge damage with a counterhit, but they still have the ability to chase the opponent out of the air with ground dashes for positioning and a quick jump string for a guard crush or a good solid anti-air for a guard break. Doing all this in-action allows the aggressor to take mental note of how the opponent reacts in a situation so that they can get a "read" (yomi read) on the opponent and familiarize themselves with the opponent's habits, perhaps even subconsciously.

If the opponent doesn't move then the aggressor still has frame advantage and they can smack them with another melee or another bullet and keep going, so they don't lose any momentum or initiative by doing this.

Thus, when better players see the opponent constantly doing highjump8 in any situation where they are at a disadvantage, the better player is thinking to themselves "Why would you do that? Don't you know if you keep doing that you'll eventually get CH to death?". And that's when they flip modes and start fishing for it.

If the situation was reversed and the smart player was on the defensive, the correct option is to play conservatively while mixing in some well educated guesses in order to keep the opponent from getting a read on you and getting in your head (if you're predictable, you die). Since if you do things intelligently-random it forces the opponent to guess what you will do, and the act of guessing is technically risky (as outlined above).

A well informed and patient opponent might simply allow themselves to be hit by a bullet out of a low jump (non-HJ jump), or be hit by a 22x move rather than trying to block it, simply so that they can be knocked down and tech out of the corner, which gives them much better chances of escape against certain characters, since a lot of characters will be forced to use melee in combination with bullets for okizeme rushdown. And it is the predictable melee attack that can be countered by DP's and D-Bombs or possibly even escaped with proper footing or backdashing, which is what the defender is banking on. Once you've teched into mid-screen you have slightly better movement options as outlined in the following section.

But really, that is quite literally the true definition of playing a mind game. A player who blocked intelligently and waiting for the right moment to either take the hit or sacrifice a bomb in order to get out of the corner and switch momentum was playing a counter-mindgame. They knew that they were being forced into making a bad decision, so they chose not to make any really bad choices and just take the hit that was least painful. In a way, it's a lot like a classic ST Ryu fireball trap, except that you can graze the fireballs.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Bullet Traps and Coverage

Been a while since I've posted, but I have learned quite a bit since my last post (I would hope so, it's almost been a year now) so I hope to transcribe some of what I've learned. Strap yourselves in, this post might be a doozie.

We start this post not with an image this time, but with a video:

High quality version: Suika Ibuki, bullet cancel framegap traps

Here we see some corner traps done with Suika Ibuki. If you were unfamiliar with the concept you might wonder what the hell is going on since all you really see is a bunch of hits and misses.

Well, the concept is, after using a melee attack the opponent is caught in blockstun, in which time you can toss a bullet which can be grazed by the opponent. However, in order to graze the bullet, the opponent would have to move in some direction. And that's what we're trying to hit; the movement.

However, you can also see in the video what happens when the opponent simply blocks; there's a good chance you can either continue to the pressure or even cause a GC.

But, as we see in the video, there's a correct answer and an incorrect answer for each situation. The reason is because most characters can't cover both forward and upward at the same time, but rather they can only cover either one individually. With Suika Ibuki for example, she can cover upwards movement by highjump canceling the bullet into a jump kick. And she can cover forwards movement either by using an instant air dash or by using her firepunch 236 special move.

If Suika picks the correct option she gets massive damage. And if the opponent picks the correct option they escape the trap. This is very clearly in Suika's favor because guessing right gives quite a chunk of damage as a reward, but guessing wrong when the opponent blocks or moves upwards hardly hurts her much, if at all.

This concept isn't limited to Suika Ibuki though. The Suika video was intended to illustrate how the situation becomes a forward/upward/block situation where there's a right answer and a wrong answer each time. But, most of the cast can utilize this technique as we see in the following video:

High quality version: All Character corner traps and combos

Now, this video was intended only to illustrate correct guesses, rather than going through and showing every single permutation of hit/whiff/block (the whiffs were omitted).

Sadly, there are some characters that simply do not take full advantage of this. Remilia, Yuyuko, and Hong Meirin rely mostly frame-traps rather than bullet-cancel-traps (which in the case of Remilia and Patchouli can actually be airtight blockstun strings). In their case they transition from melee to bullet without a gap, and then back into melee without giving the opponent the opportunity to pass through the bullets at all. So the trap occurs only after the bullet has been blocked.


So, does this apply while midscreen?

Well, the answer is both yes and no. While midscreen the opponent has some additional options such as moving backwards, which they can't do when their back is to the corner. There are three kinds of backwards movement, which is highjump7, backdash, and backwalk. I would say IABD is a separate form of backwards movement, but that hardly applies to this situation since it loses to everything.

A character like Suika can begind the trap midscreen by using 6B stomp canceled into a bullet, then canceling the bullet. The 6B moves her close enough that even if the opponent moves in a HJ7 fasion to get away Suika can smack them out of the sky with j.B explodey-foot. The reward for doing this is decidedly a great deal less than in the corner, but it's still rewarding.

The opponent also has the option of using a well timed backdash, which for all intents and purposes does indeed counter all of Suika's primary options after tossing the bullet.

Yukari 6B 2C hj9 whiff j.2B, Suika HJ7 escape

Yukari Yakumo, however, has no real way to stop HJ7 (highjump7) movement in this situation. The reason is because her fastest HJC (highjump cancel) is with 2C, but 2C has a very very specific range of effect. If Yukari is too close, the bullets will simply whiff. But if Yukari is within the proper range where 2C will connect, she will be out of range to really do anything that can counter HJ7 movement.

So while much of these traps don't "work" midscreen, they still "work" in the sense that even when you fail to gain direct damage you are still awarded with two direct benefits: First, the opponent is moving backwards and therefore closer to the corner. Second, you now have bullets on the screen to cover you and are at a direct strategic-position and frame advantage, which enables you to apply additional bullet and melee attacks to force the opponent further into the corner.

Adding Mixups;

There is actually a way to further discourage the use of movement while still baiting damage. But it's also particularly useful for crushing option selects and people who simply refuse to defend intelligently. The method is either delay chaining or using frame advantage "staggering" (note, staggering in this case is different from normal IaMP staggers). Basically, if you use quite a bit of bullets and goad the opponent into reckless movement, and if they are successful in escaping quite a bit then they might become overly reckless, which you can punish. Since a lot of bullet traps can begin from the first or second hit of a chain, you have a few opportunities to smack them out of a movement option with an additional chained/staggered melee rather than using bullets at all. Which in effect would be considered a bullet-feint, you pretend that you'll throw a bullet but instead hit with a melee that can't be passed through without invulnerability frames.

Suika 6B 22A versus Sakuya block then HJ8

For example, as we see at the end of the Suika Ibuki video, rather than canceling 2A into a bullet, you can delay the cancel into a 6B which is a melee that can't be passed through. therefore if the opponent recklessly moves, expecting you to throw a bullet, they will be tagged by the 6B. But it doesn't end there either. Suika can also cancel the 6B into another bullet, or cancel that 6B into a 22x melee. In the above image we have Sakuya who blocked a 6B and held HJ8 (D8) expecting to graze a bullet, but Suika instead canceled the 6B into 22A which results in Sakuya getting CH out of Suika's 22A headbutt.

So now you're applying both mixups and mindgames to the opponent, which will really force the opponent to either get their head in the game or be crushed.

The "stagger" that I referred to is using a melee attack that has significant frame advantage or neutrality, followed by another melee attack that isn't normally chainable but very fast or high priority. For this concept I'll use Suika and Sakuya as examples. Both of these characters have moves that are +0 on block, Sakuya's is 6A and Suika's is 6B.

After blocking one of these moves the opponent would normally expect the melee chain to be at the final stages and the following move to either be a bullet or 22x crush mixup. therefore they might be trying to recklessly option select by mashing buttons or trying to jump away. However, since these moves aren't disadvantageous, the aggressor can simply not cancel the attack but follow it up with a well timed quick light attack afterwards while option blocking. If the opponent does something like a late D-bomb or uppercut the aggressor will simply block. But if they are trying to jump or are mashing some laggy high priority move then the aggressor will most likely follow up with that quick light attack and stuff them out of their attempt, such as Sakuya 5A or Suika 2B, both of which are particularly fast and deadly. At which point they can reloop the chain back into their 6A or 6B, respectively.

Doing this is mostly effective against opponents who are really bad at defending against mixups and try to breeze through them by not dealing with them (countering them). But after all, any really predictable action has an answer to it, and if the opponent is predictably trying to escape rather than dealing with it the right way, they will die.

In my next post I'll talk about what effect all this has on the game and more specifically, regarding Mind-Games.

- Copyright © Xenozip.