A beginner's game plan: Knowing what to do and when to do it

SRK is filled with questions on how to learn SF, but the information is scattered, and the advice given is often not very pedagogical, so I’m left with a lot of questions. For me, the biggest problem is not execution or technical, it is strategy and actually having a plan on what to do for the match as a whole and for various specific situations. This thread is not about how to do something (which is the easy part), but what to do and when to do it.

In this post, I have tried to write down as many of my questions as possible. A lot of the questions are somewhat overlapping, so I may correct that later based on the answers I get. Many of them are also character specific, or worse, depend on both your own character and your opponent’s character, so there is probably not a simple answer to each question. If possible, a general answer would be great. If not, feel free to give URLs to existing posts/articles/websites/videos that contain quality information for beginners.

To make this thread more useful to others, I will edit good answers into this first post as I get them. If you have other strategy related questions that I forgot to ask, feel free to post them there, and I will edit them into this post.

**Q: What does it mean to learn fundamentals? Blocking and normals? Are throws part of it? Anyone can hold back or down-back to block, and anyone knows how press buttons for normals, so I assume that when people say, “learn fundamentals”, they actually mean “develop a game plan based only on the simplest moves”, right? Any good guides on that?

**How to respond to common situations:
**Q: What should you do when your opponent is knocked down?
Q: What should you do when you are knocked down?
Q: Which combo do you use when your opponent is stunned?
Q: What should do you do vs jump-ins?
Q: What should do you do vs projectiles?
Q: When should you attempt to jump in yourself?
Q: etc…

**Focus attacks:
**Q: Focus attacks are easy to do, but are they easy to use properly for a beginner?
Q: When should you use FAs to block projectiles/attacks? I can often do this, but the ultra boost is rarely worth it when I am hit again before the health meter is restored.
Q: When should you use FAs to hit an opponent? I can almost never connect with the focus attack, my opponent always seems to respond to it on reaction with an armor breaking special or throw.
Q: What combo should you use on crumple?
Knowing match-ups:
**Q: There are 35 characters in this game, so it’s a daunting task to learn all of them. I don’t know what I can and can’t do to to each character in various situations, so I eat a lot of supers and ultras, and my moves are often punished. Any advice on this other than loosing a few thousand times, and trying to remember why you lost?
Q: A good character for beginners would in my opinion be one that has a simple game strategy that does not depend much on your opponent’s character. Gouken is sometimes recommended to beginners because he doesn’t need hard links, but at the same time, they say he is very dependent on knowing his opponent, which makes him hard to use in my book. Which characters need to adapt the least to their opponents? (I expect Blanka on this one - any non-charge characters as well?)

**Game strategy:
**Q: For character X, what should your game strategy be? In SSF4, I have mostly been playing Hawk, so I checked out a Hawk tutorial on Youtube. It turned out to be a 10 minute combo video. Not exactly what I’d call a “tutorial”. Character specific information on websites like eventhubs mostly contain move lists, which isn’t very helpful either. The match-up threads in the character specific forums are better, but are not always beginner friendly. Is there a website that contains beginner friendly strategies for each character?

**What to do on reaction and what to predict:
**Q: Since I don’t know how to respond to common situations, and I don’t know a lot about what other characters can do, I basically play the entire game on reaction. For example, I have never understood throw teching. For me, that is something that just happens when both I and my opponent happen try to throw each other at the same time. How would you know if your opponent is trying to throw you or hit you with something else?

**Counterhits and reversals:
**Q: What is the difference between these two?
Q: There are two ways I get counterhits/reversals: When I’m trapped in a combo and I mash some high priority move hoping for a missed link, or by coincidence. Are you supposed to be able to time counterhits/reversals? If this is something you must do when your opponent misses a link, you can’t predict it, so I assume it must happen on reaction. What’s the visual cue, and how much time do you have to decide what to do?

**Q: I need to boost my damage output - which simple but good combos does character X have, and for which situations should they be used? (I have done all the character trials, but they don’t teach you how/when to use them, and they don’t always teach you the most practical combos.)


From my point of view, even the universe is a big but finite state machine, so everything is a flowchart. :slight_smile: In SF, good players have bigger flowcharts with more options and are good at randomizing which paths they take.

What I really wanted was a website where questions such as the ones I asked above are answered for each character in the game. Would be more approachable than analyzing hit boxes and frame data to figure out which moves/combos are good for what.

Read Maj’s footsies handbook in its entirety.
For the fundamentals I recommend an explanation of “footsies” and “zoning”, refer to near the bottom of the article, under “glossary”.

sonic hurricane dot com Footsies Handbook

This is seriously how I am feeling right now man haha. Although for me it is mostly in zoning. I mean, I get that I should put myself in an advantageous spot, but what do i do with the advantage? Do I then attack them? Do I just stand there in that advantage spot and throw fireballs (I main Ryu)? How big is that advantage spot? Does my advantage disappear when I go in for an attack (since I am getting in close it’s not really to my advantage anymore). Stuff like that.

Good topic.

All I can add is know what your opponent can and can’t do against you (matchups) and develop a general gameplan.

Kind of have to decide based on the situation, based on how they reacted last time you had them in this situation, and what you think they are likely to do this time. The advantage is not as concrete as “this is your free moment to throw fireballs.”


Your most damaging one. It’s character and meter dependent but popular choices are: Jumpkick+2-in-1, FA->combo, Super, and Ultra. You should use training mode (or the forums) to find out which option is most damaging for your character.

Anti-air moves. Check your character forum for a listing.

Depends on many factors. If close up, you can usually punish them with a jumpin or moves with superarmor or invincibility. You can also absorb them with FA to build ultra meter. You can throw your own projectile to counter it and build EX meter. You can simply block or neutral jump.

Generally any time your opponent is already committed to a movement or is not expecting the jump. For instance to hop a projectile shot at close range or on a waking opponent (some characters).

You’ll notice a lot of these answers were “it depends” and it does. There are no hard and fast rules on how you should play street fighter. Read the stickies, read the character forums, and play a lot. Over time you’ll realize what works and what doesn’t.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the tips; that Youtube video was especially interesting.

Anyway, I know many of the questions asked here are really basic, but I want to avoid developing bad habits, so I asked many questions where I used to believe I already knew the answers. Take knockdowns, for example: I haven’t played a lot of online games yet, but I have played enough arcade mode to easily beat it on hardest with Hawk without losing a single game. I always used prepare focus attacks on knockdowns because it works great against the computer, but I don’t think it has worked once online. I have problems with other attacks too, since a downed opponent seems to be invulnerable while they are in the wake-up frames, so it is very hard to hit them exactly when they become vulnerable. I usually hit too soon or too late, and get punished for it, so I’m mostly keeping my distance on knockdowns now.

Practice what they show in the video. This is one of the most efficicent techniques to learn in terms of effectiveness/difficulty. If you have no faith in your wakeup attacks whatsoever, at least stand just outside throw range and block. You will bait many shoryukens.

Theres way too many character specific question on there to go into right now so i just picked one
Answer: Rob SRK for notes.
I used to do it all the time when i was serious, personally im way to casual in SF4 to go through it.
You aren’t the only person playing your character go to the character forums and theres usually a matchs thread and a video thread. Print out or write down as much as you can find on each matchup.

  1. Make a word doc. and make a section for each character in the game.
  2. Go to a character forum and check all of the threads. any time you come up on any useful matchup information copy it and paste it into the document under that character’s name.
  3. print it out and read it ALOT
    Chances are your opponent won’t have the benefit of as much Matchup knowledge as you if you do a good job and that will be to your advantage. But by no means should you just sit on the information SRK has provided you, you should always be trying to add to that list yourself.

If you play online you can leave it by your console and use it as a quick “cheat sheet” once your opponents character selection comes up. Also leave space on there so you can
write new stuff down as soon as you figure it out so you don’t forget it and lose to it again.