Balrog Epiphany



I always wondered why Balrog was top tier in both SF4 and SSF4 yet never won major tournaments. After some thinking I believe I’ve found the answer. To keep it simple Balrog has bad offense and defense but good zoning. In fact his zoning is so good that everyone overlooks how bad is offense and defense are. Lets break it down:

Offense- He doesn’t have much of a high/low/throw mix-up game since his only high attack is dash swing blow which is easy to react to and punish. He entirely lacks any kind of cross-up (unless you count corpse hops with head butts) or command throw. His only reliable way to deal chip damage is a well spaced jab dash straight but that can be punished by a focus attack. Of course you can play a guessing game though by mixing in dash smash, but unless you’re burning ex meter to do it then the guessing game isn’t in you favor. The only positive side to his offense is his ability to lock down an opponent (especially in the corner) with jab pressure, but with none of the above what is he going to do out of a lock down? The inevitable throw? A frame trap to bait throw techs? That can get predictable very fast.

Defense- Now defense is pretty universal across all characters, you block attacks and break throws. The only defining characteristics are a characters reversal options. Now Balrog has quite a few viable reversal options between head butt, super, ultra, TAP, and ex dash punches. All of those options have one critical flaw though, they can all be safe jumped. The fastest ones are jab head butt and super, both come out at 8 frames which are easy to safe jump. The only thing saving Balrog’s defense is his 3 frame jab which allows him to interrupt block strings that are normally safe against other characters.

Zoning- This is the one area that makes Balrog good. He has one of the best set of normals in the entire game. His pokes along with dash punches allow him to control mid range very well. Off beat jab dash straights can throw off a players timing and ex dash punches can beat out random pokes. He even has good anti-airs to complement his ground game with crouching fierce and head butt. He’s also surprisingly hard to zone with fireballs since TAP, head butt, ex dash punches, super, and ultra can all go through them. He even has some tricks like option select armor cancels and dash super/ultra to ensure that fireballs aren’t a threat to him.

Now with all of that said I still think Balrog is a good character but he seems to fall apart at higher levels. Balrog depends on gaining a solid life lead to force his opponent to come to him and deal with his zoning game which ends up widening his life lead. Of course this can be turned around and if the opponent can obtain a solid life lead first then play some good defense then they will beat Balrog. Admittedly though it is very hard to gain a solid life lead against Balrog because his zoning is good, but if a player can get past it then it becomes much easier because Balrog had bad defense, and once the opponent establishes a solid life lead it becomes hard for Balrog to come back because he has bad offense.

Any comments are welcome. On a final note, I’m switching to Dan.


Umm… I think you’re over analyzing it.
I like Balrog, and I think he’s a good character, but he’s BORING to play.
I don’t really think it matters about the character you play but how you use it (some characters are excluded to a degree… and depends on the match up too).
Just because a Balrog didn’t win a major tournament doesn’t mean there aren’t good Balrog players out there…
Maybe we might see some at Japan’s Evo!

Yeah… most people can’t afford to go to the major tournaments ;(.


Naw I don’t think I’m over analyzing it, and entertainment value had nothing to do with what I was talking about so I’m not sure why you mentioned that he was boring. The best Balrog players in America are probably Keno and P.R. Outside of America Balrog is not a very popular character, in Japan I think the best one is Aojiru Guile and he doesn’t place high consistently. I guess my post ended up being more about Balrog’s tool set and flaws instead of his placement in tournaments. Still though my point stands is that every Balrog player at some point in a tournament will run into a player who can obtain a solid life lead and play good defense. This makes it very hard to advance in placements.


;( sorry I don’t know TOO much about Balrog… but that was just my opinion. I just started… but… wasn’t Justin Wong at the grand finals with Daigo last year? Balrog versus Ryu? That wasn’t super… but I’m sure there was a reason for him.


That was the closest a Balrog has gotten to winning a major and Justin doesn’t even main him.


And Justin didn’t get to the finals playing Boxer.

IMO Boxer will win a lot more if the tournaments were FT5/10.

It’s too easy to random out boxer if he needs to regain the life lead and as Corner-Trap said at some point you will need to be on the offense and not only concerned to zone your opp.

Also I think that Boxer players have to be prefect to win a major and some other chars have a lot more comeback ability and easier time punishing one mistake with some nasty damage.

Just look at the damage of j.hp,, c.hp xx hp srk from Ryu. This combo has only one 2f link does big damage/stun and it’s easy to confirm and to connect because he has a very good cross-up. As Ryu there’s a lot of other chars with easy big damage/stun that comes from 50/50 situations.

Sure boxer has some big damage combos, some of them really hard to do and some of them easy. But for you to be able to land one of this your opp has to make a mistake and not just guess wrong. Oh and some boxer combos are char specific and that hurts him too.

But for me the major issue is that boxer has no good reversal option. The ones he has are either throwable, slow or impossible to do if you don’t have charge. That’s why it’s easy to throw boxer, Sure you can late tech, but you will be under pressure, some times with the only option being tech the throws and you could get counter hit into ultra and be afraid to tech next time. If you have to block high then the only good special to beat throws, lp HB, it’s not an option (unless you want to try super/ultra but thats throwing your best tool out the window, and only if it wasn’t a cross-up). And even lp HB isn’t safe, as some other reversals in the game.

Want to win best of 3 with Boxer consistently? Don’t get KD, don’t get pressured and never loose the life lead. Good luck trying to fulfill all these during a major tournament.

BTW I play Boxer exclusively and I don’t intend to change char. The game is what it is, and I like the challenge and having to consistently mind fuck my opp. The problem is when you don’t know, can’t read your opp. That’s when I get frustrated.



I pretty much feel the same way about Rog. However, I enjoy playing him. I think the fact that everyone knows “what you have and must stop it” is why I enjoy playing Rog.


I think he meant it from a sheer numbers point of view. If you don’t have a lot of good players playing Balrog, chances aren’t good that one of them will win a tourney.

But yeah I can see what you mean. I had made a similar observation because Bison often wins the same way: through good, solid play, but with no way to do huge damage off a single guess (i.e. comeback factor).

Although in vanilla, Rog felt like he did a ton of more damage than Bison could, but in super it doesn’t feel all that different; Which is weird because the damage changes were very subtle.

On a side note, Gootecks did win Sinsation back in 2009 as Rog, but that was very early in vanilla.


Balrog is a type of character that nearly every fighting game has, which is the one high tier character that is easy to pick up, or at least easier than all the others. We all know that this character is good (Smash Brothers Melee has Sheik for example) but rarely places top spot because of a few reasons.

A few things come into place that really make Balrog fit in this spot. He has no fireballs, so new players don’t have to worry about messing up their fireball game and getting jumped in on repeatedly. He has a batch of really good normals, so new players don’t have to deal with not hitting their anti airs due to spacing or just getting slapped around in footsies with average players due to their range, speed, power. His basic combo is probably the easiest in the game. He has a bread and butter that leads directly into ultra. His three frame jab can be abused heavily at low levels. He has LP Dash Straight which is pretty safe if done from the right ranges, which isn’t too hard.

This is also why a lot of average Balrog players simply lose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cringed at the desperate overhead or headbutt that most Balrog players use, deciding that it’s time to lay the entire game on a guess instead of sticking to basics. For the most part, they simple don’t know how to use basics. A lot of players have a hard time understanding that a good amount of Balrog matches call for using dash punches sparingly and really relying on those normals.

Not to mention, Balrog is a match that nearly everyone knows and understands because of how widely he is played. There hasn’t been a tournament I’ve gone to in which I haven’t had to play a Balrog player.

Really basics is a good thing to call it for Balrog because that’s all he has and is. Simple to understand, hard to master. The only way a Balrog player is going to win consistently is simply by playing solid. Compared to the rest of the cast, Balrog has little to no ways of gimmicking out damage that don’t put him at a huge risk. Viper has her burn kick mix up, Ryu has his tastu mix up and cross up game, Akuma has his demon flip vortex madness. Balrog will never cross up, overhead is easy to see and block, so you’re going to have to work with the basics that the game gives you. This is all zoning with normals, figuring out when and where to use your counter hit strings and mixing up your grab game. Also, for the love of all things good, learn to block and tech throw if you don’t know how.

At the end of the day this is all you’re going to have with Balrog and you can make it work. But, in a world full of Rufus dive kick pressure/mix up, vortexes and the tricks that other characters have, you’re just going to have to understand your basics and play solid.

Final thing, Balrog is only boring to play as if you’re playing against bad people.


So I guess everyone can agree that Balrog has bad offense and defense but good zoning. If a player understands how to deal with his zoning game then he isn’t that hard of a character to beat. Getting a solid life lead against him isn’t that hard because of his bad defense and he has a really hard time getting that life lead back because of his bad offense. For a Balrog player to win a major tournament he would have to play a perfect zoning game along with ensuring he gets the life lead first every round. Over the course of a major tournament that could be impractical if not impossible to maintain. Having a complete lack of a comeback factor or decent options to break a players defense really hurt his viability.


I read somewhere that Daigo thinks Balrog is the best character in the game. I wonder why he thinks that, and what we’re perhaps getting wrong, because I agree with pretty much everything in this thread.

I wouldn’t say balrog has bad defence, in the general sense that he can block and tech. If you’re good at that you have good defense, reversals and teleports are overrated in that regard. Offensively though, it’s very hard to win with him. I’d say corner pressure is really the only good kind of pressure with balrog. If you play your cards right 'rog has to be one of the best characters at keeping an opponent in the corner. From there you just have to push, that’s really where the hard part begins, because you have no mixups at your disposal, you just have to win with really solid play.


Really? Wish he would explain why. Also the threat of the reversal is more powerful than the reversal itself. Knowing a character has a dragon punch makes you more cautious while pressuring even if your opponent isn’t the type to spam it. That alone gives you more opportunities to escape. Balrog doesn’t have anything like that so anybody can just go ape shit when he’s knocked down.

His jab pressure is good at locking down especially in the corner, but what good is a lock down with no options out of it? Solid zoning is his ONLY way to win at high levels.


Exactly. He doesn’t main him and he was damn close to beating Daigo’s Ryu, so clearly there aren’t any major limitations with the character itself.


A single incident does not disclose an entire case.


I think it’s cause he’s just so capable from a footsies standpoint. Amazing normals that can be combo’d into for great damage for little to no meter. TAP’s and super armor rush punches almost nullify fb’s and fishing for pokes. The very concept of him is strong in so many aspects. He handles zoners extremely well while having the damage and priority to wreck shit.


He has a big bunch of health and some solid defenses (I think people are really overdoing it with the ‘he has no offense/defense’ game purely because he’s a little weak on wakeup etc). He’s my ideal candidate for ‘brick shithouse’ and the fact his Normals are some of if not the best in the game defines the character overall.

This removes the requirement of meter to accomplish things some other characters may rely apon entirely even if, in the grand scheme of things, said characters probably outdamage Balrog due to it. As people have said, the crucial issue is that most if not pretty much the major majority of Balrog representatives bar the real pro’s are a bit too hooked up on unviable playstyles or just simply playing bad opponents, heck I’m one of them and I’ll happily meaty-overhead spam on inexperienced people all day for fun knowing full well that’s the type of garbage that would see you get beaten the hell into by a good player.

I think that for all the talk we have and CAN do, very VERY few people can play ‘realistically’ with the character. This year I think is just a case of bad luck, really, every character has that era. Heck I don’t really remember even seeing a Sagat in Evo this year and if there where I either missed the fight altogether or they got knocked out clean, it just happens - At least I hope so.

Can’t really say much else as I’d be reduced to fanboyism or over-glorification. Afterall, even though I’m just a mediocre player at my very VERY best, Balrog is all I know…

Give some faith!


Neither of y’all addressed the actual flaws I brought up. If a player can get a solid life lead against Balrog then play some good defense then what can he do?


It’s pretty simple actually. Balrog can come back by playing solid with basics.

You have a few options when forced to go on offense. Balrog’s normals allow for some really great counter hit set ups. Those set ups lead to conditioning the other play to sit. At this point you can take advantage of Balrog’s grab. The mix up game is simple but very effective. Other than that, you’re going to have to punish every mistake and pressure them into making their own. Don’t forget that you can always push your opponents into the corner where he shines, you can do this through normals and spacing or you can spend ultra or super meter to get them there.

The hard part about it is since Balrog is so simple you’re going to have to mix it up to the point that your opponent can’t see what’s coming next. If they do, you’re done.

Balrog’s simplicity might seem like it hurts him in the long run, but really he has everything he needs to be a factor at all times, even when he’s down on life.


Maeda Taison seems to do just fine with him.


That sounds nice in theory, but what is necessarily stopping a high level player from just blocking low and breaking the inevitable throw? Balrog depends on the opponent to make a mistake since he can’t force them to. Every Balrog player will eventually run into another player who is content with just sitting on a life lead while taking no risks as they watch Balrog attempt an offense. Once people learn to stop hitting buttons when under pressure then it will be even harder to make a come back.

To be honest I don’t know much about him.