Street Fighter x Tekken might as well be called Resource x Management. It is a fighter in which the effective utilization of life, meter, and time are accepted as core aspects of high level play. Why then, do not many people discuss SFxT’s most abundant resource: characters?
No team is perfect in SFxT. Every combination of characters, in spite of their strengths, has weaknesses that can be exploited by another particular duo and/or strategy. This thread is meant to counter this inevitability by exploring the concept of Stables, or a small collection of characters you keep in reserve to switch up your main team if they are being put on blast. Possessing a main team of which you know all the ins and outs of is paramount, but by supplementing them with substitutes you can become a far more versatile, unpredictable, and therefore dangerous player in tournaments or the endless lobby. After all, team sports follow the principle of reserves and subs, why not team fighters?
In 1v1 fighters like AE, counterpicking means abandoning your usual main for a character that fares better against your opponent: you have to decide between sticking it out with your most knowledgeable or gaining an advantage in the matchup at the cost of your own experience. The 2v2 nature of SFxT, however, allows you to make a Half Counterpick, switching out a character that the opponent has on green-street while keeping your other main in, thus doing away with the concept of scrapping your best for the sake of the counter. Think of your secondary characters as a Sideboard in a collectible card game: a reserve you can draw from after you have seen your opponent’s deck to increase your chances of winning the next set.
A single substitution will alter the strengths, weaknesses, and gameplan of your team considerably. Have a look at my triumvirate for an example. Nina/King is a very aggressive team that causes huge damage through solo combos, resets, strong pokes (Nina), mixups, and Oki (both King). My goal is to secure victory before the opponent can even make their first tag and more than double their overall health bar. Such power comes at quite the price, however, as the poor defensive options (lack of reversals/tricks on wakeup, jab pressure problems, and unreliable A-Airs) of both these characters means that if I am the one being knocked down early my chances of winning decrease drastically. More often than not, this occurs because my Nina is outfootsied (her pokes are strong but she sacrifices excellent ones for high solo damage) or she gets rushed down.
My answer: Dictator. His defensive and wakeup options far surpass those of the other two, and his zoning and pokes make him more of a pure point than Nina. Dictator/Nina takes on a more defensive role, with Dictator dictating (ha…) the pace at all times, with Nina bringing her huge, consistent damage to the table to ensure I maintain the life lead or score the KO when they are in kill range. Dictator’s ability as a battery changes Nina’s style further, since she is now allowed to use meter to extend her combos, something she dared not do before as King is voracious when it comes to meter usage. Nina’s meter reserves can make this team more offensive, especially in later rounds when you start with some, as it requires less reliance on the opponent’s impatience that they may have cured after their round 1 frustration at Dic.
Again, this team is not perfect, as both characters struggle to open up turtlers with their lack of mixups. When I perceive this to be a problem I go Dictator/King. King’s multiple mixup games can break through anyone on the roster provided he is in range (not an issue with Dictator quarterbacking). Dic/King can afford to play more aggressively than Dic/Nina, since the Shadowloo leader’s sundry knockdowns, usually a method of stalling, are just as good as a reset given King’s excellent Oki game.
You need not be afraid of mastering every character in your Stable. Learning an assortment of characters can seem very daunting, and it is, but learning how to shuffle a few characters around to dramatically shake up your team strategy is more cost-effective than playing separate teams to overcome weaknesses. While one should learn all the ins and outs of their main team, it is less important to do so with the rest of the Stable. For instance, if you have Heihachi in reserve to cover your weakness of opening up guards, knowing all of his qualities at fullscreen is not as important as generating his close-range mixups since you’ll have an experienced Point to bring him in consistently and to fall back on if times get rough.
If my theory of stables is something that all of you players practice already or an impossibility given the amount of characters you have to keep in mind, I apologize for wasting your time. If you find my thoughts on teambuilding to be effective, however, or even just a good thing for beginners to read, please let me know. I have a lot more on how to construct optimal Stables, including how it differs for different styles/levels of players, but I do not plan on writing it all up unless people think that it would be a useful resource.