Footsies and distances without fireballs


I have been playing SF4 a long time, almost since vanilla, and I consider myself to be a pretty decent player. There is one thing that alludes me, and that is getting to and staying at ranges to play footsies as a character without fireballs.
From Gouken to Guile, my footsies are strong, even without the fireball, because I know I always have it there. For instance, with Guile, I can safely stay behind my wall of fireball and antiair, walk up, throw out a cr forward, a fierce, what have you, and sort of dance around, because if things get tough I can head backwards and throw out a fireball to reposition myself.
And someone like Ryu, whose footsies are very easy (not to master, before the Ryus are all up in arms), cr forward to fireball.
However, once I lose the fireball I tend to… lose. I have no idea what to do. With Dudley, Abel, anyone, I know what I should be doing, but I still can’t fecking do it.

How do I get the correct mentality to play without fireballs? How do I get and stay in ranges to play footsies? How do I even think about spacing without being to chuck an ol’d qcf.

It bothers me that these seem like such beginner questions. I would rather not ask this, but it has been years and I can’t seem to change my mindset. Any help at all is appreciated.


If your character doesn’t come with a fireball they usually give a good way to get in. It’s all about knowing the full extend of your normals - what moves do you have that leave you slightly closer to your opponent? What moves let you slide under or over their pokes (slides or hopkicks)? You have played long enough that I’m sure you know which normals you should be going to, when you don’t have fireballs and you want to play the footsies game however you will need to have CONFIDENCE in your normals.

And I’m going to invoke the deadly f word here and say it’s time to read up on some frame data :frowning:
If you don’t have a fireball you’re going to be spending a long time trying to get in on a fireball user in order to start putting some damage down, this usually means you have something to make up for your loss of plasma - better normals, command grabs, dirty frame traps (which go with better normals really). Find out what normals are safe on block or which normals leave you at an advantage and then just just keep the pressure up, you know what they want to do (throw fireballs) and because you’ve played a lot of fireball characters you probably know what works against you.

If you want some first hand experience on how to deal with approaching with no fireballs then just browse around and see if you can find someone here (or online) that mains someone without a fireball, and see how they get around what you do. My general gameplan (as Cody, so my fireball sucks most times) is just letting them get that chip in, get good at blocking at the last second and find a range where you can get something dangerous in THROUGH a fireball - that is always nice and it puts them on notice.


Have the courage to walk forward. If they walk backwards, keep walking forward to push them into the corner. Push buttons at times you believe they’ll walk forward into your attack. If they poke, stay out of range and whiff punish if you can or walk/dash forward when they whiff. It’s very useful to make you opponent twitch and push buttons by whiffing lights and quickly staggering left and right with crouch at the tip of the range of the normal you’re trying to whiff punish.

Also, dashing torwards outside of their poke range, dashing when they whiff a normal, or when you don’t think they’ll push a button when you’re at their poke range is useful for characters like Makoto.

Dudely’s torward fierce and Abel’s stand short and step-kick would probably be useful? I don’t really know much about those two so I don’t have much to say.

Reading Maj’s article would help a bunch.