Learning matchups 101


I’ve always been interested in how players create these matchup threads with information on how to use “character x” to beat “character y”. Does everyone just try to figure out what move can beat another move? Or is it more of how a typical match is from start to finish and what players should look out for?


Some people go into training and try to beat out attacks, some know through experience.

Street Fighter is very matchup based, if you’re going to use low tier you HAVE to know matchups. Even high tier has to know them. Street Fighter may seem like a game where a match is played out in a typical fashion but in all honesty, its more than meets the eye.


If you want to fight good players, you will have to know your character’s matchup against their character. Period. If you know the match well, and they know the match well, you should get around the matchup ratio in terms of wins (5-5, 6-4, 4-6, etc)…it’s fucking ridiculous when people say “I’m not gonna lose. I know the matchup.” It just doesn’t work like that.

The best/simplest way to start learning a matchup is to find holes in a character’s reversal. Examples: Bison’s EX reversals can be option selected. Balrog’s headbutts can be safejumped. Cammy’s cannon spike has terrible horizontal range. Shoto uppercuts and guile’s flash kick will get beat out or whiff under you if you can hit them with a jumping attack behind their neck as they get up.

Next, consider counters for moves that the opponent will want to go for because that move is good. Examples: Balrog’s rush punches can be focus attacked. The ones that can’t be focus attacked are usually slow enough to hit on reaction. You can uppercut his turn punches. You can throw his EX dash punches. You can also vertical jump over them.

Don’t get me wrong. You can’t just theory fight your way through everything. You need to actually play the match against an experienced player. See what he can counter every time, see what he can counter sometimes, see what he can barely counter at all.

If you start to think a matchup is BAD for your character, my advice is to just play more and more defensive. Look at Zangief players fighting Sagats. Walk up and block. Walk up and block. Walk up and block. Dictator has to do the same thing when fighting Guile.

Also, just try to watch top players playing the match. Usually if they go for a move a lot it means its hard for the other char to counter.


Super quick and dirty answer, nothing pretty but hopefully it helps

Off the top of my head really really really fast, in my experience your train of thought should go kiiind of something like this:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your character? What are the strength’s and weaknesses of your opponent’s character?
  • What are your character’s dangerous options in general? What are your opponent’s character’s most dangerous options in general?
  • How do those options interact with one another? Are they mutually exclusive, directly at competition or in struggle for assertion, does one dominate the other, does one counter the other, etc. etc. etc.
  • How do your options affect him, and how do his options affect you?
  • What other options does he have that affect your best options? What other options do you have that affect his best options?
    Notice how the last thing can sort of make you have to reconsider everything from the top down all over again, even if the change is only a very slight one. Your “general” best options may not match up with what your best options are in this specific match-up. You’re kind of learning everything in a recursive fashion, constantly refining the contents of your structure-house of knowledge by filling in more and more details. The things you add become increasingly narrow and more specific, but then you have to keep track of how little things affect the big picture. Basically one person’s movesets form options which form tactics which form strategies from which the other person can derive counter-moves and counter-options and counter-tactics and counter-strategies, from which the original person can again derive his own set of counters; this is happening from both sides.

(The exception to this process would be when a brand new option or technique is revealed to you that you had never seen before, experienced, thought of, didn’t even know was possible before, whatever. It can force you to reassess things from higher up in the chain again.)

Things to think about are movesets and their properties, options (YES YET AGAIN! durrh abahhbajilkmmkts), goals, tendencies, situations, setups, distances, positions, meter states, timer… pretty much anything and everything. What you’re looking for is basically what’s likely to occur, what’s likely to come out (commonalities and common trends in predicaments and game flow as well as your opponent’s individual actions) and finding things you can do that nullify or defeat those things, or pre-emptively prevent those things from occuring. Ideally you want to have more than one ready-to-go solution for everything that is likely to come up. This could be as wide as a very quick overview of where the game is at at that moment (example: you have meter, he doesn’t, you’re up one game, he’s up one round, you have the life lead, there are 50 seconds left on the clock, you’re a full screen apart) or precise shut-downs for particular attacks your opponent likes to use (He can’t safe-jump my reversal uppercut, I can sweep punish his whiffed crouch strongs on reaction, my standing forward beats his standing fierce consistently at this range, random crouching short counterhits his punch startup very often, I can teleport out of his crossups if see them coming). Your solutions to these problems will be things you discover, invent, design, create, think of, research, find by accident, are told or show, or learn or whatever. These solutions may be perfect or flawless, foolproof, guaranteed or 100% consistent, or maybe they’re just good enough, they work often enough, the trade is in your favour, or eventually the odds should theoretically pay off your way. They will have to do with the actual game mechanics as well as your abilities as a player (what you know that you can handle well, as well as what you can’t). As long as you have solutions and you understand just how good each solution is, you can start trying to employ them. (Note that if you know an answer and you can’t actually use it when you find the opening/see the opportunity/have the chance, practicepracticepractice.) In a nutshell you’re identifying “questions” and making sure you have “answers” to them.

That last paragraph sounds very defensive-minded in nature. I guess the offensive way of looking at it would be to find “questions” you can present to your opponent that you don’t think he has (good or enough) “answers” to.

Without getting too wordy, obviously the way to start going about all of this is to play and study and play and study and play and study…

didn’t proofread fuck typos i’m not scared

edit: optimally, when you are playing, your knowledge of the match-up will serve as the framework for how you will play the match, an outline that is filled based on what you can ascertain about that particular person you’re playing against