Advanced Sean: Below I hope to elaborate on a few points that will help you to play smarter with a character who doesn’t have a lot of good or safe options. Some of the time the strategies discussed below are not necessarily safe, but they’re the smartest thing you could be doing given a certain situation, and mastering some of these techniques will hopefully get you more wins than Sean is mathematically supposed to have according to the tier charts.
Be Unpredictable: Aside from Sean’s cl.mp~hk target combo, and a cl.hk, almost none of Sean’s moves are 100% safe on block and some of the ones that are like cl.mp by itself or s.lp or cr.lp can leave you too close to your opponent to be outside of effective throw range or from chip range if they do a special/super after they block. Basically, until you’ve gotten very comfortable with your spacing and the play style of your opponent you don’t want your opponent to block a move that’s going to leave them in a good position to counter attack. Unfortunately, a good position to counter attack if you’re fighting against Sean, is just outside of throw range because most characters have safe or high priority moves that will stop anything you try from that distance. Now I suppose you could spend the entire match only using these few moves and attempting to win that way, but I’d be surprised if most opponents will let you get away with it. In summation, you’re going to have to do unsafe moves if you want to win, the key is not to do them often or at the same time every time. It’s important to remember to be unpredictable when reading the rest of the strategies, I will tell you a few things which can be a good idea, but nothing is a good idea if you do it all the time, every time. Since he has so few safe options, mixup is probably the most important part of Sean’s overall game plan, so remember that.
Cancel Your Normals Into Specials To Keep Pressure and Keep Your Opponent Guessing: This is not something you want to do all the time because Sean’s specials are largely terrible, and unless you know you will hit and kill, chip out, or stun your opponent, never cancel into a non-EX tornado kick (unless your opponent can’t punish it, or unless you are so high on health you simply don’t care, in which case, feel free to destroy them.) The following are Sean’s normals that can be canceled: s.lp, cl.mp, cl.hp, cl.hk, cr.lp, cr.mp, cr.hp, cr.lk, cr.mk. Of those, cl.hp and cr.mk are unsafe if NOT canceled. Remember you can cancel cl.hp into t+hp for a nice overhead mixup that will often catch your opponent off guard and interrupt a lot of their retaliation attempts, but if you do this too much, they’ll figure it out. Another move you should not cancel into is hp Sean Roll, this move is completely useless, but canceling into lp or mp Sean Roll is actually a great way to keep pressure, provided you’re careful. The following moves you can hit or have blocked and cancel into lp Sean Roll (the best one because it’s the fastest) and cross-under your opponent: s.lp, cr.lp, cr.lk, cr.mk (at close range only.) Be aware that if your opponent moves backwards, or if you don’t cancel fast enough, often times lp Sean Roll won’t cross-under in this scenario leaving you vulnerable so be careful (though if you catch your opponent off guard, which you likely will, you can still use this to your advantage.) I prefer not to use mp Sean Roll, even though it will cross-under off of any of Sean’s cancels simply because it is a little too easy to punish in recovery, but if you think your opponent is going to try to hit or throw you right away, mp Sean Roll is ok because they’ll likely whiff on startup due to your invincibility and inability to be hit with highs. You can chose to cancel moves into Wheel Kick, but be aware that hk wheel kick will go over your opponent’s head if they aren’t in the corner of if they aren’t jumping backwards or neutral. This could be used to get away from them, but is pretty unsafe. If you happen to hit your opponent out of the air with cl.hk or the target combo, the knockback will be much further though, and an hk Wheel Kick is a great idea here because most opponents will not expect Sean to be hitting them so soon just after they’ve been knocked almost the whole screen away (EX Sean Grab is a half-decent idea here too.) If you do hit an airborne opponent with a fierce however, DON’T cancel into hk wheel kick, do it as soon as you recover, if you cancel, the wheel kick will collide with them while they’re in the “reset” animation and whiff, and an EX will always whiff if canceled into vs an airborne opponent. Be aware that A LOT of normals will beat the startup frames of wheel kick, so I would be careful doing this against a hyperactive opponent, but it has the opposite properties of Sean Roll/Sean Grab in that lows will whiff so like all of Sean’s specials, mix it up. Sean Roll is a much better idea against opponents who reversal or put high-priority moves on the screen constantly because it will cause them to whiff and hopefully waste meter. Sean Grab is the one awesome special Sean has, good opponents will simply hit you out of it every time however, so if you face someone who does this, change your strategy. The fact that you can do empty Sean grabs vs ones that hit, and the fact that it goes under high attacks makes it pretty awesome though. Use this for pressure and to stay in that very important “close” range Sean needs. Also, I’ve found that doing a cl.hk into an lp Sean Grab on hit is very likely to hit your opponent because they are in hitstun for most of the time the Sean Grab is in startup, especially if you cancel it early. There’s also no real reason not to throw this out on block either, you’re forcing your opponent to react quickly, and hopefully you’ve gotten some kind of read on them so that you know whether they’re likely to block or attack, and if they attack, you can be ready to reversal or parry assuming their timing isn’t perfect and they don’t interrupt you. We’ve talked about 4 of Sean’s specials, but not the last one. Canceling into Dragon Smash is the worst idea ever. You should only be putting a Dragon Smash on the screen in the following scenarios: Reversal, (use EX, it’s the safest, but still not very good.) If your opponent jumped-in and you’re reacting to it (though cl.hk does more damage if you can get it, and depending on your opponents tech roll speed, cr.hp and cl.hp give you more mixup potential.) You’re hit confirming vs an airborne opponent for extra damage (you can tack a super on here too if you wish.) You’re doing it as a psychic footsie. (I myself am guilty of doing this, but remember, if you whiff or it gets blocked, its your ass.) This move should really ONLY be on the screen as a reversal or if you’ve hit confirmed into it, PERIOD. The following moves can be canceled into dragon smash s.lp, cr.lp (lp or mp DS only, you can’t confirm this off anything other than a parry btw, and use the lp version cause you can negative edge it, it’s faster and they all do the same damage.) cr.lk (same as above but without negative edge potential) cl.mp, cl.hp, (confirmable.) Off of a cr.mp, cr.hp or cl.hk dragon smash will whiff on most characters, even if canceled, and it will whiff off cr.mk at anything other than close range.
Pay Attention To Your Opponent and Look For Patterns: I realize this may seem like common sense, and it is, but for Sean this is much more crucial than it is for other characters who can seemingly just always have something safe or high-priority on the screen. Almost every player has patterns and I’m not just talking about flowchart shotos. I’m going to point out a few scenarios where you will have a good opportunity to study what your opponent does so that you can adjust your gameplay appropriately. Start of the Round: Is your opponent attacking right away, or backing off waiting to react to you? Some opponents think they have a very safe option from “Round 1 – Fight” and will do it every time since it’s risk/reward is low. Don’t expect your opponent to do the same thing at the start of every round, especially if you’ve beaten it once and don’t do the same thing yourself, but pay attention. If your opponent is attacking right away, chances are a far+hp will probably out-prioritize them, or catch them in recovery if they also put a long range move on the screen. If you as a Sean player want to know what’s the safest thing to do from the start of the round far+hp is it. Assume your opponent will adjust his game: If your opponent does something twice, and you beat it both times, it’s normally pretty correct to assume he’s going to do the opposite next time, though a really good opponent will adjust after just once, and a really really good opponent might just do the same thing again, thinking you will expect him not to. Also, be mindful of this with your own gameplay. I once hit an opponent who was very competent at the game with 6 wakeup sweeps in a row, why? Because he was playing aggressively, not blocking, and nobody is dumb enough to do the same thing 6 times in a row on wakeup, that’s why. Sean players aren’t too proud to try anything, a win that feels grimy is still a win, and nothing is too grimy for a Sean player. What is your opponent doing on his wakeup? Pay attention to this, though this is the one variable that’s most likely to change throughout the match. If every time you knock your opponent down, he is waking up with a move, you can be assured that 6 wakeup sweeps might actually work on him if you time them right, and parries are probably free. If he wakes up crouch blocking every time, try overheads and throw mixups, and whatever you do, try to maximize your damage. The less times you have to knock him down, the less looks he gets at your mixup and the more likely it is to work. An opponent who is very low on life will also most likely do 1 of 2 things when he gets knocked down as well: wakeup super or reversal because he’s assuming you can’t parry it, or, try to throw you because he expects a parry attempt on the super he thinks you think he’ll use. Sometimes it can be a good idea to put distance between your opponent if you have the life lead and they have very little health. Is your opponent tech rolling? This is an important thing I think a lot of people may not take into consideration. Certain setups (most notably Sean’s taunt setups) don’t work often on opponents who tech roll, and some opponents tech roll fast enough to punish you if you dashed-in to meaty or keep pressure on them… Seans supers are the only moves Sean has that can not be tech rolled, so they’re essentially the only guaranteed taunt setup opportunity. If your opponent tech rolls a midscreen neutral or forward throw, far+hp and cr.mk will both hit at extreme range (but they will whiff on Oro and Dudley, and the cr.mk whiffs on Q) pretty much everything else is a terrible idea, unless you’re more than sure your opponent will just block (but it’s typically the rushdown players who like to tech roll.) What is your opponent doing after their own safe blockstring/move? Lots of opponents (not necessarily good ones, but lots nonetheless) do rely on some form of “flowchart” to win, a notable example is the crossup j.mk ~ cl.mp ~ hp ~ Hadoken or Shoryuken ~ Super setup that Ken has. This is what I call playing on “autopilot” in other words, if a Ken player does this, and you block it, they’re just gonna throw the hadoken, and then they’re at the perfect range to start the jump-in all over again and they will likely do this over and over if you don’t give them a reason not to. Some opponents like to do 1 singular move that’s safe on block, then always do the exact same thing every time you block it. Elena players seem to be fond of neutral jumping after a blocked j.hk, then punishing you for whiffed throw attempts or any whiffed normals, in much the same way that Yun and Yang players like to do neutral jump dive-kicks after a blocked jump-in. If you can identify that this is your opponent’s “autopilot” and put a stop to it, they’re gonna have to switch over to manual pretty quickly if they want to beat you, and lots of times they either don’t have a “manual” mode, or won’t be able to make the adjustment fast enough. What is your opponent doing after teching a throw? This is something that I think a lot of players never thought to study, but I noticed long ago that most opponents always do the exact same thing after every single tech throw. I think this is an automatic response to the match being “reset” so to speak and most people don’t ever think about it, but this is a great place to identify a pattern. I’ve noticed that tons of players immediately jump forward after teching a throw, if this happens, dragon smash them, or worse. Additionally, the other common response is to walk backwards, and if they do this, Sean Grab almost always works. (In fact Sean Grab is a good idea for jumpers too because it scoots under their jump-in arc, just make sure it’s empty.) Some players may neutral jump because they expect you to jump or dash-in, be wary of this, other players may dash forward, wanting to keep pressure, of course, all of these are viable options, but none of them is a viable option every time. If your opponent is going to only do the same thing over and over again, make sure you punish them for it. Even safe moves can be parried in this game.
Minimize Your Risk: Sean, as I’ve mentioned several times, does not have particularly good, or safe options, so below are strategies for how to do unsafe things, and get away with them. Even though good advice would be to tell you to never do a move with any negative frames, and always react to everything you can punish, in the real world, people don’t have 4 frame reaction time (well, it can be argued that some do, but you will probably never play them, and even their timing could be off by a frame or two from time to time.) The following are some situations that can give you ideas as far as how to make unsafe moves as safe as possible. Jumping-In: Jumping-in is essentially a horrible idea in most fighting games, and it’s not a great one in this game either because your attacks can be easily parried, but, remember you can parry your opponents anti-airs as well, and you should at least be trying to…every time. If you empty jump and land right next to your opponent, throw is the fastest thing you can do* (more on this later,) but be aware that every character has recovery frames from landing from a jump in which they can be thrown for free, and the best opponents know this, even so, I believe that it’s only -2, meaning they have to just-frame their throw attempt, but technically empty jumping isn’t safe either. You need to also be sure to mixup empty jumps with jump-in attacks, and if you find yourself getting parried, change the timing a little so the attack happens earlier, or later than it has been, or change which attack you’re doing. This is another reason to not always jump in after the same blockstring or from the same distance, the amount of time it will take you to reach your opponent will be the same and they will easily adjust their parry timing. Remember Sean does have a crossup with j.mk so don’t forget to mix that in, and super jumps are your friend, especially against opponents who want to turtle. Off of a blocked wheel kick: Wheel kick is -3 on block, but usually you’re too far away to be regular thrown, keep in mind I said “usually” if it hits really deep, anyone can throw you and there won’t be anything you can do about it. So, given that, what’s a good option? Walk forward throw. This usually works and you don’t usually have to move very far, normally in a worst case scenario, your opponent will simply tech it. From this range you’re also usually in “close” so your best weapons are all options too, but target combo is a safe one that’s the same speed as cl.hp and cl.hk, and you can actually cancel into a high-damage super if the cl.mp hits, even better if they’re in the corner. Shoryu-Cannon and Hyper Tornado are options too, and Sean Roll is a good idea if you’re feeling a high counter attack. Your opponent could also super you too, depending, so make sure you consider what super they have and their meter. EX Wheel Kick is only -1 on block which means a parry is a good option. Tornado Kick on hit: Tornado Kick on hit is -3 and leaves you as close to your opponent as you possibly can be. This is one scenario where I won’t even tell you you have options, you shouldn’t really be doing this move, but sometimes you just have to, if you do it, throw, every time. Throws are 2 frames, and you’re -3 which means your opponent has 1 frame to throw you for free, or else you’ll tech it, or better yet, throw them. You’re probably gonna get punished hard for hitting with a tk in the first place, might as well do the safest thing possible, which is a throw. The same strategy could be applied to a tornado kick on block (which leaves you in worse recovery,) or an EX tornado kick on block which is -3 also. EX Tornado Kick on hit: If my calculations are correct, EX tornado kick on hit leaves you at 0 frames, meaning you and your opponent recover at the same time. Smart opponents who don’t know this for sure, but are trying to minimize their chances of getting hit, will still attempt to throw you, meaning you have 2 frames to do something, while putting a throw out just like you do with a regular tk on hit is an option, a reversal might actually be a better one (especially if your opponent has been “trained” to throw after tks.) EX Dragon Smash, and especially super work here because I’ve found that almost nobody blocks or parries after getting hit by EX Tornado Kick, most players try to retaliate. Parrying is also a good option here if you don’t expect a throw attempt. *Target Combo on hit or block: *Target combo is safe on hit and block, but not by much and many opponents don’t realize it. I’ve found that the range it leaves you at makes many players want to stick a low on the screen, so a low-parry is an extremely good option here, but jumping-in could be a good one too. If your opponent is very defensive and you want to press your attack, s.mk works great here because of it’s timing. * Remember when I said throw was the fastest thing you could do? That’s not entirely true. Hyper Tornado is 2 frames on startup, and I’m pretty sure it’s invincible for at least one of them (at the very least a throw won’t beat it,) and Shoryu-Cannon is a 1 frame super, which I know for a fact has invincibility, in fact, Shoryu-Cannon may have the highest priority of any super in the game. If you can time a Shoryu-Cannon so that it comes out in the EXACT frame you’ve recovered, it will beat ANYTHING your opponent puts on the screen, including their super. Now, this strategy of using an unconfirmed super may be deemed “scrubby” but when the move is this fast, it’s more of a calculated risk. Opponents expect wakeup supers, but they don’t expect okey-dokes, especially not from Sean. Obviously this trick won’t work more than once (if your opponent has half a brain) and they could still parry it, but it is an option, and shouldn’t be forgotten about. Because of Shoryu-Cannon’s properties, it can also be used to punish moves that otherwise recover too fast to punish with Sean or to beat your opponents own okey-doke setups… Remember, you don’t have to confirm into your super if your super is guaranteed, and I’ve seen people lose matches because they didn’t do this.