Spencer v. Zoning -- "You can't outrun my arm!"

spencer

#1

:eek: The purpose of this thread is to discuss Spencer tactics specifically to counter zoning.

The content in this post has been spoiled to preserve ease-of-reading and content filtering.

Introduction

Spoiler

So one of my biggest problems with Spencer has been where to put him on a team.

Back in March, I initially put him on anchor because I wanted my Dormammu and Hsien-Ko gayness to overwhelm people and because Spencer’s X-Factor back then was easier to get more out of than either of those two.

One of the reasons I don’t play Spencer on anchor anymore is because it stinks to be doing decently only to come down to just a bad matchup at the end of a match. The worst part about a bad matchup, I feel, is when you can’t even catch your opponent and are just running after them desperately trying to land a poke into anything that isn’t a situational 200K combo just so they can run away again.

Increasingly, however, I find that players are more than willing to, depending on the team, use some of that zoning goodness earlier in the match, rather than saving it for just their last character. As you may imagine, this can pose a problem for Spencer–I think one of the undeniable weaknesses of the character is that he does not combat screen control very well.

Basic Zoning Tenets

Spoiler

Just to be clear, I want to emphasize that zoning doesn’t necessarily mean runaway. Zoning pertains mostly to strong screen control, preferably with as little running away involved as possible. Indeed, I think the more static a character stays while controlling the screen, the stronger the control is -generally-, even though not moving may make that character’s control easier to exploit.

I think two of the clearest examples of zoning in this game are Dormammu and Sentinel. Dormammu being a special-based zoner and Sentinel being a normal-based zoner. Sentinel has been compared many times to a flying E. Honda, with his ability to stick out normals that cover varying angles of the screen with relative safety with respect to the point of attack (i.e., baiting a jumping heavy from Sentinel may be effective, but the chances of a character beating a jumping heavy are a little less likely). Dormammy seems to be the game’s resident special zoner, using varying types of beam-type weaponry to control very specific, but important, parts of the screen. While these two characters are not the only zoners in the game, they clearly encompass the very basic and effective aspects of the tactic.

Normal zoning is the easiest type of zoning. While using normals to zone, a character can often move with jumps or dashes to position themselves for the move (or often use the move in conjunction with these movements). Normals typically require either a simple button press or a command button press (direction + a button). While normals that zone typically have some sort of safety or hitbox adjustments that make them suitable for the task, they tend to lack any sort of “transcendent” properties that just make them cut through things. Normals are usually faster and safer than specials to zone with, oftentimes at the cost of followups and general damage.

Special zoning is a bit more intricate. Specials the zone often require the character using them to be static as a cost. Specials require less simplified input (quarter-circle, half-circle, and dragon punch motions in particular). Specials that zone are noted mostly for eating through most forms of non-projectile pokes or advances…the cost for this is a hefty recovery time, with several ways to get around any one particular special at a time. Specials tend to last longer, however, and have a higher general payout with regards to followups and damage, of which one way is building meter to extend punishes and force even more advances on the part of the opponent.

Spencer’s Tools

Spoiler

Spencer interacts with zoning in a very unique way. While the character clearly does most of his damage up close and is more threatening up close (command grabs, command overhead, sweep that floats on hit, 4 frame Armor Piercer), he is designed to move around quickly and has tools to both create space and to close space. What’s more, his space closing tools actually close space on both ends of the screen; that is to say, instead of just pulling himself to an opponent or pulling an opponent in (both of which he is capable of), he can also perform both at the same time, meeting his opponent “halfway” and making close encounters awkward for typical zoning characters.

Spencer has a few tools to deal with space control:

Zipline – A topic I plan to go in depth on later on down the road, zipline is Spencer’s main form of moblity. Not only does it sport a hitbox for convenience, but it also travels in several useful (albeit necessary) angles. Zipline is better than Spider-Man’s web glide in terms of utility, but probably loses out in pure speed. Using zipline, Spencer can pull himself to a target location on the screen that equates to any forty-five degree angle.

Wire Swing – Wire swing is Spencer’s not-so-zippy zipline that is used when he targets any upward angle while in the air. Wire swing is used for very specific approaches due to its arc, travel speed, and travel time. Using wire swing, Spencer can travel to the other side of the screen and can cancel his swing as early as halfway through the arc with any aerial normal.

Wire Grapple – Wire grapple is Spencer’s variable act-first-and-think-later offensive tool. The wire grapple travels at all available zipline angles, but when it comes in contact with the opponent, the opponent is snared briefly and made vulnerable to any of three followups. The :l: followup sends opponents across the screen, puts them in an unrecoverable knockdown state, creates plenty of space, and allows for OTG followups. The :m: followup, the most common, brings Spencer and the opponent together mid-screen, where Spencer follows-up with a wallbounce attack that keeps Spencer adjacent to the opponent when used at certain parts of the screen (most notably the corner); the opponent is vulnerable until they land and followups are variable. The :h: followup, the least used, simply pulls the opponent in toward Spencer. Commonly used as a frame trap, this followup creates very awkward situations since Spencer is only at a +2 advantage; this means Spencer cannot combo after this followup, but can buffer things like Armor Piercer and command grabs and even stagger a normal throw, depending on how your opponent reacts (crouching short will most likely be what you’ll see from the opponent following this move).

Bionic Maneuvers – A super that uses the wire grapple, this super is great for punishing anything from the ground up to a normal jump height and from anywhere up to a full screen away. As with the wire grapple, the arm counts as a projectile but since this is a super, the arm’s projectile is a high durability class, meaning it automagically plows through any projectile that is of a lesser durability. This super can be used to start the DHC glitch, leaves the opponent in an unrecoverable knockdown state, allows for OTG followups, and does more damage than its famous brother-in-arms (see what I did there?)

Bionic Arm – Good speed. Good invulnerability. Good hitbox. Punishes most anything from as far as half a screen away with relative impunity. Spinning knockdown and great for combo material since it counts as one high damage hit, which reduces damage scaling in the long run.

Spencer v. Zoning

Spoiler

As a Spencer player, depending on your team and playstyle, there is a very likely chance that you are not playing any sort of keepaway or chip hit/chip damage game with your team. Exceptions exist, but if the role of Spencer on your team is to be aggressively mobile and lead into fancy heavy damage combos, then one of your main goals is getting in. Assuming that Spencer and his opponent are separated by a full screen, let’s discuss what Spencer has at his disposal.

Normal Zoning – Sentinel, Dante, Amaterasu, Hsien-Ko, Tron to an extent, maybe Super Skrull too are all characters with some aspect of zoning to their normals. Hsien-Ko and Sentinel are probably the best in this category with regard to how specific their normals are for zoning; Dante has a long sword but doesn’t typically play a zoning style per se. With the exception of Sentinel, Spencer has a fairly easy time with normals because none of them really cover the entire screen. Characters like Hsien-Ko can cover a wide variety of angles and a great portion of the screen, but never enough to truly scare Spencer.

When in range of these normals, you’ll typically want to pushblock or backdash out of range and react to the the slower or more careless normals with wire grapple. The beauty of wire grapple is that you don’t have to know what you want to do beforehand; once you grab the opponent, the confirm gives you enough time to decide what to do. Do you want to create space? Do you want to close space? The situation may also change based on screen position. Reacting to anti-air zoning can be a little different while you’re in the air…some situations warrant Spencer completely removing himself from the equation by using zipline to retreat. Spencer is a character whose vulnerability increases severalfold while in the air: use the tools at his disposal to minimize this weakness.

Sentinel is a different echelon of zoner entirely. His normals nullify projectiles, which make wire grapples useless. He has options for all scenarios: ground to air, air to ground, ground to ground and air to air. His medium ground normals are armored, all of his aerials are flight-cancelable, and he has a hyper armor launcher. Baiting Sentinel is less than hard, but punishing him with Spencer is difficult, as Spencer has neither the range, nor the ground mobility, nor the speed to take advantage of most situations he’s put into after a blocked anything. Bad punishes can lead into getting counterhit, which leads to nasty followup situations. The most important part about fighting Sentinel’s space control is knowing when you simply must block. Similarly to special zoners, Sentinel’s space control is such that the punishes are not always simple and not always easy.

Moving in aerially against high level normal zoners is typically Spencer’s go-to option, but not necessarily his best bet, when wire grapple is ineffective. Using zipline at intelligent angles, Spencer can move forward (not without risk) in an attempt to close space. Against some characters like Sentintel, you can aim for a straight head height zipline and move forward with the intent to block, break an air grab attempt, or to create an ambiguous crossover attempt. Sentinel’s most common answer to this is raw launcher out of the block or hitstun, but has other options like using standing medium to absorb an aerial hit and lead into a ground juggle or by attempting a quick air grab or jumping light.

Against small characters like Ammy and Hsien-Ko, using quick downward angles tends to help out with moving forward without leaving Spencer too vulnerable, but doesn’t quite get the job done entirely: these characters have great frontal control as well, so being smart with aerial movement is necessary. Indeed, trying to combat this by going too high up can lead to Spencer mixing himself up on the way down, a situation you don’t want to find yourself in. Normal jumping with blocks and using wire grapples out of blockstun is a great option and is often unexpected.

Characters that don’t have a good way of covering themselves from above can be susceptible to super jump wire grapples using either the :m: or :h: versions, but more specifically the :h: version.

Fighting aerial-based normals is much easier. Use that grounded :m: wire grapple! For flight characters, it forces that block and for most other aerial characters, if it makes them block, that blockstun grounds them and makes dealing with them a little easier for the time being. Going air to air with Spencer is typically not a fantastic idea, but you can zipline into slower air normals to interrupt the attacker and create an awkwardly close aerial situation.

Special Zoning – This is where Spencer has the hardest time in terms of zoning. The weird part is that his tools combat this type of zoning the best–his supers are great to beat projectile and beam type zoning. The unfortunate drawback is not meter management, but the fact that in most situations, you will be initiating the super first and you can guess what that means; counter supers in both senses (supers like Wesker’s that physically counter you or like Haggar’s that will grab you and counter supering in the sense of reacting to your super with another super). Spencer is particularly vulnerable to specials canceled into supers to make them safe, which pelts his already meek chances of moving in safely with the threats of heavy chip damage and lost opportunities.

First and foremost, when it comes to using supers against special zoning, remember this: do not take the bait! As a general rule, if the opposing team has any of the following characters, you should not be attempting to use Bionic Arm outside of a combo: Wesker, Taskmaster, Tron, Haggar, Thor, and M.O.D.O.K… Even if those characters are not on point, the speed at which a team can DHC into them to get out of trouble is concerning, so do not do it.

Again, the aspect of projectile screen control that is most apparent is that normals can’t beat projectiles normally. This makes fighting special zoning a purely defensive affair. Spencer’s wire grapple, which counts as a projectile, will often get beat out by other projectiles as well, which limits its usefulness. Ziplines and wavedashes will be Spencer’s main method of transportation and I cannot stress the importance of quick and tight wavedashes to ensure Spencer’s safety.

Dormammu is a character that covers obscene amounts of the screen when all his specials are considered, but thankfully there is enough of a gap between each one to make fighting a zoner like Dormammu much more manageable. Against Dormammu in particular, the thing that makes his zoning so successful is that he has ABC zoning (a guessing game of where on the screen to put something, choices of A, B, or C that typically determine a specific range), a fullscreen super, a tracking super, variable fullscreen specials in the form of Liberation, and the “contingency plan” (a.k.a. Flame Carpet). Not the perfect zoner, but as far as projectile zoning goes, Dormammu is extremely potent. To top everything off, he has access to a teleport just in case.

Spencer’s super jump is invaluable against projectile zoners because of his ability to maneuver himself very well during a super jump. The property of not turning around in the air comes to benefit Spencer here because if you can disorient a projectile zoner while they are out of the corner, you have a chance at sneaking in. Your goal here typically isn’t to land a chip hit here and there because projectile zoners typically make up for their strong screen presence with subpar normals; you want to take advantage of this and create as close-up of a situation as safely as you can so you can lead into big damage instead of small situational combos.

Unfortunately, there are some fights Spencer just does not win. Losing to projectile zoners is very easy to do, which is why I encourage learning how to create a high damage situation out of a close encounter. Similarly to fighting Phoenix or Wolverine, when you get a chance to KO, you should really take it…think of fighting a zoner that way when you get in. Hitting them and not KOing them leaves more opportunities of field control, chip damage via assists and supers, and prolonging a match that puts your Spencer at risk.

Please feel free to share your ideas, discrepancies, or solutions to Spencer’s zoning problems. I, too, am an evolving Spencer player, so while I feel nothing is set in stone regarding the character, I am interested in tackling his very real and very apparent weaknesses.


#2

Spencer has very real and apparent weaknesses, but a good Spencer player that knows about spacing should have no trouble against any zoners. There are only a couple threats amongst the zoning characters and you’re listing only one: Taskmaster. He’s one of the few that can consistently beat a Bionic Arm or grapple attempts at any range, in the air he can float using his arrows and punish a badly spaced Arm attempt and on the ground he can counter. Wesker can do the same, but he has less answers in the air and is primarily a rushdown character, something Spencer can have way more trouble with.

I don’t know where you’re getting the idea from that Tron, Thor and Haggar can grab Spencer out of Bionic Arm. Sure, if they’re blocked they can do it but… If they block your Bionic Arm you’re supposed to get punished. Bionic Arm isn’t a guess: it’s a punish. There are very few supers that beat it without being a counter or level 3. MODOK has invincibility on his grab so I can see it there, but Tron and Thor lose. Haggar could use a Double Lariat I suppose. But if the opponent has a tool that works against your tool… Then just don’t do that.

I think your team might be a bit whack if you’re not seeing the options Spencer has against zoning characters… I personally have him second with Wesker and Sentinel, Wesker first and Sentinel third. Sentinel easily covers grapple and zipline attempts and I have plenty meter to use because of Wesker’s battery. I’ll go through a couple matchups, but first I’ll describe the tools a little better:

Bionic Arm beats everything from frames 1-11, with I believe a 7 frame startup. About midscreen, Spencer will beat out any type of attack and projectile, but any type of invincible attack or counter hyper will beat it. One exception is Sentinel Force, which can beat it because the projectiles still come out with certain timing.
Bionic Maneuvers has normal projectile invincibility: it beats a lot of projectiles, but it doesn’t beat hypers. The invincibility is only after the super freeze so it’s not that useful… but it’s worth a mention.
Any grapple will trade with several or one ‘physical’ projectile. You can’t grapple people through a projectile. Air grapples are generally harder to punish. Calling an assist will allow you to combo after a ground grapple with an :H: followup, and it will cover you if it didn’t hit.

Some matchups:

Sentinel

Spoiler

Sentinel is one of Spencer’s best matchups. Anytime Sentinel does anything from far away you can punish it with a well-placed grapple. Beams? You can jump over it and air grapple. Flight mode normals? Grapple. Sentinels usually only approach by using flight mode, or alternatively dashing in. Any flight mode can be punished with a well-spaced grapple, and if they bait it out the worst that could happen is a Hard Drive or an unfly to block the grapple. You still have to respect his normals, however they are slow enough that you can punish lasers with a Bionic Arm at a relatively close range. If he manages to get in on you, pushblock him away. If you’re in the corner, you HAVE to get out. If it works for you, imagine big boxes infront of Sentinel that represent his cr M and S range. Don’t go into those spaces unless you know your Arm or combo will hit.

Amaterasu

Spoiler

Most Amaterasu players can give Spencer enough trouble by just going in. Grapples are bad in this matchup since A: Ammy is too small, B: She can cancel an airdash and block. You have the Bionic Arm which can in some circumstances beat the almighty Okami Shuffle, but an Ammy player can easily adapt to this. For the rest her rushdown can put enough pressure on Spencer and she can mix it up easily with jump cancels and instant airdash overheads. Bionic Arm is mostly a guess in this matchup, so you shouldn’t be doing this. Rather than trying to counter a zoning game, try to get your own rushdown game going. It’s not easy against her, especially because it can be a little hard to see whether or not she’s blocking low. However she is very easy to kill with low health and you should be using X-factor to get rid of her, unless there’s a bigger threat on the team (Wolverine, Magneto or if the player is more capable with another character).

Dormammu

Spoiler

Dormammu I personally think is an even matchup, but you have to play differently. You have to be extremely patient against Dorm because of the flame carpet and pillars, as with Sentinel you can’t mindlessly rush in using ziplines. You have to respect Dormammu’s options. However as soon as you get in close enough for a Bionic Arm to work, you have to use it. You can guard cancel with x-factor if you have it, but that’s only something I would consider if Dormammu is second or third and the third character isn’t Ammy/Wolv/Mag or anybody with more than 1 million health. Dormammu’s specials are good to cover space, but they are very, very slow. You can catch a Dormammu in a move’s startup and they won’t be able to counter with a super if you’re spacing your Bionic Arm well. Dormammu can shut down your tools very well, but with just the Bionic Arm you have more than enough tools to beat down jokers like him.

Taskmaster

Spoiler

This is an awful matchup for Spencer in my opinion, possibly his worst if not among the worst. Taskmaster shuts down all your options against zoning characters if he plays well. Arrows will trade with a grapple and he can cancel easily to a hyper for the punish. On the ground he can cancel all of his moves to a counter hyper. The best thing you can do against Taskmaster is play a rushdown game, a careful one. Taskmaster has a great set of normals but Spencer’s normals are no slouch either. That said it can be really difficult to get something going against a good Taskmaster. Another option you have, same as against Wesker is to bait out the counter. Pretend like you’ll go through ground arrows with a Bionic Arm, and DHC to a projectile hyper if you know he’s going to counter. If Taskmaster takes it to the air, you can attempt to Arm through his air arrows, but once again you have to be pretty close and the opponent also has to be close to the ground. Normally he’d fall after the arrows, but with the air Legion Arrows, he floats in the air. And if you badly space it, he can even punish your attempt right away. Try to win this game with minimal use of your specials and try to be at more meter than Taskmaster.

Wesker

Spoiler

Wesker is similiar to Taskmaster but he doesn’t dominate the air as well as Task does, and a Wesker player will usually primarily attempt a rushdown game covered with gunshots and assists. You have to learn how to block. It sounds dumb and maybe even elitist, but it’s true. You have to learn to play against characters like Wesker, who can come in from any possible direction, shove you into the corner and kill you. Bionic Arm is less than stellar against Wesker and I suggest abandoning a strategy like that. Force your own rushdown game onto Wesker or switch to another character. Wesker has trouble punishing assists from fullscreen, so you definitely have the option if you’re pushblocking correctly. Let me state once more that blocking Wesker is extremely hard. If you’re having too much pressure, play a runaway game. Super jump and do Wire Swings. Wire Swing allows you to block, so Wesker can jump after you but he’s easier to block in the air. If he mixes up his high and low game well and you have trouble blocking his teleports, react to a teleport and block upback, aka a chicken block. Don’t expect to be able to punish his normals, pushblock and get your own game going.

There are a couple more matchups I want to discuss, but I’ll do those later. The gist of it is that against special zoning, you need to know what works and what doesn’t. Careful blocking and dashing to get in range for your Arm to work at it’s best? Or using assists to cover your grapples? You have to think what works best for you, there’s no clear cut 100% situation. I think Spencer has way more trouble against an efficient rushdown game, but even that has answers. If you evaluate your own tools and your opponent’s, victory should be within your grasp. Know yourself AND your opponent.

Other matchups I’ll get back to later are Magneto, Doom and Wolverine. There are others that I’ll discuss briefly but I don’t know enough about to really say a whole lot (Dante, Akuma). As for the terror, Phoenix… I’ll get to that once I figure it out but most of the time you’ll be fucked if you don’t snap her in.

Otherwise we can always talk about assists and team makeup to cover Spencer’s worst matchup but there’s probably always that one character you have a hard time against. This goes for everybody, it can be personal or a character weakness, but it just happens. Learn to deal with it and play against it, it’s all part of becoming a good player.

EDIT: One more thing - Skrull isn’t really a zoning character with his normals. Most of his normals are very limited in range and the Dhalsim-like ones aren’t gonna cut it either.


#3

Great thread! Any tips against Trish? I’m having a hard time dealing with her traps and dive kicks.


#4

We might as well make this the matchup thread.

As for Trish, I have no clue. I played against one Trish in tournament and I handled it all with Wesker. Online it’s the same deal, I found one good Trish and I just used Wesker against her… I imagine it’s tough though.


#5

Trish just happens to have exactly the right range to screw with Spencer. Same with Glaive Amaterasu, really. It’s just difficult for you to DO anything about that.

If they get predictable with their instant air dash heavies, though, you can at least :s: sj. :h::s: and get pressure. And the moment they do ANYTHING in the air, you can lancer safely.

One thing you might want to look for is the spacing on her traps, if there’s one at the right distance of the screen from you then it’ll hit you out of lancer after hitting them/forcing them to block, and its hit stun is not longer than lancer’s blockstun so it puts you at about neutral on whiff and gives you a free combo on block. Don’t try to work this though 'cause it comes up very rarely. Just, I play trish so often than I’ve seen it come up. Also make sure they don’t have level 3

But yeah, :034: (how do I even pronounce that?) is totally right, the trick is to not play the matchup because it is pretty bad for spencer.


#6

I pronounce it as “Ohthirtyfour” in English.

Usually the ones I avoid with Spencer are Taskmaster and Wesker. I’d like to go Wesker against Ammy and Wolverine which are also pretty bad for Spencer, but Wesker doesn’t have it that much better, specifically against Wolverine. So that’s just whoever’s already in the game. And yeah I guess I’ll keep avoiding Trish, it does seem really bad in theory and I had a pretty easy time just using Wesker.


#7

Another thing that needs to be discussed is general tactics against jump-up-back defense, specifically when you get your opponent in the corner. Let’s say I get a knockdown on him in the corner. I usually begin my offense with a normal jump in, but I find this is usually blocked, and they start jumping up-back. Is there any follow-ups ppl do besides risking a command grab or fishing for an air throw? Not all opponents are predictable…and I find doing random command grabs leaves you too open for punish. I’ve got Doom on my team, so I can keep the pressure on with s.L, s.M+Doom, zip-line forward to counter a push block, etc…but I still feel like this type of pressure leaves me open to counter hits. Any thoughts?


#8

It’s worth pointing out that if Wesker goes all the way into launcher on a blockstring, you can usually reversal jawbreaker (Jawbreaker is 5 startup, Wesker is -1 and his quickest light is 5 frames) since the pushback on his launcher isn’t too far. If he jumps you can do the heavy version instead (-1 + 4 frames to jump). Shouldn’t be done in excess though since if they bait it out (jumping the medium or staying grounded for the heavy) it’s very easy to punish.


#9

It’s worth pointing out that if you have meter or x-factor to burn, you can just not care by buffering in a super to do if your command grab whiffs, since the motion will do nothing if the command grab hits.


#10

Won’t you just get stuffed at that range? Jawbreaker isn’t exactly an spd in the range department.

I also find Magneto to be a real pain in the ass. You can’t air zipline at all because he can just shockwave on reaction. I find myself ziplining against the wall to try and bait a super which can then be punished from full screen with a ground grapple into death.

Even Bionic Lancer seems to trade with shockwave unless you space it just right. For the life of me I can’t figure out why they gave shockwave invincibility frames. You could actually jump over it in MvC2, but I guess that would mean Magneto would have to use actual judgement when spamming his stuff in MvC3. Capcom wouldn’t want that I guess.


#11

I’ve played quite a bit against Magneto and I think it’s all about who’s playing the character… If they’re content to sit a distance, just like with Dormammu just stick to the ground and dash. Figure out when they decide they’re gonna go in, at what range or what stage position. When they do that, block their stuff, if you get opened up you’re done. Learn when and where they put their mixups and punish them for doing them once too often.

I really like fighting against Magneto in general, not just with Spencer. Then again, maybe I’ve only encountered really aggressive Magneto’s.


#12

Went back into the lab and did some more tests. Yeah, doesn’t work too well on the ground, though you can grab them in the corner due to the reduced pushback (which is probably what I did when I was first testing it). The Anti-air one though is pretty generous; even with the pushback as long as they’re not hitting you from the edge of the hitbox it’ll usually connect. Some weskers do like to jump right after a blockstring to try to bait out a counter poke, so it at least has some utility for that. And if he’s content to stay on the ground he’s at -1 and Spencer/Wesker both have the same startup for their standing lights.