Thelo's quick guide to reaction-based defense

Yes I think when most of us started out we didn’t automatically start winning. Perhaps you’re different?

You said something along the lines of ‘People have different ideas of what’s boring and what’s not’. It was my way of saying 'Really, Sherlock? No argument.

Well baiting is predicting your opponent is going to reverse? Similar things could be said about fakes and mix-ups. To do those successfully you usually need to ‘out-think’ your opponent.

To put it briefly; yes. If I remember correctly, one of Sirlin’s goals was to remove mindless spamming (Vega’s cr.roundhouse vs Guile or Ken’s jab DP) so more thought would be needed in some matches. I agree with him (in my opinion of course which is subjective!)

I’d like to stress that I do not believe that a turtle does not have to think. But in some cases I think they have to work less since they’re basing their game on reaction and repeating moves which are VERY safe. And what jiggly says is also right, once you get in then the tables have turned.

I’m not going to go into an argument about why Akuma is banned with you, there are already numerous threads on that subject.

You cannot take something i wrote as a retort against someone else and create a strawman that i used it as a retort against you.

But if i were to indulge your poor debating skills.
Winning is fun so therefore i should always be playing the best character ?
Winning is the ultimate and only goal of the game.
The way in which you reach it is up to everyone.
The reason why i say Winning is fun is because of the struggle between players to reach that goal in whatever way that they have chosen. That is what makes the game fun and interesting.


Winning is fun.

Are you seriously going to base your argument on the fact that random commentators on some video do not enjoy the playstyle of a great player ?

That it’s not fun for you to watch ?

That has to be the scrubbiest thing i have ever read on this forum so far.

Isn’t Ricky Ortiz known for being a good turtle?

I agree that it was their goal, however I do find it ironic that later games tended to be less offense-based than SF2 as a general rule. Just had to point that out since I think it’s funny…and kind of sad.

FWIW, I don’t think Thelo’s original post was meant to promote turtling per-se. I don’t think turtling is bad, and his play style and character choice may lean towards the turtle style, but that’s not the main point I took away from his post. My take-away is that, when possible, doing stuff on reaction is better than on anticipation. And I think there is great wisdom in that.

I’ve always tended to play with a rushdown style and I love mix-ups, but it’s taken me a long time to realize that I can do some of that on reaction and not by randomly guessing what the guy will do next. I’ve also realized that I need to slow my roll sometimes. It is taking me a long time to unlearn some of my habits. So, I think regardless of your play style there’s some good food for thought in this thread.

I’ll respond to this one point the rest i see no reason to.

You said:

Why would someone playing to win not be enjoying the game ?
Why would someone who from the beginning starts to play with the intention of winning as much as possible not enjoy it as much as someone who does not play it with that intention ?

I implore you to tell me why Akuma is banned. In some way (if not that one), I need you to reconcile your observation that winning is fun with your willingness to avoid using that character.

Well, at least now we’re deconstructing what you wrote, and starting to see the reasoning behind it.

I could keep rolling with this, but I think I’ve made my point to most readers of this thread.

You already have your answer in why i do not play Akuma.

And i have to say i think most people understood what i said without me having to break it down for you.

No no continue, I’m enjoying this dumb feud.

Is this “feud” dumber or less dumb than stuff like [media=youtube]pw8SUlK_5OM[/media]?

I mean, there it is, man. Defend it.

Take all week, if you like.

Ok I’ll assume you understand and agree with the other points then.

It seems you only see black and white, rather than the shades of grey in between.

This began with you saying
’Winning is fun’

I agreed but then added something along the lines of ‘BUT I believe there’s too much emphasis on results and not enough on the fun part’. Sure we should all have aspirations but doesn’t mean winning is everything.

Those who start out a game are likely to lose at the start, right? If that’s the case then if you’re only interested in results then you’re probably not going to be very happy.

Josh Waitzkin (wikipedia him if you don’t know him) points out in his book ‘The Art of Learning’ says something similar to this… So if you’re still unclear then I strongly suggest you read his book; it’s very enjoyable.

An example of me putting fun first is the fact I pick Ryu sometimes if the matches against my Gief are not close. If I went for the win everytime I would pick Gief everytime and probably would have stopped having fun a while ago.

I agree for the most part but I’ll play devil’s advocate with Dicator. With Dictator all you have to do is jump at your opponent and guess correctly one time in a match and you can win the match outright. Against the [media=youtube]AdvXOB2Ml-M&#t=1m36s"]shotos or [URL=“”[/media] you always see Japanese Dictator players jumping in anticipation of a projectile. If they guess wrong they get knocked out of the air and knocked down but it’s no tremendous disadvantage for Dictator. If they guess correctly and land the jumping attack it’s pretty much a lock for the round. So in that case the risk is considerably lower than the reward. There are more examples of this in ST I’m sure, but yes, for the most part you want your opponent to be taking the most risks per round.

But many matches turtle style play is extremely effective. Look at 3S Chun, sure she has the tools for offense, a great super art, best kara range, tons of great normals…but she really dominates that game by playing a turtle style. It might not be sexy, hell it might even be boring and aggravating to watch, we’ve seen tournaments where crowds in Japan and the U.S. either boo Chun in 3S or cheer like crazy when she loses. But turtle style 3S Chun is a tournament staple at high level play.

Personally, I can’t stand watching 3S Chun or O.Sagat, or any boring dominant character, and I usually skip over those matches on the EVO or Arcadia DVDs. But Sirlin’s philosophy was play to win so why play a character, designed for turtle style play, offensively, especially if it means making your game overall worse and less effective?

You cannot blame people for playing turtle style when clearly the characters were designed to be that way.

O.Sagat? Does he count?

Well look at John Choi playing O.Sagat and winning ST at EVO last year, or Tokido playing mostly N.Claw and CE.Dictator to win AE at EVO2K6…their goal was to win the game using the absolute best characters. No one plays only to win exclusively with their time, even the best players will play casuals, or play secondary characters for fun. But there come times when people want to win and they pick characters that are surefire bets with to place high in tournaments.

You wording is off but I know where you are going. A game is always going to have a strongest character, but it’s how high that character is on the tier list, that makes the character tournament legal or not. Akuma is the strongest in SFII because he’s meant to be an overpowered dominant character (aka a boss character). In ST he was banned because he was incredibly powerful. In 3S the boss character is Gill and he is banned, yet Chun and Yun, normal characters, absolutely dominate high level play and remain tournament legal. One year ago there were what? Five Chun players in the top eight for 3S at EVO2K8? Certainly dominant but still not enough to warrant a ban in the eyes of the 3S tournament community.

Every game has a strongest character, in ST they banned Akuma, but then O.Sagat was soft banned in Japan because he was too strong, and then N.Claw players started soft banning the wall dive loop from their game because it was too powerful as well. Eventually you reach a point where there is nothing too overpowered in the game and no one has to worry about soft or hard bans. Maybe that’s where we are in HDR (aside from Akuma obviously). HDR certainly has certainly eliminated the two most outstanding barriers for balance from ST (O.Sagat and N.Claws wall dive knockdown).

I hope you don’t think that SFIII and SFIV are more offense oriented than SFII.

3S is a total turtle fest in many cases. You can parry attacks which immediately changes the entire controlling of space and chip damage aspect of SF. You can sit back and take projectiles all day in 3S. And SFIV is insanely slow, just look at how long rounds take in SFIV, and how often characters just sit back doing nothing or jumping around screen. I don’t think SFIII and SFIV are less turtle friendly than SFII at all.

In those games, throw-tech can be done for zero damage against normal throws, so you can continue to turtle against throws if you tech them in time. In SFII if you turtle against attacks and your opponent throws you with a normal throw, the best you can get in ST and HDR is a soften for reduced damage and more favorable recovery, in the previous SFII iterations (WW, CE, HF, NC) you couldn’t even soften throws for more recovery and less damage so turtle style would lose against throws.

Lastly if you don’t like turtle style play go pick up Virtua Fighter where throw beats guard and there are no projectiles. :sweat:

This. Against characters without projectiles in ST it is very favorable in some matches for Honda to never advance forward without preserving his charge. You’ll see Honda just sit with defensive crouch, storing ochio, and charging for headbutt and buttslam, while only advancing with hands. Against projectiles characters it doesn’t really behoove him to sit back, Honda must find ways to get in, and stay in for as long as possible.

And even then with Honda you only want to play defensively against non-projectile characters so much. If you got in (well in ST anyways) you get score some [media=youtube]MGoFiNteQeU&#t=1m25s"[/media] with the right positioning.

No defending. I don’t like SF4 anyway since rushdown doesn’t mean shit.

I heard we were talking about SF4: [media=youtube]4C0F_aVAnFU[/media]

Even against projectile characters, you can sometimes advance on them using reaction, instead of blindly trying to anticipate what they will do. My examples of Honda vs Guile and Honda vs Ken both have a net result of Honda “attacking” his opponent and advancing towards him by defeating his projectile offense.

This doesn’t always work, but it’s an important tool for advancing on the other guy just as much as for holding it down-back in the corner. Playing against Honda or Guile and you’ve just seen him lose his charge? Reaction: Jump on him! Playing against Chun Li and just seen her jump backwards? Reaction: Walk towards her! I think I just shouldn’t have included the word “defense” in the thread title to avoid skewing people’s opinions, and should really just made it all about reaction, which is somewhat more neutral in tone.

I’ll point out the key term in this paragraph here: anticipation.

If we’re really looking at how the risk/reward ratio should work, then anticipation is probably the most risky way you can score damage. You’re going off of what you think you know your opponent is going to do…not what they’re doing, which is the case with reacting to something. With Dictator, I don’t see there being too many moves that he can react to by jumping and end up scoring a ToD combo. It’s just not that easy. The odds are still in the opponent’s favor.

My two cents:

  1. I really like your post, Thelo. My biggest weakness IS reaction… I block jump-ins even though I use characters with reliable DP’s all the time. My game is mostly anticipation, and that’s why I’m so easily defeated because I put myself into risk so often. So reading about reactions is a nice read, especially for someone like me who sucks at it.

  2. There is one HUGE area that you did not touch upon, however, that makes the post less accurate. What you’ve written is largely true… but mostly for Charge characters and for projectile characters.

The life of a non-projectile, non-charge character is VASTLY different. For Charge characters, Sonic Boom codes and Razor Kick codes and Headbutt codes are TOO EASY to do, so reaction is super powerful for them. It takes a split second to do, and requires no prep work at all. I’ve already stated that my reaction timing to jump-ins is pathetic, and yet when I use Guile or Honda, I’ll NEVER miss it.

For Fireball characters, it’s different. By throwing a Fireball, you’ve completely limited the number of actions a character CAN take… you’ve closed off, almost instantaneously, 90% of their doors, so it’s easy to react to the last 10% of their options because their choices have become so severely limited.

Note 1: This is why Guile is such a great turtle: not only is he a charge character, but he’s an effective projectile character as well.

But for characters like Cammy and Fei Long, for example, reaction-based play simply isn’t an option. And that’s because everything you want to use as a reaction puts you in tremendous peril, unlike a character like Honda.

If I spend my life waiting for a Jump-In so I can DP the opponent, I am vulnerable to Sweeps, something charge characters have no fear of whatsoever. If I spend my whole time anticipating a Fireball so I can Super through it, I am in peril to a ton of other options, because I’m walking around, trying to maintain optimal distances and not taking care of my defense at all.

Note 2: This is why I always claim Alpha 3 can be fixed by making Customs activated with a motion. Like Razor Kicks, Custom Combo codes are too easy to do, and even someone as scrubby as me can react with an anti-air Custom Combo without problems at all. With motions, that set-up for the reaction breeds exposure, and a better game will ensue.

The point I’m trying to make is that the post you wrote up, while EXCELLENT in many ways, should be qualified that it applies only to a certain subset of characters. Offensive-based characters who have no ability to zone with something as strong as a projectile simply cannot survive on that philosophy. They base their wins on constantly attacking and being random… in other words, they are trying to REMOVE the opponent’s ability to use reaction. However, in doing so, they cannot use their own reaction… they much play almost exclusively off of anticipation because if they stop moving, they become easy to react to, and thus they are put into a super weak position. If they spend most of the fight trying to react, they will accomplish almost nothing, so they have to keep attacking and hoping to anticipate correctly.

  • James

Thelo, besides Honda, what other characters do you play regularly? (Not suggesting that you don’t play anyone else, just curious.)

I only play Honda regularly.

Sometimes, when I get bored, I’ll do some random select, but Honda is my only competitive character.

Awesome post, man! So much killer wisdom in there.

Jumpins in general are risky on top of that guessing correctly is harder let alone having the dexterity to end the round with that correctly guess jumpin, what you say is classic example of easier said then done also consider your statement about dictator landing a jumping attack to secure a round can be applied to everyone else.

Getting knocked down IS ta tremendous disadvantage is every fighting game especiallt hdr where meaty/wakeup games are so powerful and even with 3 frames of invincibility ask dic players how consistently they get out of “oh shit” situations with it versus how often they opt to do something else or don’t get the revseral. This isn’t any kind of insult to you so don’t take it that way but when you say thing like the risk is lower then the reward ESPECIALLY for dictator of all characters it makes you sound very out of touch with how hdr works.

Doesn’t cammy have a safe dp? (albeit not as safe as vst):razzy:

Watch how many times Professor Jones gets knocked down in [media=youtube]8OGf9TYl4Ig"[/media] and how many times he gets out of it. And the only reason that people don’t get a reversal is because they have poor execution. I play Akira of the Virtua Fighter, a character with execution requirements that are far more strict than Dictator in ST and HDR, so I can perform commands and links with 1/60 requirements with relative consistency and so can anyone else with practice. I don’t know what Dictator players you know but execution is hardly a barrier for playing Dictator.

If you get knocked down in HDR it’s hardly round over for everyone. Some characters have nightmarish times against certain characters once they get knocked down (Dictator vs Hawk or Gief, or Boxer vs Ryu) but it’s not the case across the entire cast. Getting hit with a [media=youtube]xfbqEyKPHQc&#t=1m19s"[/media] from Dictator usually means you are most likely going to rapidly lose the round. And Dictator’s jump-in combos are probably the easiest in all of ST and HDR so execution shouldn’t really be a barrier. Just look at the GigaMsx match against Sim, he jumps right at his opponent, forcing his opponent to react to his jumping roundhouse.

There’s no small set of time to hit confirm or react for Dictator in this situation, you just jump, and you have the muscle memory for the combo all prepared in your mind. If you land the jumping roundhouse, then you complete the combo, and likely win the round. If your opponent doesn’t react with an attack and successfully blocks your jumping attack, then you can complete a block combo, one that leaves you out of throw and reversal range so that you are safe. And if your opponent guesses correctly or reacts very quickly, well then you have enough time to adjust your inputs, to where you can react to the wake up games or landing games while you are being knocked down and waking up. Look how many times [media=youtube]2aO-GIJf1HA&#t=2m10s"]in this match that Giga jumps at his opponent in a row because he is forcing his opponent to react very quickly as it’s prohibitive execution wise for his opponent to do so. Meanwhile Dicatator’s block combos and then the short time between the next jumping attack are effectively locking his opponent down (and then of course they set up Sim to get really locked down). Even here you see Giga jump right at Sim without hesitation, and had his moves come out correctly (probably XBL lag), it would have been the round. Even [URL=“”[/media] that I posted earlier, you see YuuVega jump right at his opponent, and the Guile opponent tries to anti-air him but executes too slowly and eats one of Dicator’s round ending combos. The execution barrier does not lie with the Dicator player but rather with his opponent in my opinion. YuuVega actually lands a jumping roundhouse twice in that match but the first time in that round he lands the roundhouse too early and Guile recovers before he can combo into it.

I think that if you factor in everything, hitboxes, frames, execution, and total damage potential, that Dictator jumping in at certain characters yields a significantly higher reward than risk, simply because the reward is winning the match and the risk is getting knocked down. Obviously Dictator can’t mindlessly jump at Zangief or Hawk because if he gets knocked down (without a full meter) he’s asking for major trouble. But there are some characters where Dictator can risk getting knocked down in exchange for possibly landing a round ending combo.

Here’s [media=youtube]QgEJtoSoEls&feature=PlayList&#t=1m07s"[/media] match where YuuVega jumps right at his opponent who is playing Ryu. Watch Ryu try to execute a dragon punch but he fails because the execution barrier in ST is not favorable for split second reactions. You have 8-15 frames to get an SRK with 8 frames being the more likely window…YuuVega knows this and tests his opponent’s execution and wins.