What should I do when I'm in the corner?

I’ve been playing USF4 for a few weeks now, playing online quite frequently. I feel that I have a decent grasp on the fundamentals (though there’s always room for more practice!). I seem to frequently find myself pushed into the corner with little idea as to what to do. This often times results in hitting the panic button and getting killed for it. My question is, What should I do when the opponent has pushed me into the corner?

Defense can be a difficult concept to grasp in fighting games but it is very important for every game. I don’t know your skill or knowledge level so I will try to write in general terms.

I’m going to assume you understand the concepts of high and low attacks, as well as throws/grabs. The main two ways an opponent will attack you are by trying to mix you up with moves with these properties, as they need to be countered in specific ways (high/low blocking, jumping, throw techs, etc). The other main method is to use frame traps, which are typically not really mixup attempts intended to challenge your blocking, but rather are attempts to punish you for pressing buttons or jumping when you are at a disadvantage.

Essentially, the basic strategy of defense is to sit there blocking low, and watch out for overhead attacks or grab attempts. Often, these types of attacks are slower, so they are easier to react to than quick low attacks. If they are slow enough, this could give you the opportunity to “mash out,” to execute a very quick attack like a crouching punch that will hit them before their slower attack actually hits you. A throw attempt may be telegraphed by the opponent walking or dashing toward you, or you may just have to guess whether they are trying to hit you or throw you.

With the very basics covered, when is finally it your turn? If you are successfully blocking their attacks and avoiding their throw attempts, it is time to utilize the mechanic of “pushback” to get out. Essentially, whenever you block an attack, the opponent gets pushed away from you at least a little bit. It can vary between moves, but generally stronger attacks will probably push you away more than weaker ones. So, if you block long enough, the opponent will push themselves far enough away from you that they can’t really hit you anymore. They will either have to start using longer range attacks that usually aren’t threatening mixup tools, or they will have to close the distance again, probably by walking, dashing, or jumping at you. This is your chance to take the momentum: when they commit to walking or running at you they aren’t attacking, so use a fast or at least medium speed attack to hit them before they can get close and start attacking you again. If they jump, use your best anti-air attacks to punish them.

The subject of meaty attacks is also very important. The most essential concept to understand about meaty attacks is that if an opponent starts an attack as you are getting up from a knockdown, assuming they timed it correctly, if you do anything other than block or perform an attack that is invincible it WILL hit you. Period. Even if you mash your fastest attacks when you are getting up, you will get hit every time. Even an inexperienced player will use this to repeatedly damage and knock you down if they see you are not respecting their offense. Learn to block.

If your character has an invincible attack, often called a reversal, DP, dragon punch, flash kick, etc., it will beat pretty much anything the opponent tries to do other than blocking or just avoiding it entirely. It is a good idea to use reversals sparingly to discourage your opponent from relentlessly attacking you. Reversals usually have long periods of vulnerability if they get blocked or dodged completely, so you don’t want to get predictable with them, but you do want your opponent to remember that you have it and worry that you will use it. If they try to block or back away they are not hitting you and it can give you a chance to steal back the momentum. If they are not respecting your defensive options, invincible moves will easily get you out of most situations, but even a novice player will catch on before long. Don’t get into a habit of abusing your reversals, and as a new player it might even be beneficial to intentionally not use them even if you have the option, as your fundamental defense skills will improve more if you focus on blocking properly and learning when to take back the offense.

Finally, if the topic of frame advantage, frame traps and frame data in general is new to you, do a little google research on the subject. It is critical to understanding fighting games; even if you don’t know the exact frame data on every attack just understanding the concept and how it works is necessary to understand both offense and defense. If you don’t understand frame data, some characters might feel like they can keep attacking indefinitely and you never have a chance to do anything no matter how long you block. There is always a way out, but these types of characters can be very frustrating to fight when you are a new player because even with a basic understanding of the game you simply might not have that next level of knowledge you need to counter them.

This is all very basic and the specifics vary greatly between characters. Hopefully this helps in some way. “How do I get out of the corner” is a common question for new players, but the answer is not that simple. Utimately, you must increase your knowledge and learn the fundamentals of the game, there is no easy solution. Once your defense is strong enough you can frustrate your opponent into taking bigger risks, and just improving your skill in general will reduce how often you are forced to go on defense at all. Study, practice, and above all, play the game as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The obvious answer is to not get put into the corner in the first place.

Naw but seriously, it does vary between what character you’re playing, and what character you’re up against. Characters like Dudley with stupid high pressure are often difficult to “mash out” against without expending some of your EX bar, but as you learn what your character can do, and read your opponents’ moves and strategies, you’ll be able to figure out how to not only get out of a corner fast, but also how to eventually never rarely get put in there in the first place.

You have just have to block, until you find an opening to strike back. Also don’t let yourself feel pressure when in the corner. Basically don’t get scared.