Learning a New Combo

So lately I’ve been playing Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late [st]. I decided for this game I wanted to play a more challenging character than I usually pick, and I heard Vatista was on the more challenging side, being a charge character that lets you charge in ALL FOUR DIRECTIONS and with button holds on 3 different buttons. Oh yeah, this article will include a lot of fighting game notation, so be sure to brush up: http://wiki.shoryuken.com/Notation

Vatista’s toolset is pretty standard for UNIST, she launches by sweeping with 2C, then hitting them with 5C to launch, then does an air chain into a divekick that carries her opponent down, then hits them off the ground into a finisher. The trouble is fitting her charges into the combo, especially the button charges. When Vatista holds a button for 1 second, she can release it, canceling any normal move, producing a crystal that will explode for a lot of damage when struck. So Vatista’s optimal combos involve getting a launcher, doing an air chain, then in the process of OTGing them, creating crystals and detonating them as the ender. Since the crystals require buttons to be held, you need to hold the buttons used in earlier attacks to release crystals later.

The other parts of Vatista’s moveset are a lot like Guile’s. [4]6 is a fireball, [2]8 is a flash kick. [8]2 is a divekick, which involves holding up for slightly longer than a regular jump.

This is made harder because I play on pad, so if I were to hold a button, I’d need to then fat-finger my thumb onto other buttons to press them to continue the combo. Alternatives are holding the pad with my left hand so my right hand can be turned so I use my index finger to manipulate the buttons, but that isn’t comfortable for me. Luckily, I own a Hori Fighting Commander 4. This contoller has R1 and R2 both on the face, and the shoulder. Fighting games don’t normally let you double bind buttons, but this controller gave me an exception. By binding B and C to R1 and R2, I now had them on the face and shoulder at the same time. This means I can hold a shoulder button while pressing the face buttons freely, and if I ever wanted to hold A, I can use the shoulder buttons to attack instead.

So I started the game out by learning an extremely basic combo, 2C 5C j.B j.C [8]2A 2C [2]8B. In this combo, 2C 5C launches, j.B and j.C buy time for me in the air so I can charge [8] for the divekick, which otherwise would take longer to charge than a whole jump. The divekick knocks them down, then I can OTG with 2C, and cancel that into a flashkick to end the combo.

Not so tough, I picked it up in a few training sessions, then eventually moved up to 2C 5C j.A j.B j.C land j.A j.B [8]2A 2C 2B [2]8B, which is basically the same combo, except you use the leftover hitstun from j.C to give you enough time to land and jump again to connect another j.A.

Then I moved up to using crystals, which meant finally using the shoulder buttons I had double bound. So the combo now looks closer to 2C 5C (delay) j.[B] j.C land j.A [8]2A 2C ]B[. This doesn’t have a real ender, but it sets up a crystal at the end. My first attempt at this, I decided to press j.B on the face, then immediately transfer my hold to the shoulder button, which worked, but eventually I realized it would be easier just to press the shoulder button directly. Another pain point was that I’d do 2C at the end, and release B, but no crystal would come out. I was releasing too quickly. I had to delay my release slightly to actually get the crystal out. That wasn’t so hard though. Easily enough, I had a crystal setup. It dealt less damage than my normal combo, but it was the first step, now I needed to learn the real combo.

2C 5C (delay) j.[B] j.C land j.A [8]2A 2[C] 2]B[ 2A 2B 5]c[
This is the combo I’m still working on. First thing to note is that I can skip the delay at the start if I’m willing to do j.A after launching (scales the combo, making it deal less damage), but that’s not really important. If I don’t delay properly, or use j.A, then the land into j.A later on won’t connect, they’ll be able to tech out after my j.C. The delay makes it so j.C happens later in the jump arc, as I’m landing. The next problem is the ender. It’s hard. So hard I decided to practice the ender by itself before integrating it into the combo. First I’d do this by holding down B for a second, then doing 2C 2]B[.

The first problem I had was doing 2A after the crystal release. I’d miss the link, then do a 2B that wouldn’t combo. Or I’d mash and get 2A 2A which wouldn’t combo. Eventually I fixed this by watching vatista’s crystal release animation for when she would retract her hand, instead of watching the opponent’s character (which I normally do during the juggle).

the next issue I had was releasing C to get the second crystal out. The second crystal needs to be released before the first one is done exploding. This means it needs to be released on the first hit of B and no later. My technique at the time for getting the C hold was pressing the C face button, then releasing the B shoulder button, then holding the C shoulder with the same finger, and then doing A and B with my thumb on the face buttons. But this technique had a problem, I was releasing C when I was transfering my hold from B to C on the shoulder buttons. So I’d do the pickup correctly from the first crystal release, and oddly find I could not release the second crystal off the first hit of 2B. I needed to wait a little, and waiting at all meant the second crystal would not be released soon enough to detonate.

Eventually I realized that I needed to continuously hold C from when it was first pressed, but this has another problem, I can’t hold down the C face button because that means I can’t press A to do the OTG. And I can’t just press the C shoulder button, because that would mean releasing B shoulder, so I couldn’t release the first crystal (I could use 2 fingers, but I don’t want to). So my solution was to hold face C a bit longer while I transferred my hold from shoulder B to shoulder C, before I needed to press 2A for the OTG. With a bit of experimentation, I found this worked and I could now do the entire ender! Now that I could do that consistently, I just had to put it together, but that’s where I ran into another problem.

I’d do the entire air chain successfully into the knockdown, then 2C and the crystal release, but couldn’t do the 2A to follow up. It wouldn’t combo! This seemed similar to my issue of timing from earlier, but that wasn’t it. I could do the link fine when practiced by itself, but I can’t do it in the middle of the combo, because I was canceling 2C into crystal release too late. Why’s that? because when I practice just the ender, 2C is my first input, and I only press it once. When I was doing it in the middle of the combo, I was mashing 2C to make sure it came out, but this meant I didn’t know when it was actually coming out, and I couldn’t cancel into crystal release at the correct timing on reaction. So I needed to reduce my mashing to one single press at the right moment in order to do the whole ender.

And that’s about where I am. I can do every part of the combo individually, and I have landed the whole thing in a match once before, but I still need to practice to actually get consistent at it. The hard part is, there’s so many little parts that make this difficult, it’s hard to keep consistent at all of them simultaneously. Also obviously playing on Pad makes this a lot harder than it normally should be, but I’m having fun with it, and nothing is impossible to pull off, even with my ridiculous limitations, which fits the bill for trying out a higher execution character. Plus Vatista is insanely fun, she’s the charge queen with a crazy amount of footsies play too.

Overall, I think there’s something really special in coming up against hurdles, experimenting to figure out the nature of the system, including the actual game, my controller of choice, and my own physical and mental processes of execution.

How to Perform Fighting Game Motions

A lot of beginners have trouble understanding exactly how the motions are supposed to be performed in fighting games, it can be tricky to understand without being shown in person. I’ve seen a lot of people interpret a dragon punch motion like this before:


Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator has a great combo trial move that starts off by showing you the motions of every character displayed on a stick, with your inputs juxtaposed directly below the example, so you can compare your inputs to theirs. It even shows when the button is pressed, so you can see that too (more useful if you’re trying it yourself, but still).

This helps side-step a lot of the issues beginners have with learning how to do motions and learning notation. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to Guilty Gear Revelator, so not everyone can learn this way.

To remedy this, I made gifs of each of the combo trials, with the corresponding motion listed above, so you can have a visual reference for how to do different motions. The buttons are random, whatever I had available from the guilty gear movelist, so please pay more attention to when the button is pressed, rather than which button is pressed. I’ll also list how it’s usually written in notation, so you can be familiar when you run into it. It’s also worth mentioning, all of these assume you’re facing right. I’ll even list them in numeric notation, which is a way of unambiguously specifying which directions you’re pressing. Here’s an explanation of that:


The red ball indicates where your stick/dpad is currently pointing, with the center being neutral, and the 8 dots around the sides being the 8 directions you can point.

Quarter Circle Forward / QCF / down, down-forward, forward / d, d/f, f / 236


This is the most basic motion. This is the basis of all the other motions. It’s called a quarter circle, because if you look at the 8 directions you can point in as a circle, it’s 1/4th of the circle. This motion is in every fighting game.

Quarter Circle Back / QCB / down, down-back, back / d, d/b, b / 214


Same as the QCF, except backwards. You can use a lot of moves just by knowing these two motions.

Dragon Punch / DP / Z-Motion / forward, down, down-forward / f, d, d/f / 623


This is the second most common motion in fighting games, and a stumbling block for a lot of beginners. You’re allowed to input it a bit sloppy, like 63236, just be sure not to accidentally do a double QCF in the process, and to complete the motion before you press attack. 6523 is also a valid way of inputting dragon punch.

Reverse Dragon Punch / RDP / back, down, down-back / b, d, d/b / 421


Same as the Dragon Punch, but backwards. This motion is really uncommon, but it shows up occasionally, and it’s always bizarrely harder to do than a regular DP, even though you’ll be used to doing DPs on both sides from normal play. This gif also shows off a sloppy way of inputting the DP, 4121, instead of a clean 421. And it’s input a lot faster than the others, showing you can do the motions quickly and they will still come out. 4521 is also a valid way to input a reverse dragon punch.

Half Circle Forward / HCF / back, down-back, down, down-forward, forward / b, d/b, d, d/f, f / 41236


Less common than a DP, but more than a reverse DP, half circle motions can be  significantly trickier to perform than quarter circle motions, even though they’re only slightly different. These motions are typically used for moves meant to have a bit more impact than a quarter circle move.

Half Circle Back / HCB / forward, down-forward, down, down-back, back / f, d/f, d, d/b, b / 63214


Same as the Half Circle Forward, just backwards. These are frequently used for weaker command grabs.

Charge Back-Forwards / back (hold), forwards / [b], f / [4] 6


Charge moves involve holding back for about a second, then tapping forwards and a button. They’re usually a bit stronger to make up for this charge time. You can also hold down-back to charge without moving backwards as you charge. Moving the stick to a position that isn’t back will cause you to lose your charge however, so you need to be either immobile, or walking backwards to charge.

Charge Down-Up / down (hold), up / [d], u / [2] 8


This charge move involves holding down, then tapping up and pressing attack. Note that if you’re too slow to press attack, you’ll do a jumping attack instead of your special move. Like with charge back-forwards you can hold down-back to charge and block at the same time. This will charge both charge moves simultaneously, so you can choose to use either one. In Guilty Gear, you don’t even need to press straight up or straight forwards to perform charge specials, you can instead press up-back, or down-forwards, letting you hang onto the other charge.

Double Quarter Circle Forward / 2QCF / QCF QCF / 236236


This is the most common super input in fighting games. It’s as simple as doing 2 QCFs back to back. It can be rather tricky, and frequently you can get Dragon Punches if you’re sloppy, or get supers if you’re sloppy with your dragon punches.

Double Quarter Circle Back / 2QCB / QCB QCB / 214214


Same as double QCF, just backwards. Also a really common super input.

Down Down / 22


Tap down twice, simple as it gets. Uncommon input in most games, very common in games by French Bread, such as Melty Blood. Frequently used as an alternative to the DP input.

Half Circle Back, Forward / HCB F / 632146


This is an extremely uncommon input found only in Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and King of Fighters really. It’s frequently used as a super input in these games, and for command throws.

Quarter Circle Forward Half Circle Back / QCF HCB  / 2363214


Another uncommon input except to those 3 games. This is only used as a super input. It can be tricky, try your best.

360 / SPD / 6248


A fairly common input, limited to grappler characters usually. Even though the instructions generally say to spin the stick 360 degrees, the game actually only cares if you hit all 4 cardinal directions (in any order you want, as long as it’s a complete rotation). An easier way to perform this move when you’re learning it is to do a half circle back, then tap up. Since you need to tap up at some point during the input, if you’re too slow to press punch, you will jump. This means it’s generally easier to do 360s when you’re already jumping in on your opponent, or dashing, or doing some other action that will prevent you from jumping.

Where Should You Look While Playing?

This might sound like a weird question, but when playing fighting games like melee, what should players direct most of their focus on? Their own character? The opponent? Or both? Where should they be looking the most?

It’s not a weird question at all, I’ve had a lot of people ask this before. It’s actually very astute of you to notice that you can be looking in different places. Most people don’t think to ask that.

Basically, it’s a matter of looking at what’s important at any given time. Most of the time it’s best to watch what your opponent is doing. It’s good to watch yourself when you’re trying to space yourself precisely. It’s good to watch between both characters when you’re spacing relative to each other. Watch yourself while recovering generally, especially for the sweetspot. Continue reading

How to Read a Book: Reads in Competitive Games

Care to do a breakdown on reads in fighting games?

There’s a bunch of different types of reads and types of information you can base reads on. First however, I’m gonna cover reactions, because that’s related.

Human reaction time is about 15 frames for something you’re expecting that you have a specific response planned for. So if you’re blocking low and know your opponent is going to overhead at some point and there’s no other variables, you can see him do that when he finally does it and block high. You can try this with the Millia Blocker game here:
http://www.teyah.net/milliablocker.html Continue reading

Marth Guide

How do I git gud with Marth on Project M? Annd how the fuck do I Ken Combo properly, the dair seems to have gigantic input lag and it never lets me recover until I’m halfway below the stage’s pit.

Follow Melee guides to Marth. Of all PM characters, Marth functions the most identically to his Melee incarnation and requires the least adjustment. The only big difference is dair has a really short landing lag time, so it’s more useful as a launcher. Continue reading

Marth’s Throw Followups

What’s the best way to use Marth’s throws in Melee/PM? As in, a couple of good examples for each throw? I often end up just using uthrow

Alright, I’ve mapped out Marth’s throw combos and setups rather thoroughly. Basically, Fthrow gets the most frame advantage, dthrow is like a reverse Fthrow with a worse angle and worse advantage time, bthrow is nearly useless, uthrow gets guaranteed combos on all applicable characters. Combos are not guaranteed with any other throw, except fthrow under specific circumstances. So Uthrow is your respect option. It gets the worst followups (on most characters), but it’s guaranteed regardless of their DI. All of Marth’s throws are so fast that they’re unreactable. It’s hard to react to how fast marth can grab and throw you, it’s impossible to react to which throw he decides to use. Uthrow is great on spacies. Fthrow and Dthrow are great on floaties. I recommend dthrow for super heavy characters. Bthrow is good for sending people onto platforms when you want to do platform setups at high percentages and almost nothing else. Continue reading

How to Improve at Mind Games

How can someone become good at playing mind games with their opponent in fighting games?

By practicing it deliberately.

See Also: How to Read a Book: Reads in Competitive Games

Specifically you should watch your opponent’s patterns. What do they keep doing and how can you exploit that? Watch what they do in each situation, get a feeling for their tempo and reaction time. If their reaction time is better than yours, then you need to beat them by acting on the tempo. If they do not adhere to the tempo, then you need to figure out by how much, and either act first to interrupt their options, or act second to punish them.

Watch for common player behaviors and keep a mental record of those. One example of this is, as Marth, I like to run through my opponent, then run cancel with a crouch, and fsmash back at the opponent I passed by. This is because when you run through, many people think they’re safe and do an option out of shield. However this is not foolproof. Players with good reaction time can grab me out of shield before I run through them. Players who are smart can recognize my pattern and either jump out of shield earlier, or hold onto their shield so my fsmash does nothing. At which point the correct response from me is to notice they are doing this and instead do run through, cactaur dash (run cancel and dash opposite direction), grab, because I’ve conditioned them to stay in shield.

Think about how everything you do conditions a response from your opponent and other things you can do instead that beat that response. If you do something that is exploitable, change it up in expectation of your opponent catching on. Watch what you do before you do an action, because that might give it away. Similarly watch for that in your opponent.

Getting good at mindgames is about studying other people, and finding 50/50 scenarios.

Also read this guide.

Here’s 3 other guides on it as it applies specifically to smash bros (though you can extend these lessons outside of those games too)

And here’s a paper on people’s patterns in Rock Paper Scissors and a basic guide to winning:

Click to access 1404.5199v1.pdf

(The short is, winners tend to stick with their choice more often, losers tend to switch more often, and continue switching to unused options.)

Think about what the opponent is actually doing. Remember their responses to scenarios, and keep updating to do the thing that will beat their current pattern. If you have found a pattern that keeps winning, keep doing it, or if it’s just a pure mixup, switch after 2-3 reps, because that’s when your opponent is likely to switch, unless they’re bad and don’t understand the counterplay of the different options.

Of course also look for scenarios in which you can cover all or most of your opponent’s options on reaction and just setplay them. Then you don’t need to guess.

The beauty of competitive games is that there’s a complicated web of counters to different options in different scenarios, with one covering many in many cases, and different ones changing in utility based on the scenario. But to exploit these, you really need to think and pay attention, or you’ll get played.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Good.

What do you think of Spherax’ salty rage quit on Rising Thunder? Does he have somewhat of a valid point beside how bitch he sounds?

This was the MOST HILARIOUS FUCKING THING EVER when it happened. I even told the guy on his twitter to neutral jump the fucking fireballs. Rising thunder was a game that made neutral jumps over fireballs REALLY FUCKING GOOD too! Because all moves were on cooldown, if you neutral jumped a fireball, not only were you not allowed to shoot another until it went offscreen, they had to wait for the whole cooldown to finish!

It also lead to interesting things like if your opponent wasted an anti-air, then you could jump in all you wanted without fear until the cooldown finished.

Also I loved how Chel in that game could cancel sweeps into fireballs. Almost no game does that except Super Turbo.

Like the ironic thing about his whining was, he was playing the best character in the game, Crow. Crow had absolutely ridiculous okizeme pressure, and pressure in general. If he got in close, he could attack, cancel to short ring toss, jump over, crossup, attack high or low, then ring toss again, and so on, then confirm into a combo, into super. Crow was some cool shit, but also evil shit.

In short, No. He does not have a point. All of his whining is completely invalid. He is a bad player who has trouble with a simple low-level playstyle. Chel was not overpowered or broken. Ryu is not overpowered in SF4. Dude got beaten, claims the other player is bad and using a broken character to salvage his ego. It’s as simple as that.

When you get beaten, you need to acknowledge WHY you are getting beaten. You need to understand the faults in YOURSELF. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is using a broken character, you can pick that character too. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is a scrub. You’re a worse scrub for losing to them and being salty about it. If you cannot purge yourself of this mindset then you cannot improve. Developing a mindset like this makes you worse against players you should be beating the most easily.

I played a friend recently who played EXACTLY like this. He’d shoryuken out of everything I did to him after blocking the first hit, be mashing shoryuken in the middle of all my combos in case I dropped. This is a scrubby terrible behavior. I was tired at the time and fucking livid that he was seriously pulling this dumb shit when I was in a mindset where my ability to adapt was slowed down. So I began tapping him once, letting him shoryuken, and doing the crush counter combo. I then did something I don’t do often in SFV and switched characters. I chose a bunch of random characters I never play and beat him with almost all of them (rip zangief). I was annoyed, but I controlled myself enough to not lose to an opponent doing a basic (but bad) strategy.

Zoning is interesting. There’s a lot of ways to zone well, and a lot of ways to get around zoning. If you can’t figure all this out, if you can’t see what’s interesting about it, you’re in a bad mental place.

Understanding Framedata: Combos, Traps, and Turns

I want to come back to this later to add animated gifs or webms that show different moves, with overlays displaying the framedata

Many beginners to fighting games, including myself, get intimidated by frame data. They look at it like this huge spreadsheet of numbers that they think they have to memorize. I originally didn’t get framedata, but wanted to understand how combos were built, how people discovered them, and thought, “will I just have to memorize all this framedata to get it?” It took me a while for it to click. In reality, yeah people pick up a lot of framedata incidentally, but almost no one seriously memorizes all the framedata. People really only look for a few things, which moves are unsafe, which moves set up combos, which can follow up combos, and whether each move is plus or minus on block. Continue reading

Fighting Game Alignment Chart

How would you break down the many different fighting game playstyles such as rushdown, turtling, zoning, or any others you can think of?

A friend of mine (ClarenceMage) came up with a really brilliant way of separating it out actually.

fighting game alignment chart.png

The idea is you have these two scales: Horizontally, you have a scale between Game Knowledge (left) and Player Knowledge (right). Vertically, you have a scale between Safe Guaranteed Play (top), and Risky Unpredictable Play (bottom).

Setplay revolves around setting up situations and capitalizing off of them. Setplay is highly reliant on game knowledge, it’s all about knowing the game better than your opponent. Examples of setplay players would include Armada (Honest Setplay) and Marn (Dog Setplay).

Buttons is about winning the footsie neutral game. It’s player knowledge, part game knowledge, so it falls somewhere between setplay and reads. You gotta know a bit of what your opponent is thinking, but also a bit of how to use your options best to win. Examples of Buttons players would be Hungrybox (Honest Buttons), PPMD (Opportunistic Buttons), and Infiltration (Dog Buttons)

Reads is about knowing your opponent’s tendencies. It’s about attacking at just the right time in just the right place. It relies heavily on player knowledge. Examples of Reads would be Snake Eyez (Honest Reads), Mango (Dog Reads) and Daigo (also Dog Reads).

Playing Honest is about sticking to guaranteed setups with a small chance of failure. Honest players tend to mix in a variety of approaches instead of pursuing a single gimmick and play according to what has the best odds of success. Honest players are the ones that almost always block low on wakeup or tech neutral. Honest players can have this tendency towards safety taken advantage of, but tend to have very consistent performance to make up for it.

Playing Dog is about going for what works and throwing caution to the wind. It’s about dogged persistence to win the way you want to win. Dog players tend to go for high risk high reward options or get killed trying. Dog players will ultra on wakeup, shoryuken in your face, charge the fsmash in the direction you’re about to roll, go offstage for the gimp.

Playing Opportunistic is a mix of Honest and Dog, trying to adapt to how the opponent is playing at that moment, seizing opportunities to grab just a bit more advantage where you can, but sticking to what you know works when the going gets tough. Opportunistic players are flexible, but can psych themselves out trying to follow their opponent’s patterns and be in the wrong mode at the wrong time.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to divide playstyles or categorize them. If you want to get deep down, it comes down to the player’s tendencies to use some options over others and the frequency of that option use, and you can’t totally quantify that.