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Grappler Training

Everyone should learn to play Zangief. Every character in Street Fighter has a wonderfully unique gameplay style which emphasizes certain skills above others. While you certainly can develop a strong throw game by using Guile, you’d have to go way out of your way to learn it. On the other hand, picking Gief will put you on the fast track to building all those dirty mental pathways which make for a strong throw game.

Needing to throw to win with Zangief will teach you precisely how to set up that last throw with Guile or how to land that mid-match throw with Cammy to energize your entire offense. It’s as much a psychological challenge as a tactical matter. Using a committed grappler such as SF4 Gief/Abel, ST Gief/T.Hawk/Bison, 3S Makoto/Alex/Hugo, CvS2 Gief/Raiden/Vice, etc. can help you identify and exploit these subtle signs to determine when an opponent becomes highly susceptible to throw attempts.

Ask the right question and every experienced Gief player will tell you that people react differently to throws depending on specific circumstances – whether it’s the first throw attempt in a round, the second throw in succession, or potentially fatal throw setups near the end of a round. Perhaps even more important than the skill required to land throws is the ability to detect an opponent’s growing fear and harness it to steer turtles into the corner for free. Zangief players learn right away that damage from punishing foolish escape attempts is no less valuable than damage from successful throws.

When you play grapplers the right way, there comes a moment when your opponent gets so overly concerned about fending off throw attempts that their feet literally become entrenched in the ground, as if desperately trying to protect an arbitrary spot on the floor. Anytime you get any aspect of your offense to scare someone so much that they simply stop moving around, you’ve already won the mental battle because they’re playing like they’re cornered.

Perhaps the most fascinating trademark of Zangief’s play style is the notion of taking damage to gather information about your opponent, train them to repeat predictable patterns, and open up offensive opportunities. Valle once told me that the lifebar is the greatest mindgame of all, and it’s true in a number of ways.

If you feed your opponent consistent damage on a regular basis, it becomes very difficult for them to turn away from that steady reward stream and very easy to forget your other options. Watch how Viscant’s SF4 Zangief eats two low fierces to set up one SPD grab, which equals out the damage then sets up a wakeup game netting Gief even more damage. Believe it or not, this is actually a common advanced tactic among Zangief users and an extremely important facet of Street Fighter for all players to understand.

That’s three critical lessons you can learn from playing Zangief: how to set up throws, how to score damage by feigning throws, and how to trade a little vitality for vital information. What are you waiting for? Go play Gief for a couple of weeks!

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  1. ano
    March 6th, 2010 at 22:21 | #1

    its weird my friend that plays gief (ST, alpha games, sf4, etc) / tager / hugo / etc, when we play marvel the thing that always scares the shit out of me is he uses santhrax and or team scrub and then captain commando comes out and i swear to god captain commando is grapple character because this dude makes me terrified just all sorts of ways when he has commando on point like i snap in commando and then commando kills my whole team with tick grabs and i’m like WTF? i tech many of them but he just KNOWS how to do it so well and he mashes it for a lot of damage… marvel isn’t a game known for its throws and throw setups but dear lord and then i’m expecting a throw or something and i try to tech or jump out and then he makes me die for that too…

    the funny thing is that if you don’t mash and he mashes he can make commando’s throw do 100% damage he did this to one of my friends who didnt mash when he got thrown and we laughed so hard

  2. Bob Sagat
    March 7th, 2010 at 03:55 | #2

    “ST Gief/T.Hawk/Bison”

    B-Bison? I know he’s got a good throw, but I see him more as a TOD combo-machine…

  3. March 7th, 2010 at 03:56 | #3

    ano: Awesome story and a perfect example of what i was getting at. Thanks for taking the time to post it, sir. It’s funny because you can definitely tell someone’s preferred character background by their overall play style in recent games – especially when they look at a character like Commando and see a potential grappler.

    Bob Sagat: Haha i’ve heard more than one person refer to ST Bison as mini-Gief. His whole offense is predecated upon throw mixups and meaty setups. The fact that he has deadly combos off those mixups makes him even more dangerous. But when you think about it, he doesn’t really have a reliable/safe overhead so he needs a strong throw game to make an impact.

  4. chulo313
    March 7th, 2010 at 04:17 | #4

    For me its just something about throwing an opponent that gets in their head that frazzles them. In marvel i would zone with omega red or rush down colossus. With hugo & gief a spd seems like a opponent can go in sloppy mode.

  5. jamheald
    March 7th, 2010 at 04:19 | #5

    The good thing about non-grapplers with decent throws is that they normally have more set ups, like I abusing the cr.hp anti air xx spiral as a throw set up, and of course she has the slide.

  6. Kareeem
    March 7th, 2010 at 05:55 | #6

    Bisons throw game in ST is ridiculous, being able to tick of his specials with unusual blockstun makes it a pain to deal with.

    Good little writeup. Having a strong throw game has always been somewhat of a priority in picking characters for me, there is something about throws that makes it a little humiliating to get hit by them, even if a combo is more devastating health wise.

  7. todzilla26
    March 7th, 2010 at 09:20 | #7

    This is an awesome article. I’ve been trying to expand my character base from ryu and I figured gief would be good because 1. He plays nothing like shotos and 2. I’m sometimes scarred out of my mind playing against him. This is great insight on how to start my approach with him and gives me something to work on. Thanks for another solid article.

  8. ano
    March 7th, 2010 at 10:27 | #8

    @Bob Sagat
    my friend that i mentioned in the comment above, I see him land ST gief’s touch of death as often than i see him land tick grabs

  9. zero
    March 10th, 2010 at 00:20 | #9

    who has air throw range data? really curious about Guile’s range in WW.

  10. March 10th, 2010 at 02:09 | #10

    Asking for WW throw ranges is funny because the official established answer is “pretty far fool.” Back in those days you were lucky if the manual included a movelist. There wouldn’t be any WW data at all if HSF2 hadn’t made it vaguely relevant again.

  11. xXSkyscraperXx
    March 10th, 2010 at 15:39 | #11

    I really enjoy the article. My inglish writing is rustic and I can’t express right without google translate lol thanx maj

  12. jbernoski
    March 13th, 2010 at 00:50 | #12

    Good read, I’m definitely going to broad my horizons a little.

  13. The Jack Of Hearts
    April 17th, 2010 at 23:33 | #13

    The thing about Zangief that gets me is the 360 command. I can’t seem to pull it off without leaping towards my opponent. Though I don’t really practice with him, but I definitely plan to.

  14. DiscoC
    November 26th, 2010 at 23:47 | #14

    The Jack Of Hearts :
    The thing about Zangief that gets me is the 360 command. I can’t seem to pull it off without leaping towards my opponent. Though I don’t really practice with him, but I definitely plan to.

    Just so you know, in S/SFIV (and in other SFs, I believe) you only have to hit five directions, then a Punch to SPD (example: start with Back, roll to Foward, then Up/Forward+Punch). When I learned about that, I found Gief to be more approachable.

    It’s funny what learning another character can teach you. Just today, I was fighting this Cody player in SSFIV online. I now main Ryu, but I used to main Cody, and one thing that every Cody player knows is that b+MP is his best anti-air normal.

    During that match, I went to jump in, but Cody hit me with (surprise) b+MP. After I landed, my brain told me, “He knows about b+MP; don’t jump again, fool!”

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