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Sustaining and Surrendering Momentum

March 13th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

During the course of an otherwise effective offensive sequence, you may attempt to bait a reversal which your opponent refuses to take – landing you in an awkward neutral situation. What should you do after a wrong guess costs you momentum?

Well, i don’t think there’s a universal answer to that question. Certain characters might have situation-specific tricks to artificially extend momentum, but it’s a mistake to assume that you ought to cling to momentum forever. Ideally, you want to strike a calculated balance between offensive and defensive play to give yourself the upper hand under all circumstances. Obviously momentum grants significant advantages, but making desperate wagers to preserve it exposes you to dangerous pitfalls.

Well-played matches should look like you’re consistently in control and your strategy is overall superior. You don’t necessarily have to win every single rock/paper/scissors instance. If that were true then the absolute highest regarded moments in Street Fighter history would be lopsided Makoto or Dudley massacres where one player happens to guess right every time. Clearly that’s not the case because we all consider those to be flukes.

Being able to maintain momentum is less important than being able to build it up from neutral equilibrium. To become a great offensive player, you need to develop an arsenal of reliable ways to break through the opponent’s defensive mid-range zone. Once you gain confidence in your ability to accomplish this task at will, you’ll stop overvaluing momentum to the point of risking entire matches to hang onto it.

In fact, the biggest drawback to offensive progression is that you gradually lose track of your opponent’s intentions. Let’s say you manage to pull off an uninterrupted mini-surge consisting of two throws, a sweep, and a psychic DP. That’s roughly eight seconds where you haven’t seen your opponent do anything except get knocked down and stand up again. You won’t catch too many hints from watching them do that.

If they happen to have super meter available, how do you decide whether they’ll use it on wakeup? Remember, it’s been almost ten seconds since the last visual sign you read from their movements. When you’re playing online or on a head-to-head arcade cabinet, you can’t even sense what their body language is saying. At that point, you’re simply working the odds and hoping that they don’t have enough mental composure to play smart or outguess you.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to block that super, even if you can’t punish it afterwards. Yes, you could punish by predictively jumping straight up, but that’s a huge gamble. If they remain calm enough to block, they’ll get up with plenty of time to react to your desperate attempt – either landing that super for full damage or responding with the appropriate anti-air to seize momentum without even sacrificing their meter.

It’s usually not worth the risk. You think you’re closing out the match but what you’re really doing is leaving the door open for a comeback. Block the super, drain their meter, surrender momentum, and build it back up again. It won’t be too difficult because they’ll still be shaken from having given away a huge advantage. Even if they get up and do nothing, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to bait that super and you can always think of safer avenues of attack.

Returning to the original question, if you put your momentum on the line to bait an uppercut and they don’t fall for your trap, sometimes the best thing to do is wait. Don’t bail them out by doing anything easily punishable. If you wait, they might still throw out something dumb. You definitely shouldn’t feel like you have to rush in there and push more buttons.

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  1. March 13th, 2010 at 20:01 | #1

    Credit goes to Mariodood for giving me the idea to write this article by asking an interesting question.

  2. onreload
    March 15th, 2010 at 04:03 | #2

    This might fit in better with the Grappler Training article, but it’s also a question of momentum, so here we go:

    Was playing an Akuma in SF4 over Windows Live recently. The times where I’d do typical things like punishing his jump-aways and keeping him falling back into the corner is pretty much the only place where I’d land any damage outside of the occasional jab or light SPD from him fudging a combo.

    Here’s my question though: I’ve played Akuma/Seth/Dhalsim etc. and even if you get them in the rhythm of guessing incorrectly, what the heck can I do against a reversal teleport – especially akuma? Nothing Zangief does is fast enough to catch Akuma properly, so it resets the flow of the match – in Akuma’s favor.

  3. onreload
    March 15th, 2010 at 04:05 | #3

    Oh, also – if properly timed I think I can punish Seth and Dhalsim, as the furthest they can teleport to is right behind you…so that’s not as relevant…but if you’re waiting for a wakeup move and they have a teleport handy as well…eugh.

  4. jamheald
    March 15th, 2010 at 05:35 | #4

    @onreload
    Can’t you ex hand, spd it? I think Ultra david did a vid with it in that was featured on here ages ago.

  5. jamheald
    March 15th, 2010 at 05:38 | #5

    Ahh… it was renegade, anyway here you go http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFXXS5BWwLE

  6. onreload
    March 15th, 2010 at 09:09 | #6

    mmm, thanks for the link…he does also put there “you have to anticipate it” which is what i thought, as doing it on reaction to the teleport didn’t help me one bit. but i’ll have to try regular banishing flat to ex. not sure which one he used just yet

  7. March 15th, 2010 at 13:24 | #7

    Matches like that are all about patience. Get your damage where you can and don’t give up any damage cheaply. Akuma’s main advantage against grapplers lies in being able to negate the wakeup game, but there’s more to the match than that. You have to say “okay gotta win another way” not “this guy’s escaping all my throws” because that kind of thinking will make you give up more ground than you have to.

    Building up super/ultra meter is a good idea too, just so you can get more out of those critical points. But be conservative with it once you have it, because you have a much better chance of mentally wearing out an Akuma player if you make him worry about getting ultra’d for 20 seconds instead of 5 seconds. Use it whenever it’s guaranteed or if you have a strong hunch, but otherwise hold onto your meter.

  8. onreload
    March 15th, 2010 at 13:55 | #8

    it’s true that the few matches i did win were mostly without SPD usage, even though i learned early that jab spd was the way to go, since akuma already takes so much damage and doesn’t like to stay super close…but the two times I did win, i ate a whole bunch of fireballs before closing the distance with ex green hand and then landing the ultra.

    so for me, i have to burn the super meter. throughout my playing online i’ve learned that his ex kick grab is almost worthless, and ex spd is basically the range of jab + the damage of the fierce version…but really it feels like i need to be able to ex hand for the invincibility frames. akuma just has too many ways to stop gief from closing in…which only serves to make it more satisfying when the flow works for you as a grappler, but it seems to be pretty damn rare…and out-turtling an akuma is not a great idea in sf4, i don’t think

  9. March 15th, 2010 at 14:00 | #9

    Using EX greenhand for transportation is fine if you catch them doing something that’ll put you in an advantageous position. I was talking more about not doing “random ultra” the first chance you get. You gotta make ’em sweat a little.

  10. onreload
    March 16th, 2010 at 02:26 | #10

    oh yeah, absolutely…it’s definitely a powerful thing to have that gauge full, even if you’re only about midscreen or so

  11. March 21st, 2010 at 01:17 | #11

    Btw, part of the reason i wrote this article is because it’s funny how often you hear professional basketball players talking about grinding out “ugly wins.” Never gave it much thought until recently but that concept totally applies to Street Fighter as well, and finding ways to win those messy convoluted games is just as important.

    At a certain point, i think everyone starts getting a little self-conscious about how their matches “look” and whether they convey enough expertise. Though nowadays with match videos everywhere, a lot of people actually begin by mimicking certain players right off the bat. It’s easy to get caught up in how your gameplan is supposed to appear to spectators before you pin down what your gameplan is actually meant to accomplish. This is especially true if you’re trying to play a flashy rushdown character.

    Anytime you attempt to bait an uppercut and your opponent doesn’t go for it, that stutter step is going to interrupt the flow of the match and probably kill whatever momentum you might’ve built up to that point. But i think it’s important to keep your mind on the big picture and do whatever gives you the best chance to win at that moment – which usually means starting from square one instead of clinging to evaporated momentum. Even if that means sacrificing offense or sometimes ending up with “ugly” matches.

  1. March 21st, 2010 at 03:24 | #1
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