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Proper Turtling Philosophy

April 17th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The way i see it, defensive success boils down to two tasks: capitalizing on opportunities and maintaining a realistic gameplan. Defense has always been clearer than offense, and always more reliable in tournaments. It doesn’t take as much practice to win with defense.

Imagine you’ve got two evenly experienced players. The offensive-minded player’s job is to create openings and capitalize on them. The defensive player’s job is to minimize damage at every opportunity while gradually chipping away at the opponent’s lifebar. If they’ve both been swamped at work for the past month, the defensive player comes out way ahead because the offensive player will fail to capitalize on an opening – drop a combo, mistime a crossup, get too close on a throw attempt, whatever. Generally speaking, you have to be more on-point to win with offense.

More specifically, the term “capitalize” conveys a different meaning to a defensive player than it does to an offensive player. It’s not simply a matter of dealing damage. Let’s say you bait an uppercut. From a rushdown standpoint, you want to punish with the most damaging combo possible, which also gives you the best chance of maintaining momentum. Depending on your opponent’s habits, sometimes it’s better to sacrifice a little guaranteed damage in order to set up an immediate throw mixup. Chaos favors offense.

Conversely, turtles should generally avoid ambiguous situations. Structure favors defense. If you’re confident in your ability to counter everything your opponent does, then you shouldn’t be gambling with offense, right? Thus, the defensive definition of “capitalize” is all about inflicting as much damage as possible while maintaining superior positioning.

Basically, the only time you should sacrifice damage is when it’s critically important to reset the match. For example if you’re trapped in the corner, it might be a good idea to opt for a simple knockdown combo or resort to throwing the opponent back into the corner so you can escape.

That said, you must remain mindful of your damage options. A solid defensive player always knows when they can finish off the opponent with one combo, and remains calm enough to execute it even under rushdown pressure. A poor defensive player gets overwhelmed by the opponent’s pace and responds to a missed psychic DP with a sweep or a throw. You have to be prepared to close out the match at all times.

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A lot of this goes back to being realistic about the matchup and about your abilities as a player. If you go up against an opponent who likes to throw, you will get thrown. It’s going to happen. Sometimes it’ll happen three or four times in a row. Visualize this sequence of events and visualize your instinctive reaction, then ask yourself whether it’s the best course of action.

Certain tactics are too difficult to shut down completely. Everyone gets thrown, everyone gets crossed up, everyone gets cornered, everybody gets shot. There’s nothing you can do about exceptional offensive players forcing you to choose your poison, but you can certainly choose your psychological response.

At the end of the day, it’s completely up you whether you get frustrated by throws. Remember, it’s only like 8% damage. You can let that rattle you enough to walk into a psychic DP, or you can brush it off and punish that missed uppercut. Even if you get thrown two more times in the process, that’s still adds up to less than 25% damage. Is it worth losing composure and giving away a match over 25% damage?

On the topic of staying realistic, i’ve noticed an interesting self-perception phenomenon among the fighting game community. I’d say about 1/3 of the players out there are turtles and about 5% of the players out there think they’re turtles. Everyone in between is in denial. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard someone call someone else a turtle and thought to myself, “Wait a minute, you jumped back five times and spent the whole second round blocking.”

We tend to elevate effective rushdown players into stardom while creating a negative view of turtles or runaway players. That’s a natural inclination in any competitive activity, but only because offense is more exciting to watch. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that “turtling” is a dirty word. Realistically speaking, if you notice that your individual talents are geared more towards defense, don’t shy away from it – embrace that style and see where it takes you.

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  1. ShadowXSnake
    April 17th, 2010 at 23:55 | #1

    Very well written article, and really true. Personally, I still respect the offensive character more, because of the greater difficulty. I tend to play grapplers so I have a lot of gripes against players who’ll land one hit and spend the rest of the match running away. It’s the “high-risk, high-reward” mentality that makes me play grapplers in the first place, and this is the reason I personally prefer to watch rushdown gameplay. I’m a gambling man, I never liked to take the guaranteed but slow approach.

    Although I have a friend who mains Cammy that’s pretty good, and my strategy is to bait, block, and poke him to death, so I do realize the effectiveness of a good defensive game.

  2. The Jack Of Hearts
    April 18th, 2010 at 00:00 | #2

    When me and my brother play MvC2 I almost have no choice but to play defensively because his play style is more of a constant rushdown style. Though MvC2 seems pretty offensively focused, plus I straight up suck at the game, so I usually get my ass handed to me.

  3. jamheald
    April 18th, 2010 at 03:23 | #3

    Is it more effective to just play a patient game then get an opportunity and do all out rush down? Like with Seth i like to play a bit of keep away spacing, i guess turtling, until they get annoyed and throw out something unsafe and which point i go into the offensive capitalization mode with resets and mix ups. Bit like pool were you might set up your game plan at first and then have your opponent do a bad shot and you clear up.

  4. Pokey86
    April 18th, 2010 at 05:49 | #4

    ^^Seth & Akuma^^

    These two have the advantage of playing both effective keep away & powerful rush down. It’s more clearcut with Akuma, people knowingly reduce damage of combos so they can keep the “Vortex”going, Seth also has great rushdown but he doesn’t have a known “vortex” his main advantage is his high stun capability. That said with Seth you are so inclined to not F-up. & seth is in greater danger after a knockdown.

    Overall seth can do both styles of play very well, though i feel he can turtle better. i think he can make better use of punishment situations though.

    Finally, i’ve never really understood how someone can choose someone like Zangief or Balrog, then proceed to whine after they were beaten by an Akuma or Ryu that did nothing but jump back & spam fireballs.

    Though it’s probably pheasable to do a kind of pressured game, no one is ever going to rush down Zangief.

  5. jamheald
    April 18th, 2010 at 06:04 | #5

    @Pokey86
    Yeah seth’s problem is unlike the vortex after a reset into mixup unless he does an fadc srk off of the next combo or gets a legs in the corner he doesn’t get to continue it very well. Although if you do a spd you can get some wake up pressure on them or reset and turtle.

  6. Pokey86
    April 18th, 2010 at 08:49 | #6

    Yeah he has some great techniques, & like i said play a good Seth & you’ll likely get stunned, he has fantastic reset set ups & punishers. but his risk reward ratio is alsways a major factor

  7. April 18th, 2010 at 13:28 | #7

    Great read and certainly interesting to see the other side of the coin from a rushdown player’s perspective.

    “Visualize this sequence of events and visualize your instinctive reaction, then ask yourself whether it’s the best course of action.”

    I think visualizing your instinctive reaction is especially important because it’s so easy to fall back on a certain premeditated response only to be totally wrong by being baited and punished. Someone once said “the best play isn’t always the most satisfying one.”

  8. Inphinite
    April 18th, 2010 at 14:42 | #8

    Pokey86 :
    Though it’s probably pheasable to do a kind of pressured game, no one is ever going to rush down Zangief.

    This is exactly why I rush Gief. Gief players never expect to get rushed or blatantly thrown. I’m not scared of an SPD!! XD When necessary, I do know how to keep him out though. :-P

  9. April 19th, 2010 at 00:57 | #9

    ShadowXSnake: I totally understand where you’re coming from, but i think it’s generally fair to say that if someone’s running away from you then they’re afraid of you. So it’s up to you to methodically push them into the corner, then capitalize on their fear. Those matches take longer but you just have to treat it like a different kind of game and find a way to look forward to it. I don’t know, treat it like you’re hunting instead of fighting.

    The Jack Of Hearts: There’s always a choice, but you have to become more familiar with the game so that you can maintain your offense. It shouldn’t even be that difficult if your opponent is constantly looking to counterattack. If he hates playing defense, then i bet he starts making impatient mistakes whenever you force him to block for “too long.”

    jamheald: It’s definitely better (or at least steadier) to stay patient until you earn an opening, and then rush down for as long as you can maintain the risk/reward ratio in your favor. Don’t overdo it, but don’t get scared of your own shadow and back off too soon either.

    Pokey86: I don’t think most grappler players expect opponents to rush them down, but they do prefer when an opponent is willing to play the mid-range game instead of outright running away. Personally i don’t really mind chasing people down, but it did take me a long time to get comfortable with that role whenever i play Gief.

  10. Pokey86
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:45 | #10

    I certainly don’t think you shouold forever runaway from Zangiefs or grapplers,certainly on many occasions i’ve trained (to a degree) opponents to jumpover projectiles & then sit back & wait for a far HK, sweep or nothing at all.

    This is after you learn to SRK all Blue hands.

    When they get to the point they’re simply jumping over a projectile& waiting for a HK or nothing,i tend to just walk up & throw… IT’s always satisfying to throw a zangief.

    I think you can pressure people like that from a distance or mid range. But it seems pretty clear that rushing down Grapplers is not the best course of action… Though some players sure make it look easy

  1. September 2nd, 2010 at 00:05 | #1
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