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SF4 Series Focus Trade Setups

It’s no secret that i use a lot of Focus Attacks in my SF4 and SSF4 combo videos. I understand how they might look repetitive to someone who can’t tell the functional differences between them, but there’s a reason behind each and every setup. Hopefully the following examples will shed some light on what purposes they serve and why they’re necessary.

Let’s get one thing clear right away: Anytime i can add a Focus Attack to the beginning of a tool-assisted combo without cost, i consider it lazy not to do so. From my perspective, if a character has nothing better to do, i can’t justify discarding that extra hit. It’s the same principle that forces Guile jump-in combos to start with an LP Sonic Boom. If you don’t do it, people have a right to ask, “Why not?”

However, that preliminary Sonic Boom never determines whether or not the whole combo is good. In other words, my combos are never good or bad because of the Focus Attack at the beginning. That’s simply a formality. Tuning it out won’t impact the value of the combo.

This is an important point: Combos aren’t built front to back. I never start with a Focus trade and see where it leads, the same way i never throw a Sonic Boom and see where it goes. You’ve never seen me end up with lvl3 Focus Attack (trade), j.HP, s.HP xx Hadoken, right? That’s because i start with a core concept i want to showcase and i build outward in both directions.

Trading a lvl3 Focus Attack with an opponent’s light attack to set up a jump-in happens to be the most generic setup. This is probably the application that annoys people the most, but it’s only beneficial to a small subset of jump-in combos.

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First off, it can’t require a crouching opponent because the Focus Attack will stand them up. Second, it can’t require a counterhit or any other opponent action. Third, the extra scaling tends to reduce the combo’s overall damage and dizzy potential. Therefore it’s only worthwhile if the main combo wasn’t going to dizzy the opponent or deal noteworthy damage anyway. Fourth, fireball characters are usually better off leading in with a projectile instead.

Following up after a Focus Attack isn’t always easy, either. Many characters have inconvenient optimal jump attacks – either because their most damaging one happens to be a vertical jumping attack or because it simply has an awkward hitbox. I’ve spent hours trying to connect certain jump attacks after a lvl3 Focus Attack trade but some of them simply will not work.

Another property of crumple stun is the special quasi-airborne state which takes effect once the character falls over. They technically aren’t considered in air reel during this period, which enables certain air throw setups and unique juggle opportunities. It even serves as a meaty setup for attacks which descend from above, without counting against single-use juggle limits.

Whenever an untraded lvl2 Focus Attack provides enough time to land the desired follow-up, how can i justify not putting a lvl3 Focus Attack in front of it? Obviously trades shouldn’t be used for characters who can make it happen without an interrupt, but there aren’t too many of those, are there?

For many characters, the universal free juggle state created by an anti-air lvl3 Focus Attack is their only meterless juggle setup. It also happens to be one of the most versatile due to its outrageous combination of impact freeze duration plus air time. Since Focus Attacks act as non-repeatable juggle setups, it can only be preceeded by crumple stun, which means – you guessed it – another Focus Attack trade setup.

The reality is Focus Attacks have so many different uses, that it’s impossible to escape their shadow if you’re truly attempting to optimize combos. Non-fireball characters in particular have trouble finding better openings. Even after so many paragraphs, this article barely scratches the surface of their advanced potential. (They can even be used to extend dizzy combos by permitting more hits before crossing that threshold!)

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  1. May 26th, 2010 at 02:14 | #1

    Even after writing all that, i realized it would be hopeless to explain every possible setup in one article without boring everyone to death. But hopefully this serves as a good start for anyone interested in deciphering it all. To be honest, most of it is common sense once you think about it and ask yourself the right questions. If the reasoning behind any particular clip is still unclear, please don’t hesitate to ask here.

  2. Dogysamich
    May 26th, 2010 at 07:06 | #2

    That’s what’s up.

    I still respect the effort and time you put into it.

  3. May 26th, 2010 at 10:10 | #3

    Same here!

    I had been waiting for this. You use FA alot, so I was wondering why you had not tackled it before. Great Read!

  4. Arc
    May 26th, 2010 at 11:01 | #4

    If you do want explain all the setups you should put it in with the DVD.

  5. May 26th, 2010 at 11:30 | #5

    For the SF4 TACVs, i usually explain any unusual Focus trade setups in the transcript. This article is more of a statement like, “I know what i’m doing here, sirs.”

    The point is to get everyone to start questioning why each combo is set up the way it is. Basically the three possible answers are:

    1) there was nothing better i could’ve done
    2) it was actually something legitimately cool, for some subtle reason
    3) i screwed up and overlooked something better

    Either way it’s gotta be more fun than looking at it and going, “Aww not another Focus Attack!” Because there’s really nothing i can do about that. Give me a move that causes enough hit stun to combo into a jump-in, makes it possible to combo throws, makes it possible combo air throws, creates a free juggle state, makes all kinds of ridiculous slow moves comboable, acts as a meaty setup, then tell me i can’t use it as much as i want?

    And for the record, i try really hard to interject as much variety into these combovids as possible. I mean, i must’ve come up with at least twenty different Focus Attack applications on my own. And i must’ve passed on dozens of combos simply because they looked too similar to one i’d already done with a different character. I’m just trying to do the best i can with what i’ve got. Haha i haven’t had much luck transmuting SF4 into MvC2 yet.

  6. N00b_Saib0t
    May 26th, 2010 at 16:35 | #6

    honestly, whenever i see your videos i tend to think “maj has a damn good reason for this”. then when i read the transcript, i find out you did. you might not come right out and say it, but when you start talking about stun limits in particular i know why a combo did or didn’t start with a focus, for example.

    anyway, interesting read as usual. i still feel like there’s a SHIT TON left to be uncovered with the focus system that, even with all the community’s combined knowledge, we’ve yet to scratch the surface on. i think its just a matter of time until all but one or two characters have better FADC combos WITHOUT ultra than their super, even ryu and balrog. basically, i think FADC will be the new roman cancel.

    anyway, random fun thing i found: mid screen, rose can AA lvl3 focus(i did it against a blanka rainbow roll, absorbed the hit and landed the focus before he landed), dash, f+hk, super. i didn’t see it anywhere, just thought i would mention it, mostly because i want to see if its possible to tack soul satellite on the end of that without the corner(which i do know works).

  7. onreload
    May 26th, 2010 at 17:16 | #7

    I’ll tell you why people don’t like seeing them, and none of this is necessarily my reaction:

    1) It’s all too often. This may be just because SFIV/SSFIV is early in the combo stages, but things like your SF? Guile vid have tons of different setups, without too much repetition…and I’m only talking about each SF2 iteration Guile. Now, this is because he’s been studied thoroughly as a character, specifically in SF2, but people get to see all the different ways to start a combo in that video. You’re the rare type to learn a game inside and out, backwards and forwards, so watching every TZW video that shows every possibility applied every different way might be fine for you, but not for the rest of YouTube and SRK. Again relating to your Guile video (I use it as an example because I think it’s one of the best combo videos, period, excuse my praise), I didn’t like seeing so many Magic Throws, but understanding that it was for 100% combos a lot of the time made them worth it…but I preferred the dizzy followups that were simple and brutal links.

    I understand why you use Focus Attacks as the start to a combo, but not everyone else does, and sometimes people just want to see a simple start; the trade lvl3FA looks too foreign after awhile. While each usage may be creatively motivated, it won’t look that way after too many times.

    2) The scaling. Most people don’t know that FAs count twice on the damage-scaling counter, making it very hard to rack up big damage – but that’s what people are looking for a lot of the time. It isn’t everything, but to some people, damage is important. The two FAs in a row especially cause this effect. I don’t know if I agree with the line “i can’t justify discarding that extra hit,” because of the stupid Focus Attack scaling issue. This isn’t your fault, it’s the fault of SFIV’s team desperately not wanting the game to be broken…but this isn’t the same as adding a Sonic Boom or a j.HP; with an FA in front, it’s harder to discern each hit’s damage value as scaling gets tighter and tighter later on in the combo. I think a lot of people don’t know how strict the scaling is, and may need to first see how much the damage gets reduced even without the Focus Attack startup in order to realize you’re just tacking on a extra hit…which again, I think a lot of people get tired of seeing.

    You can jump in with multiple normals for many characters, but when you precede that with an FA, then some people are already turned off to the “real start” of the combo – they’re too busy thinking about or looking at the FA. It makes each combo harder to identify.

    The above, of course, is ignoring when an FA is used to create a unique meaty setup or fake-airborne state.

    I think I had another possible explanation but it hit 90 degrees here and my head is a mess regardless. Keep in mind that I think what you’ve been achieving is awesome and wouldn’t ask you to change your methods, and that I also find it incredibly rude that people write “oh another focus trade” on the bar-raising shit that you come up with. This is just what I -think- people think based on the small part of me that doesn’t like the FA so much…but again, I see that as SF4’s fault, not just for the scaling, but the universality of it, etc. It’s like, if you’ve ever played Rage of the Dragons on the Neo Geo, it’s an awesome game, but to make combos for it, you have to include these time-slowing AABBC chains in every combo or else you’re not maxing out your hits/damage…problem is, it gets boring after so many times unless it’s uniquely done.

  8. CPS2
    May 26th, 2010 at 18:18 | #8

    What I think it is, when people are only half paying attention (and if you have a lot of views, I’d assume a lot of them aren’t paying too much attention), they latch onto things that are recognisable. So using a focus attack at the beginning of a combo, even in different ways, is something they recognise, and they start to think it’s something they’ve already seen. I noticed when I showed a friend two combos with the same loop in the middle, but different setups and enders, they thought it was the same thing twice. That can just be the best thing available for that character or that game sometimes.

    Also it’s much easier to say what you don’t like about something than what you do like. hatersgonnahate.gif

    Anyway yes this comes down to who your audience is, and articles like this can help with showing people what to look for, changing how your audience views your videos. A lot of it is not obvious, so transcripts and discussion do help. To be honest I haven’t noticed overuse of anything! These critics must have high standards, but where does that come from?

  9. jamheald
    May 27th, 2010 at 08:33 | #9

    @N00b_Saib0t
    Don’t think so, midscreen you can only get super, ultra if the super is point blank.

  10. jamheald
    May 27th, 2010 at 10:11 | #10

    @CPS2
    I saw somebody hate on you using the infinite on juri as you had “Done that infinite before” like it was the only thing they noticed in the vid.

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