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Fundamental Wakeup Defense

August 14th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the SF4 generation through two years, it’s that they love their wakeup uppercuts. The goal of this article is simple: to convince you to stop.

Think about who has the advantage in knockdown situations. The character on his feet can move around, establish his desired spacing freely, then attack at will. He can choose from his entire arsenal of moves, because he can perform slow attacks such as overheads without worrying about being interrupted during startup. He even gets to decide whether to hover inside or outside throw range. Simply put, he single-handedly controls the initiative.

By contrast, the character on his back can’t move and can’t attack until a specific, predictable moment. The only advantage he has is that he remains invincible before that instant, which isn’t a real advantage because it’s only passive invincibility. As soon as it ends, he has to deal with whatever attack the opponent has prepared.

The key here is realizing that your goal isn’t to punish your opponent for knocking you down. Your goal is survive the wakeup game so you can regain all your options. Don’t get suckered into playing the majority of the match from an unfavorable position.

Let’s break it down in terms of risk vs reward. If your reversal uppercut happens to connect, you score 10% damage and regain control. If it fails to connect, your opponent is rewarded with a 30-50% damage combo and maintains control. Does this seem like a good bet? Nope.

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If you throw on wakeup and your opponent blocks within throw range, you score 10% damage and regain control. That’s your best-case scenario, and it relies on your opponent making a dumb mistake. If the opponent attempts a throw instead, you’ll neutralize it and reset the match. This outcome is generally what you’re hoping for.

However if your opponent presses any other button, it’ll beat your throw attempt and lead to a 30-50% damage combo. If your opponent stands outside throw range, your throw attempt whiffs so your opponent is rewarded with a 30-50% damage combo and maintains control. Does this seem like a good bet? Of course not.

If you forget everything else and simply block low, any button your opponent presses will do no harm and gradually push you away to safety. At worst, you’ll end up taking a tiny sliver of block damage. If your opponent throws you or tries an overhead, you only take 10% damage. You can afford three to five of those before you lose as much vitality as a single blocked uppercut would’ve cost you.

More importantly, consider what your opponent has to risk in each of these situations. To bait an uppercut, all they have to do is block. You can’t punish them for that. To bait a throw, all they have to do is hover outside throw range. You can’t punish them for that either. To hurt you for blocking, they have to take a serious risk. If you keep forcing them to take that risk, you’ll eventually find an opportunity to turn the tables.

Does this mean you should never uppercut and never attempt to escape throws? No, because if someone throws you four times in a row, you obviously need to figure something out. At the end of the day, playing your opponent beats playing the odds. But while you’re learning your opponent’s habits, the odds clearly tell you to block low.

Blocking is far more fundamentally sound than uppercutting by default. You can build whatever you want over that foundation, but your starting point needs to be a defensive perspective. It’s no accident that every top player blocks more often than not after knockdowns.

Nobody’s perfect. Everyone guesses wrong sometimes. What if you guess wrong a hundred times over an evening at the arcade? If you blocked low on wakeup every time, you’d be left with thirty more lifebars than you would if you threw out a reversal uppercut every time. How many more games could you win with thirty full lifebars?

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  1. August 14th, 2010 at 21:45 | #1

    My friend sicdic explained that last part to me in the SHGL parking lot, after he caught me doing 3S wakeup parries. (Yesterday i saw Viscant quoting the golfland parking lot so i had to tell one too.)

    By the way, the original name of this article was “Block More on Wakeup.” Haha i decided not to give away the “secret” that soon though.

  2. fenris
    August 14th, 2010 at 23:29 | #2

    Street fighter 4 is the first fighter I seriously got into(actually going to the arcade, playing nonstop, etc..) and that sounds alot like me in the first month or so! Had you written this then I might have broken me of that habit way earlier

  3. August 14th, 2010 at 23:56 | #3

    Sorry sir, i guess i kept postponing this, but in the end there was no escaping it. Everyone who’s ever written about SF strategy ends up writing this article. Sadly, most of those websites disappeared over the years, so there seems to be a constant need for this same article. Kinda funny actually.

  4. N00b_Saib0t
    August 15th, 2010 at 00:19 | #4

    shhhh. keep this a secret. i like getting free BP online by punishing wake up uppercuts. really, its the only reason i play online. i count how many whiffed uppercuts i can punish in a row before my opponent completely breaks down. then i count how many times i can throw them on wake up before they start uppercutting again. its all online play is good for anyway :p

  5. phoenix
    August 15th, 2010 at 03:19 | #5

    Something I still run into with fairly experienced players, is that they don’t wakeup SRK, because they realise it’s not a good option, but instead do a wakeup normal.

    That of course makes even less sense but it seems like a much more prevalent ‘illness’ amongst the people I play, also in similar situations like knockdowns, for examples after moves that give you massive frame advantage, they’ll just press buttons.

    Sometimes these normals can be attempts at crouch techs, sometimes it’s really just mashing.

    I’ve found it frustrating how easy it is to get away with it in sf4 where frame advantage can be so small at times. If you do a tick throw from say, a crouching short and have to walk a little bit to get in range, you ARE going to eat a crouching short from your opponent.

    But okay, even if you consistently punish it, it seems to take a much longer time for them to get rid of the habit. A missed shoryu is fairly obvious, if you have a punished crouching short, it just isn’t as obvious OR painful. Yet it’s a habit people should really be aware of.

    People mashing crouching short really teaches you some bizarre stuff though. Did you know Chun-li’s Hazanshu canceled off a far strong can be beat by Bison’s crouching short?

  6. amro
    August 15th, 2010 at 05:11 | #6

    Thanks for writing this, good stuff as usual.

    Should also point out why reversals are so tempting in the first place, even though statistically they’re a bad option. Players remember getting someone off of them with a reversal far better than they remember losing to that same guy a few times off of reversal punishes. So it seems like a good bet because the times where it works stand out way more than the times when it doesn’t.

    And one last thing, reversals require your opponent to screw up or take a huge risk. Unless you’ve read them pretty well, you’re basically hoping for your opponent to lose rather than banking on your skill to win, and that’s the last thing anyone should do.

  7. zero
    August 15th, 2010 at 07:14 | #7

    when you deal with zangief, block may eat an SPD or suplex. it really hurts. suplex makes you guess again. Jump may eat an lariat. zangief can even make save jump or cross-up. back dash or uppercut fadc(back) is better.

  8. August 15th, 2010 at 11:45 | #8

    phoenix: Yup, mashing light attacks works way better than it has any right to, but that’s when you have to start using frame traps. Those players have become aware that light attacks are much harder to deal with than reversal uppercuts, but they’re still not patient enough to block. Frame traps are where you leave small 1 or 2 frame gaps between attacks. Your goal is to catch them mashing a button and stuff it during startup. You even get a counterhit bonus out of it, which gives you more combo options.

    amro: Either that or because it’s so ridiculously easy to do reversals in SF4. Extending that wakeup invincibility period feels like a safety blanket or something, but of course it’s a false reprieve.

    zero: Things definitely change when you’re dealing with Zangief, but not by much. You still have to find a way to deal with his options and your goal is still to stand up without taking too much damage. I still think you have to approach the situation with a defensive mindset, although like you said, you might have to do something a little more elaborate than simply blocking. But then again, if a Zangief player finds out that you’re terrified of blocking, they’ll absolutely destroy you for it.

    Beyond that, there are two main factors in SF4 that tip the scales away from “just block low.” One of them is having enough meter to FADC, which gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s not 100% safe but pretty damn close. Then the question becomes whether you should cash it in at the first opportunity, because if you can survive without wasting that meter, it’s sure to come in handy later on.

    The second factor is option select throw escapes, which are total bullshit. They’re so good, there’s no reason not to use them. However i still think it’s best to start from a foundation of “block low” and then expand on that by using option select throw techs when you predict your opponent will attempt a throw. You have to play that mindgame if you want to avoid becoming robotic. Autoteching everything might work against intermediate players but will get you destroyed by advanced players. Once they figure out that you guess the same way every time, it doesn’t matter if it’s the safest bet in the game – you’ll get punished for it.

  9. Basics
    August 16th, 2010 at 06:11 | #9

    Walking and backdashing should comprise like 70-80% of your wakeup game imo. Backdashing is, in some ways, more risky (it can be punished, whereas blocking cannot), but it does afford certain advantages. Firstly, against players who aren’t option selecting sweeps (or a different character-specific punish – i.e: raging demon) to punish backdashes in their light chains, or their jumping attacks will be very susceptible to backdashes. Unless you know it’s coming, or you’re using an option select, it’s very difficult to punish most backdashes on reaction – so, against the body of players that don’t know what an option select is, or how to apply it in combat, you can backdash for free, like, all the time – and if they start predicting it, and trying to hit you with a delayed sweep on your wakeup, well… that’s not so bad, now is it? ;)

  10. doublef
    August 16th, 2010 at 09:15 | #10

    I think the biggest reason online players wakeup DP so much is simply because they’re used to playing other novice players who don’t know how to punish correctly.

    So for them, wakeup DP is a pretty safe option, because their opponent will just punish with a sweep or a throw (nothing even close to 30%-50%).

    I’ve seen this so many times in Endless lobbies. I’ll be watching a match, some guy will mash wakeup DP, and the other guy will just sweep him. Or even worse he’ll hesitate and get nailed by a SECOND DP. I’m sure you’ve seen Ken players try that strategy. They’ll whiff light DP’s hoping you’ll try and punish a little too late, then they mash out EX DP. It’s the most ridiculous strategy, yet they do it because they get away with it.

    That’s why it is our job to make them stop. We need to punish every time they mash, and learn to punish HARD. That’s one thing i practice the most in training. If you pick Ryu or Ken as your opponent, and set the dummy to CPU on the hardest difficulty, they do uppercuts pretty much nonstop. It’s a great way to teach yourself to instinctively do your most punishing combo without even thinking. And trust me, if you’re too slow a CPU-Ryu will just immediately pop another DP in your face.

    If more people can learn to punish harder, I think DP mashing will drop drastically. Hell, with most random people i play, if I can just punish ONE wakeup DP effectively, they’ll usually stop doing it for at least the rest of that round.

  11. Pokey86
    August 16th, 2010 at 09:44 | #11

    When i play akuma i can punish reversal DP with my strongest punish (HP -> Tatsu -> SRK… OK second strongest without the crouch MP in front) however he has a godly walk speed, i find against Kens his LP SRK recovers very quickly & i get pegged witha second DP, i know i should stick to Crouch Forward/Fierce but because i play Akuma so much when i use another character i always think i’ll walk forward enough to do a close Fierce & get tagged when a far fierce comes out (Ryu, Seth, Cody)

    That said, in regards to FADC SRK i feel you should have made a mention of that in the article, as it’s such a great escape not mentioning it could be considered not mentioning advanced tactics & not mentioning jump in OS’s.

    That said i’ll admit i’ve been punished for trying the DP->FADC when i get to eager to get out of dodge & they late jump or worse, use some characters tools which beat out SRK’s.

  12. Pokey86
    August 16th, 2010 at 09:46 | #12

    Oh & Zangief, & i guess grapplers in general thrive off of knockdowns, they can win games off a single knockdown. No doubt it would be harder to get out of that shit.

    When i play gief my aim is to NEVER get knockded down, whether i winby time out or not. Put it in to contrast of say, Dahlsim… If he scores a knock down it means next to nothing.

  13. onreload
    August 16th, 2010 at 09:55 | #13

    I actually listened to this during the tourney I was in as Hugo…definitely helped; I’ve known in before but it’s a hard habit to get rid of.

  14. August 17th, 2010 at 08:27 | #14

    Somebody posted on srk a while back that they believe that being knocked down put them at an advantage.

  15. August 17th, 2010 at 08:28 | #15

    Oh btw they got put in their place.

  16. Edomaa
    August 18th, 2010 at 06:48 | #16

    @jamheald
    Back when I first started playing fighters I was scared to death of doing anything to anyone waking up for fear of wakeup dp/super.

  17. Chousuke
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:44 | #17

    I read this article and started really resisting the urge to do wakeup reversals. It’s working; I feel like my game has suddenly become much more solid.

    Now if I just could learn not to screw up my crouch techs half the time… Especially when the throw is predictable. I guess my prediction makes me execute the tech too early. :/
    I can only play online (not much of a community around here that I’m aware of) and still easily lose to unbeliveably patterned Ryus though. :( It takes a while for me to adjust to playing lame turtle, bait and punish games.

  1. August 14th, 2010 at 21:58 | #1
  2. August 14th, 2010 at 22:01 | #2
  3. August 15th, 2010 at 07:51 | #3
  4. August 15th, 2010 at 17:19 | #4
  5. August 15th, 2010 at 21:55 | #5
  6. August 16th, 2010 at 13:46 | #6
  7. August 17th, 2010 at 12:44 | #7
  8. August 18th, 2010 at 11:26 | #8
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