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CvS2 P-Groove vs K-Groove Analysis

By Maj

At the center of the debate regarding the merits of CvS2's P-Groove and K-Groove are the differences in their unique last-second defense mechanisms. P-Groove's Parry builds up 2.6% meter (5 points out of 192), completely avoids any stun animation, and negates all damage from an attack including block damage from a special or super. K-Groove's Just Defend builds up 8.33% meter (14 points out of 168), reduces block stun, and rewards the K-Groove player with a small amount of life. Both Parry and Just Defend result in no loss of Guard Bar and eliminate the pushback from blocking or taking a hit. The general idea of the two is the same - you guess your opponent's attack and defend it at the last second to receive some sort of bonus for your risk. However, the mechanical details and strategic implications of each are very different.

Execution Specifics

Parrying is done by tapping forward for high attacks, down for low attacks, or forward in the air for all attacks immediately before getting hit. Parrying input lasts for 8 frames on ground and 7 frames in air if lever is positioned neutral within 3 frames after input. If a direction is held, the Parrying will last 4 frames instead. Your character is not considered to be in any form of hit stun or block stun during a Parry, so you can be thrown while Parrying. You can't Parry while performing a Short Jump and it's very difficult to Parry an opponent's attack done while your character is walking forward. Simultaneous attacks require only one Parry, even if one is high and one is low.

Just Defending is performed by tapping back for all attacks that can be blocked high, down/back for all attacks that can be blocked low, and back in the air for all attacks immediately before getting hit. Just Defending requires you to block within 6 frames of the attack hitting you. If the joystick is moved during the time, the Just Defense input is lost. When executing multiple Just Defenses, the lever must be put to neutral for 6 frames after the Just Defense input has ended or it will not take effect. Just Defending puts your character in a special shortened block stun that can only be interrupted by another Just Defend.

Strategy Discussion

The main difference between Parry and Just Defend is the risk vs reward factor. Parrying requires the player to tap a non-defensive position an instant before an opponent's attack connects while having to guess whether that attack will need to be parried high or low. Just Defending requires much less of a risk in that once you guess a Just Defend, you are in a blocking position. In addition, there's no high or low Just Defend to worry about. However, the reward for Parrying is a free hit and usually a subsequent combo, whereas Just Defending usually only serves to give you meter and throw off your opponent's momentum. Furthermore, each consecutive Parry carries more and more risk with it because you are giving up your free hit for a chance at more super meter. But by Just Defending consecutive hits you are neither giving up a free hit nor are you really putting yourself in danger as the Just Defend stun defaults to a block stun if you miss a Just Defend in a sequence. Yet another instance of Parry's heightened risk is when dealing with tick-throw situations. Since Parrying eliminates all block stun and hit stun, if you Parry a normal that is buffered into a fast command grab or grab super, your character will be susceptible to being thrown. Just Defending that tick, however, puts you in a special block stun during which you cannot be thrown.

This extra safety does come at a price however. Some characters have moves that give them so much frame advantage, that even with the Just Defend block stun reduction they recover faster than the character that Just Defended. A good example of this is Cammy's close standing fierce. Not only does she recover in time to do another attack before you recover from Just Defending, but since Just Defending eliminates pushback, she's standing right next to you and has the option of mixing up with a throw or doing another close standing fierce, thereby not sacrificing any hits of whatever pressure chain she had intended from the start. In contrast, Parrying the close standing fierce gives you ample time to retaliate. At the other end of this spectrum are attacks which have almost no recovery at all. For example, a delayed vertical jumping attack intended to reset the momentum of a match. If done late enough, such an attack allows for virtually no possibility of retaliation, even if Parried. Just Defending such an attack gives you more meter than Parrying it, gives you back a little bit of life, and since Parrying would not allow for retaliation you lose nothing by Just Defending it instead.

Regarding air Parrying and air Just Defending, the general rule is that Parrying is better for air to ground combat and Just Defending is better for air to air. A lot of the previous points about the safety of Just Defending disappear when your character is airborne since there is no default air blocking if you mess up. The same goes for the greater reward of Parrying since air Just Defending allows your character to retaliate instantly as well. Because of the bounce back of air Just Defending it's much more difficult to deal with a grounded opponent's mixups, especially since they may get two or three attempts before you are able to land. You can get around this using characters with divekicks and air supers such as Akuma and Yun, but in general Parry is better for this situation. However, in an air to air scenario, the extra bounce back of Just Defending gives your character superior positioning and you get more meter than you would for an air Parry, not to mention the bonus life. Special situations arise with moves that have big hitting potentials such as Blanka's Electric Thunder and those frames of Kyo's lvl3 Orochi Nagi during which his body is on fire. Air Parrying moves like these keeps your character airborne and having to Parry for as long as the move lasts. Furthermore, if your character is close to the ground and goes into landing animation while the attack is still active, you will get hit as there are a few landing frames during which you can not Parry. Blanka's Electric Thunder is particularly difficult to Parry because the Blanka player can mix up the hit timing by using different punch buttons to do the move. Just Defending is generally better for these situations because the bounce back means you have to Just Defend less hits and also it creates some distance between you and your stationary opponent.

Another important point is that inputting the Parry command and then immediately going for a throw gives your character a 4 frame automatic Parry window. Doing the analogous command with Just Defending gives you no real benefit. Therefore, Parry allows for more full-proof, more effective up close mixup games than Just Defend. For example, a good mindgame sequence for attempting a throw has always been a jumping crossup attack, followed by a whiffed standing jab and immediately a throw. By adding a quick down Parry input immediately after the whiffed standing jab before going for the throw, you effectively counter the easiest and most common throw defense - your opponent's low jab or low short. The ability to Just Defend offers no advantage in this situation.

A special case arises with charge characters, most of whom have no instant, reliable, high-priority attack unless they have charge. Parrying and Just Defending make up for this shortcoming by giving them something to use as a counter in any situation where they have no other options without charge. For example, Guile gets almost no time to prepare a counter for a Short Jump attack done on reaction to his Sonic Boom, but if Guile has the ability to Parry it becomes very difficult for any opponent to get through his Sonic Boom traps. The debate here regards damage possibilities. Since most charge characters need to have charge in order to inflict significant damage, the ability to Parry when they have no charge is much less threatening than a Parry done by a character with a readily available, damaging combo like Kyo's Aragami Chains. Usually the best a charge character can muster is a throw or a sweep. In a lot of situations it's more beneficial to Just Defend an attack with a charge character and give up the ability to retaliate with a low-damage attack in favor of the extra super meter and bonus life.

P-Groove and K-Groove Characteristics

The most important difference here aside from those between Parrying and Just Defending is the way these two grooves handle super meter. In fact, the largest part of why K-Groove is considered the more powerful groove is its powerful meter system, which can give your character two or three lvl3 supers per round and gives a 30% to 35% damage bonus while your meter is maxed. P-Groove gets meter once a round at most and carries no damage bonus. The only advantage of P-Groove's meter system is that you get meter for attacking and that meter gets passed between characters. But this isn't much of an advantage considering that a K-Groove character never dies without having full meter at least twice and it takes a full round just to get full meter once in P-Groove.

Both grooves have Short Jump so there isn't much to argue about there. K-Groove enables run while P-Groove has dash. The general consensus is that run is better than dash, but dash has some advantages as well and it's mostly a matter preference. The same can be said of K-Groove's safe fall vs P-Groove's delayed get-up. Some characters lend themselves to safe fall because they need to keep their momentum going, but using safe fall in the corner is extremely dangerous. Delayed get-up is great for avoiding meaty crossups and for doing wakeup throws with grappler characters, but grapplers all suck in this game and they don't get jumped at much anyway. Also, P-Groove can avoid crossups by virtue of Parry alone, because if you wait till the last second to block the attack, you will either block in the right direction or get a Parry. This option select crossup defense really makes delayed get-up pointless for P-Groove and P-Groove would benefit quite a bit more from safe fall as it would allow you to regain momentum quickly. Although K-Groove doesn't have this advanced tactic, safe fall can be used to avoid crossups instead and to waste less time laying on the ground while K-Groove meter is running out. So overall, K-Groove's sub-systems are considered slightly superior to those P-Groove possesses.

K-Groove's Guard Bar is approximately 12.5% shorter than C-Groove's Guard Bar. P-Groove's is approximately 25% shorter than C-Groove's. K-Groove has the obvious advantage here. The only point worth making is that if you Parry one hit of a multi-hit attack, you're free to retaliate instantly but if you Just Defend one hit of a multi-hit attack, you must continue to Just Defend until the move is over or you will go into default block animation and take Guard Bar damage.


P-Groove is better if:

  • you play offensively and aren't afraid to take calculated risks
  • you can counteract P-Groove's crappy meter system by not allowing your opponent to build meter
  • you're playing against a runaway or turtle character
  • you are icy

    K-Groove is better if:

  • you are playing against rushdown characters that are only useful as long as you don't have meter
  • you get hit a lot
  • you would rather win than be elitist

    Special thanks to omni, jchensor, Viscant, and ohayo1234.