Hit The Ground Running is an article series by Jay “Viscant’ Snyder.
This was a busy weekend for Street Fighter 5. Between FrogByte, Texas Showdown, Red Bull Kumite and PAX Arena we had multiple continents worth of non stop action and it doesn’t slow down this week with Northwest Majors coming up this weekend in Washington. At this point in the tournament season and the game’s lifespan it’s time to start going into the adjustment period, that point where you try to identify characters and moves that are giving you trouble and to create counters. So this week I’ve put together a short list of 7 moves that I’ve noticed are giving people trouble, both at the online level and even at tournament level.
This move is the reason that so many people have trouble with R. Mika. This is the passion press, the starter for her irish whip combo that leads to her corner game. At this point everyone knows the move is negative on block (-2) but people still have trouble reacting to the move in time. A lot of Mika players even will do towards+MP straight into another towards+MP. This has an 8 frame window to interrupt (-2, then another 6f startup) so they’re getting away with this due to fear and panic. This is not a frame trap, if anything by getting this move blocked a Mika player has frame trapped themselves. They’re counting on you not knowing what to do.
A quick glance at R.Mika’s frame data should help you out here. All her normals besides charged drop kicks and LK/LP moves are negative on block. So you don’t have to worry about differentiating between her buttons. You don’t have to think “wait is this the regular MP or the towards/back+MP?” If she’s using her hand and it’s not a jab, it’s negative. Since both MP and the passion press starter are -2, any move that activates in 5 frames or less will beat her first frame jab.
A good way to train yourself on recognizing this move is to go into training mode and set up different blockstrings involving her buttons. Practice differentiating between jab and the other buttons and work on ranges. At what ranges do you want to mash jabs against her blockstrings? At what ranges do you want to try for different buttons? At what range is challenging her not worth it and jumping away better? It varies character to character so experiment a little bit.
Another part of the move that tends to annoy people is that this move is easy to option select with. Similar to the Ken option select we talked about a few weeks ago, you can hit towards+MP, delayed MP in a way that the passion press followup will come out on hit but not on block. So a lot of the Mika players you run into don’t have supernatural reactions on this move, they’re just option selecting the followup. If you want to screw with them you can try backdashing against the towards+MP to get it to hit your airborne character and trigger the followup that you can cleanly punish.
VEGA STANCE CHANGE
This video comes from periodikoSF and it’s about a month old but still relevant because people still have a problem with Vega using stance change as part of a block string. As shown in the video, there is no situation where Vega can be any better than -2 when he changes stances. The video focuses on claw on standing HP into stance change but I’ve noticed Vega players using strings that are more negative like claw off crouching MP into stance change or even chained lights into a stance change.
Since they can be no better than -2 on a stance change, you’re free to jab out of any mixup or do any move 5 frames or faster. It’s generally better to use moves on the slower end here; since Vega frame traps himself by switching stances in front of you, you want to give him those extra frames to hang himself with. So moves like shoto crouching MP, Cammy crouching MP, Karin crouching MP, these moves are perfect for this situation, moves that activate in exactly 5 frames and are easy to confirm a combo off of.
But what makes this situation even easier to deal with is that in the most common string into stance change—claw on stand HP into removing the claw—there is no possible way for Vega to mix you up. Other than stance change, he can also cancel into aurora spin edges but those come out too quickly to act as a mixup. If you’re holding down back and mashing a button you can’t lose this situation. If he cancels to aurora spin edge, you’re locked in blockstun. If he cancels to stance change you get your button on the first frame and your button can’t lose to anything he does. If he doesn’t cancel the HP, you take the advantage. If he does the HP-HP target combo, you punish him.
Interestingly enough, this situation also answers one of the questions we had about Vega from the beta. During the last public beta Vega lost the ability to do the HP-HP-v-skill target combo on block, the v-skill just won’t come out if the HP-HP part is blocked. It seemed like a nonsensical change; it’s not like that was a good blockstring, it was double digit negative, -17 if the beta frame data chart I’m using is accurate. But it would have potentially beat mashing buttons against the stance change mixup. Someone was thinking ahead here.
BIRDIE BULL REVENGER
The bull revenger (hopping grab) was assumed to be a day 1 gimmick move but here we are over 2 months into the game’s lifespan and it’s still seeing quite a bit of use on the rare occasions that Birdie gets picked. This move is sneaky effective and many people think they deal with this move well because they don’t get grabbed often, but this move is as much about mobility as it is about actually getting the grab.
So let’s say you’re playing Nash and you’re keeping Birdie out with sonic booms. He doesn’t have meter yet so you’re not worried about EX bull revenger but on reaction to one of your booms, he does the full screen bull revenger to get in. Full screen bull revenger startup is 43 frames so you have ample time to avoid. You hold up back and as Birdie is grabbing air, you think to yourself “not today!”
You did not handle this situation as well as you could have though. What makes the bull revenger good is that there’s only 28 frames of recovery on the non-EX versions of the move. By comparison the most similar move in the game, Alex’s headbutt, has 43/49/55 frames of recovery. So if you hold up back, you don’t get a punish and actually Birdie gets to take the advantage in poking when you land in addition to all the extra screen space he gained. He clearly wins the exchange here even though you’re probably patting yourself on the back for avoiding the grab! So obviously the optimal solution is to hold up instead and get the neutral jump, right?
Not necessarily. The non-ex version of bull revenger actually lands briefly before completing the grab. And since hitting him out of the move creates a counterhit state, you can actually get grounded crush counters against this move. So in situations where a character like Nash is zoning from full screen, instead of looking to jump away from the move, you should be looking to stand HP crush counter. On other situations where Birdie uses the move like at the end of a blockstring, on your wakeup or after rolling a can towards you it’s even more practical to look for crush counter.
This is one of those moves that everyone “knows” the counter to but nobody actually does it in real matches. I can probably count the number of times I’ve seen the move get crush countered on the ground in tournament on one hand. But until people start doling out max punishments, Birdie players (the few that are left) are going to just keep doing it. Neutral jump is a perfectly acceptable counter but why not be optimal if you can?
R.MIKA TARGET COMBO
This makes Mika’s second appearance on the list. The LK-MP target combo (sometimes called the slap chop or stomp chop) is one of Mika’s go to hit confirms midscreen. It’s also a lot less safe than it seems. During the beta process this move was changed from -2 to -5 seemingly designed specifically to be unsafe.
In real play though you almost never see this punished on block largely due to pushback. Take a common situation where a Mika player would use this move like off a blocked dropkick. Ryu and Ken usually can’t punish that with a regular MP or HP shoryuken even though the shoryuken is 4 frame startup and the move is -5, she’ll be able to block and punish due to range; the shoryuken’s initial frames aren’t active in the space she’s occupying. Instead you want to look at moves that get out in 5 frames or less that have good horizontal range like Ryu standing LK, Karin standing MP, Birdie standing LP, so on and so forth.
But what about characters who don’t have a move like that? Take the same situation discussed above, a blocked drop kick into the LK-MP target combo and say you’re playing Cammy. Her quickest moves are standing and crouching LP and LK, back+MP, EX cannon spike and crouching MP. None of them reach. If you try any of them against Mika in this situation they’ll whiff and she’ll get a punish opportunity!
So it requires thinking outside the box a little bit. Frame advantage isn’t just good for punishing, it’s good for positioning as well. If you want you could get a short step forward into crouch LP to try to counter hit trap her. Or you could be completely safe and back dash; even if Mika was completely sure you were going to backdash, moves like slide and HP shooting peach can’t get to Cammy’s backdash. Even if you don’t get any free damage, you get her to lose her turn.
Set some time aside in training mode to see what options your character has and if they have nothing, don’t just swing buttons randomly hoping for a counter hit; given how Mika plays, it’s more likely you’re going to get counter hit yourself, put in the corner and forced to guess. Against a grappler character there are far worse things than getting a free backdash. You have to get SOMETHING as your reward for blocking this, even if that something is just space.
CHUN-LI INSTANT AIR LEGS
Instant air lightning legs is another move where everyone “knows” the counter. Just hit a button! In the frame data chart linked last week, there were colored hitboxes for each character. If you scroll to Chun-Li’s section you’d see that for the air lightning legs the hurtbox extends beneath the hitbox meaning that she’s always vulnerable underneath. For the later hits of the move the hitbox “sprays” a little bit and gets wild but only towards the upper areas, never beneath the hurtbox.
So as seen in the video linked above even a character who has a notoriously hard time against legs like Alex can counter legs sufficiently even with moves that aren’t anti-air moves at all like the crouching LP and crouching MP. Test it out with whatever character you play, you almost certainly have multiple buttons that will do the trick. It’s just a matter of identifying the move quickly and hitting the button in time.
As seen in the second part of the video you can use the training mode playback features to create a little drill to help you practice your timing against air legs. If you just have one timing set it’s easy to get used to that specific timing and rhythm and that doesn’t really prepare you for game action. But if you have multiple recorded actions set to play back the game will choose randomly which action to take. In this case I programmed in a minimum height MK legs, a slightly higher LK legs, a counterhit back+HP setup, a delayed minimum height MK legs and a very high jump straight up LK legs. If you’re going to make your own drill like this, other good things to put in are a walk forward throw or a fast low attack.
A drill like this will teach you to counter on motion. Ideally when you’re looking to counter instant air legs, you want to be reacting to the beginning of the legs motion and the sound instead of reacting to her leaving the ground. If you react to the start of her jump changed leg timing or the difference between a jump forward MK legs and jump straight up LK legs might throw your timing off enough for you to be counter hit. I will point out though that most Chun-Li players only use one timing for their legs. Either they always do neutral jump legs or always do the 92363 motion MK legs so you could probably get away with reacting to the jump for now, but it’s not optimal.
Out of all the moves we’re going over today, this one and the Mika clap are probably the most important to get down. Chun-Li players have become accustomed to using the move without setting it up, just walking forward and doing it from multiple ranges without considering the consequences. Once you start shutting this down reliably it changes the match and forces her to play a more grounded and honest style.
KEN SHORYUKEN INTO V-TRIGGER
Honzo Gonzo took a break from trolling and made this video just about 2 months ago showing how to punish the shoryuken into v-trigger and his video has punishes for normals into v-skill which is also punishable. Any version of shoryuken canceled into v-trigger is -5 and the v-trigger moves Ken right next to you so it’s not just that you get a punish, many characters get a punish starting with a medium button turning this into a serious damage opportunity.
This falls into the category of “everyone knows this already” and that’s fine. The video here is 2 months old and the knowledge behind it literally predates the game’s release date. But Ken players still go for this even at tournament level and sometimes they get away with it even at tournament level. Given that Ken is a very popular and successful character, it’s a punish situation that you should have on deck and not even need to think about.
Due to how inputs are buffered in this game you can mash your button during the activation of v-trigger and have it come out on the first frame. So just like with the Vega stance change situation you shouldn’t worry about timing your punish precisely, you should just double or triple tap your button to make sure you get it on the first frame. There is no reason to ever let a Ken player get away with this at this point in the game.
R.MIKA CHARGED DROPKICK
I didn’t intend for this to be an R.Mika hitpiece. OK maybe that’s a lie, I hate that character. But still my salt and bias aside this is an important move to improve against because this is how most R.Mika players get in and get the party started.
This video by wideawakeanimal posted on /r/streetfighter this past week shows a variety of counters to the dropkick. To note, the hitbox on this is not overly strong or large and the dropkick can be stuffed cleanly by quite a few moves. But more importantly, the hitbox is high and it matches the animation almost exactly. So anything that LOOKS like it goes underneath her legs probably will. A neutral jump punish is probably the best option but if you can’t neutral jump in time, having an option that will make the dropkick whiff is a good option to have.
Also to note, on the Japanese version of secret Illuminati discord chat, Mika dropkick along with Alex lariat, Dhalsim slide into v-trigger activation and a few other moves is marked as a mandatory v-reversal. What this means is, if you have the resources to v-reversal, and you happen to have blocked the dropkick there are very few situations where it doesn’t make sense to counter her off of you and force her to try getting in again. You shouldn’t have to think about time, health situation, screen positioning, you just do it.
Now personally I feel that in Street Fighter very few things should ever be called “mandatory” but this is one of those situations where it should be virtually automatic. The only situation where you have to think about it is where you’re down so far in health and she has so much health where you know that if you v-reversal you won’t live long enough to get another bar and thus won’t get v-trigger and you’ve judged the situation so dire that you’re counting on v-trigger as your comeback. In that case maybe it makes more sense to roll the dice. Incidentally this is one of the situations where I feel like having a 3 bar v-trigger gauge is a clear and obvious handicap. For a character like Bison, if you v-reversal once you might not get v-trigger at all that round and maybe you should play to spend your meter early and spend your whole v-gauge on v-reversals. But that’s a topic for another day.
So to review you can think of countering the charged dropkick like a progressive series. You should look to neutral jump it first. If you don’t have time for that you should look to low profile it. If your character doesn’t have that option or you’re running low on time, you should try to counter hit the move. If it’s too late for that or you don’t have time for that you should block it and v-reversal the move. If you don’t have the bar or you’re conserving meter? Well…time to roll the dice and may luck be with you. But just blocking and taking the mixup when you have options? Time to stop doing that.
That’s all for this week. Next week (hopefully) Guile will be out and we can finally talk about everyone’s favorite All-American American. See you then!