Build a knowledge base for defensive decision-making
In GG, offense is very strong, with many characters having strong mixup options and pressure extenders. GG is also a game where many characters can score knockdowns from very common combo starter situations. When you are forced to defend, it is your objective to turn this disadvantageous situation into a more favourable one. If anything, GG is a game where you need a calculated and active defense, as defaulting to block almost surely result in your death. To achieve this objective you must develop a good defensive decision-making capacity.
Even on defense, knowledge is the first and most important step, and decisions should be made from a risk-reward perspective
On defense ‘what beats what’ is not only about understanding what attack you have defeats the attacks of your opponent. Instead, defensive decision-making revolves around how you can create the best possible risk-reward situation out of an inherently risk-filled situation.
In most 2D fighting games, holding down-back is the standard alternative on defense. This because most characters only have a limited amount of overheads as most grounded attacks hit either low or mid. Consequently, overheads/crossups/throws are options the opponent relies on to break your defense. This is also true for GG.
First, let us go through some basic concepts on what options your opponent has on offense:
– Mixups: to break your block.
For example, Millia’s TK Bad Moon (overhead), Slayer’s dash through into c.S (crossup) and Sol’s Wild Throw (command throw)
– Frame traps: to punish abare (i.e. fast normals, most commonly 2P)
For example, Sol’s 6P, Chipp’s c.S on block into another c.S, or Ky’s 5K gattled into 5HS
– Anti-jump: to stop opponents from jumping
For example, Baiken’s S-Kabari, Potemkin’s Heat Knuckle, or any (delay) attack that is timed to hit you during your 3-5 jump startup frames (depends on the character).
– Anti-throw: to punish throws
For example, Leo’s backturn P/K (throw inv), well-spaced low (outside of throw range), Answer’s 6G (airborne, hence not throwable w. ground throw)
– Anti-backdash: to punish backdashes
For example, delayed attack (to hit during recovery), (attack w. many active frames), Millia 5K x2 (buffered string), Baiken’s tatami yrc (utilizing the interaction between projectile and YRC slowdown).
– Pressure: aimed to continue attacking (which builds tension meter, can crank up your guard balance meter and can create new opportunities to break your defense).
For example, Ky’s 6HS or Venom’s Carcass Raid.
Put differently, your options on the defense are: blocking (high/low); attacking (abare/invulnerable moves); jumping (jump/super jump); throwing (forward/backward), or; backdashing.
Different characters have different options available to them when on the offense. Different characters also have different options available to them when on the defense. Therefore, defense largely revolves around matchup-specific knowledge, as what defensive options are available will differ depending on how the options available to each of the two characters (and players) interact with each other. This eventually becomes the basis for mind games (see Section 4).
That said, even here there are general principles and specific techniques that can be learned, and later be applied to character matchups and player opponents.
Before moving to specific techniques, let us start on with some general principles of defensive decision-making in GG. When you apply a risk-reward perspective to decision-making on defense in GG you should ask yourself:
A) What option available to the opponent does the most damage?
— How does this change depending on meters and positioning?
—- How do these options affect your meters and positioning?
B) What alternatives do you have against these options?
— How do your options change depending on meter and positioning?
—- How do these options affect your meters and positioning?
As you can see, it once again becomes a question of how different meters and positionings interact. Meters here refers to the life meter, the tension meter and the burst meter. Positioning here refers to where you and your opponent are located on the screen (e.g. you are both mid screen, you are in the corner, your opponent is in the corner, etc.). The answer should always be the basis for your decision-making process.
Let me make this more concrete by returning to case study (2), as it is a classic high/low/throw-scenario.
– We saw that Sol’s empty jump-in 2D was a low mixup that also won against Ky’s reversal VT.
– Now imagine that Sol has over 50% tension meter. We now know that Sol can now confirm 2D on hit into Tyrant Rave and convert that into a combo for over 60% damage, while also getting 25% tension meter back, and that 2D low profiles VT, making it whiff.
– If Ky did VT, that would still whiff, Sol would be able to convert into an even stronger punish, gaining even more tension meter.
Given the specifics of this situation, VT becomes associated with higher risk than as presented in case study (2). If the Sol player has realized your awareness of this situation, he can of course consider going for a high/throw, as doing a reversal VT is associated with (too much) risk.
Let us take a step back. Indeed, the very of notion of learning what conversion options all characters have from a slew of setups can feel daunting. To those of you that are starting to feel overwhelmed, I suggest the following. Start by simply playing against people and try to register what happened in your matches. What combo starters were used when you ate that really damaging combo? What situation resulted in your opponent being able to nail you with that combo starter? While the optimal approach would be to attain a deeper knowledge about all characters, you can always start by focusing on what moves or situations you definitely do not want to get hit by (in the matchups you play the most), and proceed from there.
Basic defensive options
There are a number of defensive options in GG. In this section we go through basic defensive options.
A note on hurtboxes
Before proceeding, it is important to understand your character’s standing –, crouching –, and jumping hurtbox. This because the size of your hurtbox affects the utility of your various defensive options.
For example: A thin jumping hurtbox makes it easier for you to jump out of pressure. Since crouching hurtboxes are generally wider than standing hurtboxes, certain moves may whiff if you are standing. Start by playing around in training mode to get a better feel of the differences.
A note on blocking
There are three different types of blocking in GG, Normal Block (NB), Faultless Defense (FD) and Instant Block (IB). Learning how to use both FD and IB is important for those who want to become good at GG.
FD has more (and less specific) uses than IB. FD can be used almost universally as long as you are aware that you do so in exchange for a lot of tension. IB should only be used if you know exactly when and why you are using it. This due to the fact that you have to move your directional input to neutral or down in order to successfully execute an IB, and therefore can be hit by moves during this time frame. Generally, we can say that you want to FD the first attack(s), and IB the last attack, of a string. This, of course, depends on matchup. Let us go through FD and IB in a bit more detail.
Faultless Defense Block (FD)
– Pushes the opponent further away from you.
– Gives you added block stun (2f on the ground, up to 4f in the air).
– You take no chip damage.
– Your guard bar does not increase.
– Costs tension meter, and gives you 1 second of cool down to your tension pulse
– Allows you to block grounded attacks while being airborne.
The extra pushback (and blockstun) gives you more time to react to tick-throws since the opponent has to dash in and wait longer to be able to throw you.
The extra pushback can also make the gatling combination attacks of your opponent whiff. Sometimes this allows you to whiff punish these whiffed attacks, but in most cases you can only utilize this situation for other uses.
Generally it is a good idea to FD an opponent’s first grounded attack of an opponent’s block string, but this also differs depending on the matchup. For example, Jam’s 5H has a vacuum effect that effectively pulls you even closer to her when you FD.
Instant Block (IB)
– Barely any pushback (i.e. the opponent remains close to you).
– You receive less blockstun: 2-4f on the ground, 6-8f in the air.
– You gain a bit of tension meter, and your tension pulse increases.
– Your guard bar increases more than when normal blocking.
When IB is useful depends on matchup. Generally, you should to only go for IB against specific moves (e.g. Sol’s Bandit Revolver) and during specific gattling combinations.
– Throw (4HS, 6HS or throw option-selects) are good in GG because throws have instant startup.
– You can throw meaties on wake-up as long as the opponent is within throw range and is not using anything that is throw invulnerability.
– If your opponent is outside of throw range and you input throw, a move will always come out. The opponent can use this property in different ways – often for scoring counter hit starters.
There are a number of throw option selects. These include inputs that perform a throw if you are within throw range, or any of the following if your opponent does anything that causes your throw to whiff:
– a 6P = 6P+HS,
– a 5K/6K = 6K+HS
– a 5S/6S = 6S+HS
– a Blitz = 6S+HS reverting immediately back to 2/5
Some characters have useful kara-throws that gives them wider throw range. These include:
– Johnny 6K into 6H
– Jam 6H into 6H
Throw option selects are used in different ways. For example, a Sol that does 6K+6HS will both throw a grounded opponent and catch a jumping opponent with 5K (which can be confirmed into other options afterwards). It is important to know what you should be doing if the throw whiffed and the other option of your throw option select was performed!
– Abare (i.e. performing fast moves during your opponents offense) is very important in GG.
– The strength of each character’s abare moves are different: both when it comes their startup (3-5f), their hitboxes (wide/thin/high/low) and gatling routes (e.g. large difference between 2p2p and 5p2p).
– Abare can be baited and often leads to counterhit starters that are often very damaging
It is important know to know in what situations and at what ranges abare is a relevant defensive option. Buffering a gattling from your abare is an important part of utilizing abare succesfully. The difference between a 2P, 2P2P and a 2P2D can be enormous in terms of reward. Make sure to figure out how your character can gain the most out of your abare options!
Jump and Super Jump
– A good way of escaping from many situations – especially if you have a lot of tension for FD.
– Many characters have very few or limited options after jumping – while some have more.
– Jumps are invulnerable to throws during their startup.
– For some characters jumps are simply an option associated with less risk than e.g. abare – especially in combination with FD.
– The hurtbox of your character during a jump has massive impacts on the utility of jumping as a defensive option. The reason is simple: the smaller hurtbox the more difficult it is to hit you as you are jumping.
– The trajectory and speed of your jump has massive impacts on the utility of jumping as a defensive option. The reason is simple: the faster and farther you go, the more space you create between you and your opponent
– Super jumps takes you higher and faster than normal jumps with the demerit of losing your double / triple jump option. However, since you can still utilize air dash after a super jump. Super jumping into an air dash is a key tactic for getting out of the corner.
In general if is easier for your opponent to figure out what you are trying to do after your jump, because it has less options compared to if you were to stay grounded.
Finally, certain characters benefit from super jumping during reversal frames from a block, as this effectively becomes a jump-installed super jump (allowing you to keep your double / triple jump option). For example, normally Zato cannot enter flight after a super jump, but he can if the super jump was jump-installed.
Moves with invulnerability frames
Here I am mainly referring to (1) specials/supers that have invulnerability frames and (2) blitz shield.
First, we have the classic special/super that has invulnerability frames.
– DPs such as Sol’s VV
– Supers such as Ky’s Ride The Lightning
– These moves beat a moves due to their invulnerability but can be punished – often with unprorated/counterhit/crouching state combo starters that lead to damaging combos.
– Some DPs have less utility because of their specific properties. Other than the hitbox of Ky’s VT (discussed in case study 2), Jam’s Kenroukaku comes to mind as another example of a move that has invulnerability frames but can easily whiff because of its small hitbox. Similarly, Jack-O’s Zest not only has a slow startup but also lacks throw invulnerability.
Second, blitz shield essentially works in a similar way to a classic DP with some alterations:
– Blitz shield costs 25% meter
– Blitz shield can reject meaty safe jumps that normally are safe versus reversals
– A different type of mind game manifests itself on hit where damage is not guaranteed.
– While a conventional DP can be RC:d on block, a whiffed blitz shield cannot and will result in either a whiff animation or a charge blitz attack (if charged)
– When charging blitz attack, yet another type of mind game can manifests itself on whiff. I write can as most characters have some way of effectively negating this mind game.
– Like the previous category, the utility of backdashes come from their invulnerability frames.
– The backdashes of different characters have different properties in terms of: invulnerability frames, recovery frames and distance traveled.
– In some situations, a backdash can cause an attack to whiff. This whiffed attack can sometimes be punished, for example with a throw (e.g. Potemkins backdash into potemkin buster).
Most backdashes are airborne during their recovery frames. This also has some utility for defensive decision making that deserves some attention.
A note on airborne-state: the “get-hit-and-run”-tactic
Some of the defensive options makes your character airborne (e.g. most backdashes and Jam’s Kenroukaku). A character that is airborne has to be comboed differently than one that is grounded. For some characters, this combo is (much) weaker than those on the ground. A well-established tactic is therefore to utilize moves that make your character airborne to consciously get hit in order to run away from a more disadvantageous situation.
For example, even with Eddie summoned, Zato has limited combo potential for punishing backdashes in many situations mid-screen. Instead of being pushed to the corner or being forced into mixups, backdashing and cautiously getting hit by Eddie-Mawaru during an airborne state (and thereby eating a less damaging combo) has therefore become a defensive option that has is commonly used. We will return to questions of meter and positioning in the next part.