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(I’m writing a series of journal entries to track my progress prepping for Evo this year. Check out the previous entry here.)

I got in a set of about 25 games against SoCal’s Finest Ed Ma the other day and lost all of them. It’s the most fun I’ve had in Street Fighter V since I started playing the damn game.

The fun came from the fact that we were mostly playing footsies, and it has been a long time since I’ve gotten a long set in against someone who outclassed me so heavily in footsies. So, the set was basically an active learning opportunity. I couldn’t do much to shift the match away from footsies, since his anti-airs and dash punishes were basically perfect, so I just had to play the damn game, hold the Ls, and learn. And it was rad.

To be sure, any game can teach you a lot through 25 straight ass-whoopings, but I think some games can teach you more than others. There’s something special about being blown up in neutral that just feels more true to the spirit of Street Fighter, for me — perhaps it’s because neutral is where you demonstrate your knowledge of time, distance, and the other player’s tendencies simultaneously, and mixup situations usually just collapse the first two and focus on the third. I’m not impressed by the setups you found on YouTube and practiced in training mode, but when you can punch and kick me better than I can punch and kick you, you’ve got my attention.

A few things I learned or was reminded of during the set:

  • Your goal isn’t to beat their button, it’s to get the hit. You can spend a lot of time studying which of your buttons win against their buttons, and if you’re really serious about matchup study that’s not a bad place to start digging in. Most of the time, though, winning in footsies is about hitting them before or after they swing. Study their cadence, read when they’re going to walk forward, and give them a limb to walk into.
  • Footsies are a two-dimensional game. Sometimes you get that hit by going over or under their poke. Sometimes you get the hit by catching them walking forward, sometimes you catch them walking back. When you’re trying to figure out what button you should press, think about what the opponent needs to do if that button is gonna hit them, and look for situations where they do that thing. Don’t just press crouching MK because they’re in crouching MK range, press crouching MK because they’re at the tip of crouching MK range and you think they’re gonna walk forward in the 7 frames between when you press the button and when your MK’s hitboxes are active.
  • Look for one thing you can beat. The best footsies players I’ve played don’t try and beat every button I press, they just look for the button I press too much and beat that. If you’re trying to think of everything your opponent could possibly do at footsies range, you’re going to have too many things in your mental stack to be able to do anything effectively. Focus, and you’ll get faster.
  • Be patient. Good players can be actively attacking without taking major risks. Don’t get rattled by constant activity, even if it means you’re blocking a lot. Instead, look for the frequency with which they use slower attacks, dash in, jump, or poke with predictable timing — those are the opportunities you capitalize on.
  • Know the difference between a read and a reaction. Sometimes you’re pressing buttons because you think they’re going to do a thing right now, sometimes you’re hunting for a thing you know they’re going to do and have just the button ready to beat it. Test your opponent’s ability to react to your reactable stuff, their ability to read your timing on the unreactable stuff, and make decisions based on that information. If they’re reacting well and reading poorly, stop doing reactable stuff.

Heading off to Combo Breaker at the end of the week. Say hey if you see me!

patrick miller

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