When you know your opponent is stronger than you- maybe he is more skilled, or naturally talented. Perhaps he has more experience- maybe much more than you do… There doesn’t seem like there’s too much hope for your success. But- there is a chance for you.
Your opponent is human. They have their own life outside of the game, and they may not obsess over it- they may not know all of its secrets. You can capitalize on this! You must take every advantage you can… and that includes exploiting your opponent’s ignorance!
A win is a win, no matter how you get it. This includes using cheap and underhanded tactics to secure victory. I speak, of course, of the gimmick.
What’s a gimmick?
A gimmick is any attack or sequence of moves that requires a very specific response. It removes skills in reading, spacing, mixups, etc. by forcing the question, “Have you studied this character?” If the answer is “no”, you get hit.
It is a test that results in damage. Gimmicks rely on character ignorance; under this definition, there are multiple levels of “gimmicky play”, going beyond “conventional gimmicks”.
Using Unsafe Moves
The most basic test you can use against an opponent is to use an unsafe move. The test here is “have you studied your punishment?”
If they have not, your launchers, low sweeps, and other heavy-hitting moves now have almost no risk. Because you’re not being punished, you can start abusing these moves, and get all of the benefits without any of the drawbacks. Likewise, your opponent may call for your character to be patched.
Of course, this all ends if your opponent figures out they can punish your moves, or you fight someone who is well-versed in punishment- in which case you will have to restrict where you use these moves. Do not always assume that you must restrict their usage, however, or you may be missing out on good damage against certain players.
Assuming that your opponent is reacting and responding to your actions, sometimes you can lay traps for them, in the form of tech traps and frame traps. These traps punish the opponent for “doing what feels right”- with tech trapping, it’s attempting to ukemi to escape, and with frame trapping, it’s attacking at (what seems to be) advantage.
Natsu is infamous for her 2A+B tech traps; being that she is faster than most of the cast, she can stay in close proximity without too much worry, and as such start applying pressure. Attempting to escape this pressure when knocked down by teching will get you launched. The proper thing to do is to “accept” the pressure and lie on the ground, in order to take minimal damage; however, “accepting defeat” is not an instinctual thing to do. Most players will want to fight, and as such, will repeatedly fall into these traps.
Viola can use her orb to set up multiple frame traps- when fighting against her, just blocking an attack may not mean that you have the advantage. Miscalculating will get you juggled. If you assume that most sequences leave her at advantage and you just continue to guard, she can perpetuate her advantage, and make it so it is impossible to retaliate. The proper thing to do is to know precisely when a retaliation is realistic so that you can stop her in her tracks; however, studying a character and their frames deeply is not an instinctual thing to do. Most players just fight whatever comes their way, and as such, will repeatedly fall into these traps.
On the flipside, certain setups in the game will punish the opponent for doing nothing- for holding G, or for lying still- “combos” that aren’t really guaranteed, guard crushes that lead to guaranteed attacks, quake stuns, and other actions that reduce the opponent’s options and require a specific action at a certain point in time.
Pyrrha’s wr[A+B] is a guard crush move that when blocked, gives her a free 236B (+14 advantage). If you do not interrupt or dodge, you’ll be punished. Check your frame data to see if you have an equivalent; Patroklos (22A[A] into CE), Natsu (B[K] into PO A:6), Mitsurugi (MST [B+K] into 6B8) are examples among others.
Astaroth’s 63214B+G throw is his “heavy-hitter”, and is well-known for causing lots of damage. What you may not have known is that he can extend the damage if you do nothing by running forward and using 22K, and then continuing his combo from there. You can tech out of this setup, but if you do nothing, his meterless damage from this throw will skyrocket.
Leixia’s 2B+K is a guard crush move that has a quake stun effect further out. This quake hits low, even though the actual attack itself can be blocked standing. On contact, the quake gives her +18 frames, making a wide variety of attacks possible. Check your movelist- Pyrrha, Cervantes, and Astaroth have quake stuns, among others.
Generally, you’ll find gimmicks like these by merely playing others and looking for tricks, or checking your character’s Soul Arena. You should take note of gimmicks when you can, so that you can use them yourself, or at least inoculate yourself against them.
I used to believe that gimmicks were for the weak, and that good players only played with pure solid skill, no tricks and no weaknesses.
This is a trap that holds you back from becoming the best you can- do not fall into it.
There are many weapons that you can use to defeat your foes, and you must be proficient in all of them. Neglecting any one part will prevent true mastery.
I also used to believe that the use of gimmicks would become a crutch- that I would become dependent on them, and unable to adapt when faced with stronger opponents.
The truth is- adaptation is a skill in itself. If you are weak at adapting, you must put yourself in multiple situations where you must adapt to survive. A weakness in adaptation is no reason to let go of gimmicks, but it is a reason to work on and strengthen your adaptation.
Find your opponent’s weakness, and seize it- even if that means running up and using a plain 2KB (or “the most obvious thing in the game”). Your opponent’s opportunity means nothing if they don’t take it for themselves.