Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How-to-Slash Part 2: Special Moves, Kara Throws, Command Normals, and FADC

Hello again. Remember.. to follow me on Twitter!

Today I'm going to talk about Special Moves, Kara Throws, Command Normals AAAAAAND FADC!

I'll also talk about focus attacks briefly.

This section is designed to turn it up a little compared to the super-basic Part 1 of the How-to-Slash series. I stated in Part 1 that Vega is all about smart normal use, and that's true, but that's not to say that he can't do more. This section will go a little more into detail about how the rest of Vega's moveset functions. Eventually, I'll make a post compiling it all together.

Part 3, which comes next - of course - will be about safe jumps and set ups. But for now, let's talk about special moves.


Special Moves

Vega's special moves are great, but all take a lot of knowledge to use properly. It's nowhere near as clear cut as your standard hadouken-shoryuken combo, at least, on the surface. The functions of each move will become more clear to you the more you use them, but generally, each of them still serves a basic role - with the exception of Flying Barcelona Attack. I'll leave that one til last.

Rolling Crystal Flash


This move is executed by charging back - or down back - for 60 frames and going forward at the same time as pressing a punch. The move has 3 strengths and an EX version, each of which are sufficiently different from one another.

Jab rolling crystal flash travels a very long way across the screen, and is only -2 on block, which means it's safe to literally everything in the game except for Zangief's SPD and Chun Li's super. You can get away with using a lot, as long as you know they're going to block it. The rolling portion will almost always combo into the claw attack which means its a pretty decent means of standard, meterless BnB damage that'll work even on crouchers. Stuff like c. lp, c. lp xx LP rolling crystal flash will be a four hit combo.


One...


Two...


Three!

LP Rolling Crystal Flash is a pretty versatile move. It's great to use as part of your pressure strings, to move your opponent into the corner a little while maintaining safety as you're only -2 on block. Any of your moves that are special cancellable make a great candidate for a LP Rolling Crystal Flash string, but be aware that you have to space the move with the roll-claw strike transition in mind. If you space a c. mp from far away, the roll will not combo and there will be a gap between the c. mp and the claw strike, which could leave you open for serious punishment. No single hit of the move breaks armor, but as long as you manage to space it so that the roll and the strike hit the opponent it should be safe - but it can still be interrupted. Focus is LP Rolling Crystal Flash's greatest nightmare. 

You can, though, use the claw strike of LP Rolling Crystal flash as a super-long distance poke, but just be aware how much of a risk that can be against jumping, focusing, and really, reacting opponents who can just raw ultra it. It's a move that exists for a reason - it's GREAT to mix in with the rest of your pressure game to really put the fear in already complacent opponents - but it's very risky at the same time. It also does combo on counter hit into c. mp which can do some fat damage, and you can FADC it for a combo (more on that later) but I have to emphasize that the risk is huge.

Generally though, the move is great because it's so safe against everyone. There are even certain spaces where you can force an opponent to block an LP Rolling Crystal flash, and knowing that they are going to press a button that doesn't have sufficient range after, you can follow up on the blocked RCF with a normal of your choice - that requires some individual matchup knowledge which will be covered as I go along with each matchup guide.


The stronger versions of Rolling Crystal Flash roll for more hits.

MP Rolling Crystal flash rolls for three hits and has a claw strike on the fourth. In rare circumstances, you can combo off your close medium punch into MP RCF but that's character specific and, I have to emphasize, rare. Regardless, it's faster than HP RCF, so it's harder to react to, and it only moves your opponent into the corner a little less far. 

HP Rolling Crystal Flash is a little more specialized than MP RCF. For one, it's slower, but it does more damage, has more hits (more meter), more stun, and more corner carry. The only downside is it will only combo off of cl. hp so it's situational in that regard. It also has a bit of a slow start up, and so if you use it raw - especially from afar - it's very likely that you will get punished severely for it. However, against complacent opponents it's a very useful move to pressure with and score some easy chip.


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EX Rolling Crystal Flash is identical to HP RCF on the surface, but there are two differences - the first being, EX RCF is 0 on block, so it is totally safe to even Chun-Li's super, and it is also +4 on hit, which allows a free combo into c. mp after. Additionally, it is fireball invincible - if you block a c.mk and predict or react to a fireball cancel, you can EX RCF and score some huge damage if you have two bars for the c. mp xx EX FBA combo, and even safe jump after. Because it's safe on block and can score huge damage if you connect with it, it's also great to use out of a safe jump to safely corner carry your opponent, and since you're even on block after, you can run mixups safely, as opposed to the other RCF's where you're -2 and can risk getting hit out of a subsequent follow up. 

Scarlet Terror


Classic move that requires specifically a down-back charge - the only special move of its kind - for 42 frames and then a forward + kick input. There are 3 different versions including an EX version.


Light Kick Scarlet Terror. Notice the dust - that's where Vega jumped from.

Light Kick scarlet terror only hits once as opposed to all others that hit twice. It's got a seven frame start up which is kind of slow, and is -12 on block, but it's also throw invincible on start up and has a huge vertical hitbox. If you hit a grounded opponent with LK Scarlet Terror, you can combo into an EX ST after for a semi-damaging combo - stick with the pokes if you ask me though. You can get better damage and knockdowns from EX FBA buffered pokes - they're also safer.

However, Light Kick Scarlet Terror is a pretty solid anti-air, provided your reactions are on point. If you space the LK ST such that the highest point of the flip kick hits the opponent in the air (ideally, they will be at the peak of their jump arc) it's a pretty tough anti-air to beat. Just think about it - at this point the hitbox is nearly vertically upward, just like a shoryuken or something like Akuma's c. hp. Additionally, if you hit with an anti-air LK ST, you have "pursuit property" and have an extra juggle point to juggle another ST, as long as it's not another LK one. Regardless, those "pursuit property" scarlet terror juggles do BIG damage. As long as you have a charge, and are confident in your reactions or made a good read, an LK Scarlet Terror anti-air is a pretty strong incentive for your opponent to stay grounded.


Medium Kick version. It moves a little further forward than LK ST.


Medium Kick Scarlet Terror is among Vega's least used special moves. Like LK ST, it comes out in seven frames, which is slow, and it hits twice like HK and EX ST. The only real application it brings to the table is as a differently-spaced scarlet terror anti-air, one that travels inbetween LK and HK / EX scarlet terrors. However, if you hit with only the second hit of MK Scarlet Terror, you can juggle another scarlet terror (MK and up) for free! This actually does less damage than if you were to start a juggle with LK Scarlet Terror, but if the opponent is jumping from an angle that warrants an MK ST, it's in your best interest to respond accordingly.


Flies further forward than weaker versions, and is faster too.


Hard Kick Scarlet Terror is one of Vega's most important special moves. It flings him forward at a pretty far distance, and comes out in 4 frames while being throw invincible! However, it is not strike invincible at all, so as a wakeup reversal, I can only recommend it against throws or when you predict a gap in your opponents offense. Like medium kick scarlet terror, if you hit with only the second hit against an airborne, you can combo another Scarlet Terror. This move is also your go-to follow up after Cosmic Heel, which we will come to later. HK Scarlet Terror is also great if you land a jump in against a standing opponent, but beware as a cancelled c. mk or c. lp into HK Scarlet Terror will not hit crouchers unless they are tall. RCF is better suited to hit crouchers.

Each of the three basic-strength scarlet terrors also make exceptional corpse-hops - more info on how to devastate your opponent with corpse-hop mixups later on in this section of the "How-to-Slash" guide.


EX Scarlet Terror. This picture is used to show EX ST's anti-air capabilities - you should always try to strike with the "red streak" part of Vega's feet because in this picture Vega can be hit in the same places as where he's anti-airing opponents.


EX Scarlet Terror is identical to HK Scarlet Terror in just about every way, but with a few exceptions. It's projectile invincible on start up, so like EX Rolling Crystal Flash, if you block a shoto cr. mk, for example, and anticipate or react to a cancelled fireball, EX Scarlet Terror will rip right through it and hit your opponent. This is a useful application as it'll also trump Ultra fireball moves like Dhalsim's Ultra 1 or Guile's Ultra 2. EX Scarlet Terror also does 180 damage, which is 20 more than HK Scarlet terror, and 50 more stun. If you're trying to stun an opponent with Vega - which I can assure you, is very rare - EX Scarlet Terror is your go-to move as it deals significantly more stun than damage. A couple well-timed cosmic heels to EX ST can stun an opponent in just a few hits.

A passing note, but I wish Vega still had his Scarlet Mirage super. One can dream.

Sky High Claw


This move is wack. Part of me genuinely thinks it's the worst special move in the game - by a significant margin - while part of me thinks one day it's really going to come in handy. Either way, it's hard to recommend any version but the EX under basically any circumstance. Regardless, I will break them down, but I'll do it all as one, and then talk about the EX Version, which is much more useful.


To the wall - looks just like a Barcelona at this point.


Each of the Sky High Claws charge in 42 frames like the rest of Vega's kick charge moves, and you can choose which direction to fly to during the portion where you are still grounded during the moves start up (a very brief moment, but I'll talk more about situations where this might come in handy later). Each of them then dash off the wall horizontally, at different heights, reaching all the way to the opposite wall and then recovering to the ground.


LP Version - seldomly a useful spot to hit.


MP Version - still doesn't hit anyone on the ground.


HP Version - the only one that'll hit grounded opponents.


LP Sky High Claw reaches very high and generally only hits opponents at the top of their jump arc. MP Reaches slightly less high, but still won't hit most standing opponents. HP will hit standing opponents, but only in rare scenarios will it hit crouchers. They're all very unsafe on block and only do 110 damage and cause a techable knockdown, so it's just extremely hard to recommend them. They're also not exactly FAST and are incredibly punishable on whiff - if someone avoids any sky high claw, you can pretty much accept the fact that you're going to hurt for it. Their only use seems to be if you guess precisely where they are going, and you have to know why, because you really, really just can't throw this move out without being prepared to take serious damage for it. Even when you do hit, it offers so little, that I have basically tried to forget it exists. You can always guess right - it's not impossible - but the risk/reward here is totally out of whack. The only use I even have for LP SHC is if you predict someone holds up after a c. mp and you go off the wall behind them, because it will most definitely hit them out of the air, but you don't even get a follow up and you do hardly any damage. Again - hard move to recommend.


EX Sky High Claw actually goes through opponents on hit, so be careful not to always put yourself in the corner, even if it means a clean hit.


EX SHC however is a bit more useful. On the way to the wall, it can easily confuse opponents who are anticipating EX Flying Barcelona Attack, except a cue for most should be that the upward-flying-knee portion of the attack doesn't actually hit like EX FBA does. It can be used to both surprise opponents with their back close to the wall for some quick, cheap damage and it also goes through fireballs during the off-the-wall-dash. However, it's incredibly difficult to use this move as a reaction-punish for fireballs, since it has a pretty extensive start up time and is rather unsafe on block. It's better to use as an anticapatory, and highly situational means to punish reckless fireballing, which at times can be a problem for Vega - just remember that on the way up, EX SHC is not invincible to fireballs. When I publish Part 4 of the "How-to-Slash" Guide, I'll talk a lot more about how to deal with fireballs.

Flying Barcelona Attack


This move still terrifies and amazes me to this day. It's never stopped being an anomaly since I started playing this game three years ago. That said, it's the most fun move for me in the game, and always has been - back in the day I would really scrub people out with cross up Flying Barcelonas, and it worked out pretty great for me too, because I learned a ton from this move when I was abusing it all the time. It really is one of the more exciting parts of this game - a move that has a vast amount of possibilities and at the same time, frustratingly low potential. It's all about your understanding, the matchup, and, the size of your balls. Every matchup guide will come complete with a brief section on how exactly this move factors into the matchup.


You can fly anywhere you like after you jump off the wall. Practice using the move and get used to the movement.


Flying Barcelona Attack has three different strengths on the flight to the wall, and requires a 42 frame down charge into an up and kick motion. Like I briefly stated in the Sky High Claw section, you can choose your direction even after your input the move, but this period is extremely brief and often not worth mentioning. Regardless, I will talk about it more at a further date.


Light Kick Barcelona jumps off the wall at a low point.


MK version goes a little bit higher....


... and the HK Version goes way up there.

The light kick flying barcelona attack goes the shortest distance up the wall, and your flight off of the wall is lower than the other two versions. With that said, it's very rare that it's absolutely necessary you use the greater strength versions. They leave you in the air too long, which writes them off pretty quickly as far as the vortex is concerned (more on that in Part 3 of the "How-to-Slash" guide), but they can be useful in terms of mobility, evasion, and generally, keeping your opponent on your toes. Regardless, the LK version is the most useful. Also, each of the punch attacks off of the wall - Flying Izuna Drop and the actual Claw Strike of Flying Barcelona Attack - all use the same attack, regardless of the strength of punch you used to input them.

As for the moves actual uses... where do I even begin? The vortex portion will definitely be covered in Part 3 of the guide, but as far as what this move brings to the table, it's hard to say exactly where that ends and where it begins.


The symbolic wall dive.


First of all, it's an incredibly useful move in terms of mobility. This move lets you fly almost wherever you want and you can do the punch version out of it at whatever time you please. Izuna comes out in 2 frames and the actual attack comes out on the third, so any time you're in range for an izuna you will always get that before the claw strike - to clarify, that is NEVER a bad thing. Izuna does a whopping 150 damage and turns your offense into top-gear. Claw Strike gets you some quick damage, but no long-lasting wake-up pressure.


Need a hand?


Watch your head bro.


Were you even listening to me?


I have to emphasize that because Flying Barcelona Attack basically has infinite possibilities - provided you get to the wall in time, it is not invincible at all - creativity is of utmost importance. For every situational counter to FBA, there is another thing you can do in the air to beat it. For instance, Akuma can c. hp most attempts at Izunas and Claw Strikes in the general area around his head. However, you can swerve to his side and use the horizontal range of the claw strike to hit him while your body avoids his c. hp! You can also just fly behind him after the start up of the c.hp and hit his back, but that's only if you're an ace. Additionally, you can just straight up izuna him out of the c. hp, but that's even harder. Turning the Flying Barcelona Attack into utmost feel is super important, because it allows you to do whatever you want with the move - as long as you have a read in mind and have the skills to aim the FBA as you please, you can make it happen.

Additionally, the move is one of your best tools against fireball zoning. Basically any time your opponent does something that leaves him open to an attack after you've jumped to the wall, you will have time to reach them for an izuna punish - with the exception of characters like Guile who have an incredibly fast-recovering projectile. However, you just have to be super careful with its massive cooldown. If you predict a fireball against a Ryu with full super, or even ultra, and back down after jumping to the wall because he didn't do anything, you can expect to get hit with the full damage of whatever Ryu is sitting on and take it all. For some characters, punishing these whiffs is a lot easier than others. And for some, swerving over to attack just isn't an option. Additionally, the move is super unsafe on block. If you space it poorly, you can eat some serious damage.

As more of the guide goes on, I'll tell you more and more about this move. Like I said earlier, it's different for every character - so I figured I would lay down "the basics" of this move before I went into depth in every matchup. As far as it appears on the surface, it's a "long-range" move that allows you to move anywhere. As long as you're not pretending it's a good move to use under pressure, or that Vega should be barcelona'ing at all times, then you'll find smart ways to use it.



Very important move.


EX Flying Barcelona Attack is just great. It's a regular Barcelona Attack but it hits on the way up! Under very few circumstances will you not have the opportunity to follow-up on the combo into an Izuna or Claw Strike, so it's a pretty much foolproof combo starter against opponents who are doing basically anything but blocking, or out-prioritizing your move. It's even good at catching people jumping out, backdashing, or whiffing focuses - an all-in-one-answer to these kind of tactics is truly unique, and warrants respect. As long as Vega is out of range, you can charge this in 42 frames (roughly 2/3 of a sec) and punish. It's also your absolutely number one ideal move for finishing combos, and far-and-away the best way of spending meter, especially against characters who don't have fireballs. I can't sing it's praises enough.


That's what the first hit of the EX Strike version looks like.


With that said, getting careless with this move, just like the normal Flying Barcelona can result in serious damage on your behalf if you not careful. However, there's an extra trick to EX Flying Barcelona - the claw strike version actually hits twice! This means for most characters that focusing the barcelona - a good idea, in most cases - is instantly a bad idea if you use EX. That's incredibly useful, and really, worth using the meter in some scenarios where you just want to force them to deal with a barcelona mix up. The move is great that way - the fear you instill in your opponents because of this move is largely a derivative of your own creativity with the move. You can always find a way to use it, even more so than Flying Barcelona. 

In addition, this move turns Vega into the kind of character he is - a punisher. Tons of moves in the game are thrown around carelessly at a -4 or 5 disadvantage only for Vega to c. mp xx EX FBA them to oblivion and start his offense. That's 210 damage for a little bit of carelessness, and you essentially make that move, with one stock of bar on your side, a bad idea. This is absolutely essential for strong Vega defense.

One last thing - if an EX FBA trades on the way up, you actually have full juggle potential! You can combo an ultra off the trade - it's hard to have the presence of mind to do so, but it works. 

Expect to hear about this move A LOT. I'll always come back with more info on EX FBA related set ups, punishes, etc. etc. It's Vega's best move! Without it, he would be complete garbage.


Kara Throws


Kara throws are the base of Vega's offense. They are performed by pressing the throw buttons, light kick and light punch, a frame after inputting st. hk. You basically need to make a "claw" out of your hand and have three fingers - for me, it's my pinky on the hk button, and my thumb and point finger on light kick and light punch respectively - and hit all three buttons at nearly the exact same time, letting the st. rh button hit first but only by a fraction of a second - specifically, 1/60th of a second. This is a technique that takes a lot of practice and not everyone can do it as easily as others. I still struggle here and there to get kara throws out when I want.

Because the bulk of Vega's moves are at their strongest at a bit of an "outside" range, despite the fact that Vega walks fast it would be detrimental to Vega's offense to force him to walk right next to someone every time in order to perform a throw. Vega has the kara throw for this reason - if used properly, it is the second furthest reaching normal throw in the game after Ken's f+mk kara throw. This long range allows you to actually throw people from the same ranges at which some of your pokes are their strongest. For example, st. lk is supplemented nearly flawlessly by a kara throw. At the same range close moves become standing moves for Vega, the kara throw is at its optimal spacing. Considering each of Vega's standing normals are for the most part far-reaching situational pokes, this wouldn't be that important, if not for st. lk. The fact that these two moves share the same spacing is absolutely instrumental to Vega's kara throw game.

Think of it this way - because Vega is spaced at a range where he can use st. lk, this means you automatically have a pretty decent kara throw mixup waiting at all times. St. lk is +2 on block, which is great for a move that has as much range and speed as st. lk, and it's +5 on hit, allowing you to combo into a wide variety of moves including, most importantly, c. mp. In addition, if you score a counter hit with st. lk - which is very likely if opponents are scared of getting thrown - you can also combo into a c. mk! On some characters this allows for a follow up into a c.mp xx EX FBA combo, which is reason enough for everyone to be scared to tech throws. The fact that st. lk and kara throws complement each other so well is the grounding point of Vega's offense - if you need a life lead back, st. lk and kara throws are the tools best suited for the job.

Kara throws are also amazing for Vega because of how fast he walks. You can choose to walk into range, and st. lk, then walk back safely and space a c. mp. Or, feign a walk back into a poke, and just walk in again and continue pressure. It's hard to react to Vega's offense because from any range at the general "mid-range" area, Vega has some decent options. Most characters struggle to outfootsie Vega to begin with, largely because of the "Holy Trinity" of st. lk, c. mp, and c. mk. But for those who can press buttons to counter-footsie Vega, out ranging and out maneuvering them is crucial to scoring damage, and also crucial to allowing you to move into the space where kara throws work. Once you get into that space, you can either go for the kara throw, mix up with safe, light pokes like st. lk or c. mk, or go for the huge cosmic heel punish. As long as you maintain this sort of pressure and are aware of the spacing of every move - including kara throw - you can slowly get life leads back. Cosmic heel is the move that, if you succeed in connecting with, can turn a life lead for them into a comfortable 150 damage cushion for Vega, which allows you to tone it back and play less of a risky game.

Vega has an overhead that plays a bit of an important role in opening opponents up, but it pales in comparison to the capabilities and "supplementability" of Vega's kara throw. Because it's so much harder to react to kara throws than overheads, people play more of an anticipatory game dealing with kara throws, and making the reads on when people try to counter kara throws is hugely important to Vega's offense. You can pretty much rely on smart kara throwing to bring the life lead back, but overheads are a bit more of a surprise footsie tactic than a legitimate means of doing steady damage.

More information on the kind of set ups you can get off of kara throws will appear later. Stay tuned!



Command Normals


Cosmic Heel



Cosmic Heel is a great, dependable move that succeeds in a couple different situations. It's got about as much range as c. mp, but a bit of a higher hitbox, so it's not uncommon to see it whiff on crouchers when spaced at max range. It's also -3 when spaced poorly, so if you do a cosmic heel point blank you can expect to be thrown fairly often. However, it has 5 active frames, and connecting with Cosmic Heel on one of those later active frames is not only fairly common, but also makes the move safer on block - up to +1 on block, allowing for follow-up pressure.

This move is great to use as a heavy-damage punish for bad throw techs. As I stated in the last section, Kara throws play a huge part of Vega's offense and Cosmic Heel is one of the situational counter-tools that can really make kara throws shine. Any time you connect with a cosmic heel, you basically score 260 damage - an HK Scarlet Terror will always connect after the cosmic heel. This requires some practice, but I don't consider it very difficult. To do this, just perform a cosmic heel, move to downback as soon as you press the HK for the cosmic heel input, and wait a brief moment after connecting to do the scarlet terror - you have a bit of time after the impact to follow up on the floating opponent. Of course, if you want to do more stun than normal, an EX ST is a good idea, and if you're looking for an untechable knockdown, you can choose to do either a sweep or an EX FBA. There's pretty much no wrong answer for what comes after a cosmic heel, as long as you're not leaving damage on the table by doing weak moves out of it.

You can also do either ultra after a cosmic heel, but this is a bit more difficult. The floating period of a connected cosmic heel is brief, and although it allows you to connect moves like sweep, or even close fierce - both of which are slower than both of your ultras - you don't have enough time during the cosmic heel animation and the float period to fully charge ultras.

Despite that, scarlet terrors will always work because they come out in four frames. Ultras are a bit slower, so while you have time to store a down-back charge after the down-forward input of cosmic heel, you don't have enough time to get the two ultras to come out fast enough. However, if you tag an airborne opponent with a cosmic heel, the float period is much bigger, so comboing with an ultra afterwards is much more feasible.

Some characters have different float states than others, and hitting them with ultras off of grounded cosmic heels is actually possible. For instance, you can combo a point-blank cosmic heel into Splendid Claw on Balrog. It requires fast charging and an even faster ultra input to make sure the timing window is sufficient enough for the ultra to connect, but it does work.

As more time goes on, I'll upload a complete list of the characters it works on commonly and rarely.

So in addition to Cosmic Heel being a great throw tech punisher, it also is a good footsie tool and a huge punishing tool. Cosmic Heel is a unique move to Vega for a couple of reasons - it's a forward-moving heavy move that causes a float state on hit and is safe on block. That's an absolute rarity, so how it's hitbox functions into making the most out of all those great features is something I recommend getting the feel for - as I stated earlier, it reaches about the same distance as c. mp but the hitbox is higher so it won't hit crouchers at all times. It also doesn't make for a great anti-air because Vega doesn't protect his head against opponents' jump-ins. But since it lunges so far forward, you can use it to hit outstretched limbs of opponents pokes and get decent damage off of it. Just be careful to space it properly as using this move to move right in front of someone - a place Vega rarely wants to be - can be a huge risk.

Punishing whiffed uppercuts is also incredibly easy with cosmic heel. It's got great range and deals big damage on hit so in the event you don't have a charge or aren't in range for a charge-confirm punish, cosmic heel is incredibly useful.

Lastly, cosmic heel does move you pretty far forward, faster than moving forward, but slower than dashing, despite the fact it does move you further forward than a dash does. Cosmic heel is a decent means of getting around, but you always have to be aware of the space you're moving to. If you're full screen and decide it's time to do a cosmic heel at the same moment your opponent jumps forward, there's a high chance you're going to get tagged into severe damage.

Piece of Mercury 



Vega's overhead, performed with df+mk. This move serves a pretty basic function - it hits crouching opponents. Beyond that, it's hard to find a dedicated use for this move. It does hop over lows, which can actually provide it with a decent use in footsies, but it's pretty slow on start up and -4 on block, which can getting punished and having to endure a mixup that could be pretty damaging. On top of that, it's impossible to combo after Piece of Mercury, even on a counter hit that hits as late as possible. It's sole use is just for hitting people for crouching - but that extends into the greater part of Vega gameplan "philosophy" that I'll expand on for a bit here.

Think of it this way - if someone is crouching, what are they doing? They're blocking low attacks. But there is one very important thing that, as a defender, they are not doing, and that is walking backwards. This is huge for Vega on offense. Why is it so important that, if an opponent is crouching, they aren't walking backwards?

The main reason is that if an opponent is crouching, it is FAR more easy to space kara throws than normal, because they aren't moving. Just as it is tough to react to Vega moving around when he is on offense, it is very tough to react to an opponent standing up out of a crouch and moving out of your throw range at the last second. So many times I've been hit by sweeps - of all things - trying to kara throw Justin Wong, and it's precisely because he knows I'm going for kara throws, takes a tiny step back so my kara throw is out of range, then sweeps me from point blank. For an opponent, choosing when to walk back and when to crouch against Vega is of utmost importance.

The good news is, Vega's c. mk is so incredibly good that you'll find it uncommon for opponents to walk back out of your offense. The only downside to using c. mk as a means of pressuring your opponent is that it has a lot of pushback - normally, if they block a c. mk, despite the fact that you're at +2, the distance created means you have to gamble on another poke to keep them grounded, or some other form of movement to continue offense. C. mk is not flawless - it's a great counter to walk-back but you can't use it all the time. Moves like st. lk and c. jab are also well suited to pressure, and push you back FAR less. They also have different frame data which can be used to help open an opponent up, since using only c. mk would make you incredibly predictable.

Because c. mk is not totally abusable, walk back is still a smart decision against Vega, but is tough to incorporate because it can be incredibly risky to walk back and risk getting hit by a c. mk combo. In the event, then, that characters are crouching in anticipation of a predictable c. mk, using Piece of Mercury to check them and make walking back seem like a better idea is a good tactic. If you use enough overheads, all it takes is one moment where an opponent panics and stands up to walk back and you can hit with a fat c. mk combo. Obviously, since overhead is unsafe on block and can be reacted to doesn't make it a flawless move in its own right, but knowing when to use it can be incredibly useful.

Piece of mercury is also focus bait. If you're not careful, you can eat tons of damage getting too predictable with this move. The main idea is that this move relies a lot on reading your opponent - it's dividend is a meager 60 damage, but as long as you know where to incorporate it and what purpose it serves, then you can connect with it here and there.

The Flips


These moves are not without their flaws, to be sure. They're both the only invincible moves Vega has aside from his ultra 2 and backdash, but they have no "hit" so they are essentially always unsafe as far as wakeup moves go. However, they do serve one purpose in particular - the KKK flip - or, Short Backslash - is adept at avoiding attempts at a shoryuken FADC. If you read a frame trap by Ryu that will end in an attempt at shoryuken FADC into ultra, KKK Flipping at the right time will result in huge damage potential for you. It's one of few moves in the game that can cleanly beat an attempt at an uppercut FADC. This is also massive in the Seth matchup, where two-bar Seth can just rampage over a large part of the cast. As long as you are both aware that your flip avoids any attempt at Shoryuken FADC, you can severely stun his offense.



That's pretty much what the KKK Flip is all about - using the 42 total frames it has (32 of which are invincible) to evade a move of greater frames. Most shoryukens have upwards of 60+ frames which means KKK flips are great candidates for avoiding them. However, most normal moves - which is obviously a staple of a lot of characters' pressure games - will not be avoided by KKK Flip and will most likely result in you getting hit again. This can be a good thing and a bad thing as you can avoid a dangerous mixup and get away with a light tag, but the risk here speaks for itself. For 10 frames you are completely unprotected and you essentially didn't do anything to stop your opponent from attacking you. They can easily react, walk forward, and tag you again. For some characters this can mean certain death, but for others, a slap on the wrist - it largely depends on the player behind the arcade stick and how they react to what you're doing.

There are rare instances where KKK Flip can be used to beat option selects. For instance, a lot of characters will do a safe jump into a sweep option select to beat your backdash. If you flip, because the period of invincibility is longer, you can actually avoid the option select altogether! Additionally, since some sweeps - common tools for option selects because of their big range and untechable knockdown afterwards - are slow with regard to frame data, you can get away scot free.

The underlying principle behind the KKK Flip is that you can use it avoid a mixup, but never to eliminate pressure. It's rare for a flip to open an avenue for a punish, like it does against a telegraphed Seth Shoryuken. In essence, that's what reversals are - making a guess to eliminate an opponents chance at pressure. Because the KKK Flip doesn't actually hit anything, this move is largely used just to force your opponent to continually adapt to your defensive patterns. You never eliminate pressure as opponents can always just walk up to you and either punish or keep attacking your recovery - you just alleviate it for a very brief moment.



The PPP flip - or, Backslash - is 65 frames and 57 are invincible. So actually, this move has a greater ratio of invincibility-to-vulnerability than the KKK flip does, but it's simply too long of an animation to be of use. It's even easier to react to the PPP Flip than the KKK Flip and this can mean opponents just letting go a raw ultra on you to do huge damage. It's not worth it - the KKK Flip simply does the job better. Even stuff like Shoryukens are better avoided by the KKK Flip, simply because it already has enough invincibility to avoid them, and also allows you to recover faster and connect with the punish. The only use for PPP Flip that I have is that it is a situational counter to Seth's Tandem Engine as it's the only thing in the game a KKK Flip can't avoid perfectly that a PPP Flip would. Regardless, that's incredibly risky, and you can just jump over a Tandem Engine for a huge punish if you're ready to react to it.

Both flips are actually normal-cancellable, which can be fun to mess around with. I like using KKK Flip and PPP flip out of c. mp simply because they cancel the recovery animation of a c. mp after it connects and they let you move backward to a point more quickly than if you just walked backward after a c. mp. This can be great for putting you in the right position for keep away, but can still be risky as some characters can react with a long-range ultra punish.

You can also use flips against foes who are crossing you up by inputting the flip just as they cross your horizontal axis. As soon as they do that, flip, and you'll flip in the same direction they jumped from to cross you up. It's far from a flawless tactic as they get landing recovery after their cross up which is incredibly small and they can hit you with big damage easily, but as long as you remain unpredictable on defense a move like this can actually serve you really well.

Wall Jump



The wall jump is executed by jumping towards a wall and basically jumping off of it. Unlike most characters with wall jumps, Vega is not floaty at all. As a result, when he jumps off of a wall it's more of a ricochet - he retains a lot of his original momentum and it's generally a more quick wall jump than what Chun Li and Guy have. However, Vega doesn't have a cross up, so as far as mixup tool goes it's not quite as well-suited. Regardless, wall jumps are a great mobility-based tool as if there is an opponent in front of you at c. mp range while your back is to the wall, you can jump back and off of the wall behind you to land on his other side. It makes Vega a little harder to pin down in the corner, but requires quite a bit of time to get away with safely, and that usually requires a couple mindgames in place, which largely involve drawing your opponent to walk further into the corner for a mixup, or having a strong air-to-air game to discourage them from intercepting you.

Wall jumps also have more horizontal range than your normal jump arc because you jump "off" the wall, which gives you a little more height. You retain the same momentum downwards but you get a little bit of a boost horizontally, so it can be a situational tool to jump in on someone who isn't prepare to anti-air. However, this is a bit of a slow process and against more acute opponents you can expect to get anti-aired. Wall jumping relies largely on your creativity and patience. As long as you can find a way to manipulate the angle of the wall jump such that you can alleviate pressure and potentially get out of the corner while avoiding your opponent, they have a use. But as a dedicated, useful, strong part of Vega's moveset, they don't have much importance - they're a bit too slow and not as warranted against patient opponents, especially charge characters who will just corner-zone you all day anyway.

Despite that, there are also certain spots where you can actually wall jump, do a jumping move like j. hp, hit their front, and land on the other side. These mixups are incredibly tricky, and a little rare, but do the job just fine. In the  Part 3 of the "How-to-Slash" guide, there will be more information on wall-jump set ups.

As long as you're aware of how you are jumping, wall-jumping can definitely be something you get away with. It also has a neat little use after scarlet terrors - you can jump underneath your opponent towards the wall after you've hit them with a scarlet terror, and wall jump at roughly the same height they are as they're falling, then wall jump off the wall and back to the side you came from, with them still in the corner. This eliminates some characters' back charge if they choose to quick recover, which can be a useful way of garnering a quick mixup on characters like E. Honda or M. Bison.


Air Grab



The air grab (Stardust Drop) is without a doubt one of Vega's most important tools. For an air-to-air move, it's among one of few airborne moves in the game that comes out in 3 frames, and this means it's a very strong move in an air-to-air situation. The only other 3 frame start up moves in the air are other characters' air throws, so in most cases in an air-to-air situation you will outgun your opponent.

The air throw does some pretty decent damage and of course, puts your opponent into an untechable knockdown state. It's not as easy to "vortex" your opponent afterwards though because the timing of the untechable knockdown changes depending on the height at which you threw your opponent. Regardless, the untechable knockdown is a great opportunity to begin tick throw pressure or even go for a Flying Barcelona mixup - more to come on that in Part 3 of the "How-to-Slash" guide.

Against any character that doesn't have an air throw, you'll likely outgun them air-to-air simply because of this move. However, certain moves like Seth's j. mp and Rufus' j. hk can outprioritize your air grab and create a follow up combo after, so grabbing moves air-to-air is never 100% certain. It's just a really good tool because it has a sizeable hitbox and comes out so quickly. Mixing up anti-air moves from the ground like st. hk, or Scarlet Terror, and diversifying your air-to-air game with some jump back hk or hp and mixing in the air grab as well is what allows Vega's anti-air game to shine - the air grab just figures in as one piece out of many.

Because it's tough to air grab on reaction, you might find yourself neutral jumping in anticipation of other characters' jumps. This can be a bad thing as at any moment you jump you essentially let go of the control stick for the time you're in the air. Always be aware of how the space between you and your opponent can be manipulated if one of you is stuck jumping for a certain amount of time - the air grab is tough to do on reaction, but if you're ready for an opponents jump or make a smart read, it will connect. Whiffing air grabs in front of an opponent can also be dangerous as it pretty much guarantees that any anti-air the opponent would attempt on you would work - it's very rare, but possible, to air grab some opponents reversals as they come out from the ground.





Focus Attacks and FADC


Focus Attack




Vega's focus attack is decent, but not incredible. I find it is largely at its most useful against Shoto characters and their fireballs. Part of the reason this is is because Vega's focus attack is a "straight stab" that looks kinda similar to his st. hp, in terms of aesthetic but also in terms of range. When shotos shoot hadoukens, they leave their hands outstretched, and you can actually hit their hands with focus attacks pretty commonly if you're focusing their fireballs at the right range. This can either mean a brief, low-damage punish that basically constitutes an ultra-generating footsie tool, or a free combo off a crumple if they're being really predictable with fireballs from roughly max-range c. mk. Against most other characters though, focus attacks are weak enough to not really be reliable, and Vega is actually unsafe on hit and on block after dashing into an opponent with a level 1 focus. For this reason, Vega's focus is more of a situational counter-poke for moves that are safe on block. These moves are rare though - basically no one has pokes as good as Vegas that reach as far as his do and aren't also unsafe on block. Obviously, this means focus attacking is rarely warranted. It's greatest use is the dash-cancelling out of it - most of the time, I'll just absorb something and since it's so hard to get focus attacks to hit properly - they have a slow start up after you let them go - I'll just dash back.



Focusing is useful for absorbing fireballs to generate ultra meter, and you can also FADC into ultras, but that's situational and doesn't really have a "concrete" use - it's more just to surprise opponents who think you aren't charging an anti-fireball ultra. With that said though, there are some matches - particularly Chun Li and Balrog where focus can be a really good idea against certain moves that are otherwise safe on block and can open up big damage opportunities for you that you wouldn't have otherwise.

Focus Attack Dash Cancel


FADC - a two bar cancel out of a variety of normal and special moves that allow you to charge up a special attack, which upon connecting at its greatest strengths can crumple an opponent, allowing for a free crumple after.

From one Vega player to another, you are likely never going to see an FADC-oriented crumple performed by a Vega against another opponent. This is largely because when you FADC a move for two bars, you don't actually have any armor during the charge up period like you do when you use a normal focus attack. That's fine though - the main use Vega has for FADC is the DC part of it - dash cancel. However, it's not entirely impossible to land one of those FADC crumples on someone - if you let it go quickly and your opponent presses a button so as to grant you a counter hit, they'll be crumpled automatically. It's just risky to spend 2 bars on a mixup that has no guarantee of coming even remotely close to success.

So - the main move you will expect to dash cancel often is Vega's Rolling Crystal Flash. The main reason for this is a connected RCF FADC (forward) is +4 on hit which allows you to combo into c. lp, c. mp, and st. hk. You can get some big damage combos off of a heavy roll FADC into st. hk, but it's tough to always justify the meter spent for FADC. It's great if your opponent is on the ropes, or if you have another bar on hand, but to focus on spending meter for this kind of combo or mixup isn't ideal. The forward dash cancel after RCF is actually +1 on block, so it is a decent move for mixups, but just remember that even though Vega is +1 on block, he can get thrown out of every subsequent move of his, with the exception of his throw. This is because even though your opponent is 1 frame behind, your fastest normals come out in 4 frames and everyone's throws come out in 3, so they'll connect on the same frame - in these cases though, throws will always win. Regardless, there are options to deal with throws - jump back fierce can catch opponents standing, but is unsafe on hit, and can totally sacrifice any momentum you have, even if it does connect, since you basically jump away from your opponent. It's also too soon to walk away from your opponent if they throw you right away - you'll likely just eat the throw. The best option to deal with throws is just to make them seem like a bad idea by virtue of the rest of your playstyle - smart counter pokes and kara throw pressure. In this situation though, the mixup can be a little telegraphed.

Vega can also FADC any of his moves that is special or super cancellable, but spending the meter on doing things like that is highly not recommended. The only way I would ever justify FADCing a normal is FADCing a stand roundhouse because they can be unsafe against some characters, and FADCing it into a backdash would work to eliminate potential punish options. However, throwing out a stand roundhouse and not expecting it to hit (and therefore be safe) is reason enough not to throw it out in the first place.

Long story short - Vega doesn't get much out of FADCing stuff. The Rolling Crystal Flash FADCs are nice, and the dash-in on block can be spontaneous enough to throw any opponent off, but as far as a reliable tool goes, the 2 bars spent on FADCing can be better spent in a lot of other ways.

With that - another entry into my blog. That was a long one.

Again, please make sure to follow me on Twitter and thanks for reading!

5 comments:

  1. Great Vega analysis so far. The only thing I can think of that is worth mentioning is that EX scarlet terror has a better hitbox then the other strengths of scarlet terror. You have a good thing going so far, keep up the great work! See you at evo
    Well wishes,
    -Gafscale100

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  2. I'm really loving this (as I've commented already)! I had no idea that EX RCF could allow for a combo into cr.mp - next time I play a Ryu, I'll have to give that a shot against an anticipated fireball. I also have to try to get those kara throws working for me; I'm going to try and incorporate some of this stuff into my offense at my local weekly tonight. Vegas are a rare breed in Scotland, but who knows, maybe I can convert a few people with this knowledge :P

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  3. Hey man, it's great to have someone like yourself repping both Vega and the Great White North. As someone who only picked up SF4 in the last couple years and was inexplicably drawn towards Claw, it's been great to see what people like you are doing with him.

    Very informative article, please keep it up!

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    Replies
    1. Greetings from Calgary! Thanks for reading man, make sure to check in for more updates! Each post is going to go more into detail until I start writing matchup guides.

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  4. Good shit, Joz. You have my support! You're one of the OG SF4 Vega players out there, so respect! *bows*
    -Rizhall

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