I think Alex is in pretty bad shape in Street Fighter 5, so here are my suggestions to improve him in Season 3

He needs at least some kind of oki, and let's give headstomp some actual use, huh?

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • December 3, 2017 at 7 a.m. PST

With Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition on the way, and Season 3 with it, balance changes are on every player's mind.

Now, although I did "officially" switch mains to Ibuki, I've still got way more hours on Alex than any other character, and I think it's safe to say that at least 90% of my time with this game has been spent on the character. Even today, I probably play him more than the character I'm supposedly maining.

Because of my time spent on the character, and the fact that it's a very popular opinion that Alex hangs out pretty far down the tier list, it seemed apt that I do an article about what would be nice to see changed about him in the next patch.

If I were to break it down simply, I'd say that Alex's main flaws are insufficient okizeme, risky V-Trigger and weak special moves. I will be going more in-depth on these areas, of course, as well as a few others, and what exactly should be changed to make Alex more satisfying to play in Street Fighter 5.

Lack of okizeme

A very big difference between Alex and other grappling characters in this game is that Alex basically doesn't have any okizeme whatsoever.

While Birdie players might be jealous of the great oki Zangief has in a lot of situations, any Alex player would kill for the oki that Birdie gets. In pure frame data, if Alex lands a command grab, he will be -4 on dashup, and there's not much else he can get from that range, either.

Basically, if an Alex players wants any kind of oki, the only thing they can hope for is that the opponent simply doesn't know the Alex matchup. Whenever someone knows, Alex gets shut down immediately.

I'm not advocating for Alex getting free pressure or 50/50s or anything here, but if he could at the very least not be punishable on dashing up after a command grab, that'd be swell. Or failing that, maybe give him something to compensate for it.

As it stands now, Alex has to make hard reads to get anything good happening, and then it starts all over again. Consistent pressure doesn't exist against opponents who know Alex's data.

Low value of different Flash Chop strengths

Alex's Flash Chop is a pretty go-to move for him in this game, since it's often what you end his basic combos with, and it can be spaced decently enough on block where you're unlikely to get punished for it, even though frame data wise he's always -4 (except for EX).

While the light punch version, and the medium punch version depending on the combo, are fairly useful, the heavy punch version feels pretty useless. Although the payoff for landing a heavy Flash Chop is pretty good, since it's the only move besides his V-Trigger Sledgehammer attack that leads into Backdrop, the drawbacks unfortunately overshadow it.

The big problem with Alex's heavy Flash Chop is that there's really no situation where you would feasibly use it. It has a whopping 25 frames of startup, so finding a situation where you can throw it out is unlikely, and the only way to combo into it is if you land a counter hit standing heavy punch and hitconfirm it, in which case it's still less valuable than a crush counter combo from forward heavy punch would be.

What I would like to see happen with Alex's heavy Flash Chop is to give it other benefits, such as being positive, or at the very least not punishable, on block, thus giving it mixup value if you're putting pressure on a blocking opponent.

There's no denying that the value is pretty high if you land a heavy Flash Chop, but as it stands right now there's very little reason to ever do one. If Capcom could tweak it so it has other areas of interest, it would give Alex more options to go to when he does have the upper hand, and I believe it would make him much more satisfying to play.

Having a powerful move with a fun gimmick attached to it, Backdrop in this case, ultimately becomes meaningless if the game doesn't really give you any areas where you could use said powerful move. Hopefully Alex players will get some more room to experiment with different strengths of his Flash Chop.

Air Knee Smash doesn't do much as an anti-air

Alex having an anti-air move is of course welcome, but unfortunately it isn't useful very often.

Since Alex's anti-air jab got nerfed (which I don't mind, because anti-air jabs aren't very fun), he has some trouble dealing with air attacks at the moment, which is why his Air Knee Smash being a pretty weak move has become an issue.

There are several problems with Alex's Air Knee Smash, one of the big ones being that it's pretty difficult for it to actually connect unless you're using meter. The different strengths of this move determine how far forward it goes, but it also gets vastly increased startup the heavier you go.

While the light kick version isn't too bad at 6 frames of startup, it doesn't go far enough to be useful often. The main area you'll be using it is if you get a post-stun combo against someone in the corner, which is a very situational combo ending option for a move that is presumably meant to be an anti-air.

Another huge issue with this move is that it can trade against opponent's air attacks, and a trade on a move that's technically a grab ... Well, nets you nothing. So even if you do react in time and pick the correct distance to hit them, you might end up with a trade which nets you no damage at all at the same time.

Admittedly, Alex's EX Air Knee Smash isn't too bad, but having to burn meter to reliably anti-air your opponent feels rough, especially considering what other characters can do for their meter.

I've seen other Alex players suggest that his EX Air Knee Smash should hit grounded opponents as well, giving him a wake-up option to make up for his abysmal defense, but I'm not personally sure if that's the right way to go or not.

I think the bare minimum here would be to make it so that his Air Knee Smash never trades. Either it gets beaten, or it wins, no in-between, since that's a clear loss for Alex every time. It would be nice to get some more buffs to it, of course, but I really think that in particular would be an essential change for him.

Alex's Air Stampede (Headstomp) has very little use

Ever since Alex was released for Street Fighter 5, this is the move I've had the biggest problem with. Quite frankly, it's the worst out of all of his special moves.

This move requires charge to do, has exceptionally slow startup, no air control unless you use the EX version, is negative on block and whiffs on any form of airborne opponent. The only virtue of this move is that it actually does give Alex some oki if it connects, but that if is gigantic.

I've always been of the opinion that Alex's Air Stampede had three potential changes that need to be made to it, and it needs to have at least two of them implemented to become viable.

1. The ability to cross-up. This was a part of the move in Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, and although it could be ambiguous to see, it was easily mitigated by the parry system in the game, meaning that if you timed it correctly you would either get a parry or a block, no matter which side Alex hit on.

Of course, this isn't the case in Street Fighter 5, but given the other huge drawbacks to the move, I think it could still be fair to allow it to cross up.

2. Being safe on block. Having this move be -5 means it is always punishable if your opponent is just prepared, which they almost certainly will be since the move requires charge to be done, and has 27 frames of startup at its lowest strength.

I'm not saying it needs to be made positive on block, but if it at least wasn't readily punishable (perhaps made into the dreaded -2 which seems to be Street Fighter 5's favorite number), it could give Alex more use for it as a pressure tool.

3. The ability to hit airborne opponents. I'm not talking about this being some sort anti-air go-to move, but I mean that it will at least not be possible to simply jump when you see it coming. As it stands now, players can just escape it entirely, even the EX version, by holding up.

I think that for Alex's Air Stampede to become a viable move, Capcom need to implement at least two of these three changes. Giving him all three is probably going overboard, but I think any two of them would be completely fair for making this move somewhat useful.

Unreliable V-Trigger

Now, don't get me wrong. Alex's V-Trigger is definitely one of his strongest tools. This section isn't necessarily about a character weakness like the ones above it, but rather about how his V-Trigger can hurt him just as much as it can help him.

The initial start of Alex's V-Trigger is just fine, if not better, than most characters. It's a cancel for combo extension, and unlocks his Sledge Hammer move which lets your first combo go even further. That's a great start, for sure.

The problem comes after, when Alex can start parrying moves and punishing opponents in situations where it would otherwise be impossible. Not only can this end up feeling very unfair to people who go up against it, as my colleague pointed out last month, but it can also end up feeling very unfair for Alex himself.

Making a wrong guess in any small situation puts you at a disadvantage where opponents can very easily put heavy punishment on you. The one virtue Alex has in this situation is that he gets to decide when to let go, which leads into a very strange guessing game between players.

I honestly have no idea how they could fine-tune Alex's V-Trigger to make it feel better in the game, because obviously it would be broken if he could cancel his Sledge Hammer after beginning to charge it, and if they removed the parry aspect it'd be grossly underpowered.

My conclusion about Alex's V-Trigger is that in any given match, it can either look like the best V-Trigger in the game, or one of the worst.

With all that said, Alex players at the top levels, such as Gunfight, have learned very well how to utilize his V-Trigger to mitigate any drawbacks for Alex himself, so I guess that the best solution might be to just leave this one as is for the most seasoned Alex users to employ, and make his 2nd V-Trigger easier for lower-level players to use without accidentally getting themselves K.O.'d.

All of the above areas contain changes I think could, or should, be made to Alex to enhance his gameplay in Street Fighter 5. Below, I'm going to shift gears to things I'd advise Capcom not to change, because they're a fundamental part of what actually works with Alex right now.

The power and utility of his Lariat

This is hands-down Alex's best button in the game, in my opinion. Alex's forward heavy-punch, his Lariat, is his game-maker in every sense of the word.

It's a relatively fast heavy move which lets him combo into standing medium punch on hit, and is also one of his few normals that is positive on block. This puts him in a situation where he can mix the opponent up by either going for a command grab, if he's spaced it right, or further pressure with normals.

When you get this on your opponent, hit or block, it's one of the few situations as an Alex player where you feel like the game is in your favor. On top of that, it has Crush Counter capabilities, which makes it even more dangerous for opponents to challenge recklessly.

Obviously, the move does have it drawbacks, such as whiffing on crouching opponents if you're not at point blank range, and although being relatively fast for a heavy attack, it's still got 11 frames of startup, so you need to be in the right situation to throw it out.

I think that this move is relatively fair in the state it's in right now, especially given the fact that Alex is currently such a weak character. If they end up buffing Alex, perhaps this move could stand to be tuned down a bit, but I do genuinely think it's in a good spot as it stands.

Alex's strong momentum

Although praising a low tier character for their momentum sounds somewhat like trying to set your friend up on a blind date with the rationale that "she has a really nice personality", Alex's momentum is really strong.

If Alex against all odds does start to get the smackdown on you, it's going to be painful. Skilled Alex players can tell when they've gotten into your head, and unless you regain your composure awfully fast, the round, or match, will be over in a flash.

No matter how well someone knows the matchup, if they get put on tilt, that can all be thrown into question.

In short, if you're dead-set on playing Alex, and he doesn't end up getting some proper strengthening next year, I advise you to work hard on your reads to make sure you can exploit your opponent's weak spots, even moreso than with any other characters, because once you get this train of pain started, it's going to be difficult for enemies to stop it

If any other Alex players, or non-Alex players for that matter, have their own thoughts on what Alex needs or doesn't need, please sound off in the comments. I'd love to hear your opinions.

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