Why it's easy to be good, but incredibly hard to be great here in Season 4 of Street Fighter 5

The Street Fighter 5 mountain is relatively flat until you get 80% of the way to the top, then it's steep as all hell

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • July 8, 2019 at 7:07 p.m. PDT

We've said it many times before, that Street Fighter 5 is volatile and extremely difficult to earn consistent wins at. How many times have you rolled over an online foe three rounds in a row, only to have one small mistake or unfortunate interaction suddenly turn things immediately around and see you lose the 2/3 set?

By design, this game is relatively easier to play (fundamentally speaking) than most all of its predecessors, but that seems to translate to a truth that says "almost everyone can be good but it's extremely difficult to turn that good into great." I'm starting to see how to make that transition here in the game's fourth season.

It's oftentimes that the strongest fighters in any given season thrive off of robbery tactics (one hit with V-Trigger and they can bring things back no matter how far behind they are) though that doesn't seem to be quite as much the case here in Season 4.

Minimizing the Volatile Stuff

We recently heard a sentiment from RB|Bonchan concerning the differences between players that rank around an 80/100 skill level (B-) and pros that ascend beyond this mark. "It's easy to play at a B- level with any character," he starts. "But it's very likely that B- isn't good enough to play against top players."

As simple as that statement is, it seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to general SF5 experiences. Why? In a nutshell, anyone can benefit from a 50/50 situation, and SF5 has traditionally lent itself heavily to those. There are also quite a few "just do it" moves that players can toss out without much negative consequence, but Capcom has made it a point to nerf many of these over the last few years.

"Just do it" attacks and 50/50s (and sometimes the combination of both) can get many characters very quickly up to that B- level. Take Urien, for example, who can pepper knee drops and EX shoulder tackles into his standard gameplay until he has V-Trigger ready. Zip forward with one last EX shoulder into a safe Aegis activation and there's a decent chance you walk away with that "W."

Relatively low execution standards make this formula fairly simple to follow, and yet it's exceptionally difficult to fight against even when you're fully aware of its potential. It's here we begin to see the defining line between B- players and those who ascend higher.

Knowing a character's potential is crucial, but it's clearly not enough in SF5. Yes, space yourself at optimal distances to minimize the effects of foes' "just do it" moves, and spend more time blocking when they have enough meter to make those quick, forward-moving attacks safe, but don't stop there.

Understanding a character's abilities and being aware of an opponent's tendencies is the big distinction here. The B+ and A players are going to be those who can quickly see where opponents want to do the go-to stuff, and are able to shut it down as or (even more efficiently) before it comes out.

Bonchan has to hold a 50/50 just like any other human on the planet, but if he plays in a manner that minimizes such situations for himself he can then fall back on more fundamental strategies that have less to do with guessing and luck.

Year of the Footsie

That kind of strategy goes quite a long way here in SF5's fourth Season, which is better defined by footsie play than any of the game's previous seasons thus far.

The reason for this is in large part due to the input lag reduction that took place back in October of 2018, but also because of the aforementioned nerfs to many of the "just do it" moves and strategies that many fans complained about.

I would also argue that this is why Karin has seen an immense amount of 2019 CPT success, as she's probably the game's best footsie character.

With the migration further away from robbery tactics and more into footsie territory, characters who excel at strategic spacing and whiff punishing garner much more of a fighting chance.

Indeed even in her traditionally bad matchups (such as Birdie or Menat), we've seen both REC|Punk and Bonchan succeed in minimizing the interactions that are more volatile and forcing their foes to play more traditional neutral (which almost always translates to wins for these top players).

Not every character relies on footsies in this game, but those that do/can (Karin, Birdie, Necalli, for example) have already seen more action at higher levels and greater tournament success this season. "Minimize the chaos and then play footsies" seems to be the general recipe for success these days.

Other Nuances

In his rant mentioned earlier, Bonchan specifies that it's more important to play against the player than it is to play against the character when trying to level up beyond that B- level. The Street Fighter 5 mountain is relatively flat until you get 80% of the way to the top, then it's steep as all hell.

It's not only being aware of when opponents are going to resort to B- tactics, but also what they like to do after regular interactions such as a teched throw or blocked wake up attack.

Picking up on a trend such as when you notice that your opponent tends to dash forward at the range you wind up at after a successful throw tech is an absolutely massive advantage to have.

Perhaps you're observing that the Dhalsim you're facing likes to dive kick his way in and then take advantage of the throw/strike mix up he gets when you block his advance.

Blocking a dive kick leaves you in a poor situation, but noting the distance where he usually dives from and being ready with an anti-air or quick evasion technique can be the sole change necessary to turn an "L" into a "W" here.

The depth of SF5 comes in the choices players can make. The more detailed and nuanced your understanding of their habits, the greater your advantage. This isn't at all easy due to the simple fact that a tournament set is just 2/3 matches, and the game's more volatile, 50/50 aspects are by no means completely gone.

If you're aiming to scale that especially steep final 20% of the mountain, this should give you the foundation to start.

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