Risk vs. reward is one of the most important concepts you need to know about in Street Fighter 5

This should be something actively discussed and considered in the SF5 scene

Posted by Jonathan 'Catalyst' Grey • April 5, 2019 at 7:57 p.m. PDT

Studying the meta of Street Fighter 5 has become an intense hobby of mine. The concept of risk vs. reward in this title is so crucial to successful gameplay, yet it's a subject I rarely hear about from the community at large.

While previous Street Fighter titles were often about minimizing risk, and never opening yourself up to danger, SF5 is often about embracing that aspect of the game, as the rewards for doing so at the correct times are exceptional.

Street Fighter 5 goes against the grain for many traditional Street Fighter players, because giving the opponent any opportunity to open you up could cost you dearly in past titles, while in this game, if you risk nothing, you'll often be on the bad side of the result.

This aspect of SF5's gameplay has lead many to calling the game random, scrubby and just being a terrible entry in the series — but for those who accept this aspect of its gameplay, there are amazing rewards to be found.

Making 'hard' reads less of a mystery

You've seen pro players land repeated command throws, invincible reversals and 'hard' reads with a ridiculous level of success at the tournament level.

How top players make these correct decisions with such frequency becomes clearer when you understand the meta of Street Fighter 5.

This is a game that can take away large portions of your life in seconds, and being on the defensive side of things is not typically a desired approach. As such, with quality players, you're more likely to see them bet riskier moves when they have hefty life leads.

While being punishing for doing invincible reversal can cost you 50% of your life, if you have 80% of it remaining... it might be worth betting it on that Dragon Punch, especially if it's to win a round or stop the opponent's momentum.

If this concept is a bit too foreign for you to accept, one of the easiest comparisons is Ultra Combos in Street Fighter 4. You knew when the opponent lost over 50-95% of their health bar, they were often looking to hit you with an Ultra to get themselves back into the match.

The risk and reward favored them looking for this move, so you adjusted your game plan around it, because if you didn't, you might run into an attack that could deplete all of your remaining health.

Street Fighter 5 is a game where you must constantly monitor the opponent's status, and your own, or you'll do something really foolish and outside of the context of the what the match calls for.

Transition periods

You have a nice life lead, you're controlling the match, and then your opponent pops V-Trigger and you're dead in three seconds.

This is the kind of crushing defeat that Street Fighter 5 is known for, but these often happen in what I like to call "transition periods" that players aren't fully aware of.

V-Triggers are a high impact mechnic in this game, and you can see in this set from the SoCal Regionals 2018 that FAV|Sako (Menat) does quite a bit of walking towards CAG|Dogura's Urien — right up until the moment Urien has his Aegis Reflector ready to go, and Menat doesn't have her V-Trigger.

The reason for this is the risk/reward of the match skews HEAVILY against Menat, because a single mistake could cost her the round, as soon as Urien can activate Aegis. You see Sako clam up, as he should, and weather the potential onslaught that's coming by being more calculated and reserved.

And that's a large basis for every round in Street Fighter 5. Understanding where and when you can take risks that will likely pay off more in your favor, and when to ease up, when your opponent is more powerful than you.

How do I apply this approach?

Every character and match up can be different in terms of how you should approach it, as is the nature of the Street Fighter series.

In many cases, when you — or your opponent — has V-Trigger available, you've likely entered a transition period for the match. Most V-Triggers in this game increase your damage capabilities substantially, and you need to be aware of your best options at these times.

Most quality players know what to do once they've popped their own V-Triggers, as this a very strong thing for most fighters in SF5 — but are you properly adjusting to your opponent when they have their V-Trigger available?

A common problem I see with many players, even highly experienced ones, is that they continue to approach the match with little regard for how their situation has changed, despite the fact that a single mistake could put them in a very bad spot.

In terms of how to counter someone who has popped V-Trigger, some players go in so hard once they've activated it, that by playing very defensive and thoughtful, and you can them to charge head first into a brick wall and lose.

Others are so reckless with their approaches once V-Trigger comes up that their defense is highly suspect and able to be cracked with constant pressure.

The ways to adjust to the status of a match are many and varied, but the one constant I've found is that if you don't adjust your style when a "transition period" happens, you're putting yourself in a really bad situation.

This is only one part of the meta of Street Fighter 5, and we want to continue to explore this game in-depth, and you will see more articles and podcasts in the future about these topics.

In the meantime, if you want to go even further, this is a subject we explored at length in a past episode of the EventHubs Podcast, why risking nothing in Street Fighter 5 can cost you everything.

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