GAARA IN SHORT
Gaara is a zone-y turtle character, similar to Kakazu or Kankuro. His skillset includes:
- Strong combos
- A throw that links into essentially anything
- Easy hitconfirm options for his special
- A fast omnidirectional attack that hits anywhere.
His biggest drawbacks are:
- Rather slow
- Very reliant on throw to start combos or chains
- Generally limited options
A quick rundown of his abilities:
X: Cutscene special, 100%. Moderately fast, trigger attack is a puff of sand in front of Gaara. Sometimes difficult to dodge, easy to wake up with. Ranged.
vX: AoE special, 75%. Quite fast. Creates a ‘sand hand’ in front of Gaara that then swipes in a large arc in front of him. The initial sand pulses are unblockable.
A: Sand shuriken, basic ranged attack. Can be charged, beats out kunai
^A: Sand pulse appears at your target’s location. Quite fast startup, very useful for interrupting opponents or chipping at a distance. Can be sidestepped or punished if you’re too close. Starts the Gaara loop.
vA: Burst of sand all around Gaara, very slow recovery. Generally not very useful, maybe as a response to someone charging straight in.
>A: Sand wave in front of Gaara, slow startup. Lots of guard damage, generally not very useful. Sometimes good as a wakeup.
<A: Melee counter.
BREAD AND BUTTER
Most of Gaara’s chains can be linked into the ‘Gaara loop’, a sequence of attacks that links into itself. The sequence is ^A B A Yc _. The amount of delay on the end before repeating depends on how many iterations of the loop you’ve gone through – the first two times you need to delay some, after that you have to go fast. I’ll indicate the Gaara loop as GL here to save some typing.
Gaara’s main combo on connect is B B GL. On block B B A A is safer, but you have to vary the delay on the last A to make it safe. >B B A GL is another useful combo if you prefer the >B starter. vB A A A and vB A A X are excellent chains for making some space and outright killing someone, respectively.
All of these can be done off of Gaara’s vY throw, which is all-around excellent. It has more range than a standard Y throw, opponents can’t escape-teleport out of it until after the point where you link, and it links into both of Gaara’s specials trivially.
PLAYING AGAINST GAARA
First things first, learn when to escape-teleport out of the Gaaa loop. The section where he’s falling out of the sky – the attack that gets y-cancelled – is usually the best time. Keep in mind that Gaara can use his vA right afterwards, so don’t get caught by that after escaping – you’re essentially guaranteed a punish.
Learning to throw-tech is exceptionally useful, too. It’s tricky to do consistently, but Gaara relies a lot on landing a throw, so it pays dividends.
Remember that you can sidestep Gaara’s ^A, particularly if you’re running straight for him. Also pay attention to how slow it is to recover – if you’re right next to him and it whiffs, don’t be afraid to try to punish.
Gaara isn’t very good at applying pressure or initiating attacks – the best he can usually do is chip away with ^A. If he rushes to close, he’s almost certainly going for a throw. You shouldn’t feel hurried or rushed – play carefully and try not to let him catch you in one of his high-damage chains.
Gaara does poorly against characters that can apply consistent pressure without letting him get an attack in, either because there’s no real delay, they have a puppet or other secondary attacker, or because they can do it at range – for example, Hinata, Kiba, Minato, Kakazu and Itachi.
He also has problems with opponents that are much faster than him – mostly because it makes openings for a punish much harder to find. Ino and Baki are good examples.
Gaara does well against most other zoning characters – most of their zoning tools are designed to prevent characters getting close, and Gaara doesn’t want to. He can just slowly chip them to death if they won’t come to him. Temari and Shino don’t do very well, for example. Deidara isn’t a great matchup either, for similar reasons. Both Chiyo and Kankuro have problems as well.
Characters that are slow and get all up in Gaara’s face also tend to be easy to deal with. Gaara can ^A them at range to disrupt attacks, and if they get close guard frames and power armour don’t affect throws. Choji and Raikage don’t do very well against him because of that.