Once you’ve got control of the game down to the point where your character just does what you want them to do without you having to think about it, you’ve reached the point where you need to strategise. Here’s a selection of things you should be considering at various stages of the game. I’ll provide some examples drawn from a hypothetical match between you (Gaara) against someone else (Lee).
AS A MATCH STARTS
- What are the strengths of your opponent’s character? How will you avoid them?
- What are the weaknesses of your opponent’s character? How will you exploit them?
- What are the strengths of your character? How will you exploit them?
- What are the weaknesses of your character? How will you avoid them?
- How does this matchup tilt, and why?
For example, Lee’s strengths are a lot of fast close-range pressure and a devastating special. We’ll avoid that by not attempting to attack during a Lee combo at all, and by avoiding any slow actions when Lee is double-gated or in desperation.
His weaknesses are a complete lack of ranged attacks or finessey ways of getting in – he has to throw you, sidestep around you, or exploit a mistake. We’ll exploit that by walking backwards when he approaches, being trigger-happy on throw-techs and throwing out ^A whenever Lee is at long range.
Gaara’s strengths are very fast omnidirectional ranged attacks, excellent punish options, and generally good turtling ability. We’ll exploit that by using ^A to pressure at long range and at the end of Lee’s primary combo and by only moving to punish, not initiating.
His weaknesses are that he’s slow and has has moderately unsafe combos. We’ll mitigate that by not initiating attacks.
The matchup probably tilts slightly our way, because Gaara can make Lee’s usually-safe combos unsafe, and because Gaara is at home blocking a long string of attacks. Gaara’s desperation neuters Lee’s usually devastating double-gates special, and ^A is an excellent tool against Lee.
AT A DISTANCE FROM YOUR OPPONENT
- Do I want to approach? How will I approach?
- Does your opponent want to approach? How will they approach?
- What long-range options do I have?
- What long-range options do they have?
In our hypothetical, we don’t want to approach. At a distance, we can chip Lee and he can’t do anything, and we’re much slower than Lee.
Lee wants to approach. He doesn’t have any ranged options, after all. He’ll approach by dashing in for a throw, dashing into a chain, or dashing and sidestepping into a chain, because he doesn’t have many other options. A slow approach will run into Gaara ^A. If Lee is in desperation, he might approach with his vX teleport, which is extremely fast, so we need to be careful if he’s in desperation.
We can use ^A, A, >A, and aA at range. >A and aA probably aren’t very useful in most ranged circumstances. A is slow, so we don’t want to do it too close or Lee will punish, and readily sidesteppable. ^A is probably our most reliable ranged option.
AS YOUR OPPONENT APPROACHES
- What option are they taking?
- How will you respond?
In our hypothetical, Lee runs straight at us. That means he’s either going for a throw, going to sidestep when close to us, or /maybe/ stop in front of us and then go for a chain.
The response to a throw is to attack as Lee goes for it, or tech it. Attacking will lose if he’s sidestepping or even going for a chain, so being ready to tech a throw is more important. The response to sidestepping or a chain is to walk backwards – that makes several chains unsafe and will prevent the sidestep getting behind us. It also doesn’t hurt if he’s going for a throw. So we’re going to walk backwards.
AS I APPROACH
- What options are available to me?
- Do I need to abort?
- How will my opponent respond?
Gaara is really only going to be approaching Lee in this hypothetical if Lee has made a mistake and is vulnerable – perhaps selected the wrong chain. In that case, the best option available to Gaara is probably a vY throw.
You would have to watch Lee to see whether you’ve misjudged his vulnerability. If you have, you’d want to abort immediately – probably by jumping or sidestepping and stopping.
Lee will respond by throw-teching if he can, or just attacking in Gaara’s face if he’s in the idle state.
- What chain has my opponent selected? What holes are there in it?
- How does the chain end?
- Can I punish? How will I punish?
If we’re blocking Lee’s attacks, he’s almost certainly gone for his standard BBAAA or BBBBA chains. Both of those chains don’t have many holes in them, particularly for Gaara’s very slow <B.
Both of those chains end with Lee vaulting over our heads and landing behind us.
It’s difficult but possible to punish Lee’s standard chains by turning around while he’s over our head, dashing forwards, and throwing him. If we think we can do it, it’s absolutely worth going for it, and a throw is a good punish starter for Gaara. If not, our ^A will hit Lee after his chain easily, and might set up for a wakeup special.
WHILE BEING HIT
- Do I have escape? When is it safe to escape?
- How much more damage is there in this chain?
- Can I techroll?
Checking whether we ave escape is as easy as looking at our escape meter and checking whether it’s glowing. It’s safe to escape at all points in Lee’s chain, with the important exception that if Lee is in the double-gates state and is on the ground he can hit us with his double-gates special. If Lee has double-gated, escape when he’s in the air.
The damage left is a function of how many hits are left. Once Lee has knocked you into the air it’s probably not worth escaping, unless he’s about to connect with his special off of the end of his chain. It’s almost always worth escaping a special.
The final hit of Lee’s chain sends you flying, and if you don’t techroll when you hit the ground he can and will combo you.
- Does my opponent have escape? When will they escape?
- How will I respond?
Again, escape is just a question of checking their meter.
If Lee is sensible, he’ll escape during Gaara’s loop on the first two Bs, or while Gaara is falling out of the sky. Other escape timings don’t usually work out. If he’s got escape meter and you’re in the loop he’ll almost certainly escape. If you’re using the vB chain, sensible Lee players probably won’t escape until and unless you attempt to link to special.
Responding is difficult for Gaara. If Lee chose a poor time usually continuing the chain will respond appropriately. If you end the chain early as Lee escapes, Gaara is usually to slow to sidestep out, but it’s worth a try just in case.
- Can I sidestep?
- Can I interrupt?
- Can I jump?
Both of Lee’s specials are eminently sidesteppable. That’s probably your preferred means of avoiding specials when able to do something.
Interrupting Lee’s special won’t be very easy – both of them are quite fast, and Gaara is quite slow. ^A might be fast enough, although you’d want to know it would hit after the teleport. Throwing sand will interrupt if you do it before Lee uses special.
Lee’s specials can be jumped – you have to doublejump backwards quite fast. Sidestepping is probably easier.
OPPONENT ON THE GROUND
- Can I wakeup special?
Gaara’s wakeup special is almost trivial to execute, and if Lee is past the point where he can wakeup teleport he can’t respond. If you’ve got chakra you should probably do it.
I’M ON THE GROUND
- Can my opponent wakeup special?
Lee doesn’t usually wakeup special – he finds it easier to chain into it or save chakra for a last-ditch double-gates. If he does, wakeup attack will probably interrupt.