Viscant’s Mailbag; Tiers, Teams and Betting on Red


Viscant here, emptying my mailbag.  Recently I’ve received a lot of questions through email asking about character selection and why you should make the decision to switch so I thought I’d post this and help out as many people as possible.  If you’d like me to answer a question you have, drop me a line on Facebook or email,

Armando asks: “At Evo people playing top tier didn’t win. Low tier did well including Frutsy from my country. After Evo do you still agree with your team tier lists?”

For the most part, yes, I still stand by the list.  I believe Zero players will finally break through eventually, especially now that more people are adding themselves to the Zero army like Twisted Jago.  Personally I think the diverse character selection in the top 8 was really great.  Having this variety doesn’t mean that the top isn’t the top, it just means that the gap between top tier and the rest of the field in UMvC3 isn’t like other Marvel games where it’s simply inconceivable that well played top tier can lose to low tier.  No matter how weak a character is they can win something.  Phoenix Wright just won a runback tournament in So Cal! [ Edit: Here's the link! ]

This game is more about consistency than anything else.  Any of the 50 characters can win games.  Almost all of the 50 can win a tournament.  But the best characters are the ones who can win consistently and a part of that is generating easy wins.  Now that Zero is becoming more common, a familiar complaint is “I didn’t get to play!”  He does that.  Part of what makes Zero and Viper great is how they can completely win a game off one small opening making structuring the match a lot easier.  When you only need one hit or one opening to win it’s much easier than when you need 4 or 5.

Watching Frutsy play was really entertaining from a spectator standpoint but I recognize how hard he had to work to produce wins with his team.  He needed more openings and more chances and had a much smaller margin for error.  He took out a lot of great players playing top tier teams but he had to work hard to get those wins making his accomplishment even more remarkable to me.  I’m looking forward to seeing him at Seasons Beatings.

On topic of adding to the list, the one thing I would definitely want to add is the Dormammu/Doom pairing.  Without fast projectiles this team can be incredibly difficult to crack.  It has some definite counters like Hawkeye or characters who can ignore pillars and spells like Viper but it does very well against a lot of other common teams as long as it has a chance to get started.  I think X-23 based teams are starting to come up also but until someone starts winning with them they can’t be considered.

James asks: “Did you really go see Celine Dion at Evo?”

Of course!  The mental game is a big part of competing in tournaments and everyone has their own little ritual to calm themselves down before the tournament so they can be in the proper state of mind.  This is one of mine.  When I go to different places for tournaments I always want to do something besides just play games.  This way whether I win or lose I can feel like the vacation was positive.  Like at CEO I made a pilgrimage to the World’s Largest McDonalds, somewhere I’d always wanted to visit.  Last year’s Evo I went to see Celine’s show and I won, so why mess with a working formula, right?

And also I mean… she’s just a total fox and super talented and wonderful and epic and awesome.  I can’t resist seeing me some Celine!

I’m not saying that you should go see Celine Dion before every tournament (although you totally should, her show is awesome) but if you find a way to keep your emotions in check you’ll probably play better.

888maxi888 sent this question in: “Thank you for writing team tier list blog post.  I am wondering should I change my team.  It is not on your list and I do not want to waste my time”

It’s never a waste of time to play!  There are a lot of different ways to play this game and playing in tournaments is only one of them.  If you don’t need to change and you’re having fun, why change?  The goal of the game is to have fun and if you aren’t playing competitively then there’s no reason not to just play the team you enjoy the most.

If you ARE playing competitively switching still might not be the answer.  I think people look to change characters before they have to.  More information on this in the question below.

15 different people have sent this or a variation of this in: “Why are you playing Vergil? What happened to always bet on red?!?!  Why do you need to change characters?”

I’m not completely abandoning Phoenix.  She makes a lot of matchups easier and she’s good to have around especially against people who anchor Wesker or Spencer.  Because I’m known to be a Phoenix player even if I’m not playing her it’ll cause people to stop and think about how they counter my other teams because they know I can always go back.  This is why having multiple teams is a good thing in general, but since Phoenix changes the game so much, she’s extra effective to have in your pocket even if she’s off the main team.

For me the events of CEO and pre Evo tournament matches were what really caused me to want to make the switch.  At CEO I played Flocker and lost 3-2 in winners bracket and literally got nothing out of my Phoenix.  All 5 games she died early without going Dark.  In 2 of the games having Phoenix on my team handicapped me and kept me from getting early kills.  Before (technically during) Evo we ran a set of exhibition matches at the BT booth against some big name Japanese players like MameSpider, Chou, and Abegen, among others.  I didn’t do that poorly in this set; if memory serves I beat MameSpider 5-2, beat Abegen 5-1 and lost to Chou 1-5.

Analyzing these games — both the wins and the losses — taught me something.  I was getting nothing out of Phoenix.  In almost all the matches I would be winning the beginning and then if I went on to lose the game it was because Phoenix failed.  In the set against Chou I had the lead almost every game.  Wesker would take out 1 if not 2 characters.  But eventually Dark Phoenix would have to fight Vergil which she can’t really do and that would be that.  Even in the matches I won vs. Abegen both in the exhibition and in casuals, Phoenix would give me nothing.  Even if I got Dark Phoenix she’d just get scooped up in an inescapable setup and all the work was wasted.  I got my good results with Wesker and Haggar, and Phoenix wasn’t carrying her end.

I should mention here, it’s important not to be too results-oriented when it comes to Marvel.  I spent a good portion of the last decade playing poker, so trying to check this impulse is natural to me but slightly foreign in the FGC.  What I mean by this is you can’t always associate wins with good play or losses with poor play.  Because Marvel is so high damage and it takes fewer decisions to win or lose a game, a small sampling of results might not mean all that much.  You can play a pretty solid set of games and still be the loser, and you can play pretty poorly and have things work out in your favor with Dark Wesker, Dark Vergil or (especially) Dark Phoenix.

So analyzing a lot of my matches in tournament and in casual play I started to conclude that in more than a few matches I was playing pretty well over all, making smart decisions and good reads and creating lots of openings, but my character selection was handicapping me.  If Phoenix doesn’t scare the other side there’s no point in handicapping Wesker (the character who was actually pulling his weight) by forcing him to battery instead of looking for one touch kills.  Dropping Phoenix will lead to better match structuring and more efficient play up and down the line so I’m making the switch to some new teams.

That’s not to say that the solution to every loss is to switch characters.  Sometimes — the vast majority of the time even — the answer is just “play better”.  Make fewer mistakes, make fewer bad decisions, finish your combos, learn better combos, learn new setups.  If you learn to analyze your wins and losses accurately and not be emotional about your own play you will improve.  But if at the end of the day you can look at your matches and think “I played well enough to win” but still aren’t getting the wins you’re looking for, maybe it’s time to change it up.

Jeopardy asks this question on my Facebook page: 

“hey viscant – we played a match in pools at season’s beatings summer slam. here’s the relevant video:

when i lose, i like to know why. i know i’ve definitely improved a lot since this match 3 months ago, but i’d still like to know what you were thinking when playing me so i can improve. what did you exploit about my team?”

Here’s an example of what I was talking about above.  Let’s start with the first game.  There really isn’t a lot you did wrong here.  You made the right decisions strategically to snap in Phoenix and got the kill.  Pretty much you lost this first game to Doom.  This is an outcome that is not going to be extremely common especially with your team.  Especially the closing sequence; I basically went all in looking for an air throw and happened to get it.  It happens.  You played this game perfectly fine, you just dropped one combo with Zero and Doom crossed you up once.  That’s Marvel.  Game 1 probably should have been yours; you outplayed me in this game.

Game 2 is pretty much the same.  I agree with Noel Brown’s commentary when he says this is your game to lose.  You have a strong anti-Phoenix character and a pile of meter, you can take some liberties here.  If you’re going to tag in Hawkeye make sure you corner yourself instead of trying to fight back.  This way Phoenix can’t get behind you, and if you lose Hawkeye your Nova will drop into the corner and give you a chance to block on incoming and try to set up a human rocket if you catch Dark Phoenix mashing.  Noel makes a good point at the end of this game, you can x-factor on reaction to my teleport and Gimlet for the win since I don’t have meter.  I took a chance by teleporting, the opening was here for you to win and I’m pretty sure you knew that also.  The only “trick” I used here was teleporting later than expected to try and sneak it in.  It tends to work on most Hawkeyes since they’ll look to x-factor immediately or not at all.

Game 3 going for instant snapback is just trying to get lucky.  Have confidence in the Zero vs. Wesker matchup, you don’t need to try and take big risks, just play solid.  That one mistake and a bad hard tag led to you not really getting to play until Zero came back in.  This was really your only serious mistake of the set in that it was a strategic decision that doomed you.

So what can we conclude from this set?  Really what you have to take away from the set is that you didn’t play that poorly.  You put yourself in a favorable position in each of the first two games and earned yourself a strong position.  There were some execution issues to clean up and you weren’t pushblocking after Wesker resets enough but that’s small stuff.  Strategy wise you played fine.

Marvel is not random.  You earn your openings and you use skill to prevent the other side from creating openings.  But the amount of openings and opportunities it takes to doom you are small compared to other games meaning that Marvel results aren’t as consistent as other games.  This is why 3 out of 5 is better for Marvel and this is also why you can’t be too results oriented.  I walk away from this set thinking “I didn’t play all that well” and you can walk away from this set thinking “I didn’t play all that poorly.”

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t look to improve yourself and your game especially on the execution front.  Self-improvement is always the goal.  But don’t beat yourself over small mistakes and minor execution errors.  It happens.  That’s Marvel.  Flush it and play again.

Got a question for Viscant? Drop him a line on Facebook or E-Mail at