Viscant’s Mailbag; Zero, Structure and Dreams of Celine Dion

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 Hi everyone. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions! If I didn’t get to your question here I’m probably saving it for a future bag, people sent in a lot of really interesting stuff.  If you want your question answered, drop me a line on Facebook or at Viscant@aol.com.

5 different people asked: How come Zero hasn’t won a major yet?!?!?!?

Technically he has. Mihe or Sam’s Club or Atashiwa (or whatever he was calling himself that week) won Texas Showdown but a lot of people don’t think that tournament counted for whatever reason. But really what the question is asking is why Zero hasn’t done better.

The best players at UMvC3 are (in some order) Filipino Champ, Yipes, Chris G and Justin Wong. Skill-wise, the best players from pure, fighting game skills are those 4, as well as Combofiend and PR Balrog. PR Balrog was kicking butt early on when he was giving UMvC3 his full and undivided attention. While Combofiend would have found his way into the first list by now if he put more time into the game and settled on a team. Just like in most competitive games the best players are winning, not necessarily the people who pick the best characters. So really Zero’s biggest problem isn’t that he’s not good enough it’s that none of those players really like him.  Either one of the heavy hitters has to pick him up or the best Zero players (like Flocker) will have to step their game up and break through at a major tournament. The good news for the character is that the Zero army is growing. The bad news is that none of the new Zero recruits are any of the top guys. Not yet anyways.

It’s only a matter of time though. If anything it shows how much growth potential there is left in UMvC3. Not only have all character configurations not been used, almost all of the best ones in theory are pretty much ignored at top level play. So my answer is to check back in a couple years, the cream rises to the top both in player skill and character matchups; sometimes it just takes time to get there.  

David Sheehan asks: For teaching a friend of mine AE, I took the approach with him of “Regardless of what character you like best, I’m teaching you to play Ryu until you’re comfortable with the game, and we can move onto other chars later”, because Ryu is such a good beginner character. Have you got a similar sort of advice to get a non-Marvel player started?

For Marvel my advice is to start with Magneto-A/Doom-B/Sentinel-A. Most people would tell a beginner to start with something different like a Wesker based team where you can learn everything right away and win a little bit while you learn. I don’t agree. I think that as long as the person is committed to learning the game they should bite off as much as they can chew.

With Magneto/Doom/Sentinel you have a team that has 3 strong assists and a team that has both flexibility and rigidity. The team is flexible in that you can play many different styles. You can zone with Magneto and Doom or you can attack hard behind Sentinel assist. You can play a more air based game behind magnetic blasts or photons or you can play a ground based game around EM Disruptors, plasma beams or missiles. You might find you really like Sentinel assist. You might find you don’t need it that much because Doom missiles fits your play style so much better. You might find you really like changing the team order and putting Magneto in the back. Or maybe you’ll like Doom in back. Lots of options here.

But then you look at what the team makes you learn. Missiles and drones are both outstanding assists but you have to be smart about how you protect them. Triangle jumps and square jumps are great opening tools but you’re going to learn real quick how to deal with someone up-backing you or you just aren’t going to win much. Magneto requires work to get his combos down. Doom requires work just to move around the screen. If you’re going to use TAC combos (and you should, all 3 of these characters have great TACs and infinites if you want to go there) you have to learn that also. The rigidity comes in how you have to actually sit down in training mode and work at the game. You’ll see results fast, it’s not like anything here is on Viper levels of difficulty but the team will make you put some hours in on training mode. So really the absolute best part is that the team will teach you how to play Marvel and how to improve your game. The biggest lesson a new Marvel player can learn is that it’s supposed to be hard. The moral of Marvel is that it’s pretty easy to pick up and play but the cutting edge stuff is always much harder than it looks. If you really want to get there you have to put in the time so you might as well start with that mentality.

And a great benefit of the team is that it’s a team you never have to leave. You may find you like something better and want to play other characters and that’s great. But you never really have to leave the team behind.   

Samsim asks: What’s up with the Celine Dion stuff?  I thought you only loved Felicia Day.  I feel like you’ve lied to us somehow.

I still love Felicia Day! I wrote her an email trying to get her to come to Evo last year but she never wrote back. Maybe this year. Anyways I love many women, but only in my head because I am a man of purity. I had a dream once where Felicia Day and I were hanging out while Celine Dion sang to us and then Lindsay Lohan came by and we all started talking. Then Taylor Swift and Celine Dion had a duet together and it was wonderful. Then McKayla Maroney came to talk to us and this isn’t wrong because it’s just a fantasy and in my fantasy she’s 19 and a struggling actress trying to get back to the Olympics so that makes it OK if I want to help her out or give her a hug. Then Linda Cohn and Michelle Beadle told us all about everything going on in sports. Then Morgan Smith came by and brought us all spicy chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s. And then we all hugged and danced and it was the best dream ever.

So while Felicia Day is #1 and I’m still working on getting her to Evo 2013, a man can have multiple waifus! You probably know people with waifus, they play P4A.    

  

Nikos Kaperdas asks: I was a SF player and all of my friends say that I don’t have marvel blood in me and I probably won’t be a good UMVC player but I said what the …… I was playing fighting games since I was 12. What should I do with my SF habit of blocking too much?

Blocking is great in Marvel and a lot of competitive matches will come down to who blocks mixups better but for the most part in the neutral game you don’t want to block at all. You want to be as far away from the mixup situation as possible and hopefully you want to be the one putting pressure on the opponent. A passive opponent who just stands there and commits to ground blocking especially against top tier characters sets himself up for having to block multiple mixups.

The best way to break this habit is to play some games where you literally never block. When I feel like I’m getting too passive I’ll take a few games on XBL and do that. One of the joys of online play is that you can play some games whenever you want and since the games don’t count for anything you can just do exercises like this and not care if you win or lose. You can do it in live casuals also as long as you don’t tell the other person what you’re doing. You want them to play their normal game while you try this exercise out.

You can structure this any way you want; it’s for your benefit in the end.  You can pick Haggar or gold Hsien-Ko to make it slightly easier by giving you a dominant assist that can act as a combo breaker of sorts. You can let yourself block incoming mixups or meaties or random supers. Or you can just not give a crap and literally not allow yourself to block anything.

You probably won’t win a lot of games this way but that’s not the point. You’re not playing to win while you’re doing this exercise, you’re playing to learn. Specifically you’re learning to avoid situations where you HAVE to block and learning to keep your options open. You might also find that you’re taking away your passive tendencies and being more aggressive. All of these are positive outcomes that will improve your game when you’re playing seriously.   

Steven Cyman asks: I’ve been having trouble learning this and was wondering what your thoughts were on it. I’d like to see it made viable. I think it can be, but it seems hard.


It works but it’s not guaranteed. The 2nd TAC attempt is only untechable if they missed a TAC reversal on the first try. So it’s not like vanilla where there was a completely guaranteed down TAC setup, it’s just another layer on the TAC mini-game. This is why the whole Japanese meter scam anti-Phoenix tech was never more popular. Well…that and the fact that there aren’t many Phoenix players remaining anymore. Generally what will happen if someone tries that on me is that I’ll probably fall for it the first time then start looking for it after that. The Zero one is hardest to set up because the first TAC attempt is often way too far away meaning the other person will probably not be mashing TAC reversal simply because they aren’t being threatened.

Having said that, if you’re going to play that team it’s something you should probably get down. Zero can just run around and hide behind busters while calling Morrigan out and can get to 5 pretty quickly. So even though this isn’t going to be a guaranteed 4.5 meters off of a low A (actually it could be 5, Phoenix has an infinite off down TAC) every time, it’s something you should have in your bag of tricks to pull out just to keep people honest every now and then. For gimmicks like that you can use them as long as you don’t start to depend on them because there is a counter.  

Jon Loubert asks: Why are you using AOL?? Do you still use Internet Explorer 6 and search with Ask.com?

I always liked Netscape more than IE and hey at least I moved on to Facebook. I had a Friendster and Makeoutclub.com profile up for awhile. I am an old man afraid of change. I made my AOL account literally 20 years ago to write email to girls from school. That’s where the Viscant name comes from, I wanted to find a cool name without numbers and all the Final Fantasy character names were taken! So that’s how we got here. 20 years later people call me Viscant on the street, ask my Dad how Viscant is doing and the kicker: I’ve had a girl meet me at a party and say “oh I know who you are, you’re Viscant, you always get 3rd place!” I don’t even remember how the rest of that social interaction went since I threw myself off a bridge immediately afterwards. I have lost myself inside a monster of my own creation.

At least it doesn’t have numbers though. Online names with numbers are just silly!   

Magnegro661 asks: What does structure mean? You wrote about it on an srk post and you wrote about it in the mailbag but I’ve never heard anyone else use it.

Structure just refers to how a match typically goes.  If you stick with one team for long periods of time you start to get used to the typical match flow. Like say you play a team like Wesker/Spencer/Doom. It’s pretty hard to TOD with this team with one hit from Wesker. It’s basically impossible to do it off an air throw or Mustang Kick without x-factor and Doom assist is designed to draw them into the air. You’re probably going to start a lot of matches with your first offensive action being an air throw. So a typical match structure is.

1)  Wesker lands a throw, does full combo without using meter.

2)  Spencer related reset ends successfully, Wesker completes the kill. Depending on character health some kind of meter expenditure is always necessary; if you’re lucky you won’t have to burn it all.

If meter is still plentiful:

3a)  Next touch will end in a level 3 and a dead character (since shades were off). Probably won’t be able to set up a Spencer related incoming because you needed a Spencer related reset to kill so you’ll have to earn that next touch.

4a)  Any touch on the anchor leads to x-factor into relaunch into team super, you win. 4 touch match.

If meter is not plentiful: 

You’re probably going to want to x-factor the 2nd character off the next touch so you can go up 3 on 1. Unless the anchor character is threatening (Phoenix, Vergil) then you’re going to want to save it and either snap in the problem or just make the 2nd character a 2 touch kill so you can hold onto your x-factor and play for XF3.

As you can see, this match is messy and there are lots of possible ways to make a mistake on health bar counting or meter management…and this is assuming that everything is going your way! Even under the ideal structure you need 4 touches and touches 1 and 3a are ones you’re going to have to earn in a fair/neutral setting. You can play the match much cleaner and more efficiently in one step. Start Spencer. Here’s how that same team’s match structure looks with the order Spencer/Wesker/Doom.

1)  Spencer lands a hit. Whatever he touches regardless of screen position or what the starter hit was, something’s going to die.

2)  You probably only spent one meter. Meaning you have another meter and can set up an incoming setup they can’t push. They do push and get command grabbed, dead character. You can do this either by DHCing to Wesker or not depending on how much health they have or general preference for approaching an anchor. You don’t need to hold any meter anymore because they’re down to their anchor and…

3)  Any touch is game over.

Very clean structure. This is also why Zero/Dante is so good. You land the first hit with Zero, something’s going to die. They’ll probably even die in a meter positive fashion. They always end up in the corner and you can always set up 3+ mixups on their incoming meaning the chances of landing the next hit go up and you can go into another lightning loop ToD. Repeat for the anchor character. Very clean match, very simple structure, after you earn the first hit you’re really just playing a one player game from here on out. Finish your combos, keep your mixups sharp and ambiguous and probability is wildly on your side.

For the record this is also why I think X-23 needs to be played more.  She makes structuring a match so much simpler because one touch or XFC can equal two dead characters. Think about a team like Vergil/X-23/Dante or Vergil/X-23/Strider. The structure of the match is easy.

1)  Vergil lands the first hit and kills a character.

2a)  Vergil gets a strong incoming and can probably kill the 2nd character if he lands something.  Next touch is game over.

2b)  If he doesn’t land anything and dies then X-23 will come in. Any touch or unsafe block string she can XF into a kill. The meter accumulated from Vergil dying and the combo she did to kill the 2nd character means she now has level 3 and Dirt Nap is guaranteed except on Sentinel (and with XF2 having remaining time this is always a kill).

As I said, when you’ve been playing a team for awhile you start to get used to the basic structure of the match when things are going well but when you look to play a new team or you get out of order, inefficiency starts to creep in. It may seem like common sense but a lot of players don’t plan out their matches for when things go well. They have a lot of backup plans for losing their point character but actually seem lost when things are going their way! Or they go for a combo on the 2nd character and are somehow surprised when they don’t have enough meter to DHC.

It’s just something to think about when you design teams or think about what to surround your favorite character with. Why scramble for multiple clean openings? Why work harder than you need to?