Let’s flash back one year to the end of 2011-beginning of 2012 era of Marvel. The most common character in tournament results is Wesker. By far. Virtually every east coast team has Wesker on anchor with PR Rog, MastaCJ and Noel Brown achieving early success with him as an anchor character. Most of the teams that didn’t feature an anchor Wesker had him second or on point. In a couple of the earliest Ultimate tournaments he was on almost every team in the top 16. He had achieved complete tournament saturation. People had a lot of differing ideas on character tiers but Wesker was top 3 on (almost) everyone’s list. Suggesting that he wasn’t invited a cacophony of angry internet comments as displayed by when I said Wesker wasn’t as good as believed on Wake Up SRK and when Renegade posted his editorial on SRK.
Now let’s look at the present. It’s been quite awhile since Wesker has won a major tournament. It’s much more common for Wesker to be completely absent from the final day of a tournament than it is for him to actually play a role in determining the top 3 places and when he does appear in the top 3 it’s generally because one of the top placers (Yipes, Chris G) are playing him for fun and not because they believe he gives them the best chance to win. Finally, Filipino Champ released a (somewhat tongue in cheek) tier list that had Wesker thrown aside in the unranked pile since he was “irrelevant” to the tournament metagame. Even though he was slightly exaggerating for the sake of provocation there’s just one problem.
The biggest obstacle to Wesker regaining his dominance is the players on top of the game right now and the teams they play. There’s an accepted top 5 in Marvel. Chris G with his Morrigan/Vergil/Doom. Filipino Champ with his Magneto/Doom/Phoenix or Dormammu. Yipes with his Spencer/Vergil/Hawkeye and Dante/Vergil/Magneto. PR Rog with his Wolverine/Doom/Vergil. And Justin Wong with his Wolverine/Storm/Akuma. Out of all those teams listed, Wesker has a serious problem with all of them besides Yipes’s Spencer team. The zoning aspects of the Morrigan, Magneto and Dante teams are too much for him and Wolverine rushdown is a nightmare. If Wesker’s your best character and the lynchpin of your team, you can’t win a major in 2013. You’re going to run into 2 of those 5 minimum, probably 3 or 4 of them. You can’t buck the odds that many times. It’s not going to happen.
Thankfully, Marvel is a team game. That doesn’t have to be the end of it. We can use teammates to handle the unwinnable matches and assists to help with the most unfavorable situations. So for Wesker, we can use Vergil to mitigate the damage problem and we can use Strider to help with the zoning. Even though Wesker may not be the point character on all of these teams and this is really more of a Vergil team than a Wesker team (I’m suddenly getting Kobe/Shaq flashbacks here), he can still make a valuable contribution to wins.
This team has been seen a bit in tournaments, with Padtrick as the most famous user. The team was seen all around California tournaments for awhile and made an appearance in other regions as well. When Wesker fell off a bit over the past year, everyone abandoned the team like rats bailing from a sinking ship. It hasn’t been seen all that often lately; Winrich uses it a bit even though this weekend showed that his Wolverine/Doom/Vergil team is better overall. Even Padtrick doesn’t play it that much anymore, favoring Dante/Vergil/Strider over his original team now. Still, this is the best and most well-rounded Wesker team you can make. If you want to keep playing Wesker deep into 2013 when so many matchups have turned against him, this is the team to pick.
As stated above the primary purpose of pairing Wesker with Vergil/Strider is to close up his holes and the main Wesker weakness is damage. A common way to mitigate damage weaknesses is through TACs, specifically TAC infinites. But those aren’t guaranteed and are more of a 66% reset than anything else. TAC is definitely a strong option for people who play point Wesker, but a lot of people are looking for something a little bit more stable. Wesker with his glasses on is a low damage character and he starts most combos from Mustang Kicks and air throws so he does even less damage off common openings. While the DHC glitch may be gone in Ultimate, Vergil never got the memo. With this team construction Vergil’s damage can completely cover up Wesker’s weakness and can give him easy to use, no frills ToDs without using TACs. Here are some examples.
Off an air throw:
Off a Mustang Kick:
Off a standard low A/jumpin:
Wesker’s other main weakness is zoning. By now most people are aware that Wesker is mostly helpless to the strong zoning teams like Morrigan/Doom or Dormammu/Doom, but Wesker also struggles with some of the less dominant zoning characters like Trish and M.O.D.O.K. for one simple reason. He can’t touch the far upper quadrant of the screen. Zoning out Wesker is an exercise in basic geometry: find (or create) regions where Wesker can’t touch you and project force from that area. Strider changes everything though. With Strider there’s no area that Wesker can’t attack. Plus forcing the other side to consider blocking sets up the throw game, which is Wesker’s best method of anti-airing the opposition.
Vergil/Strider is one of the best shells in the game and they can function well on their own. Using the round trip glitch you can set up some difficult to escape round trip patterns with Strider assist keeping the opposition grounded and serving as a deterrent to the other side trying to fight their way out. Vergil and Strider are the #1 and #2 most dominant anchors in the game so snapbacks don’t affect you as much as they would on a different Strider team. If the opponent wants to snap in Strider and deal with anchor Vergil instead, that’s on them. They haven’t improved their odds too much and they’ve let another member of your team live.
Wesker benefits Vergil as an OTG assist. This isn’t too much a factor in team composition anymore; in the beginning of Ultimate an OTG assist was very valuable. But now as people have learned to tighten up their combos, not so much. Vergil is somewhat of an exception. With an OTG assist he can use helm breaker as a poke without having to necessarily burn x-factor to capitalize. Most uses of helm breaker on this team involve helm breaker + vajra in order to start offense but having the option of getting a full combo off a defensive helm breaker is worth something and will change the way the other side tries to open up your Vergil.
Finally this team allows you two separate ways to structure the match. The order Wesker/Vergil/Strider is what I’ve talked about most up to now. This order allows Wesker to ToD off all common openings. You can either leave Vergil in and look to x-factor their 2nd character or you can use round trip to tag Wesker back in and get a strong air throw, low A, crossup or Mustang Kick mixup off the block.
You can also order the team Vergil/Wesker/Strider. What you’re looking for in this team order is looking for a quick strike to eliminate the other side’s point character, using x-factor if necessary. When Padtrick was using this team, this is the order he favored most. This is the team order I go to when the opposition’s best character is their point character and the anchor isn’t particularly threatening.
This is not a misprint. Even though this is a Wesker team the single biggest con to this team is meter management. Vergil gives Wesker the ability to ToD easily from 99 seconds when starting with glasses on but this will leave Vergil without meter. It’s a problem with the Vergil/Strider shell in general. Strider is at his most effective with 3 meters but Vergil is at his most effective when he can use all the meters he wants. When you go into the match with a gameplan to ToD with Wesker, you’re accepting the fact that one of your characters is going to suffer a little bit. You can alleviate the problem a little bit and play a reset game with Wesker but then you take away the advantage you gain of putting Wesker and Vergil together. In a sense you’re playing the Vergil/Strider shell and just trying to hold the fort down with Wesker. Everyone who plays this team has to make their decision which character gets shafted. There really is no right answer as to how you should play it out, it’s just a matter of playing to your own individual strengths as a player.
Here’s something that seems even more unbelievable for a Wesker team. Another major con for this team is (gasp!) execution. Considering that meter is at a premium it’s very important to do the right combos to use as little meter as possible. If at all possible killing someone with 1 meter with Wesker is the ideal goal. You get to start on the next character with glasses off upping your damage and saving extra meter for Vergil/Strider. Here’s a youtube video of Wesker’s BnB combo with glasses on and no assists used.
Even though this has been the basic BnB for some time, this is a combo rarely seen in tournament play. The reason it’s rare? Because it’s hard! Everything after ghost butterfly is height/weight dependent as well as screen position dependent and dependent on the state of the glasses. Most Wesker players are good at keeping track of glasses being on or off (even if they don’t always do the optimal glasses off combos) but having the glasses cracked will speed him up just enough to throw off your timing. Unfortunately that’s the reality of playing Wesker at this point. I chose Wesker as my main character years ago because he was easy. But you can’t get away with that anymore. If you want to play Wesker at a tournament level now, especially on this team, you have to master his actual combos.
The other main con on this team is Strider. Even though Strider is one of the three dominant anchors in Marvel, I’m listing this anyways. In theory Strider is Dark Phoenix with a great assist. Unfortunately not all of us are Clockw0rk; not all of us can bring that potential out of the character. There’s an image macro going around with Strider’s winpose and the text saying “I don’t play Strider, I play vajra and ouroboros.” For some of us (ahem, me) that hits pretty close to home. Strider anchor is great but if your Strider is weak or gimmicky in some way it will be exposed very quickly and you can expect your opponents to take advantage. If you’re going to play any Vergil/Strider team, it’s very important that you work hard on your Strider to make him an actual threat at the end of games. But on this team it’s especially important that you get good at playing Strider without 3 meters since it’s very unlikely that you’ll drop in with 3-5 meters given how the other characters on the team are going to play.
Vergil/Strider is very strong against MorriDoom which is a major plus to this team’s viability. That makes this one of only a handful of Wesker teams that don’t lose this key matchup for free. This team even has an actual credible strategy against the Morrigan/Vergil/Doom team that seems to be the #1 team in the game for now. Start Vergil and off any ground strike, air strike or vajra, x-factor combo into death and tag Wesker in who should still have over 1 meter starting to work with. Vergil is weak on incoming and any mixup will lead to a ToD combo and then you have 3 characters to take on anchor Doom. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this team beats MorriDoom, you at least have a path to victory.
This team is also relatively strong against Zero/Dante for the same reason. Most Zero/Dante teams are extremely frontloaded with their Zero as the primary threat. Vergil on point stands a good chance of killing Zero early. Since Zero is a low health character you don’t have to rely as much on the helm breaker+Strider opening. A successful rapid slash into swords or low A or anti air stand C will let you save your x-factor and still get just enough damage to finish him off. The exception is Zero/Dante/Vergil. In any matchup where you x-factor early you’re allowing them to have level 3 x-factor uncontested. Against level 3 x-factor Vergil? You’re in trouble, especially since Strider will have to take on Vergil alone without x-factor, a very unfavorable matchup.
The main weakness of this team is Wolverine. Wesker struggles against Wolverine in general but without Magneto or Haggar assists the beginning of every match is going to be tough no matter what team order you choose to play. Against a team like PR Rog’s team where Wolverine is backed up by plasma beam, you’re not going to get much use out of vajra or rapid slash assists so Wesker’s going to have to get the first hit on his own. On the plus side he has to worry more about air throws and kara Mustang Kicks than he usually does since you can kill him off of those. On the minus side, he still definitely has the matchup edge.
The team is also a little shaky against Magneto/Doom. Unlike vs. Wolverine you can get some real use out of vajra, convincing Magneto to do fewer magnetic blasts than he would normally look for. The missiles change the gameplan and force your hand a bit, forcing you to get in close instead of relying on gunshots to set up your own offense. Ideally what you’d like to do is start Wesker and use vajra liberally to keep Magneto grounded and use gunshots to snipe Doom as he comes out. If you can get 3-5 gunshots on Doom, you can lower his life to the point where gunshot into level 2 team super could potentially take Doom out and it’ll change the other side’s gameplan, even later on after Magneto’s part is done. For example if the other team is playing Magneto/Dormammu/Doom or Magneto/Doom/Sentinel, the health of their Doom means a lot to them. It may not take 5 gunshots to make them stop calling Doom; it may only take 2 or 3 before they think “hey I should stop calling Doom, I can’t afford to take this damage”. This involves a lot of careful defense and hanging out in the neutral game and the Magneto player probably won’t let it get to that point.
That’s it for the team breakdown, check back tomorrow where we take this team for a test drive for a couple sets with guest stars Dios X and FR Roachking.