+ and -: It All Starts Here

This is square one. This is the most important lesson in Soul Calibur there is. If you do not understand this, you can do nothing. Victory will constantly evade you. You will lose for all eternity and there is no hope of success.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you know this- truly know this, it will permeate throughout the rest of your game. Your strength will increase hundredfold and only the titans themselves will be able to oppose you.

There are two major forces that are always in play, in every round, in every game. They determine the fate of the battle.

They are:




There are simple rules to advantage and disadvantage. They can be spelled out quite clearly.

You have advantage when:

- You hit the opponent.
- You block an opponent's attack.
- The opponent misses their attack (they "whiff").

You are at a disadvantage when:

- The opponent hits you.
- Your attack is blocked by the opponent.
- You miss your attack.

When you have the advantage, you want to attack.
When you are at disadvantage, you want to defend.

So what does this really mean?

When advantage and disadvantage are handed out to the players, the person with disadvantage acts slower.

Soul Calibur is a game of speed- when two attacks are started at the same time, the faster attack will win. Likewise, if you have two attacks which are completely identical, but one player is at disadvantage, that player’s attack, in that moment, is slower than the other attack. Advantage brings victory, and disadvantage brings failure.

When you have the advantage- you can attack. If your opponent tries to attack when you have the advantage, the odds are very high that you will beat out their attack and win. You have the advantage, after all.

Disadvantage is just a mirror, a result of your opponent having the advantage. If you try to attack at disadvantage, the odds are very high that your attack will be beat out, and you will take damage. You are in a weakened position- disadvantage.

The point of the game is to reduce your opponent’s lifebar to 0 while making sure he does not do the same to you. Essentially, you must hit without getting hit. Knowing the principles of advantage and disadvantage will help you accomplish this.

This clip from Quick Steps Episode 2 shows a demonstration of this in-game. I would suggest you move on at around the 3:42 mark, but you may watch the rest if it pleases you.

10/13 UPDATE: I've made a supplementary video of my own, in case the existing materials weren't enough. I really do feel strongly about this particular subject, as with it, you can understand everything else in the game. Learn this first!

Advantage and disadvantage work on a sliding scale. There are differing amounts that are handed out to players- there is small advantage, medium advantage, and large advantage, just as there is small disadvantage, medium disadvantage, and large disadvantage. You should note that advantage and disadvantage always complement each other- if one player has a certain amount of advantage, the opponent has that exact amount in disadvantage.

Disadvantage acts as a control for the number of options you have at any given time. When at small disadvantage, you have plenty of options- you may even be able to attack with a fast attack and still win out. When at medium disadvantage, your options will shrink. Attacking may become impossible, with attempts leading to serious counter-hit damage. You will have to rely on your defensive strategies: guarding, stepping, backstepping, Guard Impact, or Just Guard. At large disadvantage, your options are reduced even further. Movement itself may become impossible, with attempts leading to counter-hit damage as before. Guarding, Guard Impact, and Just Guard become the only viable options. At disadvantage past this point, you have no options- you are wide open, and you can be hit by your opponent for free. (This is commonly referred to as “punishment”.)

It so turns out, that in this game you do not have an absolute freedom. You cannot do what you want, when you want- your actions are always governed by advantage and disadvantage, and however you act must be restrained by them. You must only use options that are appropriate for your immediate situation- if you do not, you will lose.

The Science

You may have noticed that I have been speaking in fairly vague terms. That is because the basic principle is enough to stand on its own, without knowing specifics; following the “rules” of advantage and disadvantage is enough to win over the vast majority of players. However- just winning half of the time isn’t enough. When you ascend to the next level, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. You must know more about the fight, your opponent, and your situation, if you wish to succeed.
Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Of course, when I speak of specifics when it comes to advantage and disadvantage- I am referring to frames.

What’s frames?

Frames are a representation of measured speed. It is quantification- putting exact numbers to forces that were vague and unexplained before. Advantage and disadvantage control speed, and are thus closely related.

An attack’s speed is listed as such: BB – i14. The i stands for “impact”- 13 frames pass, and on the 14th frame, the attack connects.

i12 is faster than i18 is faster than i21. The bigger the number, the slower the attack.

When you see advantage or disadvantage listed, they are denoted by + for advantage, and - for disadvantage.

-, or “negative”, refers to recovery speed. Every action taken in the game has a recovery speed, and in this recovery, you cannot move, guard, or do anything.

+, or “plus”, is a mirror of the above, representing that you have put your opponent at a disadvantage, and thus have the advantage yourself.

A full frame listing looks like this:

BB – i14, HIT +4, GRD -6

Meaning… BB impacts in 14 frames. When it is successfully landed, it gives 4 frames of advantage. If it is blocked, it gives 6 frames of disadvantage.

Now what does this mean?

Calculating scenarios using frames involves some basic arithmetic, so you can get out your calculators if you’d like to follow along.

Let’s say that both players are playing the same character. (In this example, it is Pyrrha- the frame listing up there is for her BB.)

Player 1 attacks with BB. He successfully hits the opponent.

This means that he is at +4. Player 2 is now at -4.

Player 2 decides to break the rules. He is at disadvantage, but he wants to attack. He uses BB which impacts in 14 frames. Player 1 follows the rules, and attacks at advantage. He uses BB as well.

Who wins? Both are using the same move, so both players should get hit, right?


Player 2 is at -4. Disadvantage is added to whatever move is used immediately after. 4+14 is 18. Effectively, Player 2 is not using an i14 move, he is using an i18 move. i14 is faster than i18, so Player 1 wins the exchange.

Player 1 is at +4. Advantage is subtracted from whatever move is used immediately after. 14-4 is 10. Effectively, Player 1 is not using an i14 move, he is using an i10 move. i10 is faster than i14, so Player 1 wins the exchange.

Every exchange in the game can be measured in frames. It does not matter who you are playing as, what controller you are using, or what time of day it is.

Even though you are playing a fighting game, Soul Calibur is not fighting. It’s not real. The rules of the real world do not apply here.


Soul Calibur is numbers.

Throw away your preconceptions and see the game as what it is. When you do this, you will be able to prevail.

In the numbers lie your answers to everything. They will tell you what your options are- when you can attack, and when you should be defending. When in doubt- look at the frames.

Here is the technical explanation of frames, for those that are interested.

Soul Calibur V runs at 60 FPS: that is, every second that passes, 60 frames have gone by.

If you have a move that impacts in 14 frames, that means that the move hits the opponent in 14/60 = .2333... seconds.

If you have +6 of advantage, that means that you recover .1 seconds faster than your opponent.

You don’t need to know this to make the system work, but this is what it is referring to.

Final Calibur VII: Turn-Based JRPGs

When you know the basic tenets of advantage and disadvantage, something odd begins to happen to your gameplay.

You attack at advantage, and defend at disadvantage. Against most players, this strategy keeps you alive, and keeps you winning. But what about someone who knows the same rules as you do?

You attack; your attack is blocked, as your opponent happens to have his guard up. The opponent now has the advantage, and decides to attack. You are at disadvantage, so you defend.

You block the opponent’s attack. You now have the advantage, and decide to attack. They know they are at disadvantage, so they defend.

Your attack is blocked because the opponent is defending. The opponent now has the advantage, and decides to attack. You are at disadvantage, so you defend.

You block the opponent’s attack. You now have the advantage, and decide to attack. They know they are at disadvantage, so they defend.

Your attack is blo-

And thus it continues like this, back and forth, back and forth, until time runs out. This gets no one anywhere. You need something more decisive.

The error here is assuming only one method of attacking, and only one method of defending.

Attacks are not just standard attacks, but also:

Throws or lows
Ranged attacks
Guard Break attacks (“frame trap” attacks)

Defense is not just standing guard, but also:

Crouching guard
Just Guard or Guard Impact

At any given point in time, you have options. If one action does not work, pick another that does. Knowing your options and knowing your opponent’s options will illuminate the path to victory. If you can reduce your opponent’s options (by putting him at a severe disadvantage) you can more easily control him, and thus control the outcome of the fight.

In Closing

These are the basic rules of Soul Calibur. They are not absolute; the game is about options, not rigid structures. Once you know the rules, you can bend them- but realize that they are always in play, no matter what you are doing.

When you have small advantage or small disadvantage, the rules can be somewhat blurred. Depending on your opponent’s tendencies- the smart choice may be attacking at disadvantage, or stepping at advantage. Use your judgment and experience to make these decisions. If you don’t have that, that’s what practice mode is for!

Always be wary of time. Advantage and disadvantage do not exist in a vacuum. If they are not used immediately, they are gone forever. You can use this fact to deceive an opponent who knows “the rules”.

When you have the advantage, while it is still fresh in your hands… Use it. Press the advantage. Attack your opponent. If they block, throw them. If they step, use a horizontal. If they backstep, use a ranged attack. When you knock them down, run over and start hitting them on the ground. Be relentless- do not let up. Become a raging inferno of fury of which there is no escape. This is your chance- seize the victory while you still can.

Advantage and disadvantage is a numerical representation- a simulation- of reality. The principle actually applies in everything- not just in this game, but in life. Positions of strength, positions of weakness- and finding the ways of how to break the chains of destiny and steal the strength back so that you may win forever and ever.


Ever seen this?


Advantage and disadvantage. Or… rather, yin and yang.

They become each other. They are inseparable. One cannot exist without the other. It is so, that the strong become the weak, and the weak become the strong.

“The meek shall inherit the earth.”


Frames are always there. The game just doesn’t tell you them. There are + or - frames after a throw. There are + or - frames when you ukemi, depending on the situation and what the opponent is doing. There are - frames when you whiff. Blockstun and hitstun- what indirectly lead to the end calculation of advantage and disadvantage- have frame numbers attributed to them… it’s just that no one knows what they are.

Attacks from the ground are at least 15 frames slower. If you didn’t know, now you know- being on the ground is a highly disadvantaged position. Stop trying to attack from it if you don’t have a good plan.

I’d like to give a shoutout again to noodalls. I don’t feel he gets enough love for the work that he does. The guy’s an alchemist- every post is gold, you know.

Knowledge is power- the more knowledge you have, the better your simulations are, or your calculations. The better your calculations are, the more prepared you are for situations that arise spontaneously in battle.


This is why you need to have frame data. It is an extremely important part of the game. You need it to play the game at a higher level.

To the developers- don’t put it in a guide that you buy, and don’t stay quiet about it.

The 1.02 patch came, along with notes, but no numbers were provided. But the fact that adjustments were made is telling- we know that you know that we know these numbers exist.

Put frames in the game, or put it in a PDF or table of some sort on the official website. Preferably, do both. Keeping quiet on these sorts of things just promotes ignorance. It is no way to lead a community.


When you want answers to your questions, always look at the frames.

Part of why I became “good” was because when I lost, I would take the replays and analyze them, looking at when I was hit, and how I was hit. I recreated situations in practice mode and used the information from frames to determine what I could do to prevent being hit in those situations, or possibly even attack while not getting hit.

I don’t practice much, and by practice I mean rote repetition of combos or punishment or what have you.

I do run plenty of simulations. When you do this, the options you have and the options your opponent has become more clear and defined, and you can plan out your actions.


I’ll finish with this.

Your guides are always so helpful. This should help alot of beginners and I can't help but wish there was something like this when I started playing SC. I only got the basic concept and it turned into that hit, block, hit, block thing in the past lol. Or I'd do something silly like try an unblockable move to end that hit and block thing. (The memories of not realizing how many frames that was...).

Right now, I still need to work on my defense when I'm at disadvantage though. Like they say, the learning never ends. (And I hope your guides won't end either). Thanks again. (>^.^)
All wou say about advantage and disadvantage is right Drake, but I think you forgot a detail in the case you are playing Online, and that is Internet speed and Lag.

Not even the Sharringan can predict a bad internet connection or lag.
All wou say about advantage and disadvantage is right Drake, but I think you forgot a detail in the case you are playing Online, and that is Internet speed and Lag.
By the contrary. I started as an online warrior, and... by my current circumstances, I still am one...

The rules stay the same, even online, and even with lag. I've used JG in lag before, because JG is about understanding its principles, and not necessarily about reflex.

Now, obviously, when lag sets in, your advantage can dissipate "faster" than normal- you may miss a block or whiff punish, or attacking at disadvantage may be less risky.

But in this case- you should adapt to the situation regardless. Switch to a faster, weaker, easier punish, or start mashing to get your CH on the guy who keeps attacking at disadvantage.

SCV's netcode is very solid, to the point that this shouldn't matter in most cases.

Adapting to online is really your choice. Online is a training tool and a casual pasttime, and that's it. The strongest opponents (the ones who will promote your growth the most) will always be offline- but that doesn't mean that online is completely useless.

In fact, there is lag in real life. They call it "tournament nerves".
Very insightful posting Drake. Aside from spacing, advantage & disadvantage are probably the biggest deciders of who wins a match. However, SCV is also a game about "unpredictability" and deception meaning that outwitting your opponent is more or less equally important as the +'s & -'s. Examples include feigned attacks or counterhit-fishing.
Great guide. However I must say that numbers aren't everything. For example spacing, which can only be learned through experience and "feel".
Great guide. However I must say that numbers aren't everything. For example spacing, which can only be learned through experience and "feel".
If we had a hitbox display, we could quantify spacing, too.

Putting numbers to "feelings" is essential to results being controllable and reproducible. Quantification must happen in order to drive away mysticism and establish a hard science that any player can use and benefit from.
"In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be."
Without these measurements, we are all ultimately blind men.
Great. This was a good explanation, and it WILL help me out. And I can attempt to start laying the beatdown on 8WR members.
Clear, approachable and precise, this article is as good as the guides you find on VFDC. Obviously, it is a compliment.

Do you plan an addendum :
"The art of attack on disadvantage ?" or how to break the flow of offense.
"The art of attack on disadvantage ?" or how to break the flow of offense.
I have written about attacking at disadvantage here. I often do it, actually. Against well-versed players, sometimes the wrong choice is the right choice. Of course, my willingness to do it sometimes gets me blown up...

Breaking an offense is a matter of reading (which I should be talking about next week, if everything goes to plan), and also using defensive options correctly (like waking up safely). I personally really love Just Guard, as it provides an instant advantage shift. Even if you don't get a guaranteed punish, you get a free mixup, a chance to start your own offense, or at the least break your opponent's rhythm.

I think there should be a consideration of movement and frames for mid-range. but thats quite difficult.
What do you mean, could you elaborate for me?