Gimmicks: My Bag of Tricks

When you know your opponent is stronger than you- maybe he is more skilled, or naturally talented. Perhaps he has more experience- maybe much more than you do… There doesn’t seem like there’s too much hope for your success. But- there is a chance for you.

Your opponent is human. They have their own life outside of the game, and they may not obsess over it- they may not know all of its secrets. You can capitalize on this! You must take every advantage you can… and that includes exploiting your opponent’s ignorance!

A win is a win, no matter how you get it. This includes using cheap and underhanded tactics to secure victory. I speak, of course, of the gimmick.


What’s a gimmick?

A gimmick is any attack or sequence of moves that requires a very specific response. It removes skills in reading, spacing, mixups, etc. by forcing the question, “Have you studied this character?” If the answer is “no”, you get hit.

It is a test that results in damage. Gimmicks rely on character ignorance; under this definition, there are multiple levels of “gimmicky play”, going beyond “conventional gimmicks”.



Using Unsafe Moves

The most basic test you can use against an opponent is to use an unsafe move. The test here is “have you studied your punishment?”

If they have not, your launchers, low sweeps, and other heavy-hitting moves now have almost no risk. Because you’re not being punished, you can start abusing these moves, and get all of the benefits without any of the drawbacks. Likewise, your opponent may call for your character to be patched.

Of course, this all ends if your opponent figures out they can punish your moves, or you fight someone who is well-versed in punishment- in which case you will have to restrict where you use these moves. Do not always assume that you must restrict their usage, however, or you may be missing out on good damage against certain players.



Punishing Instinct

Assuming that your opponent is reacting and responding to your actions, sometimes you can lay traps for them, in the form of tech traps and frame traps. These traps punish the opponent for “doing what feels right”- with tech trapping, it’s attempting to ukemi to escape, and with frame trapping, it’s attacking at (what seems to be) advantage.

Natsu is infamous for her 2A+B tech traps; being that she is faster than most of the cast, she can stay in close proximity without too much worry, and as such start applying pressure. Attempting to escape this pressure when knocked down by teching will get you launched. The proper thing to do is to “accept” the pressure and lie on the ground, in order to take minimal damage; however, “accepting defeat” is not an instinctual thing to do. Most players will want to fight, and as such, will repeatedly fall into these traps.

Viola can use her orb to set up multiple frame traps- when fighting against her, just blocking an attack may not mean that you have the advantage. Miscalculating will get you juggled. If you assume that most sequences leave her at advantage and you just continue to guard, she can perpetuate her advantage, and make it so it is impossible to retaliate. The proper thing to do is to know precisely when a retaliation is realistic so that you can stop her in her tracks; however, studying a character and their frames deeply is not an instinctual thing to do. Most players just fight whatever comes their way, and as such, will repeatedly fall into these traps.



Punishing Inaction

On the flipside, certain setups in the game will punish the opponent for doing nothing- for holding G, or for lying still- “combos” that aren’t really guaranteed, guard crushes that lead to guaranteed attacks, quake stuns, and other actions that reduce the opponent’s options and require a specific action at a certain point in time.

Pyrrha’s wr[A+B] is a guard crush move that when blocked, gives her a free 236B (+14 advantage). If you do not interrupt or dodge, you’ll be punished. Check your frame data to see if you have an equivalent; Patroklos (22A[A] into CE), Natsu (B[K] into PO A:6), Mitsurugi (MST [B+K] into 6B8) are examples among others.

Astaroth’s 63214B+G throw is his “heavy-hitter”, and is well-known for causing lots of damage. What you may not have known is that he can extend the damage if you do nothing by running forward and using 22K, and then continuing his combo from there. You can tech out of this setup, but if you do nothing, his meterless damage from this throw will skyrocket.

Leixia’s 2B+K is a guard crush move that has a quake stun effect further out. This quake hits low, even though the actual attack itself can be blocked standing. On contact, the quake gives her +18 frames, making a wide variety of attacks possible. Check your movelist- Pyrrha, Cervantes, and Astaroth have quake stuns, among others.


Generally, you’ll find gimmicks like these by merely playing others and looking for tricks, or checking your character’s Soul Arena. You should take note of gimmicks when you can, so that you can use them yourself, or at least inoculate yourself against them.



In Closing

I used to believe that gimmicks were for the weak, and that good players only played with pure solid skill, no tricks and no weaknesses.

This is a trap that holds you back from becoming the best you can- do not fall into it.

There are many weapons that you can use to defeat your foes, and you must be proficient in all of them. Neglecting any one part will prevent true mastery.


I also used to believe that the use of gimmicks would become a crutch- that I would become dependent on them, and unable to adapt when faced with stronger opponents.

The truth is- adaptation is a skill in itself. If you are weak at adapting, you must put yourself in multiple situations where you must adapt to survive. A weakness in adaptation is no reason to let go of gimmicks, but it is a reason to work on and strengthen your adaptation.


Find your opponent’s weakness, and seize it- even if that means running up and using a plain 2KB (or “the most obvious thing in the game”). Your opponent’s opportunity means nothing if they don’t take it for themselves.
 

Comments

My very first tournament was at Gamelot, in San Antonio. This was during the SCIV days; I was an Amy player at the time. My teacher had told me that I was ready to go to tournaments, that I should start seeking stronger players.

I think it was my first opponent- I can’t remember his name- he played Voldo. I had been practicing before the tournament, putting pressure on myself, and the nerves had gotten to me- he was throwing me about the room. I didn’t know what I could do.


I noticed halfway through the fight that he wasn’t breaking stuns when he was hit with them. I recalled an old online trick I had sworn off before, and decided it was now or never. I spammed 1KA, a frame trap that was almost impossible to escape by conventional retaliation.

1KA is not that great- the second hit can be ducked, or you can Guard Impact to stop the spam. But he never did any of these things… He didn’t find his way through my tricks.

I hit him with the stun combos I had learned from my teacher, things I had considered useless before because they wouldn’t work against advanced players, and came out with the win.


Sometimes, using hidden knowledge of the game- using gimmicks against your opponent- is all you have, as your opponent will beat you in every other discipline.

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Almost all Brave Edge moves can be made unsafe in some way (except for blocking, usually). It may be stepping, or Just Guarding, or ducking- but usually you can punish an opponent for just throwing out Brave Edges recklessly.

Likewise, abusing Brave Edges is a very powerful technique if they are not being punished. Natsu can do 66B BE all day if it’s not being ducked, Astaroth can throw out 66K BE without fear if you don't Just Guard or Guard Impact (as can Pyrrha with 66B BE); so on and so forth.

Meter is not a win button... but if your opponent doesn't know that, feel free to pile on the pressure.

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This principle is known as the “Sheathed Sword”; if you can win without actually fighting, you can minimize your risk and conserve your energy.

Don’t abuse it- you need substance behind your gimmicks. But don’t forget it- sometimes substance isn’t enough.
 
I still remember week 1 Nightmare gimmicks. FL had a launch party the weekend of release, and man, I was catching all sorts of people with GS K BE x4, and I had such a shit-eating grin on my face knowing that it was so easy to escape and that they didn't know how.

If I remember correctly, there were only 2 people that night that knew how to escape it - Suirad, and a FL local by the name of Renki. Not even Enk knew how to get out of it until I told him, haha.

Also, back when 2B+K BE quake hit everyone up close, not knowing its a special mid.

Those were fun times.
 
I can relate to this article really well I'm a Zwei player and from experince he lacks strong fundamentals unlike the likes of Mistu or Pat so I have a limited amount of "tools" But matches aren't impossible thanks to the power of gimmicks. Zwei is known as a gimmicky character, this is because he has tricks what if you react in a certain way its doom for you however they are many other ways to get out of them a example is Zweis 4(A) 214B Ein hit. If you stand there blocking the 214B breaks the guard and Ein hits opponent into a 3B launcher however if you interupt, step, JG or GI you get out of it.

Zwei also has many highs what are safe on guard if opponent doesn't duck the highs I can spam them all game.

I've faced soild players and I've still won thanks to their MU ignorance. The power of gimmicks are strong and useful for success against people who ignore them.

However its not always a players fault they're falling for Zwei gimmicks, its also simply hardly no one plays him and have little or no experience playing against him. Since I'm one of the few amount of zweis what know what they are doing- friends who play our zweis have learn the basic gimmicks and do well in fighting them. This is good for me because I get more challangers because I play Zwei so learn the indept knowledge of other charcters while they are just learning the basics of Zwei. Hehe

If you want the Zwei MU feel free to run some sets with me GT - Andyroo xDS
 
I remember barely beating a Viola user. I was surprised and overwhelmed by this massive combo. First time I ever saw Viola move like that. But then again, I haven't played SC5 long enough to know every character's move sets. I mained Mitsu, and pretty much know all his moves. The Viola player often set up to do combos after combos. And that was all that I've noticed. So I took advantage of some basics and...darn I can't remember how I beat him, but I did. This article reminded me of that match though.
 
Good read Drake always a pleasure. you help me remember the basics XD 2A+B works offline lawl. MAXIMUM GIMMICKS!!
 
@AndyrooxDS Yeah ZWEI is a gimmick spammable character against people who barely fought him, but it becomes an extra challenge when they DO figure out you can 11K after 66[A+B], thus affording a WR B for a makeshift combo. It then becomes a regular mix up more than a gimmick if you choose not to do it ALL the time.
 
Great article. As a Siegfried player, I have a soft spot for this one. I love when I flapjack someone out and they get pissy with me. I always immediately explain how to break flapjack ringouts 100% of the time, and they usually reply with something like "stfu fag, blocked".

Also, just thought of something; is there a master list anywhere of all the characters' throw ringouts and/or their breaks?
 
For Natsu's b[K] did you mean 6A+B? 'Cause that's Taki's input for that same move lol
Thanks for catching that (that's not a slide input!). But no, I do mean B[K], the vertical into the high kick guard break.

B[K]4 blocked into PO A:6 is a "link". You don't see it too often because it's fairly telegraphed and high, it's easy just to duck.

If the other guy isn't ducking though, it sure does wreck the guard gauge.

Also, just thought of something; is there a master list anywhere of all the characters' throw ringouts and/or their breaks?
 
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Ah, gimmicks, probably 90% of the reason why I took up Natsu in the first place and incited so much rage online months ago (well I still do occasionally...). When I'm practising or sparring however, I try to use a variety of attacks to get a better feel of what works and what doesn't. However in a tournament situation I have absolutely no problem gimmicking my opponents to death (2A+B & A+B spam have saved my ass more than once).

On a different note, I feel that Ring Outs are the best gimmicks.
 
Awareness of, or adapting to the ignorances of your opponent is very useful.
It also applies to mind-games.
Mind-Games are wasted if your opponent doesn't have a mind to play games on.
 
Thanks for catching that (that's not a slide input!). But no, I do mean B[K], the vertical into the high kick guard break.

B[K]4 blocked into PO A:6 is a "link". You don't see it too often because it's fairly telegraphed and high, it's easy just to duck.

If the other guy isn't ducking though, it sure does wreck the guard gauge.


OH YEAH I compeltely forgot about that move and how damn useful it is.
 
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