The King of Details #1: Fuzzy Guarding
PhoeniX, 14 September 2011
This series of articles focuses on the fine details of the King of Fighters engine. A comprehensive understanding of a game’s engine can help you to improve as a player.
This first installment in “The King of Details” covers “Fuzzy Guarding.” Fuzzy guarding is a technique that allows you to effectively block high/low mix-ups without the guess-work.
Let’s clear up a few things about the terminology. Fuzzy guarding can refer to two different concepts: Option-Select.com explains the concept for which it is usually used in 2D fighters. It is a technique to land instant overheads with normals that do not usually hit crouching opponents. This is not the fuzzy guard that I will talk about.
We will focus on the technique mostly used with 3D fighters like Virtua Fighter. It is following a certain pattern of high/low blocking that will effectively block a large part of the high/low mix-ups that you have to deal with in a match. This concept is not unique to 3D fighters, and it is also found in 2D fighters. It plays an important role in the King of Fighters because it forces the player to react to high-speed mix-ups more frequently than most other 2D fighters.
Basic Fuzzy Guarding
Fuzzy guarding is used when a player is on the defensive and does not, or is unable to attempt to anti-air an inbound opponent.
Whenever an opponent hops in, he has several options.
1. Do a hop in attack
2. Empty jump and go for a low attack.
3. Empty jump and go for a throw.
The defending player now must deal with 3 options. By using the fuzzy guarding technique the player is able to defend against the first two of the agressor’s options without thinking. This leaves only the empty jump into throw option which, thanks to KOF’s large throw-tech window between 10 and 16 frames, is not difficult to react to.
To Fuzzy guard, you block high, until the moment a hop attack would hit, regardless of whether the opponent did a hop attack or not, and a fraction of a second later, go into low block. This effectively blocks both options.
The image below shows a frame by frame progression of a fuzzy guard situation. With arrows showing the way the Mature player is blocking.
The image shows two sequences of K’ doing a hop-in.
One time K’ both goes for a hop C and the second time he goes for a empty jump crouch B. In both sequences Mature blocks with the exact same timing, and is able to block both.
If you do fuzzy guarding correctly, it will block all high/low mix-ups of this type.
Close C Option-Select Fuzzy Guarding
There is another method for guarding ainst this type of mix-up that is more risky. I call this method the close C option-select fuzzy guard. This defensive option-select is very strong. The defending player waits until they would have blocked a hop-in attack. But, instead of going for a low block, you press C (or for some characters D). This will make Close C come out, which is generally the fastest move for a character, and it will beat out any attack that is done by the opponent after the empty jump, and if you time it late, it will even tech an empty jump throw.
Observe the schema below. This time we’re using the close C option-select fuzzy guard. Difference in input and visuals have been marked in grey. Notice that C is pressed quite a bit earlier than it comes out. Normals in KOF have several frames of input delay before coming out. I will likely discuss the delay in a later edition of The King of Details.
Countering Fuzzy Guard
Both fuzzy guarding options are clearly important to understand and execute effectively. However, they are not flawless. It is uncommon to see high-level players get hit by standard hop mix-ups. Overcoming fuzzy guard isn’t easy. You need to break that pattern of your pressure in some way to break fuzzy guarding.
Some characters have hop moves that hit twice, like Mature hop B and Whip hop D. If you were to start blocking low during the blocking of the first hit, you would get hit by the second hit and eat a combo anyway. Therefore you have to fuzzy guard on the ‘second’ hit. Both Mature and Whip can time their hops attacks so that the second attack never comes out, and can go for a low instantly. If you wait for the second hit to come, you will get hit by a low. You can still fuzzy guard somewhat against these mix-ups but the timing and pattern is more complex. It is easier to use your judgment and reactions to react to these types of hop attacks instead.
When someone is using the Close C Option Select effectively, the best way to stop them from doing it, is to make it look like you will hop in, but land outside of the range of their close C. Although close C’s are really quick, they have pretty bad recovery, so whiffing is not an option. Staying outside of the range can also trigger a far C to come out, these have bad recovery too. In theory, this seems like an effective way to counter the close C option select. But in practice, it is difficult. The best close Cs have a huge range, and it is not easy to make the opponent misjudge their range. When you hop in outside of close C range, a skilled opponent will resort to normal Fuzzy Guarding instead.
A tactic against an opponent who effectively uses the close C option-select is to hop and land just outside of their close C range, Close C attacks are quick but have bad recovery. Whiffing a close C attack is not an option. By hopping outside of close C range you can also trigger a far C attack to come out instead. These attack have bad recovery as well. While it seems that this technique can be used to combat the close C option-select effectively, it is actually quite difficult. The best close C attack have huge range and successfully causing your opponent to misjudge their range is a difficult task. Skilled opponents will identify your attempt to bait the close C to come out, and resort to normal fuzzing guarding.
If you are playing with a grappler with an instant or invincible start-up throw. You can empty jump and go straight into the throw. Both an invincible throw and an instant throw will beat close C and low block.
In 2k2UM, K’ has a very strong tactic that can be used against players using the fuzzy guard technique. His f+B overhead is very fast. K’ can empty jump and go straight into f+B, breaking the pattern of Fuzzy Guarding. He can also go into overhead directly after a Jump-in attack. A defending player that is fuzzy guarding would be going for a low guard after blocking the hop attack, resulting in them being hit by the overhead. If you read K’ ‘s overhead and block it, it can be punished for high damage.
Finally, a player may choose to us a hop attack that hits later than usual. This leaves the defending player pressing close C before the hop attack hits. Hop CD attacks are generally good choices for this technique. A good example would be Chris’ hop CD. This option is quite risky against characters that have a good upward close C like Iori and Yashiro.
Fuzzy Guarding is a vital technique to master in any King of Fighters games as you’re effectively able to block or counter mix-ups automatically. It is a defining weakness in new players.
I hope you have found this article useful. This is my first article in this series and I do not intend for it to be my last. Any feedback is much appreciated.