An Intermediate Guide To Opening People Up
by Jenny Cage
So you’ve been learning KOF13, grinding out those elite combos in practice mode and looking real badass while doing it. But there’s a problem – when you start fighting your friends, you can’t seem to open them up and perform those badass combos! Perhaps they’re very good at blocking and reacting, or perhaps you’re so shocked when you get an opening that you end up not following through. Fear not! This guide is going to teach you the basics of cracking defensive shells through simple mental conditioning. Ready? GO!
Part 1: The Frametrap
A frametrap is a series of actions that leaves you with enough advantage (+ frames) that you can perform another attack before the opponent can press a button, or at least severely restricting their options to a tiny handful viable choices. If the opponent presses a button or performs the wrong action, they will get hit by your attack. At its core, a frametrap conditions an opponent to NOT press a button. This is important because once an opponent is conditioned to believe you will frametrap them, they may sit still in anticipation of it happening even if you choose not to do so.
A generic frametrap on just about every character is a deep cr.B/A->cl.C. This is not a natural combo on most characters, but it is fast enough to interrupt almost everything. Many characters are either neutral or +1 after a blocked cr.B (with a few exceptions), and most have a 4 frame cl.C (again with a few exceptions – Kyo and Iori have 3 frame cl.Cs and some characters like K’ have 5 frame cl.Cs). In terms of numbers, a cr.B that is +1 on block means your opponent has one less frame of advantage than you, so if you perform a 4 frame cl.C afterward and so does he, you will win the exchange. Voila, frametrap! Turn these into strings by adding command normals and specials afterward. If it’s confirmed, do something big – if it’s blocked, do something safe.
Many characters have crouching normals that are greater than +1 on block. For example, Athena, Saiki, Hwa Jai and Benimaru have cr.A’s that are +3 on block. Duo Lon’s cr.A is +4 (wow)! Others are +2. These numbers are important to understand because they tell you what normals can be performed afterward for a frametrap. If Duo Lon is +4 after a cr.A, that means he can do any move that is 6 frames or faster and win an exchange vs anyone in the cast, as 3 frame normals are the fastest moves that can be performed in retaliation (with the exception of some far-reaching command grabs), which would require 7 available frames to execute. Well, too bad! Duo Lon will just bust something 6 frames or under and keep his opponent either locked down or open them up because they pressed a button.
There are many more frametraps than what’s mentioned here. The best way to discover them for your characters is by first looking at their framedata to discover which moves are + (or perhaps neutral) on block, then taking that information into practice mode by putting the training dummy on “Crouch 1 Guard Jump.” This feature is pretty much designed to help you find frametraps. When you do something that frametraps, the dummy will get hit by it when they attempt to jump. If the frametrap is tight enough, it will hit them while they’re still grounded. Awesome!
As mentioned earlier, use of frametraps conditions the opponent to not press a button after your crouching normals or other positive moves. Once you’ve put that fear into them, you are free to begin mixing up with less chance of them mashing a counter, including keeping your pressure going to the point of a possible guard crush (more on that later).
Part 2: Grabbing
Now the opponent is conditioned to expect your frametraps. He/she/it will sit still waiting for you to run your pressure strings, terrified to press a button lest you open them up. This is where you begin mixing in throws to crack open their turtle shell. After your close crouching normal, try walking or running up and throwing them. This is effective for several reasons. First, your opponent is likely sitting still in anticipation of a frametrap instead. Second, they are most likely crouch blocking. All normal grabs in KOF MUST be teched while standing. If the opponent doesn’t stand, they will be thrown regardless if they pressed C/D. Third, if your character has a command grab, your opponent won’t be able to tech at all, plus you don’t need to walk/run forward to touch them if your cr.B/A is deep enough. Damn, that’s scary! Many command grabs in KOF lead to combos and in some cases even HDs.
Unfortunately command grabs can be neutral jumped more easily than regular grabs as command grab animations come out regardless if they connect or not, while normal grabs on whiff will come out as a cl.C/D which for many characters is an anti-air. For this reason normal grabs can be situation-ally preferred to command grabs, especially on characters with very strong anti-air hitboxes on their cl.C like Kyo or Iori.
Some normal and command grabs have the Hard Knockdown property. This means the opponent cannot ukemi (A+B recovery roll) after being thrown. Hard knockdowns set up safe jump opportunities to bait out an opponent’s reversal. They can also set up ambiguous rolls, something that when performed correctly is the closest thing to a 50/50 in KOF. After a hard knockdown, roll directly onto the center of an opponent’s sprite as they’re getting up – if done perfectly, neither of you will be able to tell which side you’re on, making blocking crouching normals or backdashing on wakeup a guessing game! That’s scary as hell when one touch can equal death!
Once you start throwing someone enough with normal grabs, they will begin standing to tech it. This leads us to part 3…