An Intermediate Guide To Opening People Up – Offensive Strategy
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…
Part 3: Lows
The opponent is now anticipating your grab and begins standing to press C/D when they see you approach after a crouching normal. Well, what do you do when someone is standing? You go low. This section needs less explanation than the rest – an opponent that is conditioned to stand is vulnerable to every low you can throw out. After a crouching normal, walk forward and go low again when they stand. Simple, eh? Not so fast! A neutral jump is a practical defense against this, or they may use lows themselves, so be careful.
So, what else can you do after you force your opponent to respect your options? Onward to part 4…
Part 4: Crossing Up
Crossups are one of the most powerful mixup tools in KOF. Some are obvious and give plenty of time to react, others are far more ambiguous and fast. The faster and more ambiguous a crossup is, the less chance your opponent will have at blocking it and the more opportunity you’ll have to combo. It’s crucial to understand what normals your characters can crossup with and how to set up those crossups outside of stand alone jumps or hard knockdowns.
The first way to do this is to understand the pushback of your normals, as this pushback is what creates the spacing necessary to set up a crossup off hit or blockstun. As an example, Saiki can set up a regular jump crossup by doing j.A->cr.A->regular jump D. The pushback from the j.A->cr.A spaces the opponent perfectly for the regular jump D to crossup if they don’t move. Since Saiki’s cr.A is +3 on block, the opponent will likely respect his options afterward (if he’s been frametrapping) by sitting still and blocking, making the crossup quite viable in this situation.
Unfortunately, regular jumps are slow and reactable. Abusing this setup will quickly lead to your opponent reacting with a block or even a counter. Thus, a player should spend time trying to find crossups that are less reactable by using short hops and hyper hops to crossup as well. Go into practice mode and set the training dummy to “Crouch” and “Crouch All Guard,” then experiment with the pushback/spacing of your crouching and jumping normals. If you jump on a blocking opponent, their first reaction will be to block low in anticipation of your followup (unless they expect a command grab, in which case they may neutral jump). Perhaps instead of doing a full string, you would cr.B->cr.A, then hyper hop d.C with Kyo as this sequence of actions creates the necessary spacing to crossup, assuming the opponent stays crouching and respectful.
Still using Kyo as an example, it must be noted that different air normals create different levels of pushback both on block and on hit. The example above doesn’t work if Kyo jumps in with A, as A pushes back slightly farther than C or d.C, meaning the cr.B->cr.A is also slightly farther and the hyper hop d.C doesn’t crossup. You must experiment with all air and crouching normals and observe these distances to understand how to apply them in a crossup attempt. The jump-ins are not strictly necessary, they simply put the opponent in blockstun and allow you to jump again or apply close crouching normals to achieve the spacing you need for your attempts. Depth is important – something that is too deep or too far may not work on certain characters.
A small list of examples:
deep cr.B, short hop d.C
(j.C or j d.C), cr.B, cr.A, hyper hop d.C
j.C, hyper hop b+B
(j.C), cr.B, hyper hop b+B
(j.D), cr.B, cr.A, short hop f+B
Some characters can set these up more easily than others. Some characters require very strict spacing, some don’t. Characters like K’ and Kula can struggle with applying crossups, while characters like Benimaru seem to get them for free. If your character has a hard time crossing up despite your best efforts to find crossup setups, you may have to rely more on their other strengths combined with the triad of frametraps->grabs->lows to open people up.
Part 5: Empty Jumps and Overheads
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably starting to understand how making your opponent believe you’ll do one thing and then doing another is a very strong strategy in KOF. Creating mental confusion and doubt is a great way to make an opponent make a mistake. In this vein, here are a few more confusing things to try on your quest to crush your enemies.
Empty/Whiff Jumping –
An empty jump is simply jumping or hopping in without an attack, or purposefully whiffing a jump attack so the opponent isn’t put in blockstun. These are mostly applied in two specific ways: an empty jump into a low, or an empty jump into a throw. The reason they work is because an opponent will be expecting to first block high, then low. Normally being put in blockstun from a jump attack gives them plenty of time to block low, but when you empty/whiff jump there is no blockstun and consequently there’s less time to react to the incoming low. That doesn’t mean they’re unreactable, they’re simply harder to defend against than if you had jumped with an attack.
For empty/whiff jumps into grabs, not putting an opponent in blockstun means you eliminate the their blockstun grab invulnerability, meaning you can instantly throw them as soon as you touch the ground. This can be a very strong tactic on characters who can combo off their grabs or have DM command grabs.
Both these options are useful but can’t be abused due to a simple option select: the opponent holding back and pressing C/D. If you attempt to go low, you will be thrown as normal grabs are instant while lows are not. If you attempt to command grab, the instant grab will beat it. If you attempt a normal grab, your opponent will tech it. Because of this you must use empty jumps sparingly so the opponent doesn’t expect it.
Overheads only have the overhead property when performed stand-alone. If chained into from a string they lose their overhead properties, but some can still be cancelled into something safe.
Remember how I mentioned most people will block a jump-in high, then low? This is exactly the kind of behaviour we want to exploit when attempting an overhead. Try jumping in with an attack, but instead of following with a mid or low, do your overhead! The opponent will likely be crouch blocking and if their reactions aren’t up to snuff you might score a good chunk of damage if they get hit by it.
Another idea is to try an overhead when an opponent is waking up from a hard knockdown. If they see you on the ground, they may crouch block as they wake up and be forced to quickly react to your overhead attempt.
Unfortunately stand-alone overheads are a Hail Mary tactic. Because they’re a single hit they can’t be easily hit confirmed (unless you have bullet-time perception). If you DM or HD after an overhead, you are likely making a guess that it hit your opponent. If it didn’t, you just wasted your meter and potentially did something unsafe. This is the definition of big risk, big reward. Use this tactic when you’ve got nothing to lose or are confident that your opponent won’t react fast enough to defend.
Part 6: Guard Crushing
This section is a little harder to elaborate on due to the character-specific nature of guard crushing. In general, there are two main ways to score a guard crush – locking your opponent down thoroughly enough that you can continue your pressure until they break, or using an HD guard crush combo when the opponent has no meter to guard cancel roll/blowback.
Locking down an opponent can be difficult and is highly dependent on frametraps and successful reads. Many characters have strings that leave them safe or neutral and at a distance where they can continue to apply pressure through normals or fast specials. An example of this would be Ryo with cl.C->qcf+A. If the opponent is cornered, this string on block will keep Ryo in range to apply a st.D->qcf+A afterward. Starting with a jump-in, this will do around 60% damage to the opponent’s guard guage!
As Ryo continues this pressure, every string he performs will push him farther back and eventually outside the range of his normals. At this distance he must consider what options are best at either getting back in or stopping the opponent from escaping the corner. If he sees the opponent jump, he can DP. If he thinks they may roll, he can wait and throw them back into the corner or catch them with normals during the vulnerability at the end of the roll. If the opponent is too scared to move, he can attempt to jump or run back in to apply his blockstrings again for a guard crush. These types of pressure situations in the corner can really mess with an opponent’s mind, making them second guess their options and potentially delaying their response to your aggression.
Another example is with Athena. Her cl.C->qcb+A on a cornered opponent leaves her at the perfect range to do a far C afterward (in fact, cl.C->qcb+A->st.C combos on hit). This means Athena can stay close enough to keep the pressure going while chipping away at the opponent’s guard guage. A hesitant opponent with poor reactions can be guard broken very quickly through a combination of this and light Phoenix Arrow into cl.C->qcb+A.
With Athena, j.C, cl.C, qcb+A, st.C, f+B, qcb+B, cl.C, qcb+A, st.C, f+B, qcb+BD will guard crush a cornered opponent. The weakest part of this sequence is the light Phoenix Arrow as it’s only neutral on block and throwable by an opponent with good reactions. This is just an example meant to illustrate the power of safe or neutral moves that keep you close enough to keep attacking. Not every character can do this so cleanly or easily, so it will be up to you to experiment with your character’s strings to find out which ones are optimal at pressuring the opponent into a guard crush.
HD guard crush combos are unique to every character and as such won’t be covered in this guide. For more information about this, check either the Dream Cancel wiki or YouTube.
Part 7: The Recap
Frametrap to stop them from pressing buttons
Grab them or continue your pressure when they’re expecting frametraps
Go low when they’re expecting grabs
Find crossup setups specific to your characters
Use empty jumps and overheads as mixups
Incorporating these strategies into your existing gameplay style will increase your odds of opening up an opponent, but are by no means a 1-2-3 method of always winning. KOF is a very dynamic game where everything has a counter and superior spacing, reads and reactions go a long way in determining the victor. Hopefully this guide has given you some ideas to work with and motivated you to deliver some nastier beatdowns.
Thanks for reading!
Special thanks to PROFESSIONALEON, Deadman xKOFx, SoleChris and everyone at Dream Cancel for helping me understand the game better.
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