The King of Fighters XV/Ramón/Strategy
The core of Ramón's pressure lies in his Feint Step (214P), which sees him stepping back and forth until the button is released. The light version unleashes a dropkick once released, which is great as a combo ender because of the hard knockdown and absurd amount of frame advantage it gives you but is a very ballsy way to end your strings given it is punishable on block. The heavy version, however, does nothing. By canceling into it after it connects and releasing the button ASAP, Ramón gets a bit of frame advantage to play with. Think of it as a free Roman Cancel, but much more limited in comparison. Ramón can cancel his suite of close and crouching normals into this move, some of them even on whiff to reduce their recovery and to strengthen their utility in footsies. Up close, he has the potential to really run a train on the opponent with this one move and everything which stems from it.
Outside of his pressure, Ramón is a nimble, tricky character with more mobility options than most, packing fast ground speeds, a wall jump, a running grab, Tiger Road and Feint Step, which doubles as a backwards run. Facilitating this is the range of his normals, with far C and 2C both reaching far on the ground and j.CD being an amazing air-to-air. Once Ramón gets a knockdown, he can not only use Feint Step pressure for frame traps and pressure extensions, but then layer it even more with command grabs, feints and godlike crossups. Tying it all together is the impeding threat of massive damage, with Ramón very easily able to confirm into and net ~400 damage with half a stock. The one major downside, however, is that Ramón's defense is terrible. His slow normals and stubby lights are supbar for abare, his only good reactive anti-air is stand A and his only worthwhile reversals besides Shatter Strike are grabs. Even then, they have some caveats to them. Ramón has the tools to run circles around his opponents and maul them to death, but the same can happen to him if he isn't careful
Ramón works best as a point character, where he doesn't have to worry about guard cancels, far buttons into Maxmode or Shatter Strike. Though his EX moves in neutral are annoying and tricky, building a gameplan around them is unstable. Not only are they unsafe and easy to stuff, but relying on them too much will result in Ramón losing all the meter for his team. Shatter Strike is an extremely valuable defensive option for Ramón; it functions as an anti-air for a character who is scant on such a tool, and he can capitalize on it well with Rolling Sobat and Volando as followups. However, Shatter Strikes from the opponent can screw with his pressure considerably, beating both staggered normals and hops, and because Ramón mainly plays neutral at mid-range you're already controlling air space with j.CD anyway if you want anti-airs. Given Ramón is an obscure, difficult character to use, running him on point also guarantees you get as much experience with him as possible. Ever since the Shingo patch, Ramón has gained extra utility with his meter, finally being able to do basic super cancels and 3-bar Quick Max combos. His newfound ability to link from Hoist 1 into EX Tiger Neck Chancery makes his meter usage not only efficient, but devastating. As such, he is a lot more viable playing any team position these days.
Ramón's neutral is quite odd. He has excellent movement and range, but his attacks are slow. Ramón can not do tight punishes without meter - his reversal grab, 41236A, comes out on the fifth frame, so despite its decent range it cannot be used for tight punishes like Clark's 41236D. You have to rely on 41236AC for 1f punishes, which is quite good because you get nearly 200 damage from it after a 22AC OTG, and you still get oki from it. It's worth noting that grabs are Ramón's only true reversals - though 2141236BD has some invincibility at the start, this quickly wears off and the move is prone to trading. When used while you're in the corner, it also has a nasty tendency to whiff on the opponent if their hurtbox is low enough to the ground. It's not worth spending two bars on a bad reversal and the opponent will most likely bait Ramón's command grabs by simply jumping and spacing their pressure well. If Ramón is cornered his best option is to defend well. Ideally, Ramón should constantly be moving away from the opponent, using his great walk and runspeed, his wall jump and 214C for careful positioning, and taking advantage of rolls and the four-jump system. If you're blocking, you're losing.
- Jumps - Ramón's jumps reach very high, but are floatier than what you may expect from a rushdown character. He is one of the only characters who can hop over a standing opponent, which works well for landing his j.C as a crossup. j.A and j.CD will cover the area in front of Ramón, while j.B and j.D will reach under him. Switch your air normals up depending on the situation, but j.CD is your most important out of these by far.
- Rolls - Ramón is not blessed in the defense department, so he is reliant on rolls to get him out of tight spots. Combined with Ramón's other movement options, he ideally shouldn't be in situations where his rolls can get checked easily, but if he is then be careful.
- Backdash - Ramón's backdash is not entirely invalidated by 214C, as it's still quick, travels a fair distance and is airborne. It just doesn't have the precision that Feint Step provides.
- Sankaku-Tobi - Ramón's wall jump is quite good for getting him out of the corner, as it lunges him quite far and you can even get a crossup out of this. However, with correct spacing the opponent can cover whether Ramón decides to wall jump or not.
- 214C - Feint Step is effectively a backwards run, which Ramón has more control over than a backdash through how long you decide to hold the button for. What makes this move critical for good Ramón play is that you can cancel into it from any close or crouching normal, which gives you an opportunity to safely position yourself while still keeping as much momentum as possible. You can use this move for spacing mixup options such as crossups, or to space yourself just outside of the opponent's attack range so Ramón can frame trap or play footsies.
- st.B - Not the best range by any means, but it's quick.
- st.C - Only two frames slower than st.B, but lunges farther and deals more damage as you would expect. It is possible to hit confirm into Quickmode with this move. This and st.B are safe pokes, but are not very rewarding.
- cr.C - Slow poke (11f) with middling priority, but still very important for its long range. Do cr.C 3D to hit confirm at range. If they block it then make sure to cancel into 214C to be safe.
- cr.D - A frame slower than cr.C, but has much better range and it hits low. It's a sweep so you're not using this for big damage, but the knockdown is very useful. Always cancel this into 214C, as this will make the sweep plus on block while giving you time to go for a mixup after the soft knockdown if it hits.
- cr.D 3D - A very gimmicky kara cancel into Drop Kick, giving you plenty of reach while also being able to cancel the move into e.g. 214C. This is very slow, however, and you must cancel it into something because 3D is -11 on hit. Note that 3D will hit mid because you cancelled into it.
- j.CD - The best poke in Ramón's arsenal. Has great range and priority, and the startup is actually quite fast for a move of this type. Be wary that the opponent can low profile this and punish you if you do it early.
- st.A - This is a hop check with decent range and priority, but you will still trade quite a bit with this move.
- Shatter Strike - Ramón actually gets very good mileage out of Shatter Strike. He can always follow it up with 623B on a grounded hit. If you anti-air with this you can still follow it up with 623B, but it depends on the screen positioning as to whether or not they will land in front of you after the wall bounce. Often it's safer to go for 2141236K on an air hit instead.
- st.D - Has very good range but will whiff on crouchers. It is slightly less slow than before. Best used after a 214C cancel or at round start.
- Early j.CD - Using early j.CDs as an anti-air is a staple of KOF fundamentals, but with Ramón it's crucial given its relatively fast speed and its great range.
- 41236A - 5f command grab. Bear in mind this has strike invulnerability, but not throw invulnerabilty. It may be worth it to go for regular throws as well, as they also give hard knockdowns.
- 41236AC - 1f command grab. Always follow this up with 22AC for guaranteed extra damage.
- 214BD - This backwards run is invincible to fireballs and appears to have upper body invulnerability, but you can still be swept out of this. Of its three followups, only Cross Chop has some invincibility, and only to fireballs. It may be worthwhile to cancel the run so you don't have to commit to a followup, then take advantage of the distance you have just bought for yourself.
- 2141236BD - Only use this if you're cornered and your opponent is going to do a late jump attack, as you might get stuffed by an early air-to-air or you may fly over the opponent completely.
- 2141236CD - 9f running grab with invincible startup. This move is also invincible to fireballs. Very risky as a reversal option as they can just jump this if they are able to.
As Ramón's pressure is designed around Feint Step, he suffers in traditional KOF offense as a consequence. Although his air normals are excellent, his lights are relatively stubby and can only reliably confirm into EX moves, notably 623BD. Although they can be used to check rolls, which does come into play in Feint Step pressure, they require precise spacing to do this effectively. Additionally, given their poor range, Ramón often isn't in range to chain three lights together, cutting his range short. To make up for it, he can check rolls with Somersault (41236K), his running grab. Not only does this check rolls from most ranges and give Ramón a hard knockdown to work with, but he can freely cancel it with AB, which can be layered into mind games.
Ramón's j.C (crossup), j.D (deep jump-in) and j.CD (air-to-air and pressure tool) make his hop pressure stand out, although his hop is floatier than most, given it is designed for crossups. To back up the threat of his jump-ins, Ramón can always use Tiger Neck Chancery (41236P) or tick throw into it. To beat fuzzy guards, Ramón has 6A, which is fast and safe on block, or 623D which is much less safe. Do not attempt to use 623D in strings, as the opponent can mash out with jabs every time; if you think they're mashing on defense, you can simply delay a cancel into 623B, which is much faster but hits mid, to catch them.
Feint Step Pressure
Ramón's 214C is vital for not only spacing during neutral, but for pressure as well. By cancelling into this from his heavy normals, Ramón is left at a small amount of frame advantage (+3~+7, a stark contrast from earlier games where he gained much more frame advantage; if you played Ramón in older games, you would do well to take note of this). While the situation is still in Ramón's favour, he must be very careful when dealing with opponents who know when and how to mash out of his pressure, as it's not exactly air-tight.
Cancels into Feint Step
- Lights - All leave Ramón minus on block. You can use this to safely position yourself just out of punish range, but ideally you want to be close to the opponent for mixups, so you barely ever do this.
- Heavies, command normals - All leave Ramón at +3. This is what you will most likely be doing, as you will be left at perfect range for frame trapping, hop mixups and crossups. Don't always cancel into 3D from heavies, as you will be very easy to read. Instead, try cancelling close or crouching heavies raw into 214C sometimes so you won't be mashed out of as much.
- st.CD - Leaves Ramón at +7. This is nearly impossible to set up with its abysmal 17 frame startup, but you can manage it with an air reset. While the frame data is good, you will be pushed way out of mixup range. Not very useful.
- Feint Dash - Not a Feint Step cancel, but worth noting because it is +6 on block and leaves Ramón fairly close to the opponent. You can set this up after any sliding hard knockdown, or after Tiger Neck Chancery with good timing. You cannot use this to extend pressure, as its short range means it only works point blank and you have to deal with Tiger Road's startup as well.
Options after Feint Step
- Block - Far and away the safest option, helping you to scout what the opponent is likely to do after a Feint Step. Do this if you don't have a good read on your opponent so you can make an informed decision from there.
- cr.C - 8f gap. Ramón's moneymaker. Be very careful with this move, as this is what you will be often mashed out of.
- Staggered cr.C - This is most useful against opponents who tend to press buttons on wakeup rather than rolling or jumping back, and works best if the opponent knows to check early cr.C with jabs. This is vulnerable to jumps and heavy buttons.
- st.C - 5f gap. This move's newfound ability to special cancel has been a godsend for both its damage output and safety. Although it can still trade or be beat by some jabs, its purpose in Feint Step pressure is to stuff heavies for heavy reward, meaning the opponent is forced into mashing with lights only. On block, it can be cancelled into Feint Step and be used to position a crossup.
- 41236K - A classic mixup option which takes advantage of the opponent sitting still or attempting to roll out. It even has the tendency to catch backdashes, especially if you burn meter on the EX version, which is so fast that they still won't be able to react to it. To avoid getting 2141236K instead of this move, simply reset the stick to neutral beforehand.
- 41236K~AB - A good option for testing the opponent's reactions. If you get them to whiff a reversal from doing this then you have the range to punish it comfortably.
- Hop Mixups - Ramón is in perfect range to hop in after a Feint Step, in which you can poke safely with jump lights or j.CD, jump-in with heavies, empty hop cr.B or empty hop 41236A. Use your other options to condition them away from doing hop checks.
- Crossup j.C - Ramón's j.C is an effective mixup tool which leads to high damage, especially if you space the crossup with Feint Step. Easier said than done, as its hitstun isn't that great and it can be punished if poorlly spaced.
- Preemptive Anti-Airs - If you expect your opponent to jump then you can go for moves such as st.D or early j.CD while still keeping your momentum.
- cr.A - Experienced opponents will simply mash cr.A or something similar to deal with what comes next. This can be dealt with by using a hop to low crush, or by staggering your pokes.
- Anti-airs or reversals - Much more rewarding on hit for the opponent, but if you have the read you can punish this dearly.
- Rolling - Not a great option against Ramón, given the threat of getting grabbed by 41236K or punished with cr.C. This can still be used to get out of his hop pressure.
- Jumping back - A very safe option which deals with most of Ramón's tools, but loses to hop normals and other preemptive anti-airs.
Outside of Feint Step pressure, Ramón still has plenty of ways to create mixup opportunities for himself. Most of his specials give him hard knockdowns, or soft knockdowns which can be chased with 41236K. As tech rolls will leave an opponent with no throw invulnerability post-recovery, the fact Ramón can land 41236K as a meaty due to its speed and distance means they will have to either commit to a wakeup option such as a jump or a reversal to hit him out of 41236K or simply take the knockdown and punish Ramón on his recovery. Fortunately, Ramón can cancel 41236K at any point in the move with AB, which can be used to bait one of these reactions and give you either a punish or more okizeme than you would have otherwise gotten from the knockdown.
Useful Soft Knockdowns
- cr.D - After 214C, Ramón gains massive amounts of frame advantage from his sweep, giving him plenty of time to run up and start his pressure regardless of whether or not the opponent tech rolls.
- j.CD - In addition to being an excellent poke, the soft knockdown from this move gives Ramón plenty of momentum, and a tech chase opportunity depending on the spacing.
- 22C - Leaves Ramón at perfect spacing to land 41236K meaty. In the corner you can actually juggle from this with cl.C or a light normal, but the reset you get isn't great on its own. Cancel this into 214C for spacing.
Useful Hard Knockdowns
- 41236P - Grants you a guaranteed hyper hop or super jump mixup. Doing an empty jump into another 41236P is guaranteed to work as a mixup option.
- OTG 22AC - This move results in a hard knockdown on its own, but you will often use that to cancel into a Hoist. When you hit this move OTG you still get plenty of okizeme, so if it's guaranteed then go for it.
- 214A - This move has great corner carry and the opponent takes a while to recovery, so you have more than enough time to position yourself for a mixup. Guaranteed 22AC in the corner.
- 6321463214P - Tiger Spin should be treated as a soft knockdown of sorts, as while you don't get good okizeme from this at all you can still go for Somersault and have it hit.
- 2141236K - Even better corner carry than 214A, and more plus frames than you may know what to do with. Guaranteed 22AC in the corner.
41236K and 2141236CD also grant hard knockdowns but Ramón's spacing after these moves is suboptimal for any kind of mixup. 623K and its followup also result in hard knockdowns, but as a combo ender you're better off doing 41236P or 214A for a hard knockdown, as these moves accomplish more while dealing better damage.
Ramón's pressure is complex and highly rewarding, but it is on defense where he pays the ultimate price. To compensate for the range of his 2C and 2D and for their use in extending feint-cancelled blockstrings, they are sluggish and have poor priority. This is a common trend across Ramón's set of normals, meaning he often can't afford to mash out of pressure. Ramón's only true reversals are his 41236A, which has five frames of strike invincibility, 41236AC which is instant and Tiger Spin (6321463214P) which is 3f and fully invincible. However, these are grabs, making them useless against airborne opponents, while the opponent can actually grab Ramón out of those versions of Tiger Neck Chancery. The C version beats throws, but nothing else, and it's much slower. In earlier games, the opponent could freely attack Ramón with jump-ins due to this weakness, but in XV he now has access to Shatter Strike to properly deal with jump-ins, provided they aren't safejumps (conversely, Ramón's command grabs and crossups are perfect for dealing with the opponent's own Shatter Strikes).
For a KOF character, Ramón is scant on reversals. EX Tiger Road is fully invincible, but only for six frames before only being projectile invincible. Its purpose is to help him get out of bad spots before he gets in them, rather than escape them outright. Additionally, although 2141236BD sees Ramón run to the wall instantly, although the move is a hitgrab, he isn't actually invincible at all, and depending on the angle he can whiff completely. His Climax features fully invincible startup, but it's a running grab which can be jumped easily, and it wastes three stocks. A gimmicky option Ramón has is to use Somersault to run under the opponent, particularly the EX version which is super fast. This is a very stupid way to escape the corner, but his only other unique option for doing so is to triangle jump out, which can be dealt with by the opponent with proper spacing. Outside of these options, Ramón has to play defense very patiently.
As hinted at with EX Tiger Road, Ramón isn't very good at playing defense, but he is actually quite effective at avoiding it. Ramón is one of the fastest characters in the game, and while his buttons aren't fast their range is great. Far C, far D, 2C, 2D and j.E are all positioned at Ramón's ideal ranges in neutral. Additionally, many of Ramón's moves, such as Somersault, Feint Step and Tiger Road, are movement based, and all three have the benefit of being stoppable manually. Somersault is the only running grab in the game which runs a set distance regardless of whether it touches its opponent or not, meaning Ramón has the best chances of catching jump recoveries with it compared to other characters with the same tool. Ramón can very easily run himself to the corner if he's not careful, but his rushdown focus and great crossups mean he can just as easily get out before it's too late.
Tiger Road on its own is a beginner's trap. You can deal with any followup from the regular version by simply holding downback, as Cross Chop hits mid and Force of Will whiffs on crouchers. While the default followup is an overhead which results in a hard knockdown, Ramón stays very close to the wall when this happens, meaning you will realistically never have to worry about it (if you are close enough to get hit by this then you are also close enough to hit him before he touches the wall in the first place).
The EX version shows more promise, as Force of Will will hit crouchers and all followups travel much farther (the default followup will now track the opponent's position, and it travels in a nice rainbow arc over everything). However, all followups can be dealt with by simply rolling, jumping back or using a reversal to beat them. Force of Will, though it looks like a grab, is actually a strike that happens to be unblockable, meaning you can roll it just the same. Cross Chop shows promise as an anti-fireball tool, as during EX Tiger Road both the run to the wall and Cross Chop are immune to fireballs - however, Ramón still has to reach the opponent, and many of the fireball zoners which give him a hard time do so precisely because their fireballs have low recovery times, meaning they will often be able to block Cross Chop and take their turn. Tiger Road should ideally only be used as a surprise attack once you have demonstrated to the opponent countless times that you will not use it, and only if you are close enough to the corner that they won't have time to react properly to it. Otherwise, do not use this move.