Tips and thoughts on how to improve

Tips and thoughts on how to improve


Hello! After taking a 'good' look through the steam guides that -Strive- (and many other) fighting games have to offer I've come to the conclusion that the majority of it is non-serious and joking.

So I made this guide to hopefully catch people stumbling onto this so they can improve their play.

To preface this I'd like to say I'm pretty well-versed in fighting games. I started all the way back in 2016 (BBCS), which gives me a comfortable 6 years of serious experience with fighting games. I understand a lot of concepts pretty well, but it's not like I consider myself to be the best. A lot of what I've written down in this guide has helped ME to improve over the years -- some things here might not work for you, and that's okay. It's not gospel.

If you find yourself struggling or hitting a brick wall in regards to improvement, I hope that at least something in this guide has helped you. I know that -Strive- has a lot of beginners to fighting games, so I decided to write this here.

don't worry about the thumbnail it's just Potemkin grabbing a Blood Raging Nagoriyuki


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The concepts here, at least in my opinion, are EXTREMELY important to understand.

If you find yourself to be struggling with improvement, match-ups, or just winning in general, brushing yourself up on the basics never hurts.

And I'm not talking about combos or what all of your buttons do, I'm talking about where you should be looking!

Where are you looking?It's a common meme in fighting games to make fun of others for 'not looking at the screen'. While usually regarded as trashtalk or an insult it actually has meaning.

Here's as basic as you can get: Sol, Ky, at roundstart distance, with not much going on.

Now, where should you be looking?

There's numerous things, but for a prioritized lists of things you should be paying attention to, here's good examples of things that are worthy of your attention:

The opponent





NOT you.(Oh, and for more visual learners, here's a relatively poorly edited version of the dry screenshot)

Red: MAXIMUM priority

Orange: High priority

Yellow: Decent priority

Green: Below-average priority

Blue: Low priority

I can't stress enough how important this is; you should NOT be staring at yourself/your own character (whatever you prefer to call it) while you play. The only reason you'd look at your own character is uncertainty; you don't know how fast you are, you don't know how far your moves reach, or maybe you don't even know where you are in general, etc...

You should be comfortable with controlling your character, and, by extension, know exactly what your attacks do, how far they reach, where your jump goes, how you run, you name it. Anything basic you do needs to be in your comfort zone.

If you are comfortable controlling your own character, you need to put attention to what you can't control: your opponent.

If you aren't looking at your opponent you're missing extremely important information that can change and shift at any time. Imagine you're looking at yourself, and your opponent is full-screen. Maybe you're going, "Man, Sol has such a cool ponytail...I wish I had that hair..." and suddenly BOOM! Because you weren't looking your opponent is now up in your face.

And to extension that makes you very sad because now they're most likely going to hit you.

Under standard match circumstances, you should be observing your opponent at all times.

BUT! There are exceptions to this rule. The priorities of where you should be looking will change depending on what you and your opponent are doing at that given time.

Let's look at a good example: A knockdown

Where to look during a knockdown? | Attacker Sweet! You hit your opponent pretty hard, and now they're knocked down in the corner and starting to get up. Where should you be looking?

It's pretty simple really!

Their resources. (And Health)

You can completely ignore the opponent and other stuff for a split second, as they can't move, letting you break away your attention for a moment.

And maybe you wonder, "Well okay, but why am I looking at all that stuff?"

It's to answer these questions:

1. Do they have meter, so I'm ready to look out for YRC, barrier, super, etc...?

2. Do they have burst? Will they burst my next combo, or maybe they'll burst this knockdown?

3. How low is their health? Is my next combo going to potentially kill?If you're able to answer these questions, its going to make your time on offense a LOT easier.

Take for example a character that doesn't have a DP, but does have a reversal super. If you notice they don't have 50% meter when they're starting to get up, you can run your offense risk-free as they will not be able to retaliate whatsoever!

The same goes for DP characters, but to a lesser extent -- if they don't have meter, they can't roman cancel to make the DP safe, making it far more unfavorable for them if you happen to be prepared.

If you get the habit down of paying attention to all of this stuff it'll give you a lot more confidence and readiness on offense. Surprisingly, for when you're hitting the opponent, it's pretty simple!

Where to look during a knockdown? | DefenderThis is where it gets difficult. We're going to be assuming the role of Ky in this scenario, and we got hit in the corner. The situation is the exact same (hell I'm lazy enough to use the same screenshot) but there's more things to worry about.

The defender has to pay good attention to more resources, and the opponent. Naturally, they are also paying attention to the same things as the opponent does (such as their meter, burst, and health) for the same answers, just with a flipped perspective.

But for the new stuff however, the main extra things that you need to look out for are the opponent, and THEIR meter.

"Why their meter?"

It's so you're aware of their upcoming damage, or pressure sequence. If you know they won't have enough meter for an RC, their pressure won't be as complicated.

Unfortunately, if they do, you need to start thinking about a point where they'd potentially want to roman cancel somewhere so they can mix you up -- a common RC point for Sol is bandit revolver (236K) for example. If you know he has the meter for it, it's going to make you more prepared to potentially block the mixup, or even try to fight back!

You're also looking at the opponent for the same reasons as when you're both in neutral. It's so you know what they'll potentially do to you. Are they in the air, so you should be ready for a high? Or maybe they're running up, so you should be ready for a strike or a throw?


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Thinking before the match even startsThis section is relatively brief, but in my opinion one of the best ways to improve, and fast.

It's very simple: Let's say you challenge somebody in the tower/park, and you're sitting here watching the game load.

Don't open up Twitter or grab your phone! Instead, just look at your own character and that of your opponent.

Since you can't do much here but wait, think about the match-up you're about to face. For us here, it's Potemkin versus Axl, a pretty classic grappler versus zoner matchup, so what we have to think about is pretty simple;

Potemkin is gonna work hard (harder than usual) to get in.

How round-start plays is really important, because if Axl makes good space, Potemkin struggles. This means Axl will probably back off at roundstart, or press low-committal buttons like 2K or f.S.

If Potemkin manages to get in properly, the round can very much be over, as Axl only has a reversal super.Even basic things such as this will help you prepare for the match-up you're about to face. I, for example, like to think about the roundstart and defense situations the most. I ask myself "What buttons will this guy press, or will he play it safe at roundstart?" "What are his defensive options, or buttons?"

An example would be versus Baiken. I know Baiken loves to press f.S at roundstart due to it's amazing properties.

So what do I do?

I 6P, which is a direct call-out to f.S and hit the Baiken!

I've taken this so seriously that I talk to myself out-loud before the game starts. It's a bit embarrassing sure, but hey it works for me!

Don't think about just what you should do, but what your opponent might do as well! You'd be surprised how effective it is, even at the basic level.

Decision-making in neutralIn neutral, the majority of your attention will be going towards the opponent.

The way they move, what moves they like to use, are they playing aggressive, or slower? So on and so forth.

Neutral is wildly different for each character in the game and ESPECIALLY match-ups, so the best advice I can give is towards movement.

What they do Your counterplay They back off, or run away a lot. Chase after them to get them cornered! They're sitting there waiting for me to take a move. Match their patience and approach with care, staying unpredictable! They keep running in to me! They won't leave me alone. Take it slow and look for spaces to anti air / contest the ground!

Naturally, it isn't this simple, but these are the 3 main ways you can expect neutral to go. Strong players will vary their options a lot or go for dynamic styles, or are able to adjust their style on the fly, going from extreme offense to sudden patience to fluster their opponents!

If you notice you're losing to one of these styles the most, or notice yourself fitting into one of these categories, consider altering your game-plan so you can flexibly adapt to different situations and opponents. If you don't know when to take it slow, it's gonna be hard to stop an opponent that will snatch your every attempt to get in.

Note that you should always be paying attention to meter, health, burst, and so on and so forth. Expect your opponent's style to change as the match goes on! If they have no burst, they probably won't be taking as many risks.

Conversely, if their meter is high, they might run at you with a BRC, or use a high-risk option then use RC to make it safer, getting them going!

Don't forget that the same goes for you! Use whats available to you and get in on your opponent! Or maybe realize that you're at a massive health disadvantage, and take it slower...

Decision-making during pressure situationsDuring pressure situations, a lot of what I mentioned during the previous knockdown section applies here, such as what resources that you should pay good attention to.

However, the big thing on the defender's mind is the opponent's cancel options! (or gatling chart if you wanna be fancy.)

Think like this; May is trying to hit us here with 5H; we can tell by it's startup frames.

When you notice that you're blocking this specific normal, think what might be coming afterwards so you can be ready to defend against it!

Since 5H doesn't have a lot of cancel options, May is most likely going to cancel into a special move, or directly end her pressure here.

But what special move could that be?

dolphin dolphin dolphin dolphin dolphin

Okay okay- fine it's probably that.

But we know it's coming so we-

H Dolphin's bane of existence.

BOOM! We 6P those!

And all that just because we knew that her cancel options here are limited...aren't fighting games awesome?

In all seriousness, it's not so simple in actual matches, but this direct example should give you a good idea of the opportunities you can grab if you can potentially anticipate what the opponent might do!

c.S by comparison is more complicated, as your opponent can go into a low, frametrap, or a high with 5D, or jump cancel, dash cancel...which means that your upcoming choice might take more risk, as it'll lose to some of these options.

But this 'know the cancel' rule should apply to everything despite that! It's going to help prepare you for situations you'll run into a LOT on defense. This one takes the most practice and experience. You might still be getting hit by dolphin now...but once you figure out where the opposing May likes to cancel, you can grit your teeth and show that you're willing to take risks to directly counter her! That's where it all starts.

Character-specific decision-makingHey, what's on the screen right now?

It's him...the boss character. The bane of all worldwide...with his pesky full-screen spin, his silly clone making him always plus, how he zooms all over the screen laughing at me, and no...anything but 623H at roundstart!!

But don't worry, fortunately for you, if he wants to do any of that, he needs to have blood.

Unfortunately for you that means you'll be having to pay attention to this resource of his.

In regards to Nagoriyuki specifically, compare it to a sort of 'debt', or 'price' he pays for using all of his special moves (except his command grab). If you notice he tried to spin at you full-screen and you blocked it, that puts him at a pretty hefty cost for what he had to do! This means you don't have to worry so much as he's unlikely to do it again in the near future, or he risks going into blood rage.

Many characters use resources differently, but the majority all work in this way; they 'spend' the gauge to do something. Jack-o spends servant gauge to make the goobers attack you, Zato-1 spends Eddie gauge to make Eddie, well, attack you...and Happy Chaos has bullets. And his concentration I guess.

Combine this with the advice I gave at the very start of this decision-making chapter: If you know you're fighting a character that uses a character-specific resource, keep that into account before the game even starts! A lot of people are relatively unprepared, or find these resources hard to keep track of as you play.

Don't worry, as it'll come with time. Just know that it's something to look for!

Ways To Improve

Acknowledging why you lose, AND winThis is the starting point. After you lose, ask yourself:

"Why did I lose?"

Let's say as an example, you lost to Ky constantly throwing fireballs and anti-airing you. Damn, it happens.

Now that you know why you lost, you should consider writing it down somewhere, or directly taking it to the lab to practice dealing with your problem. See if there's ways you can vary your air approach, or jump from a certain distance where Ky can't consistently anti-air you, so on...It's what makes training mode so valuable; it'll be your answer to problems you face in the scary Guilty Gear world. Or, well, in any fighting game for that matter.

And, on that same note, when you win, ask...

"Why did I win?"

Let's say, again, as an won because your meaties were on point. They couldn't throw you on wakeup a single time! They were trying but, hey, they exploded because of it.

Pat yourself on the back for that one and be proud! Don't shrug off your wins, but acknowledge your improvement and keep it up!

Reviewing replaysIf your wins or losses are more complicated than "I got hit by da fireball" or "i hitta da guy" (which is most likely yes) the next step you can consider taking is reviewing your replays.

Maybe you went online and did pretty well! But there's this one annoying Chipp who was just dancing around you all game, and you couldn't seem to get a hit on your replays to see why that happened!

Were you not intercepting his runs? Weren't able to block any of his moves, like, period? Things like that. And after you figured out your problems, you guessed it, we'll use training mode to solve the problem. Maybe set the bot to make Chipp do the crossup move you hate so much and see if there's a way to jump over or challenge it. Or set the bot to run at you from full-screen so you get a good idea of his dash speed and when to intercept!

Next time you fight a Chipp, you'll have some extra knowledge under your belt which you can use against him.

Or maybe even if you fight that same can give him what for!

Watching high-level footage and resourcesThis one's most important for people looking to take their character to the next level, or just understanding how the game is played in general at a high level.

Pay good attention to your 'preferred' player -- this is most likely the character that you are, or want to play.

Watch how he does his stuff. Does he move in certain ways? How is he using your tools? What does his pressure or combos look like?

If anything during the footage you watched looks valuable, feel free to incorporate it into your gameplan by either practicing it or trying to apply it directly! It's a great way to quickly improve and to get up to speed to stronger players. There's also KeeponRockin[] that lets you sort by date, and matchups, making the process even easier! (Pssst, keeponrockin also exists for more fighting games, like Blazblue, but don't tell anybody I said that! This is a -Strive- guide...)

There's also many other resources out there, for example Dustloop[] which goes into great detail on system data, strategies and combos, alongside other stuff if you'd like to learn!

Common Mistakes

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I'd like to preface this section in that it's going to get a little bit philosophical. We're not going to be talking about 'tips and tricks on how to open up people for free!' but more or less focusing on you.

The mindset.

Refusing blameGrrrrr...(insert top-tier here) Grrr!

This one can come in small and big ways. The crux of this is that, if you lost, it's not actually your fault that you did. There's a lot of reasons as to why you might feel this way, but let's look at some common examples.

This guy is just mashing!

What's going on here? Are they always mashing on wake-up, forcing risky ways to escape like throws or backdashes?

If they're mashing and they're hitting you, whose fault is it really? To be honest, if they mashed throw on wake-up every single time and they managed to throw you every single time, it probably means that you need to work harder on your meaties.

And that's okay!

Maybe they truly are just mashing, but this opened up a flaw in your gameplan. Maybe, if you fought someone that never mashed, you'd never figure this out in the first place...can we all pour one out for the masher for making us realize we messed up our meaties?

He's using an overpowered character! They have to nerf this guy next patch!

Well, sorry to hear it, but due to how balancing works there's bound to be stronger and weaker characters in all videogames. Using that as an excuse to claim that 'they won because their character is good' is more likely just you not being very good at knowing how to fight said character.

It's not like Happy Chaos has cheat engine on with infinite health or anything! You can still mess this guy up! Modern fighting games are well-balanced nowadays and the gap between your character and that hated top-tier isn't that big.

They're spamming the same move over and over again!

If you don't know how to deal with one move that seems kind of oppressive, you're letting your opponent get away with it. There has to be SOMETHING you can do right? Every move in this game is designed to have strengths and weaknesses; the same goes for all normals. Yeah sure, Sol's f.S is +2 on block, but that doesn't mean you can't backdash, jump away, or challenge with a fast button...

If you're stuck dealing with just one move, experiment with your options!

This guy is just doing stuff, he isn't thinking!

If you're losing often to opponents that you feel like aren't 'paying attention', it most likely means that you aren't paying good attention to what they are doing. If they're really not paying attention, you should get away with super on wakeup every time since they're not looking at your meter, right? Nor do they bait your burst properly.

If you feel as if your opponent is just 'doing stuff' respond to this by focusing on what this player is over-relying upon and counter it.

If they're just swinging into you, take space! Contest!

Forcing matches, not reflectingRun it back! (But like, always)

This one isn't as common but it always makes me a bit upset when I see it.

The main problem here is that you play as much as you possibly can. Every time you play, you don't practice or focus on learning something new, but instead opt to just hop in and play.

If you want to improve and better yourself, please stop this immediately! You'll develop very bad habits and autopilot that mainly come from confirmation bias.

Actively thinking about your games after they're over will give you so much more reward as a result, and potentially even if you play less!

There's some players with immense player points or games, but once you play them...their autopilot is just really good.

While getting matches in is important, if you want to improve, thinking about them is equally as important!

Hyper-focus on own actionsIt's always my fault.

This one's the final frontier of improvement mistakes; this happens when you reflect...the wrong way. Unfortunately, there's a wrong way to think about things, and this might be one of the largest downfalls of all.

It's not immediately noticeable, but this fault comes from that everything that happens is always "your fault".

YOU didn't meaty properly.

YOU got airthrown.

YOU didn't block the mix-up.

YOU didn't...The list can go on for as long as possible, but the point being is that, even though these sort of games are about focusing and improving, you can't win them all. It's okay if you lose. Even the strongest of players lose all the time, and make very frequent mistakes; even the most minute things like combo drops or messing up meaties!

Don't forget that there's another player on the screen too...maybe they're just having a really good day, or are very proficient against your character. Be understanding in that!

You don't have control over everything. Sometimes, you just gotta drop a quiet 'nice' when your opponent anti airs you, instead of blaming yourself for 'being predictable'.


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ThanksI don't really have a good way to close this guide out.

I just hope that you're able to take something away from this or learned something!

I tried my best to keep the advice relatively ubiquitous (this means all-encompassing/universal) so you can also apply it to other fighting games you even play, or maybe just even gaming in general!

It might just take a lot of mental gymnastics to make this kind of advice apply to genres like shooters, or strategy games...but trust me, these skills are definitely applicable to other games, just in different ways!

Fighting games are about growth and learning, and allowing yourself to learn can make you a stronger player across the board!

Oh yeah and don't forget to have fun during it.

But then again, aren't most hobbies about learning and having fun?

I don't really have much plans but I might consider making more guide-like content in the future. If people like this kind of stuff I'll definitely consider making more! Maybe I could get into -Strive- specifics or write about characters. I dunno.

If there's anything wrong with the guide, like I was unclear somewhere, or maybe there's a typo, feel free to comment about it! I wrote all of this in one go, so I feel as if I might have missed stuff.

That's all from me I think. If you've scrolled this far, thank you! It means a lot.