Building on fundamentals
Almost all of you suck at basic Soku fundamentals. I'm not saying I'm good, but most of you guys lose to me because you give opportunities away and I make more of my opportunities than most of you. Sam is the exception but only with his two characters and only really with Utsuho. He knows Utsuho's options very well and can play inside of those options.
Blockstrings are a basic thing for every character, though Iku is weaker at it than the rest of the cast. For most characters, your goal when blockstringing is to guard crush the opponent or punish her as she tries to escape. The basic syntax for a blockstring is f5a/2a, 3a/6a, bullet, HJC9 into a character specific followup. Some characters use multiple bullets. If you land a blocked close 5a, you want to continue it into the last move that can be cancelled into 3a and/or 6a and you definitely do not want to do any move that cannot be cancelled into bullets. Some examples:
- Yuyuko: 5a (close or far)/2a 3a/6a 6c 421c hjc9 j2a land repeat. Not airtight, but 6c can be replaced with 623c if the opponent is expected to graze to create the illusion of pressure. A blocked 623c can be spellcard cancelled to maintain pressure, as well.
- Iku: f5a/5aa/2a 3a/6a 5c hjc9 5c d6 j5a land repeat. Very not airtight. 5c must be mixed up with melee specials in order to create the illusion of pressure. A blocked melee special can be spellcard cancelled to maintain pressure.
- Utsuho is a bit weird. Her 5aaa is 2 overhead hits followed by a low. Any of the hits can be chained into 6a (low) or 3a (overhead) so she has more options in the basic hits if she doesn't start with 2a. Then 2c hjc into a jump mixup, as nothing is airtight after that. Additionally, 2c is only airtight if the opponent wrongblocks.
- Yukari: 5aa/f5a/2a 3a/6a 5b hjc9 2c d6 j5a land repeat. I'm not 100% sure if the 5b is airtight but if it is, it has a very small number of grazable frames if done properly and is definitely airtight on wrongblock. As with the others, you can cancel the 5b (actually the 5b and not the 3a/6a) into a 623c if they try to graze forward though it is unsafe if they high jump. If they block the 623c you will need to spellcard cancel or you will die.
However, the biggest fuckups I see are midscreen in neutral. I screw this up too, but it's worth covering. There are three things you're trying to do in midscreen. The first is get in and melee, the second is to deploy bullet cover and then exploit it, and the third is to punish the enemy for setting up bullet cover. Don't throw bullets mindlessly, throw bullets that are actually going to control space on the screen and then F-ING TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM. This means don't fucking throw bullets on the screen and jump back. If you're already predicting the opponent is going to beat your move, why the fuck did you throw it in the first place? I'm not saying expect your shit to hit all the time, but position yourself so that you can take advantage of your bullets and not try to set up more bullets.
There are a few exceptions to this rule but none of you do them. Specifically, if you have a danmaku advantage on the screen right now you can trade some of it to deploy delayed bullets that will give you an advantage later. The biggest examples of this are Tenshi's alt 214 earthquakes and Yuyuko's default 214 butterflies. In general though this is a bad idea. If you throw bullets on the screen and then don't cover them, the enemy can just graze them and hit you while you're trying to throw your delayed shit. Again, Yuyuko is a bit of an exception in that she may throw B bullets to try and get C bullets out, and it is generally hard to graze and hit her while she's throwing C bullets. You should not do this as a general strategy though if your opponent has a laser, or anything that can cut through your B bullets (including graze attacks), which is MOST OF THE CAST. It should be more of a backup strategy that you're trying to get away with rather than a main strategy. The default strategy is to deploy cover and exploit it, so do that.
Exploiting cover means different things for different characters. I'm going to use Yuyuko as an example again because she's one of the best examples of weird exploiting bullet cover. 6c is amazing because it puts this annoying homing bullet behind the enemy, but that bullet is useless if you meet the enemy in a head-on confrontation and lose in a melee priority battle or trade. Once you have it out, you want to position yourself in the most lucrative sweet spot the enemy has and block rather than directly attack. The same is true for her 214 butterflies or most delayed bullets like Remi's default 214. Once the enemy is forced to block the bullets (generally slightly before), get aggressive with melee and end with something that's going to keep the advantage.
For most characters though the bullets are generally a shield that you have to be as close to as possible. Throw a bullet and move in behind it; as you're doing so, anticipate anything that might beat it such as a laser or graze attack. If you don't see any of those, melee behind your bullets to prevent graze and go from there into a blockstring. It's important that your melee be aimed to hit the enemy as they're potentially grazing your bullets.
Sometimes it isn't clear that your danmaku will beat the enemy's right from the get-go. If that's the case, you still want to position yourself in an aggressive position and be ready to put down more danmaku. The main characters who want to do this are rushdown characters like Reisen or Marisa that also happen to have decent bullets. Yuyuko is again a bit of an issue since her B bullets are low density, so she is looking for any situation she can to throw out C bullets that can't be neutralized. Only throw C bullets out if the opponent can't punish you for trying or HJC as early as possible despite losing some of the bullets to cancel. Getting some C bullets is better than getting counterhit. Iku also wants to position herself favorably after a 6c but she has to make sure the 6c doesn't get nullified by a denser bullet, so she may assume a more passive stance.
Put danmaku in the enemy melee sweetspot. In almost all cases, it's in the air and in front of the enemy. This is of questionable effectiveness against Remilia unless the danmaku is very slow or starts behind your character and is almost useless against Alice whose sweetspot is on the ground. Everyone else you want do deny the close air approach. I get so many random counterhits off of antiair bullets that it's silly. If you are Utsuho and you aren't using 6b to cover this approach you are doing it wrong. Yuyuko does it automatically by default anytime she hits 6c since the damn thing tracks, but she also has 421c if the enemy is jockeying for that spot. Almost everyone has some kind of antiair bullet on 2b, 6b, 2c, or 6c. For most characters, it's 2b. The most notable exception is Utsuho who has 3a as an antiair against everyone except Iku. Iku's 5b is her best choice though not amazing. A lot of Yuyuko's bullets cover this space. 421c is the best, though the HJC window for it is kinda late it basically completely prevents jumpins. Most of her normal bullets cover this area. Anytime you see the enemy in the air and not immediately threatening you, the best place to put danmaku is where they will jump in at you.
This gets me to danmaku punishing. If you throw danmaku around like crazy defensively, most characters have a solid punish. I think everyone has eaten enough Iku 6c to understand this. Any reasonably dense, fast bullet can punish you if it can punch through part of your danmaku and hit you. In certain matchups, this basically defines the matchup eg. most of Suika's matchups. The first thing you need to know is where and how the enemy can punish you. For instance, if it's a laser or dense bullet, know whether it's a special and whether it can be done in the air, and position yourself away from it. If Iku is on the ground and I'm in the air, I know she cannot interrupt my danmaku so I can deploy most of my arsenal by the time she can high jump up and fire 6c, and I can airdash cancel to graze it. The same goes for Utsuho; she can only really threaten the width of her laser or possibly the width of her 5c. Remi can only punish her opponent if the enemy is low to the ground or Remi is close to the wall (and then only with default wall dive). If you're trying to danmaku punish, fish for those positions or if you can't get them, throw setup danmaku or try to get in for melee.
Approaching for melee without any cover is risky. You should only do it if the opponent is trying to danmaku punish and is therefore not doing anything. The other option is if you are relatively close to your opponent and can potentially punish the startup of danmaku with a dashing melee attack. This is, in general, a bad idea. The other option is that you will avoid most of the opponent's potential setup danmaku with an odd positioning aerial attack, such as a crossup. A neutral crossup is not very effective. In general you almost always want to have either sweetspot melee positioning (eg. Iku j2a positioning), danmaku cover, or frame advantage (enemy blocking or getting hit or knocked down) before going for melee. If you're in the close air sweetspot and there are no threatening bullets, then yes, go for melee, just be wary of antiairs and consider using quick danmaku pressure (such as Reisen j2b) to force blocking or punish antair melee.
blocked j5aa, airborne enemy (falling)
- 2a (unblockable) into 5c hjc j5a8a; limits for around 2kish. Works best if they do nothing.
- 6a (unblockable) into 6a followups; generally Spear the Gungnir or Critical (Heart Break). Punishes forward airdashing somewhat depending on enemy height, but less followups without cards.
- dash j5aa. If they do anything other than fly up or a back airdash, this will catch them and set up into j5aa loop. If it corners, you can 6a 623c for over 2k.
- 2c. Puts bullet pressure upwards if they fly up, otherwise not too good.
- 623b/c. Best for Iku or other characters that can attack you from the other options. Horribly unsafe if blocked. Can also use Red the Nightless Castle; a bit safer, but still dangerous.
- jump back, ad6: It gives you an extra approach vector for a closer opponent and covers different space. It can confuse the enemy too since people used to Remi might be used to seeing her dash forward. At very closer distances, it's a crossup trick if you delay the airdash. You need to time the airdash depending on distance; faster if further, later if closer. You can also use d6 (towards the opponent) to get a bit closer.
- jump back, d6: This is imo a more reliable crossup since you can do d6 a bit earlier, or at least my hands can (lol). If done low, it hits in front, if done high it crosses up. It's pretty telegraphed though unless you are picture perfect on the spacing.
- 6a 623c (corner)
- super (save for midscreen)
- dash j5aa, dash j5a8a (2400ish, limits) The trickiness is in figuring out which way you need to dash... plus responding to the counterhit.
- 2c hjc 5c adc 8a (2700ish, limits) Much harder than above and doesn't corner them, but much more damage for 2 spirit orbs.
Destiny (Miserable Fate)
- Use after they block a 5c or other meaty projectile; MIDSCREEN ONLY OK.
Spear the Gungnir
- Huge frame advantage on block, plus a lot of chip. On block, use!
- Midscreen: 5aaa 5b (2hit) hjc j5a j6a. j5b will hit if less than halfway to the corner or so afterwards. This combo does not bluering, does only 1800. You probably want to do the j5b and fly immediately to the ground OR charge j5c and airdash forward. If you're using ripple vision you can also charge that.
- Corner: 5aaa 236b 236c. If you are a little ways from the corner, 5aaa 236b hjc j5a j6a is more reliable, but does less damage. Both bluering, double fireball does around 2500 at level 0. At level max it does over 3k. Some people don't need to rank their combo tools but Reisen really does, IMHO.
- 236b hjc j5a j6a. It's the same as the corner variant above. Does ~2k at rank 0. Kinda weak, but what can you do? It works anywhere, though if you cross up with j2a you need to wait for Reisen to turn around before doing 236b. Also, this will not work if you hit with the leading forward edge of j2a, as you're a bit too far away.
- CH j2a, LRE. It's hard to really follow up with anything if you don't have LRE; j5a j6a does less than the above combo and the above combo works, but is hard to time.
What characters do
-Suika is powerful in melee with very high damage with very little effort. Combo practice is minimal for her, as her Dial-A does nearly 2500 damage for no spirit. Her melee has great range and has disjointed hitboxes, making her a very scary threat in the air or on the ground. She also has many high/low options and even one of her bullets (2b) is a melee attack.
- With the exception of her C bullets, Suika's projectiles are small in number and high in density, which lets her blast holes in enemy danmaku to strike the opponent directly. However, other than 6b and her Spirit Bomb skillcard, her bullets are wonky and take some practice to use. The high-density, low volume bullets let Suika take the offense even at positional disadvantage, but bullets that attack from strange angles are difficult for her to handle as she has trouble actually creating lasting bullet cover in response.
- Suika is fast and her abare is very high. She can deal very large amounts of damage off of almost any hit.
- Suika has few graze attack options and is reliant on blasting through enemy bullets with her own.
- No idea!
- Yuyu has some of the slowest movement in the game, though her cancels are fast. Due to her slow speed, she must rely more on getting to a strong position in advance rather than quickly moving to take it. She also has difficulty following up from incidental bullet hits since she cannot close distance quickly.
- Yuyuko's melee is very large and covers wide areas in front of her. Like her own movement, it is slow, but it gives her a strong close-combat game once she has established control.
- Yuyuko has a wide variety of bullets. She controls the map very well and can literally fill the screen with garbage with just a few attacks. However, her C bullets do not hit enemy bullets at all (they pass through) while her B bullets lack density. She has trouble against high-density penetrating bullets, and must predict when the enemy will throw them and block while her ghostly C bullets and skillcards attack.
- Yuyuko's defense is limited, but it is better than most of the other zoning characters. She has several reversal spellcards and a powerful graze attack, and has many spellcards that can cancel laggy blocked skillcards in order to keep her on the offense.
- Remi's dash is unique and difficult to handle; she leaps forward rather than running on the ground. While she leaps forward she is considered airborne and can attack with aerial normals, giving her some of the most unique offense in the game. Her dash, her walk, and her aerial movements are all very fast, letting her punish mistakes from far outside her normal attack range and capitalize on damage opportunities from almost any distance.
- Remi's graze attacks are also very fast, but none have startup graze. This gives her a bit of an issue if the opponent is able to gain control of the screen. Like most graze attacks, hers are also unsafe, but this is less of a problem if she has spellcards to cancel her recovery.
- Remi's movement options also constitute problems since she also does not have a normal flight ability and must spend lots of spirit for 8-way movement in the air. Due to this, Remi is reliant on her airdash for aerial mobility and focuses a lot on staying near the ground and mounting her attacks there.
- Remi's bullets are weird, but they are straightforward and fairly strong. She has few options for establishing true danmaku patterns, but she has a number of delayed bullets that can lock the enemy down if the opponent is forced to block them.
- Youmu is the most rushdown-focused character in the game. Her bullets are incredibly lackluster, her movement is incredibly fast and she has some of the most frightening corner pressure in the game, especially if she uses Hakuroken or spellcards to cancel her melee attacks. Accordingly, her midscreen presence is weak due to her low-power bullets. She must generally rely on punishing mistakes with 6c or her "graze attack" DP.
- Despite having a sword, Youmu's melee is only above average. She mostly uses punches and kicks, and lacks disjointed hitboxes on most of her attacks. She must use her light, high blockstun bullets to establish control in a lot of situations, the threat of 6c, or the threat of her DPs. Her Phosphorous Sword skillcard helps a lot with melee dominance as it is a very meaty bullet attack that comes out fast.
- Youmu is one of the few characters with a true dragon punch (B version only) without using skillcards or spellcards. Her C version retains dash momentum and has startup graze, making it one of the most scary graze attacks in the game.
- Patchy is slow as balls. Even her high jumps are slow and her air mobility is shit. That being said, Patchy is a terror in the air, due to her many air options and larger angle of attack for bullets.
- In general, Patchy is extremely flexible and deck-centric, so countering her relies a lot on knowing what options she has in her deck.
- Patchy's bullets are insanely dense; her default 236 is denser than Utsuho's 5c and almost no one has anything close to the density of her normal bullets. Only her light density water bullets are anywhere near normal. She doesn't quite create danmaku the same way as other characters, but she can quickly eliminate it and be a threat from almost anywhere on screen. Some of her skillcards give her the ability to create danmaku on par with Yuyuko or other bullet-centric characters.
- Patchy's melee is balls, other than her j6a and 66b.
- Patchy has several reversal skillcards and can put them on two different motions. However, none of her DPs are melee and can be grazed. Aside from these cards, Patchy is incredibly vulnerable to rushdown as her melee is horrible.
- Alice's zoning is some of the scariest in the game. She is like a weird hyper version of both Yuyuko and Iku put together, with crazy long-ranged zoning melee and fast-cancelling delayed doll bullets that come from all directions. She is, in essence, the complete opposite of Youmu.
- Alice has fewer immediate options than any character in the game though, and is easily rushed down if she loses control of the screen. She absolutely must predict the opponent's moves and counter them with her zoning tools. If the enemy gets in close, she is likely to lock Alice down for a very long time.
- It is said that one time, a cobra bit Sakuya. After 3 days of excruciating block pressure, the cobra was guard crushed and died.
- Sakuya's offense is legendary. Her block pressure is probably the scariest thing in Soku. She is very fast, and if her opponent blocks even one bullet she can force the enemy in the corner and possibly even land a guard crush. Learning to border escape is mandatory for fighting her.
- Sakuya's melee attacks are pretty bad; she is really reliant on her insane bullets to control the match before locking her opponent down with her insane bullets.
- Marisa is a more stable version of Suika. She has many similar things, including dense bullets, good melee, and huge damage off of almost any hit. Her execution is quite a bit harder; she has to work a little to land the combos that deal good damage and can't just Dial-A.
- Like Suika, Marisa lacks a decent graze attack, but her default 623 does have startup graze, letting her use it like Youmu's 623c. However, it doesn't retain dash momentum and Marisa has fewer spellcard cancel options if her 623 is blocked.
- Unlike Suika, Marisa has somewhat decent bullet cover options that are easier to use. They're not true bullet cover, but they control enough of the screen for a long enough period to be workable.
- Marisa's offensive pressure is substantially worse than Suika's. She has large gaps in her offense and the only way to plug the holes is with high-risk melee skillcards or spellcards.
- no idea!
- Sanae is a zone control monster, but she is really at her best when she has her alt Kanako skillcard. Otherwise, she kind of has a hard time fighting for positioning against superior zoning characters.
- Sanae's 2c is character-defining. It's huge, dense, and covers a ton of the screen if done high up.
- With both alt Kanako and alt Suwako, Sanae controls so much of the map that she's hard to ignore. She is still limited by the timers on her Kanako and Suwako gauges though.