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Question Can Zoning be a Type of Offense?

Roy Arkon

I will leave my seal on you!
OK I know some people are gonna scratch their heads by me asking this, and it's probably gonna be a dump question, and maybe I'm missing something that is way too obvious, but I still feel I gotta ask this question, due to some information I got over the past several weeks, so please hear me out. That question is: Can Zoning be type of offense?

Zoning is more associated with defense, or at least that's what people claim it to be. That's because you try to keep the distance from your opponent, either by projectiles or normals. But last time I've checked, defense is all about reactions, as you react to the opponents move by Anti-airing, spacing, and also Zoning. While in offense you play by more by reads, and playing faster and faster. @Tom Brady for example explaining this about offense and reads in his Offense play lesson video:

But then, on his latest lesson (for now), Tom talks about offense and defense in general, and he says that "zoning is more full-screen offense rather then defense", as you can see in his video at the 3:55 mark.

And then there is this video from @STB Shujinkydink where he talks about Deadshot and what changes he should get (that video was done before Deadshot got nerfed) and Dink said in that video that he thinks Deadshot should be more of a "read-based Zoner", as you can see at the 1:38 mark:

So after looking at all of those videos, I wondered to myself: Does Zoning is more of offense then defense? Or maybe it can be both depending on your character and/or your style of Zoning? I mean, if you take me for example, when I play Reptile in MKX, and I go for projectile-based Zoning as long as I can which is my preferred playstyle (I love playing characters that can do at least a bit of everything, but if I really have to pick just one playstyle, I would go with projectile-based Zoning/Space Control while I can, and then go for the up-close style when I have to), I feel like I'm not reacting to my opponent, but rather go by reads, and I feel like I'm getting more comfortable playing like that, and I personally feel like I'm getting better at that.

So is Zoning can be a type of offense in addition to defense? Or is ti just depending on the player and/or character? I think this is a tricky question and I think it should be discussed. I would love to hear you take on it. :)
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Administrator and Community Engineer
Zoning is more associated with defense, or at least that's what people claim it to be. That's because you try to keep the distance from your opponent, either by projectiles or normals. But last time I've checked, defense is all about reactions, as you react to the opponents move by Anti-airing, spacing, and also Zoning.
Defense can be preemptive -- it's definitely not all about reactions. Same for offense, which can be reaction based (baits into whiff punishes, etc) or preemptive/pressure based, etc.

Almost any tool in a fighting game can be used for either offense or defense.

Then there's an NRS-specific caveat to this, which is that projectiles in NRS games tend to have extra properties that can make them more oppressive than usual. When you look at say, a SF game, the classic shoto zoning has a pattern of restricting your movement and baiting you into making mistakes in your offense. The mistake could be running or jumping into a fireball, but often it's just moving into a range at which a walk-up normal or anti-air will connect with you as you move/jump in. Modern SFs usually also have either some global or character-specific options for projectile invulnerability, along with projectiles that will cancel each other out.

This means that it usually slants in favor of a defensive tactic in those games -- although there can always be character-specific exceptions.

Wheras in NRS games, zoning can often be a mixup (lots of low and overhead projectiles). There's also lots of hitscan zoning/extremely fast projectiles, along with tracking ranged attacks. This can lead zoning in NRS to feel a bit more 'offensive'. But overall, trying to put any fighting game tool in the category of strictly being "offensive" or "defensive" is usually a gross oversimplification.
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At the risk of being a bit of a maverick, I generally feel 'offense vs defense', in the context of fighting games, is a bit of a false dichotomy i.e. it encourages separation of 'this is purely offensive, this is purely defensive' etc. which applies to both concepts and character designs.

So basically, I definitely think zoning can be offense-oriented at least sometimes.

God Confirm

We're all from Earthrealm. If not, cool pic brah.
It CAN be - it's mostly not in NRS games tho. UltraDavid summed it up best imo

Zoning is strong but way overhyped by the community so far. Most zoning in Inj2 is the kind that hopes you run into stuff, not the kind that forces you into stuff (with the exception of Deadshot imo).

This quote was around release date btw


The Fantasy is the Reality of the Mind
The best defense is the offense. It's part of tactics. One more way to use this zoning could be to get your opponent to stay away from you, while you win and the time runs out. Everything you see is nothing but tactics.


Saltiest Joker Player
@CrimsonShadow was pretty on point. Zoning in a general breakdown is space control. You can be aggressive in your space control or you can play the lame game. Both styles can require, reads and reactions or, in NRS games, simple but effective tools that cover more then one base.

Joker, for example can be both aggressive and defensive in his space control. He can put certain characters in a corner and position himself not too close and not to far away to keep them there or he can play lame and run away controlling how he wants you to approach him.

Either approach is a form of zone control. Jokers a great example of a reads/reaction character. Theres nothing about him that's particularly brain dead and safe but he can be extremely suffocating if played right and you don't have enough knowledge vs him.

NRS fighters, imo, lack the zoning depth other fighters do. Some characters in NRS fighters have extremely simple tools that are super effective (black adam, pre patch deadshot), while others have a more complex, unsafe but effective toolset (joker, swamp thing). other fighters have very effective tools but aren't so simply used in comparison.
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Meow Hoes
Harley's zoning is pure offense mainly because she doesn't do damage while zoning.
Her zoning is good because it forces people to come in and make mistakes.
When you're at that mid range Harley is super offensive you just wanna dash or jump. And when they're in she has good offense
Defense is not purely reactions and offense isn't purely reads.

Zoning is either an aggressive defense or a passive offense. For true zoners you can definitely assume their zoning is there offense. It's not like when a dr fate player is down on health against a rushdown character they are just going to go in. No, they get away and start their offense or oppressive defense. I feel that zoning can be played both defensively or offensively depending on how reserved they are zoning.
Plus the majority of zoning is full screen mixups which the other opponent has to deal with so I guess you could just agree that if the opponent has to deal with pressure/mixups it's dealing with offense. Also people need to stop saying that mixup=50/50 low overhead. There are plenty of mixups that are not low overhead


RIP Arez & Booya
Zoning, by the technical definition, isn't specifically a defensive style of play, though the term is generally associated with such. It is the act of positioning your opponent into an unfavorable 'zone'. You can be an offensive character and zone by getting into the space you want to be in (up close, sweep range, etc).


Positive Poster!
It is a big mistake to separate defense from offense.
While they both exist in separate layers by default - blocking and punching as two distinct opposites as a state of being or a method of doing - in reality offense and defense exist on the very same plane of existence called controlling your space.

Controlling your space is far more superior a defense than blocking: it prevents the opponent's offense and maintains your own defense as a necessary effect.

Zoning as such - be that a projectile or an unusually long extension of a hitbox - is in fact both. It controls space.