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How I finally understood why I will never be a pro at this game


Let Be Be Finale Of Seem
(Maybe some of you might see yourself in this who knows)

I think Im pretty good at MK11 and those who have played against me on TYM would concur (at least I hope lol). But that day, my Frost wasn't just losing against this Kabal player, I was getting thoroughly massacred, with him sitting at a 24-win streak and me, at 2.

I'm the kind of player who only learns 2-3 characters with every MK game and I have a feeling that many, if not most, pros have worked on the vast majority if not all characters & so have a depth of MU knowledge. This depth can be illustrated with Frost's 22 - a string that is +5 on block and is usually followed with B1 (comes out in 6f). People who know fuck all about Frost will try to press buttons after 22 and get a B1 to the face. People who know a bit, will know that you need to block after 22. People who have a deeper understanding know that they have to backdash and whiff punish the B1. Another example, when fighting LK and he does his 3 fireballs...you can block all of them but you can also block the first two and neutral duck the last one to whiff punish.
This means that when the player with this deeper MU knowledge is on the defense, their way out (and consequently regain an offensive position) is not restricted to them taking a chance and interrupting or waiting for a VERY negative move to punish but use those natural pitfalls in certain move combinations that characters have to regain the upper hand.

I don't play Kabal and so I dont know the pitfalls in his combinations and so my only options to take my turn back was to try to interrupt. Needless to say, it wasnt very effective. When I was on the offense, all I could do was play these wacky unexpected moves to try to open him up because the B22 was getting flawless blocked, my 22 was getting backdashed, my augers were getting neutral ducked, etc. He didnt just out-footsie me, or punish whenever I did an over-enthusiastic dive kick, he really understood Frost's pitfalls.

All this is MU knowledge yes, but I realized in that moment that MU knowledge was more than just "oh yes, Ive played against a lot of character X". Rather, it's more akin to "yea Ive taken Character X in the lab, learned what combinations of strings (s)he can do, learned what to do against each one and seen videos of how pros deal with Character X in tourneys".

To be pro, I think one would need to do this to every character, a commitment I am not ready to make despite my love for this game. And so I am going to be stuck. Im going to destroy people who know very little about Frost, Im going to destroy those with flimsy fundamentals but I will never be able to beat someone who has put time in the lab, learning characters they might have zero interest in. My approach is try to learn on the fly, which means that sometimes I need multiple games before I adjust or figure out what to do. Pros dont have that luxury in tourneys.


Up rock incoming, ETA 5 minutes
I learned how to play every character on release(to varying degrees but I tried) so that I'd be able to effectively use Shang Tsung's soul steal. It helped me realize the importance of playing as other characters, the subtleties of neutral, movement and hitbox interactions are something you have to experience.

First off, just teaching yourself all of the strings and general frame data is super helpful. It will take you two attempts to figure out a punish instead of five. You'll know why your poke traded, when you can use mids instead of pokes, the damage of your projectile vs theirs, etc. Some games have crazy move lists but not this one, Kabal has depth but he's easy to learn with like five strings.

But if you play just a few matches as a character, you'll learn a ton about how they operate. You'll feel out the distance of their mids and pokes, realize some of their gaps in neutral. If I never played Frost, I may not realize how sluggish B2 feels and may be over defensive in that range.

Don't be like me and play Injustice 2 enough to go to a tournament but refuse to learn neutral with Batman because I think he was cheap.

Saltea Moonspell

"And the mustard, is off the Hotdog" TB.

I cannot speak for Pro players here, but I will tell you how how people in my local Tekken scene (that is over 10 years old) improve.

A online play is something they do, in between daily responsibilities. The way the are able to become really strong, is by playing each other. You can learn only so much by playing KL, and lab on your own.

You know, MK11 design in terms of complicity has been minimized to a minimum. Latterly, to play and understand most characters you may need couple of weeks tops. Now Tekken is an ocean in terms of characters depth and operation. In order to learn a character to a decent level, you'd need much time.

What they do, is they lab certain scenarios, and thats it. They keep playing each other, and join tournaments. In this game, almost all the cast has 3-4 strings, couple reliable specials, few frame traps here and there, and thats about it. If you are having a problem with Kabal, you need to understand the character, to know how to play, and how to behave. I main Kabal since MK9 alright. People to whom I loose to (not counting lack of knowledge), are players that are patient - those out-footise me, and have good reeds. Kabal has to bait, take risk in form of throw to open opponents defense. The 50/50 he has is not a threat, and is not a tool, that is a game changer, unlike some others. I also happen to play offline from main, and I get mopped, if I dont play very patiently. The combination of projectiles, and dive bomb, and on top of that long range on d4, and 22 plus frames is a challenge to Kabal. She also happen to have 10f mid FB, and sophisticated corner game, or I should say "corner rape".

The key in this mu, is very good spacing - and that is something, that is hard to obtain in lab, or during KL with everyone rushing, mashing mindlessly.

Stay positive, try to enjoy the game, and if you're tired, take a break, and get to the lab later on, or ask someone to lab with you Kabal. Once you know his week spots, you should be able to improve.

Good luck!


Let Be Be Finale Of Seem
Lool yea like I might find the motivation to do that for 1 character (Kabal probably) but the idea of doing that for the whole cast, unlikely lol
The benefit one gets out of it is incredible and necessary for competitive play for sure.

@Saltea Moonspell
That's one thing I would love to do, is play against very strong players to improve. I think my lack of motivation for learning the characters themselves will always be a crutch but at least there will be improvement just by playing stronger players. Also, thanks for the insight into Kabal.Now that I think about, I have a friend who mains him that could teach me a few key combinations and things like that to help me deal with him against others.

This revelation of not becoming pro with my current mindset isnt something that bothers me. I still enjoy the game regardless, it's just my personal limit in terms of effort Im willing to put in the game.


Administrator and Community Engineer
And honestly, I think even the movement is an extension of this. The reason good players will lose to top players who don’t even know the MU to fullest degree is that the best players have refined movement itself, and the options of the engine, to a level that most people will not.

I watched 2EZ mirroring another player on stream, and that guy was clearly thinking about overhead/low/slide while 2EZ was thinking about double shimmys, micro backdashes, quick hesitations, double dash into throw, microduck and all this other stuff.

If someone else is thinking of 5 options where you can only see 2, you are going to be at a disadvantage more often than not. So a player who is looking for all the options that the engine allows them will actually try that stuff out in the match in different situations, whether they labbed it or not.