For journalistic integrity, Azreal’s super actually called “Black Hawk Stinger,” not “Black Rock Stinger.” I’ve been playing in Japanese so I didn’t realize it. My fault.
This was long over-due, and I’m sorry; my past two weeks have been ripe with exams, drinking, exams, more drinking, enough studying to make me want to quit college altogether, and practically no video games until Saturday. I’ll get to the original purpose of the post from last time, but first, I’d like to cover something a little bit different, in the same realm.
I’m picking up Rachel! The significance of this is far-reaching, because I’m not just “picking up Rachel” like casual friends would–I intend to play her in competition. As such, I have to learn her intricately. Today’s post will first talk about my thought-process approaching her, from what I already know about her, to what I don’t know, to incorporating them into what I intend to know, and ultimately, how it all wraps up.
If you like list-format, you’ll love this article.
So, let’s start with what I knew about Rachel from either word of mouth or prior iterations of Blazblue.
- Rachel is a mixup/oki-focused character whose combos do lower average damage than my usual characters (Mu-12, for instance, has an average of 3k, where Rachel has maybe a 2.2k). She trades damage for high/low mixup, and has plenty of tools to make her corner-game horrifying.
- Her resource is the true source of her power. With 1 Sylpheed, she can set up 5 overheads, and cancel them into lows after the second and fifth completely safely, or do it all over again. It also allows for tech escapes, mobility, homing cancels a la Arcana Heart, and is needed for a vast majority of her damage in combos. Because of this, it’s absolutely vital to figure out either proper resource management, or combos that build the resource very quickly.
- The general gameplan seems to be keep-away until the stars align using either George or Pumpkin to hit-confirm and successfully convert into damage, or the opponent winds up messing up and putting himself in the corner.
- She cute as fuh doe
On the other side of that coin:
- Combos, and in particular, how to end combos. I know a few combo enders, but some things to keep in mind are oki options and where the opponent ends. What use is it if I get a full-combo midscreen and build pressure using wind, but knock them down on the far side of the screen with no tool to get back in?
- Situational combos, like throw and air-throw combos, fatal hit combos, wallstick combos, midscreen vs. corner combos, and how to convert into different enders based off of what hits I do.
- Wakeup options. Oki is easy, but ukemi is where the game gets hard. Since Rachel doesn’t have a DP, the opponent rarely has to be scared of getting punished for overaggression on oki (unless she can cat-chair (2C)), so what–aside from aggressive blocking–does Rachel have?
- How to survive in a resourceless world is going to be the largest issue. As an Aigis player, I know how helpless you feel not having resource, and I’d rather not feel that coming into a new game. This includes gaining resource, resourceless combos, mobility and momentum, and converting resourceless hit-confirms into resourced combos.
Now, this is a rough run-down of what I do and don’t know, but it gives us something to work with in this section. The application of concepts we’ve gone over can pretty much be tackled one at a time in succession, as the general flowchart of character integration is thusly: “combos>neutral>matchups.”
First, you’ll learn your character’s combos (or, at least, enders) and then learn how to use your normals to hit-confirms (so, for instance, I know one ender is …6B>j.B>j.C>jc.B>jc.C>j.236A, which is windless, and knocks them across the screen), and when and where to use different enders (like 6B>sj.C>j.2CD>land 5DCC>236B>6A>4B>236A>5CC, which probably means FUCKING NOTHING, and probably isn’t an actual combo anyway (I haven’t messed with it yet)). This knowledge, along with oki, ukemi, and mobility, makes up neutral game. Finally, you learn your character versus specific characters, or matchups (a good example would be, “trying to overaggress Ragna on oki is dumb, so put out George instead of set up mixup game).
So, how are we going to use the list of what we know vs. don’t know to conquer what we should know?
- Ultimately, the first thing we need to think about is pressure. When should we play away, and when should we play close? This usually boils down to (I think) resource; we don’t want to be in their face without Sylpheed or George because it drastically cuts back on our mixup.
- With that in mind, I should learn ground and aerial combo-enders, some that knock away, and some that knock down close to me. For an extra spin, aerial combos that allow airdashes at the end (any combo-ender without a double-jump in the last string) are especially valuable for resourceless oki, and any ender that can hard-knockdown to allow me to get either George or Pumpkin out.
- Combos for all matter of wind. Only 2 wind, and I know that I can’t get in without 1? Are they almost dead, and can kill me from fullscreen? Time to be a man. 1-wind combos, or windless combos are a must, even if they are only, say, 1.3k, because they’ll refund more wind than standing around, blocking.
- Since she’s a mixup character, obviously, I need to maximize my mixup potential. This is just mechanical skill meets technical knowledge, really, since I know that 5/6B>j.2AD>j.B can link into either jc.A>j.B or land 2B>5BD>4B, the former can link into either j.C>5B, or j.2C>3B>8D>aerial or corner ender, the former can still link into ground-ender, or expend another wind to repeat the entire setup. DO YOU SEE HOW DUMB THIS CHARACTER IS YET
- She has a weird wakeup tech thing with Sylpheed where she wakes up and blows herself out of harm’s way, so it’s, essentially, an invincible roll. How the hell does that work? LET’S FIGURE IT OUT.
- The art of keep-away using Tiny Nobelia and Sylpheed. This is all technical knowledge, and will probably wind up tying into the “final touches” of learning the character, as it is, I’m sure, matchup dependent as well. I intend to, at least, figure out the proper arcs and timings to hit the entire stage from any of the three ranges of Tiny Nobelia.
- Matchups, matchups, matchups. If you ever think you know everything about the character, try playing against a character not usually pragmatic to your local scene. For instance, I normally play Mu-12 against Jin or Terumi, which is entirely different than Mu-12 against Azreal. The smallest changes in kit can lead to the largest differences in playstyle. Azreal, for instance, doesn’t have to expend meter to command-dash and touch your butt.
These are just generalizations, and trying to get people to think about the game as a fighting game, rather than some weird dancing rhythm game. We’ll talk more about this later.
So, the rest of this one we’re gonna focus on the rest of the cast! Huzzah!
- Taokaka: I wanna bring up Taokaka because the super annoying VA that sounds like a reject K-On! character has returned, and this time, SHE’S TOP TIER YEAH
She, along with a few other oldies, have been pretty much given unlimited combo potential; everything you think should link, links. Taokaka now has super-dumb crossup pressure and easily the most painful VA, making her the highest-tier character in the game. You don’t even realize it, but she’s bodying you IN REAL LIFE with that atrocious fucking voice. It’s like Chie damage for your ears.
Realistically, though, she’s probably the third best character in the game, following Kokonoe and Valkenhayn (or, at least, on the same level as Valkenhayn). She does loads of damage and has enough mixup to finely puree smoothies. She does, however, lack wakeup options besides a counter super.
If you hate having friends, pick Taokaka. You won’t be disappointed with much your friends hate you. (as an aside, she’s getting nerfed, thank god)
- Jin: Jin’s actually risen in tier! He’s also been almost completely redone. He now only has 2 different varieties of his moves (normal and drive), but he also has two more supers. Changes to other moves makes him vastly better in this iteration, and it’s my personal belief that they’ve changed his little vortex kick to vortex more when it’s blocked. That makes his pressure a little scarier because microdash-throws are a bit more rampant and harder to guess at.
Sekkajin, that dumb move that’d come out when you got too excited for hit confirming, now not only has a command (!!!!!!! (in case anyone’s wondering, it’s 22C)), it also now wallbounces in the corner (under certain instances, I’m not sure what). It sets up for the most stylish damn combos ever. He also has a retarded air-to-air game, and like triple-jump-in-overheads, and baby-tsubaki you can tiger-knee or just go ground-to-air with–he’s a DUMB CHARACTER WITH TOO MANY TOOLS
He still looks like a fucking castle, though.
- Noel: She lost her hat low-tier trash pay for DLC
I don’t really know much about her changes, to be honest, but she does have a few more moves. They changed the ranges to Optic Barrel to only two (half-screen and full-screen) and now, there’s, like, an Optic Shotgun (Optic Blast? Giggle) move where she flips her guns into a double-barrel and shoots you with both. It has about the same launch trajectory on-hit as CH 6A, and is used to extend combos out of drive now. She also has a few new aerial moves, but your main jump-ins are the same.
There’s also significantly less Noel players! I think they all moved to Izayoi, personally, because that Tsubooty is just too good, and that rack? That rack, though.
I’d say that she’s a fun character, but won’t teach you much about the game. She has offensive options, and has a few defensive options, but will teach you to take risks in order to do anything, and that’s sort of a bad mentality to have (unless you’re really fucking good, like DawnHikarii or something).
- Litchi: Also mysteriously absent is the NoelxLitchi matchup quotes. “Hands off the panda?” “Your breasts are illegal!?” WHY ARE THESE GONE
Litchi’s been hit pretty hard; a lot of her moves have lost their hard knockdown, so she’s lost oki pressure. This hasn’t deterred local Romey from playing her, but it has sent a few high-level players (LordKnight and whatsit) to pick up different mains (I mean, I’ll give LK a pass because he probably could actually pay his rent with tournament winnings). She still has damage, and she still has mixups for days, but now they’ve changed combo links and enders, and forced you to be more cognizant on how far from corners you are.
She’s top-tier, but when I think of Litchi, I think specifically of “hard to execute with.” She’ll learn you some fightin’ games, but she’s a big uphill struggle to be any good with, especially starting out. She has the most moves in the game, and has a tool for every situation, but you have to learn when and where to use them. You can typically tell if the Litchi you’re going against is good because you won’t win. There. I said it.
- Ragna: How have I not covered Ragna yet? Okay, so, here’s the dealio. Ragna’s mid-tier. Let’s take a moment to reflect on that.
Yeah. Changes to his damage and timings have affected his damage, Inferno Divider no longer does something something something, and Black Kain is now his Overdrive, rather than a super.
He’s still Ragna at the core, though, and his neutral game really reflects that. He’s difficult to deal with as a Mu-player because he’s always in your face and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Once his pressure ramps up, you better hope that your character has a DP and he doesn’t bait it.
It takes significantly less effort to play him than play against him, because most everything links exactly how you’d imagine. His new move, Blood Scythe, crosses up ambiguously if you’re close enough, and there’s enough option selects to where he’ll seem less like Narukami and more like Akihiko. He’s my personal favorite for newer people to learn in order to pick up fighting games because he really grows with the player.
- Hakumen: You ever thought, “I wanna make a guy who has a move that does 3k damage, and if you block the first part and don’t block the second part, it does 2.6k damage?” If so, you’re not alone! Hakumen exists!
Hakumen is the meter-anomaly in BB (just like Elizabeth in P4A and Robo-Ky in Guilty). If you don’t know, his “meter” has been replaced by “magatama,” which constantly refill due to time, but get an increase for offense and defense. His non-distortion supers (like his “hadouken moves,” I guess) cost a variety of magatama, based off what button they use: 236A, for instance, uses 1 magatama, 214B uses 2, and 236C (the dreaded 236C) uses 3, and distortions use 4. He maxes out at 8.
Hakumen is Japanese for “dumb damage,” as in, “I just got hit with a 2A, then he popped overdrive, now he’s about to do Hakumen.” He’s known for having a 9k damage combo in overdrive, having 3k supers and minimum damage on fucking everything in the world. He can definitely be seen as top-tier, but I think it’s really been adjusted to mid-high, because whereas he does have huge damage, he has to get specific hits in order to do them.
Hakumen is, in my opinion, the next step up on the road to learning fighting games, because once you get neutral game down from Ragna, you get execution from Hakumen. His combos aren’t easy and there’s a lot of resource-management to take into play. The hits that would net you the 9k combo will net you 2.5k if you don’t have overdrive, but other hits will net you 5k for a matter of 7 magatama. It also helps you realize that sacrifices must be made, and sometimes it’s best to lay down low-damage combos instead of huge combos. Just saying, if you wind up trying to do the 7 magatama combo, I’m bursting the super.
- Valkenhayn: Man. Listen. Anyone who has 6 instant overheads that can be converted into a low or command throw should be rebalanced. There’s no reason for it. (lol)
Valkenhayn is BBCP’s Aigis; his wolf-mode essentially means “I hope you like blocking lolnot you can’t block this mixup” but whereas Aigis is kinda’ crap without her Orgia mode, Valkenhayn can still land some pretty punishing combos (nothing that I’ve seen that breaks 3k, but they’re decently long so they can really recover wolf-meter). In the most recent major, there were 3 Valkenhayns in top 8, and Kiba (you guessed it–a Valkenhayn) won.
The horrifying thing is, you can even know what he’s gonna do, but you won’t know how to block it. His block string is about 3 frames between each hit and it’s a complete option select on each hit. And then he does something around 2.8k-3.5k depending on how he hits you. It doesn’t really even seem fair, really.
He’s very high execution, though, because between the offense and defense, there’s resource management, and he can’t block during wolf mode. His combos aren’t particularly hard, but they take some time to get used to because some of his moves have really bizarre animations. I don’t usually tie execution into balance, but you can generally tell how good a Valkenhayn is by how much they beat you by.
- Rachel: (preface: I wrote this far before I decided to pick up Rachel again) Okay, full-disclosure, the only Rachels I’ve fought so far have been Brkrdave’s (who pretty much wrote the damn book on her) and Glidesu (the moderator of Dustloop for Rachel’s subforum). They’re all about that gothic lolita life.
And it shows. They make her corner pressure into something unlike any other character’s. She also has 1-frame overheads and triangle jumps just like Doom from Marvel, and 2-frame crossups. Her average damage on her combos, luckily, are about 2k without meter and about 3k with meter.
Her changes in BBCP aren’t too wide, in my experience, but she does have two new moves: she can turn her Tiny Nobelia into one of two cat-bat-demon-fans (for the lack of a better word) that follow you around and change the effects of her Sylpheed. One pushes you higher up (and back? I think?) while the other one specifically moves her closer to you during certain Sylpheeds (I wanna say 5 and 6D), just like Homing Cancels from Arcana Heart.
I think I respect Rachel players more than anyone else, because her execution is really high. It isn’t just combo-execution for her; block-string execution is high as well, and there’s Sylpheed to monitor, not to mention pressure in general–all on a character that’s, AT BEST, mid-tier. I think picking her won’t teach you much except patience, but picking her far into your career will reaffirm everything that you’ve learned so far. (as an epilogue: she’ll teach you that 2 and 3 are ENTIRELY DIFFERENT, and you’ll hate yourself for never paying attention to that tidbit)
I’m exhausted, so I’ll finish this list up later. We’re also at 2.9k words, holy shit.