Welcome back everyone! Last week we had a pretty philosophical discussion but let’s get back to the more technical stuff.
I’ll say it a thousand times, the neutral game is definitely the most important part of this game. It’s always important, crucial for any character and easily transferrable to other fighting games. So why do we spend so long drilling combos and pressure while neglecting the neutral game?
The answer is often because the neutral game is much more reactionary, without another player it’s pretty hard to practice it in a meaningful way. Whereas drilling combos or mixups is much more straightforward.
In this lesson I’ll be focusing on some repeatable drills to practice your neutral game alone or with a friend. I’ll also chuck any of my lessons that effect the neutral game just below.
Perfecting your movement
The theory is covered above so let’s just get straight to some drills for perfecting your movement. If your movement isn’t natural, your neutral game is gonna be stiff and unhelpful.
You should drill these options in training mode while waiting for matches, just like you do with combos/pressure. That kind of repeatable practice is our goal here.
The below drills aren’t just for clearing and then moving on, pick the ones that you feel are most useful and run them whenever you have time (though make sure you practice your combos/pressure plenty too).
10x Grounded Dashes - 10 forward dashes, 10 backward dashes. Keep the gap between them small. Don’t mash the direction, just double tap the direction and prepare for the next one.
10x Mixed Ground Dashes - Alternate between forward dashing and back dashing. Either 1 forward then 1 back or 2 forwards then 2 back. Whichever feels more awkward for you.
5x Dashes Into Normals - Forward dash up to the training dummy and use a 5L or 2M as quickly as possible. Keep the gap small and land the normal as close to it’s max range as you can. Make sure to reset your position each time so you’re at a different range every time.
5x Assist Calls into Dashes - Call a long range assist, such as SSJ Goku’s and forward dash while it’s active. You can safely hold forward after the double tap to run forwards and close the distance faster, I usually wouldn’t recommend it but with an assist call, it’s worth using.
5x Jump Ins - Take your time and position yourself in range for a forward jump > j.H. Convert into a simple combo if you think it’ll be helpful.
10x Combining Jumps & Dashes - Jump forwards or backwards, dash in the opposite direction while in the air, as low to the ground as possible.
10x Instant Air Dashes - Pick a direction and do 10 Instant Air Dashes in a row. If you’re not sure how to, check the advanced movement guide up above. This is the most important motion to master but it’ll take some time to get used to it. Keep it clean and slow.
10x Mixed Instant Air Dashes - Just like the mixed ground dashes exercise, alternate the direction of your instant air dash, either every time or every two times.
10x Extra Mixed Instant Air Dashes - Just like the above exercise, alternate between different types of dashes but this time, combine grounded dashes and IADs. Mix up the directions too, once you get comfortable.
Adding More Variables
Now it’s time for us to get a bit fancier with the training mode functions to add some more layers of complexity. We have all the fundamentals covered so now we can focus on practicing using these tools in more realistic conditions.
10x Evading with Movement - Pick a character for your training dummy that has a light auto combo that advanced forwards. Adult Gohan is the one that I use. Set the AI to repeat attack > Light Attack. If done right, they should spam light attack and advance around the stage. Keep your distance with backdashes and backwards IADs, you’ll also need to jump over them, with a late air dash to create more distance.
10x Punishing with Movement - Use the exact same setup as the above exercise keep your distance until they move into range. When you see an opportunity, use a forwards IAD > j.H or a forward dash > 2M to punish their predictable movement. When using this technique in actual games, you may not always be able to punish with a combo but you should be able to convert a blocked j.H into a pressure string.
10x Air to Airs - Set the AI to neutral jump repeatedly and it’s block setting to random. Jump forward and hit it jMLL. Practice moving around as well. Once you’re comfortable with that, start to use jH when they block your attacks and j2H > super dash when they get hit. This technique will help you to control the air in the neutral game.
Passive Defence - Set the AI to repeatedly super dash and move around as much as possible while still maintaining your guard. When doing this, IADs become more risky and forward jumps while blocking are much more useful.
Practicing with Others
The most fun and often the best way to practice is to use private lobbies to practice with friends and other players using special rulesets/minigames. Here are some that I’ve used in the past.
Tag - One player starts on the offensive and needs to catch the other player with a hit, no matter how small (Ranged attacks/assists don’t count unless converted with Vanish). Convert these into the biggest combo you can but once they recover, it’s now your turn on defence. When on the defensive, your main focus is to keep your guard up and avoid damage, stay mobile to keep them guessing. Voice chat is recommended and super dash/tag is strictly prohibited.
Super Honest - Just like the above exercise but with no turns, just go ham. You should also ban any use of vanish, super dash, tags etc. Focus entirely on the fundamental movement options covered above and make sure you pay attention to your opponent’s as well. Keeping them out with 2M or 2H as appropriate is another important part of the neutral game.
Assist Spam - Pick any team you like but one with a long range assist is advisable. Pick one of your assists and try to keep it on cooldown 24/7, without mashing the button. When starting out, paying attention to this is going to distract you quite a bit. As you get more practice, you’ll develop a natural understanding of how often you can use assists and make sure you get the most out of your teams.
There are a lot of different options in this guide so I thought I’d give my recommendations to anyone feeling a bit overwhelmed. The exercises that I think are the best to focus on are Dashes into Normals, Evading with Movement, Mixed Instant Air Dashes (or the preceding exercises), Air to Airs and Assist Spam
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