Welcome to the lesson of the Turtle Hermit School series on offensive pressure.
The basic essence of pressure comes down to two things, finding or creating an opening (covered in the previous lessons) and safely converting off a hit or a block.
This is called hit confirming and is incredibly powerful. A blockstring is the opposite of this and turns a blocked attack into a range of different options.
I see something like this from a lot of new players, I call it "stalling" and involves using a slow, unsafe move without a follow up, leaving yourself vulnerable or without an option to continue pressure. By learning a blockstring we can smoothly convert into mixups or an escape. A lot of new players will avoid stalling by converting into super dash, this is a perfectly valid option but tends to be predictable and dangerous with overuse. There are much better ways to continue pressure that we will cover below.
The last lesson's goal was essentially to get better at movement. This lesson's goal is a lot more measurable, when you get to the end you should be able to change the way you pressure. There's a lot to cover so let's get started.
Blockstrings and Hit Confirms
Any blockstring can be split into three parts, a string of attacks that are usually the same at the start of the string, a branch where you confirm off a hit and a branch for a followup if they block. Good pressure strings can be followed up by further attacks and hit confirms, or at worst can be used to return to the neutral game.
Lets start with Goku's hit confirms, a lot of characters use similar structures so give it a try with your whole team after you are comfortable. If your character has a low-hitting 2L then you want to use that instead.
A base string for Goku is: 5L > 5L > 2M > 5M
You could also use 2M > 5M > 5H, this is slower but works from further away and leads to more damage.
When this lands it can be confirmed into a combo you should all be familiar with from the lesson on combos. The full string looks like this 2L > 2L > 2M > 5M > Jc > j.L > j.M > Jc > j.L > j.M > j.2H > SD > j.L > j.M > j.H > Super (after landing). The 2L starter reduces the damage done by the combo but make it much easier to confirm, if you can hit confirm off just 2M > 5M then go for it as it gives more damage and starts low.
When blocked, the string can be extended by doing 236S into an assist, the full string looks like this: 2L > 2L > 2M > 5M > 236S > Assist. This string can depend on your assist so experiment with your team and with each character on point. You can omit the 236S to be more aggressive but you need to assist much earlier. The 236S will catch a lot of new players pushing buttons. If you're in the corner and they get hit by the beam and following assist you may be able to land a 2H > SD > Air combo
So far we have a confirmable string that doesn't leave us punishable by the opponent, this string is already extremely useful but the true power of this sort of pressure lies in the ability to re-engage or mixup.
Using our movement options we can use the gap we just created to start the sequence over. The easiest option is a forward dash but the best option is an instant airdash as it has to be blocked standing, this gives us a pretty natural high/low mixup but more on that later.
Once re-engaged you can repeat the same process or do something sneaky (we’ll cover the sneaky options in a moment). For now let’s practice just looping this sequence so that we can use both assists and force our opponent to block this sequence 3 times!
This brings us back to the sequence I showed you at the start of the post. It looks complicated but it really is just the block sequence we learned above into an assist and then repeated until finishing with a dragon rush. Having said that, there is one important consideration to prevent your opponent from mashing out of this.
The key to safely re-engaging is the timing of your assists. When you first practice these block strings it will probably look like this example. The problem here is that the Kamehameha overlaps with the assist.
Overlapping like this doesn’t help much on block so instead we want to time our assists to leave a small gap. This gap gives us the most time to recover from the Kamehameha and re-engage.
This becomes more difficult when you consider the differences in different assists. Most of the cast’s assists can be used for this but some only work in the corner, Adult Gohans for example.
The main difference we need to account for is the timing, sometimes you need to call the assist right as the special begins and sometimes right at the end. This is going to take some experimentation, here are some examples with Krillin (one of the slowest assists) and Yamcha (one of the fastest). Note the differences when timing the assist call.
This loop works fantastically well against people who struggle against tight pressure and will catch anyone who tries to mash out.
The above string is smooth, safe and is incredible against people who try to press buttons during your block strings but for more skilled players we need to consider other options of opening up our opponent. Newer players should focus on the string above before attempting these mixups as the above string is more than enough to catch out newer players.
Dragon Rush Mixup
At the time you would normally re-engage, you can instead go for a dragon rush into an air combo. This is really hard to deal with and pairs amazingly with the flashier assists. You can’t connect a dragon rush while your opponent is blocking or for a short window after they’ve blocked an attack.
The timing can be hard to get down. You want to start your dragon rush just before your assist stops being blocked. If you do it too early then the dragon rush will not connect.
Keep an eye out for other scenarios where you can slip in dragon rushes, once you've scared your opponent with dragon rushes they are more likely to try and mash out of your pressure, making your blockstrings/frame traps much deadlier.
None of these above answers are reliable under heavy pressure but if you believe there'll be a gap in the pressure then a backwards jump can be followed up by an air dash for counter aggression if you see your opponent is vulnerable.
Keep in mind that you get one aerial movement option in the air, a double jump or an air dash and these can be in either direction, we'll cover this more in passive movement.
Overheads are a useful tool for tripping up your opponent and they can be slipped into most strings, the natural flow is 5L > 5L > 2M > 6M but doing it predictably will leave you vulnerable.
When your overhead hits you are at a small advantage so your fastest move should beat theirs. On block you are exactly even, your fastest move should at worst clash with theirs (depending on your characters). To get out of this, they will need to deflect (more on that in the next lesson) and this leaves them vulnerable to dragon rushes.
Taking risks to extend pressure
A common mixup after using a few overhead strings is to open with 5L > 5L > 2M > 2M > 5M > Hit Confirm. There is a large pause between your 2Ms that your opponent can interrupt but they may also predict an overhead and get hit by the low. If your opponent makes good use of deflect then 5L > 5L > 2M > Dragon rush will counter a deflect but leaves you very vulnerable to normals.
There are plenty of other examples but they vary wildly based on your character. Command grabs being a prime example. For now just be aware that sometimes you'll need more than safe, tight blockstrings to open up your opponent.
A frame trap is where you leave a small gap that lets your opponent start to use an attack but not enough time to challenge your attack. Some strings act as natural frame traps but most need to be done manually. By slowing down our block string we learned above we can try and confirm into a combo. In most cases this should be saved for when you expect them to block as it will make it harder to hit confirm if they don't block your opener.
There are some instances where you can still delay the normal without sacrificing the confirm. Using our above string as an example, slowing down the 5M after the 2M allows our opponent slightly more time to press a button while still allowing us to combo if it hits.
The Kamehameha in the above string acts as a frame trap and depending on your position/assist you might be able to convert into a combo.
An empty jump is a jump or more commonly airdash that doesn't have an air attack at the end. This has a surprisingly large effect on people's defensive rhythm. This is usually followed up by a low attack or dragon rush. If your opponent consistently blocks your jump ins and follow up attacks then empty jumps can be the way forward.
Dragon rushes in the air will only effect airborne opponents so make sure you're touching the ground before using it.