Chris Matthews
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Adapting in Neutral (in Skullgirls 2nd Encore+)

Having multiple ways to approach in neutral, and knowing when to switch between them, will make you a much stronger player. Most beginners figure out that they should vary their mixups and their defense to try and outsmart their opponents, but it often takes much longer for people to do the same thing when it comes to picking which strategy to use in neutral.

Let's say you only know one way to approach your opponent in the neutral game but you have spent a huge amount of time practicing and polishing it. For example, imagine you play Filia and you have perfected the art of spacing yourself into the exact max range for instant airdash jHP, then using the instant airdash jHP to get up close, then overwhelming your opponent with close-range mixups. This works great until you play against an opponent who notices that you keep doing this and adapts. They put all of their attention into reacting with anti-airs whenever they see your character move at max instant airdash range, at which point you just lose the rest of the set for free.

So what can you do? You need to come up with some secondary strategies that work against players who are putting all of their effort into countering your primary strategy. In this example, maybe you can practice ground dashing at opponents who have been conditioned to expect instant airdash jHP, or hitting them with ringlet spike, or doing a higher jump into airdash or airball to vary your attack timing and make it harder for them to anti air you.

Or let's say you're a Beowulf player who is amazing at using arm and chairless sweep to punish zoners who press too many buttons at fullscreen. Against players who adapt to you by blocking all the time and hiding behind their assist, this strategy would result in you whiffing a bunch of big unsafe moves and losing. But if you notice that your opponent is blocking too much and that they're too scared to throw any projectiles, you could adapt by just walking or dashjumping towards them to close the gap.

Try to have at least three ways to approach, even if one of them is to just dashjump and airblock. Then switch between your approaches depending on what your opponent is doing. This lets you do two things:

  1. Win neutral for free against predictable opponents. Just switch to whichever strategy does best against their predictable playstyle. Don't be afraid of being too predictable against players like this; if their neutral strategy is to swing at you with big armored moves 100% of the time, your counter strategy should be to block/dashblock and punish 100% of the time. Nothing is worse than figuring out exactly how your opponent plays, and "under-adapting" because drastically changing your gameplan feels too weird or too risky.
  2. Not get destroyed by opponents who adapt. For example, if they start playing overly cautious just to bait one of your approaches, switch to the approach that beats overly cautious players, and so on. Once they start expecting your other approaches, you can go back to your main approach again.

The next step is to predict when your opponent will change their approach and counter it as it happens, instead of just reacting after their approach changes and always being one step behind. Noticing that your opponent has started baiting your airdash approach and switching to a different strategy is much better than not adapting at all, but the best outcome is predicting exactly how many airdashes it will take for them to start baiting it so you can immediately counter their first bait attempt. Keep practicing, and pay attention to how long your opponents take to adapt to your different approaches!

And finally, a few tips for practicing adapting: