Chris Matthews
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How To Get The Most Out Of Each Hit (in Skullgirls 2nd Encore+)

Skullgirls is a game where landing a hit can lead to huge amounts of damage and pressure. Even in high level play, you sometimes see someone land a clean hit and keep up the pressure until the opponent loses their entire team. So knowing what to do after landing a hit is an important part of becoming a strong player.

That said, it's not as important as being able to land a hit in the first place, or being able to convert as many of those hits as possible into a combo. So if you're new to the game, you're probably best off just learning a basic combo, and a way to reset if you want. And then learning how to go into that combo from a regular hit, and an airthrow, and an anti-air hit, and an air-to-air hit, and so on. This guide is for players who can regularly land clean combo starters in matches but have trouble deciding what to do afterwards.

(I'm not aware of a name for this concept in most fighters other than "doing optimized combos", but Smash Bros players call it the Punish Game. I figured I'd mention this in case anyone who came from Smash is reading it.)

Things you should already know about:

How Many Hits Do I Need To Kill?

A basic straightforward strategy to start with is to always try and kill the character that you hit. We'll worry about other strategies later, like snapping in a problem character, or saving meter to make a problem matchup easier or to kill an assist, or baiting a low health character into tagging out so you can punish the character that tags in. So whenever you land a hit that leads into a combo, just keep doing resets (or oki for a few teams like Beowulf + A-Train) until the opponent's character is weak, and then to continue your current combo until they're dead. Because of this, it's usually more important to think about your opponent's health in terms of how many more hits, combos, or resets you need to kill them, instead of just thinking about raw damage numbers.

If you get carried away with caring about exact damage numbers, you might end up wasting meter on supers that don't actually achieve anything. For example, if you're getting close to the end of a Big Band combo and your opponent has 3000 health, you might consider ending the last chain with his SSJ super to bring them down to 2000 health. But Big Band would have easily been able to deal 3000 damage with his next hit anyway, so the extra damage from the SSJ wasn't useful and you wasted a bar of meter. To make things worse, SSJ knocks the opponent away from Big Band, whereas a regular meterless knockdown ender or a reset setup would have left you in a better position to mix up your opponent and finish off their character with the next hit. So despite the extra damage, Big Band spent meter to make his combo ender *worse* than the meterless version would have been.

On the other hand, if your last combo chain leaves the opponent with 200 health and you are trying to decide whether or not to end it with a super that does 2000 damage, you might think of it as a waste of a super because you're wasting most of its damage. But if you think of it as the difference between killing the opponent's character and having to land another hit on them, it's obvious that the super is worth the meter.

The exception to all of this is chip damage. There's a difference between needing one more combo to kill your opponent's character and being able to chip them out without having to land a hit, and the amount of health where chip kills become viable depends on which team you pick. A rushdown team without any high chip lockdown assists might have to wait until the opponent has 200 health before being able to go for a chip kill, but a projectile-based zoning team might be able to comfortably go for chip kills once their opponent is on 1000 health or more. A team like that might choose to end a combo with a super that leaves the opponent full screen at 2000 health instead of going for one more reset, because they would rather play it safe and attempt to chip out their opponent from fullscreen instead of going for an up-close reset which could leave them in a bad situation if it gets blocked. Figure out what chip kill options your team has!

Summary: when you land a hit on a character, reset them until they die. Save your meter until your opponent's character is weak, then 'cash out' and spend it all to get the kill. Teams that deal a lot of chip damage can sometimes get away with leaving opponents on low health instead of going for the kill.

Undizzy (Basic)

The undizzy bar is very important. Combos and resets deal very little damage to a character who is already at max undizzy, so it's extremely hard to kill an opponent who has a decent amount of health remaining if their undizzy bar is already full. Hitting an opponent with a full undizzy bar gives them a ton of meter too. Because of this, your goal should usually be to keep the undizzy bar low enough that by the time it fills up, your opponent's character is weak enough that you can just end the current chain and kill them. So if you land a hit on a full health character, it's usually a bad idea to do a full-length combo that completely fills the undizzy bar. This is because despite all the guaranteed damage you get from a full combo, the full undizzy bar severely limits how much follow-up damage you can do if you continue your pressure afterwards.

A easy way to get an opponent's health low without maxing out undizzy, which works on teams of any size, is to learn some short combos that go into a reset situation after using very little undizzy. Anything under 100 undizzy works great. Because of damage scaling, the first part of a combo deals the most damage anyway, so you can still get a decent amount of damage from a very short combo. Calling a high-damage assist near the start of a combo, such as lock n load or napalm pillar, is ideal for short combos like these. If you can get over 3500 damage for a low-undizzy combo that leads into a reset situation, that's great. You then just need to learn how much damage you get from really short combo, such as a single ground chain into a super. Then all you have to do is land a hit, keep doing your short resets until your opponent's health bar drops below the point where the short combo into super will kill, then do the short combo.

If your opponent's undizzy bar fills all the way up and they still have a lot of health left, you'll have to stop hitting them to let it drain back down to zero. You don't have to back off from your opponent completely; anything where they're not in hitstun or blockstun is enough for their undizzy to start draining. Here are some ways to let their undizzy drain while keeping up a bit of pressure:

Summary: Don't let the opponent's undizzy bar fill up before their health gets low enough that you can kill them with a short combo. An easy way to do this is to learn some low-undizzy resets and keep doing them until your opponent is almost dead, then finish them off with a short combo into super. If the undizzy bar fills up and the opponent still has lots of health left, let their undizzy drain but keep up the pressure.

Undizzy (Advanced)

Another factor that affects whether you should extend your combo or go for early resets is how you started your combo. Starting with a throw, an assist, or a multi-hit move will instantly scale the rest of your combo's damage down pretty hard, so you'll be getting very low damage-per-undizzy if you keep the combo going. So whenever you start a scaled combo, try to reset as early as possible.

This basic strategy of doing lots of short resets works well against characters and teams of any size, but it's not always optimal. There are some situations where you might be able to kill a character without giving them as many chances to escape. This depends on your team's size and how much damage it deals, as well as your opponent's team size. The general rule is: teams that deal a huge chunk of an opponent's character's health bar with a single combo can probably find ways to get two-touch or three-touch character kills using longer combos, but teams that only deal a small amount of an opponent's health bar with each combo are in it for the long haul and have to prioritize keeping the undizzy bar as low as possible using a ton of short resets.

If you want to find optimized ways to kill characters in a couple of touches, you'll need to go into training mode to figure out what your team can do when playing against each team size. For example, a highly optimized trio team might be able to get a one-reset kill against another trio character, a two-reset kill against a duo character, and a regular lots-of-short-resets kill against a solo character. This might change depending on your resources too; maybe a Bella/Band duo normally needs a reset to kill a trio character, but with three meters it only needs a single touch to get a kill. The way to get the maximum amount of damage out of your team will depend on your characters, but keep in mind that DHCs deal less damage after undizzy is maxed out, so your team's optimal damage might come from DHCing early in a combo.

Warning: this is a lot of stuff to have to practice and keep track of! There is a reason that some of the tournament players who are known for having lots of optimal ways to kill characters of different team sizes in different situations are also known for dropping combos. Because of this, in high stress situations it might be worth falling back to the basic strategy of just doing a bunch of quick resets until they're weak enough that you can kill them with a short combo. Short combos also give your opponent much less meter, which is another upside to sticking with the basic strategy. The game's systems really try to reward you for giving your opponent as many chances to escape as possible after you land a hit, so make sure you're aware of all the downsides of going for the optimal two-touch-kill stuff before you decide whether or not to do it. That said, trying not to let your opponent play after you land a hit is always going to be extremely strong in any fighting game, and you'll see plenty of players in top 8s at majors who go for optimized kill setups. You could compromise by learning some optimal ways of killing trio characters, then falling back to short resets when playing against duos and solos. Try things out and see what works for you!

Summary: Go into a reset as early as possible if you land a scaled combo starter. Consider optimizing your damage by learning the ways that your team can kill a character in the fewest hits possible, especially when playing against trios.

Red Life, Snapbacks, And Killing Assists

Red life can be healed. Inactive characters on duos and trios heal red life over time as long as they're not on screen as an assist, and solos heal red life when they land a snapback. Snapping in an inactive character on a team, or landing a snap on a solo, immediately removes all of their red life.

When to snap as (or against) a solo: Do it when the solo player has a ton of red life built up, but make sure you're thinking about it in terms of how many touches are needed to kill. If the solo player is one touch from death but they would still be one touch from death after healing their red life, snapping won't do anything. Especially don't bother snapping a solo player if they're so low that you could just end your combo with a super instead of a snap to kill them and win the round. It sounds silly but people make this mistake sometimes.

Snapping against a team is more complicated. The general rule is that the more red life an assist character has, the better it is to snap them in, but there are a few other things to think about:

If you land a hit against a duo or trio and you decide you want to snap in another character, you have to decide how much of a combo to do before snapping. The advantages of snapping early in the combo are:

The advantages of doing a longer combo before snapping are:

The best compromise is usually to do a short combo for a few seconds and then snap. You get to do all the frontloaded damage that comes at the start of a combo, but you don't let your opponent's assist character heal much and you still have some undizzy left so you can deal decent damage if you hit them with your incoming mixup. Remember to think about this in terms of touches needed; Doing a short 4000 damage combo on the point character that lets the assist character heal 1000 health is usually a good trade, but it's not worth it if the character you snapped in originally only had 100 health remaining. Even though you came out on top in terms of raw health, the character you snapped in has gone from being so weak that you could set up a guaranteed chip kill on incoming, to being strong enough that you have to land a clean hit to get a kill.

Deciding whether or not to do a double snap, on the other hand, is much easier. They are almost always a good idea, as they let you instantly kill an opponent's assist character without building up any extra undizzy. So if you hit two characters and you have the ability to carry them to the corner and snap them, do it and make sure you don't drop the combo. The only thing better than landing a double snap is being able to straight up kill the assist character with the happy birthday combo while still hitting the point character at the same time, but dropping a happy birthday combo because you went for an optimal character kill setup instead of just taking a free double snap opportunity is a HUGE mistake. So don't try to convert your happy birthday combos into anything fancier than a simple double snap unless you are extremely confident that you won't mess it up.

But if you do want to find some optimized happy birthday character kill combos, you can try using an unbirthday setup (see Deer's video) to reset the combo scaling on the assist character while continuing the combo on the point character. Note that unbirthdays only reset damage scaling to 75% now, instead of the 100% scaling back when that video was recorded, but they can still give you a ton of extra damage.

The other ways you can completely kill a character without even having to play against them are to get a midscreen kill on an assist character after killing the point character, or to punish an assist in neutral so many times that it eventually loses all of its health. Midscreen assist kills are huge, so make sure you know how to get them with all of your characters (see CaioLugon's video) and always look out for bad assist calls when your opponent's point character is low on health. Killing assists in neutral is huge too, so learn all of your team's options for damaging assists in neutral. Some examples of ways to do this are:

The effectiveness of your assist punishes depends on your damage ratio. If you're a solo or a duo, look out for ways to deal huge damage to trio assists! This especially applies when you're thinking about whether or not you should kill your opponent's assist with a super and let them punish you for free; if you're playing solo vs trio, you might be able to kill their assist from close to full health and they'll barely be able to take off 25% of your life in return.

Summary: Snap in characters with lots of red life, go for double snaps and midscreen assist kills whenever possible, and learn your team's options for dealing damage to your opponent's assists.

Having A Gameplan

In an interview just before winning Marvel vs Capcom 2 at Evo 2005, Duc Do said "remember this game is all about teams and your gameplan". This is also true for Skullgirls. Most of the choices about when to reset, when to snap, when and how to spend meter, and so on, depend on your team, your playstyle, and your opponents' characters and playstyles. Some things to think about:

And so on. Experiment with different strategies and see what's effective, so you can get to the point where you already have a gameplan in your head as soon as you see your opponent's team. You don't want to have to think about a million different potential options every time you land a hit, and it's much easier you've already made a plan by the time the round starts. If you play a regular rushdown team, your plan in most matchups might be "I'm going to go for short resets on every character I hit and I'll spend my meter for a kill whenever I get the chance." A slightly more complicated gameplan might be "I'm going to try and punish their brass knuckles assist until they can't call it any more, and I'll save all of my meter until their Cerebella comes out so I can kill her in a single combo. And if things go bad, I'm going to DHC out into catheads when I get the chance.".

Summary: Figure out your team's regular gameplan, and figure out how to change it for different matchups.

Tips On Doing Good Resets

Whether you should reset your opponent's character in the air or on the ground depends on their reversal options and air options. Advantages of resetting your opponent in the air:

Advantages of resetting them on the ground:

So characters like Painwheel, Valentine and headless Ms Fortune should usually be reset on the ground because they have a ton of ways out of air resets, so you might as well just give them access to their mediocre ground reversals in exchange for you gaining the ability to do high/low mixups. Characters like Beowulf and Parasoul, on the other hand, have reversals on the ground but very few ways of escaping air resets, so keeping them in the air is usually stronger. This can be even more important when your opponent has a safe DHC and wants to tag out; you want to reset Double in the air anyway, but you REALLY want to reset her in the air if she's almost dead and wants to mash reversal car into Painwheel install. This decision might also depend on your characters and your opponent's resources; you don't have to worry about Ms Fortune's air super or Squigly's DP if they don't have the meter or the charge to do them, and you might want to go for more ground resets if you play characters with strong command grabs or high/low mixups.

An even better way of doing a "ground reset" is to let your combo end a few frames before your opponent lands, then reset them during their 2 frames of landing recovery. This is because it is much harder to input a ground reversal during those 2 frames, but they still have to block high/low mixups correctly. The downside is that the timing for this is very strict, so your opponent will be able to predict exactly when the reset is coming. See Liam's video for a full explanation. The same pros and cons apply to safe jumps, where you time your reset/oki in a way where you have time to land and block before the opponent's reversal hits you.

Also remember that landing a hit on a character who has used their double jump means they don't get their double jump back until they escape your combo and jump again themselves. So if you catch your opponent after they use their double jump, they'll have a much harder time escaping your air resets. See Liam's video for a full explanation.

One last thing when it comes to landing optimal resets is that even if your opponent can't reversal, they might be able to hit you with a regular air normal. For example, ending a combo with a launcher, waiting for your opponent to fall back down, and hitting them with a high/low mixup right as they land might seem good, but they can easily hit you with an air normal on the way down. So make sure you know which of your resets give your opponent enough time to jab out, and which ones are completely airtight.

So that's how to be optimal with your resets, but...

Optimal play is easily predictable, and one of the main benefits of resets is that their timing doesn't have to be predictable because you can do them at almost any point during a combo. It's easy to hit someone with a reset they're not thinking about, so doing this should be one of your main goals. One way to reset an opponent when they're not thinking about it is to find some main optimal reset setups that you usually go for, then find a bunch of "worse" resets that are one or two moves earlier or later in the combo than your main resets. That way, you can do your best resets until your opponent expects them, then you can nail them with some weird unexpected resets once they're trained to only look out for resets at one or two specific parts of your combo. Another way to land unexpected resets is to learn so many different resets with so many different timings that your opponent will never know everything to look out for, even after playing a long set against you.

Some examples of unexpected "bad" resets that might catch people who aren't expecting them are:

Even after you've gotten a few free hits this way and your opponent now knows they should expect resets to come at any time, they still won't be able to anticipate your resets as well as an opponent who knows you only ever reset at one point in your combo. They might even be tempted to mash reversals during your combos because they have no idea when the reset is coming, leaving them open to burst baits or safe jumps.

All of this depends on your team, of course. Maybe your team's optimal reset/oki setups are so incredibly strong that there's no reason to ever do anything else, even against an opponent who is only ever expecting you to do your optimal setups. But for the most part, you're missing out on a lot of free hits if you don't try to randomly reset your opponent at unexpected times.

Summary: Know whether it's better to reset your opponent's characters on the air or on the ground. For fully optimal air resets, see if you can find resets that hit during landing recovery or air resets that people can't jab out of. Consider mixing a bunch of different non-optimal resets in with your regular optimal resets, your opponent can't predict when a reset is coming.

That's It, Hope This Was Useful

There are a ton of options after you land a hit in Skullgirls, and it can be hard to decide what to do. You can get pretty far with a basic gameplan: do short combos into resets, save your meter until it will get a kill, snap your opponent if they have a ton of red life or if you have the opportunity for a double snap, and mix in some unexpected resets at weird times to keep your opponent on their toes. But deciding how to spend your meter and exactly when you want to reset depends on your playstyle, your team, and your opponent's characters and damage ratio. There are players who do long combos into optimal reset setups and always spend their meter to get a kill, players who do short combos and build lots of meter for safe DHCs, players who save all of their meter to deal with specific bad matchups, players who spend the neutral game fishing for assist punishes and double snaps, and everything in between. Good luck finding the best gameplan for you!