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Some thoughts on gray life in SFV

Posted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:40 pm
by NightRiderRonin
I know that gray life isn't loved in SFV, particularly since it regenerates even slower in season 2. However, I feel like gray life is attempting to perform a needed service, it just isn't doing it very well. That service is that of replacing the block meter and preventing turtling. Ideally with gray life, the more you block, the more you rack up gray life, that could lead to massive amounts of life being taken with one insignificant hit. In practice, most characters can't deal enough gray life damage beyond equating to one or two extra hits. It's a lot like FANGs poison - on paper it sounds horrible, in practice it's not that bad, and most of the time winds up being one or two extra hits total.

As a result, this leads to a style of play where people can get away with a lot more than they should, by constantly blocking and late teching. Now, I know a bunch of people are going to say "but NightRider, if they're teching, you can bait them out of their tech by shimmying and then counter throwing or punishing". Well yes, I can, but here's my train of thought:

If I am continually throwing block strings on you, that you are unable to counter or evade, then I am doing one thing right, I am attempting to win the game by lowering your life. I may not be succeeding, but at least I am making the attempt. If you are blocking, then you are making no attempt to win while you are blocking. I am also committing to some risk: with every frame trap/throw switch up I do, I run the risk of being punished by a throw invincible dp, an EX dp, or an attack that is able to break a frame trap. In short, we could both be sitting back blocking all day, and getting no closer to victory, but by attacking, I am taking initiative that you are not.

Now, you might say that if blocking leads you to an advantageous position where you can punish an offender for recklessly attacking, then it is a legit tactic. The problem with that comes when you break down the pro/con of what happens when you block vs when you hit. On an unsuccessful normal hit, you get super meter, and lose no life. On a block, you get super meter, and v meter, and lose a little bit of life. Actually let me clarify that - you get a bit more super meter on a block than you would than if you got hit, and about the same amount of v meter as if you took the same amount of red damage. Only here you have the option to get that life that you bartered to get your v meter back. I performed an experiment using Ken, and found that if I randomly hit him with fierces while he is blocking, he will sacrifice about 2/3rds of his life meter to gray life, but in return he will get his super meter a little over 2/3rds full, and his V meter full. But remember, it's gray life, so he can get it back.

For the people who are saying "gray life doesn't return fast enough", I really want you to think about what I just said. You can get most of your meters filled for sitting around doing nothing but blocking. You can pawn life in exchange for getting meter faster than you would if you were getting straight up beat, and what's more, you can get more meters that you simply wouldn't be able to get by simply beating the other guy up.

"But NightRider, it doesn't really matter if you don't get V meter if you are beating the other guy, you said it yourself, you don't win on meters, you don't win on supers, you win on life." Well yes, I did say that, and yes, I do believe that, but when you break down the risk reward of a confrontation in SFV, you will see how bad this gets for the alleged aggressor, and how the turtle is rewarded for minimal effort.

Let's say I am running an assault on a player who simply will not attack, and is using a macro to late tech. If I hit them with lights and mediums, they will get super meter, at a slightly slower rate than I do. However, they will also get v meter, which I am getting none of. The one definite advantage that I have is that I am getting super meter faster than they are, however depending on who you are, this won't do any good if the other guy is simply autoblocking everything. When I tested this, Ken got a little over 1 super bar for every two that his attacker got when he starts blocking everything. That is one EX DP that is gotten by simply doing nothing but late teching. Once you have an EX DP, what is harder, to late tech, or EX DP?

People talk about how bad safe everything was in SF4, but I feel like this is worse, because at least in SF4, you had to be good to do safe everything. Here, you have people getting to Platinum and beyond because it's easier and more rewarding to block and late tech than it is to actually fight the opponent at any given range. If you have an overwhelming offense, but not quite the brains to use it, it's ok, because you can just block and late tech everything until you get the meters you want, and then EX DP into your V trigger and you're done. It's not quite SF3:2I all over again, but it's a good way there.

Now that I've said that, I would like Capcom to do one thing: bring back guard meters, in the following fashion:

Guard meters would work like they did in Alpha 3, only there would be no such thing as a guard break. Instead what would happen is this - guard meter acts as a multiplier for how much grey life you take when someone attacks you, and as a limit to the "no normal ko" rule in SFV. Also, guard meter acts as a multiplier for how little damage you take when you tech a throw. So if you have a full guard meter, blocked fierces and roundhouses do maybe 10% of their damage to you, same for teched throws. If you have 50% guard meter, blocked attacks do 50/60% of their damage, throws the same. If you have no guard meter, then you basically take the same in gray life that you would in actual damage, and you're done teching throws, if you have no guard meter you lose the ability to tech throws. Also, if you have no guard meter, you can be ko'd by anything if you have no regular life remaining/all green life is gone.

I feel like this is fair: if you want to be a defensive player, fine, however you won't be rewarded for not knowing the character matchup, and betting that it's easier to macro a throw tech, block everything, get super/V, and interrupt when you have an EX DP, than it is to go fight the other person. If you want to reasonably, situationally, use you guard to get an advantage, you can do so. If however you have decided not to fight the other person at all, you will be punished for this choice, as you should be.

Any thoughts?