Trainer’s School Lesson Eleven: Advanced Defense

Learn about additional defensive tools that can turn the tide in battle

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This is part eleven, and the currently planned conclusion, of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. I’ve always loved this game and I’ve wanted to give back to the community and generate more interest in it. I hope that this series continues to be successful in getting new players invested in the fighting game that taught me about fighting games. If you would like to try out Pokkén Tournament Deluxe, and learn more information about the game, be sure to check out the community Discord!

Welcome back, and Happy New Year! With the completion of every character guide, this is the final (planned) Trainer’s School lesson. Lesson eleven of Trainer’s School will touch upon a handful of advanced or extraneous defensive tools that go beyond blocking, CADC, or command armor. I’ve touched on a few of these concepts in previous guides (like Homing Cancelling) while others are easy to discover during gameplay (like the Burst Declare Wave.) While some of these are also discussed in tutorial series created by other players, like Bad Intent’s Pokkén Basics videos, there aren’t any reliable text-based resources (and it’s almost impossible to find anything up-to-date about Burst Exhaust, for instance.) This guide will go over the following concepts:

Understanding advanced defensive mechanics and how to play around them is important for several reasons. In Pokkén, there are no real high-low defensive mixups despite the existence of High and Low Stances and moves with height properties. This means that a majority of your mixups will revolve around strike-or-throw, i.e. the Attack Triangle. Understanding universal mechanics that can allow you to circumvent these mixups will give you an edge over your opponent even when you’re technically at a disadvantage. In these cases, the following techniques will either allow you to tech the throw, or block or avoid the strike. Learn and practice these concepts well!

11.1: Burst Declare Wave

You’ve probably already seen this in action- when popping your Burst Mode, a shockwave emanates from your character. This shockwave knocks your opponent away from you if they’re too close, clears all projectiles on the screen, and may even counter pierce. On top of these observable properties, the Burst Declare Wave resets both player’s PSP on hit, is +8 on hit and zero on block. Burst Declare itself is also invincible frame 1, although the hitbox is i19.

Previously, I have described Burst Mode as both a burst and an install. (Remember that a burst mechanic allows characters to escape combos or pressure, such as Burst in Guilty Gear or Combo Breakers in Killer Instinct. An install mode is a transformation that often spends a resource in order to change whole properties of the character. Characters like Darkrai have install modes independent of Burst Mode.) The properties of Burst Declare Wave is what make it a valuable burst option in order to escape pressure or punish dropped combos. In spite of this, the power of Burst Declare Wave can be circumvented by players who are familiar with the defensive options available to them. But first, we have to understand…

11.2: Homing Cancel and Perfect Block

Both of these mechanics are tied to the same input, making them a sort of pseudo-option select. (Remember that an option select in fighting games is when one input or series of inputs can lead to different context-sensitive outcomes, such as the 6PH throw option select in Guilty Gear.)

Here, I use Homing Cancel to tech the Lucario dummy’s throw and then follow up with Metal Claw Swords, which does more damage than if I simply teched and continued to mash Homing Attack. The other reason why you would Homing Cancel instead of mashing out Homing Attack 2 is so that you can Perfect Block in the event your opponent isn’t trying a throw mixup.

Homing Cancel itself is easy to understand and perform. Homing Attack in Field Phase can be cancelled by jumping or blocking. To Homing Cancel, simply input Homing Attack 1 (press X) and then cancel your momentum with block (press R.) When you block an attack in this manner, you gain additional advantage against your opponent’s move- this means that situations where you were initially minus or even can become situations where you are now even or plus. Using Homing Cancel to earn advantage on block is called Perfect Blocking, and functions similarly to other games that have techniques often referred to as just block or instant blocking. On the other hand, if your opponent is going for a grab instead of an attack, the Homing Cancel lets you tech out of the grab with Homing Attack 1 and then grab crush with the follow-up of your choice. Homing Cancel still requires a bit of precision to perform, however. Perform it too early, and you’ll just get a normal block out of Homing Attack 1, which means you won’t tech the throw or you won’t get the Perfect Block frame advantage. Perform it too late, and you’ll just get Homing Attack 1.

Also, as mentioned in previous guides, since Machamp can cancel Submission and EX Submission into block, this means that he’s the only character who can Perfect Block in Duel! The concept and input are obviously the same, but instead of Homing Attack, you’ll use 6A Submission. Since the grappler struggles at range, he definitely enjoys the additional defensive option in Duel Phase.

Blocking normally leaves me vulnerable to Gatling Flame Kicks when I try to punish, but Perfect Blocking lets me punish the startup of the super with Metal Claw.

So, how does this let you circumvent Burst Declare Wave? By inputting the Homing Cancel input right at the end of the Burst Mode transformation animation, you can time Perfect Block to come out just in time to block the Burst Declare Wave and be plus. If your character has fast enough options, you can punish whatever your opponent may try after they pop Burst! In the example clip above, Scizor uses Perfect Block to render Blaziken’s Burst Declare Wave minus and then punish the Gatling Flame Kicks activation with Metal Claw before the invincibility frames come out. Of course, Homing Cancelling lets you defend against other situations in Field as well, so it’s worth practicing against everything else. I simply use the Burst Declare Wave punish as our example here because it’s very noteworthy and easy to understand, and it also creates cohesion between each part of this guide.

11.3: Extending invincibility frames with Extended State and Burst Exhaust

Both of these mechanics have to do with the grace period invulnerability that characters earn on wakeup or after exiting Burst Mode, so they both share a section. Furthermore, neither of these require any precise inputs- in fact, using Extended State requires you to not press any buttons at all.

When a character gets up after air-teching or being knocked down, there are a certain amount of invincibility frames granted to the character. The whole point of okizeme and meaty options on wakeup is thus to either time the move or setplay options so that they hit the opponent on wakeup, or force the opponent to block and eat a mixup. Normally, the opponent who was knocked down would ideally want to block on wakeup so that they don’t get hit by anything, but being put into the habit of blocking also leaves you open to meaty throw. Also, mashing a button on wakeup or even buffering block while getting up actually reduces the amount of invincibility frames you have. You can extend the state of your invincibility on wakeup by doing literally nothing. Don’t touch any buttons while getting up and you can gain an additional seven frames of wakeup invulnerability that can let you avoid some meaty setups, mainly against single hits.

This is a meaty setup lifted wholesale from a Bad Intent video. 5X whiffs on Shadow Mewtwo because the dummy is set to do nothing on wakeup. When the reaction setting is changed to Normal Attack, Shadow Mewtwo gets hit by meaty 5X because he’s buffering an attack, which cuts his wakeup invul frames short.

Extended State also works in two other situations besides wakeup: in blockstun, and after Burst Declare. Not touching a button while in blockstun extends your blockstun, which can potentially keep you safe longer against blockstrings that are designed to open you up if you mash out of block. Meanwhile, not mashing anything after a Burst Declare extends your initial Burst invulnerability frames, which means you can actually punish players who try to punish Burst Declare Wave with Perfect Blocking by simply doing nothing, letting their punish whiff on your invuln, and then retaliating. Manipulating your Extended State can be difficult to time or utilize intentionally, but doing so correctly may allow you to catch your opponent off guard in specific situations.

The final extension of invulnerability we’re going to cover in this guide is the Burst Exhaust invuln frame extension. (While this is easy to explain, it’s very hard to capture in training mode, so no clip. Sorry about that.)

Burst Mode won’t end, even if you run out of meter, until you’re on the ground. This means that you can jump in the air or be launched or something and you’ll remain in Burst Mode until you land. This is also why you can use Burst Attack upon landing even if you’re out of meter as a final option. Once your Burst ends, your character will flash white briefly and be completely immobile, capable of nothing except block. This brief state is called Burst Exhaust. While normally you would basically be completely vulnerable after exiting Burst due to this property (similarly to Sol’s Dragon Install in Guilty Gear, the pioneer install mechanic) you can extend your invulnerability frames during Burst Exhaust simply by holding a cardinal direction. Knowing how to exploit Burst Exhaust invulnerability lets you escape free punishes and instead makes exiting Burst a mixup situation: will your opponent’s Burst Exhaust punish whiff, or will they delay their option to beat your invulnerability? This adds another layer of defense in a situation that would normally be a free punish for your opponent.

Conclusion

When popping Burst Mode, the Burst Declare Wave can stuff a lot of options on the screen, letting you turn the situation around in your favor. Homing Cancelling can let you tech and punish throws in Field Phase, or block certain options such as Burst Declare Wave with Perfect Blocking to gain additional frame advantage. Extended State can grant you additional invulnerability frames in situations such as knockdown or Burst Declare, while knowing how Burst Exhaust works allows you to exit Burst Mode safely once you’re out of meter.

This short guide concludes the Trainer’s School series! Be sure to follow my Medium, Twitter, and Twitch to keep up-to-date with me going into 2021 as I move on to other fighting game-related content. Regular articles about other fighting game news and topics will resume next week. You can also financially support me on Twitch and Patreon via subscription. While this isn’t the end of my Pokkén journey by any means, I still want to thank the community for supporting me and my work. My current growth and happiness within the fighting game community wouldn’t have been possible without Pokkén DX, and I hope the time and effort put into these guides reflects that.

A world of adventure awaits! Carve your path through the Ferrum League, aspiring Trainer!

  • Lite the Iron Man

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Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” Dhami can be found on Twitter (@LiteTheIronMan,) on Twitch (twitch.tv/litetheironman,) and at your local.

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