Trainer’s School Lesson Ten: Stances, Move Heights, and Just Frames
A look into the ins and outs of certain move interactions
This is part ten 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’ll be creating more guides like this in the future and I hope this gets 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!
As of the time of writing, the Pikachu character guide is coming along well, but I realized that there are a few things I still have yet to explain regarding the properties of certain moves. I neglected to go into them in previous articles because, for the most part, they don’t really matter in Pokkén except for some specific situations. However, as I dove a bit more into the Pikachu guide, I decided I would rather explain these concepts in another separate article instead of detailing it in the middle of a character breakdown.
As the title explains, this guide will go over the following concepts: High and Low Stances, high- and low-hitting moves, and just frames. High and Low Stances are unique to Pokkén but are functionally similar to crouching; high and low moves are an important concept when understanding mixups in fighting games; just frames are a specific property of certain moves across fighting games.
10.1 High and Low Stance
In Pokkén, during Duel Phase, holding up on the D-Pad (remember our numpad notation? Up is 8.) will put your Pokémon in a high-standing stance, while holding down (remember that down is 2!) will make them crouch. Holding 8 in neutral is called High Stance, and holding 2 in neutral is called Low Stance. In general, High Stance and Low Stance will both have different properties depending on the Pokémon. We’ll go into the specifics of high and low moves in Pokkén later, but as you may have already surmised, Low Stance usually allows you to crouch under high-hitting moves. In general, both High Stance and Low Stance will also have different properties depending on the Pokémon. For instance, Blaziken’s High and Low Stances both provide a brief moment of counter armor against certain moves. Garchomp’s High Stance is called Rough Skin and provides him with red armor that deals recoil damage to his opponents. Gengar’s High Stance will let him float over low-hitting moves. Another property that some characters share is the ability to build Synergy or some other meter while holding High Stance. The full list of unique Stance properties can be found here.
That’s basically it. Using the armor on your character’s specific Stance to beat moves on reaction can be rough, especially at the beginning of the game. However, if your Pokémon has a Stance that will fill one of your meters, holding that Stance for a little bit of time when you have breathing room can help optimize your meter gain. For instance, Braixen and Empoleon can both hold their High Stance to build Support Gauge, which may allow a much-needed assist to come through more frequently.
Also, remember that High and Low Stance should not be confused with character specific stances such as Garchomp’s Running Stance, Charizard and Decidueye’s Flying Stance, Aegislash’s Sword and Shield Formes, and Scizor’s Hover Dash Stance. The concept of stance characters can be seen in various fighting games, but these usually describe techniques unique to a character that allows them to perform certain moves or even changes their moveset entirely. We will go over stance changes in more detail when discussing characters that have them.
10.2 Move heights (High, mid, and low-hitting moves)
In most fighting game titles, you typically would hold the joystick or D-pad in a direction away from your opponent in order to block incoming moves. In those titles, blocking does not always block every move being thrown. Standing block, for instance (simply holding 4,) will not block a low-sweeping move, whereas a crouching block (holding 3) will block that same sweep. However, a crouching block will not block an attack from an airbound opponent jumping in on you, while the standing block will. A standing block will block all high-hitting moves, while a crouching block will block all low-hitting moves. Mid-hitting moves can be blocked by either standing or crouching block. Highs are often referred to as overheads, and lows that will sweep the opponent and grant a knockdown are often called sweeps.
In other games, highs and lows are important when playing okizeme and forcing your opponent to block. Consider Millia in Guilty Gear. After scoring a knockdown with 2D, Millia will throw out her H Tandem Top (236H). H Tandem Top is a mid-hitting projectile, which means it can be blocked in any direction. However, Millia has a plethora of other options after H Tandem Top that could hit you either high or low. If you block the H Tandem Top and its followups incorrectly, the projectile will then juggle you and Millia will score a powerful air combo. After that air combo ends, Millia will have earned another knockdown pressure situation, forcing you to block and guess correctly after H Tandem Top again.
Fortunately, since Pokkén’s block button blocks both highs and lows, you don’t have to deal with mixups like that in this game! Mixups here are usually oriented around the Attack Triangle rather than high-lows, and we’ve gone over that guessing game in previous articles. However, moves in this game still have high- and low-hitting properties. As you may have already surmised, this mainly comes into play when using Stances to avoid them. Crouching a telegraphed high move and then getting a big punish can turn Duel Phase around in your favor. The heights of every move in Pokkén are documented in that same big Google Doc of Pokkén frame data that we keep referring back to.
In Pokkén, there are actually seven different move heights: Lows, mids, highs, mid-lows, mid-highs, special mids, and aerials. Lows, mids, highs, and aerials are straightforward as already explained. The three other categories are there for moves that will still hit opponents despite Stance or jump-ins in specific situations. Mid-lows are lows that can catch opponents at the very beginning of their jump or can anti-air them as they fall down. Mid-highs are highs that hit crouching opponents, but can be anti-aired. Many mid-highs are aerials or moves that put the Pokémon in the air from a standing position. Special mids are mids that share the same properties as the other two special categories, meaning they can be anti-aired and jumped over. Again, these height properties mainly determine whether a move’s hitbox will hit or not when interacting with a Stance or another move, and will not come into play at all when blocking in Pokkén.
10.3 Just frames
Just frames are another special property that some characters may have on their moves. In general, the input window on most moves or combos in Pokkén is fairly lenient. However, if you input a particular move with a precise button press, you will get a different version of that move with additional properties. That precise input is called a just frame.
Not every character may have a move with a just frame input, and practicing that input is usually a major milestone to overcome when improving with a character. Within the context of the upcoming Pikachu article, Pikachu has two moves that have just frame properties- 5YX and 6Y. If you got the just frame on those moves, the normal yellow sparks on Pikachu’s uppercut will become blue, and you will get more damage and combo opportunities after landing them. Whether a move has a just frame or not can be found in the ingame movelist as well as on the frame data sheet listed above. When writing a combo that requires a just frame input, the input is denoted with a : colon before the corresponding button. The just frame for the X followup for Pikachu’s 5Y Poké Combo is represented in numpad notation as 5Y:X, or 5YY:X, or 5YYY:X.
Some combos may require you to properly earn the just frame for maximizing (or minimizing) damage or PSP, or for earning additional situations. Practicing these and learning the timings may be difficult, but any player trying to take their character seriously should learn how to use them eventually. Adding another tool to your kit will give you that much more of an advantage against your opponents!
High and Low Stances have properties unique to each character, but can always be accessed by holding up or down on the directional input during Duel Phase. Stances are just one aspect of counterplay when learning how to whiff punish moves with specific height properties. Just frames are another unique property that certain moves have which can allow for more damage or other opportunities, especially during a combo.
That’s it for this lesson of Trainer’s School! Understanding the terminology here will make the rest of the character guides easier to understand. Next week, we’ll take a look at Pikachu and learn how to play as the Mouse Pokémon in Pokkén DX!
EDIT (1/3/2021) If you’re interested in navigating the guide in sequence instead, you can find the Blaziken guide here.