A Discussion on the Will to Win regarding Characters

This discussion is basically me trying to evaluate from players their experiences and advice in regards to how to win, and making the leap from an intermediate casual to someone who truly wants to compete and win. The first step on this road for me would be to at least try and earn my first pro star on the KI leaderboards, but that’s a small checkpoint in the bigger span of the journey.

The point I want to ask about and discuss is that as you become more competitive, you realize overall that while your enjoyment of the game is essential to doing well at it, at a certain point, you also have to give credence to the available data out there that supports certain trends to the game, and regard it with a little more gravity than an idealistic optimism that there is no truly unwinnable matchup.

You could say this is a tier list discussion, but tier lists are only part of it. Basically, we all want to win, but making the jump from casual or intermediate to an advanced level means, among other things, you want to win MORE, that you want to maximize your efforts and win as frequently as possible. From dissecting match footage for mistakes and correcting your game plan, studying frame data, watching other people’s match footage for tactics and tech, and making the best use of your lab time.

However, at some point, for the effort you put into learning a character, and trying to improve with them, I think part of growing and becoming better is not only understanding your strengths, and what to do to make your problem matches with that character easier, but also coming to the understanding that in order to maximize your wins and becoming better, you have to lend a little credibility to tier list discussion and accept the fact that at times, a counterpick can be a powerful tool, and one that can make a battle with a strong opponent much easier.

I love playing as Cinder, and months ago, I would say he may have his problems matchups, but he is capable of winning against anyone in the game, some with more effort and thought than others. But maximizing your wins doesn’t always go hand in hand with an idealist attitude, and understanding that my opponents can and will counterpick against me is a strong tactic. As such, I would be foolish to believe that a counterpick won’t affect my odds at all. Time passes, and I realize there are a few matchups Cinder may be able to win, but he just has such a hard time, it seems better to make the call to use someone who’s strengths are more suited to a matchup than Cinder’s tools.

Basically, in wanting to win, at what point do I balance the loyalty of my main to the will to win? In tournaments people counterpick all the time, and to win more, maybe I have to back off the idealist philosophy somewhat and accept that picking characters with better moves and advantages will increase my win ratio, and possibly expand my skill as a player. I still believe my main Cinder is good, and fun, but he’s got a hard time against some characters like Gargos and Glacius.

Eventually I would like to enter a tournament, with the intention of winning, and if I can’t get first place, I want to be as high on the pecking order as possible. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but when you enter a contest, if your intention isn’t to win and your ambition isn’t high, you won’t do well, as your position is a product of your mindset, at least in my belief. So with that said, I what to adopt a more winning mindset. Part of that though, is when is my loyalty to my main character detrimental to my results?

I love playing as Cinder, and believe he’s great for a lot of matchups. However, even with @UABass being as good a Cinder as he is, from watching a lot of his footage, even he has his moments where he contemplates a counterpick and the need to maximize his chances at winning. He doesn’t play Cinder all the time, and has recently shown some stuff he can do with Kilgore as well.

So I guess coming to the heart of the matter, does it sound selfish or narrowminded to abandon a single character proficiency, especially a character you’ve spent a long time cultivating a gameplan for in all matchups, for a new one in the opportunity to maximize your potential at winning? And where would you even start after making that decision?

This is where I defer to those who have walked the path before, or can share some enlightened perception on this issue. It doesn’t necessarily narrow it down to “tournament players only”, but anyone who wants to do better and increase their odds of winning, and their own experiences and decisions along that path.

Also, if this is in the wrong category, I apologize and I will move it to the correct one as soon as someone can teach me how to do that. I don’t create topics often so I’m kind of at a loss to some of the forum features.

As a character specialist in tournament, I tend to think of things in terms of time commitment. Is the time it would take me to learn how to deal with my bad MU (Riptor, Aria) less than the time it would take me bring a secondary up to the level I’d need to actually serve as a viable counterpick? For myself the answer is usally yes, so I don’t bother with counterpicks.

My general opinion is that real proficiency with a character is a lot more valuable in most cases than the benefit of pulling out a pocket. If you spend insane amounts of time with a character, you just tend to know things about them in ways that help you get the W even in bad situations. And if you try to counterpick a character specialist, there’s always the caveat that hey, they’ve been playing their character for forever, so do you really think you’re going to surprise them or show them something they haven’t seen before? Not unless your pocket Riptor is really, really, good are you going to beat my Hisako. I’ve played the MU a thousand times against the best Riptor’s in the world - you’re probably not going to show me anything I haven’t seen before with your pocket one.

That said, I think counterpicking is a viable strategy, just that it comes with the catch that your pocket also has to legitimately be a viable contender. If you can’t at least compete in pools with your pocket, then you have no reason to be pulling them out in Top 8. If your pocket is at a level where you’re legitimately dangerous with them though, then sure, by all means pick out of bad fights. I used to counterpick Riptor’s in S2 with Sadira (my original main) sometimes when I just didn’t feel like dealing with the character, and if I played Raam then I’d sure as heck have a pocket handy. If a fight is 7-3 then I think counterpicking is maybe a good idea right out the gate, but again, that pocket of yours had better be solid, otherwise you may as well stick to the bad MU that you’re intimately familiar with.

No. It sounds like you want to win, and that’s not a bad thing. Again, if bringing the secondary up to speed is less time-consuming than learning to deal with the bad fight, then by all means bring the secondary up to speed.

I’d suggest starting with the MU’s that are forcing you to pick out of an unfavorable fight in the first place. If Glacius or Gargos are your problems, then who are the characters that beat them or make them sweat? If you’re going to counterpick, then by all means counterpick.


Storm is a legit competitor and I’m just a random on the forums so I don’t know why I’m even posting here, but…

This is everything you need to think about. If “counterpicking” just means being half decent with two characters then that isn’t going to net you many wins.

And as Storm mentions, you can’t just learn how to play your counterpick against mediocre every day versions of the characters troubling your main. If you expect to win in a tournament you need to truly study your counter and be adaptable with that character.

I’m out of my depth so feel free to take this with a grain of salt, but if you have really been a character specialist up to this point I would recommend foregoing other matches and spend some substantial time seeking out great Glacius and Gargos (@SonicDolphin117 and @SlenderCashew50 are two that I know haunt the forums but you can find plenty) players and playing the Cinder matchup ad nauseaum. If you still think these matchups are not working for you only then start to think of developing a pocket character.

Good luck!

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What I was thinking during our set yesterday. I took a (another? Wow no surprise there Math) break from Killer Instinct, but before I did so, I was working on an Aria so I can really beat out all of those pesky Hisako players I see in Ranked. I was so fed up with getting my ■■■ handed to me by the best Hisako’s I wanted to learn the MU from a positive side and go from there. Thing Is, just as you said:

I was contemplating using her because, well, I typically only use her for this Hisako MU cause I for some ungodly reason have issues with the Kan-Ra Hisako MU; but my Aria still isn’t good enough to be used as a counterpick and I have put some serious time in with her. I found out yesterday that through splitting my time in learning the MU with Kan-Ra and Aria for the day my Kan-Ra caught up, and he caught up faaaaast!
Now not to TOOT TOOT mah own horn or anything but I can pick up whatever character I want and bring them pretty dang far skill-level-wise. I learn all characters quickly and if I find myself dedicating serious time to them I can bring them to the tournament scene along with my Kan-Ra. That being said, I still found that asking Hisako players for advice was much, much faster than learning an entirely new character.

What I can give advice for bad MU’s from my own personal experience though is learning to play that bad MU from the favorable side. Kan-Ra has a pretty rough time against Fulgore, so what did I do to help compensate? I learned to play Fulgore, and now I can comfortably say that it’s on of my most knowledgeable MU’s with Kan-Ra and even in my favor (And at high level play, which sounds crazy, I know).

(I’m also in the process of learning Hisako. SHE’S CRAZY! It really helps to be able to see both sides. If you know how to play a character almost as well as your opponent, you might be able to make some educated guesses as to what is going on inside his chromosome dome.
Oh, and why I didn’t just learn Hisako to begin with is cause, well, I don’t like Mirror MU’s and there are A LOT of Hisako’s right now. So I decided to learn Aria so if I lose I know it isn’t my lack of skill with my main, it’s from lack of skill with my pocket-main.) lol

You bring up a few interesting points I hadn’t considered before.

I would like to ask though, who is your current main to have problem matchups with ARIA and Riptor? Out of curiousity. Of course the question does have some bearing on my point too, but the impact isn’t profound.

I would say if your main is someone with good tools and situational ability to take on a majority of characters overall, your point about investing time into bad matchups rather than a new character would be definitely super solid. However, Cinder tends to have a bunch of good matchups, but he’s not as solid high up on the food chain as say maybe Fulgore or Jago, whose solid mechanics have proven over time to be a match for almost anyone or anything. Cinder’s arsenal being somewhat situational limits his approach on certain matchups, and his troubles might be greater against some characters than others. A more solid character may be wise to just stick out and invest in overcoming bad matchups, but one like Cinder may be wise to have a more stable side.

I guess in that argument though, you have to consider your proficiency with your main, and determine the matchups and odds you have overall, and the time investments and other factors involved and make that judgement call, which will be different to everyone’s personal experience.

They aren’t the only ones who give me trouble, but are somewhat the most pronounced of my troubles. Kan Ra is another one, and given the last two days, I’m even re-evaluating my stance on the Shadow Jago matchup.

If I were to select a counterpick, namely I think I would try to find someone I enjoy playing as, but as gives me an edge in almost all the worst matchups of Cinder’s. I don’t want to have three or four pocket characters where I play only one to deal with character A or B and that’s it. Like you mentioned with the time cost, I would like to invest maybe in something that supplements most if not all the worst matchups I have right now and smooth down the rough edges.[quote=“BigBadAndy, post:3, topic:18493”]
And as Storm mentions, you can’t just learn how to play your counterpick against mediocre every day versions of the characters troubling your main. If you expect to win in a tournament you need to truly study your counter and be adaptable with that character.

I understand that, and I don’t take this attempt at learning a side character or anything within this discussion lightly, and be proficient with whatever side character I play as seriously as my main. That said, at the moment I’m asking about personal experiences that could impact decisions made.

While I do appreciate the importance of battling a character specialist as well, a single specialist usually only prepares you for their tactics, which may change from one Glacius specialist to the next. Some may focus on Glacius as a powerful zone characters and use his keepaway to an extreme, while others find methods to work a more rushdown oriented mindset.

Another thought I had on the subject but kind of forgot to mention, is if I find a character that is sincerely fun to play and seems like the effort to try and learn them is more second nature and very easy to pick up, then that too may be worth it to try and learn them. I remember not liking Rash’s playstyle at first, but after playing as him for some time, I learned he’s actually a good character in his own right and the effort to learn him and his matchups didn’t really seem like a difficult one. So maybe in testing a bunch of characters out, and finding one that interests me, that also suppliments my bad matchups sounds a bit of a win win.

Some judgment calls to make I suppose, and experimenting with other characters playstyles.

At any rate, I appreciate everything from you guys so far.

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I am a Hisako main. I also have a Jago, Sadira, Kim Wu, and Mira that are good enough to take most players, but I wouldn’t switch to any of them in a tournament setting.

I would say that while these characters are indeed very strong, it’s important to remember the factors that make them strong at high level and take them into account, and to also think about how they deal with your stated bad MU’s. Jago v Gargos for instance is bloody annoying - Jago doesn’t lose the match, but it’s really sucky to have to try and catch Gargos for an entire fight. There’s also the fact that everyone has a ton of familiarity with the character - there’s a reason Thompxson is the only Jago doing serious work. The characters might be super good, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to still put a lot of work into learning certain MU’s. Even Fulgore (a character who generally kinda gets to do whatever the heck he wants) is forced to fight very differently for some MU’s in the game.

I believe Andy’s point (and my own) is simply that your pocket needs to actually be good, and not just “win 65% of Ranked matches” good. If your pocket is just mediocre or only trained up against generic Ranked players, you will find that you’re going to hit a serious wall if you try the character against some of the more serious players out there. Playing sets with real high-level Gargos/Glacius/whoever is the only way you’ll really learn what a counterpick/Gargos fight feels like.

For what it’s worth though, I don’t actually think Cinder has any really bad MU’s. Gargos and Glacius are tough, yeah, but I don’t think Shago or Kan Ra really fit the bill. There’s probably just some stuff you’re missing in the latter two fights.

Also, yes, Rash is very good. :thumbsup:

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I understand what he was trying to imply, but I’ve also found that across multiple players who use the same character often have their own tendencies that differentiate their tactics, and is even better for supplimenting matchup experience, though the way I worded it may have stressed that point more than the one Andy intended.

Still, if I find an alternate that I’m comfortable with enough to invest time into being proficient at, and have the side benefit of covering my bad matchups, then it may be worth it to try, but I understand that he needs to be ready more than to just take down ranked online players. That may be Rash, that may be Hisako or Shadow Jago, as I’ve used both of them to a degree with a certain amount of enjoyment.

And no, Cinder doesn’t have any lopsidedly, hilariously bad matchups that warrant a counterpick (like 3-7 or 2-8 bad), but he does have a higher number of 4-6 matches than most characters on average (well IMO).

Perhaps though is I just haven’t spent enough time confronting my bad matchups yet to understand where I could improve against them either.