Lost Strategy Series: The Role of Execution by James Chen Lost Strategy Series: The Role of Execution by James Chen
Buried deep within the SRK servers are lost strategy articles written by the likes of Valle, Choi and many other fighting game greats. We’ll... Lost Strategy Series: The Role of Execution by James Chen

Buried deep within the SRK servers are lost strategy articles written by the likes of Valle, Choi and many other fighting game greats. We’ll be republishing these must-read gems as we find them.

View all Lost Strategy Series

The Role of Execution by James Chen

Original published March 11, 2010 by James Chen (@jchensor)

When you look at top players like Daigo and Choi, it can seem like execution is no longer a concern for them. As a result, some people feel that the execution barrier is simply an unnecessary hurdle to trip up beginners and intermediate players. Believe me, that’s absolutely not true at all.

Execution is ALWAYS a factor at high levels of play. You’re just not looking at it from the proper view.
Expert players know what codes are harder to do and what takes longer to react and things of that nature. For example, if you see Fei Long running at you, you know you’re way better off at poking at him than if Ken was running at you. Why? Because when walking forward, Fei Long is at a total disadvantage. He can’t Rekka NOR Flame Kick from that position well, so you are aware of when he opens himself up. With Ken, he can easily Jab DP you hoping to score a lucky hit. So you’re more likely to try and fake out a Ken than a Fei Long.

That’s a simple example, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. For instance, if Zangief’s SPD was an Uppercut motion, you would see WAY more walk-up SPDs. A lot of experts know they can play Zangief a certain way because walk-up SPDs aren’t a foregone conclusion, so they can afford to let their guard down from the front against a grounded Gief player because they know if they let Gief jump in, they are more screwed. It’s SUPER easy to get an SPD off of a Jump-in compared to walk-up, because SPD from the air is easier to perform.

If Gief could walk up and SPD via a DP motion, you would have to play the match entirely differently, even at the highest levels where execution starts to become less of a factor. With Guile, I’d rather NOT throw a Sonic Boom at Zangief if he gets too close because I know I can keep him out on reaction easier from the front than if he manages to Jump at me over my Sonic Boom. In other words, I’m preserving my anti-air options because they are more important than anti-ground options BECAUSE I know the SPD is tougher to do from the ground.

It’s like watching those Kung Fu movies where two people are fighting with swords and they get kicked all the time, but no one ever lands a sword strike. Why is that? Because if you get hit with the sword, you die. But a kick lets you live, so you’ll be more willing to pay attention to the sword rather than the foot. When you’re playing against a Gief, you KNOW the SPD takes a while to perform, so you are willing to be more lenient against the footsie game with Gief and be more ready to stop his Jump.

Here’s another perfect example. Let’s look at Anti-Air Custom Combos in CvS2 and Alpha 3. Basically, when playing Alpha 3, you HAVE to pick V-Ism Gief against V-Sakura because you can’t win unless you do. She can anti-air CC you to death so easily that you HAVE to base your whole game on that idea. So you have to pick V-Gief because he’s the only vesion that can stop that tactic by anti CC’ing her back.

But now let’s try something. Let’s make CC Activation QCF x2 + Fierce. Now what happens? I can TOTALLY play A-Gief against a V-Sak. It’s a WORLD of difference because of the change in execution of the move. So if Sakura had to do that code for her CC anti-air, I would jump at her WAY more often because there is a VERY good chance she’s not ready to get her free anti-air on me. I jump KNOWING that the code is hard to do. But that’s fantasy… In reality, because it’s just hitting two buttons and it’s so easy to do, I know I CANNOT Jump at her ever and so the only way I can win is if I have a counter to that one specific anti-air.

Execution isn’t just about performing your combos. It’s also largely about knowing what your opponent CAN perform in given time frames. That ADDS to the mind games and the gameplay, not detracting from it.

Stop thinking of execution as some kind of curse that affects only you and start thinking of it as a legitimate consideration when measuring up your opponent’s options. Sometimes making it physically difficult for an opponent to execute a counter is just as good as baiting one.