Take a stance! is an article series designed to help you analytically approach the wide world of stances in Tekken.
Welcome back to Take a Stance! In previous articles we focused on stances with expansive built-in options. Today’s character, Paul Phoenix, has quite a different take on this, as his “stances” are very brief transitions that occur in his movelist.
I eased you into this idea a little bit by introducing you to King’s Crouch Dash, a temporal state that works as both a “stance” and a mobility option. Paul’s role in Tekken is that of the muscle-brained brute, and that is reflected in Paul’s options in–and out of–stance. While it’s still necessary to talk about some of the built-in options here for Paul, what we’re really focusing on is the theory of his two stances: his Crouch Dash, and his Sway.
Note: for those unfamiliar, here’s how to read Tekken notation.
Of his stances, Paul’s Crouch Dash is the most straightforward. This may come as a shock, as Tekken’s highly complex dashing options are legendary. Well, Paul’s isn’t. There’s still depth to it, but not on the same level of the Mishimas.
Crouch Dash is performed with a simple input, QCF. If you’ve found your way to a website called Shoryuken, I trust you can throw a fireball in Street Fighter. Keep that analogy in mind as we look at his options from Crouch Dash.
|Input||Hit Level||Speed||Block Stun||Hit Stun||Counter Hit Stun|
|qcf+1||h||16(18~)||-5 <-7> <-7>||Launch||Launch|
|qcf, 4||m||11~12 (13~)||-6~-5||+5~+6||+5~+6|
|qcf+3+4||m (TJ)||19~20 (21~)||-9~-8||Launch||Launch|
You almost inevitably picked up this character because your jaw dropped when you first saw the damage on qcf+2, aka Pauls’ Death Fist. You may be surprised to see this move is wildly unsafe. However, this is one of those instances where the frame data doesn’t tell the full story.
Death Fist, like a fireball, is an amazing footsie tool. It pushes so much on block that it greatly reduces what your opponent can use to punish the move. On top of that, Death Fist has decent range, so if you can place it at its furthest ranges, many characters can’t even punish the move on block at all.
As Paul’s opponent, how do you beat Death Fist? You have two realistic options:
- You learn to punish versus Death Fist at every range.
- You try to make Paul whiff Death Fist during footsies with a sidestep or a back dash.
That’s pretty much it. If you can’t do one of those, Death Fist will forever remain a wall standing in your way. Death Fist is the ultimate “check” in the Paul matchup, and versus some intermediate skill levels could be all you need to win.
The smallest backstep creates enough space on a blocked Death Fist to make Feng’s shoulder punish whiff.
Now, let’s pretend you, as Paul, are fighting someone that blocks and punishes Death Fist. What do you do to open them up?
Namco did a very good job of giving Paul’s crouch dash just enough options to remain flexible. Paul can cancel crouch dash in two ways: The first method is to input a sidestep with a single tap of “up.” This is your only mobility cancel option from crouch dash, and the fastest way to return to neutral. You can repeat this with “QCF, U, QCF, U…” if you’d like, but it doesn’t have quite the same speed or ferocity of a Mishima wave dash. It does, however, give you access to sidestep moves from a crouch dash.
More importantly, though, you can cancel a crouch dash with d+4. You cannot cancel crouch dash with other moves, but since Paul’s neutral is built around the fear of the Death Fist/D+4 sweep mixup, Namco made an exception for this move. The trick is to do D+4 as you rise from the crouch dash. Once you learn D+4’s just frame, you will have one of Tekken’s most frightening and frustrating 50/50s at your disposal.
The rest of Paul’s Crouch Dash’s other options are all standard Tekken fare. QCF+1 is a high, safe combo starter that has decent range. QCF+3 is a unseeable low that’s neutral on hit. QCF+4 is your WS+4, and we talked about the strengths of a mobile WS+4 in the King article. QCF+3+4 is a nice, somewhat slow jumping mid knee that’s safe on block. And lastly, QCF+1+2 is a garbage slow low that is safer than it looks, but still unsafe to generic WS+4’s. It’s a good knowledge check, but it’s a pretty bad move otherwise.
Sway is a strange beast. As a Paul Player, you’ve likely already encountered it when trying to learn how to backdash cancel. You can’t block during it, you can’t cancel it into a backdash or crouch dash, and it doesn’t really move that far. You can cancel it into sidestep using an up input (the same way you cancel your crouch dash) but as a mobility option, it’s not good.
Sway, however, does give you a wide variety of attack options. I’m not talking about built in options, either: you can cancel Sway with any attack that uses a up, forward, down-forward, down, or down-back input. No back directions being allowed, unfortunately, means you don’t have access to your homing move B+2. That’s right- if Paul sways, the opponent can sidestep right and avoid every single mid he has access to, and even most of his highs. What can Paul do? Well, look to Sway’s options itself for the answer to this.
|Input||Hit Level||Speed||Block Stun||Hit Stun||Counter Hit Stun|
|qcb+1||m||21~22 (23~)||-2~-1 OC||KND||KND|
|qcb+3||l (TC)||18 RC(20~)||-21||-10||KND|
|qcb+3, 2||l, m||18(20~)||-10||+6||+6|
|qcb+3, 2, 1||l, m, h||18(20~)||-10||KND||KND|
|qcb+3, 2, 3||l, m, l||18(20~)||-13||0||aUD|
Though Paul has access to good mids from Sway, they also lose to sidestep right. Paul’s only means of countering a sidestep right from sway is Sway+4 and Sway+3,2. Sway 4 is a high with frame advantage, and Sway+3,2 is a low, mid string that serves as a great knowledge check. Paul opponents must learn what Sway 3,2 does, otherwise it will eat them alive. The second hit of Sway 3,2 guarantees both string enders for massive damage. If you, as Paul’s opponent, get hit by Sway 3, always block mid versus the second hit. Sway 3 itself is awful on hit and block, and you can duck both enders, so the move amounts to nothing more than a gimmick for Paul to check you with.
It’s a strong gimmick, though, and one that shows up in high level play often. Paul’s DF+1 is the only move in his move list that cancels into stance: here’s Spero Gin using DF+1 > Sway 3,2 to check his opponent’s knowledge of the string. His opponent knows the gimmick: he eats the Sway 3, blocks the mid, and punishes it’s -10 recovery. With this info, Spero Gin could consider mixing up safer mids or Sway 4 now, as his opponent did not attempt to step.
ITS|Spero Gin mixing Sway 3,2 into his poke pressure from a sway cancelled DF+1.
Cancelling from DF+1 is likely the most common use of Sway, as the cancel from DF+1 allows for some pretty strong pressure. For example, DF+1 > Sway Cancel into F+1 is a frame trap. It can also be side stepped right, but the timing for this evasion is a little tight. Of course, if your opponent doesn’t know how to deal with Sway options (ie. they aren’t side stepping right) you are more or less free to pressure them however you’d like. QCB+1 and QCB+2 are both safe mids that deal good damage and knock down, and QCB+1+2 is a launcher mid, if you’re certain they will get hit by a mid in this situation.
Incomplete Somersault/Crouching Ki Charge
This is purely trivia, but I figured I’d include it for completion’s sake. If your opponent is so tilted that they let you hold down for a full second, Paul does a taunt and gains the same properties a 1+2+3+4 Ki Charge gives. You could technically consider this a stance, as it gives you brief access to one move: The Incomplete Somersault. Immediately after you gain the Ki Charge, press u+3+4, and Paul will do a massive flip kick. This move does the same damage as a raw Death Fist. But, frankly, if you land this in a match, your opponent really should just forfeit the round all together.
And that’s it. Paul’s a bit of a tank when it comes to the mobility on his stances, but when you have a move like Death Fist, that’s probably for the best from a design standpoint. Learning how to punish Death Fist and neutralize Sway 3,2 should probably be some of the first anti-Paul tech you learn. The key to beating Paul is removing his gimmicks and beating him in the honest neutral. And no guide can teach you that last part–that’s between you and your opponent.
And if you’re Paul, and they don’t know how to deal with Death Fist properly… well. You know what to do.