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Iron Fist 101 Lesson 2: Game Plan

With Tekken Tag Tournament 2 quickly approaching, more and more fighting game players are becoming interested in Tekken. In part two of “Iron Fist 101” I cover topics like formulating a game plan and dealing with long move lists for multiple characters. If you haven’t already, check out my introductory article, Iron Fist 101: The Competitor’s Guide to Playing Tekken.

Formulating a Game Plan

A common problem for new Tekken players when playing against human opponents is understanding how your character's move list is applied in game. Having access to such a large number of moves can make move selection very difficult. The first solution to this problem is to watch matches featuring well known players of your character. When you watch these matches, look specifically for the moves that are being used the most. For now, you don’t need to think about how or when these moves are being used. Simply focus on which moves are usable and abusable at a high level and take note of these. Keep your list of moves short at first, focusing on between five and ten moves. When deciding which moves you want to focus on, try to cover as many offensive categories as possible. Once these moves have been selected, ignore the rest of your move list for the time being. What you are trying to do is take a move list that has hundreds of moves, and simplify it to a more manageable number.

Once you have your list of moves, take them into practice mode and explore their uses. Separate moves by attributes. This list of moves should include a small handfull of each move type (throws, lows, mids, etc). Keep in mind that in Tekken, launchers are always more valuable than pokes. However, pokes are essential to setup your launchers. I’ll use Jack-6 for example.

Usable Move List
2,1 - i12 punisher and solid poke. Standing 2 alone can be used for poking and starting offense.
df+1 - Safe on block, mid poke, advantage on hit.
ff+1 - Good pressure tool, mid, unparryable, safe on block, some tracking, knock down, free db+2 on hit.
df+2 - Main juggle starter, mid, -14 on block, Some tracking to the right, use to punish whiffs, launches crouching opponents.
WS 1 - Mid, launching mix up when crouching in front of opponent. Mix up with FC db+1 or throws.
db+1 - Unseeable low, -12 on block, slight frame advantage on hit.
FC db+1 - Unseeable low, safe, frame advantage on hit, use to manipulate opponent into ducking.
db,f+1+2 - 1+2 throw of choice.

Once you have this list of moves memorized, use them for their most common and simple uses. If your opponent is standing, do a low, if they are ducking, use a mid. Focusing on a small list of core moves will allow you to understand them thoroughly without wasting time using moves that you don’t need at your level. Take your character’s move list one step at a time.

Each character has a core set of moves that will undoubtedly be used by anyone who plays the character. For example, every Jack-6 player will use moves like ff+1, df+2, FC db+1, and 2,1. However, Jack-6 has hundreds of other moves that only should be used for situational purposes. As you put more mileage into the game, problems will come up. This is when you expand your move list to solve your problems.

Let’s say your opponent is laying on the ground after being knocked down, or started side walking heavily to your left. It is then time to head back to your character's move list and solve these problems by exploring it further. This also applies to punishing. If you block something that is unsafe, and you find out that it’s -14, you then need to head back to your move list and find out what your best 14 frame punisher is, then set a goal for yourself to punish said move, perhaps 3 times in a row. This method of formulating a gameplan is the the most efficient, and in my opinion, the most fun way to learn how to play a character.

Dealing With Over 50 Characters

This is often the most intimidating concept for new Tekken players. Over the years, the roster of unique characters has grown to a point which makes learning how to defend against every move in the game impossible. For this reason, the best way to approach character knowledge in terms of defense is to follow a similar formula to the one suggested above. Try to simplify your opponent’s character by reducing their movelist to a small number of moves. Take it one character at a time, usually focusing on characters you play against most often or popular characters (like Lars). Look for a list of key problem moves that are being used heavily by your opponent. Take note of these key moves and focus on how to deal with each one individually. Once you are able to show your opponent that you are prepared for their abusable moves, they will be forced to diversify their movelist. This process of learning will continue throughout your entire Tekken career.

If you take this approach, slowly adding to your list as more problem moves come up, you will not only learn how to correctly defend against each character, you will also retain the knowledge because it was gained incrementally rather than all at once.

Tekken is a very unique and complex fighting game with a high difficulty barrier for new players. However, this barrier is complemented with a limitless ceiling for improvement. I suspect that this endless process of improvement is the reason for Tekken’s consistent popularity in both Japan and Korea. As soon as you begin to actually see major improvements in your game, you will be hooked.

If you have suggestions for topics you would like to see covered in future Iron Fist 101 articles, please feel free to comment. 

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Reader Comments (22)

wondering how long newcomers (in america) would soldier through in the tag2 scene...because i've only seen a few new faces here and there during t6's lifespan but never stuck with it

t6 actually takes an honest effort and a shit ton of time to get even remotely decent at, it's even more difficult when there's barely enough players/variety in local scenes. and i still dont see online play as a good way for the tekken community to grow

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaguar_C

Great article, man!

This is probably a nice way to learn a new character. I usualy start by learning

1. a characters staple combos from all the launchers.
2. wall carry combo with different length to the wall.
3. wall damage combo.
4. oki setup for every option if they stay grounded, roll back or tech.
5. of course all the punishers.
6. the homing move and other moves that track..
7. ground hitting moves, moves that gives plus frames on block, other useful moves.

(This usually comes down to 15-20 moves that is the core gameplay of a character. This is absolutely doable for most newcomers!)

8. Then I watch Youtube videos of that character played by top players (if I watch before I do all the above mentioned stuff, I wouldn't know what the hell is going on so it's pretty much useless to me.. but that's just me.. whatever floats your boat!)

9. Practice practice practice & some more practice!

10. Play offline with local players just to get my ass kicked!

Yup, that's Tekken for you!

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrBhup

I want to see you review the Tag2 practice mode when it comes out

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterYopp

Good article there Aris. What about an article on how to get from an intermediate to professional level?
That would help. Thanks.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSenna

Let me start out by typing that this is a great article. Very informative and organized.

The only thing I disagree with (as well as with the LUYG video series for Tag2) is newcomers focusing on defense.

People like us who have been playing Tekken for years might say to ourselves "If I could go back and do it again, I would've studied frame data/defense/throw breaking/etc..." However, most people don't play Tekken because of that. They play because of the combos and the offense.

One thing that I think you guys are skipping over is that you can get extremely far in Tekken by offense alone. On the east coast, we've had players like Brian H (Paul) and Mojo (Marduk) who knew nothing about throw breaking, punishing, or frame data and had such scary and phenomenal offense that they would win majors based on their own character experience.

Even Mr. Taxi seems to not know much about punishing and frame data at all, but his Anna pressure and resets has gotten him to beat everyone except the best players in the country.

That's my only criticism. I think this guide is great for people that are already good in Tekken and wanna get better. I just see "Iron Fist 101" and don't think that this is a great way to get beginners to learn the game.

Overall, great job though. Well written.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSketch

Drbhup you're a fucking idiot.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJizzmoon

from my perspective if that can help someone new because i want more people to come play this game , i think for new players

like rain say they should focus on movement specially backdash. then after that explore the command list to separate every

move from low,medium,hight , to remember at list 40 % of the moves do the jungle in the command list and then try to found a combo that

can reach 80 damage or 70 without the whole and after with the whole try to go over 100 damage. found every counter hit, every punisher move ( you can check level up your game apps to make it easier).

the most think that would take your time like crazy its the frame . frame + , negative, safe it is where the mind game come

from and it is the most interesting part in my opinion but i will let Aris explain in detail because this is a big topic.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered Commentersamagatsu

"to be competitive in tekken, you must practice for _____ years."

a. 2
b. 3
c. 5
d. 10
e. impossibru

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterlili4eva

great article...

my only advice is that although playing competitive Tekken is hard, have fun playing, fighting and most importantly losing. dont be afraid or discouraged from losing, I've learned alot from losing especially from veteran or better players. You'll come up with new plans, new combos, etc.

Aris, can i suggest that next time you do a lesson on fighting styles, cause that helped me alot in Tekken, i'm an improved player now that i have found a style that fits my style and my characters style.

yes watch youtube video.

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 2:12 AM | Unregistered Commenteroni-wolf

Jizzmoon, you're a fucking idiot!

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 3:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrBhup

Er DrBhup when you are already good at Tekken it's okay to focus on juggling a lot when you are learning tekken. but when you are new to the game your plan is not very good I think, you seem to focus almost entirely on juggling and combos etc.

When I first learned the game I got into it by learning really easy combos (without bounds) and my character's 10 string etc. That was fun and then eventually after a lot of matches I'd learned all my characters moves! Then I discovered BDC and max damage combos. And then I got hooked

But lol seriously new players are not gonna get into BDC and combos right away, you have to leave that, and you don't need that stuff to win anyway, a noob can still win in a fluke so they don't need to obsess with that stuff straight away. It's just annoying and too hard to start with combos.

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 7:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterSkeering

Thanks Aris

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterDns

for new players who go against many characters unfamiliar with, i have small tips which might help them.

first of all, do not go all offence against new character to you, since once they block your offence, you will be under their range for being attacked, and here is exactly you are in territory you are unfamiliar with.. you will not know what moves your opponent will pull at that moment!

you must try keeping some distance from opponent, do not go turtling all match, but instead, try to catch them and punish them while whiffing moves, this way you can examine their play style without putting yourself at high risk! and as well a learning experience!

also try to gain some knowledge about each character very unsafe moves, you don't need to learn every move each character, but try to memories the animation of those moves which are very unsafe!

usually these moves have reward/risk into them, and other players going to use them soon or later during the match.. getting familiar with these moves will reward you alot on opponent punishment!

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterramaady

Actually, when you don't know a matchup the best thing you can do is be offensive.

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkeering

As a always great article. Sage advice. Thanks!!!

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterNEXt PHaze

Definitely play people who are better than you... You wanna play in tekken tournaments... well.... Go play tournament players... Get your ass kicked.... Learn from your mistakes and learn from them.... Research your character to the fullest. read forums and watch vids... Aris.. well said... I have a question for you... How long do you think a new comer should train and play before they start entering tournaments?.

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterH3thegame

When I play a fighting game, I enter tournaments right away. You never know a game until you play it when you are nervous.

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 11:34 PM | Registered CommenterAris

Is there a link anywhere that someone knows about in which all the characters are broken down into classes? i'm really new to tekken and was wondering if there was an article regarding this. Thx.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterVOR

^It's cool i think i found enough of what i was looking for.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 6:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterVOR

the best thing to do is to learn proper movement and then learning your characters movelist

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterttt2

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