Eternal Fighter Zero/Strategy

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An In-Depth Introduction to Recoil Guard

What is Recoil Guard?

Put simply, Recoil Guard (RG) is a strictly timed block - it is done by blocking within 10 frames before an attack hits the player. A successful RG will negate pushback, chip damage, blockstun (allowing you to recover and attack much sooner than just blocking) and finally make it possible to guard against air unblockable attacks. In order to successfully RG an attack, you must RG moves accordingly: highs must be RG'd standing, lows must be RG'd crouching, while mids can be RG'd in either state.
Mizuka's famous overhead must be RG'd standing.
Another important aspect of RG is the inability to RG consecutive hits while grounded. If you have just RG'd a move, you must either block a move normally or wait for a fixed time for the RG cooldown to pass before being able to RG again. In the air, this restriction is not applied - you can RG as many hits as you want consecutively.

Counter Recoil Guard (otherwise known as Recoil Counter)

This is where things get a little bit complicated to explain, a video should help illustrate this.
If you RG an opponent’s attack and you attempt to attack during their recovery frames they will be allowed to RG back. As long as the move that the defending player RG'd is still in recovery frames, the attacking player will be able to RG any counter attacks made. This is called Counter RG (cRG). In the video example, we can see this in action. Both Nayuki's are able to RG the opponent's 5C's during 5C's recovery frames, until player 2 messes up the RG timing and takes a hit. This "RG Battle" can go on forever if both players let it, but in competitive matches this is very unlikely to happen.

What makes it so difficult?

First and foremost, newer players will be attempting to RG consciously. In an already complex environment, the game demands that players are familiar with and can adequately use RG - if they can't, they're going to have a difficult time, especially if the opponent can. The first barrier is building the muscle memory to attempt RGs subconsciously so the player is able to focus on the other aspects of an already complicated match.
Secondly, there is no absolute guard, so letting go of block to RG can result in you getting hit even if you’re in blockstun. While the RG buffer window is fairly large (10F), it's still exceptionally difficult to time during blockstrings without getting hit, especially if there are multiple hit moves involved like Akane's 5C or Mio's Short Range 2B.
Most importantly, it requires situational awareness in a game with 22 tournament legal characters. How you use RG (and what move you use out of RG, if any) will change drastically depending on the matchup, meter (of both players), positioning, and the opponent's available cancel options. Choose wrong and you'll likely be eating a combo that does 40% damage or more, sometimes up to 80%.

Using Recoil Guard - The How's, Why's, and When's

In order to use RG effectively, we need to understand how it works under the hood.
RG Hitstop (Defender) RG Hitstop (Attacker) Defender Disadvantage
Stand RG 20F 19.66F -0.33F
Crouch RG 22F 19.66F -2.33F
Air RG 22F 20F -2.00F
Blockstun duration can vary drastically depending on the frame data of the attack. For instance, Akane's 5A causes 10F of blockstun, while Misaki's 5A causes 12F. RG, on the other hand, applies the same RG stun no matter what move it is. In the table above, you can see that the defender will always be -0.33F disadvantage for Stand RG, and -2.33F disadvantage for crouch RG, while air RG is -2F. This means that the attacker can act 0.33F or 2.33F earlier than the defender if they have a cancel option.
It’s almost like your attack out of RG has an extra 0.33F or 2.33F startup depending on the RG used, but that’s not quite right. Only directions can be buffered during RG stun, not attack buttons, so your attack out of RG will be 0.33F or 2.33F slower at best, assuming perfect timing. As perfect timing cannot be guaranteed, the longer the window to input your attack out of RG the easier (and more match viable) it will be to punish.

RGing Specials and Supers

Special attacks and supers usually have only one cancel option, Instant Charge, meaning that if the attacker's special attack gets RG'd (and assuming it has long enough recovery to be punishable) they'll be a sitting duck where their only out is spending meter to make themselves safe (if they even have any) or to correctly time a counter RG (giving the defender the opportunity to steal the turn if they can come out on top of the RG battle).
Sayuri's 41236A is a frustrating move that leads to infinite blockstrings if you don't know how to RG. If spaced correctly, it's insanely plus on block and essentially unbeatable. On RG however, Sayuri has no choice but to try and counter RG the defender's attack or else take a hit as she is stuck in 41236A's recovery while the defender has already recovered from RG stun and is able to act. 23F of blockstun turns into 0.33F or 2.33F of RG stun depending on if the defender used stand or crouch RG. Sayuri's 41236A has between 13F and 24F of recovery depending on what active frame the move hits on. 5As and 2As are usually between 4F and 7F, so the defender will have ample time to counter and potentially steal the turn.
Some exceptions for the special cancel rules exist, such as rekka type attacks (Mio Short Range 236*) and some moves with unique cancel properties (Mio Short Range j2C and Kaori 623B). For moves with fast, consecutive hits, you should almost always be aiming to RG the final hit of the move.

RGing Dash Normals

Dash normals usually have a total of three cancel options: Special, Super and Instant Charge. Let's take a look at Makoto's 66B:
If we were to block Makoto 66B normally, we wouldn't be able to do much at all - it's +2F on block, allowing Makoto to beat any moves we try to use (that aren't reversals). If we RG though, it's an entirely different story.
Makoto 66B has 10F of recovery. It's only cancel options are into specials, supers or Instant Charge, all of which require a large commitment of risk or resources. If Makoto chooses not to cancel into any of these options, the only option left is to counter RG. Let's take Sayuri as her opponent. If Sayuri crouch RGs 66B, she'll be unable to act for 2.33F, after which she'll be able to input anything. This gives her 7.66F to counter attack before Makoto recovers in time to block. If Sayuri stand RGs, she's unable to act for 0.33F, meaning Sayuri has a total of 9.66F to punish. Sayuri's 2A and 5A are both 4F startup, meaning that Sayuri can punish 66B easily just by RGing into 5A or 2A. This same rule applies to most of the game's dash normals!
Here, you can start to see a pattern. We're aiming to RG moves that have few low-risk cancel options and have enough recovery to be punishable on RG (either by getting hit or forfeiting the turn). This is what makes specials, supers, and dash normals such a perfect RG target.

RGing Normals

Things become a bit trickier when trying to RG normals. Depending on how low in the cancel chain the attacker is (A>B>C>D>Special=Super), the more chance they have of being unbeatable even with RG. When there's cancel options it's a race where the fastest attack wins.
EFZ Nayuki 2A.png
Let's say Sayuri crouch RGs Nayuki's 2A. As we've determined before, Sayuri's fastest normals are her 2A and 5A at 4F startup. Nayuki recovers 2.33F faster than Sayuri, and cancels her 2A recovery into yet another 2A, her fastest cancel option. Because Nayuki’s 2A is 5F startup, we'll be 1.33F too slow to counter attack with 2A or 5A, Sayuri loses the race. Trying to RG a 2A and counter with normals is therefore bad, we can't win assuming they play it right.
EFZ Nayuki f5B.png
But what if Sayuri RGs Nayuki f5B? Nayuki's low commitment cancel options out of f5B are as follows:
  • 5C - 8F Startup
  • 2C - 11F Startup
If Sayuri crouch RGs, we'll be able to beat both of these options with 5A if we time it right! If Sayuri stand RGs f5B, we'll be in an even better position, as stand RG only leaves us at -0.33F disadvantage, essentially giving Sayuri a 7.66F window to counter attack and punish if the Nayuki player chooses to cancel into her fastest, low commitment cancel option. But Nayuki also has the following high commitment cancel options:
  • 623A - 4F Startup
  • 623B - 6F Startup, Frame 1 high invulnerability
These are her fastest cancel options available from any normal, and these become a lot less risky if the attacker has Instant Charge in stock. One of the attacker's options to keep their turn going is to go straight into 623A IC after their f5B is RG'd, if timed correctly this will be unbeatable unless the defender uses a reversal.
623B is another story entirely. While it's 2F slower, it does have the added bonus of a huge area of upper body invulnerability from frame 1, allowing Nayuki to beat Sayuri's 5A, but still loses to stand RG 2A if Sayuri doesn’t miss the timing.

RG Mind Games

Not attacking out of RG is just as much of an option as attacking is. Let's return to the Makoto 66B example. The defender guesses correctly that the attacker will take a risk and cancel into 623C after the defender RGs 66B, what can the defender do to counter this? Simply block. Assuming the attacker only has access to red RF meter, they wont be able to Instant Charge the attack and can be easily punished once 623C has finished it's active frames, leaving the defender with a total of 39F of recovery to punish with. Better yet, because the defender regular blocked 623C instead of RGing, the attacker cannot counter RG, making the punish completely risk free. This is why it's rare for attackers to cancel dash normals into specials without access to Instant Charge, it's usually far too risky to justify the reward.

When You Shouldn't RG

Using RG isn't always the best option. If the defender RGs, this also gives the attacker a chance to save themselves with counter RG. Sometimes moves are so unsafe even on block that RGing gives your opponent an advantage, one example being Akiko's 623B which is -52F on block and leaves Akiko in the air, allowing for high damage combo starters. RGing this move gives Akiko one out - managing to guess when your attack will hit during her 64F total of recovery. It is therefore better to block certain moves with huge amounts of recovery.

Choosing Your Counter Attack

RG is like a complex game of rock, paper, scissors. Let's take RGing a 2A with a character who has a fully invulnerable EX reversal.
  • Attacker's 2A beats defender's 2A.
  • Attacker's 2A loses to defender's block.
  • Attacker's 2A loses to defender's EX reversal.
  • Attacker's counter RG beats defender's EX reversal.
  • Attacker's longer lasting invulnerable super beats defender's EX reversal.
  • And so on.
Each option has a certain amount of risk and reward which is far too complicated to simplify. For instance, if either player has access to Blue Instant Charge they may be able to use a fully invulnerable EX reversal and cancel into an Instant Charge to make it completely safe. If it hits, they'll get a lot of damage from the Blue Instant Charge combo, and if the opponent blocks or RGs they'll likely be safe.
Due to the complexity and infinite variety of situations, learning these details cannot be done through a general guide like this one, your best bet is to play and experience the situations yourself, making use of the knowledge learned here to review your replays and assess individual scenarios to see what you could have done better.

Winning Recoil Guard Battles

RG battles are a bit like a tug of war, both sides are trying to get the right leverage to come out on top. In RG battles, coming out on top either means the attacker keeping their turn or the defender stealing the turn. Any RG is a potential initiation of an RG battle, one the attacker may or may not have the choice to avoid - in some situations they're still safe and can relinquish their turn without any huge risk, potentially preferring to return to neutral, or to wait for an opportunity to RG a potentially risky move of the opponent's like we discussed above and initiate an RG battle once again, hoping this time they can come on top and force a preferable position. But how does the attacker optimise their pressure to fight RG? Here's a few tips:
  • Keep your pressure relatively RG safe by using only A and B normals.
  • Mix up the timings of your attacks to make it more difficult for your opponent to guess when to RG. The downside to this is if you do it badly you leave gaps where the opponent can mash.
  • Make use of Instant Charge to make unsafe moves safe and continue pressure.
  • Along with the above, you can use invulnerable moves into an Instant Charge after a normal gets RG'd in order to beat any possible punish and still come out with pressure advantage depending on your character.

In Conclusion

Recoil Guard is a complex mechanic with very few universal rules or applications, making it difficult to grasp at first. This guide has not gone over everything. There is always more to say, always another situation to discuss, another exception to mention, matchup specific scenarios to explore that you won't see anywhere else. Your best option to learn is to play as much as you can and experience the situations first hand.

Assessing and Optimising the Strategic Value of the RF Gauge

The Reinforce Gauge

The Reinforce Gauge (RF gauge) is a crucial tool in EFZ's combo system that opens up significantly higher damage routes than would be otherwise available. This gauge fills automatically as long as the player is not downed, in hitstun, or in a juggle state, and will fill twice as fast if the player is in recoil guard (RG) stun or blockstun. The RF gauge will also continue to build during RG stop, hitstop, and superflash. This means that the player being combo'd is at a severe disadvantage in meter generation. The player doing the combo builds meter while also preventing meter gain for the opponent. This is what makes it so easy to snowball a round in EFZ.
The RF gauge is used for RF specials and Instant Charge (IC). When the RF gauge is dark gray and filling with dark blue, it cannot be used for anything. When the RF gauge is filling with red, it can be used for RF specials and IC. After the gauge has filled up completely with red, it will turn flashing light blue, and can then be used for RF specials for a cost of 25% the Blue RF meter, or Blue IC. Red IC works as a simple move cancel, while blue IC does the same but adds extra juggle combo potential, opening up longer and higher damage combos.
It takes only 8.69 seconds to build Red RF, but an extra 26.03 seconds to build Blue RF, for a total of 34.72 seconds to build Blue RF from 0. Blue RF will deplete if the player is in hitstun or a juggle state. This includes a juggle state where the juggle gauge has been depleted. Red or dark blue RF will never deplete outside of using red RF for Instant Charge and RF Specials. Red RF functions the same regardless of how much red RF has been generated.

Understanding Strategic Value

As flashy as Blue IC combos are, the benefits often do not justify waiting for Blue RF to build unless it is almost built anyway. This can be illustrated with a simplified example. If we generalise, Red IC combos deal between 3k to 5k damage and Blue IC combos range from 6k to 8k damage. Assuming that the meter is used for IC as soon as it is built, we can make the following calculations:
Red IC:
  • 4000/8.69 = 460.3 damage per second spent building Red RF
Blue IC:
  • 8000/34.72 = 230.4 damage per second spent building Blue RF
Even if this is an oversimplified example, it does show the disparity between the power of Red IC and Blue IC. In the time it takes to wait for Blue RF, the player could have used Red IC three times. However, Blue IC becomes more valuable if the Blue RF threshold is met naturally during a combo because the player does not need to wait for it to build, it can just be used immediately. In these situations, Blue IC can be considered to have infinite value.
Blue RF is a volatile tool. While it is powerful it can easily be lost if the player makes a mistake and gets combo'd, especially considering most characters have access to combos specifically designed to maximise the Blue RF drain time. To generate value from Blue IC in a combo the player must first land a hitconfirm without access to the strongest pressure, neutral, and okizeme tool in the game: Red IC. All the time the player is fishing for value with Blue RF, they are not gaining any RF meter while the opponent is still building theirs. The player with Blue IC is risking the most. Here we can start to see that the player is in some ways weaker when they have Blue RF, needing to play safer and more passively if they wish to save using it for a combo, requiring significant risks which may end up with the player spending their Blue IC anyway on a mistake or wrong guess, all while generating no passive value from RF meter gain and Red IC usage.
Because of this, it can still be valuable to use Red IC even if the player is close to generating Blue IC, or even using Blue IC as though it were Red IC, such as during blockstrings to make a move safe and continue pressure. The immediate low risk value generated is more impactful than purposefully ignoring this immediate use opportunity in order to build or keep Blue IC with the hope of maybe making use of it in a combo later. Spending Red RF at any Red RF gauge level can be valuable, especially as it only takes 8.69 seconds to build back to Red RF in neutral.
Where Blue RF starts to show stable high value is when it can be used to IC RF specials, which would otherwise be impossible with Red RF. Doing RF reversals with Blue IC can guarantee value if used with a strong invincible move. If the move happens to hit, the player can often convert into a full combo. On block, the player should be safe and the situation may even allow for the player to start their own pressure string.
For pressure, Red IC cancels help to reset pressure strings for a lot of characters thanks to the ability to use a high blockstun move into IC and then IAD or dash to continue their pressure at closer range, or by using a usually unsafe movement move with IC to achieve the same effect. For pressure strings, Red IC and Blue IC have no real functional difference.
To summarise, Blue IC is powerful but volatile, and Red IC is stable and versatile but with a lower reward for a far lower cost. Blue IC has the most value in combos when the Blue IC threshold is reached during a hitconfirm. Reducing volatility in EFZ will lead to more consistent results.

Practical Applications for the Attacker

Opponent is in corner with full Blue RF, the player is pressuring with Red IC in stock

In pressure strings, the opponent having blue RF available is a situation where both players can generate huge value. If the attacker can open up the opponent then the defender will be losing a significant portion of their built Blue RF. If the attacker makes a mistake, they may take a full Blue IC combo, giving momentum to the opponent. Assuming the attacker is a character with good pressure strings and isn't stalling for Blue IC, they can slowly and methodically try to open up the opponent and try to make them take risks with the meter they are sitting on. In this situation, making the opponent lose their meter in any way is value. This would make the opponent's meter be more in line with the attacker's and reduce the risk associated with trying to open them up during pressure.
Remember, the opponent will be nervous and eager to use their Blue RF to generate value! The player can use this to their advantage by trying to bait a reversal, allowing the attacker to punish and drain the rest during their combo.

Maximising meter gain during combos

Playing optimally, the player should be delaying their juggles for as long as possible where it is safe to do so to generate the maximum value from the extra time spent passively generating RF Gauge. As the player gets the most value from Blue RF when it is built spontaneously during combos, the best way to optimise for this is to maximise RF meter gain where possible.
Tech traps at the end of combos also serve a similar purpose, as they extend the time the opponent will have to be in juggle state before they hit the ground, giving the player more time to build RF meter while the opponent is building none.

Practical Applications for the Defender

Abusing blockstring predictablility and having a good defense

If the player has good reactions and game knowledge they can block for a long time without getting opened up, allowing them to build a significant amount of RF meter thanks to the doubled generation speed during Recoil Guard and block states. In matchups where the opponent has long blockstrings with good frame traps but lacks scary mixup options, like Nayuki or Doppel, it can be safer to patiently block than trying to mash out reversals or A normals. By continuing their blockstring on the defender, the opponent is giving RF meter advantage away for free. In matchups where the opponent has better mid blockstring mixups, taking risks with a correctly timed mash or a reversal can be better than just patiently blocking. If the defender is not confident in their ability to block, then rolling the dice and taking calculated risks may be the better long term plan. In both cases, game knowledge is key.

Optimising Combos for Damage

This guide aims to serve as an overview of combo optimisation principles, primarily going over damage efficiency and combo break points. Understanding how and why combo routes are optimised the way they are can greatly improve the player's awareness of combo options in matches. Due to the way Blue IC works, there are plenty of times where the player will only have a smaller portion of their Blue IC left; being able to react to this and combo appropriately is powerful.
Applying this combo optimisation theory to your character will:
  • Improve your combo stability, especially for combos that require some improvisation due to unfamiliar circumstances.
  • Help generate more reinforce and super meter due to having longer average combo duration and more hits.
  • Increase your average combo damage, which paired with the higher meter generation increases your ability to snowball a match.
This guide uses Akiko's 5C as an example. The combo pieces described below are simple to use, you are encouraged to try them out in training mode yourself to see what is being described.

Damage Efficiency

Damage effiency is determined by EFZ combo's limiting factor: Power%, EFZ's proration system. Power% reduces a determined amount for every hit, the frame data flag this uses is the Proration flag in Frame Tools. The lower Power% is, the less time we have to juggle after each hit, eventually making the juggle time so short that no juggle options are possible. If we want the most damage out of our combos, we need to use hits that have the highest damage per proration as many times as possible.
Finding the best damage per proration (DPP) attacks is as simple as taking the base damage of a move and dividing it by the base proration value. Luckily, a lot of this work has already been done and can be found in the Combo Simulation Spreadsheet. Simply navigate to the character you want to find the DPP values for and all relevant options should be listed. As an example, the first two frames of Akiko 5C have a base damage value of 950 and a proration value of 93%. In order to make the data easier to read, we will take the proration value as a whole number and subtract it from 100 to give the base amount Power% will reduce each time it is used in a combo, which is 7. 950/7=135.714 DPP, Akiko's highest DPP value.
In most cases just knowing the DPP of a specific move is not enough. For instance, Akiko's 5C cannot be used over and over for every single hit of the juggle combo, it's simply impossible. Thus we need to take combo pieces and average out all the hit's DPP values to find the DPP value of the whole combo piece. Akiko's [c5B 5C] combo piece has an average DPP of 97, which is Akiko's highest viable DPP average that can be used at lower Power% values. But again we have the same problem, we can only do [c5B 5C] twice at most before the combo drops. Instead what we can do is create an even larger combo piece: [c5B 5C c5B f5B 5C c5B 5C], the extra f5B is just what the combo piece needs to universally manage juggle height; we get three lots of 5B's and 5C's into the combo at a minor loss of DPP from the f5B, averaging out at 90.3. If we want to find a better combo piece than this, we simply need to find one that averages higher than 90.3 DPP.
Akiko can only fit this particular combo piece into her 100% BIC combos once, so we need to fill the rest of the time with something else. The rest of the combo optimisation would follow a similar pattern, milking as many high damage hits as possible all while fitting the high damage combo piece we found above into the combo as well. Click here for an Akiko combo example using all of this theory.

Regarding Power Break Points and The Power% UI

Combo break points are the points in the combo system where a specific combo piece will stop working. This sounds simple, until you realise that the Power% user interface number is always one step behind. This means that if you use Akiko 5C after c5B, the user interface will show the Power% value as it was when c5B hit and will not show the value when 5C hit until yet another hit happens. This can make determining and reacting to combo break points tricky in fringe unexpected unlabbed cases, but usually it's fairly consistent and doesn't vary more than 1 or 2 Power% value. Using Akiko as an example, [c5B 5C] stops working at lower than 58% Power% using the one-step-behind Power% value. Learning combo break points is all about familiarising yourself with your character and pushing combos to their absolute limit in training mode to work out what works and what doesn't. Combo break points have yet to be documented for all characters.
In order to calculate the minimum absolute Power% a move can still connect at, the following equation can be used:
  • Power% = (MoveStartup+1+Superflashes)*3/PrevMoveJV
    • This equation calculates the Power% value that is not one step behind.
    • MoveStartup is the startup of the move you want to calculate for. If we use Akiko's 5C, this value would be 17.
    • Superflashes is the number of superflashes caused by supers or Instant Charge. This is typically only ever 1 if the move being calculated for is a super, or 2 if the player wants to use Instant Charge and a super.
    • PrevMoveJV is the Juggle Value of the move used before the move being calculated for. If we were calculating the for c5B into 5C, then we would take the Juggle Value of c5B which is 120.
      • The Juggle Values can also be found in Frame Tools under the Juggle Timer field.
If we wanted to calculate the combo break point for Akiko's 5C after c5B, the calculation would look like:
  • (17+1+0)*3/120=45 - 45% Power is 5C's combo break point after c5B.
Using the value calculated above we can determine how close to the combo break point floor we are getting with our combo. Using the optimised Akiko combo as an example, we can see what Power% value the final 5C hit is at by looking at the Power% value displayed when the first vacuum hits. As the Power% UI is one step behind, this displayed value is the previous hit's value, which shows 47.8%.

Minimising Proration Wastage Above 100% Power

When connecting with attacks above 100% Power, proration is sometimes applied twice in certain circumstances. The way the system calculates this is in two steps: it will apply the initial proration for the move when it hits and then apply it once more only if the Power% is still above 100%. This means that if Akiko uses 5C at 110.99% Power, the Power% after reduction will be 96%, a reduction of almost 15. If Akiko uses 5C at 105.51% Power%, the Power% afterwards will be 98.12%, a reduction of only 7.39. Therefore not properly optimising combos at above 100% Power can waste a lot of Power% and reduce the overall amount of hits you can fit into your combo.

Applying this Knowledge in Matches

Once you are familiar with various high DPP value combo pieces and the places they can and can't be used, you can start to react to your Power% value after unfamiliar hit confirms. Here the strategical improvement is not necessarily that you will always be choosing the highest damage combo pieces in situations where you have to improvise, instead you will be making more thoughtful decisions around which combo piece to use and why, which increases overall combo efficiency. In matches, stability is key: it will always be higher damage to actually finish a combo than it would be to drop it from trying to squeeze too much damage from it. This combo theory is especially useful for combos using less than 100% Blue IC or combos that start from unfamiliar air juggle hit confirms that require some improvisation. In the Akiko 5C loop example, Akiko can squeeze out more damage and juggle time after a strange air hitconfirm and corner carry by knowing precisely which 5C combo piece she can fit in before the combo would drop, instead of ending the combo early for safety or using safer but far lower damage combo pieces. Even for the corner carry itself, an Akiko player who understands the above theory will generally have higher damage improvisations across the board, as they will know which corner carry combo pieces are the highest damage and most viable for the situation. Over the course of a match these optimisations will add up, helping you to snowball momentum thanks to the extra damage and higher meter generation from longer combos.

Nayuki (asleep)
Nayuki (awake)