Understanding Team Building and Synergy in Skullgirls: 2nd Encore

Note: Originally uploaded on Shoryuken. Post has been slightly altered from original upload.

We recently had a long discussion about Skullgirls’ team mechanics, and how a player can improve upon their character’s existing moveset with the help of their teammates. Today, we’ll be doing a bit of theory-crafting with different team combinations; last time we learned why team building was important, and today we’re going to learn about how it’s done.

The first thing that must be considered when building a team is the assists, which fall into a few different basic types. The most regularly seen is the get-off-me assists, which traditionally have a lot of invincibility or armor, and preferably allow a combo afterwards. There are also lockdown assists, which are great for keeping the opponent in blockstun for a long time, and making resets safer. There are neutral assists, which–as the name implies–focus on getting hits or controlling space. The last assist type is the setup assist: these focus on things like scoring resources mid combo (Beowulf’s Hype, Big Band’s Taunt, etc.), setting up unique resets, or have some crazy gimmick that is exclusive to that assist. Those are the main assist types, but everything isn’t always cut-and-dry; assists sometimes overlap and serve multiple functions, especially for creative players.

The next thing to think about when building your team is what your DHC potential is; DHCs–or Blockbuster Sequels–being the term for having the main character do a super move, then cancelling into the teammate’s super move. DHC potential can mean unique combinations that allow you to continue the combo after a super you normally can’t combo from, or it could mean having a combination of supers that is completely safe on block. It’s important to consider your team and your team order–since the DHC character is always the second character, if your order gets messed up it could ruin your team’s DHC potential.

Alpha Counters are the next big thing to consider when building your team. For one bar you can–on block–immediately switch out with any teammate, using that teammates designated assist move. This can be used to punish normally unpunishable attacks, and it can also be used to escape if your DHC potential has been tampered with and you have no other way of getting your character out. It is vital to know whether your team has a safe escape, and to be aware of when your team is allowed to get away with the gimmicks and setups you put it together for.

Now that we know what goes into team building, let’s start building one–with our first character being Peacock. Peacock is a very frail character; she has a reversal with Bang! (MP Bang) but it can be grabbed, avoided, or shut down with specific setups. Her primary focus is on bomb patterns, but players that know how to deal with her can easily slip through those patterns. She is vulnerable once the opponent gets within airdash distance, and has a very hard time escaping resets. Peacock traditionally uses one of two kinds of assists: a neutral assist to make her zoning pattern stronger, or a get-off-me assist for once the opponent breaks through her patterns. At first Peacock seems best on point for her zoning, but she finds use as a second on the team because her Lonesome Lenny super (the big bomb) has great DHC potential.

The next character we’ll be looking at is Beowulf. He has strong hard knockdown pressure, with his main weaknesses being his susceptibility to grabs outside of his reversal super, and the fact that he needs to be within a specific range to be a threat– which is about a dash attack distance away. He appreciates neutral assists that let him get into his specific zone, as well as lockdown assists that help him keep the pressure on. He’s usually put first on a team because he doesn’t have a lot of universal DHC potential, though Airwolf is usually safe to DHC into.

Let’s now focus on the options that become available to us by putting these two characters together. Peacock has a safe DHC and Beowulf has a fully invincible super that reaches full screen, so Beowulf is best on point for the safe DHC option. Peacock’s George’s Day Out assist works well for Beowulf, as the little slow moving bomb lets him go for more long-distance pokes and approach a little more confidently while it keeps him safe. He can also layer it on top of his hard-knockdown pressure for added protection.

Once Peacock is in, what does she need for assists? Beowulf has one get-off-me assist, H Chair Throw, which also doubles as added pressure for Peacock’s fullscreen zoning. Peacock can use this assist and M Bang at the same time to keep herself safe and cover the dead zone above her head, which smart players could otherwise abuse to pressure Peacock. Beowulf’s Chair Throw is also safe on block, making it a much safer Alpha Counter option than many reversal assists.

Beowulf also has one other less-obvious assist that could work well with this setup, and that’s c.hp. While c.hp isn’t immediately a great assist, if Beowulf doesn’t have his chair it becomes a massive fully armored move, one that can work really well for what Peacock wants. She can use it as a get-off-me assist, a lockdown assist, on block it can let Peacock choose to run away or set up pressure, it can on hit let Peacock taunt–which gives her a guaranteed version of item drop on her next use of the move–and it also works well as an Alpha Counter both as a move itself, and since it can be canceled into any special move or super.

While at first the problem of using Beowulf’s c.hp assist feels risky–Beowulf needs to get rid of his chair to use the armored version–its easier to set up than it seems. If Beowulf still has the chair when going for the safe DHC the team is designed for–Gigantic Arm into Lenny–simply throw the chair first; up close H Chair has hit invincibility, meaning you can get through most pressure with it. This setup lets Peacock come in at advantage with one of the most powerful assists in the game, one that she can combine with her reversals, teleports and her pressure to make everything she does within range a more powerful option. The main weakness in this setup is that if Beowulf gets hit and snapped out to Peacock before he can get rid of his chair, Peacock is stuck virtually by herself with a poor assist choice.

Let’s round out our team by adding one more character, something to spice things up and make it more solid at the same time; a good and easy choice would be Cerebella, as she works well with both of the other characters. Our team right now would be Beowulf/Peacock/Cerebella, because the DHC synergy still works the best with Beowulf and Peacock. Cerebella could take Beowulf’s place and keep most of the synergy, but we’d lose access to our c.hp trick so we’ll stick with our preferred order for this discussion.

Cerebella has some similar problems to Beowulf, where if she can’t make it into her range she can struggle, but between the Peacock assist letting her approach at her own pace and the armored Beowulf assist, she’s in an incredibly strong position here. Cerebella doesn’t have an abusable super to DHC into like Peacock’s Lenny, but with enough meter she can DHC in with Diamonds Are Forever (her level 3 super) which is safe on block. The assist we’ll pick for this team will be the H Lock n’ Load, which has two hits of armor; this assist helps Beowulf stick to his opponents once he gets in, can be used even if there’s already a Peacock assist bomb on the screen, helps Peacock control space at mid-range, and it also helps the team survive if Beowulf got snapped out before he can get rid of his chair.

For Alpha Counters, Cerebella’s assist doesn’t do a whole lot on its own, especially if the opponent grabs or sweeps her–as both options beat armor–but canceling into Cerebella’s command grab super is an expensive but effective option to get out of trouble with. Even if Beowulf has to Alpha Counter to Cerebella early in the match, the team keeps most of its synergy, though preferably Beowulf will have gotten rid of his chair before switching to Cerebella.

While it’s impossible to cover every team combination in the game properly in one article, putting this team together and exploring their options hopefully helps get the gears turning about your own characters. Does your team have safe DHCs with characters like Robo-Fortune, Painwheel, Double, or someone else? What do your characters need help with, and do your assists fill that role? What options are available to you if your team gets scrambled, or if you have to Alpha Counter? Hopefully we’ve helped you understand the importance of answering these questions, and exactly how much a team can benefit from thoughtful placement and tactics.