What I learned from a week of playing Vega

Jamie Lee Curtis + family cosplaying at Evo.

I did it! I played Vega for a week.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about the character himself. Here’s a handy list of per-character punishes, and Bafael’s list of combos is a good place to start for understanding how his moves connect.

I don’t have much insight into leveling up with Vega because I still don’t feel like I really connected with his toolset. I played plenty of Vega in CvS2 — arguably his most straightforward (and boring) incarnation — and I still can’t say I came to enjoy playing him in SFV. I did learn some stuff over the course of playing with him for a week, though, so I figure I’ll just write about that stuff.

Vega basics

If you want to get started with Vega, the basic tools I ended up using a lot were:

-Jump MK for anti-air and poking — this thing is really fast and covers a lot of horizontal range, so I used neutral jump MK a lot in footsies.

-You can also use his air throw and his standing HK for anti-airs, but they’re a bit more situational. HK can give you a crush counter, which is nice.

-Stand LK has great range, fast startup (3f), and can combo into Crouch LP, which you can cancel into the LK roll for an easy combo. You can also use it to set up tick throws (+2f on block) but it pushes them away a bit so you’ll have to walk forward.

-Stand MP (with claw) is your all-purpose mid-range poke.

-Jump LK crosses up.

-His V-Trigger will occasionally just win you rounds because you got a whiff punish and comboed it into his super.

-I have no idea what to do with his meter besides using it for V-Trigger into super.

-I didn’t really play much with his no-claw stuff. I’m sure there’s some optimal combos and shenanigans using the claw switch but those tools were just not interesting to me. I might be missing out on a lot here, but it really felt like everything just made more sense with the claw on.

Thoughts on the character rework

I was curious to see how the SFV team was going to adapt Claw to a no-charge design, and overall I think it turned out well. Previous incarnations of Claw tend to either be very good for boring reasons — pokes and hyooooo shenanigans in ST, pokes in CvS2, pokes and whiffing throws for V-Ism meter in A3, though I don’t know how good he ended up being in that game overall — and he’s kind of weird because when he’s charging he’s not using his fast walk speed for footsies, and when he’s playing footsies he doesn’t have access to his usually-not-that-great-specials. SFV gives him access to all his specials and makes some of them a little bit more useful (no charging needed for the BnB!), but tones down his pokes and makes him weaker on knockdown (no more flipkick or invincible supers for wakeup). All in all, it’s a cool way to keep the core feeling of the character and make him feel a little bit more whole than he used to be.

I didn’t really dig the no-claw stuff, though. While his mask and claw gameplay in previous SFs was certainly something that could be improved on, I don’t like that he ends up losing a LOT of poking range and power when he loses his claw and instead gains comboability at shorter ranges. It seems weird to me that when he gets beaten up and loses his claw, he then has to get closer and do some damage. I guess they probably wanted to avoid play patterns that reward Claw players for running out the clock.

Ranked play is not a measure of progress; it is just a higher-pressure testing ground

Over the course of Vega Week, I played unranked matches for a few days, then hopped into some ranked matches and lost about 800LP over the course of two days. The day after that, I got about 600LP back. I don’t think it’s because I got dramatically better over that time, of course; I was playing perhaps a little smarter, but that was about it.

I’m not terribly invested in my LP score, but it does feel good to see that number go up, and bad to see it go down, especially with the constant ping-ponging between divisions. If nothing else, Vega Week was actually pretty good reminder that one’s ranked performance in any given day doesn’t really say anything about your skill as a player; over long stretches of time it’ll give you a general idea as to your overall range, but in any given day you could be getting paired up with players that are way better or way worse — and since they’re running into the same thing, you can’t even do much to extrapolate their talent level from their LP or division either.

I’ve said this before, but: If you focus on wins and losses as your benchmark for improvement or fun, you’re probably not going to have fun that often with a fighting game. Do your best to think of days where you lose LP as days where you learned a lot (LP = Learning Points!) and think of days where you gained LP as validation that the things you’re learning in losing that LP is paying off. Ranked games are just a chance for you to test your skills against people who are more serious than they are in unranked or lobby matches.

What Vega taught me about SFV

I mentioned in my Laura Week post that I picked up Laura because her in-your-face, fast-paced footsies felt like a core part of SFV’s identity as a game, and also something that I’m really bad at and needed to get more comfortable with.

Similarly, Vega also strips down the game to a smaller subset of the space: You win if you can keep the game in pokes/footsies/throws, and you lose if you can’t. In order to keep the game in that phase, you need to control the opponent’s momentum, and you’re given three tools to do that: Crouching RH (slide), F+HP, and his jump-ins. Each of these are fast and powerful enough that your opponent will need to watch for them even from far away, because if Vega connects with them, he’ll be able to turn it into pressure and damage (and if he gets to bait a reversal DP, that crush counter damage will be big). Each of these options also have a simple answer: Block the sweep, jump over the F+HP, and AA the jump-ins.

Vega’s range and walk speed means that he’s almost always a threat with at least two of those options. Your goal as a Vega player is to figure which ones the opponent is looking for on their approach (and they most likely will approach, as Vega completely breaks down under pressure). If they’re walking back and forth or overusing their dash, you can probably catch them with a sweep. If you see them start adding crouch blocks to their footwork patterns, it means they’re thinking of blocking the sweep and punishing, so you can poke with F+HP instead.

That will get them jumping, which you can shut down with nj MK. And once you’ve intimidated them with your control of the far range footsies, you can start jumping in while they’re focused on not getting swept and stabbed, which gets you free up-close pressure. Vega doesn’t have much in the way of consistent Big Damage Combos up close, so you’ll be playing simple throw/standing LK mixups and turning that into damage.

Of course, this kind of game is something that everyone in SFV plays, but with Vega it’s pretty much all he’s got. He doesn’t have a whole bunch of crazy mixup strings that test your opponent’s patience or reactions, so you pretty much have to go for honest, vanilla stuff like “You teched the last two throw attempts, so now I’m going to bait it and punish” or “You keep getting hit in pressure strings so I’m going to try for a Crush Counter setup.” And when you’re on defense, all you can do is block until you find an opening for a lucky escape or standing LK. Vega can play a simple game, especially if you focus on winning with the claw on, and I think that’s a pretty great thing for new players to get used to.

I’m still overdue on my Cammy Week post, so that’ll come next!

patrick miller