Welcome back to levelling up, your one stop shop for those little bits of advice you can’t quite put your finger on. This week we look at the vital points of long sets and which ways you can ensure victory.

Conditioning can mean one of two things, to condition yourself and to condition your opponent. Each one has vast benefits and is firmly rooted in long sets. Firstly you need to be able to condition yourself mentally to ensure you don’t crumple and then you also have to condition your opponent in a hope to make them crumple.

For simplicity’s sake I intend to use but one example and elaborate on it extensively to give an example of preparation. This example will be counter hit 4, or the magic 4 in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. To start it is vital to understand that the whole cast of Tekken can confirm a mini combo off the 11 frame right kick when it counters the opponent’s move or interrupts.

SoulCalibur has simple and effective conditioning tools.
SoulCalibur has simple and effective conditioning tools.

Naturally it is best practise to prepare yourself before you jump in. This usually means practising combos and converts. It’s one thing to “know” your counter hit 4 combo, also known as the magic 4, in Tekken but it’s another thing to pull it off mid match. There are however ways to practise with friends or even by yourself. To start it’s best to memorise the combo you intend to follow it up with, being able to recite from memory the inputs is always a good start, and then practise it in training mode with the counter hit option on. From then on I practised it with “ghost mode” playing AI opponent occasionally fishing for the combo before taking it online in preparation to prepare for offline play.

Once you have conditioned yourself to the point that it is muscle memory to instinctively pull off the combo it will be second nature and you only need to ensure your reactions are on point when you recognise the hit. To make it easier to land the combo you can develop set ups where the 4 itself is part of a frame trap. With the 4 being relatively safe it makes for a great set up without too much risk aside from being ducked or sidestepped.

Obviously this is only a small part of conditioning yourself as a player but it is one clear example of how to put method in to practise. Other ways you can prepare is by running dummy sets with friends or even ensuring you play online for a set amount each day. You will see slow improvements and confidence in your abilities will grow.

It’s all about tactics.

The other side of conditioning is to condition your opponent. This mainly takes place in the actual matches themselves. This can be achieved by forcing a certain set up to the point where they easily identify what is next and then changing your approach. For instance using Law’s db3 and following up a confirmed hit with 4 with a counter hit 4 set up. Once the opponent has been hit by this several times or has been conditioned to duck you can hop kick instead creating an opportunity to maximise your damage.

This level of conditioning when levied to a point that a player breaks is extremely effective in long sets. When you have started to utilise all you have learned from yomi tactics and oki you can start to mix and match your set ups to keep your opponent guessing wrong from your repetition of previous moves conditioning a desired response. It can even be something as simple as starting a round several times with the same string or move to the point the opponent thinks they can anticipate what is coming to beat a completely different move or be dealt some extreme damage from a launcher to a red health reduction combo. It’s all about tactics.

You are defeated.
You are defeated.

It’s always good practise to take part in long sets, even if they are just friendly. Over time you condition yourself to tense situations and find ways to prevent you from breaking. If you can adapt and counter other opponent’s moves and tactics your conditioning can be put to use over time. It’s about timing and practise as well as knowing as much about yourself as you do the enemy. So sit down for a long one and don’t forget to level up.