Levelling Up – Counter Picking

Welcome back to Levelling Up, the place to discuss all things fighting and fight over all the discussions. This week we look at a taboo subject of sorts: to deliberately choose a character that bests your opponent’s for the sake of winning.

That’s right; this week we delve in to the touchy subject of the counter pick. It’s a grey area to say the least depending on the culture you are from and it’s also specific to certain games too. On one hand a few players might see it as a bit slimy and underhanded knowingly playing against a character’s weaknesses with a character you don’t class as a “main”.

Things can get messy in Tekken, ask Jun.
Things can get messy in Tekken, ask Jun.

Although it’s all based on perception, many players might main your characters exact counter and in the simplest of terms it is a counter pick. But the issue we aim to address here is whether it was deliberate to pick a character you don’t normally play as they overwhelm the opposition.

For me counter picking in a game like Street Fighter IV is a bit more controversial than something like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. As there are some matches in UMvC3 that are almost completely unwinnable if played to perfection. Whereas in Street Fighter IV, Sako and many other character loyalists have shown us, the bottom tier (or perceived weaker characters) always stand a chance.

For instance a player might learn how to play Hawkeye to counter Doom in UMvC3 as Hawkeye is able to cover areas where a character like Iron Fist would be rendered useless. With Hawkeye’s ability to use projectiles at different ranges, distances and angles he would be a natural choice to play against Doom instead of Iron Fist who lives and dies on his footsies and ground game alone. Iron Fist could be easily zoned even with some great assists like hidden missiles and vajra behind him his damage output might struggle.

Learn Cammy, Seth and Akuma for now; they might be all you need until Ultra is out.

Conversely, you might find that on paper Seth might dominate Guile but on several occasions a player like Dieminion will succeed against all odds in SFIV due to the game being slightly better balanced. An extremely interesting counter pick from recent memory comes in the form of PR Rog vs. Infiltration at EVO. Here Infiltration chose to pick Hakan, a previous main, against PR Rog’s Balrog. This case is rather interesting as although it can be seen as a counter pick in Infiltration’s favour, Infiltration is also well known for extremely high-level Hakan play. So is it really a counter pick? Or did Infiltration just tip the scales in his favours by choosing a preference of character in a certain match up?

Therein lies the problem of claiming a counter pick. It can seem ambiguous at times with certain high level players as they tend to know a large amount of the cast to some extent but have a preference or loyalty towards a certain character, unless you deliberately picked a top tier for the sole purpose of winning. It’s definitely up for debate on how well you will play when you have to constantly juggle a variety of different characters in competitive play to ensure all your bases are covered but it is possible. Maybe you just want to learn Cammy, Seth and Akuma for now; they might be all you need until Ultra is out.

Hopefully Roleto will have good few match ups come USF4.
Hopefully Roleto will have good few match ups come USFIV.

Then again, you might completely accept counter picking as a viable strategy and part of the meta within your community. After all if they counter pick you and you lose the game it’s your opportunity to do the exact same back. It’s entirely subjective so, whether or not you choose to indulge the easier path or stick by your guns, in uphill battles be sure to level up!


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