Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Bonesickle Chronicles - Part 2




Ladies and gentleman, has Shinnok arrived? Let us remember June 23, 2015 as a momentous day in the life of Mortal Kombat X's big bad himself. I often tell the story of how I always seem to pick the lowest of the low tier. I am somehow drawn to them like a moth to the flame. I know the pain is coming, but the chance for something so marvelous is so great that I just keep moving forward into the fire.

Forget all that melancholic foolishness! Shinnok is moving up and my curse has been lifted. At least until the next patch, that is. However, let us not get too carried away. Shinnok is good, but he still is not great. Why, you ask? Well, his spacing game is strong, but his footsie game is still weak. His mixups are not guaranteed safe, and he still uses up the meter much faster than he can build it thanks to lackluster block strings. Does he need more improvements? I do not believe so, but he is also in no danger of cracking the top ten anytime soon. Right now, I am a very happy Shinnok player.

Shinnok is a character that thrives off of his variations. The most recent patch has made Necromancer much more relevant, and I am very happy to say that I have finally started lab work with Necromancer in ways that mirror what I have done for Impostor and Bone Shaper. This is all very good news because there are some matchups where Mimicry is giving you an almost useless move, and where Bone Shaper just does not cut it in the spacing war. Think: Kung Jin, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and others I have not fully investigated.

I firmly believe that Shinnok is, overall, a defensive, reaction based character who, when he wants to, can turn up the heat in matchups where Mimicry can lead right back into itself. Here's looking at you, Kung Lao, Scorpion, Mileena, Ermac, and a variety of other matchups I have yet to explore completely.

So you see, Shinnok is a character that thrives off of his variations. I get a strong sense of how unique each variation is, and how they stack up in various matchups. Sure, there may come a time when you need to load up Impostor against a Kung Jin or a Kano because you believe that your opponent just won't be able to handle the Tricky Port. Or you need to pick Necromancer against that Ermac because you just cannot close the gap. And some matchups are in-between, where the choice of variation is a multi-layered decision that takes into account the character and the opponent. This is, of course, how it should always be in an ideal world.

Learn each of Shinnok's variations. They all have their uses in different matchups, and they all do different things that can catch your opponent off guard.

So what is next on the training regimen for me? Well, with Brutality - June 2015 around the corner I have little time to prepare. I need to do three main things: combo research / offensive flow / punish on block and backdash.

Things have changed a lot for Boneshaper, now that the end of Deity can be special canceled. This opens up new combo possibilities for Shinnok off of Scepter Slam. I have yet to try things out in depth, but I have a sneaking suspicion that even a couple of meters will still only net me around 35% damage. That is if I am lucky, of course.

In Impostor, I need to record into my muscle memory the various ways to connect back into Mimicry off of a stolen move. The remainder of my previous combo training is probably still useful to me.

In Necromancer, I simply need to practice. I have just begun exploring combo possibilities in this variation, and it will take time to arrive at conclusions about what I believe are the most useful combos. Further, I will need to commit those combos to muscle memory.

Offensive flow is essentially the flowchart of how Shinnok keeps pressure on the opponent. I like to keep it a bit more open than an actual flowchart, but I consider the concept essential. What should I do when my opponent blocks the NJP after an Air Tricky Port? I just blew my read, option select, or hit confirm and have to burn meter on Hell Sparks. It was a great buff, but after I use the meter, what should I do next? These are the types of questions I will seek to answer based on matchups and, then, right in the middle of my matches. An inflexible strategy is one doomed to failure because not everything will go the way you want, nor should it.

Shinnok cannot afford to leave damage on the table. Not only will I need to stop dropping combos, but I will need to understand when, and in what way, I should be punishing the actions of my opponents. On block, I need to use Shin Kick xx Hell Sparks most of the time in order to get Shinnok the space he needs to work most effectively. Of course, some moves on block push Shinnok too far out for Shin Kick, so what shall I do instead? Next, I will need to know what strings I can backdash out of, and what the best punish is afterward.

I will come to an end with my quick thoughts on two topics: the neutral game at 1-1.5 character spaces away, and option selects. First, that scary distance of 1-1.5 character spaces away puts Shinnok in a bad position most of the time. Reacting with Hell Sparks is almost impossible because it is too slow, and uppercuts are prone to trade with well time jump kicks. The solution seems to be situational avoidance, and then the use and management of backlashes.

On the topic of option selects, I have learned how the simplest one works. A character's blocked normal or string will not cancel into a special move, but that same cancel will happen on hit. I am by no means proficient at this option select yet, but I also feel it is of little use to Shinnok. Option selects keep you safe, correct? Well, if most of Shinnok's cancelable, safe strings and normals can already be hit-confirmed, why bother option selecting? It seems to be most handy in situations where Shin Kick can cancel into Hell Sparks. Usage after Mimicry seems obvious here. You cannot hit confirm Shin Kick, so an option select prevents the blind read from backfiring on you. It just so happens that option selecting the cancel into a Shin Kick is very difficult. Lastly, the new block or backdash option select described by Ultra David will require more testing just to see how useful it may be to me. It seems good, but don't backlashes have invulnerability to deal with short range, meaty attacks anyway? I may be in need of some education on that front.

Good luck on your personal journey to power up!

#Bonesickle

You can read Part 3 by clicking here.
Nathan Shields PowerUp Founder

Fighting game enthusiast, martial artist, and teacher. Nathan Shields ran three regional events, two of which were part of the Road to EVO Championships in 2011 and 2012. He continues to run local FGC events and supervise the growth of his scene and the PowerUp brand.

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