The struggle of the intermediate play on GG
[Insert the mandatory comment about english not being one's first language]
After playing a lot of weaker opponents who are on the path of becoming good at GG, I noticed I actually repeat myself on two points when giving advices. The first point is on how to burst Ram, and the second being about pointing what I call the flaws of the random lobbies meta(I will explain what it is on the next paragraph). While GG is a fantastic game that I love, I notice that it's quite easy to believe that we're playing the game "right", and that regardless of our level. I think it's actually hard to spot the difference between the top play and simply two players that have a gameplan, when you are in the lower levels. I used myself to believe for quite a long time that the "only" difference between the good and the great was basically in the preciseness of what we're trying to do. But there's actually much more to that.
Now back to the "random lobby meta". That meta can be actually summarized with the following points :
1) Always go in
2) Always try to make your pressure as gapless as possible
3) And as a corollary, rarely think about ever throwing someone. And that especially if your throw leads into nothing else than a knockdown
If you're not too knowledgeable about the game, it's easy to think it's not too different at higher levels. Throws don't happen that much, both players are usually pressing buttons in neutral/going in, and sometimes you even see some players block for a long ass time, leaving you with the impression that this pressure has no gap. And at the core, it's not totally false either. But the difference is noticeable once the opponent is good at playing much more defensively.
I've been part of that meta for a long ass time. And I think that I finally managed to distance myself from it, from around the beginning of the year 2018 (note: I've been playing the game since the US Sign release, which is end of 2014). And I would have remained in that meta forever, had I not played some great fellas like Zokhiz, King_Rasta or even Pida, who simply destroyed me for being too reckless and predictable.
As a result, I also indirectly learned how to deal with that meta. And how do I deal with it? It's not too hard. I down back basically all the time, and wait for my opponent to do the mistake I expect him to do. I have an easy time airthrowing people. Intermediate players will always IAD on your face, whether it is in neutral, or as a way to reset pressure. And when you don't have to fear for throws in your opponent's offense, airthrowing becomes actually both easy, and extremely powerful. I also have some great buttons as Ram that will grant me stupidly good reward, while being great at shutting down predictable play.
Some of the intermediate players told me that I was actually super hard to open me up. It makes me smile, since I don't consider my defense to be strong (ask nyphi, how he manages to loop 2K revolver on block against me). Others simply become lost in the middle of their offense. Like, they actually use strings, but at some point just end their pressure by doing nothing, since they end up having no idea on how to open me up.
In other words, the point of this whole rant is to basically point the "errors" that intermediate players do, while also giving them some general tips they could apply. Note that it doesn't apply to every matchup. You shouldn't do ONLY what I suggest either. It's much more about broadening the perspective, and giving more tools.
A) About the lack of patience in neutral
Going in isn't bad by itself. But it becomes much better when you give yourself as many options as possible to do so.
1) Generate some meter
There's one meme that I like, and that isn't too far from the truth, and it's basically that "1 YRC = 1 neutral win". And neutral YRC/IAD YRC is probably the best tool in neutral if you can use it correctly. There's also YRC OS you can do when you're between 25 and 49% of tension to make an unsafe move much safer. And let's not forget about how RRC can both let you confirm what's impossible to confirm otherwise, or get some even more explosive damage. We all know about those options. But I feel like that many people on intermediate level tend to see it as a "bonus", in the sense that they'll just play normally and then be like "cool, I have meter now", instead of looking actively for a way to generate meter. And there are two underrated ways to generate meter that don't require you to simply go in.
Moving back / forward for instance is the most underrated way(if you ask me) to build meter. You don't commit, and you're basically asking your opponent to come at you. Building meter that way is quite slow, but it's free meter nonetheless. It's also one of the reason you want to somehow keep harrassing characters Potemkin, since you don't want him to gain a lot of meter and become basically one big threat. But if you want to harass your opponent, you kind of have to do it in a balanced way. If you play it too safe, your opponent can then use the second underrated way to generate meter, which is...
INSTANT BLOCKING. It is easy to get annoyed by that Ky player who does nothing else than throw coconuts while backing off. Or when that Venom is doing a live demo of the movement tutorial. But you shouldn't be annoyed, and I'll explain why. Instant blocking comes with some drawbacks. You take more chip damage, your RISC bar goes up faster and you have a timing, that if missed can open you up. But when you think about it, those drawbacks are basically nothing when you're dealing with moves that hit mid, that do little damage and won't basically lead into anything if the opponent is at zoning range. Now compare those drawbacks to the thing that will encourage you to input IBs, and it's higher tension pulse. In other words, more IB means better meter gain on whatever you do next. And with high tension pulse, the moving back / forward grants quite a gigantic amount of meter for what it is, and it will also give you a lot of reward meter-wise next time you open your opponent up.
(As a side note, the way IB work is a great balancing tool against longer-ranged characters who tend to play it too defensively. It has become slightly weaker since Rev 2.10 with characters like Axl or Venom having it much easier to crank the RISC bar up. But it's still extremely strong nonetheless. Mashing IB used to be a somewhat risk-free tool against those chars, while now you have a bit more of thoughts to put behind it)
2) Use your character's tools
Well, it seems obvious and vague at the same time. But those seem to be overlooked way too often. I remember some stream monster on jonio's chat telling me that Answer doesn't get to deploy scrolls. I also remember some Jams never thinking about charging a card while I was simply holding down back on the other side of the screen. And that just shows that they aren't used to play a game where both opponents aren't constantly presing a button. While you're not supposed to use those tools when you can expect your opponent to rush your face, it's still an option to consider if you see that your opponent isn't willing to go in. Deploy that sword with Ram. Set those balls with Venom. Hope that the item you threw as Faust will be a good one for you. In other words, use those tools that will force a behavior against your opponent, or that will allow you to get more reward on the next opening. (But only if they aren't jumping on your face already.)
3) Run FD
You run at your opponent, then cancel the run with FD. If your opponent was trying to poke you and you block it, you are happy because you don't get opened up. If the opponent was trying to poke you and the poke whiffed, you are in a situation where you can basically press a button against your opponent , since he's hella minus. If the opponent did nothing, then it's maybe an indication that you can freely do a runup button against him, and then initiate your offense. In other words, you want to use run FD, since it forces your opponent to do one action, and it gives you data in some way. That feint can help you greatly in making decisions. That Faust tends to autopilot f.S into item? Then run up 6P can be a good option to consider. That Faust adapted and mashes 2H instead? Why not just IAD into button on his face?
It does cost a bit of meter, and it does also kill your meter gain for like one second. But even with those cons, you have little reasons not to use it, if your char can do it.
B) About the misunderstanding of risk / reward in offense
I noticed a total lack of throw in the offense of some players. I find that it's a total shame, considering some characters have their whole offense based around throws. I believe that people tend to overlook that option for 2 reasons. The first being that people don't like blocking on netplay. The second being that the reward doesn't seem to be that great compared to a straight opening. Those people might only see a knockdown that allows a setup. But there's a long-term reward to it.
We all know that one cannot simply block low and beat throws at the same time. Whatever you do requires you to let go of the low block. Want to jump? Can't block low. Want to backdash? You cannot hold the diagonal to do that. Want to fuzzy jump? You aren't a machine, which means that you won't be blocking low for a short time. Want to mash? At this point you're not even blocking. With all that in mind, it's a reminder of why you want to make your opponent understand that you are ready to throw. He will have a reason not to just turtle, and will have to do something, creating holes in his defense.
2) About creating gaps
Throwing is a risk. As I mentionned above, you actually have multiple ways to beat it. And some of those can totally reverse the situation and put you in a bad spot. Which is why you want to use throw as much as a threat, than as an actual offense tool. If you're going for a string of moves that is fully blockstring, your opponent won't have room to mash or even act. You won't have room to throw either, since you cannot get thrown up to 5 frames after exiting blockstun. You also won't open your opponent up, unless you're Ram or Millia, and you're doing one of your better okis. Overheads either leave a long gap before hitting, or will end your pressure if blocked. In other words, you need to create gaps. And for each gap you create, you need to have options that will beat multiple things.
One example would be the characters that can chain their 2K into another 2K, like Millia or Jam. A simple 2K mash is great to force you to block. But you cannot press 2K eternally, since pushblock is a thing. So at some point, you will be forced to do something in order to continue pressure. Either you run up throw if you expect your opponent to respect. Or you can use a gatling as a frame trap, but that will maybe result to you not opening your oppnent up if the opponent does nothing. Or you can dash into 2K to encourage your opponent to press buttons, while also reseting pressure for you. In that case, you can usually do 2K three times on block (or even more depending on whether the opponent doesn't FD, and so on), which leaves you basically three possible gaps where you can force your opponent to make a choice.
3) If I do X you can just do Y to beat it
That's one common misconception that I see way too often, and that actually handicaps a lot of players. It usually comes from a certain worship of clean play, by a group of ignorants who won't hesitate to look down on people who dare to try stuff (shoutouts to that Sol player who believes that he's way stronger than what he actually is. The same Sol player who tried to throw me a total of 3 times in around 20 matches). As I pointed above, you cannot do everything at the same time. Which means that you shouldn't base your action on everything your opponent CAN do. But rather try and think what your opponent MIGHT do. If you constantly take what your opponent can do in account, you'd notice that you can throw frametraps in the trash, since the opponent can just blitz it. You should also abandon the idea of throwing, since your opponent will never block. But wait, if the opponent doesn't block, shouldn't I just do frametraps and open him up for free?
See where this is going?
You have to accept that you need to take risks and make choices to win. And you should adapt those choices based on what you think your opponent might do, while also taking in account the risk it might take. You think that your opponent will DP? Then you might want to either do blockstrings with lows (to beat the fact your opponent has to input DP, therefore not block low) with the risk of basically doing a weak pressure. Or you might simply hard bait the DP, with the risk of losing totally your pressure, but with a great reward. Just don't limit yourself to what your opponent CAN do. The situations where you beat whatever your opponent does are extremely rare on GG. There is so many stuff you can do in this game, that it'd be a shame to limit yourself to a restrained toolset when you don't have to.
tl;dr try being more SICK and CREATIVE.