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What makes Dragunov, Dragunov (pt. 4)

Introduction:
In the part 3 I discussed Dragunov's lack of NH KND attacks until i15 and first mentioned the "Dragunov Dilemma" and granted it's not a true dilemma, more of a paradox, it does convey the frustration that can come about by playing solid competition.  In this article I will describe how momentum affects Dragunov, arguably, more than any other character in Tekken.

Momentum and You:
Everyone has experienced it, a moment where you know you're in control, where your opponent doesn't seem to have an answer for any of your decisions.  Inversely everyone has also experienced a moment of pure chaos where nothing you seem to do works and are aware of impending defeat.  Even without directly experiencing it, an outside observer can notice a momentum shift occur, it's that tangible.

A couple months ago the Ultimate Tournament XII (UT12) was held in Paris, France and it hosted once of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.  High level Tekken players from around the world convened to duke it out and luckily Nobi, arguably the best Dragunov player in the world, was in attendance.  Nobi ended up taking 3rd overall and proved that he's definitely one of the best players around, but this article isn't about Nobi, it's about momentum.

Nobi (Drag) vs JustFrameJames (Law)

The first thing to notice is that these matches (overall) are not even close, with 80%+ life leads at the end of rounds, one can see a back and forth momentum struggle.  Sometimes JFJ wins convincingly and other times Nobi does, but there is no clear advantage to either player.  It's not until a little over half way in the video does a winner, namely Nobi, start to emerge.  Unscientifically I have estimated the life leads at the end of the round.

 Nobi  JFJ  Lead
60 -
-
- 20 -
- 90 -
- 35 Nobi
 15 -
-
- 70 -
- 95 -
85 - -
- 95 -
 10 - -
- 80 -
-
60 -
100
-
-
40
-
-
85
-
-
-
80
-
80
-
-
100
-
-
80
-
-
20
-
JFJ
-
45
-
 25 -
-

In the chart above "Lead" refers to who had the life lead early in the round, therefore was most likely to win said round.  This doesn't necessarily correlate to the "momentum" of the match, but instead better signifies whether the round was close or not.  This is most evident early in the match when Nobi is able to take an early lead and JFJ is able to fight his way back, but contradictory to this later in the match when Nobi is able to comeback from a significant deficit which is evidence of momentum, as seen by the prior four points of data.

Compare the Nobi vs. Malgu match to the grand finals match between Malgu and SunChip

Malgu (Law) vs. SunChip (Bry)

One can notice that the life advantage at the end of the round isn't nearly as drastic when compared to the Nobi vs JFJ matches.  The rounds go back and forth and there is no clear winner until the end of round, it's basically up in the air until the KO comes.  Now you can make the argument that Malgu and SunChip both frequent Green Arcade in Seoul and as such are used to each others' playing styles, or both players are showing each other a lot of respect, or simply JFJ isn't used to Dragunov.

I argue that, unlike Dragunov, both characters are more balanced characters in the sense that they don't require a large amount of momentum to win (with Bryan requiring a good amount more momentum to win than Law).  Both characters have relatively safe launching options that grant similar (or better) damage than a large amount of the cast, therefore can use said option in a wide variety of situations.  For instance, Bryan: CH 4 for keep out, CH 3+4 for spacing, u_u/f+4 for low crushing/baiting whiffed jabs.  Law: CH 4 for keep out/frame traps, f,f+3+4 grab for level positioning, d/f+2 for keep out/catching certain options.

Now let's watch the end of the match between Malgu and Nobi to see how the match unfolds against a different player.

Malgu (Law) vs. Nobi (Drag)

In the first game it's obvious that Nobi has no momentum on his side and even though the games are closer than with JFJ, he still gets perfected in the second round as well as took a substantial early lead in the third, just to lose the round in the end.  It's not until the second round of the second game does Nobi gain total control of the match, while the first round also showed Malgu carrying his momentum from the first game just to lose it.  At this high of a level play, there is no such thing as character unfamiliarity.  A player may have poor match ups against character X or Y, but a high level player certainly won't lose due to a lack of knowledge.

Tying it all Together:
Fighting game tiers often come down to basics, often what character X can do that character Y can't.  Dragunov is an example of a character Y, he has a tremendous amount of tools, but none of them really stand out.  Where as top tier characters seem to have far fewer tools but a few that are the best in the game.  With no "hail-mary" type of attacks (e.g. Lars u/f+3, Steve PAB u/f+2) that tend to crush lows, highs, and many mids, no respectable low crush launcher (i.e. Bryan u/f+4, generic hop kick), no i10-13 KND (e.g. Mishima 1,1,2, Jin 2,4) off NH, no CH launching i11-12 (e.g. magic 4), and no i14 launch (e.g. Bryan JU) Dragunov can't afford to lose momentum.  Unless your opponent does something really dumb, you're going to have to work your ass off to get it back.

As such it's crucial to stay calm while not giving up an inch, read options before they happen, punish properly, and keep pressure on your opponent.
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