What makes Dragunov, Dragunov (pt. 3)
In the first few articles I discussed Dragunov's classifications as a tall character, as a grappler, and how Dragunov fits in Tekken. In this article I'll defer from classifying Dragunov into set archetypes and discuss how his KND/W! attack options make him different from the rest of the cast.
The lack of a NH KND attack until i15:
Upon learning Dragunov and reading about his punish and pressure options, you may have noticed something missing from his move list, specifically the ability to knockdown his opponent until 15 frames. This is fairly rare as much of the cast has the ability to KND/W! at i12 or faster and almost the entire cast has a KND or launch at i14 or faster. Now granted he has iWS+1+2, which with perfect input comes in at exactly i14, but it's hardly a replacement for a standing i14 or as a punisher in a tense match. Inversely he has two i12 attacks out of WS and both knockdown and wall splat, making his while standing punishment one of the strongest in the game. So one on hand Sergei can't KND/W! from standing until i15, but is the only one who can KND/W! at i12 from while standing.
When looking at NH i10-i12 strings that W!/KND, there's a pattern of (nearly) all of them being launch punishable in one way or another. When factoring in that many punishment strings do not jail, or possibly launch punishable on block, performing an improper punish against a knowledgeable opponent can spell trouble.
Please note this isn't a complete list:
i10 - Lili/Jin 2,4 - duck to WS+2
i10 - Mishima 1,1,2 - f+1+2
i11 - Kazuya b+1,2 - i14 punishable, not Dragunov launchable
i12 - Bruce/Lars f+2,4 - duck to WS+2
i12 - Law 3,4 - duck to WS+2
i12 - Bob f+2,3 - d/f+2
i12 - Ling f+1+2 - d/f+2
i12 - Paul d+1+2 - d/f+2
More examples, non-W!/KND:
i10 - Steve 1,1,2 - duck to WS+2
i10 - Bruce 1,4,3 - d/f+2
i10 - Alisa 1,1 - duck to WS+2
i12 - King b+1,2 - duck to WS+2
i12 - Baek 4,3 - duck to WS+2
When you compare that list to Dragunov's punishment options, you can see that he's actually quite safe. All his i10 NC strings jail and are safe on block, his i12 4,1 also jails and is safe on block, and finally his i14 b+3 is safe on block.
The abundance of CH strings until i15:
While it would be nice to have an attack faster than i15 that KNDs on NH, primarily for punishing purposes, I can't complain on Dragunov's abundance of CH confirmable strings. When executed properly, they carry no risk and mound additional pressure against your opponent.
i10 - 1,2,1 (KND/W!)
i12 - 4,3 (KND)
i13 - d/f+1,4 (KND)
i15 - b+4,2,1 (+8)
Of the four only 4,3 is not hit confirmable, but at only -10 it's not that bad an option, so instead it's better used as a trap or for catching late SS/SW. In all cases the strings set up wakeup oki or +frame 50/50s, which can lead to sizable damage. The more one plays Dragunov the more one sees a pattern emerge as something I call "The Dragunov Dilemma"
The Dragunov Dilemma:
"In order to set up 50/50s, where the opponent can make mistakes, the opponent must first make a mistake" -Tyler2k
It sounds stupid, but it's entirely true. I'm not talking about the opponent whiffing an attack, reading a low wrong, SS'ing to the wrong side, or some other conditional set up. I'm talking about in order to start Dragunov's strongest offense, you're going to need a CH. Tying this entire article together, I figure I'd come out and say that Dragunov desperately needs to get the opponent on the ground ASAP. Without a i10-i14 NH KND, the only way to effectively ground an opponent is through CH and, against a smart opponent, is very hard to achieve.
Luckily Dragunov does have multiple options such as standard grabs, instant grabs, inescapable u/f+3+4, reversals, punch parry, and low reversal which all ground the opponent setting up their own styles of oki, but nothing really replaces a solid KND punish.
Continued in: What makes Dragunov, Dragunov (pt. 4)