Hailing from San Diego, Jay “Viscant” Snyder is truly one of the godfathers of Marvel as we know it. When you’re given one of the most unrestrained sandbox games ever created, molding tactical structure out of those tiny grains is no easy task. He’s one of the few people whose SRK posts i always go out of my way to read, and everyone i know does too.
Maj: What got you into fighting games and the tournament scene? Are you surprised that you’ve been a part of all this for as long as you have?
Viscant: What got me into the tournament scene was more circumstance than any kind of grand design. On the one hand, I’m a very competitive person and I’ve loved video games since I was a little boy. One of the earliest pictures of me that I have is a picture of me standing on a chair and a stack of phone books playing Donkey Kong while my Dad looks on and gives a thumbs up. So in some respects you could say that Street Fighter was just the next game.
But really it’s more than that. Circumstance played a big role in it. I started playing Marvel games and SFA2 in local hole-in-the-wall arcades. Eventually I could beat all my friends and anyone else who came in. I started getting the reputation as “that guy who’s unbeatable at this game.”
There are a lot of local dominators though; where I differ is that I grew up within driving distance of SHGL and some truly high level competition. So eventually someone told me “Yeah, you’re good at this game, but you can’t beat this Alex guy. He plays out at some arcade near Long Beach!” So I made a day to drive out there and beat him and claim the mythical title of greatest video game player to ever play. And Alex (who turned out to be Alex Valle) beat the holy tar out of me.
Instead of wanting to quit the game, I just wanted to play again until I could beat him. That’s what kept me going with Street Fighter for close to 15 years of competitive/tournament play. There’s always somebody better out there; there’s always another challenge.
To me, Street Fighter is a game that you can never truly master. It’s filled with a lot of mini-goals along the way with a semi-unattainable goal at the end. You keep chasing the goal of beating so-and-so, and then once you achieve it, there’s another person to beat, another goal to achieve, another tournament to win, no matter how good you are.
You can argue that Daigo is the most accomplished SF player ever. But I watched him get beat down on a stream 30 minutes ago. No matter how good you are, there’s always something to improve, some way you can get better. That feeling is what keeps someone hooked.
Maj: Why are you so good at theory fighter? What’s the secret of the Viscant method? Is it true that winners don’t use drugs?
Viscant: I think I’m better than most at theory fighter because the mental game is my strength as a player. I’m not a combo player, nor am I an execution player.
True story, Floe once made a dedication combo video for MvC2: the Viscant combo was Storm launching into jab short strong forward, lightning attack the wrong way and whiff the super. Horrendous mistakes like this are what I’m known for. He said that if he makes a SF4 dedication video, the Viscant combo for that one will be Zangief jab jab jab short, blocked EX greenhand 3 seconds later. These are the mistakes I make as a player; if it weren’t for a solid mental game, I wouldn’t beat anybody!
So really, my method of playing has to be goal-oriented. I have to go in with a distinct plan that I’ve worked out in advance and match it up with what I think the other person is going to do. In order to do this, you have to spend a lot of time in training mode, gradually working through the possibilities that you’re going to go up against and learn how different moves interact in all kinds of different scenarios. So in a lot of ways my theory fighter isn’t even really theory fighter. I’ve worked out the scenarios in training mode in advance and I know I’m right.
And yes, drugs are definitely bad. Sex is wrong too.
Maj: Everyone who was around through the early Marvel days knows that you were a major driving force behind the success of MvC2. As omni said, you were one of the first people to step up and defend the Marvel series as viable competitive games. What made you decide to do all that?
Viscant: A lot of the defending of Marvel started with MvC1 – where Eddie Lee, myself and Spider-Dan dragged the major SF scene kicking and screaming into accepting the Marvel series as an actual competitive genre. Part of it was just sheer effort. If people are dedicated enough to caring about something this much, the community generally will pay attention.
The turning point came at ECC4 where MvC1 was the main event game and all the SF-only players watched and realized that this was a real game we were playing here. That even though there were missiles flying all over the place and huge combos, the spirit of Street Fighter — matchups and poking and setups and mindgames — were all still here, it was just moving at a different kind of speed. So when MvC2 came out, a lot of people in the community were ready to accept the Marvel series as a real game.
The main reason I stuck with it though and kept writing strategy articles and help posts on SRK was because I really enjoyed the game. Early era Marvel had such a high degree of freedom and you could do almost anything you wanted within reason.
There was always something new to learn and with 56 characters in the game, you never knew if you were going to crack someone’s trap if you just try this new team or something. That’s the kind of thing that kept me coming back. As the community started building and people started sharing the things they developed as well, that made the whole process really worth it to me.
Maj: Looking back, what do you take away from your experiences as a Marvel player? And is there anything that stands out?
Viscant: The stock answer to “what I took away from Marvel” is 2 extra years of college, but a lot of people have that answer. Since MvC2 came out 10 years ago, if you ever meet a community of long time Marvel players, it’s always interesting to ask them “Where would you be without Marvel?”
Because for most of us, Marvel was more than just a game to play in your spare time. It became a community you became a part of and in a lot of cases a completely different life path to walk down. I was lucky in that Marvel only caused me to delay graduating; a lot of people became Marvel dropouts.
Really though, I think what I and the rest of the community took away from Marvel was the concept of a community. People may forget this, but MvC2 was the first game of the SRK era. Before this, people really didn’t have a place to discuss gaming and gaming strategies and most people weren’t really that interested in doing it in the first place. The big meme at the time was “STSFN” which stood for Save That S(tuff) For Nationals. When MvC2 came out though, everything changed.
Part of that is because the game is simply too vast for a single person or a small group of people to figure out completely on their own, so people HAD to ask for help from the community just to be able to compete. I remember at early tournaments when groups from different regions would meet up, people would get completely demolished by a totally simple tactic simply because nobody they played with locally had thought of that or tried it out before.
One of the Cannon brothers got 3rd place at MWC by figuring out that you could alpha counter into Juggernaut Headcrush and take an easy 80% damage for blocking a beam or something. Arturo won that tournament with Doom jump back fierce because WC players weren’t doing that and nobody knew how to counter it yet. Duc won B4 because Spiral hadn’t been “invented” yet outside of SHGL. Lots of examples like that, some lasting for YEARS.
But because of SRK, eventually people got more used to sharing their ideas and the things they came up with. The mentality when finding something new was no longer “Wow, look what I found, I’m going to win the next tournament with it!” but more “Wow, look what I found, can’t wait to show everyone how it works!”
If the 1st game of the SRK era had been a more closed, controlled game dominated by old guard players, I really think the whole spirit of community wouldn’t have taken off so much.
Maj: Interesting point. Speaking of the community … Top three Marvel slang terms ever. Go!
Viscant: Something in the neighborhood of 90% of Marvel slang is actually East Coast stuff that went viral. So a lot of what people consider “Marvel slang” I have probably not said out loud a single time. This also has something to do with the fact that I’m entirely too white and wear Dockers, so hearing me scream “SCOOPS!” in person would seem very out of place. Having said that, I’ve always thought the Pringles and curly mustache references were funny.
But my all time favorite Marvel slang term ever has to be mashing – which doesn’t necessarily mean just smashing all the buttons, but more as in just randomly throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.
That word has invaded my daily vernacular. I blame Potter for this. When I was still playing with him, he could use that word as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, etc., and the whole thing eventually rubbed off on me.
Completely true story: I’ve been playing a lot of pickup basketball lately trying to get in shape for a 3 on 3 league this winter. Last game of the night a few weeks ago and people weren’t taking the game that seriously. This one guy comes up to me and is like, “Why are you trying all these Kobe moves all of a sudden?” Without thinking about it, I respond “Sorry, man, I was just mashing!”
And I guarantee I’m not the only one using that word in that way! Another thing that Marvel has given to us all.
Maj: Haha nice, bonus West Coast points for incorporating Kobe into the story.
Who coined the phrase “Summers Family Roundhouse”? That’s got to be one of the most creative fighting game terms i’ve ever heard. (Although it still loses out to my all-time favorite Marvel concept/feature: “wavedashing.”)
Viscant: I don’t think we can even take credit for wavedashing. I’m pretty sure that came from Tekken. Off the top of my head I can’t think of who coined Summers Family Roundhouse which means that it has a high probability of coming from either myself, or J.R. Gutierrez aka image.
For the record, he and I are responsible for a lot of the MSF/MvC1 terminology that has (thankfully) been lost to time. We were pretty much just mashing on life with some of those terms. Like “uncombo” for example. An uncombo is one of the MvC1 features (that thankfully never made the leap to MvC2) where sometimes the combo meter would reset, but the other person would be unable to block. Basically, you combine the best parts of a reset with the best parts of a combo. Hella cheap!
A good series to uncombo would be the War Machine air infinite allowing you to reset the damage and kill someone before they undizzy out. And on that note, “undizzy” is another image term, referring to when the game decides that you’ve held someone in an infinite for long enough, they spiral out in a dizzy animation but are able to block and recover completely. Point character or “on point” is another one.
So yeah, in summary almost all of the interesting things that people yell out these days are EC terms and most of the stuff that doesn’t really make sense or is really convoluted is an image/Viscant term. Hate to say it, but I think Yipes has us beat on this one.
Maj: Ah, i knew wavedashing was kind of tied up in Tekken, but wasn’t sure which came first. Tekken and X-Men: COTA were released in the same month, but the Marvel version of wavedashing might have been discovered much later.
As someone who was way ahead of the tactical curve through the first several years of MvC2’s life cycle, what advice would you give to players who want a head start on dominating MvC3?
Viscant: The best advice I could give is to not be afraid to change things up. MvC2 was an interesting game because tactics went from dominating to completely obsolete very very quickly. First month, Iceman was just absolutely broken. You couldn’t chip him, he should be banned! A few weeks later, picking Iceman is just an auto-loss. He became obsolete.
Juggernaut came and went very quickly. First year, Doom was the consensus #1 character. A year or two later, he became a pretty rare character on point because he struggles so much with Sentinel and Magneto.
Applying this to competitive gaming, you can see where I’m going here. A lot of people found something, declared it broken in their minds and stuck with it. If what they clung to was obsolete, they’d be dragged down with it. That Iceman/Juggernaut/Guile team that was cheap on day 1? By 3 months in, you were just a free win.
So for MvC3, people have to remember to not wed themselves to a tactic or to a character simply because they think this is top tier or is too good. Tiers shift, matchups change over time. If you find something out yourself, you could be the one to shift the matchup.
Maj: One last question, because i’d hate myself if i didn’t ask this. You’re probably the gameplanningest player i’ve ever met. I remember asking you about some CvS2 Yamazaki matchup, and you literally described how one action would have an impact 30 seconds later.
Can you explain what’s going on in your head when you approach an important match?
Viscant: This is a hard question to answer since so many matchups have different objectives. I think the best way to do this is to start with the difference between big objectives and small objectives. The big objective is the overall gameplan. In order to win this match, I must do this. I have this on my mind at all times. Smaller objectives are important, but they don’t have my full undivided attention.
The reason for this imbalance is the ultra meter. Abel’s ultra (Soulless) is virtually guaranteed to land on Blanka every round. It can punish horizontal ball on block or on hit. It can punish EX vertical ball on block or hit. It can punish EX rainbow roll when Blanka tries to escape the corner (and since the ultra takes away Blanka’s only reversal, he’s going to end up there sooner or later). Abel’s reel animation seems to twist to avoid electricity, making combos into electricity from low forward range nearly impossible – meaning that you need the horizontal ball for damage. Just a lousy matchup all around.
So here’s the big objective in this match. I must get the lead. That’s it. If it comes down to 50% vs. 50%, I can’t win this match. The ultra will get me eventually, whether he combos into it or punishes something successfully. I must start every round strong. I must be ahead by at least 30% by the time ultra meters come into play.
So everything I do in this match is geared around gaining the lead. If I have to spend meter to do this, I will. EX rainbow roll at any sign of trouble? Sure! Can’t risk him getting a mixup on me and taking the lead. Combo into super? Sure! Most Blanka matches you want to hang onto your meter because you need EX horizontal balls for anti-fireball and EX verticals for anti-air. Doesn’t matter here, I have a damage opportunity. I MUST take it.
If I have the lead, now we look at a smaller objective: how to get Abel to use meter on my terms. Soulless does 500 damage when fully charged, but 350 damage when Abel first gains access to the move. Since I figure I’m going to get hit by this anyways, I’d rather eat the little damage instead of the big. So now I try to make him burn the meter.
Luckily in this matchup, Abel has no reliable punish to a horizontal Blanka ball besides the ultra. In certain situations with a proximity variable he can punish it with dash forward into step kick, but I can control that variable. So now I’m going to start feeding him horizontal balls any time I can sneak them in there. I’m just telling him “Come on, do it! You know you want to! Take it! It’s right here for you!” Eventually they’ll do it.
Then I can play the rest of the match without worrying about the ultra bothering me again. But I can’t get to this smaller objective unless I’ve achieved the larger objective of playing the match from ahead.
Another example that isn’t so outright suicidal: Dee Jay vs. Ryu, still SSF4. The big objective in this match is to get the meter and then once you have it, conserve the meter. The match changes quite a bit depending on how much meter Dee Jay has at any given time. The fireball war is huge in this match. If Dee Jay doesn’t have meter or isn’t willing to use it, Ryu dominates the fireball war.
But if Dee Jay DOES have meter, he can blow through a fireball on reaction easily with EX sobats. Plus, EX sobats knock down and throw Ryu into the corner. Also, Dee Jay’s anti-air options expand when he has meter. If he doesn’t have meter Ryu can play an effective guessing game with the crossup jump forward, the fake crossup jump fierce or the crossup hurricane mixup. If he DOES have meter, all 3 of those options lose to the same move, EX dread kicks which will autocorrect itself if done properly.
So as you can see, holding meter is very important. If this was SFA3 where you start with a full bar, Dee Jay would probably either beat Ryu or at least hold his own. Instead since you have to fight him early on without any tools, this can be an uphill battle.
At the start of the match I’m going to do anything I can to avoid engaging Ryu until I have at least 2 meters built up. I’ll start the match by zoning him with fireballs. Each one builds only a fraction of a meter, but I can’t take the chance of getting hit or getting knocked down or getting into a close proximity fireball war if I don’t have that meter yet, so it’s turtle time.
Fortunately, there are only a handful of tournament level Dee Jay players in the world (much less in any given area) so a lot of players will simply allow me to turtle at the beginning since they don’t even really understand the goal of the matchup. Against more experienced Ryus though, getting and conserving meter becomes a chore.
A very good Ryu player who has played this match with me many times, like ShadyK for example, knows what my objective in this matchup here is, and will try to counter me. Say I only have 1 meter. He’ll start throwing unsafe fireballs at me, knowing that I don’t REALLY want to blow through him at first and leave myself meterless. But at the same time, I can’t let him take the initiative. Mind games!
Anyways, let’s look at a smaller objective in this fight. Let’s say I have 3 or 4 meters and the gathering phase of this match is over with. Now the smaller objective is to figure out what to do with what I’ve earned. Most Ryus want to throw fireballs, so I like to give them as many opportunities as possible to throw unsafe fireballs.
I’ll do a semi-safe jump in with knee shot (air down+short), then do a block series like c.jab, c.jab, c.short and then wait. The “natural” Ryu response here is low forward xx fireball. BUT since I pushed myself out of range, I can slip EX sobat in between here.
Another way to get Ryus to throw unsafe fireballs is to fake breaking your charge. From a down-back position, I’ll stand up (while still holding back) and do a s.short. I still have my charge here, but there’s something about how that s.short looks that makes people think I took a step forward. If the fireball comes out, I’ll take this opportunity to blow through.
So what I’m trying to say is, in order to gameplan for your opponent effectively you have to have multiple plans, little and big. They all have to fit together to form an overarching strategy. Dee Jay vs. Ryu and Blanka vs. Abel are both very uphill fights, so gameplanning is more important in these fights, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for every matchup.
Jay Snyder has placed within top 8 at several major tournaments including Evolution, MWC, and ECC. He regularly provides live stream commentary at The Box Arena ranbats in San Diego. You can catch him at Box Arena’s Triumph tournament later this weekend!