Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Counter Picking ft. Sanford Kelly

I came across a video I found quite interesting and wanted to write about it. Here's the video:

(Video courtesy of

For those of you who don't have time to watch it, Sanford Kelly summarizes his opinion on the East Coast scene. However, he mentions something that caught my mind: counter-picking.

For those of you who are new to the term, counter-picking is picking another match-up that favors the character you chose to counter-pick with. For example, instead of playing a Ryu mirror, a player could counter-pick with Dhalsim.

Now, the only time I've considered counter-picking was against Snafoo (Dhalsim) at Evo 2011 in Super Street Figher 4 AE (not v. 2012). Of course, I stuck with Ryu, but I hesitated and thought about picking Yun (who was very strong and considered a strong counter-pick against Dhalsim). I stuck with Ryu and lost.

Let me explain the two different ways of counter-picking. From reading Seth Killian's old articles (I forget the names of them all), counter-picking has to come with knowing why you lost. I didn't understand how I lost and lost the same EXACT way in the first set against Snafoo. I second-guessed Ryu, thought about counter-picking with Yun, and lost without re-examining my first loss.

Now what Sanford seems to be explaining is whether a person wants to put in more work to learn more characters. If you learn more characters you have more chances of coming across a match-up that favors you because of your ability to play other characters.

The reason for this post is whether or not a person should implement counter-picking in their game-play. For example, what if you counter-pick just to counter-pick but don't even know the match-up at all.

An example is Snake Eyes (a Zangief player). People pick Sagat against him because Sagat counters Zangief in many different ways, but a lot of them fail. I'm sure Snake Eyes understands the match-up, but it goes to show that counter-picking doesn't just decide whether you win or not.

Air has told me to pick the best character that is playable to the best of your ability. There's no point in countering if you can't play the character you are trying to counter with to the best of your ability.

So the question is: Do you counter-pick? In my opinion, it depends. If you know your mistakes and have played the match-up before, counter-picking might be a good option. If you don't know your mistakes and/or haven't played the match-up before, you probably are best off playing your main character/team to avoid any confusions in execution and different scenarios.

What do you guys think? Would you counter-pick if you had the chance? Have you counter-picked? Leave your questions and comments below.


P.S. I'm very stubborn when it comes to Ryu. I have played him for more than 3 years straight. I have the most knowledge and experience with Ryu. Therefore, my thoughts on counter-picking aren't really for it. I do, however, know how to play many characters in SSF4 AE v. 2012.


  1. Picking a top tier, honestly, is a whole different concept from counter-picking. I don't believe in counter-picking simply because my 3 years of Rose will outshine my 2 week Chun Li easily. Basically, it won't work out that well.

    But early game, learning that top tier would probably be beneficial, but counterpicking is picking your way to lose simply because you probably don't know enough about your counterpick anyway.

  2. @Gerald Herrera - My thoughts exactly. However...

    To play devils advocate, Sanford had a point in putting the effort to learn new characters. That means going out of your way to learn the NEW character's/team's match-ups as well as execution, spacing, and fundamentals of the character him/herself.

  3. counterpicking played a relatively large role in marvel2 and it was mostly assist-based. Overall, picking a hard counter is only effective if you know the matchup very well. Happened to me a lot at the last evo I went to (first year of vanilla sf4), where people would pick sagat after they lost the first match. Long story short, I made it out of my pool in winners.