A Guide to Basic DDFF Theory
The goal of this guide is to providea theoretical base for understanding DDFF. It is particularly aimed at low and mid level players. Those who have been a the top of the competitive scene won't find any information they didn't already know, though it might still be an interesting read for looking at things from another perspective.
The way I see it, skills in DDFF are divided into 3 categories. I call them valuation, neutral, and other. Neutral is about questions like: How do I approach this character? Where should I be positioned? How to punish this approach? When is this move safe and when is it not? Other is a collection of small things that don't fit into either category. Valuation is the subject of this guide. Although neutral is of course very important, it is outside the scope of this guide. I will focus only on valuation.
In DDFF, there are 3 main resources: Assist, EX, and Health/damage. Valuation is concerned with questions on how to use, manage and evaluate these resources.
[WIP. This will be completed very slowly as I cant dedicate too much time to Dissidia. Also, I am not a great writer and there was no "reviewing" of the text so far. So some parts might be unclear or confusing. Your feedback is important for improving this guide. Also, needs work with formatting and stuff]
Playing proactively vs evasively: Playing proactively means you want to cause interaction between the players. It means you want to fight your opponent, to make things happen. Playing evasively means the opposite: you want to not fight your opponent, rather delay things until a better time. This guide will help you decide when to play one way or the other. It won't tell you how exactly to play, as that is in the realm of neutral.
Winning neutral: To win neutral basically means a neutral exchange resulted in a result favorable to you. Most of the time it means you hit the opponent with an attack, though not necessarily.
0- Assist Mechanics
Here I will explain the technicalities of how the assist system works.
In the TKG09-created units system, a bar of assist is equal to 100 assist units. Thus the full two bars is 200. The accessory descriptions in game that say x% assist refer to %s of 2 bars. So 10% assist depletion means -5 assist when hit, and Together as One (+40% initial assist) means you start the game with 80 assist.
When you do a move, you will gain some assist the moment it starts. It will either be 10 or 15, according to a few rules:
1- If it's the first move used in the game, 10
2- If you have exactly 0 or 100 meter, 10
3- If it's different from the last move you used, 15
4- If it's the same as the last move you used, 10
Hitting opponents with moves gives additional assist, by an amount that varies on a move-by-move base. This applies to all moves that deal BRV damage, including the BRV damage part of HP moves. HP moves do not give additional assist. If you have Side by Side equipped, SbS will give you 60 assist on HP hits.
1- The Importance of Assist Leads
Picture two Squalls fighting each other with the exact same build, assist, HP and everything else. Both have 0 assist. Let's say that in the near future, there is a p=50% chance Squall A will hit B with a Beat Fang; and (1-p)=50% that B will hit A with a BF. Who does this situation favor? It doesn't really favor anyone since both players benefit equally from each case. (The math-inclined will note that EV=0 for A and B)
Now say A is at 100 meter, while B is still at 0. Again, 50% for each BF. Now suddenly the situation favors player A a lot. In the 50% case he gets hit, he only takes some relatively small BRV damage. But in the 50% that he wins, he will deal that same amount of BRV damage, plus the damage from the assist, then finish it off with an HP attack. Even though both Squalls are playing neutral equally well, what ends up happening is that half of the time A takes a bit of damage, and half of the time B takes a lot of damage.
Another way of looking at it is that having assist allows you to increase how much value you get out of each neutral win. While an assistless player would have to deal damage in small increments, a player who always has meter gets to deal way more damage every time he wins neutral. In the example above, my estimate is that Squall A deals 6 times more damage than B. Obviously it is better to deal more damage, since it means you need to hit your opponent less times to win the game. But the advantages a meter lead give you don't stop there.
2- Assist Depletion and Mantaining an Assist Lead
Let's go back to the example where Squall A has 100 meter and B has 0. If A does hit B, he lands his damage which is great. But now the meter numbers are 0-0. This is the "favors no one" situation. If we assume that both players build meter at equal speed, then by the time A has his meter again, so will his opponent (100-100). This is still "favors no one". A was in a situation where he had the advantage, dealt damage and then wasn't advantaged anymore.
Let's say the initial meter situation was 100-50 instead. This still favors A for the same reason that 100-0 favors A: he can assist combo and B cannot. But after assist comboing, the meter situation will be 0-50, and in the near future 50-100. This means the situation has completely flipped, from an advantageous situation to a disadvantageous one. What can player A do about this?
The answer is assist depletion of course. The 100-0 situation will still go to 0-0, but every other case gets better. From 100-50, or 100-90, you end up in 0-0, essentially erasing all progress they had made on building meter and setting them back to stack zero. From 150-50, you go to 50-0 which means you go from advantage to still being advantaged.
So if you keep winning neutral, your depletion will keep constantly setting back your opponent's meter. This makes coming back hard on the opponent, because they will never get assist leads "for free". Furthermore, it creates situations where the neutral outcomes value are completely tilted in your favor. Situations where the meters are 1xx-0xx will happen often, and your opponent cant afford to get hit in them. For all the reasons described in 2, plus knowing that the depletion will delete all their progress in building meter.
This gets even worse if your character builds assist faster than the opponent. Instead of going from 0-0 to 100-100 (even to even), you go from 0-0 to, example, 100-70. You will naturally build meter advantage over time, and your depletion will allow you to capitalize on and increase that advantage. Sometimes, the slower meter builder will go for long periods of time in a loop of getting hit, getting comboed, losing all their meter, and getting hit again before they can assemble anything to fight with. Sometimes it feels like you lose half your health before you can even start to "play the game".
3- Assist Changes Part 1: Introduction
Assist Change (AC) is a mechanic that allows you spend meter to break out of combos, thus avoiding damage. Whether or not to AC can be a difficult and interesting question because it requires you to compare two very different resources and make a fast choice. But most of the time, there are principles which can make taking this choice a lot easier. First, at the costs of changing: If you lvl 2 change, by losing two bars and going back to 0, you are giving your opponent a huge lead in assist. If you lvl 1 change, though you only lose one bar, this is often even worse than lvl 2 changing. Because your meter gets locked, you effectively have 0 meter a while. But unlike just going to 0, you can't even gain meter while your bar is locked. Meaning you can't even begin to mount a comeback in this time frame. Oftentimes, your opponent will be able to build an advantage larger than 1 bar over the period where your bar is locked. As we discussed earlier, you don't want to be at an assist disadvantage. So keep this in mind while choosing to AC or not.
Now, let's separate combos in DDFF into a few categories:
e) Anything with 2 assists (usually HP->Assist->HP->Assist->HP)
And let's analyze each of them individually:
a) Because there is no depletion at play, you are looking only at the damage-avoiding benefits to outweight the costs of changing. As a rule of thumb, if BRV damage is not going to break you, it can be seen as insignificant. So I'd recommend not ACing in that case, with very rare exceptions. Even if it going to break you, it is often not good to change because the costs are just too high.
b) This is very different because HP damage is way more significant than BRV damage most of the time. But the biggest difference is that now you have to consider depletion. Though the costs of changing are high, if you don't change, the depletion will inflict a loss of similar nature to you anyway. Of course the "damage" of depletion is not as high as the "damage" you take from changing. But it is significant and makes the cost of ACing be relatively way less high.
c) This is similar to b) since you are taking significant damage and depletion if you don't AC. But this time, your opponent has to spend a bar to connect to the damage. By ACing after the opponent's bar has been spent, you're forcing them to effectively waste it. This makes the cost of the AC more manageable, since the assist disadvantage will be smaller.
d) Because depletion exists, if you want to AC out of this you need to do it before the first HP. Meaning this is very similar to b), except the damage you'll be avoiding is a lot higher.
e) This is left as an exercise to the reader.
4- Assist Changes Part 2: Assist Locking
5- Combating Meter Advantage
6- Assist Changes Part 3: AC Counters
7- EX Basics
8- EX Revenge
9- EX Hold and other misc EX topics
11- Winning Neutral