Chapter 5: You Can Lead a Scrub to Water, But You Can’t Make ‘Em Think

mindgames, character choices, metagame

In a disappointing development, it seems we have a new wave of scrubs announcing theyre not only too stupid to play well, but too stupid even to watch a video. As any player whose SF history predates this site can tell you, what you get here every damn week used to be considered solid gold. Not too long ago, people killed to see how the champs played, and spent hours hunting down terrible quality VHS dubs, then begging someone to send them a copy. Now, were spoon-feeding top quality SF to you every week, and it turns out youre too stupid even to swallow. Heres you:

Buh! He aint done no nuthin I caint do! Im the next durn Alex Valley! Yee-ha! (a hoe-down ensues)

What cousin Merle means, of course, is that he didnt see any *moves* he couldnt do, and perhaps (like in CVS) not even any combos he couldnt do. Does that mean he could play like that? Any non-idiot (or even a bonafide idiot, who has at least read this column) will know that special moves + combos do not equal SF. Theres more to the equation- a lot more.

Since Im talking to morons, Ill try and speak clearly: You scrubs watch these videos wrong. In particular, you watch them *passively*. A lifetime of butt-widening, beer-bellifying NFL fandom (and the like) has led to these sorry habits. You see a match, and you just sit back and watch it like a sitcom. Youre not living it alongside the players, trying to think like they do, in real time- youre just soaking it up like the spineless sponge you are. To really appreciate whats going on, you need to feel the tension, and try and react as they do.

The typical scrub match-evaluation goes like this: You watch the video all the way through, then think back to all the places where someone seemed to blow an advantage, miss something, etc. Now, the first identifying mark of the forum scrub (the modern, louder (though thankfully non-scented) descendant of the mall scrub) is that he always watches videos with respect to what they say about HIM and his precious l33t skeelz. Hes not watching to understand (if he did, he would hardly be the scrub he proves himself to be), hes watching to try and feel cool about himself, and maybe to find some simple trick or combo he can steal. He feels cool by trying to imagine *himself* playing the match, and thinking how well *hed* do against the best. Now mind, this isnt done by getting off their butts to actually *do* it- oh heavens no! (insert excuses about money/parents/gf/having a life/just being too cool/etc, here), but instead, by trying to insert themselves into some random match they saw (a related variant of the same scrub trick: the shockingly dumb transitive fest of “well, I can beat so and so, who once played a guy who once placed 19th in a Cali tournament, so technically, according to logimacality, that means Im pretty good.” And he didnt even have to leave the mall to figure it out!).

Because your scrubby motive is to always think the best of yourself, rather than understand the truth, a favorite evaluation trick is to pull some sequence entirely out of context. This works by ingeniously ignoring all the expectations, patterns, psychological advantages, and momentum that the other player had established, and just focusing on an isolated incident. What this does is to let the scrub get away with thinking “Sheeeucks! I coulda DPd that!”, or whatever. Bzz. Not only do you fail to notice how much easier it is to think “I coulda DPd it!” when you ALREADY KNOW WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN (this is the special, scrubs-only variant of the psychic DP: the hindsight DP!), but the obvious fact is that you COULDNT have. If you could have, youd be winning tournaments too, instead of pouting at home and taking out your frustrations on training mode (scrubs at home will be reaching for that bag of excuses right about now, again).

Here are a few pointers on how to watch these matches:

Look for what the players DONT do. “But how can anything interestin be a happenin if a whole mess o life aint disappearin, or if there taint no huge ex-plo-zee-uhn on the screen, or leastwise one uh dem purdy color super-deals?” I know this is hard Merle, but bear with me. Yes, its important to notice what they do (with Kim, dont jump in, poke with st. Short, sweep a lot, etc.), but a lot of times its what they *dont* do. Why arent they going for the big Mag Tempest combo with Magneto? “Ooh! I know! Its because they suck, right?” Bzz. Sorry Cletus, theres a little more to it.

Basically, this was covered last article. You dont want to give away opportunities if you dont have to. In fact, you dont want to give away anything at all- you want to be minimal in all regards. Think of your bad kung-fu movies if it helps (images of bad kung-fu movies seem to influence scrub-think a lot). Whos the real badass? Mr. Flying Fists of Fury whos shooting out twelve million flailing attacks a second, or the calm, cool, collected guy who send Flying Fists packing with a single, well-placed move? Theres a sequence like that in pretty much every one of those movies. When applied to tournaments (since thats what youre watching) I call this the lowest common denominator theory- just like Mr. Cool, you want to do as little as possible necessary to still win. And rather than an embarrassment, this is a major skill.

Tournaments, even for seasoned pros, are tense environments. As such, youll often see MORE mistakes, not less, in actual tournament footage. It can also tend to be slightly conservative, because people dont always trust themselves to go for the flashy stuff. Another thing outside observers will miss in watching is that these matches MATTER. For anyone whos never been to a real tournament (and no, getting your 10 friends together at the mall and xeroxing a flyer doesnt mean youve been to a real tournament, please sit down), this is extremely difficult to grasp. Theyre thinking “Wtf- its the same game I play all the time, isnt it?” Yes, but mostly no. Tournament play is extremely different from casual play. At my first big tournament, I went on an over-an-hour-long, pre-tourney win-streak, against all the best players. I was a machine. Then when the tournament rolled around, I sweat my way into the final 16 (this was a 256 man tournament, IIRC), and got wiped out by someone I had beaten easily before (and beat easily again later). When you actually get to your first real tournament, then youll know what Im talking about. The worst youve ever faced before was that smart-mouthed kid who worked at Cinnabon, and if he managed to beat you, the only thing that stood between you and revenge was a trip to the bill changer. Not now. If you blow it, youre out. And *these* smart-mouthed kids live 2 thousand miles away- there wont be any chances for revenge. And youre not just playing to stay on the machine- theres actual stuff involved here, not to mention bragging rights. You can tell yourself it doesnt really matter, but (if youre good enough to have a shot at winning in the first place) your guts wont believe you. As such, you want to conserve all your mental energy, and focus as much as you can. You dont want flash unless its required. Ask anyone about their first tournament. Its different than you think. You dont know. Shut up.

Back to the loud variety of scrub critics. How do I *know* they dont know what theyre talking about? They prove it themselves. Once again, I ask you to take a look at what *isnt* there. Whats missing from these jackasses is any actual contribution. Heres what you dont get: pointers on how (move x) would beat that poke for free. Or how so-and-so cant retaliate against this move, so you should shift your offense more towards that. And so on. To wit, what you dont get is something worth knowing- instead you get the empty opinions of someone whos proving he doesnt understand by speaking in the first place. Worse than nothing. If you show me an average match between two scrubs, I can tell you a million things theyre doing wrong. You no-name scrub critics, however, cant manage anything beyond the super limp- “uhm, you should, uh, roll more!”, or the time-honored “jump in when he fireballs!”. Those above the third-grade level might realize “Hey, I have nothing to say because, while not flashy, this is some really solid playing.” But instead, the scrub has to convince himself hes a big man by publicly announcing that hes “unimpressed”. If *he* were there, *he* would have won easily. How exactly? Um, no comment. All they can ever offer is empty, 20-20 hindsight. Does anyone need to be reminded they could probably win if they knew every move their opponent was going to make in advance? Then shut up.

It all comes down to this: If youre too dumb to appreciate the invaluable resources youre getting handed, for free, with a little bow on it and cherries on top, at least try and refrain from showing it off. Before you post, take a moment to reflect. Collect yourself, breathe deeply, look in the mirror, and seriously consider: Am I a complete f*cking moron? Thanks in advance.


  1. On Cheapness
  2. Mental Toughness
  3. So You Want to be a Dominator?
  4. Controlling Space
  5. You Can Lead a Scrub to Water, But You Can’t Make ‘Em Think
  6. Critical Breakdown
  7. Draw This
  8. Planet of the SF-Playing Apes
  9. Prelude to a Diss