Following the results of the first stop of 2018’s Tekken World Tour event, we saw ROX | KNEE take the win using an unlikely character. We haven’t seen Knee use ‘Devil Jin’ at a high level since Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and it has been almost forever since we have seen him win with ‘Devil Jin’. Perhaps Knee was inspired by his former teammate UYU | QUDANS or perhaps he just decided to adopt a new character for recent tournaments. Either way there were some very significant differences in playstyle between Knee and Qudans.
The first immediate difference you will notice is that Knee is a lot more conservative with his ‘Devil Jin’ and extremely patient and defensive. He was able to negate a lot of Dragunov’s offense by block punishing D2. The resulting punish was WS1,4, which results in a KND (Knockdown) and allows ‘Devil Jin’ to enforce his powerful Okizeme game. This created some hesitation in JDCR’s strategy and forced him to be more timely and calculated when using D2. On the other hand we see QUDANS destroying the competition with ferocious offense. His ability to predict his opponents next move and mix them up was uncanny. He enforced a serious 50/50 which kept his competitors on the defence most of the time. In short, what we observed between the two competitors is an all out offense VS. solid defence.
Another important factor that could have been playing in Knee’s mind is the recent nerfs that have been supposedly affected ‘Devil Jin’. The moves that were supposedly affected were not used as much when ‘Devil Jin’ was in Knee’s hands in comparison with Qudans. You can read the full article on Devil Jin stealth nerfs here.
To say that Knee and Qudans won large Tekken events because they used ‘Devil Jin’ would be a very incomplete statement. There were big differences in the way they approached the game that demonstrates perfectly that a character can be played in anyway the player desires as long as it is effective.
Qudans created hesitation and doubt in his opponent’s mind by enforcing a relentless and unflinching offense. This kind of play is least common in Korea where they prefer to rely on movement and defensive ability. An unsettling type of play when paired with exceptional movement and experience. There were times in last year’s finals where Qudans had his hellsweep launch punished yet his very next move would be another hellsweep. This kind of mindset is scary for the opponent who has to defend. If your opponent appears not to care about whether you punished his offense it becomes much more difficult to enforce your defence.
He was also exceptional at keeping the match linear with great use of BF21 (Laser scraper) which is a move that tracks to the left and right. This allowed him to continue his tear into the opponent's life bar with hellsweep and UF4. It was also interesting to see that he did not overly rely on the use of EWGF (Electric Wind God Fist) to pressure his opponent. He opted for a plethora of mids and hellsweep to open up his opponent. There were a few times where he thought it was necessary to use DB2 as a low poke. His two main choices were hellsweep and D4 for lows. His main choice of mids would most notably include BF21, DF1, UF4, FF2 as well as CD4 or DF4. He also used a lot of jab pressure often opting for 1,1 (over a regular jab) which can be HC (Hit confirmed) into 2 leading into knockdown, decent damage and follow up pressure.
On the opposite side of this spectrum we can observe how Knee gained momentum and pressured his opponent. His playstyle was much more compact, rarely giving his opponent any chance to punish him. He chose to use a lot of quick mids and did not use BF21 as much as Qudans . JDCR was able to sidestep a lot but Knee opted to either be patient and wait for his moment to attack or sidestep alongside JDCR, which kept them on the same axis. He carefully chose moments to attack and was extremely calculated in his use of moves that track either to the right or left. One particular example of this is Knee using iWS2 out of wavedash which caught JDCR as he was trying to sidestep to avoid hellsweep. Hellsweep is another offensive utility that is often performed out of wavedash. This was done after Knee had already used hellsweep out of wavedash and JDCR had successfully sidestepped this move. A perfect example of awareness in Tekken.
There is one notable difference in the way both players approached the defensive aspect of Tekken. Qudans was more comfortable in linear movement relying a lot more on KBD (Korean Backdashing) with small amounts of sidestep. This could be a result of Qudans being much more comfortable in previous versions of the game where linear movement was much more effective. Knee coming from Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was much more likely to sidestep which could be because Tekken Tag Tournament 2 had an instant sidestep cancel. This meant players could sidestep and press back to immediately cancel the sidestep and would instantly be left in a block state. This was a strategy that was taken up by many high level players.
Sidestep was still used by Knee but when compared to Qudans it is evident that they both had different gameplans which resulted in a different approach to offence and defence. The defensive style of each player definitely reflected how they approached their game and each player had a planned strategy to make good use of their strengths and negate their own weaknesses.
In short, Knee played a much more compact game and chose his moments to attack. Often opting for quick mids and annoying lows such as d4 to open up his opponent and create opportunities to punish. This tied in very well to how he was able to sidestep with the opponent which negated one of the defensive strategies enforced by JDCR. On the odd occasion Knee decided to use certain moves that track to catch his opponent sidestepping. This meant that JDCR had to be much more timely with his sidestepping. Qudans chose to pin down his opponent to play the linear game with BF21. This allowed him to use moves with weaker tracking such as hellsweep and UF4. The mix up in this case would be the opponent deciding to either duck or stay standing to avoid one of the moves.