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Tekken 8 Beginner Series: Poking and Playing Conservatively

Patrick Bonifacio

We’re back with the next entry in our Tekken 8 Beginner Series! This time we’ll be going over the concept of poking, which makes up one of the most important fundamental aspects of fighting games as a whole: playing more conservatively.

Tekken 8 Poking Jack-8

via Bandai Namco

Throwing out big attacks with poor frame data all the time is a risky strategy. Not only do you lose your turn if something you do in this regard gets blocked, but you could also eat a full block punish depending on how negative the move is. Sure, swinging for the fences nets you bigger rewards when it works — but when it doesn’t, you could pay for it.

Thus, it’s often much better to cut down on such risky play and opt instead for a more conservative approach involving pokes. Medium to long range moves that possess good frame data are great for this, as they help you chip away at your opponent’s health without exposing yourself to much danger.

Ready to take your overall play to the next level? Read on to find out more about Tekken 8 poking and what it can do for your gameplan.

What is a Poke in Tekken 8?

Pokes are generally fast moves that don’t deal a crazy amount of damage. Their primary purpose is to whittle away at your opponent’s health, while simultaneously discouraging them from approaching you recklessly. Pokes are always safe on block, which in Tekken 8 terms means they are no more than -9 on block.

The two most classic, “gold standard” examples are the standard 1 jab (10-frame high, +8 on block) and the standard d/f+1 (13-frame mid, -3 on block). Both have less than 15 frames of startup, making them among the fastest moves you could throw out at any given time. d/f+1 being a mid with some lateral tracking makes it fantastic at locking your opponent down from close range, given that they can’t just avoid it by crouching or sidestepping.

That said, the 1 jab is generally better against opponents that don’t like to crouch block. It being +8 on block means it is very much still your turn after your opponent blocks it, allowing you to continue pressuring them with other pokes. And if they continue to not crouch block, you can then throw in some low pokes, which will force them to crouch every now and then.

Unlike high and mid pokes, however, low pokes are generally unsafe on block. Most low pokes are at least -11 on block, to compensate for the fact that they can be used to open opponents up to mids. Despite this, low pokes are still very much essential parts of any character’s kit, so you shouldn’t be afraid to sprinkle them in between your highs and mids.

Is it Possible to React to Pokes in Tekken 8?

Generally speaking, no. Most pokes are simply too fast for the human eye to react to, such as in the case of the 1 jab and the generic d/f+1 as mentioned before. In fact, their speed correlates a lot to how good they are as pokes. Being 15 frames or less means they can interrupt slower attacks that give big rewards, making them perfect for stuffing your opponent’s pressure.

Low pokes are a bit of a mixed bag in this regard, however. Some low pokes like Feng’s Piercing Arrow (d/b+3) come out really fast; in this case, 16 frames. This is definitely something that you can’t block on reaction, forcing you to predict the Feng player’s use of the poke based on his habits and tendencies.

Jin Kazama

via Bandai Namco

Meanwhile, Jin’s Scourge (d+2) is way slower at 22 frames, and even has a “flashing” animation to further alert you to its usage. 22 frames equates to about 360 milliseconds — which is slow enough for the average human to react to. To compensate for this, Scourge launches the opponent on counter hit.

But going back, for the most part, no, you can’t react to pokes. That’s why they’re useful as pokes to begin with. Instead, you’ll want to use prediction and pattern recognition in order to defend yourself effectively from a poke-heavy player. If you see them going for highs and mids often, take your turn when you can. If they use low pokes a lot more, block and punish them for it.

A Means to an End

On their own, pokes don’t really mean much. They don’t deal a whole lot of damage, and give marginal frame advantage in most cases. While it is of course a good thing landing poke after poke after poke, you will generally still end up breaking even or losing health to someone that throws out a counter hit launcher in between. Worse still, your opponent will get to carry you to the wall this way, putting you in a positional disadvantage.

What pokes are really there for is to gather information on your opponent’s tendencies. When the situation isn’t necessarily in one player’s favor, pokes allow you to gauge your opponent’s response to getting pressured.

Do they choose to respect your frame advantage by blocking? Try throwing them to test their reactions and throw break knowledge, or apply your best mid/low mixup. Do they try to challenge your frame advantage instead? Use your plus frames to get a counter hit in. See them trying to sidestep after blocking your pokes? Throw in some moves with tracking to catch their movement.

The best possible scenario when it comes to poking, though, is seeing your opponent crouch in a panic to try and evade one of your high pokes. This is when it should click in your head that using your character’s slower mids is a good idea. If you have a good read on your opponent’s habits this way, you could score a launch and full combo where you would normally have to be more patient.

Thus, pokes are overall a means to an end — that end being opportunities to use your real “haymaker” moves. You won’t really win games just poking over and over again, but you will win games taking advantages of the doors that pokes open for you.

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick has been playing Dota since the dawn of time, having started with the original custom game for WarCraft III. He primarily plays safe lane and solo mid, preferring to leave the glorious task of playing support to others.

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