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How do I block, yo?! Part 2: Lord Rapter

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Part 2 of the character-specific series is for Lord Rapter (i.e Zabel, but the Japanese names are for suckers). This was the second character-specific guide I wrote, partly because I felt like I understood it, and partly because I received a request to write it.


This guide is the product of empirical data, in-game testing, personal match experience, and videos of high-level play.



How do I block, yo?! Rapter Edition

1. Neutral Game - Things to watch for when neither opponent has the offensive advantage.

A. Where to stand? Where not to stand?

Rapter's neutral game basically rules you. If you're a half-screen away or closer, the range on his air attacks is good enough that he can put very good pressure on you from the ground or from the air (though admittedly much better from the air). Thus, unless it's a requirement for you to even play your neutral game, I would stand at least 3/4ths of a screen length away in any neutral situation.

However, if Rapter has ANY weakness in his game at all, it's that he doesn't really have an approach that is safe, if his opponent is too far away. Unlike other high/low rushdown characters, who have a way of altering the trajectory of their dash in safe ways, Rapter has no especially safe way to do it. He can try Skull Split, but that gives his opponent plenty of time to move out of the way and punish. He can end it early with a normal attack, but if his opponent is standing at the right spot, they'll be in range to attack him where he lands, so he's put himself on the defense. He can try doing an air Death Voltage, but it's an extremely high-risk maneuver, since if it gets blocked, he'll probably land right next to his opponent.

(This is also why often times at the start of a match, you'll see a lot of Rapter players go all-in; they're in range to start pressuring you already, so they might as well get started before they're forced too far away.)

Thus, Rapter plays a neutral game that I unoriginally dub, "The Triangle". From about full-screen away, he will jump towards you and do an extremely late jump attack - as in, right before he hits the ground. He'll then dash backward and do it again.

This might sound stupid, but consider how safe this is for him; if you're not within half-screen distance, he can't make a solid approach, so The Triangle defends him quite nicely:

- If you try to walk towards him, he can land and IAD, OR he can land and use any of his long-range normals, if he thinks you're going to walk to mid-screen and attempt a jump-in.

- If you try a full-screen attack, depending on your timing, he'll either block it (which is the advantage of him attacking at the last second; he can react to your assault by simply not doing anything), or you'll be under him during his descent, where he'll hit you with hit late jump attack and start his offense. OR, if you try extremely late, you will probably whiff, thanks to the backdash portion of the Triangle, which will leave you in a pretty vulnerable position on the ground for him to start his offense.

- If you try a fireball, depending on the recovery time, he can simply dash over it and counter you. Smart Rapter players will also watch for exactly WHEN you like to throw the fireballs, so they can try to Air-Dash/IAD at the point they expect you to throw it.

- If you are too defensive, he can simply start doing the triangle a hair closer, which will either pressure you into attacking, or slowly push you into the corner where he CAN move in range to attack.

- If he thinks he's caught his opponent not paying attention, he can substitute the late jumping attack for a late air-dash; it'll be close enough to the ground that he's relatively safe from a lot of counter-attacks.

As you can see, The Triangle isn't especially fancy, but it IS an effective way to mask his biggest weak point.

B. How to approach?

If the Rapter player is good at The Triangle, you will have an extremely hard time approaching. Your only way to approach is to swat him out of the air with a full-screen attack, but that's very risky. A projectile is less-risky, but you still have to avoid being too predictible, because of the speed of his dash and the range of his attacks.

Rather than approach, your goal should be to try and trick Rapter into approaching. While this still courts some risk, it's much easier to beat Rapter's attacks when you've goaded him to move in on you under your own terms. Find the optimal way for you to stop his full-screen approach, whether it's a SRK, a well-placed projectile, or even just swatting him out of the air with a jab. Then, you can go to town on him.

I should mention that you should still endeavor to play your own neutral game, as well; just, you'll be playing it with limited space. For example, Jedah's elaborate neutral game of dash fake-outs and air-wheels is still important. However, you'll probably be jumping straight up to throw wheels from full-screen, and you'll probably only want to dash about a character length forward at any given time. Even so, you still need to do something to provoke his approach while stopping it at the same time.- If you *are* jumping at him, the best thing to do is to go for a guard break. Most characters can do a full chain, and then do an anti-air/AG option select; just do an AG, leading with S.Lp. If Anak is in range, or he tries a late enough Pyramid, you'll swat him out of the air and have the advantage. If he tries a Pyramid early, you'll get the advancing guard and keep the situation at neutral.

C. Anything to watch out for?

If you, God forbid, actually try to approach, know that staying on the ground is still better than taking to the air in almost every case. This is because, if Rapter successfully defends against an air attack, it's much easier for him to convert it into big damage. It's also better to be on the ground because if your approach fails, you still have full control over your movement, and are able to push block/Guard Cancel. You'll be happy to have those at your disposal, believe me.

If you DO need to take flight, do whatever you can to make sure you land before he has a chance to counter-attack, and don't be afraid to throw in some air frame-traps - provided you have them - to keep him honest.

2. Rapter's offense - Their options when they the offensive advantage - how you must defend against his attacks and okizeme.


(NOTE: Normally, I prefer to talk about a character's defensive options, first; but, the article had a more natural flow this way.)

A. Unblockable Antics, Part 1: Don't ever get reset.

There's something you always, always, _always_ have to keep in mind when fighting Rapter: His J/AD.Lk can be unblockable. Good Rapter players will not only know this, but they will try to create situations where they can take advantage of it.

By far, the easiest and most common way, is for Rapter to chicken guard an attack. Here's how that exchange goes:

- You do some attack that gets blocked.
- Rapter then counter-attacks you with...something, who cares what? The important part is that you get reset and Rapter lands before you.
- Rapter, having landed before you, follows up with meaty IAD.Lk \/ some combo into Evil Scream/Death Voltage for a lot of damage.

What would be a mostly innocuous exchange in any other matchup, is essentially handing Rapter 1/3 of your lifebar. Do NOT ever get chicken guarded, and do NOT ever get reset by an anti-air! If you're trying an aerial assault, you need to be DAMN sure that he can't do anything to reset you, or you're rolling the dice with a lot of your health.

B. Unblockable Antics, Part 1: Don't ever get Guard Canceled.


...Well, rather, don't ever get hit by his ES Guard Cancel. Even if getting GC'ed sucks, and you should avoid it, you want to be especially careful about it when Rapter has meter. This is because you can't do a forward/backward roll if Rapter knocks you down with his ES GC. He also lands RIGHT NEXT TO YOU. What does this mean? Here's how that exchange goes:

- You do some attack that gets GC'ed.
- You can't roll, and Rapter lands right next to you, so he jumps straight up, does meaty J.Lk \/ some combo into Evil Scream/Death Voltage for a lot of damage.

Are you beginning to see how this works?

C. Unblockable Antics, Part 3: Careful how you wakeup/roll.

...You probably already see the pattern. So, here's how THIS exchange goes:

- You got knocked down.
- You think are are pretty sneaky, and roll towards Rapter.
- Rapter jumps up at the approximate place where your roll will end, and does meaty J.Lk/IAD.Lk \/ some combo into Evil Scream/Death Voltage for a lot of damage.

This is the trifecta. You need to avoid all three of these situations whenever possible if you want to stand a chance against Lord Rapter.

Now, there is some exception to all of these rules. For example, if your opponent doesn't appear to do them in certain situations, i.e doesn't go for the unblockable after a reset, you can bully a lot harder with your air attacks. Or, if they don't prepare for your wakeup rolls with unblockables, you don't have to worry about taking the free damage (although his Oki is still buff as fuck without it). Not to mention, Rapter does risk letting you out of an advantageous situation by trying to do a meaty IAD unblockable; for example, if you're cornered after a knockdown, and you roll forward, he's effectively let you out of the corner if he predicts that you were going to wakeup neutral. The most important thing, really, is to try not to let these situations occur in the first place. But, when they DO, you need to pay attention to whether or not your opponent capitalizes with unblockables, as well as their success rate. Assume that they can and will until they've demonstrated otherwise.

Also...common sense tip: If you're primed to get hit by an unblockable, just try to block it anyways. It requires precise timing, and you never know if Rapter will get it right. Don't crap out early!

D. Unblockable Antics, Addendum: Mind the drills.

I saved this one for last, mainly cos it's the least-important one. The reason being, there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it, AND it's the least-likely situation to be converted into an unblockable by Rapter.

Basically, since Rapter's drills always force a reset, even on a grounded opponent, if you get hit by one when Rapter is low enough to the ground, he can convert that into an IAD unblockable. It's not a situation that comes up very often, because Rapter has to be VERY close to the ground to make it work. Also, because of that, he will probably be decently far away, meaning you have plenty of time to react and block.

I want to stress that this basically never comes up. I almost put it in the miscellaneous section, but it seemed better to have all the unblockable setups in a list. Just know that it's theoretically possible.



...Now that all the unblockable antics are out of the way, let's talk about all the stuff that Rapter can actually do...on TOP of unblockables.

E. Oki - IAD Crossup


So, even if Rapter doesn't get an unblockable IAD on wakeup, he still does have a pretty filthy trick. If he predicts which way you're rolling, he can dash in the same direction, and perform an ambiguous crossup. The reason this works is, if Rapter dashes past you and attacks, he will just turn around. Thus, if you are on the 2P side, for example, and roll past him, he can IAD you normally, or dash behind you again and attack. In any case, the speed is about the same, and you'll have to pay close attention to figure out which way to block.

F. Rapter's Pressure Rushdown: You do have to watch your feet...sometimes.

With the amount of power Rapter wields from the air, it's easy to forget that he has a strong ground pressure game, as well. When he dashes, he is crouching, so certain attacks may whiff against him (though not to the extent where you need to completely rethink which moves are effective for zoning in the match, as you might against Bee or Wolf). Also, some of his dashing attacks hit low. Thankfully, he can't link any of his lows into combos, but he can, for example, do a D.Hk, which moves deceptively fast and has long range for a sweep (about half a screen length if he hits Hk immediately). He can also link his D.Lp into other attacks, which can be effective for punishing AG attempts (he can hit-confirm it into a chain combo, or even do D.Lp, S.Lk xx Death Voltage). His ground dash speed is also quick enough that he can mix up his ground pressure with a command throw, and, of course, move straight into an IAD after a dashing normal.

To combat this, my suggestion to you is to block high by default, and react to the lows. Since he can't generate a lot of damage off a successful low, it's more advantageous to not worry about it. Naturally, if he's already closed the gap, this situation changes entirely, and you're in 50/50 hell. But, at least while you have some space, don't worry as much about your feet. If you can react to the lows, and AG/anti-air the highs, you'll go far in mitigating his potential damage.



G. Frame Traps from downtown


Sometimes, during Rapter's ground pressure, or even after an IAD that leaves him too far away to convert into a super, Rapter will do a chain combo ending in T.Hp/T.Hk. These attacks are not likely to combo, but they WILL hit you if you are not still blocking. Make sure you are watching what he does, and as usual versus Rapter, you're very likely to be safe if you just stand up and block!




H. Rapter's High/Low Rushdown: Rapter wins



Most people have seen this in action; it's what makes Rapter such a fierce opponent in the first place. Let's go over it quickly:

- Rapter has the typical high/low game: Throw some highs, throw some lows, make them guess, convert their wrong guesses into damage.

- Rapter can technically play his high/low game from far away, thanks to the range on his dashing sweep. If he gets a knockdown, all he needs to do is stay on top of you.

- Rapter's high/low is augmented by his aforementioned pressure game, since he can easily land command throws, and punish jump-outs with his ground dashes.

- Also augmented by his many unblockables. Every decision you make about defending against Rapter should be screened against the possibility of leaving yourself open for an unblock.

- The crux of Rapter's high/low game is his ability to convert basically any hit into a combo that ends with one of his supers. He can easily take off 30+% of your health with a single combo, and these combos set him up to continue his mixup to try for ANOTHER such combo.

- On top of that, Rapter can also throw in occasional frame traps to punish jump-out attempts. For example, he can do Backwards IAD.Hp \/ Towards+Hp. The IAD attack will, ideally, connect at about max range, and the space between you and Rapter gives you plenty of time to start your jump before getting swatted by the T.Hp. Couple that with his ability to land unblockables off most resets, and you have an outstanding reason to almost never jump.


...So, what the hell do you do about this? The only options you really have are the most basic defenses against high/low rushdowns. The first one is to predict when Rapter will take to the air. Since moving into an IAD with everyone is far from instant, you can use that time in close-quarters to anti-air him. This is, of course, risky - if you guess wrong, you're probably gonna lose a ton of health. But, it's one of the options available to you.

The other thing you can do, much like when playing against Rapter's neutral game, is to create space. Jump-outs are not necessarily a bad idea (if you know what you're doing), but you need to have enough space to get airborne in the first place. Also, more importantly, Rapter's dashing attacks are very quick, and very long-ranged; however, their vulnerable hitbox extends out very far, as well. Thus, they are easy to anti-air as long as you have space. If Rapter is half-screen or closer (again, this is why Neutral game vs. Rapter is played from far away), you probably won't have time to throw out an attack that beats his IAD attacks. From farther away, though, it's easy to set up your defense. And thus, you want to AG Rapter's shit as much as possible.

Some combination of both of these is what you're going to have to use against Rapter. It may be a bit frustrating, since this knowledge is typically the truth against every high/low character. Even so, they are your only tools against his high/low game, so become a master at it if you wanna win!




3. Rapter's defense - Their options when you have the offensive advantage - how they will defend against your attacks and okizeme.

A. Unblockable Antics, Defense Edition: Everything from before still applies.

I could probably leave it at that and call it a day, but that's not very good writing, is it? Just remember that, no matter who has the offensive advantage, you are always susceptible to unblockable converts. The only difference is that you're more likely to run into certain situations depending on who has the advantage. For example, on the offense, you're more likely to get hit by an ES GC than anything else, whereas on the defense, it's more likely you'll be reset into an unblockable. Keep it in your thoughts, like your sweet, adorable Grandma. And, hope your Grandma doesn't unblock your shit.

B. Dat Dash Tho


If you are trying to pressure with attacks that can be crouched under, OR if you like to jump forward a lot on the offense, be aware that Rapter can dash under your offensive maneuvers. If you're on the ground, this is even worse, since he can dash under your attack and do D.Lp, (some combo) xx DV. It's still pretty bad in any situation, however, because you just don't want to lose the offensive advantage on Rapter once you've got it. Keep your attacks mid, and learn to abuse neutral jump a little.



C. Psychic Death Voltage!


This maneuver is the bane of any new player's existence. Anyone new to fighting Rapter will likely get their ass handed to them by this trick for a long time.

The trick? ...Death Voltage is really fast, and hard to beat. That's the WHOLE trick. And yet, it's so powerful that, even if it's not technically the best thing to do in a situation, it commands enough respect that people will likely not punish it (even though it's usually unsafe on block).

If you're a new player/lack experience versus Rapter, watch the fuck out. If you think you can just jump attack Rapter willy-nilly, you're gonna get hit by this a lot. If you do moves that are unsafe on block, you're gonna get hit by this a lot. If you try too many anticipatory anti-airs, you're gonna get smoked. It's not even that this is the best thing to do in every situation; But, just punishing with DV expends so much less mental energy, than other options, while also psyching you out. So, don't hand them free damage - give Death Voltage its proper respect.

If you're NOT a new player, you're probably blocking most or all of them, and you're probably not putting yourself in unsafe situations where you can be countered by DV, BUT...you might not be punishing them. Make sure you capitalize on every single blocked DV, because the only way you're going to stop your opponent from spamming it is to show them that they can't.



D. Rapter Vs. Your Oki: I'm not even standing there, bro

If you watch high level Rapter play, you might notice that there are plenty of situations where opponents don't even try to apply corner pressure. This is because, for one, they don't wanna get hit by an ES Guard Cancel. That, however, is avoidable with a little work; you can use pressure that accounts for your opponent's GC, or you can intentionally use variable pressure on their wakeup (i.e stuff that they may or may not have to block right away as they get up).

This, however, creates ANOTHER problem. Because variable pressure is paramount in not getting ES GC'd, you're not as likely to meaty Rapter. So, if you commit to any sort of variable pressure, Rapter can just use his teleport to avoid the situation entirely.

If you think you can easily and reliably re-engage Rapter on the offense after a teleport (hint: you almost certainly can't, unless your opponent sucks), then just keep up whatever you were going to do. Otherwise, though, you'll need to gauge what you do on a player-by-player basis. But, for the sake of theory, a strong Rapter player is very likely to escape whatever you do in that situation, so the best thing you can do is give him a little space before re-engaging; if you rush in headfirst, he knows he can escape with teleport. If you stand too far away, the situation is neutral again, and you've lost all the work you've put into gaining the offensive advantage. So, find the space in-between and live there.




E. Offensive Reset



Because Rapter's IAD attacks are so fast and long-range, you need to be careful when you are pressuring him. If you push him too far back out of your range, you've practically given him the offensive advantage, because he will just IAD you from that range. Granted, it's not technically as safe for him to do as it would be if it were a neutral situation or if he had the offensive advantage already. This is because you can frame trap him at that range.

Let's use Talbain as an example (since I main Talbain). If I push him out of the max range of my C.Mk, he can just IAD and start pressuring me again. He's very likely to be successful, too, if he AGs the final attack that would put him out of range. What I CAN do, however, is use an ES Beast Cannon at that range; since it doesn't combo at the max range of C.Mk, if Rapter tries to restart his offense at that point, he'll eat an entire ES BC. You can do this with other characters, too - any character with a projectile can take advantage of this situation. Felicia can be relatively safe frame-trapping with LP Cat Spike in this situation. See if your character has an option, and if they do, this situation becomes a guessing game for the two of you.

If you don't have a frame trap for this situation, though, you just need to apply some pressure with your dash, as well. In fact, it's good to do a bit of both, even if you do have a frame trap; it's just mandatory if you don't. The trick here is to not always dash when you're about to put them out of range. This not only keeps it difficult for Rapter to tell when it's safe to IAD, but it also lowers your chances of getting GC'ed.



4. Anything else? - Stuff that doesn't fit into any of the above categories.


A. Dark Force Nonsense, Part 1: Everything knocks you down

...If you're airborne. All of Rapter's ground hard attacks (the uppercut-looking attack) will knock you down in every case. But, if you're in the middle of a jump, every single one of Rapter's attacks causes a knockdown on hit. So keep your ass planted on the ground...which, by now, should be a clear, running theme for fighting Rapter: don't leave the ground without a plan.


B. Dark Force Nonsense, Part 1: My ES GC is suddenly unblockable

This is not likely to come up...but it's true. There are plenty of characters with unblockable ES GC, and Rapter is one of them. But, thankfully for all of us, his normal ES GC isn't unblockable. Rapter has a different GC during Dark Force, and the ES version of THAT one is unblockable. Naturally, this means he can't convert it into an unblockable combo afterwards, since there's not enough time for him to deactivate and set it up...nevermind the fact that his Dark Force GC is terrible and whiffs a lot of crouching characters. But, this IS a comprehensive guide and all...so, now you know.

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Great, and very informative article!!!


I do wonder though: I've seen tons of Japanese players do some modified version of "the triangle", where they do everything but backdash, but instead move forwards and apply pressure from air to ground again--So it's more like a "buzzsaw" perhaps... Anyway, aside from movement, how does this differ from the triangle approach???


Lastly, I've also started noticing in matches that Bish seems to be one of the only characters who can actually apply some real sort of pressure to Zabel. Who else in the roster has somewhat of a chance in that department vs Zabel??? I kinda feel like Lilith has some game in that arena mainly due to how most players use her ability to interrupt and force abare with her dash attacks.

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Yeah, granted, The Triangle is explained in full detail in the article, but it's not necessary against everyone in the cast. Rapter is in the right position at Match Start to apply pressure immediately against basically anyone who can't create a ton of space with their backdash (e.g virtually no one except characters with hopping backdashes), so if he starts in on someone and succeeds, he'll probably never need to Triangle in the first place. Furthermore, you're right in that the backdash portion of The Triangle is also very fringe - the only people it tends to be relevant against are people who can pressure him from full screen as well (again, virtually nobody, except maybe J.Talbain and L.Rapter himself...and maybe, maybe Jedah, but probably not).


The reality is that Rapter's pressure has such a large range, and has such a large damage potential, that in high-level play, if you're not making a deliberate move that you think is going to work in a neutral situation, you're just running away from Rapter for as long as you can.


There are plenty of characters that can apply some amount of pressure to Rapter; but the bigger problem is that once he gets meter, you need to be a lot trickier. Bishamon definitely has some good pressure-based tricks that will help him.






Check this video out of Nakanishi vs. Komemaru. Notice how in the beginning of the match, before Rapter has one bar of meter, that Nakanishi is happy to go crazy.  He reins it back a little bit at one meter (Rapter can still do damage off an unblock with no meter, just not nearly as much), and by the time Rapter has 2 meters, Bish is mostly running away and punishing.


At that point, Bishamon's damage is coming from counter attacks (high Iai Giri AA into EX Pursuit, or jump-out chain combos), "safe jumps" (i.e doing the jump attack low enough that he can land and block the Guard Cancel in time), and frame-trap mixups, like dashing into attack range and either going low or throwing a fireball to blow up the AG attempt. A lot of Bishamon's attacks at this point are also from far range, as well. The range issue, I'm not particularly certain is relevant - it's just something I noticed.


He does plenty of point-blank attacks on Okizeme as well, probably because the 5-frame throw injunction doesn't apply to Bishamon (you're not able to throw or be thrown for 5 frames after a forward/backward roll, but Victor, Bish, and I think Q-Bee ignore this mechanic). When Rapter does a roll, Bishamon can pretty safely do Okizeme at point blank, because Rapter (or anyone, for that matter) needs to worry about being pressured/frame-trapped, or thrown.


if you'll allow me to go on a tangent, this is relevant cos Bishamon wins the hell out of the throw game versus Rapter. Normal throws are 1 frame, so if Rapter tries to command throw, his will lose on the count of being slower than a normal throw (normally not an issue because of the throw injunction). Funny enough, if he tries to do a normal throw, the best possible situation is a tech hit, because Bishamon's command throw has 13 frames of invulnerability, meaning he should be able to dodge the normal throw entirely. For that matter, Rapter's command throw has no invulnerability either, so it should lose in the event that they both attempt a command throw, as well.


All of this leads to Bishamon being able to get away with some stuff on Oki that other people simply can't. It's also why you see some Bishamon players do that super-late pursuit to intentionally land right next to their opponent. This is a high-risk gambit for most of the cast. For Bishamon, it's just awesome. So, in that regard, Bishamon can be a little meaner to Rapter off of resets and okizeme than most other people can. But, he's still careful when Rapter on the offense after Rapter's built enough meter.


This is mostly stuff I left out of the article itself, since I am going for a more general approach to stuff. But, I hope this can shed some light on why people are making certain choices in that specific matchup. For the most part, though, you'll see that Nakanishi follows the basic "Don't get unblocked" principles outlined in the article:


- Every offensive maneuver he does has some mixup potential to make ES GC a potentially dangerous option (after Rapter has meter).


- He is very careful about getting reset - he only gets reset twice in that match; the first time, Rapter wasn't even expecting it (watch how he lands and throws Lp or Mp or something to Guard Break Bish, who already got reset), and the second time, he got reset when Rapter was too far away to convert it into an unblockable anyways.


- His general gameplan in neutral situations and on the defense is geared towards getting knocked down as little as possible (he only gets knocked down twice, and one of the times was when he lost a bat). And, when he does get knocked down, he yomis the shit out of Komemaru, the first time, rolling towards Rapter - and toward the corner - when that is otherwise a logistically terrible idea (and it works - watch Komemaru do a IAD.Lk in the completely wrong direction); and the second time, opting to not roll at all when Komemaru ground dashes right up to him, and predicting Kome's next action (a delayed C.Lk to bait the AG).


Mind the "don'ts" in this matchup and you can be a baller, just like Nakanishi!

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You've mixed up the titles in the OP :P


Rapter's defense - Their options when you they the offensive advantage - how you must defend against his attacks and okizeme.


Rapter's offense - Their options when you have the offensive advantage - how they will defend against your attacks and okizeme


^ ???

Needs a switcheroo I think :P

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Oops! Yeah, that's probably an artifact of the original draft. I usually write these articles talking about the character's defensive options first, but it's so important when fighting Rapter to approach everything from the frame of getting unblocked that I reversed them at the last minute, to help put the whole article in perspective.

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