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On point, Merkava has a lot of tools and ways to approach his neutral situations, being gifted with long arms, you can play like Dhalsim and try to keep out using long normals, confirming into your usual setups, you can use your low to the ground run to duck some normals and even zoning tools like yukiko ground fans and approach, but a majority of his fun comes from his airdash, soar has many interesting properties, using j.b will cancel your soar and land you on the floor with a smidge of recovery, you can cancel soar using a fireball to stop in the air and bait anti airs / dps / reversals, use j.c to touch the floor quickly, even super or dp if youre so inclined. Theres many options present for his approaching airdash, which forces the opponent into tricky guessing games. Merkava fills a lot of spots, when looking for assists, you can consider the ways he plays, using assists like susanos to aid his space control and play a more defensive playstyle using his 6p and 4p to setup a wall thats hard to approach and assist into. A delay assist like Hakumen 6p or Nu 6p can make his soar approaches more safe, and harder for your opponent. The last thing to look into teammate wise, is someone who makes good use of meter, or has good blockstun assists / tools, allowing Merk to run mix on them.
As an anchor, Merkavas assist kit is very interesting and also quite useful, his 5p is the most well known, its an advancing lockdown assist (his 236b), giving characters a lot of time to work with him. His 4p can be kind of considered an anti air assist, its certainly not jin or ruby 4, but it is serviceable. A unique quality about it is the abnormally large untech time, it hard knockdowns on hit and the opponent is stuck to the floor for a while, much like if merkava hit 5a, and funny enough, he can active swap and combo off of it himself. Something to be wary of is your characters ability to otg the 4p, as some characters cant pickup too easily from it without spending resources or stick to weaker combos. His 6p is great, it covers a lot of space, and has decent blockstun / hitstun, if you swap into him from this he has to land before he can act, but the best part is that since he is jumping in this assist, somethings like susano forward super will be jumped over and he will punish, so expect less happy birthdays if you use it while on the offense, it comes in handy more often than it should, just make sure nobody slaps him on his way up.
Good partner for Merkava cover at least 2 of his bases, people are prone to pushblocking him, so you want a threat that makes someone consider waiting out the pushblock like a delay assist, or a blockstun assist to make them hold you even longer, another good partner is someone who can make use of the amount of time it takes to finish 214a / 214c
Naoto Shirogane : Naoto brings her 6p to the table, and as a fun side, her 4p lets merkava steal corner which compliments his mix, and feeds back into naoto helping her land marks. She can be meter hungry which is good since merkava doesnt tend to use too much, and after a mark she essentially brings damage to the table which he needs.
Hakumen : Hakumen also brings his 6p, his other assists are serviceable, but the 6p covers both a damage and soar point that he makes good use of, he brings damage, amazing swap points, as well as a hunger for meter, and merkava is happy to provide.
Nine=The=Phantom : It seems merkava is very interested in only 6ps, Nine also has her 4p which covers an angle merkavas 5a doesnt, and is easy to confirm with. Nine enjoys the occasional meter, and she can cashout real hard, making merkavas mix more meaningful. She also brings a hatred for zoners to the table, and covers matchups where merkava doesnt shine as hard in.
Merkavas tactics can be considered dirty, his soar carries a plethora of mixups, you can hit j.a, whiff j.b and grab, stop soar and fireball possible anti airs, dp in their face, assist and use back super to cross them up, theres really just no end to what this can do. So your gameplan revolves around setting up your knockdown ender, covering all techs with your safejump, and homing in for the mixup. Other things involved can be stalling out by super jumping backwards and just hurling fireballs for chip damage, if they start running forward you can soar forward past them if they dont catch you and do it some more. You can also cover space like dhalsim with large normals, and just be a nuisance from any side of the screen when you feel like it.
Merkavas mixups are largely up to your opponent guessing when you want to party, 2a / 5a on block are both jump cancellable, and j.c is a frame 14 overhead (not reactable). Merkavas lows arent reactable either, so you take the basic fundamental guess 2a / 5a into j.c / 2b, but since youre a uni character you can choose to go back and do another one anyways, if they block your j.c its fine, you can ex fireball and try again. After youve established this, you can start using assists as well, you touch 5a, you assist and superjump soar past them, merkava reverses and hits j.a, now they have to guess, high or low on merk (j.b / 2c ) and whether you are swapping to your partner or not. If you dont wish to try and add all this, you can simply 214a and swap or delay swap to pickup from it as your assist, in some cases this will just kill if youre the right character. But these are just options you get after someone blocks soar > j.a, soar j.a can still do whiff j.b into grab, whiff j.b into j.c in case they were teching it, or just go low. Merkava is much like an ogre, and he has layers.
Merks pressure mostly stems from check out this sweet airdash, and jump cancel normals, but you can also play a bit more patient with it, 2a is only -2, and 2b is -3, these are real good for staggering with. 5a is not a good stagger tool, its punishable on block, please be careful with it, but 5a / 5aa / 2a are also grab cancellable, so you can assume pushblocks when you really want. Main things to remember is that 2c on block is really bad and easily punishable with a pushblock even if you whiff cancel afterwards.
Merkava isnt a huge fan of meter, you have 236c which is a damage cashout but you need an assist to confirm it, j.214c is where most of the merkava meter goes, telling people to guess again. The only super you want to be using most of the time is his back super since you get safejump off of it, but his forward super can be a really angry anti air, or a better damage cashout if the combo isnt very scaled at all.
Merkava doesnt have super stand out defensive tools like a counter or armored moves to work with, but his anti air is amazing at hitting above and behind him, and works pretty well for in front of him as well. His forward super can catch cc scenarios if the opponents arent far enough, his 214bc when used in conjunction with an assist can make it safe, and in some instances hitting the very end of it makes it less negative. But the best part is his DP for sure, it goes quite high, is -17 if the last part touches the opponent, and has a bit of hitbox behind him, cause some crossups to get caught in action. In air to air contests, merkava sits pretty high up, but his issue starts showing against rapier characters since merk isnt quite as disjointed or fast. Another part of merkavas defense is his ability to upback and stall using fireballs, making approach incredibly hard for characters without good air to airs, anti airs, or projectiles that can reach.
Choosing a knockdown ender
- 5A: Whenever 5a knockdown comes up, its exciting cause you have a small time frame to choose something wild, but your opponent also has a small timeframe to figure out what this 7'8 ape is about to do
- 5BBB: Harder knockdown than 5a, this is easy to safejump with as well
- 2C(1): This one you cant use too late into a combo, and is a bit uncommon, but you can also all tech catch safejump with it as long as its pre-6 seconds
- 236A: This one only works for opponents who are airborne, they cant tech away from you since soar is fast, and lets you also snowball.
- 214BC: This super always lets you fit a nice j.a for safejump in.
- IAD j.A: The classic, you simply soar forward. This lets you start your soar mix into setups, as long as you dont get pushblocked, if you do youll only be in range of 5b.
- 9dl.j.A: This one is a bit safer, you might have to change your direction based on how close you are to corner or how close your ender was. If spaced properly this can safejump guardpoint. This can be a bit more ambiguous than soar, since people are more familiar with soar. If you have assist you can do j.a then j.b assist to pickup the overhead, or choose to 2c from it, you also have to option to immediately jump cancel it and soar.
- Assist corner steal: This one can be a bit hard, its possible after 5a / 5bbb / 2c(1) in the corner, what you do is you super jump over them, immediately soar out of corner and call assist at the same time, and call a late j.a to safejump anyways. This covers forward tech, and lets you sandwich people in the corner, it will safejump guardpoint if they neutral / back tech on some delays.
- 2B: This is just a simple meaty 2b, it has 2 hits and can sometimes catch people off guard since they might not be familiar with its active frames. The second hit is larger than the first hit.
- Deep j.B: This is just another option, albeit a bit worse. It just seems a bit more fun.
- j.C: Meaty j.c on their wakeup, works great in partnership with 2b meaty, on more patient opponents the two meaties can be the death of them. If you mess up you can just j.214c and continue like a regular boy, or 236a after landing to be -4 (236a is pushblock punishable if they do it early)
- 214A: Meaty 214a, for when you hit distant weird hits that you cant really confirm too much from, like 236bc, 5aaa / 5aaaa, another 214a etc., its not the best since you dont get anything good from 214a unless you have specific partners, but it has its uses sometimes and catches people off guard or jumping on wakeup.
As a Uni character merks blockstrings are incredibly free form, the only issue you run into is when they get enough pushback where you cant enforce a mix to threaten them. What you need to keep in mind is how unsafe 2c is on block, dont end in 5a as a stagger, and keep it simple, either make them block to agitate for a long time, or keep it short enough that they dont have time to think about pushblocking. Some strings you can try would be -
- 1. x > 5a > 2b > 2a(1) > x : As long as you can approach 5a from something like soar, you can do a quick low check, and press 2a(1), by now you react to whether it hit or not and make a plan, if it didnt hit you can jump cancel and do overhead, or stagger into another low, or throw cancel here. If you hit you can simply run 2c, and soar loop into another safejump situation, and recreate the moment they got hit and change it.
- 2. x > 5a > 9j.c > j.214c > x : To immediately touch into an overhead puts fear into the soul, if you dont hit, you press your ex fireball and do whatever blockstring you want afterwards, if you hit, you press j.214c and 5a > 2c soar loop and set up all over again.
- 3. 5b > 2c(1) > 2b > 2a > 2a > xx > 2a > x : A more stagger approach to pressure, youll probably never stagger a yumi player so dont dwell too much on trying classic strike throw, dont be bummed when it doesnt work, theyre the ones who have to hold your mix soon anyways. The 2c is very unsafe on pb, but a way too consider 2c is that its a way to reapproach and check if someones awake.
Tips and Tricks
- When you pick Merkava, take more note of the opponent, how often do they dp, do they mash out as soon as they can, and try to feign or make safejumps look off.
- Recognize that almost all of Merkavas buttons are jump cancellable on hit, so always be ready to jump block bursts and cashout huge damage.
- Merkavas damage isnt that great without a partner, so sometimes its feasible to end a combo early for better oki, or to make it harder for your opponent to think out what they should do.
When fighting merkava, you want to straddle your anti air button. A lot of the time basic merk mix can be solved by first approaching soar, you want to anti air it, if he uses a partner behind him to cover approach and you do anti air, either cashout into a cutscene super, or jump forward and block the assist if itll touch you. Merkava has a large jump startup, so putting him in disadvantage makes it hard for him to consider using it to get out of jail. Merkavas j.c > j.214c (Divekick > EX Fireball) has a 12f gap, letting 11f and under dps / super punish him. Merkava is largely a snowballing oki vortex character, if your character has a counter dp or guardpint dp, it becomes immediately much harder for him to setup oki on you by himself, making him waste resources for assist oki.