GGST/Zato-1/Strategy

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Zato-1


Overview

Zato-1 is Guilty Gear's signature puppet character that specializes in forcing opponents to deal with oppressive mix ups and neutral situations with his shadow, Eddie. Zato alone is a very lacking character in almost every aspect, so it is important to get used to using the two characters in tandem. With low life, slower buttons, and attacks that extend his hurtbox before the hitbox, Zato suffers on the defensive side of the game and tends to require more character knowledge and patience to escape. However, once Eddie is on the screen Zato has many strong options to tackle any situation and is more than worth having sub-par defenses.

  • Note that while Zato is rated the hardest character in the game by the game itself, it is more so because he is more complex than executional difficult. Negative edging for Eddie attacks (releasing a button to trigger an attack, noted by ]X[ or -X-) is something that most other games/activities do not utilize and will take a bit of practice getting used to, but is very doable. Zato does have executionally difficult sequences, but they are not required to get a start playing the character.

Zato Specific Terminology

Some common shorthand terms for sequences and moves are defined her, be sure to keep these in mind or you may be lost when reading the more advanced stuff.

Clap Cancel
Cancelling any Eddie move into another via 236P/K/S/H. When Eddie is already summoned using a 236X special will cancel (or buffer a cancel) into another of Eddie's specials. This has a unique animation (with identical recovery to a normal summon) for Zato in which he claps his hands to command Eddie. One key thing to note is that Eddie moves done via this cancel (has to be while Eddie is already summoned) will consume less Eddie gauge than any other method of using Eddie moves, check the Overview page for each Eddie move for more specific amounts. This mechanic has many usages as you will see in various locations in the Strategy and Combos pages.
Drills
Common shorthand for "That's a Lot"GGST Zato-1 That's a lot.pngGuard:
All
Startup:
27 {31}
Recovery:
[36 Zato]
Advantage:
+55
, not to be confused with Drill (non-plural) which is often used to refer to Invite HellGGST Zato-1 Invite Hell 1.pngGuard:
All
Startup:
18
Recovery:
51 Total
Advantage:
-7
.
Release
Alternative term for a Negative Edge, often used to differentiate the ]P[/]K[/]S[/]H[ versions of Eddie moves from the 236P/K/S/H versions.

Round Start

Zato round start options are fairly average, but playing round start correctly is make or break in many of his worst (and sometimes best) matchups. Picking the right round start option is highly matchup dependent so look for specific info on this topic in the Matchups Section. However, there are options that are generally good to consider using. f.S, 2S, 2D, and 6P are all good aggressive round starts that serve different purposes.

  • f.S is generally fast (10f startup) for its range as a poke and can be used as a Summon RPS point on hit and block. However, it is susceptible to walk back whiff punishes and can be low profiled with moves such as 6Ps.
  • 2S can cover several options f.S loses to. Its greater range will catch most characters walking backwards and cannot be low profiled. The downside is that it is a frame slower than f.S and has a greatly extended hurtbox during it's startup, making it susceptible to being counterpoked by fast moves. It retains the same summon RPS as f.S.
  • 6P and 2D are both counterpoke options serving similar purposes. They will both whiff at round start if the opponent does nothing, but due to their evasion are likely to counterhit your opponent's pokes. They also have great reward on CH, leading to Zato's best oki or a full combo, respectively. They do tend to lose to defensive round starts, so tend towards these options for aggressive players.

In most matchups it is advisable to take more defensive or passive roundstarts, as Zato is better at controlling space than slugging in the midrange and his return for successful aggressive round start options is generally on the lower end of the cast. Walk back, backdash, backwards jump, downback, and even dashblock are all very solid options with less risk involved than the aggressive round starts. However, against the zoners in the cast Zato is on the backfoot in neutral so taking more aggressive round starts is generally a better idea.

Specials, especially Eddie specials are not a great idea on round start unless you have a hard read on your opponents habits. All of Zato's specials are slow and or very limited in their range. Don't try to round start "Oppose" unless you are confident your opponent isn't going to swing as soon as they can.

Neutral

Neutral is a very complex and hard to cover topic even on characters not nearly as complex as Zato. As such this section will be broken down into covering Zato's options solo, Eddies options, and then playing the two in Tandem. Zato's neutral and what the player should be doing at any one time is, similar to roundstarts, dependent on matchups. Sometimes he's a zoner and sometimes he is forced to play rushdown. Generally speaking he is a stronger character when he can zone and control space, and the matchups where he is unable to do this are his weaker ones.

Zato's Tools

Zato by himself is a rather limited character, he has some of the worst conversion ability in the game, terrible risk / reward on his pokes, and virtually no options to approach with speed or safety. However, he can still hold his own against many characters thanks to some fantastic buttons and specials and as Eddie recovers from a depleted gauge much faster in this game than previous entries.


Blockstrings and Pressure

The primary idea behind most of Zato's blockstring and pressure is to summon Eddie safely and with frame advantage if he is available. If Eddie is not, Zato's strongest option is generally to stall in his pressure long enough for the Eddie gauge to refill. Due to his nature as a puppet character, Zato can enable himself to be relatively safe in his offense in a way that most characters cannot. As such, it is important to consider when to take risks on offense. For instance the risk / reward of going for a throw or command throw when Eddie is not summoned is relatively bad. Solo Zato has weak staggers by himself and lacks any high damage strike to dissuade the opponent from evading and punishing your throw. When Eddie is out, or even just available the risk / reward becomes much more favorable.


5H

5H is the cornerstone of Zato pressure. It can be a deadly frametrap after c.S or 2S when Eddie is available and is where the first layer of Eddie Summon RPS begins. The three most common options after 5H are:

  1. 236P: Can't be interrupted before the first hit in most circumstances, small frame advantage.
  2. 236K: Massive frame advantage if blocked but can be jumped and mashed on.
  3. 236S: Catches opponents attempting to jump, resulting in frame advantage or a hit. Generally, must be AA'd on reaction which can be difficult.

From these, the set of options available to Zato is massive and very effective.

236P "Pierce" RPS

The situation after an opponent blocks the first hit of "Pierce" on block is complicated and nuanced, but also very favorable for Zato. Keep in mind that the option set you will use is different midscreen vs in the corner. Also note that we are strictly speaking about 236P and not ]P[, as the frame advantage on the latter is much higher allowing for more freedom in pressuring with it.

First we will go over Zato's RPS options midscreen. The primary options to think about are:

  1. Let 236P finish.
  2. 236P(1) > 214S
  3. 236P(1) > 236K
  4. 236P(1) > 236S
  5. 236P(1) > 236H

Notice that all of these options revolve around cancelling (or not) Eddie's action. This is due to 236P(1) only being +4 on block, making covering the gap in between the two hits with Zato more or less impossible midscreen. Each option has strengths and weaknesses, and can be used to target different defensive options your opponent might pick.

236P (both hits)"They don't know."


... > 236P, dash, ...

The default option, but also generally the easiest to counter-play. There is a 6f gap in between the two hits of "Pierce" meaning that any <6f button that hits sufficiently low to the ground (doesn't have to be particularly low) can hit Eddie and kill him before the second hit is able to connect. After, killing Eddie the opponent is able to gatling or special cancel. Zato can block these, but if you've gone for normal assuming they blocked both hits of "Pierce" you may end up getting hit. Additionally, jumping out of the gap is a strong option and characters with powerful air tools such as Baiken's j.SGGST Baiken jS.pngGuard:
High
Startup:
8
Recovery:
19
Advantage:
-
or Faust's j.2KGGST Faust j.2K.pngGuard:
All
Startup:
10
Recovery:
-
Advantage:
-
can pose a real threat afterwards.

This option is strong in that it is relatively low committal while being very high reward if the opponent respects the gap. If your opponent is new to fighting Zato or too scared to challenge the gap this is the least costly way to gain plus frames available for Zato.

If both hits are blocked this results in around 30 frames of advantage for Zato, enough time to dash forward and true string a 2S or 5H to allow time for Eddie to recover and setup the next action.

236P(1) > 214SMaking a sandwich


... > 236P(1) > 214S, ]P[/]K[/]S[

Cancel "Pierce" to send Eddie past the opponent, sandwiching them between a Spaniard and Shadow. A common but relatively easy to counterplay option. The strength of this option is that it while allow Eddie to invul through a mashed poke that would otherwise kill him in the "Pierce" gap, while putting him behind the opponent in a position that is hard to attack. The downside is that there is a significant gap in your pressure between when Eddie is cancelled and when he can next attack. Drunkard Shade has lower total recovery that a cancel into another Eddie move, but at the same time Eddie is not covering any space with attacks so there is a large amount of time for the opponent to react to the Drunkard Shade cancel and punish Zato or escape pressure. Defensive options like jumping or dashblocking are very strong against this RPS option and are hard to counterplay. Additionally, there is a simple defensive OS to deal with both this and the No cancel "Pierce" option. <6f poke, backdash will kill Eddie is "Pierce" is not cancelled and backdash through Eddie if 214S > ]P[ is chosen. You can counterplay this by using ]K[ after 214S but leaves a very large gap.

Mix this in if your opponent hasn't shown a willingness to dashblock or jump in the "Pierce" gap, if their Eddie killing poke is beating other cancel options, or if you see they are not able to react to the Drunkard Shade.

The resultant sandwich pressure is strong, if a little hard to make tight. Remember that the longer you delay ]P[ the larger the gap they have to act in, but the more frame advantage you have as Zato is recovering from Drunkard Shade.

236P(1) > 236K


... > 236P(1) > 236K, dash, ...

Clap cancel the first hit of "Pierce" into Drills. The primary usage for this sequence is to beat attempts to mash the "Pierce" gap. During the startup of Drills, Eddie's hurtbox is shifted backwards which can cause most characters P and K normals to whiff. The consistency of this depends on how spaced out the first hit of "Pierce" was when it connected and the size of the normal the opponent mashed with, the further Eddie was and the smaller the opponents normal is the more likely it is to work. Often Drills will punish their mashed button and you can pick up with 2S for a combo.

Fighting Zato

  • Any Summon into Eddie on block that is not after Zato's 5HGGST Zato-1 5H.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    13
    Recovery:
    19
    Advantage:
    -9
    can and should be challenged. Any summon after another normal can be interrupted to hit Eddie or Zato or both, sometimes even on hit. For instance 5PP > "Pierce"GGST Zato-1 Pierce.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    21 {25}
    Recovery:
    24 [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    +30
    can be interrupted to hit Eddie even if the 5PP hits. The only exception to this is "Oppose"GGST Zato-1 Oppose Armor.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    74 {78}
    Recovery:
    (Summon Vanishes) [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    -
    which has armor startup fast enough to absorb attacks after most gatlings. However, you will recover in time from hitting "Oppose" to be safe if you didn't challenge with a particularly slow move.
  • If you press a button into "Oppose" it's not the end of the world. Cancelling into a super, red roman cancel, or a movement option are all strong ways to escape being punished. Red Roman Cancel will kill Eddie and hit Zato if he is not blocking when you do it, you can turn a bad situation into a combo. Super works similarly. Lastly, if you can use a movement option to cancel the normal, such as double jumping after an air normal is blocked by "Oppose", you can avoid being punished.
  • When defending vs Zato if you see "Oppose" start up, the easiest way to nullify any mix Zato might be trying is to jump. If the Zato isn't prepared to cover this option you can use air movement options to escape. Additionally, the same options presented for avoiding being punished for hitting "Oppose" can work here such as mash > RRC, and Super.
  • With a moderately fast character and decent reactions you can react to "Oppose" or a raw summon with dash up throw. Beyond certain ranges, which are character dependent, this turns into RPS as Zato can recover in time to avoid the throw but will likely get hit by a moderately fast button. Additionally many characters have options to punish fullscreen summons on reaction such as Ky's Sacred EdgeGGST Ky Kiske 236236P.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    4+3
    Recovery:
    32
    Advantage:
    +10 [+15]
    or Baiken's KenjyuGGST Baiken 214214P.pngGuard:
    All (Guard Crush)
    Startup:
    8+3
    Recovery:
    -
    Advantage:
    +5
    .
  • "Pierce"GGST Zato-1 Pierce.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    21 {25}
    Recovery:
    24 [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    +30
    is one of Zato's most common pressure starters but has a 6f gap between the two hits that can be contested. If Zato is not at close range and/or Eddie is not already summoned when Zato does "Pierce" this gap can and should be contested every single time. The three options to mix in are: mash, jump, and dashblock. Mash a quick, low hitting normal such as 2P or 2K. If your character doesn't possess a 5f version of these moves (if it's 6f, it trades unfavorably), using 5P is the next best option. This will beat uncanceled pierce, "Pierce" > "That's a Lot"GGST Zato-1 That's a lot.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    27 {31}
    Recovery:
    [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    +55
    at some ranges, and is generally safe to cancels into Drunkard Shade and "Leap". However, a delayed "Leap" cancel will punish attempts to mash 5P in the gap. Make sure to use lows if you can, but if your only 5f button is 5P you will mostly need to resort to movement escapes. Jump will allow you to escape (and sometimes punish) uncancelled pierce, cancelling into "That's a lot" and Drunkard Shade. Dashblock will allows you to react and punish cancelling into "Leap" and Drunkard Shade while being safe to no cancel and other cancels if done properly. Zato has answers to all these options but for the most part they have to be done as a read and not on reaction, as such it is committal and if you are good at mixing up your options you can make it much more difficult for Zato to get his offense started.
  • Zato has no reversals, a lackluster backdash, and low reward abare options. Do not be afraid to meaty Zato if you can time them well. He has the worst options in the game to contest this. One caveat is that in the corner wakeup throw can be very rewarding for Zato so keep your meaties tight.
  • Sun VoidGGST Zato-1 Sun Void.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    11+14
    Recovery:
    -
    Advantage:
    -
    in pressure is incredibly strong but only real when used in certain situations. The only situations in which Sun Void on block is real is after "That's a lot!"GGST Zato-1 That's a lot.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    27 {31}
    Recovery:
    [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    +55
    , "Leap"GGST Zato-1 Leap.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    21 {25}
    Recovery:
    34 [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    +46
    , or "Oppose" (the attack at the end of the armor specifically). If Zato uses Sun Void after a normal, you can hit him for it as the move extends his hurtbox greatly long before the move becomes active.
Dramatic posing is Zato's greatest weakness
  • Saving meter for YRC is a strong option vs Zato. While he has unique options to bait YRC, there are many points in Zato's offense that he has to commit to much weaker options to bait YRC or he outright cannot bait YRC. One such point is during Sun Void pressure resets, if Zato is in range you can YRC (or burst) to trade 50 meter and put yourself on the offense.
  • Flight can be a tricky neutral option to deal with, if a Zato is constantly using flight and stalling to bait AA's the best universal option is AA air throw.
  • Midscreen command throw oki should not be respected, Zato is only +7 and spaced at a little more than roundstart distance.
  • A common mistake newer (or nervous) Zato players make is to use Drunkard ShadeGGST Zato-1 Drunkard Shade.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    9
    Recovery:
    12
    Advantage:
    -8
    to send Eddie fullscreen at the opponent. Eddie has recovery from this dash and can be hit out of any of his attacks with low hitting moves like 2P or 2K. Killing Eddie in this situation can turn neutral in your favor.
  • Similarly, if a Zato regularly uses "Leap"GGST Zato-1 Leap.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    21 {25}
    Recovery:
    34 [36 Zato]
    Advantage:
    +46
    at midrange, you can snipe Eddie out of it. He's vulnerable in the air to 6P's and fast high-hitting jabs (such as Goldlewis' 2P), and he has some recovery frames once he lands, so you can "whiff punish" him with a quick low.
  • Zato's supers are lackluster neutral tools. Sun Void does not track after the initial launch and can be jumped to avoid any followup Eddie pressure. AmorphousGGST Zato-1 Amorphous.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    8+8
    Recovery:
    -
    Advantage:
    +12
    has a slow travel time and can be avoided with moves that travel forward very quickly like Sol's Night Raid VortexGGST Sol Badguy 214S 1.pngGuard:
    All
    Startup:
    15~31 [32]
    Recovery:
    32 [26]
    Advantage:
    -17
    , or Superjump double jump. Additionally, even if blocked the plus frames on this move don't amount to much as Zato cannot move fast enough to convert into scary pressure.

Miscellaneous

  • Normals that leave opponent standing on normal hit: 5P, 2P, all K normals, all S normals, 5H, 6H, and all air normals.
  • Specials that lave opponent standing on normal hit: 236P(1), 214S.


Kara Super Applications

Kara super is cancelling a special into a super in the first 3 frames of the specials startups. Zato has various applications as Eddie is generally affected on the first frame Zato does a move that interacts with him.

  • 63214H~6H Unsummon kara Amorphous: Cancelling Unsummon into Amorphous results in Eddie being unsummoned during the startup of Amorphous leading to a much safer unsummon in general.
    • In neutral this can potential hit opponents that attempt to target your unsummon timing. In addition to being overall much safer, the plus frames from Amorphous can allow for you to more easily stall as Eddie meter comes back.
    • In pressure this can be used as an alternative to Sunvoid to extend Eddie pressure with meter. The benefit of this over Sunvoid is primarily that Amorphous has half the meter penalty time that Sunvoid does, so when not in positive bonus you will being building meter much sooner.
  • 63214S~6H or Large CH > 214S > 632146H Drunkerd Shade kara Amorphous: Cancelling Drunkerd Shade into Amorphouse results in Eddie being launched forward during the startup of Amorphous. The primary application of this is as a metered combo extension for massive damage. In the slowdown of a Large Counter-hit you can input 214S > 632146H very quickly to get a kara super rather than the very difficult usual method.

Authors/Questions

  • DarthPhallus - Twitter: Framedata updates, matchup info, misc. strategy.
  • Osmosis - Twitter: Matchups and strategy.
  • Bwead - Twitter: Wrote the first version of the Strategy page.

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