What is a Frame Trap?
A frame trap is intentionally putting gaps in pressure to punish an opponent performing an action after blocking and conditioning them to block.
Example Frame Trap
1) Player A forces Player B to block
2) Player B exits block stun and attempts to attack, move, throw, or perform any other action other than block.
3) Player A hits Player B with an attack before Player B's action is completed, opening their defense or counter hitting them.
Uses of Frame Traps
Frame traps are often used for catching or baiting people into hitting buttons, but it also staggers pressure and gives more opportunties to break defense.
Frame traps usually play well with characters that can threaten throw well as frame traps condition opponents to sit still and block which is beaten by throw, while throws condition opponents to use abare or jump which is beaten by frame traps. Frame traps don't require a good throw game to be effective however, another example is to use it to make gauging when resets happen harder and punish people for taking their turn at the wrong time.
Option selects exist to help defenders such as fuzzy abare, but can be beaten with delayed timings like most option selects.
Setting Up Frame Traps
There are a few common ways to set up a frame trap. We will cover the three most common ways to do so.
Plus Frames are the easiest and most common way to create a frame trap. Simply force the opponent to block a move which has frame advantage (plus on block) and the follow up with a move which takes long enough to become active that the opponent will have a few frames to press an attack but is fast enough that you will hit the opponent out of their move.
In Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2, Leo Whitefang does 2S, 5K.
Leo's 2S does not gatling into 5K so we don't have to worry about canceling recovery frames. After 2S, Leo will recover from his attack 4 frames before the opponent does. Therefore, if Leo presses 5K and the opponent presses an attack as soon as they can, Leo will counter hit the opponent and win the exchange.
Leo created a frame trap using frame advantage.
Some characters will have frame traps naturally built into their block strings. These usually occur when a character can cancel one move into another and this cancel results in a gap that the opponent cannot succesfully hit them during.
In Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2, Slayer does 5K > 6H.
This is a gatling for Slayer, therefore 6H will cancelTo bypass the remaining time or frames in an action by proceeding directly into another action the recovery frames of 5K with the startup of 6H, but because of 6H's long startup there will be a few frames where the opponent can act. If the opponent chooses to attack during this gap Slayer will counter hit them.
Slayer created a frame trap using a natural gap.
Sometimes a character will have an attack that is so quick to start up that it will hit the opponent's startup even if the player does not have frame advantage.
In Guilty Gear Plus R, Sol Badguy's 5K has a startupThe time before an attack is active including the first active frame. of 3 frames. This means that if Sol linksTo perform a second action after the first action completely finishes its animation, usually in order to create a combo. into 5K after a move that is ±0 on block there will be a 3 frame gap. This means that Sol's 5K will come out fast enough to beat all except for the fastest moves.
Sol created a frame trap by being faster than the opponent's fastest options.
Other Types of Frame Trap
There are other forms of frame traps which are not easily covered in this primer. These include delayed cancels, assist frame traps, and more.
Depending on the game and character, you don't have to immediately cancel from one attack into another. The attacker can create gaps in their blockstrings by delaying the second attack!
In BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Jin Kisaragi's 2A is -1 on block, but has a large window to cancel into other normal attacks. By delay canceling, Jin can create a gap after 2A to act as a frame trap. If the opponent anticipates the frame trap after 2A, Jin can go for a slower mixup or even run back in to continue attacking!
Delayed Special Cancels
Similar to delayed gatlings, players can do the same thing, but with special/super cancels instead! This is usually much more risky, but follows the same principals as described above.
Some characters can create frame traps by using assists to hit after unsafe moves to create frame traps. The assist is timed to hit the opponent while you are recovering from your attack.
A common case of this is puppet characters like Zato-1 from Guilty Gear or Carl Clover from BlazBlue. Others like Kum Haehyun and Arakune can use delayed projectiles for the same purpose. Almost everyone can do this in team based games where partners can be called in for assist attacks like Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle.
Escaping Frame Traps
Frame traps are designed to condition you to block so that the opponent can remain in control of the pace of a match.
In some games, Instant Blocking an attack reduces the amount of blockstun received, which reduces the frame advantage the opponent has and may give you enough time to counterattack or to jump/backdash out.
Barrier/Faultless Defense is also an option. This pushes you further away, possibly far enough to be out of range of the opponent's attacks unless they spend time to run back in (preferably into your fist!).
Invincible moves like reversals and backdashes are a strong tool versus frame traps because they allow you to go through the opponent's attack! Parry mechanics can also be good verse frame traps.
All of these options have their own advantages/drawbacks and may not work against certain frame traps. Most answers to frame traps can be beaten by the opponent delaying their options, but a delayed frame trap leaves a large gap which can be punished or allow you to take your turn. It's recommended to learning what frame traps a character has and what frame traps a player likes to use and to have various counters prepared that maximize risk/reward in your favor.