In a post-Sentinel patch world, there aren’t any characters in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 that induce more anger in the community than Phoenix. Having been specifically designed to be the ultimate glass cannon, she completely changes the dynamics of the game in ways that a lot of people do not like. Once her team has 5 hyper bars stored up, you are in for a world of hurt.
As much as I hate Phoenix with a passion and feel that she deserves some sort of nerf, she’s beatable. Phoenix teams have to make a number of concessions to make her work, and there are ways to exploit those concessions and weaknesses. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying in the game than beating someone who is running a Phoenix team, as Phoenix players always seem to think they’re invincible with Jean Grey on their side. Even if you are not an expert player, the tactics and strategies I’ve listed below are sure to help you in your quest to control Phoenix and her Dark Phoenix mutation!
1. Use a snapback attack to get Phoenix in early
The snapback is one of the least used and under-utilized moves in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It’s great for forcing a specific character in to the game when they have low health, have a lot of red life, or in this case, forcing Phoenix into the game well before your opponent wants her in. 99% of Phoenix players will place her last on their team, and will not use her assist moves in order to protect her until their team has 5 hyper bars. By snapping her in early, you force your opponent to have Phoenix on the screen for a few precious seconds, which should be all you need to beat her. If you do not kill her before she has 5 bars, you are in big trouble, so this step is absolutely critical.
While the input for snapping someone in is relatively easy, actually landing the attack isn’t a brainless exercise. It can be easily blocked, and can’t be done any time you want, as it will cost you 1 hyper bar for each attempt. Your best bet is to combo into it. It is critical for you to know all of the different points in your combos where you can insert a snapback attack, so that you’re ready to execute it the moment you have an opening. This will likely require you to spend some time in training mode to know every instance in your combo strings where you can use a snapback, but it’s well worth your effort once you have it down to a science.
2. When you’ve snapped her in, mix her up to land a hit
As Phoenix is entering the stage from a snapback, the momentum of the fight is in your favour. Odds are, they are going to play defensively to try and get her out of there as soon as possible. You only have a few seconds before she has the opportunity to leave, so you’ll have to finish the job quickly.
How do you land a hit on a player who is actively thinking defensively? Mix them up. As Phoenix is coming in, you need to approach the situation in a way where she’s forced to guess what the best course of action is, and guessing wrong will lead to bad news for her. For instance, as she’s entering the screen, you can call your assist out so that your assist will attack her from the front, while you sneak behind to apply pressure from behind. If you do it right, you have a 1 in 2 shot of landing a hit, which you’ll need to extend into further damage, but I’ll talk about that in the next point.
Throwing can also be a viable course of action here, as most Phoenix players are likely going to want to block whatever comes their way. Many characters in this game have the ability to combo off of a ground throw or air throw, so know which members of your team are capable of doing so.
3. When you land a hit, extend it into a full combo
As I stated in the opening paragraph, Phoenix is the ultimate glass cannon. Every character in the game can kill her off with one combo, even when she is in Dark Phoenix mode. When you’ve executed your mix up and landed that first hit, you must complete a combo that will finish her off. If you’re able to get this far, simply do not screw up the combo and you should have her out of your hair for the remainder of the fight. If you do not like to use combos or feel like you don’t have the execution for combos, this is the best motivation you’ll ever have for learning. You don’t need to be a wizard with the execution in this case, as her health is terrible, but you must have at least a handful of short combos in your back pocket for situations like these.
4. If she escapes, repeat steps 1 to 3
Nobody’s perfect. You may not finish the job the first time you first snap her in, which is fine. However, I’m certain that the act of snapping her in early will put your opponent on notice that you know their weak point. They may try to play more defensive, but steps 1 through 3 still work, as long as they do not have 5 hyper bars. Simply keep snapping Phoenix in till you can finish the job.
5. Punish her meter-building assists hard.
The majority of Phoenix players will specifically design a team around her that will help them stock up 5 hyper bars as possible. One of the fastest ways to build meter is to choose Morrigan or Amaterasu as team members, as they both have specific assists that increase their hyper combo gauge. If you run into a Phoenix player that has either Morrigan or Amaterasu on their team, you can be sure of the fact that they will call them in to build meter every chance they get.
You can stop this fairly easily if you approach the fight from the right mindset. If you’re not in a position to snap Phoenix in, and you know that their assist is coming, be ready to punish it. Once you hear the audio cue of your opponent’s assist being called in, you punish it. For many characters, this can be done simply by unleashing a hyper combo the moment your opponent’s assist enters the screen. If possible, once you land that first it on an assist, do what you can to kill their meter-building assist off.
By putting your opponent on notice that you’re ready to punish their assist, they’ll be less likely to call it out, which slows down their meter-building process considerably.
5. Know when to run away
As hard as you may try to kill Phoenix off early, you’re going to run into a situation where your opponent has 5 hyper bars stocked. They’re now just begging you to kill their Phoenix so that they can unleash their Dark Phoenix fury on them. At this point, you may want to take a second to think about your options. Do you want to take your chances by killing off regular Phoenix?
The trick is, you don’t necessarily have to kill Phoenix. If you’re in a situation where you have a large health lead, and the timer is somewhat on your side, the best option for you might be to run away until the time runs out. While this is especially boring, it’s guaranteed to frustrate your opponent, and might very well be the best way to handle the situation. Just be ready to block a lot of fireballs and be prepared for any sort of teleport shenanigans that may arise.
6. When Dark Phoenix is out, look to punish their aggressiveness
If steps 1 through 5 didn’t work out, then you’re going to be in a situation where you’re up against a Dark Phoenix. This is not good. Your opponent is now in a position to destroy your entire team in a matter of seconds. Your options at this point are rather slim, but it doesn’t mean you should just roll over and die. Even as Dark Phoenix, she’s still a glass cannon.
At this point, your best bet is to punish her offense, which is mainly going to consist of fireballs, projectile traps and teleports. Do you have projectile hyper combo that you could counter with the moment she winds up for a fireball? Do you have a hyper combo that goes through projectiles? I bet you do. Possibly the ‘easiest’ way to punish her attacks is through one of those methods, though they’re clearly desperation moves. I’m sure there are better strategies against Dark Phoenix, but my knowledge of the game falls apart at this point to be honest. I’m sure there are other great Dark Phoenix strategies elsewhere.
Despite my lack of Dark Phoenix strategies, the trick is still to kill her long before her team has 5 bars. If you can consistently snap her in early and put the screws to her long before your opponent maxes out their meter, you should be able to take her out long before she becomes a problem. Not only does taking her out early make your life easier, it also is a huge mental guard break to your opponent. It’s fun to dismantle the remainder of your opponent’s team as they try and salvage a victory with team members who are clearly only there for the purposes of fueling Phoenix.
What tactics and strategies do you have against Phoenix?