Under Night In-Birth/Merkava
"BRAWK BRAWK BRAWK BRAWK"
Merkava is a big, horrible void creature that has huge buttons and can fly. If you want to play a character that excels in neutral with some safe pressure, he's what you're looking for. The trade off for his safe neutral & pressure is that he doesn't really have a super strong mix up game or strong defense once he's forced to block. That being said, he still has more than enough options to deal with most situations and is generally able to win games by playing to his strengths. You'll need a strong sense of risk vs reward in order to excel with him in [st], especially in some of his harder match ups.
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Character Trait: Merkava's unique trait is the ability to fly. By pressing up twice Merkava will begin to fly. From flight he can perform air normal/special moves. Flight is a very important tool to learn to use well. In neutral it gives him a lot of strong space control and when used for okizeme it can have very strong results. He also gains access to a glide attack that comes in very fast and can be hard to anti-air. He can cancel into normals from this attack on hit or block, even if your opponent shields it. Cancelling into j.B leads to a short combo on hit and frame advantage on block, so it's a good idea to do so most of the time. If he flies for too long without landing or performing a move, he will fall to the ground and be subjected to a large amount of recovery.
"Fast Flight" is a very important technique to master to get the most out of your flight. It's necessary in neutral to quickly and safely get spacing moves out, and you'll need it to get flight okizeme set up in time. It's very simple to perform. All you need to do is jump diagonally either forward or back, quickly input a seceond upwards motion, then quickly switch to holding down on the joystick. If performed correctly Merkava will quickly enter flight low to the ground. In neutral this allows him to get low to the ground air normals and keep himself safer when deciding to fly. Throwing out j.B low to the ground is very common, since it covers a large amount of space with a very small amount of recovery.
When used for okizeme, flight can become a very strong mix up. After 66C ender, immediately fast fly and you have a few different oki options. j.A hits high and can safejump certain reversals. If somebody respects your oki or lacks a reversal, you can attempt to set up something like j.C > j.B for multiple high hitting moves in one string. The low option is to whiff a button to get rid of flight recovery, then go low with 2B. The whiff can also be used to bait reversals or set up a throw. There's a very large amount of mind games past the high/low/throw game, so be creative with it.
Vorpal Trait: In Vorpal, Merkava's worms do not disappear when blocking. His force function damaged is increased up to +124, given +5f of untech time, and becomes special cancelable.
L = Low, H = High, UNB = Unblockable, CS = Chain Shift
Startup includes the first active frame.
| Execute Agitation
| Guard Cancel
| Veil Off
| Flying Attack
66 during flight
| Execute Drill
| Execute Pierce
| Execute Seize and Devour
| Execute Breathe
| Execute Coil
| Execute Domination
| Execute Rage
Infinite Words EXS
| Execute Trample
Playing Merkava in neutral is fairly straightforward for the most part. He's got some pretty huge limbs that he can get confirms of or reverse gatling to make himself more safe. 2B, 5B, 5C, 2C are going to be your primary pokes to keep people in check. Fast flight (doing a diagonal jump into immediate flight then holding down) into j.B or an air fireball are also good ways to control space. You can use the threat of his massive buttons to stop your opponent from using their own buttons, which means you can run up and get pressure started. Merkava thrives on the idea of forcing people to be scared of his buttons so that he can freely move forward without being challenged. Combine flight options with his strong grounded normals to create a very suffocating situation for the other player.
When playing more defensively, Merkava will still be looking to safely poke people out. 4B is a god tier anti-air that can shut down aerial approaches. Fireballs remain a pretty good option to cover space. 214A/B can be used to punish players that want to throw their own projectiles or hang out on the other side of the screen in general. If you are trapped in the corner, using glide as an escape option is not the worst idea ever. Other than that, the normal neutral gameplan should work fine. A warning however, is that Merkava's general size and the slower speeds of his moves make playing defensively a bit harder against certain characters that can challenge his reach. You don't want to keep the pressure off people for too long in neutral if you can help it.
Merkava's pressure isn't anything too special. Most of the time in pressure he will be using his massive reach to threaten people so that he can attempt to move forward for a pressure reset or a grab. Outside of grab and assault, he doesn't really have much else in his standing mix up game. The upside of this is that his pressure is extremely safe and can be maintained over a distance. 2A is a great frametrap tool and the go to pressure starter when you get in close. Since 2A hits twice but can be cancelled into itself on the first hit, you can make it an odd number of times which can be tricky. 2B's double hit and large amount of hitstop can also help make frametraps a possibility. 2C is the primary frame trap tool you'll be using. There's enough start up to it to create gaps in your pressure to blow up mashing, however this can lose to invincible reversals. If 2C is blocked, you can easily gatling into 5A or 5B to help end your pressure safely. Those buttons will also confirm into full combos if 2C happens to land a hit. Consider delaying a special cancel into 623A for a frametrap as well since it's very good on block. 3C/66C can be used to go over some low mash, but they remain slow and easy to block overheads in normal conditions.
Once you do get pushed out from your pressure string, be sure to save 5A for a reverse gatling so that you can be safe. Just simple things like 5B and 5C can chain into 5A to be safe and threatening from some space. Most of his stuff is pretty minus on block. Being slightly minus at range isn't the end of the world though, especially if the opponents back is to the corner. Just use your normals to keep control over some of that space and work your way back in.
It's also worth noting that Merkava does not have many strong options in strings to beat shielding once he is a couple hits in. Most of his moves are minus and can't lead to tick grab set ups outside of his A buttons, the overheads he can gatling into like 3C and 4C are both slow and not great in general, and some of the multihit moves are really telegraphed. That means if you go into strings just slamming through all your buttons, you will lose GRD (and thus Vorpal) fast and just end up pushed out. Remember to try to use spacing and the threat of huge normals to control your opponent.
2AxN > 2C (2C acts as a frametrap) > 5AxN(hold up to keep doing 5A on block without getting autocombo) > 4B
2B > 5C (can partial charge for high reward frame trap) > 2C > etc
2A > 2A (cancel on the first hit to get 3 hits instead of 4) > grab
5B > 5C > 5A whiff > 5B or run up 2B or wait to react to something (there's a pretty massive gap here, but if you have some space most mashed buttons will whiff)
5AxN > 2B > 2C > delayed 623A (without the 5A to gatling back into, your options are limited and delayed 623A can catch things still)
236C is your primary reversal option. It's pretty safe and leads to a combo on hit, but it loses invincibility on the first active frame so it can lose to a few things post superflash. Infinite Worth has more invincibility if you are desperate and can blow meter, but it's also really unsafe and generally a pretty terrible idea. Merkava's defense in general is pretty standard since you don't have any other reversals outside of that. Mashing is not greatly advised since his buttons are kinda slow. Using his divekick as a fuzzy defensive option isn't all that bad to get out of throws and lows, but note this can be not so safe on block or just blown up in general.
Merkava's knockdown game is actually pretty good. Whenever you end a combo it will generally be with 4B or 66C. Midscreen, you don't actually get a whole lot but you'll at least be at advantage. After either of these knockdowns you can cancel into 22A/B. The worms midscreen aren't the most useful things ever, especially if the opponent back techs and they need to catch up. In the corner however, they are extremely good at forcing a situation in your favor. If you grab while worms are coming out they'll even grab you some extra damage. 22C can create some really wild situations since they hit 3 times and corner vacuum for unique cross ups. Cancelling into worms is going to be one of your major two knockdown options.
The other option in the corner is to go for flight oki. After a 66C, you have enough frame advantage to enter into low flight and then hit a button as your opponent wakes up. If you time a j.A correctly, it will safe jump most reversals (you're not safejumping Vatista). You can also just whiff the j.A to get rid of flight's landing recovery and go low. This can be fuzzy guarded, but there are some extra options you can sneak in here to keep them guessing. A video guide on how to this from UNiEL exists on Youtube: click here to watch. This video is from UNiEL, but all the same concepts and ideas work just as well in ST.
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