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S-Groove is one of the six grooves in Capcom vs. SNK 2. It features many unique abilities in CvS2, including the Dodge mechanic and manual meter charging. It also grants players unlimited Level 1 super opportunities when at low health. It is inspired by system present in the early King of Fighters games, starting with KOF'94.
Despite its looks on paper, S-Groove is a trash-tier groove in CvS2 for reasons that will be better explained below.
|Main Features||Dodging, Manual Meter Charging, and Unlimited Level 1 Supers at Low Health|
|Groove System||Extra Gauge & Special Move System|
|Meter Length||100 Units|
|MAX Mode Duration||166 Time Units||(~16.6 seconds)|
|Guard Bar Length||48 Units||Standard|
See Groove Subsystems for complete technical data on specific subsystems.
The longer the buttons are held down, the more the meter bar will fill up. There is a brief period at the beginning of the charge animation where the meter bar accelerates from a slower speed to the maximum charge rate. To put that more simply, you will gain a lot more meter off of a few significant charges versus several momentary ones.
Charging must take place on the ground and while the character is in a neutral state. Charging cannot be cancelled into from or out of with any move. While in the charging animation you cannot block, move, or perform any action other than to release the buttons to stop charging. However, ending charging is an instantaneous action, allowing you to do something on the very next frame after exiting the charge state.
When the meter is completely full, the player will automatically enter MAX Mode, a state that lasts up to 16.6 seconds. During this time all player attacks will do an additional 15% damage, along with enabling access to a Level 1 super or a Counter Attack. When using the meter for these abilities, any remaining meter will empty and the player will exit MAX Mode.
Meter charging is disabled in MAX Mode; there is no way to add meter or extend the timer for MAX Mode once it has activạted.
If the player has low health (a.k.a. Red Health) and enters MAX Mode, any super attack will instead be a Level 3 super. Like before, any remaining meter is lost and MAX Mode ends if a super is used during it, though the player will retain the ability to use Level 1 supers in the low health state.
Meter is gained and used by one character during a single round only. It does not carry over between rounds, even if you win the round. It does not carry over between characters when you lose a round. If partially filled after a round win, it will reset to zero at the start of the next round. If the player was in MAX Mode after a round win, they will no longer be in MAX Mode and will begin again with zero meter in the next round.
Unique Groove Abilities
For full technical information on Dodge, see Groove Subsystems.
The Dodge allows players to become invulnerable to physical attacks performed against them on the ground, by literally dodging them in-place. Dodge is unique to S-Groove since no other groove has it, although technically it is a part of the Groove Subsystem.
Dodges cannot be cancelled into from any move. However, they can be reversals, allowing the player to Dodge (and therefore be invulnerable) one frame earlier than they would have normally recovered from performing a move or recovering from a knockdown.
The player becomes invincible from the very first frame of a Dodge, up through the very last frame. The player is vulnerable to throws during a Dodge, where they cannot be teched out of. Once a Dodge ends, the player can block safely or perform any other action.
A Dodge universally lasts exactly 35 frames, and has three phases:
- Startup: 18 Frames, when the player character's dodge animation is taking place;
- Attack Cancellable: 13 Frames, when the character is stationary in their dodge pose. During this state, the player can cancel the Dodge into a Dodge Attack (see below);
- Recovery/Dodge Cancellable: 4 Frames, when the character quickly returns to the neutral state. The recovery can be cancelled into another Dodge, extending invincibility time.
The third phase of the Dodge, the recovery phase, can be cancelled with another Dodge. If done successfully, the player character will re-enter the startup animation of the Dodge, resetting the cycle. With good timing, it is possible to chain together Dodges and maintain physical invulnerability indefinitely.
The second phase of the Dodge can be cancelled out of with a Dodge Attack. This is a special attack that allows the player to capitalize on a successful dodge with a quick attack.
To perform a Dodge Attack, press any or at any time during the 13 cancellable frames of a Dodge. (No attack will happen if the button is pressed too early or too late, and the Dodge will continue normally.) Upon attacking, the Dodge and its invincibility frames immediately end, after which point the normal properties of the Dodge Attack apply (including any hurtboxes).
There are two different types of Dodge Attacks. One knocks the opponent down, while the other is special/super cancellable to allow for combo followups. These are not universally mapped to punch and kick, though, as different characters have different punch and kick Dodge Attack moves. All have the two Dodge Attack types, however.
Manual Meter Charging
S-Groove is unique in CvS2 in how meter is used. Although fractional amounts of meter are awarded for taking damage and blocking incoming attacks, the primary means to gain meter is to manually fill it by charging.
While charging, the player character will become surrounded by a glowing ring of light and enter a special charging animation unique to S-Groove.
In the charge state, the player is completely vulnerable to all attacks and throws. However, the charge state ends immediately when the buttons are released, allowing the player to block or perform other actions, including a Dodge.
There is an acceleration effect in the initial moments of charging, meaning the rate of meter gained is lower at the beginning of the charge compared to later on in the charge. That is, more meter will be gained by fewer significant charges versus several shorter ones given the same amount of total charge time. The charge rate reaches its maximum speed approximately 15 frames after charging begins (testing is needed to determine the exact number).
When the meter is completely filled, either by filling it by charging or as a result of taking damage or blocking attacks, the player will automatically enter MAX Mode and the meter bar turns into a timer that lasts 16.6 seconds. At this time, meter charging is disabled; there is no way to add meter or extend the timer while in MAX Mode.
In MAX Mode, all player attacks do an additional 15% damage, and a Level 1 super and Counter Attack becomes available. The super becomes a Level 3 if the player is in Red Health (see below) while in MAX Mode.
If a super or Counter Attack is used while in MAX Mode, the remaining meter/timer empties and the player will exit MAX Mode, starting again with zero meter.
If a player wins a round while in MAX Mode, any remaining meter in the timer bar will empty and MAX Mode will end. The player will start the next round with zero meter.
Red Health (Unlimited Level 1 Supers)
When the player has less than 25% health remaining (regardless of character Ratio) their health bar will begin flashing red. In this Red Health state, the player will enable S-Groove's signature comeback mechanic, access to Unlimited Level 1 supers.
Red Health grants a 5% attack damage bonus. This stacks with the 15% MAX Mode damage bonus, meaning it is possible to have a 20% attack damage bonus if in both Red Health and MAX Mode.
At any point during Red Health, the player can input a (Level 1) super command to use a Level 1 super. Normal startup and recovery periods of the super used will still apply, but outside of that there are no restrictions on how quickly they can be fired off or how many times they can be used.
If the player is in MAX Mode during Red Health, a Level 3 super becomes available. If it is used, MAX Mode will end, but Level 1 supers will still be available due to the Red Health state. With a Level 3 super available, it must be a Level 3 if performed; it is not possible to select or only perform a Level 1 super in this situation.
Red Health cannot be used to perform a Counter Attack. It can only be performed during MAX Mode, and only at the cost of the remaining meter/timer.
A player that ends a round in the Red Health state may not necessarily begin the next round in it, given that the round winner recovers health based on the amount of time remaining, and that bonus health may (and often will) replenish the player's health bar back above 25%. (Nakoruru's Level 3 healing super can also push the player out of Red Health, though that also would require the player to have been in MAX Mode as well first.)
Despite its seemingly powerful tools on paper, in practice, S-Groove is the worst groove in CvS2 by a significant margin. Every benefit of the groove comes with an asterisk, and even the things that it does well, other grooves can do as good or far better. There are silver linings with S-Groove, and any player competent in the unique ways of how the groove does things can still be in with a fighting chance of competing. But know going in that it's an uphill climb.
Dodge is Uniquely Frustrating - Half roll, half parry, there is nothing in CvS2 quite like the Dodge—which can make it a handful to play against. An opponent that thinks they've got the S-Groove player dead-to-rights may find that they are getting whacked by a Dodge Attack instead. Unlike with a Parry or Just Defend, where there is a physical hit being deflected, an attack that is Dodged might as well be a whiff into thin air. Having that happen a lot in a round can be extremely aggravating to opponents.
The annoyance doesn't end with the first Dodge, either. When the opponent sees a Dodge recovering, they may think it's their turn to move in. This is where the Dodge recovery cancel shines. By canceling the Dodge into another Dodge, the opponent that thought they were clever by waiting out the first Dodge might find them whiffing the second Dodge. (Or third, or fourth...) Or, maybe you don't cancel the Dodge, let it end normally and then head right back in for another Dodge. Or, smack them in the face with a Dodge Attack if they try to get you to knock it off.
Mixing up the timings of Dodges, Dodge Attacks and combo followups, and even meter charges—charging makes you vulnerable, unless you're doing it to purposefully bait the opponent—can make it very difficult for your opponent to reliably land an initial hit or sustain pressure. If used well enough, this defensive mechanic can also let you go on the offensive, freezing them long enough for you to head in—with a Dodge Attack combo starter, a run-in pressure, or a walk-up throw—to go on the offensive.
Dodging also has advantages over other deflection subsystems. Because Dodge temporarily removes the character's hurtbox and pushbox, special and super moves that advance the opponent forward will simply pass through the Dodge. Depending on the attack being dodged—especially if it is a multihit attack—this can put the S-Groove player in a much more advantageous position compared to blocking!
Strong Comeback Game - S-Groove has a lot going for it when it comes to having resources and options to make a comeback. Obviously, unlimited Level 1 supers during low health gives S-Groove players a lot of extra damage potential during crunch time. Plus, if you manage to land a Level 3 in MAX Mode, another Level 3 is only a knockdown or two away to charge the meter back up. No other groove will can have two (or even several!) Level 3 supers available in such rapid succession, and none of them give the player power to enable this with manual charging. Particularly for characters with safe and abusable Level 1 supers, it can be very easy to dupe the opponent into a mistake trying to deal with them, making it that much more possible to land a few of them and even the odds.
Dodge Can Be a Liability, Too - Like rolls, a dodge isn't an end-all defensive maneuver. If an opponent guess right or otherwise sees one coming, you will be thrown! And like regular attacks, it's completely possible for them to win the footsies game and capitalize on a whiffed dodge attack. Like any tool, the dodge should not be abused, but used when appropriate.
The Cons of Manual Meter Charging - Situationally, being able to fill the meter bar on your own terms can be great. But consider other situations when it isn't great. When you score a knockback, you have a decision to make: Pressure the opponent on wakeup, or charge meter. If choosing a significant or full charge, you are basically giving the opponent free relief to gather themselves and reset. Sure, you have full meter now, and possibly a Level 3 on deck. But guess what? They probably did too, and there is absolutely no reason they have to let you have an easy time during wakeup.
When the opponent is wailing on you with pressure, there's the consideration of what happens when you manage to dodge your way out of the situation and have some breathing room. Again, the decision is to charge up some meter, or go on the offensive. No matter which you choose, in S-Groove are being forced to give up something compared to the other grooves. This is where S-Groove not building any meter through offensive actions really hurts it, because everyone else (aside from K-Groove, but see the Groove Comparisons section below) is simultaneously and playing offense getting good meter.
Speaking to this, the best strategy for meter charging is to fill the majority of it early, then wait for it to top off as you block attacks or get hit with them. This way, there is a higher probability you will be in MAX Mode as you come off opponent pressure and have a chance to go on the offensive yourself, without having to stop and charge while your opponent can recover.
It should be noted here that in CvS1, the manual meter charging in the SNK Groove was hilariously overpowered. It was severely nerfed for CvS2, explaining its downsides here.
The Cons of Low Health and Unlimited Level 1 Supers Clearly, having a super available at all times is blessing. But it can also be a curse! Fire away with them too much and you may opening yourself to predictability, setting up the opponent to potentially evade or punish.
Characters with "safe" Level 1s are not completely safe against other groove abilities (A-Groove activation, P-Groove Parry, N-Groove Counter Movement, K-Groove Just Defend) and/or a higher level super coming back the other way, further disadvantaging yolo Level 1s during Red Health. Therefore, it makes a lot more sense to be more selective when firing off Level 1s. Be patient, be smart, take the easy super opportunity when it comes for free chip damage, and tack on extra super damage if you can land a dodge attack or on a punish.
Then again, you were already doing that... but your health got low anyway!
All other things being equal, the S-Groove player is at a natural disadvantage, needing to play from behind before their groove can begin to shine. Even when it does, however, the window of opportunity/margin for error is quite small. If you're at 40% health and the opponent hits you with a Level 3, you will never have a chance to use the signature offensive feature of S-Groove.
Red Health grants a nice advantage of being able to turn any opening into a nice amount of damage with a super, but the reality is the other player is probably in an equal or better spot with their meter situation. Certainly, through the course of a round, they are going to have the chance to super much faster than the S-Groove player will (at least, not without giving up knockdown pressure).
Until reaching that sweet spot, all S-Groove really has is Dodge, and the occasional Level 1 super you have to largely give up offensive opportunities to charge up to. This is similar to the situation that P-Groove is in, where until that large meter is filled, all it has is Parry and not much else. (Notice that S and P are the two worst grooves in the game.) But even P-Groove, like with C, A, N, and K-Groove, can have a Level 3 super (or Custom Combo) and a lot of health. This is impossible in S-Groove.
Roll Cancels Render Dodge Obsolete - Which would you rather have: The ability to dodge, then attack; or the ability to dodge, and attack?
Like Dodge's + counterpart, the Roll has its share of pros and cons. However, Roll Cancelling eliminates a hell of a lot of a Roll's disadvantages while introducing a while new slate of advantages. In the context of Dodging, the Dodging player has to recognize that giving up invincibility for the Dodge Attack they want to do will be successful. It's a lot easier to just roll cancel a safe/situational special move and be invincible while doing it, killing two birds with one stone.
A counter to both dodge and roll (cancels) is to throw them out of it. Dodge is completely vulnerable to a throw through its duration, including the first 18 and last 4 frames where it cannot be cancelled. Roll cancelled special moves are throw vulnerable for the initial 1-3 frames of the roll, plus the (grounded) startup frames of the special move. One of those is much safer than the other.
There are a few key factors when using S-groove to consider:
How good are my character's dodge attacks?
Good dodge attacks are a key component to any S-Groove character. They can help score good damage and knockdowns allowing you time to charge up or start offense. If your character has a good cancellable dodge attack to confirm into super or a combo, or if they have a fast long ranged knockdown normal for quick punishes, they are generally solid picks. Some examples:
Cammy: Cammy's dodge punch attack is her close fierce, a very abuseable +10 button that can link into Spiral Arrow and her Spin Drive Smasher super. Her dodge kick is her 5HK, which is incredibly strong in it's own right. She definitely boasts the best dodge attacks in the game.
Ryu: Ryu has a really good dodge punch attack, it's fast and has really good range. It scores him a knockdown as well. His dodge kick is cancellable but the range is far lower than his punch one.
Dictator: His dodge punch confirms into all of his good specials and supers. His dodge kick is also fairly quick and score Dictator a knockdown, allowing him to charge for his supers and alpha counter.
Sakura: Her dodge kick is very good, and her dodge punch is good as a cancel option up close. She really likes to test the opponent in neutral by occasionally doing dodge kick attacks to fish for a counterhit.
How good is my damage/gameplan with and without super?
Some matches it may be hard to charge so taking into account their normal gameplan (even better if they have good dodge attacks) to do damage with no meter is a good thing to have. Some examples:
Sagat: As the best character in the game, Sagat can kill an opponent in a multitude of ways, mostly with his god tier buttons.
Kyo: He can operate and pressure really well without resorting to his supers. Most of his damage comes from his really good pressure and meterless combos.
Iori: While having a confirm into Maiden Masher is generally ideal, Iori can confirm into his rekka and generally gets good damage from it.
Yamazaki: His amazing space control does not demand meter, he can do his damage without the use of meter.
Do I have abusable Level 1 Supers?
Since desperation mode is supposed to be a comeback factor and the "gimmick" of S-groove, it's best to have safe abusable level 1 supers. Big bonus if your characters have abusable normals. These super can be ones that are safe to cancel into or just abusable done raw. Some examples:
Ryu: Shinkuu Hadouken
Sagat: Low Tiger Cannon
Athena: Shining Crystal Bit
Terry: Buster Wolf
Blanka: Direct Lightning
M.Bison: Knee Press Nightmare
There is another consideration for damage and chip as well. Chun Li can kill you fast if she land her level one and Chang has huge chip and mix ups with Choi. The reason those aren't as good is because that is still on the player to land those situation to use them and cant be abused in anyway unless you force the situation.
What are my options for an S-Groove team?
While not an all inclusive list, the following are very strong or at least solid in S-Groove:
Sagat: The obvious best pick for an S-Groove team, has godly pokes that confirm into an abuseable super, and has confirms into Tiger Raid which deal big damage once he has low health. His dodge punch attack is very strong against characters who cannot duck it ex. Chang, Raiden, Sagat, however his dodge kick attack is mediocre at best.
Blanka: Decent dodge kick attack, he is naturally a strong character in any groove, but in S he can abuse confirms into Blanka Ball once he has infinite level 1s and can charge fully after a punch throw. Also has his really good short hop. Also one of the best picks for an S-Groove team.
Dictator: Has a very good super in Scissor Kick Nightmare which is only -3 and a very tight punish on most characters. Also has good dodge attacks, with dodge kick being a good punish option from afar and dodge punch being a great confirm into scissor kicks or super up close. He can charge fully after his punch throw and can abuse his lvl.1 super at low health, but also has access to his very scary Mega Psycho Crusher once he gets fully charged at low life.
Cammy: Dodge attacks are busted, dodge punch can confirm into super and Spiral Arrow, and her Reverse Shaft Breaker is a great chip kill option with an infinite level 1. An absolute menace in S.
Athena: Great dodge attacks, naturally a zoner so she can charge while throwing Psycho Balls to gain a lot of meter. Also has a corner trap with infinite level 1s and her Shining Crystal Bit.
Sakura: Incredible dodge kick attack that knocks down. Her dodge punch can be good for anti-airs and more up-close punishes as it confirms into her Shouoken. Her supers are okay, she likes to confirm into her Shinkuu Hadouken on block and her Haruissen on hit.
Ryu: A solid character overall but also has good S-Groove specific stuff. His Shinkuu Hadouken becomes his go-to confirm off of anything at low health and if he has a level 3 he can change the tide of the match with a well-place Shin Shoryuken. He also has a deceptively great dodge punch attack.
Terry: Can deal incredibly massive damage once he has infinite level 1s by juggling a Buster Wolf into a Power Geyser. Buster Wolf itself is also just an abuseable super overall. Good dodge attacks as well.
Kyo: Strong pressure, does not need meter to be effective. His desparation supers are pretty lackluster but once he has a level 3 the juggle into Orochinagi will deal big damage. His dodge attacks are very good, with his stand roundhouse being a very effective option against characters like Sagat.
Benimaru: Unknown until Izumi came and showed everyone what he could do. Once he has infinite level 1s, Benimaru had a vortex where he mixed up his divekick with 2LK. Both could confirm into his Electrigger super, which gave him a lot of time to set up another mixup. Has nice dodge attacks as well but they aren't stellar.
Yamazaki: Another character who does not need meter to be effective. His dodge punch attack is pretty bad but his dodge kick attack is his incredibly good 5HK, which is his preferred dodge attack.
Chun-Li: Decent dodge attacks, really strong confirm into her level 1 Houyokusen once she has low life. She has strong buttons overall and has a good shorthop.
S-Groove Character Tier List
This tierlist was written by DR.B, who is generally considered by far the best S-Groove player in the USA and one of the most accomplished CvS2 players. He proved that running the incredibly powerful squads consisting of Cammy, Dictator, Blanka and Sagat can take S-Groove to limitless heights.
This tierlist was written by Izumi. He does not play S-Groove a lot anymore, but he put in incredible work with his infamous S-Groove Benimaru, showing that he can be viable against even the best players in the world.
Groove Comparisons and Matchups
The info in this section is for direct comparisons between grooves and generic groove vs groove matchups, which may apply differently to specific characters. For more detail on how a character plays in and plays against the different grooves, refer to their character info page.
C-Groove tends to have strong fundamentals. It's difficult to counteract strong neutral and great management of meter. C-Groovers usually don't go full rushdown so you can take advantage of that with power charges to build up more meter. You should have a decent amount of opportunities to use a super or a guard cancel.
Infinite level 1 supers can be good against C-Groove, but level 1 supers can get guard cancelled, and C-Groove's hyper efficient meterbuild can replenish that GC quickly. Generally up close level 1 supers will eat the guard cancel, but fireball supers will usually get away with being used a lot.
The thing to watch out for is level 2 supers. C-Groove characters will most likely have multiple chances to use a level 2, so don't make a bad choice once they have that meter in the back pocket. Level 2 super cancels will deal big damage. Try to avoid them as best as you can.
Finally, make good use of dodges, they will help out against pokes and whatnot. It's a fairly simple matchup but definitely not an easy one.
A matchup where meter management makes or breaks your round. A-Groove replaces the use of supers with Custom Combos, which can be hell to fight against. The key is to constantly have meter close to full or at full not so much for a super, but for a guard cancel. Once you block a custom combo, the best case scenario is that you have a guard cancel ready and you escape the custom with it. Worst case scenario, you don't have a guard cancel but you can take advantage of small gaps by dodging out of the way.
Dodging also helps against random activates. Since almost every character tends to start a custom combo with a low short, it will whiff and you can possibly escape with a jump. At worst, the opponent sniffs out your dodge and you either have to block a meaty into a full CC or you take a throw. At that point the meter has drained enough to where the damage salvaged will be low. Once you have infinite level 1s, you won't see as many attempts at a guard cancel because A-Groove players tend to save their meter for a custom more than anything else. The only time they will 100% use a guard cancel is if they are about to die on their last character or they are on the verge of getting their guard broken. You have a little more leeway. Just be mindful of roll cancels, since they are also a very potent offensive tool in this matchup.
S vs A is definitely not in S-Groove's favor, but it can certainly try to put up a fight.