Popping Off: The FGC Review #3 - Can Menat Be A Top Tier Killer?

Street Fighter V’s second go around of new characters has for the most part been a series of strong additions to the roster, adding a few interesting play styles into the mix (Ed, Kolin) while also adding legacy characters from other Capcom titles that have seen a lot of interest in competitive play (Abigail). Season 2’s penultimate character, Menat, has just released, and already players are finding interesting applications, setups, and combos for the apprentice of SF alumni Rose. Can the fortune teller and her crystal ball foresee a way into the top tiers though?

Menat steps in at a time where most of the hype is still focused on the last character released, Abigail, a Final Fight enemy (and palette swap for Hugo) who has not only been given a ton of character in his design as a quirky gigantic brute but has seen some love from players due to his high damage, surprising range, and a Critical Art that can swat anything out of the air. She’s definitely flying under the radar in terms of buzz, but Menat does have some tools that can make her more than just cosplay viable.

Easy to learn, difficult to master?

Menat looks to be an execution heavy character, for better and worse. The majority of her game plan revolves around her crystal ball. Much like the Luma half of the Rosalina & Luma combo in Smash or, more aptly, Soulcalibur V’s Viola, the ball can be sent out to stay in a certain position on stage and later recalled back to Menat’s position, hitting the opponent on the way back. Her V-Skill also changes depending on the position of the orb: while in Menat’s possession the orb can reflect projectiles, but if sent out Menat absorbs projectiles to build V meter. Finally, her V-Trigger casts six energy spheres around Menat, two high, two mid, and two low, that are all mapped to fire when inputting normal attacks. This in tandem with her special moves can lead to big damage on her combos, but also requires a little bit more brain power in order to get that damage compared to a Balrog or Urien.

While that extra effort required to get damage might not translate well for everyone in the tournament scene, a lot of Menat’s arsenal has defensive applications that might serve better against high tier mainstays like Urien, Ibuki, and Cammy. Having the orb out can serve to keep rush-down characters in check mentally, and if recalled in time can guarantee a hit, as the orb can still connect with opponents if Menat blocks their attack. However, the orb loses its hitbox if Menat takes damage, so going to the well or poor timing and spacing can render this option moot.

Menat’s V-Trigger could also, in theory, work like a low rent version of Strider’s Ouroboros special in the Marvel vs Capcom series, using the multiple orbs in sequence to build up chip damage and keep the pressure on a blocking opponent as Menat pushes forward or teleports to try and mix up her opponent. While it probably won’t be as effective as its counterpart, it could work to help shift momentum, trap an opponent in the corner, or open a turtling player up for a combo, potentially changing the outcome of the round.

Overall, Menat looks like a character with a very high skill ceiling, requiring on-the-fly decision making, precise timing, and a constant understanding of the character's many options in the back of the player's mind. The reward for time spent in the lab and effort put into studying, however, means being able to use Menat's abilities in tandem with her special moves to get big damage on combos, maintain solid defense, and to confuse her opponents into making that one mistake to capitalize on. While it’s still too early in the game to tell if she’ll see some love in tournament play, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few notable names at least pick her up as a secondary character to counter bad matchups. The possibility also exists that someone on the cusp of Top 8’s might make a move in the vein of Xian’s switch to Ibuki where a change from a low tier character to a character that rewards precision and creativity could pay dividends. As is, I’d wager that there’ll be enough interest from some high-level players to see Menat crack a few Capcom Pro Tours and Twitch streams, while most local tournaments and online tourneys will still see the same influx of tried and true picks.

As we all know, though, the answer lies in the heart of battle.