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Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:09 am
by Watermelon
Objective: In this guide, my goal is to teach the primary scoring tactics employed by myself and other top level forwards.

Tips before we get started:
1. Stop now if you are not already familiar with the mechanics and tactics mentioned in my first guide (controls, basic passing/shooting/defense, triangle rotation). If you are not familiar with these concepts, reading this guide will not help you become a better player. You'll be like a bronze league terran trying to copy Flash's macro builds - it just doesn't work that way. You need a solid understanding of mechanics and strategy before you can apply the tactics found in this guide without hurting your own development as a player.

2. This guide will be most applicable in situations where you have the puck and want to score, without passing. Do not let this guide hinder you from choosing to pass in appropriate situations.

Professor Watermelon's

Juking, Driving, and Scoring: The Art of the Finish

Part 1. Philosophy Overview

How are finishing goals scored in Zealot Hockey?

A) A player with the puck waits for a gap to appear in the goalie's defense, and shoots the puck through it.

B) A player with the puck compels the goalie to create a gap, and shoots the puck through it.

While at first glance these two answers seem very similar, they are not.

This leads into my analysis of scoring philosophy: There are two kinds of finishers in NA Zealot Hockey.

1. Opportunistic Finishers
Those who identify, or wait for, a gap in the goalie's defense, and then shoot the puck through it.

2. Deterministic Finishers
Those who compel the goalie to create a gap, and then shoot the puck through it.

Below is a Venn Diagram of (in my opinion) what philosophy our top finishers on NA most commonly employ.


It's important to understand both of these philosophies, but how do you know which one to use in a game? This will be explained in more detail further along, but for now, here's a simple flowchart:


Part 2. Opportunistic Finishing


As mentioned in Part 1, opportunistic finishing is the act of identifying or waiting for a gap in the goalie's defense, and then shooting through it to score.

Opportunistic finishing rests on the manipulation of the goalie's mistakes, and is the simpler of the two scoring philosophies. However, simple doesn't mean more or less skilled, as opportunistic finishing requires a great deal of discipline and patience. To be a successful opportunistic finisher, you must be ready when an open shot presents itself to you.

Advantages and Disadvantages:
+ Extremely effective against goalies with poor positioning, reaction time, or latency issues (playing cross-server)
+ Minimally dependent upon shooter's latency

- Moderately ineffective against elite goalies (ProSteR, season 1 Guerrila, etc.)

Opportunistic Finishing, Section 1. Shooting before the forcefield



When approaching a defended net with the opportunistic mindset, you should be automatically asking yourself these questions:

1. Is the goalie too close or too far from one of the posts, leaving a gap uncovered by potential forcefield?

Most goalies don't have the reaction time to both X AND Z-boost to stop a shot aimed at a gap uncovered by forcefield (due to their poor initial position), making this an extremely effective shot attempt. If the goalie's initial positioning is strong (no gaps that would be unprotected by forcefield), you must then ask yourself:

2.Does the goalie have poor reaction time and/or latency, will he even expect or be capable of stopping a quick shot with forcefield?

It's usually a good idea to test a goalie's reaction time early in the game so you can have this answer throughout. Testing this is simple: Shoot at a corner of the net, and see if they force field quickly enough to stop it.

If you find that the goalie cannot forcefield quickly enough to stop these shots, one of two things will happen:

a) You'll score a ton of goals via quick corner snipes
b) The goalie will start to forcefield prematurely (before the shot is released), recognizing their weakness

Opportunistic Finishing, Section 2. Shooting during and after the forcefield

If the goalie forcefields before your shot, there are a few ways to manipulate him:

A) Shoot at the gap uncovered by the forcefield


If you're approaching from straight in front of the net, this means sniping the corner left open.


If you're approaching from a steeper angle (top or bottom) from the net, you'll often find the goalie using their forcefield on the near side, leaving the far side open. Simply use your Z-boost to cross in front of the net and slam the puck into the far side gap. Most goalies do not have the reaction time to stop this manuever.

B) Time a shot at a gap which will be left open when the forcefield subsides

This technique takes a bit of practice, but can be extremely effective. Goalies will often assume the shot will be blocked by their forcefield, and won't react quickly enough with their stick to block it.

C) Wait for the goalie to panic-Z


Oftentimes, inexperienced or nervous goalies will use their Z-boost directly after using their forcefield, thinking, "He sees the gap and is going to shoot there! I must cover it immediately!" This leaves the patient opportunist a WIDE OPEN area of the net to shoot into, once the goalie has used both abilities. The amount of time in between forcefield and panic-z can vary from goalie to goalie, but almost every goalie will inevitably do it if you're patient enough. I cannot repeat it enough: To be a successful opportunistic finisher, you must be ready when the opportunity presents itself to you.

Opportunistic Finishing, Section 3. Elite Goalies

As mentioned previously, the main disadvantage of the opportunistic philosophy is that it is not particularly effective against elite goalies, since it relies upon mistakes made by the goalie (poor positioning, slow reaction time, panic-z, poor latency, etc.). There are in fact goalies who rarely succumb to these mental mistakes, and an opportunity to score simply isn't presented to you (there's no gaps uncovered by forcefield, the forcefield is used with excellent reaction time immediately after you release your shot, and they use their z-boost at the same time that you use yours to remain in ideal position). It is because of these elite goalies that the second method of finishing, what I call the Deterministic philosophy, emerged.

Part 3. Deterministic Finishing


During what I would call the first golden age of goalies, roughly from the start of ZHL season 1 to the end of season 1, there were many top level goalies shaping up to be extremely difficult to score on. Examples are Guerilla, Cervantez, Reimer, and TownKrier. What these goalies figured out is this: If you position correctly, hit X at the proper time, have your Z ready for the opponent's shot, and have the latency and reaction time to employ this Z, you can stop any shot. Combine this with the development of "Mar Sara" defense (zealots in front of the net, click spamming the puck out), and you had a very strong defensive development in the Zealot Hockey meta.

This was the environment in which I rapidly started improving my game, and started figuring out my own scoring tactics. A shooter's response to this new rise in power for the goalie position was inevitable, and I just happened to be present for it.
Hence, we have deterministic finishing.

As mentioned earlier, deterministic finishing is when a player with the puck compells the goalie to create a gap, and shoots the puck through it. Note how this differs from the process of opportunistic finishing. With the deterministic style, you're not relying upon the goalie to make a mistake, leaving a gap for you to shoot through. Rather, you're counting on the goalie to not make a mistake. To move with you, to position themselves properly, so that you may predict, and control, their movements, forcing a gap in the place of your choice.

Advantages and Disadvantages:
+Moderately effective against top tier goalies
+Extremely effective against above average goalies

-Moderately ineffective against goalies with slow reaction time
-Moderately dependent upon shooter latency

Deterministic Finishing, Section 1. Meta-game

Meta-game is a huge part of deterministic finishing. In order for this philosophy to be at its highest efficiency, you must first recognize the character of the goalie you are up against. Does he have fast reaction time? Is he playing cross-server? Does he like to "statue", refusing to use his Z? Is he familiar with your shooting style?

These are important questions to ask when facing any goalie. I said in opportunistic finishing that it's a good idea to take some early snipes to familiarize yourself with the enemy goalie. That same tip can apply here as well. Figure out his reaction time, see if he likes to pair his forcefield and Z-boost together, and see if he likes to forcefield prematurely.

If it turns out that the enemy goalie just isn't very good, can't react quickly enough to cover open gaps, has poor positioning, etc., then you should probably consider just sticking with Opportunistic scoring against him. However, if snipes are ineffective, or if you know beforehand that he is a top level goalie, deterministic scoring is your best option.

When employing deterministic tactics which I will list below, it's important to remember that these are mentally focused, not reflex. You are appealing to the fact that the goalie you're up against is good at what he does. That he will react appropriately to the threats you present, which you can then exploit.

Deterministic Finishing Section 2. Non-1v1 moves

Before we get into beating goalies 1v1, here are some tips involving action with teammates:

A) Fake the one-timer

Most good goalies are good because they have conditioned themselves to stop one-timers. It's a mental and physical reflex that they have a hard time avoiding. You should use this to your advantage. Keep in mind that although your teammates can tell when you hit that C button, the opponents do not see that animation. When you receive a high powered pass in front of the enemy net, the goalie will often assume it's a one-timer and react accordingly. This makes it extremely easy to skate across the net and shoot in the open area on the opposite side.

B) Fake the fake one-timer


Some top goalies will anticipate the fake one-timer. When the goalie does this, use it to your advantage. Fake the fake one-timer, and then turn around and take a straight shot, as shown above.

Deterministic Finishing, Section 3. Establishing Position For 1v1

Deterministic finishing is by far most effective when you have an established position, hopefully with a Z-boost, in front of the enemy net. On breakaways this is easy, but when the opposing defense is set, it can be tricky, and you’ll see why latency plays a factor. Here are some general tips for establishing position for a deterministic shot:

A) Catching in traffic (“posting up”)


Being able to receive passes in traffic is an extremely useful skill that can allow you to establish position more efficiently when the enemy defense is set up. Generally, you want to form a habit of clicking to steal every time you catch the puck. This way, if an enemy skater intercepts the pass right in front of you, you can quickly steal it and move to the net. You should especially work on keeping your clicks close to your zealot, so if you are not challenged for the puck, you don’t immediately shoot it away. Ideally, you want to gain control of the puck in traffic and immediately separate from the opposing defensive skaters before they can react, keeping your Z-boost saved to use against the goalie.

B) Clicking, spinning, juking through the defense


Click re-stealing is an extremely useful skill when it comes to establishing position in front of the enemy net. Several top players are able to click themselves all the way to the opponents’ crease, leaving them in an excellent position to juke the goalie and score.

Spinning/juking can also be very effective in getting around enemy defenders. This is an effective changeup from click re-stealing, and can catch defenders off-guard. It is also useful against defenders who decide to Z-boost and steal from you, since it’s easier to juke around their boosting zealot than it is to click re-steal from them (because they are moving really fast and the click window is extremely small).

Deterministic Finishing, Section 4. Beating the goalie 1v1

You’ve identified that the enemy goalie is good enough to block most opportunistic shots. You have the puck and you want to score without passing. You’ve established position in front of the enemy net. It’s time to get to work on the goalie.

Deterministic finishing rests on the concept that the enemy goalie will correctly respond to your movements. Hence, you must juke in a way that demands a response, presenting the goalie with multiple threats he must respond to.

Note: If you find that the goalie isn’t responding to your threats, make him pay for it and take opportunistic shots instead.

Below are some tips and tricks for threatening the enemy goalie:

A) Fundamentals and Mechanics

1. Vertical movement


First and foremost, you must understand the fundamental aspect of juking vertically (up and down) with your zealot. This is essential for threatening as many shot angles on the net as possible, and the angles are wider. Wider angles means the goalie has to commit farther up or down to stop any potential shot, and his forcefield covers less of both angles, which makes him feel more threatened.

2. Shot velocity
The speed of your shot is important, since slow shots are easier to stop than fast ones. To keep your shot velocity high:

a) Aim behind the net. Shot velocity is determined not only by the power bar, but by how far away your cursor is. At closer range, shot accuracy isn’t as important since the angle you have to shoot is wider. Use this to your advantage by aiming with your cursor behind the net, increasing shot power.

b) Hold down your power bar. This is a no-brainer. Having your power held down means that when you stop moving, it will instantaneously start to increase, and the velocity of your shot will be higher when you release it. This is most effective when there are not enemy skaters near you, since holding down shot power renders you unable to click re-steal.

3. X button or no X button?
Many shooters become unsure of whether or not they should be using the X button when they juke a goalie. The answer is you can do either. Generally, it’s like an NFL quarterback pump faking. Harder pump fakes (using the X button) take longer, but are more convincing. Lighter pump fakes (no X) take less time, but are less convincing. Find a balance you are comfortable with.

4. Time awareness
You need to be aware of how much time you have to take your shot. Pay attention to how close enemy skaters are, and whether or not their Z boost is on cooldown.

5. Fight for the rebound
Oftentimes I will find myself missing a shot, but catching the rebound and shooting again for an extremely easy score (since the goalie used his abilities on the first attempt). Don't neglect the possibility for rebounds!

B) Baiting the forcefield

Deterministic finishing is extremely effective once the goalie has no forcefield. To successfully bait a forcefield, you must threaten two or more angles on the net. Generally, just getting close to the net is enough to do this. If the goalie for some reason saves his forcefield longer than usual, use your Z-boost across the net and he’ll surely forcefield. If he still doesn’t, switch to the opportunistic style and start taking Z-boost shots until he does.

C) During the forcefield

With the deterministic finishing style, there are a few different things you can do while the goalie is in his forcefield.

1. Keep him rooted


When a goalie is in his forcefield, his top concern is which direction he’s going to move once it subsides. Threatening both corners of the net in rapid succession will confuse the goalie. He’ll have no idea where you’re going to shoot, and one of two things will happen:
a) He panic boosts to one corner, leaving a wide open opportunistic shot.
b) He stays put, leaving both angles open, allowing you to manipulate him further after the forcefield subsides.

2. Compel him to one side

An alternative to keeping the goalie rooted in his forcefield is to very obviously favor one side of the net. This guarantees the goalie will move in that direction after the forcefield subsides, and he’ll do one of the following:
a) He’ll panic boost to that side, leaving an easy shot on the opposite end.
b) He’ll move without boost to that side, allowing you to manipulate him further.

D) After the forcefield

Once the goalie’s forcefield has subsided, or is already on cooldown, your job as a deterministic finisher becomes a lot easier. The goalie is now forced to use his reaction time to follow your movements with his stick, trying to block each shot angle has you threaten them. It’s important to remember that your goal is no longer to beat his positioning by shooting at a corner of the net. Rather, your goal is to beat his stick. Shots closer to the middle of the net can be very effective here.

This is where deterministic finishing becomes very dynamic, and there are numerous tactics which can be explored, but here are some that I find to be the most useful:

1. Rhythmic juking


The human brain is wired to detect and respond to rhythm, including rhythm in movement. You can take advantage of this.
Present an elite goalie with a particular rhythm of jukes. He will very quickly catch on to it, and will start moving with you in that rhythm. Then, abruptly act outside of the rhythm right before taking a shot. This very often catches the goalie off-guard for a score.

2. Spins, counter-spins, and half-spins


Another way to trick the goalie is by performing choreographed maneuvers, and then later, faking them. A good example of this is spinning. I have found that spinning is extremely useful in meta-game against goalies, because if you spin enough, they will start expecting you to complete every spin. Throw in a half-spin followed by a quick shot, and catch the goalie off-guard.

3. Z-shots and fake Z-shots


A tactic which is extremely effective against even the most elite goalies is the use of vertical Z-boosts to bait the goalie’s Z. This works because the goalie must respond to a vertical Z-boost in order to keep covering potential shot angles. If for some reason he doesn’t respond, start taking opportunistic Z-boost shots to compel him to in the future.

4. Using self-passes

Self-passes are very effective to fake a shot in front of the net, because of the sound they make. Yes, goalies often respond to sound just as much as sight. Hearing that shot sound sometimes baits a panic Z out of the goalie, or at least distracts him enough to open up an easy shot.

5. Combinations!

Feel free to combine two or more of the tactics above. The possibilities are endless.

Part 4. Closing Thoughts

There is no concrete right or wrong way to score goals in Zealot Hockey, and meta-game will surely change over time. That being said, I hope this guide gives you insight into the minds of top level finishers.

Special thanks to Ranchinator for gif production <3

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them here or PM me. If any good players feel like I am leaving out anything, please let me know immediately so I may add it in (just keep in mind the focus of this guide is primarily for scoring without passing).

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:33 am
by Ranchinator
Bookmarked. Must remember to be as basic as possible to beat Proster in net.

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:10 pm
by xNCrush
It's interesting reading this as a goalie. In a way it's kind of a goalie guide too. Good stuff, professor, thanks for the lesson.

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:26 pm
by BacKFisCh
Awesome guide Water! very nice to read.
But one think isn't that clear for me..
4.3.D 1. Rhythmic juking:
I can't really imaginate how to do that... Is it possible to explain it more or to add a Gif? :D

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:08 pm
by xNCrush
BacKFisCh wrote:Awesome guide Water! very nice to read.
But one think isn't that clear for me..
4.3.D 1. Rhythmic juking:
I can't really imaginate how to do that... Is it possible to explain it more or to add a Gif? :D
Fake up (goalie moves up), fake down (goalie moves down), fake up (goalie moves up), fake down (goalie moves down), continue down (goalie moves up because they expect the rhythm), score bottom side.

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:23 pm
by l)arkangel
you forgot the meanest juking of all. you must have near 0 latency to pull this off and other player should seem to have a bit. if a player is traveling near same speed as you and in a similar direction, wait for him to click to steal once (assuming he misses). Once he has missed, there is indeed a slight cooldown on steal, so throw the puck right on top of his for a split second. move the puck out in time before the cooldown is up and he will more like than not click where the puck was. rinse and repeat while he keeps missing and wasting his steals. Careful not to do it too many times cause they will start to catch on. Thanks for that lesson yesterday Professor Water. welp

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:23 pm
by TeeKay
Rekt bulba get left off the list

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:37 pm
by Kurt_58
Me on this list as a top finisher? Get the fuck out. My strategy is to pass it to my teammates and let them press C and aim at goal. It's no secret.

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:52 pm
by MoS
I was about to say that Kurt was nub ye.

Interesting way to look at those scoring methods, I've been doing a bit of that but never thought to put in words like this. Everything is very situational from my point of view, and will more look like a combination of a lot of small moves (self pass or spins) to get a gap open, but first and foremost to dodge defenders. One of the best way still remains in my point of view to juke and dodge steals until your Z gets out of cd, then it's fairly easy.

Re: Professor Watermelon's "Art of the Finish"

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:22 pm

Very helpful to see where you click in the gif's. Thanks for giving back to the community Watermellon. Hope you keep that mentality throughout your life.