10 Lessons Learned - My Inaugural KI Journey

Killer Instinct Aristocrats,

How’s your life? Hard to believe it was only a month ago that I rushed onto the battle shores of Killer Instinct and began exchanging blows with anybody who wanted to dance. Since then, I’ve probably jammed in about 1500 matches between Story, Survival, Shadow, Exhibition and Ranked. In honor of the journey, here’s 10 things I’ve learned since I picked up my Tomahawks.

  1. Originally I played every single character the same. Straight up, rush and mash. In hindsight that seems ridiculous now given how differently they move, hit, play and feel. Oh and I also found out, a little defensive prowess goes a long way.

  2. If you use any character long enough, you’ll find a way to love them. At least a little. Sometimes you have to look pretty hard but each one has got some showstoppers to enjoy.

  3. I gravitated to Season 2 characters originally, but after a month Thunder, Jago and Orchid lead my charge. I still haven’t set myself on a main and side character though, Playing the field until I carve out a style and the update arrives.

  4. Playing beginner (or even medium) AI is virtually useless. And bad habit forming. If I was going back in time I’d tell myself to make it challenging immediately even if the bots work me. Playing on beginner only exposes you to 30% of the real game given you never get an instinct bar, never have to block, never get punished for repeating patterns etc.

  5. There must be a term for it, but I struggle with specials when on the right side of fight. In fact there’s a colossus gap between my special efficiency from one side to the other. For example an Endokuken I could throw 85-90% of the time from the left, and about 20-25% from the right. A cataclysmic difference which leads to awkwardly spending some matches trying to flip sides on opponents needlessly and losing chunks doing so. Luckily opponents don’t know this about me, but in the long run I need to figure out why I can’t perform the same specials in reverse order.

  6. Speaking of things I can’t do, Dojo lesson 16 for some reason. Even after a month, nothing brings rage crashing down on me like a Dojo lesson gone wrong in Killer Instinct. Unlike any other frustration I can compare to in a video game. And I’m generally a really laid back dude.

  7. I’ve really enjoyed the ranked scene, although it was too easy to get gold and I can’t even get relegated back. So my matchups have flipped where I’m often very out qualified. Still I love it, and good learning experience. The majority of players, especially in higher tiers are really respectful even if they wipe the floor with you. A lot of these people earn my respect after a fight, except the odd player who will t-bag? That seems counter intuitive. Beat me and you earn my respect, t-bag and you lost everything you just gained. Bizarre it has always seemed to me, the need to flick your controller up and down and hump like a feral dog. Maybe these people want to think about what message they are sending to others about themselves, although I’m thinking very little ‘thinking’ probably goes on with them.

  8. The learning curve is pretty huge, if you really want to understand it all. So between videos, matches, tournaments and that amazing KI guide I just try and take one thing away per day. By sometime next year I’ll understand all the moves, functions, characters and lingo lol.

  9. Speaking of crazy fighter game jargon, I watched the KI tournament last weekend. So hype. First time I’ve had a real interest and it makes for sensational viewing unlike most shooters I’ve liked. Really cool scene, definitely had some favorites immediately, I was impressed.

  10. Can’t wait for Season 3!

Here’s to KI,


That’s really cool to hear you are enjoying KI. I like to hear about new players learning and getting excited for the game. Such a refreshing thing to read this vs. most the garbage around here. Fight on !


Wasn’t Ki CUp just so freaking great, well done, HYPE, and every other awesome adjective I cant think of right now! LOL… my family watched it both days with me and they loved it as well. Ki is so awesome right now and S3 isnt even in our hands yet! Imagine how hype it will be in 1 month!!! OMG!!!

If you want to play some fun sets thats not competitive hit me up…Ill be on here shortly and everyday from 5-9pm central time


Fantastic post. Looking inward is a difficult but rewarding part of any learning-journey. Glad to see you’ve chosen to take it on!


I have some advice regarding point number five. It’s not really obvious to a lot of people until they think about it, but the D-pad is not symmetrical with your thumb. The number one reason people have trouble doing certain moves from one side of the screen is because they just get it in their head that they need to do a certain motion, and then think about flipping that motion for the opposite screen side. This is not how you should go about thinking of this.

The way I solved this dilemma was by really thinking about what my thumb is actually doing on the D-pad. Go to practice and crank out the same special move over and over. Really think about where your thumb is pressing and how fast. I’m about to outline how I press my thumb for a Tiger Fury motion, but I realize some people will press it differently. I have a friend who struggles with Tiger Fury’s because of the way he presses a D-pad. In his case, he kind of has his thumb cocked in a right angle at the knuckle, and is pressing the directions practically with the tip of his thumb. I’m sure someone out there can pull this off, but I think it makes things unnecessarily harder.

Here’s how I do it from the left of the screen:
Resting position is my thumb slanted facing the “start” or X button. I press right using the upper-middle part of the upper thumb segment. I then immediately tilt my thumb down in a sliding motion to hit the down key. I then simply keep the down key pressed while sliding the part of the thumb that hit the right key back onto it.

Here’s how I do it from the right of the screen:
Resting position is a little cocked up, facing closer to the xbox home button. I press the left key with a part of the thumb closer to the upper left tip, but still largely flattened. I then do a hard-jerk movement down and physically move my thumb off the D-pad more than feels natural. I then get the very tip of my upper left thumb to come back down on the left key.

You don’t have to do it exactly like this, I just wanted to showcase the difference. I always had problems from the right because it just felt unnatural to move my thumb that far down. But once I realized this, I just drilled it away by thinking about how it looks when I do it consistently. Try just looking down at your thumb and playing in practice mode for these kinds of moves.


I was hoping someone might chime in with some advice, can’t lie half the reason for #5 was because I was fishing a bit for tips! Interesting perspective. Definitely will look at the cocking of my thumb/position in a practice session. It’s almost unreal in a real match especially when pressure is on, how often I whiff on projectiles fighting from the right side. Probably why I have more success currently in rank with rushdown characters (with the exception of Kan-Ra who oddly I can use/like).

Thanks for taking the time and tip!

Honestly there really aren’t many tips you can get besides practice. Unfortunately it’s one of those things that just takes some time.


I struggled for most of my career in street fighter with non-charge characters but I have zero issues now in KI. My issue in SF was that my stick position was different each time, wobbly at times. So if your inputs are not clean, then consider the position of your stick, or button layout on your controller, grip, etc.

Also, I think that in practice mode not resetting your position to the left hand of the screen each time helps. Doing your intended combo or scenario from either side without thinking removes the mental hurdle (a big factor imo). Doubting your execution skills based on screen positioning, just hampers your development.

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I guess it’s just me, and @Jukesy1992, but I have no idea why, but I never use my thumb for DPad. I use my index and middle fingers instead, that’s probably where you’re going wrong - I can try and elaborate in a later post if needs be

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Wait…what? How is that even possible? lol
You really use 2 fingers for the Dpad? wow

It’s really, really common to have an execution gap depending on which side of the screen you are facing. I can’t add any advice to what has been given, but this will improve with practice.

@KarmaCop52 I would recommend getting a fight stick. there still is some difference from side to side but not near as much as with the D-pad IMO

Also just practice being on the right side for an entire week. I guarantee by the end of the week you will be ready to go no matter which side you are on…but that will take some discipline… I think you can do it. Just keep it steady and remember…

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

I’ve used two fingers for DPad as far back as I can remember - Tekken 3 on the PS1 and SF Ex+Alpha on the same console. I could say the same for you - What you use your thumb for your Dpad? That’s ludicrous… :smiley:

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Like Seraphs I have a hard time imagining how you hold your gamepad to pull that off, I assume you have your gamepad laying in front of you like a keyboard?


Do most of you use the D-Pad and not the thumbstick?

Now you can add Lesson 11: Practice makes motions better.

Both together? I can imagine one, I’ve done it myself for Tekken 3. How do you/do you use the left shoulder buttons?

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I do indeed use the shoulder buttons, as hitting x, y and rb at the same time, let alone a, b and rt, is very tricky at the best of times.

How exctly I accomplish this is different depending on the situation though it mostly consists of moving my hand to get my index finger to the appropriate button.

I do motions and hold the controler so subconsciously in KI that I can’t really easily describe how it works for me.

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I use the thumbstick, dont always get the move I want, which can lead to a defeat I’m sad to say.

But the dpad feels too much to the left for me, since I never use it for anything else, except flipping through items in a game, its just not in a place I’m familiar with.
Add to that that its feels to smooth for me and I kind of feel like I’m missing the diagonal inputs.
Its better then the 360 dpad, but still not the way I would like it. Could do every move on my snes (SF2) back in the day, so would love a good dpad if it were available. Dashing left and right works miles better with a dpad.


I had a hard time with that one too. What part are you having trouble with? The launchers or the wallsplats?
I love the dojo lessons! I’m really into fighting games but I’m not very good at them to be honest. I really feel like the dojo has helped me with all fighting games and not just KI.

Hopefully one day I’ll be able to afford a fight stick but until then I’ll be using the thumbstick. I have the same problems but it is so hard for me to pull off a consistent quarter circle forward on a d-pad!

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I use a FS for KI but with MkX I use the Dpad…I cant use the thumb stick…I end up jumping unintended too often!

On the elite controller if you use the diamond plate looking Dpad it works really good!

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