Aggressive Play V. Defensive Play

Since I’ve been lacking in the defense department, I began playing Jago and Spinal to help my sub-par defense for a while. This would consist of…

Never attacking first until I get some momentum going
Always AAing jump-ins
Poking out of fake pressure strings
Shadow countering everything and etc…

Playing this I’ve noticed that so many people online love to play a style I like to call, “smother the opponent until they get desperate.” Many players will rely on the characters shenanigans to open the opponent up, but the thing that I’ve noticed is that I rarely see anyone take it a lil slower and play defensivly (this does not include zoning). Pure aggression no matter who I play.

After playing an extremely fun match with a 4 star cinder, I noticed that it doesn’t always take 100mph matches to be fun. At times, two defensive players during it out is as much fun as something crazy like a rash mirror. I also noticed that playing defensively can be as effective as any other aggresive play style.

Now I understand some characters are made for complete rushdown, but I’ll pose this question? Why aren’t there more defensive players online?
Why aren’t shadow counters being used and why does AAing almost not exist? They teach you this clearly in the dojo? Why can’t people take it slow sometimes?


Because playing defensive requires game knowledge and a lot of people aren’t too interested in that.

Strong defensive players with good game knowledge like Amenty and Dayton are extremely hard to fight against. Good defensive play has a lot of merit in almost every game, even one as offensive as KI, but most online fighting game players aren’t too interested in learning good defense.


Hmmm…if that’s the case, then why are there players with stars who never shadow counter or AA. You would expect them to have the best understanding of the game (with some exceptions, others have great game sense as well)

Because pro stars aren’t a very accurate measure of skill


Stars, for me anyway, have not really been a symbol of a higher level of game fundamentals or game knowledge in a VERY general sense. Still want one for myself though…

I side a little bit with Infil; defense is not a paramount skill that’s established. If i think about it, around the time i noticed the bevy of Steam players migrating to KI, the things they lacked as they gained a better feel of the game might have been those defensive options. I know for a fact some of them were not new to fighting games.

Perhaps another thing is it’s definitely more hype and ‘sexy’ to be able to offensively shut down an opponent than to defensively shut the door on any attempts to break a guard. You do not generate a ton of excitement from, for example, blocking out a layered Eagle corner setup as you would for a counter-hit confirm into ultra. Offense gets the blood pumping and the latter would probably make you more excited than the former.

Or, also, that a fair bit of advice and guidance in the way to play a fighting game tends to lead toward a more offensive approach than a defensive one.

Or that many players feel uncomfortable if the only they they can do is either attempt a risky reversal, a risky evasive movement or block. No one likes having to hold pressure to only get opened up and feel like ‘Well, what was the point in that??’

Maybe the biggest thing is that, in a very broad stroke of the brush, defense requires you to ‘sit still’ and not many want to ‘sit still’ in a fighting game.

I say all of these reasons to really come back to my main point that offense is generally easier to do than defense.


@STLemonHunter is right. Sadly, a Pro Star simply means that you’ve played and won enough games to get one. I’ve had months where I came very close to getting a star, but almost all of my fights were against people who weren’t that great. Then I’ve had months were I would get paired with Bass, Rico, ect ect and I be made to look like a noob.

I’ve also fought a few Pro Star players that used the all mighty power of lag. Just last month one player cheated their way to a star and was banned.

Learning defense though, to echo @Infilament is quite possibly one of the greatest lessons you can learn in any fighting game, but especially KI.

KI, by its very nature rewards aggression and most people, including myself, can excel in quickly overpowering a person who doesn’t know what to do, but on the same token I can quickly become overpowered due to our own weaknesses in defense.

As a Sadira main, being grounded and in a corner usually means certain death. She has some pretty weak defense, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Learning to block high and low can work magic. I know this is where I’m having to work the hardest.


I just played a wonderful set as Cinder vs Aganos, in which average games lasted till 0~25 KI secs. We were both trying to punish our opponent, as I could dechunk Aganos with Fired up Inferno, and he could bully me when I was not in fired up state. I could bully him, when I got rid of his chunks. He could hit me after DP before pillar shows up, I could detonate 3 bombs with Shadow Pyro. The transisions between offensive and defence were at least interesting, that showed our MU knowledge and we did stuff not noticable online (mostly). Those games are the best, in comparison to that, where its all about rushdown.


I think this is an interesting part of your question that i wanted to explore a little bit more. If you had to put out a feel of what characters (outside of the zoner archtype) are very defensive by design, what characters might you think of?

For me, i thought specifically of Spinal, RAAM, Kim Wu, Shin Hisako, and Arbiter. If there’s one thing these character share among themselves is that they are generally under-represented by the online players. There are certainly noteworthy players, but you do not generally say there are a ton of these players around.

So for this particular question, makes sense to me to say that you don’t see a ton of defensive players because not a lot of people use characters with a defensive (or perhaps, passive) makeup.

I think in certain match ups a defensive style is key. I play Sadira and the best way to deal with her toughest matchups like gargos or cinder is sit back and let em whiff and punish them. If ur patient tgey will beat themselves. Now your eagle (which is one of the best ive seen btw) on the other hand i try and smother with offense.

Because KI favors nutty play, specially online

because most of this players rely on either lots of neutral jumps/jump ins and characters with cross ups (like Rash, Mira, Sadira, jumping Jagos, Shagos, etc) or grapplers, that will take advantage of your shadow counter attemps

Again, they are totally NUTS. They don’t care about leraning anything about the game or playing the player, they just do stuff like crazy. I find it extremelly boring and it doesn’t help me to get better. It’s hard to practice condidioning when the mashing, lag, gimmicks, guessbreaking are the main thing happening.

I try to remember if this happened while I played arcades…Honestly I can’t recall. I don’t remember players like this. I remember not very good players, but never this crazy or clumsy. If they would try to play KI1 like this I’ll destroy them in a blink.

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It’s quite simple why people gravitate towards offense over defense:
How do you win? You take away all you opponents health.
How do you take away your opponents health? You hit them.
How do you hit them? Attack!!


To put it bluntly - because most KI players online are bad. But since the default state of the community is “bad”, it’s possible to progress and be quite successful even if you yourself never cultivate these fundamental defensive capabilities.

To explore the why of why bad play brings success though, you need look no further than KI’s incredibly strong offensive options. It’s relatively easy to smother away an opponent’s lifebar in this game, and if I can kill you in this manner then I have no need to learn to defend properly. It’s a truism among FG players that we’d all rather have you put up with our nonsense than have to block yours, and KI’s offense is strong enough that that feels like a viable long-term strategy to many people. They feel that if they can just get that one hit, they can win, and since most opponents don’t have good defense either, there’s an ok chance that they’re right. So at a medium to high-intermediate level, defensive players largely don’t exist.

These kinds of players (and there are many of them) are the ones who’ve managed to cultivate high levels of offensive prowess, enough of it that they’re able to reliably murder most of their opponents before those players have a chance to assert their own pressure. Again, offense in KI is quite strong, so until these players run into someone who actually has some defensive capacity, they’re likely to just never have to work on that portion of their own game. If you never get put in defensive situations, you’ll never be able to improve on that portion of your game.

I don’t actually think this has anything to do with it. All characters can be played with an eye toward defensive play, as defense is more than just blocking (it involves spacing, preemption, whiff punishing, etc), and many of the ones you listed instead exemplify the potent offensive vortex that lets someone not have to block. Being slow or a big target doesn’t automatically mean you have to play more defense, just like having a DP doesn’t mean you have to play less (and DP’s are a facet of defense too). Playing Raam might mean you’re more used to having to hold wakeup pressure…or it might mean you’ve just got some really nasty oki pressure yourself. It really just depends on what skills the player wants to inculcate.

As Infil said, strong defense is hard, and most players would simply prefer to try and hit and kill you first than worry too hard about playing great defense. But defense is incredibly strong in KI just like, and in some ways even moreso than, other fighters. Not too many AA DP’s hit for 17%, and not too many games have a universal defensive option that opens into a full combo. It’s really just a matter of players deciding they want to improve in those areas.


I love defensive play… I loving watching it, I love using it (Poorly I might Add) and I love studying it. I pretty much choose my Fighting Games based on its viability of supporting Defensive Playstyles… which is why I stay very far away from Mortal Kombat.

That being said… I think you don’t see alot of Defensive play because its not the most visually exciting of playstyles in Games. And when players hop into Fighting Game they want that Spectacle… hence they’l harras you with Buttons… they would be frustrared if they were locked into a Corner and they want to put this frustration on you in order to get you to Panic.

Atleast thats my Theory…

Ofcourse then that brings up another issue… can you turn Defensive Play into a Spectacle ?

In B4 Evo Moment 37. :wink:

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I will respond to everyone tommorow when i have more time but i really am interested in this. Why do you say this? And more importantly, why do you believe so many players are “bad”?

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If you’re saying you don’t buy that under-representation is a reason why there isn’t a defensive population of players, i can understand that but i can’t say i agree, either.

Spinal and Kim Wu rely on resources to get going that can be gained by preemption of the opponent’s attacks, but to be totally fair, also through offensive means as well. RAAM not all that long ago didn’t have what amounts to a FADC to approach, but still has times where walking, blocking and spacing his normals works best. Arbiter, generally, does not excel by rushing in with his big buttons, kinda slow-ish jumps and not as great dashes. So on and so forth.

But the greater gambit of online players do not seem to want to deal with those things to win their matches. Like you said, making the opposing player deal with your shenanigans versus dealing with theirs. And of the general roster, those 5 (maybe a few more) perhaps don’t see a lot of play to me because of those reasons. Others things can play into it too.

All in all, it’s going to boil down to the player themselves to make the decision as to whether they want to play geared more toward offense or more toward defense. And just as there are players that are noted for their defensive prowess, like Amenty, there are some that are noted for their offense stubbornness/prowess too, like, say, Menzo.

Speaking only for myself, when i have the opportunity to play players of tournament calibur and thereabouts, I’ve seen a very clear gap between myself and them. One that isn’t really because of MU’s, but more of depth of skill, adaptability, and discipline. Would it be fair to say that a good majority of the players do not have those things? Quite possibly. I don’t, and my record(s) in sets against high-level players reflect that too. I also boil it down to a simple question of ‘was that competitive?’ and if I couldn’t answer ‘yes’ to that question, then yes, it came down to a match of a good player against a bad one.

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I’d wager you should be doing this anyways! Even watching high end KI tourneys I rarely see people AA. That may be because a lot of KI characters have some scary stuff in the air, but almost every character has a decent AA to get the off.

I think in a game where offense is so potent like Killer Instinct, mastering defense like what you’re trying to do here is a really awesome way to boost your performance. Like you said, people are used to nutty play, but have a hard time when the wacky stuff doesn’t work.

Good work, dude. Hope to see you continue improving in the future!

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I agree with Storm… the bulk of people that make up majority of Fighting Game’s sales are… well… Bad players.

This isn’t just in KI but in pretty much any Fighting Game… lol the series is funded by button mashers and so long as theres enough of them… they can have an enjoyable online experience since they have a high chance of running into other bad players… the occasional pro who shows up and Bodies them usually isn’t enough to turn them away or make’em go try to complete the tutorial… not only that. But the Network Lag helps aswell since that allows them to on occasion beat intermediate level players.

I’d like to live in a world where people didn’t hate learning so much but hey… What are you gonna do…

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Not counting air trajectory characters, and assuming you have a DP, I find AAing both easy and hard in KI. It’s hard because there’s a lot going on and you have to divert your attention to a lot of places, but it’s actually kind of easy at other times, because your attention is honed a lot more on movement in KI, and a jump is more likely to come up because characters are moving around a lot naturally.

That’s kind of why I think SFV AAs are harder… they focus so much on the ground and jumps are so rare that using a DP motion to AA the one jump that comes every 20-30 seconds is actually reasonably tough (one button AAs are easier). In KI, you expect a jump is probably coming decently soon in many cases, so it forces you to keep on top of it? It’s a little hard to explain, maybe. And of course, you won’t always AA if you were expecting a wind kick or something like that, but in general I find that the increased pace of KI actually helps me AA more often.

As far as playing defense in KI, defense is super important in every game. I actually think, like Storm said, KI defense is really powerful. Shadow counters let you turn good defense into a combo, which is something very few other games let you do (including games with alpha counters). And more importantly, there are a lot of minus/punishable moves in KI now… a lot more than there were in S1 and S2 I think. Choosing to not always do something and letting your opponent hang himself will actually lead to more damage than in the past.

The difficulty with KI is that block stun feels pretty inconsistent between moves, so you have to be quite practiced in order to make sure you can punish everything consistently. Some moves have gigantic block stun (like, say, Arbiter rush punch), while others require almost instantly (like, say, Jago shadow fireball). So punishing and taking turns back on ALL minus moves is actually pretty challenging.

True, but I guess I think of those things primarily as “neutral”. Raam walking you down is him playing neutral. Spinal managing his space to get the first touch is also neutral (though I think spacing himself to bait the jump and then batting you down with down+HP showcases defensive skill as well). While the characters you mentioned can indeed die pretty easily if one doesn’t have solid defense, they’re also among the most dangerous vortex characters in the game. If Raam knocks you down - good luck. If Arbiter knocks you down - good luck. If Spinal throws you - good luck. There are plenty of players for these characters who have absolutely ■■■■-awful defense, just because they have strong vortexes once you’ve mastered that component of them.

I say this because I’ve recently been playing with an eye towards improving specific aspects of my game on hitbox, and what I’ve largely found is that I literally cannot practice certain things because a huge portion of my opponents simply will not stop pushing buttons. I had to start doing one-chance->wallsplat to get more chances at neutral, because mofos wouldn’t stop guess breaking first frame and wouldn’t stop trying to forward dash or jab or DP on wakeup. I can’t work on anti-airs because Jago’s just fullscreen windkick to get in, I can’t practice certain resets because people just mash jab the entirety of getting hit, can’t practice certain Sadira juggles because people guess so much that I can’t resist counterbreaking, etc. I played a Gargos as Sadira this morning thinking it’d be a good chance to work on defense and patient neutral in unfavorable situations, and the guy just psycho crushered into second psycho crusher. Every. Single. Time. From fullscreen, from point blank, from midscreen, on wakeup. No portal punches, no minion calls, no jump+HK, no command grabs. And he was a Killer. I say this without a hint of exaggeration - if you can consistently meaty properly , you can be an above-average Killer in KI. Because most of the player-base is bad, and doesn’t know how or why they’re bad.

Now let me be clear - most fighting game players are bad. SFV up until about upper Gold is the wild west, and I’ve found the average GG player to be little better. Casual players don’t necessarily care to be “good” (and that’s fine!), and many players who are more hardcore simply haven’t ever been forced to learn to be good either, simply because they’ve been able to do well against bad players and haven’t yet consistently encountered players who can shut them down. KI isn’t unique in this. People hone their skills against players with terrible habits, and because of that themselves grow in ways that are easily patternable and exploitable by someone who’s got a more critical eye for playstyles and tendencies. It’s hard to get better if there isn’t anyone around who can shove your flaws right down your throat.


Oh man… isn’t it a huge pain in the ■■■ when you block a move… hit a button and your character just stands there like a moron. :rage:
But I’m not really gonna whine to much about this because it happens when I don’t practice Punishes.

Anti Airing in SFV is strange… especially with the Great Nerf to invincible meterless AAs. Depending on who I’m going up against I just Block and pray they don’t empty jump low me… I think this works best Against Bison… atleast until he activates his V Trigger.