Character Recommendations

Hello all,

I plan on picking Killer Instinct up when next it goes on sale, as I’m really enjoying the free-to-play version.

I’m a veteran of the Mortal Kombat franchise, and Killer Instinct plays very differently and I’m enjoying the mechanics and concepts behind it.

I’m curious for some character recommendations. Typically I look at the roster and pick characters to learn based on who I overall like the look of, and who looks fun; I’m not one to pick based on Tier placement.

In Mortal Kombat 11, for example, I main Fan-Fare/Highborn Kitana and my secondary is Dead of Winter Sub-Zero. I plan on learning Jaded Jade, and want to pick up Shao Kahn (not sure the Variation yet) because he looks crazy fun.

Back in Mortal Kombat XL, I mained Ravenous/Piercing Mileena, and Assassin Kitana, and my secondary was Smoke LK-7T2 Triborg.

Who do you think would be a good Killer Instinct fit for me? I was thinking of trying out Fulgore, Sadira, and Arbiter. Fulgore was who I toyed with back in 1995 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sadira just looks great and crazy fun, and the Arbiter is my favourite character from the Halo franchise.


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Hey man! Glad you’re picking the game up. I guess it depends on what types of characters you enjoy.

If you’re looking for good entry characters, Jago and Sabrewulf fit the bill. Jago is your mostly standard shoto character, but if you want some crazy fun twists, Shadow Jago has a ton of different stuff and plays rather differently than Jago. Shadow Jago is harder to use and does less damage, but he’s a fun show-off character (to me, anyways).

Other more showy characters, and again this is more just my opinion, are Cinder, Kan Ra and ARIA.

As a Sadira main, I’d say she’s very fun, and while her move list is slightly limited versus the three I mentioned above, she still has a fun overall kit, especially if you like juggling. It just takes a good amount of practice and some really quick reflexes to get the timing down on her juggles. Some feel rather easy, and some are definitely not.

Kan Ra, to me, is like a more fun, Killer Instinct answer to MK11’s Geras (I know, Kan Ra came out years before). Both use a lot of sand in their movesets, but while Kan Ra has a nice distance command throw, he also has several other uses for sand and he’s a pretty fun character to use to control space.

Cinder, to me, has some of the most stylish looking combos in the game. Just check out some high level play of him on Youtube if you haven’t already and prepare to be amazed. It’s also fun to burn people’s arms or legs and watch the potential damage drain, or put the sticky orbs on opponents and explode them when they least expect it. He’s heavy combo, light damage, but overall a fun one to use.

One other character I might mention that to me feels as though she might kinda be in the Mileena mold is Mira. Not sure how much you know about her but she’s a glass cannon character that can do a ton of damage at the expense of her own potential damage. She has some cool moves, such as an air gliding dash, mist, a cannon drill and a silver blood scythe. She has a similar attitude to Mileena, has some cool outfits (love her Jack of Blades from Fable mask look) and she’s just all around fun.

Hope that helps! Honestly, there aren’t many characters you can go wrong with. Some are harder than others. Cinder, ARIA, Shadow Jago and Kan Ra are amongst the hardest to use at a high level, but at low and mid-levels they have some fun stuff. Honestly all of them have fun stuff. I love how TJ’s combos look, Maya has some awesome juggles, Fulgore has some fun mixups and yeah, nothing beats repeatedly stomping on the opponents head as Sadira lol.

But yeah, Jago, Sabrewulf, Orchid and Tusk all feel like fun starter characters to me. Ah, I forgot to mention Gargos and Eyedol! They’re also harder to use, but also have some really fun stuff that they can do. Mind you, when I say hard stuff for any of these, none of them have difficult moves to perform, it’s more just timing, strategy, and making the best of what you have.

My one biggest suggestion would be to go watch high level play for the characters and see what interests you. If you see Gargos putting out minions and doing his psycho crusher and beating the crap out of the opponent from across the stage and that looks fun to you, then give him a shot. I think Maya’s really hard to train with, but people obviously do that. Otherwise, good luck! Hope you find a character you enjoy.


It’s hard to get a feel for what you like in a character from your lists above, as it seems it’s likely more about the character themselves as opposed to kit? Your MKX characters all had mix, for instance, while your MK11 roster is generally more about strong spacing and punish options I’d say (mixed with “eff it I like Kitana so I’m running her :triumph:”).

I think Fulgore and Sadira are fine starter characters if that’s who you’re interested in right now. Arbiter is fine too, but as a giant character you’ll need to take care yourself on defense a fair amount with him (his wakeup options are better than Sadira’s actually, but his size means it’s pretty easy to hit him with some ambiguous stuff). He’s got great buttons and his carbine is a fantastic projectile, but he can be a little tough to open people up with sometimes.

I’d actually caution you against learning Shadow Jago as a starter character though. He’s basically ■■■■■ neutral the character™”, so he’s liable to give you some really bad habits if you start off with him, especially since your FG experience to date has all been with NRS. Better to learn the game with someone who has to run at least a marginally conventional game plan to work.


As a Sadira main… my recommendations are… Sadira, Sadira, Sadira, and I might add Sadira. :joy_cat:


Welcome to KI! I think those 3 give you a really good trio of characters. It covers the 3 basic food groups: Shoto/Balanced (Fulgore), Rushdown (Sadira), and Zoning (Arbiter). They’re also 3 of the more unique characters in the roster.

Fulgore is one of if not THE strongest generalist character(s) in the game, since he has access to basically every tool available outside of wacky specialist stuff. There’s a lot you can utilize with him. He has both nasty up close strings and some incredible zoning abilities. The special meter mechanic is going to be your biggest weakness, but since he’s so flexible it’s not the biggest problem.

Sadira is a really great rushdown who has some of the best air game of any character. Her defense isn’t the best, but her offense is nutty. Her unique juggle mechanics can make her really tricky to Combo Break, and her myriad of air mobility options make her very hard to keep out when she gets going.

Arbiter is one of the more specialized characters. He’s not the most impressive in terms of general raw damage or rushdown, but he’s one of the best space control/lockdown characters in the game. He doesn’t have much defense without meter, but when he gets the momentum he doesn’t need to be defensive. If he can get you in a loop with his pokes, grenades, bullets, and grabs he can be one of the most oppressive characters in the game. If you find yourself short of resource or on the back door however, it can be very difficult.

All of these characters are fun and powerful to play in their own ways. Kinda momentum heavy, but they cover a lot of bases and should be fun to start out with.

I highly recommend however that you put time into EVERY character in the game. The combo system means you don’t need to do a whole ton of work to get similar combos and damage across the cast, and every character is not only fun to play but tournament viable. You might be surprised to find a new main you didn’t consider before (I never realized how much I like Glacius till I played him on a whim and played 60 Ranked matches in a weekend). If nothing else, it will give you a peak into other characters game plans and help you remember the rhythm/animation of their moves so you can break them easier.


First off all, thank you very much for all the replies and recommendations!

@Iago407 The Mortal Kombat franchise has long had juggle combos, so that’s not something unfamiliar to me. For Mira, I noted her when I was looking at the game in general. She was added in Season 3, was she not? I’m also not familiar with the term “shoto.” Can you tell me what that means?

For watching high level matches, is the game still in major tournaments? From my understanding it was dropped. I know Killer Instinct was in Combo Breaker 2018, but that was over a year ago.

@STORM179 In terms of how I choose my characters, yes and no. If I like a character in general that’s definitely a plus, but if I don’t like how they play then I won’t play them that game. That doesn’t mean they need to play exactly the same each game, Kitana plays very different in Mortal Kombat 11 from her past two iterations, but I still felt good with her style and have thus stuck with her.

Scorpion is one of my favourite characters in the franchise, and I’ve been playing as him since the original launched in Arcades back in '92. I played as him extensively in Mortal Kombat (2011), and when I picked up Mortal Kombat X I just did not like how he played there. Same with Sub-Zero. I wanted to play as them for the characters, but couldn’t because I just didn’t like the feel of them. I was surprised to find I liked Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat 11; his strings being similar to Kitana’s, and for them to be used in similar situations, helped with that overall good feel.

My general play style is aggressive, but I do like having defensive options. I played Assassin Kitana as a rushdown character mostly in Mortal Kombat XL, and while I played as Mileena in the same style in Mortal Kombat (2011), I tended to use her more for zoning and space control in Mortal Kombat XL. “Ravenous” was my primary Variation for her though because I could still be very aggressive and rushdown if I so chose.

Shadow Jago is not a character I was thinking of personally.

@Fwufikins Interestingly, Glacius is another character I was considering, though based on your description, it sounds like Sadira might be a good beginning/learning character for me.


My gut tells me that you would probably benefit from taking your time in KI to roam the cast a bit and find what character(s) speak to you. All of the legacy characters from the old games are here, but there are also new ones that speak to things that you seem to value in your gameplay. All of the ones suggested previously i’d agree with, especially with regards to starter characters.

Insofar as tournaments, there are just a few that carry KI, but Combo Breaker is the one that most will wholeheartedly agree is the one to go to and to watch. KITx is coming up relatively soon in September i believe, and they have KI on their list of games. Outside of tournament games, there are more than a few places to find extended sets to watch and study. Bass, a very savvy tournament player in his own right, has a huge archive of matches on his YouTube channel. Just search ‘XiBassiX’ and you can find it. Streaming wise, there’s the Devil’s Landing exhibition series that carries all levels of exhibitions in FT7’s that you can find on Twitch on Saturdays under the same name. DevilMayCare (not to be confused with Devil’s Landing) hosts the KI Kumite on Monday and Wednesdays on Twitch where all level of exhibitions are held as well. Both upload their sets to YouTube. Infiliament has in-depth analysis streams and archives of both tournament games and extended sets to deep dive on the players and characters. His Twitch and YouTube can be found under that name as well as his guide for all level of players on that you can utilize if you’re not already familiar with it.


Thanks man, and I’m actually reading through infil’s guide; it’s excellent.


Would like to see this info in game somewhere

Yep! She was a season 3 addition. Maya’s sister.

No problem. The term shoto is short for Shotokan, which is the fighting style used by Ryu, Ken, Sakura, Akuma and well, several others in Street Fighter lol. It has since become more of a colloquialism for that type of character, namely a jack of all trades, balanced, sometimes introductory type of character. Their two most notable attacks are their fireball and a rising attack, like an uppercut. Their third attack is usually some sort of spinning attack, advancing attack, or one that does both.

So Jago in KI has his endokuken fireball, his tiger fury uppercut and his wind kick. Shadow Jago has his shendokuken fireball, his dark fury and his dark drift. That’s not to say that these types of characters can’t have more moves or that their moves can’t have different properties. They absolutely do and can. Playing Shadow Jago feels very little like playing Jago, for example.

But when someone calls a character a shoto or a shoto clone, this is the basic tool kit that they’re referring to; a fireball, a rising move like an uppercut, and a spinning and/or advancing kick.

It’s not a stage game at EVO anymore, which is sad, as the number of entrants kept growing year over year and never once decreased, but that’s just sour grapes, I suppose.

I do believe that KI was at Combo Breaker 2019 and that you can find videos of it on Youtube. Likely from Team Spooky.

There’s also plenty of tourney footage, matchup footage, beginners guides, advanced combo guides and all around high level play footage of characters on Youtube.

It’s also nice because there’s some really good, relatively well known players that use certain characters, so if you see them in a tourney video and they’re playing someone really well, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that they have their own channel that they’ve posted videos too with that character. For Sadira, for example, Kalypso is one of my favorite people to watch.

There are also a good number of players around here, such as WebNRagnarok that are really good at Sadira or other characters. You ever have questions, I’m sure they have answers. :slight_smile:


As a Kitana main, I can certainly recommend Sadira. She has many of Kitana’s strengths as well as her weaknesses.

Sadira gets much of her damage off of resets and her nutty areal shenanigans. She is highly mobile, and thus is very hard to pin down.

To me, she is one of the most fun characters in the game, BUT there are some MUs that are terrible for her, namely Gargos, Raam, and maybe Eyedol.

So having a backup character is important especially at higher levels.


Don’t forget Thunder. Beegaw!

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Thunder can certainly be a difficult MU, but I don’t seem to have an issue with him as I do the other three.

Very good to know, thank you! I also don’t expect to reach higher levels, but that’s alright.

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The difficulty of the Thunder MU is directly proportional to how well said Thunder can DP on command. If he can sammamish at will he will smoke Sadira. If he’s a little iffier on the input she can do ok.


Riptor is the current free character, and I’m really enjoying her. She seems to be very aggressive, favours rushdown, has a stance, and there feels like a good risk/reward element with her.

In many respects, I get a strong “Mileena” feel from her gameplay. When I purchase the game, she might be one of my mains.


Arbiter is now the free character, and as I mentioned above, he was one of the three I was originally interested in. I am liking him. He’s fun to play, does feel very much like his FPS counterpart, save that his movement is insanely slow, but I know that was done for balancing reasons, which is quite alright.

Two things I’m finding challenging about him:

  • I have difficulty opening opponents up with him. Didn’t have that issue with Riptor, but with Arbiter I find the Hard AI can generally Block pretty easily. Trying MP and HP strings into D,F, P. Trying LP, LK, into D,F, P. Other options seem to be jump kicks.

  • His Energy Shield. Bar of Shadow Metre, and it’s D,F, 2 Punches. For some reason, I have such trouble getting this to actually come out. Other quarter circle moves, no problem, but this one doesn’t seem to like responding. There isn’t some trick to it, is there?

Also, his Prohpet’s Bane, that is a true command grab, correct?


I play a bit of Arby on the side, so I’ll give you my take on it.

Going from Riptor to Arbiter is a pretty jarring transition. Riptor’s speed and aggression are much different than Arbiter’s. Opening your opponent up as Arbiter can be tricky since his only mixup from neutral is the command grab or low (which leads to not much without setup). You’ll have to really on solid defense and footsies to put your opponent i an disadvantaged situation and begin your grenade setups. That’s where his mix comes in as the mental mindgames of having the grenade on them can lead to mistakes you can capitalize on. Stuff like using parts of target combos to react to jumps and shadow counters are pretty good to utilize in opening people up. It can be difficult to open up AI this way however.

Also, rather than using QCF to cancel blocked moves, use QCB. Its an overhead and can leave you with better frame advantage with proper spacing (although a good player who knows the MU will block the overhead most of the time).

Prophets Bane is a true command. It can be jumped, back dashed and avoided by moves with grab invul. It has a tendency of whiffing though when it was used after an attack with high blockstun (like a point blank Fwd.MK)

Can’t help you with Energy Shield. There is no trick to it for me. I always just use the designated PPP button to use my Shadow Moves.

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It’s interesting reading these. Both because a) it keeps me in the loop of who’s currently free, and b) it’s neat seeing a fresh perspective on characters I’ve already been familiarized with.


I’ve absolutely zero advice on how to open up the AI with Arbiter. Against a human, you tend to outspace and punish them for trying to move in or challenge your big buttons, and use the command grab to force them to not just sit still defensively. That, and nasty grenade setups on their wakeup. No idea how the computer responds to those though -shrug-

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