Combo Breakers Risk vs. Reward

First let me preface this thread by stating that I like the combo breaker and counter breaker system. I’m not one of those people who feel like players are not rewarded enough for winning neutral. I think players get plenty of guaranteed damage.

What my intent with this post is to address Bass’s statement in LCD’s podcast that guess breaking is at an all time high and the risk vs. reward is a little off.

Frankly I agree, but for slightly different reasons. By design combo breaking has the inherent risk that you could be counter-broken which will reset KVM and lock the player out. That certainly imposes a risk. But against true guessing how great is that risk? Lets look at it further. If I miss my counter breaker I’m massively negative and am open for a Combo punish. So as the counter breaker in a standard combo open - attack - link - attack - end. There are 3 parts of my combo that they can break on, against true guessing even if we forget about the frame window a counter breaker must be input before a combo breaker that still leaves me with a 33% chance of landing my counter and a 66% chance of giving them a combo punish. In reality this is even worse because of the precise frames a counter needs to be performed on.

So now say I’m the combo breaker player who is guessing. What is my risk outside of the chance I’ll be counter-broken which we’ve already seen is a pretty massive risk for the counter-breaker player. Well the obvious is the lockout. But what is the risk of the lock out. Well two things, First my opponent gets to min/max their damage during that time they can use heavy autos as well as shadow linkers to pump more damage into their combo. But lets dig deeper into those. As the offense is using a shadow linker worth it, I’d personally argue that with a lot of the characters it absolutely is not worth using a bar of shadow as a linker in combo, in doing so with many characters you lose a way in which to make some offense safe, to shadow counter and to open people up with a punish or a mixup. In my opinion the increased damage you get by using a shadow linker is often not as valuable as many of those other opttions. So what you’re left with is some nice meaty heavy Auto’s to punish a lockout. And here is where the crux of the issue lies. The damage from that punishment is not significant enough to deter players from guess breaking. The reward they get from combo breaking (preventing ender damage, and removing potential damage as well as resetting neutral) is greater than the risk of the damage they take from getting locked out.

I believe that a reduction in damage scaling during a lockout to increase the overall damage during a lockout could act as a stronger deterrent to guess breaking. I’m fairly certain for this to be true as an extreme example of this is if you get locked out during a RAAM instinct combo, a primary situation of where I will only guess break if it’s my only option to prevent death other wise I only break on reaction.

TLDR; Counter Breaking is unwise vs. guess breaking. Guess Combo Breaking is too low risk. Increasing the damage the offense gets during a lockout could enhance that risk. I apologize for being so verbose but I wanted to make sure people understood where I’m coming from. Let me also say this is simply my opinion, there are many variables I left out and ignored (player conditioning, etc.) and I do not claim this opinion to be universally accepted among the community.

There doesn’t need to be a deterrant to guess breaking - we have plenty already (including counter-breaking, which would NOT be unwise choice). :wink:

The idea that risk/reward for guess breaking is out of whack in the season with the lowest reward for combo breaking makes me laugh.


You think it’s low because you don’t get a knock down anymore? I’m not trolling these are honest questions.

Do you believe that the neutral position spacing is equally advantageous for all characters and matchups?

The difference between a soft knockdown and immediately being able to act is pretty clear cut, yeah. Some characters are rewarded better for breaking, but that also means those characters suffer less for being broken. There are advantages on both sides of the equation.

The only place I feel the reward is off is air breakers, as you still get a soft knockdown from those. The flipside, of course, being that juggles are generally harder to break, meaning there’s more risk to trying it, so…yeah.

When you air break, you also are still in the air for a few frames, so the soft knockdown gives you a small window to return to a grounded neutral state, rather than dangling like a worm on a hook while your opponent is already back on his feet.

It still gives the opponent ample time to act before you, which lets various characters set up mixups or create space. But, again, attempting to break a juggle is generally riskier, so it’s still pretty fair.

Juggles are harder to break because you typically have to guess. Which is what I’m talking about, everything I’ve stated is under the assumption the person is guess breaking, meaning they’re not being baited, etc. Being subject to bait obviously increases the combo breakers risk.

Anyways, I understand your opinion. You feel since there no longer is a hard knock down for combo breaking that the risk vs. reward as the person guess breaking is fine. That’s certainly a fine opinion to have :slight_smile: . My post and suggestion is to those who do not feel as you do.

There’s no longer any knockdown from a normal combo break.

Juggles are not just harder to break because of having to guess, there’s often an element of variation in timing for the characters with stronger juggles that makes them more difficult to break.

Frequent guess breaking makes you more susceptible to mixups like delayed doubles. If you’re actually managing to decrease the damage you take using guess breaks rather than just increasing it, you probably earned that.

Around 25 frames of advantage doesn’t feel like you really have much time for a setup, given that most air breakers also put a bit of distance between you and the opponent, except in corner situations. Usually on a air breaker, I see most matchups playing out that advantage using those frames to try and close distance.

Not trying to be contrary or anything, just my take on the situation. I do think the soft knockdown on air breakers is justified.

Well, man, to be up front with the matter, a lot of breaking is guess breaking. Given how fast some light and medium autos play out, not to mention how some characters have 6 auto animations and not just 3, and the inclusion of manuals, a great deal of combo breakers are pretty much guesses. People analyze a person’s patterns, tendencies, and juggle preferences, and make educated guesses based on that relevant data to combo or counter break. The percentage of combo breakers off visual reads are much slimmer. Sure there are those with good reaction time and observation that know every autodouble in the game, but in general most combo breakers are guesses, like probably about 75% of them. Heavies and Shadow moves tend to be the exception on that, and are more or less just issues of timing and reaction.

Also adding to that, ALL counter breakers are guesses. Trying to punish guessing in this game is difficult because where do you separate educated guessing from dumb, blind, lucky guess breaking. So you may be right, guess breaking has a lower risk to it, but in season 3, it’s rewarded less than ever, and basically resetting the game to neutral is reward enough, no real mixups or good setups, and no one can pop instinct on a combo breaker for a free combo anymore, since flipout and soft knockdowns render you invincible until wakeup. In season 1, and even season 2, this wasn’t so much the case, so guess breaking was a problem, as in Season 1, Spinal could get some free ridiculous juggles off a combo breaker and steal your instinct from you as you helplessly dangle there. Even in season 2, the hard knockdowns were a problem where there were some strong mixups off of hard knockdown breakers.

I kinda feel the breaker game as it is now is actually in a very good state. Guess breaking is always going to exist, but now guess breakers don’t get the higher rewards they once did, but they still have to endure lockouts when they are wrong.

It’s difficult to get any concrete data analysis on that.

I suppose the easiest thing to do would be to compare the damage gained of heavy autos and/or shadow in a locked out combo. Vs. the damage lost by clearing the potential and removing the ender damage.

Even then there are many variables that would not be factored that should be. Strength in neutral, if a characters ender leads to strong setups, differences in character ender damage. It’s all of these variables that make it really kind of difficult to objectively assess the true risk vs. reward.

I think there’s a lot more that you can react to. Heavy Linkers, All doubles (Lights only if you’re looking for them), Medium linkers, shadow linkers, many recaptures as well as some heavy manuals. I’d most certainly disagree that 75% of combo breaking are guessing (assuming you’ve done your homework and are actually trying to break on reaction). I’d have to check my KI stats but I’m sure my combo breaker success is slanted more heavily towards reaction breaking.

That said I respect any and all who think it’s fine. I’m not claiming that the game needs to be focused around reaction breaking and that the game should have no guess breaking. The topic was related to Bass’s statement that the amount guess breaking is high. And if that’s true a way to deter it would be to increase the damage on lockouts.

If we were to agree that it’s indeed high does not mean that’s necessarily wrong. That can be debated as well, the frequency of guess breaking is certainly a topic that can have varying levels of opinion. I personally feel it’s too high and that’s largely in part because the punishment for guess breaking is not steep enough to deter people from doing it.

I’ll finish by stating that I think a game without guess breaking would suck. A little element of luck certainly can increase enjoyment.

The advantage on an air breaker is quite a bit more than 25 frames; set a dummy to jump, set them to break all, then do a juggle on them, quickrise after the break, and hold up. Excluding floaty characters your opponent is generally going to be able to complete a full jump before you can act–so, somewhere in the ballpark of 40 frames of advantage, enough for some characters to get a setup e.g. fulgore, glacius.

Take the following combo sequence with jago: crouch MK, MK windkick, close MK, MP sword linker. If we assume the following:

-jago will follow MP sword linker with a random double
-if there is no lockout the combo ends
-if there is a lockout jago will go around the world, do shadow sword linker, and damage ender
-the opponent will always guess break here

We can pretty easily get an idea of how much damage you’re mitigating over three combos by guess breaking. The average damage of the three into launcher ender > sweep is 24%. The damage assuming an immediate break on the double is 11%. Assuming one in three combos is successfully broken the average damage over three openings is 19%, so about 5% damage is mitigated. Except…you’re locking out, and each lockout is 55-56%. So…assuming a random guess break there, the average across three combos is actually about 40%, meaning true guess breaking mitigates negative 16% of the damage.

Obviously, it doesn’t work out this cleanly in a real match but the point I’m demonstrating is this: every guess break can cover only one strength and there are three available to the person performing the combo. If you’re getting guess broken too often, it’s likely because you’re too fixated on the “safe” options. A “random” heavy double now and then will sometimes do you a world of good.


Perhaps that may be a little high, but I won’t go below 50%. As good as some people are, I don’t think reactionary breaks are entirely realistic. Some characters like Rash have only 3 auto double animations, and each look very distinct from one another, but there are plenty of characters with difficult to recognize breakers, and juggle characters like Cinder are really hard to anticipate in their juggle strength without some sort of appreciable trend or pattern to establish.

And I base my number on the culmination of almost 3 years of experience playing. But I’m sure someone like @Infilament, who uses more than raw experience, and more actual metadata could establish a true to life number. I could very well be wrong, but based on experience, that’s just my stance to guess breaking numbers.

Nice breakdown. I do think there are some specific assumptions you make there that are particularly advantageous to Jago in particular but also to your side of the debate. First his around the world combo trait, and second that he’ll use shadow on the lockout for shadow laser sword, third that the player would not have continued the combo longer without any combo breaker attempts and last the Jago would use the damage ender in the lockout scenario.

That’s a lot of assumptions and as I said there are a lot of variables to consider. This is part of the reason I think balancing isn’t as black and white as people think and that it has to be extremely challenging for the Devs to get it right in any game.

That said your point is well received and I appreciate you taking the time to break down an example.

Maybe if lockouts lowered the current kv by half or something?

I dunno man, I think the risk for guess breaking is high enough as it is. I was seeing the same amount of guess breaking in S2, doesn’t really seem much higher here.

This next statement is going to make some people roll their eyes, I know, but there are two main factors that I think are encouraging guess breaking:
-The one chance break combo style many players are running
-Counter breaker misinformation

Getting the counter breaking thing out of the way first, so many people are still convinced they don’t work. I’m given up trying to help them and tell them how they’ve changed and how they need to be performed now because I just get laughed at in twitch chats for it. So I imagine people are like “Imma guess break this manual cause I know there’s no risk to it!” OK, let’s see how far that mindset takes you against me.

The one chance style is kind of a vicious cycle. People are going for these short combos because they’re scared of being broken. Meanwhile, people are guess breaking in these situations because that’s the only way they’ll be able to get out before the ender. See how these two factors are encouraging each other?

You know guys, I’m starting to think the reason why many top players are getting bored with the game is because they refuse to actually play half of the game. They’re refusing to play the combo breaker mind game that KI has been known for since the beginning.




All of this could be true. I’m not a pro player, I’m by and large an above average scrub. I haven’t really considered the cyclical dynamic of the meta you described. That’s interesting. How might you influence them to break that dynamic. Just fresh blood in the scene with some players who do longer combos that have more break opportunities?

My opinion is based on my experience and the tidbits I’ve heard from other random people like Bass. I’ll admit I do typically beat guess breakers but in my lower tier experience I feel most guess breakers I encounter are also severely lacking in other areas of the game.

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At the risk of being gauche by quoting myself, here’s something I said a long time ago in response to this topic, that largely describes my opinion on the subject to this day.

(Lightly edited for clarity):
In my opinion high level players are largely making guessing as strong as it is by their wanton refusal to do anything unsafe within combo. And I don’t mean counter breakers. Heavy AD’s seem largely to be verboten, so if I’m guessing on manuals I’ve generally got a 50% chance to guess right, as heavy linkers are also reactable and thus undesired to try and open up additional manual options. The reliance on manuals and short one-chance breaks also guarantees that lockout damage is pretty nil, and so the cycle of guessing continues. They don’t properly punish guessing in terms of doing really damaging combos after you guess wrong (oftentimes they can’t because they’ve filled up the KV with light manuals and cr+lk hit confirms), so people continue to guess. The style the players have chosen is one that doesn’t adequately punish the opponent for being wrong, and so the opponent continues to guess. That’s the core of the issue to my mind.

KI has plenty of ways to punish incorrect guesses. High-level players largely avoid these options however, as they are more risky upfront in that they can be reaction broken.

All of the options that you mentioned above are very conscious decisions that are being made by the offense. Doing a 3 break-chance combo is a decision that you are making ahead of time. Deciding to end a combo at a certain point, or deciding to do lights into setup as opposed to something reactable that allows you to confirm lockouts or damage is also an active decision.

There is no rule that says you must keep your combos suitably random or unreactable - we do those things because at any given moment we are prizing the setup or confirming damage or being in on our opponent more than we are prioritizing hurting the opponent in the here and now. Guessing wrong early against me personally will generally have you eating a minimum of 45% or so, but I’m also ok with getting broken a lot more than other people because I’m confident in my neutral. KI has plenty of ways to penalize someone for guessing consistently that have nothing to do with counter breakers - it is on you as a player if you choose not use to use them.


I think we need to scare people to not guess break so instead of just guessing you have to be sure or don’t break. I think a this way will detore people from guess breaking and promote longer combos is to add a damage multiplier Everytime you lock out so x0.2 on lockout and if you lock out more it adds on so if you lock out you take 1.2 times the normal damage.