How does one transition from Casual to Tournament-Quality Player?

Hey forum posters! I just gotta couple of questions for improving your game for tournament play. I main Orchid/Aria/Jago and I struggle with match-ups against Kan-Ra/TJ Combo/Spinal/Sabrewulf. I’m pretty sure there are things I’ve gotta unlearn like wake-up DPs and such, along with Guess Breaking. I know I’ve gotta long way to go before I’m “Tournament Ready” and I just want some advice from the pros and upper mid-level players to move me along.

  1. It’s undeniable that Guess Breaking is bad, how do you deal with manual-heavy mix-ups?

  2. I tend to never Counter Break during my combos. Is it better to risk the CB or depend on a Lockout if u get one?

  3. My patience in the neutral is ok, but against aggressive Hi-Low mix-ups or in the Corner, I tend to get opened up from hitting buttons and trying Reversals(Probably SF4 habits). Is it better to block or Shadow Counter?

4.On the subject of Shadow Counters, I barely use them outside of obviously reactable Shadow Attacks. Is it better to save the meter for Shadow Reversals or risk the counter?

  1. Here’s a ridiculous question: What’s the best way to show up a Troll?

  2. Pad or Arcade Stick?

Thanks dudes for your opinions and tell me what else you think is necessary for Tourney play. ggs.

  1. Understanding the strength of the linker/opener will help narrow down your choices better. Linkers typically only allow the same strength or ones preceding it when you manual, with some exceptions within Instinct Mode for some characters.
  2. It varies, if your opponent isn’t combo breaking correctly, it all depends on you. If they’re obviously guess breaking on the first attempt, yeah, go for the counter breaker. Otherwise, you need to read into your opponents habits. That’s just part of the mind game.

(I’ll append more when I get back from the gym)

I’m not a pro, but I’ll give this a shot.

Before I get into anything else, you should be aware that there is a lot of great information to be gleaned from Infil’s guide; and a lot of the skills taught in Patrick Miller’s guide over at SRK, especially how to Yomi, carry over to KI, and should help inform what sort of neutral and pressure tools are worth your time developing, as well as what mind games are central to various situations and what stakes are involved.

Also, obligatory pre-note if you’re not already versed: understand human reaction times and (un)reactability as a property of moves, and try to consider how it factors into every situation you find yourself in. I’d say it’s arguably more important in KI than in SF, in part because of the combo system, but also because it’s more common for a character to be able to safely place an unreactable hitbox on you from mid-screen in KI than it is in SF (e.g. Jago’s wind kick), and the consequences of that for neutral game are pretty oppressive.

Someone with better matchup knowledge than me could set me straight on this, but I think Aria might be your best shot against Wulf and TJ, whilst Jago may have the edge over Kan-Ra.

Not unlearn, but learn to use sparingly. An invincible reversal is sometimes a boon, certainly an asset to any character that has one, and constrains the capacity for your opponent to walk all over you on wakeup and pressure you to death – but it can be baited by a patient player, and sometimes you’ll just get unlucky and eat a big punish. Patrick Miller’s guide goes into this more.

I’ll gladly deny this, actually.

I mean, there are two kinds of breaks: reaction breaks and guess breaks. Reaction breaks are broadly only possible against four types of attacks: heavy auto doubles, medium auto doubles, heavy linkers (kinda-sorta-barely), and shadow linkers. These are moves which can be visually/audibly be detected early enough to be broken with God-honest reactions before the move ends. Just about everything else is unreactable or unbreakable.

I’d estimate that, if you only rely on reaction breaks, you might be able to keep average combo damage down to ~30% per opening in mid-level play. I’m not basing that on any hard data, but it’s my guess. At some level, if you can basically stop your opponent from building up potential damage (PD) with mediums and heavies, then your breaker game is basically doing its job and curtailing the big damage.
That said, a well-placed counter breaker will probably wreck you if you’re too consistent with your reaction-breaking, a more confident player might even condition you into letting their heavy auto doubles through, players who have their execution down will get decent PD off of heavy manuals and unbreakable antics, etc. Generally you’re going to watch average combo damage go up, and you’re forgoing the option to use a little guesswork to clamp down on your opponent’s more predictable patterns.

I’m no guess-breaking expert, but you should look at the constraints IG placed on manuals as a starting point: there are places where a breaker attempt is 50/50 to succeed, or where your opponent has one unreactable option and two reactable ones (and that unreactable one is going to be mighty tempting or even ingrained into muscle memory), and often enough it’ll be well worth your while to make that guess.

But other people have probably written more insightful stuff on this than I could on the spot. Check Infil’s guide especially.

I think it was Infil who compared attitudes that shun the use of medium/heavy auto doubles or counter breakers to always folding in poker unless you have a godlike hand: it’s a naive strategy that leaves a lot of value on the table.

I’d say that at some point, you at least want to clamp down on predictable break habits with a counter breaker. But I don’t think that’s the only use you should make of counter breakers either. I want to do the math on this eventually to back some of this up, but I’d argue that if you want to avoid these systems, then the yomi that goes on in the neutral of just about any fighting game probably isn’t for you either.

Depends on what your opponent is doing, but it’s definitely worth getting better at shadow countering. There is plenty of multi-hitting safe pressure in this game that can be broken up by shadow counters, particularly blockstring pressure or pressure that your opponent can vary between blockstrings and frame traps; and shadow counters generally beat high-low mixups, although most of those are either unreactable (e.g. good luck shadow countering Wulf’s jab xx jumping slash/hamstring) or vary in number of hits (Orchid’s ichi-ni-san’s third stage hits once low, twice high, and the last option can charge long enough to make a shadow counter whiff). Some pressure doesn’t care so much about your DP but is almost free to shadow counters (probably not a good idea to use Jago’s double roundhouse a lot against a good player with a bar of meter).

But this stuff gets very matchup-dependent, and I don’t know your DP habits, and I’m not really an expert on any of this either.

I can tell you that, even with good blocking/throw teching habits and inventive use of shadow counters, DPs, high-low crush moves, etc, you should expect to be opened a lot in KI – more so than in SF for sure – and that’s a big part of what makes the breaker game effective/important. That also means that it’s important that you try to maximize the effectiveness of every situation you find yourself at advantage in.

Identify a list of scenarios where expending meter should do something to make the matchup better, and try to restrict usage to those scenarios. For example, with Jago, in most matchups I’d save meter for projectile-invulnerable shadow wind kicks, shadow counters, heavy normal xx shadow laser sword openers in punish situations, and any labbed-out combo antics involving shadow fireballs designed to maximise damage or abuse instinct – and that list is probably longer because Jago is a bit of a meter glutton. Anything else that I haven’t improvised to improve a matchup is probably desperation or wastage.

As a pad player, I suspect stick makes a lot of motions far simpler than entering them on a D-pad. General dexterity is probably better, it’s probably easier to dash, certain option selects are probably easier because you can get a diagonal without getting the adjacent directions, etc.

That said, I don’t think it’s essential for KI, and lots of pad players seem to show up on tournament streams.


Thanks Fnrslvr for the help. I feel like I definitely gotta retrain myself for the tournament scene if I wanna go further in KI.

Good stuff FinchoMatic. you don’t mind elaborating more do you?