The Art of Dragon Cancelling
Kim Wu is supposed to have a mastery of Kung-Fu, which is basically a way of saying martial arts. I see it as more of a mastery of Wing Chun, a particular style of martial arts that focus on ‘touch and speed.’ Dragon cancelling is kinda like that, but in the whole time this thread has been around, I haven’t seen many people go in depth regarding them. So this will be my attempt at a broad overview of utilizing them in all phases of play. I’ll throw in some tricks I’ve learned as well, but I want this to be a starting point for anyone that is not sure of how to utilize dragon cancels. This will probably be a long thread.
For those of you that just want the tech, or for finding nuggets later, near the beginning of each section will be my findings or tech, then my notes afterwards. I’ll bold the significant points as well, so you can skim it as well. One note that must be made with this guide is of proper timing with cancels. Unless noted, I am referring to cancelling from a move (be it a normal, special or shadow) as soon as a hit connects.
What is a Dragon Cancel and where can I use it?
Per Kim’s command list “Kim Wu can perform a Dragon Cancel in exchange for a Dragon Spirit. This allows Kim to quickly move forward or interrupt any grounded attack. It can also be used in the air for additional mobility.” For those in need of frame data, the dash after a dragon cancel is 15f.
Like the description says, at pretty much any point on the ground, if you want, you can cancel. There are some moments where you cannot cancel moves or actions, however. You cannot cancel an ender once it’s started*. You cannot seem to cancel startup frames of the first hit of any auto double. You can’t cancel in the air if you’ve already performed an air normal attack. You cannot cancel from firing a dragon cannon, whiffed parry, whiffed counter breaker, or cancel forward or backwards dashes.
Cancelling in Neutral
Dragon Sweep > Firecracker, medium dragon dance, st HK, st HP, cr HK
H Dragon Dance > heavy dragon dance, light dragon kick, dragon sweep, ( heavy dragon dance to heavy dragon dance can beat ‘some’ shadow counter attempts )
M dragon dance > Firecracker, cr HK
L dragon dance > cr HP, Firecracker, st HK
Firecracker > heavy dragon dance, dragon sweep
S. Dragon Kick > L dragon dance
Done with the refresher? Cool. So cancelling in the neutral game, right. Here’s the thing I’ve come to learn from people that fight against Kim Wu. If you see a cancel, you should assume you can mash jab through it. That’s both correct and incorrect.
Dragon cancelling requires a bit of knowledge of frame data but it also requires you as the player to know when you are cancelling. You are given the freedom to cancel at any point on the ground. Even at a point where you can mistime your intended action and make an otherwise airtight transition into one that can be jab checked. So yes, if you mistimed the cancel, you can be busted for it. But if you’re well practiced on it, you can frustrate opponents looking to check if it’s their turn with jabs and shorts.
The listing at the top of this section is a small list of leading moves that, once dragon cancelled immediately after they hit, can lead to counter-hit setups with any of the listed follow up moves.
If we’re talking neutral, we’re also likely talking about Kim being able to move into range for her normals to get to work. But she does have to, in a lot of cases, walk her way in. She doesn’t have a means to close long spaces like ARIA’s shotgun blitz, pre-patch Jago Windkick or Glacius cold shoulder. That does not mean she’s without some tricks. Cancelling forward momentum normals before they become active like dragon sweep or st HK can allow you to dash in a slight bit farther than is otherwise possible.
In most cases, I would avoid using just raw dragon cancels in neutral. If only because they’re just much more powerful when you cancel off blocked/hit normals, it also plays to how Kim is built. She has no fireball game outside of instinct and no long lateral approach that isn’t minus or punishable. The opponent can just react to a raw dragon cancel with a fast button and be fairly successful in halting that kind of approach.
Cancelling Within Combos
Cancelling light autos
Don’t do it. Not worth it, in my opinion. Seriously, this ranks as one of the worst uses of a dragon that I have come to in my time playing. Let’s move on.
Or if you require an explanation, light autos by design are hard to break, so they’re doubly hard to time to cancel. And a successful cancel does not net you enough advantage to link into any normal afterwards. You’re better served letting a light auto rock and trying to sneak a low for a reset.
Cancelling medium autos
Medium punch autos, cancelled immediately after the second hit, don’t seem to allow any links afterwards. Medium kick autos, cancelled immediately after the second hit, allow you to link a 6f or less move afterwards.
You’ll find that the process of cancelling after medium punch autos will make you minus, letting your opponent drop out of combo. If you’re so inclined, you can use that information as an intentional attempt to reset and gamble on that. Medium kick autos allow you limited follow ups since a 6f window only allows any light attack, close MP or close MK. Something I’ve done in the past is use the close MP followup, then transitioned into a HP kata hoping to catch a late mash or attempt to bait a shadow counter and catch it with dragon grasp. You can certainly also use close MP into MP kata, cancel into a special and back into combo.
Cancelling heavy autos
Heavy punch autos, cancelled immediately after the second hit, allow you to link into any move in Kim Wu’s move list. Heavy kick autos, cancelled immediately after the second hit, allow you to link into any move in Kim Wu’s move list except for light dragon dance.
Here’s where you can get dirty. Heavy punch autos allow you to link into anything from a proper dragon cancel. Heavy kick autos, however, will not link into her light dragon dance. Doesn’t mean that’s necessarily a bad thing. You can use a heavy kick auto > cancel > light dragon dance string as a overhead reset if you suspect an opponent is down backing during your combos . Something that I put over Twitter was that I’ve found that using light dragon dance as a manual does a lot more damage and adds more PD than a light dragon dance linker. But it does it best work for you early in the combo because of how combos scale. And you can transition back into autos afterwards as well. An example combo of light dragon dance opener > HP auto > cancel > light dragon dance manual > HP auto > damage ender = 48% damage. Meterless.
Going into a little bit of meta-gaming here, but I believe that if you are not utilizing Kim’s heavy doubles in your combo game, you are short changing yourself of her full abilities. KI’s combo game is very free flowing, but Kim’s options after heavy doubles are probably unique to the game. And for my money, she is a character with the proper tech that can destroy your opponent’s that love breaking. And players, at any level, will not let continuous heavy doubles rock with the kind of damage that Kim Wu can output. See my counter-breaker tech above.
Cancelling firecracker linkers
Any dragon cancelled light or heavy linker, no matter the number of hits, seems to allow you to link a 6f or less move afterwards. A dragon cancelled medium linker, no matter the number of hits, seems to be minus on hit, allowing no manual. A dragon cancelled shadow linker, no matter the number of hits, seems to allow you to link a 11f or less move afterwards.
Given that information, you might be less inclined to dragon cancel after a medium linker, but in practice, I’ve used the medium linker cancel more than the light or heavy ones. It allows, since it’s minus on hit, for you to get a sneaky grab in. One that you cannot beat by mashing.
Another reason to cancel firecracker linkers is to make them harder to break. I feel firecracker is the more easily recognizable linker of hers and hits pretty slowly. But you can use that to your advantage by making any of your firecracker linkers a one hit linker, regardless of their strength. And this can also generate lockouts you can use to maximize your damage.
When you’re using shadow firecracker linkers, dragon cancels (also dragon cannons while in instinct) can be a means of not allowing your opponent to break a shadow linker they make an attempt at. But you also rob yourself of the damage they provide, so use with discretion.
Cancelling dragon dance linkers
Any dragon cancelled linker, light, medium or heavy, no matter the number of hits, seems to allow you to link a 10f or less move afterwards. A dragon cancelled shadow linker, no matter the number of hits, seems to allow you to link an 11f or less move afterwards.
There’s also ways of psyching out your opponents with this. Dragon dance linkers and dragon cancels have similar VFX that play out and you can definitely get away with ‘disguising’ a dragon cancel as a whiffed dragon cancel linker. Of note with this, if you go for a throw or dragon grasp from the cancel, you should note if you think your opponent is looking to guess on a light linker. I’ve found that opponents that have attempted to break a light linker while you’re cancelling into a throw actually ended up ‘buffering’ a throw tech.
Also, not that manuals are easily reactable anyway, the VFX from shadow dragon dance as a linker can help to mask your follow up manual a la Kan Ra and his sand shenanigans. Not nearly as well, but it’s something.
Cancelling linkers (general)
Kim can hit hard in her combo paths, but what really seems to dampen her damage are her linkers. So if you are looking for means to maximize her damage, you need to not use linkers and make sure to do so early in the combo. The counter breaker tech I found shows why in an extreme way, in a sense; you replace a weak 2 hit medium linker with a 1 hit DP damage-like jumping manual immediately after your combo and scaling are reset.
(Quick side note, this next part is going to go into damage, potential damage and ender levels. If you’re not interested, just skip to the next bold part. The first number is your raw combo damage. The second number is your potential damage. And also, ender levels seem to be determined by tens based of the potential damage. In other words, a PD of 0.1 to 9.9 is a potential level 1 ender, 10.0 to 19.9 is a level 2 ender, 20.0 to 29.9 is a level 3 ender and 30.0 or higher is level 4)
The prime example I’ll give is dragon dance linker versus a manual light dragon dance. Using a combo path of light dragon dance opener > HP auto double > cancel > light dragon dance manual, your damage comes out to be 46.7/19.1 for four combo hits. By comparison…
42.4/17.7 opener, heavy double, light linker, four combo hits
46.0/18.9 opener, heavy double, medium linker, five combo hits
49.7/20.1 opener, heavy double, heavy linker, six combo hits
So for less hits, your overhead manual does damage comparable to a medium linker and blows away what you receive from a light linker. You might think the heavy linker is still better, but note that that takes six hits compared to four. That means your next two combo hits will suffer less scaling and add more damage on . Becoming familiar with both frame data as well as damage calculations are key to figuring out the best ways to maximize damage . Or, you can turn to guides like this one.
While possible, I have not found this to be practical in, well, practice. My personal theory behind dragons is that if you’re using them, they have to net you some sort of advantage or at least add 10% more damage than you’d normally get otherwise without one. This is more of a thing to do flashy, training mode combos than for any use in live matches. But hey, I’ve been wrong before.
Oh yeah, there is a way of doing this, but it’s truly a gimmick and wouldn’t net you much. Say you performed an accidental opener > shadow dragon kick ender. If you have the dragon, you can cancel out of it and avoid a combo breaker. However, your opponent still has every opportunity to break the combo from when the screen releases up until your cancel comes out. Once you’ve hit and cancelled, however, the combo system seems to treat it like your opponent is in a juggle state so they can timing lock out for waiting too long to break.
Cancelling Shadows (outside of combo)
Kim Wu’s three shadow moves, Shadow Dragon Dance, Shadow Firecracker and Shadow Dragon Kick are all hilariously negative on block. But that does not mean that you are without means to be devious with them.
Shadow Dragon Dance is a long range, projectile invincible shadow that suffers from a long startup. On reaction, many characters can just stick out a heavy button and knock her out of it before it becomes active. If you know your opponent knows this, you can bait punishable buttons or moves by cancelling after the screen releases.
Shadow Firecracker can be a bit more reliably tricky. A preferred means I use of it is to fish for a hit with st HK and cancel into Shadow Firecracker. If the HK hit, then you can begin a combo. But if it was blocked, you can cancel into a brief window between when the screen releases and when the move becomes active. Players not familiar with this tech can believe you missed a confirm and be more focused on shadow countering than dealing with a cancel into, say, dragon grasp.
Shadow Dragon Kick is probably self-explanatory but as her reversal, it does great damage and good PD as well, but is ridiculously unsafe. With a dragon, you can cancel before the move becomes active for a feint. But against an opponent that would block it, you can cancel right after the first hit connects to be both safe and plus.
Shadow counters also count as shadows outside of a combo as well. This particular bit of information is probably only important in one MU in the game; Kim Wu vs Hisako. Hisako can, with enough wrath available, cancel moves into her vengeance counter. This allows her in many other MU’s to not care about her opponent’s attempts at shadow countering. This is not the case with Kim Wu since she can cancel her Shadow Firecracker before it hits, leaving a Hisako that attempts a vengeance counter grasping for nothing at the cost of half of her wrath. This makes this interaction a much more interesting game of trying to outwit your opponent.
Hopefully, for both players that are familiar with Kim as well as ones that are new to utilizing her, this little project has been helpful in helping you to navigate the beginning stages of how to dragon cancel. What I laid out here is not as deep as dragon cancelling can go. There’s aspects to it that I didn’t touch on, mostly intentionally. I like to hand out what knowledge I’ve gained of Kim to anyone that would like to try playing her. But I’m not the type to tell players, ‘THIS is how you should be playing this character.’ I want players to explore, because that’s how new ideas and new tech are found, and not from following some other players script. Thank you for reading and I hope it was informative.
I did not include this in the main body, but I do not feel that utilizing dragon cancels in the air are a good use of them depending on the opponent. When you look at the frame data when she is dashing through the air, her vulnerable boxes drop down WAY further than the character model would lead you to believe. If your opponent has fast normals that can reach up pretty high like Rash’s st LP, you can be tagged for nothing. It is for this reason that you cannot low jump > dragon dash over a downed opponent without going higher that you might give it credit for.
I might be wrong on this, but unlike normal forward dashes in the game, I do not believe that there is an input buffer on dragon cancels. Many times in my testing of things, I’ve found I’m inputting moves too soon after a dragon cancel for them to come out afterwards. So if you’re new to Kim, you have to have much stricter timing after dragon cancels than you would from forward dashes.
Some additional Kim Wu setups I’ll share
After any non-shadow damage ender, use heavy dragon dance after you regain control. The second hit will hit meaty and is plus on block, maybe +2 ish?
After any non-shadow damage ender… > st LP whiff > heavy dragon dance meaty
After a shadow damage ender or reversal with a dragon… > cancel > st HP > HP kata (2nd hit will be meaty on quick rise, a follow up HP kata will catch delayed rise meaty as well)
After forward throw…forward dash 3x > cr MP meaty
(in corner) neutral jump > firecracker/M dragon dance