Skeletal's Ranked Challenge Month Three: TJ Combo!

Continuing the discussion from Skeletal's Ranked Challenge: Introduction & Poll Thread:

What Is Skeletal’s Ranked Challenge?

Throughout the first two seasons of Killer Instinct, I played Thunder almost exclusively. Because of this, my ability to play other characters has been limited, and I’m hoping to change that with Season 3! I am planning to use a combination of the changes to Ranked Leagues, input from the forum community, and a healthy dose of trial and error to earn some achievements, expand my understanding of the game, and my stable of playable characters!

Skeletal’s Ranked Challenge is a pretty simple experiment:

  • During the last week of each month, a poll will be posted in the following thread to allow forum members to vote for their favorite character from a list I have selected.

  • For the next month, I will practice with the winning character, in order to learn their moves and playstyle.

  • On the first available day each month, I will voluntarily reset my rank in Ranked Leagues and drop back down to Qualifier. My Ranked matches for that entire month will be played with the chosen character, in order to keep a list of my progress, wins/losses, and to force me to actually USE the character I’m learning.

  • My progress records for TJ Combo will be listed in this thread, sometimes as “bloglike” text posts, and other times featuring clips, gifs, or screenshots when available. Ranked stats (including potential end-of-month Killer League points) will be kept in this thread whenever possible.

  • I will not always be playing Killer Instinct when I have time to
    game, and when playing Killer Instinct I will not limit my character use
    when playing single player modes, or Exhibition matches with friends. I
    do not want to completely burn myself out!



  1. Please understand that I am not an extremely high-skilled player. I do not spend much time in Practice mode or studying frame data. I have a bit of a tendency to button mash, and am AWFUL at breaking. I also sometimes struggle with particular inputs. I have never been as interested in or committed to a fighting game before, but I love Killer Instinct! With this in mind, please make sure that any posts you decide to share in this thread are constructive criticism, advice, and encouragement, because I understand that I have many flaws to my gameplay, and I’m looking to improve through this Challenge.

While this will hopefully be an interesting or entertaining experience for you, I already know that this will be a difficult and potentially embarrassing journey for me because I am sharing the information with everyone here.

  1. Please vote in the monthly polls, and share your character-specific feedback on each character’s thread. Your input will be important to this experiment, as your comments, suggestions and advice can help me to learn a particular character or matchup, or understand how to correct a fundamental weakness as well. By helping me to choose a character each month, you are also motivating me to not simply fall back on Thunder all the time, and to pick a wide variety of characters even if I would not normally have chosen them on my own.


June’s monthly poll for the Skeletal Ranked Challenge has concluded, and the winner is TJ Combo!

TJ was always a character I admired from afar; I love the way his massive punches feel absolutely brutal, I like his visual style, movement and idle animations, and how strong a character he seems to be when played correctly, particularly with all of his available tools. I have always struggled to break against TJ, and tend to get caught by Powerline and Tremor (not to mention the command grab) all the time! I placed TJ into my June character poll because I think that being “forced” to play him in Ranked for a while potentially gives me a chance to really learn counter-strategy against him, as well as possibly adding him as a reasonable alternative pick.

I will be doing a heavy read-through of the KI.Infil TJ page, so I expect I will once again owe @Infilament my first-born.

Most of the characters I have considered playing in KI (with the exception of very casual Sabrewulf play) have been QC motion characters, so learning UD/FB is going to be interesting. I think I have the potential to learn both recaptures and flipouts with TJ as well, which is something which would definitely add to my game. Mira is the first character I played with a recapture, and although I wasn’t able to land it as often as I wanted to, having that as an option when my opponent was launched/jumped was intriguing. I think TJ has a bit more flexibility in that department.

Auto-Barrage has been a major thorn in my side from both directions; playing against TJ I can NEVER break it, so I always end up eating that massive damage ender. Playing AS TJ I would constantly end up doing one unintentionally, meaning I couldn’t get my combos/shadow specials to work the way I wanted them to. This Challenge will, hopefully, improve both aspects.

Feel free to share your thoughts, wellwishes, advice, setups, whatever! I will play my first Ranked matches with TJ within the next day or so!


Just be wary, @xSkeletalx. He needs buffs to his defensive options. You may hold off on trying him until based Keits makes a fix. :sunglasses:


I thought he got his invulnerable reversal (Shadow Vortex?), but the point was that he’s supposed to be the aggressor and control the match with mixups?

I guess I’m unsure whether this is actually a thing that’s heppening, or if you’re making a joke and I’m just missing it!

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Haha! Yeah, sorry man. I was being a jerk and making a reference to a thread from yesterday. TJ is awesome. He requires you to put in work, but I think you’ll really enjoy him.


Tj sucks azz right now, but I still play with him because I love the character

You will have tons of fun with TJ! Trust me, his recapture is arguably the best in the game. His buttons are fun, and a bunch of good reads can make anyone sit in awe. Lol

You still haven’t showed me that new “scary” TJ tech.

It’s happening today. Prepare yourself!

You’ll be on? Let me know, whether its me you body or someone else, I want to see.

Day 1 (June 2) Update:

I triggered the reset this evening after getting home from work, and decided to follow my usual trend; ■■■■■ jumping into Practice, let’s just go right into Ranked with our low-baseline character!

TJ feels very different than the other characters I’ve played. I’m not sure if it’s just the change away from QC commands, but I think the clips you will see throughout the month will be amusing to those of you who know how to play him. I feel like my movements are somewhat slow (getting used to his speed and spacing) and I’m a tad sluggish both in neutral and in combo. This is because I’m trying to decide which special or normal is the most appropriate, what the input is, and then transmit the signal to my fingers in time to make it happen!

Hopefully by the end of the month these problems will go away.

I fought my way through my Qualifier matches, and for some reason I was placed against more Gold and Killer players than anything else. I managed to go 5-5 (losing to both Killers but winning more Golds than I lost) and got placed in Silver, which I’m not entirely happy about!

I had hoped that like every other character challenge I’ve undertaken, I would be placed in Bronze so I would have a chance to work my way through the worst of the TJ “learning pains” against simpler opponents. Do not take my placement as a shining measure of success, because I believe most of my gold wins were because of luck being on my side; I had some misinputs which ended up working out, and managed to do well on breaks.

This was my first Ranked match with TJ. I was pretty happy to see that it was a Sabrewulf considering I have a fair amount of experience fighting him. You’ll see my break game was going well during this match. I played around a bit with his various specials; I don’t really understand the point of HP Powerline yet, whether it’s in neutral or the shadow version during a combo.

I think I made some good moves, but I think there are definitely a lot of areas I need to work on, including some combo drops which I didn’t intend.

This was another Qualifier match; a high Silver 50 PL 50 CL Aganos. I haven’t even really watched many Aganos v TJ fights, so I wasn’t really sure what my go-to specials and tricks should be. Luckily, I have fought Aganos enough to have a decent idea of how to defend against him! I experimented with Tremor recaptures a bit, and managed a complete Autobarrage, though you’ll notice I messed up a couple of other attempts.

This was a rematch against a 50 PL 50 CL Gold Fulgore who had just beaten me on my previous Qualifier match. I did a better job against him in this fight, because I was able to use what I had learned of his habits in the previous fight to my advantage.

I struggled a bit more with breaks, and I’m trying to see what I can do with TJ to create/keep up pressure. I got a couple unintentional enders when I didn’t want them in a combo, failed some Autobarrages, and got lucky that he whiffed a Counter Breaker. Not an amazing game, but I was pleased to get revenge!

At this point I don’t recall whether I was still in Qualifiers or not, or what PL/CL/Tier this opponent was. Sabre was INSISTENT on using the same couple of combos over and over, which made it relatively easy to break. I learned the hard way that Sh Tremor loses to Sh Leaping Slash. I struggled a bit against his blocking, but when I did manage to open him, I think I did pretty well. Had some decent AB combos and a couple of recaptures, but I think I should’ve gone for more Shoot Toss throws. Last Breath also saved me, and I think if I had been more careful, I could’ve won without it.

The final match I have to share with you today was a longer one against a PL 50 CL 50 Master Gold Orchid. Things started off pretty badly, but I feel like I did a decent job; the Tremor shockwave hit several times, letting me close in (though the Shadow Powerline at the end of the first round was unintentional). I tried out a few crossups, and had a few good reads and breaks. I had a bit of a panic with Orchid jumping in on me while the firecat was out, and unintentionally triggered my Instinct during the final round! MVP of this match went to my last-second fake Powerline which stepped me back out of Orchid’s range and let me close out the fight!

Please feel free to share your input on what I’ve shown you so far, and offer advice if you would like! Again, I know I suck and there’s a lot to learn, so just bear with me this month, because this one is likely going to be an uphill battle.


I can’t see the videos right now, but I will. Without knowing if you already do it, use superman punch and his roll punch a lot. Both are really good for fishing off guard people quickly and leads to combo. Also superman punch its an overhead!

I hope you boys and girls are ready, because I have spent most of my day punchifying folks online with TJ Combo, except for a five hour session in therapy. Yes, that’s a thing that happens in my life, and it’s actually extremely draining to relive the worst moments of your life that way, but I digress!

While I don’t have the energy to go into in depth analysis of each of these matches right now, please feast your eyes on not one, two or three TJ Combo matches, but an entire dozen!

@TheNinjaOstrich and @FallofSeraphs76 ; maybe I’m coming for the belt, soon.


Hmm. We’ll see. :stuck_out_tongue:

(Probably not, but it sounded cool!)

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My TJ has been severely lacking lately… I have moments were Im decent with him and then I completely suck with him!
Those were some good videos ! keep it up!

More punchings!

I have successfully reached Gold Tier with TJ. I’m as confused as you are - I don’t know how this is working out so well. After losing four Promotion matches against Killers, I ended up with a Qualifier for my actual Promotion match… huh?

Let me know what you think!

Ok Skeletal, Here we go!

  • More Powerline.

Powerline is the best tool that TJ has, and one you should use often. Now, when I mean use it, use all of the different tools that come off of it, and not just the punch. Powerline into Backstep is my favorite to use, to see if the opponent will react, or to bait something out of them, which I can punish. You can also use Powerline to close distances VERY quickly, and stay in their face. Like if the opponent is on the opposite side of the screen, a good Powerline can keep TJ right where he wants to be.

  • Juggles!

I notice you are missing a lot of juggle opportunities. TJ Juggles are a Very important part of his game plan, being able to juggle or recapture from anywhere. Please practice this. Being able to do shadow Vortex on wake up, and doing a juggle combo can swing the match in your direction. Like a good example is Vortex > Standing Med. Punch > Tremor. It can get more advanced than that with Instinct, but try and see if you can hit and recapture things out of the air. :slight_smile:

  • Flipout!

You are trying to use Flipout, which is good! Flipout actually goes hand in hand with the Juggles. See if you can come up with some juggles, then Flipout into a command grab, or another combo.

  • TJ Combinations!

Don’t forget you have TJ Combinations! These are an amazing tool that you can use on Whiff or Block. So you can just throw them out there to see how your opponent reacts, or to play tootsies with the opponent. Also, it can lead up to some fancy combos on the ground or in the air! Remember you can also do it crouching, so I’d like to see you use some of this in your gameplay. The only bad thing is that it can be easily shadow countered, so be wary.

Other than these things, you have a solid TJ! If you have any more questions, let me know! @oShift2oVet78 is an amazing TJ too! Better than I am.

Looking forward to the next post!

– Ostrich


Powerline; So far, I’ve been using the HP, HK, and LP followups for Powerline. I should try to work in a couple of the others, like Shoot Toss, because that would let me get a “mixup” in situations where I’m currently Powerlining straight into a block. I am trying to use Powerline and the HK followup to get in/stay in on people, but I can see areas where I probably should be using it more (currently one of my main strategies for getting in is landing a knockdown from Tremor and dashing like a lunatic).

Juggles; I have been trying to plan/learn to react to recapture opportunities, and some of my games have really hinged on anticipating a recapture. Juggles (and flipouts) are something which I haven’t really wrapped my mind around yet. Flipouts will be easier, I just need to work out the timing and plan the use ahead of time (rather than a panic attempt). Juggling, however, feels a bit less intuitive. Not that I feel like juggling is poorly designed in KI, but I have never really understood how juggles work in any fighter. Without playing around in Practice, it’s hard to learn what kind of moves I ought to be using to juggle, versus when to juggle, and what to do before trying the recapture. I’ve tried using Vortex, but most of the time I end up missing with it. Again, that will probably need time.

TJ Combinations; I’ve played around with these a little bit, but I don’t really understand the point. When I have used them (mainly MP->HP and MP->MK) it felt like I was just giving my opponent something to block without actually setting myself up for something. What is the strategy behind using these two hit “target combos”? (the fuck is a Target Combo, anyway? FGC terminology is frustrating sometimes) I have become pretty comfortable with AutoBarrage now, and I find the advantage gut punch into spin fist works pretty well to open up a second combo. My full AutoBarrage strategy is working pretty well so far, for a hilariously stupid reason; there’s no pattern for an opponent to learn because I have zero plans and just do an entirely different succession of punches every single time, just by what feels right at the time. I’ve noticed some people lock out (let’s say mediums) during my AB, and then when I open them again and go into AB, they lock out in the same place (on mediums) because I’ve changed that section or button to L or H.

One thing which I’m feeling pride about is that I have beaten nearly every TJ I have fought in a mirror match. Most of these were level 50 TJs, too, which doesn’t mean quite as much at this point in KI due to the permanent 2XP boost, but they’ve had to have played TJ more than I have so far. It feels good to be able to go toe to toe with people who are more familiar with the character - it feels like I’m doing something right. Look at TJ clip #8 above. That was a 50/50 Gold TJ player, and I feel like I really controlled pretty much the entire fight.

This whole Challenge thing is (beyond my wildest expectations) actually working out. When I started the first one, my goal was to try to learn more about the fundamentals and mechanics of KI, as well as to gain an understanding of more characters. I can see progress in my gameplay and how I’m adjusting my spacing, breaking, and general strategy, and I feel like I have really learned a decent amount about all three of my Challenge Characters (four, if you count Gargos).

I’m not at a level where I would consider entering a tournament with any reasonable chance of winning, but I feel like this Challenge idea has been a success. I’m very glad that I’m choosing to do this, and thankful that our community has been able to help me succeed and motivate me to continue even through the most frustrating character struggles.

Most TJ’s you encounter don’t main him. Hitup EASTGATE501, and prepare for the obliteration. Lol. I went 3 and 20 against him and another dude named Rell a while back (start of season 3 when I didn’t know TJ’s new tools and didn’t think they were important), and it humbled me VERY quickly. Since then, I have improved dramatically (still being humble) and I am thankful for his beat down.

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