Struggling against zoners as Hisako

I’ve picked up this game recently (I know I’m way late to the party) and am doing well with Hisako… except when it comes to zoners. I’ve been playing on Ultimate(Kyle) difficulty for a change of pace and Glacius, Kan, Gargos, and Omen all give me a ton of problems.

I’ve been doing some play as these characters to understand more of their limitations, etc, but I think I fundamentally don’t have a good game plan for dealing with dedicated zoners. Which of Hisako’s tools become more useful against them? I’m admittedly not too good with her command grabs (or throws in general) and dashing in.

The basic tool is of course Descent which is back+HK. If your reactions are good you’ll be at frame advantage compared to the opponent attacking you w/ ranged attacks. Shadow On Ryo Zan is invulnerable to projectiles - try to space it so you don’t whiff the last attack forcing opponent to at least block it. Last but not least your forward dash can low profile many fireballs in the game, you need to try them out.
Try watching @STORM179 on YouTube and see how he does it.

Thanks for all the tips

  • I’ve tried using Descent and got punished a lot for it, so I didn’t know if it was viable or not. I’ll have to work on the timing
  • I haven’t been utilizing Shadow ORZ at all. I’ve only been using my meter for Influence.
  • Yeah, KI’s my first fighting game I’ve played since I was a kid, before dashing was common. Definitely need to utilize it more
  • I’m already noticing Storm is far more comfy getting right up in people’s faces, whereas I like to be at the end of naginata range. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I keep watching

Dash is extremely good for closing space and keeping your opponents on their toes. The option of dash to shadow command grab (the instant one) can make people extremely jumpy.

Also, simple reactions to projectiles by using shadow rekka can make people hesitant to use projectiles at a certain range as well. Even if you have a bad reaction, it still shows them that your willing to challenge them.

Also, wall jump can be pretty useful against some MUs. Some characters have options for it but it’s good to use. Your long normals can really help and your special air slice move can mess up enemy anti airs. You can use to stop momentum and delay timing of the landing.

Good luck on your practice! And welcome to KI :yum:

Id recommend dropping the Kyle AI and gong straight to Shadow lab or exhibition. You are going to learn really bad habits against the AI that will be hard to retrain yourself agaisnt human opponents.

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Hello Code, and welcome to KI - hope you enjoy your stay :slight_smile:

I’ll preface this by stating that Kyle AI is an input-reading SOB, and I have no idea how to properly fight it. Things to keep in mind or that you want to do against actual human beings, however, are below:

  • Descent is useful, but very slow. There aren’t a ton of options that you can react to with descent and get a punish. There are a lot of things you can do descent against though and basically reset to (slightly closer) neutral. It’s also a good tool to use on a read if someone is getting predictable with the timing for their zoning options.
  • Learn to use Hisako’s dash. Sako is actually one of the hardest characters in the game to keep out, because her dash is super fast, goes super far, and low profiles a fair number of zoning tools. If you block a Gargos portal punch for instance, Sako gets a free dash.
  • Use wall jump to clear lots of space when people give you the room to do so. Use her air-ORZ’s to stop her forward movement if needed.
  • Learn to use your meter for shadow-ORZ. It’s one of the furthest reaching projectile invincible moves in the game, and can hard punish projectile tosses from pretty incredible distances.
  • Be okay with just walking and blocking sometimes. It’s fine to trade life for space, but lots of people get tagged by way too much, too often for the trade to be worth it. Dash when you can, walk when you have to. Eventually you will catch them, and then you hurt them.

Hisako’s big buttons are glorious I know, but against hardcore zoners you don’t really have the luxury of sitting at max range just poking away. Your initial goal should be to get in, and once you’re there, your goal is to stay there and do as much damage as humanly possible. Sako his hard, so she tends to outdamage the zoners in the cast. The only thing you have to do is just make sure you get inside that space, and keep there as long as possible.

Can i ask when you started to play OP? I started 10 days ago and Ultimate(Kyle) wrecks me in no time… sometimes i wonder i should just stop playing it because i dont really getting better at all and im wasting my time. (i know its offtopic, sorry)

I think I’ve been playing a month. Ultimate is very aggressive, which is part of why I did some practice with it; it made me get used to an opponent that never lets up on the pressure. Every victory I’ve got against it included 10+ successful Vengeance counters. I wouldn’t get too upset over what you can or can’t do against it.

As far as getting better, you need to isolate what things you’re doing wrong and find a good way to practice them. I would also, if you haven’t, go to and read all the stuff on the game’s mechanics and your current favorite character. There are also YouTube guides on how to use the characters that may point out some things you didn’t think of.

I like big buttons, and I cannot lie. Thanks a ton for the rundown of approaches!

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No problem sir :slightly_smiling_face:

@kazuma921 I would strongly recommend against taking Kyle difficulty as any kind of barometer on what you’re learning or not about the game. I haven’t gotten less than 5th place in KI at a major in two years, and Kyle beats me pretty badly.

It’s not that Kyle is “good” per se, it’s that it’s cheap. Cheap in that special way that only an AI can be cheap. Beating it isn’t about making good gameplay decisions and devising smart and clever offensive strategies, but rather about finding the gameplay loop that breaks the AI enough for you to beat it. It is a really, really bad way to measure how good you are, and I counsel against playing it regularly because it will teach you really bad habits.

If you want to train yourself or measure your skills without jumping into the (admittedly difficult) online experience, then I suggest playing Shadow Lab. It is a much, much better tool to both learn and measure your growth with. Keep at it man - it really does get better with time!


Thank you for your support! Some days i feel my progress stopped and i lose my will to play, especially when i go online and im getting wrecked by other players (even lower level fighters.) Its just a bad feeling when you are playing a game for 2 weeks and your progress is slower than a sloth doing an X-Ray move on an orangutan (sorry just checked the MK 11 reveal on twitch). 2 weeks is not much time, but feels like it. I realized the AI can be a cheater with reading all of the inputs and react like a supercomputer, just like in every other fighting game, thats why i stick mostly to shadow survival, but the AI is really inconsistent here. Fighting against SP 500 shadows are hit and miss, some of them are not even trying, but the other AI is almost impossible to kill.
Never tried Shadow Lords tho, only finished the story modes (only once) for every character today. It will be my next step in the Killer Instinct experience. Dont get me wrong, KI is still the best fighting game ive played in a really long time! The problem is basically me, i can get discouraged very easily, especially on weekdays. I feel regret and sadness if im thinking about leaving it… i dont think im done!

@kazuma921 The shadow rankings are really messed up. Shadows with the most wins get the highest ranking, even if their win/loss ratio is absolutely abysmal. I’ve noticed almost no correlation between rank and difficulty, but shadows are still very helpful. Shadow Survival is what I credit most for my smooth transition to online. Shadow Lords is fun, and sometimes you go up against shadows, but most of the time you’ll be against the AI that teaches some bad habits.

I don’t worry about winning, and I feel losing is actually more productive, if I do something with it. You can replay your fights, see where things are consistently going wrong for you, and look for ways to fix it. I was playing on my lunch break just now (I live close to work) and got matched up 10 times against one of the top 3 killers in ranked. He kept beating the crap out of me, even doing it with multiple characters (I think to rub it in), but then I got him on the last match, even taking his first life bar with no damage, after which he finally turned on his microphone to angrily shout something at me. Still, the losing matches are of far more value, and I’ll be going over them in detail when I have some time.

Again, really take a deep read of if you haven’t; knowing the rules of the game and the strengths/weaknesses of your character can really make all the difference. I recently figured out how to use heavy auto-doubles/manuals without triggering an ender (thanks combo assist), and I didn’t realize how impossible Shadow Influence is to avoid until it was pointed out by someone. You may just lack knowledge.


I already read this page, but not everything yet. I think im just a slower, worse player by default than most of the gamers playing KI, and i need much more time to learn the things the game has to offer. According to Xbox my gametime is more than 40 hours but thats not really true, its not more than 30, and im not use training every day… well, i dont even remember when i played in the training modes. Some of my gameplays are just goof around with characters i dont know, checking out costumization items, or simply forgot to turn off the game and it runs in the background for hours. :smiley: Im level 29 right now.
Congratulations, you just beat one of the best players after one month of playing! Im screaming and running away when i see someone LVL 50, even if the leveling is not equal with skills (best example is me, lol.)
By the way, im still having fun most of the time. There are days when im focusing on wins and getting better, these days are the worst usually. I want to be decently good, but playing like a casual.

@STORM179 Hey, I have a more specific issue. I’ve been doing better in neutral, but I’ve been running into some Kan-Ras that set up a lot of stuff on knockdown, and I just can’t get back in the fight. Sometimes, I just have to wait till my second life bar to get a chance to attack again. How do you address that as Hisako?

I find myself wondering where you’re running into all these Kan-Ra’s. He’s generally a bit of a lesser-used character :joy:

In terms of when you get to take your turn back after a knockdown, it really depends on the setup Kan chooses. Against a skilled opponent though, chances are that you’re going to have to just hold some pressure. Kan can place scarabs after his HKD in such a way that if you counter his bandage normal you get launched into the scarab and Kan gets to combo. If you block the bandage however it’ll pull you into the scarab, which will then proc and give Kan a bunch of new plus frames to work with. Basically, getting knocked down by Kan means you probably have to deal with at least a two-layer mixup each time. If you have the reactions for it, I recommend just holding down+back and looking specifically for the command grab. Kan doesn’t have a grounded overhead, so clutch is really his only way to hit Hisako if she really turtles up (his jumping normals are an option, but since they lose quite hard to counter Kan’s tend to be wary of relying on them).

Make no mistake - this fight kind of sucks for Sako in neutral and defensively. It’s one of the match-ups that most rely on you doing your big damage once you get in, because Kan is very good at making you pay as you work your way closer. He’s extremely weak defensively himself, however, so once Hisako gets in she can absolutely destroy him. The fight is very momentum based, and will tend to snowball heavily in either direction. Remember to use your meter for shadow ORZ when Kan tries to spike too much or kick sand in your eye with his HK - it’s important to not let him get away with using projectiles from unsafe ranges.

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@STORM179 Maybe it’s my fault for using all Hisako markers on my profile card. Gold/Killer ranked people see a Bronze (just made Silver last night) Sako and figure they can make my life hell with Kan-Ra, which is not untrue.

I don’t like Kan-Ra at all, as a character, but I think I really need to go over the guides on him to really understand the tools he has

Also, thanks for linking in that video thread

Heh. I kinda doubt it. Kan is actually very hard to make work, so anyone you meet who runs him is likely dedicated to him at least a fair amount. The character gets punished really hard for making a bad read, so at lower and intermediate levels it’s pretty easy to get stomped out over a bad decision or two.

Next time you run into one record it and post it in the Replay Analysis Thread (located in the Dojo section of the forums). We can watch how you approach the MU and maybe give you some pointers :+1:t5:

EDIT: thread is here: