Tips on opening people up

As I’m progressing in my journey not only in Killer Instinct but also fighting games in general I’m noticing my new plateau is my inability to easily open up skilled opponents and the opposite is true of me, that I am easily opened up.

I’m looking for some pointers on how to do it and also why it happens.

I’ll admit I often try to open with special moves and command moves, and rarely light normals. I also admit, being fairly new to the game, I literally just realized I can begin a combo with crouching kicks and similar things, well any normal for that matter.

I suppose that’s simply the secret, is using the quickest moves low and overhead? It’s just difficult to see the big picture at my skill level right now.

I’ve gotten very good with exploiting shenanigans and mixing up combos and, although not so good yet I will add manuals, but this (I’m not sure if this is what it’s referred to?) neutral game is my big weakness.

Please help

I recommend posting a replay or two for people to go over - it’s much easier to give advice once we’ve seen what you’re actually doing.

My general rule is that you want to land the heaviest normal that will hit someone in a given situation, but that will depend a great deal on what that situation is. At range maybe you’re poking with a heavy, while up close you’re mashing cr.LK. Sometimes opening someone up will come from putting frame traps in your pressure, sometimes from throwing them, sometimes from raw overheads in unexpected places. Sometimes you just wait for them to do something stupid that you can punish. Context matters a great deal when trying to open someone up.


It also is going to depend on your character.

For a quick example, a Cinder might try to open you up by putting orbs on you, trailblazing over your head trying to bait you into pressing a button and launching you with a orb explosion. Or, Kan-Ra is going to lay sandtraps, put scarabs over your head and command grab you into a combo. And Jago? Well, he’ll just press on you until you block wrong.

Sort of the beauty of this game and it’s learning curve too.

A replay of some kind will help you get more insight. There’s knowledgeable players around, as well as a few character specialists that know how to make their character perform ridiculous stuff.

Learn all the frame traps of your character.

(TBH if you learn them all, then go online, each match you can just try them out 1 at a time until you find the one your opponent doesnt know how to deal with. then use it over and over. that will get you to killer pretty easy.)

But the HONEST way, is to learn how to block, and wait for an opening / shadow counter opportunity. Most good players dont get opened up without using a creative frametrap / shadow counter.

One fun method is to jump at them (and assuming they don’t anti-air you) without attacking, and then go in for a low poke, such as with c.LK (for most characters). You can then use that, on hit, to start combos. If they block it, then you’ve trained them to block low - once they start doing that, then you can more easily hit them with a grounded or jumping (if your character can’t do grounded) overhead attack.

You can even do jump-in attacks to train them to block high, so you can hit low. Or, you can jump-in from a safe distance, and then dash in for a quick attack or grab when they may think you’ll jump in again.

No, don’t do that. None of it.

Do not assume to not get AAed! That’s a bad habit noobs do a lot. Please don’t enforce it @GalacticGeek.

Of course there are safe jumps, setups and characters that can change their jump arc, but don’t jump in just like that.


Well, I know it’s generally not safe, but not everybody anti-airs effectively. Besides, you can either fall just short so their AA misses, but you’re still in range for your low to hit, or you can already be up in their grill applying pressure and can then fake a neutral jump attack into the low, a grab, or an overhead.

The main idea here is to train your opponent into doing something, so you can then counter it and open them up, not just jump in and hope it works.

From what I’ve seen and experienced one thing newer players tend to not think about in KI is blocking low, so if you can work on starting combos with a low neutral attack and follow with an opener, it’s a good way of opening up low-ranked players.
In fact Shago’s low slide, coupled with his mix-up attacks, is the reason he’s referred to as a “noob killer”; he exploits all of a new player’s bad blocking habits.

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This doesn’t exactly have to do with my OP, however hopefully someone can chime in. I noticed watching some tournaments there appears to be a counter shadow breaker. I can see two reasons this happens from footage I watched…

  1. There’s a legit mechanic to do it
  2. Somehow you drop your combo in reaction to the counter breaker and then counter breaker their shadow attack during your block post combo drop… and that seems very unlikely in terms of frame data

An example can be seen here
Sorry that’s a mobile link, the video is called Apex 2016 KI Circa Nicky vs SketchGFX NS it’s 9.34 long

Another very random question from the same video I just heard the announcer literally say, “I noticed [he] played without the hitbox, pretty cool”. Wtf? Is that normal in upper level play to turn hitbox on?

No, it’s not common to play with hitboxes active (and never done in tournament). Good way to miss some minor animation tells I would think.

Please let us know when in the video the suspect interaction you’re describing happens. I don’t have time to watch the full video right now, but could probably check in and provide perspective/context if I knew where to find it.

The hitbox the commentators were talking about is referring to Sketch’s controller. Look at the guy in whites controller. I guess the best way to describe it is a controller that uses button presses for everything instead of an analog stick.

Far as the counter, i believe you’re talking about Shadow Counters, but please tell when it happened in the video and we can say for sure.

Oops I thought I did I forgot, it’s about exactly at 7.33

Ah. Yeah, that wasn’t a counter breaker or shadow breaker or anything wonky - Nicky just canceled his special into a shadow DP on reaction to the screen freeze from his opponent.