I see this conversation on twitter often for other games, so I thought it’d be fun to talk about who would be top tier if KI had an edition select version. By “edition select”, I mean you can pick any fighter from any official patch of the game. It doesn’t just have to be the character ended up at the end of a season, it could be some mid-season patch as well. Keep in mind more than just the character’s toolset, but also how the game engine itself was during that season.
If you can, try to decide on who your top 4 characters are. It’s easy to say “X character is strong”, but can you pick just 4?
Here are my picks:
1. S2 Maya (launch patch)
IMO, the best character in any version of KI. Might have met some resistance from Eyedol if they had been in the same version, but I think Maya was slightly better. Here’s a reminder of what she had, in addition to all the stuff she still has:
- All DPs were invincible
- All DPs, on hit, led to 30% unbreakable cashout with dagger juggles and mantis
- All DPs on block were incredibly hard to punish in real matches, due to the difference in launch trajectories between L, M, and H, and how Maya could delay dagger toss on block. It was possible you might get a grounded punish, but it was very risky. You could take an air trade if you were super on point (even slightly slow means you get hit by dagger) for maybe 10%, but considering Maya gets 30% on every hit for no meter spent, this is way not in your favor.
- Mantis cashed out + 14% raw damage even if it hit outside of a combo
- Shadow dagger linker left the opponent grounded for unbreakable combo extension
- Still had dagger ender for cashouts
- Still had long dagger juggle combos in regular situations
I think if she was still in the game, people would have been forced to learn proper punishes for DP, but it would still be really difficult in matches, and I think this volatility on her wakeup, leading to huge damage on hit, reward on block, and only marginal unsafety is what makes her so good. Her neutral being super hard to stop means that she is just never in a bad place anywhere on the screen.
2. S3 Eyedol (launch patch)
We’ll likely never know just how good this character was, because he got patched and I think most of the community realized he would be patched and didn’t put 100% effort into exploring him. But I think he would have contested Maya for best in the game.
He’s fresh in our minds so I don’t have to remind you too much about what he has. I think jump HP, by itself, literally shuts down about half the cast entirely. And that’s not counting how amazing warrior and mage bodies are for general purpose things (warrior rushdown kills people who have weak up-close game, and mage zoning murders characters like Raam, and yet both bodies are still pretty good at overcoming their weaknesses). I think we’ll learn in due time just how crazy good warrior body is, so we’ll look back at launch Eyedol and think about him in the same way we think about launch Maya now.
3. S1 Sadira
It’s hard for me to pick from the S1 characters, but I’m going with Sadira just because of her instinct and her spin to win loops. I think she hung really well with the other S1 top tiers (Wulf, Jago) and destroyed a lot of other characters in that game. She also had very high throw damage (because it was always jump canceled into a combo for around 18% that couldn’t be broken in S1), and her ground game was really good. I think she is a far cry away from the two characters above her, though.
4. S2 TJ Combo (launch)
A character that we didn’t fully understand at the time because S2 was so new, but I think would have been an absolute nightmare if we had a year to develop him. He has all the scariness of modern TJ’s rushdown, as well as the following:
- Light Tremor safe on block (-2 only), the other Tremors incredibly difficult to punish (-4 for M, -6 for H).
- Roll still invincible to strikes
- Old auto-barrage lets him end with any linker at any time
- Tremor crossed up if it hit behind you
- Tremor had no visual trails so it was a pure guess to break in the corner
- Powerline only -2 on block instead of -3
- Spin Fist was +1 instead of 0, so TJ could loop pressure unless you shadow countered or DPed
- Flying Knee had no block stun so it was virtually safe from all spacings
Here are my honorable mentions, knowing full well that someone will have them in their top 4 and that they would still be good picks:
Super strong character that was very difficult to break due to being able to manual anything after all linkers, built a ton of meter (way more than now), and had full screen shadow wind kick. He also had better frames on several buttons (fwd+HK was a frame faster, stand HP was quite a bit faster; these things were reduced in S2 to enforce the manual rules). The reason he’s not in my top 4, just barely, is because he doesn’t have a lot of the modern affordances we associate with Jago. He doesn’t have double fireball combos (which I think is quite a bit better than his S1 instinct), he doesn’t have the raw DP damage (that was added to S2, so DPs in S1 hurt only for about 6%), and he couldn’t cash out juggles for damage. The other stuff is super strong, but unlike some other characters, it’s not just “take what we know about current Jago and add a bunch of extra nonsense to him”. Going back to S1 is a give and take for him. It’s also entirely possible a different version of Jago is actually better (when compared strictly, and not just vs. other characters in their season).
S2 Kan-Ra (launch)
Can you imagine telling people after Kan-Ra’s launch patch that he might have been one of the best characters in the history of the game? Again, it’s really hard to know how good he actually was, but we can try to extrapolate a bit from what we saw Kan-Ra mains doing at the end of S2. He had all that stuff, and more (maybe Kan-Ra mains can help me with this list, I don’t remember everything he had):
- You could trick the game into always giving you a hard knockdown by whiffing sweep, so you always got set play
- Explosion was way harder to punish and had a giant hitbox
- Shadow scarab was 10 seconds long
- More attacks were unbreakable (like jump HK)
- All of Kan’s S2 frame data (so back+MP was +7 on block, scarabs were + on block, etc)
- What I feel like are tons more inescapable setups, and they hurt a lot more
- Spike built a TON of meter
Really strong character with great ground control, a backdash that was basically an Akuma teleport, way better normals (crouching LP that didn’t push back), and dash through eclipse was unblockable after the freeze. I think if he was in a true edition select version his value would be diminished a bit vs. all the other broken characters, and he had a bad matchup (Glacius) even in the limited S1 roster. He also didn’t have feral cancels and had weaker damage (no level 5 shadow cashouts, etc). But his complete dominance of the ground, with infallible (if low damage) anti-air, is really strong.
Who do you have as your best 4 characters in a KI edition select? Who do you think is the worst character to ever be in any version of KI?