Killer Instinct: Introduction and Mechanics Guide

Introduction: I want to give a big shout out to “Crazy Naplam88” on the official Killer Instinct forums (   for creating this masterful document. KI is am amazing return to form of the classic fighting game. The game is currently FREE on XBOX One and uses a Micro transaction model to buy character that you want to play. I encourage everyone to download it and give it a whirl. The guide below will help you on your journey to the top!

If you’re familiar with traditional Street Fighter controls, it will not be difficult to learn Killer Instinct’s controls. The control layout is identical to SF, with three punches and three kicks serving as the primary attack buttons. At E3, every Killer Instinct setup was accompanied by two Mad Catz Arcade FightStick TE2s. For the time being, let’s assume that will be the case at Evo as well.

While you can change the button configuration, this was the default button layout:



Basic Game Mechanics Part 1

To make the most of your short time with Killer Instinct at, you must understand the basic elements of the game system. In this section, you’ll learn how the round structure works, as well as the basic flow of combos. KI is a very combo-heavy fighting game. If you do not know how to properly execute combos, you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.

First life bar.


Second life bar.


If you’ve played a Killer Instinct game before, you know that it does not use rounds in the traditional sense. Instead, each character’s life bar is divided into two sections. The first section is green. When that is depleted, the game takes a short break and a red life bar appears, then the game resumes. When one character’s red life bar is depleted, the game is over.

It’s important to note that both players can move around during the short break between life bars. This allows you to potentially escape a bad corner situation or just back away from an opponent to get some breathing room.

Combo Flow:
Combos have a very specific flow in Killer Instinct. While the system is more open than it was in the previous games, it’s important to know how combos work in order to maximize damage and make it more difficult for an opponent to use a Combo Breaker. The general flow of a combo is as follows:

Opener > Auto-Double / Manual > Linker / Shadow Linker > Auto-Double / Manual > Ender

You can mix and match to be a little more creative with your combos, or use an Ender earlier in a combo to cut it short, but this is the basic structure of a Killer Instinct combo. If you ignore this, you will have a difficult time performing combos in the game.

The easiest way to extend a combo is by using an Auto-Double. After an Opener or Linker, an Auto-Double performs two consecutive hits. You can follow an Auto-Double with another Linker or an Ender, depending on how you wish to continue your combo.

In the original Killer Instinct, the general rule on Auto-Doubles was to use the immediately weaker button following an Opener or Linker (Heavy to Medium, Medium to Light, or Light to Heavy). For example, if you use Jago’s MK Wind Kick, you would follow with LP or LK as an Auto-Double. The new system is far more lenient, allowing any attack button to be used as an Auto-Double.JagoRender_zps7af79c80

While an Auto-Double is relatively easy to execute, it’s also fairly easy to break. An opponent has from the initial frame of the first hit in an Auto-Double until the final frame of the second hit to perform a Combo Breaker. At the highest level of play, it should not be difficult to break Auto-Doubles on-reaction.

A Manual is used in the same situation as an Auto-Double. However, instead of two hits, you only get one. In addition, the timing is stricter to execute a Manual compared to an Auto-Double. To execute a Manual, you must input the command at the end of the previous attack. The window to input the command is much smaller than that of an Auto-Double, and if you mistime the input, you’ll more than likely either drop the combo or get an Auto-Double instead of a Manual. In Street Fighter terms, think of an Auto-Double being as easy to execute as a Target Combo, while a Manual is similar to a 1-frame Link (although the timing is closer to a 3-4 frame link).

When you first start to play Killer Instinct, Auto-Doubles will probably be your main focus during combos. However, once you’ve grown accustomed to the combo system, you should focus more on Manuals. It is much harder to break a Manual compared to an Auto-Double, and Manuals are the best way to maximize damage without using a meter.

Linkers are another way to extend combos in Killer Instinct. You can use a special move or Shadow move as a Linker. For the most part, a Medium special move used in a combo serves as a Linker. In basic combos, Linkers bridge the gap between Manuals or Auto-Doubles, but as the KI combo system is fairly open, you can get creative with your use of Linkers, Manuals and Auto-Doubles.

Enders are essentially Heavy special moves used at the end of a combo. However, certain Enders have specific properties. For instance, Sabrewulf’s HP Ragged Edge causes a wall bounce that leaves an opponent stunned for a short time (in the corner only). Other Enders may cause a juggle state, additional meter gain or maximum damage.

Note: It is EXTREMELY important to complete every possible combo with an Ender to achieve maximum damage.

Basic Game Mechanics Part 2

Once you have the basics of the combo system down, you need to know how to use meter and how to best defend yourself. This section covers Combo Breakers, combo damage, Ultra Combos, the KV, Shadow and Instinct meters and throws. As an offensive game, Killer Instinct allows you to gain meter very quickly, so it’s important to know what options you have when it comes to using meter.

Combo Breakers:
The Combo Breaker has been a staple of the Killer Instinct series since its inception. To execute a Combo Breaker, in the middle of a combo press the punch and kick buttons equivalent in strength to the attack your opponent is using. For example, you would press MP + MK to break an opponent’s MP Auto-Double.

A successful Combo Breaker stops a combo and builds Instinct Meter. However, if you miss a Combo Breaker or use it on an attack that cannot be broken, an exclamation point appears by your character. This indicates that you cannot attempt another Combo Breaker for three seconds (180 frames), giving an opponent ample time to accumulate damage. A red X with an exclamation point means that you used the wrong strength Combo Breaker, while an orange X with an exclamation point indicates a mistimed Combo Breaker.

In the original KI, the highest level of play revolved around unbreakable combos. However, in the new KI, the plan is to make sure that everything can be broken in some way. As of the E3 build, Enders, Shadow Linkers and Ultra Combos could not be broken by conventional Combo Breakers. It is currently unknown how or if these attacks can be broken by other means.

Counter Breakers (Bluffs)
A Combo Breaker stops an opponent’s combo. A Counter Breaker stops an opponent’s Combo Breaker. If you anticipate an opponent is going to attempt a Combo Breaker, press MP+MK to stop your combo and execute a Bluff. When this happens, your character performs a unique Bluff animation. If the opponent attempts a Combo Breaker during this brief animation, you will automatically perform a Counter Breaker. This causes the opponent to be locked out for four seconds (240 frames), allowing you to inflict as much damage as possible before they can use another Combo Breaker.

In most cases using a Counter Breaker is a guess based on when you think an opponent will attempt a Combo Breaker. If you guess incorrectly, your character is left open to an attack for a short time. If you over use Bluffs, you’ll not only interrupt your combo and lose damage, you’ll also be very susceptible to an attack from the opponent. Be very careful when attempting a Bluff.

KV Meter and Combo Damage:
The KV meter appears after two hits.


It fills as you continue a combo.


Use a combo Ender before it maxes out.


During every combo in Killer Instinct, a white bar appears under the combo hit counter. This is called the Knockout Value or KV meter. With each additional hit in your combo, the bar increases until it turns red. This meter is a visual representation of your potential combo length and damage. If you do not use a proper Ender by the time the KV meter turns red, the opponent is knocked away, you lose all of the built-up potential damage and your total combo damage suffers greatly.

Auto-Doubles cache up to 50 percent of their damage during a combo. That damage is lost if you do not use a proper Ender. Manuals and certain attacks cause the KV meter to build slower compared to using Auto-Doubles (allowing for more attacks in a combo). Shadow attacks do not build any KV meter at all.

For example, a 10-hit combo with Jago that does not use a proper Ender may inflict 12 percent damage. However, an eight-hit combo with a proper Ender could easily inflict 20 percent damage or more. If you’re not getting much damage out of your combos, chances are you’re simply not using a proper Ender.

Shadow Meter:
Half a Shadow meter allows you to use a Shadow attack.


A full Shadow meter allows you to use two Shadow attacks.


The Shadow meter is the blue bar at the bottom of the screen. It’s cut into halves and provides access to Shadow versions of special moves. For Street Fighter players, think of Shadow attacks as EX special moves. They’re executed with two Punch or Kick buttons instead of one, and use 50 percent of your Shadow meter. The meter is used anytime you execute a Shadow attack, whether as a standalone attack or as a Shadow Linker during a combo.

Shadow Linkers inflict far more damage than a normal Linker and cannot be broken with a Combo Breaker. In addition, Shadow attacks generally have unique properties. For instance, Jago’s Shadow Wind Kick is projectile invincible (goes through fireballs).

The Shadow meter fills when inflicting damage on an opponent, or when an opponent blocks your attacks. Due to the heavy offensive focus of Killer Instinct, the Shadow meter fills up extremely fast when an opponent blocks. In the E3 build, four blocked fireballs gave Jago a FULL Shadow meter.

Shadow Breakers
A Shadow Breaker is essentially a Combo Breaker performed during a Shadow Linker. All Shadow Linkers consist of five hits. The speed of these hits varies with each Shadow Linker. In order to perform a Shadow Breaker, you must press MP+MK during any three of the five hits in a Shadow Linker. The timing can be tricky, but if you’re successful with the first attempt, the announcer yells, “One.” If you’re successful with the second attempt, the announcer yells, “Two.” If you connect with the third MP+MK attempt, the Shadow Linker will be broken.

575px-SaberwolfRender_zpsda885e42Keep in mind, the opponent can hear the announcer just as well as you can. This means that they can be ready to perform a Bluff once they hear “one” or “two” from the announcer. While the timing can be more difficult, if you can hit the first two breaker attempts during the first two hits of the Shadow Linker, you’ll have any of the last three hits in the Shadow Linker to connect the last breaker attempt. This can help prevent a Bluff or bait the offensive player into a Bluff when you have no intention of using a Shadow Breaker.

Shadow Counters
When your Shadow meter has at least one stock (half full), you can execute a Shadow Counter by pressing MP+MK. If an opponent attacks during the Shadow Counter animation, your character will automatically execute a Shadow attack that serves as a combo Opener (and cannot be broken). It’s important to note that the Shadow attack is not immediate. If the opponent is in the middle of a block string, their next attack will almost always interrupt the Shadow attack portion of a Shadow Counter. To avoid this, use a Shadow Counter just before the last hit of a block string. For example, if Jago uses his HP Laser Blade, it’s a two-hit attack. Block the first hit, then use a Shadow Counter just before you block the second hit.

Using a Shadow Counter effectively can be tricky. It’s relatively easy to use when blocking a Shadow attack, because you can block the first four hits, then execute a Shadow Counter. However, the timing for a Shadow Counter is fairly strict. You can’t just mash MP+MK and expect it to work every time. You have to time the Shadow Counter so that it executes just before the opponent’s next attack. You don’t have a large window to use a Shadow Counter, as it’s a very precise strategic tool.

Instinct Meter:
Your character portrait glows when your Instinct meter is full.


New to the Killer Instinct franchise is the Instinct meter. It appears near the top of the screen by the life bars, near your character’s portrait. The Instinct meter fills when you take damage or successfully execute a Combo Breaker. If you initially use Instinct shortly after the meter is full, you should be able to use it again by the time you are in Ultra Combo danger (below 15 percent health in your second life bar).

When full, the Instinct meter allows you to enter Instinct Mode. The attributes of Instinct Mode vary from character to character, but it has been loosely compared to X-Factor in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. For example, Jago’s Instinct Mode regains lost health and improves his frame data by +4 block stun and hit stun while Instinct is active, while Sabrewulf gets increased chip (block) damage and a general damage buff.

Instinct Mode can also be used mid-combo to reset the KV meter or even mid-Ultra to “style” on an opponent. After an Instinct Cancel, you can essentially start a brand new combo while the opponent is helpless. Keep in mind, this also gives an opponent more chances to use a Combo Breaker.

Ultra Combos:
When an opponent is down to 15 percent health or below, on their second life bar (the red life bar), it is possible to perform an Ultra Combo. Each character has a unique Ultra Combo input that is generally a special move with all three attack buttons (LK + MK + HK or LP + MP + HP). You can execute an Ultra Combo as soon as the combo counter reads at least two hits. As soon as an Ultra Combo is initiated, it depletes the opponent’s remaining health and the game is essentially over.

Note: Ultra Combos can be Instinct canceled for a longer Ultra, and even continued into a 2nd Ultra by pressing HK+HP

Note: Ultra Combos can also be instantly cancelled at any with an Ultra Ender anytime by pressing MP+MK

Throws in Killer Instinct are very similar to throws in Street Fighter. They are executed by pressing LP + LK. In addition, throws have a large amount of invincibility frames and go through almost any other attack. However, they have very limited range. Jago has the ability to cancel his throw animation into a Shadow attack.

Back Throws are performed the same way, but while pressing or holding back as you’re throwing, some characters can combo off of back throws.

Air Throws are also performed by pressing LP+LK in the air, opponent also has to be in the air.


Written by DrDogg for PrimaGames found here:…r-instinct-mini-eguide-evo-edition-introducti



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