Killer Instinct: Sabrewulf Breakdown - Prima Games

Killer Instinct: Sabrewulf Breakdown

by Bryan Dawson

At E3 2013, we got our first look at Killer Instinct and Sabrewulf. Many of the most important system mechanics had yet to be implemented, but it was clear this was Killer Instinct and Sabrewulf would be a rush down character. Fast-forward a month to the Evolution Fighting Game Championship in Las Vegas, NV, and we played an updated build of KI. Sabrewulf is still a rush down character, but now we’ve got a better look at how he fits into the new game.

For a complete list of Sabrewulf’s moves, you can check out our pre-Evo mini-guide, which took a quick look at the general system mechanics and a little bit of what Sabrewulf was capable of in the E3 build. This article will focus on how best to use each of his special attacks, as well as how he utilizes the general system mechanics of Killer Instinct. Stay tuned for an updated mini-guide that we’ll release just in time for anyone attending PAX Prime later this month.

General System Mechanics

While things are still early for the KI development team over at Double Helix Games (and we expect quite a few changes before release), the system mechanics in place as of Evo both hurt and helped Sabrewulf. First and foremost is the new Shadow Breaker. This allows players to use a Combo Breaker when being hit by a Shadow Linker (a Shadow Move used in the middle of a combo). The defending player must time Combo Breakers with any three hits of a Shadow Linker in order to break it. While all Shadow Linkers are five hits, and any three of the five hits can be used for a Combo Breaker, Sabrewulf’s Shadow Jumping Slash is one of the fastest in the game, which can make it difficult to break. It also gives an opponent less time to determine which of the hits to break on, making it easier to Bluff an opponent with a Counter Breaker.

What hurts Sabrewulf is the Shadow Counter system. When a character has at least 50 percent meter, after blocking at least one hit, they can use a Shadow Counter. If the opponent attacks again during the Shadow Counter animation, the defending character automatically interrupts with a Shadow attack. Unfortunately for Sabrewulf, all three variations of his Ragged Edge are two hits. That means an opponent can block the first hit, then use a Shadow Counter on the second hit. This drastically limits Sabrewulf’s options when an opponent is blocking, but he still has very useful tools. You just have to be far more careful with how you attack an opponent.

Something unique to Sabrewulf is his dash. It’s faster than the other characters and has the ability to cross up an opponent, leaving Sabrewulf on the opposite side. It has some recovery at the end of the dash animation, but with proper timing, you can make it very difficult for an opponent to block properly. If you find yourself getting knocked out of the cross-up dash, use a Shadow Eclipse at the end of the dash to keep the opponent on their toes. The invincibility frames at the beginning of the Shadow Eclipse will go through most attacks with proper timing. After a blocked jumping HK, you can cross up an opponent with a dash while they’re still in block stun, preventing them from interrupting your next attack.

Ragged Edge – B,F+P

Sabrewulf is not a very safe character at the moment. While we expect this to change before the final build, for the time being, Ragged Edge is his only special move that’s safe when blocked. In fact, only the LP version of the Ragged Edge is safe. As long as the opponent does not have enough meter to use a Shadow Counter, poke with any normal (crouching MP is recommended) and 2-in-1 into Ragged Edge.

Meter is gained primarily by making an opponent block, so it’s not a bad idea to poke with normals into the LP Ragged Edge to gain meter. In addition, if you’re close enough, use Sabrewulf’s Manuals to create a chain, then end the chain with a 2-in-1 into a LP Ragged Edge for maximum meter gain (LP, MP, HP, Ragged Edge). Keep in mind that if you’re too far away, part of the chain may whiff, leaving Sabrewulf vulnerable for a short time.

The Shadow Ragged Edge does not give Sabrewulf frame advantage when blocked, doesn’t have any special properties and it’s very easy to Shadow Counter if the opponent has meter, so only use it during combos. Outside of combos, it can be interrupted with ease, and has no invincibility frames.

Eclipse – D,U+P

This is Sabrewulf’s primary anti-air attack when an opponent jumps toward you. While he can use some normals as anti-airs as well, this is your best bet in most circumstances. It can also be used at the end of most air juggles if you catch an opponent in the air, or use one of Sabrewulf’s combo enders that results in an aerial opponent (in a juggle state). The Eclipse is not safe, so do not use it unless you’re sure it’s going to connect (primarily as an anti-air).

The Shadow Eclipse is Sabrewulf’s only Shadow attack with invincibility frames. The attack cannot be interrupted during the first part of the animation. However, it’s still very unsafe if the opponent blocks. If you have a full Instinct meter, you can use an Instinct Cancel like you would use a Focus Attack Dash Cancel in Street Fighter IV. Initiate the Shadow Eclipse, and if the opponent blocks, use an Instinct Cancel before the last hit to cancel out of the attack and remain safe. In most cases you even have slight frame advantage to continue your offense. This also makes for a good wake-up tactic after being knocked to the ground.

Run – B,F+K

As for the Evo build, Sabrewulf’s Run doesn’t do much on its own. However, it leads into three attacks that can be of great use. Use the Run as a means to gain access to Sabrewulf’s Hamstring, Jumping Slash and Running Uppercut. Your best course of action is to cancel into one of the Run attacks so quickly that you do not see the Run animation. It should look as if you went straight into the attack without the Run. The timing on this is fairly easy once you get it down.

Hamstring – LP or LK (during Run; crosses up on hit; goes under projectiles)

The Hamstring is Sabrewulf’s only low-hitting special move and is initiated from the Run. It should be mixed up with the Jumping Slash, which hits overhead. This gives Sabrewulf a mix-up between an overhead and a low, both of which can be used immediately following a blocked normal, making it a tough mix-up to block.

Unfortunately, if the Hamstring is blocked, it’s unsafe and can be punished. However, if it hits, Sabrewulf crosses up the opponent and continues his combo on the opposite side. This is ideal for getting Sabrewulf out of a corner while simultaneously trapping an opponent. It’s important to note that if the Hamstring connects from max range, it will not cross up or lead into a combo.

The Hamstring is especially useful against projectile attacks because it slides under most projectiles. Against Jago, use it to slide under his Endokuken, but be careful that he doesn’t follow it with a Wind Kick. Jago’s Wind Kick will cleanly beat Sabrewulf’s Hamstring.

Jumping Slash – MP or MK (during Run; overhead)

The Jumping Slash is the second part of the overhead, low mix-up that Sabrewulf has from his Run. As the overhead portion of the mix-up, the Jumping Slash can also evade some low attacks with proper timing. Unfortunately, just like the Hamstring (the low part of the mix-up), the Jumping Slash is not safe if the opponent blocks. Sabrewulf has to use this mix-up to break down an opponent’s defense, but it’s not a safe mix-up.

The Shadow Jumping Slash is invulnerable to projectile attacks, but unlike Jago’s Shadow Wind Kick, it does not cover the entire length of the screen. It will reach roughly halfway across the screen, so try to position yourself close enough to an opponent to punish any projectile with a Shadow Jumping Slash. The attack is safe when blocked, but does not give Sabrewulf frame advantage.

Running Uppercut – HP or HK (during Run; juggle state)

A smart opponent will know that Sabrewulf’s Jumping Slash and Hamstring can be evaded by a well-timed jump. If you see an opponent jumping up or back quite often (primarily to avoid the Run mix-up), mix in a Running Uppercut to knock them out of the air. In addition, after connecting with a Running Uppercut, you can follow with an Eclipse or even a normal canceled into an Eclipse with proper timing. Keep in mind, the Running Uppercut is not safe if the opponent blocks the attack, so only use it if you believe it’s going to hit.

Rabid Bites (mash any attack button rapidly during a combo)

While not technically a Manual, Sabrewulf’s Rabid Bites are one of his best sources of damage in a combo. From an execution standpoint, you’re basically just doing the same Auto-Double over and over again. The animation is easy to read and easy to break, but it opens up an opponent to a Bluff (Counter Breaker), and it generates great damage if you use it after an opponent has been locked out (especially the HP or HK Rabid Bites).

Your best bet is to wait until you see the exclamation point appear next to the opponent, indicating that they’ve missed a Combo Breaker and are locked out. At this point, start the Rabid Bites with either HP or HK, and time an Ender to execute just before the opponent is free of the lock out status. It’s best to end the combo at this point to cash in on all of the potential damage you just earned, but if you really need maximum damage, you can continue the combo with another Linker. Just keep an eye on the KV meter and remember that the opponent can use a Combo Breaker as soon as the exclamation point disappears.

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