Johnny Cage is all about pressure and all three of his variation complement that style of play. A-List requires a lot of Run Canceled combos to apply pressure, Fisticuffs offers very good chip damage from blocked combos and attacks, and Stunt Double allows Cage to pressure after his special moves are blocked. If you just want to sit back and zone, Cage can do that as well, but his play style is to pressure and that’s how you should be playing the character.
1 – Square/X
2 – Triangle/Y
3 – X/A
4 – Circle/B
Notation: Down, Forward+2
Enhanced: Yes, but no armor.
Johnny Cage retains his Fireball variations from previous Mortal Kombat games. He can shoot a Low Fireball (Down, Forward+2) or a High Fireball (Down, Back+2). Both projectiles travel in an arc with the High variant easily able to knock opponents out of the air. If your opponent is on the far side of the screen they cannot duck under either projectile, but as they get closer to Johnny Cage they can duck under it to avoid taking any damage. The enhanced versions of both fireballs give Cage a small advantage when blocked and can be useful to apply additional pressure after a blocked combo if you cancel the last hit into the Double Low Fireball or Double High Fireball.
Notation: Back, Down+3
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.
The one true trademark attack for Johnny Cage is the Nut Punch. Use this to place your opponent into a guessing game after a combo. End you combo with the Nut Punch to give Johnny Cage considerable advantage, then walk up and go for an overhead, low or throw. The enhanced version (Nutcracker) launches the opponent into the air and allows you to follow with a juggle combo. Both versions are very punishable if the opponent blocks so make sure your combo connects before you cancel into either attack.
Notation: Back, Forward+4
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.
Another trademark attack for Johnny Cage is the Shadow Kick. The normal version stops just shy of covering the entire length of the screen, but the enhanced version (Eclipse Kick) travels full screen and has armor. The Eclipse Kick is also safe if the opponent blocks, while the normal Shadow Kick is not. This makes the Eclipse Kick Cage’s best option for a wakeup attack if you’re being pressured by an opponent after being knocked to the ground. If you’re trying to get an opponent close to the corner, end your combos with the Shadow Kick to knock them far away.
Kasting Kall (X-Ray)
Johnny Cage’s X-Ray is one of the few in the game that hits as an overhead attack. You can combo into it during most of Cage’s combos or use it as a standalone attack to blow through an opponent’s attack. Cage has good enhanced special moves so your meter should go to those before you spend it all on the Kasting Kall X-Ray, but if you’re in a pinch and need the damage, this hits pretty hard.
The basic attacks and combos Cage has available across all three variations aren’t much to write home about. He doesn’t have a good overhead/low mix-up and what he does have is somewhat limiting. He can cancel his combos into enhanced special moves to get more damage or setup for another combo, but most of your Cage strategies will come from whichever variant you decide to go with.
Hammer Fist overhead (Forward+2) which leads into the Money Shot (Forward+2,4) and Cliffhanger (Forward+2,4,4) combos. Both are safe if the opponent blocks and work well as a mix-up for Cage’s low attacks. The Low Kick (Down+3) and Turnaround Heel (Down+4) should be your primary low attacks. While they don’t lead into any natural combos, they give Cage significant advantage if they hit and eventually your opponent will start blocking low so you can use the Hammer Fist to open them up.
The Widescreen combo (1,1,4) is a decent poking string that is safe if the opponent blocks. If it hits you can end the combo with a Shadow Kick for additional damage. Cross-Kutting (1,2,1) and Take Two (2,1,4) can both be used in a similar manner if you’re looking to push an opponent toward the corner. Both combos are safe if the opponent blocks, and while they can’t be canceled into the Shadow Kick, the last hits of both combos knocks the opponent far away.
Cage’s Fade-Out combo (Back+3,4,3) starts with a moderately slow attack, but ends with an overhead that’s safe if the opponent blocks. It’s not the best combo in the world, but when used once in awhile it has the potential to catch an opponent off-guard. You also have plenty of time to see if the first two attacks hit so you can cancel into once of Cage’s enhanced special moves and extend the combo.
The entire point of the Fisticuffs variant is to keep as much block pressure on the opponent as possible. Cage gains the Fist Bump (Back, Forward+1) special move, which doubles the amount of chip damage his attacks inflict when the opponent blocks. This goes very well with his new combo, Speed Bag (Back+1,2,1) which you can extend if you continue to press 2,1,2 repeatedly.
If you get an opponent trapped in the corner, end a combo with the Shadow Kick then immediately use Fist Bump and continue to pressure the opponent. If they have meter to burn watch out for an enhanced wakeup special move, otherwise go right into the Speed Bag combo to rack up the chip damage while the buff is active. This also works well after the Widescreen combo (1,1,4) if you cancel the last hit into the Fist Bump.
This variation also gives Cage the Flipkick (Down, Back+4). It’s not safe if the opponent blocks, but it works well as an anti-air attack. The enhanced version (Ultra Flipkick) has armor, which makes it extremely useful as an anti-air attack.
Stunt Double Variant
In the Stunt Double variation Johnny Cage gains a few useful tools. His Fireballs change to become the Straight Forceball. While the Straight Forceball travels a bit faster than the Fireballs, it also hits high which means your opponent will be able to duck under it. The enhanced version (Double Straight Forceball) shoots two projectiles back to back, but still hits high. If the opponent blocks these at close range Cage is at a very slight advantage (despite what the in-game frame data reads).
Cage also gains the Rising Shadow (Down, Back+1) which is his old uppercut from previous games. This works well as an anti-air attack, with the enhanced version (Shadow Dropkick) adding armor and two overhead kicks after the uppercut. Both versions can be punished if the opponent blocks, but the Shadow Dropkick is the best anti-air attack for Cage if you have the meter to burn, and also works well as a high-damage combo ender.
The biggest addition to the Stunt Double variation is the Mimic technique (Down, Back+4). This creates a yellow shadow that surrounds Cage. While the shadow is active the Shadow Kick and Rising Shadow execute as extensions of the yellow shadow without Cage having to move at all. This means that Cage is actually at advantage if the opponent blocks the Shadow Kick or Rising Shadow while Mimic is active.
Mimic only lasts for two attacks (Shadow Kick or Rising Shadow), then has a short cool down period before it can be activated again. You also have to be careful when you activate it because it can be punished if your opponent is too close or can hit you quickly from a distance. However, once it’s active you should pressure the opponent as much as you can.
End your blocked combos with the Shadow Kick or Rising Shadow and continue attacking to maintain pressure. If your combo connects do not use the Shadow Kick or Rising Shadow to conserve the Mimic trait. Use the Nut Punch so you can continue to keep pressure on the opponent.
The A-List Cage variation is arguably one of the most challenging variations in the game. To play it correctly you need to be able to cancel a number of Cage’s attacks and combos and immediately start a new combo. He gains the Force Punch (Back+2), which can be charged by holding 2 and canceled during the charge by pressing Forward, Forward or Back, Back. He also gains two combos, Fatal Strike (1,2,1) and Entertainer (Forward+3,4). The last hit of both combos can be held to charge the attack, or canceled just like the Force Punch.
For special moves Cage gets the Rising Kick (Down, Back+4), Nut Breaker (Back, Down+3) and Flashy Shadow Kick (Back, Forward+4). All three can be charged and canceled just like the previously mentioned combos in this variation. The advantage of the Nut Breaker over the standard Nut Punch is that it’s very easy to confirm if the attack hit, then press Block to get the enhanced version. You’ve got plenty of time to hit Block to get the launcher and follow with a juggle combo.
The basic idea behind A-List is to cancel these attacks and combos with a Run Cancel (Forward, Forward, then tap Block). If the combo connects before the cancel you can extend the combo with a properly timed Run Cancel. For example, if you use Fatal Strike and the 1,2 connects, you can Run Cancel the last hit and then go right into another Fatal Strike combo. You can do this up to three times.
You can even end some of Cage’s unsafe combos with the Flashy Shadow Kick, Run Cancel it and start another combo to make what was once an easily punished combo into what is now safe. However, this all relies on your ability to Run Cancel consistently. It will take some practice to get the timing down.
A-List Johnny Cage is all about pressure, but it takes a lot of skill to maintain that pressure. If you’re having trouble, try one of the other two variations first. All three all you to apply solid pressure to your opponent, but the other two variations don’t require quite as much dexterity.
23 percent – Forward+2,4, Down+1, Forward+2,4, Nut Punch
33 percent – Forward+2,4, Forward+3, Nutcracker, Forward+2,4, Nut Punch
25 percent – Back+3,4, Flashy Shadow Kick, Run Cancel, Forward+2,4, Down+1, Forward+3, Nut Punch
Here’s Johnny (Fatality 1) – Back, Forward, Back, Forward, 1 (Close)
Little Improv (Fatality 2) – Forward, Back, Forward, Forward (Mid-Screen)
Eye Popping (Brutality 1) – Hit the opponent with at least four Nut Punch attacks (Back, Down+3) throughout the match and kill the opponent with a Nut Punch or Nut Cracker (Back, Down+3+Block).