Mortal Kombat X - How to Play Kung Lao: Combos and Strategies - Prima Games

Mortal Kombat X – How to Play Kung Lao: Combos and Strategies

by Bryan Dawson

Kung Lao is a character that relies heavily on traps and setups. The Buzz Saw and Hat Trick variations give him a number of ways to place his hat on the screen so that your opponents have difficulty attacking Kung Lao. The Tempest variation gives Kung Lao additional protection. In addition, he has one of the fastest special moves in the game, which allows him to punish many attacks that would normally be safe if other characters blocked them. If you have good defense and a mind for setups and traps, Kung Lao is the character for you!

Notation Key

1 – Square/X
2 – Triangle/Y
3 – X/A
4 – Circle/B

Dive Kick
Notation: Down+4 (in the air)
Enhanced: Yes, but no armor.

Kung Lao’s trademark Dive Kick is one of the fastest attacks in Mortal Kombat X, but if the opponent blocks it’s very easy to punish Kung Lao. The enhanced version (Multi-Kick) hits multiple times and inflicts a bit more damage. You can combo after both versions depending on how low you connect the kick, but it’s much easier to combo after the Multi-Kick. Use the Dive Kick to extend combos and to punish opponents who try to attack while Kung Lao is in the air.

Notation: Down, Up
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

Kung Lao’s Teleport has four different attack options and can be done in the air or on the ground. The enhanced version (Advanced Teleportation) has armor on the way down, but not as Kung Lao comes back up. After the initial notation you can attack with the Teleport Throw (1), Hammer Punch (2), Teleport Kick (3) or Drop Kick (4). The speed at which you input the additional command determines when the attack connects. For example, if you press 1 immediately after the Teleport, Kung Lao will use the Teleport Throw as soon as possible. If you wait, you can still press 1 at any point while Kung Lao is in the air after teleporting behind the opponent.

The Hammer Punch is an overhead, with the Teleport Kick and Drop Kick hitting mid. However, the height at which you initiate the attack can cause it to miss a ducking opponent. If the opponent is ducking you generally need to use the Hammer Punch very late, and the Teleport Kick and Drop Kick as soon as possible. The Teleport Throw will always miss a ducking opponent. With all of this in mind, make sure you pay close attention to whether your opponent is standing or crouching when you Teleport.

Finally, it’s not difficult for a skilled player to interrupt every option from the Teleport with a well-timed Down+1 or uppercut (Down+2). It’s best to use the Teleport in the air to catch an opponent off-guard, or when they’re in the middle of an attack animation and can’t immediately attack you out of the Teleport.

Notation: Down, Forward+1
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

Kung Lao’s final trademark attack is the Spin. It’s one of the best anti-air attacks in the game and even works well against cross-up jump attacks if you time it well. After a Spin hits it’s fairly easy to follow with a juggle combo, and if it hits an aerial opponent you can even start with a Jump Kick into a Dive Kick for additional damage. The Spin is also one of the fastest special moves in the game, which means it can punish a lot of attacks that would normally be more difficult to punish after blocking.

The enhanced version (Vortex) covers about half the screen and sucks in the opponent. While it has armor, more often than not it will simply suck in the opponent, ignoring their attack so Kung Lao doesn’t take any damage. Keep in mind, both the Spin and the Vortex are unsafe if the opponent blocks, so only use it when you know it will connect.

Head Trauma (X-Ray)

Kung Lao’s X-Ray starts with a flying kick that hits three times and covers the length of the screen. Normally the X-Ray inflicts 34 percent damage when done alone (if you combo into it the damage will scale). However, this damage includes all three kicks from the flying kick. If you attack from across the screen and only hit with the last kick of the flying kick, the damage will drop down to 25 percent. Keep this in mind because burning your entire super meter for 25 percent damage generally isn’t worth it.

While Kung Lao isn’t quite as meter-dependant as some other characters in Mortal Kombat X, meter gives him armor and makes your life a bit easier. If you’re going to spend all of your meter on a single attack, make sure you’re getting as much damage as possible out of it. It’s best to end combos with Kung Lao’s X-Ray, or to use it at close range to ensure you get a decent amount of damage from the attack.

Basic Strategy

Kung Lao is a character that relies heavily on the mistakes of his opponents. He doesn’t have a very good overhead/low mix-up game, but he can punish very well. His Spin is one of the fastest special moves in the game and makes a lot of attacks punishable by a full combo that would normally be safe against other characters. The trick is to look for attacks that show a Block Adv of -9 or higher in the Frame Data section of the move list. These are the attacks you can punish with a well-timed Spin.

While Kung Lao has a decent overhead attack, he is lacking in low attacks. The Low Kick (Down+3) and Full Sweep (Down+4) are safe low pokes, but that’s all Kung Lao really has for low attacks aside from a few combos that end with unsafe low attacks.

Hat Slice (Back+2) is a safe attack that hits overhead, while the Flip Kick (Forward+4) is an overhead that’s not safe if the opponent blocks. The Hat Slice leads into the Raze Rim combo (Back+2,2), which is a double overhead combo that bounces the opponent off the ground if the second attack hits. You can follow this with a special move for additional damage, or in the corner you can use the Spin for a full combo follow-up.

The Butterfly Kick combo (4,4) ends with a safe overhead attack that bounces the opponent off the ground. You can follow this with a Run Cancel (Forward, Forward+Tap Block) and get a full juggle combo if it connects. The first attack hits hit, but this can be very useful, especially as a punishment option since the first attack is moderately fast.

The Chain Fist combo (1,1,2,1,2,4) can be challenging for new players. The first two hits can be done just like any other combos, but the last four hits must be done very quickly to get them to work properly. You can’t mash out the buttons because chances are you will hit too many buttons before you hit 4 and the final kick won’t work. Your best course of action is to hit the first two attacks like normal, then quickly press 2,1,2,4. With a bit of practice you’ll get it down and even be able to cancel it into special moves at the end. Even if you miss it, the entire combo is safe if the opponent blocks.

Use the Healing Wind combo (2,1) to end combos if you want to knock the opponent toward the corner, or just far away from Kung Lao. When used outside of a combo, it’s safe if the opponent blocks. In addition, the Iron Broom (Back+1,2), Heavy Mountain (Back+3,2,1), and Twin Lock (Forward+3,4) combos are all safe if the opponent blocks and good to use throughout a match.

Tempest Variant

The Tempest variation gives Kung Lao a few different special moves to work with. The Spin changes into the Tornado (Down, Forward+1), which at first glance may appear unchanged. However, if you hold 1 you can press Forward or Back to move the attack in that direction. Kung Lao will move a few character lengths in either direction, stopping just short of one jump distance away. This can help connect the Tornado during combos, or reposition Kung Lao for anti-air attacks if necessary.

The enhanced version (Cyclone) activates slightly faster than the normal Spin and Tornado. Cyclone can punish attacks that have a Block Adv of -6 or higher, making a lot of attacks full combo punishable once you get the timing down. If you’re planning to play Tempest Kung Lao, it’s in your best interests to go through every character’s move list to find attacks that are between -6 and -8 when blocked. These are the attacks that your opponents will use with safety in mind. Punish these with a full combo and you’ll have a significant advantage.

In addition to the new Spin special moves, Kung Lao gains his Hat Toss projectile (Back, Forward+2) from Mortal Kombat 2. You can press Up or Down to guide the projectile up to hit opponents out of the air, or down to hit an opponent’s feet. The projectile is mid, which means an opponent cannot duck under it unless you throw the upward version.

The enhanced Hat Toss (Hat Dance) is a slow-moving projectile attack that cannot be angled up or down like the normal version. Instead, if you use the projectile from full-screen, you can quickly run after it and use an instant Dive Kick (use a Dive Kick immediately after jumping to keep it as low to the ground as possible) to hit an opponent immediately after the projectile connects. With proper timing you can use this to start a full combo off of a projectile attack.

Finally, Kung Lao gains the Hat Spin (Down, Back+1). This makes Kung Lao’s hat spin around him for a short time. It acts like armor surrounding Kung Lao, and even adds an extra hit to his combos. However, keep in mind that all of Kung Lao’s hat-related special moves in this variation come at a price. No matter which hat special move you use, it takes a moment for the hat to return to Kung Lao’s head. You can’t use any hat-related attacks or special moves until the hat is back on Kung Lao’s head.

Buzz Saw Variant

In the Buzz Saw variation Kung Lao gains three different versions of his hat projectile attack. The Hat Grinder (Back, Forward+2) is a typical projectile attack that hits high and can be ducked under. Do not use this at close range because you can be severely punished if the opponent blocks. The enhanced version (Buzz Saw) moves much slower and can even be delayed by holding 2. The advantage here is that you can use the Buzz Saw to keep Kung Lao safe. Toss it out, then quickly run ahead of it and attack however you like. With proper timing the Buzz Saw will hit the opponent if they try to punish Kung Lao.

The Upward Grinder (Down, Forward+2) is basically the same projectile attack as the Hat Grinder except that it’s throw at an upward angle. This is a good way to keep jump-happy opponents out of the air. If it hits, it keeps the opponent in the air for a short time. If you’ve close enough when this happens you can follow with a full juggle combo.

The enhanced version (Upward Buzz Saw) can be delayed, just like the regular Buzz Saw. The difference is that when it’s released it flies at a downward angle. Not only does it make your opponent think twice about jumping, but you can run under it and attack however you like, knowing that the Upward Buzz Saw will keep you safe from punishment. In addition, if it’s blocked, Kung Lao has a slight advantage to continue pressing his offense.

The Low Grinder (Down, Back+2) and the enhanced version (Low Buzz Saw) work exactly the same as the other two special moves except that they travel along the ground. If the Low Grinder is blocked, Kung Lao is safe from punishment. This gives him a safe low option in every combo so he finally has an overhead/low mix-up. Use the Low Grinder after the first hit of the Razor Rim combo (Back+2,2) to keep your opponent guessing. If it hits you have plenty of advantage to continue offensive pressure. If it’s blocked, you know the opponent may get hit by the normal double overhead Razor Rim combo that allows you to follow with a juggle combo.

It’s important to remember that anytime Kung Lao uses a hat special move, he won’t be able to use any hat-related attacks until the hat reappears on his head. While it doesn’t take long for this to happen, it is one downside of his hat special moves.

Hat Trick Variant

In the Hat Trick variation Kung Lao gains the ability to hold his hat in place at various positions to trap an opponent. He also gains his Hat Throw (Back, Forward+2) from Mortal Kombat 2, with the ability to angle it up or down by pressing the corresponding direction after throwing the hat. The Hat Throw hits mid, which means an opponent cannot duck under it unless you angle it upward.

The enhanced version (Hat-A-Rang) acts like a boomerang as it returns to Kung Lao. The first hit is mid, but the second is high and can be ducked under. However, you can use this in the middle of a combo to extend the combo further (following the Hat-A-Rang with another attack), or continue to pressure the opponent if it’s blocked. Kung Lao has significant advantage if the second hat is blocked, but even if the opponent blocks the first hat and tries to duck under the second, if they’re blocking it will still be blocked. If they aren’t blocking, you can hit them. It’s a win-win scenario!

The Hat Trap special move (Down, Forward+2) places Kung Lao’s hat just ahead of him. You can also place it behind Kung Lao with the Away Hat Trap (Down, Back+2), or above him with the High Hat Trap (Down, Down+2). The Hat Trap and Away Hat Traps can be angled a little lower by pressing Down immediately after the initial notation (e.g. Down, Forward+2, Down).

While the hat is in position it will not damage the opponent. They can walk through it like it wasn’t there. However, you can call the hat back with the Hat Call Back (Down, Down+2), which can also be done in the air. The hat will hit the opponent as it returns to Kung Lao if they’re between the two. The Low Hat Traps hit mid, while the normal and High Hat Traps hit high and can be ducked under. However, you can use the enhanced Heavy Call Back (Down, Down+2+Block) and the return attack will always be mid and give you more time to combo after it should the hat hit.

With the hat placed you cannot use any hat-related attacks or special moves, but it does give Kung Lao protection. The hat will disappear if Kung Lao is hit, but with proper timing you can call the hat back to Kung Lao in time to protect him from getting punished for an unsafe attack. Even if you use an attack or combo that’s safe if the opponent blocks, with the hat placed the opponent always has to be careful about how they attack Kung Lao.

Sample Combos

32 percent – 4,4, Run Cancel, Back+3,2, Spin, Jump Forward+3, Dive Kick, Bck+3,2

Buzz Saw
35 percent – Back+3,2,1, Buzz Saw, Run Cancel, Back+3, Spin, Jump Froward+3, Dive Kick, 2,1

35 percent – Back+3,2,1, Cyclone, Neutral Jump Punch, Jump Forward+3, Dive Kick, Back+3,2, Hat Toss


Face Grind – Down, Back, Down, Forward, 4 (Close)
Flower Pot – Down, Forward, Down, Back, 1 (Close)


Open Wide – Kill opponent with a standard throw while pressing 1 or 2 at least 15 times during the throw animation.

For more information on Mortal Kombat X, head over to Prima’s free guide or directly to our Liu Kang or Kung Jin tips!

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