Mortal Kombat X - How to Play Sub-Zero: Combos and Strategies - Prima Games

Mortal Kombat X – How to Play Sub-Zero: Combos and Strategies

by Bryan Dawson

Master Your Moves


Sub-Zero has a lot of powerful tools in Mortal Kombat X, but most notably his Ice Klone in the Grandmaster style is very useful. He gains longer range and more damage with the ice weapons in the Cryomancer variant, while his Unbreakable variant has multiple defensive options. He’s not the safest character in the game, but he has enough tools to keep opponents at bay and works very well for players who are good at anticipating what their opponent is going to do next.

Check out Prima’s free Mortal Kombat X guide for information on Fatalities and Brutalities and the secrets of the Krypt!

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

Ice Burst
Notation: Down, Back+1
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

The Ice Burst is more of a quick “get off me” attack than anything else. It has armor, which means it can work as a wake-up attack, and the enhanced version (Frost Bomb) allows for combo follow-ups near the corner. The Ice Burst is not safe if the opponent blocks, so try to use it as an anti-air option or combo into the attack so you can confirm that it will connect. When used as an anti-air attack, the normal version is a little slow, so you have to be pre-emptive. The enhanced version is fast enough to use it as a reaction to the opponent jumping toward you. It also has a large hitbox that works very well to prevent an opponent from jumping over you in a cross-up attempt.

Ice Ball
Notation: Down, Forward+2
Enhanced: Yes, but no armor.

Sub-Zero’s Ice Ball is one of his trademark attacks that he’s had since his first appearance in the Mortal Kombat series. This time around the Ice Ball is a little slower, which means that you can’t cancel into it from many of Sub-Zero’s combo strings. You should be canceling Frosty (1,1) or Ice Age (Back+1,2) into the Ice Ball. While the enhanced version (Ice Blast) is fast enough to cancel into after most combos, these two strings should be your primary combos to hit-confirm an Ice Ball. When you see the first hit connect, you know you can cancel into the Ice Ball after the second hit and it won’t be blocked.

Once an opponent has been frozen, if you’re far away you can use a Slide to attack. If you’re close enough, use a jumping 1 or the Ice Pain (2,4,2) combo string to start a longer combo. Either way, make sure you don’t waste the Ice Ball freeze. There should almost always be a way to hit the opponent after freezing them with an Ice Ball, even if it’s just a jump kick into a Slide.

Notation: Back, Forward+4
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

Another one of Sub-Zero’s trademark attacks is his Slide. It’s relatively fast, hits low and almost covers the entire length of the screen. You can even use the Slide to get under some projectile attacks and punish an opponent if you’re close enough. The enhanced version (Icy Slide) has armor and adds an additional hit that knocks an opponent back in the opposite direction. Use this to get yourself out of a corner while simultaneously trapping an opponent in the corner, or if you have an Ice Klone setup in the Grandmaster variant you can knock the opponent into the Ice Klone and follow with a combo. The Slide is very unsafe if the opponent blocks, so use it sparingly unless you can guarantee it will connect or you cancel into the Slide during a combo.

Deep Freeze (X-Ray)

Sub-Zero’s X-Ray attack executes fairly quickly and it’s safe if the opponent blocks. One interesting aspect of Deep Freeze is that you can delay the attack by holding the Block and Flip Stance buttons (the same buttons you use to execute the X-Ray). When you delay the attack Sub-Zero is covered in ice. While he’s in this state any physical attack that hits him will cause the opponent to freeze. However, doing so will lose the armor capabilities of the X-Ray. Think of this like a parry that allows you to freeze the opponent. Once you release Block and Flip Stance the X-Ray will continue like normal. This also happens if you delay the attack too long.

Basic Strategy

The basic strategy for Sub-Zero is simple. You want to combo into an Ice Ball, then continue your combo with the Ice Pain combo string to knock the opponent into the air, allowing for additional damage. The variant you choose will determine which options you have available to do this.

Sub-Zero has a moderately unsafe overhead/low mix-up between the Overhead Smash (Back+2) and the Knee Breaker. The Overhead Smash is not safe if the opponent blocks it, but it will lead to a combo when used in the corner. The Knee Breaker if the first attack of the Ices Up and Cold Encounter combos. Both are unsafe if the opponent blocks, but because you can stop at the second or third attack, it’s more difficult for an opponent to punish you.

Grandmaster Variant

Grandmaster is the only variant in which Sub-Zero can use his Ice Klone (Down, Back+2). This time around Sub-Zero can follow an Ice Klone with the Klone Toss (Down, Forward+1) to throw the Ice Klone at an opponent like a projectile attack. Given the size of the Ice Klone, this attack can be difficult to avoid, especially if the opponent is not expecting it. The enhanced Ice Klone (Ice Statue) lasts longer and freezes the opponent for a longer period of time.

With the Ice Klone in play, you can defend against characters with teleport attacks that hit Sub-Zero from behind. Simply use an Ice Klone, then walk in front of it. If the opponent tries a teleport attack they will hit the Ice Klone and freeze, allowing Sub-Zero to follow with an attack or combo. When Sub-Zero’s combo strings are blocked, cancel into the Ice Klone to make things difficult for the opponent.

Unbreakable Variant

The Unbreakable variant should be used if you want to play defensively with Sub-Zero. You gain the Frozen Aura (Down, Back+1) and Barrier of Frost (Down, Back+2) special moves. The Frozen Aura covers Sub-Zero in a layer of ice. While the aura is active you will not take any chip damage from blocking an opponent’s attacks. The enhanced version (Ice Aura) also any damage taken. It can be used almost instantly, so you should try to have it active as often as possible.

The Barrier of Frost is essentially an ice parry. It freezes opponents who attempt to attack Sub-Zero while the parry is active. However, if you miss the parry, Sub-Zero is left vulnerable to attack and will likely get punished. The enhanced version (Barrier of Ice) lasts a little longer and activates a little faster. Both options parry all attacks except jumping attacks and X-Rays.

Cryomancer Variant

Sub-Zero gains the ability to use ice-based weapons in the Cryomancer variant that increase the range of some attacks and give him more damage. He also gains the Frost Hammer (Down, Back+2) and Air Frost Hammer (Down, Back+2 in the air) special moves. The enhanced Frost Hammer (Crushing Hammer) also has armor, which makes it useful as a wake-up attack. However, both versions of the normal Frost Hammer are not safe if the opponent blocks. The Air Frost Hammer is safe but has a limited range. It’s best used when jumping over an opponent.

The best aspect of the Cryomancer variant is Sub-Zero’s new Down+2 attack (Upward Sword). It’s one of the best uppercuts in the game and works very well as an anti-air attack. While Grandmaster gives Sub-Zero the most useful tools thanks to the Ice Klone if you need the extra damage and range

Sample Combos

26 percent – 1,1, Ice Ball, Jump Forward, 1, Back+2, Run Forward, Forward+4,2,1+3
34 percent – 1,1, Ice Ball, Jump Forward, 1, Back+1,2, X-Ray


Chest Kold – Back, Forward, Down, Back, 4 (Close)
Bed of Ice – Down, Back, Down, Forward, 4 (Close)


Snow Ball – With more than 40 seconds remaining in the round, freeze the opponent, then stand a full screen-length away and hit them with Ice Blast (Down, Forward+2+Block).

Splitting Image – In the Grandmaster variation, create an Ice Klone (Down, Back+2)  or Ice Statue (Down, Back+2+Block), then kill the opponent by exploding the Klone with Ice Burst (Down, Back+1) or Frost Bomb (Down, Back+1+Block), while holding Back.