This weekend I will be attending Final Round in Atlanta, Georgia to compete in both Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Killer Instinct. Final Round is one of North America's premier tournaments for fighting games attracting players from all sides of the country as well as international guests. I've been competing in Tekken games for years, but Killer Instinct is a new game that requires different practice techniques. As such I've been borrowing strategies I've developed in training for Tekken tournaments and finding ways to apply them to Killer Instinct.
While these two fighting games differ greatly in appearance, fundamentally you are trying to accomplish the same goal in both. That is, remove all of your opponent's lifebar before they remove yours. How you go about doing this is your choice, but there are aspects of each game that requires specialized practice to help your odds in a tournament setting. Here are my top five ways to practice for a Killer Instinct tournament:
5) Use Instinct Once Per Lifebar
You gain instinct whenever you take damage or get a successful Combo Breaker. You should get one full stock of instinct per life bar. Every character's Instinct mode is extremely useful so if you aren't using it twice per match then you aren't playing to your character's potential. Knowing this is one thing, but putting it into your gameplay requires practice. If you don't get to pop your Instinct before you lose your first lifebar, be sure to pop it early in your second lifebar. Little details like this in a tournament setting are sometimes the difference between winning and losing a match.
4) Recognize Combo Break Opportunities
At this point in the game most people can see and react to heavy auto doubles fairly easily. If you can't see these, use the character in practice mode and check them out. The Prima Killer Instinct eGuide has screenshots that show you what each look like as well. Once you can see heavy auto doubles, the times when you need to guess will be more in your favor. As people progress to more manuals in combos though, you will need to recognize light and mediums as well. Heavys are usually Counter Break bait as well so be cautious of always breaking them. Lastly, heavy linkers are usually three hits and are breakable on reaction. Exceptions to this are Thunder and Sabrewulf, so again, practice and increase your knowledge.
3) Practice Breaking Shadow Moves
Shadow Moves are either masher friendly to break or require a specific timing. Since you don't have to practice breaking the mash ones, there are actually very few to practice against. Go into Practice Mode, Record the computer doing an opener into their Shadow Move and practice breaking it. Practice mixing up the order of your breaks as well so you will be less likely to eat a Counter Breaker. If you aren't sure of your ability to break a Shadow Move, especially early in a combo, its better to let it go as an early lockout can lead to loads of damage from Shadow Moves.
2) Have a Plan for Bad Matchups
With Killer Instinct still in its infancy there are few matchups you will need to focus on. Personally, I expect there will be a lot of Sabrewulf and Glacius played at the tournament. Both will be difficult for my character to deal with, so I've been doing my research and paying attention to what works/doesn't work/needs a solution when I run into these characters online. For Glacius, my personal weakness is that I haven't anti-aired him with grounded normals enough. For Sabrewulf, the matchup is better if I never use medium Widow's Bite in the air. It takes time to hone this skill, but if you do it every match you play, it will become second nature.
1) Combo Structure and Manuals
While Killer Instinct has a very simple combo structure, using it in its simplest form is a quick way to rack up losses. In tournament, if you are constantly getting your combos broken you are destined to lose the match. Since lights are generally harder for people to break, practice mixing up your first auto double between light or medium. If you can get a lockout early then move on to heavys to add damage to the combo. Practice fitting in manuals in the first half of your combos to get a potential lockout as well. Pay attention to what your opponent is reacting to and set them up for counter breakers later in the match. To reduce the likelihood of getting your combo broken mix up your linkers and mixup your punch and kick autodoubles/manuals.
Check out the Final Round video to see what the hype is all about: