Style: Balanced, Trap-Based Mixups
Most Similar To: Arbiter (Halo series)
Strengths: Arbiter excels in many areas of fighting. He has very strong mid-range pokes, good keepaway with Carbine shots, and fun mixups involving Plasma Grenades and the Prophet's Bane command grab. With smart use of his resources and strong anti-air reactions, he is quite good at keeping an opponent feeling jailed at mid-screen, and once his offense starts, his combo trait helps him keep the ball rolling as long as needed.
Weaknesses: His best tool, the Type-51 Carbine, has a limited magazine, which means Arbiter is a heavy resource management character. If you spend your bullets unwisely, you will likely struggle for much of the fight, and once you are low on bullets, the opponent can start to take the fight to you more easily. His large, plodding size often works against him too, with below average dashes and walk speed and a large hitbox for characters to attack with very ambiguous mixups. Arbiter has many tools to fight, but being impatient and overly aggressive will turn out badly.
Best Counter-Breaker Combos
0 Meter: HP double > light Truth Seeker > HP double > light Truth Seeker > MP double > Prophet's Bane ender (35%)
1 Meter: HP double > light Truth Seeker > HP double > Shadow Mercy's Demise > Prophet's Bane ender (46%)
2 Meter: HP double > Shadow Mercy's Demise > Shadow Mercy's Demise > Prophet's Bane ender (52%)
( Damage calculation notes)
Notes: Arbiter struggles to reach level 4 ender if he counter breaks without any white life already on his opponent. The no-meter combo is very specific; Arbiter doesn't have enough time to do three heavy auto-doubles, so the last one needs to be a medium or you will risk getting broken. The 1-meter combo only barely gets to level 4, which makes it his best combo by a wide margin over the next. Because Arbiter doesn't have a shadow damage ender, spending 2 meters requires 2 shadow linkers. After any of these combos, you can add on as many as three Type-51 Carbine shots for an additional 2% damage each, so these combos can be 6% higher if you're willing to spend the bullets.
Unique Mechanic: Type-51 Carbine Arbiter carries a Type-51 Carbine on his back with a single-use magazine of 18 rounds. Fire the Carbine by pressing HK while grounded, crouching, or jumping, which shoots a Carbine round straight forward, as anti-air, or from air-to-ground respectively. Carbine shots are among the best projectiles in the game. They have exceptionally fast startup, go full screen in nearly an instant, and deal a ton of damage; if a Carbine shot is the first hit in a combo, it will do 10% damage. If you press HK rapidly, you can fire the Carbine in up to a three-round burst that combos for around 16% total damage. Using Arbiter's combo trait, you can also "tack on" Carbine shots after any throw or ender, making the Carbine useful in both neutral and for extra damage in combos.
The Carbine magazine is one of Arbiter's most precious resources. Once you spend all 18 rounds, you cannot fire the Carbine for the rest of the match, so you must spend your bullets wisely! The good news is that there is almost never a bad time to shoot the Carbine. You can whiff punish moves from full screen easily. You can jump over projectile attempts and fire the Carbine from the air for strong damage; even if you land on the projectile, the trade will always be in your favor. Simply firing one shot from your Carbine on your approach can make your opponent hesitant to move. If you have an excess of Carbine bullets, you can add unbreakable damage to any combo or throw by tacking on shots.
Once you spend all your bullets, your HK normals don't fire the gun but instead do the command normals tied to heavy kick, and one of your most threatening options will no longer be available. There is a delicate balancing act between spending your bullets and saving them for later. Try not to die with a half-full magazine, but also don't spend all 18 bullets in the first round!
Unique Mechanic: Plasma Grenade Arbiter also has access to a supply of three Plasma Grenades, which automatically refill over time as they are spent. Press all three punches to throw a Plasma Grenade, and hold back or forward to throw it at different angles. You can also throw the grenade from the air. The grenade always detonates after 3 seconds and will stick to an opponent if the toss hits them. The grenade's explosion can be blocked, but it always staggers grounded opponents and recaptures airborne opponents, so all grounded and airborne hits will lead to a fat combo. There's just one problem; the blast hits both characters. Like the Carbine, you can "tack on" a Plasma Grenade any time you land a throw or perform an ender, which will force the opponent to rise with a grenade stuck to them, ready to explode. This is generally the preferred use of Arbiter's combo trait.
The fact that the explosion hurts you as well as your opponent makes grenades tricky to use. One common use is as a sort of pseudo combo breaker. If your opponent begins a combo while they have a grenade attached to them, they will have to quickly turn themselves projectile invincible somehow, or else the grenade will explode, stagger both players, and then the match will return to neutral. If you are applying offense, you can try to be out of range of the explosion, typically by using long range attacks like standing MP or firing Carbine bullets.
But the most common way to avoid the blast is to activate the Energy Shield, which prevents Arbiter from being hit by projectiles! If you can sticky your opponent with a grenade and then spend some shadow meter to put up your shield, you can apply pressure without worry of being hit by the blast. If your timing is good, you can even create "checkmate" situations using the Prophet's Bane command grab where your opponent must jump to avoid the grab, but then get recaptured by the grenade blast, while you are covered by your energy shield. There is lots of room for creative experimentation here, and it's a whole lot of fun too.
As an extra note, if Arbiter holds down and presses three punches (it cannot be down-forward or down-back), he will throw a grenade in front of his face which immediately explodes. This self-detonating grenade is invincible on startup and can act as a reversal attack, but it will stagger any grounded opponent it hits, including himself. However, if Arbiter is wearing his energy shield, he can use this reversal without being stunned by the blast.
Unique Mechanic: Energy Shield Like in the Halo series, Arbiter can activate an Energy Shield, which is indicated by the extra blue bar above his health gauge. You can spend a bar of shadow meter to fill your shield to max; this move also functions as a 0-damage invincible reversal. Arbiter's shield also gradually refills while he is in instinct. The energy shield represents about 7% extra health for Arbiter every time he activates it, which means Arbiter effectively has more health than his two regular life bars.
As explained in the Plasma Grenade section above, perhaps the main benefit of Energy Shield is that Arbiter is not phased by projectiles while wearing it. He will still take the damage from all projectiles that hit him, but he can walk or move through them without entering hit stun. Because 7% damage is not very much, you probably will only be able to take one or two projectiles before losing all your shield's extra health, but it is always useful for Arbiter to ignore his own grenade blasts to continue his offense, or to move through troublesome projectile attacks like Glacius's Hail or Kan-Ra's Spike.
Openers: Mercy's Demise (shadow OK), Truth Seeker (shadow OK)
When Arbiter is not trying to start offense with expensive Carbine shots or Plasma Grenades, he takes a more standard grounded approach using his two opener special moves. Mercy's Demise is a rush punch-esque move that is negative on block, but decently fast and useful as a cancel off Arbiter's best mid-range buttons, such as standing MP. Arbiter always ends up point blank when he uses this move, though, and the medium and heavy versions are -6 on block and can be punished by every character, so you're best to stick to the light version, which is negative but not punishable by all characters, and still has decent range. It's worth noting that you cannot manual after Mercy's Demise; there is not enough frame advantage when the opener version is used, so you must start your combo with either an auto-double or a linker.
Truth Seeker is a long-range overhead move that starts too slow to combo after light attacks, but is often a better choice than Mercy's Demise because Arbiter retains advantage after blocked Truth Seeker. The light version, which can combo after Arbiter's medium punch buttons, is a good combo starter and leaves him at even frames if blocked. If you want to approach from further away, you can use the heavy version of Truth Seeker, which comes out slower but leaves Arbiter at +3 advantage, useful for throw or pressure mixups. Shadow Truth Seeker is projectile invincible, as well. However, Arbiter does not have a strong low threat, so you should likely default to a high block against him, since Truth Seeker is a common approach tool.Other Combo Starters: Plasma Grenade (stagger and recapture), Self-Detonating Grenade (stagger)
Arbiter tends to play a game rooted fairly strongly in the traditional Killer Instinct combo system. The main times he will start a combo without an opener is when his opponent gets hit by Plasma Grenade, which will work if the opponent gets hit on the ground or in the air. If Arbiter is wearing his Energy Shield, he can use Self-Detonating Grenade to stagger his opponent without staggering himself, and continue the combo unharmed.Linkers: Mercy's Demise (shadow OK), Truth Seeker (shadow OK)
Arbiter's linkers are fairly standard. Both Mercy's Demise and Truth Seeker have similar cadence and do similar damage as linkers, so it is largely preference as to which you use. Because Arbiter has slow energy sword attacks mapped to HP, and many of his HK attacks fire the Carbine, if you want to do a heavy manual after a heavy linker, you should use the Particular Justice (+HK) command normal, which is his fastest heavy normal by far. If you want to perform medium manuals, you should default to standing MK for similar reasons. Shadow Mercy's Demise is the higher damaging shadow linker, but it takes longer to execute, so if you need to squeeze some damage out of a late lockout, you'll need to use shadow Truth Seeker instead.
Shadow Linkers: Shadow Truth Seeker is a fairly standard "rapid fire" linker, but there is an especially large gap after the shadow freeze ends until the first hit connects. As long as you're not premature on your break attempt, this is easy to break. Shadow Mercy's Demise has staggered gaps which can cause lockouts without a bit of practice. The gap between the fourth hit and fifth hit is extra delayed compared to the others, but if you try to break with visual cues you will have success.
With no battery ender and no wall splat ender, Arbiter relies on his combo trait to add Carbine shots or Plasma Grenades after any ender to continue his offense. This is particularly useful after the Truth Seeker ender, because you can perform a flipout with standing LK and force them to deal with immediate pressure, which is well timed so that if you throw, the grenade will recapture them as they are tossed away. Prophet's Bane is a particularly strong damage ender, which is important because Arbiter does not have a shadow damage ender; trying to use shadow Prophet's Bane as an ender will always drop the combo and create a reset opportunity. You can tack on a Plasma Grenade after the damage ender too, but you will not have time to use his flip out.
Recapture & Flipout: Plasma Grenade (recapture), standing LK (flipout)
Arbiter can only recapture if a Plasma Grenade happens to explode when attached to someone airborne. With planned and well-timed setups (typically involving throw, which throws the opponent into the air), you can plan for this to occur and then convert into a combo. Standing LK is useful as a flipout in particular after the Truth Seeker ground bounce ender, especially if you have tacked on a Plasma Grenade to make them scared when they land.
Normals to watch: Arbiter controls the mid-range surprisingly well. His Carbine forces opponents to be uncomfortable from a lot of ranges, but really the stars here are his energy sword normals. Standing MP and standing HP are Arbiter's clear best buttons; they're very quick for the range they have, can be used in target combos (see move list at the top of the page) which make for easy hit confirms from surprising ranges, and in general are just difficult to contest. When you need something slightly faster from slightly closer, standing MK is also a great tool to harass with. Because Arbiter's special moves are slow (Truth Seeker) or negative on block (Mercy's Demise), in general you want to try to hit confirm as much as you can, so you don't give up your offensive turn easily. This means using his energy sword often.
Arbiter does not have an uppercut special move, so he must use normals to anti-air, and players will tend to jump against Arbiter often due to how well he controls space. Crouching HP is a giant anti-air sword stab, but it is rather slow and does not cover space above Arbiter's head, so it requires strong reactions and spacing to anti-air with. A better choice for anti-air is Particular Justice (+HK), which is faster and much beefier around Arbiter's head. You need to leave crouching block to use this normal, though, and if you accidentally press +HK, you will fire a Carbine shot which will miss from close range. Alternatively, you can try to air-to-air with Arbiter's good jump normals, such as jumping LK or jumping MP, which controls tons of horizontal space in the air.
Arbiter does not have a credible low threat. Crouching MK is his only low attack, and it causes a knockdown. You can special cancel it into Mercy's Demise, which will launch them, but you will not recover in time to combo unless an attached Plasma Grenade explodes with perfect timing, or you instinct cancel. This means that Arbiter will be less about high-low mixups and more about throw mixups, and defaulting to high block (since Truth Seeker is an overhead) is the best play against Arbiter.
Specials to watch: Aside from Mercy's Demise and Truth Seeker, Arbiter's standard openers, Arbiter has two other special moves. Energy Shield is a strong use of meter, useful both on defense, to gain extra life, and to supplement his grenade setups; I recommend using it often, even from far range, and especially if you have two stocks of meter and need to spend one. The Prophet's Bane command grab is crucial to his gameplan, because throw mixups and follow-ups are the main ways Arbiter is threatening when close. Prophet's Bane is somewhat slow at 26 frames, but moves Arbiter forward very far with the heavy version, which should be the most common version used since it is not slower on startup. You can cancel far-reaching normals, like standing MP, into Prophet's Bane as a long-range tick throw and force the opponent to have strong reactions or jump pre-emptively, which plays well into Arbiter's great mid-range control game.
Shadow Prophet's Bane is an interesting move. It is not invincible on startup, but as soon as Arbiter turns invisible, he cannot be hit or thrown by any attack. As long as you hold the buttons down, he will remain invisible (or for a set time), and then once you release, he instantly appears directly in your opponent's face and grabs them if they are grounded. The move has full screen coverage and will track you even if you change sides with Arbiter. To avoid this move, simply hold up (and keep holding up) until he releases it, since you cannot be grabbed while jumping or in pre-jump frames. However, it's not quite so easy if you have a Plasma Grenade on you, ready to explode and recapture your jump!
General strategy: Arbiter is really fun to play. He is a mix of solid, grounded play at mid-range, with his beastly sword normals and Carbine to stuff a lot of enemy approaches, and wacky hijinks with Plasma Grenade setups and instinct parries. Despite a lot of unique mechanics, basic Arbiter play is actually pretty straightforward. You can go a long way by pressing standing MP and standing HP, shooting the Carbine whenever you feel like it, activating Energy Shield often, and trying to hit an opponent who is looking to escape from a grenade. You'll need to be on point with anti-airs, specifically +HK, since opponents might look to jump often against Arbiter's fantastic ground control.
With the basic gameplan in play, look to expand into tricky setups involving tacked-on Plasma Grenades, standing LK flipout, and Prophet's Bane command grabs. In instinct, learn to make reads or reactions to shadow moves and parry predictable approaches, then punish. When all these elements come together, Arbiter becomes an excellent choice for players of all types, whether you like solid fundamentals and powerful projectiles or tricky trap-based mixups.