The Basics

Throws

Throws in Killer Instinct are performed by pressing LP + LK when near an opponent. They are unblockable but short-range attacks that complement attacking and blocking in the rock-paper-scissors exchanges of fighting games. You can leave the stick in neutral or hold it forward while pressing the buttons to throw forwards, or pull the stick backwards to perform a back throw that switches sides with your opponent. You cannot throw someone who is in blockstunBlockstun refers to the brief period of time after you block an attack when your character is frozen in place, reeling from the impact of the attack. You cannot attack, move, or be thrown while you are in blockstun, but your opponent may continue to attack you. Heavy attacks do more blockstun than light attacks..

Throws can be defended against by pressing LP + LK when your opponent tries to throw you; this is called a throw tech. When achieved, both fighters will break away from each other into a neutral position. Killer Instinct gives you 7 frames after the throw connectsThis is the latest you can tech a throw after the throw hits you. Your tech window is larger than 7 frames because pressing the buttons early initiates a throw first, which your opponent is then likely to tech when he attempts to throw. to tech, and throws have 5 frames of startup, equal to the fastest normal attack. Throws are great for fast, close-range mixups that will force defenders to take action other than blocking to escape your pressure. They play a pretty similar role to Street Fighter throws, but Killer Instinct throws have a couple very noteworthy properties.

Orchid's forward and back throws. Press LP+LK when being thrown to perform a throw tech. You cannot throw someone in blockstun. (sound)
Throw ranges for Glacius and Jago, indicated by the solid blue hitboxes. These throws are active for 2 frames. Click to enlarge.

Perhaps the most important distinction is that there is no crouch teching in Killer Instinct. In fact, if you attempt to crouch techCrouch teching is a technique where you press LP+LK while crouching to defend against throws. Your inputs will either be treated as a successful throw tech (if your opponent throws), or a low-risk crouching normal with much smaller recovery than a standing throw whiff (if your opponent does not throw). Crouch teching is a very common strategy in games like Street Fighter IV., you will simply perform a standing throw. Street Fighter V throws behave the same way, but if you played a game like Street Fighter IV and built up the muscle memory of plinkingPlinking is a SFIV technique where you press two different buttons in rapid sequence. The SFIV engine was programmed to treat these two inputs as consecutive presses of a single button, which allowed for numerous gameplay benefits. LP and LK together to prevent throws, both on offense and defense, that is a habit you will have to quickly break. It additionally means that defending against throws is hard in KI, because there are very few risk-free ways to avoid your opponent's throw. If you decide that teching a throw is too risky, your only other options are to interrupt a throw attempt with a normal, or avoid it by jumping or performing a throw invincible move; each of these options carries a large risk. Because you cannot remain crouching while trying to tech, walking slightly out of range and performing a low move is a strong strategy in KI.

The second noteworthy change is that throws have very long whiffA whiffed attack is an attack that does not make contact with your opponent. Your character must complete the entire move before you can attack or defend again, often leaving you open to counterattacks. recovery in Killer Instinct. In modern Street Fighter games, baitingIf you can trick your opponent into performing a certain move (often because you have noticed a bad habit or pattern in your opponent), and you pre-emptively perform the counter to that move, you have baited your opponent. throws with neutral jumps is a recipe for getting anti-aired, since the throw whiff will recover before most characters can connect with a jumping attack. However, neutral jumping or backdashing to bait a throw in KI is an excellent idea that will often earn you a very large punish. In fact, neutral jumping is one of the primary ways to bait throws for Killer Instinct players, so expect to see it a lot. If you are able to recognize these situations and avoid the panic throw whiff, you can anti-air the neutral jump and start to go on offense yourself.

The difference in throw whiff recovery between Street Fighter IV and KI. Note that Spinal is crouching and gets a standing throw when he presses LP+LK.
Sadira can jump cancel her throw to start an air juggle. Thunder and Glacius can use their throws to begin grounded combos. (sound)

In Killer Instinct, some characters can start a combo off a successful throw. For instance, Jago and Sadira can start air juggles off their throws, while Thunder, Glacius and others can start grounded combos. For more detailed strategies involving these throw combo starters, check the Characters page.

In most fighting games, just like block stun, it is also impossible to throw someone in hitstunLike blockstun, hitstun refers to the period of time after you were hit with an attack when your character is frozen in place, reeling from the attack. Hitstun is almost always longer than blockstun for the same move.. In Killer Instinct, this is true in almost all cases as well, although there are two specific cases where you are allowed to throw someone who is in hit stun: after a wall splat ender or after hitting with a move that staggers. If these two conditions are not met, or your character's combo trait does not specifically break some universal game rule (like Thunder's throw linkers), then you cannot throw someone in hit stun.

Orchid's air throw, Thunder's command throw, and Maya's Air Mantis command normal. (sound)
Lastly, let’s briefly mention other types of throws. Orchid has an air-to-air throw executed with LP+LK, which cannot be teched by any character, including Orchid herself. This throw also leads to a full grounded combo. Some characters, such as Thunder, TJ Combo, Kan-Ra and Hisako, have command grabs; these are powerful special moves that function as throws and cannot be teched like traditional throws. The only way to avoid a command grab is to move out of the way, typically by jumping, trying to walk out of range, or by doing a move that is throw invincible. Finally, Maya has an air command normal called Air Mantis ( + HP) which will lunge at opponents from the air and connect with any standing or jumping opponent, but never with crouching opponents.

Knockdown

You can knock your opponent down in Killer Instinct with a variety of attacks, including certain normals like sweepsSweeps are a crouching normal that knocks your opponent down. It is almost always + HK., throws, and combo enders. While you are knocked down, you cannot perform any actions and you cannot be hit except by a few very rare OTG movesA move is called "OTG", or off the ground, if it can hit an opponent who is knocked down. There are very few characters that have access to an OTG move; the two most common examples are General RAAM's LK and MK Deadly Stomps, and Kilgore's Chain Gun Barrage. In the vast majority of cases, you cannot attack a character who is knocked down.. In Killer Instinct, there are two types of knockdown.

Sweeps and throws cause a hard knockdown. (sound)
Hard knockdown forces your opponent to lay on the ground for a predetermined amount of time (in the ballpark of around 60 frames). It is the strongest type of knockdown possible, since it allows the offense to pressure the opponent when they rise from the knockdown with techniques that require some setup time, like a jumping crossup. All throws and sweeps cause a hard knockdown, as well as some specially marked combo enders. If you get hit by these moves, watch out, because some scary offense is coming your way.

Most other knockdowns, such as launching special moves, aerial hits and most combo enders, are soft knockdowns.
Soft knockdown gives your opponent a chance to quick rise when they first hit the ground. You perform a quick rise by pressing any attack button the moment your back hits the ground. Your character will then immediately rise off the ground without having to suffer the hard knockdown delay, which will often make sure your opponent doesn’t have enough time to set up his strongest offense. If you choose not to quick rise, you will suffer the normal hard knockdown delay and then rise automatically. Most knockdowns in the game are soft knockdowns. This includes virtually all special moves that knock down (for example, Jago’s Tiger Fury uppercut), any time you are juggled in the air, and most combo enders.

When you rise from a knockdown, there is a moment in timeThe wake-up game, also known as okizeme, occurs when an opponent is knocked down and must get back up. The grounded opponent is at a considerable disadvantage, as his options are limited, while the offensive player may attempt any number of tricky mixups to hit the player as he rises. when your character becomes vulnerable to attacks again. In Street Fighter games, this moment in time varies in value. Many characters in Street Fighter IV, for instance, thrive on knocking you down and earning large chunks of damage with very difficult to block mixups, while wake-up pressure is not nearly as strong in a game like Street Fighter V. However, knockdown pressure is very scary in Killer Instinct. In order to escape this pressure, you might try to use an invincible reversal attackA reversal is a move that is executed on the very first frame possible after leaving a state where your character cannot attack, such as rising from a knockdown or blocking an opponent's move. While a reversal can be any move, the ones worth discussing are usually high-risk moves with invincibility to beat an opponent's attack., if your character is lucky enough to have one. In general, it is difficult to make these invincible reversals safe if they are blocked (Street Fighter IV has a mechanic called FADCFocus attack dash cancel is a SFIV technique that allows characters to cancel an attack into a dash for the cost of half of their super meter. It is often used to make an invincible move safe that would otherwise be very open to a counterattack if the opponent blocks. which made safe-on-block reversals very common, but invincible moves are always unsafe in Street Fighter V). In KI, they are almost always win-or-lose gambles.

But even though reversals are risky, you will be forced to try them on occasion, because some knockdown mixupsA mixup is an opportunity for a character to perform one of many possible attacks which must be blocked or avoided differently. Some mixups are so fast that you cannot react and change your defense in time, requiring a pre-emptive guess. are closer in spirit to the high-octane Marvel vs. Capcom series of games than the typically more reserved Street Fighter series due to the strong offensive options of the Killer Instinct cast. More details can be found in the Characters section, but the two videos below give a small preview of what you might expect after a knockdown against some of KI's more potent rushdown characters.

Sabrewulf uses feral cancels and Spinal uses his unique skull resource to put opponents in left-right, high-low mixups that are nearly impossible to reliably block. (sound)
Orchid knocks an opponent down, then performs multiple safe high-low mixups using her instinct firecats until Glacius finally cracks. (sound)

Jago's Tiger Fury uppercut is invincible at the start, so it makes a great reversal attack if your opponent tries to pressure. If your opponent blocks, however, you will be heavily punished. (sound)
Due to the nature of KI’s combo system, reversals that send an opponent airborne very rarely lead to large damage, whereas your punishment if your reversal does not hit can be extremely high. This means gambling on reversals often is not in your favor long term and you will have to pick and choose your spots very carefully.

If you choose to do a reversal special move, it is not difficult; Killer Instinct has an input buffer in place that allows reversals to be executed slightly early to ensure they come out on the first frame possible. This means you should try to time your reversal slightly early in order to take advantage of this. This buffer window is made even larger when rising from the ground, making wakeup reversals easier than reversals out of blockstun. If you perform a special move as a reversal, Killer Instinct displays a "Reversal" message to let you know your timing was correct.

Because Killer Instinct’s jumping system works very similarly to canonical Street Fighter games, safe jumpsA safe jump is a very well-timed jumping attack designed to hit an opponent immediately as they rise from a knockdown. If the opponent chooses to do a slow reversal attack, you will be able to land and block in time, otherwise your jumping attack will make contact with them. are possible. Most invincible reversal attacks can be safe jumped, except those rare uppercuts that have only 3 frames of startup (only Jago, Orchid, Fulgore, Shadow Jago, and ARIA have such moves); these attacks start too fast and will hit your safe jump before you can land and block. However, since hard knockdowns are less common than soft knockdowns in Killer Instinct, and post-throw offense tends to prefer very strong crossup or high-low mixups, having encyclopedic knowledge of safe jump setups is not at all required to run strong offense after a knockdown.

Orchid can safe jump Sabrewulf after a throw. Sabrewulf must block the jumping attack and gets hit if he tries any non-invincible wakeup, such as Shadow Jumping Slash. If he tries the slower (but invincible) Shadow Eclipse, Orchid lands in time to block and punish. (sound)
Many characters prefer mixups over safe jumps after a hard knockdown. Here, Jago shows a difficult to block setup that can hit on either side and makes reversals difficult. (sound)

Any special cases to know about?

Stagger, Recapture & More