Most Similar To: Ryu
Strengths: Jago has a great all-around game. He has good zoning with fireballs, and his solid frame trap offense is boosted by numerous safe on block openers, a good low crush special move, and a fast, long-range overhead. With unbeatable, high-damage anti-air, you can never jump at Jago, and he has arguably the best defense in the game with a fast reversal and shadow moves with throw, projectile, and low attack invincibility. Jago is the king of gauges in KI; he builds shadow meter faster than any other character, and can regenerate his health through his instinct mode.
Weaknesses: While his instinct mode is strong, it requires an opening and the right amount of health to use, so in some matches you will find yourself unable to use it effectively. His somewhat linear offense requires care to avoid shadow counters from stout defenders, since he will have to play well at the mid-range to avoid predictable 2-hit strings. From full screen, Jago can struggle to close the gap against some strong zoners with only average walk speed and dashes.
Best Counter-Breaker Combos
0 Meter: HP double > MP double > LP double > HP double > MP double > Tiger Fury ender (47%)
1 Meter: HP double > MP double > light Laser Sword > HP double > Shadow Laser Sword > Tiger Fury ender (57%)
2 Meter: HP double > MP double > light Laser Sword > HP double > Shadow Laser Sword > Shadow Tiger Fury ender (62%)
( Damage calculation notes)
Notes: Jago uses his Around the World combo trait; the no-meter variation gets to complete a full cycle, which conveniently does the most damage and builds him 15% of his instinct bar. Shadow Laser Sword is very slow but also much more damaging than shadow Tiger Fury as an ender, so both the 1-meter and 2-meter combos are designed to stick the last two hits past the lockout window to leave as much time for other attacks as possible. If you are in the corner, you can get a 63% 2-meter combo (and 15% instinct gain) as follows: HP double > MP double > LP double > HP double > MP double > Shadow Endokuken > light Endokuken > Shadow Tiger Fury. If you are in instinct, you will have to cancel the light Endokuken after only one hit to prevent a blow out.
Openers: Wind Kick (shadow OK), Laser Sword (shadow OK)
Jago only has two special move openers. Laser Sword is a special move that leaves Jago at advantage and should be greatly preferred to Wind Kick when you're at close range (say, for example, after Double Roundhouse or any of Jago's cancelable low attacks like crouching MK). Watch for the distinctive upwards sword swing and voice clip that will distinguish Laser Sword from Jago's normals. In particular, medium Laser Sword is strong, as it hits only once, thus avoiding late shadow counters and still generates a strong +1 on block. Shadow Laser Sword is a high damage opener which cannot be broken, like all openers, so consider using this move often to start all your punish combos.
Wind Kick is quite a bit riskier to use in neutral, since only the light version is safe (at -4), while the medium and heavy versions cover a lot of distance but are always unsafe on block. Importantly, however, Wind Kick is invincible to low attacks, making it a good call out move if your opponent is regularly using a strong low move against you. Medium Wind Kick also has a particular use as a good hit confirm after Jago's long-range Neck Cutter overhead, since Neck Cutter can be canceled extremely late on reaction to your opponent not blocking the overhead. Often, medium Wind Kick is the only non-shadow move that can reach from the tip of Neck Cutter range. Additionally, when in instinct, Jago's increased frame advantage makes medium Wind Kick safe on block, and thus greatly increases its value as a strong mid-range poke from unexpectedly far ranges. In general, however, using any version of Wind Kick, except the short-range light version, without a specific intention to beat your opponent's low moves will get Jago punished. However, Shadow Wind Kick travels very far, very fast, is safe on block and is both low and projectile immune, making shadow Wind Kick one of the best horizontal moves in the game.Other Combo Starters: Endokuken (requires a manual)
If you hit with a close-range Endokuken, you generate enough frame advantage to land a medium or light manual, which will trigger the combo system. Because Endokuken is generally less preferable to Laser Sword as a pressure tool, the main times you will find yourself in this position is if you are also using Endokuken's ability to be charged and dash canceled into Jago's close range pressure. For example, it is a good idea to occasionally mix in charged Endokukens during your pressure strings, since it awards more frame advantage on block. If your opponent is content to block, then vary your offense by dash canceling your Endokuken and perhaps go for a throw; Jago's dash, while short ranged, is quite fast and it will be hard to always keep this situation under control on the defensive end. Changing between semi-charged Endokukens and dash cancels will force your opponent into a difficult decision whether to sit still or not. If any Endokuken hits your opponent, use a manual (or cancel into shadow Wind Kick) to continue your combo. In instinct, the situation only gets better for Jago, since double fireballs improve to only -2 on block, even if not charged at all (where normally they would be punishable). They also generate a ton of shadow meter if blocked, so you are more likely to throw them than dash cancel them, meaning more opportunity to convert stray hits into combos.Linkers: Wind Kick (shadow OK), Laser Sword (shadow OK)
Jago's linkers are nice and simple, since they are the same as his openers with no special conditions attached. Laser Sword does more damage than Wind Kick, but the higher strengths are slightly easier to break. If you're fishing for lockouts, medium Wind Kick linker is fast and reliable and still gives you both medium and light manual options. Light Laser Sword linker is his fastest linker and is the best to use if you're looking to squeak damage in during lockout situations. Shadow Laser Sword linker does a ton of damage but takes quite a while to finish, so if you see a lockout and have a bar to spend, try to start shadow Laser Sword after your next auto-double so you can squeeze it in during the lockout time.
Shadow Linkers: Shadow Laser Sword is damaging but quite slow to break, with large gaps between each hit; it helps to break this linker with a combination of audio and visuals. While the gaps between the Laser Sword hits are slightly different from each other, the different is small enough to not matter in practice, so you should break with a steady rhythm. There is a short gap between the freeze and the first hit that can lock you out, but if you time your first break with when Jago swings his sword upwards at the end of the super freeze, you will catch the first hit reliably. Shadow Wind Kick's first hit is slightly later than Laser Sword, but the windows largely overlap; press your first break when Jago lifts off his back foot during the freeze.
Jago has a large assortment of useful enders. His battery ender in particular gains a lot of meter, so you should use it often early in matches, and especially during instinct where all Endokukens also heal Jago. This will give you lots of meter for all of Jago's amazing shadow moves and will make the rest of the fight much easier. He also has access to a wall splat ender for tricky corner mixups, a launcher ender which leads to some solid juggles (and reset potential, using light Laser Sword as a flipout), and an above average damage ender. Shadow Tiger Fury in particular is a great way to finish a round, but I would hang on to the meter if it will not kill your opponent and save the bar for other uses.Recapture & Flipout: Light Laser Sword & Jumping LP (flipout)
Jago does not have a recapture, so he cannot cash out juggle combos without using shadow Tiger Fury. This tends to not be a problem for Jago, however, because he does not rely on air combos that much. The few juggles he does land will come after a launcher ender, meaning the damage has already been cashed out, and you will be finishing your juggles with sweep for a hard knockdown or light Laser Sword, which acts as a flipout. After a Laser Sword launcher ender, hitting with a flipout gives you a good mixup between a frame trap or Neck Cutter overhead. Jago's jumping LP is also a flipout, in case you happen to hit someone with a fast air-to-air attack, but it is not overly important to add to his gameplan.
Combo Breaking Jago
(Some moves are beyond the limits of human reaction; please read about reaction times to learn more.)
Auto-Doubles: Jago's auto-doubles are fairly easy to distinguish, and he is a good character to choose when practicing combo breaking. Of the reactable doubles, medium punch starts with an elbow to the face, followed with a hit with the blade of his sword; it's the only auto-double to use his sword blade. Heavy punch starts with a very deliberate two-handed strike to the face. Medium kick is animated using the very common close standing MK move, which is a common manual for Jago, so you may see this move a lot. Jago also does the only crouching attack in his auto-double set during MK double. Heavy kick starts with a giant knee to the face. It is common to break heavy auto-doubles with a combination of the exaggerated visual windup, pronounced shout from the character, and the slow, deliberate cadence of the two attacks.
Linkers: You can identify a heavy Wind Kick linker because of Jago's extra loud shout during the first hit, the extra hitstop that takes place, and the small stutter between the first and second hits; these three factors combined should give you enough information to react by the end of the third hit. You can try to break the medium Wind Kick linker by noticing the second hit has taken place without the added hitstop and stutter, but the reaction must be almost unreasonably fast, and it's pretty easy to flinch if the opponent does a light linker instead. Heavy Laser Sword has a similar stutter to the Wind Kick linker; notice that the second hit takes place quite a bit later in the heavy version than in the medium version. It's possible to break the very end of the medium Laser Sword linker if you can quickly identify whether or not this pause happened, but your success rate won't be 100%.
Instinct Mode: Jago throws double Endokukens, and each hit with a fireball (including shadow Endokuken and the Endokuken ender) gives Jago 1.5% health. Jago can gain back an insane amount of life using his instinct mode, especially with two meters stocked, off any throw, any overhead, or any low hit confirm, without giving your opponent a chance to break if you so choose. Landing one or two follow-up mixups before your instinct expires can net a 100% health swing or more, since Jago will use Endokuken ender to heal himself while building meter for shadow Endokuken juggles in the same combo. Double fireballs by themselves are exceptional zoning tools which cannot be shadow countered in the neutral game and build Jago obscene amounts of meter if they are blocked, so getting your opponent to block double fireballs is a great idea in itself. All these factors make Jago's instinct very strong. However, double fireballs don't do much chip damage, which means this instinct is generally used as a hit confirm in pressure or after a throw. If you are unable to use your instinct before your first health bar expires, it is a substantial waste, since all that healing potential is lost.
Jago also gets some extra frame advantage after linkers and manuals (specifically, 2 more frames of advantage), which means he can circumvent the manual restriction rules by performing a manual one strength higher than the linker he performed, and he can even freestyle manuals together (such as close MK) mid-combo. These combos give Jago extra options to cause lockouts, which is particularly strong if he is trying to perform a short combo to earn a large cash out, but he's unlikely to use them for long, since ending the combo and using shadow Endokukens to gain health back is generally preferable.
Normals to watch: Jago's best normal is almost certainly Double Roundhouse (+HK), which leaves him at a very strong +2 on block at point blank range and is the cornerstone of Jago's amazing frame trap offense. Its only weakness is that it is 2 hits, so it can (and should) be shadow countered by good defenders. Mix in close standing MK at close range or as a meaty attack, which is fast and active for a long time, to ensure that your opponent is always scared to press buttons.
For space control, far standing MP and HP are excellent at taking up space in front of Jago and lead to easy hit confirms off Endokuken or Wind Kick. Crouching MK is a great long-range "shoto-like" low attack, but unlike Street Fighter shotos, you'll probably want to cancel it into Wind Kick or Laser Sword, rather than Endokuken, to maintain better advantage. Neck Cutter (+HP) is a nearly unseeable overhead that reaches three character lengths in front of Jago and should be abused as both a footsies poke and a mixup tool, especially in the corner where you get to control the spacing. Jumping HP is a beastly crossup that can be made very ambiguous and meaty on knocked down opponents.
Specials to watch: Laser Sword and Wind Kick, both excellent pressure and neutral tools, are crucial to Jago's game; check out the Openers section above for more details about them. Tiger Fury is a very hard-hitting 1-hit uppercut which is infallible as anti-air, does massive damage on counter hit, and can be instinct canceled for fireball juggles that lead to unbreakable health regeneration. You can use it as a 3-frame punish, anti-air, or as a mixup, providing you cancel it with instinct activation or shadow Endokuken. Canceling to shadow Endokuken is safe from shadow counter and leaves Jago at -6 on block, which will be punishable by combos starting with a low-damage jab, but is much more preferable than getting punished for a raw Tiger Fury, and with certain types of spacing may avoid punishment entirely. The punish also must happen exceedingly quickly, as shadow Endokuken does not have much block stun, so your opponent may simply miss his window to attack. In neutral, Shadow Endokuken comes out very fast after the freeze and destroys projectiles along its path, and from far ranges will be very difficult to punish, making it a decent guess move in the mid-range. It also does a lot of chip damage, making it useful to close out rounds against a blocking opponent.
General strategy: While Jago feels a lot like shoto characters in Street Fighter games, he is actually quite a bit more versatile than that. In some matchups he prefers to zone with fireballs and threaten to close the mid-range gap with moves like Double Roundhouse, but he is a very effective frame trapper and is difficult to punish without shadow counters, so feel free to take the fight to your opponent if your style or the matchup depends on it. While Jago doesn't have the easiest time getting to the mid-range against some powerful full screen characters, he is very hard to zone when he gets there, because shadow Wind Kick is perhaps the best horizontally-traveling move in the game, beating strong low attacks and any projectile with ease, and if your opponent doesn't have meter to shadow counter it, shadow Wind Kick is also safe on block. When he gets in your face, use Double Roundhouse and his fast, long-range overhead to start and maintain your offense. If you want to punish jump-happy opponents with anti-air that hurts, and frustrate your opponent with fundamentals at almost all ranges, Jago is an excellent choice in KI.