(Note: Before December 4, 2015, Shadow Jago was identical in every way to Jago)
Most Similar To: Demitri (Darkstalkers)
Strengths: Despite his appearance, Shadow Jago is unlike normal Jago in many ways. Shadow Jago has much improved mobility; faster walk speed, faster and trickier dashes, a quicker horizontal-traveling special move, and an air dive kick that lets him change his jump arc and affords him some tricky offense. His zoning is also quite a bit stronger, fueled by very fast horizontal fireballs from both the ground and the air. When he is loaded on meter, Shadow Jago gains new offensive strength by using his "surge" moves, and he has numerous ways to launch the opponent for flashy juggle opportunities, which should make him a favorite for anyone who likes stylish combos.
Weaknesses: Without meter, Shadow Jago really struggles. His regular special moves are all unsafe on block and he has none of Jago's rock solid approaches to rely on, forcing Shadow Jago to bait mistakes or take risks to open up a solid defender for any significant damage. Many of Shadow Jago's combo openers (such as throws, or some surge moves) launch the opponent and force Shadow Jago to use an entire stock of meter to cash out the damage, so he must constantly choose between using his precious meter for a safe approach or to get meaningful damage. He usually cannot have both.
Best Counter-Breaker Combos
0 Meter: HP double > MP double > HP double > MP double > HP double > Dark Fury ender (47%)
1 Meter: HP double > MP double > HP double > MP double > Shadow Dark Drift > Dark Fury ender (54%)
2 Meter: HP double > MP double > HP double > MP double > Shadow Dark Drift > Shadow Dark Fury ender (58%)
( Damage calculation notes)
Notes: Shadow Jago uses both directions of his Around the Underworld combo trait to alternate between HP and MP auto-doubles until the lockout window expires. Shadow Dark Drift does more damage and takes less time than shadow Dark Demise as a linker, and is several percent more damaging than using a shadow ender in the 1-meter combo. Interestingly, the 0-meter combo appears to stretch slightly beyond the lockout window when performed on an all-breaking training mode dummy, but human players cannot break it.
Unique Mechanic: Surge Special Moves
Shadow Jago is able to execute a "surge" version of any of his special moves at any strength. Not entirely unlike Cinder's "fired up" ability, a surged special move simply enhances one of Shadow Jago's default special moves to be slightly more powerful; think of it almost like a "mini" shadow move, or like an EX move from a Street Fighter game. On Shadow Jago's shadow meter, you will notice a small segment marked "Surge", denoting that the cost to execute a surge move is 40% of one shadow stock. To execute a surge move, input the special move like normal, but then quickly tap the punch or kick button twice during your move's startup. You must be fast; you cannot wait until you see if the move will hit before you decide to surge.
Surge Shendokuken, both grounded and in the air, fires a second fireball at a diagonal angle. Due to the speed of the fireballs, this is quite useful in zoning, but it is also much safer on block during pressure than regular fireballs. The second fireball will miss against most crouching characters, though, so be careful. Surge Dark Drift slides halfway to the opponent before teleporting behind them and hitting them from the back. This move is safe on block (but disadvantaged at -2) and launches the opponent on hit, allowing Shadow Jago to juggle. It is great to use as a surprise attack, but because the surge version is quite a bit slower than the regular version, it can be interrupted by attacks, can be jumped away from, or blocked by an option select if the opponent is thinking ahead. Because of this, it's best to not use surge Dark Drift from full screen, hoping the defender won't be ready, but rather when your opponent is nervous about a close range throw or overhead attack.
Surge Dark Fury, Shadow Jago's uppercut move, simply does a second uppercut after the first, launching the opponent for a juggle opportunity. There is a gap between the first and second uppercuts that can catch you pressing buttons if you are eager to punish the first uppercut, and there is no visual indication he has surged the move until it's too late, so your best bet is simply to delay your punish slightly while holding back. You will have plenty of time to punish the uppercut if it was not surged, but still block the second uppercut if it happens. Practice this timing in training mode if you are struggling to punish this move. Surge Dark Catastrophe, Shadow Jago's uppercut while dashing, also does a second uppercut wave, launching for a juggle. This move is harder to punish on block, because Shadow Jago will fly far away from you, but if you are quick, you can hit him after the first uppercut but before the second starts. If you have a teleport or long-distance horizontal move, you can also easily punish this move after the second uppercut completes.
Surge Dark Demise, Shadow Jago's dive kick, is perhaps his best surge move. It is faster than normal Dark Demise, hits as many as 5 times depending on the spacing, acts as an opener like a jumping attack would, has very little recovery if it misses, and is only marginally unsafe at -3 on block, leaving Shadow Jago close. Because the attack happens so quickly, defenders will have to be very aware to wrestle control away from Shadow Jago after blocking this move, even though Shadow Jago is negative. The move's multi-hitting nature is perfect for beating armored characters like Aganos with chunks or Glacius in instinct, and Shadow Jago can choose to hit in the front or the back, just like he can with regular Dark Demise. To beat this move, it is possible, though difficult, to anti-air on reaction, and its hitbox is rather narrow, which means it struggles to catch jumping opponents; even if you get hit by surge Dark Demise in the air, it is very hard for Shadow Jago to convert it into bigger damage. Just be careful not to over-rely on this; smart Shadow Jago players will stop your panic jumps by using many of his other tools.
Surge moves are Shadow Jago's best special moves, but they are very costly to use repeatedly. Even with a fully loaded shadow meter, Shadow Jago can only execute 5 total surge moves before he is completely empty, and Shadow Jago relies on this meter to get meaningful damage off his many air juggle opportunities, so there is always a delicate balancing act here. While it is very fun to fire off numerous surge moves in rapid succession, you may find your shadow meter dry when you land a hit and unable to turn your eventual opening into damage.Unique Mechanic: Teleport Dash
Shadow Jago's dashes are teleports that can be used for mobility and also for mixups. While he is invisible in the middle of his dash, he is invincible to attacks and can pass through opponents, and at any time, he can cancel his dash into one of three options: press LP+LK to throw, press any punch to do Dark Catastrophe, a diagonally-traveling invincible DP attack, or press any kick to do Dark Demise, Shadow Jago's dive kick. You can surge these options and the different strengths of punch and kick have different effects. If you choose to not cancel a dash into one of these options, Shadow Jago will enter recovery after his dash ends and will be open to counter-attack.
Shadow Jago can also cancel Gate Keeper (+HK), a step kick command normal, into his dash. This lets him turn a blocked mid-range poke into a medium-risk, medium-reward mixup, and is an important part of Shadow Jago's offense.
Openers: Dark Drift (shadow OK), Surge Dark Demise (shadow OK), Dark Demise (Stagger), Dark Reckoning (+HK command normal, Stagger)
Shadow Jago often starts combos in unconventional ways. Apart from jumping attacks, he really only has Dark Drift, his slide move, and surge or shadow Dark Demise, his dive kick, as "true" grounded openers. Regular Dark Drift is very fast, but always unsafe; the light version is the safest at -5 on block, meaning it can always be punished with a well-timed light attack to start a combo, and the medium and heavy versions are even worse. This is quite unlike Jago's Wind Kick or Omen's Demon Slide, moves which feel similar but can be used in more situations because they are safe on block. Surge Dark Demise, as mentioned above, is a great move for Shadow Jago, but needs meter for each use. Shadow Dark Demise will try to track the opponent and, additionally, it recaptures if it catches someone airborne. Outside of a combo, though, I would avoid this move, as it has slow startup and is hugely negative on block; you can punish shadow Dark Demise without shadow counter.Other Combo Starters: Dark Demise & Dark Reckoning (stagger), Throw & Surge Dark Drift & Surge Dark Fury & Surge Dark Catastrophe (launches for juggle)
Shadow Jago often starts his combos in one of two non-traditional ways. The first way is by launching the opponent and juggling them without the use of auto-doubles or linkers. Shadow Jago has numerous ways to begin a launch: both throws, surge Dark Drift (slide), surge Dark Fury (uppercut), and surge Dark Catastrophe (dash uppercut) will all start a juggle opportunity. It is here where Shadow Jago can quickly build up a large amount of potential damage through hard-to-break juggle combos, but he needs at least one full stock of shadow meter to use shadow Dark Fury and cash out the damage. Without a full stock, Shadow Jago's juggles will hover around the 10-15% damage range and are not overly concerning, so hopefully you didn't spend all your meter on surge moves!
The second way Shadow Jago starts combos is by using stagger moves; both regular Dark Demise and his Dark Reckoning overhead command normal (+HK) will cause a stagger state and lead to a grounded combo with an easy manual of your choice. Regular Dark Demise is at least -20 on block, but from close range you can hit from the front or the back by choosing different strengths. In general, though, this move is best avoided unless you do the surge version. Dark Reckoning, a move where Shadow Jago leaps forward and strikes with his heel, is a decently long range overhead attack, and any grounded normal can cancel into it, which makes it almost feel like a special move in application. The overhead is -3 on block, which is the safest non-metered combo starter Shadow Jago has; if you block the overhead, pressing a button will give you control of the match. The lack of safe approaches is one of Shadow Jago's big weaknesses.Linkers: Dark Drift (shadow OK), Dark Demise (shadow OK)
While many Shadow Jago combos will be air juggles, he will still find plenty of opportunity to land grounded combos via a stagger move or surprise Dark Drift attack. Shadow Jago cannot surge his linkers, so there is nothing out of the ordinary to discuss here. Dark Drift will switch sides with the opponent, although shadow Dark Drift finishes on the same side it started on; be careful to input your ender move facing the correct side. Dark Demise has a large amount of startup, which makes it fantastic for baiting timing lockouts, since you are not allowed to break linkers during startup. If you notice your opponent has itchy trigger fingers on those combo break buttons, throwing in Dark Demise linkers will force him to be more deliberate with his timing, which works to your advantage. As another bonus, Shadow Jago seems to have an exceedingly large amount of frame advantage after his linkers. While he cannot break the manual restriction rules, he is one of the easier characters to perform manuals with in the game.
Shadow Linkers: Both of Shadow Jago's shadow linkers have rather regular timing intervals and, on paper, do not look particularly hard to break. However, there are some complications. Shadow Dark Drift has a large amount of visual effects covering up his foot, so it is difficult to break only by visual feedback. You will likely have to rely on audio and rhythm to break this reliably. Shadow Dark Demise has one air hit that causes a recapture, and then four more attacks on the ground that are equally spaced. The delay between the air hit and the grounded hits takes some practice to get used to. It might be preferable to break hits 3, 4, and 5 if your opponent isn't going to counter break you.
Due to Shadow Jago's extreme reliance on shadow meter, it makes sense to use his Shendokuken battery ender early and often, but like all non-shadow enders, you have to put them in a grounded combo in order to use it, which means Shendokuken is not an ender option for Shadow Jago's many juggle combos unless you recapture with shadow Dark Demise first. Dark Fury is his damage ender, and it serves as a strong finisher for grounded combos if your meter situation is fine, but of particular note is that shadow Dark Fury is the only way Shadow Jago can cash out damage from juggles, so you will see this ender used often. Shadow Dark Fury has a rather skinny hitbox, so you will need to practice your positioning at the end of juggles to make sure it does not miss entirely; if you juggle at the wrong height or hit your opponent too far away, this can easily happen. Dark Demise grants a hard knockdown, great for pre-planned mixups involving his dash or neutral jumping into a delayed Dark Demise, which will force your opponent to guess which way to block.
Recapture & Flipout: Shadow Dark Demise (recapture)
Shadow Jago can recapture using shadow Dark Demise if he wants to convert any of his juggle combos into a grounded combo. With no meterless recapture, and no flipout, this is an expensive proposition for Shadow Jago, who has many strong uses of meter, and the shadow move will always be breakable if used in a juggle situation. If your opponent can't break shadow Dark Demise, use it to recapture and then use the Shendokuken battery ender to replenish some of your meter while still getting acceptable damage.
Instinct Mode: Shadow Jago gets the same additional 2 frames of advantage on all his moves that Jago and Omen get. This is actually quite useful for Shadow Jago, because it means that his generally unsafe approach is now a little bit safer; light Dark Drift, for example, is no longer punishable by throws or light attacks. But the main juice in his instinct comes from two other properties.
First, Shadow Jago can attach a Dark Tether to his opponent by hitting them with a fireball or dashing through their body, which will stay active until Shadow Jago gets hit or instinct ends. The tether has no passive effect, but it has two uses: pressing HP+HK will instantly generate a stock of shadow meter for both Shadow Jago and his opponent, and all surge and shadow moves cost Shadow Jago half as much meter as they normally would, while draining the other half from his opponent's meter (if his opponent has no meter available to drain, the cost is still halved for Shadow Jago). This means a fully stocked Shadow Jago can actually perform 10 surge moves and 4 shadow moves, double the normal amount, and you can perform long juggle combos or pressure strings that are not normally possible within the meter constraints. It also means that, like Jago, it is often beneficial to activate instinct in the middle of a combo, where attaching a tether with a fireball is guaranteed.
The other important use for Shadow Jago's instinct is Annihilation, a forward-traveling unblockable grab that looks similar to Street Fighter's Raging Demon attack. Annihilation can only be performed in instinct (via LP+LK), consumes all of your remaining instinct meter, and it does a different amount of damage depending on how much instinct time you had remaining. At near maximum instinct, Annihilation does 48% unbreakable damage, which will make defenders with half a life bar nervous. This move is throw invincible but not strike invincible (so it cannot beat attacks), but it starts up in a total of 6 frames, which means it can punish -6 or worse moves from point blank range; important examples of punishable moves include TJ's Tremor and Orchid's high/low Ichi Ni San mixups. This further stresses the point that Shadow Jago's instinct typically is activated as a reaction; either you activate it during a combo to attach a tether, or you wait until your opponent does something unsafe, then activate it and perform Annihilation immediately. Annihilation is best used to finish your opponent's second life bar; if you plan to use Annihilation at another point in the match, make sure they have at least 40% life to lose, or else the cost is probably not worth it. To avoid Annihilation, simply hold up-back during the screen freeze. It does not activate instantly after the freeze ends, so if you are not currently recovering from a move, you will jump over the grab and punish Shadow Jago with any high-damage opener of your choice.
Normals to watch: Most of Shadow Jago's normals are similar to Jago, which means he fights using many of the same tools. In particular, crouching MK, standing MP, and standing HP are excellent at controlling space in front of Shadow Jago, and close standing MK is a great pressure tool with lots of active frames. Crouching HP causes Shadow Jago to extend his sword at a diagonally upward angle, which is useful to cover anti-air space that his Dark Fury uppercut doesn't reach. His jumping HP looks similar to Jago's, but is much better at harassing grounded opponents because Shadow Jago keeps spinning until he lands. To compensate, jumping HP starts up rather slow, so if you're looking to escape, try to jump back and meet it with a faster air attack of your own. Notably, Shadow Jago does not have Jago's fantastic Double Roundhose command normal. Instead, Shadow Jago has to make do with canceling normals into his Dark Reckoning overhead command normal (+HK) -- on block, this leaves Shadow Jago at -3 and is his safest non-meter combo starter -- or using Gate Keeper (+HK) and dash canceling it for a mixup. These options are both good, but a little less stable than the pressure Jago can maintain from close range due to the high frame advantage of Double Roundhouse.
Specials to watch: There's no doubt that Shadow Jago's best special moves are his surge moves, and if you have the meter to burn, surge Dark Demise and surge Shendokuken are rarely bad ideas from midscreen or closer. Surge Dark Catastrophe works great as a left-right mixup after a dash, and is difficult to punish for some characters, so it is a medium-risk, high-reward combo starter for the cost of one surge. It is worth stressing that Shadow Jago does not have any safe special moves if he is unwilling to spend meter on surge or shadow versions. The Dark Drift slide attack is always -5 at best, all close-range Shendokukens are strictly punishable on block, and if you block a Dark Demise dive kick, Shadow Jago lands in front of you and is open to any punish of your choice. Shadow Jago also has a true reversal invincible uppercut with Dark Fury. It is very fast at 3 frames (like the uppercuts of Jago, Orchid, Fulgore, and ARIA), and it does a great job of beating cross-up attempts, but its weak horizontal range will make it miss against opponents who are not very close.
In addition to his surge moves, there are some shadow moves worth using in neutral. Shadow Dark Drift is fast on startup and fully projectile and throw invincible until it hits, useful for punishing long-range whiffs (like Aganos trying to chunk up) and midscreen projectiles. Shadow Shendokuken does a surprising amount of raw damage (14%), leaves some white life on hit, is safe on block and safe from shadow counter, and also does strong chip damage. It's a costly use of meter for Shadow Jago, but if you are looking to apply safe pressure, cancel a reversal Dark Fury for safety, or have a Dark Tether attached and can use meter more liberally, it has some good applications.
General strategy: Shadow Jago is a flashy character that needs to take more risks than similar characters such as Jago and Omen. The first thing you will probably notice when you play him is how slippery he is. His teleport dashes let him cover large percentages of the screen quickly, but this also makes it difficult for Shadow Jago to maintain a range he is happy with. He has good space control normals, but in order to get combos off of them, he has to either put himself at disadvantage on block, or else spend meter. To build the meter you need, one strategy is to try to play the long-range game. Shadow Jago is a pretty great zoner, due to the distance covered with his dashes and the fact that his Shendokukens are both fast and can be fired from the ground or the air. The occasional surge Shendokuken in zoning will also frustrate your opponent's approach. However, neither he nor his opponent build much meter if these are blocked, so you will have to pick a time and place to begin offense. The safest offense he has involves his Dark Reckoning overhead, so if you are playing against a Shadow Jago player, it pays to learn to react to or predict this move.
But not all offense needs to be safe to be effective. You can take small risks here and there by using the Gate Keeper step kick, a pretty long-range and fast poke in itself, and dash canceling it. Mix up your dash cancels into a throw or surge Dark Catastrophe, which can hit on the left or the right depending on how long you delay the button. Unless your opponent is on point, you likely won't take consistently high damage punishment if these mixups do not hit. To keep your opponent honest, you can also directly cancel Gate Keeper into the Dark Drift slide (or the surge version) for a low-hitting left-right mixup. This forces your opponent to worry about all aspects of mixup after blocking Gate Keeper; you can throw, go overhead with Dark Reckoning, go low with Dark Drift, or cross-up with surge Dark Drift or Dark Catastrophe (which also has invincibility to beat attacks).
In addition to this, Shadow Jago can do Dark Demise from the left or the right after dash canceling Gate Keeper, and the surge version keeps Shadow Jago at plus frames. This illustrates the core of Shadow Jago's mixup game, a fully-optioned wheel but with many situationally unsafe options unless you spend meter. The last factor in playing Shadow Jago is the need to learn juggle combos to get damage, since many of his important mixups will force a juggle if they work, and they can be a little awkward to time for the uninitiated. But with all the pieces in play, Shadow Jago lets you dart around the screen and press buttons with a big smile on your face at all times, and if you win the match without losing your first life bar, perform his Ultimate combo to make the grin even wider.