Can You Smell What The Rock Is Cooking?
You know what they say about a rolling stone gathering no moss. Well, the same can’t really be said for Aganos, Killer Instinct‘s sixth Season 2 character who released back in February of this year. But don’t worry, that’s definitely a good thing. The fabled ‘Broccoli Man’, as he was known prior to his official textual reveal on the Ultra Combo forums, Aganos is an absolutel monster of a character, and my personal favourite so far of the new cast designed by Iron Galaxy.
Aganos quite literally is a walking paradox – he’s a giant moss-covered rolling stone. A massive ancient war golem who’s been slowly eroding away over eons, Aganos’ form has assimilated various mosses, rocks leaves and tree roots which have integrated themselves as replacement parts of his original frame, giving him an interesting blend of organic and the arcane.
Granted freedom and intelligence by his Babylonian King master – the very same one who banished Kan-Ra for his treachery – he is eventually tasked by the dying King to hunt down and kill Kan-Ra for good, after it transpires that the rotting sorcerer is still very much alive and kicking sand in people’s faces. How rude. Aganos has been relentlessly tracking his quarry for centuries across land and sea and will no doubt face off against everybody’s favourite neighbourhood mummy in the Season 2 Arcade mode, in what’s set to be an epic clash of giant boulder fists and mouldy bandages – place your bets now!
Once again, Mick Gordon has written a fantastic chugging metal theme for Aganos’ stage, the Forgotten Grotto – a beautiful sunlit-dappled cave, surrounded by ancient Grecian ruins as well as Aganos’ extended golem family who slowly materialise out of the waves as the fight progresses. Speaking of which, the Forgotten Grotto also has a Stage Ultra – standing on the circular dais and performing your character’s specific input sees your opponent get shunted across the stage before being slowly turned to stone by one of said background golems and crumbling into dust on the wind. It’s awesome, cool and also one of the most elegant ways in the game to finish an intense fight.
So, how does one go about Hulk-smashing the competition as the mighty Aganos then? Well, I might just be able to help you out a bit with that question, but again, like I’ve mentioned in my previous Killer Instinct character guides, I’m no expert at the game. I love Killer Instinct and I have a great passion for it, but I’m certainly no pro player; I can’t provide you with in-depth frame-by-frame analysis of moves, nor do I have an impressive win/loss ratio to boast about.
Hopefully though, after spending a fair bit of time getting to grips with this golem, I can pass on a few hefty stone chunks of useful information and advice that I’ve picked up along the way which might just give a beginner Aganos player the edge required to lay the stone cold smackdown on their opponents. With that disclaimer out of the way, it’s time to pick up your controller and prepare to get your Aganos training wheels well and truly rocked off.
Get Your Rocks Off
Okay, let’s start with the obvious; Aganos is massive. Absolutely massive. Easily surpassing Glacius as the tallest member of the cast, the game’s camera actually has to zoom out in order to get Aganos’ full height displayed onscreen.
He has a very slow movement speed (not the slowest of the cast, but it’s close), and can’t exactly get around the screen at much of a pace. Placed amongst a cast containing a lightning-fast ninja, a scurrying werewolf, a teleporting terminator and other such speedy pugilists, surely a slow moving fighter would be a sitting (albeit large) duck; a sitting target reduced to rubble in no time at all right?
Wrong. What Aganos lacks in speed, he more than makes up for in raw bone-crushing power. With his immense size and stature, Aganos is an extremely hard-hitter; Most of his normal and special attacks are fairly slow, but they pack a serious punch when they land, not to mention a considerable range.
To pick out just a couple of my favourite Aganos normals, Medium Punch is probably his fastest and longest reaching normal attack, and a good combo opener/poking tool. Heavy Punch and Heavy Kick are also both great poking tools which are great for creating space between you and your opponent, but they aren’t going to be particularly useful as combo openers unless you’ve got your prey trapped in a corner. Flick, executed with Light Punch is an extremely useful normal to use up close, but it also functions as an incredible anti-air (Back + Light Punch), low hitting attack (Down + Light Punch) and it can even be used to destroy incoming projectiles – trust me, it both looks and feels incredibly satisfying. Finally, Forward + Heavy Kick is a useful command normal which makes Aganos perform a heavy forwards stomp; what’s nice though is that the move can be repeated continually as a combo to allow you to steadily trample across the level. It’s cool, but just try not to overuse it as it’s rather easy for your opponent to recognise and break.
He also comes with his own unique resource – Payload Chunks (AKA common or garden rocks). Aganos can manually add chunks to his central core using Fortify Chunk (Back + Heavy Punch); each chunk that’s picked up adds one slot to his four-slot chunk meter (located directly above his Shadow Meter), and also further reduces his movement speed with each successive chunk. Understanding how the chunk meter functions in relation to Aganos’ moveset is a fundamental part of mastering this mossy monolith.
The Payload Chunks have three main uses in Aganos’ arsenal; they can be used as armour, projectiles or walls.
Let’s go over the chunks’ most basic function first. If you’re carrying Payload Chunks, then each one in the chunk meter will absorb one hit from your enemy’s attack. Remember earlier when I said Aganos’ attacks tend to have quite a slow start-up? Well, with armour, you can essentially keep punching through an enemy’s attack and you won’t take damage – pretty neat huh? Each hit absorbed will use up one chunk of your meter, so you can’t indefinitely absorb every attack hurled your way. Being aware of how many hits you can currently absorb before needing to drop and back bulk up again is very important.
Aside from providing Aganos with armour, Payload Chunks can also be used as rocky projectiles. Quarter-circle Forward + Punch performs Aganos’ Payload Assault special move, and the strength of the punch attack used determines the projectile’s properties; Light Punch throws a slow moving low rock, and Medium Punch sends a chunk flying through the air at a medium height and fast speed. The Heavy Punch variety is particularly nasty – Aganos flips a rock directly in front of him before shattering it with a punch; this launches the rock shards at your opponent in a close-range scattershot pattern. Depending on your opponent’s distance, it can hit roughly about twenty times and it really, REALLY hurts. Each use of Payload Assault uses up one chunk, so again you need to keep a close track on your limited ammo supply.
Speaking of chunks and ammo, when used at the end of a combo the Heavy Punch Payload Assault acts as Aganos’ Resource Ender; use this ender often as an invaluable way to restore the chunk meter and keep your armour levels stocked up in battle. Aganos gains one chunk per combo level, so the longer the combo, the more rocks you’ll earn when dishing out the ender.
That’s not all though – the Shadow Payload Assault is even cooler than the scattershot attack. Aganos Hulk-smashes his fists onto the ground, sending a cascade of rock shards up into the air, only to come hurtling back down again moments later. What’s great about this is that once those shards are in the air, they are coming back down with a vengeance; if you’re opponent doesn’t block, they’re going to be hit with the full force of the rocky downpour and trapped in the air – allowing you to swat them down and keep piling on the punishment.
Be warned however; Shadow Payload Assault has an incredibly long start-up time making it incredibly easy for your opponent to interrupt and cancel. Where possible, it’s best to perform Shadow Payload Assault when you’ve got a good bit of distance between yourself and your opponent to make sure that you’ve got a decent chance of completing the move.
To The Window…To The Wall!
Perhaps most uniquely, Payload Chunks can be used to create walls – yes, walls – Cyclopean Walls to give them their proper name. Aganos can erect large stone walls both behind his opponent and himself in order to tightly hem them in. What’s more terrifying than fighting a giant rock monster? When the monster can block you into a tiny space with no way out, that’s what. These walls can’t be jumped over or teleported around by any character, and they actually have the effect of temporarily re-sizing the stage boundaries for as long as they remain standing. Each wall can take three wall splats before breaking, though they also disappear if Aganos gets knocked down three times.
You can technically have four walls up at once on a stage, though in practice you’ll tend to have just one or two. The main appeal of these walls aside from just controlling the stage boundaries is to set up some great situations in which you can quickly deal out absolutely massive amounts of damage. If you’ve raised a wall behind your opponent when you perform Aganos’ Ruin Ender (Quarter-circle Back + Kick), then they are sent crashing through the wall which adds a massive amount of extra damage (roughly 20% unbreakable damage per wall) on top of your combo. Put up several walls as they advance towards you, send them flying with Ruin, and the total damage can stack to ridiculously high levels.
Whilst we’re going over the Cyclopean Walls (well, figuratively at least), now’s a good time to bring up Aganos’ Instinct mode – Peacetime. Don’t be fooled by the name; Aganos is far from peaceful when his instinct is active, as it’s actually named after the giant stone club he wields whilst the mode is active. Channelling a familiar Eyedol vibe (popular fan theories prior to Aganos’ release assumed he was indeed an incarnation of the dreaded boss character due to the trademark club and dual heads, but hey, I digress), Aganos gains a few more important combat options with club in hand. The Peacemaker can be swung in a variety of separate patterns using the three punch attacks, or chained together in sequence for a tasty (and painful) Paralyze combo (Light Punch – Medium Punch – Heavy Punch).
Additionally, if more projectiles are what you need, then the Peacemaker also can be thrown at your enemies (Quarter-circle Forward + Punch). The Peacemaker club will continually regenerate whilst Instinct is active, so you can hurl them with reckless abandon for a temporary time if you so wish. Outside of Instinct, Aganos can uproot a wall behind him (Back + All Punches) to use it as a single-use Peacemaker – like the walls, each Peacemaker can deal out three separate hits before finally breaking.
The Peacemaker is most effective at long range, but if you do end up being close enough to grab your opponent with your trusty bat in hand, then you perform Domination (Light Punch + Light Kick with Peacemaker) – Aganos smacks your opponent with the Peacemaker like a baseball bat, sending them soaring across the screen as a wall crash move. Ouch, indeed.
Rounding out the rest of Aganos’ special moves are Pulverize and Natural Disaster, which are very useful combo openers as well as his main combo linkers. Pulverise (Quarter-circle Back + Punch) is a spinning lariat move which operates as a great linker, while the Heavy Punch version works as Aganos’ Hard Knockdown Ender.
Natural Disaster (Quarter-circle Forward + Kick) makes Aganos curl into a ball and roll along the ground into his opponent, the Heavy Kick version of the move acting as the giant golem’s Exchange Ender in a combo. Pressing Up while Aganos is in mid-roll causes him to jump up off the ground in his ball form, causing the attack to hit as an overhead – this is a great way of keeping your opponent on edge and not knowing exactly where the move is going to hit. Just beware that the move is pretty unsafe if blocked, as it has a substantial recovery animation. The Shadow Natural Disaster can also be temporarily charged by holding down your kick button input, which can be a nice way of feinting the moment of impact and catching your opponent off guard.
Play That Chunky Music Stone Boy
From my experience, the most crucial thing you have to keep your eye on when playing as Aganos is your armour level. Your success absolutely hinges on how you keep the chunk meter filled in between bouts of fighting. In some ways, you want to be playing Aganos in a similar fashion to the way Fulgore used to originally work in Season 1. What I mean by this is that just like how you’d previously need to pick moments in-between all the furious onscreen fisticuffs to manually charge Fulgore’s Reactor, you want to use any brief window you can to bulk up with rocks as you fight as Aganos, as well as frequently make use of the Resource Ender. Even though he’s a god-like goliath, you don’t want to rush in to battle without a plan as Aganos and hope to wreck shop. His beefy power comes at the cost of his slow movement speed and move telegraphs and lengthy start-up and recovery animations to some of his moves. Success with Aganos comes from knowing when to roll in and play aggressively and when to back off, zone with projectiles and create space.
Run out of rocks, and you’ll soon be struggling, as your zippier opponents will be able to quickly interrupt your attack animations and chisel away at your health. It can only take one little mistake, or one fluffed move to find yourself stripped of armour and taking a pounding. Once you’ve lost armour, you really need to try and get some space between you and your opponent and armour up again, perhaps most easily achieved by using Ruin to launch your attacker across the screen, or a combination of Heavy Punch and Heavy Kick.
A good Aganos player will be constantly looking for opportunities to trap their opponent. As speed isn’t his forte, you need to keep the pressure on as Aganos by getting walls up behind your attacker and not allowing them to retreat across the screen, particularly if they are a long-range zoner like Glacius or Kan-Ra. The walls are an essential part of Aganos’ arsenal, but bear in mind that if you place them unwisely, they can actually have the reverse effect of essentially trapping you instead. I’ve found that the fast rushdown characters like Riptor and Sabrewulf can be a real problem for Aganos up-close, so bear in mind that if you end up trapping a close range specialist opponent between your walls and you’re completely out of armour, you’re essentially making their job of racing in to maul you even easier.
Additionally, Hisako (long overdue guide for her coming up shortly) can also be a source of particularly painful nightmares for Aganos, as his slow move telegraphs are easy to counter by smart Hisako players, so try and mix in plenty of projectile attacks to force her to teleport, or keep her at bay with Ruin if she tries leaping in for a combo. Ideally you want to get Hisako players worked up and frustrated, in order that they stop countering you and go on the offensive – at which point you can just steamroller through them like a hot stone knife through evanescent butter.
Don’t feel that you’ve got to have everything in play at once as Aganos. Your projectiles, walls and armour all cost chunks to use, so make sure to pick the right tool for your current situation. Use projectiles when your opponent is retreating or attempting to zone you with their own ranged attacks, and go for walls when they’re closing in to make them anxiously aware that they might be sent crashing painfully back through them a few seconds later. Don’t forget to save a few chunks for armour though, otherwise you’re asking for a beating if you mess up.
Like with other heavy hitting characters such as Thunder, Aganos only needs to get a couple of decent combos in each round to wipe the floor with your opponent. Yes, you still have to work to create opportunities in your match-ups and keep track of the crazy mind Killer Instinct mind games as per usual, but a couple of short but well-planned combos are all it usually takes to destroy your opponent as Aganos. So, just remember, if you’re out of rocks and taking a lot of punishment, don’t get too phased out; you only need to land a few brutal combos, or smash them through a few walls in order to turn the fight back around in your favour. Due to his large size, it can be hard to defend against sneaky aerial crossups (yes, I’m looking at you Sadira), so don’t forget to use Flick to swat down opponents trying to get up in your multiple stony faces.
Anyway, that’s pretty much all the amateur level tips I have on playing as Aganos. He’s an incredibly fun behemoth of a bruiser to get to grips with, and like I said before, easily my favourite character of the Season 2 cast. Keep up the great work Iron Galaxy! Hisako is up next, another awesome (albeit terrifying) brand new fighter to the series, who’s particularly good at giving her opponents a real nightmare of a time in battle. Until next time, keep those green fingers of yours locked on your controllers and fightsticks and don’t forget to rock the chunk out!