What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin’?
May – the month in which the weather starts to go from cold to slightly less cold here in the UK. It was also the month when we finally managed to get our cold frost-bitten hands on quite possibly the hottest character in Killer Instinct. Easy tiger – no I’m not talking about Sabrewulf in his rather skimpy shorts, but Cinder. The flaming fighter hit Killer Instinct on April 30th, and he’s been warming the hearts of both new and old players of the game in equal measure; alongside Riptor, TJ Combo and Maya, Cinder is the last original series character to be included in the roster, and he’s arguably the one that fans have been waiting to singe their hands on for the longest time.
The penultimate Season 2 character has had a slight retcon to his backstory in the original 1994 Killer Instinct. He’s still pretty much the same cocky Ben Ferris you know and love from the original game, only now he’s got a slightly different backstory. No longer the prisoner in flames (not chains) who’s been subjected to Ultratech’s crazy experiments against his will; Cinder’s now a mouthy merc for hire who has voluntarily opted for the Ultratech experimentation (the daft nutter), specifically a melding of human and Glacius’ species DNA… as well as presumably a fair old quantity of gasoline thrown into the mix for good measure. In other words, he’s a flying flaming torch with some formidable tricks, flips and stinging quips up his highly combustible sleeves.
For a man who’s essentially a walking bonfire, Cinder has an appropriately warm-blooded stage to fight in. Fury’s Core is a giant magma-filled crater complete with al fresco research labs (strange combination if you ask me, but it seems to be working) and plenty of flashy floating platforms whizzing around in the background. Though sadly there’s no Stage Ultra for this stage, it still manages to feel exciting and epic; the complicated flotilla of platforms in the background contrast really nicely with the simple rocky plinth the players fight on in the foreground.
It also helps that this level has arguably one of the punchiest and most aggressive theme songs in the game to go with it. Once again, Mick Gordon has totally knocked it out of the park on his soundtrack duty. Cinder’s Theme, Inferno, features a heavy remixed version of Robin Beanland’s Trailblazer from the original game’s soundtrack which has been expertly spliced with Mick’s own raunchy riffs, searing hot lead guitar solos and brutal beatdowns. The result is an incredibly good balancing of old and new music, and it makes the stage all the more cool to play on.
That’s enough window dressing for now, let’s move onto the main flaming man himself. As I like to say at the start of these character guides, I’m no expert at Killer Instinct, and though I have a great passion for the game and I absolutely love writing about it, the sad fact is that I’m certainly no pro player. I can’t provide you with in-depth frame-by-frame analysis of moves, give detailed match-up tactics and advice, nor do I have an impressive win/loss ratio to boast about. However, despite my own personally mediocre skills, hopefully I can pass on a few beginner’s tips and tactics about Cinder and his command list that might just help a new player get to grips with the fundamentals of this hothead honcho. Okay, with that said, it’s time to turn up the heat and get cooking with Cinder.
So where to start with learning Cinder? I think one of the most important things to go over right away is his Fired Up combat trait. This is a unique effect that imbues all of his special attacks with additional and very handy buffs, and it’s an essential part of his playstyle to get to grips with.
Basically, it works like this; as the trait’s name suggests, Cinder ignites into flames every eight seconds. When Cinder is Fired Up his next Special Attack gains additional properties. After performing a special attack, Cinder will go back to a duller glow, and will re-ignite eight seconds later. Don’t worry, Cinder will glow very brightly when he is Fired Up, so the difference between his Fired Up and normal states is easy to distinguish regardless of whatever skin you choose (though it’s perhaps easiest to recognise at first in his default skin).
Additionally, upon activating his Instinct mode, Pyromania, Cinder remains Fired Up for the full duration of his Instinct. All special attacks gain Fired Up properties during this time, so you can really turn up the heat and give your opponent a roasting when you’ve got a full Instinct meter. What exactly are these special Fired Up buffs though? Well, they’re all specific to each special move, so let’s go through them.
Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire
Cinder’s is easily one of the most manoeuvrable characters of the Killer Instinct roster, with multiple aerial skills that can give even Sadira a run for her money. That’s largely thanks to Trailblazer, a fast moving attack which sees Cinder curl up into a deadly fireball and blast forwards through the air. Performed with Back Forward + Kick, Trailblazer is a great combo linker and standalone attack that can be used both on the ground and in the air, making it an extremely versatile way of attacking your opponent.
The angle of the attack is determined by the strength of the kick attack; the Medium Kick version travels horizontally (approximately across half of the screen), the Light Kick one travels diagonally upwards. The Heavy Kick variant sees Cinder briefly shoot straight up in the air before hurtling diagonally downwards if performed on the ground, while the aerial version just sends him heading downwards with no additional upward boost. When Cinder is Fired Up, the move will destroy any non-shadow projectiles – allowing you to quite literally fight fire with fire when up against Jago players.
What’s more, Cinder can also chain the move with another Trailblazer – known as Afterburner – which opens up your movement options further. While you’re streaking across the screen in fireball form, simply press Any Direction + Any Kick to aim Cinder in that direction. Afterburner can be used on its own, directly off a blocking opponent or when hitting an opponent in mid-air.
Plus, if that wasn’t enough, when Cinder’s Fired Up you even can do a second Afterburner on top of your first as well – just press your desired direction and hit another kick button again to keep sizzling through the air. That means you can essentially perform Trailblazer three times with Cinder before his hot little tootsies have touch the floor again, which makes the move an incredibly handy cross-up tool when combined with the aerial Cross Fire (Down + Heavy Kick). The Light Kick Afterburner covers the shortest distance, the Heavy Kick one travels the furthest, and the Medium Kick is your median go-to.
Unfortunately, although you can’t perform an Afterburner directly after a Shadow Trailblazer, it has the bonus of being completely projectile invulnerable (until the recovery animation at least), making it a great way of getting through a projectile-heavy opponent’s defences. Finally, executing Trailblazer mid-combo with the Heavy Kick variety gets you Cinder’s Wall Splat Ender.
To go from one ball of fire to another, let’s look at Cinder’s Pyrobombs. Pyrobombs are Cinder’s projectiles, and what’s really interesting about them is that they function as glowing satsuma-like balls of C4; rather than causing damage to your opponent upon contact, Pyrobombs will actually stick to your opponent and require manual detonation. These throwable bombs can be chucked out from the ground and mid-air, giving Cinder some really interesting medium to long-distance zoning options to play with.
Executed with Back Forward + Punch, Cinder will throw out a bomb in an arc depending on the strength of the punch used; Light Punch throws a fast bomb at a long, low angle, Medium Punch sends one long-range but a slightly higher trajectory, while Heavy Punch sends one sailing in a very high, slow and short-range curve.
When Fired Up, Cinder throws out a slightly larger Pyrobomb which does slightly more damage than usual, and has a slightly larger blast radius than the standard explosives, and launches your opponent slightly further up into the air. In other words, it’s just better in every single way. Pressing All Punches activates Pyrotechnics, which is pretty much exactly what the name suggests – Cinder detonates all Pyrobombs currently onscreen. Just like with Pyrobomb throws, Pyrotechnics can also be triggered both in-air and on the ground. You can have up to three Pyrobombs onscreen at any one time – trying to throw a fourth while at max capacity will just function as an alternate detonation method.
Although the Pyrobombs are extremely cool, they do come with some caveats to bear in mind. If Cinder is hit before detonating any bombs, then they will all instantly disappear, so you have to be careful when trying to lob a load of them at your opponent. If left undetonated, Pyrobombs will also disappear after an eight second window.
The Shadow Version throws out a massive Pyrobomb, and its trajectory is determined by the combination of punch buttons you use to input the move. If you input the move by hitting LB (default controller mapping for All Punches), then the bomb will fly out in a similar manner to a standard Light Punch strength Pyrobomb. If you input the move using any two punch buttons simultaneously, you can choose which throwing arc you’d like to use.
For this reason, if you play Killer Instinct using a fightstick, and like me, you tend to default to just hitting LB to activate shadow moves, it’s worth spending time to practice throwing your Shadow Pyrobombs using a dual punch button input as this will give you more flexibility over how to best deploy the big bomb in the heat of combat (I’m sorry, look the fire puns are only going to keep on getting cheesier from here on out – what did you expect?)
Okay, bear with me here, as this paragraph is important, but things are going to get just a little wordy and tedious – sorry in advance. Inputting the Shadow Pyrobomb move using Light Punch + Medium Punch throws the Shadow Pyrobomb in a similar arc to the standard Light Punch Pyrobomb. Inputting Shadow Pyrobomb with Light Punch + Heavy Punch throws the Shadow Pyrobomb in a similar arc to the standard Medium Punch Pyrobomb, and inputting Shadow Pyrobomb using Medium Punch + Heavy Punch throws the Shadow Pyrobomb in a similar arc to the standard Heavy Punch Pyrobomb.
Phew – did you get all of that? I know, I know, I know – it can be a bit of a major mindfuck trying to keep all these arbitrary-looking sub-divisions of the Shadow Pyrobomb input in the back of your head while scrapping online, but if you stick with it and give it a bit of practice, you’ll be a way more versatile zoning Cinder as a result of your hard work.
Whilst we’re covering Cinder’s throwable tangerines of terror, it’s worth pointing out their application in conjunction with his throws. Pyrobombs stuck to your opponent can be detonated between the second and third hits of Cinder’s throw animation. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry it’s not – Cinder takes an obvious moment between the hits to cool off his fist (the cocky git) before delivering the final hit of the throw so once you know what to look for it’s rather easy to get the necessary timing down. Grabbing an opponent and dishing out some extra damage with a cheeky bomb detonation mid-throw is incredibly useful, as the resulting explosion will launch your opponent into the air, allowing you to bat them around with a Trailblazer/Afterburner or two, or recapture them with Cross Fire and start a combo back on terra firma.
Performing any strength punch of the Pyrobomb input mid-combo executes Cinder’s Battery and Launcher Ender. This is a great choice when running low on meter, plus it sets you at a decent distance away from your opponent if you need some space. Additionally, Cinder’s Pyrotechnics combat trait means that whenever you perform any one of his Enders, he will automatically detonate all deployed Pyrobombs – so any bombs stuck to your opponent when ending a combo will just add to the total damage cashout. Cha-ching!
Burn Baby Burn
Speaking of Enders, Cinder has some other toasty tricks he can inflict on his opponents at the end of his combos. Specifically, Cinder can perform a special pair of Burnout Enders which affect your opponent in some really nasty ways. First though, let’s look at the special moves associated with these Enders – Fission and Inferno.
While we’re still on the topic of hot orange balls, let’s look at Cinder’s Fission first. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Punch, this move sees Cinder bash together two Pyrobombs to create a big tasty explosion that can be used as an attack, a combo linker or a handy way of destroying non-shadow projectiles. Medium Punch and Heavy Punch attack as normal, but interestingly the Light Punch version is a fake-out move which can be used to bait your opponent into a block. When Fired Up, the Medium Punch and Heavy Punch Fission blasts have a slightly larger blast radius than normal, and Shadow Fission hits a ridiculously awesome ten times and has a massive blast radius – great for punishing an opponent trapped in a corner.
Inferno is a long-range flamethrower attack which sees Cinder spray his opponent with a far-reaching stream of fire. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Kick, the strength of the kick attack used determines the attack’s range. The Light Punch version has the shortest range, Heavy Punch has the longest, and yup, Medium Punch lies in-between the two. Like Fission, Inferno can also be used to destroy non-shadow projectiles, and when Cinder’s Fired Up, the Inferno flame jets reach slightly further than normal. Shadow Inferno is the longest reaching version of the attack, which travels in an undulating pattern across pretty much the full screen distance. What’s really neat about all the Inferno attacks is the fact that even if your opponent successfully blocks the attack, they will still absorb the potential damage – pretty neat huh?
The Heavy Punch Ender versions of Fission and Inferno are Cinder’s Burnout Enders; what’s special about these finishers are that they actually set your opponent on fire. The Fission Burnout Ender will set your opponent’s arms on fire, and the Inferno Burnout Ender will set your opponent’s legs on fire. Whenever you alight your opponent’s limbs in this way, the flames will continue to burn between 3 and 7.5 seconds depending on the level of the Ender, and during that time period they will continuously take potential damage. What’s really cool however is that if your opponent uses an attack associated with that burnt out region (i.e. if they use any derivative of a punch attack when their arms are burning) whilst they’re still on fire, then they essentially ‘fan the flames’ and they keep burning and the potential damage continues creeping up. All you really need to do then is to start up and quickly end another combo (preferably with Cinder’s Damage Ender, Fireflash, performed with Down Up + Kick) to obliterate your opponent’s health bar once they’ve been cooking up all that potential damage.
So, in other words, these Burnout Enders are incredibly important parts of Cinder’s moveset. A great tactic is to burn your opponent’s limbs and then repeatedly attack them in ways that will make them accidentally fan the flames, or leave themselves completely open for punishment. Either way is a big win for you as a Cinder player. Being spammed with projectiles? Burn your opponent’s arms to temporarily discourage further barrages. Getting poked from your opponent’s kick attacks? Scorch their legs and start pressuring low. Being swatted out of the sky with your opponent’s anti-airs? Burn their arms and swoop down from above with impunity.
All These Fire Puns Are Getting Pretty Charcoal’d By Now
Personally, I find Cinder to be a very complex character for a beginner to get to grips with. For a start, like Riptor, Cinder is a hybrid input fighter who utilises both charge inputs and quarter-circle inputs, which makes him initially feel quite fiddly and awkward to get to grips with in my opinion. As a low-level Killer Instinct player myself, I prefer it when a character has either all quarter-circle move inputs, or all charge inputs – not a mix of the two.
Just like with my initial attempts to learn Riptor, I found it really confusing at first to get to grips with Cinder’s mixed inputs, and properly commit them to muscle memory. Plus on top of that, in order to be able to accurately control his Shadow Pyrobomb throws, you have to learn that whole other string of arbitrary alternative inputs we discussed earlier, which just complicates things for a new player (and idiots like me) even more. Thankfully, it’s not a massive deal and you’ll soon get to grips with his controls after a couple of matches, but for a new player just starting out with Cinder, his complicated command list can almost feel like a rather tricky opponent you have to fight right from the off.
However, get through that initial learning curve and he’s an incredibly fun character to use and one well worth persevering with. After some careful practice in the dojo, you’ll soon be chucking out Pyrobombs, darting across the screen with Trailblazer and burning up the competition in no time.
In terms of his overall fighting style, Cinder is perhaps best described as an aerial rushdown character. He’s a bit of a strange mix in that he excels at being played up-close and aggressive in his opponent’s face, yet he also has some interesting but limited projectile/zoning options with the Pyrobombs he can use to attack from afar. From my own experience playing the character, it’s hard to pinpoint particularly difficult match-ups that he struggles against, but rather it’s that he can struggle to open up opponents with strong defensive playstyles.
When in the heat (cringe) of battle, keep your opponent guessing when using Trailblazer. A nice tactic you can use to catch an opponent off guard is to move in with a Trailblazer, dash backwards with your first Afterburner before rushing back in and landing the hit with your second. A careless opponent will likely read your backwards Afterburner as a retreat, and walk smack-bang into the follow-up – ready to receive a brutal barbequing.
Although you’ve got a variety of unique ways to pressure your opponent as Cinder (particularly through airborne Trailblazers), the vast majority of his special moves are unsafe on block. If you’re swatted down mid-air from a Trailblazer, or your opponent successfully blocks an Inferno/Fission, you can expect to get a swift battering. Luckily, Cinder has a very speedy backdash, which works incredibly well at getting you out of dangerous situations pronto, so make good use of it. If dealt a heavy knockdown from your opponent, Fireflash functions as a fantastic reversal that can be used on recovery as a swift riposte to an aggressive combatant’s new combo attempt.
If you’re struggling to open up a defensive opponent, throwing out a cheeky Pyrobomb or three is a great way to get them to panic and lose their cool. Just remember that if you’re hit just once (even with a projectile) before you detonate then all your bombs will disappear, so be ready to block and play defensively yourself if your opponent launches into action. Additionally, don’t rely too heavily on the Pyrobombs as your primary offensive strategy; Cinder is primarily a rushdown character so think of them as a handy way of zoning and annoying your opponent when appropriate.
Again, as we’ve previously gone over, a large part of your gameplan when playing as Cinder should be to make frequent use of his Burnout Enders where appropriate. Keeping your enemy’s potential damage levels high will make them doubly anxious about getting caught in your combos, so use their hesitancy to your advantage. Once you’ve burned your opponent, try pressuring them in ways that will either cut down their chances to retaliate, or severely punish them if they do.
Well, that’s pretty much all the basic knowledge I can pass on about Cinder for now. Next up in the beginner guide hotseat is the enigmatic CEO of Ultratech. Unveiled for the first time at Chicago’s Combo Breaker fighting game tournament, ARIA is the final Season 2 character, and the big boss character for the upcoming Season 2 Arcade mode, who uses special drone modules to support and supplement her attacks. Whether there’s an additional secret boss one à la Season 1’s Shadow Jago remains to be seen, so we’ll have to wait until the new Arcade mode finally drops to find out. In the meantime, turn up the heat and dish out some blazing batterings.