How to survive and win in the Mortal Kombat 11 beta

So you’ve pre-ordered Mortal Kombat 11 and you’ve gained access to the beta, only to get your ass handed to you. The sharks are out for blood and there’s a lot of blood to go around, this being Mortal Kombat and all. What is a casual fighting game player to do?

Unfortunately, the beta doesn’t have a tutorial or training mode, so there’s not a lot you can do. However, there are a few tips you can follow that will at the very least ensure your win/loss percentage can’t be counted on one hand.

So here’s our guide for surviving the beta. Note, this isn’t going to go into advanced strategies or combos, as all move properties are subject to change before the final version of the game comes out next month. You’ll just have to wait until the full release if you want to really up your game and compete with the pros. Until then, use these tips to shield your pride until the beta ends at the end of the month.

Step 0: The basic controls

This is easy. Go into settings and look at your buttons. Know where block, throw, amplify, and all your attacks are. You’ll need them. Alter up the control scheme if you need, fiddle with the move buffer, do whatever you want but just understand your buttons before you start mashing them.

Step 1: Know your move-list

Like we said before, the beta doesn’t include any sort of training mode. That’s not to say that the beta doesn’t have move-lists though. Everything your character can do is built into the game. The catch? You have to read it mid-match.

Our recommendation? Go into a match and ignore everything, even your opponent. Just accept that you are going to lose. Find your move-list and take a picture of it with your phone. Now you have a place to start.

Step 2: Understand what your strings do

So now that you know what your inputs are it’s time to start figuring out your moves. This is going to take a while and is going to require some experimentation while other people are trying to pull your internal organs out through your rectum.

The first thing you are going to want to find is your fastest string (or a series of moves/combos). This is going to be your punish. If you block an opponent’s move or they just whiff, this is the string that is most likely to hit them before they can put up a defense. These strings usually start with punches, left punches in particular (that’s 1 in arcade notation, X by default on Xbox One, and Square by default on the Playstation). So start there. Try using them after your opponent uses long wind-down specials and see if you can score a clean hit.

Next, find a string that starts with a move with long range. Mortal Kombat 11 is a footsie heavy game. That means much of the game revolves around positioning your character such that your moves can hit the opponent but his moves cannot hit you. If you are repeatedly losing, it’s probably because your opponent is continuously hitting you with strings at maximum poking range while you are flailing wildly.

Once you find this string, rely on it. Don’t get too predictable, but if your opponent is within range of this string it’s probably a good idea to use it. If they are at the edge of your range you will be kept relatively safe and you’ll be able to catch any of their moves that don’t quite have the range to hit you. This is going to be your bread and butter.

The next string you are going to want to find is a mix-up string. This would be a string that goes from high to low, low to high, or a string that has different enders that hit either high or low. This is the string you want to use when your opponent turtles up in order to try and bypass their defenses. Eventually your opponent will start blocking this string, no matter how much you mix them up. That’s when the time comes to throw.

These are the three basic strings you need to know to play the game at a basic level. There’s a lot of other strings you will have access to each with their own usage as combo filler, mix-up, pressure, and more. Feel free to explore your move-list and find even more tools for different situations.

Step 3: Get to know your special moves

Mortal Kombat 11’s cancel system is relatively simple. Just input a special move before the last hit of your string connects and it will execute immediately afterward. With that in mind, your special moves are roughly going to fall into three categories.

  1. Neutral specials – These special moves (usually projectiles) are used in neutral game to out-zone and out-space your opponent. They tend to be safe, but they don’t get a whole lot of return for landing them.
  2. Combo specials – These special moves are hard to hit alone but work well when put at the end of strings. They tend to put the opponent into special hit-states that allow for heavy damage follow-ups and/or do a lot of damage and thus are best when used at the end of a longer combo.
  3. Buff specials – These specials do not do direct damage to the enemy but rather provide your character some sort of buff. They are rarer than other specials and are usually used at the end of a combo that provides distance between you and the opponent to make them safe.

Once you have sorted out your special moves, it’s time to start experimenting again. Use your combo specials after your strings, and see what they do to the opponent. Try amplifying them to see if they provide more or fewer combo opportunities. From there, look for another string to try and continue your combo.

Step 4: Analyze patterns and get used to the flow of the game

Our final piece of advice is simply to observe your opponent and react. This might sound simple, but lots of people are running into this beta, flailing wildly and not understanding why they lose.

Let’s say that your opponent always seems to come at you with a mid-hitting string. What do you do? Well your first instinct might be to block. However, you can also safely jump in with a kick, knocking your opponent down. This shifts the momentum of the match in your favor. You can then dash in and throw out a meaty attack, or wait for them to get up and throw, or block a wake-up attack and punish. It is your “turn” so to speak.

Let’s say your opponent always attacks with a high-low string. Well mix-up strings like this tend to be unsafe. You can block and punish OR you can use a longer range poke to counter them.

In general, just watch what your opponent does and try to do the opposite of what they expect you to do. Yes, this advice is very vague but any deeper advice would require us to get into move specifics and frankly that is all going to change before the official release.

All of this should at least allow you to survive for the next few days. After that, be on the lookout for our full review and guides for the official release.