Karin introduction guide
There was a need for a comprehensive written guide for Karin, and I had nothing better to do, so I decided to write one. The goal of this is primarily to give new Karin players an idea of how her tools work, what her gameplan is and how to apply these things in a match, rather than focusing on her most technical combos and match-up specifics.
Light kick/medium kick/heavy kick
Light punch/medium punch/heavy punch
Normal preceded by:
f: forward direction
b: backwards direction
Quarter circle forward / quarter circle backwards
Why play Karin?
In short, very few characters get rewarded as well as Karin for fundamentally sound play. She has all the basic tools you’d want in a character: good walk speed and overall mobility, excellent ground normals, one of the strongest frame trap games in SFV, good throw range, consistent damage from very many situations, has tools that allow her to make comebacks, and some useful (but unsafe) gimmicks on top of all of this. There’s nothing that truly screams “stupid” about her, however, and she has some weaknesses you’ll need to learn to live with, most notably her difficult anti air-game. She’s a character that make you better at fundamental decision making as you get better with her. If that sounds even remotely interesting, you should give her a go. She’s a relatively straightforward, yet fun and rewarding character.
The backbone of Karin’s toolset. Almost all of them are useful in some way, and most of them are really good in more than one way, so make sure to familiarize yourself with them.
Standard 4 frame standing jab. Works in certain up-close pressure strings since it combos into c.MP and s.MP on counter-hit. It’s most prominent use, however, is as an anti-air, as it can swat people out of the air from a lot of angles and let Karin pressure them as they land.
Poke at hits roughly at chest height. Most notably used as part of the very standard string of c.MP - s.MP, which doubles both as a hit-confirm and a very good frame trap. Only +4 on regular hit, so it doesn’t combo into medium attacks without a counter-hit. Canceling s.MP into orochi is a common string that can also function as a frame trap (more on this later). Also single-hit confirmable, and useful as a counterpoke. You’ll be using this move quite a bit.
One of Karin’s best anti-airs, though not one without its problems. It has blindspots, and the hitbox used for AAing is only active for a single frame, so the move can be somewhat difficult to time, and it tends to trade a lot. Still, on a clean AA hit you can cancel it into Seppo and get in on your opponents, or even cross under them, and it’s one of her most important buttons in this regard.
Aside from being an AA, this button is still very good. It’s an excellent counterpoke in a lot of situations, as well as her most damaging cancelable normal. s.HP xx Seppo and then confirming into Orochi on block or Tenko on hit is also a common use (or just going straight into orochi if you’re unsure).
Despite not looking like much, this little shin kick is one of the best normals in the entire game. It’s very fast, has an excellent hitbox, is +3 on block (!!), combos into itself on regular hit and into c.MP/c.MK/s.MP on counter-hit, and will combo into any of Karins relevant combo enders (JFT, HK Mujin, EX Orochi, Guren Ken). As such, it’s an excellent pressure/tick throw tool up close, and a very good pre-emptive button to throw out from certain spacings. It’s not completely obvious how to use the normal, but once you understand how to apply it, it will do huge work for you.
Karin stretches out her leg and shows these classless plebs how real footwear is supposed to look like. And boy does it work. s.MK is a low risk, low reward poke that controls the mid-range game in excellent fashion. Good hitbox and speed, difficult to whiff punish, 0 on block, and just an overall nuisance. Its only real weakness is that the move isn’t cancelable and doesn’t lead into anything, but that’s a small price to pay for showing these bums that a proper Kanzuki has both superior elegance and normals. It will win games almost by itself applied properly. Use it.
Karin’s infamous crush counter, which has started many a comeback seemingly out of nowhere. s.HK VTC can and will steal games for you: on crush counter you get a huge combo and whatever mixup you want afterwards; on regular hit you get a combo into rekkas from any range (a full combo if they’re close enough for s.HP to connect); on block you’re plus a billion, and they’re forced to take a safe low/throw/shimmy-mixup.
Even without the VTC, s.HK is still a good poke. It’s not the most rewarding CCH-normal depending on spacing, but it’s safe on block and still usually gives you at least an uncharged V-skill on CCH (which amounts to almost half a VT-bar). Has some recovery, so make sure not to whiff it.
3-frame jab, which is very good on virtue of being a 3-frame jab. Good for interrupting pressure, and as part of certain frame traps. Chainable, combos into s.MP/c.MP on counter-hit, and JFT/LK Mujin on regular hit. Quite useful.
Karin’s primary pressure/hit confirm tool. Is annoyingly stubby, but is +2 on block and +6 on regular hit, so it produces a lot of useful frame traps and can easily be followed up with s.MP or c.MK to confirm into a combo. Not much more to say, you’ll be using this a lot as well.
Karin’s not-so-infamous crush counter, on virtue of it giving worse reward on CCH than on regular hit and just being overshadowed by most of her other moves in terms of pressure. It is, however, Karin’s best anti-air from certain jump angles, and should thus be used if your opponent is silly enough to jump at you from those spacings. You can also frame trap with it from s.LK, but she’s got better options here. c.HP has its place, but you’d be wise to know when to use it.
4-frame low that doesn’t combo into any other normal. Mostly used for empty jump-setups as it can be safely canceled into Guren Ken or EX Mujinkyaku, but not a mainstay normal by any means.
Far reaching, cancelable low. Used as part of hit-confirms, frame traps, to catch dash attempts, to condition people to block low during your pressure… you name it. It has an extended cancel window which allows it to be single hit-confirmed into JFT or super as well. HK Mujinkyaku and Guren Ken combos from this from any spacing, while JFT and EX Mujin won’t work at the tip.
First, there’s a misconception I want to clear up: *this sweep is never safe at any spacing or in any matchup, and the only reason people are getting away with it is because people haven’t practiced their punishes. *
(If you’re not playing Karin, please disregard the sentence above so that I can keep getting away with max range sweeps.)
That out of the way, this is still one of the best sweep in the game. Very good range and speed makes it an excellent whiff punisher, or as a tool to make people stop standing up. On crush counter, instantly following with HK Seppo and neutral jumping gives you a 4 frame safe-jump. In theory, this move is always unsafe, as said before, but it’s often worth testing if your opponent actually understands how to punish it properly from max range. If they don’t, abuse the fuck out of this. And even if they do, the move is worth using, though primarily as a whiff punisher.
Useful as an air-to-air, and not much else.
Basically j.LP, but slower startup and more damage. Has an excellent hitbox for air-to-airs, so it’s situationally very good.
Also a viable air-to-air and even jump-in, but the move is mostly overshadowed in both repsects and thus rarely used.
Crosses up, but mostly overshadowed by j.MK. Can air-to-air as well, since it starts up fast and has a good hitbox.
Huge horizontal range, making it good for both jump-ins and air-to-airs. Also functions as a very good cross-up. Probably the best jumping normal Karin has.
Solid jump-in. Doesn’t cross up, but has more hit-/block-stun and a better hitbox than j.MK. And more damage, of course. Quite useful.
V-skill: Mei-o Ken
Karin takes a step forward and does a long ranged palm strike. There are two versions of this move: a charged and an uncharged version. The uncharged version is faster, but -5 on block, while the charged version is completely safe, does more damage and has an excellent hitbox. Both versions knock down on hit. The move grants V-gauge on both block and hit, so its slow startup aside it’s a move you want to use whenever you have the opportunity, the charged version in particular. As mentioned, it’s also excellent as a stand-alone poke, which just further increases its usefulness.
The move also has an interesting property: it has a projectile hitbox in addition to its regular hitbox. While most V-skills have anti-fireball properties, this one fills this function by nullifying the fireball with a hitbox of its own: a hitbox that, to my knowledge, will never hit players. Not a huge deal since this move isn’t particularly good as an anti-fireball tool. Use it for what it is instead: a really good poke, and in certain cases a combo ender.
f.MK - overhead
I almost forgot about this normal while writing the list. It’s an overhead, and not a very good one. It has okay range and some low evasion properties, but it’s fairly slow, doesn’t do much damage and is unsafe on block. Most of my uses of this move has been by accident when I’m walking forward and want to use s.MK. It’s still an overhead though, and useful as a round finisher or something to mix into your offense every once in a while by virtue of that alone, but it’s not great.
Karin has above average throw range and good walkspeed, which makes her throw game very strong. Furthermore, her frame traps and shimmies lead into big combos, making it very scary to try to tech against a good Karin. However, as good as she is at setting up throws, her throws usually aren’t very rewarding to land. Her forward throw sends the opponent across the screen while leaving you at +4 if they quickrise, resetting the situation to neutral: in fact, a lot of characters can straight up punish you if you try to dash/Seppo after a mid-screen forward throw. Her backthrow leaves them close, but quickrising leaves Karin at a slight frame disadvantage, so there won’t be any immediate pressure afterwards. Considering how much damage Karin gets from frame traps or shimmy punishes, and how dangerous her post-combo oki can be, it’s often considered better to just take a throw than trying to tech against Karin unless she’s very predictable.
This changes in the corner, however. Her forward throw leaves her at +4, so quick rising lets her get free meaties, and not quick rising… well, still free meaties. This makes her basic corner mixup extremely scary to face.