Member of the mercenary clan, Black Dragon, Kabal is a mysterious figure. After surviving an attack from Shao Kahn's extermination squad, he is forced to hide his disfigured face and use a respiratory mask. His allegiance is ever-changing, but one thing remains consistent, Kabal puts his own interests above everything else.
While his exact ranking is arguable, Kabal is easily one of the best characters in the game and tends to overwhelm opponents with suffocating pressure. Fortunately, the seasoned character specialist, Fueledpunk, will help us to get a better idea of what Kabal can do and how to deal with it.
For the most part, you will be running into Slight Gas, and Hook Grab variations. This is because they cover everything you want, from air control and mobility to great damage. Other variations usually don't have enough damage and might remove Slight Gas for other specials.
Fueledpunk is known for using the Dash Cancel variation for the extra layer of mind games, but it's far from the best since you lose defensive meter and don't do that much damage.
Kabal is an absolute speed demon. He's been a top-tier character since he was added to Mortal Kombat and has people argue that he's top 1 in MK3, MK9, and MK11. Before Slight Gas, he was a significantly weaker character in MK11, but Slight Gas becoming viable by itself boosted his strength and fed into his identity as a highly mobile fighter.
- Slight Gas - as stated previously, this fantastic special improved Kabal's mobility, anti-zoning, air control, and pressure overall. It has three versions that vary in travel distance. Slight Gas can be very annoying to deal with since Kabal can mix it up with instant air projectiles, standing moves, delayed timings, and other options. Many opponents will default to blocking when they see this move.
- Okizeme - Kabal's best oki tool is his Buzzsaw projectile. On hit, it grants him a crazy +41 hit advantage, allowing him to dash in and initiate pressure. For example, jumping attacks, Slight Gas, various normals, and strings.
- Strings - Many of Kabal's strings are exceptionally safe, meaning that if you don't act immediately, Kabal can steal your turn with quick moves like a d1 check.
- Setups - As part of his Okizeme game, Kabal has many tools to cover just about every wake-up option and severely punish it. Trying to reset to neutral with a back roll is one of your best options, but if he reads it, you can still get punished.
First, let's go over some basic attacks that can be punished on block. Make sure to practice your character's block punishment for these moves:
- Nomad Dash
- Buzzsaw (point blank)
Moving on to more specific scenarios, Kabal players love doing Slight Gas into Air Buzzsaw. To counter this, you need to position yourself in a way that would allow you to move under the projectile and punish Kabal on landing. It's preferable that you use mids instead of highs since Kabal's awkward landing pose can cause specific high attacks to whiff.
If you notice Kabal repeatedly ending his strings with a projectile, you don't have to block it. Instead, duck and punish. Meter burn or not, this will always work, and the only way for Kabal to adjust is to block or take a risk with Nomad Dash or db4.
Another thing that Kabal players often do is following up a string with a down jab or another fast poke. To deal with this situation, your best option is to backdash after the string to avoid the follow-up poke and then retaliate with an advancing attack of your own.
Slight Gas is an amazing, borderline broken special move. However, some things will make it much easier for you to deal with. If you see a Kabal player do something like jump 1 or 2, Slight Gas, and then poke, you should know there's a gap. This will allow you to flawless block the follow-up. Kabal can adapt to this and go for the gapless strings after jump 2 Slight Gas, but in specific situations, you can counter it with a low profiling poke.
Generally, Kabal has a harder time playing against characters with good zoning, anti-airs, horizontal movement options in the air, and good back walk speed or backdash. Robocop is a great example, as he can easily out-zone and anti-air Kabal.
Strong picks against Kabal
- Shang Tsung - overall strong character, in particular thanks to his Ground Eruption and Corpse Drop specials.
- Frost - excellent diagonal projectiles, best d3 anti-air in the game, solid spacing, and ground game. Ice Auger special move is also rather strong in this matchup.
- The Joker - overall beats Kabal with superior speed and reach. Jack-in-the-box shuts down a lot of Kabal's nonsense, and he can't punish the boxing gloves special.
- Johnny Cage - plays good neutral. Lacks mids but compensates for it with great anti-airs.
- Cassie Cage - b2 is one of the best anti-airs in the game, and she has solid options to fight Kabal both long and close range.
- Spawn - similarly to The Joker, he is faster than Kabal and has better reach. He can also anti-air with standing 3 and parry Kabal's projectiles.
- Scorpion - even though this is a good matchup for Kabal, Scorpion can beat him by punishing Slight Gas with teleport and using Demon Slam on reaction.
- Noob Saibot - diagonal projectiles, good damage, strong anti-airs, and teleport make him a strong pick.
- Baraka - worth mentioning for his Spine Burst special move, which can shut down some of Kabal's pressure.
- Raiden - he can efficiently zone Kabal out and remains strong even if Kabal gets in on him.
- Jacqui Briggs - mostly even matchup with Jacqui having a slight advantage thanks to her good anti-air and Kabal not being able to deal with her leap.
- Kano - can be fairly good with a Bio-Magnetic Pull special move.
- Liu Kang - can play a good spacing game. The flying kicks and horizontal projectiles are also good in this matchup.
- Kung Lao - Buzzsaw serves him well.
- Jade - beats Kabal overall with a better d2 and excellent air projectiles.
- Robocop - as mentioned before, Robocop has a full set of tools to deal with everything Kabal does.
- D'Vorah - can be a problem for Kabal with her strong air-to-air game and special moves.
- Sindel - beats Kabal with the Scream, Banshee Dash, f4, and a few other strong options.
- Cetrion - she can completely shut down Kabal's air control and has strong specials overall.
- Fujin - similarly to Cetrion can shut down Kabal in the air.