Kung Lao has become a mainstay of the MK franchise after his introduction in Mortal Kombat II. Inspired by Oddjob, Kung Lao's signature weapon is his razor brimmed hat that he masterfully uses to cut through the opponents. Combined with his Shaolin monk training, Kung Lao is a well-rounded and capable warrior who will stop at nothing to protect the Earthrealm and his friends.
In Mortal Kombat 11, Kung Lao is one of the stronger characters that can prove to be a severe challenge. It's easy to get overwhelmed with high damage combos, the powerful hat attacks, and the constant threat of being grabbed. Luckily, Rewind has the knowledge and expertise to help us get ahead in this matchup.
Most common variations that Kung Lao players use include:
- Z Hat
- Buzz Saw
- Spiritual Guidance
- Orbiting Hat
Since these variations are so common, they are the ones you have to worry about. However, the focus of this guide will be on the Orbiting Hat variation.
Since Kung Lao is a strike/throw focused character, you can expect him to do two things often - throwing you and checking you. Succesful checks will lead to full combos and considerable damage, while throws can lead to a Krushing Blow if you fail to escape.
Due to his strong jump 3 attack, you can also expect Kung Lao players to try and jump in on you. This attack leads to a full combo anywhere on the screen and can be difficult to anti-air. Your best bet against this attack is keeping Kung Lao at around mid-range, where you can comfortably react with an anti-air from whichever character you play. If you're able to beat this button consistently, you will be taking away one of Kung Lao's more potent tools and increase your chances of winning substantially.
However, watch out for Kung Lao players mixing their jump kick with the divekick. Countering the latter on reaction will be extremely difficult so try to block instead. This mixup may seem scary, but it's actually still in your favor since a blocked divekick will lead to a full combo punish.
The main struggle for Kung Lao is playing against zoners. He can resort to jumping and divekicking to get over projectiles, but it gets more complicated when playing against characters with unusual projectile angles. While Kung Lao has some zoning tools himself, he will generally lose if he attempts to counter-zone.
Another downfall of Kung Lao is his dependency on the strike/throw gameplay. Due to his lack of stronger mixups, he is very dependent on getting in close and throwing you a lot. This puts him in a situation where Kung Lao has to take risks, as just a few ducked throws can lead to him losing a lot of health.
Let's go over some of the more common strings and attacks and see how they can be countered:
- f2,1,4 - this string is -13 on block. If you have attacks with i12 start-up or faster, make sure to punish this string properly. Many Kung Lao players will stop the string after f2,1 to be safer, but if you have an i7 or faster attack, you can still react and punish this.
- 2,1,2,1,2 - despite having a significant weakness, many people still fair to punish this string. As long as your character is not big enough to get jailed by this string, you can crouch guard against it and go for a full combo punish after the last attack whiffs.
- f1,3 hat toss - another string that people commonly fail to punish. If you try to crouch block, you will block the high hat toss, making Kung Lao safe. The trick here is to simply neutral crouch after the f1,3 to make the hat whiff and then go for a punish. Another standard follow-up to f1,3 is u2, but a neutral crouch will also make that whiff.
Things to Avoid
Let's look at some things that you shouldn't get into a habit of doing while playing against Kung Lao:
- If you can't reliably anti-air Kung Lao's jump kicks, it's better just to block instead. Even knowing how to counter a specific move, you're still susceptible to getting hit by it. It would be best if you only tried to counter them when you feel confident and the conditions are in your favor. Otherwise, just eating a few jump-ins will set the odds against you.
- Mashing pokes, don't do that. Kung Lao has some excellent mids to counter your mashing, and getting caught will allow him to blow you up.
Characters that do well against Kung Lao:
- Robocop - he is very good at keeping Kung Lao out. Even if Kung Lao tries to jump over the pistol zoning, Robocop can pull out the rocket launcher and use the delayed startup to catch him off guard. The only way for Kung Lao to overcome that is to flawless block the projectiles and punish them properly.
- Liu Kang - another character with strong zoning and an ability to make it even stronger with buffed fireballs. On top of that, Liu Kang is outstanding, even up close.
- Kotal Kahn - he has some of the best anti-airs in the game, which disrupts a significant part of Kung Lao's game plan. Not only that but Kotal's normals also generally outrange Kung Lao, making it even more difficult to fight him.
- Jacqui Briggs - this matchup has a peculiar quirk. If Kung Lao uses 1,2,1, one of his most common strings, the second hit will tend to miss on Jacqui, allowing her to punish it.
- Spawn - he outranges, outspaces, and outdamages Kung Lao, dominating the match-up overall. Kung Lao can also not do much in response to Spawn's 3,4.
- Fujin - great anti-airs that also deal significant damage. Kung Lao is also outraged by Fujin and can't punish many of his key moves.
- Cassie Cage - her excellent b3 anti-air is a massive problem for Kung Lao as she can do a full combo after anti-airing him, and ending her combos in restands destroys his wake-up options. Outside of that, she also tends to perform better in neutral with her buttons and specials, including EX Gunshot, which jails Kung Lao.
- Cetrion - as with many other bad match-ups, Cetrion's strong anti-airs present a problem for Kung Lao, and on the ground, she can win with highly safe and solid moves.
- The Joker - has a lot of far-reaching disjointed attacks that tend to beat out Kung Lao and give Joker the advantage in neutral. His anti-airs are no joke either, with threatening 2, f2, and d2.
- Shang Tsung - Kung Lao gets severely outzoned in this matchup, losing a lot of health through chip damage before he can even get close. Once he does, Shang Tsung has a great up-close game and a fantastic anti-air.
Hopefully, this guide will help you to expose some of the Kung Lao players you come across and snatch the victory.