What You Can Learn By Watching Pros Play Mortal Kombat

2 years ago by lawlesswalrus

Many people group fighting games into the category of mindless button-mashers, but they couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I was once one of the people who doubted the hype. I realized how wrong I was Games like Mortal Kombat is more like chess than checkers, featuring different play styles, strategies, and metas. The coordination, game sense, and reactions required to be a pro player is astounding. After picking up the game, I tried it out but didn’t understand the appeal. After watching some professional MK11 games, I earned about both the fundamentals and nuances of the games. Who would know what a “parry,” “mix-up,” or “true 50-50”, without learning about it first? Mimicking and learning the playstyle helped learn small details in the game. Keep in mind, the best way to get better is to play, but there are ways to expedite the process.


Professionals are incredibly talented with their timing. They know when to push when to go for a combo, or stay back and try to attack from range. Notice when they go for vulnerable close range attacks. They’re very specific about when they attack, and which attacks they use. It’s important to know which attacks leave you vulnerable to counters.
Although this skill mainly improves through playing the game and gaining experience, a lot can be learned through spectating.


Blocking is essential, no two ways about it. Beginners undervalue the importance of blocks, but they can be important when defending against combos and pressure. Pros use the mechanic so much; it borders on abuse. Not only does blocking help you protect against an opponent’s attacks, but can be used to land cheeky shots on an unassuming opponent.
In the pro meta, blocking is used as both a defensive and offensive strategy due to its usefulness for baiting.

Due to the implementation of chip damage, blocking isn’t useful, so using it sparingly is crucial. You’ll notice how good players take little to no chip damage because it really adds up.


Zoning is something pros are really good at, but it normally goes unnoticed. They also know when to push, and go for combos up close, or when to stay back far and zone. Some characters have better zoning abilities than others, but you’ll notice how they do this with different characters. Close-quarters characters usually resort to poking, which causes them to move backward, and gives you some space to move back. You can also move backward and use your opponent’s abilities to keep them at bay. I highly recommend watching pros do this, as they’re experts at keeping distance between the enemy.

Depending on which game your playing, different characters will have different specialties, so, as I state further on, it’s important to learn your character, and make use of their strong suits. For example, in Mortal Kombat 11, Cetrion is arguably the best zoning character. She has lots of projectiles and long-range weapons that are very difficult to counter and close in on. This makes her a very beginner-friendly character as well because most close-range, melee dependent characters are more difficult to master.


Metas are always changing, quite frequently in the pro community. At one point, ‘X’ playstyle is preferred, and at one point, a completely opposite playstyle is used. It can become difficult to keep up with other players if you don’t stay with the meta. Lots of channels on YouTube have updates on what the state of the game is, so I suggest you check those out. For some great content, and up to date gameplay, you should check out TrU3Ta1ent on YouTube. Not only is he a really good player, but he is always adapting and switching characters.

Character Selection

Character choice is crucial in Mortal Kombat 11 and can make or break the game depending on who you’re playing and your playstyle. Watch pro players, and you’ll notice how specific their selection is. They know the ins and outs of their characters so they can use their combos to their advantage.
For example, if you prefer a ranged, defensive playstyle, choosing a player that can zone well is best. Subzero has lots of powerful zoning attacks so he would be a great character to choose against a character who has trouble countering range. Some people see certain gameplay styles as “cheap” or “unfair” but play how you want to play.

Learn your character

Don’t jump into a game without thoroughly practicing with the character, and learning the ins and outs of every single one of their attacks. Professional players know how to adapt their playstyle to different characters. There’s a term in the Mortal Kombat called BnB, or Bread and Butter. It’s the basics of your character, and their signature combos, strengths, and weaknesses. Some characters are “easy to learn, hard to master”, so don’t be scared away by a character that doesn’t work well at first. Once you’ve learned this, watch a competitive player play with that character, and see how they play with it. Mimic their playstyle, and you’ll see quick improvements.

Which Character Should I Pick?

Some characters are better than others. Although balancing has been improving since the beginning of the series, Erron Black will always be better than Kotal Kahn. If you take a look at the statistics of competitive play, you’ll notice that some players are used SIGNIFICANTLY more than others. Choose wisely, or you’ll pay the consequences.

Here’s a tier list of the best players, taken from our own list by talented players, take it with a grain of salt, but it’s something to consider:

Erron Black




Noob Saibot





Kung Lao

Liu Kang

Cassie Cage



Jacqui Briggs



Johnny Cage





Shao Kahn


Kotal Kahn

Honestly, I wouldn’t choose any players in the red or pink group, as there is normally a character with a similar, but an overall better skill set. Certain people play better with certain characters, but you probably won’t win too many competitive games with D’vorah. Ideally, in the future, we’ll see the development team start to take tips from games like CS:GO, which have some really good pro-oriented balancing.

There are so many more aspects of the game that can be learned, but these are some things that pros excel at. When you’re playing the game, watch pro gameplay alongside it and try out what you see them doing. This advice can be applied to many aspects of life and any other game. In addition to this, watch your gameplay, find your own mistakes. You’ll probably notice some obvious mistakes that you’re repeatedly making. I’m not saying you need to sit down for hours, meticulously finding every mistake, but it’s something to think about. Also, another great way to improve is to play the tutorial. They put a lot of time into making it a beginner to pro experience. It’s not just your average tutorial where it teaches you the basic mechanics, but also gives you tons of pro-level strategies.

For some fantastic resources, check out these videos:

Full Tournament
Top 8 Final Moves
Top 4 Final Moves


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