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Mortal Kombat X: Sub-Zero - Complete Beginner Guide


Fighting games are fun, there’s no doubt about it. They’re so simple to understand but manage to be incredibly deep. Sadly, that comes at a cost; fighting games, for newcomers can be a nightmare to understand.

You don’t know what the hell any of these terms meaning; zoning, mix-ups, cross-ups, vortex, it’s like a foreign language. And I bet all you wanted were a few tips to get the one-up on your friends.

Well, that’s what these this guide is for; a gentle, simple introductions to each character in Mortal Kombat X. Many guides simply throw a bunch of combos out their willy-nilly, which aren’t that helpful when you’re still learning the mechanics of the game.

Here, you’ll find out about each character’s playstyle, what their variations do, (each character has three) and a handful of simple combos/strings that provide decent damage output without being a nightmare for a beginner to pull off.

More importantly, they’ll be a gentle overview of how the character should be played optimally. Mortal Kombat X has a diverse cast, and each character needs to approach the game from a different angle in order for them to be played optimally; some characters are aggressive, some are defensive, whilst others fall somewhere in between, or can radically change based on their variation.

So, without further ado, let’s get started with…

Sub-Zero - Play Style

If Scorpion is all about offense, then Sub-Zero is his foil; a character primarily built around a strong defence. That’s not to say that Sub-Zero is a character who can’t dish out the pain, he certainly can, but he works best, for a beginner at least, when he focuses on punishing the opposing player’s mistakes.

Universal moves such as Ice Burst and Ice Ball mean that Sub-Zero can quickly respond to an opponent’s attacks. Ice Burst in particular is great against aggressive characters. When you’re not sure which way to block, or are paranoid about incoming overhead attack, a quick Ice Burst can help take back some of the momentum and establish your defence.

Overall, Sub-Zero is a fairly beginner-friendly character, a makes for a great learning tool, regardless of which Mortal Kombat X character you decide to pick up. For those that want a character well-versed in the fundamental tools, with a low-key, defensively-minded game plan, then look no further than Sub-Zero.

The button list below work as follows:

  • - 1 = Square, X.
  • - 2 = Triangle, Y.
  • - 3 = Cross, A.
  • - 4 = Circle, B.
  • - Meter Burn = R2 (Along with relevant special move input)

Universal Special Moves

Ice Ball (Down, Back + 2)

One of Sub-Zero’s iconic moves. Ice Ball is a low damage projectile that freezes the opponent should it hit. Obviously, this is great for locking the opponent into position in order to start a combo, or execute one of your preferred attack strings if you’re feeling less confident.

As with many special moves, it’s important not to simply throw it out there without thinking. The attack has a fairly slow start-up, meaning it’s easy for the opponent to potentially catch you off guard. Sub-Zero is the type of character who plays best when he’s used safely. Think before you act and know that, when you do get the hit, it’ll mean you have a free combo lined up.

The enhanced version of Ice Ball is slightly stronger and comes with a quicker start up, making it safer. Overall, it’s not that important to Sub-Zero’s game plan, and in many instances you’ll be better off saving your meter and sticking to the basic version. That being said, thanks to its faster execution, the enhanced version is easier to combo with.

Ice Burst (Down, back, +1)

A simple defensive area-of-effect move that knocks opponents back. It can be used at the end of combos effectively, but is also handy as a stand-alone attack to counter certain moves. Do note that a blocking opponent will be able to punish you with this move, so, whilst it’s a versatile attack to have, don’t become too complacent with it.

Unlike the Ice Ball, the meter burn version of Ice Burst is actually rather handy. It gives you one hit of armour, meaning that Sub-Zero will continue using the move even if he’s hit during its start-up. This makes the enhanced Ice Burst an even more useful defensive tool to try and get some breathing room.

Slide (Back, forward + 3)

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Another classic move. Slide is a great tool for Sub-Zero, it has a lot of range, is fast, and can potentially dodge certain moves depending on how close you are to the opponent. All of that comes with one huge caveat though: it’s incredibly punishable should the opponent block it. As with other characters’ teleporting attacks, Slide should be used in the middle of a combo, ideally, rather than on its own.

Since the move hits low, it can be a good ending attack on a string that hits high or mid, even something as simple as 1, 1 for those just starting out with the game. This can catch players off-guard given the moves quick animation, since they need to remember to block low in order to defend against the move.

The enhanced version of Slide offers some useful bonuses. For starters, it’s armoured, which, when coupled with its long reach and fast start-up, can make it good for punishing sub-optimal attacks by your opponent. In addition, this version of Slide has an additional hit that causes Sub-Zero to switch sides with his adversary, making it a good way of getting out of the corner and putting your opponent in a potentially vulnerable position.


1. Grandmaster

This could perhaps best be described as the “classic” variation for Sub-Zero. It adds in the traditional Ice Klone move from previous games, along with the Klone Toss, which enables Sub-Zero to use his ice dummies as projectiles. Overall, it’s the best variation to start out with, and plays to the character’s general strengths.

Ice Klone (Down, back + 2)

Sub-Zero summons an icy clone (or rather, “klone”), that stays in place for approximately four seconds. It blocks incoming projectiles (it’s destroyed as soon as one strikes it, however), and the opponent will be frozen if they come into contact with the clone, just as if they’d have been hit by Ice Ball.

The Ice Klone move is used as a way to prevent Sub-Zero being “zoned out” by characters with stronger projectiles. With the Ice Klone in place, Sub-Zero can throw out an Ice Ball should the opponent go for a projectile attack, knowing that the statue will take the hit, and, if your timing is right, your Ice Ball will hit and freeze your opponent before they have chance to recover from their move.

Do note as well that Ice Klone can be a useful defence against teleports. By sticking close to the statue, you can ensure that opponents will be afraid to go for the teleport. Remember, if the teleport causes them to come into contact with the statue they’ll be frozen, enabling you to punish them accordingly.

The meter burn adds a slightly quicker start-up, along with a hit of armour.

Klone Toss (Down, forward +1)

This is effectively an extension of the Ice Klone move, allowing Sub-Zero to pick up and throw the ice clone like a large projectile. It comes with no enhanced version but its size makes it a difficult ranged attack to avoid. Additionally, even if the attack is blocked, Sub-Zero will recover faster than the opponent, so you won’t be at a disadvantage.

2. Unbreakable

This variation takes Sub-Zero’s defensive qualities and doubles down on them. The addition of Frozen Aura and Barrier of Frost gives Sub-Zero plenty of options against projectile-heavy characters, something which he typically can struggle against.

Frozen Aura (Down, back + 1)

Arguably the key move with this variation. Frozen Aura grants Sub-Zero immunity from chip damage whilst the effect is active. Typically, chip damage is the minor damage you receive even when blocking many special moves. On its own chip damage can seem negligible, but over the course of a match, its effect can be surprising.

The move has a fairly fast animation, encouraging players to have the move active as much as possible.

The meter burn version has the same effect but also grants a temporary damage reduction to any attack, even if Sub-Zero is hit. This is a powerful effect, and perfect for those that like to play Sub-Zero as a “wait and react” type of character.

Barrier of Frost (Down, back +2)

A move that freezes your opponent should they hit you whilst the barrier is up. Additionally, the barrier will absorb a projectile, similar to Sub-Zero’s Ice Klone, albeit with stricter timing. Barrier of Frost is best used as additional defence against projectile attacks but can also be used against impatient players to catch them off-guard if they’re keen on throwing out random moves.

3. Cryomancer

This is Sub-Zero “playing against type” as it were, being more offence-oriented. The big change in this variation is the addition of the Frost Hammer move, a powerful, but rather unsafe special attack. Some of Sub-Zero’s other attacks change as well, boasting greater range in the same way that Scorpion’s Ninjutsu variation does. The most notable alteration is his uppercut (down+2) which now boasts significantly greater range.

Frost Hammer (Down, back+2)/Air Frost Hammer (Down, back +2 whilst jumping)

A fairly long range attack that boasts decent damage. It’s unwieldy however, and is best used in the middle of combos in order to be safe. The enhanced version has a hit of armour giving it some greater flexibility, but should still be used with caution.

The Air Frost Hammer has a different arc to the standard one, causing Sub-Zero to move straight down in a vertical direction at his opponent, which limits its usefulness. Overall, the Cryomancer variation is perhaps best left to more advanced players, with its increased range and damage only being really apparent once you’re capable of chaining together better combos.

Beginner Combos/Strings

1, 1, Ice Ball

Back + 1, 2, Ice Ball

2, 4, 2


Sub-Zero is a little more complex than a character like Scorpion, but is still perfect for someone wanting a good character to get started with. Once you’ve got his basic Ice Ball gameplay down, he’s a strong “fundamental” character, with less of a reliance on gimmicks and more emphasis on good gameplay/strategy.

He certainly has to work more for his wins than some other characters, but with some easy strings/combos to get started with, it shouldn’t be long until you’ve gotten a good handle on him.

© 2015 LudoLogic

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