But no matter how much effort developer and publisher Bandai Namco puts into things like tutorials and punishment challenges, the fact remains that Tekken is a “legacy” fighting game at its core. Not only does each character have hundreds of moves, some of them are what we call “scrub killers” — meaning they regularly catch new players off guard.
Of course, other fighting games like Street Fighter 6 have this concept as well. Fighting games will always have annoying moves that you will have to deal with online while going through the lower ranks. But fear not — we’re here to break down some of the most common scrub killer moves you’re likely to encounter in ranked matches in Tekken 8, as well as how to punish them correctly.
Paul: Phoenix Smasher (a.k.a. Deathfist)
- Input: qcf+2
- Properties: Mid
- Damage: decent on normal hit, colossal on counter hit
Perhaps the most infamous scrub killer move in Tekken history, Paul’s Phoenix Smasher, colloquially called the Deathfist, is a fast, powerful gut punch that deals ridiculous damage on counter hit. Its range is also quite long, making it very abusable in the lower ranks from some distance away.
On counter hit, it basically takes half of a character’s health in an instant. Its pushback on block also makes it relatively safe to just throw out, as most characters will struggle to punish it reliably. And because it’s a mid, you can’t duck under the Deathfist either.
So how do you deal with this obnoxious move? Deathfist actually has a secret Paul doesn’t want you to learn: it’s -17 on block, which technically means it’s a launch punishable move. However, the pushback we mentioned earlier means that a very, very small portion of the cast can actually launch Paul after blocking this move.
The next best thing is to use a 15 or 16-frame knockdown move with a long-reaching hitbox, such as Devil Jin’s Hisou (u/f+3+4) or Steve’s Sonic Fang (1+2). Claudio is especially great at this, as he has plenty of long range knockdown punishers that deal damage comparable to a full combo.
Devil Jin: Hellfire Blast (a.k.a. Laser)
- Input: u/b+1+2
- Properties: High (ground version), mid (aerial version), unblockable (both)
- Damage: decent
Every new Tekken player’s introduction to unblockable moves comes in the form of Devil Jin’s Hellfire Blast, or more simply his Laser. This move is a literal laser beam that comes out of his forehead that cannot be blocked in any way no matter how hard you try. Worse still, there are two versions of the move, both of which must be avoided in different ways.
Fortunately, dodging either one is really simple. The ground version is a high, so any character in the game can crouch to avoid it on reaction. The aerial version however is a mid, so ducking won’t work. Instead, you need to sidewalk in either direction to avoid it. To sidewalk (and not sidestep), tap up or down in the direction you want to walk towards, and then tap the same direction and hold it so that your character walks into the foreground or background.
Sidestepping technically works as well, but can be unreliable and may get you clipped if you do it late. So, sidewalking is the way to go.
In either case, Devil Jin is left wide open to attack after Hellfire Blast. Once you dodge the laser itself, run up to him and launch him! There is nothing he can do to stop you from doing so unless you take too much time getting in range.
Bryan: Snake Edge (and related moves)
- Input: d/f+3
- Properties: low, launcher
- Damage: decent, but leads to full combo
Now we move to the territory of low launchers with Bryan’s Snake Edge. This is a slow, sweeping kick that leads to a full combo on hit, and is a favorite of low ranked Bryan players all over the world.
With 29 frames of startup, it’s exceptionally slow for a launcher, meaning it’s definitely something that players should block on reaction. Unfortunately, sometimes things aren’t so clear cut with online latency in the mix. Blocking Snake Edge online, depending on the connection quality of the match, can be hit or miss.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though. On block, Snake Edge is -26 — which is more than enough time for you to punish with a launcher of your own. To keep things simple, start by applying your launcher coming out of a crouching position; this is referred to as “while standing (WS)”. Jin’s WS2 is a classic while standing launcher, something which most other characters in Tekken 8 also possess.
If you’re feeling more confident in your punishment skills, you can try doing what’s called a crouch cancel so you can access your normal standing moves after blocking Snake Edge. To execute a crouch cancel, tap up after blocking Snake Edge to initiate a sidestep into the foreground. Then, cancel the first few frames of this sidestep with a launcher, like Reina’s d/f+2 or Devil Jin’s Double Lift Kick (d+3+4).
These two methods also apply to Snake Edge-like moves from other characters. Dragunov’s Clipping Sweep (d/b+3) and Lili’s Edelweiss (d/b+3) are just some examples of similar moves. These are also known in the Tekken community as “stagger lows”, from the fact that the character doing the move gets “staggered” when you block.
Law: Junkyard Kick
- Input: b+2,3,4
- Properties: Mid (first hit), low (second hit), mid launcher (third hit), launcher
- Damage: first two hits are small, last hit launches for a full combo
Here we come to Law’s Junkyard Kick, one of the first scrub killer moves that will teach you the importance of low parrying. This is a mid, low, mid string where the third hit of the string interrupts anything that you might try to do to punish the second hit after blocking it. No matter how hard you try, the third hit will always connect and launch you if you try to break the string in between.
Law players in the lower ranks are often quick to figure out whether or not you try to interrupt Junkyard Kick, and will complete the string accordingly for a free juggle combo.
One option here is to just block it out. If somehow you manage to block all three hits of this string, which isn’t easy considering the second hit is a low, there’s still no way to punish Law for this as the third hit only leaves him at -7 on block. So, the better option then is to low parry the second hit, so that you turn the tables on the Law player and get a combo out of it yourself.
To low parry the second hit, simply hold down and forward simultaneously in anticipation. The screen will freeze for a split second and play a distinct sound effect to tell you that your low parry was successful. Then, you can apply your character’s best low parry combo accordingly.
While we’re on the subject of low parrying, it’s also the optimal thing to do against low strings like King’s Alley Kicks (d+3+4,4,4), which behave in sort of a similar way to Junkyard Kick. King can continue the Stagger Kick string even if you block the first or second hit, which will interrupt your attempted punish. Low parry instead to get a more reliable punish here.
Of course, if you see him stop short after you block one of the kicks, launch him instead for it. He’s more than 20 frames behind after each one is blocked!
Xiaoyu: California Roll
- Input: (during Rain Dance/”RDS”) BT 3+4
- Properties: Mid, highly evasive (phases straight through a lot of mids), launcher
- Damage: decent on its own, leads to a huge combo afterwards
The mother of all evasive launchers, Xiaoyu’s California Roll (or simply “Cali Roll”) is a favorite of Xiaoyu players everywhere. This move is so evasive that it plows through some mids that you would otherwise expect to interrupt it cleanly, making punishing her for it very tricky. Some players will even do Cali Roll into another Cali Roll when they see you trying to punish with a slow mid, which can truly inflict mental damage on you because of how ridiculous it looks.
What’s more, the move is only -11 on block, which means that on paper, most characters can only get a jab punish on it. That’s absolutely crazy for such an evasive full launcher. However, there is something of a secret here: the fact that she has her back turned to you means that if she wants to face you again, it will take her a number of frames in order to do so.
Thus, generic 15-frame launchers like Paul’s Uppercut (d/f+2) will work if she tries to turn towards you after a Cali Roll. The real trickery, though, lies in the fact that she can do a one-frame parry coming out of a backturned stance. This parry will cancel out any such launchers done with the hands or feet, so only knees and elbows will work in this case. If your character is lucky enough to have a knee or elbow-based launcher, then you’re in good hands here.
Otherwise, you’ll just have to go with the next best thing, those being jab punishes. It’s amazing how the risk to reward ratio is so heavily skewed towards Xiaoyu, but that’s just Tekken.