With the release of Spinal comes the introduction of a Killer Instinct character that can be incredibly deadly, but only in the right hands. He has a moderately steep learning curve and a plethora of shenanigans. Some will hold up in competitive play, while others will only work while the character is still relatively new. We've compiled some quick tips on Spinal's best attacks and special moves to get you started with the new character.

Important Quick Tips

  • Crouching HP is a good anti-air.
  • Jump HP is a good air-to-air.
  • Standing HP is Spinal's best ranged normal attack.
  • The Dive Kick can be blocked standing or crouching.
  • The Skeleport is unsafe unless the skull-powered heavy version is used, or it's covered by a Searing Skull.
  • The medium Searing Skull is +2 when blocked.
Ender Properties
Ender Property
Boneshaker Wall Splat
Soul Sword Juggle State
Skeleport Maximum Damage
Searing Skull Gain Skulls

Skull-Powered Offense

Spinal is an extremely offensive character, but only when he has skulls to work with. You can obtain skulls by ending combos with the Searing Skull Ender, using either of Spinal's throws, absorbing a special attack with the Power Devour, or activating Instinct. He can have up to five skulls at a time, and they have a variety of uses.

First and foremost, when you end a combo with a Searing Skull, the opponent is almost always just outside of Spinal's Slide Kick range. This is near-perfect spacing for a skull mix-up. Use the overhead Searing Skull (heavy version), then go for run mix-ups. The opponent can't mount much of an offense because the Searing Skull will interrupt almost anything they try.

Immediately after initiating the run, go for a Slide Kick or Shield Crush mix-up. The Slide Kick is unsafe if blocked, but with proper timing the overhead Searing Skull will prevent an opponent from punishing. The Shield Crush overhead can be canceled into a special move making it safe as well. The light and medium Bonecrusher, as well as the all three Soul Swords, and the medium Searing Skull are all safe if the opponent blocks them, and they can all be used after the Shield Crush overhead.

You can also mix-up an opponent by using a Skeleport, running and throwing, or running and immediately using a second overhead Searing Skull, which resets the mix-up entirely. Even a quick poke into a medium Searing Skull is great to use here because the medium Searing Skull gives Spinal +2 frame advantage if it's blocked, or you can start a combo if it hits (you need to react quickly).

From a distance, you can use the light Searing Skull, then run to follow it toward an opponent. When initiated from a little farther than halfway across the screen, Spinal will reach the opponent before the light Searing Skull, giving him similar mix-up options to the heavy Searing Skull setup. Most opponents attempt to jump away from the light Searing Skull, which allows you to use Spinal's jump heavy punch, one of his best air-to-air attacks. You can also use a heavy Searing Skull to knock an opponent out of the air.

Wake-up and Defense

A raw Skeleport is unsafe in every instance unless you have a Searing Skull out to cover your tracks. That means, you need a Searing Skull heading toward the opponent so that when you Skeleport, the opponent can't punish because they must block the Searing Skull. The only other time the Skeleport is safe is if you have Skull Power (SP), which means you have at least one skull stocked. This allows you to cancel the heavy Skeleport into a special move.

Unfortunately, the Skeleport is generally Spinal's best wake-up option. It's invincible on the way down, which means Spinal can't be hit by anything until he reappears. This works very well if an opponent is pressing their offense by attacking you during wake-up, but if an opponent anticipates you'll Skeleport and waits for it, they can punish Spinal more often than not. You really need to be very careful when using the Skeleport.

With that said, the Skeleport is also one of Spinal's best defensive tools. In most cases, if an attack is safe but leaves a character at a disadvantage (-1 for example), the offensive character must block, use an attack with invincibility (which is usually unsafe), or back dash. Spinal's back dash is lackluster at best, but he can use his light Skeleport in place of it. It teleports Spinal a little more than three character lengths in front of the opponent. This is outside of most opponent's attack range, and if they want to punish Spinal, they'll have to anticipate the Skeleport. When this happens, you can mix in the heavy Skeleport to appear behind the opponent.

No Skulls

When Spinal does not have skull power, his options are limited. He can still use Skeleports after a safe attack, but your primary focus should be to obtain skulls. This can be done by using a throw, or by ending a combo with a Searing Skull. While Spinal lacks SP, you should be fighting from the maximum range of standing heavy punch. It's a very good poking tool at maximum range, and can be special canceled into the medium Boneshaker to make it relatively safe. This can then be followed by a Skeleport if you anticipate the opponent will counterattack.

Overall, Spinal is a very strong character, but you have to know how and when to use all of his tools. If you use Searing Skulls strictly to drain meter, you'll be missing out on a multitude of ways to open an opponent up. However, if an opponent has at least one stock of Shadow meter, and you're not ending combos with the Soul Sword juggle Ender, then juggling with a Searing Skull, you're missing out on an opportunity.