How to Fight Shang Tsung – Beginner Guide

Dark Arts

Shang Tsung’s Dark Arts (1,1,2) string is +6 on block while also having large pushback. If Shang Tsung uses Soul Steal or Far Ground Eruption after this, you will not be able to avoid them. Doing a forward dash and then Flawless Blocking the Soul Steal or Far Ground Eruption will punish Shang Tsung. This is rather difficult though so usually it’s best to continue blocking after 1,1,2.

In Shang Tsung’s Soul Eater variation, he can use Force Lift after 1,1,2 which can grant him a combo. Force Lift however does not have as much pushback as Soul Steal, so it will be easier to punish.

Punishing Gaps

Dark Arts

Shang Tsung’s Dark Arts (1,1,2) string can be punished by Flawless Blocking the last hit. However, Shang Tsung can mix this up by doing 1,1,4 instead and cancelling into Ground Eruption.

Burning Evil

Similarly, Burning Evil (Forward+2,4,2) string can be Flawless Blocked on the last hit. Shang Tsung can mix this up by either doing Forward+2,4,3 or cancelling Forward+2,4 into Ground Eruption. If he does Forward+2,4 Ground Eruption, this can be fuzzy guarded by blocking for a split second longer after Forward+2,4 then Flawless Blocking Forward+2,4,2. Since Ground Eruption has a start-up of 15 frames and Forward+2,4,2 has a start-up of 25 frames, you will have 10 frames to fuzzy guard this.

Note: Be careful when trying to Flawless Block this string against Shang Tsung’s Soul Eater variation. If Shang Tsung uses Force Lift after his Forward+2,4, it will counter your attempt at Flawless Blocking and become a Krushing Blow.

Soul Torment

While Shang Tsung’s Soul Torment (Back+1,1,2) string can be punished by Flawless Blocking the last hit, it isn’t necessary because Back+1,1,2 is -6 on block. If you do choose to Flawless Block, Shang Tsung can stop the string early by only doing Back+1,1. If you think he will only use Back+1,1, it will be punishable as it is -11 on block. Shang Tsung can also cancel the Back+1,1 into Ground Eruption to stop you from Flawless Blocking.


When playing against Shang Tsung you should always block low because of his great low pokes and Back+3. Shang Tsung’s Ruthless (Back+3,Up+4) string has a large gap which can be interrupted with any attack that is 12 frames or faster. If you try to interrupt this string though, you will be vulnerable to Back+3,Down+4 or Back+3 Ground Eruption. The best thing to do is to continue blocking low in case he does Back+3,Down+4, then block high on reaction to Back+3,Up+4 because it is a 30 frame overhead attack. Back+3,Up+4 can then be Flawless Blocked and punished for a full combo.

Reserved Pain

Along with his many low attacks, Shang Tsung will occasionally use his Reserved Pain (Back+1,Down+2) string as a mixup to catch you off guard. This becomes a Krushing Blow that launches for a combo if only the overhead hits by itself. Once you see his Back+1, be ready to block high and react to the overhead. You will have at least 32 frames to react before the overhead connects.

Dealing with Soul Steal

Soul Steal allows Shang Tsung to temporarily morph into your character while receiving a damage boost. You will want to play defensively while he is morphed as he will have the advantage in the match. Pay close attention to the duration that he is morphed. Shang Tsung will stay morphed for at least 4 seconds, but if Soul Steal is Amplified then he will stay morphed for at least 8 seconds. When Shang Tsung morphs back, he will be vulnerable and unable to move for a short period of time. Once you know when he will morph back, that is when you will want to go on the offensive.

It’s also important to note that if Shang Tsung does a Back Throw immediately after morphing back, it will become a Krushing Blow and launch for a combo. You will want to tech for the Back Throw if you predict he will try to get the Krushing Blow.

The Corner

When cornered by Shang Tsung, you do not have to respect Shang Tsung as much as he cannot combo off of Ground Eruption. This makes dealing with Shang Tsung’s pressure and mindgames much easier. For example, counterpoking Shang Tsung becomes far less risky in the corner because if you are hit by Ground Eruption, it will only knock you down and not launch for a combo.

Note: This does not apply as much against Shang Tsung’s Soul Eater variation because he will have much stronger combos in the corner.


When being zoned by Shang Tsung, it’s best to block high. One of Shang Tsung’s best zoning tools is Corpse Drop which is an overhead projectile. When blocking Corpse Drop, make sure to immediately block low afterwards in case he Amplifies it.

Additionally, you can jump out of the low to avoid taking chip damage. When fullscreen, you will want to jump forward after Corpse Drop to close the distance. If closer up, jumping forward can be anti-aired by Shang Tsung, so you will want to do a Short Hop instead. Short Hop recovers much quicker than jumping and will still avoid the Amplified Corpse Drop.

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25 days ago

This is wonderful. I needed this.