Katalina's strongest spacing is at the tip range of her excellent f.MGuardMidStartup8Recovery18Advantage-6, as she can also poke with 2MGuardMidStartup7Recovery15Advantage-5 at that range to stop rolls and use f.HGuardMidStartup9Recovery23Advantage-10 to really wall people out. At farther ranges, she can use Frozen BladeGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 to control space safely, but her projectile zoning is typically worse than average. Her goal is to slowly chip away at the opponent and push them to the corner, where she can use the threat of her increased damage output to assert her turn. In order to get in on Katalina, opponents will have to deal with both her excellent pokes and her fireball.
Being an all-rounder, Katalina's approach to neutral varies heavily on the opponent. There are some characters she can zone out somewhat easily, some characters she is forced to fight exclusively in the midrange, and some characters that she has to be the aggressor against.
General Approaches to Neutral
Against characters who lack range or speed on their pokes, she can harass them from midrange with her own pokes and projectiles. Unless the opponent has a reliable way to deal with these tools they must take a risk to approach Katalina.
The most straight-forward approach, and also (usually) the easiest to deal with. Naturally loses to Katalina's pokes and fireballs as no one can block immediately from a dash.
- f.MGuardMidStartup8Recovery18Advantage-6, f.HGuardMidStartup9Recovery23Advantage-10, and 2MGuardMidStartup7Recovery15Advantage-5 are Katalina's main midrange pokes (ordered by reach).
- f.LGuardMidStartup6Recovery6Advantage+1 is Katalina's last line of defense against opponents who like to run at her.
- 236LGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 and 236MGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 are standard fireballs. They control space well but are somewhat easy to roll.
- 214LGuardMidStartup16Recovery18Advantage-7 (at worst) deserves special mention as it travels surprisingly far and can be safe on block if spaced (typically max f.M range).
Loses to her anti-airs, of which Katalina has a great deal.
- 2HGuardMidStartup10Recovery23Advantage-12 is a highly rewarding option against close jump-ins, but must be timed correctly as it only beats air normals through clash priority.
- f.HGuardMidStartup9Recovery23Advantage-10 is excellent against farther jumps but shares the same drawbacks as her 2H.
- 623LGuardMid→AllStartup9Recovery30Advantage-23 or 623MGuardMid, AllStartup9Recovery34Advantage-27 are invulnerable options, but are only air unblockable for a short time. However, they are easily accessable with the Skill button input.
- 623HGuardMidStartup9Recovery35Advantage-28 is entirely air unblockable, invulnerable, and grants a hard knockdown at the cost of a cooldown. Highly reliable.
Throwing a predictable fireball will let opponents jump in easily, make sure to vary between the L and M versions as well as simply walking to increase the risk of jumping.
After trying the first two options, opponents may try to fight Katalina using system mechanics. She is well-equipped to fight these, but they typically require more conscious counterplay.
- Doing nothing is an easy answer.
- 2MGuardMidStartup7Recovery15Advantage-5 counterhit opponents out of Crossover. 2LGuardLowStartup6Recovery6Advantage+2 and 2UGuardLowStartup8Recovery21Advantage-11 also will work but aren't used often as pokes either due to lack of range or lack of range and frame advantage, respectively.
- 236LGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 cancels at max range are safe to Crossover. Katalina may even be plus depending on the spacing.
- Low Profiles
This is character specific, but you as a Katalina player will know these options and hate them. All of her far pokes and fireballs (even 2M) have extended foot hurtboxes that lose to low pokes and especially low profile moves. Her only real option against them is to hard bait or whiff punish them.
Against characters that can match or slightly exceed her poking range your footsies and whiff punishment become more important. Thankfully, her far normals make for excellent whiff punish tools and they convert into okizeme with 214LGuardMidStartup16Recovery18Advantage-7 (at worst).
236MGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 is great to poke with just outside of the range of the opponents farthest reaching normal. Projectiles have to be well placed because their startup puts her at risk of getting counterpoked by the opponent's far normals. If all else fails, Katalina's walkspeed can move her in and out of the opponent's optimal range to fish for a greedy whiff.
Against characters that can outrange her entirely, Katalina must find a way to get into close quarters. Katalina’s tools are at their weakest when she is a full screen away.
- Roll/Dodge are universal tools that can put fireballs on longer cooldowns and dodge some mid pokes, but carry their own risks.
- 5[U]GuardMidStartup14~??+9Recovery24Advantage-15 is a risky option when midscreen or closer, but it's excellent against stray pokes or projectiles as it can be dash cancelled whether it absorbs a hit or not.
- 236LGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 and 236MGuardAllStartup16RecoveryTotal 45Advantage-9 deserve mention again as they cancel out single fireballs and Katalina can approach behind the L version.
- 214LGuardMidStartup16Recovery18Advantage-7 (at worst) can be used to cover a lot of space relatively quickly.
- 214MGuardMidStartup20Recovery21Advantage-8 (at worst) is relatively safe to use at around 3/4ths of the screen. Even though it is somewhat slow, it is Katalina's farthest reaching move outside her fireballs and the backstep before the stab can dodge some far pokes.
- Tactical Move - Rush is expensive at 50 meter, especially for Katalina, and loses to projectiles. However, on block it's +4 and Katalina's excellent normals will often scare opponents into respecting her advantage.
Using Katalina's Tools
Katalina's normals are excellent, especially how they synergize with the rest of her kit. Most commonly, you'll be relying on her quick M buttons for poking and counterpoking, but each listed normal has its own niche. f.M and f.H probably have the most overlap as they have similar reach, but there are very distinct differences between the two. If the opponent is relying on their own M buttons to poke, f.H will crush it with its priority where f.M would trade. f.L outshines them both when in range, as it leads to surprsing damage on counterhit while being extremely fast and plus on block. 2M is also notable as it is very fast and beats rolls where f.M and f.H lose. Unfortunately, as stated before, f.L, f.M, and f.H all lose to low pokes. Even 2M struggles against lows, which may force you do do weird things like pre-emptive Universal OverheadGuardHighStartup26Recovery18Advantage-4.
Light Wall is a hard tool to use well. It's easy to tell if it's used too close as Katalina will eat a poke into a special cancel. However, at farther ranges where its armor can absorb a projectile, it's a decent trade between health and spacing.
The strike followup has decent reach and a hitbox that extends low, granting a soft knockdown as well as combo opportunities on higher charge levels. After hitting with a 5U Lv2, you can cancel into a forward step and connect a 2M.
The strike, as well as the wall itself, can be cancelled into a forward or backstep. Both steps cancelled from the slash are minus on block. By mixing up the charge timing and step cancels in pressure, you can add more to your opponent's mental stack.
It's a tool that sees more usage in some matchups than others, but effective usage of Light Wall separates good Katalina players from great ones.
Frozen Blade is a fireball without any bells and whistles, in a game full of fireballs with extra bells and whistles. It gets the job done, certainly, but its utility is somewhat limited in comparison to other characters' options. The overview page goes over the versions separately in more detail, but the difference in speed is something to keep in mind. Throwing a few M fireballs to establish a dodge timing and then an L one will punish them for dodging early, as a basic example. The farther away Katalina is from her opponent, the easier it is for them to dodge the fireball.
214L is Katalina's main confirm tool, but both non-EX versions of Enchanted Lands can be used as haymakers in neutral. 214L is faster and typically safer to use as such but has less range in comparison to 214M. M Enchanted Lands is much more rewarding if it scores a counterhit in the corner, as it's a free 1400 damage wallbounce starter. Her opponent essentially evaporates if they're hit by this.
Katalina's main close-range pressure options are her c.LGuardMidStartup5Recovery6Advantage+2, 2LGuardLowStartup6Recovery6Advantage+2, and f.LGuardMidStartup6Recovery6Advantage+1. They're all plus on block and all chain into each other. She will typically be pushed out of c.L/2L range after the opponent blocks two of them, and pushed out of f.L range after that. To establish the threat of f.L's frame advantage, her next safest normal is her 2M. Being a character that focuses on strike/throw, she can opt for a throw at any point after her light normals. Keep in mind that the threat of the throw is scariest after no normals or one normal, as she must dash to be in range after two or three normals (and 2M functionally ends her turn).
After establishing the risk of mashing after her L normals (by linking them together), you can start to introduce things like microdash 2L pressure resets and throw attempts, as well as shimmies after establishing the threat of her throw. Her most rewarding option to cash out on a whiffed throw tech is easily her Universal OverheadGuardHighStartup26Recovery18Advantage-4, but her c.HGuardMidStartup9Recovery21Advantage-8 is also a potent option for less commitment. If the opponent doesn't bite on any baits, don't get greedy with pressure resets. Katalina is much better off playing it safe by pushing herself out and returning to neutral.
Katalina's corner pressure follows the same general structure as her midscreen pressure, but carries a much bigger threat behind it due to 214HGuardMidStartup16 [17-76]Recovery19Advantage-8 (at worst) [+4]'s wallbounce. Using Enchanted Lands and Frozen Blade's cooldowns will give her a safe meaty while still letting her finish close combos with Emerald Sword. Farther combos will require 50 meter to use Tactical Move - Rush to get back into Emerald Sword range. Katalina also has to worry less about returning to neutral, as her opponent's escape options are much easier to deal with and generally more predictable. She can afford to stand still around max poke range and react to whatever they do until they sit still, possibly letting her steal her turn back.
2L, c.L, f.L: combos on hit, ends with f.L which is +1 on block.
f.L, 2M: combos on counterhit and can be used from farther distances.
f.M > 236L: plus on block at maximum f.M range.
Katalina's reward for successfully throwing an opponent is a safe meaty, whether that be a j.UGuardHigh/AirStartup13RecoveryUntil LAdvantage- safejump or a reversal-safe 2LGuardLowStartup6Recovery6Advantage+2. Many of her other main okizeme setups will end in one or the other. Either way, they allow Katalina to dodge traditional invincible reversals by recovering faster than their startup. Against characters who have counter-style reversals, it's better to weigh more heavily on fake setups like empty jump throw or meaty throw to discourage the counter (or best of all simply doing nothing).
While it isn't a safe meaty, 214L is a common ender. On hits like her autocombo or in the corner, Katalina has enough time to microdash 2L. On farther hits, Katalina can only dash far enough to get a meaty f.L or 2M. All 214L meaties are manually timed. It may be possible to manually time a reversal safe 2L, but no automatic timing has been found at the time of writing.
As mentioned before, Katalina gets to safely continue her offense after she lands a throw.
- dash jump j.H
- superjump j.U
- 9, 2L
- 9, c.M (it's +1 here but don't do it)
- superjump j.U
Katalina also gets good reward from her back throw, although this is used far less.
- 6G, c.L
Emerald Sword is not a terribly high priority cooldown and the EX version builds a lot of meter. Use this off of close hits like c.XXX.
- dash jump j.U/j.H
- 9, 2L
Interestingly, this situation is exactly the same as her forward throw in the corner.
Katalina has to spend two of her precious cooldowns to do this, but notice that it's Enchanted Lands and Frozen Blade. If she's in 623H range for the following combo, she still gets a safe meaty afterwards.
- ... > 214H, c.M > 236H, 2H > 5U~66, c.L > 623L, c.Mw, c.L (meaty)
- ... > Rush > 214H, c.H > 236H, 2H > 5U~66, c.L > 623L, c.Mw, 2L (meaty)
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