Zato-1 is Guilty Gear's signature puppet character that specializes in forcing opponents to deal with oppressive mix ups and neutral situations with his shadow, Eddie. Zato alone is a very lacking character in almost every aspect, so it is important to get used to using the two characters in tandem. With low life, slower buttons, and attacks that extend his hurtbox before the hitbox, Zato suffers on the defensive side of the game and tends to require more character knowledge or hope to escape. However, once Eddie is on the screen Zato has many strong options to tackle any situation and is more than worth having sub-par defenses.
- Note that while Zato is rated the hardest character in the game by the game itself, it is more so because he is more mentally different/challenging and not because he is hard on the hands. Negative edging for Eddie attacks (releasing a button to trigger an attack, noted by -button-) is something that most other games/activities do not utilize and will take a bit of practice getting used to, but is very doable. He does have difficult things technically, but they are not even close to being required to play him unless you are making almost minimum wage from this game.
When the round starts, you do not start out playing Zato. You are a blind man against a whole cast of characters that can see and have superpowers. This needs to be stressed because the most important thing one needs to do is to get one's seeing eye dog (Eddie) on the field to make that field a fair one. How one can do that will be explained further in the Summoning Eddie section.
Once Eddie is out in neutral, the pair can act independently to either cover multiple parts of the screen, cover one part extremely hard, or safely poke at the opponent from full screen. Some common examples are:
- Zato does 2S to cover the ground, and the opponent's air approach is covered with Eddie -S- (Leap).
- Expecting a jump in, Eddie can use -H- (Oppose) to shield Zato while he does 2H for a counter hit if the opponent is over aggressive.
- Eddie can use -P- (Pierce) or -K- (That's A Lot) to poke an opponent on the ground. Afterwards, Zato can use that poke to either get in, return Eddie, or neither depending on the opponent's response.
Once Zato and Eddie get someone to block close to them, whether from a knockdown or otherwise, this character gets to make others suffer. With proper setups, Zato can make people have to guess between blocking high, low, left, right, and dealing with a throw three times in less than five seconds. With mind games, and a bit more risk, one can cause them to have to block even more mix ups utilizing unsummons. The damage dealt from these mix ups tends to decrease the lower Eddie's meter is, but even then his damage off of these mix ups is respectable. This is the end goal of Zato's game plan, and one's success with Zato ultimately rides on how quickly you can get someone into this situation and how long one can keep them there.
Solo Zato Toolset
While not having Eddie out is not ideal, Zato will have to play the match by himself a bit. Zato does have important tools that allow him to hang in there until he can safely summon Eddie. and they all become much stronger when Eddie is on the screen, compensating for Zato's attacks' weaknesses or amplifying their strengths. Zato has other moves but these are the most important for neutral. Keep in mind that the hurtbox for big moves often extends before the hitbox, so you're prone to losing trades in neutral as Solo Zato.
Simple Plan for neutral: Control the ground with 2S and 22H; anti-air with 5P and 6P. In the air, use flight with j.K/j.H/j.S to bully from the air or air-to-air with j.P/j.S. If you hit the opponent, you can 236X summon for pressure. If you score a hard knockdown with 2D, normal Throw or counterhit 6P, you can empty summon Eddie for strong and safe oki.
- Ground to ground: pressure with 5P/2P, 2K/5K, or 2D when close. 2S and f.S are good at midrange. Defensively, 2K > 2D is great for predictable gaps in pressure, and mashing 2P is good when you're not sure. 2D has low range, but it's a good punish at 10 frames startup, granting a very important hard knockdown. 22H is good at stopping people from running forward from long range since it's disjointed and very active (but it's slow, has long recovery and doesn't frametrap most jumps from 2S).
- Ground to air: 5P, 6P, f.S, and 2H are your go to. 5P is quick and hits at a good height for last minute anti airs. 6P is slower, but has upper body invincibility and lingers so you can throw it out really early if you know when they are going to attack. f.S is good for hitting people trying to jump over your attacks, but is not the best if they are already high in the air. 2H gives HUGE counter-hit damage, but since the hurtbox comes out before the hitbox it is best used to beat out a jump rather than a jump attack.
- Flight: Lets you get out of so many situations and also lets you do nasty mixups. Combining this with superjump and j.D makes it really hard to pin Zato down.
- Attacks: j.K is quick and big, great for hitting grounded opponents. j.S/H are both big attacks that accomplish similar things, with j.H being bigger and slower while j.S sits in the middle of the three. Be careful about whiffing j.P, but it's a good air-to-air, as it can gaplessly bring the opponent to the ground with good frame advantage if blocked (j.P66 > j.H).
Note that Drunkard Shade (214S) reflects non-overdrive projectiles, which can help a lot in some matchups.
One can summon Eddie in two ways: 214H for an empty summon or 236X for Eddie to attack out of the summon. Empty summons give you a lot more freedom and frame advantage but does not put out an attack immediately. Attack summons are much more limiting since Zato is stuck in an animation and burns Eddie meter due to the attack, but the it comes out much quicker than empty summon into an Eddie attack. As a rule, attack summons are good if you know what you need to do and have to do it quickly, while empty summons are good if you want more options and have time to analyze the situation afterwards.
There are 3 main situations where Zato can summon Eddie: in neutral, when the opponent is blocking, and after a knockdown.
In neutral, one should generally summon Eddie when they are out of the opponent's effective range (EX: Stay out of sol 6S's range and account for him running forward a bit before using 6S). As a general rule, if you are in a spot where you cannot reliably react to an opponents attack, it is not the best idea to summon. From here, Zato + Eddie neutral begins and now things are much easier (until Eddie goes away sadly).
- A useful way to empty summon is by doing 214[H]~4X, for example. If you want to use ]H[ Oppose on reaction (8 frames of startup), you can just release the H button. If you want any other Eddie move, pressing 4X does so without whiffing a button because Zato is going to FD instead (4H+X).
In a blockstring, summoning Eddie is a mind game for the most part. If you can make them block 5H, you can do 236P as a frametrap (3-frame gap). This can lose to invincible moves like DP's, but most will not hit Zato himself (Ram reversal super WILL hit you and you WILL cry, so be careful if she has meter).
If you can't make them block 5H, it becomes a minigame of mixing up Invite Hell and 236X Summons after they block a move. Opponents can and will stuff the summons by pressing a button, but that loses to 22H. After you make them respect 22H, you can summon instead. Keep in mind that most characters can jump out of 22H for a punish, though.
- If you made the opponent block a Punch or Kick normal, you can summon with 236H. 5P > 236H is punishable on read (run-up Throw) and leaves a 6-frame gap where Zato is vulnerable to strikes, but it can be made safe with proper spacing and staggered frametraps. From Kick, you can 2D > 236H instead for a safe summon.
- There is a 7-frame gap between the hits of 236P, but you can make the opponent respect it by linking 214S~P after the first hit to send Eddie behind the opponent for another ]P[ Pierce. Microdash for a grab or 5P between the hits to start your gapless sandwich pressure.
- Summoning with 236S spends a lot of Eddie meter but it can be useful when properly spaced, as it covers jumps and can give you heavy frame advantage (specially in the corner).
After a hard knockdown, the opponent literally cannot do anything so Eddie can come out without a care in the world. Usually with ]K[ That's a lot after empty summon.
Eddie and His(?) Neutral
So Eddie is finally out, it is time to have some fun. Once out, you can move him the same way you move Zato, but Eddie is not able to leave the ground (diagonals count as forward/backward for Eddie so you can hold 1 or 3 so Zato crouches and Eddie moves around). Eddie cannot block and will be on the bench for roughly three seconds if he is hit. Eddie's moves are actually not that complicated, but they are really useful regardless. Note that 236X and -X- give the same moves, but since Eddie is already out it is strictly better to use negative edge for the moves.
- ]P[: Two hit move on the ground that goes far and is very quick. Useful for ground control due to those two traits. The two hits do have a gap where an opponent can jab in the middle to hit Eddie which is important to note, but Zato himself can cover that hole with his own attack.
- -K-: Eddie sends forward four drills. Beats out projectiles like Sol Gunflame and Ky S Stun Edge so it is really good for dealing with those without Zato needing to jump. Great for ground control, but Eddie stays far away from the opponent which makes it awkward to do Eddie stuff afterwards.
- -S-: Eddie plays violent leap frog and hits two times. Great air time, great damage, a good time all around. Can be used to have Eddie jump over projectiles as well as dominating the air space.
- -H-: Eddie creates a shield for Zato. Comfort move, cheating move, it is probably THE most important move once mastered. Allows Zato to use 2H without being stuffed out and blocks all attacks not named grabs or overdrives. As long as an attack hits Eddie at the same time as Zato, Zato will not be hurt. TLDR: This is the move people will play around the most, and if they do not respect it things become a lot easier for you.
- 214S: Drunkard Shade. If Zato does this move when Eddie is nearby, it will cancel whatever Eddie is doing and have him dash about half speed with some invincibility thrown on there. Great for putting Eddie behind someone or repositioning Eddie in general.
- 236X: You can cancel all of Eddie's moves into another one using the 236X input for that move, but Zato will be stuck in a clapping animation and will not be free to move around. This ability is absolutely incredible and can lead to more pressure or outright hit opponents who are caught off guard. Experiment liberally with cancel Eddie attacks, but an example would be using -H- to block an attack from full screen with Eddie and canceling that with 236S to get a lot of damage.
- 214H: If Eddie is out, this unsummons and refills the his meter much more quickly than if you let it drain completely. Mixing in unsummons with Eddie attacks can keep him on the screen for a lot more time overall than if you let Eddie attack until it was his time to go, not only because of the meter filling up quicker but also since the opponent will be hesitating since they are expecting an attack from Eddie. Still be aware of your opponent when you unsummon, as the unsummon animation takes about half a second and you are completely helpless during that time (unless they blocked -S- Leap in corner, that gives you massive frame advantage).
Negative Edging: After the empty summon, you can keep holding H (or whatever button feels easier for your layout) after empty summon. This allows you to use any Eddie move on reaction by pressing 4X or letting go of H. This way, you get FD instead of whiffing a button (4H+X).
Example: 214[H]. If the opponent jumps forward, you can instantly let go of H to get -H- Oppose and press 2H as an anti-air. If they don't, you can run up and press 4S to get -S- Leap for massive advantage without whiffing, since you get FD instead (4H+S).
This idea works for any button. If you have an attack in mind after the empty summon, IMMEDIATELY release H and hold the desired attack button (214H~[X]). It lets you "store" a press without whiffing anything and you can release whenever you want. This idea is applicable after 236X summons, 214S or whenever Zato is stuck in some kind of animation as well.
Using Eddie to cover Zato's blind spots is what makes their neutral so scary. On paper, they have answers to everything and can leave opponents with no option that is not covered by either Zato or Eddie. In practice, it's actually awfully close to that but will eventually stop due to the Eddie meter. Mastery of the two characters and the Eddie meter itself takes a bit of getting used to, but the reward is more than worth it.
Maybe you got a knockdown, maybe you got in close while Eddie was doing an attack, but regardless of how it happened, you have achieved Zato's win condition. Oddly enough things are much more simple now, but also much more important, especially in matchups that are harder to use Eddie in neutral.
Outside of the corner, the best pressure comes from when Eddie and Zato are sandwiching the opponent. Using Drunkard Shade to move Eddie behind the opponent or manually moving him behind after a knockdown are the best ways to achieve this situation. Here are some basic examples:
- If Eddie is close by during/after his attack: 5k/c.S -> 214S(Drunkard Shade) -> -P-/-K-/-S-/-H- -> "mix up"
- After 2D/knockdown (Easier): 214H (Summon) -> -K- -> 214S(Drunkard Shade) -> -P-/-K-/-S-/-H- -> "mix up"
- After 2D/knockdown (Better): 214H (Summon) -> HOLD -P-/-K-/-S--> 22H (Invite hell, HOLD H) -> RELEASE -P-/-K-/-S-/-H- -> "mix up"
The moves Zato uses for mix ups are relatively simple.
- 5K/2K/2D are lows, and if they are blocked you can use Drunkard Shade to keep them in blockstun and send Eddie behind them again.
- 6K/5D are overheads, but you cannot cancel them into specials. They tend to be the most useful at the end of an Eddie attack, since Eddie could recover in time to either combo or keep the opponent in blockstun.
- Grabs are super useful, as regular throw can combo into -S- and 623S (Damned Fang) will refill the Eddie meter, but will somewhat curb your pressure without Tension. Make sure they are not in blockstun though, as they cannot be grabbed in that state and you might (Read: Will) be counter-hit for the attempt since grabs are laggy.
- A bit more technical, but using 214K (Break the Law) and j.D for crossups is very rewarding. They do require your opponent to respect your pressure and hold block, but this can cause a hard to react left/right mix up.
Eddie's moves on the other hand have a bit more impact on the type of blockstring.
- -P-: Uses the least amount of meter, which lets you do up to three full mix ups if done right. Make sure to cover the hole between the two hits with some kind of move since it is not a true blockstring, but since it is not a true blockstring you can grab them between the hits with good timing. Requires more technical prowess to use than the others, but provides the most options once mastered. (Tip: Do a Zato attack to cover up the hole right after the first attack hits, the blockstun after the first hit is minimal. Do not try time it to hit the exact middle between the two attacks.)
- -K-: Uses about half of the meter, but is the safest and easiest to use. It keeps them in blockstun for the entire move so you do not need to worry about timing moves for the most part. Do try and time a move right after -K- ends so that Eddie has time to recover and do another attack. One cheeky thing you can do is run forward and push your opponent out of the drills and grab them since they will be out of blockstun, and you can just do another attack after pushing them out instead if they are expecting a grab.
- -S-: Uses about half of the meter, and is kind of subpar for pressure outside of unsummoning it immediately after using it to get meter back and still have plus frames. It does do a lot of damage still which never hurts (well, you anyways)
- -H-: Uses all of the meter unless canceled, and is alright. Good for hard calling out mashes if you use 2H to beat their button since that is a load of damage, and lets you grab opponents immediately since there is no blockstun (is somewhat telegraphed and people who know the matchup will not fall for it much). The ending hitbox does do a good bit of damage, but so does your pressure with every other Eddie move.
Zato/Eddie pressure theory can be boiled down to Eddie attack -> Zato attack-> Eddie -> etc. What you do with those attacks is where the mix ups come in for the most part. You can get creative with repeating attacks (Zato -> Zato -> Eddie), but the more you break that mold the less safe/tight the pressure is. You will definitely need to spend some time in training mode practicing pressure since it is pretty different other characters in this game or out. After you get used to doing the duo's pressure, you might start getting dodged at locals, but it is fun and worth less social interaction.
In short: Figure out a way to summon Eddie, play a severely lopsided neutral using the duo with the main goal of starting pressure, and mix them up with both Eddie and Zato as long as possible. Zato-1 is a character that requires more in game time than reading time to fully understand, and as you keep playing it will become almost second nature to control the pair. Zato Gaming.
Anti Zato Tips
- Any kind of summon after Zato hits your block, especially up close, is not real and can be smacked before Eddie can do anything. The only exception is 5H (the three dog head attack), which naturally frametraps if the Zato does the command version of Pierce (the two hit ground attack).
- If you use RRC after hitting Oppose (the Eddie shield), and the Zato is not blocking or cannot block, the shockwave will pop them up for a full combo.
- Use a fast move right after the first hit of Pierce to kill Eddie, especially if Zato is far away.
- The frog move (Leap) can be 6P'd.
- Since Zato's abare (mashing out of blockstun) is slow and just subpar in general, pressure that might not work on most of the cast can work on him. Even if he does hit with his jab, he gets little off of it without meter.
- YRC kills Eddie if Zato doesn't block it (if blocked, Eddie is unsummoned with the white bar). Zato can block it and punish if he commits to waiting, but that means his pressure is weakened if he wants to make that guess.
- Zato's attacks throw out their hurtbox before their hitbox so if your character has a lingering move, you can just place that move where you think they are going to attack and you will hit cleanly. Not even a trade, just cleanly beat.
- After Leap, if Zato does not unsummon Eddie or have Eddie do another move immediately after landing using a special move, then you can smack Eddie for free.
- If the Zato uses Oppose raw (Eddie is NOT on the field), and you are close, you can run in and grab Zato before he can do anything.
- Don't let Zato use 2S > 22H for free. If they cancel anything (except 5H and cS) into Invite Hell, there will be a gap big enough for you to jump forward and punish (unless you're Nagoriyuki or Goldlewis; Potemkin can Megafist instead).
Note: Take this advice with a grain of salt as the game is not very old.
- Nago cannot jump out of 22HS after blocking 2S, making 2S > 22HS a powerful string against him for pushing him away - preferably into the corner.
- Use Damned Fang (623S) to punish Nago entering Blood Rage. The long animation that plays on connect does not freeze Blood Rage's HP drain, often guaranteeing a KO once the grab is over if Nago's HP was low enough.
- Oppose is great in this MU, as Nago's sword is a hurtbox and therefore can be counterhit from full screen.
- Nago's projectile murders Eddie for little risk if he is not using Oppose. However, it raises the blood meter a lot so keep a close eye on it after this attack.
- 22H is great for stopping Nago's grounded approaches, and his jump is somewhat easy to deal with, especially with Oppose, due to not having a double jump. Nago has to crank up the blood gauge a lot if he wants meaningful damage or a better position from half screen vs Zato, so if you are not too predictable with 22H you can control the pace of the game even without Eddie on screen.
- Please be smart about jump ins. Almost nothing is worth getting 2H'd by Nago.
- Patience is key, both characters have a similar end goal and you need make sure you do not get in hers. It is fine to be hit by ten f.S from Millia. It is not fine to get knocked down by her. Make sure you do not get hit by her important moves like 2D.
- Millia has subpar defense options, which means locking her down gives a much greater reward more consistently. She does have a reversal super, but even that isn't all that amazing.
- Using YRC to get out of her okizeme is very important. Zato's defensive game makes it easy for her to loop or continue pressure without YRC.
- If Eddie meter runs out, she WILL get in. Making sure Eddie meter never fully runs out is what can make or break this match up.
- Summon Eddie based off of predictions or blockstrings. Chipp's burst range is almost the entire screen and it is tough to summon completely safely based only off of range.
- Mashing on defense is risky, especially so due to Chipp's mix ups favoring delay mind games/
- Be careful whiffing moves like 2S since he can either directly punish or get in from reactions alone. 5P is really nice in this match up if you are not confident.
- Leap, raw or negative edged, is very hard to deal with for Chipp since it covers a lot of where he would like to be and does a ton of damage, which hurts Chipp much more due to his low life. He still has more ways around it than most of the cast, so be sure you are ready to chase him down after doing leap to limit his movement afterwards and pin him down.
- Be careful when you decide to use 22H as Chipp wants to be in the air most of the time, and can punish 22H attempts with jump ins when used carelessly.
- 3/4 to full screen is a very nice place to be. Sol cannot contest summons unless he uses Vortex, which is very punishable if it is blocked or Opposed. Nightmare Vortex can also be punished during the travel with 2K > 2D, which is important when Sol has meter to otherwise make it safe.
- For bandit bringer, pressing 6P a little before he starts falling gives you the easiest anti air in the game, and leads to pressure or a lot of damage with meter.
- If you block bandit bringer, it is best not to try and mash afterwards, as Sol is -2, and due to his superior framedata, can still beat Zato out with 5K. If Sol ended up in throw range afterwards, you can punish with a normal throw.
- Use meter more defensively since Sol does a lot when he gets in, but Zato wins neutral pretty comfortably.
- Respect f.S. Zato's moves are slow so unless you have a good call out and quick reactions, just FD it. If you really want to challenge f.S pressure, 2K > 2D is the ideal string for it.
- Make use of the projectile reflecting properties of Drunkard Shade (214S) to shoot Stun Edge and Charged Stun Edge back at Ky.
- You can use That's A Lot (236K) or do 5P > 214S behind Oppose (236H) as a meaty if the Ky player likes to Vapor Trust on wakeup.
- You can mash out foudre arc with a well timed 5P or 6P.
- Oppose can eat up Stun Edge and Charged Stun Edge, but not Sacred Edge.
- If well timed, you can reflect Ky's non-overdrive projectiles and send Eddie to punish him at the same time using Drunkhard Shade (214S) if Eddie is summoned beforehand.
- If you block stun dipper, try to instant block the second hit to negate the pushback. This will make it easier to punish it with 2D and start your pressure.
- Making use of Eddie to harass May from a distance and forcing her to commit to dangerous approaches is a big deal in keeping May honest, whilist also not risking running into big counterhits. Stuff like Leap > unsummon as well as using oppose against hasty approaches are examples of this.
- After a blocked S horizontal dolphin, your main options are to either jump or 2P to check a potential 2S attempt. Even if she jumps or backdashes when you use 2P, the low recovery on it allows you to block what she does afterwards. Alternativley, you can 66BRC after a blocked S horizontal dolphin to check what May is doing. If she hit 2S or another grounded button, you can punish. If she jumped, go for an anti air/air throw.
- H horizontal dolphin is plus on block, but can be mashed out with a well timed 5P.
- Whoever gets Eddie out first is at a major advantage, so it is crucial that you get them out before the opposing Zato does.
- When the opponent has Eddie out, you can use superjump into flight to go over Leap's effective range, and make it harder for the opponent to utilize against you.
- If you and the opponent both get Eddie out and intend to use drunkard shade to move Eddie forward, try to do it second, so drunkard shade's hitbox kills their Eddie, while also moving your Eddie forward to lock them down.
- All the info in Anti Zato Tips is applicable to this matchup on both ends
- Anti airing Mega Fist can be inconsistent due to how preemptive it has to be done. Because of this, it is better to block it, or set up oppose beforehand and punish it afterwards. Blocking forward megafist ends Potemkin's turn, and allows you to start your pressure on him.
- If you instant block forward mega fist, you can punish with Damned Fang.
- Make use of f.S's multihits to beat out hammerfall or slide head.
- You can grab/command grab the startup of his grounded overdrive, Giganter.
- Only use flight to get away from Giganter if Potemkin doesn't have 50% meter or else he can catch you with Heavenly Potemkin Buster.
- Always punish Hammerfall on block with 2K > 2D for a free Oki setup.
- Without Burst, make use of Blue or Yellow Roman Cancel to get out of Potemkin's oki.
- Be aware of his Potemkin Buster usage to use back dash or jump to avoid it.
- Mark Kirollos - YouTube Two hours long, but goes into a lot of detail and more advanced information. Timestamps help if you want to learn more about something specific.
- Dante Demonz - YouTube
- Gobou - YouTube
- Rynge - Twitch
- BeautifulDude - Twitch
- RathFGC - YouTube
- KnowKami - YouTube | Twitch
- Ogawa - Youtube
Twitter Tech Monsters
- Bwead - Twitter
Wrote the strategy section outside of some of the matchups. Feel free to ask any Zato questions or let him know how the guide can be improved.
Click [★] for character's full frame data