My KoFXIV Tier List Explained Part 1/?

I recently made a tier list and asked people if there was interest in a breakdown on some of my decisions that are a bit off from the norm. Turned out there was so I’m doing just that. Tier list in mention:

For this initial write up I’m going to avoid putting some demonstrations together as it will take a bit more time to do that over spilling what I’ve been thinking while putting it together.

To kick things off the elephant in the room is Iori isn’t #1 and in fact I don’t place him in a tier of his own, instead putting Benimaru in that position. That’s not to say Iori isn’t strong, he’s in the second tier on the list and arguably the first real tier as Benimaru is sitting up top on his own. So why Benimaru? Honestly it’s because I cannot think of a single bad MU for him and in his good MU he is especially strong. Lets talk about Benimaru’s tools.

1. He has an amazing jump arc.
– Benimaru has always been this way, he jumps sky high and falls to the ground very sharp and fast. He does this also with his hops and in KoFXIV this is quite useful as it allows him to cross up from Rising Shot or command grab consistently as characters enter their wake up animation. Due to the fast falling speed it is also quite easy to combo from even a high hitting jump in with Benimaru. The speed and distance covered also helps to fight strong zoning characters and makes anti airing difficult due to the wide variation on the arcs.
2. He has TWO amazing jump normals in j.B and j.D
– Both of these normals have absurd hitboxes that are both difficult to low profile, anti air and air to air consistently. The j.D in particular is so good that people have joked about it having invulnerability because it often feels like it. To top it off both normals can cross  up and are quite ambiguous, causing situations where you can cross up and land on the starting side to add even further to the mixup.
3. A +4 on block cr.A and +2 on block cr.B
– Both of these normals mean a lot more than they might seem on paper. Having a + on block low is very powerful in KoF and for Benimaru it’s easy access to his standard BnB or MM combo. +4 on block lights are also quite rare, off the top of my head I can only think of Iori st.A which requires you to be at far range where as Benimaru can stay at close range due to it being a crouching normal.
4. A 1 frame command grab.
– It has more range than a normal throw with low recovery. This is good for punishes that other characters can otherwise not get as well as a strong mixup tool. It even provides him with strong mixup post the command grab itself! Due to the 1f startup it also functions as a reversal.
5. Raijinken
– A Raijinken is very active and hard to punish on whiff and even jump in on, builds good meter and nullifies projectiles. To top it off the Raijinken does not disappear if Benimaru is hit after a certain point in the start up meaning it can even save your life. EX Raijinken is much the same, the hitbox even retains after the graphic has disappeared from the screen. EX Raijinken is guaranteed combo on all trades regardless of position except for CD or special moves that knock him down. It’s also +2 so he can rinse it all day.
6. Rising Shot
– Rising Shot is a fantastic super to have in KoFXIV. Due to the distance it travels it can be used to punish backrolls quite easily, even on reaction. The EX version can also be used to defeat projectiles at the mid range as it has some invincibility during the initial movement forward.
7. Back roll
– Benimaru’s back roll has one of the farthest travelling distances in KoFXIV. A lot of option selects(such as Button Priority OS) do not hit Benimaru rolling back and when they whiff he can actually punish them. His backroll is difficult to punish for a lot of characters without far forward moving and fast moves. Timing and punishes both need to be adjusted purely to deal with Benimaru and even then some characters must sacrifice and opt for weaker punishes due to that.
8. Iai Geri
– The snap kick! Just like it was in XIII this move is incredibly strong and specifically the B version. 6f startup which is 1f slower than the D version but it’s -5 as opposed to -10. The B Iai Geri is essentially unpunishable for most of the cast due to the nature of how it is used as a frame trap from cr.B and the distance that it pushes back. Like XIII it retains the ability to be hit confirmed very late and the addition of Rising Shot in XIV allows Benimaru to spend 1 bar to gain a hard knockdown+mixup from almost any Iai Geri hit.

Due to these tools, alongside his damage and overall team versatility I rate him the best character in the game, on his own. I cannot see any character beneath him on the same level. I don’t think he is leagues beyond those just below him but he is definitely a stand out character in that line up and for that reason he is placed above them. As mentioned I cannot think of any bad MU for him but I can think of at least 1 or 2 difficult fights for some of the characters below him.

Moving on lets talk about Verse. A few people have told me that he sucks now or he’s not that good etc etc… Verse in the patch was essentially unaffected by the MM changes, can still punish backrolls with his command grab, still has his amazing st.CD and has access to stronger damage from confirms than before due to the hitbox changes on RDP+A. His nerfs were the hitbox change to RDP+A as it’s easier to jump over, fireballs have more recovery and his command grab range is only far distance + was made slower.

So what does this all mean? Well, his mixups are less threatening due to the command grab nerf and his fireball game is a bit more manageable BUT I am much in the boat that his nerfs are an overreaction to what was a very strong game being brought to a more reasonable and strong level.

See when KoFXIV first got patched to nerf Nakoruru and K’ a lot of Nakoruru and K’ players whined that they were “dead” and yet even now they’re sitting in the upper tiers. There was arguable a good month+ of very few people playing Nakoruru and even some players placing her closer to the middle of the tier list. I see Verse’s nerf’s in the same vein as that. He wasn’t as ridiculous as she once was but he’s more been brought in line with the game than gutted of his ability.

All things considered Verse is still very strong against mid range characters and has an amazing fireball game where you can super cancel to catch someone attempting to jump your fireball. Verse super fireball is 6f and retains invulnerability either until the fireball comes out or the fireball comes out regardless of him being hit in the startup. It’s a very fast reversal that can’t be hopped over by a large portion of the cast and can punish their own fireball game or even attempts to navigate his.

On top of that the “nerf” to his RDP+A more so changed the utility. It is far more likely to only get the first hit in combos now meaning you can almost always confirm into st.C > fwd.B. This is important as it allows access to consistent set play and some of Verse’s higher damage combos. Overall Verse is still a strong character that has to be played more solid and less abusive since the 2.0 update. There are still strong Verse players out there doing work with the character and I think it will either take some time for others to figure that out or a harsh wake up call for those sleeping on him at this point like what happened early in KoFXIV’s life.

Now lets quickly jump away from near the top for an explanation on the bottom. Vanessa is trash. She does not work for KoFXIV in the slightest. Her normals are utterly terrible, she requires meter to function and the stun combos are mostly restricted to anchor position to be viable. The problem is 1 stun combo gives your opponent all of their meter. If it’s not the last character you just opened yourself to get absolutely BOPPED in return. It’s very difficult for her to get an opportunity to get a hit in the first damn place and unfortunately the return just doesn’t outweigh what you can end up setting yourself up for. I think she might even be worse than launch KoFXIV Choi and Chang.

Back to the regular schedule: lets talk Kensou. Kensou is a very strong character in KoFXIV with one of the best and most consistent fireball games. Why isn’t he played!? I think a lot of people just don’t see his appeal(and neither do I, I think he looks like a bit of a turbonerd and there’s much cooler characters to go for). But to talk about his gameplay he has all he needs to be strong. His jump arc is good and his j.CD is an especially great button that causes a lot of blockstun, combine this with his top tier sweep and good range overhead and he can become both frustrating and dangerous. His damage might not be the greatest but it’s good enough to get by.

So what else is there other than that? He has various good anti air normals and a DP you can buffer while blocking. His DP can be cancelled to fireball super and is safe(that’s what they nerfed about K’ after all…) even from a guard roll. Essentially to bait his DP you must roll yourself, giving up any presence you had to do so.

I think the trap a lot of people fall into with Kensou is that you can hop cr.D > A fireball and it’s a very easy trap to fall into playing him but also a very narrow minded way to think of his weakness. That sweep is only -4 and choosing to do nothing allows Kensou to DP the jump over as it has to predictive and also opt for more damage + hard knockdown with the super cancel. To top it off his low profile is quite strong and in KoFXIV low profile is a very powerful tool. It’s a much stronger option for Kensou than it was in previous KoF games and for this reason + his overall strength and consistency I place him as a high tier character.

So Athena. Everybody seems to think she is fantastic but I’m of the opinion she has some serious weaknesses. Her fireball game is fantastic but her pressure game is quite…lackluster I’ll say. You see her jump’s and jump arc is not good for pressure at all, nor are her jump normals so rule that out straight away.

Her A fireball’s no longer combo from cl.C or other heavy normals meaning she needs to commit to fwd.B or a C fireball to get any reward both of which end her pressure. fwd.B is punishable and the B Phoenix Arrow can even be normal throw punished in XIV depending on the positioning, otherwise a 1f command grab is required as it was in KoFXIII. Overall I don’t think her pressure game is very good, nor is it particularly scary. cr.C and st.D are both good ways to pop into max mode on a whiff punish or in the event you think they will hit but outside of that she’s not particularly impressive.

Her command grab is still strong and arguably even better than in previous games thanks to the free super cancel but the issue I see with it is that midscreen it’s high risk for moderate at best reward. The damage the opponent can retaliate with for reading it is very high in this game and that damage is accessible frequently and even early in a match. In the corner the reward is quite similar to the damage that can be done in return but overall due to its weakness midscreen I don’t think it’s the greatest in the systems of KoFXIV.

A quick note also is that her C DP is not fully invincible and can be beaten by jump ins at times and Athena is still considered grounded during this time which can result in a full combo on her for a mistimed anti air.

If I was to summarise Athena in KoFXIV it’s that her fireball game is absolutely fantastic but her close range game is nothing out of the ordinary. Because of this I think she is very reliant on the fireball game and some of the stronger characters in the game as well as some even in the tier I’ve placed her with are quite good against her. It’s for this reason I don’t rate her in that tier with Mai or Kyo like a lot of other players seem to be doing. Although she might dominate in her good MU’s her bad MU’s can be very difficult. Characters such as Benimaru, Billy, Kyo, Leona, Nakoruru, Choi, Verse, and Kula can give her a hard time and I think that inconsistency, especially against popular characters does not warrant her to be considered among the top of the line characters. She was very much a candidate for the tier just above where she is currently sitting but in the end I decided to place her one lower just because of the heavy reliance on her fireball game and the problems that come with that.


To save this initial write up becoming insanely wrong I’m going to split it up a bit. I intend to get the next part out tomorrow night but I might not be able to. If it’s not there tomorrow it will be early next week as I’m away for the weekend. I intend to talk about Billy, Mature, Meitenkun and Vice next. I want to do 5 at a time if possible so if there are any requests for the 5th then I’ll work them in. Once I am done with clearing up the oddball choices I’ll move onto working from the top down and likely in a bit more of a short format outlining general reasons for their position.

Hopefully you found reading this enjoyable and if you have any thoughts on what I’ve said I’d be happy to hear them and discuss. However, if you are going to say x character is better/worse then please justify it in some way. You are providing me with no insight on that kind of comment and I’d love to hear it or even discuss the character as the possibility I have overlooked something, not realised something or that I have misunderstood something is definitely there. So please, provide something constructive if you are going to provide anything, even if it’s privately in DM as I know 140 characters isn’t the greatest avenue for discussion like this.

And to avoid any heartbreak I’m not really a big fan of people telling me I’m wrong because other people don’t have a character at x position on their list or x character is unpopular and I don’t see them in whatever tournaments I watch so you are wrong. I find those kinds of comments quite pointless so if you’re going to make them just don’t yeah?

Thank you!


4 thoughts on “My KoFXIV Tier List Explained Part 1/?

  1. I enjoyed reading this Atma, I learned how to assess a characters strength somewhat and what to take into account when rating certain characters. Hope to see more in the future.


  2. Very good, man…. just waiting for the second part….. is always good to see others “points of view”…. even with disagreements…..


  3. Hi, I really enjoyed reading this tier list and agree with a lot of points made. Any chance you could write up more of it or an updated one in case your opinions have changed?

    I wish more people would provide their written thoughts with a tierlist, because it helps so much with understanding the placements and overall logic. I have a friend who would be very interested in reading more too and believe that it might nudge him to get this game, because it’s actually kinda hard to find an updated list and he cares about the meta.

    Thanks for the read!


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