A “Guide” to Dueling (by Tempest)

General notes:

From the perspective of more skilled duelists, every guide that’s been made (videos or forum content) has seemed like it’s been written to “teach beginners how to duel beginners.” This is written in an attempt to help fix some of the problems that are seen with those guides (and is simply how I’ve come to see dueling based on how I’ve gotten better; also a reason why some of the points are not expanded upon – I explain things in person when I teach to help prevent confusion when things are mentioned in this way). This guide is also meant to provide references to many of the different parts of dueling that many see as mysterious (like how various parts of the system work) and to clear up misconceptions about commonly debated things. It is also written in a manner meant to help teach those who are starting from the ground up.

I’ve organized the flow of learning into “lessons” for readability. I’ve also grouped specific lessons into sections (section names bolded and marked with quotes) based on how close they relate to each other (from my perspective). If you go through with the intent and desire to learn/teach effectively, you should be successful (based on personal experience with using this to teach people to duel at least on a level to where they enjoy dueling in general).

Additionally, a lot of dueling is about the mentality you have while you’re playing. If you have the fundamentals to work with, you only need the thought process to put them together in order to win (assuming you put everything together perfectly and practice until you’re the best duelist) each duel. Anybody can learn the mechanics and such, but the ones that learn how to apply them correctly will always win given perfect play.


Notes for those wanting to learn:

The aim is to provide a base for new duelists looking for somewhere to start learning or for those who want to teach but don’t have any structure to follow. It is not written (specifically designed not to) for those wanting to be spoonfed about dueling. Definitions of terms will be italicized in a bullet point under the term.

You won’t become a “great” duelist just by reading about dueling (or watching videos on YouTube). It helps, but the only actual way to become better is by taking the things you read/learn about and actually putting them into practice.


Notes for those wanting to teach:

A lot of the points of this guide will overlap with others. While some details may be similar (or even identical), there are always different perspectives that you need to take in. There’s never just one way to approach something.

Some of the names used for terms may be different or the same as others. Not everybody uses the same way to describe things. Make sure to read through the explanations/definitions about each point before jumping to any conclusions about trying to point out inconsistencies or false information.


Table of Contents:

Lesson 1:          Concepts versus Mechanics

Lesson 2:          Circle of defense

Lesson 3:          Factors of sabering

            3.1.      How you defend (concepts/mechanics)

            3.2.      How you attack (concepts/mechanics)

            3.3.      Your movement during your attacks/defense

            3.4.      Your timing during your attacks/defense

            3.5.      Knowledge of dueling mechanics

            3.6.      Natural skill

            3.7.      Adjusting for ping/FPS differences

Lesson 4:          Duality in all things


Dueling 101

This section is focused on going over the generalities of dueling and establishing common terms used throughout the guide. Being able to understand the information presented in this will get you a good starting foothold on dueling.

Lesson 1 - Concepts versus Mechanics

·        What is a concept?

o   Something that is generally more of an idea about how a part of the system works rather than a physical aspect of it.

o   Walking while swinging

§  Walking while swinging generally gives better control over the flow of your swings and helps prevent taking drains associated with running.

o   Not “basing”

§  Basing is a term that’s used to describe the common behavior that occurs in JA+ dueling where people are jumping around and swinging or running constantly while swinging. Doing these causes your BP to drain rapidly or to never have a chance to regenerate back.

·        What is a mechanic?

o   An actual working part of the system that can be seen and/or replicated at will.

o   Example: BP (Blocking Points) – The red bar on the HUD that determines if you’re able to block incoming saber swings. Once you get low enough (generally around 1/3 of the total bar), it can be easier to be killed during your swings. Once your BP reaches zero, you can’t block incoming swings at all. An important thing to note is that you take much larger drains for getting hit while running, jumping, or crouching.

Lesson 2 - Circle of defense

·        Finding a “point of focus”

o   The scale of defense

§  A theoretical idea based on the positioning between you and your opponent. Essentially, the farther someone is from you, the easier/more effective your blocks are overall (and vice versa). Keeping this idea in mind can help you get a solid sense of spacing throughout your duel. Starting at swing length would be a 10 on the “scale” (being the highest level of defense) while being adjacent to someone would be you at a 1 or 0.

o   7 points of contact (by direction of swing and where it hits on your opponent)

§  A – Right to left horizontal at their left arm/ribs

§  D – Left to right horizontal at their right arm/ribs

§  WA – Forward and left diagonal at their left shoulder

§  WD – Forward and right diagonal at their right shoulder

§  AS – Backward and left diagonal at their left foot

§  SD – Backward and right diagonal at their right foot

§  W (special case due to hitboxes) – Downward vertical at their head

o   Body hits versus Saber clashes

§  Body hit – Where your saber makes direct contact with the opponent’s body. There is a smaller visual impact effect and quieter sound when a body hit is made. These are required to build AP/ACM and to drain someone’s BP in general.

§  Saber clashes – Where your saber makes direct contact with the opponent’s saber blade. This is what happens when a perfect block occurs. There is no BP loss associated with saber to saber contact.

o   Positioning (being up close and personal versus the scale)

§  This is mainly just a reinforcement of the scale of defense idea overall. You want to keep your idea of where you position yourself related to how well you’re going to be able to block possible attacks or how well you’re going to be able to attack your opponent.


Lesson 3 - Factors of sabering

When I was originally thinking about how to write a “guide” about dueling, trying to figure out how to break it down was a difficult task. Making it simple enough to follow while keeping enough detail was the main concern that I had to deal with initially. Eventually, I came up with the idea that turned into the seven “factors” of dueling, which seems to cover everything while keeping it understandable.


 “Your Foundation” / Dueling 102

You (the learner or the teacher) can start with either of the two points (defending or attacking). You’ll need to know both either way, but everyone that I’ve asked when teaching has wanted to start with defense as the first part of their foundation of dueling. Knowing one will help you understand the other either way.

3.1       How you defend:


·        Counters (The swing and the “technique”)

o   The swing - Attacking right after you block a swing. If you do it correctly, there will be no windup animation to the swing (very similar to a half swing, but performed off of a block instead). This is most commonly an A swing (since it is the fastest overall).

o   The technique – Not as much a mechanic as the actual counter swing but it is still something that is constant. Once someone initiates a swing or has an animation start, they can no longer perfect block. This means that if someone hits you, they are then open to a body hit until the swing finishes.

·        Parrying/Canceling

o   Two swings clashing and neither duelist losing BP

o   The “swinging as blocking” strategy

§  In addition to trying to block as best as possible in order to lose minimal BP from swings, you can also use your actual swings as a method to prevent yourself from losing BP. This works when two swings hit around the middle of the animation of each one that was done. Preventing someone from getting body hits with your swings while regenerating from blocking well is a very useful combination.

·        Interruptions

o   When someone is hit during the early part of the animation of their swing for maximum BP drain. This can also cause the entire swing to “reset”, causing further possible drains from messed up timing.

o   Why they’re both offensive and defensive

§  The main aspect of interruptions is that if you try to adjust your timing to intentionally cause interruptions more often, it can rapidly drain someone’s BP and put them on the defensive or get them low enough to kill them. This is extremely useful if you’re at a disadvantage or if you are trying to get an edge on your opponent.

·        Manual blocking

o   Disarming an opponent

o   Performing a manual block is done by clicking attack while holding block at the correct time. If done successfully, your opponent will drop their saber and have to wait a short time before being able to call it back. Generally (with adjustments for higher ping as well), you want to try and manually block right before their saber hits yours (it can look like you’re shoving the saber out of their hand in certain circumstances).


This almost had a section of its own based on its importance. Perfect blocking is probably the most essential skill that you can have for dueling with the current system. If you don’t know how to block, you’re going to lose BP regardless of how well you can attack someone.

I’ve divided perfect blocking (or “pblocking”) into five different “levels”. The fourth and fifth “levels” are occasionally switched in terms of progression, but knowing how to do both will add up to the same effect in the end (knowing either one also qualifies as the current “standard” of perfect blocking as noted in the description for what I put as the fourth). The “levels” of blocking are described with a “what’s done” and “what happens as a result” below:

1)     What’s done: You’re essentially standing still and doing nothing to keep you from receiving body hits (looks like blank staring off into space).

What happens: Almost constantly receiving body hits from your opponent. This isn’t a very common problem, but I’ve seen it with enough newer players that I felt to add it for progression’s sake.

2)     What’s done: Keeping your focus on your opponent rather than just staring off into space.

What happens: This causes you to get some saber to saber clashes instead of consistent body hits by your opponent.

3)     What’s done: In addition to keeping your focus on your opponent, adjustments are made with the distance between you and your opponent.

What happens: Much more consistent saber to saber clashes and less body hits received from your opponent (scale of defense concept applied directly in this type of perfect blocking). This is what used to be the “standard” of perfect blocking.

4)     What’s done: While applying the previous type of perfect blocking, an additional adjustment is made for the angle your opponent is looking at.

What happens: Matching the angle that your opponent is looking at causes the sabers to clash more “properly” (For example, if you’re both staring directly at each other with a centered line of vision, the sabers will both clash at a perfect 180° angle with the correct timing. This adjustment attempts to mimic the “perfect” default conditions for clashing, in simple terms.). This is the current “standard” of perfect blocking in most circles.

5)     What’s done: In addition to adjusting for the angle that your opponent is looking at, an adjustment is made for the direction that their swings are coming from.

What happens: In addition to mimicking the “perfect” conditions as noted in the fourth “level” of perfect blocking, making this adjustment is mainly an enhancement to the overall decrease in how many body hits you receive from your opponent. Doing this will give you an actual perfect block (both by observation and by mechanics/coding) almost every time (accounting for lag, human error, etc…) once you’re proficient at it.


3.2       How you attack:


·        Body hits

o   Scale of defense

§  A theoretical idea based on the positioning between you and your opponent. Essentially, the farther someone is from you, the easier/more effective your blocks are overall (and vice versa). Keeping this idea in mind can help you get a solid sense of spacing throughout your duel. Starting at swing length would be a 10 on the “scale” (being the highest level of defense) while being adjacent to someone would be you at a 1 or 0.

o   Comparison to saber clashes

§  Body hits are the foundation of offense in dueling. They’re how you drain any amount of BP from your opponent, build AP, or kill them in general. However, if you’re getting saber hits on someone, then you won’t be draining BP or getting any kind of advantage over the other person. Making sure you’re able to get body hits consistently/more often than not is a key part of winning all duels.

o   Getting “around” someone’s saber

§  Having the goal of getting “around” someone’s saber can help you get body hits more consistently. With the scale of defense idea in mind, you should be trying to get one of the 7 points of contact while avoiding hitting their saber (so they don’t get perfect blocks) as much as possible.

·        AP/ACM

o   Attack Points/Attack Chain Modifier – As you get body hits on someone, it builds your ACM (you can think of it like a type of BP bar that you fill with body hits). As you receive body hits, your ACM decreases (+1 for a body hit you give, -2 for a body hit you receive). Once your ACM increases to a certain point, your AP will also increase, giving you more BP drain per swing that you land.

o   Body hits required for ACM to build into AP for each stance:

§  Red - 4

§  Blue – 9

§  Staff - 7

§  Duals - 6

§  Yellow – 7

§  Perfect blocked hits – Add 0.25 each

·        Nudge

o   The animation caused by being too close to someone and having your saber touching them (slight bouncing)

o   How it causes “instant” swings

§  When any animation for a swing is started, it allows for certain swings to be done instantly (typically the A horizontal). Knowing how to time the nudges can allow for quicker swings more often, giving a slight advantage over your opponent.

·        Combos

o   Doing two or more swings consecutively

o   Exchanging hits – It’s important to be able to do at least as many swings as the other person does (typically three is how many swings are done). If you do less, then they get an additional body hit and/or +1 to their ACM while you take an additional -2 to your ACM.

o   Linking swings

§  Knowing how to link swings together is a fundamental part of dueling. The more ways you know how to link them, the more combinations you understand how to counter as well. A good thing to remember is that opposite swings (such as A to D or WD to AS) are linked the easiest and/or fastest.

o   The “two and one” strategy

§  The easiest three swing combos (generally the most ideal is three swings chained together) are either two horizontals followed by a diagonal or two diagonals followed by a horizontal.



·        “Half” swings

o   A swing that does half of an animation and as a result, does a swing that’s twice as fast as normal swings

o   How they apply with combos

§  You can do a half swing after any swing (as long as you aren’t already in the middle of one), which allows for a lot of possibilities.

§  Delayed swing timing – There is a window for doing a half swing that varies slightly from immediately after a swing to a few moments following it. One of the main ones that people don’t realize is that you can completely alter the timing of your combo by changing between regular linked swings and doing half swings.

o   Drawbacks (Versus blocking and countering in general)

§  Using half swings repeatedly is an easy way to build AP or to get hits on someone in general, but there are downsides to it (along with doing anything repeatedly). Repeatedly attacking from the same side with the same swing makes it incredibly easy to both block your attacks and to counter what you’re doing.

§  Simple question to keep in mind: “If I only do one thing, how easy is it for someone to come up with a way to beat me?”

·        Instant swings

o   A swing that can occur after a nudge from either sabers being close enough to cause the nudge animation or from a slap animation with certain timing.

o   Initiating combos

§  Using an instant swing to initiate a combo can give less time for your opponent to be able to react/counter you and let’s be on the offensive more often.

o   Use in countering

§  If you learn how to control when instant swings happen (at least somewhat consistently), then you can use that to cause interrupts and out of the ordinary timing shifts to counter what your opponent is doing.

·        Swing blocking

o   Holding block after you initiate a swing

o   Comparison to non-swing blocks

§  Non-swing blocks do an additional 40% BP drain compared to swing blocks. It’s not a complete necessity to swing block on every swing you do, but knowing how to do it consistently is a fundamental that is a necessity.

o   Advantages/disadvantages

§  The main purpose of swing blocking is to prevent yourself from being mblocked (disarmed). However, this does give you less BP drain on your hits than non-swing blocks.

§  One side effect of trying to swing block a lot is that it makes you prone to accidentally mblocking if you get into a rhythm of bad timing. This mainly occurs when you are extremely close to your opponent.


“Teacher’s Preference/ Dueling 103

The points in this section are mainly based on the perspective of whoever is teaching (since they’re rather vague/general ideas and depend on the personal style of whoever is playing). There isn’t really much to go into specifically other than that most of what relates to this section comes with time and practice. Additionally, some of these are included simply as things to keep in mind or to think about if you don’t already.

3.3       Your movement during your attacks/defense

·        General positioning ideas

o   Scale of defense relational positioning

§  Kind of a review of things already said, but you should be keeping the scale of defense idea in your mind while you’re positioning yourself (whether that’s defending or attacking). It’s a rather underrated thing that can make a big difference once you actively incorporate it into your dueling.

·        Footwork

o   Positioning the saber (starting/interrupting animations)

§  You have to be able to move around and get your saber into a good position for being able to attack or defend on a constant basis. Remembering that a major part of dueling comes from where you/your saber are in relation to the other person is another underrated skill that can make a big difference.

o   Momentum shifts

§  Being able to move around and make a good situation out of a bad one is typically what I call a momentum shift. Not only is it knowing how to hold out in a bad situation to try and make a good one out of it, it’s also knowing how to keep a situation that’s in your favor that way until you win the duel. Generally the most common way to do either of these is to understand when to be aggressive, when to be more neutral, and when to be on the defensive at the appropriate times.

3.4       Your timing during your attacks/defense

·        Getting in/staying in your rhythm

o   Bluffing (varying when/how)

§  Knowing when to bluff (it’s a small part of dueling that isn’t really required/necessary to be successful but it can help) depends mainly on who you’re dueling and their level of experience combined with how familiar they are with you. There’s not any one way to do it or any one time you should (important note to remember). Doing it at the right time can give you the extra time you need to get back on your feet or give you a moment to get momentum going in your favor.

§  The first thing to know about how you can try to “bluff” your BP is to first recognize what you do when you’re at certain levels of BP (what you do when you’re almost at zero, what you do when you’re at half, and what you do at full are good places to start). Knowing what you do at certain times (especially with people that are familiar with how you duel) can let you throw people off by giving them a false sense of security (when they think you’re low) or by making them less aggressive (when they think you’re full). Also, understanding what most people normally do when they’re at certain levels of BP (i.e. backing off, playing more aggressive, etc.) can help you even further with creating an illusion of false security/aggression when properly done.

o   Never back down (the “aggressive-aggressive” problem)

§  This is a concept that I want to emphasis more than a lot of others. One mistake that I see both in newer players and more experienced ones is that once something happens that puts them at a disadvantage against an (extremely) aggressive duelist, they immediately play defensive. That’s not a bad thing to do, necessarily, but when you stay in a defensive playing style against someone that’s very aggressive, you often won’t ever be able to get momentum going back in your favor. You have to be confident enough in yourself to not lose control when you make a mistake and to keep on dueling how you normally do (this is also a part of bluffing as a side note).

·        Reading your opponent

o   While this takes a bit of practice and comes mainly from understanding the main concepts and mechanics, it makes duels much easier. Being able to find someone’s habits during duels makes it easy to counter what they’re doing (whether that’s just using certain movements, playing more aggressively/defensively, so on). The main things to look for (from my experience/observation) are how your opponent tries to block, how aggressive/defensive they are, any repetitive combos that are done, and (a bit more advanced and harder to see generally) to see if they understand how to compensate for disadvantages such as ping delay (a lot of these types of things aren’t verbalized for the most part but you can always ask if they don’t use a mouse, are having FPS problems, etc…).

·        Adapting to your opponent

o   Know when to change what you’re doing

§  While it is good to get good at doing certain things (being exceptional at countering, manual blocking, or any number of things), they won’t always work in every circumstance. Having a wide enough variety in your dueling is very important for when you (and you will) duel someone that plays in a way that your normal routine just doesn’t work at all. Small changes to what you are already doing can work, but sometimes it does take an entire shift in mentality/playstyle to deal with certain individuals.


3.5   Knowledge of dueling mechanics (slight review in some regards)

·        Swings versus swings (clashing and importance of swing timing)

o   Understanding how key timing is to dueling is one of the most important parts of dueling itself (and most people don’t have this). From determining when an interruption will happen, to who wins an exchange of swings, timing is everything. The idea to understand is that the earlier someone is hit in their swing, the larger drains they will receive (while being hit early enough causes an interruption/reset along with high drains).

·        The “Doing X action against Y action at Z time” idea

o   “There is no one way to approach dueling”

§  A common misconception (especially among newer players) is that there’s some secret combo or magical mechanic that will make them a better duelist/automatically better in general. This is false. There are many things that can all factor into your skill, but there’s not any one thing that is going to guarantee you to win each time.

·        Understanding what works and what doesn’t

o   Emphasizing adaptation

§  Going back to the concept of adaptation for a moment…You have to understand as many mechanics/concepts (whether from reading or experimentation or both) to be able to adapt to what your opponent is doing on a constant basis. Without that, you’ll just be doing the same thing against everyone and when it fails, you won’t understand why/how to change to stop it from continuing.

·        Combining concepts and mechanics

o   Going hand in hand with each other

§  Another reiteration of previously mentioned things that needs to be emphasized again…You need to understand both the conceptual things in dueling and the mechanical to be able to reach your full potential.

·        The “Play to win” mentality

o   Do what works

§  When it comes down to winning, you should do what you know how to do well to give you the best chances of winning. Trying to do stuff you learned ten minutes prior against someone that’s competent isn’t likely to work out well. However, practicing new things against competent players is the best way to know that you’re able to do them well enough to always be reliable.

3.6       Natural skill

·        Timing

o   Some players will naturally have better timing (usually people that play a lot of games, not even competitively, will have a better sense of timing that can transfer over to MB2). That’s just a fact of how things work. However, the more you practice something, the better you get at it. For example, if you want to get good at certain combos, you have to practice them over and over until you have the timing down precisely. That’s the process for improving your timing with everything (practice, practice, practice).

·        Reflex

o   Good reflexes are an important aspect that I think goes along with timing rather well. Being able to block sudden swings or do correct swings when needed without having to think it through is a very noticeable difference I’ve seen between many players of equal technical/mechanical skill. Even with equal technical/mechanical skill, one could dominate the other simply because they can do more (possibly better) things on reflex.

·        Instinct

o   A kind of subtle addition to reflex, if you have a solid foundation with mechanics/concepts (and any other number of things that can make you a good player), then your “dueling instinct” will be able to do the things that you do best throughout each and every duel.

·        Reaction time

o   Also one of the more important things alongside timing (that also takes in instinct/reflex into account). Being able to react quickly with the best possible option is also a skill that can set players equal in everything else apart by a large margin.


3.7       Adjusting for ping/FPS differences (more theoretical with some observable parts though)

·        Changing your timing

o   Ping ranges (1-45, 45-85, 90-125, 125-150, 150-200, 200-215, 215+; personal opinion for the most part)

§  I’ve personally seen how much ping can make a difference in dueling (both for the person lagging and the person dueling against the one lagging). The ranges I’ve listed are typically the ones that I’ve seen have no problems in timing or having to adjust at all.

§  Generally, if there’s a 50 or higher ping difference between you and the person you’re dueling, you need to think about what you need to do to adjust in the duel.

§  Important tip: If you have a lower ping/higher FPS, you can generally be more aggressive because your inputs will be faster and recognized better (in my opinion/logically) and vice versa as well.

o   A note for extra caution: If there’s a situation where one (or both in rare cases) where you have large ping/FPS fluctuations, you need to take extra care when you go in to take swings or when you try to react. Trying to do too much with a lot of fluctuating going on can end up with your timing shifting randomly (i.e. going from 50 to 150 ping suddenly) and you losing large chunks of BP from bad inputs as a result.

·        Re-working your approach

o   Differences in American and European dueling mentalities

§  A way that you can improve your dueling without actually learning anything new mechanically/technically is by looking at different groups (whether that’s a pair that duels often or the other half of the dueling “community”) that duel often. I personally learned a lot just by going and watching people duel on the EuroDuelArena server and seeing what differences there were compared to Glowstick Nation or Honor Duels (quite a lot as a side note). Simply observing or asking is all it takes to improve or learn something new that can make you better (there’s no harm in asking!).

·        Conscious efforts to change how you duel

o   While this partially applies to the adaptation idea, it’s not solely tied into that. If you notice that something is harming how you duel (whether that’s having cold hands, being sick, having bad internet, etc.), then you need to figure out what’s happening and fix it as best as possible. Trying to duel your best or practice new things can’t happen effectively if you physically can’t do inputs or your equipment (mouse/keyboard) doesn’t work properly, as an example.

·        Consistent changes

o   Adaptation and integration

§  Not only is a part of dueling about adapting and changing what you do, but you need to keep the changes that help your dueling. This can be difficult, but it is very worth it (speaking from personal experience). This can happen via having mechanical errors pointed out, seeing how something negatively affects you, or just repeating something over and over until you develop/replace muscle memory. It depends entirely on the individual.


“A Personal Touch”

This short section is about something that’s always been a foreign idea to those that I’ve discussed it with. I think that once you’ve gotten a solid understanding of your offense, defense, and everything else that relates between the two, you’ll have a full understanding of the system (not knowing just one or the other is always sufficient). I believe that when you reach that point, you’ll understand the idea of “duality” in all things.

Lesson 4 - Duality in all things

·        Offensive/Defensive aspect to all things

o   Pretty much the entire theory behind this idea is that there is a defensive part of an action and an offensive part of an action. That can be apply to anything from slaps, swings, positioning, the style you’re using, and so forth.

·        Seeing both sides of an offensive or defensive action

o   All it takes to see the offensive and/or defensive aspect of what happens is thinking about how it affects you and how it affects the other person. An easy example is how will your opening swing alter your positioning in relation to your opponent (can be either offensive or defensive), what kind of hit (saber/body) will it do (can be offensive or defensive, depending on intention), and what kind of swings can/will you follow up with (can be offensive or defensive depending on how the initial swing/positioning/etc went). Thinking about things like that can improve your performance alone because having an understanding of what your actions are going to do will naturally make you do them better (if you think about it enough and actually apply it in your dueling).