Why autoguard? I can block just fine!
The biggest reason to use autoguard is lag. Age of Wushu does not queue anything, so it will not even check for most kinds of player input until a player is allowed to input buttons. For whatever reason, if there's any lag, a player cannot perform an attack and immediately block. This isn't such a big deal in most cases, but in the case of instantaneous attack skills like lunges, those critical few milliseconds can mean guaranteed damage. If you perform an attack that is normally safe on block such as a beggar lotus drop but you have even 150ms latency, your lotus drop can be punished by counter-supers.
Autoguard fixes this because it's automatic; the server will automatically block for you in that situation before it recognizes that you're holding down the block key. Even if you want to attack in that situation, if an opponent launches an attack and gets lucky enough to hit the button earlier than you, his attack will come out first, but you'll block it instead of getting hit. This is the first example of something I call "option selecting," a powerful tool in rock-paper-scissors. It beats attacking, feinting, and dodging away and is beaten only by blocking and certain types of attacks.
The power of autoguard doesn't stop there, though. Because you're both blocking and not blocking at the same time, it's very difficult to read. If you release guard, you stop blocking and start regenerating guard meter, and you also stop the weakness effect when you block continuously for a while. At the same time, you also send a mixed message to the enemy. You're not blocking, and yet you are still blocking. This can bait a lot of punishment responses that will not punish because you will block them.
Dealing with the drawbacks of autoguard
The trouble with autoguard is that it is somewhat sticky. If you block an attack with autoguard, it will continue to block until you press and release the guard button. If you're not used to this, it can be difficult to deal with. There are virtually zero times when you will need to release guard instantly and not do anything, so the best way to deal with it is to hold the block button down while in block stun from the attack and release it once you leave block stun. The most timing-sensitive thing you will need to do that this doesn't allow is airdashing, but you can jump while blocking, so you can mash jump, and when your jump comes out, you release the guard button and input your airdash.
If you need to break the sticky guard with a different action such as attacking, just mash that action while in block stun. Your character will automatically stop blocking and perform the action. This works for both attacks and the Wild Goose slide, so you are never limited by human reaction time and can still execute them as fast as lag will allow. And of course, if something happens before lag will allow you to perform your action, you'll block it.
Note that only one feint in the entire game (the Long Boxing feint) is faster than typical latency, so if your opponent guesses feint in this situation you will still beat it. The Long Boxing feint is an entirely different can of worms.
In fact, let's talk about that! There's one specific time you might not want autoguard to trigger, and that's against Long Boxing. If you are hit by the lunge or super of Long Boxing and you have autoguard on, the feint afterwards will force you to block it. This is a bad thing. However, there's a trick to it: If you are inputting a movement direction during the hitstun of these attacks, you won't block the feint (you'll still get hit by it, though). If you block the super or lunge, you are forced to block the Long Boxing feint and cannot avoid it unless lag is on your side. This is forced even if you're not using autoguard. Long Boxing is kind of overpowered due to this specific situation, and I'll complain about it in some other article.
How to get autoguard on your side
Above, I talked about the first tricky issue with autoguard, the sticky block. However, if you don't know how to use autoguard, it's easy to misunderstand when it won't block something and get hit.
Autoguard will block only targeted attacks. It won't block anything that hits in an AoE, including cone fillers, PBAoE attacks, or dive attacks. This includes Breeze Sword's ranged line AoE even though it's targeted. You need to block it manually or react to the startup (it's kind of slow) and get out of the way. Against any style with a CCing dive attack, you probably need to block manually any time your opponent goes airborne (or try to mash attacks). Some other crowd controls, such as Submerge the Lotus, Split Earth Asunder (Long Boxing again?!), and Loathsome Clouds and Rain won't be blocked by autoguard. If it hits in any kind of AoE, you need to block manually.
As I mentioned above, autoguard won't trigger if you're moving laterally or airdashing. It works just fine if you're descending from a jump while not holding the movement keys, but otherwise it won't trigger unless you're stationary. This is also useful to read autoguard baiting. Autoguard cannot trigger if you're moving, so if you want to use it to bait, stop moving before you release the guard button. If you want to block during an airdash (stopping your airdash), you need to do it manually.
You could call Long Boxing a pretty reasonable counter to autoguard, but really it's just imbalanced and is a pretty good counter to everything.
The best way to test if someone's using autoguard is to use a basic dart attack while the enemy is stationary and not blocking. If he blocks it, he's using autoguard. You can use the same trick to force him to block, then hit him with a fast feint attack (such as the Spirit Snake Stick or Eagle Claw feints). If you don't have a fast feint, you can also use AoE attacks that aren't blocked by autoguard.
Lastly and most importantly, you can simply block most of the time like you should, attack when you think he's going to leave himself open, and feint when you think he's going to be blocking. Remember that autoguard doesn't work unless the enemy is stationary, so use that to your advantage.
Autoguard is one of my best-kept secrets. It's not really a secret, but the exact mechanics of how it works are a mystery to a lot of people. Consider the mystery revealed! Don't be afraid to use it, especially if you're high latency. Even if your ping is great, it's still incredibly valuable as a tactical tool!
Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.