Soul Chasing Claw is the eponymous skill of Royal Guards and one of the most frustrating styles to counter for a new player. It's a nice, robust style with clear strengths and weaknesses, and it's one of my favorite styles in Age of Wushu even though I don't use it myself.

Unfortunately, Soul Chasing Claw feels a bit unfair when it's used against you at first. It has long-range, high-damage combos that seem unstoppable, but for the most part it's smoke and mirrors. It's simply a set of tools that are useful rather than all-powerful. Most RGs that rely exclusively on this style are easy to beat for experts, but it is a useful addition to any external Yang martial artist's toolkit.

Quick lesson on the tools

Soul Chasing Claw is a very pure style, meaning it has very few moves and is thus easy to master. The primary threat from the style is its long-ranged pull, which knocks foes toward the user. It's similar to DHCH's pull, except the RG pull applies a bleed debuff that encourages combos with other attacks. Both pulls are nigh-instantaneous; they are not faster than lunges, but they are faster than most other CC effects.

The second and third moves are the feint as well as a long-ranged stun. The most notable thing about these moves is that they're both slow and they both have the same animation. It's a very obvious twirl over the RG's head followed by flinging the chain forward. The feint is on a long cooldown (similar to Long Boxing's feint) and is just a long-ranged guard crush. The stun is just a long-ranged stun. A Guardsman can combo the stun into a pull if it lands.

Finally, the other three moves. First, there's a two-fisted punch attack that nobody uses. It can be built up to knock the enemy back, but the KB won't take effect unless it actually hits, making it sort of bad. It's better to never use this move or even hotkey it and to instead use a block skill from a different style such as Soul Losing Blade. Second, there's a chain spin attack, which has hyper armor and deals bonus damage when used after the pull. Finally, and very oddly, Soul Chasing Claw has a lunge super.

The bread and butter combo of this style is pull into spin into super. In order to land it, a Guardsman can use his stun or feint to open the enemy up and then combo into pull.

The "weakness" is close range

Most people who fight against Soul Chasing Claw will tell you to just get in close. This is technically true, though it's only part of the solution. The real trick to fighting against Soul Chasing Claw is patience, and if you're using the style yourself against someone who knows how to beat it, you have to exhibit a fair amount of patience yourself.

Soul Chasing Claw's pull is an extremely powerful long-ranged punisher. It will completely stop you from airdashing in; approaching on the ground with Goose is safe, but the RG can just Goose away in response. However, if the pull is down you can more or less approach with impunity. The only threat the RG can leverage if his pull is down is his spin, which does much less damage and almost none if blocked. It also fills up the defender's super meter rapidly if blocked, since it deals its damage over many hits. Most good RGs simply understand that the spin is only for combos and when they are 100% sure it will trade favorably.

Because both the pull and the stun have a short deadzone of about 8 feet, an attacker can be fairly safe when standing very close. However, many fighters assume that simply because they are within 8 feet, the RG is helpless. This is a mistake! Good opponents will wait for their attacker to feint and airdash back pull, or perhaps they will just switch to a close-ranged style and take their foe off-guard. Even when you're close, you have to be patient. Knowing the enemy's many options really helps.

Honestly, I find it easier to fight RGs at slightly further ranges, just outside the deadzone. This makes it harder for them to pull a surprise style switch but still makes it possible to punish the feint or stun with a melee-ranged interrupt. In fact, being outside the deadzone gives the RG more ways to mess up, since there is virtually no way to break an enemy's guard at 10 feet without using his chain feint, and throwing a pull at an enemy blocking at that distance is a free invitation to rush down.

I find that the two best Yin external styles, Golden Snake Sting and Departing Sting, do exceptionally well against Soul Chasing Claw. In general, if you can avoid surprise style switches and react well to the overhead spin animation of the feint and stun, you should do just fine. The one thing I would recommend if you're having trouble against this style is to have an RG friend run around while feinting and pulling (no stunning), just so you can tell the difference.

Next time we'll cover Soul Chasing Claw more from the attacker's point of view. It has a lot of really fun shenanigans for expert players, and I also want to talk about style synergies that give opponents lots of grief.

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.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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