The Art of Wushu: Tricks of the royal chains

Soul Chasing Claw is one of the most common and hated styles in Age of Wushu, and last week we went over many ways to counter it. However, on the flip side there are a lot of options for trickery. Like most ranged styles, Soul Chasing Claw is devastating as a switch to a melee style. Its main weaknesses are well-known, so cunning is needed against a skilled enemy.

Fortunately, it has a lot of advantages. The chain pull is near-instantaneous, so you only need the right opening. It's technically possible to pull people out of the startup of moves like Submerge the Lotus, though it's kind of difficult in practice since the pull has a minimum range. It's a powerful tool, and we'll discuss a lot about getting the most out of it today.

Close air pull

At close range, you have very few options in chain style. You can feint or use your useless close-range punch, or you can spin and try to deal some damage. Unfortunately, these options are all terrible.

At close range, your opponent will generally want to feint because your only good option is to block. Against all styles except Long Boxing, you can do an instant airdash backwards and mash your pull. If you do it properly, your pull will come out near-instantly. More importantly, an opponent who is attempting to react to you won't be able to tell whether you're doing a short airdash, a full airdash, or a close air pull. A short airdash is safe and will block and/or avoid most counters but doesn't get you very far away. A long airdash is vulnerable to anti-air ranged attacks and ranged CC, but if your enemy just stands and blocks, you get away for free. A close air pull beats attacks other than lunges, but if you block until you execute the airdash, you'll probably block those too.

This really only works against impatient people who try to rush you down and are conditioned to feint if you hold your block down for a long period of time. It can be mixed in to a general strategy, but if your opponent does not react at all, things get a little tougher. If your opponent never ever reacts to instant air backdashes, you may try doing instant air backdash feint. Use it sparingly. It's really unsafe, but if your opponent isn't expecting it you might get a free combo.
Circle the moon

The best thing about ranged styles, particularly Soul Chasing Claw, is that a skilled opponent will often wait for you to stick a move out. If that move is Circle the Moon Thrice or Plum Blossoms and Spring Rain, you just won the lottery.

Yes, this does technically mean you either have to learn Soul Chasing Claw as another school or learn another school's styles as an RG. The idea is mainly that against a more capable opponent who does not mindlessly rush down, you can get away with some really fun stuff, like using healing consumables or using a recovery skill. Circle the Moon Thrice is particularly damning because it restores so much mana and the followup Pegasus is not interruptable.

If you successfully land a stun on your opponent, you can also forego comboing in order to use consumables. I call this technique "Lazy Man Drinks Tea," and it works with any ranged stun. Obviously you can't stun into another school's skills, but you can always use a quick-activating heal or mana consumable. Some people frown on this tactic. Obviously, since I'm advising it, I don't.

Mixing up the feint

Your stun is a handy tool. It's mostly handy because it shares the same animation with your pull, and you can therefore fake people out with it. At least 99% of fighting against Soul Chasing Claw is reacting to the feint. What if your attack wasn't a feint?

If your opponent tries to slide through your "feint," then replacing it with your stun usually won't work. Sliding increases dodge chance by a certain amount -- I have no idea how much, but it's large -- so there's a pretty good chance your stun will not land. However, a mistimed slide or a lucky hit will still stun the enemy.

One trick you have in this case is that your pull is still available. If you throw your stun and your opponent tries to get in close -- even if it does not hit -- your opponent must be wary of your pull. Because he's waiting for the pull (he probably thinks your feint is on cooldown), you can potentially mix your feint in there. Very experienced players will guess at this; since the pull is unreactable but the feint is not, I generally still look for the feint in this situation.

However, most intermediate players will see the stun animate and assume it's your feint. If they turtle up (looking for the pull), you can feint into a combo right there. Again, your opponent might be looking for it, so be aware.

Poisons!

There are some things nobody expects, and one of those things is stun poisoned darts against an RG chain user. Poisons work even through blocking, so if you quick-switch to darts, throw a dart, then quick-switch to your chain, you can combo even a blocking enemy. It's hilarious.

You can also do this with health or energy drain poisons, though those are probably better on your chain. Stat draining poisons are only good on people who don't care about blocking, and you're not one of those people.

Other styles

Probably the best way to use Soul Chasing Claw is simply to not be a Royal Guard. External Wudang, Shaolin, external Wanderers and stick Beggars can all benefit from learning Soul Chasing Claw and can confirm a combo for fairly good damage. Shaolin in particular benefit a lot simply because Long Boxing is so oppressive that having a surprise ranged guard crush is extremely devastating. External Wudang can stalemate forever, and Soul Chasing Claw might be their way to deal any damage at all. Unfortunately, it's not exactly a key damage style, and Taiji Sword isn't as scary as Long Boxing is at close range.

However, the key is to be unexpected. Anyone with reasonable dexterity can use Soul Chasing Claw even if the combos aren't all that damaging. The spin has a fairly lengthy animation time, which works to your favor; after doing a combo into spin, you can switch styles with only a handful of seconds to wait.

One of the major tricks in my playbook is to achieve a sort of style overload. If you have a lot of different threats with many ways to counter them, it's hard for an opponent to correctly assess what you will do at any given moment. Soul Chasing Claw is a great way to punish that kind of analysis paralysis and deal decent damage in a wide variety of scenarios.

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.