Hey, everyone! Welcome to our new piece of Daily Content! Every Tuesday, we will be releasing articles about our games! These can range from simple things like analyzing the base pentagon in BattleCON to complex card counting in EXCEED. This week, we have an EXCEED Guide from Jay Green!
Hey all, welcome to my first in a new series of strategy articles that will help you figure out the basic strategies of every character. These quick-start guides are intended to help you learn a characters basic strengths, weaknesses, and strategies, so you can start using them and feel like you know what you are doing. Mastery will take practice and matchup familiarity, but getting started is a lot easier.
Baelkhor is a plodding juggernaut who can seem unreliable and slow to get going, but who is also absolutely terrifying when in the zone. His unique ability allows him to remove opponent's attacks from the game, and later powers him up for doing so. This, plus the fact that he gets stronger after his reshuffle, make him fairly unique among the season 1 roster.
Baelkhor is a Sealing Fan
Baelkhor can seal enemy attacks when he hits them. This not only makes his exceed side stronger, but it also has the valuable effect of denying the opponent gauge if they also hit you. Unfortunately, sealing attacks this way costs valuable life. Don't be afraid to spend this life if your opponent is using a normal attack (because his ultras and specials don't increase your exceed power), or if you really need to deny them gauge. But don't go overboard with it either. Your true source of seals are actually your boosts. You have 6 cards in your deck that provide a sealing boost effect. Of particular importance is Apocalypse Seal, the boost on "From Hell". With this, you completely remove both copies of one of your opponents normals from the game. This boost is so strong it will even dig through their deck to remove the chosen card. The cost is that you'll have to have one copy of that attack in your hand, and seal it as well. But its usually worth it, especially if you can catch your opponent when this attack is in their hand. Endless Power and Devouring Souls will seal your own attacks, which is still useful, since you can power up your specials and ultras in exceed mode this way. Endless Power seals random cards, which can accidentally hurt you if something you needed ends up being sealed. And in disastrous cases, it can cause both copies of the same card to be sealed. You should still use this boost, but take the risks into account.
Patience is a Virtue, Even for Villains
To gain a benefit from your unique ability, you have to seal cards, and then go into exceed mode. Furthermore, several of Baelkhors attacks gain power the longer the game goes on (Soul Ripper and Desperate Might power up when you reshuffle, Accursed Gaze when you've sealed several cards). This adds up to make a kit that is weighted towards a lot of late game power, at the expense of a weaker early game. Therefore, your basic gameplan is to stall a lot early on, play key boosts to increase your seals, and cycle your deck quickly to get to key cards while preparing for a reshuffle. Then when you're ready, go into exceed mode, reshuffle, and unleash a devastating string of attacks to finish out the game. Psychologically, this requires you to be okay with "losing" in the early and mid game. Its better to stay in the lead all the way, but Baelkhor has one of the strongest comeback potentials in the game, and it doesn't matter if you win at 20 life, or 1, you still win. The tactically important options to keep in mind here are the reshuffle action, the change cards action, and the Change of Strategy boost. Baelkhor should be more proactive with reshuffle than other characters, who mostly want to use it to keep their cards in hand a secret and refresh their options. With Baelkhor, reshuffling is its own benefit, and should be used as soon as you are confident you can close out the game before you deck yourself out. The change cards action has niche applicability, even with Baelkhor. But if key cards are buried in your deck, it can sometimes be better to dump your entire hand for a new one than to wait too long for a critical attack or boost while your opponent gets free turns to set up and hit you. Finally, Change of Strategy is fantastic for both cycling your deck while also making your next strike more dangerous.
Make Them Afraid
The flip side of the previous paragraph is that if your opponents know you want to stall, they have much more incentive to play a rushdown strategy against you. So to circumvent this, you need to remind them every once in a while that going all out against you can be a really bad idea, even if you aren't powered up yet. Face of Fear and Dark Insight are both fantastic at doing this, because they both put the opponent in a position where they can avoid your most dangerous attacks if they agree to wait and let you build up. Baelkhor also has a few attacks (like Blade of souls) that although costly, are very big threats. The key is to constantly threaten huge power. And sometimes, deliver on those threats. This applies even when fully setup. Threaten with 3 or 4 attacks that receive the exceed boost. Sometimes the mere possibility of playing these is enough to make the opponent play suboptimally, and you can punish him more easily with non-boosted attacks. But deliver on these threats, because you lose the psychological advantage of fear if he doesn't know what its like to take a 10 damage hit out of nowhere. Another aspect of this strategy is that you should be willing to lean into riskier plays for the sake of sometimes cashing out huge. In practice, this means doing things like wild swinging when you'd rather play something from your hand, or playing an attack that is a bit predictable, but hits hard. It can also mean being more willing to commit to a hard read (in fighting game terms, a hard read is a move that expects a specific behavior from the opponent, and which does not work if the opponent does anything else) every once in a while.
Weaknesses and Vulnerabilities
Baelkhor may hit like a truck, but his shortcomings can make using him quite daunting. That is why you should be aware of what they are, so you can play around them more effectively, and have plans for what to do when an opponent exploits them
- Baelkhor has middling speed. He isn't quite as slow as some of the cast, but he certainly isn't fast. This can lead to struggles against speedsters that circumvent his dangerous moves.
- Limited at ranges longer than 3. Baelkhor has one good long range attack, which also happens to be a very good boost as well. So he can struggle to make effective use of his cards against rangers. Which is made worse by...
- Low mobility. None of Baelkhor's boosts move him, so he frequently relies on force for repositioning. This isn't good though, because...
- Tricky hand management. Knowing which cards to hold on to, and which to use for force can be very difficult for Baelkhor. To make things worse, several boosts drain his hand which make it very difficult to both pay necessary force costs (moving, for instance) while also holding key cards for later use.
- Unreliable power before the late game. This one is a consequence of needing a lot of build up to hit his most powerful state, and can be exploited by good rushdown.
This list is shorter than the vulnerabilities, but I find that his strengths more than make up for what you have to endure to get them.
- Powerful late game. Baelkhor is a phenomenal closer, able to take an opponent from 20+ health to 0, in as few as 3 hits. All while having a variety of great options for how to do so. He has to work to get to this point, but once he's there he can end the game very quickly.
- Fantastic anti-defense options. Baelkhor's mid speed anti-juggernaut options are top notch, allowing him to hit hard and fast enough to stun out attacks that are meant to shrug off damage and trade.
- Amazing mind game potential. Baelkhor can pull off some terrifying bluffs, that have major penalties for an opponent who doesn't know which side of an option you are bluffing. This can be both from strong boosts and strong late game attacks.
Apocalypse Seal Quick Start
Apocalypse Seal is Baelkhor's most important boost, so using it well can have a big impact on a game. The specific cards you want to seal will be largely influenced by both a matchup and your circumstances when you draw the card. But here is a rough idea of what to seal with it:
- Sweep: This is a good catchall of what to seal, as its always good on just about everyone
- Cross: Rangers often rely on the boost effect to get out of corners. Seal it on them to make it harder for them to play keep away.
- Focus: Strong defensively, with a strong offensive boost. Against clever and experienced opponents, you may want to make sure they never have a chance to play Reading on you.
- Spike: You can make your own slow attacks safer by making sure this isn't a threat
- Dive: Sealing this would mostly be about making sure your powerful boosts can't be cancelled.
- Grasp: Usually not a priority, but your grasp does have a useful function in setting up the From Hell ultra. So making it harder for the opponent to grasp on the same turn has use.
- Assault: Also not a priority, but it is another movement option you could take from rangers.
- Block: Please don't seal this with Apocalypse Seal. You usually shouldn't even seal it when you hit a blocking opponent.
Opening Hands and Mulligans
Since having key cards buried at the bottom your deck is something you don't want, Baelkhor should make aggressive use of his Mulligan. Ideally, your opening hand will have From Hell (for the boost), a normal attack that you want to remove from the opponents deck, and a copy of Soul Ripper for its long range. But From Hell is usually what I fish for more than anything else, because of how valuable it is, and how bad it is to seal it/wild swing into it by accident. Other good opening hand cards include anything that helps you play mind games, and maybe Blade of Souls so you have less chance of accidently wild swinging into it.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how Baelkhor is meant to be used, and gives you inspiration to try him out for yourself.
If you've got a few games under your belt with Baelkhor, let me know how it went. Tell me what matchups you think are hard and easy, and what your favorite targets for sealing are.
Thanks a lot, Jay! That was very insightful! Tune-in again NEXT WEEK for another Weekly Article!