So you've beaten Gwyn with all sorts of builds, and if you ask yourself “ What's next?” or “ What happens now?” then this brief introduction to the wondrous world of Player versus Player in Dark Souls is for you. Contained within is a basic outline of the Mindset, Mechanics and Movesets that can help you brave the intimidating playing field of Dark Souls PvP.
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What is a Mind set? I suggest reading this article to get an idea of the mindset you should have when coming this part of the game. It is a fairly popular exposition of what 'Play to Win' means, and the benefits to not only the metagame but, the game itself. Playing the game to its fullest extent allows for a real dominant strategy to be developed and, a legitimate counter to appear then a true counter-counter, ad infinitum. You might think of 'real', 'legitimate', and 'true' as unnecessary modifiers, but the importance of being so permitting of even what you currently think is unfair allows unorthodox responses to whatever is the current metagame is. What you think as unfair is often the counter to what you're doing. The ball is now in your court, and it is up to you decide how to respond to whatever is making you cry 'cheap!'
So, what does it mean to play for the win in Dark Souls? The game is very versatile, and there are many ways to play, and consequently there are many ways to win. The two main ways to play PvP: Invading and Dueling. When you are playing the 'Invading' game, it is your goal to win by any means necessary. This goes for both the host and invader. Comparatively, playing the 'Dueling' game is match between two players on equal footing, with no healing, engaging in fairly straightforward bout with many implicit rules of mutual respect. Playing to win is very different in both games within a game. Both need to be examined separately to get a definitive answer.
What does it mean to play to win in the 'Invading' game? For the invader, you'll be willing to hide, to heal, to lie, beg, borrow and steal your way to killing the host of the world you just invaded. As the enemy of your enemy is your friend, you'll be using the hostiles already in their world to your advantage and to buy time. The host has a smaller quantity, (most times) better quality resource of phantoms to use. Both host and invader will use everything at their disposal to kill each other, and they have well-stocked arsenal of weapons. The nuanced mechanics and style present are often ignored while playing 'Invasion', and instead the matches are determined by who can goad the other into making a large enough opening to end the fight in a single calumnious calamity. Playing to win in the 'Invading' game is playing to trick.
What does it mean to play to win in the 'Dueling' game? It means using every tactic that you can devise and utilize yourself to kill your opponent. Superficially similar to playing the 'Invading' game, the aspect of mutual respect allows a much deeper, satisfying use of the engine. Parrying, dead-angles, pivot-canceling and a whole other slew of advance techniques can flower and come to a crux. However, it only comes to this as both participants are willing to fight each other equally. This is often viewed as the 'true' Dark Souls PvP.
You can say that the 'Invasion' game is to 'Dueling' what a medieval war is jousting, perhaps a bit less restrictive. The mindset you should have when deciding to do Dark Souls PvP is that you are playing to win, but make sure you playing the right game! An important thing to remember is that there are 'zones' for certain kinds of PvP. You'll get a lot of the 'Invasion' game should you decide to play in the Forest or Klin, but at the higher Soul Levels in the Undead Burg you'll find people exclusively playing the 'Dueling' game.
This general statement of deciding to 'play to win' is dandy, and all that, but it fails to give an exemplar of what to think when approaching a match. The concept of playing to win is an ascetic with which your individual style of game-play should encompass, and to give a more specific idea of what mindset you should be bringing to the controller you'll need to have understanding of the mechanics build in game that reward and discourage various ideas.
Let us take a look at one system that is often much maligned, Backstabs. It is generally accepted as a safe, powerful attack, and you should always take them give the choice. If this was all there was to PvP, then it would often degenerate into backstab fishing matches. A cynic might point out the existence of such a battle, but I counter-point with the fact that there are safe move that cannot be punished with a backstab. This makes simply fishing a losing proposition, and there needs to be a response to the safe pokes. These are stronger attacks that are capable of being backstabbed punished; these do more damage which make simply poking a losing proposition. However, these moves are capable of being punished with a backstab. This creates a sort of rock-paper-scissors match between weapons; small weapons like an Estoc are capable of doing pokes and backstabs, large weapons like a Great Axe are capable of the risky hits and backstabs, while other weapons like a Silver Knight Spear can do both pokes and risky hits. Some weapons are capable of doing only one thing; a Composite Bow can only poke, while a Bandit's Knife is only good for the Backstab, and various Magics are the exemplar of a strong but, risky attack.
You may have noticed that the theoretical Estoc has the imaginary Great Axe beat when “playing to win”; the Estoc user can simply backstab fish without fear of retaliation. This is true, but a solid build would be capable of doing all three forms of combat. It wouldn't be ridiculous for the Great Axe user to get some points in Dexterity to get a +5 Chaos Composite Bow, which would allow him to poke his opponent into attacking. Draw bow cancels in fact, make this a very good idea. The Estoc user might be facing a losing battle should the Bow be used correctly, and would have to do risky attacks to deal more damage. Getting a Sunlight Blade buff to place on his weapon could increase the damage his risker attacks does could help him compete with the damage that the Great Axe could be doing, but he'd be operating on a time limit. The fictitious Great Axe user can now compete with the previously guaranteed-a-victory Estoc. When making a build, you'll have to realize some of the mechanics to make sure you don't succumb to being vulnerable to a backstab fisher. Your build will be dead from the get-go if you do this.
Taunts, Hatemail, Glitches, and various other methods of annoyance are quite successful at ruining someone's day. However, when facing a glitcher, you need to ask yourself: did you really lose a PvP match? At the higher levels of play, you'll already have maximum humanity, more souls than could possibly need, and you're just playing to have fun. The only thing in a match that you can lose is your pride, and you haven't even lost that as it wasn't even a real match! You need to think of being summoned to a glitcher's world as simply being waiting time between matches, not a match in itself. What if you just keep being brought to this glitcher's world? If you treat as wait time, then you know what you need to do if don't get any PvP action in an area for a while: move somewhere else. This is how I personally treat unfair matches when I am looking for duels; it brings a certain peace of mind if you follow it.
After playing through PvE a few times, I am sure you have a basic grasp of all typical mechanics. You understand how stamina works, how to cast spells, how to dodge, the difference between a backstab and backstep, and maybe, if you are bit adventurous, how to parry. It is fair to expect you'll know how to get and that you'll have access to all the equipment you'll need/want to use. After all, there is no reason to use a +14 weapon over a +15 one. Though all this farming might seem daunting, joining a group of players online can shorten the journey as they'll often have spare resources.
So you think you're tough, and you know how roll circles around the hollows in the Burg. However, PvP requires a much deeper grasp of the mechanics of Dark Souls than PvE. Just like how for mindset there is a recommended reading, I recommend watching tutorial videos. Here, I'll outline the most important mechanics that'll give you a head start to start rolling circles around other players in the Burg.
What ultimately makes every build unique is its stat distribution, as penultimately gear is next to body size when determining what a build is limited to. You have Vitality, Attunement, Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Faith to be worried about. Resistance is not a Player versus Player stat, and a soul level spent on it should be considered a waste. The point caps considered here are for Soul Level 120. A large majority of 'Dueling' game matches occur here. You should aim to have a build at this level for some quality matches.
When thinking about Vitality, you are thinking about how much HP you'll have. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 1500 or more. This gives you a healthy buffer with which to make mistakes, and you'll be able to take at least one BS from all, but the most focused builds. The most common two ways of reaching this breakpoint is having 40 Vitality combined with Ring of Favor and Protection or to hit 50 Vitality. Why would you choose the second way, especially considering that it costs an extra 10 levels? It gives a free ring slot which can be very important on certain builds, notably on casters.
Endurance is a very important statistic as it provides stamina; the more of which is never bad. However, stamina stops increasing after 40. When considering a new build, it is always best to aim for 40. If you cannot spare the points to hit this breakpoint, then I advise taking a good, hard look at what you have put together. You'll have the same amount of stamina as Endurance 40 ten levels lower if you use the Ring of Favor and Protection. It's a powerful ring, but builds that cannot spare the points often cannot spare the ring slot.
Strength is the first of the weapon requirement statistic I am going to talk about. Depending on your weapon of choice, you'll might need a lot or a little. However, two important things to remember when considering what Strength your build will have is that diminishing returns becomes incredible after 40 and that when two-handing a weapon your Strength is treated as being 1.5x your normal value. (A few bizarre exceptions for requirements, but it will always work if you meet the requirements.) This means that things have above E and hit the low C of scaling should have, generally speaking, 27 points. However, some weapons have great one-handed movesets that might be worth using or you'd want the ability to parry. The trade-off is something that you'll need to consider when placing a build together.
Dexterity is the other non-magical weapon requirement that is fundamental to any casting build. This is because casting speed is increased with Dexterity until you hit 45. While it is possible to cast spells effectively below 45, it is very hard to hit targets without considerable practice even at maximum casting speed. If you are going to be a caster, there is no reason not to hit 45 Dexterity as they are many viable weapons that scale well with it. If you are not focusing on casting, then, unless you are aiming for a Strength/Buff build, you should try to hit 40 for maximum scaling with your weapon.
Intelligence is one of two magic requirement stats, and is the main casting stat for sorceries. Three different breakpoints exist for Intelligence for three different focuses. One breakpoint is 14, which gives you access to Oolacile utility spells that help with the 'Invasion' game. Another is 25 which gives you access to Crystal Magic Weapon, and this buff can be used 3 times for a single attunement slot. This, too, is useful for the 'Invasion' game if you can pull it off. The final breakpoint for Intelligence is 44, which gives you access to Crystal Soul Spear. Should you want to buff at this level, use the Tin Crystallization Catalyst. For general casting, use Logan's to get the most out of your attunement slots.
Faith is the other magic requirement stat, and is used for Miracles. There are arguably two breakpoints: 30 and 50. The first gives you access to the potent Faith buffs and Wrath of the Gods, the other does simply more damage. Faith should be chosen over Intelligence.
Almost every build will have some spells on it; Pyromancy can improve almost any build by giving it a few more options. There are a few important facts to remember when casting any spell, first of all is that you slow down or stop completely when casting a spell. This means you are vulnerable to a backstab should you cast carelessly. You need to be able create space to cast a spell, this goes for a Wrath of Gods or Great Combustion even. You can and will get BSed with any spells if you are careless.
Another thing about spell casting is that anything can be running-pivot canceled, but only certain spells can be pivot-canceled from standing. A pivot-cancel is when you turn 180 degrees suddenly, and it stops many animations. This allows you to pretend you were about to cast a spell, and works very well with spells that have visually impressive displays, like Fireball and Wrath of the Gods. You can potentially running pivot-cancel even a Fire Surge, the main reason to not cast a spell is to play a mind-game with your opponent; a briefly raised arm will often go unnoticed.
A final thing to note when casting spells, is if that you'll need to think about the arrangement of your spells. Ideally, you will have all your spells stacked in a manner such that you'll be using them in order. You want to have a plan in advance of how you are going to cast your spells in combat. While some situations might arise that call for something out of order, you should have a general idea of what spells you'll need and in which order.
Blocking is a very powerful tactic your opponent may use to get close to you. It can become incredibly frustrating if they use their shield to poke at you with a rapier, or decide to circle around you for a Backstab. However, it is possible to make an unblockable attack because of the way the game calculates attack direction. Shields can only block attacks from the front, so an attack from behind is considered unblockable in PvP. (PvE enemies that can block behave differently) The game considers the angle of the attack as the same as the angle you are facing relative to your opponent. Should you turn away from the opponent and your attack has a hitbox that extends behind you, then that attack will be registered as coming from behind, and will deal full damage. The critical angle is looking more than 90 degrees way from your target for something to be considered as coming from behind. Look at the PhantomEWGF video to see this in action.
Understandably, you need to be careful when exposing your back to your enemy, and some weapons will have an incredibly difficult time doing a dead-angle. Generally speaking, weapons that are good for dead angling are: Greatswords, Ultra Greatswords, Curved Greatswords, and Halberds. These weapons have hitboxes that extend far behind the forward part of the swing. Many other weapons are capable of getting a dead-angle, like the Gargoyle Halberd, whose 2-handed strong attack when done perpendicular from the opponent can go through shields. Take a look at your favorite weapon's swing, and if you notice an attack that has solid back-swing, you should ask a friend to test the attack at various angles to see if it can do a dead-angle. Remember to unlock when attempting this!
Backstabs and Parries are daunting to a new players, who can often being on the receiving end of these powerful attacks while being unable to execute it themselves. Don't be a fool, and say you won't learn this because it is unfair; this introduction should be read only by people who want to get into the PvP scene in Dark Souls. In fact, learning to backstab and parry is what separates new players from good ones. Backstabbing is the easier of the two skills to learn, and once again, I suggest watching PhantomEWGF's backstab tutorials while trying some matches in the Klin. While you are at it, you should watch his tutorial on parrying. Both rely on your ability to predict your opponent, and this is a skill you'll develop from multiple PvP matches.
The most rewarding types of backstabs that you can learn are roll backstabs. This means when your opponent is locked in animation (most likely a recovery from an attack) you roll towards your opponent's back and align yourself for the stab. With this skill, reckless attacking stops being a viable strategy for your opponent. This includes the fearsome Wrath of the Gods, or Great Combustion spam that is the bane of new players often done by new players themselves. Not only will you be able to stop spell spam, you'll be able to handle poorly done single casts eventually, too.
Parrying can help deal with what normally kills you if you are new. Should they start that dreaded weak attack spam into you, then with some practice you can learn to use that as an opportunity to get riposte for incredible damage. When learning to parry, it is worth watching not only PhantomEWGF's video, but for an alternate take on how to parry. It offers you a valuable method for trying to get a parry on the faster weapons that might be giving you trouble, and make punishing predictability possible for even the safer forms of attack. Something worth noting, is that if your opponent tries to repeatedly roll into and attack, that's a sign to try to parry. With some practice, you'll be landing a riposte in no time!
It is worth noting that the spacing for a roll backstab, and the timing for a parry will be hard to learn at first. It is suggested to summon a friend with the Red Soapstone to do some training with various weapons without upgrades. You should practice parrying consistently all the attacks of a Greatsword and try roll backstabbing them as well. This is generally an easy, but powerful weapon to learn to counter, and is a good first of many to be able to play effectively against.
Armor plays an important roll in determining your ability to play competitively. While various defenses actually do play a part in making your character more survivable, the most important aspect of armor is poise and whether or not it makes certain breakpoints. The vast majority of poise research (and pretty much all other research) was done, and codified by PhantomEWGF. This is crucial information, and is worth saving on to your desktop, so it is provided in a handy image.
All these general mechanics are things you should know regardless of what weapon, or magic, if any, you decide to use. However, there important facts you should know about what weapon you decide on using to get the most out of them. The principles of using a Large Club are very different from using a Washing Pole. Worth noting is that weapons in a class are generally very similar in play-style with a few notable exceptions. Generally, you should you find a class of weapons suits you well, you should try looking at the scaling and determining which one is best for build. With every class of weapon will be parenthetically a note of whether they are good for: Backstabs, Poking, Risky Attacks. Only weapons that a beginner should be looking into are covered here. Included at the end of each of Weapon Outline lies a build that attempts to competitively showcase the Weapon being discussed. These aren't terribly unique builds, but a new player shouldn't be too concerned about originality when learning a new weapon.
Straight swords tend to be underused, but they have a great moveset. The weak attack, with one or two hands on it, has incredibly low stamina consumption, and is a great attack to have buffed. It can get a hit off a kick, too, so remember to kick frequently should you be wielding a Straight Sword. Kicking unlocked to take advantage of the quicker turn-speed will let you get people trying to roll towards you at an angle.
The strong attacks of the Straight Sword fall into 4 separate categories: Sweeping, Intermediate, Poking, Darksword, and Silver Knight Sword. The Sweeping strong attack is used by Broadsword and Barbed Sword, and is categorized by doing a few steps forward before doing a horizontal sweep, and the second hit will do another quick sweep. It can be quite devastating when landing, and newer player will often try swinging through the first hit to find themselves staggered with the second hit of the strong attack. Poking is the style used by the ever popular Balder Side Sword, which continues to find a home in the hands of experienced duelers. The first strong attack does a poke with a step forward, and it has incredible range. The follow up, like the Sweeping sword is the same attack without moving forward. While it has less range than the first strike, only a fool would let themselves get hit again. You can do incredible job of forcing you opponent away from you with the threat of the strong attack; it is one of the most used weapons of casters for good reason. The Intermediate swords include all other swords that are not the Darksword or Silver Knight Sword. The one-handed strong attack is a poke, like that of the Balder Side Sword, but the follow-up strong attack gives a slash that is not really worth using. However, the two-handed strong attack is carbon copy of the Sweeping, and should be used in a similar manner.
The roll attacks of Sweeping swords are a short, swift horizontal slash that has a hitbox of a nice, wide area in front of you. With some practice unlocking, you'll be able to attempt dead-angles with it, too. Be warned that to get a hit requires you to get close to your opponent, and they may try to parry you. Against such opponents, punish their attempt to parry you by strafing behind and getting a backstab. The roll attacks of the Intermediate and Poking depend on how you are wielding it. When one-handed, it is an upward sweep, and should be avoided like the Intermediate's strong attack follow-up. The two-handed is forward poke, that has good range. Be careful not to get too close, or you'll end up getting parried, but you shouldn't need to get close. The attack has very long range, provided you aren't using the Shortsword.
The Darksword's strong attack is not worth using ever, you stand warned. The Silver Knight Sword has better strong attacks, but is crippled by weight. If you are new to PvP, I urge you to instead get a Balder Side Sword, as the Silver Knight Sword is weak option overall. Both have the same roll attacks as the Intermediate. The only jump-attack worth mentioning is that of the Balder Side Sword, which is a forward poke that'll do considerable damage. It is worth using for a quick, hard strike to punish an attack that missed you're unable to backstab.
The build to showcase the Straight Swords is a Balder Side Sword & Pyromancy build. This build uses the Heater Shield, and Hornet Ring to allow you to land consistently lethal riposte. It also provides a boost to your backstabs, which can be critical to winning a fight. You have the Crown of Dusk to make your choice selections of Pyromancy more deadly; your spell selection provides very good utility. However, be warned that magical buffs will most likely be the bane of you; the Heater Shield has low magic resistance, and, when tacked on with your Crown, you'll find even blocking the attacks problematic. It would be best to learn to dodge effectively, and when to back away safetly. (Read as run)
Having one of the more powerful, and varied movesets of many weapons, Greatswords are a great weapon for beginners to use. The one-handed weak attack of the Greatsword, while being capable of getting dead-angles, is nothing special. Generally speaking, it should be avoided. However, when an opponent flips away, it might sometimes get a hit for minor damage. A second-hand on the handle makes the Greatsword much more lethal; it has good forward range, quick swing speed, and a frightening capability to stun-lock. The capability to 56 poise damage per hit means that only people that have 112 poise (almost no one has that much) can take a second hit. It should be noted that many people are trying to toggle-trick (read Poise in Mechanics) and do a parry if you get a stun-lock, and if you should attempt to go for a backstab if you notice them toggle. Normally, they'll roll away or go for a parry, in which case your backstab goes unpunished or succeeds. Baiting with weak attacks to get an opponent to approach might also work on low-level players, but be careful on veterans who will often walk up and parry your “sneak” attack.
Another strong move of the Greatsword is the running attack. While those nasty veterans will often parry a head-on charge, it is possible to lock-off at few steps before impact. This will lead you to go behind your opponent, and doing a dead-angle attack. You'll get a dead-angle if they also try to strafe behind you. If you remember to roll away after the attack, if it hits or not, you won't get punished. Ideally, you'll will do this roll without lock-on and directly away from your opponent. It might take sometime to understand where your opponent is relative to you if they aren't on your screen, and do to appropriately time the attack so you fling behind (even I fail this sometimes), but it provides a very deadly pseudo-poke.
Roll attacks of the Greatsword are mediocre, with one notable exception. They provide a reasonable range, with reasonable timing, and the reasonable damage. It should not be relied up, however, as the moveset of the Greatswords have some pretty shiny gems, and the roll attack is just not spectacular. However, the two-handed roll attack of the Claymore is very impressive in range. The deadly lunge makes using the roll attack viable. However, do not become reliant upon it; a roll attack requires you to roll, and it can be easy to predict when you attempt to attack. This will lead to a parry by anyone that knows how to.
The strong attack of the Greatsword can be divided into three categories: Sweeping, Unusable, and Moonlight. The most fearsome to new players is most definitely the Moonlight Greatsword strong attack. The attack fires a projectile that, when one-handed, is easy enough to dodge. It is generally advised not to use it, as it can be roll backstabbed. When two-handed it becomes a very deadly explosion with a sizable area of effect. If it done with a lock-on, you can dodge it easily enough, but, when manually aimed towards the ground, dodging can be frustrating. You'll need some practice to predict where your opponent will land, but it a rewarding skill. It can be thought almost as impossible to dodge when trying to wake-up from a knockdown. Against those veterans, who'll always seem to find a way to ruin your fun, who will try to land a roll backstab you need to remember one thing: to get a backstab, they need to get to your back. This means you'll know where the are going to try to land, so aim at where your back is facing as they try to get up, and you'll land a hit.
The Unusable class of Greatsword strong attacks includes the Black Knight Sword, the Flamberge, the Greatlord Greatsword, the Greatsword of Artorias, and the Stone Greatsword. All of these have a delay and/or a hitbox that make them entirely useless in PvP. Ideally, you won't be using them, but the Flamberge and Stone Greatsword can sometimes be applied effectively in PvP. However, new players should stay away from all of these. Worth noting, the Stone Greatsword does a Tranquil Walk of Peace effect when two-handed. This might be useful for a caster that has 27 Strength and is unwilling to level faith. It requires no attunement slots, and is capable weapon on its weak attacks alone, but is crippled by an insane 18.0 weight. It might be worth considering on some builds, but, generally speaking, is better left in the Bottomless Box.
The Sweeping class of Greatsword strong attacks are used by the ever popular Claymore, and its lesser used cousins the Manserpent Greatsword and Bastard Sword. When two-handed, the attack covers a huge range with a sizable portion of the hitbox being behind you. If facing who pokes from behind a shield or can be staggered from the attack, you can start-up the attack facing your opponent, then unlock to turn to face the exact opposite direction of your opposition and land a dead-angle. If your opponent is staggered, attack with a weak attack while turning to face your opponent. This will land a stun lock, and toggle-tricks out of it should be dealt with the same way as if you normally got them stunned.
Here is a Claymore build that features some Pyromancy on the side. The actual usage of the build is pretty straight forward, but it might be worth noting a small trick for the Claymore one-handed strong attack. If you do a small step at the end of the strong attack, it resets your attack count. This means you can do the deadly poke again, and, if you get very good at this technique, and you stagger someone with the first hit, you can do an exceptionally long range stun-lock.
The largest of the swords, and the slowest, the Ultra Greatsword is a power-house when it comes to dealing damage, and stunning opponents. This is the bane of new players everywhere, but becomes much harder to use against players capable of roll backstabbing. Once you understand how to backstab effectively, the Ultra Greatswords become considerably more useful due to the incredible critical damage they are capable of doing. However, these weapons are more than a glorified Bandit's Knife, and, with practice, you'll be capable of bisecting your opposition no problem.
The weak attack of the Ultra Greatsword is weak in name only. It deals formidable damage that cannot be afforded to tank, and hits everything in a very wide arc in front of you. The difference between a one-handed swing, and a two-handed one is the swing speed and the ability to get dead-angles. This is a very important difference, however, and, you'll need to judge when to use what type of swing to do the most damage. Either swing is easy to parry, so you cannot try to guard break someone using it, and you must be careful trying to bait someone into coming close as many times they'll be able to parry that, too. While being very easy to parry, it is also easy enough to dead-angle with should you use the one-handed attack. The large sweeping motion, when turned further perpendicular can get dead-angles, and newer players that try to strafe backstab an Ultra Greatsword user will often force themselves into dead-angles. However, the ability to stagger one-handed is lessened considerably, and you'll find yourself backstabbed if you use it carelessly. You'll need to use the one-handed dead-angle sparingly, but getting the odd hit in will make a world of difference as you bide your time for getting the two-handed attacks in.
The roll attack of the Ultra Greatsword is a long-ranged poke with your sword. While being slow, and having subpar tracking, learning to use it without lock-on will go a long way to getting hits on opponents that flip around with quick weapons. However, this is like your normal weak attack, and will result in you getting roll backstabbed if you attack recklessly. Another thing to note, is that this attack is incredibly easy to parry, and you'll need to make sure not attack when your opponent is too close, or you'll get something much worse than a backstab. However, you can do a neat little trick to confuse your opponent. After your roll, if you take a tiny step, you'll do your normal attack that is much harder to parry. If you know how to do dead-angles properly with you Greatsword, there is nothing stopping you from making your attack unblockable.
Jump attacks from Ultra Greatswords cover a huge, but thin, line. They have incredible ability to stagger and you'll often flatten players when you land it. However, it has a sizable recover animation, so use it only to punish enemies that are attacking, but miss. When used correctly, it makes for the one of the most powerful, non-critical, attacks in the game, and can change the outcome of a battle. However, while the running attack and the jumping one are superficially similar, never use the running attack; it leaves you so open for a backstab to the point you are guaranteed to receive one no matter what.
The only strong attack worth mentioning in Ultra Greatsword category is the funnily named Greatsword. Other weapons, including the Dragon Greatsword, have very poor tracking, and hitboxes. However, the Greatsword's strong attack has reasonable tracking and can be manually aimed for devastating effects. Be careful how you use it, though, as backstabs are still possible.
The build for the Ultra Greatsword features the Greatsword, and has some Pyromancy on the side. Typically speaking, you'll want to be one-handed except for a few rare parts of the fight; you have the Heater Shield which will allow you to parry effectively, and make the most of the very large base damage of the weapon. Do not be afraid to use your Composite Bow to do some poking, your sword isn't too suited for that job.
The Curved Swords are an underused, but powerful, Dexterity weapon. They have very fast swing speed, and make a great vehicle for dealing buff damage. The main attraction the Curved Swords is its safe, but short-ranged, weak attack with the various strong attacks being useless. The two exceptions to this are the Shotel and the Painting Guardian Sword. The reason that the Curved Sword is considered a poking tool rather than risky attack is that the attacks, if done without incredible lag, cannot be punished by a backstab. However, one must still worry about parrying, so awareness of when to back-off is the key to the successful use of your Curved Sword. Unlike other weapons that can kick a parry attempting opponent, the Curved Sword instead does a bizarre little cartwheel. To make up for this, it is suggested you carry a Great Combustion or go a backstab. The opponent will learn to either make blind parries, stop trying to parry, or die.
The weak attack of the Curved Sword is a quick, horizontal sweep in front of you that, while not doing considerable poise damage, will stun-lock anyone foolish enough to think they can tank it. Not only that, it is also incredibly fast so many people that rely on the block followed with a parry will consistently fail. This is your cue to get a backstab. There is almost no reason to use your Curved Sword in one-hand, and you should be two-handing it for increased damage and swing speed. The trick for successfully using the weapon is to get continuous hits, while preventing your opponent from parrying.
There are a two main ways to combo into the deadly weak attack: from the rolling or running attack. The roll attack is an intricate little dance that gets hit, and comes with the predictability of all roll attacks. However, it is very fast so you may feel a bit safer on relying upon it. You should try dodging past an attack with your invincibility frames then let loose on your opponent. The running attack entrance is similar to the roll attack, but does more damage proportional to the risk.
The Falchion, Scimitar, and Furysword all have strong attacks that are strictly inferior to the weak attack of the Curved Sword. However, both the Shotel and Painting Guardian Sword have special strong attacks that are situational usable. The Shotel's strong attack is an unblockable strike. It can be quite fearsome, but can be a bit predictable and slow. Don't rely on it, but use occasionally to get some additional damage. The Paint Guardian Sword does an elaborate, little dance that doesn't do too much damage, but does an absurd amount of hits only kept in check by its short-range. If you use it while magically buffed, it'll do an incredible amount of damage rivaled only by the Ricard's Rapier. Practice is necessary to use it correctly, but it is a rewarding skill. Curved swords also have a jumping attack worth using should the opportunity present itself. It does a wide sweep in front of your landing area, and makes for a good damage.
Here is a build that features the Falchion, and the ability to cast some devastating Pyromancy. It's a straight forward build that features a small little trick to get the most out of the Curved Swords. Since you are unable to kick with the Falchion, instead you'll use Great Combustion to punish parry attempts, and to do some poise damage. If your opponent is not staggered by the Great Combustion, and still tries to attack you, you stand a much higher chance of landing a stun-lock, which is where the Curved Swords really shine.
The legendary Katana of the glorious Nippon is the absolute bane of people who have no idea of what the mechanics of PvP are. Fast attacks, long-ranged pokes, and a bleed build-up, it is understandably a weapon to be feared if you don't yet know how to use your favorite weapon. It is one of the easier weapons to learn how to use, and you can make your own little Samurai with it. The swing speed makes the Katana a very good weapon to carry a buff with, but damage is normally a bit low without one. You'll also find that when you get into PvP, the fearsome attack-speed becomes less useful as chained attacks will often get parried or at least partial parried, and bleed stops being a death-sentence and more of a nuisance as you can roll out of it almost unfailingly.
The weak attack of the Katana is a quick, forward slash that is a very safe move. Ideally, you'll be two-handing the sword to help make up for the low damage. However, it is important to get close to your opponent as the range, even with the Washing Pole, is deceptively close. Holding up your shield for the approach is often a necessity with a cautious player, but, with an aggressive roller, you shouldn't be too afraid to throw a shot out. It is a very safe move, and doesn't cost too much stamina. However, don't use it as license to swing wildly, or you'll find you self out of stamina. Remember to use the kick if you find someone trying to parry your attack. While they might still dodge the follow-up weak attack, they have to back away as parry attempts from the distance they are pushed to will fail consistently.
The running attack of the Katana actually carries some real risk if you spam it, but it is still a fairly same move. It has a very good range as it is it uses the full length of the sword and some forward motion to cover a huge distance. It won't hit a wide arc, but it can lay effective pressure. Be warned that you'll find yourself parried if you get too close, and that the setup to the attack is really noticeable. The damage isn't incredible, but the safety of the move warrants it being done exclusively two-handed. This move should be used to tack on damage.
The weak attack of the Katana is a bit on the low damage, and you'll want to get as many hits as possible when your opponent makes a mistake. While you can do the running poke, you'll find your opponent not so open to getting hit to it after a while, and they'll get a roll backstab eventually if that is your only manoeuvre. To be able to get more hits going against the larger weapons, you can pre-emptively roll through an attack and land the roll attack. You would be doing this unlocked and you would land at their side. If you do it right, and they attack you with lock-on, you'll find that their follow-up attack will miss. You would continue through and use your weak attack to tack on damage.
There are two different strong attacks: Standard, and Unusable. The Standard strong attack is used both by the Washing Pole, and the Uchigatana, and is very useful overall. When one-handed, it does a mimicry of the running attack. It is much more unexpected, but is more vulnerable to roll backstabs because of the stationary start-up. It should be used carefully in combination with the running attack, to add on more damage through pokes. The two-handed strong attack has a noticeable start-up, but has surprising range to go with it. It should be avoided, though, as it is very easy to dodge and roll backstab. In fact, all the other strong attacks should be avoided due to the start-up time that telegraphs the move way in advance. The Chaos Blade and Iatio both fail to cover enough distance, or do enough damage to make the attack worth while. It does not mean that the attack is useless as it can be used to try to get hit when your opponent is waking up from a backstab, but against more experienced players that is actually a invitation to get backstabbed. The jump attack of the Katana is useless, however, and should be avoided at all costs.
The Katana build features the Chaos Blade as the main weapon with a potent arsenal of Pyromancies on the side. This is a very straight forward build, and the actual use of it should be fairly intuitive. If you ever land a stagger with Great Chaos Fireball, you'll be able to tack on damage with the Chaos Whip. While this build isn't made for casting, you'll notice that landing this combination will generally guarantee you the match.
The large, arcing slashes of the Curved Greatsword are reminiscent of the pendulums you'll see in Sens Fortress. While you might have some trouble landing the blows, your opponents will drop to the ground whether or not they try to block. The Curved Greatswords are one of the best weapons for getting dead-angle attacks because of the attack arcs covering a large distance behind you. Once you get a sense for judging distance, this weapon becomes much more useful as, when trying to learn it, you'll be finding yourself wasting stamina with poorly chosen attacks. You'll find yourself frustrated at the slow attacks constantly hitting the air where you opponent was a second before.
However, the weak attack attack of the Curved Greatsword is nothing to scoff at once you understand how to use it effectively. You should never use it with lock-on, but manually aim it. The weak attack has slow swing speed, and requires some prediction to hit your opponent. This is what makes the weapon very good against gangs of phantoms who'll often be very predictable, but you'll need to step up the game in duels where being hard to predict is a necessity. However, so long the opponent is close you'll be able to damage even if they block; by turning away in the correct manner you'll get a dead-angle attack. A bit of practice will go a long way to using a Curved Greatsword. Just remember to aim in response to what they are going to do, not what they are doing, as accounting for the start-up animation is the biggest hurdle to using getting kills.
The roll attack is essentially requires the same skill set to use effectively as the weak attack. You'll want to predict where you opponent is going to be, but it is considerably easier to get a dead-angle attack with it. You'll notice the huge back-swing of the attack that's all viable for landing the attack. However, if all you do is dead-angle attacks with it, you'll find yourself with a sword sticking out of you. The fact you turn your back makes you very vulnerable, and you should be careful not to use the attack too much as going for the unblockable hit every time makes you exceedingly predictable. This attack is best used against weapons that can attack from behind the shield; they won't be able to get the backstab if you do it right, even if they see it coming, should they decide to poke. Your roll invulnerability will even let you go through the attack, making this weapon an excellent anti-turtle weapon.
The running attack of the Curved Greatsword either useful or practically useless depending on how many hands you have on the weapon. The two-handed attack is an example of what makes an attack useless; it is telegraphed extraordinarily well by the little hop before the attack, it hits a narrow area, and has huge swing commitment. The one-handed attack does have a similar telegraph, and swing commitment, but has an incredible hitbox that makes dodging to the side very difficult. With opponents that cannot, or will not risk, parrying the attack, and try to roll away, a good trick is to wait for them to try to roll away then attack. If timed right, you'll hit them as they exit the roll for a fair amount of damage. The jump attack has is a similar set of properties to the running attack, but requires no start up. However, it is more vulnerable to backstabs. It should be used as a surprise attack for large damage, and when you can predict that you'll opponent will be staggered or won't punish.
The strong attack of the Curved Greatsword isn't worth mentioning except for the Gravelord Sword. The normal strong attack of Sever and the Murakumo forces you to go forward in a single direction, and is well telegraphed. This is a big no as your movements are set for a solid second which is enough to guarantee a backstab. However, the Gravelord Sword doesn't force you to move, but it does have a start-up time. This means you shouldn't use if you opponent is too close, but it has a good range to make up for it. Ideally, you would use it unlocked to score a definite hit, but the tracking is good enough that you can't be blamed for using it with lock-on.
The following build features the incredibly deadly Murakumo, along with some light Pyromancy. The most important thing you can do with this build is utilise the entire arsenal given to you; use the Composite Bow to tack on early damage, the Murakumo to do the in between steps, and the Pyromancy to secure a kill. You also rest on a large pile of health, so don't be afraid to trade blows with your one-handed running attack early on. You'll find yourself out-damaging all, but the largest weapons.
These swords are easily one of the most frustrating weapons for new players that cannot backstab could possibly face. Depending on how aggressive your opponent is, you'll find harming them nigh-impossible as they'll hide behind their shield. While that aspect is too hard to pick up, it is much harder to use it to get kills against the ever-present threat of good players. Instead, you'll find the most successful use of piercing sword will come from the situational application of the varied moveset of the Piercing Sword; every attack has a purpose. This weapon, if you aren't going to use a spell buff, should be made elemental for increased damage. This is different from many other weapons that will perform better as a +15 when wielded by 40/40 build.
The weak attack of the Piercing Sword is a poke with step forward. It is safe attack that goes fast, but fails to combo well. The low damage even if you two-hand the weapon means that it'll not be game deciding very often. However, the low stamina cost means that you'll shouldn't be afraid to try to tack on damage whenever you see your opponent open. The rolling attack is quite similar to the weak attack in that it is fast, safe, and has an inability to combo. It should be used for the exact same reason that you would normally use the weak attack. This weapon, along with spears, are unique that the weak attack can be executed when blocking. It does root in place which opens you to backstabs, but it is a fairly quick to execute. This means, unless you become predictable, it'll be a great way to deal damage to someone who gets too close for comfort. There isn't a secret to using the weak attack effectively, it just requires a gut feeling for when your opponent won't decide to attack; often you'll notice players, even good ones, not doing an attack for a whole variety of reasons. Most times it will be because they are out of stamina, or want to try to bait you into a false sense of security. The more you play, the better you'll know when your opponent is out, or close to it, of stamina, and you'll be able to get all that extra damage tacked on.
The running attack of Piercing Swords is wonderful two-hit attack, that will do respectable damage when both parts connect. It is actually quite safe, and is worth getting some practice to be effective with. The attack is quick enough that'll be hard for your opponent to parry, provided you use some spacial awareness and not begin the attack in front of their shield, but it does come with swing commitment. Not only that, it is fairly predictable, and it's safety to backstabs will become nil if your opponent goes for the roll backstab the moment before you attack. Even if the lack ability to predict exactly when you are going to start, if they wield larger weapons they can hit you as you move inextricably forward. However, the weapons that are the most deadly to the running attack are also vulnerable to parries; Greatswords, Ultra-Greatsword, and Halberds are weapons that'll you need to learn to parry effectively, anyways. The jump attack is a forward poke is surprisingly viable, but underused. It should be used like the running attack, and comes with the exact same benefits and risks.
Strong attacks of Piercing Swords are all unique, but fall into two camps: Improved Weak Attack and Combo. The Improved Weak Attack, used by the Rapier, and Estoc, is exactly what the title suggests; it covers more distance, and does more damage than the simple weak attack at the cost of more stamina, and increased risk. If used to punish attacks in a larger area, you'll find the damage tacked on will go a long way to getting the fight ending parry or backstab. The two-handed attack of the Estoc comes with too large a swing commitment to truly be viable outside of the odd surprise strike. Be careful not use this a total substitute for the weak attack, as it is possible for your opponent to predict when you are going to try the attack to land a preemptive roll backstab. This means that right before your attack, they'll roll towards you as you're about to do the Strong Attack, and the increased swing commitment will prevent you from escaping in time. Combo moves are actually open to the traditional roll backstab, but are capable of much more damage as compensation. These multi-hit strong attacks are used by Ricard's and Velka's Rapier, and are quite risky to use. Both telegraph the attack well, but do have speed, and range to make the strong attack worth while. The Ricard's Rapier strong attack is absolutely lethal when buffed, but has an unrivaled stamina cost, and inability to string together all 6 hits. Instead you'll find yourself using faultily the the initial 2 that comes from the first press of the button, and not continuing to avoid a roll backstab. To actually land the incredible damage that this weapon buffed promises, you'll need to land a parry. Rather than do the riposte, you'll go for the strong attack. Ricard's offers versatility; you could land insane damage when buffed, or land a very respectable riposte when not. Velka's Rapier, while flashy, is (even) less practical than the Ricard's for being tough to land and not very damaging.
Piercing Swords benefit incredibly well from buffs, so it deserves a special mention here. When using a magical buff, such as Crystal Magic Weapon, Sunlight Blade, or the omnipresent Darkmoon Blade, you place upon yourself a timer to be effective. During the minute of effectiveness, your every hit does the buffed damage, regardless of the modifiers of your normal Attack Rating will have for the hit. This means that your running attack will do double buff damage if both hits land. However, not only will your opponent suspect this, but he merely needs wait for the threat to pass. Your shield poke will have a hard time getting traction to be doing damage; the now fearsome damage, combined with safety, means that you'll find yourself having a wide berth. Although your damage might be doubled, you'll often find yourself doing less than if you used a simple elemental. However, you'll have with you the ability to cast a whole bunch of spells that'll help prevent a simple turtle. Homing Soulmass and Wrath of the Gods are great at breaking a guard, but it is a still a tough battle to do damage against a careful opponent.
The build that'll be used to feature the ever prominent Piercing Sword uses the Velka's Rapier, and some light Sorcery to do damage. Generally speaking, you'll find it very tough to hit anything at all, but you mustn't rely on your sorcery to secure a win. Instead, you'll use all the castings to maintain constant pressure on your opponent; if perchance you score a hit with Homing Crystal Soul Mass, or Crystal Soul Spear, then odds are you have a victory awaiting you. It will be worth practising parrying with a friend to take advantage of the critical hit.
The much maligned small Strength weapons find a home in nobodies hand, for many reasons. They all posses stagger, mediocre damage, slow swing speed, and an awful tendency to be parried. However, these weapons are still viable with a lot of practice, and a bit of guts. However, it must be said that this weapon can only do Risky Attacks. You'll need back-up weapons to take full advantage of what the weapon does provide: an attack that punishes foolish play. The only stand-alone weapon in both classes is the Hand Axe, which has a fast enough attack to not be punished by roll backstab. When deciding whether or not to actually use either the Axe, or Hammer, you must understand that no successful build can come from the exclusive use of them.
The weak attack of the Small Strength Weapons differ slightly between an Axe, or Hammer. With the Axe, you'll have a small chop directly in front of you. Comparatively, a Hammer will do a small swing covering the same area. They are the exact same in functionality, however, and both have an awful stagger animation. This means you'll need to be very careful when deciding to attack, as a poor decision will result in a backstab. You must attack when you are certain an enemy will be in a certain location, and doing so unlocked will go a long way to smashing skulls with your chosen weapon. Two-handing for the weak attack is a necessity, the mediocre damage requires it. However, you must also be aware of when an enemy is only getting close to try to parry you. Even if they miss the intuitive window, they'll still get a partial parry for almost no damage. You'll need to learn backstab punish such an attempt, or keep a Great Combustion to dissuade attempts. If you are unable to do this, you must remember to kick! It'll stagger your opponents, and create distance enough to not worry about an immediate parry. Should you ever get continuous hits, you'll find that you'll often stagger an opponent. Do not look a gift horse in the mouth, they'll be just as surprised as you. Take advantage of the surprise and continue the attack, that is how you actually do damage with this weapon. Be forewarned of people that'll toggle trick out of the stunlock and parry your attack. You should always respond to toggle-to-parry attempt with a backstab the moment the try to toggle.
While the weak attack requires a very fine touch to use effectively, no amount of sensitivity can redeem the roll attack or the running attack. The low damage, stunning capability, swing commitment, and predictability combine to make one of the worst attacks in game. The gambit of using this qualifies as high risk, low reward.
Strong attacks fall into a few different categories: Improved Weak Attack, Jump, and Unique. Jump is generally more useful than Improved Weak Attack, but fails to possess any dual stat scaling weapons. The attack used by the Club, its Reinforced brother, and the Giant Blacksmith Hammer, is a good sized jump (who knew?), and does posses a follow-up strike that should be done exclusively unlocked. The ease of pulling a jump attack with a single button press is not be underestimated, and you'll find yourself punishing all sorts of failed attacks by your opponent that were previously considered safe. However, as with all jump attacks, you'll need to be careful not be backstabbed if you fail to get the hit. This means you should be fairly cautious when using it. The follow-up will rarely even have a chance to land, but don't hesitate should the opponent provide the chance. While this attack can be parried, do not expect to be. The Improved Weak Attack takes all the things of the weak attack that is already difficult to use effectively, and exaggerates them. All the weapons that are not Jumping, Golem Ax, Butcher's Knife, and Gargoyle Tail Axe, use the Improved Weak Attack as their strong attack. Generally speaking, using it is a gambit that can occasionally pay-off. However, caution should be exercised when using it; while the damage and stagger ability might have been increased, so has the intuitiveness of the parry window, and the stagger should you miss. The option to use it is better than not being able to, but, ideally, you should be using the normal jump attack in its stead.
The Butcher's Knife strong attack is either very useful or very useless; it depends on how many hands you have on it. The two-handed ground pound has a very noticeable start-up, and a failure to hit is ghastly mistake. This move, while neat-looking, should be avoided. A small trick you can do, however, is to use the attacked unlock to punish a failed backstab attempt. While the attack does have impressive stagger, it simply shouldn't be used. The one-handed strong attack is a forward rush, which can be used effectively as it is surprisingly safe for a forced movement attack. Although continuous use will result in a roll backstab, the odd charge as they roll away will sometimes land a hit the moment the exit the roll. The attack is also does not consume a considerable amount of stamina, so if you are being cautious as you should be, then the odd charge will come in handy for doing more damage. The Gargoyle Tail Axe strong attack provides a very mediocre ability to dead-angle, while simply wielding it provides a massive resistance boost. It is the only Axe that scales better with Dexterity instead of Strength, so a fine touch is an obvious requirement to successful usage. You'll notice that it telegraphs very well for little benefit; the dead-angle not only requires a touch that even veteran's will fail a large amount of the time. Ideally, you would not use it unless you have to. The Golem Axe has a very good strong attack, if a bit weak on damage. When two-handed, it does a ground pound in a similar manner as the Butcher's Knife. The same advice of generally avoiding its use is true here as well. However, the one-handed attack fires a blade of wind with an nasty knock-back effect that can be used for great effect. Although you may have trouble hitting targets that are flipping all over the place, and learning to hit unlocked can be tough. A few tricks can be done to improve your odds of hitting; if you turn away, then lock-on right before it fires, it'll have better tracking. You should be doing the strong attack far enough away that backstabs won't actually be a risk.
The build for Axes & Hammers is a buffed Butcher's Knife build. This build is very straight forward, except for the fact you should avoid rapidly casting Wrath of the Gods; you don't have the Dexterity to provide the speed for spam.
The larger version of the Axe tends to be much better than the pitiable wood-chopping tool. When roaming Lordran, you might occasionally meet someone lugging around the Great Axe, but they'll often only go for a devastating backstab. While backstabbing will get you some wins, it won't get you many. Instead, you'll even more success if you actually use the weapon for more than a glorified +5 Lightning Rapier. Some principles do carry over from the smaller Axe; patience, practice, and punishing will by the three words you live by should you decide to use a Great Axe. You mustn't think that you can win against anyone that is worth winning against with repetitive, and mindless button pressing. You'll need to be repetitive, and use some brains!
The weak attack of the Great Axe is far from being weak. The overhead smash covers an alright range in front of it, but won't win a range-war against anything but some of the smaller Straight Swords. The attack itself does incredible damage, both in health and poise. You should be able to spot a set of armor that wouldn't stagger in a single hit; the sets that go above 77 poise aren't terribly varied. The one-handed attack, while being unable to stun-lock, gives you the invaluable ability to parry. The weak attack itself is quite capable, but slow enough that you won't get hits without the ability to predict your opponent attack. Ideally, you'll punish a weak attack of your opponent's with your swing, and stagger them. Depending on the upgrade path of your weapon, +15 for best results, you'll be able to stun-lock your opponent if you are two-handing. The infamous Black Knight Great Axe has the same properties as the normal Great Axe weak attack if you two-hand it, provided you place aside the cosmetic changes. However, the one-handed attack is a functionally different attack; it attacks in a very wide sweep, and has a nasty habit of getting an opponent as they end their roll. While it might look like it is very good for getting a dead-angle attack, the first sweep is total garbage for it. The follow-up attack is quite capable at being unblockable. A common application of this bizarre property is to punish an attempt to setup parry; they'll block the first hit and their parry attempt will be met with a dead-angle.
The roll attack of the Great Axe is a powerful tool, and can get a dead-angle even easier than the second one-handed attack of the Black Axe. The attack actually does a full rotation hitbox, and it is very intuitive once you figure out what a dead-angle actually is. It does not have a considerable motion, and the attack does have a small delay to hitting the area behind it. Roll backstabs will be your bane should you abuse it, but it can provide that elusive final hit against a turtle.
The strong attacks of Great Axes are all varied, but not all useful. The Black Knight Great Axe should never be used for its fancy attacks. Not only will you be backstabbed for certain with the one-handed attack, the parry window is absurdly intuitive to the point they can spam their attempts and almost certainly get it should you try to two-hand it. The Demon Great Axe when two-handed is just as useless with the telegraphed raise and subsequent stagger. The one-handed version is almost as useless against someone who has seen it before, they'll never fall for the baited knock-up attack after their first experience with it. The stamina cost of two strong-attacks in a row is also a strike against trying to bait an opponent. Both moves will fall victim to roll backstabs should they try to be used. The Dragon King Axe, while more useful, is another strong attack on the trash heap. The two-handed AoE blast is quite easy to roll through, especially with noticeable raise above the head. The one-handed strong attack is useful, and operates as an Improved Weak Attack. You should use it sparingly, but it can make a devastating mix-up against a parry attempt. The real Great Axe uses an Improved Weak Attack. This move can be used effectively to counter setup parry attempts, but should generally be avoided; if you know the opponent is going to try to parry, then you should go for the backstab rather than try the Improved Weak Attack. Generally speaking, you'll want to avoid using this move in all, but the most esoteric circumstances.
The build made to showcase the Great Axe. There isn't anything you should know more than what has already been written.
Nothing beats the feeling of beating your opponent with a really big stick. No edge necessary to smash your opponent into a pulp when using a Great Hammer. However, you'll need to have a calm demeanor to use one effectively; the barbarian rage will not get you very far. One of the biggest problems you'll have when using any of the larger Strength weapons is that you'll find yourself roll backstabbed a fair bit. This will be especially prevalent with a Great Hammer, as with no doubt, you'll want to use the incredible two-handed roll attack that is so very predictable. You can actually negate many of the poor roll backstab attacks with the Armour of Thorns chest piece. Remember that damage at same moment as a backstab will negate the backstab damage, and this holds true for the roll damage that the Thorn Set provides. However, this will only stop bad attempts; if you are predictable, then your opponent will still get their knife in your back. You could try using a different piece of the Thorn Set to deal with roll backstabs, but Chest is by far the most consistently successful at stopping them.
The weak attack of a Great Hammer is nothing to write home about. While it is quite capable in terms of damage, it's very slow and totally incapable of a stun-lock. However, it is quite devastating when it does hit. The correct use of the weak attack is timing it to hit targets you know will roll away from you. It'll take some practice, in terms of actually developing the timing, and ability to read your opponent, but it will dramatically improve your chances of victory if you can land even a single weak attack every fight. However, the attack comes with substantial risk, and if you try to get that one, crucial hit too often, you'll find yourself backstabbed by total amateurs. The only attack you'll have more trouble landing than this is the running attack, which simply should never, ever be used. That attack telegraphs so well, that it seems to be a wake-up call,a and the stagger afterwards is matched only by the Zweihander strong attack.
However, the roll attacks make up for the awful running attack in spades, and wanting to use it so often is why the weapon needed a special mention of the Thorn Chest. When one-handed, the roll attack is the same as the Great Axe, but with a weapon that provides as much range as the Black Knight Great Axe, or more. It possesses a similar capability to score dead-angles, which means that you'll get it some of the time against players not expecting. You'll need to be aware of the attacks delay when hitting the area directly behind it, and that the it'll telegraphs better than the equivalent move on the Great Axe as there is less reason to use the vanilla weak attack. The two-handed roll attack is what makes the Great Hammer so special; it is an almost impossible to parry attack with an insane phantom range. Not only that, it will stagger anyone should it hit. It will take priority over almost any attack should you opponent try to trade blows, and will deal the damage that you expect the giant hunk of metal/wood/stone to do. This attack would make the Great Hammer arguably useful, even if it possessed nothing else. You'll expect to miss often should you only spam the attack, but three hits is often all it will take to get a kill. There is not a gigantic secret to the successful use of the attack, other than carry a back-up weapon; you'll find yourself roll backstabbed eventually, even if you wear all the Thorn Set.
The strong attacks are a mixed bag of bad-stuff when it comes to Great Hammers. The best, undoubtedly is the strong attack of the Large Club, while the worst is used by Smough's Hammer. While the Giant Club possesses another unique strong attack, the rest use an Improved Weak Attack. They shouldn't ever be used except to smash someone who will try to parry your weak attack, for whatever reason, but those people are ones you can defeat easily enough. The area of effect blast that Grant uses, is also unusable as it telegraphs extremely well, and can be rolled through for a guaranteed backstab. The two-handed smash of the Large Club is just as useless as the rest of them, but the one-handed attack is actually quite useful. It covers a fair amount of distance, while attacking a wide area in front of it. It is also a bit frightening to parry, so you shouldn't worry too much about that. While normally forced movement is bad, in this case it forces you forward at an incredible rate; essentially acting as range rather than movement. However, you are still vulnerable to roll backstabs, so some prediction is required for the successful use of it. Ideally, you'll attack as they start to move away so that you arrive in the correct location for the swing. The jump attack of the Great Hammers are absolutely devastating, and make up for the crappy strong attacks. They have incredible ability to stagger and you'll often flatten players when you land it. However, it has a sizable recover animation, so use it only to punish enemies that are attacking, but miss. When used correctly, it makes for the one of the most powerful, non-critical, attacks in the game, and can change the outcome of a battle.
Here is the suggested build for learning to use the Great Club class of weapons effectively. Ideally, the Wrath of the Gods should be used to punish bad rolls because your lack of Dexterity prevents any meaningful spell spam.
The deadly Spear is something really special. Before we go much further, the basic Spear is an irremediable choice; for almost no more weight you can have a weapon with almost twice the range should you really want to use spears. Why wouldn't you want to use a spear with the incredible range it brings? Suddenly, you'll find yourself in control of a battle even against a veteran. However, the veteran will still get the win if you are new to spears, as you'll need to maintain control constantly to win with the sword-on-a-stick. What does control of a battle mean? A spear possesses extraordinary range, and some quick speed, which provides an unparalleled ability to avoid punishment; the impunity that spears bring is control. However, the play-style you'll have draws a characteristic breath that can be discovered. An experienced player will find yours during the match, and be able to preemptively attack to defeat you.
The weak attack of the Spear is a long-ranged jab with speed on par of a Piercing Sword. As far as weak attacks go, it is one of the best. You'll need to use it a lot, however, as the damage is a bit weak. Unlike many weapons, you can expect to break guards, and reap benefits with the weak attack. The range is long enough that you shouldn't expect to get parried, provided you keep your distance, and low enough in terms of stamina cost to be able to get that extra hit after they stagger. Mind you, don't try to break the guard on the rarely seen Greatshield; those have enough stability to block your attacks with a sliver of stamina. The one-handed version, while having more range, is weaker than the two-handed attack. Against all, but other spears, you should be two-handing for the attack. You may have noticed that the spear can be used a poke from behind the shield. However, this attack roots you in place, and leaves you very open to backstabs. Ideally, you'll avoid using this attack except as a rare punishment to someone who tries to attack your block. Even then, it is best to be careful, as only a fool would try bashing on a Spear-user's shield without aiming for a dead-angle attack. In this case, you should either roll away, or go for a mediocre backstab. Someone who approaches you with your shield is most likely making a bet that you'll do the poke, and actually doing it is a great way to lose the control you need to maintain. The roll attack of the Spear is functionally equivalent to the weak attack, except for a few differences; the invulnerability of the roll that can allow you to dodge an attack, makes your own attack more predictable, and a bit slower.
The running attack of the Spear is an incredibly far-reaching attack and very few weapons can trade with it. Not only do you have the full length of the spear, you also have a forward running motion to make all, but the most silly attacks, threaten a hit. This attack should not be used exclusively, as you can be roll backstabbed if they know the attack is coming, but instead tack on damage to your opponent if they try to cast. It can also be used sparingly to try to punish an incautious player who'll never keep their shield up. However, it does not go fluidly into the weak attack, and, as a consequence, the range will be useless against a player who keeps a shield up. Do go wild on people that can't block, and see how they react, but you should stop if they learn to go for the backstab. If you see them dodging consistently to the side, try waiting for the roll to almost end to attack; you might still fail to hit your target, but it increases your chance to score a hit. The jump attack of the Spear, underused for no reason, fills a similar niche. While it a bit harder to connect, and with a slight increase in risk of a backstab, the sudden jump does more damage. Should you find your opponent constantly rolling directly away from you, try out the jumping attack. With some practice, you'll get the timing down right to score another hit.
The strong attack of the Spears cover a wide spectrum of potential cases: from being totally useless, to incredibly useful. There is a general family shared among the Spear, Winged Spear, and Moonlight Butterfly Horn, but, other than that, the rest are all unique. The Shared strong attack of the true the Winged Spear and the Moonlight Butterfly Horn is a forward thrust that uses the full length of the Spear. The amount of hands you have on it will only change the damage, the attacks are essentially identical. It cannot be advised to use it, other than to punish your opponent for missing with a slow weapon if they are out of range of your weak attack. The motions of the Shared strong attack telegraph too well for the attack to hit anyone, but the stationary. The rarely used Partizan possesses an useful sweep that can do something no other Spear can: the strong attack of the Partizan can be used to dead-angle. This helps maintain control even against a cautious player, who will block many of your attempts to attack as they try to discover what makes, and breaks your style of play. However, using the Partizan for a dead-angle does leave you open for backstabs. Do not expect careless use of the attack to go unpunished, opponents are always on edge when fighting one of the most 'annoying' weapons, and they'll be aiming no doubt for a backstab. The capability to backstab is roughly the same no matter how many hands you'll use, and you won't stagger anyone wearing armor anyways, so don't be afraid to use it if you know you have the opportunity. The Silver Knight Spear has possibly the best strong attacks of any spear. When one-handed, it does a full circle sweep, then a particular smash that has particular habit of doing weird death animations on your opponent should they be killed by it. It is particularly slow, and the follow-up attack should always be done unlocked. However, the attack telegraphs too well to be outstandingly useful. However, the two-handed strong attack is something good with the slightly more range the weak attack, and more damage. It makes the perfect counter to an attempted charge. Even though the attack telegraphs pretty well, the attack itself is quick enough to get anyone who is paying full attention to you. The Demon Spear, the Dragonslayer Spear, the Channeler's Trident, and the Pike all have arguably useless strong attacks. They should be avoided, as it will never land against all but the newest players.
The suggested build for learning Spears is here. Unlike many other builds, you cannot one-hand your weapon of choice as this one features the stat intensive Dragon Slayer Spear. However, this isn't a big as a problem as you think it might be. Generally, the mobility, and range of the Dragon Slayer Spear precludes blocking, and parrying as viable tactics. This build features a good level Faith value, and Wrath of the Gods should be used to provide more substantial damage than what your spear will provide.
The Axe-on-a-stick is often ignored in favor its easier cousin, the Spear. However, Halberds are much more deadly weapon, for both the user, and opponent. The stagger will turn off many new players, and getting parried when trying to learn them will turn off most of the rest. Sticking with it, thick and thin, will provide one of the best weapons in game; the range of a Spear combined with the damage of a Greatsword won't come easily. Developing a feel of what is safe will come with multiple matches should you choose one of the deeper weapons the game has to offer. A general word of advice is to avoid hitting enemies if they just move straight towards you; they'll often go for a parry attempt that you'll make a success by attacking. There are two main ways to deal with the people that'll just approach and spam their parry button: you can go for a backstab, or simply back away. Going for the backstab, while it seems like the best idea, puts you at risk of a counter-backstab; the average player won't respond in time to stop you, but the people you should be worried about will do it off reflex. Backing off puts you at the same position that you might have been before, but, if you attack so that it'll hit them before they are absolutely close, you'll be able to kite a parry-fiend.
The weak attack of the Halberd is a forward thrust with good range, and, depending on which one in particular you using, the follow-up could be a wide, but close sweep. No matter which style of Halberd you have, it will stagger if you miss, so it is worth learning to block cancel your animation. What this means is that part of the stagger animation will be skipped if you try to block; this includes if you decide to two-hand the weapon. For the weapons that have the follow-up sweep, Gargoyle Halberd, titanite Catch Pole, Black Knight Halberd, Scythe, and Giant's Halberd, block canceling a missed weak attack is not always the best course of option. The second hit can be used quite well to dead-angle if you can find away to get your opponent close enough to use. If you trick them in to trying to punish a failed forward attack, you can often get them to roll towards you to. However, this is a substantial risk in this sort of play, and I suggest getting the Thorn Chest to help deal with some of the roll backstabs you might face. If you use the other Halberds, there is no reason to not block cancel a missed swing. Just a few facts, the one-handed attack of the Lifehunter Scythe, and the Great Scythe is noticeably faster than the two-handed version, and is what you should use if you aren't using the running attack. The one-handed attack of the genuine Halberd has a nasty tendency to hit people as they exit rolls, and should be used against someone who flips directly away from you.
The running attack of the Halberd is either mediocre, or amazing, depending on whether you're using Great/Lifehunter Scythe. The normal running attack has too much running momentum to be useful, and it is easily dodged. However, it does have an animation glitch that makes it much more useful than it appears to be. On your opponents screen, it will look like the weapon is being dragged along the ground. This makes parrying almost impossible, but it is still vulnerable to backstabs. If used sparingly, it can add some surprise to the Halberd's arsenal. The Great/Lifehunter Scythe running attack is an entirely different beast, and is possibly the best tool to getting unintentional dead-angles. The one-handed attack will make a large, circular sweep of the area around you. The actual area of effect is quite formidable, but be careful not to get too close to your opponent, lest you be parried. The attack is very noticeable, and you'll need to be able to judge distance to avoid being parried. You'll find that skill will carry over to the two-handed version as well. The two-handed attack sends you hurdling forward at high-speeds, and hits an arc in front of you. It covers much less range, but still gets most of the area that you'll actually be hitting, and doing more damage. Generally speaking, you'll want to use the two-handed version; the attack is incredibly well telegraphed, and only a fool would think that a Great/Lifehunter Scythe user wouldn't use the running attack.
Rolling attack of the Halberds is mediocre to poor, once again depending on whether or not it's a Great/Lifehunter Scythe. The roll attack of the standard Halberd is a large sweep, that does noticeably less damage than the normal weak attack. It makes for a good mix-up, but has a poor ability to dead-angle; you'll need to get a very fine touch to get the sweep behind the shield. However, it possesses very good range, and you'll find yourself using to get an unexpected killing blow often enough. Don't rely on it, as you'll get parried or roll backstabbed. The Great/Lifehunter Scythe is total crap when it comes to the roll attack. The attack has a noticeable enough delay that it is almost impossible to hit a target should you try it; that roll attack is a waste of stamina, and can get you backstabbed, or parried with alarming certainty. Remember, block cancel all missed swings to avoid the stagger.
The strong attacks of the Halberds falls into a few classes again, instead of all being special snowflakes like the larger weapons. You have the Spinning, the Great/Lifehunter, and the ones that are upgraded by Twinkling titanite all possesses an unusable, unique strong attack. The Spinning attack shared by Halberd, Gargoyle Halberd, Lucerne, and Scythe all have equal range, and are great. The one-handed version has an intuitive parry window, so don't use it too often. However, it covers a good wide sweep around you, and can dead-angle with some practice. A trick with it is that after the Spinning, your weak attack will be the second one it would normally do; which means you can score another dead-angle should the opportunity present itself. However, it will take some controller dexterity to do the move correctly. You'll should try to practice this on poor players, so that when facing a good one, you'll be capable of doing an impressive amount of damage when they leave themselves open. The two-handed attack is a two hit monstrosity that will stagger all but the most heavily armored opponent. Much like the roll attack, this will work best a surprise killing blow. However, using it in other cases will often result in a backstab; the move will stagger considerably if you miss, it locks you in place, and costs quite a bit of stamina. The Great/Lifehunter strong attacks are the running attack made exaggerated. While it telegraphs less than the running attack, it will move forward less. However, it does much more damage, and can be followed up with another press of the strong attack button to become absolutely lethal if both connect. The Twinkling titanite weapons are all just too slow, and focused to be of real uses. Not only that, the Black Knight Halberd, and Giant's Halberd both weigh an untenable 14.0, and 16.0, respectively. The jump attack of the Halberds a very deadly sweep and should be used as a surprise to tack on damage. Used incorrectly, you receive a backstab for your troubles, but when applied to an opponent that is trying to get away, you'll do a substantial chip to their health. A small trick to using this on the Great/Lifehunter Scythe is do a jump instead of a running attack. You'll often avoid a backstab if done sparingly, as they'll just try to roll to the side to dodge. However, should you get the hit, it will be much more damaging.
The build to showcase Halberds is here, and features some choice Pyromancies on the side. This is a very self explanatory build, and, if you aren't able to guess the most effective usage of all the elements on the build, it would be a sign to stay away from Halberds for now. It requires a good sense of the game before usage, and you'd be best picking another weapon for now.