Friday, August 12

DNF Duel Character Tier List

Tier lists are ever popular, nearly always controversial, and for good reason. They touch on the overall strength of all characters in a fighting game, as well as each individual character’s strength compared to the others. With so many people loving their own characters and hating everyone else’s, things are bound to get heated.

DNF Duel is no exception. In fact, the character strength is even higher than most other fighting games, with many characters having full-screen normals or specials (or nearly full-screen), being able to create tons of plus frames to harass and pressure opponents, and passive Awakening abilities that can crank things up to 10.

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DNF Duel Tier List & Guidelines

This tier list will cover each character available in the 1.0 version of DNF Duel, including Lost Warrior, the secret character that can be unlocked by completing Story Mode with any other character (don’t worry, Story Mode can be completed in around 30-45 minutes with around six fights).

Some important notes: The names of each tier matter. A game with higher overall character strength and a smaller difference in individual character power will have tiers like SSS, SS, S, S-, and so on, while games with a wide gap between the strongest and weakest will have tiers like S, A, B, C, and even D. A character in the S tier or A tier is very good, even if there are 20 or more characters higher than them. More than anything else, tier lists are a fun conversation starter that can tell you which characters have strong win conditions and easy (and frequent) access to them, and a whole lot more.

With that in mind, kick back and read on to learn more about each character in DNF Duel, and where they stack up compared to the rest of the cast.

SS Tier

This tier represents the most powerful characters in the game. Even with the high overall character power in DNF Duel, these characters have something that pushes them over the edge and should be toned down, or they have weaknesses that aren’t substantial enough to really matter, compared to their strengths.

Crusader

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The true man of God, Crusader is absolutely blessed. With excellent neutral that includes massive moves, he can confirm into full combos using the “wall” he can summon on command, as well as a slow-moving projectile he can use to cover his approach, he’s an oppressive force, to be sure. The wall gives him corner-style pressure anywhere on the screen and makes it harder for movement-focused characters (Dragon Knight, Swift Master, and more) to survive his assaults.

He also has the highest health in the game and (as of the current patch) an infinite looping combo that’s very easy to execute and can be confirmed off some of his excellent neutral pokes, thanks to his ability to summon a wall behind the opponent. Add it all up, and you have a character that, both literally and figuratively, stands head and shoulders above the competition.

S Tier

This tier represents characters of extreme levels of power. If not for the SS, which has ‘Things That Should Not Be,’ the S tier would be the most powerful. As it stands, we consider S tier to be “top tier.”

S tier characters have very powerful tools that can reliably be used to enforce their gameplan, bypass neutral, or punish characters in ways that the characters in tiers below them simply don’t. They may have weaknesses, but their strengths are so powerful that whatever weakness they have doesn’t hold them back much, and rather functions as something keeping them from being SS tier.

Swift Master

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If not for Crusader, with his infinite, Swift Master would be the strongest character in DNF Duel (and many people still consider Swift Master to be #1). With extreme levels of space control, thanks to powerful “round start” options, his vortex special moves that move players towards him or designated spots on the screen, and a nearly full-screen negative edge move that can be confirmed into a ton of damage, he dominates neutral.

Beyond neutral, he has powerful safe jump and mix options that force opponents to guess even after they eat a huge combo from him. He is also the only character in the game that can use all of his grounded MP moves in the air, meaning he can still use his invincible reversal in the air.

Although he requires a high level of execution to play optimally, and he is tied for the lowest health in the game (with the much less powerful Inquisitor), with neutral control, speed, pressure, mix, conversion ability, and damage this good, it doesn’t really matter.

Hitman

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Hitman is probably the strongest “easy-to-play” character in the game. With huge range on his normals, particularly some of his lows, he has no problem getting hits. Many of his moves are also incredibly active and have high ‘hitstop’ (where the game slows down momentarily) and hit multiple times, making hit-confirming trivially easy (even if whiffing them is dangerous).

Once he has Awakened, Hitman has the best invincible reversal in the game, which becomes safe, since the added attack at the end gives him enough time to recover and block. Because of this, he can liberally use it to fish for tons of damage, and there isn’t much most opponents can do about it. Great neutral, big damage, and very powerful defensive tools that get better in Awakening, he has everything you need to win.

Berserker

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Berserker is a fantastic character, not just because of his strong, fairly long-range attacks but also because of the special properties his attacks gain while using Frenzy (his signature MP special), his oppressive knockdown pressure, and his high damage. He’s a bit more technical than Hitman, but what you get in return for learning him is power, pressure, and damage.

His special, Frenzy, slowly turns his red health into white health, but in exchange, it gives him a long-range vacuum attack that extends itself into a hugely damaging combo. While in Frenzy, his A, B, and C attacks also get second hits, giving them more range and making them easier to hit-confirm, in addition to opening up unique pressure and combo opportunities.

It also gives him access to Conversion on command, spending his white health to cancel the recovery on moves. The best Berserker players will use this to extend their offense, keep their pressure ambiguous, capitalize on stray hits to deal huge damage, and get creative with their optimal combo routes.

If you want to play more conservatively, you can avoid spending Berserker’s white health with Conversion and try to land his command grab, which refills his white health, but it’s important to keep in mind that when he reaches Awakening, his attacks also heal him.

While his basic kit is relatively straightforward, his more advanced techniques push his offense and pressure over the edge into greatness, making him a great choice for combo fiends and those who like taking risks for huge rewards.

Striker

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While Striker may seem unassuming at first, she has several unique tools that make her a pressure and damage monster, even if her neutral isn’t quite as potent as characters like Ghost Blade, Hitman, or Swift Master.

While attacks normally chain from Light to Medium to Heavy to Special, Striker has something called “reverse beat,” meaning she can chain attacks together in whatever order she wants. Normally impossible blockstrings or combo chains are child’s play to her, giving her tons of combo and pressure freedom, in addition to several special moves that are plus on block. It also lets her make some of her better, advancing moves safe, because she can cancel them into light attacks on block or whiff.

She has the best guard crush ability of any character in the game, forcing her opponents to retain 100 MP for Guard Cancel or be destroyed. While she can sometimes struggle to get hits, once she hits you, it’s over. She deals very high damage, and her Awakening pushes that damage even higher, making comebacks a regular occurrence.

NOTE: Right now she also has near-infinite combos on Ghost Blade and Swift Master, but they can only be executed in very specific circumstances, they won’t work if the opponent has full health, and they are probably going to be patched.

Dragon Knight

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While most characters want to avoid being in the air, Dragon Knight loves to be there. She’s the only character with the ability to freely fly and, while it costs MP to do it, she can use that ability alongside her Dragon helper to oppress enemies, skip neutral, and create unique mix situations.

Dragon Knight players will use a mixture of her powerful neutral tools and great range, combined with Dragon commands to control the screen with powerful zoning tools, skip neutral, and put opponents on the defensive, then go for double or even triple overhead attacks and command grabs to open opponents up.

With fantastic air maneuverability, easy access to safe jumps and mix, several ways to dominate or even skip neutral, a pet that makes all of that even better, and very good pokes that can be easily converted, Dragon Knight is a truly fantastic character.

Kunoichi

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Kunoichi is a huge reason why you should use the Block button in DNF Duel, given her strong left/right mix and extensive pressure tools. She can harry enemies with her grounded and air kunai throw attacks, keeping aggressive characters from approaching and zoning characters from setting up some of their most powerful options.

Her normals are nothing to write home about, but her special attacks cover a wide range of attack areas, and they each apply a time-bomb that detonates several seconds later if they hit, letting you extend into unique combo routes if they hit and giving you an opportunity to take your turn if the detonation is blocked.

She can teleport and summon fireball-spitting frogs and fire tornadoes to create advantageous situations and punish approaching enemies, and while her optimal combos are on the technical side, she has plenty of sauce and damage for those willing to go into practice mode and learn them. If you love fire and ninjas, as well as characters that outwit opponents and mix them up, Kunoichi is for you.

Ranger

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There are two zoners in DNF Duel, and Ranger is the easier of the two. The best zoner in the game, Ranger has full-screen or nearly full-screen normals that harry opponents and can be trivially converted into his specials or even his Awakening attack. He can also set up approaches with a grenade toss, and he has several specials that help him move relatively freely around the screen.

A hard character to pin down, Ranger also has a versatile toolkit, and skilled players will use it to prevent the opponent’s approach, all while whittling their health down to nothing. If you want to toy with your enemies, expend little effort to win neutral, and be rewarded with solid damage as you move freely around the screen, Ranger is for you.

Enchantress

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Some people are downplaying the Enchantress, but not us. ArcSys fans will know that “puppet” characters (like Carl Clover or Zato-1) have a long lineage of being considered bottom tier or weak early in the game’s life, largely because they require more time to develop and their strengths aren’t as apparent as the main character, or other rushdown types. Once puppet characters are developed, however, they almost always end up being top tier, sometimes even #1.

As it stands, Enchantress has a lot of powerful tools, a solid zoning fireball, and a full-screen move that also steals the opponent’s MP. Her claim to fame, however, is her puppet bear, which can be controlled separately and used to throw out attacks, pressure the opponent, or even perform an invincible reversal, all while the Enchantress is safely behind it.

She also has a command grab that transforms the opponent into a doll for around four seconds and removes their ability to block and use their moveset for the duration. While she is undoubtedly the character that requires the most time in Practice mode, those who put in the time will be rewarded with a character like no other.

S- Tier

S- tier characters, like those in the S tier, have powerful tools that can reliably be used to enforce their gameplan, bypass neutral, or punish opponents with higher damage than the characters in tiers below them. They have slightly more pronounced weaknesses, fewer ways to access their win conditions, or strengths that aren’t as powerful or well-rounded as those in S tier.

Trouble Shooter

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Trouble Shooter is a great mid-range character that, like Berserker, has easy access to Conversion, making his pressure more ambiguous and his combos more damaging. He also has a delayable three-hit rekka, which forces opponents to guess whether they should try to mash to punish him for resetting pressure, jump to avoid his grabs, or just block to avoid frame traps.

Overall, Trouble Shooter is a very strong character. He has great normals, the ability to spend MP to hit confirm into solid damage, knockdown setups with his grenade net, and the ability to buff his damage and gain access to Conversion on command. If you want to dominate the mid-range and blow opponents away with a shotgun and grenades, Trouble Shooter is for you.

Launcher

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Compared to Ranger, Launcher is the more well-rounded zoning character in DNF Duel who rewards planning and strategy. With many tools to zone characters out from full-screen–whether through fast, screen-clearing attacks or slow-moving moves that opponents will have to avoid or block–she can make it extremely difficult for enemies to get in.

She can easily confirm her fastest attacks into her slide, which lets her set up missile and air laser oki to keep the pressure going. She can also confirm into her invincible reversal to confirm the kill. From huge fireballs, grenades, flamethrowers, and beams that cover the ground to missiles and machine guns that cover the air, Launcher has a weapon for every situation, making her a great choice for players who like zoning, as well as those who enjoy outwitting their opponents.

Grappler

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While a few characters in DNF Duel have command grabs, Grappler embraces command grabs as a way of life. His special and heavy moves are also chargeable, letting you choose whether to risk a longer startup for better damage, better combo routes or gattlings, or even plus frames if they are blocked. He does need to be aware of his spacing, however, because some are punishable at certain ranges.

Grappler has a suite of armored moves, too, although they are only armored against mid-hitting attacks, so they are vulnerable to lows. He also has some advancing moves that are projectile invincible, which you can use cleverly to advance against zoners and other characters that outrange him.

In the category of “truly wild,” his parry can hit hitboxes, not just hurtboxes, letting him land his Awakening move off full-screen moves from powerful enemies like Swift Master. Although some consider him to be weaker, this (and his other tools) lets him fill a powerful anti-meta spot on the roster, in addition to being a character that deals a lot of damage.

Lost Warrior

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Lost Warrior is the secret boss character that is unlocked after beating Story Mode. He’s probably the most unusual character in the game because of the properties and ranges of his normals, specials, and more.

He’s also a character that can punish opponents for not using the Guard button, since he has access to long-range crossups that can be confirmed into full combos. He can deal absolutely absurd damage and significant guard crush damage, too.

Lost Warrior also has a bizarre suite of movement techniques, including a teleport and a teleporting attack, and every time you land one of his specials, a counter ticks up on the opponent. Once you hit five stacks, time will stop and Lost Warrior can deal out massive damage while the opponent is defenseless.

If you have the stomach for bizarre movement options, mind games, and slower-than-average moves that can set up killing combos on the opponent, Lost Warrior is for you.

A+ Tier

Characters in A+ tier are missing that special something that S tier characters have. Whether it’s shorter normals, specials that aren’t universally useful, the lack of important tools, or the fact that they have difficulty ‘opening up’ opponents, they are still strong. They simply have issues that players will need to be aware of and play around to get wins against some of the characters in higher tiers.

Inquisitor

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The Inquisitor is a powerful close-to-mid-range fighter that has a wide range of options for her specials, advancing normals, several multi-hitting moves, and the ability to punish enemies with her fiery attacks.

While it isn’t as powerful as it initially appeared to be, her spinning wheel attack still lets you create a huge amount of frame advantage that you can use to pressure opponents, or force them to spend 100 MP on Guard Cancel to avoid it. Her oil attack makes her fire moves deal slightly more damage, but her ability to extend combos, solid rushdown tools, and ability to severely punish jumping characters is a big part of why she’s powerful.

Ghostblade

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If you like dominating neutral with massive normal attacks and special moves, hit confirming full-screen into flashy combos that deal solid damage, and commanding two characters without having to spend tons of time in practice mode, Ghostblade is for you. With some of the best neutral in the game and the ability to pressure opponents by summoning the Ghost, he is a very powerful character with very few, but notable, flaws.

Unfortunately, in a game where nearly every character has an invincible reversal, Ghost Blade does not. This means that, while he’s very good at winning neutral, losing neutral is worse for him than it is for many other characters. Thankfully, he has an invincible teleport and perhaps the best Guard Cancel in the game to help even things out, so he still has ways to get out of blockstun, but you’ll need to keep 100 MP in the tank to ensure you have the ability to use the Guard Cancel.

NOTE: In this version of the game, there are a few infinite or near-infinite combos that work primarily on him and Swift Master, but these may be patched out before long.

Vanguard

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Vanguard is virtually uncontested when it comes to normal move range. His ability to freely chain those special moves together in any order, enabling him to create high damage combos or ambiguous pressure is effortless, but he still has a few problems. While his moves command respect, he can have a difficult time opening up enemies, even if he can deal significant guard break damage once he gets in.

His Awakening passive pushes his guard break potential further, but he still lags behind other oppressive guard break characters like Striker. Furthermore, his invincible reversal lacks a lower hitbox, meaning it will whiff in many defensive scenarios. Because of this weaker-than-average defense and the fact that many other characters have great neutral and great pressure means that, while his freeform attacks are fun, there are more powerful characters that fill a similar role. Still, he’s a great choice for beginners or those that just want to jump in and ‘feel the power’ immediately.

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