A complete and thorough guide on the British master of long distance relationships.
You may be still deciding who you want to play, or you have already known you wanted to play Axl for a time. Whichever it may be, I would like to give my advice on how to play the fire-bending, scythe wielding wise-cracker. For context on myself, I have been playing since July 4th and have been in the celestial floor twice, once in September and during this month, November. Strive was not my first fighting game, that would go to Skullgirls. Having quite a bit of experience in that game, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Dragon Ball Fighterz, I have been playing fighting games for a few years. But of every character in every game, none are quite like Axl Low. I’ve seen zoners before but Axl’s gameplay style of not using projectiles but having extended hit and hurtboxes creates such an interesting and unique gameplay style. Without further ado, I’ll start explaining just how to play him.
- 5p- Good for hitting most dashing opponents or opponents who’ve just jumped or are about to land. Can combo into snail at mid-range. Can also combo into 6K if you hit an opponent in air.
- 5k- Your quickest standing poke. Can be used for strike throws or axl bomber loops.
- c.S- Your ideal grounded combo starter, can gatling into nearly everything. Can be followed up with 5H, f.S, etc. Or if it is blocked, you can attempt a strike throw or gatling into 6H as a mix-up.
- f.S- Surprisingly fast and far-reaching. Useful on round-start and managing the mid to close range neutral. Follow up with 5H or 2H depending on how far you are (Use 2H when 5H wouldn’t connect.)
- 5H- Great damage, useful in combos. You should use snail after.
- 5D- Great for mix-ups. I recommend using 2K, then 5D or some other form of unpredictable dust usage. DO NOT use 5D too often, or it will be read and punished or counter-hit.
- 6P- Your ideal anti-air for when they are too high for 5p, too close for 6K, and not at the right angle for 2S. You can also gatling into snail afterwards but this could whiff if done too closely to your opponent, especially against smaller opponents.
- 6K- An incredible anti-air which should be used at mid to long range. Use to read jumps, or condition your opponent into not jumping. Can combo into sickle flash if buffered well.
- 6H- One of your best mix-up options which unfortunately usually does not gatling into anything but can be roman canceled for a follow up combo. If you RC 6H, delay the RC after it hits to guarantee a purple RC so damage won’t be scaled down due to RRC. Also can be combo’d after if you land a 6H counterhit.
- 2P- Not very useful. It is a bit quicker than 2H but not by much at all. Can combo into snail.
- 2K- Your best poke and get-away option. It is Axl’s fastest move and is great at getting in quick. Its incredible low hitbox compliments this even further. You should use 5D, 6H, or 2D after this move.
- 2S- Wonderful at hitting opponents who are all-too-confident in their jump-ins. Just be careful with this move, its 23-frame-recovery will leave you vulnerable on whiff. Consider using 6P instead if you figure this move is too risky.
- 2H- Possibly Axl’s best ground control normal. It covers 75% of the stage, has good frame data, and does great damage. On hit, you can use snail at mid-range or at farther range (or on block), use sickle flash. On a very close-range counter-hit, you can use sickle flash and spinning chain strike for quite a bit of damage.
- 2D- Another low mix-up tool. You can either hit snail after landing this or go for an okizeme set-up.
- j.P- Good for air-to-air zoning. Use with snail.
- j.K- Use for close-range air-to-air, can combo into j.D or Axl Bomber.
- j.S- The move you will be using most is either this or 2H. Has the best angle for an air-to-ground at mid range but will not even hit opponents too close to you, in air or grounded. Can be dash-canceled on counter-hit for a combo.
- j.H- Your best jump-in option. Can gatling into j.D if used at higher altitudes or goes straight into c.S when you hit this move close to the ground. Also a good defensive tool, since you can jump out of blockstrings an safely poke your assaulter with this move.
- j.D- Plenty of knockback, even on block. Perfect for a safe jump-in. Use after j.H at high altitudes to ensure your safety.
Sickle Flash- The notorious, infamous, and feared Sickle Flash. This bad boy reaches full-screen and pushes back any opponent on the ground. Throw this out when you are across the screen from your opponent. This move destroys projectiles but you are not safe from Ky’s Sacred Edge. Be careful of that one move.
- Soaring Chain Strike- Hits a wide arc above your sickle flash, used for catching jumping opponents. As a follow-up, you can either use 2H for sheer damage or c.S for an okizeme setup. If they block this move, use 2K or Rainwater when they land, since they are both safe and fast moves.
- Spinning Chain Strike- Useful for when your opponent is at mid-range and you use Sickle Flash. You can either hold it the entire duration to keep your opponent in the scythe and hope they stop blocking or cancel it early to keep the game neutral. Your opponent may not expect this move, since it is so fast, and get caught. If they block, however, you still have a chance to keep the game in your favor. Depending on the character, your 2K or 2H may be fast enough to hit them. Against characters like Sol, this will not be the case and you will be forced to block.
- Winter Cherry- Your best long range damage. Does incredible chip damage that keeps your opponents on their toes. Do not use this unless you are sure you can hit it, as you do not want to be punished. You could also try delaying the explosion to bait opponents to stop blocking.
- Winter Mantis- Great conditioning tool to be used scarcely. Should be used as a fullscreen okizeme option. Use 2H after your opponent lands. This move has a long recovery and over-use of it will result in a hard punish.
- Rainwater- A great round-start option also useful to get out of sticky situations. Not a reversal but should be used to bait grabs. You can also use this after 2D for a mostly safe spacing move. However, this too will result in a hard punish. Use sparingly.
- Snail-Good combo ender that does plenty of damage. You should not use it on block, as it has too much recovery to be safe. If you do use it on block, try delaying it to tricking them into letting go of block.
- Axl Bomber-One of Axl’s coolest moves, and mechanically hardest to use, this move is amazing. It does very high damage and can be gatling’d into from any aerial move. Learning to do Axl Bomber right off the ground, or TK (Tiger Knee), is essential for Axl’s highest damage combos.
- Sickle Storm- Your reversal. It does mediocre damage for a super but is great for a get-off-me tool. The best part about this reversal is it is only -2 on block, not nearly enough time for any character to attack you, considering the range it puts between you and them. They can jump over the second hit and get a punish that way, though. The downside to this super is its predictability. Being one of Axl’s only defensive options, a player with good match-up knowledge will hard read this super if you use it predictably.
- One Vision- Axl’s most stylish move, a personal favorite of mine. The install and the activation can both be canceled into from any move except Sickle Storm and 6H. The rest of the exact details of this move deserves its own section.
As Axl, you want to be dominating the stage. Axl is all about control and manipulation. Control the space by keeping your opponent at mid to long range.
Axl should rarely be in neutral but knowing how to turn things in your favor is essential. When playing an opponent for the first time, this can be a bit more difficult, as you will not know their habits. Throw out safe moves like 2H, j.S, 5P, and 6K. When these moves land, be prepared to also throw out snail or Sickle Flash.
Always be holding back. Not only does this create space, but it also allows you to use Sickle Flash at any given moment. The second your opponent is fullscreen, or close enough to it, use it. If they jump, use Soaring Chain Strike but if they block use Winter Cherry. If at anytime you use Sickle Flash while your opponent is too close, they will either jump over it or head straight towards you after the initial Flash. You can either hope they come straight to you and use Spinning Chain Strike or do not follow-up at all and hope you can block before you get hit.
Use dashes, Rainwater, Sickle Flash, j.S, etc to create space and enter an advantage state.
Advantage for Axl can mean two things. He is either up close and personal or the complete opposite, completely on the other side of the screen.
When in your enemy’s face, you have several options. You can 2K for a quick attack to force a blockstring opportunity, or go for something more risky like a raw 6H. Using dust and 6H, Axl can also mix highs and lows. Not many people expect the aggressive Axl overhead. You could also consider getting a strike throw off 2K or 5K (preferably 5K), however the downside to all these options is they can get read due to overuse. Though, Axl is not very close often so your close-range options are hardly ever predicted. If they are, it could be that you got unlucky or you are going in close too often.
When far from your opponent, be ready, at all times, to use Sickle Flash, as stated earlier. Understanding your opponent is key to keeping them at this range. Do they jump often? Or perhaps they wait out Sickle Flash and run through it? If you see them jumping often, use 6K to teach them a lesson. If they stay grounded, you might want to consider using 2H and Sickle Flash until they are in range of other moves. They will be crouching to block 2H so you can usually get a free 6H or grab.
Generally, disadvantage state is tough for Axl. It isn’t as bad as Zato but he still struggles with it. On get-up, use Sickle Storm if they are going for a meaty attack. Just be sure they will not read and punish it. Otherwise, try to jump out of block-strings or use YRC.
You will also be in the corner often, since you back away from your opponent constantly. This can be tough, so learning to block is extremely important. Learning when your opponent goes for grabs or dusts is key.
Axl has some great Oki options.
- On a fullscreen oki setup, use Sickle Flash or Winter Mantis. It is essential to learn the Winter Mantis timing to hit opponents at the earliest possible point, minimizing reaction time.
If you are feeling more daring, run to about mid-screen, then use Winter Mantis. It’s stupid, and there is way more time for the opponent to react but they will not expect it at all, and 9/10 times they will get hit (assuming this is your first time doing it against this opponent.)
Alternatively, running up and strike-throwing works comically well on a fullscreen oki.
If your opponent is knocked down right in front of you, you can get a lot off 5K or 2K like 6H, 5D, 2D, or strike-throw. You can also just go for a meaty c.S for a free full blockstring, or combo if they mashed. Or, you can land c.S, f.S, 5H (or 2H), then do Winter Mantis during any part of the blockstring. Your opponent will be expecting a damaging move and likely get hit by the grab. However, be ready to PRC in case they do react and jump in for a punish.
A lot can be done with this. The install itself is a great pressure tool, opponents will be forced to block or face the threat of the full wrath of a time-stop.
For the actual activation, it can be hard to do. Literally none of your grounded overheads can cancel into One Vision but every other move can, besides Sickle Storm. Try being ultra-aggressive to bait a punish, since most moves can cancel into it. For example, try using Snail, a usually punishable move, to bait an attack or using an air-dash for the same reason.
Meat and Bones
The actual time-stop itself is a wonder to behold. The combos are sick and will get you many women (or whoever you prefer).
After a successful Winter Mantis, you can activate either the install or the activation for different combo routes.
Starting with install, you can do Winter Mantis, One Vision Install, c.S, 5H, One Vision, 66, 6H, c.S, f.S, 5H, Snail.
Starting with the activation, you can do Winter Mantis, One Vision, j.K, j.D, Axl Bomber, [delay], Sickle Flash, Soaring Chain Strike, 2H.
Or near the corner, do Winter Mantis, One Vision, j.K, j.D, Axl Bomber, and when they are against the wall, do j.D, Axl Bomber.
If you land raw One Vision, you can do your traditional BnB c.S, f.S, 5H, Snail.
If you land One Vision off Snail, or any move that puts them in the air, do j.K, j.D, Axl Bomber. Then do the above combos.
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