(This piece is going to assume a little familiarity with the way this game works and use numpad notation, the international shorthand for fighting games. The numbers correspond to the directionals when your character is facing right. 6 is forward, 4 is back, 5 is neutral, ie pressing nothing. The letters are A,B,C,D, and P for the game buttons.)
Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is a crazy game with a lot of onscreen chaos, but the rules are pretty straightforward and honest. It’s harsh but, in its way, it is fair.
Character balance and synergy
I think the first thing you need to acknowledge about BBTag — even if you’re trying to sell others on it — is its lopsided character balance out of the gate. Put Jin, Ruby or Es next to Noel or Linne and it’s hard to see why one wouldn’t choose characters who are so superior in terms of damage, versatility, and team synergy. Indeed, I chose my team (Es/Waldstein) specifically because I thought both of these characters were total bullshit, but in such a way that they work well together.
And the key, more than your characters being powerful, is that they work well with each other. It’s on you as a player to work out that meta-game. So try and pick characters you find strong, but don’t choose them off a tier list. A team is only strong if you know why it works, and you’re making it work.
I cannot blame the low-tier warrior for toughing it out with some of the weaker characters in this game — I used to do that with old Blazblue, when the top tier characters were so strong I got bored — but it feels like it’s going to be even harder than usual.
Specializing in range and power, Es/Waldstein can play a pretty effective ranged keep-away game and deal crushing damage up close. Between Wald’s claws and Es’ projectiles, you can control a large part of the screen, punishing any whiffed attack for massive damage in an instant. Wald’s assists lock down space that Es can’t reach and cover for the openings in her zoning game, while Es’ projectile assist gives Wald an easy way to approach. Combo compatibility is great too, so expect huge damage off the slightest hits.
Es is a mid-range character, agile with a huge sword. Though she can’t play the long-range game as extensively as specialists like Nu, Vatista, or Yukiko, Es has a great variety of projectile tools to keep the opponent out. Her normal moves up close aren’t bad either, and with an assist she can do very high combo damage without spending meter. Her projectile Distortion attack slams most of the screen area in an instant, making her a terror as soon as she has two bars ready.
Es is a strong all-rounder, but on this team you will probably prefer having her as the last member standing due to her powerful Distortion moves and the fat stacks of Distortion meter you’ll get during Resonance Blaze. Waldstein isn’t bad in RB, but he can’t simply can’t put the mode to the same powerful use as Es can.
Waldstein is an insanely strong grappler with almost none of the drawbacks that typically come with playing such a character. His claw strikes swipe across almost the entire screen, and even his normal moves boast inescapably long range. You can’t play a runaway game against Wald like you can against Zangief in Street Fighter, because Waldstein comes to you. In a tag game, and with a projectile assist like Es’, the offensive pressure you can generate with Waldstein is unfairly oppressive. When the opponents are afraid of your claws, make them feel the true fear of Waldstein with his powerful grabs.
I like to put Es in front when I have meter and put Wald on point when I don’t, but I’m not afraid to spend meter with Waldstein either. It’s possible to end any of his combos with his charging Distortion attack, which puts your opponent in the corner no matter where you are on the screen. Forcing the opponent into the corner against Wald is not a bad use of two bars. His EX (one bar) command grab is also a good option and inflicts permanent damage that your opponent can’t heal.
Es’ key moves
Es’ 2C comes out fast and boasts range much wider than her other attacks. Especially against opponents who are thinking about your projectiles, try and go for the trip when you can. Cancel into projectiles when it’s blocked to make this safe. On hit, cancel into 236C and call and assist for a big combo chance.
The secret to using Es’ projectiles properly is mixing them up, both the types of projectile and their timing. If you’re predictable and use 236AB over and over again, opponents will just jump over you and punish your attempts. Instead, don’t be afraid to use all the different variations, and mix up your timing too. The opponent needs to know your timing in order to jump over the projectiles, so don’t give it away.
When an opponent feels like they have your rhythm down, bait them with a single fireball and then block. Often you’ll get them to make a big opening this way: for example, if they air dash at you with an attack, you’ll have plenty of time to counter it with your anti-air sword attack (2B). While we’re on this subject, Wald’s anti-air (2b) is oustanding and leads to big combos.
Waldstein’s key moves
You might overlook it with the power of his claw attack, but simply poking with Wald’s standing jab (5A) is an excellent option as well. This move has nearly as much reach as the claw swipe (236A), but it pops out a lot faster and is a good way to catch your opponent off guard and throw off their attack. If you’re quick, you can hit confirm into 236A and maybe even start an assist combo.
Now speaking of that claw attack. 236A is the version you want to use. This single claw swipe smashes the opponent into the ground and steps Wald forward. This is punishable on block if you’re close enough, so you want to use this move at the tip of your range or with some assist cover. Not only will this move stop your opponent in their tracks, it’ll move Wald forward in the process, leaving you in a perfect place to continue applying pressure. You want to keep that momentum going. 236B is largely for combo use, and 236C is safe on block.
Wald also has an excellent sweep (2C) that covers a lot of ground very quickly. Remember that like the rest of the Under-Night characters, Wald can cancel attacks in reverse order. So you can cancel 2C to 2B,B and even cancel into other regular moves (like 5B,B) after that. 2C to 236A is also how I start a lot of my assist combos.
The third hit of Wald’s auto-combo with A (a headbutt) allows Wald to either finish with a special move or leave the opponent standing. Why would we do this rather than getting additional damage and a knockdown? This is a situation called a reset: rather than finishing his combo for a small amount of additional damage, Wald doesn’t allow the opponent a moment to breathe, forcing them to stand in place. In the moment the opponent recovers, Wald launches an attack they can’t dodge, and if he hits the damage payoff is massive.
Generally you want to make the opponent guess between a grab (236C or 236BC: both use meter) or your fastest regular attack (2A). The idea here is that if the opponent blocks or attacks, they’ll lose to the grab. If they jump to avoid the grab, they’ll lose to the jab. It’s a 50/50, as we say.
Players who are savvy to the reset will counter with a Reversal Action. If you think your opponent is on to you, set them up, bait and block them.
I mentioned that you probably want to Es to be the last fighter standing on this team. Here is why. Let’s look at what Resonance Blaze changes.
The most obvious change is the fact that your Distortion meter will start charging rapidly and the cap increases dramatically from 5 stocks to 9. This means you can be extremely generous both with Es’ EX projectile (for combos) and her Distortion projectile. The Distortion projectile is already an absurdly good move. When Es is sitting on this much meter she can really abuse the move and punish the slightest flinch from your opponent. If they’re stupid, they’ll get hit, and if they’re smart, they’ll clam up. Use that opening to move in on them. By contrast, having all this meter doesn’t really make a huge difference for Wald.
The other change is the expansion of your combos and the ability to cancel special moves into Distortions. Es gets a tiny damage boost out of this, but couple it with the massive amount of Distortion meter you have to burn and Es can get very nasty corner combos by looping B, B, 236C.
Right now chip damage in Resonance Blaze is also unreasonable, and the characters with multi-hitting projectile attacks get the most out of it. In Resonance Blaze, Es’ projectile Distortion attack does about half as much damage on block as it does on hit. This effect is most noticable with Jin, but this is still a major advantage for Es and other zoning characters. By contrast, Wald does not do a lot of chip damage.
Wald isn’t *terrible* in Resonance Blaze, it’s just that Es can take much better advantage of its enhancements. Wald is very strong, but he has to make a patient advance and with the 15-second limit of Resonance Blaze, it’s much more likely that his opponent will run away and wait it out.
One cool thing about Wald in Resonance Blaze is that now that you can cancel special moves into Distortion attacks, Wald’s 236A claw swipe is absolutely deadly. You can punish even the slightest opening with this move, and with a cancel into 236BC it does 7000 damage. I like to do the move, input 236, check if the move hit (that’s called a hit confirm), and then immediately press BC if it did.
Es doesn’t have a lot of combo potential by herself, but the story changes dramatically with Wald’s assists. Generally you’ll combo into 2C, then use 214C while calling an assist. The timing will vary by character, but I often call Wald’s 4P right before 214C makes impact. The rest follows naturally.
The key to Es combos is to have the opponent in the air or grounded for long enough for Es to hit them with her standing heavy attack (5B). If that catches during a combo, cancel into her jumping overhead attack, 214B (charge). The charged version of this move causes a floor slam, from which you can use her standing jab series (5AAA) to continue the combo.
Against a standing opponent Es can cancel 5B to her command grab, 214B. This is good damage, but if they’re crouching Es will just go flying over. Be careful: I don’t land this one a lot.
Wald’s hit-throws with B have quirks beyond what I can detail here, but you generally want to start with 2B,B if you’re in range for it. At the moment they hit the ground, hit 5B, B again and you’ll get a throw against the wall. You can follow your opponent into the air for a combo or “catch” them with 5AAA and possibly attempt the reset.
You can get a lot of crazy loops out of these throws, but I like to finish on the ground with 236A because Wald ends up so close to the opponent.
At slightly longer range, I go for 2C to 236A, calling Es’ 5P assist. This is a fairly long assist that gives Wald just enough time to dash in and use 2B,B or 5AAA.
Note that Wald can use his command throws in combos, and in Resonance Blaze he can even cancel a regular command throw into a distortion command throw, making his grab game that much more dangerous.
Wrapping it up
So anyway, I think this is a good team! I have been experimenting with more all-rounder combinations (Hyde/Yu) and a lot of dumb stuff (Carmine/Yang, Yukiko/Wald), but I think these two are my mains. Still, a lot of the fun of BBTag is going to be experimenting. My tech is very early and I’m looking forward to what others do. Now that I’ve told you all my tricks… see you online, or at the tourney!
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