Sooty Heng
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1. Attack-Replacements: Your Character has more than 2x7 Normal Attacks

Anyone who's played BattleCon knows there can be quite a lot of analysis paralysis because of how many permutations of attacks there are, and how therefore the game can sometimes seem as good as 'random'. Well, rejoice, because not only are attack interactions simpler (see next section), once your opponent has used both his Crosses without reshuffling, you know he can't use a Cross anymore.

Or is it?

If you analyze Special Attacks, you'll find that every character will have a number of them that look suspiciously similar to normal attacks. Even the ults are often replacements.

Reese - Additional 2x Assault, 2x Grasp, 2x Cross, 2x Sweep (Ults - 2x Assault, 2x Cross)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Gauntlet Flurry - Functions as Grasp that is weaker but with more range, beating Cross at range 2 as well.
Knight Wave - Functions as a Cross with less get-away and therefore loses to Focus and Sweep.
Gallant Defender - Functions as a Sweep with 4 range, trading with Cross. But no card advantage and less guard/potential damage.
Chivalry - Apart from being an excellent, if predictable, opening move... also functions a safe Assault. Trades with other assaults and beats Cross.
Check Mate [Ult] - Functions as Cross with 1 range and more power
Sovereign Glory [Ult] - Functions as Assault with more power

Heidi: Additional 4x Cross (Ults - 2x Sweep)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Iron Knuckle - Functions as a Cross that moves the opponent instead of you, thus losing to Focus.
Steel Driver - Functions as a Cross that loses to assault (on defense) and Focus.
Rail Driver [Ult] - Functions as Sweep that beats Spike

Vincent: Additional 4x Cross, 2x Sweep
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Majority Whip - Functions as a Cross with 5 speed.
Phoenix Accent - Functions as a Cross that is less safe, losing to Focus and Sweep.
National Guard - Functions as a Sweep with no stun guard (add your own using passive)

What this does is that it effectively allow you to easily see the overall value of each of your cards. Heidi, having essentially 6x Crosses, can cleanly win turns very easily when in 1-2 range by dealing you damage without taking any back in response. In fact, she can play Crosses even when cornered since her Cross-replacements move you instead of her. This means that if you're Reese, your 4xGrasps and your 2xFocus are very important tools to have if you want to even have a chance at creating a health lead. And even more important on defense since since attackers win Cross mirrors.

2a. Rock-Paper-Scissors: Important Attack Interactions
2b. Attacker's advantage

#1 Cross beats all normals except Grasp (when not cornered)
#2 Grasp beats Cross
#3 Sweep beats all normals but Spike and Cross
#4 Range 1: Cross > Sweep/Focus > Grasp > Cross
#5 Range 2: Spike > Sweep/Focus > Assault/Cross(when cornering) > Spike
#6 Range 3: Dive/Spike > Sweep > Assault > Dive/Spike

Given that there are so many normal attack replacements, these attack interactions come up more often that you would expect. Why are they crucial? Because they land you a life lead, and life lead is important(see next section).

#1 in particular is what makes cornering the opponent so advantageous. Not only will his Crosses be ineffective, you can use your own Cross to beat almost anything. Side note: Because Cross, Focus and Sweep can all hit at range 2 anyway, in general you want to stay in range 2 so that a cornered opponent needs 3 force to escape a corner instead of just 2.

#2 is important precisely because Cross is such a safe play

#1-4 in combination is important in melee range. Here, the triangle Grasp --> Cross --> Sweep/Focus --> Grasp applies. And it's also why being the attacker is so attractive - your Grasps and Crosses now win mirrors!

#5 and #6 comes into play at range 2-3 to create a two very similar triangles. And like before, the attacker's Dives, Spikes, Assaults and Crosses win mirrors. This page by Level99 talks about #5 and #6 in basically the same way (although it doesn't give you a full picture like what I'm trying to do here):

3. Drive is the only Normal that hits at range 4

Now that we've considered ranges 1-3, we need to think about range 4. In fact, you start at range 4 from the opponent, and this gives you a crucial choice to make right at the very beginning of the game - do you want to strike now for a quick life lead, prolong your time in long range by moving, use the range to boost up in preparation for close range fights, or to close the gap already? All this depends on your Special Attacks, and range 4 and above is where characters really start to diverge from each other.

Reese, for example, is pretty terrible at range 5 and above. He can't hit anything above range 5, and at range 5 doesn't even do any damage with Ballista until you have some gauge. Thankfully, he has a range 1-4 Sweep and Assault replacement, both of which help to close the gap.

Vincent may only have Crimson Barrage that hits up to range 5, but it allows him to safely wreck your hand if you attack into him. But yet, this move is much more valuable at close range on defense for him (as he can follow up with a Boost - Focus for free damage), so perhaps it might be a wise idea to bait it out with a Cross to move back or a Block for a free point of gauge?

Heidi might look like a really awesome artillery ranged character, but both her ranged options all trade poorly on a turn 1 range 4 strike against Reese and Vincent. But at farther ranges, she can hit those two for free without fear of retaliation. So perhaps she should just move away first and start boosting?

Bottom line? Go do your own rock-paper-scissors analysis for the match-up you're playing. And remember to use the free Mulligan, especially if you're going second, to ensure that you can respond appropriately whether Heidi decides to run into range 6 or strike at range 4.

4a. Expect to trade a lot
4b. End Game Strategy 1: Life Lead

30 life may seem like a lot to start with, but it runs out for both players very quickly because there is a LOT of trading in this game. Trading occurs every time when one player has priority but the other player has stun guard. And this happens more than in BattleCon because attacks are more telegraphed with players setting up Boosts before they attack or defend. Many moves in the game also do a huge chunk of damage. Sweep vs Sweep trades make for especially quick games.

Why is life lead important in the end game? Your options become severely limited later in the game when your opponent has a life lead. Imagine if you only have 6 life while the opponent has 7. You may just be 1 life apart, but now your Sweeps now effectively lose to his Sweeps! This in turn affects the turns before you reach this game state because both players will be jockeying for a position like this.

Therefore, with a life lead, you can value trading as much as straight up winning turns. Without a life lead, you will eventually be forced to gamble for a turn-winning strike. This makes the person without the lead a little more predictable.

5a. If you win priority, you're going first
5b. End Game Strategy 2: Priority

If you win priority, you win priority hands down. This is unlike BattleCon where even if you win priority, the opponent may still have start of beat effects that negate your play. So towards the end of the match, even if you're at 1 life while your opponent is at more, as long as you can kill the other character in one move, it doesn't matter what he does.

This makes priority more effective on the final turn than they are in other stages of the game. One strategy is to reserve your speed boost and one fastest attack for last turn, but again this makes the player who is attempting it slightly more predictable in the turns before that.

6a. Count your oppponents' cards: Your opponent does not always have a rock
6b. End Game Strategy 3: Boost - Focus

When I play with my partner, we always fan out our discard pile so that both players can access the information easily. Knowing what attacks your opponent has already used significantly narrows down what moves you can expect in the mid and late game. Being able to card count is what makes Exceed so similar to Poker. It might be unlikely that your opponent has a Cross even though he just reshuffled both of them into his deck two turns ago. But how willing are you to bet on it?

The longer the game progresses, the more predictable both player becomes.

And this is where Focus comes in. You can exactly calculate the very significant probability that your opponent has a certain normal in his hand. If your opponent has 20 cards in his gauge/discard/boost, and he's holding 7 cards with 3 cards left in his draw, there's 70% chance that the last Grasp is in his hand. And if he hasn't played even a single Grasp so far? Well crap. There's only a 3/10 * 2/9 = 6.66% chance that he doesn't have at least one Grasp in his hand.
(For those of you who are terrible at calculating probabilities, you can see the answer here:

In fact, Boost - Focus does not always need to be able to be successful in order to work. For example, you know that you are striking, and therefore will win a Cross mirror. You can call a Cross using Boost-Focus and if the opponent doesn't have it, you can instead play a Sweep which would beat or out-trade any other normal. Your opponent having Cross-replacements obviously weakens this tactic, but if you've counted your opponent's cards, you can also figure out whether he has those replacements or not.

Overall, Boost - Focus can comfortably win a turn for you for free if you save it for the late game. At that point, it could just be the game. Your opponent will also be trying to do the same thing, so you also want to keep track of whether he's kept any Focus for this purpose and react accordingly by ensuring you have a variety of normal-replacements available instead of a variety of normals. The bottom line is that you counting cards is important to winning, and doubly so because Boost - Focus exists.

All these considerations affect the value of three actions - Reshuffle, Change Card and Prepare:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Reshuffle - Grows in value in the mid to late game by making you less predictable, and also helps you draw crucial cards that you need for the end game which you may have discarded. Note that you're still vulnerable to Focus the turn after you Reshuffle.
Change Cards - Makes you more predictable sooner overall, but is also crucial to get rid of Normals that your opponent can call out with Boost - Focus. (Boost - Focus doesn't hit Special Attacks)
Prepare - There's actually a downside to having a full hand size when your discard is really full.

7. How to use Boosts & Boost Replacements

There are a few basic effects that you can gain from boosts. Lets break them down:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Free Damage - Focus
Movement Discounts - Assault/Cross (Assault/Cross/Dive on strike as well!)
Power - Grasp
Speed - Sweep
Armor/Stun Guard - Spike
Counters - Dive/Block

Just like replacements for normal attacks, you will notice that your characters often have Boost-replacements. Excluding the more expensive boosts:

Reese - Additional 2x Armor/Guard, 4x Power/Speed
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Sovereign Glory [Ult/Drive] - Gives you Power and Speed with Exceed
Gallant Defender [Sweep] - Gives you Power and Speed on attack
Chivalry [Assault] - Gives you Armor and stun guard

Heidi: 2x Power/Speed/Armor/Guard, 2x Movement/Counters/Free Damage, another 2x Movement
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Dagger Strike - Install - Gives you Power/Speed/Armor/Guard
Iron Knuckle [Cross] - Gives you Movement/Counters/Free Damage
Rail Driver [Ult/Sweep] - Gives you Movement AND Speed

A well-varied hand means effective boosted attacks.

Why is +Power on Grasp? Because in general, boosts provide the opposite effect of their strike so you never have to be confused about the marginal utility between the two. This means that as long as your hand is varied, you have several boost/attack combos at your disposal. Here's how to pair your boosts with the different normals or their replacements:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Cross - Add Power for more free damage. Add priority to win mirrors/Grasps.
Assault - Add Stun Guard/Speed for hit confirm.
Sweep - Add Power for free damage. Helps to win mirrors on attack.
Focus - Add Power for free damage. Or add Speed if you're afraid of Spike.
Dive - Add Speed to beat Assault.

Grasp - Doesn't need boosts against other normals. Adding power doesn't help it to win any match-ups it didn't already win.
Block - Doesn't need boosts.

You should definitely do a similar analysis for Special Attacks or Ultimates that are not normal-replacements individually.

8a. You're not the only person who can boost
8b. Countering Boost Combos & Bluffing

Exceed is a wonderful game of tug of war. Just because you think you can set up the perfect move doesn't mean that your opponent is just going to take it. With the exception of Boost - Focus, your opponent IS going to counter your boosts. This means that you get to do the same. Here's how:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Movement Discounts - Play your own movement discounts. Or just fight at that range.
Power - Be faster and stun him out.
Speed - Trade with a slower but more innately powerful attack. Add Armor/Stun Guard.
Armor/Stun Guard - Don't trade, win the turn entirely (e.g. using a Cross).

How to counter boost combos?

That said, there are some games where your opponent is able to assemble a series of boosts that just makes their next attack very hard to beat. If you see that coming and you don't have Dive to counter his boost combos, consider striking just to force him to use up the boosts early. Especially important against characters like Eva who can set up an impossible to stop attack with insane damage if you are not careful.

For this purpose, Block and Focus are great because they can all help you to negate some damage. Cross, Assault and Dive also helps you to "dodge" if you're fast enough (even if you can't hit the enemy in return when you play it)

How to Bluff

Adding stun guard is useless if you intend to go first and vice versa, but playing a stun guard boost can precisely make your opponent think that you're going to play a slow move. That's when you surprise him with your Grasp into his Cross when he tries to waste your boost.
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jitjit2x junior
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Thanks for this strategy. Makes want to try Exceed even more. But I don't have any luck finding opponents.

Do you have a tournament scene in your area? It's as if you know every bit of what is there to know in Exceed.

Any chance for playing Exceed online? Thru vassal or PbF?
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Sooty Heng
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Unfortunately there I only play with one person! Considering that they're currently doing up BattleCon online, I imagine it'd only be a matter of time before we see Exceed online.

(I wonder why Sirlin was able to get his games out online so much quicker!)
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Joshua Christensen
United States
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IamSooty wrote:
Unfortunately there I only play with one person! Considering that they're currently doing up BattleCon online, I imagine it'd only be a matter of time before we see Exceed online.

(I wonder why Sirlin was able to get his games out online so much quicker!)

iirc Exceed Red Horizon wont be able to have an online version. Something to do with the terms of licensing. But since the next set of Exceed is going to be Lv99's own property it seems possible that if it is popular enough it could get an online version too.
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Aaron White
New South Wales
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Bennett from Brawl
Slow and Thoughtful
Regarding Sirlin Games, it has been online for a long time. I wish I could give an exact figure, but at least 5 years if not up to 10 (someone in the know please confirm). The Kickstarter for BattleCON Online was only last year. So hopefully that gives some perspective of how rapidly things are happening for BCO.
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