Last week some Japanese players including Dogura, Koichi, and Nage(with an extensive writeup that was translated here) shared their tier lists for Guilty Gear Xrd. So I felt inspired and wanted to make my own! Here it is, made using The Madman’s Cafe tier chart page.
For reference, my main character is Millia and I also play Bedman, Elphelt and Ky.
There are two characters that are a cut above the rest: Zato and Elphelt. I guess they would be in a S+ tier? Both characters are very different from each other but they have one important thing in common: practical unblockable setups. The ability to get guaranteed damage from a setup that does not require a lot of resources is super strong. These setups do huge damage and usually leave the momentum in the attacker’s favor.
Between the two, Zato is less well rounded as he has some serious weaknesses. He has poor defensive options, a below average defensive modifier, and a weak ground poking game. He also has very limited gatlings, and combined with poor ground normals it means that he cannot play a standard footsies game. His best poke 2s does not combo into anything unless it’s a counterhit! However, his offensive strengths are so overwhelming that they more than make up for his deficiencies. Shadow pressure is incredibly safe because of the way GG handles summons: if the opponent attacks both Zato and the shadow, the shadow will absorb the hit. Thus it allows Zato to go for mixups without worrying too much about the opponent fighting back or escaping. He also has an amazing neutral game, in part due to his ability to fly. Flight gives him amazing control over his air movement and positioning. His specials also allow him to control a large portion of the screen. Special mention must also be given to Nobiru being air unblockable in Xrd and Drill YRC creating a puddle, two options that absolutely must be respected. His ability to deny the opponent meter by forcing him to use it defensively(on FD) is nearly unrivaled.
Elphelt is much more well rounded. She has ridiculous normals; easily some of the best in the game. Many of these normals also have amazing counterhit properties, like 6h giving a groundbounce and 2s staggering. Special mention must be given to her far slash, which has great options on block and leads into a full combo on hit in every situation(stand, crouch, air, CH). I cannot stress how amazing that is, to have a strong mid ranged poke with these kinds of options. While that does not sound so impressive in other airdasher games like BB, P4U, or UNIEL, it’s an incredible ability to have in Guilty Gear. The only other character to have something remotely like this is Ky. Her neutral game is also amazing: she is really fast and has two different ways to change her air trajectory with Bridal Express and grenades. Speaking of air Bridal, it gives her a reliable way to bait and punish antiair attempts, as it knocks down on hit and leads to a full combo on CH. She has a long range mode with Sniper stance that combined with YRC makes it very difficult for certain characters to approach her. Her Shotgun stance, which is her close range mode, is really brutal in the corner. It’s also special because it has a tool that reliably catches jumpouts. Finally, her pressure is really good. Even without the unblockables, grenade okizeme is quite safe and has a ton of options. It’s even scarier in combination with her 2h building up tons of guardbar. The only real weaknesses Elphelt has is the lack of a 6p antiair(though close slash is so good already), below average defensive options, and somewhat weak midscreen pressure.
The next 3 characters are in the S tier, and I would say that they are all about the same strength. However, if I wanted to be picky, I would rank them Sol>Millia>Faust. Here’s why:
Sol is a character who has a lot of things going for him in Xrd. He has gotten a number of character improvements and indirect buffs from the system changes. He is a very stable character with great normals, good defensive options, and high damage potential. While Sol has always been strong up close in GG, his main weakness throughout the entire XX series was a poor neutral game. With average speed and Bandit Revolver being his only tool to change his air trajectory, he had to work really hard and take a lot of risks to get in. In Xrd I feel that this is no longer the case as he has gained many ways to mitigate this weakness. Getting a divekick and j.k gaining a crossup hitbox are really helpful for his neutral game. The divekick even goes into a full combo on corner hit, and can still be converted everywhere else if he has 50%. And then of course there is Fafnir, a tool that everybody must respect. While mainly used in pressure, it also has neutral applications because of how rewarding it is on hit. The new roman cancel mechanics allow him to spend meter to get full combos from his best ground poke far slash, something he has never had before. The almost across the board nerf to 6p antiairs also helps Sol because his 6p has always been poor for AA usage: that’s what his 5k is for. It also means that other characters now have a harder time antiairing Sol. With that said, his 6p is actually better in this version because of the improved ground counterhit properties: as an anti ground/throw move, it is a very real threat in midscreen pressure now. As a result of all these changes, many characters who beat him in neutral in previous games now struggle in Xrd(Ky, Millia, etc). In Xrd 1.1, he gained the ability to get guaranteed dizzies in combos because of the damage buffs to 6h and Fafnir. Of course, his damage is as high as it has ever been, and many of his tools have odd hitboxes and lead into great damage on hit and counterhit. For his weaknesses, there are still some characters who dominate him in neutral(Faust, Zato) and his mixup potential is below average. Generally he has to spend meter in order to create something ambiguous.
Millia is a character who is known for two great strengths: her mixup ability and fast movement. She gets great offensive momentum from a knockdown, as it gives her time to set up two different slow projectile moves: H Tandem Top(most common) and Secret Garden(less common). These projectiles put the opponent in heavy blockstun so that she can run multiple mixups and even combo off of moves that are normally uncomboable. Tiger knee Badmoon is borderline unreactable and causes a knockdown. Although it is unsafe on block, Badmoon being an air move means that Millia can go into it any time she makes the opponent block a close jump cancellable move. She also has other great overheads with 6k and the new Xrd 5d. Her low options are pretty standard, but 214p deserves special mention because of its animation. As Millia is considered to be airborne while riding the haircar, the hop she does in the startup animation looks similar to TK Badmoon startup which makes that even more difficult to block on reaction. Her mobility is also top class: she is the 2nd fastest character in the game and has the ability to airdash twice. I cannot stress how amazing the double airdash ability is. It makes a world of difference in neutral because it means that she still has an air option after using up a double jump, something that no character other than Chipp has. Pin is a great air-to-ground projectile that both baits antiairs and helps her in getting in. And she has a Turbofall, which combined all of the previous options gives her incredible control over her air movement. It also means that she is very good at dancing around the opponent and juking them into whiffing normals. For example, making an opponent’s attack whiff with an instant air backdash, and then immediately getting back in with a double airdash is something only she can do. However, like Zato she has some serious weaknesses and many of them are quite similar. She has the 2nd worst defensive modifier in the game and has terrible defensive options. Her average damage output is quite low, and combined with poor ground normals it means that she cannot play a standard ground footsies game. Thus, I find her to be less stable than Sol.
Faust has been the king of midrange in all of GG, and Xrd is no different. With a large number of long range normals, he is one of the best characters at getting consistent whiff punishes. He is very different from the previous 4 characters who excel at offense. While Faust’s offense is not bad, he really shines at preventing his opponent from running their offense by destroying him in neutral. His already great far slash in the XX series got even better in Xrd, and his 2h is now a long ranged low. He also has several different antiair options to stop people from trying to jump over his pokes: 6p, 2k, 5k, and FDC j.h. In the air, he is floaty and has arguably the worst air dash in the game, but his j.2k drill kick is quite strong. However, his ability to FD cancel the drill kick is what really makes it good. It gives him amazing control over his fall momentum. Defensively, he has a below average modifier and lacks a DP. However, he has a number of great normals for interrupting pressure and his tiny crouching hitbox and crawl allow him to evade many attacks in unusual ways. His main weakness is that his offense is not particularly scary, especially compared to the other top 5 characters.
Next up is the A tier, which includes Chipp, Bedman, Ky, and Sin. Of the four, I think Chipp has a slight edge over the rest.
The reason is that no matter who he is fighting against, Chipp is the character who sets the pace of the match. He is by far the fastest character in the game and is blessed with a triple jump which gives him amazing control over his air movement. Sounds like Millia, but a big difference is that Chipp has amazing normals. Some of the best in the game, actually. They are very fast, have great hitboxes, and have good CH properties. His ground pressure game is quite strong, with special mention for his close slash which is plus and leads to full combos on CH. His corner mixup is very good and his midscreen mixup is tricky because of his j.h having crossup hitboxes. Chipp’s defensive options are above average with a decent backdash, fast jump, the fastest normals in the game, and a DP. In Xrd, Chipp has gained an amazing tool in the form of Teleport YRC. When Chipp has meter on the ground, he can basically whiff punish everything with this so it must be respected. In spite of all these strengths, his weaknesses are quite severe. The biggest one is that he has the lowest defensive modifier in the game. His midscreen damage is fairly low and he does not have a reliable way to attack from range so he has to constantly take risks to get in.
Bedman is a character who excels at very specific things. He can control a lot of space with his 1h/2h/3h, Task A, and Deja Vu variations of all of his specials. His special 8 way airdash gives him great control over his air movement and has strong applications for high/low mixup, especially when supported by his projectiles and DV seals. In Xrd 1.1, he gained some important new gatlings that improved his damage across the board. His main weakness is that it is very difficult for him to escape pressure. Even though he has great options from a jump, it is by far the slowest in the game. Combined with having a big hitbox, he has to take considerable risks to escape pressure, like relying on his teleporting forward dash. His rushdown is also very risky when he is not covered by his various projectiles.
Sin’s main strength is in his ground game and damage potential. He has amazing ground normals with good reach and a fantastic 6p. So he has strong options for both ground-to-ground and ground-to-air. All of his ground specials are also amazing, especially Beak Driver with its horizontal range. His average damage output is easily the highest in the game, being able to get 50% on a lot of characters with just basic combos. His pressure is also quite scary, as he can build up the guardbar super fast as long as he has the calories to spare. However, Sin has a number of things holding him back. The biggest is that he is very resource intensive. He absolutely needs calories and Tension meter to compete, and managing both of these resources is pretty difficult. Also, while his ground game is very strong, his air moveset is extremely poor. This is particularly true for air-to-ground, as he does not have a reliable jumpin. He also has to rely on Vulture Seize(which uses calories) to bait out antiairs. Finally, his mixup options are very limited. He has trouble opening people up, and generally has to spend a lot of resources(both calories and tension) to make something ambiguous.
Ky’s main strength is in his midrange game. Not on the same level as Faust, but still very strong. He has great range with his standard pokes and a very good fireball. When it comes to poking both on the ground and air, he has a reliable option for every situation and angle. His pressure is quite good, with many different ways to frametrap, a forward moving normal that is advantageous on block(6k), and lots of ways to reset pressure. Even at far range, he has options to threaten the opponent with Stun Edge combined with the new grinders. Xrd also gave him an amazing tool in Stun Edge YRC, which is a low risk/high reward option that everyone must respect. His main weakness is in relatively low damage and poor mixup potential. He is just not very tricky, so when Ky wins the neutral game and goes on offense it is very difficult for him to open up the opponent.
The next batch of characters are all in what I would call a B tier. I think Venom and Axl have a slight edge over the rest because of strong YRC options, so they would be B+?
Venom excels in the neutral game, as he can control almost every area of the screen with his different ball formations. The YRC system has strengthened his neutral considerably so that he can spend meter to put out balls on screen safely. It has also given him an amazing tool in Stinger Aim YRC, which is a very low risk move with high reward on hit and great options on block/whiff. Once he gets in, he is one of the best pressure characters in the game. He has a ton of frametrap options and ways to reset pressure, which get stronger the more balls there are on the field. Like Zato, he also excels at denying the opponent meter by forcing them to use it for FD. Venom has a number of weaknesses, but the biggest one by far is his defense. He has below average defense, and by far the worst defensive options in the game. No moves or supers with invincible startup, and average speed normals means it is difficult for him to escape pressure. His offensive options are also quite limited if he cannot get balls out, which means that he struggles against characters who can easily play around ball sets, particularly fast characters(Chipp, Millia) and characters with extreme range(Faust).
Axl got a ton of improvements in Xrd 1.1, with the most important being Rensen YRC. The chain persists now, so everybody must respect it when Axl has a charge and meter available. Other than that, he has the longest range tools in the game and the best antiairs to deal with aerial approaches. His Haitaka stance also does ridiculous chip damage, and combined with all his other tools it makes him very strong at forcing his opponent to use meter defensively. He has a number of things holding him back, but the biggest is that his mixup is not very good. He is not a very tricky character, and most of the time he is aiming to drain the opponent’s meter and punish impatient movement. He is also very weak up close. While he does have a DP and a high/low counter, his normals at close range are weak so he has to take big risks to escape pressure.
I-No’s main strength is in her mixup. It is easily the best in the game, with her Morrigan style floating airdash allowing her to get in quick overheads. And unlike Millia, her main overhead is plus on block! Her j.d also allows her to sneak in delayed highs at the end of air strings. In Xrd, the YRC system has strengthened her Vertical Chemical Love considerably so that she can get consistent combos off of crossup VCL. Unfortunately, she has a ton of weaknesses. The biggest one is probably in her neutral game. While her dash is amazing for high/low mixup, it is awful for movement. Combined with poor normals, she really struggles to get in against many characters. She is also one of the most meter intensive characters in the game. While her rate of meter gain is above average, she is constantly spending meter on YRCs to help her get in and stay in. So she struggles against characters who are good at denying meter.
May has great normals, and is very strong in the air due to strong hitboxes, good CH properties on many normals, and huge damage potential. She can also transition from a runaway game using her normals to a zoning game using her summons. She does quite well against close range characters, but struggles against characters with range and/or good projectiles. Her mixup ability is also below average, and she has to spend meter to create ambiguous situations.
Leo is a character who excels at very specific things. His ground normals have amazing hitboxes, but are also the slowest normals in the game. His pressure is quite good, with lots of frametraps, forward moving attacks, and several ways to reset pressure. Because he has so many moves that are plus on block, he also excels at forcing the opponent to use meter defensively. However, his weaknesses are quite serious. Leo’s air normals are very bad outside of a few situations, and while his offense is strong it is very risky unless he spends meter. His movement is very limited, with a step dash on the ground, a very low jump, and slow airdash. This makes it so that characters with range and/or good projectiles have an easy time zoning him out.
Slayer has very strong normals, high damage potential, and great CH properties on several moves. He excels at pressure, and he gets crazy damage from frametraps. Because of his ability to cancel his backdash into special moves, the retained invincibility allows him to whiff punish and blow through several attacks that other characters would struggle against. With all these in mind, he is a character who gets rewarded immensely from good reads. Defensively, he is quite stable as BDC jump allows him to negate many forms of midscreen okizeme. And he also has the threat of doing BDC into a special. In Xrd, Slayer’s movement is trickier than before due to the new ability to get a short and long forward dash. However, his main weakness is related to his forward dash. Even though it is tricky and gives him great defensive options, it is still not a run. Combined with average movement speed, he has trouble getting in against a lot of characters, and has to take a lot of risks to get an opening. He is also very meter reliant as he has to use YRC in neutral to get in against some characters. Most of his non-counterhit combos require an RC too.
Ramlethal is also in B tier, but she is slightly worse than the above 4 characters so I would put her in B-. She was one of the strongest characters in the original Xrd, but in 1.1 she got many nerfs. The biggest nerf is to her swords: they can now be deactivated by hitting them. Thus, many characters no longer have to respect neutral sword set. While it’s a significant nerf to her neutral game, the main reason it’s so bad is because she did not really get anything to compensate. So her abysmal meter gain on non-sword moves and her extremely limited ground gatlings, which made sense in the original Xrd, now seem like overkill. However, she still gets great rewards from knockdowns with her strong okizeme. Her air game is still good with strong normals and the ability to delay her landings with sword sets and recalls. Her movement speed and general mobility are above average too. For her weaknesses, other than the ones already mentioned, she has poor defensive options and a below average defense modifier. She is also very meter reliant, as the nerf to swords makes it so that she has to spend meter to safely extend pressure.
Finally there is Potemkin, who I have as the sole member of C tier. Potemkin is like a wall: he tries to slowly push the opponent towards the corner with his great normals so that the opponent eventually has to attempt an escape or risk dealing with his strong low/throw/antijump mixup. His average damage output is quite high and he has many options to reset pressure. Defensively he is also very strong, with the best defense modifier in the game, surprisingly fast normals, a 2f command throw with great range, and two supers with invincible startup. Because of his high damage and offensive momentum, he gets great rewards from the player getting correct reads. Pot is the kind of character who can spend the entire round losing just to get that one opening to turn things around. However his weaknesses are immense. As the slowest character in the game who is missing two common movement options(ground dash and air dash), he has a hard time getting in against every character. While his offense is very strong in the corner, it is weak out of the corner because of how good backdashes are in GG. Thus, he is very resource intensive as he is forced to spend meter to get in and continue pressure. In neutral, he has an especially hard time against characters with range and/or good projectiles, who can just poke at him with very little risk(Faust and Zato for example). In these matchups, he has a hard time getting the meter he needs for offense as he is forced to use it defensively.
So that came out a lot longer than I expected. In general, I think Xrd 1.1 is a very well balanced game and definitely one of the best in the entire GG series. I still do not think it is as balanced as the final version of AC+R though, but that is a writeup for another time.