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DNF Duel Beginners Guide

DNF Duel is the newest Fighting Game to hit PS4, PS5, and PC. Compared to other fighting games, DNF Duel is incredibly unique and features many mechanics that are new to even seasoned Fighting Game players. Here is a basic overview of everything you need to know before diving into DNF Duel.

DNF Duel Beginners Guide

DNF Duel is not only a brand new fighting game, but also a brand new fighting game IP. This means that the game has a very unique feel compared to other fighters like Guilty Gear StriveLearning how to play DNF Duel will require an understanding of all these new systems and features. Here we will give you a general overview of all the characters, the system mechanics, and some helpful tips on how to get started in DNF Duel.

Character Overview: How to Pick a Main

DNF Duel has 16 unique characters to choose from. While that isn’t necessarily a large roster, it can still be overwhelming to find a character that works for you. Here is a very general overview of every character’s playstyle. This won’t be an in depth guide on how to play each character in DNF Duel. If you want a deeper look at any particular character you can find that on DNF Duel‘s Dustloop page

The full roster for DNF Duel.

The full roster for DNF Duel.

Rush Down Characters

These characters excel when they get in close and pressure their opponent, but sometimes have trouble getting in.

  • Striker: Striker is the quintessential rush down character. They have fast range, long combos, and high damage. Striker’s unique ability to cancel specials into normal allows her to maintain pressure easily. No projectile and low range means she can struggle to get in sometimes.
  • Grappler: Grappler has similar range to Striker, but focuses much more on grab attacks. He has several different grab attacks that can work in a variety of situations. Grappler is, however, notably slower than the other characters in this category.
  • Swift Master: As the name implies, Swift Master is incredibly agile. Unlike Grappler and Striker he also has multiple projectiles and some moves with good range to help him get in. But his fast attack speed means that he excels at close range. Some of his moves will force the opponent into close range, where he can start his close quarters pressure. He is also the only character capable of using all MP skills in the air.
  • Kunoichi: This character is also incredibly quick with equally quick attacks. Her ability to double jump gives her an edge in the air compared to other characters. A lot of her Magic Skills are good for locking down opponents in block.
Kunoichi hitting Striker with one of her many fire attacks

Kunoichi hitting Striker with one of her many fire attacks

Mid Range Characters

These characters feel most comfortable at mid range. Using various pressure tools to keep opponents out.

  • Inquisitor: Inquisitor excels at mid range with her long axe and projectiles. Once she gets a hit on block she is able to lock down opponents with her long lasting wheel attack. Her lunge attack also allows her to close distance quick and start a combo.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard is a mid range spear user. All of his moves have solid range but are slower than average. His ability to special cancel allows him to keep up pressure from range easier than other characters. He excels at keeping characters out, but can struggle when forced to defend.
  • Trouble Shooter: This character is good at pretty much anything, but not particularly great at anything. In general his range is great and has lots of great moves for setting up traps, but he can struggle against characters with better zoning tools. 
  • Hitman: Similar to Trouble Shooter, but with more of a focus on faster moves and aggressive combos and block strings instead of setting traps.
  • Ghostblade: Ghostblade has incredibly fast moves with great range, and is able to convert them into combos given he has enough magic. Given he doesn’t have a real reversal option he can struggle on defense.
Inquisitor blocking one of Vanguard's many mid range pokes.

Inquisitor blocking one of Vanguard’s many mid range pokes.

Long Range Zoners

Zoners like to keep the opponent as far away as possible. They usually have high range but struggle when in close quarters.

  • Ranger: Ranger is great at range but underwhelming on defense. His gun allows him to pressure opponents from full screen, and is good at interrupting enemy actions.
  • Launcher: This character has a wide array of different projectiles meant to keep opponents far away. Unlike Ranger, she has access to projectiles with varying timings and properties which allows her pressure to be more ambiguous. While her attacks have tons of range, they have notably high startup, which makes it harder for her to escape pressure.
Ranger and Launcher using projectiles from full screen.

Ranger and Launcher using projectiles from full screen.

Big Hitters

These characters are big, have lots of health, and hit really hard. Usually held back by being on the slower side.

  • Crusader: Crusader has the most health in the game, lots of range, and tons of options that can lead to devastating damage. His wall attack allows him to force the opponent into mid range which can lead to high damage setups. Crusader’s moves are incredibly slow so he can sometimes get stuffed out at close range.
  • Lost Warrior: Lost Warrior is the unlockable boss character and as such has access to tons of big flashy attacks. Similar to crusader he has a lot of slow moves that lead to him struggling up close. He makes up for this with many fast full screen attacks that can lead into high damage combos. His time stop ability allows him to freeze his opponent entirely after hitting 5 magic skills.
Crusader using his wall move to force Lost Warrior into his mid range threat zone.

Crusader using his wall move to force Lost Warrior into his mid range threat zone.

Oddball Characters

These characters have some weird mechanics that make them notably different from the rest of the roster.

  • Enchantress: Enchantress is a puppet character. She can control her own moves as well as the moves of her teddy bear to create high pressure strings. Given you have to control multiple characters at the same time her execution can be much harder than other characters.
  • Dragon Knight: Dragon Knights normal attacks are a bit stubby compared to other sword characters, but has lots of range in her specials. Her dragon, similar to Enchantress’ Teddy Bear, allows her to excel at locking down opponents with synchronized pressure. She is also able to air dash which allows her to retreat or approach from the air much easier than other characters. Dragon Knight is notably easier to execute with than Enchantress.
  • Berserker: A mid range sword character with a unique gimmick. Berserker is able to sacrifice health at any time to power up his attacks or set up for a conversion. It allows Berserker’s offense to be unpredictable and incredibly versatile. Since Berserker has to spend health to power up, he can find himself dying quicker than characters with lower health.
Dragon Knight hitting Enchantress with an upward skewer attack.

Dragon Knight hitting Enchantress with an upward skewer attack.

System Mechanics

To play DNF Duel effectively, you need to know how to take advantage of all the system mechanics. Here is a list of all the important mechanics unique to DNF Duel.

General Movement and Game Feel

DNF Duel does not have universal double jumps, air dashing, or air grabbing. As a consequence, jumping feels much more committal than a game like Guilty Gear Strive where you can block in the air, or redirect your movement with a double jump. Certain characters have access to some of these features, but they are not the norm.

On the ground you can roll by holding the guard button and forward. The roll is a great tool for closing the distance, because it has a short period of invulnerability that can slip past attacks. Performing a well timed roll can allow you to dodge attacks and get close enough for a punish. The roll has a decent amount of end lag which means it can’t be spammed and is easily punished when reacted to.

Furthermore, there is no dash macro. The only way to dash in this game is by double tapping forward.

MP Skills

While most fighting games have some sort of meter you have to build to perform super attacks, DNF Duel has the MP bar. Essentially as long as you have enough MP available, you can perform any of your special moves whenever you want.

As you take more damage your character is given access to a larger pool of MP. Your MP starts capped at 100 but as you take damage will increase up to 200.

If you don’t have enough MP to perform an MP Skill, the Skill will still come out but you will be put in the Exhaustion state. Exhaustion essentially means that you have negative MP. If you have 5 MP and use a skill that costs 50 MP you will be stuck in Exhaustion state for the amount of time it takes your character to regain 45 MP. Think of it as having negative MP.

Using this MP Skill put Launcher in the Exhaustion state.

Using this MP Skill put Launcher in the Exhaustion state.

White Health and Conversion

When you hit your opponent with any move besides your magic skills you will deal both red health and white health. Red health is unrecoverable. White Health will regenerate over time while you are not being attacked. When guarding attacks you will take white health. Hitting any Magic Skill will turn all of the opponents white health into red health.

White health is not only for regenerating, as it can be used for conversion as well. Conversion allows you to convert White Health (and a small portion of red health) into MP. Conversion also cancels the end lag of moves when used so it can allow you to restart pressure similar to a Roman Cancel from Guilty Gear.

You can tell when a conversion was successfully performed by a purple glow around your character and the conversion text on the side of the screen.

You can tell when a conversion was successfully performed by a purple glow around your character and the conversion text on the side of the screen.

Simple Inputs

Unlike most traditional fighting games, DNF Duel does not require motion inputs to perform all of your moves. Motion inputs are entirely optional, and can be substituted entirely for simple inputs. For example, moves mapped to quarter circle forward can be performed by holding forward and pressing the attack button.

This doesn’t mean the motion inputs are entirely pointless though. Performing a motion input will allow you regain MP sooner after using the skill. The benefit is not very substantial, and far from invalidates the simple motion comparatively. Choose whichever type of input you find more comfortable/consistent or swap between the two depending on the move.

Guard Button and Guard Cancel

DNF Duel features a Guard button. This means that if your opponent is holding the guard button you can not cross them up with a left/right mix up. While holding guard you are still susceptible to lows if you aren’t crouching and highs if you aren’t standing. This makes it harder to open up your opponent while they are guarding. Given the nature of this game, you are going to be guarding a lot to avoid long pressure sequences.

For the cost of 100 MP you can activate a Guard cancel while in block stun. It’s an invincible reversal that will hit the opponent far away. You can not kill with a Guard Cancel, and you will be reset to neutral. A Guard Cancel can be blocked and heavily punished if it is too predictable, so make sure not to rely on it too much. Unlike MP Skills, a Guard Cancel requires 100 MP to activate and can not put you into exhaustion state.

Grappler performing a Guard Cancel.

Grappler performing a Guard Cancel.

Awakening Effects

When a character has less than roughly 30% health, they will enter the awakening state. In this state you will be given access to a passive buff unique to your character and a high damaging super attack. Here is every characters Awakening buffs and what they do.

Character Awakening Effect
Hitman Gives access to the Shattering Strike Move which can be cancelled into after any Magic Skill.
Swift Master Increases Movement Speed by 50% on all actions.
Ranger Inflicts Revenge on hit, which decreases opponent damage by 25%, decrease their defense by 33%, forces them to regenerate MP 33% slower.
Berserker Regains 20% of damage dealt to the opponent as HP.
Vanguard Increases Guard damage dealt by 50%.
Launcher Doubles the amount of white damage dealt on block.
Enchantress Reduces MP consumption while Madd is active by 33%
Trouble Shooter Enhances MP skills to deal more white damage on block and give higher reward on hit, such as launching higher for combos, setups, or granting a hard knockdown.
Dragon Knight Doubles MP regeneration rate.
Kunoichi Decreases MP cost and startup of Nin attacks.
Inquisitor MP regeneration begins right after the use of an MP Skill.
Striker Increases all damage dealt by 10%.
Grappler Reduces white damage taken while guarding by 80%.
Crusader Increases defense by 10%, Reduces guard damage taken by 10%, and increases white health regeneration.
Ghostblade Increases all damage dealt by 10%.
Lost Warrior Enhances MP Skills and the effects of Time Stop.

Awakening Attacks

When you use the awakening attack you will no longer receive the benefits of the passive buff. This means that using your awakening attack in scenarios where it won’t kill can often leave you at a disadvantage since your opponent will most likely get theirs.

The awakening attack does not work as a reversal option. It has no invulnerability and is quite slow. It works great in hit confirms and as a combo finisher. Depending on the character, your awakening attack will have different hitboxes, meaning that certain characters will have an easier time connecting it than others.

Helpful Tips for Success

Here are some things to keep in mind as you play DNF Duel and how to deal with them.

Universal Reversals

Every character has a reversal option mapped to their down magic skill or DP input. For most characters this is an invulnerable reversal move. Since every character has some sort of reversal, it is important to play around it when pressuring. Any gaps in your block string gives the opponent a chance to reversal. Trying to bait a reversal move is always a good idea since it not only gives you a punish to extend your pressure, but also drains your opponents MP.

Some characters reversals are a little different. Ghostblade only has a short teleport which places him behind the opponent, and Grappler has a counter which requires getting hit to activate. These options are inherently weaker than a traditional reversal and allow you to take more advantage of these characters in your offense.

Set Your Controls

When learning how to play DNF Duel don’t overlook the ability to change your controls. DNF Duel features full control customization which means you can set any button to any action. If the controls feel off or you find yourself wishing something was on a different button, don’t hesitate to change it. Finding comfortable controls can really help you level up your gameplay.

The Controls Menu in DNF Duel.

The Controls Menu in DNF Duel.

Countering Counters

There are a few characters in the game that have counter moves. Grappler, Crusader, and Lost Warrior all have counter moves. These moves will activate if they are hit by an opponent during activation. However, every counter loses to low sweep attacks, projectiles and grabs. Because these counters aren’t invulnerable like other reversals, they can be exploited to maintain your pressure. If you see your opponent going for a lot of counters try to stuff them out with projectiles, grabs or low sweeps. Learning how to abuse your opponents defense is essential when playing DNF Duel.

Character Specific Tutorials

The game offers a short tutorial mode that not only covers the system mechanics but also character specific mechanics. The general tutorial is a great way to brush up on mechanics that are confusing or just learning how to play DNF Duel in general.

Each character comes with 9 combo trials that range from short and easy combos to long and difficult to execute combos. Looking through these can help give you a good idea of what your character is capable of, even if some of them are too difficult to implement right away.

One of Inquisitor's Combo Trials.

One of Inquisitor’s Combo Trials.

Different characters have different cancelling options. When you choose your character, make sure to understand what they are able to cancel into what. Crusader is unable to cancel his normals into other normals, Striker is able to cancel specials into normals, and Vanguard is able to cancel specials into specials. These are just a few examples as certain characters lose access to certain moves after performing a different move. Try out all your different paths and make sure you understand what your character is capable of.

Learning How to Play DNF Duel Beyond This Guide

This guide was meant to serve mainly as an introduction on how to play DNF Duel. Given this is a fighting game, there is tons of depth in this game to explore beyond the basics. The best way to learn more about a fighting game is to be curious: watch a top level player play your character, seek out new combos, seek out the counterplay to strategies you struggle against, etc. Dustloop is a great resource for finding frame data, combos, and lots of other information on not only DNF Duel, but other fighting games as well.

I hope this guide helped some people get into DNF Duel! If you’re interested in reading more about DNF Duel‘s other features like Story Mode, Arcade Mode, Graphics, etc. check out our review of the game!

DNF Duel|Official Launch Trailer
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