Arakune has a relatively awkward strategy before he fills up the curse bar. His objective, above all, is to build up curse and survive in neutral. If he succeeds that, Arakune can abuse the curse state and put his opponent in a blender. From there, the objective is to run disgusting mixups and kill your opponent as quickly as possible. For a video guide on Arakune, check out Skye's multivideo guide
Playing as Arakune, it's generally in your favor to attempt to maximize your opponent's exposure to risks and minimize your own whenever possible. Arakune's risk/reward balance is absurdly skewed by the threat of curse, making even small mistakes or opportunities presented by your opponent on par with the deadliest fatal counters. This explosive power is offset by a somewhat underwhelming offensive toolset outside of curse. His blockstring opportunities tend to be short and relatively unsafe to extend, meaning getting the most out of any ranged curse or counter-poke baiting opportunities you can is an important part of a healthy Arakune gameplan.
One of the most important things to recognize (both when playing as and fighting against Arakune) is whether you are on offense or defense in the matchup you're playing. Arakune has tools to play as both a runaway/whiff punisher as well as a more direct rushdown offense, but they aren't created equal. Whether Arakune has the means to effectively threaten a ranged curse on the opposing character plays a pivotal role in the flow of the match. If Arakune is allowed full use of cloud, spider, 6D, and j.D/2Ds in a matchup and doesn't feel threatened enough to stop, he can put the opponent on a full-screen pressure clock; A "deadline" by which the curse gauge will eventually fill up completely without Arakune taking many (or sometimes any!) direct risks.
Matchups vary, but in general any character incapable of readily preventing and punishing the above will be forced to play dedicated offense against Arakune. This means Arakune will have the luxury of forcing the opponent to approach on his terms, forcing the opponent to navigate past slow but incredibly rewarding threats and try not to overextend into Arakune's air movement/teleport based whiff punish options as well as his respectable suite of attribute invlun reaction/callout normals (5C/6B/6C/3C). Adding in the fact that Arakune still has the option of switching to a more direct offense at any time to catch the opponent off-guard and apply pressure makes this where Arakune is at his deadliest.
In contrast, any characters with zoning tools strong enough (Mu/Nu/Lambda/Rachel) or a combination of speed and hitboxes large enough (Es/Mai/Litchi) to reliably punish Arakune for attempting ranged curse options make for some of his most difficult matchups. Arakune is forced to play much more offensively, often resorting to much riskier and higher commitment strategies to curse the opponent such as direct rushdown attempts, teleport bluffs, and all-in counter-poke attempts out of pressure; all things that bring the risk/reward of curse back down to levels the opponent can compete with, or even outright win against.
Check out the pastebin here for an idea of how Arakune likes to structure pressure before curse.
Tips and Tricks
- j.B is an amazing normal in neutral because of its speed and size.
- You can also use j.4X normals to continue pressure on the ground, then rejump and move accordingly.
- 22X can be used to call out dashes, but keep the huge startup and recovery in mind.
- Use 6B and 6C to call out pressure resets and low attempts.
- Overdrive is a great defensive option.
Arakune matches are won and lost in the neutral phase as it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to block an Arakune's curse mixups. Arakune's lack of offensive and defensive options out of curse means that Arakune he will often play in neutral for an extended period of time. Take notice of each of the curse clouds and how they move so that you can avoid them. Be conscious of Arakune's spider (22X) and his erratic movement. Arakune entering curse state is inevtiable in some matchups, but delaying it as much as possible is important.
Most of Arakune's combos involve throwing Drive bugs to get you into curse state. Bursting these combos may seem unsafe since the burst will not hit Arakune, but they evade curse while Arakune cannot do much to punish them. Ideally, you will want to burst on the jD due to its massive recovery. Some curse confirms (like 2C) require RC to put you in curse. You can burst after he uses RC in order to set his resources back.
Arakune's F-Inverse (236236C) has a fast start up and an huge amount of active frames, making it deadly as a mid-pressure reversal. On wake up, its hitbox is lacking so bait it accordingly. Its invulnerability is brief and it's relatively easy to punish.
If you do happen to get cursed, blocking in the air is a good place to be since his mixups are limited to only left/right mixups. Keep in mind, however, that it is very difficult to take to the air once Arakune is on you. If you are grounded, there are a number of things to watch out for to help with your guessing game listed below. A skilled Arakune player has mixups that are safe enough that you more or less can't escape (e.g mashes, bursts, or reversals). Your goal here is to avoid getting opened up for as long as possible to mitigate the damage Arakune will do. If Arakune doesn't have meter and you blocked well, you might return to neutral with a fighting chance.
- C bug (the big blue/pink one) guard crushes on block. Recognize it and Barrier accordingly. Conserve barrier so you can properly block this bug.
- If Arakune is in the air, it will likely be a left/right mixup between his various j.2X moves and teleports.
- If Arakune is on the ground, he has an extremely high amount of mixups. He can high/low, teleport, make himself invisible, etc. The visual clutter of bugs also makes it hard to see what's Arakune's doing.
- Don't burst curse mixups, they are easily baited and Arakune can set up again without much trouble.
- There are minor exceptions in case you will die otherwise, such as 6C or j.236C.
- In curse, Counter Assault can be strong option because Arakune will not be able to summon bugs for a short period of time. Keep in mind that quite a few setups/strings cannot be CA-ed.
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