While it may seem strange coming from the previous Guilty Gear series, Xrd, in this title Leo is considered an all-rounder type character. He still possesses a ferocious set of offensive tools via his Brynhildr stance, but outside of this Leo tends to focus on careful pokes, defensive plays, and good old fashioned footsies while waiting for an opportunity to get into Brynhildr stance to present itself. The primary reason for this is because Leo can only switch into stance from 3 methods: 214[S], 236H (on crossup only), and ground throw. Additionally, Leo has a step-dash and overall sluggish movement, so it often benefits the player to focus on playing defensively: fireball zoning, flashkicking jump-ins, whiff punishing normals, and stuffing approaches, until getting a hard knockdown or otherwise a way to safely get into stance. Once Leo is in stance, the real party starts.
For zoning, Leo has two fireballs with different qualities. The S version travels 75% of the screen, has fairly fast startup, and hits twice. The H version has much slower startup, but is slow-moving, travels fullscreen, has 4 hits, and is plus on block. Leo's fireballs are quite strong and will often win projectile wars, though it's obviously matchup-dependent. Despite this, it is important to mention that they do have significant counterhit state recovery, so if you don't have 50 meter to PRC, you have to be wary of people airdashing over them and punishing you; however, if you have meter, you can be ready to react to this with PRC>6P. Each character has a different aptitude to being able to avoid Leo's projectiles in this way, because of differences in jump startup, air dash distance, and reach on air normals, so you want to be aware of these and take them into account with your spacing in neutral before throwing a projectile.
While using ground throw to get into stance is straightforward, 214[S] and 236H are very vulnerable moves and must be used with caution. 214[S] has nearly 50 frames of animation on whiff, so while in certain matchups, such as fighting Ky, this is feasible and even recommended as an anti-zoning neutral option, in many matchups you simply will not have enough space and time to do this in neutral, nor much of a reason to. At close ranges, such as using it as a blockstring, it is punishable and has a very obvious animation. As a result, there needs to be some level of prior conditioning, such as frametrapping with RC, in order to utilize it in this manner.
236H is Leo's famous berserker run cross-through. Given the utility, it is actually fairly fast in startup, but it is reactable and can be thrown or reversaled. This, too, has an obvious animation and needs to be used with some amount of finesse. There are close-range spacings at which it will counterhit a reaction throw when done too quickly. Since the timings are different, this can be leveraged in conjunction with Leo's command throw that he has access to while in stance, bt214K, to make throwing an unappealing option and instead cause the opponent to jump or backdash. When not already in stance, you can also leverage the slowdown from an RC after a 236S blocked at close range to 236H without the risk of being thrown. Since 236H is also plus on block, this is a very low risk, high reward option and well worth the 50 meter. You can also safely whiff 236H and meaty with btS without risk of being thrown after 2D knockdowns and most 8H knockdowns, though the latter can be spacing dependent.
Once you are in stance, you have access to basically every mixup tool you could want: low-hitting staggers that are plus (btK), an upper body invuln move (btP), a fast overhead that is also invulnerable to throws (btH), many frametrapping tools (gatlings between all of the previously mentioned, btS, 214S, delayed 236S, even 236H at times), a 1F startup parry (btD), crossups (66 or 236H), a command throw (bt214K), a fast and plus on block projectile super (632146S), and the ability to cancel stance (22) after any stance normals to make them plus or even at absolute worst. Leo's damage from opening someone up this way isn't particularly low either, so a player that is good at conditioning and reading opponent's defense can really melt people with this toolset.
Leo's neutral is overall more well-rounded in this game, but he has very little in the way of disjointed hitboxes and his normals are generally a commitment of sorts, so paying close attention to spacing and knowing how fast the attacks your opponent wants to use at each range is required for his neutral game. That being said, if you are comfortable with this, Leo's toolset is really quite good. To make things simple, here's a list of each tool and how they can be used in a neutral context:
Leo's fastest normal at 5F startup, this button has very little whiff recovery and can be canceled into several attacks on block. This move is commonly used as a pre-emptive way of stuffing approaches such as May's horizontal dolphins or various Chipp and Millia attacks. It can also be used as an anti-air, especially in cross-up situations or when 6P would simply be too slow to use. One trick to using this in neutral is to execute it using 4P to charge for a fireball. By doing this, you can whiff 2 5Ps and then immediately throw an S fireball if the opponent didn't approach or get hit by the 5Ps.
This move is pretty similar in usage to 5P, but is a frame slower in startup and also has a couple extra frames of recovery. Due to this, it's generally better to use 5P instead, but since 5P can be low-profiled, there are instances where you should use 2P. 2P can also be very situationally used as an anti-air with sort of a low-profile hurtbox, which gives it a slight advantage over 5P in some cases. If the move is blocked, you can frametrap into 6P or 6K, or try to leverage the disjointed hitbox of 2S despite it not being a gatling.
Being a 6P, the most obvious usage for this move is as an anti-air. However, as mentioned before, there are times where it may be too slow, since it's a 10F startup normal, in which case it may be better to 5P instead. 6P doesn't reach very high, either, so there are times where it's better to simply flashkick or even 2H instead, such as when the opponent is double-jumping to bait it.
Another use for this move is in the neutral ground game. Since 6Ps are all upper-body invincible, this allows you to 6P some ground pokes, such as various other character's 5Ps, f.Ss, and even some command normals like 6Ks. While it may be unintuitive to press a 10F normal vs things like 5Ps, it can work because the upper-body invulnerability frames start on frame 1. On counterhit, you can easily confirm into 214[S] or 236H, or if you're feeling fancy, it is possible to charge a full H flashkick and combo from 6P as well, though the timing is quite tight.
This move is a forward advancing normal that is only -1 if blocked. The tradeoff is that it's a tad slower than many other character's K normals, but because it moves forward, you can leverage it in conjunction with Leo's step-dash to cover a deceptive amount of space and have an active hitbox ready at the same time. This normal allows you to stuff ground pokes that people might use because they visually confirmed you were too far away to press something faster. Additionally, even if they blocked it, it's only -1 and can gatling into 6K for a frametrap. Combined with tick-throws, this move is a great tool that can take you from neutral to Brynhildr mix before your opponent even has a chances to think. It is one of your primary ways to get "in". As an additional note, if you don't commit to anything after the 5K, the pushback leaves you outside of throw range unless the opponent dashes first, creating a really strong throw/strike/bait mixup on block.
One of Leo's low-hitting normals, 2K is a fairly quick, low-hitting normal with decent range. Unfortunately, because it has a pretty tall hurtbox, it isn't really useful as a low-profiling tool and it also doesn't cover as much range as 2D. However, there are a few cases where it will be notably helpful in midrange: when you think the opponent will try to low-profile a standing normal and want to pre-emptively cover that space; when you need a poke that is just slightly faster than 5K; or when the opponent is trying to walk back to regain space in neutral. 2K can win and open up the opponent in all of these cases, but in the event it is blocked instead, you can gatling into 6K or 2D as a frametrap, or simply let it recover since it's only -5.
Unfortunately, 6K doesn't really see a whole lot of use in neutral, as it's slower than a f.S poke, low-profileable, -4 on block, and only has punishable-on-block special cancel options afterwards. Since that results in pretty bad reward for the risk of using it in neutral, this move is better treated as a frametrapping tool off other normals when they happen to be blocked.
Honestly, if you're close enough to get them to block a c.S, you're not in neutral anymore. It's -2 though, so sometimes a surprise microdash in midrange into c.S can work similarly to a 5K and set you up for front-stance offense. It's pretty tricky to create this situation, but if you're covering space with P normals, it can happen.
This is your primary poking tool. It has pretty decent startup for the range, but also extends your hurtbox, so you generally don't want this to whiff unless you're explicitly trying to get into [S] guard point stance. However, since the hurtbox on 5H lingers less, it is usually a better choice than f.S if you want to get into guard point. On hit and block f.S and 5H cancel into each other, which means this is actually a great tool for building meter if you can recognize opportunities in neutral to get them to block this or, even better, get hit by it -- some common times are when the opponent tries to dash at you from longer distances or when you think they will use an attack that extends their hurtbox into your range.
A major word of warning is that this move can be low-profiled in a number of ways: sweeps, 6Ps, etc. Avoid being too obvious with usage. Mixing things up with 2Ps, 2Ks, and 2Ds will help make the opponent reconsider.
Surprisingly, this is one of Leo's few disjointed attacks. It's 10 frames of startup, hits low, and can be used to low-profile some horizontally-oriented jumping attacks, such as Ram's j.S. The disjointed hitbox this normal has also lets you win some interactions in the midrange that you might not expect, such as when the other person has a technically faster attack with an extended hurtbox, but it doesn't reach as far, like 2Ps. It also cancels into H normals on hit or block and can rarely even be used to convert off some trades.
Also known as "backturn," Byrnhildr stance is Leo's unique and powerful state designed to pressure his opponent with a variety of strong normals, baked-in mixups, and the ability to shift in and out of it as needed.
Leo does not start in backturn. As such, one of Leo's goals is to enter this state and make use of its options for pressure and damage. A short primer on this stance is available here.
A short description of each backturn option, for pressure and combos, are listed below.
Leo' very useful anti-air. While decent to follow up from b.K for pressure, it's a stellar button for juggle and anti air combos and lead to easy, rewarding damage.
Rather fast for a low with decent range. Being plus on block makes it good to poke and stagger into itself or b.S.
Arguably Leo's best backturn option due to being incredibly fast and long, providing enough blockstun to cancel into b.H or his many specials to force the opponent to guess. Go into highs, low, grabs, or more pressure.
Leo's natural overhead button. Throw-invulnerable and leads to huge damage on hit. Somewhat unsafe, so cancel this into a special if you haven't spaced this far enough.
A dedicated, hard callout counter option. Can be used after b.S or b.H to make the opponent hesitate or risk running up to throw Leo.
Option A to condition the opponent to mash or jump out of Leo's backturn pressure. More subtle than b.214H, deals unburstable damage, and resets into a hard knockdown.
Option B to condition the opponent to mash or jump out of Leo's backturn pressure. Builds more Risk, deals a lot of chip damage, leaves Leo extremely plus on block, and sends the opponent to the corner on hit.
Resource-hungry, but absurdly rewarding as a frametrap into or after it, and deals incredible damage out of a counterhit b.S, b.H, or b.214H.
Since Leo has to enter backturn, and each option, when done raw, can carry a lot of risk, Leo will have to pressure the opponent quite a bit in his normal state.
While less terrifying outside of backturn, Leo's normals, combined with his specials, provide a few ways for him to open up the opponent into backturn or a hard knockdown. This section covers some of Leo's stronger normals for pressure.
5K / 2K / 6K
Leo's kick buttons have some impressive range for their speed, with 5K in particular moving Leo far forward with a 9f startup that only leaves him -1 on block. With dash momentum, 5K launches Leo very far forward. By itself, 5K makes for an excellent tick throw that leads into backturn stance that requires the opponent to mash with a fast normal, or jump out.
6K can be used after 5K, in conjunction with throw, to tempt opponents into acting and getting frame trapped for trying. 6K itself leads to very little. However it's one of Leo's important Counter Hit options and should be used as a safe option.
2K is the "weaker" of Leo's low normals. While it gatlings into 5D and 2D for a technical mixup, it is not a very strong option. However it will catch opponents who are not ducking, can crush several high-hitting attacks, and can catch opponents off-guard if they aren't prepared to block either Dust followup or 236H afterward. Good to keep on hand.
c.S can be seen as the start of Leo's pressure if he gets close enough to use it. Similarly to 5K, c.S functions as a good tick throw option into his other S or H normals. If some close enough, he can go into a second c.S if the opponent is hesitant to act. This move has great reward on hit because it safely leads into 2H -> 214[S] or 236H for a safe transition into backturn. On block, Leo can instead gatling safely into 2S or into a riskier 5D. Another risky alternative is to immediately go into 236H from c.S if the opponent expects more normals; up close, 235H is a lot harder to react to.
f.S / 2S / 5H / 6H
Leo can uniquely gatling between his S and H buttons, allowing him to threaten an opponent from a distance with constant, long-reaching normals. In addition, 6H moves him far forward so he can continue pressuring. However, 6H is extremely slow on startup and all these normals push the enemy back quite a bit, which means he can't maintain pressure for long and either must end with a safe special or risk 236H for a crossup and backturn. Due to the slow recovery, it's also not feasible to set up throws. making these buttons rather linear for pressure.
2S fills a similar role that 2K does. However, 2S's disjointed hitbox makes it a stronger option for poking at the opponent. It's also a great normal for catching juggled opponents close to the ground. Make ampule use of this where appropriate.
Counter Hit Confirms
Normally, Leo can't combo naturally into 214[S] or 236H unless the opponent was already in the air. However, many of Leo's normals have additional hitstun which allows him to combo directly into his slower specials and, sometimes, can combo afterward as well.
This is a list of feasible normals that can counter hit opponents in actual matches. He won't get the same reward off of each counter hit, so learn what damage you can get off of each option.
6P's short horizontal range makes it hard to frame trap into. However, it's above-knees invulnerability makes it a good normal for baiting various mid-level normals, including Sol's f.S and 5H. On counter hit, 6P floats the opponent further upward and will naturally combo into 214[S] and allow a short backturn gatling, or into 236H for an immediate side switch and soft knockdown.
While it's use as a poke is questionable, 6K is a great normal to frame trap from 5K and 2K. On a counter hit, this will also combo naturally into 214[S] and 236H, though it's difficult to get more out of it afterward.
f.S / 2S
Both of these moves are most likely to counterhit while poking with them from a distance, or used after 5H or 6H. While counter hit f.S at its furthest distance only combos into 236H, counterhit 2S is extremely rewarding as it is usually close enough to combo into 214[S] and back into another knockdown. This, combined with 2S' disjointed hitbox, makes it a great normal to throw out in neutral and pressure.
5H / 6H
Unlike the above normals, 5H and 6H will cause an incredible amount of hitstun on counterhit, including followup attacks. In particular, Leo can combo CH 5H or 6H into 236H and pick up the enemy afterward with b.K or b.S, something he's not able to do otherwise. 6H and, if close enough, 5H combos into 214[S] which sends the enemy far upward; this can take the opponent from midscreen, all the way into being knocked into and through the wall. If you ever get this to hit, make sure to maximize your damage.
While okizeme/knockdown has been toned down in Strive, Leo is still in possession of an unusually high number of specials that cause a hard knockdown or let him meaty an opponent on their wakeup.
Understanding how much time you get for each knockdown will help determine your options to pressure or mixup the opponent. There's some of the more notable examples.
On a successful hit, the opponent will fall into a soft knockdown and a short distance away from Leo. However, he has enough time to dash forward and meaty with b.K, b.S, or b.H. In addition, the enemy will usually be close enough that Leo can go into b.214K without dashing and catch them after their wakeup throw invulnerability frames end. A well-timed b.214H will also work, though the timing to meaty b.214H changes depending on whether the enemy was previously airborne or not. Since this is a soft knockdown, the opponent will also have to react immediately, so it's good to constantly throw the opponent in a guessing game of mixups.
This move launches the opponent slightly upward before landing in a hard knockdown, leaving Leo close to the enemy, in backturn stance, and providing him plenty of time to reposition and act. Options include meaty, b.K, b.S, b.H, dash crossup into a meaty, raw 236H, dash backward b.214K, and dash backward b.214H. This arguably gives Leo his strongest positioning for mixups.
Leo's ground throw sends the opponent half-screen away in a hard knockdown. Since Leo will be in backturn, he still has enough time to dash up and meaty with one of his normals. He can even meaty b.214H by dashing once and immediately inputting the special.
Leo does not get backturn options out of this normal, since he can't special cancel out of his sweep. However, this normal grants a hard knockdown, giving Leo enough time to use his H Fireball safely or place down a meaty for simple pressure.
Leo's command grab from backturn causes a hard knockdown with Leo close to the opponent. Similarly to 214S knockdowns, Leo may stay in backturn stance and gets strong positioning afterward.
While this move sends Leo's opponent far away, they will tumble briefly before ending up in a hard knockdown. From backturn, Leo has enough time to dash up several times and place down little more than a simple meaty option. The corner carry, however, almost guarantees they will be in the corner.
An unusual option, but b.H can be used as an OTG after 214[S]. b.214K, and b.214H. This option sacrifices stronger oki for a little more damage. You are still able to meaty with any of backturn option or normal. The ability to cancel into b.214H provides a particularly strong meaty with precise timing.
Since meter is very freeform in Strive, the applications for Leo's roman cancels are extremely extensive and far from fleshed out. RRC, PRC, BRC and YRC all have their various offensive uses.
This showcases a few useful ideas for each type of RC. More should be added as they are discovered or analyzed.
The basic use for RRC is to confirm from a simple combo and bring it to a wallbreak, knockdown, or backturn positioning. Perhaps the most straightforward-but-effective method is after 236S, which normally leads to a soft knockdown. Given how important it can be for Leo to pressure in backturn, lengthening your combo for better damage and positioning is worth considering from time to time.
Leo's combo page gives some helpful combo conversions, but a simple concept to consider is that following RRC, a delayed 2H or delayed dash 2H will catch opponents into a 214[S], keeping them high enough in the air for a quick backturn combo into 236H. Once you are more comfortable with your execution and screen space, you can add Leo's 5H2S wallbounce and wallbreak combos for larger conversions.
PRC offers Leo an incredibly high number of options, followups, mixups, and safety in all his moves. A common and useful option is to use Leo's DP on defense, or as a callout, and immediately PRC to prevent himself from being punished while coming down. In addition, drift PRC can provide safety to his other moves. For instance, a RC'ing H Fireball before it comes out to keep someone from punishing with a low-profile option such as Sol's Vortex, Ky's Stun Dipper, and I-No's Stroke. Or you can 88PRC while passing through with 236H to punish an opponent's throw attempt or for fast cancel into a normal for a surprise overhead.
For mixups, Leo can also PRC H Fireball to begin or resume pressure on an opponent with the fireball for safety. In conjunction with 66PRC or 88PRC, on an opponent's wakeup, this can lead to some absolutely terrifying and brutal guessing games even out of backturn that can provide more damage than his meterless combos. From this, Leo gets overheads, lows, throws, 236H crossups, air dash crossups, jumping overheads and empty dash lows, and safe reversal callouts that he still gets to continue offense afterward. A video example of H Fireball PRC and its mixup applications are provided below.
The most freeform and, as a result, the most flexible but also difficult to utilize. BRC's uses may be both gimmicky and powerful, depending on the situation and the intended goal. As a result, expect this section to expand over time.
The primary advantage to BRC is the induced slowdown on an opponent. When the opponent is hit by BRC, Leo has enough time to combo a normal into 214S or 236H, or make it a true blockstring with increased frame advantage afterward. BRC into 214S or 236H will also allow Leo to combo after it. Both options allow Leo to safely enter backturn and enforce a mixup off of an unusually large amount of plus frames. Used with dash BRC, Leo can almost immediately start his offense from half-screen distance if you are willing to spend meter.
Notably, BRC is one of the few ways you can cancel your backdash. Backdash into BRC or forward dash BRC can be a potentially useful way to stop or reverse an opponent's offense.
Dash BRC can also work as a second air dash, or a way to crossup and bait out grounded anti air attempts. Inputting forward dash near and above the enemy allows can send Leo behind the enemy, or just above them, potentially allowing an ambiguous crossup if the enemy isn't in the middle of a 6P or DP. Like with BRC on the ground, Leo can link into 214S or into 236H after a j.K, j.S or j.H with better safety in a blockstring, or combo into it naturally on hit. You can also do down dash BRC (22BRC) after an air dash to move straight down. While this is more situational, it can be a great way to bait out or avoid annoying anti-air tools such as Axl's Soaring Chain Strike.
One very unusual quirk with BRC is that you may use it immediately after jumping from a jump cancellable normal, like Leo's 5K and c.S. This lets Leo BRC while an enemy is still jumping, and is able to forward, up, or down dash BRC since he jump cancelled it. The lengthy details of this tech and ways it can be used was originally found here.
This option greatly expands Leo's options after a blocked normal, as the slowdown from BRC let Leo do a high-low or a fuzzy mixup off of it, go into trickier blockstrings into 214S or 236H, and press offense in terrifying ways.
As YRC in Strive is tuned toward defense, YRC doesn't possess a lot of offensive potential. However, you are left +10 after successfully using YRC on a grounded opponent. From this, Leo can do a simple blockstring, tick throw from 5K, dash up throw, or if the opponent is really hesitant, dash 5D or 236H. Generally Leo gets to use YRC to begin his own offense and, potentially, get a knockdown and backturn from it.
Good things to Practice
- Practice grabbing him out of common 236H blockstring mixups, such as 5K>6K>236H, cS>fS>5H>236H, etc. A good thing to keep in mind is every time Leo opens you up with 236H on the ground, you could have grabbed him. However, he also has tools to effectively punish someone who is committing to grabs too hastily, so try to be reactive with these grabs.
- Another way to effectively use grab is on his wakeup, as his reversal will lose to your grab if timed properly.
- YRC is an effective way to get out of Leo’s bt. pressure on block, although this will lose to his bt. counter if he reads you doing this so keep that in mind.
- An effective spot to use your burst is after Leo gets a knockdown into bt. stance, as he cannot block or jump, and his counter attempts will be beaten by burst.
- Most of Leo’s normals are not disjointed and committal, meaning they are susceptible to whiff punishes. An important note is that his bt. S and 2S are disjointed, so be careful trying to punish these buttons on the ground.
- Leo’s air normals for the most part are not very effective at helping him land on the ground. If you are underneath him while he is landing, this is a great time to start up your pressure.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Mashing to escape his pressure is almost never a good idea, especially if your fastest button is 5 frames. Even outside of bt. pressure, his gatlings with S and H and his 5K pressure routes will effectively snuff out your mash. To top it all off, his counter hit combos hit like a freight train, especially if he gets a counter hit starter with frametrap tools like 214S on you.
- Using meaty attacks on his wakeup when he has meter will almost always get you punished, as he has almost no reason to not throw out the reversal here and RC it.
Click [★] for character's full frame data