The switch axe seems to be one of the most misunderstood weapons in monster hunter, with the general community being torn on ‘axe mode is useless, only ever use sword’ and ‘axe mode is for the real deeps when a monster is downed’.
My aim for this guide to clear up these misconceptions, and serve as a basis for the community to put together their findings about this complex technical weapon.
I will also be referencing PS4 controls throughout the entire guide.
First, lets start with the basic idea of the weapon; Switch axe is two-form weapon, with Axe mode being its base mode, and Sword mode being its limited transformed mode. Switching between the two forms can be done a number of ways, all involving pressing R2.
Sword mode has a few special properties, most noticeably the unique gauge in the top left of the screen, underneath sharpness. This gauge fills over time while the weapon is sheathed or in axe mode, and drains with every sword mode attack used. If the gauge ever empties entirely while in sword mode, you will be forced back into axe mode via a lengthy, movement halting transform.
The gauge itself has three states, and a line marking about 33%~ in the gauges capacity. If you ever attempt to switch into sword mode while the gauge is below that marker, you will perform a lengthy phial reload, adding 33%~ to your current gauge amount, and leaving you in axe mode. Until the moment that your axe morphs into a sword, you will continue to regenerate phial energy.
In order to make proper use of the switch axe, I believe it is important to avoid ever running completely dry on phial power, as well as avoiding ever using the phial reload, by knowing how to seamlessly switch between Axe and Sword modes, while keeping the attacks going.
The three states of the gauge mentioned earlier are as follows:
Out of phial energy – the gauge past the 33% marker folds into itself and you are left with a small gauge until it refills past 33% or you manually reload the phial.
Normal state – the gauge appears as an axe with a sword extension. Switching to sword mode is possible as long as the gauge is filled past 33%. The Sword/Axe icon surrounded the gauge is actually its own gauge, that fills up as you land sword mode attacks, and drains over time if it is not filled 100%. Once this secondary gauge fills however, it enters it’s third state.
Ascended state – The Axe/Sword gauge is filled blue and glows for a limited time, flashing red and blue when the duration is almost up. During this state, some sword mode attacks seem to gain a small damage boost, and a second ‘phial hit’ is added to every sword mode hit. These hits are based on your phial type, and CAN crit separately from your sword hits. In addition, your Elemental discharge attack gets a significant power boost.
Let’s cover the individual attacks next.
I was going to list the following values as ‘fake’ motion values. I do not know how real motion values are calculated, but what I did was get the average damage of every attack using the Diablos line switch axe, “Axe of Thanatos” while using weakness exploit 2 to negate the -30% affinity against the pole in the training area, then take an attack close to 100 damage, scale it up and multiply all other damage numbers by that value, then round to the nearest half-integer. In this case, I chose to scale everything around axe modes overhead slash. This means that these numbers are not 100% accurate, but are close enough to compare attacks damage relative to one another. Similarly to motion values, these numbers do no represent the damage each attack does, but rather the damage relative to the switch axe’s own power. For this reason, and to avoid confusion if we ever get the real motion values, I’ll be calling these numbers ‘Relative Power Values’, or RPV. This value will be important to get consistent damage values across weapons with different raw damage, or elemental damage/elemental phials.
All of these RPVs are from the Axe of Thanatos, which uses a Power Phial type and has no elemental damage. This post will be updated later with numbers for elemental and status phial types, as I’m sure the damage will vary greatly, but before I can do that, I’d like to know how elements work against the pole in the training area, if anyone knows please share that information!
Axe Mode attacks
Wild Swing – O > O > ∞
58.5 > 53
Side Slash / Morph Slash – Δ or R2 from any sword mode attack
Rising Slash – OΔ or Δ > Δ
Overhead Slash – OΔ > Δ or O > Δ or Δ > Δ > Δ
Fade Slash – ↓O after any axe mode attack, except wild swing and morph attacks.
Morph Sweep – R2 during Wild Swing (Heavy forwards movement) [The final hit is done in sword mode and can apply a phial hit, if ascended mode is active]
49.5 > 174 > 86.5 > 86.5
Sword Mode attacks
Numbers in ( ) represent damage changes with the sword in its ascended state.
Also, ALL attacks in sword mode have the Mind’s eye property, meaning your attacks will never bounce.
Overhead Slash / Morph slash – Δ or R2 from any non-Wild swing axe attack
Right Rising Slash – Δ after Overhead Slash / Morph Slash
Left Rising Slash – Δ after Right rising slash
Double Slash – O or O [After Left rising slash to add an extra hit before the normal two]
[31.5] > 66 > 76.5
Heavenward Flurry – O after Double Slash
71 > 93 (75 > 101)
Sword: Morph Slash – R2 after any sword attack
This attack has the same RPV as Axe’s Side Slash, however the important note here is that doing this attack will restore 16%~ of your phial gauge, making it a very important attack when trying to keep long combos going.
Downward Fade Slash – ↓R2 after any sword mode attack (heavy backwards movement, also restores 16%~ phial energy)
Phial hit – triggers on every sword mode attack, while in the ascended state, and on the first 3 hits of elemental discharge.
Elemental Discharge – OΔ while in Sword mode or OΔ after Double Slash or Heavenward Flurry to skip the wind up time!
This is Switch Axe’s signature attack, with a few unique properties. Initiating this attack requires a bit of a wind up animation, which can be skipped if done following a double slash or heavenward flurry. The attack requires you to mash Δ to keep it going, but can be cancelled early in two different ways: Stop mashing Δ or hold ↓ relative to your hunters facing direction while mashing Δ. The first will simply end the attack, and leave you in sword mode, however the latter method will cause the elemental discharge finisher to happen prematurely, doing a bit less damage than if fully charged, and forcing you back into axe mode. If the attack is not cancelled, and you continue to mash Δ, this will result in 10 hits + the full elemental discharge finisher, or EDF for short. The first 3 of these hits can trigger phial hits if the sword is in ascended mode.
Another unique property of this attack is that if the initial hit connects while your sword is in ascended mode, your hunter will latch onto the monsters body part, Jam the sword into them, and perform the ED while going for a ride, after which you will launch off the monster and be forced back into axe mode if you performed a full EDF! This attack seems to do a massive amount of slashing and partbreaking damage, great for cutting tails, breaking heads, or tripping monsters. This is super satisfying, but also super dangerous, as you are prone to being hit by any attack who’s hitbox would reach you. Use rocksteady mantle here at your own peril! I have instantly carted by latching on to Kushala before it leapt straight up into the air and created a tornado, that hit me 3-4 times in an instant, when it would have normally hit me only once and launched me. It is also worth noting that this does not count as a mount, and mounts can be performed by others while you are doing this, and vice versa. Anyways, lets get into the RPVs:
RPV of the 10 hits, if Δ is mashed until the finisher: 29 > 29 > 29 > 18 * 7 RPV of the EDF fully charged / fired early: 202 (222.5) / 141.5 (157.5)
When latched onto a monster, cancelling the ED early is done by simply ceasing to mash Δ, and will cause you to fly off the monster a shorter distance and remain in sword mode! Useful for avoiding the long animation associated with a full latched EDF that forces you to morph back into axe mode. I recommend only ever doing a full latched EDF if you are below 15% phial energy, as again, you will be forced into a long landing and morphing animation by doing so.
As you can see, the fully Charged EDF with the sword in ascended mode has an RPV of 222.5, this means it does 2.225 times the damage of axe modes overhead slash… If you think about it that way, you will understand that this move is not very good DPS, since in the time it would take to perform the move, and recover from it, you could do far more damage with just Wild swing > Overhead slash repeatedly, and thats not even the best DPS. Not to say this move doesn’t have its uses, for instance if you think the monster is about to run away, or leap across the area, or if you only have a moment to attack a tail, you can opt to double slash > ED and guarantee more damage on that tail than you would have otherwise. Just takes some practice and you’ll start to understand when a good time to use it is.
Suggested utility armor skills
Focus – Increases the amount of phial energy regenerated per tick, and increases the amount of amount of ascended charge generated per sword hit.
Power Prolonger – extends the duration of the swords ascended mode.
Evade Extender – Use this to make the already mobile axe mode even faster, and make the sword modes hop/dodge a bit more bearable, but still not recommended for distance movement.
Quick Sheath – alternative to evade extender to help you move around. Pair with Critical draw and Odogaron’s 2 piece set bonus, punishing draw for an interesting play style.
Bludgeoner – This is sort of a double edged sword, you will gain damage as sharpness levels decrease, but the damage gains are negated by orange sharpness’s bad multiplier and inability to hit weak points. Although, if you pair this with Punishing draw, quick sheath, crit draw, you could have a very interesting build, where your draw attacks have boosted KO damage!
That covers everything I can think of at the moment! Feel free to post anything I’ve missed, any questions you have, or any suggestions for the guide, Happy hunting everyone!