By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), Nine-Tailed Fox Enthusiast
Now anyone who knows me well knows that I like my women on the foxy side of the spectrum. A little shy and demure out in public and a beast when she needs to be is just right. So of course when last week’s Elsword nine days for nine tails countdown notice popped up in my Facebook news feed, I immediately contacted my friends at the Kill3rCombo office to ensure I would be first to get my hands on the possessed pole-arm wielder, Ara Haan. And to my most pleasant of surprises, I found her to be beyond expectations in not only flair, but style.
So who is Ara Haan? Well to avoid spoiling too much of her backstory prior to you Elsword enthusiasts playing through it yourselves, I’ll keep it short. You may have dealt with her rather nasty brother previously. She is seeking to find him again to avenge her family. And to gain the strength to do so, she has created a pact with an ancient fox spirit sealed in a mystic hairpin that the Haan family was sworn to protect. Now this fox demon Eun (aka Silver) is seeking the power of the El to break her seal and gain ultimate freedom. I’m putting my bet down now that Ara Haan is unwittingly being used by her, blinded by the zeal to find her brother, in order to gain her freedom and unleash havoc on the world. But only time will tell how true this is…
Lore aside, one of the strongest points of Ara Haan is without a doubt that she is what happens when you combine Sailor Venus with a nine-tailed fox. Her second strongest point is the animations that compliment this appearance. The stark contrasting orange (Ara) and silver (Eun) design sets her far apart from the existing ElGang at a glance. Her actual skills and combo attacks are a work of art as players will soar across the battlefield unleashing death with her “Thousand Papercut” combat style. It makes sense as her comparative advantage over other characters is her insane ability to chain combo after combo together, and those that master the nuances and timing of her skill breakers will be able to soundly defeat their foes with style.
Her entire kit(sune) is also designed around Korean culture and martial arts. And despite the double meaning of that sentence, it adds for a spicy set of skills as Ara Haan unleashes the might of the animal kingdom with signature stances and skills that would make a dojo master proud to see in action. Whether you follow the path of Tiger-like speed or the might of the Dragon, you can expect for a series of flashy skills that are both mystical in nature, and brutal in practice.
Gameplay and Unique Mechanics
Ara Haan brings some of the best hybrid mechanics to Elsword yet. While technically classified as a melee fighter, her agility and long range skills and auto attack strengths combined with her low base defense and health stats will pidgeonhole most players into utilizing her more along the lines of an aggressive mid-range character similar to Rena’s Nightwatcher path.
Gotta go Fast!
The key is learning your opponent’s cooldowns and animation weaknesses and attacking in a flurry of combo strikes as soon as your agility creates a moment of frustrated futile chasing strikes. Once the first combo is in motion, rather than cancelling your final melee strike in an attempt to initiate a new combo, it’s best to finish the full combo and quickly follow it up with “Energy Absorption,” a nine-tail life sucking orb inspired by typical Gumiho lore.
Landing Energy Absorption is key not only for instantly doubling your combo potential, but it also stands as the cheapest and most efficient option for gaining spirit orbs, a secondary resource independent from mana that Ara utilizes both for unleashing her more devastating attacks as well as unleashing powerful passive traits under certain builds.
Her second strength may come as a surprise for Elsword or Raven players in that despite her melee nature, she’s extremely adept at aerial combo and juggling. This is due to the arching nature of her pole-arm strikes having both fast animations and long reach in a near 360* hitbox. The sheer number of options once a combo has started in mid-air range from triple drilling strikes to slamming your foe to the ground gives Ara Haan her plenty of fun options. While she may not be quite as nasty of a threat to aerial targets as Eve’s Code Battle Seraph or Aisha’s Dimensional Witch, one lucky strike is all she needs to return her target to her preferred horizontal playing field to continue sucking your soul out. Those attempting to flee utilizing terrain and aerial hops will find no solace either as Ara possesses a wicked cool airdash and double jump mechanic that makes her even more agile when giving chase through the air than she is with her feet planted.
And while on the topic of comparing to Eve or Aisha, Ara Haan’s “Energy Absorption” serves the nasty secondary function of draining mana. Opponents that face off with Ara with the intention of relying on high cost ultimates may find the opportunity to use them out of their reach for extended periods, if at all.
But perhaps the deadliest mechanic Ara Haan brings to the field of battle is Eun. While Ara Haan’s thousand paper cut strategy may leave foes frustrated and peeved, a war of attrition with the possessed brunette typically won’t end in your favor as once all three fury points are acquired, her awakened Eun form will leave you bruised and battered. It’s clear from a balance perspective that Ara’s base stats are so low to compensate for the unmatched speed you gain when activating the Eun transformation.
In addition to the standard damage bonus any character gains on a triple bead awakening, you will also notice your attack speed skyrockets and even your attack skill animations seem to play in fast forward. This makes controlling and comboing a challenging skill to learn as your timing will have to adjust to compensate for this change or you’ll end up wasting this advantage as your missed combo opportunities multiply. And while this power is a huge boon in PvP, the lifesteal upon opponent death effect it offers in PvE can give her crazy sustain on those longer gauntlet dungeons.
Eun even eats Lizard Souls. I'm warning you she's evil!
Skills and Weaknesses
While Ara Haan on paper seems to be an unstoppable powerhouse, she isn’t invincible. The majority of her more devastating skills have decently long wind up animations that offer a small opening for opponents to interrupt her, sending the skills into lengthy cooldowns. The gem restriction on her abilities and passives also greatly hinders her potential in PvP as it can be incredibly challenging to lock an opponent down long enough to drain them repeatedly on a single health bar lifespan, especially in smaller skirmishes and 1 on 1 fights.
This means characters with higher survivability or fast animation counter attacks pose a mean threat to Ara’s tactics. If your character is less reliant on mana or you’re using Rena and able to outrun her and recoop your lost mana, you’ll have an easier time not falling into her preferred rhythm. This is all important to consider when building into your first (Little Xia) and second (Little Hsien) job options.
As with most changes in the recent New Era of skills, Ara Haan’s skills are broken down into a series of A or B choices. Half of her skills seem focused on bolstering her defense and keeping foes locked down while the other half revolve around raw damage and expanding her area of influence on the battlefield. When selecting skills, it’s wise to remember to keep a balance between her mana-based and spirit orb based skills as she is incredibly resource hungry and will quickly burn through either option so you’ll want to have skills relying on the other as back-up while rebuilding the first. Let’s focus on the choices.
Wing Wedge (SP) VS Pulling Thrust (MP)
Wind Wedge offers a low cost MP option for early game dps with swift horizontal strikes in succession. Those opting to rely more on MP can snag Pulling Thrust, a ranged thrust that pulls enemies towards you, disabling them in the process to allow for further follow-up combos.
Quick Thrust (SP) VS Steel Body (SP)
Both options are based on SP so that won’t play a factor. Both skills are also ideal gap closing initiation skills. The only real choice is whether you want to focus on a raw damage focused initiation with Quick Thrust, or brace for impact and potential counter attacks with the defensive buff that comes with Steel body.
Shadow Press (MP + SP) VS Heavenly Strike
Shadow Press offers a gamble that’s great for unleashing a hefty amount of damage and sucking in a Soul Point or two in exchange for a high mana cost. I personally prefer it as the animation of swirling dark energy around you just looks cool while taking down enemies on both sides of you. The alternative Heavenly Strike is a low cost spammable pull that’s more ideal for players that prefer repeated auto attack comboing over high damage skill use.
Shadoweave (MP + SP) VS Falling Dragon (Heavy SP)
I would argue that Shadoweave is the true “ultimate” for the Little Xia base class. It has heavy ranged damage, enemy locking, a pull, and a powerful finisher on tap if you’re willing to blow a ton of SP in addition to its hefty MP cost to get the full bang for your buck. However if you’ve already invested heavily in mana skills, you’re better off burning your entire SP pool (base cost is 5 of your 10 total spirit orbs) to one-shot just about anything slow enough to get caught by Falling Dragon, an aerial jump skill that ends in a ground shaking spear slam. For every additional orb expended you get an insane damage multiplier, making this a niche move that can be a real game changer, especially when used in Eun form to take advantage of the skill animation speed increase.
When Ara progresses to the first job of Little Hsien, they have the option of expending their points on powerful passive options to help alleviate either her low base stats (Basic Strength Training) or up her total MP pool while gaining passive mana regeneration when her spirit orbs are maxed out (Abundant Power).
Heavy combo focused players will want to look into Energy Activation to reduce knockdown rate and debuff duration along with Counter Switch, a skill that disables and trades places with a foe while canceling out their attack, resulting in serious disorientation. Just know that Counter Switch has an extremely short duration so great timing and the ability to read your opponent’s tells and psychology is vital or else you’ll be wasting your skill points. Let’s look into the A or B options though.
Eighth Trigram Palm (MP) VS Fall (MP)
Eight Trigram Palm is key to take advantage of Little Hsien’s ultimate combination strike. Opening with your basic Dash X spear slam combo and following with Pulling Thrust, you can continue the combo of the Dragon Stances and press it repeatedly to unleash the might of the Eight Trigram Palm technique (Dragon Stance 3). But if you want something more practical in PvP, Fall is a simple low cost skill that elevates enemies briefly and helplessly before slamming them into the ground. It makes for an ideal combo extension when Energy Absorption is on cooldown.
Tiger Claw (MP) VS Swift Rise (Neutral)
Not only is Tiger Claw a great chasing skill for staying glued to an evasive opponent, it combos with her core Little Hsien skill Rock Smash, for a serious one-two initiation strike. Its defensive bonus when combined back to back with the Little Xia Steel Body skill grants a player a great deal of damage soak while remaining quite mobile. Tiger Claw also packs the hidden benefit of being a great source of spirit orbs as well. Swift Rise on the other hand allows you to get up from a knockdown quickly while lashing out at nearby foes with an optional counterstrike. It’s better for helping to clear distance from characters like Raven that keep cancelling you out and won’t give you a second to breath.
Moonlight Slash (MP) VS Fierce Tiger Strike (MORE MP)
This decision is pretty simple. If you’ve been learning Trigram Palm and Pull Thrust, get Moonlight Slash to complete the ultimate combo and unleash the Secret Dragon Art “Blast”. It’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen in Elsword though I’ll admit it can be a bit of a nightmare to pull off the entire thing without getting interrupted. For those following the Abundant Energy route that have MP to spare, Fierce Tiger Strike offers much more reliable utility by buffing you and your allies’ damage while offering a huge and wide sweeping initiation jump strike.
Ara Haan is a fantastic addition to the Elgang roster. She represents a jack of all trades complemented with a high skill floor as well as ceiling so both novice and expert players alike will enjoy her style. The air dash is downright addicting to play around with and her well rendered animations will have you fighting to stay focused on the action without getting distracted by Ara Haan’s beauty. Her mechanics are crisp and her awakening system is a fun side bonus that will never fail to dazzle party members during boss fights while striking fear into her enemies in PvP. No matter how you look at it, her arrival is going to bring new perspective to both group PvE and PvP in the Elsword world. But don’t take my word for it. Catch her launch on Wednesday the 18th and try her for yourself.
And last of all the reason you’re all really here for. To see sexy Korean cosplayers dressed as Ara Haan.