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How to stagger enemies in Elden Ring

Whether Elden Ring is your first From Software game or you’re an experienced Souls player, you’ve probably learned that some of the game’s systems can be a little…opaque. Staggering is an excellent example: Players know it’s in the game, they can see it work when an enemy drops their shield or gets interrupted, but it isn’t clear what’s going on.

Staggering is a clear advantage in Elden Ring, especially when you are facing a heavily-armored opponent or trying to break a boss’s moveset before it utterly destroys you. While some of the mechanics behind it are still a little fuzzy, we know enough to turn you into a stagger master anyway. Here’s what to do.

Further reading

Elden Ring’s important Poise stat

The Elden Ring Character stats.

Spend long enough starting at your Tarnished’s stat page in Elden Ring, and you’ll notice a little stat at the bottom called Poise. Poise is matched with a vague number on the right that can go up or down based on the armor that you are wearing, and how you level your character. It’s Elden Ring’s version of “posture” or “stance.”

Think of Poise as an invisible gauge that fills as an enemy hits you. It appears to be very similar to the visible gauges that fill when you are getting poisoned or bled — when the gauge fills up all the way the status goes into effect and you start losing health. When the Poise “gauge” fills up/you lose Poise, your character is staggered, which is usually very bad news.

This is important because most enemies in the game also appear to have an assigned Poise stat of their own. That means you can take advantage of their Poise level to stagger them, just like you use bleed or poison weapons to build up a status on enemies.

How to break an enemy’s poise and stagger them

Three soldiers about to attack in a castle.

There are several strategies you can use to stagger enemies, allowing you to get several more attacks in or forcing the enemy to drop its shield so you can land a critical strike. Here are some of the best ways people have found to break enemy Poise and get them to stagger:

  • Heavy attacks, especially charged heavy attacks, are great for staggering enemies
  • The jumping heavy attack is especially useful at building up to a staggered state
  • Shield parries often instantly stagger an enemy, although they take timing and practice
  • Certain special attacks from Ashes of War are also very good at staggering, especially those that hit hard
  • It’s important to attack successively to stagger the enemy, so try to get as many attacks in as possible
  • A chain of speedy attacks from a set of daggers or something like the Ash of War: Sword Dance can also quickly stagger an enemy.

Best weapons to use to break enemy Poise

The Elden Ring Greatsword.

Pump up your strength stat and look for the biggest, heaviest weapons for the best effect. That means focusing on weapons like greatswords, great axes, hammers, and any of the “Colossal” labeled weapons like the Dragon Greatclaw. These are best for staggering shielded enemies and similar situations.

Light, very fast weapons can also stagger enemies successfully, but you need the time to get all the blows off, which can be very difficult in Elden Ring. That’s why it’s usually better to depend on heavy weapons with big, single strikes.

Does staggering work on bosses?

The Crucible Knight in Elden Ring.

Yes, but it’s dangerous. You need to be fairly aggressive to stagger enemies, and being aggressive with Elden Ring bosses is a recipe for disaster. However, when successful, it can also open up key opportunities to attack. It’s best attempted on smaller, shielded bosses like the annoying Crucible Knights, but you will need to memorize their attack patterns for the best results. Jumping heavy attacks are often the safest bet. If you like to parry, note that it may take a couple of parries to fully stagger a boss.

Also, keep in mind that many of the spirits you can summon to help in boss fights also deal physical damage with their weapons, which can be used to attack a boss’s Poise as well.

Does magic work on Poise in Elden Ring?

It doesn’t seem to work in the same way. But some sorceries and incantations do appear to have a stagger mechanic, especially those with a more physical/gravity aspect. A good example is the Rock Sling spell, which can stagger even bosses at a distance.

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