Ghost of Tsushima: How to Unlock Stances

Ghost of Tsushima: How to Unlock Stances

We show you how to unlock different combat stances and how to observe enemy captains.

Fighting off bandits and soldiers in Ghost of Tsushima requires you to have the right combat stances, special swordfighting techniques that allow you to counter certain enemies and weapons. You'll only start off with one, but we'll teach you how to unlock new stances to ensure you're always prepared for any foe.

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How to Unlock Stances in Ghost of Tsushima

You can unlock new stances in Ghost of Tsushima by killing or observing enemy captains of the Mongol army, who are nearly always in fortresses. You'll often get an indication if there's one when you enter a fortress, as there'll be a bonus objective to observe the enemy captain. We'll explain that below, but for now just know that they are key to unlocking new stances and fighting styles. There's also a fifth stance, Ghost Stance, which will unlock at a certain point in the main plot. We've outlined how it works below.

Killing or observing leaders will get you more Stances. | Joel Franey/USG, Sucker Punch Productions/Sony

All Combat Stances

There are five stances to unlock across the whole of Ghost of Tsushima, each one designed to be a specific counter to a certain kind of enemy. We've laid them all out below, as well as how you switch stances after unlocking them (if you need further controls, check our guide here).

StanceEffective Against:Number of slots to learn:Button Input
StoneSwordsmenNoneR2+X
WaterShieldbearers3R2+Circle
WindSpearmen8R2+Triangle
MoonBrutes12R2+Square
GhostEveryoneNone (unlocked through campaign)L3+R3

Learning New Stances

Every time you observe or kill an enemy captain, you get a new slot filled in your progress bar towards learning the next stance. You can't choose which one you learn or in what order, it's always as listed below. It's also worth mentioning that the slots listed aren't cumulative - after learning the Water Stance, you're progress will snap back to zero and you'll have to get eight new slots to learn Wind Stance.

To learn stances as quickly as possible, you'll want to observe a captain before you kill them, in order to get two slots of progress from one enemy. We'll cover the first of those below.

How to Observe Captains

When you approach a Mongol fortress, there's a good chance that there'll be a captain inside. Approach in stealth and use your focused hearing to look for an NPC performing combat swings, even when nobody else is around. That'll be the captain practicing. Approach them in secret and in stealth, because they'll stop training if they're alerted to your presence in any way. When within about thirty meters, there'll be an icon above their head pushing you to hold R2. Hold it down uninterrupted for about five seconds and you'll get a slot of progress.

Watching captains train, though creepy, can help you learn about Stances in greater depth. | Joel Franey/USG, Sucker Punch Productions/Sony

If you want all the guides you'd ever need on Ghost of Tsushima, why not check out our full Guides Hub here? Whether it's bosses, collectibles or getting the best armor and weapons, we've got everything you'll need to liberate Tsushima here.

Killing Captains

Killing a captain will always net you a second slot of progress, whether you've observed them or not, even if you kill them with an assassination. However, in some fortresses you'll be forced into a duel, the captain not appearing until everybody else is gone, which means you won't be able to observe. Instead, simply defeat them as normal and claim the next step.

Stone Stance

The default starting stance is Stone Stance, a slower stance designed for parrying, blocking and deflecting. It's ideal against swordsmen and many default enemies, combined with a heavy attack that functions as a piercing strike. If you're not sure what else to use, Stone Stance is a good all-rounder.

Water Stance

Water Stance is the first one you'll unlock, and it's best for fighting enemies with shields. It's composed of wide, sweeping motions used to knock enemies back and stagger them, with an unlockable combo that performs numerous fast swipes.

Wind Stance

Designed to defeat spearman, the Wind Stance is about lunges and attacks that cover distance, stepping aside and leaping forward to attack the opponent. It also has a special Typhoon Kick that can throw an enemy back and leave them vulnerable to follow-up strikes.

Moon Stance

The final stance to be unlocked through captain-killing, the Moon Stance is made to deal with heavy opponents and brutes, staggering and knocking them back with heavy blows, not to mention a spinning attack that can throw off almost any enemy.

Ghost Stance

Easily the most powerful of them all, Ghost Stance is a powerful special mode that allows you to kill any enemy in one strike, unlocked after a certain boss fight in the campaign. Rather than something you can switch to at any time, Ghost Stance is a temporary effect you can activate in one of two ways:

  • Kill an enemy leader in stealth, referred to as a "slaughter."
  • Kill seven enemies without taking damage (progress will be reset when you are).

Once the icon at the bottom-right of the screen is full, you can press L3+R3 to trigger Ghost Stance, a temporary power-up where you kill all enemies in one strike and frequently cause survivors to flee. It's often a guaranteed win against large groups of enemies and best saved for large confrontations.

Hope you've got a good stance on great Tsushima content, because we've got it to spare. Mike's review of the game can be found here, or check out our interview with Daisuke Tsuji, voice of Jin Sakai, to hear about the challenges around Asian-American representation in games and how things could be improved.

Joel Franey

Guides Writer

Joel loves books, games, comics and drinks that make a person feel like they just got kicked in the head by a mule. He has a Masters in writing from Sussex, which he somehow got by writing about Superman. He is absolutely NOT three children in a long coat, so please stop asking.

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