Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown Beginner’s Guide + Tips

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Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown is a 3D action gacha game that features a decent, standalone storyline and a fast-paced combat system.

This guide will show you every piece of valuable information a beginner needs to know — along with all the things you should and shouldn’t do as soon as you start playing the game.


Starting Out (Rerolling)

Variant Showdown Summon (SSR Guaranteed) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Variant Showdown Summon (SSR Guaranteed)

Here are a few things that you might want to know if you want to reroll in this game.


Is Rerolling Necessary?

x10 Variant Showdown Summon / SAO: Variant Showdown
x10 Variant Showdown Summon

Rerolling in SAO:VS isn’t necessary if you just want to have fun or clear the endgame, but I still highly recommend that you reroll.

Not only is the rerolling process much quicker in SAO:VS than most other gacha games, but top-tier characters here possess clear advantages over those who are not.


How To Reroll (Step-by-Step)

SAO: VS features an infinite rerolling system which will be made available to you as soon as you clear Chapter 0 (Prologue).

Upon clearing the Prologue, you will be guided by the game’s tutorial system to the Scout page automatically:

Scout Tutorial / SAO: Variant Showdown
Scout (Tutorial)

There, you’ll be able to pull 10 characters in the “Starter Scout With Redraws” banner:

Starter Scout (10x Scout) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Starter Scout (10x Scout)

From there, you can simply hit “Retry” to pull over and over again until you get the units you want:

Ideal Summon (10x Scout) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Ideal Summon (10x Scout)

As you can see from the Summon results in the image above, you can get multiple SSR characters and Ability Cards in one pull.

Don’t stop rerolling until you’ve pulled at least 2 Characters and Ability Cards!


Who To Reroll For

[SSR] Kirito Obtained / SAO: Variant Showdown
[SSR] Kirito Obtained

The only three SSR characters you need to reroll for are:

  • [The Black Swordsman] Kirito (Recommended)
  • [Dragon Tamer] Silica
  • [The Flash] Asuna

Any of these characters can carry you far into the early to mid-game, but the one I personally recommend picking up is [The Black Swordsman] Kirito for his fantastic self-recovery ability.

As for Ability Cards, you can choose whatever you want to pick up as long as you have any of the three characters listed above.


Team Building Guide

Team Edit Page / SAO Shadow Variant
Team Edit Page

For team building, I recommend investing in at least:

  • 1 Fire-element Character
  • 1 Water-element Character
  • 1 Wind-element Character

It doesn’t really matter what Class they are, as long as you bring at least one Attacker or Ranger who’ll fulfill your DPS needs.

Enemies have weaknesses that can be exploited too, but so do your characters:

Character Element Types Strong Against Weak Against
Water-element Characters Fire-element Enemies Wind-element Enemies
Fire-element Characters Wind-element Enemies Water-element Enemies
Wind-element Characters Water-element Enemies Fire-element Enemies

All Classes & Roles

Enhance Characters Page / SAO: Variant Showdown
Enhance Characters Page

There are four character Classes in the game:

Character Classes Primary Roles
  • Tank
  • Sub DPS
  • Main DPS
  • Sub DPS
  • Main DPS
  • Sub DPS
  • Support
  • Sub DPS
  • Healer

I highly recommend bringing at least one Attacker or Ranger in your team, as they often have the biggest DPS output in the game.

Editing Guidelines / SAO: Variant Showdown
Editing (Guidelines)

To check a character’s Element type and Class, simply check the class emblem that’s located on the upper-left part of every Character’s portrait – as shown in the image above.


Combat Guide (How Battles Work)

Fast-paced, real-time combat is where Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown truly shines.

Listed below are all of the combat mechanics you should master – even in the early game.



Switch (Asuna) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Switch (Asuna)

Switching allows you to switch between your three characters. Using this mechanic, you can cycle through your characters to either bypass the cooldown of their skills or avoid enemy attacks.

To switch, simply click the portrait of whomever character you’d like to switch into:

Switch Buttons Highlighted / SAO: Variant Showdown
Switch Buttons

Switching is one of the most important mechanics to master, as it maximizes the amount of DPS you can do within a limited timeframe.



Evading allows your character to quickly travel a short distance in any direction – allowing them to potentially avoid enemy attacks.

To evade, click the “Evade” button located in the bottom-right part of your combat screen:

Evade Button (Kirito) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Evade Button (Kirito)

I highly recommend that you practice timing your evades correctly.

This mechanic is especially useful when you’re surrounded by mobs of enemies or when you’re about to get hit by a telegraphed or high-damage attack.



Some bosses execute a series of powerful, unavoidable attacks when they reach a certain HP percentage.

To counter this, you have the Parry mechanic which you can use to completely negate the boss’ attacks by successfully tapping a series of timed circles:

Parry Circle (Timed) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Parry Circle (Timed)

You can treat this mechanic as high-stakes QTEs (Quick-time Events).

If you fail to tap correctly or run out of time, the boss will be able to inflict a lot of damage on your Character.



Awaken (Kirito) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Awaken (Kirito)

An Awakening can be triggered as soon as the Awakening Gauge is filled up, which is the red bar located right below your character’s HP Gauge:

Awakening Gauge / SAO: Variant Showdown
Awakening Gauge

To fill your Awakening Gauge, simply land your characters’ attacks or tank enemy attacks head-on!

Once you Awaken a character, their stats will be increased and their skill cooldowns will be temporarily removed – allowing you to spam skills for as long as the Awaken status lasts.

The Awaken Button / SAO: Variant Showdown
The Awaken Button

To activate Awakening and fully consume your Awakening Gauge, click the “Awaken” button located at the bottom of your combat screen – as highlighted in the image above.



Finisher (Kirito) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Finisher (Kirito)

All Characters have unique Finishers, and they can be used to inflict heavy damage against enemy bosses.

Finishers can only be used during an Awakening, so to activate them, you must first activate “Awaken” and then click the “Finisher” button, which is located where the “Awaken” button used to be:

Finisher Button / SAO: Variant Showdown
Finisher Button

Finishers can be activated as long as your Awakening Gauge has a charge, so make sure to only use Finishers before the very end of an Awakening phase!



Most boss monsters have a Burst Gauge, and they can be filled by dealing as much uninterrupted damage as you can to the boss:

Burst (Asuna) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Burst (Asuna)

Once the Burst Gauge is full, the boss will be knocked-down and will not be able to react to your attacks or even move at all.

Use this opportunity to blast them to high heaven by spamming as many skills in their ugly face as you can!


Normal Attacks & Skills Guide

Skill-use Tutorial (Kirito) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Skill-use Tutorial (Kirito)

Here are the key differences between Normal Attacks and Skills in this game – along with how to access them during combat.

Normal Attacks inflict non-elemental Physical Damage on your enemies. You can use them by clicking the “Attack” button in the bottom-right part of your combat screen:

Attack Button / SAO: Variant Showdown
Attack Button

Skills, on the other hand, are divided into Skill 1, Skill 2, and Finishers. You can use Skill 1 and Skill 2 just by clicking any of the two icons highlighted in the image below:

Skill 1 & Skill 2 Buttons / SAO: Variant Showdown
Skill 1 & Skill 2 Buttons

You can only use a character’s Finisher during their Awakening phase, but you don’t necessarily need to rely on Finishers to reach high DPS.

A character’s Skill 1 and Skill 2 will do just fine, since they often deal elemental damage which hurts enemies way more than Normal Attacks.


All Stats Explained

Level Up Screen (All Stats Increased) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Level 21 > Level 32 (All Stats Increased)

Here’s a breakdown of each in-game stat, and what upgrading them individually can do for your character.

Stats Upgrade Effects Notable Classes
HP Increases the health points your characters have. The more HP they have, the more damage they can take before fainting. Guardians
STR Increases the amount of Physical Damage your characters can inflict. The more STR they have, the stronger their Normal Attacks or Physical Damage-based Skills are. Attackers & Rangers
DEF Increases the defense and survivability of your characters. The more DEF they have, the lesser the damage they take from enemy attacks. Guardians
INT Increases the skill damage of your characters. The more INT they have, the more effective their skills are during battle. Mages, Attackers, & Rangers

Some characters may require a mix of two or more stats to be more effective, but generally, you’d want to stick to improving the individual stats they’re notable at.


Powering Up Units (How To Get Stronger)

Unlock Potential (Sinnon) / SAO: Variant Showdown
Unlock Potential (Sinnon)

Here are all of the ways that you can increase your Characters’ effectiveness in combat – allowing you to clear increasingly harder stages.

Power Up Methods Materials Required Effects
  • Combat EXP
  • EXP Chips
  • Digits
Increases a character’s overall stats
Rank Up
  • Elemental Memories
  • Class Records
  • Digits
Increases a character’s rank, max level, and stats
  • Evolution Crystals (Character Dupes)
  • Digits
Increases a character’s stats, star level, potential, and skill effectiveness
Equip/Upgrade Ability Cards
  • Ability Cards
  • Ability Cores
  • Digits
Increases a character’s stats and gives them unique buffs

Best Way To Farm EXP/Level Up Fast

EXP Chip (L) / SAO: Variant Showdown
EXP Chip (L) – Item Description

The best way to level up your characters in the early game is to Enhance them via EXP Chips.

And the best way to farm EXP Chips is by:

  • Farming EXP quest stages (Recommended)
  • Collecting Daily & Weekly rewards
  • Collecting Event rewards

You can also buy EXP Chips in the Shop, but I don’t recommend doing this until after you’ve farmed more than enough Digits to spend on powering up your three main units first.


Primary Objectives/Tasks For Beginners


Here are the three most important tasks that you should complete ASAP as a beginner in Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown.


Objective #1: Complete Chapter 1

Story Quests / SAO: Variant Showdown
Story Quests (Chapter 1)

Completing Chapter 1 [The Beginning of the Story] in its entirety will unlock all of the game modes you need to access as a beginner.

  • Chapter 2
  • Daily Quests
  • Limited-time Quests

Clearing the first chapter also gives you quite a lot of resources like Variant Crystals and character upgrade materials from the get-go, so make sure to prioritize it!


Objective #2: Clear Main Story, Side Story, & Extra Story Stages

Game Modes / SAO: Variant Showdown
Game Modes (Story)

The Main, Side, and Extra Stories are different from Story Quests.

For one, they have fewer stages to clear and they have a fixed difficulty – unlike Story Quests that require you to clear more than 10 stages to complete and have three separate difficulties.

These “Stories” may look like optional content at first glance, but make no mistake – they will give you a lot of valuable items like SSR Ability Cards and Variant Crystals when cleared!


Objective #3: Clear Challenge Missions

Challenge Missions / SAO: Variant Showdown
Challenge Missions (Beginner’s Challenge)

Challenge Missions can be cleared by doing tasks that are tailored specifically for beginners.

There are of course different types of Challenge Missions, but even as a newbie with only two to seven days of playtime, you’ll be able to clear them with ease!

Completing Challenge Missions will give you tons of F2P resources and materials that you can use to improve your characters early.


Important Items To Farm

Daily Quests Screen / SAO: Variant Showdown
Daily Quests Screen

Here are some of the most important items in the game that you should start farming as early as possible.

Important Items Purpose Main Sources
Variant Crystals
  • Used for summoning
  • Used for buying Stamina
  • Used for buying items in the Shop
  • Used for increasing slots
Story Quest stages
Summon Tickets
  • Used for summoning
Events stages
EXP Chips
  • Used for character Enhancement
EXP Quest stages
  • Used in all power-up methods
  • Used for buying items in the Shop
Digit Quest stages
Elemental Memories
  • Used for character Rank Up
Elemental Memory Drop stages
Class Records
  • Used for character Rank Up
Story Quest stages

Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown General Tips

Kirito Attack Preview / SAO: Variant Showdown
Kirito Attacks (Intro Cinematic)

Here are five of the best tips that you should know as a newbie player in Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown.


Tip #1: Clear Hard and Extra Difficulty Stages

Story Quest Preview / SAO: Variant Showdown
Story Quest (Extra Difficulty)

After clearing the Normal Difficulty stages of the Story Quests, I highly recommend clearing the Hard and Extra Difficulty stages next.

You can farm a lot of Variant Crystals by doing this, not to mention other resources like:

  • Digits
  • EXP Chips
  • Class Records
  • Skip Tickets
  • Ability Cores

Having all these will give you a massive advantage in the early game, since you’re going to need all the resources you can get to upgrade your units as a beginner.


Tip #2: Visit The Digit Shop For Great Deals

The Digit Shop / SAO: Variant Showdown
Digit Shop

As of the moment, there are only two items available in the Digit Shop:

  • Training Packs (L)
  • Elemental Training Packs (Rotational Item)

Once you’ve farmed enough Digits (around 1,000,000 Digits or so), I recommend buying a few stocks of the Training Pack (L) for your first week.

Buying Elemental Training Packs is mostly optional in the early game, but can be a good investment if you lack the materials needed to Rank Up one of your three main characters.


Tip #3: Perform Just Switches in Battles

Just Switch Sinnon / SAO: Variant Showdown
Just Switch (Sinnon)

Switching characters mid-battle is good, but doing Just Switches is much better if you want your runs to be as flawless and quick as possible.

You can perform a Just Switch by Switching characters at the very last second before an enemy attack lands.

Doing this not only completely negates the enemy’s attack, but also enables your character to perform a devastating counterattack with increased damage.

Master this mechanic and you’ll be able to breeze through most enemy bosses in the game!


Tip #4: Save Your Variant Crystals For One Banner/Pickup Scout

Asuna (Pickup Scout) / SAO: Variant Showdown
[Emotions Housed in Steel] Asuna (Pickup Scout)

As a beginner, you will have quite a lot of Variant Crystals to pull units with, but that doesn’t mean that you should.

Unless you’re a massive P2W whale with no issue spending hundreds – if not thousands of IRL money to pull for every character there is, then it is in your best interest to pull sparingly.

As of this writing, there is no pity system in Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown. The best thing you can do is save up all you can for one banner and hope for the best!


Tip #5: Bind Your Account ASAP

Account Transfer Page / SAO: Variant Showdown
Account Transfer Page

If you don’t want to lose all of your progress, I strongly advise binding your account on your very first day of playing the game.

Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown requires you to create a Bandai Namco ID Account (BNID) to bind your account, which can get a bit tedious if you don’t have a Twitter, LINE, or Apple account.

Nevertheless, it is very important that you do this immediately, as this game’s backup system is a little dated. You will lose your account easily if you’re not careful!


Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown Do’s & Don’ts

Kirito Victory Pose preview / SAO: Variant Showdown
[The Black Swordsman] Kirito Victory Animation

Here are two brief lists of things that you absolutely should and shouldn’t do as a beginner in Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown.


  • Do your Daily and Weekly Tasks consistently
  • Do complete Chapter 1 ASAP
  • Do clear Main, Side, & Extra Story stages
  • Do clear harder difficulties for more resources
  • Do try to invest in only three characters in the early game
  • Do buy a few Ability Card slots for convenience
  • Do clear your Daily Quest game modes consistently
  • Do participate in Limited Time Quests (Events) often
  • Do clear Challenge Missions as soon as you unlock them
  • Do try to perform Just Switches during Combat often


  • Don’t waste your Summon Tickets and Variant Crystals by pulling on several banners at once
  • Don’t leave the game with your Stamina beyond max capacity
  • Don’t spend too many Digits on Shop items
  • Don’t forget to bind your account to a BNID
  • Don’t invest in characters you don’t plan on using long term
  • Don’t ignore elemental advantages and disadvantages
  • Don’t forget to invest in at least 1 Fire-element, 1 Wind-element, and 1 Water-element character
  • Don’t use your Finisher until after most of your Awakening Gauge is depleted
  • Don’t forget to avoid getting surrounded by mobs or telegraphed attacks by Evading
  • Don’t spam or button mash your way out of a fight
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Red Fox

An average enjoyer of memes, movies, anime, manga, light novels, and video games. He also LOVES gambling — er, playing all sorts of gacha games mostly F2P in his free time.