Almost every enemy you encounter in Ghost of Tsushima will fall into one of four archetypes: Swordsmen, Shieldsmen, Spearsmen, and Brutes. These don't only encompass Mongols, though. You'll also run into ronin, bandits, archers, and Mongol war dogs. Barring the dogs, these enemies will fall into one of the aforementioned categories too.
To learn different stances, you'll need to observe and kill Mongol leaders. The order they unlock is: Stone, Water, Wind, Moon. Each of these can then be upgraded further with stronger heavy attacks to deal even greater damage. Here's everything you need to know about the enemies you'll encounter.
Heavy attacks using the Stone stance will deal extra stagger damage to Swordsmen, allowing you to break their defense and go in for the kill. Swordsmen are the most common enemy you'll come across between Mongols, bandits, and ronin. Any of the gadgets at your disposal, like flaming arrows, kunai, and bombs once you unlock them, should make quick work of Swordsmen.
Use heavy attacks with the Water stance to break a Shieldsmen defense. Since they can more easily block arrows with their shield, your best course of action is to wait for the right moment and dodge their attacks. Flaming arrows and bombs will also do the trick nicely, though I'd recommend saving these for tougher enemies.
A couple of heavy attacks with the Wind stance will break Spearsmens' defenses. They have long sweeping attacks, so you'll want to unlock the roll ability to quickly get out of their range. Getting enough distance between them and then using your half bow is another smart way to break their defense.
The Moon stance is the last you'll earn, and this can be used effectively against Brutes. You can tell brutes apart because they're beastly compared to other enemies, and they tend to wield heavy bludgeoning weapons or guns. Because you won't earn the Moon stance until later in the game, the best you can do with Brutes is to dodge their attacks and strike from behind in the meantime.
Mongols and bandits have archers among their ranks, and they're the easiest to kill. If you close the distance fast enough and they still have their bows drawn, you can kill them in a couple of hits without worrying about any counterattacks. If they do end up drawing a blade, use the Stone stance, though most of the time you'll be able to kill them before it comes to that.
Mongol war dogs
For as much as Naughty Dog played up the fact that you could kill dogs in The Last of Us Part 2, I killed a lot more in Ghost of Tsushima. Like a lot more. Mongol war dogs can be found frequently at camps and throughout the road in each of Tsushima's three regions, and sometimes you'll just have to attack them. It doesn't matter which stance you use, just hit them a couple of times and avoid their bites, and they'll go down easily.
You'll be able to tell Mongol leaders apart from the rest by their armor. You're unable to stealth assassinate them until you earn the Ghost Stance, which automatically grants a one-hit kill. When you're righting them normally, you'll want to use whichever stance is best against the weapons they carry. Some will dual-wield swords, others have shields, and some have spears.
It's also best to throw kunai or bombs at them first to stun them and then go in for a heavy strike.
Any other tips?
Do you have other tips that you think we should know about? Have an interesting experience with an enemy? Sound off in the comments below.