Samurai
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Description

Swordsmen who wield the ancient blades known as ‘katana’.
Using their exquisite power, anything will fall in a single stroke.
By taking up a certain stance, phantasmagoric techniques can be unleashed.

Skills

Universal Skills

Name Effect MN Cost SP Usage Max Level Prerequisites
POW Bonus (POWボーナス) Raises physical attack and defense. - 2 10
SPD Bonus (SPDボーナス) Raises agility and evasion. - 1 10
INT Bonus (INTボーナス) Raises magic attack and magic defense. - 1 10

Zamba Style

Name Effect MN Cost SP Usage Max Level Prerequisites
Zamba Switch (斬馬スイッチ) Switches to Zamba Stance, which increases attack power and allows the Samurai to use Zamba skills. 2 (lv1~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 Katana Mastery 3
Tate-Ichimonji (縦一文字) Medium damage to one enemy. 2 (lv1~5), 3 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Zamba Switch 1
Rai-Rai (雷磊) Lightning damage to one enemy. 2 (lv1~5), 2 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Zamba Switch 3
Gou (轟) Extreme damage and Stun to one enemy. The Samurai loses use (and the ATK) of his equipped weapon for three turns. 3 (lv1~5), 4 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Zamba Switch 4
Sakaba-Uchi (逆刃打ち) Small damage to one enemy and a small chance of inflicting Sleep. 2 (lv1~5), 3 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Zamba Switch 5
Futatsu Tsubame (双つ燕) (EX Skill) Extreme damage to a single enemy, with a high chance of inflicting Bleeding. 0 (EX) 3 1 Zamba Switch 5, Unlocked by checking a bookshelf in the most northwestern building in Miross (ミロス), or by checking the bookshelf in Zess' house in Hyren. You must have learned the Aizo language.

Iai Style

Name Effect MN Cost SP Usage Max Level Prerequisites
Iai Switch (居合スイッチ) Switches to Iai Stance, which increases speed and allows the Samurai to use Iai skills. 2 (lv1~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 Katana Mastery 3
Sente-Dachi (先手断ち) Medium damage to an enemy. Always goes first. 2 (lv1~5), 3 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Iai Switch 1
Fubuki (吹雪) Ice elemental damage to an enemy. 2 (lv1~5), 3 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Iai Switch 3
Zeppa-Uchi (絶刃打ち) Medium damage and a small chance of inflicting Skill seal to an enemy. 3 (lv1~5), 4 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Iai Switch 4
Kubi-Otoshi (首落) Medium damage and a high chance of instant death to an enemy. 5 (lv1~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Iai Switch 5
Roku-Shaku Kubi-Otoshi (六尺首落) (EX Skill) Instant death or huge damage to all enemies. 0 (EX) 3 1 Iai Switch 5, Unlocked by checking a bookshelf in Aizen (アイゼン) palace, or by checking the bookshelf in Zess' house in Hyren. You must have learned the Aizo language.

Unarmed Style

Name Effect MN Cost SP Usage Max Level Prerequisites
Unarmed Switch (無手スイッチ) Switches to Unarmed Stance, which adds a small chance of instant death to regular attacks and allows the Samurai to use Unarmed skills. The Samurai's weapon ATK will be replaced with an ATK bonus based on this skill's level. 1 (lv1~5), 2 (lv6~10) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~10) 10
Yoroi-Dooshi [Armor Pierce] (鎧通し) Medium damage to an enemy. 2 (lv1~5), 3 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 POW Bonus 1
Myouou (明王) Fire damage to an enemy. 2 (lv1~5), 3 (lv6~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Unarmed Switch 3
Zangeki-Unshin (斬撃雲身) Nullifies a Slashing attack and retaliates with large damage and chance of instant death. 3 (lv1~3), 4 (lv4~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 Unarmed Switch 5
Kaigeki-Unshin (壊撃雲身) Nullifies a Blunt attack and retaliates with large damage and chance of instant death. 3 (lv1~3), 4 (lv4~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 Unarmed Switch 5
Totsugeki-Unshin (突撃雲身) Nullifies a Piercing attack and retaliates with large damage and chance of instant death. 3 (lv1~3), 4 (lv4~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 Unarmed Switch 5
Asura (阿修羅) (EX Skill) Extreme damage and Stun to a single enemy. 0 (EX) 3 1 Unarmed Switch 10, Unlocked by checking a bookshelf in Nevanplace (ネバンプレス) palace, or by checking the bookshelf in Zess' house in Hyren. You must have learned the Aizo language.

Other Skills

Name Effect MN Cost SP Usage Max Level Prerequisites
Katana Mastery (カタナマスタリー) Raises the ATK of equipped katana. Required for higher-level katana skills. - 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10
Rentan (練丹) Recovers a medium amount of the Samurai's health. 4 (lv1~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 INT Bonus 3
Nuki-Kake (貫掛け) Medium damage to a single enemy. Can be used without stance, or in Zamba or Iai Stance. 3 (lv1~6), 4 (lv7~10) 1 (lv1~7), 2 (lv8~10) 10 Katana Mastery 1
Shishi Funjin no Seme (獅子奮迅の攻め) Increases the Samurai's ATK by a small amount each turn that passes. 5 (lv1~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 POW Bonus 5
Tettou Tetsubi no Mamori (徹頭徹尾の守り) Increases the Samurai's DEF by a small amount each turn that passes. 5 (lv1~5) 2 (lv1), 1 (lv2~5) 5 POW Bonus 5
Musou Switch (無双スイッチ) Switches to Musou Stance, where the Samurai can use skills from all styles (without those styles' bonuses). The Samurai is forcibly withdrawn from this stance if he has 90% or less of his Max LF. 5 3 1 Zamba Switch 5, Iai Switch 5, Unarmed Switch 5
Jinka no React (刃下のリアクト) The React status lasts for 5 turns. While the React is active, the Samurai gains an extra turn if he is hit with any single attack that does more than around 30% of this Max LF. 4 2 1 SPD Bonus 5
Demonic Countenance (鬼の形相) Chance to ignore random encounters that are lower in level than the Samurai. Does not prevent lucrative Flower Seed encounters. 5(lv1), 4 (lv2), 3 (lv3), 2 (lv4), 1 (lv5) 1 (lv1~5) 5 POW Boost 1, INT Boost 1

Skills

Katana Mastery

Needed for learning Zamba and Iai Switches. Each point will raise your attack power with katana as well: +10% at Lv. 1, to +30% at Lv. 10, so you gain +2% each additional point (except the Lv. 9 to Lv. 10 jump has a higher return like most skills at +4%).
You really can't make a Zamba or Iai Samurai without this, but be careful that this only applies to katana. Regular swords are not affected by this.

Zamba Skills

Zamba Switch (Horse-Cutting Switch)

If you need damage with a Samurai, Zamba is the go-to stance. While in Zamba, your attack power (regardless of the weapon you've got equipped) will increase by +10% at Lv. 1 and +30% at Lv. 5, making each level up a +5% increase in attack power. There's no reason not to max this if you're picking it up at all.

Tate-Ichimonji (Vertical Slash)

The mainstay of Zamba stance. Damage is increased by 130% at Lv. 1 and 180% at max level (+5% per level up, with the last giving +10%).
If you're pressed for SP (perhaps by picking up Iai switch as well), you might consider using Nuki-kake as your all-purpose mainstay instead. It doesn't deal as much damage (165% at max level) and costs 1 MN more, but it can be used as long as you don't switch to Unarmed stance, and you won't have to split SP across multiple techniques.
The original Japanese name describes the kanji character for one (Ichimonji), which is essentially a dash, which is stood up (Tate). Thus, a character that looks like - becomes one that looks like |.

Rai-Rai (Thundering Stones)

Zamba's elemental attack. Deals lightning damage, not slashing damage, from 120% to 150%.
Even if you put a single point into it, it can be used whenever you encounter something weak against lightning.
Works well with the Princess' Angelic Cage, which increases the damage magical attacks do (among other things).

Gou (Thunderous)

Does a metric boatload of damage at once (160% at Lv. 1 to 230% at Max), but disarms you for three turns (the attack power from your weapon will be 0 for the remainder of the current turn and the next three turns). This means the only attack you can do post-Gou is Yoroi-Dooshi, which if you're not in Unarmed stance, will have horrible damage even after adding Zamba's attack bonus. Generally, it's felt that the extra damage is not worth the loss of your attack power and Zamba skills. It might end battles one turn earlier, but just firing Gou out will actually decrease your potential damage if the battle drags on past that round.
There may be some special cases where using Gou is actually beneficial, but usually those are limited to times where your Samurai can figure out something to do to pass the time. If your Samurai must be called off of offense to heal mana or status ailments, you can have him fire off a Gou and get to healing for a few turns. You might also lead a boss fight off with Zamba -> Gou -> Jinka no React -> Shishi Funjin no Seme -> Tettou Tetsubi no Mamori.
Its use is situational at best, but if your Samurai is a Zamba specialist, you might find some use for this. Nothing will outdamage an EX Gou, and it can do twice as much damage as a regular Tate-Ichimonji.

Sakaba-Uchi (Back-Blade Strike)

Smack someone upside the head with the back of your blade. If a sword is used, maybe the flat of the blade is used?
It has the same damage progression as Rai-Rai (120% at Lv. 1 to 150% at Lv. 10), but there's a chance (25% at Lv. 1, 45% at Lv. 10) to inflict Sleep. This technique deals blunt damage, not slashing damage.
Honestly though, against random cannon fodder, you should have some option of wiping them out in a single shot, and Sleep doesn't seem to work well against bosses. It might be useful for attacking enemies that are resistant to slashing damage, as this will deal blunt damage instead.
The original Japanese name is an easy way to express the act of attacking using the back of your blade.

Futatsu Tsubame (Twin Sparrows)

Zamba's EX skill. 160% damage with a 75% chance of Bleeding.
This actually won't outdamage an EX Tate-Ichimonji (which does 180% damage with EX), but the Bleeding might be useful in boss battles. Bleeding will siphon out 3% of the afflicted's LF per turn, so if used on a boss (or anything else with loads of LF), they'll start crying in a few turns.

Iai Skills

Iai Switch (Sword Draw Switch)

Iai is known for its speed bonus, its awesome skill-sealing Zeppa-Uchi, and its instant death attacks. While in Iai, your speed will increase by +10% at Lv. 1 and +30% at Lv. 5, like Zamba's progression. Since your speed increases, you're probably going first, and you're probably going to hit. The increase to evasion doesn't hurt either.
In Japanese sword arts, Iaijutsu is the art of drawing the katana and striking in one fluid motion (the katana's curvature allows this to be done easier than a straight sword), so imagine your Samurai unsheathing his sword with explosive fury when he attacks, and re-sheathing it afterwards.

Sente-Dachi (Severing the Initiative)

Always goes first. Which, if you've got a massive speed bonus on your side, you should be doing without any more help.
This is the cheaper mainstay of Iai, with the same damage progression of Tate-Ichimonji (130% at Lv. 1 and 180% at max level).
If for some reason you're planning a Musou switch Samurai, you might want to use this to make up for the fact that you don't get a speed bonus (or any bonus) in Musou.
Again, if you're pressed for points, you might bank on the fact that you've got a massive speed to go first with, and go for Nuki-Kake for the same (though slightly less powerful) effect.

Fubuki (Snow Storm)

Iai's elemental attack. Deals ice damage, not slashing damage, from 120% at Lv.1 to 150% at Lv. 10.
Still useful against enemies weak against ice, or enemies resistant to physical damage, if there's just a single point of this.
Like Rai-Rai, it works well with the Princess' Angelic Cage.

Zeppa-Uchi (Severing-Blade Strike)

Damage progression is 120% at Lv. 1 to 150% at Lv. 10, with a chance of Skill Seal (25% at Lv. 1, 45% at Lv. 10).
Pretty much one of the big draws of Iai over Zamba or Unarmed, this has a chance of sealing enemy skills. Most skills that do this are EX skills, but Zeppa-Uchi is unique in that it can be attempted as many times as you need.
If you have no easy way of recovering from powerful full-party enemy skills, or enemy skills which inflict nasty status ailments like Charm or Stone, it might be a good idea to have at least someone around who can keep the enemy in question from using the skill in the first place. If it's really pressing, it can be used with Angelic Cage (assuming you have a Princess around, of course).
If you're using this, you definitely want to get this as high as you can afford. At Lv. 1, it's essentially one of four tries to lock down your enemy, at Lv. 5 it gets to around one of three, and at Lv. 10 it's around one of every two. Of course, that's if your enemy doesn't have any sort of resistance to Skill Seal, and a difference in level might affect the chance the Skill Seal hits.
The Skill Seal only lasts for around three turns, so if you want to lock your enemy down, you'll have to keep using this as your primary attack. At Lv. 10, the Skill Seal might hit once every three or so attacks against symbol encounters, so you might be relying a bit on luck if a symbol encounter's skills are really that devastating to you. That's when you have to use EX.

Kubi-Otoshi (Neck Severing)

The more expensive mainstay of Iai (again, the damage is 130% at Lv. 1 and 180% at Lv. 10), this trades guaranteed first strike with a chance of instant death (30% at Lv. 1, 75% at Lv. 10).
However, as always, you should be able to just blast your average, wandering cannon fodder out of existence in a single strike to begin with (or two, by the time late-game comes around). If you want to use this as a mainstay, you might need a Princess with Tsuki-Akari no Shi to help recover the massive amount of MN that will be flowing out of your blade.
The original Japanese is composed of two characters: the one for neck, and the one for falling. The imagery is that someone's just been decapitated. Necks don't really fall, of course.

Roku-Shaku Kubi-Otoshi (Six-Shaku Neck Severing)

Iai's EX skill. Attacks all enemies at 150% damage (then EX on top of that), and instantly kills them. It won't outdamage a Lv. 7 Kubi-Otoshi or Sente-Dachi, but it is the only attack a Samurai has that will hit every enemy.
Normally, spending EX on random encounters would be considered wasteful. On boss encounters, the instant death doesn't work (or said bosses have high resistance to this). Still, it might back you out of a corner in case you absolutely need some encounter to end before that dragon jumps into the fray, or if the dragon's already popped his little head in and you need everyone else to go.
The original Japanese name, of course, has Kubi-Otoshi which is explained above. Roku-Shaku might refer to a measure of distance (a shaku is an old Japanese measurement of length, formally defined as 10/33 of a meter in modern times), perhaps alluding to the large amount of distance the sword strike is covering.

Unarmed Skills

Mu-te Switch (Unarmed Switch)

Throws away the attack power of your weapon for a bonus to your attack power based on your POW. You will attack unarmed in this stance, in case it's not clear by the name alone.
The bonus starts at +100% at Lv. 1, rises by +10% up to Lv. 8, then sees two massive increases at +25% and +40% for the last two levels, ending its bonus at +235%. As well, your regular attacks will have a chance of instantly killing your target (15% at Lv. 1, 25% at Lv. 10). If you plan on making this your stance of choice, it's probably a good idea to max this as fast as possible, since the entirety of your usefulness hinges on this skill.
The POW bonuses you receive from your equipment are factored into the bonus calculation, including any you get from weapons. The only weapons that will give you a POW bonus, though, are regular swords. Their attack power generally won't compare to the katana you could equip instead.
It goes without saying that if you take this stance, strongly consider maxing out POW bonus for the extra +23 to your attack power whenever you get into stance. Fully decked out in POW bonus equipment (as in, highest POW bonus you can get in four slots at end-game), you'll do as much damage as an Iai Samurai. (Damage calculator is here, Japanese language only.) Without it, your damage output will be noticeably less. Up until mid-game, or until you start getting powerful katana, the Lv. 10 bonus will outdamage most katana at that point in the game when you factor in POW bonuses.
Many sites might list this as a POW bonus, but it doesn't apply to defense and you don't take any less damage.
Until mid-game, getting katana is a fairly rare occurrence, so dropping points into making an Unarmed Samurai from the very beginning of the game isn't such a rare thing. If you're going for damage, you might also use a skill reset to switch to Zamba skills once you get more powerful katana, if you don't mind your Samurai losing five levels.

Yoroi-Dooshi (Armor Pierce)

One of the two mainstays of Unarmed stance. 130% damage at Lv. 1, 165% damage at Lv. 10.
This is weaker than Myouou, but isn't affected by elemental resistances.
In Japanese, Yoroi-Dooshi refers to a specific type of tanto (knife) which, predictably enough, was meant to bust through armor.

Myouou

Fire damage to a single enemy. The second mainstay of Unarmed stance. 130% damage at Lv. 1, 180% damage at Lv. 10. Use this or Yoroi-Dooshi as your mainstay in Unarmed, just keep in mind that enemies resistant to Fire will make this skill useless.
Follow the link for the explanation of what Myouou refers to.

(Attack type)-Unshin ([Attack type] Cloud-Body)

When hit with an attack of the corresponding damage type, the Samurai will negate the damage entirely and respond with a powerful counter attack. Damage starts at 150% at Lv. 1, but rises rapidly to 300% at Lv. 5. Also comes with at 25% chance of instant death. There's one skill for slashing, blunt, and piercing damage.
Symbol dragons have been reported to have fallen to this technique (when both Unarmed Switch and the Counter were maxed) with decent regularity. There has even been a report of a large symbol dragon being instantly taken down with Lv. 10 Unarmed stance and Lv. 1 Piercing Cloud Body (though the dragon was low on LF at the time), but they likely have some resistance to this.
Unlike the Mage's Veil spells, though, this only fires off once in a round and won't go off if the attack misses altogether. Also, remember that you have to have some way to make sure you get targeted by enemies. If your Knight is busy Provoking the opposition, this might be a waste.
If you're good at predicting what damage type your enemies do, you can use this instead of Guard, except it'll only last for a single attack. If you know your enemy isn't going to use a multi-hitting attack and you need to Guard, you can use this as an offensive guard while someone else hea

Asura

Unarmed's EX skill. 200% damage, and 100% Stun effect.
The description says it hits 6 times, but damage is dealt as one lump sum. Unlike the other EX skills for their stances, this will outdamage everything you can do in Unarmed stance.

Other Skills

Rentan

Heals your own LF.
Heal progression from Lv. 1 to Lv. 5: 24, 36, 60, 96, 144. You get a bonus of (INT / 5) to the amount you heal.
While it is better to let others do the healing for you (and thus have them sink points into other-than-self heals), it's not a bad heal on its own. If your party is without a good healer, this might be useful especially if your entire party is restricted to single target heals.
Works well with Jinka no React, since you can react by healing the damage you just took.
Remember that to even get this, you must drop at least 5 SP to meet the requirement of INT Bonus Lv. 3 and then take the skill at Lv. 1. Maxing this will take 9 SP when you include the prerequisite. If you already have Oni no Keisou, count on spending an extra 8 SP to max this.

Nuki-Kake

130% damage at Lv. 1, 165% damage at Lv. 10. Can be used whether or not you're in stance.
If you're taking both Zamba and Iai, and can't spend points on both Tate-Ichimonji and Sente-Dachi/Kubi-Otoshi, consider maxing this and not leveling the others. However, it costs 3 MN and rises to 4 MN at Lv. 7, which is one more than Tate-Ichimonji and Sente-Dachi, so you're getting a little less and spending a little more for your versatility.
Useful when you don't have time to switch stance, which happens often in random encounters. It can take out enemies you barely can't one-shot at Lv. 1.

Shishi Funjin no Seme (Attack of the Charging Lion)

Gradually increases your attack power every turn that goes by after you activate this skill. The bonus is around 1% to 2% per turn.
The effect lasts for 30 turns, and is obviously geared for fights you know are going to take a while. It's not something you have to go out of your way to pick up if you can't spare the points, but can be useful if you need to negate dehancements to your attack power.

Tettou Tetsubi no Mamori (Absolute Defense)

This one gradually increases your defense as turns goes by. Again, the bonus is around 1% to 2% per turn.
Not surprisingly, this also lasts for 30 turns, and should be used as soon as you realize you're going to be fighting for a while (and hopefully you realize this from turn 1). Again, don't feel you need to pick it up if you don't have the SP laying around, though it can be useful in negating those defense power downs.

Musou Switch (Matchless Switch)

Allows you to use any skill from any stance.
There are two restrictions, though: you don't get any stances benefits (so no POW or SPD bonuses), and you drop from this stance the moment your LF goes under 90%.
Some untested observations from various people about this stance are as follows: (a) your attacks ignore resistances, (b) your resistance to status ailments increase by maybe some 2 times, (c) even if you drop below 90%, if you are healed above that threshold before the turn ends, you'll stay in Musou, (d) you can't use Yoroi-Dooshi, but you can use Unarmed stance techniques.
A Taunt/Parry-type Knight is recommended if you choose to go for Musou. In fact, it might be the only way you can stay in Musou.

Jinka no React (Reaction Under the Blade)

You get an extra turn if you get whumped by an attack that takes certain chunk of LF from you (around 1/3 to 1/4 of your max LF). Your remaining LF has nothing to do with when this gets activated, just the amount of damage done in a single attack. An attack dealing 70 damage will make this React fire if your Samurai is at Lv. 75 or higher (275 LF).
With a Princess' Princess React, the Princess can heal your Samurai, leaving your Samurai free to go to town on something or do whatever else he needs to.
Of course, your Samurai needs to take massive damage to activate this, which is at odds with the job of the Knight, who (usually) wants to prevent it. A Guardian-type Knight might still be a good combination, since by then it might be too dangerous for the Samurai to aim for his react. Back Shield shouldn't affect the Samurai either, who should be in the front row, so a Shield-type Knight may still work. An Attack-type Knight is the other option, since they're concerned with beating the stuffing out of enemies rather than (as their way of?) protecting the team.
It's actually fairly easy for the react to pop. If your party is starving for healing, consider picking up Rentan so the Samurai can use his extra turn to get back up to not-dangerous amounts of LF.
However, if you overload your Samurai with top-of-the-line defensive gear, then the react just isn't going to go off. Keep that in mind as you equip him.
The react will also go off on the damage taken from Curse. It's possible to gridlock the fight with a Princess healing and a Samurai throwing out damage left and right (then taking it from the Curse backlash). If the Curse damage can nearly down the Samurai from max LF, your Princess might need to go after the Samurai so that he starts his extra turns healthy.
It's also been known to go off even while Charmed.

Oni no Keisou (Demonic Countenance)

At Lv. 5, you will completely ignore encounters of a lower level than your party's average level.
Since the encounter rate in Seventh Dragon is pretty high, and the Exp. you get is scaled down if your level is so much higher than the enemy's, it's a really convenient skill to have to avoid those really low level cannon fodder fights.
There will be no system message telling you when this skill has run out, so check your status screen for the mean-looking eye icon. You can also count your steps; Demonic Countenance lasts for 140 steps at Lv. 5.
This also won't prevent you from running into those lucrative Flower Seed encounters. You can use this to hunt for Flower Seeds without bothering with meaningless fights.


Usage

With the attack power of katana and stance bonuses, Samurai have some pretty big firepower. Demonic Countenance is also nice for avoiding encounters.

Before any powerful katana can be obtained, Unarmed Stance (especially if you max it to Lv. 10 in one go) is top. After you get them, Zamba's Tate-Ichimonji will be the most powerful single strike you can get. After you can the Samurai's ultimate weapon, the sheer amount of damage he can throw out to a single enemy compared to every other class will be among the top. If you want to go Iai, then sealing their attacks with Zeppa-Uchi is quite the tantalizing tactic.

Their defensive capabilities seem to have differing opinions.
1) They're as weak as they look, but they can self-heal, making them able to mesh with parties of any class combination.
2) While some people seem to equate Samurai and paper-thin-defense together, you could raise their POW and outfit them in some nice defensive equipment. So, it really can't be declared that they're weak.
3) … except when you consider the other two front liners, the Knight and the Fighter. A bow Rogue just sits in the back row for extra protection, and without a LF-absorbing skill like a sword/dagger Rogue's Vampire, Samurai really can fall quite easily.

However you slice it, they can solo easier than a Knight can with the help of Jinka no React and their stances. They're good enough on their own to be a match for the Emperor Dragons by themselves.
If you're looking to solo-play, using a Samurai might be your best bet.

Jinka no React -> (extra turn) Rentan
The Samurai's React fires whenever he takes a big chunk of damage. You can recover the LF you lost with Rentan, which you use during your extra turn.
When the next turn comes around, it's like you never got hit at all.


Character Making

Unarmed-Type

Nuki-Kake Lv. 1 -> Unarmed Switch Lv. 10 -> Myouou Lv. 1 -> Demonic Countenance Lv. 5 -> Yoroi-Dooshi/Myouou Lv. 5 or 7 -> Cloud Counter Lv. 1
Once that's done, pump up either Myouou or Yoroi-Doshi and your three counters. After that, shoot for POW Bonus, and top it all off with the Jinka React/Rentan combo.
Pick up Shishi-Funjin no Seme and Tettou-Tetsubi no Mamori while (or after) you've picked up POW Bonus if you want.

Yoroi-Dooshi is easy to use as your mainstay, but picking up a single level of Myouou never hurts. Combined with Angelic Cage (Princess Noble Mastery EX skill), it can put out quite a bit of damage.
Nuki-Kake will be your attack when you don't have time to switch to Unarmed. This might be more important if you decide to equip swords instead of katana for the POW bonus. The best sword you can get that offers a POW bonus has much less ATK than the best katana you can get.
You'll pretty much see all the attack types that can trigger your counters all the time, so don't hedge your bets on just one.
If your Samurai is in a party where he's likely to eat heavy damage and eat it often, you might want to pick up Jinka earlier. One strategy is to use your React on turn 1, then eat your heavy damage for breakfast and react with a stance change.
Deck out your Samurai with as much POW gear as you can get. His damage depends on how high you can get his base POW, and after you can sail the northern seas, you can grab POW-increasing equipment from all around the world. Use it to pump your damage to its limit.
Unarmed Samurai need POW Bonus to make up for their lack of reliance on the crazy weapons they could otherwise use. Because of this, it's easier for them to pick up Shishi-Funjin no Seme and Tettou-Tetsubi no Mamori.

Zamba-Type

The following won't actually pick up Jinka (and is kind of a rough template if you're going to be picking up Zamba to begin with).
Without a Healer or Princess, your MN usage might be too much, and you might exhaust yourself too quick.

Katana Mastery Lv. 1 -> Nuki-Kake Lv. 1 -> Katana Mastery Lv. 3 -> Zamba Switch Lv. 1 -> Demonic Countenance Lv. 1 -> Tate-Ichimonji Lv. 1 (not needed if you're making Nuki-Kake your mainstay) -> Zamba Switch Lv. 5, Demonic Countenance Lv. 5 (in your order or preference) -> Katana Mastery Lv. 10, Nuki-Kake or Tate-Ichimonji Lv. 10 (whichever is your mainstay)

If you're looking at short battles, you're looking at Nuki-Kake. Picking up another attack isn't strictly necessary after that, but Tate-Ichimonji does more damage for less MN (180% for 3 MN at Lv. 10, but you need to burn a turn to switch) than Nuki-Kake (165% for 4 MN at Lv. 10, can be used without switching). If your attack of choice is Tate-Ichimonji, leaving Nuki-Kake at Lv. 1 for the immediate 130% damage should be more than enough for your average wandering encounter.

Zamba Specialist

Concentrate on Zamba and take no other stances. You'll be needing a way to recover MN easily (read: Healer's Craft Mana or Princess' Song of the Moonlight).
Nuki-Kake for cannon fodder, Tate-Ichimonji for bosses. If you run into an enemy with high resistance to physical attacks, let him eat Rai-Rai.
Any SP you've got left, use for Jinka.

At the beginning of the game: Nuki-Kake Lv. 1, Tate-Ichimonji Lv. 1, Zamba Switch Lv. 5, Demonic Countenance Lv. 5 (and all prerequisites, of course).
When you're just starting out, you can switch to Zamba and throw out regular attacks against hard enemies. Tate-Ichimonji if you've already got some MN recovery (or can afford to spend it).
Afterwards, get Nuki-Kake and Tate-Ichimonji to Lv. 5, and Katana Mastery to Lv. 10. This should take you to Lv. 30 or so. (Translator: Though, Katana Mastery has greater return when the katana you've got equipped has more attack power. It might be better to hold off on maxing it until you get a katana that makes those +2% per level bonuses significant.)
Against random encounters, fire out Nuki-Kake (if you don't mind the MN). Once you encounter a boss, throw out Zamba'ed Tate-Ichimonji for all you're worth.

Eventually you'll want to max both Nuki-Kake and Tate-Ichimonji. Time their level ups to coincide with your MN recovery level ups so you can keep your damage output going.
If your Samurai is outpacing your Princess or Healer, you can pad out some levels with Rai-Rai (up to Lv. 5).
Once you've got both mainstays maxed, do the same with Rai-Rai, and pick up Jinka no React. This should bring you to Lv. 60.

While it's still fine to pick up Jinka last, if you want to add a little spice to your mid-game, you can learn Jinka at around that time without detracting from anything at all.
If you're inclined, you can ignore it completely and just max POW Bonus. (Translator: Though all it does is add a single base point to the damage you deal, and a single base point from the damage you take. The effect is kinda small for the 2 SP per level it asks for.)

Iai-Type

Your primary tactics will be for Nuki-Kake to take out random enemies, and let bosses taste the skill-sealing sweetness of Zeppa-Uchi.
Nuki-Kake Lv. 1, Demonic Countenance Lv. 1 -> Demonic Countenance Lv. 5, Katana Mastery Lv. 10 -> Nuki-Kake Lv. 10, Iai Switch Lv. 4 -> Zeppa-Uchi Lv. 10 -> Sente-Dachi or Kubi-Otoshi Lv. 10 (Kubi-Otoshi will require Iai Switch Lv. 5)

(Translator: You should be able to put off Katana Mastery until you've got a good katana, since that makes the bonuses more worthwhile.)
When Iai skills are at low levels, they don't do much more damage than Nuki-Kake, so concentrate on Zeppa-Uchi first and save the rest for later.
Once Zeppa-Uchi is at Lv. 10, you're pretty much done. Once you can seal off your enemy's skills, you can either hedge your damage on the economical Sente-Dachi, or the Kubi-Otoshi of instant death.
If you're lacking a mage, consider bringing Fubuki to mid-levels to deal with foes resistant to physical damage.

Switch-Type

Katana Mastery Lv. 1 -> Nuki-Kake Lv. 1 -> Katana Mastery Lv. 3 -> Zamba Switch Lv. 5 -> Nuki-Kake Lv. 5 -> Iai Switch Lv. 4 -> Zeppa-Uchi Lv. 10 -> Rai-Rai Lv. 5 -> Nuki-Kake Lv. 10, Katana Mastery Lv. 10

Nuki-Kake will be your mainstay, and can be used from any stance you decide to switch to.

You won't need Zeppa-Uchi too much at early levels, and that's why it's put off for a while. By mid-game or so, you'll start encountering full party status effect attacks (like full party confusion, which is never good). You can handle this by sealing the enemy's skills by going into Iai, but you'll need its skill-sealing effect to go off as soon as it can, which is why it's maxed as soon as you get it.

If you don't need to seal an enemy's skills, go into Zamba and Nuki-Kake as you see fit (or just Nuki-Kake without stance).

Rai-Rai is around in case you encounter enemies resistant to physical damage, and also for those times you run into something weak against lightning. Keep in mind there are one or two enemies that are resistant to both slashing damage (which the majority of your skills will do) and lightning damage, so putting one point into Sakaba-Uchi might be good.

Katana Mastery is put towards the end, when you'll be getting better katana.
If you'd like, you can fit in Jinka no React somewhere, if you have 7 SP for both the skill and SPD Bonus Lv. 5.
You can also fit in Demonic Countenance anywhere you want to.


Job Combinations

Samurai and Fighter

Attack Kill might cause enemies to do too little damage to fire off the Samurai's React.

Balance Kill (Fighter) -> Zeppa-Uchi (Samurai)
The highest chance to inflict Skill Seal without spending EX.

Samurai and Knight

Character Making
The Knight protects his party members by making attacks go to himself, or by reducing damage.
This is at odds with many things a Samurai does.

The three Cloud Counters activate whenever the Samurai is attacked with the right type of attack.
Provoke and Guardian will draw attacks away from the Samurai, meaning that there's less chance that the Samurai would be targeted for the counter to go off.

The Samurai's React only fires when the Samurai has taken a heavy attack.
Both Provoke and Guardian will make attacks less likely to target the Samurai, which makes the React less likely to fire.
Guardian might still be a good skill to use. If the Samurai is low on LF, he might take too much damage and get knocked out before the React can go off.
You'll generally want your Samurai to have a lot of LF if you're looking to use his React. If he's at 50% LF or less, it may be too risky to aim for his React.

Front Shield will reduce the damage your Samurai takes, which might make the damage too small for the React to go off.
Damage done to the Samurai on a successful Cloud Counter is nullified, so Front Shield will only protect against damage that isn't what the Samurai is defending against.

The Elemental Breaks will do the same thing (and if the Samurai's React still fires, you're in trouble), except they can be used to fire off the Knight's React.
You could use the Elemental Breaks to have the Knight take an extra turn if his React goes off. If the Samurai gets hit with a physical attack instead, the Samurai will take his extra turn.
This may still be a restrictive arrangement.

Back Shield will only protect party members in the back row, where the Samurai shouldn't be. The Samurai can take the full brunt of a React-firing attack while the rest of the party is protected.
Back Shield is only worth it if your two other party members are in the back row, though, and you'll find most attacks will still go to the front row.

Defense Shift will also reduce the damage the Samurai takes. His React might not fire, but his Cloud Counters still will.
An Unarmed Samurai aiming for counters will only have to deal with the party members in the front row, who will all attract as much attention from the enemies as the Samurai is (unless Provoke is involved).

On the other hand, if you're using Musou Switch, Provoke is a must. The Samurai can't take any damage to stay in Musou, and the Knight will draw attention away from your Samurai.
This only works for single target attacks, though. Full party attacks will still hit your Samurai.

For all the skills you have to watch out for, a Shield or Guardian Knight has the most compatibility with a Samurai.
If you don't want your Knight to protect your party, though, an Attack-Type Knight will also do.
The Knight offers Walk Safe to the entire party, so regardless of the skills you give him, he'll still be useful to the party.

Samurai and Rogue

Sakaba-Uchi and Zeppa-Uchi will help with racking up status ailments with a Masked Pain Rogue. They don't work often, though.

Samurai + Casual Behavior (Rogue)
This will increase the Rogue's ATK by a metric boatload. It won't do anything for the Samurai, though.

Samurai and Mage

The Samurai and the Mage are both damage dealers, but they don't have any skills that can really be used together.
You could have the Mage pick up the same elemental spells as the Samurai does if you want to aim for weakness.

Angelica Cage (Princess) -> any Elemental attack (Samurai) + any Elemental spell (Mage)
Angelica Cage will let Samurai and Mages deal loads of damage. You might see both of them break four digits every turn Angelica Cage is up.

Samurai and Healer

Healers have LF recovery, status ailment recovery, resurrection, and Craft Mana.
Craft Mana is so good, a Healer can still be useful with just it and Cure spells.
As always, Resist Element reduces damage from magic, which isn't common to get hit by unless you're fighting symbol encounters. This can make the React not go off.

Samurai and Princess

The Princess goes well with just about anybody.
The Samurai deals loads of physical damage, and Scorching Rhyme will push his ATK into the stratosphere.
Solid Rhyme will help protect the Samurai, but be careful that it doesn't prevent his React from going off if that's what you're aiming for.
Song of the Moonlight will let the Samurai throw out all the MN he wants. Nothing he does will cost so much MN that this skill can't give back at the end of the turn… unless of course, he gets an extra turn.
Keep in mind that if you're the sort of Princess that Requests Protection then Provokes, you'll draw fire away from the Samurai. This means the Samurai's React may not go off.

Angelica Cage (Princess) -> any Elemental attack (Samurai) + any Elemental spell (Mage)
For those of you looking to push four digits out with every attack you do, use Angelica Cage and max an elemental attack.
If you've got a Mage, have him cast elemental spells. He'll be breaking four digits with you.

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