Savage Axe Style vs SAED style
1: Savage Axe
Skip this section if you are already familiar with Savage Axe slash and Power Axe mode.
What is Savage Axe Slash?
Savage Axe Slash is a new attack that Charge Blade can use at any time by cancelling out of (Super) Amped Element Discharge using L2/LT/V. You can use this in any situation where you could normally cancel into Elemental Roundslash (shield charge), including after blocking a monster’s attack and performing (S)AED. The attack itself is a vertical upward slash that ends backwards behind your character and leaves you in Axe mode. It also has its own guard point as soon as the attack begins, but it is not very practical as it can only be performed after the startup of AED as mentioned earlier. Besides being an attack, performing Savage Axe Slash grants you a buff, officially called Power Axe mode but unofficially called “chainsaw mode”. This buff is only granted if you have phials loaded.
Power Axe mode
When in Power Axe mode, all Axe mode attacks will deal additional small hits as the axe passes through your target. It does not increase the initial Axe hit damage of your axe attacks, except in the case of AED and SAED which have increased damage during Power Axe mode (see numbers section for details). The additional hits are also slightly stronger for AED and SAED. The additional hits are NOT phial damage and are not affected by Artillery. The additional hits ARE affected by the 10% damage bonus for Axe mode from having a charged shield. The buff does not affect phial damage.
Typically you get 2-3 extra “ticks” of damage per attack, but it can be up to 5 ticks depending on the attack used and whether the axe stays inside the monster for the whole attack. These ticks consume extra sharpness but it takes multiple ticks to consume 1 sharpness, and the sharpness loss can be mitigated by Master’s Touch.
As a cost to Power Axe mode, your loaded phials will slowly drain over time (whether in Sword or Axe mode) but the buff can be extended by loading more phials in Sword mode. Power Axe mode immediately expires if you ever have 0 loaded phials. Obviously, this means using SAED or charging your shield will always remove Power Axe mode.
Savage Axe Slash can link into the following actions:
– Axe: Element Discharge 1
– Axe: Rising Slash
– Axe: Dash Slam
– Slinger burst
Axe: Savage Axe Slash – 30
Axe: Amped Element Discharge – 82
Axe: Amped Element Discharge (Impact, with Savage Axe buff) – 92
Axe: Amped Element Discharge (Power Element, with Savage Axe buff) – 82 with 1.4x elemental modifier
Axe: Super Amped Element Discharge – 15 + 82 + 66
Axe: Super Amped Element Discharge (Impact, with Savage Axe buff) – 25 + 102 + 76
Axe: Super Amped Element Discharge (Power Element, with Savage Axe buff) – 15 + 82 + 66 with 1.2x, 1.35x, 1.2x elemental modifier
Savage Axe additional hit (Impact, AED & SAED) – 11 with 0.2x elemental modifier
Savage Axe additional hit (Impact, all other axe moves) – 9 with 0.2x elemental modifier
Savage Axe additional hit (Power Element, AED & SAED) – 5 with 1.2x elemental modifier
Savage Axe additional hit (Power Element, all other axe moves) – 5 with 0.8x elemental modifier
Savage Axe buff drains 1 phial every 12 seconds for Impact CBs
Savage Axe buff drains 1 phial every 18 seconds for Power Element CBs
(The phial drain timer is reset whenever you expend a phial or load more phials)
2: Savage Axe Style and SAED Style
The introduction of Power Axe mode allows Charge Blade to play in a different way than the SAED focused play style that dominated vanilla MHW. Because SAED immediately removes Power Axe mode, playing in Savage Axe style means greater use of AED for countering after guard points and looping Elemental Discharge 2 and Rising Slash on toppled monsters. Some users like to compare this to MH4U style gameplay.
Does Savage Axe Slash also benefit SAED style? As shown in the motion values above, Power Axe mode buffs SAED to its pre-nerf damage values. The issue is that Savage Axe Slash is itself neither a particularly strong, fast, nor safe move. It is the 2nd weakest Axe mode attack and it can only be performed from (S)AED. It also leaves you in Axe mode and does not link into Morph to Sword. Because SAED removes Power Axe mode, you would need to use Savage Axe Slash before every SAED in order to get its benefits, but due to the reasons above this is impractical. Not to mention you are put on a timer which weakens your SAED every X seconds. However, Savage Axe Slash still has some use in that it is a good way to “pull the brakes” on an SAED that you know will miss so that you waste no phials.
The purpose of this section is just to illustrate that Savage Axe Slash has split Charge Blade into two mostly distinct playstyles: one where you primarily SAED and rarely use Savage Axe Slash, and one where you primarily keep uptime on Savage Axe buff and rarely use SAED. There is some room for hybrid play* especially if you are doing casual hunts but I believe this is the state of optimal CB play.
* for example, using Savage Axe style for the start of the hunt where you have access to two flinch shot topples and switching to SAED style for the rest of the hunt where long openings are less frequent
3: How to Savage Axe Style
If you only read 1 sentence of this section, read this one: do NOT spend the whole fight walking around in Axe mode. As a general rule (with exceptions) don’t even be in Axe mode for more than 2 attacks unless the monster is toppled or otherwise CCed. You will still mainly play in Sword mode so you have access to blocking and guard points which are central to MHW CB play.
Update 4/28/20: As of the time of writing this update, I have seen a number of runs where staying in Axe mode when the monster is not CCed is viable. Typically while doing this you will punish smaller openings with Upswing, Upswing + Downswing, or AED (with no startup since you can do it directly in Axe mode). Example runs:  
Small openings are punished with Double Slash, AED, or Axe Morph, and large openings (5+ seconds) are punished with ED2 + Rising Slash combo, ending with AED (for example: Axe Morph > ED2 > Rising Slash > ED2 > AED). The ideal combo depends on the length of the opening. Of course, try to keep Savage Axe buff up but don’t be afraid to spend the last phial for a juicy AED.
As for skills, normally core skills Artillery, Focus, and Capacity boost have less benefit (not zero benefit) for Savage Axe style and can be replaced depending on personal preference. Elemental builds should still use Element Attack up 6 as it benefits physical hits and not only phial damage like Artillery.
If playing multiplayer, try not to use Rising Slash as you can launch teammates. You can instead delay your attack press after ED2 to do an overhead instead of Rising Slash.
Suggested Axe Combos on medium to large openings
1. Morph to Axe → AED
2. Morph to Axe → ED2 → AED
3. Morph to Axe → Upswing → ED2 → AED
4. Morph to Axe → ED2 → Upswing → Downswing → AED
5. Morph to Axe → ED2 → Upswing → ED2 → AED
These are sorted from short to long. For example, Combo 1 can be performed on most monsters’ clutch stagger by clawing them and letting go without using clutch claw finisher. Combo 4 fits into most monsters’ topple or stun duration. Combo 5 is generally too slow except for “dunking” airborne monsters which gives an extended topple. Depending on the opening and how long it takes to move your character to the ideal position to begin attacking you will need to pick one of these to do.
Also, Morph to Axe can be replaced with Reload phials → ED1 if you need to refill phials before attacking, or if ED1’s sideways hitbox is more favorable than Morph to Axe. Morph to Axe can also be replaced with Dash Slam if you are already in Axe mode.
4: Which style is best?
There is no universal best. Both styles are viable. But depending on the monster, usually one style is favored. It is still difficult to answer the question of which style is best for a particular monster as you basically have to consider the merits and drawbacks of each style and how much they apply to the monster. Sometimes Savage is better because its advantages match up perfectly with the monster, and other times it’s better not because the matchup is especially good for Savage but because it’s especially bad for SAED.
When is SAED style good?
– Monster has several moves that can be reliably countered with SAED (e.g Brute Tigrex, many base game monsters)
– Monster has high elemental hitzones on multiple parts of its body (e.g Diablos, Savage Deviljho)
– Monster staggers easily, including clutch claw staggers
– (Situational) Monster has poor sever hitzones (e.g Lavasioth, Lunastra)
When is SAED style bad?
– Monster has very few or no openings that can be reliably countered with SAED (e.g Glavenus, Brachydios, Rajang, most flyers)
– Monster is small/thin and can’t easily be hit with all phials of SAED (e.g Kirin, Rajang)
– (Situational) Monster has high elemental hitzones only on a small part of its body (e.g Rajang, Gold Rathian)
When is Savage style good?
– Monster has high value hitzones that are easy to hit (e.g Velkhana, Silver Rathalos, Gold Rathian)
– Monster topples from hitzones that are favorable and/or easy to hit (e.g most elders, most flyers, Savage Deviljho)
– Monster has several moves that can be countered with AED
– Wound can be kept applied to part(s) you hit with high uptime
When is Savage style bad?
– Monster only topples from hitzones that are unfavorable or difficult to hit (e.g Lunastra)
– Monster has no good sever or element hitzones, or they are difficult to hit (e.g Namielle, Seething Bazelgeuse)
– Wound cannot be reliably kept with high uptime
– Monster feels like it needs to be wounded on two or more different parts (e.g Ruiner Nergigante)
You may notice Savage style has points that mention toppling while SAED style does not. This is because Savage style is not especially strong if you are only dealing axe damage with AED counters. You do need to rack up damage with ED2 + Rising Slash + AED for it to compete with SAED style and this is generally only possible on CCed or toppled monsters. On the other hand, SAED does not need as large of an opening as ED2 + Rising Slash + AED combo and has openings from topples, clutch staggers, roars, and sometimes even regular staggers. SAED style is also less reliant on wound uptime as more of its damage comes from phials which are unaffected by wound. For these reasons, I think Savage style is harder than SAED style to play well.
The pros for Savage style apply to almost every monster in the game, which is intentional. I think that you can play Savage style vs any monster in the game more or less fine, but there are definitely some monsters where SAED style is basically impossible (e.g Shrieking Legiana, Brachydios, Kirin). In situations where SAED matches up perfectly with the monster, it’s often better than Savage style. In other words, SAED matchups range from 0 (horrible) to 10 (perfect) but Savage matchups may range from at worst 3 to 10.