The most feared Sith in the Galaxy and the ‘chosen one’ who went astray, the tragic figure of Darth Vader frames perhaps the most famous villain in all of cinematic history. Whether you were old enough to remember the initial flip turn of ‘I am your father’ or you’re just watching Star Wars as a youngling, Vader’s screen presence, extended lore and even action figures are just undeniably...cool.
Vader is the ultimate end-goal of Emperor Palpatine - a loyal servant who strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies and a symbol of the corrupting power of evil over good. But before he was Darth Vader, he was also Anakin Skywalker - the most promising Jedi in history. Both his Jedi and Sith training enhanced Vader’s lightsaber skills until he was the most feared fighter of his era.
But just how good was Darth Vader’s lightsaber duelling ability? Was he really the best, or was he just the only ‘big bad’ of his generation? Let’s find out…
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber Form
Vader’s chosen lightsaber form was that of Form V, or Shien and Djem So. Anakin Skywalker excelled at Shien, which was focused on deflecting blaster and blade attacks whilst creating openings for big counters. Despite his brash attitude, Anakin’s chosen form is not actually as aggressive as many of the other duelling forms - though there is the Djem So variant designed for duelling.
If other lightsaber forms were about defense or offense, then Form V is all about opportunity - with both Shien and Djem So focusing on counterattacks. For Shien users, blaster fire becomes a weapon to be sent back to your opponent. Djem So users forced vicious counters against any gap in a blade-wielding foe’s offense.
However, Anakin mainly stuck to Shien - even using it against his son, Luke, in their first duel in Cloud City. Before becoming Vader, Anakin’s main duelling foe was arguably the greatest one-on-one duellist of his time, Count Dooku. As a young apprentice, he battled Dooku and lasted longer than Obi-Wan was able to. Later, he defeated Dooku single-handedly, a sign of his extreme abilities.
Anakin was also good at Jar’Kai, using Obi-Wan’s saber in his first battle with Dooku. This showed something key to Anakin’s skills - his natural affinity for combat and duelling.
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber Explored
Vader’s lightsaber is an iconic thing - a weapon which brings ruin to countless enemies across the Galaxy and also ends the life of Obi-Wan Kenobi. It has a somewhat unique dual-phase emitter, allowing Vader to control the length of his blade even during combat. (In our own homage to Darth Vader’s blade, the Suffering saber, you can choose your blade length to suit your style).
Vader’s saber was based on his original one, the blade inherited by Luke Skywalker after Obi-Wan took it from Anakin’s burning body on Mustafar. The second iteration became more of a ‘living’ design, as Vader constantly swapped out components and improved on it to create the best saber he could. However, this saber was created from a kyber crystal stolen frm Jedi Master Kirak Infil’a after he killed the Jedi on Darth Sidious’ order. By bleeding the stolen crystal in Mustafar, Vader turned it into the iconic red-bladed saber that all foes of the Empire would fear.
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber Opponents
So we all know that Vader is a titanic force when he battles normal people in the Star Wars universe. Who can forget the end of Star Wars: Rogue One where he knocks rebels aside like bowling pins? Or the quote from Jedi: Fallen Order, “You don’t beat Vader, you only try to stay alive.”
But how good was he at blade-on-blade duelling really? Was he a master of the duelling saber or was his use of the Force more instrumental to his success? Let’s take a look at his record and find out.
Versus Count Dooku
While he was still wielding his original saber, Anakin Skywalker did battle against one of the greatest duellists of the Star Wars universe - Count Dooku. He lost an arm against Dooku in his first encounter but ultimately defeated him in their rematch during Revenge of the Sith.
Versus Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan was a true master of Soresu and his defensive principles saw him defeat Anakin on Mustafar after the newly-turned Sith’s aggression got the better of him. However, as Darth Vader, Anakin would go on to defeat Obi-Wan in their rematch (though how much of this was due to Obi-wan allowing it, we’ll never know.)
Versus Luke Skywalker
Vader’s competence in lightsaber duels is questionable mainly due to the fact he is defeated by Obi-Wan on Mustafar and then, once he has ‘ascended’ to his true Sith form, he is once more beaten by his own son. While he did manage to defeat Luke on Cloud City, the fact that the dark lord of the Sith is beaten by a foe who has no access to the traditional Jedi training structure shows that perhaps his duelling prowess was never the best.
That said, Luke is a consummate duellist who has incredible potential and fate on his side - plus the emotional angle that ultimately redeems Vader.
So how good was Darth Vader at lightsaber duels?
In the lore, Vader’s chosen lightsaber form is arguably a clue to his duelling abilities. He is a counter-fighter, and excels mainly in rematches. However, he has also failed to dispatch many famous Jedi including Ahsoka Tano, Cal Kestis and even the original owner of his lightsaber’s crystal, Kirik Infil’a, in their first bout. It took a rematch for Vader to finally kill Infili’a and gain his treasured saber hilt.
Despite all of this, what makes Vader truly terrifying is the sheer amount of Force power he wields. Most of his opponents never see his lightsaber even ignite - he can dispatch people with Force lightning, chokes, pushes and other insidious dark side powers.
And let’s not forget, as the main villain of the franchise, he has to lose to the ‘good guys’ for the story to progress. Side characters are not so lucky: Vader has killed lots of unnamed Jedi in the years following Order 66 and it’s not hard to imagine he did much of this work with his saber.
If you’d like to own a blade inspired by the most feared man in the Galaxy, look no further than our Suffering saber.