Sekiro’s Headless are like mini-bosses, but harder. The Headless are ghostly, time-manipulating, optional encounters. Defeating them will earn you Spiritfall Candy — an item that allows you to burn Spirit Emblems to gain the same effects as eating a sugar.
The worst mistake you can make in Sekiro is attacking without a plan. The Headless are happy to ignore or disrupt your attacks and cause major damage — and Terror, which will kill you just as fast (or faster) than a sword to the face.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to defeat the Headless with the most effective items and strategies for reacting to their attacks.
When to face the Headless
Unlike the other bosses in Sekiro, who you’ll typically defeat with minimal items and clever tactics, the Headless basically require you to have some specialized items. Even then, it’s not an easy fight.
That’s why we recommend waiting to face the Headless. You’ll find the first one pretty early in the game — you can get to it from the Ashina Outskirts > Outskirts Wall – Stairway Sculptor’s Idol near the Chained Ogre. You might (if you’re lucky) even have the right items to face it, but it’s just not worth your time yet.
Instead, avoid the Headless until you’ve reached Mibu Village in the Ashina Depths. This isn’t a definitive line in the sand, but it’s a good benchmark for your progress, the availability of items, and, frankly, whether it’s worth it.
The best items for the Headless
The Headless fights don’t work like most other boss fights. They basically require two items:
- Divine Confetti. This item supercharges your sword against apparition-type enemies.
- Pacifying Agent. A consumable that reduces Terror buildup (ghost attack damage) and increases Terror resistance for a short time.
If you’ve reached the Ashina Depths > Mibu Village Sculptor’s Idol like we recommend above, you’ll be able to buy an item from the Memorial Mob there that will help you a lot. What item? This item:
- Mottled Purple Gourd. This gourd serves the same purpose as the Pacifying Agent in Gourd form — you get five drinks of, effectively, Pacifying Agent that refill when you rest at an idol.
We’re not going to recommend any Prosthetic Tools or Combat Arts here. You’re not really going to get any chance to use them in a Headless fight — and if you try, you’re likely to get murdered.
Headless attacks and tactics
Killing a Headless means fighting them head-on through both of its Deathblows. Its attacks don’t change for the second phase of the fight, though, so just keep attacking when you can. Keep a close eye on your Terror gauge (it fills up quicker than you might expect) and refresh your Divine Confetti and Pacifying Agents whenever you need to.
Headless slow down everything around them. While this seems like it would just make avoiding them easier, it actually does the opposite. Your dodges rarely work and jumping is basically out of the question.
Luckily, Headless only have two attacks (and one leads into the other). The strategy that we found that works for us is this:
- Create some distance
This strategy does two things. First, the focus on attacking (tries to) keep the fight short. Second, it gives you the space and the time to heal and manage your Terror levels.
Starting the fight
It’s exceedingly difficult (maybe impossible) to get a Stealth Deathblow on a Headless, so it’s best to just approach this fight head-on. Before you trigger their attention, down some Pacifying Agent (or a swig from the Mottled Purple Gourd) and sprinkle some Divine Confetti.
Keep an eye on the two tiny icons that appear below your Vitality bar. When those disappear, it’s time to use another pair of items.
Let’s talk about the Headless’ attacks, how to identify them, and what you should do about them.
The Headless’ only real attack is a two-, three-, four-, or five-attack combo. Yes, that’s a lot of variation, but there’s not really any difference here. Every swing can be utterly devastating, dealing Vitality, Posture, and Terror damage all at once, even if you’re blocking.
Dodging and jumping are difficult to pull off in the syrupy time-warp around the Headless. You can most likely survive a direct hits with the Headless’ sword, though, and it’ll push you backward. If (when) you get caught, let it push you back until you’re out of range, where you can heal, deal with your Terror, and regroup.
Teleport and grab
At the end of an attack combo, the Headless will swing its sword in a wide, complete arc. Then, it’ll lift it straight up and disappear.
When this happens, it will teleport behind you and attempt to grab you. If it succeeds, it’ll pull something gooey and important-looking out of your spine and you’ll take a huge chunk of damage.
As soon as the Headless disappears, spin the camera and start moving away from wherever you’re standing. Direction doesn’t matter here — just move. Jumping helps, but it’s not a guarantee as you can see in the video above.
Understanding the Headless’ attacks means you can understand when it’s safe for you to go on the offensive.
Getting hit with a Headless’ sword is rough, even when blocking. But if you want to deal any damage, you’ll have to be close. The best way to do both is with well-timed Deflects.
It’s hard (but also easy?) to get the timing right in the slowed down fight. Wait a second longer than you normally would — you can start blocking right before the sword connects. Even if you’re early, you’ll still survive the hit.
Deflects will deal some Posture damage, but more importantly, they’ll keep you alive longer.
With Divine Confetti, normal sword attacks get you through this fight pretty quickly. You’re looking for the pause between when the Headless teleports in and when they start their attack combo.
When you’re close and you see an opening, swing away — and don’t stop swinging until it starts an attack. Don’t worry too much about getting swings in between its attacks (you can if you’re confident in your Deflecting, but it’s dangerous).
Headless drops, items, and rewards
Each Headless you defeat will reward you with a Spiritfall Candy. These work just like the sugars with the same names, but they’re reusable. Each use will cost you Spirit Emblems, but won’t consume the item.