Xiangling is a 4-Star Pyro Polearm character from Liyue. She can obtained for free in the “People’s Choice” event, which requires you to clear Floor 4 Chamber 3 of the Spiral Abyss. Her role is that of a support who can deal Pyro DMG entirely off field.
Xiangling’s Elemental Skill, “Guoba Attack”, has her summon her animal companion, Guoba the Panda. Upon getting summoned, Guoba lands in front of Xiangling, chews on a red pepper, and spews fire onto any enemies in front of him. He attacks a total of 4 times, every 1.5 seconds. Furthermore, Guoba will continue attacking even if Xiangling switch places with a teammate. At A4, Guoba will leave behind a pepper icon that can be picked up for a 10% ATK buff to your active character. Since you have to take the time to pick it up, it should be treated more as a bonus and not your primary means of buffing.
While Guoba can be a strong turret, he is sometimes also a pretty unreliable one. Whereas Fischl can reposition Oz, Xiangling cannot do the same with Guoba. You plop the panda on the ground and he’ll stay on that spot until he finishes eating his snack and setting things on fire, making it fairly easy for enemies to move out of his range. This problem persists even after getting Xiangling’s A1 passive which extends Guoba’s range by 20%. Your active character can push Guoba but due to movement physics, it’s awkward to do and impractical during combat. The best solution is to place Guoba next to a taunt, which will keep enemies in place and make them very easy targets for the panda to attack. Unfortunately, the best taunts belong to 5-Star characters such as Mona and Ganyu. If you’re F2P, your best and only option is Amber but that requires using Amber so it’s not worth considering. Other than that, you just have to try your best with sticking close to Guoba which can be easier said than done depending on the enemy you’re fighting.
The real reason to use Xiangling is her Elemental Burst, “Pyronado”. After striking the enemy three times, Xiangling launches a spinning disc of fire that’ll rotate around your active character and deal Pyro DMG to any enemies in its path. While this Burst doesn’t have the highest multipliers out there, it is compensated by its wide range and frequency. It can attack multiple enemies at once and attack each of them in every one of its orbits. Furthermore, Pyronado ignores Internal Cooldown, meaning that it applies Pyro and triggers Elemental Reactions every single time it hits. All things considered and combined with the fact that Xiangling can use this while off field and you have one of the best Elemental Bursts in Genshin Impact.
The only downside to Pyronado is its high Energy cost of 80, making Xiangling hungry (no pun intended) for Energy. Guoba actually provides a good amount of particles, 4 in total, though he generates them one at a time and will only do so if he manages to attack an enemy each time. A Favonius Lance can be used to generate neutral Energy though to trigger its passive, you have to keep Xiangling on the field and that’s impractical if your team involves swapping her in and out of the field. If Xiangling is supporting a Pyro carry, Energy should be less of an issue, depending on how much said carry generates. Still, I advise building enough Energy Recharge in general so that Xiangling can get her Burst back up regardless of what team she’s in.
You can alternatively use Xiangling as your carry. In fact, a very popular and F2P-friendly team involves Xiangling as a carry with Xingiqu, Chongyun, and Bennett backing her up. There are a couple of reasons as to why. Xiangling being unselfish when it comes to field time allows for flexible combat rotations. Because she’s a Polearm wielder, Xiangling can cycle between triggering and abusing the powerful Melt and Vaporize Reactions. Bennett is a superb support for Xiangling. He can serve as her battery due to how quickly he can use his Elemental Skill and generate Pyro particles. He covers both healing and buffing for the team. Xiangling is one of the few characters who would welcome Bennett’s sixth Constellation; the Pyro infusion allowing Xiangling to apply the element even more frequently and take better advantage of her fast and aggressive Normal Attacks.
I don’t know how common this is nowadays but I have seen Xiangling used as a Physical carry and I myself tried this at one point in my Genshin career. This usually involves equipping her with the craftable 4-Star Crescent Pike. While the weapon provides Physical DMG Bonus, it’s really the passive that you want for Xiangling. Crescent Pike’s passive allows the wielder’s Normal Attacks to deal an additional hit, equal to 20% of their ATK, for 5 seconds after gaining Energy. This passive is so strong that Crescent Pike even rivals a few 5-Star Polearms. Because Xiangling has a very quick Normal Attack combo, she can particularly abuse this passive. There’s appeal to this build as it’s a $0 character plus a $0 weapon and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t work. However, I much prefer building Xiangling for Pyro DMG. Building her for Physical DMG limits her to her Normal Attacks and it may come at the cost of weakening her incredible Burst. Because Xiangling is a Pyro character, she doesn’t have easy access to Superconduct which is a valuable reaction for a Physical-based team. For a Physical Polearm carry, I recommend Rosaria instead.
For Constellations, I recommend getting Xiangling to at least C4. This Constellation increases Pyronado’s duration by 40%, decreasing the Burst’s downtime and allowing it to attack more frequently. Pyronado gets three additional levels from C3 so getting up to C4 will make the Burst substantially stronger. You can make Pyronado even stronger with C6, which gives the whole team a 15% Pyro DMG Bons during Pyronado’s duration. Xiangling will love having that though I must admit that the Pyro DMG Bonus is wasted on any teammate who isn’t Pyro.
Most of Genshin‘s free characters fall on the lower end of the meta spectrum. This is not the case with Xiangling however. Not only is she the best free character, she is currently one of the best 4-Star characters in the game. Even with her Elemental Skill being a little unreliable, her Elemental Burst is way too good to pass up and it alone makes her a valuable asset in any Pyro-centric team.
Thanks for reading!