Hu Tao is a 5-Star Pyro Polearm character from Liyue. She can only be obtained via the “Moment of Bloom” Event banner. A selfish carry, Hu Tao evokes a berserker/glass cannon playstyle, sacrificing some constitution for a strong offense in return.
Like most other playable characters in Genshin Impact, Hu Tao follows traditional ATK scaling for her DMG. However, ATK is actually not the stat you will want to build for her. Rather, it is her HP. This is because of her Elemental Skill, “Guide to Afterlife”. Upon activation, Hu Tao sacrifices 30% of her current HP and enters the “Paramita Papilio” state. While under this state, she gains a Pyro Infusion and increases her ATK by a percentage of her max HP for 9 seconds. Her Charged Attacks also gain the ability to inflict the “Blood Blossom” effect, which deals small amounts of Pyro DMG every 4 seconds during a total duration of 8 seconds. This Skill functions similarly to Noelle’s Elemental Burst and much like that Talent, the ATK increase can get disgustingly high. At Lv. 6, the increase is equivalent to 5.06% of Hu Tao’s Max HP. If you only factor in her base HP at Lv. 90 (15,552), she’ll already get about 870 added to her ATK. With Artifacts and certain weapons, the ATK increase will obviously be even higher. Add in some other stats such as Pyro DMG Bonus and CRIT and the monstrous DPS potential Hu Tao has should be easy to fathom.
While Hu Tao is in Paramita Papilio, you ideally want to use her Charged Attacks. Part of this is because of the Blood Blossom effect. While not particularly strong, it’s a nice DoT to have on the field and the uptime is potentially 100% as Hu Tao can refresh its duration with every Charged Attack. The bigger incentive however is the potential for Reaction DMG. Hu Tao uses the standard Polearm Charge Attack animation which has an Internal Cooldown of 0.5 seconds. For all intents and purposes, every single one of Hu Tao’s Charge Attacks can trigger a Reaction.
Spamming Hu Tao’s Charged Attacks is not without its flaws however. Depending on the enemy’s size, Hu Tao can knock them aside upon lunging at them and spinning across the field may require her to reposition and reorient herself before attacking again. You can work around this by canceling the animation either by jumping or dashing but this can take some getting used to. There is also the fact that Charged Attacks consume Stamina. This naturally limits how frequently you can use a Charge Attack and should you run out completely, you won’t be able to dodge. If all this sounds awkward to you, you can always just use her standard Normal Attacks. While not considered optimal, they’ll still deal more than respectable DMG.
Hu Tao’s Elemental Burst, “Spirit Soother”, has her conjuring up a ghost and swinging it around to deal AoE Pyro DMG (how a ghost can set things on fire is beyond me). In addition to nuking enemies, this Talent can also restore some HP back to Hu Tao. How much healing she gets will depend on how many enemies she hits with Burst, with 5 times being the maximum stack. Both the DMG dealt and the healing given by this Burst is increased when Hu Tao’s HP is at or below 50%. Even though the Burst can hit like a truck, I often find myself hesitant to use it. The fact that it can heal Hu Tao encourages that it be used as a last resort and you want to wait until Hu Tao’s HP falls below 50% anyway for the increased DMG.
Another incentive to keep Hu Tao’s HP at or below 50% is her A4 passive. This grants her a very valuable 33% Pyro DMG Bonus so long as Hu Tao’s HP is at the aforementioned amount. Getting her HP down to that much isn’t the difficult part; you just need to keep spamming her Skill and only heal as a last resort. Bear in mind also that with a HP stat, 50% isn’t necessarily putting Hu Tao on her death bed. Ironically, the first person who can screw you over in maintaining this passive is Hu Tao herself. Because her Burst can heal up to 5 times, it’s very easy for it to restore her HP past 50%. It’s not a prevalent issue during single enemy encounters but it’s something to keep in mind when facing mobs. Frankly, I wish Hu Tao’s Burst only heals once as opposed to having a maximum of 5 chances as the mechanic can contradict with her A4 passive.
For Elemental Reactions, Vaporize with Xingqiu is the way to go. Xingqiu’s Elemental Burst is one of the strongest ults in Genshin and it’s the only Talent that can fully keep up with Hu Tao’s Pyro application and her zipping around with her Charged Attacks. In addition to his off field DPS, Xingqiu has additional utilities. His Rain Swords created by his Talents provides a DMG reduction for Hu Tao and unless you’re going for a healer meme build, these can also heal her for just enough HP to both keep her alive and maintain her A4 passive.
Unfortunately, Xingqiu is the only Hydro unit in which a Vaporize comp effectively works. Barbara and Kokomi are both healers; they’ll keep Hu Tao healthy and that’d be much to her chagrin. Tartaglia is also a carry and while alternating between him and Hu Tao is a good way to manage their Skill cooldowns, you’re better off putting them in separate teams. Mona is currently the only other Hydro character to consider. She can’t compete with Xingqiu for Hydro application but her Burst does synergize extremely well with Hu Tao’s. Its crowd control and DMG Bonus can allow for a very easy and very effective Vaporize proc.
Other Pyro-related Reactions will do just fine for Hu Tao. Melt is the more obvious contender as it enjoys the same, busted scaling as Vaporize. While a “Cryo Xingqiu” doesn’t really exist in Genshin, you have plenty of viable supports to consider such as Kaeya, Rosaria, and Ganyu (though Ganyu can very easily carry her own team). Overload isn’t as strong as Vaporize and Melt and the knockback effect it has on lightweight enemies doesn’t gel that well with Hu Tao’s Charged Attack spamming. That said, having an Electro character with Hu Tao will allow her to perform a Blunt attack, which is effective against enemies with Geo shields.
Another thing to consider for your Hu Tao team is Shields. Since Hu Tao wants her HP at or below 50% and healing is therefore discouraged, Shields are her best option to stay alive during combat. The best and most obvious candidate is Zhongli, whose Shield will allow Hu Tao to shrug off almost anything thrown at her and comfortably chip away her opponent’s health. That said, Zhongli is also a 5-Star limited character so pulling for him and Hu Tao might be easier said than done. For a more F2P-friendly alternative, the newly released Thoma is looking to be your best bet. In addition to providing a Shield with both of his Talents, Thoma being a Pyro unit will give Hu Tao easy access to Pyro Resonance, which gives her whole team a 25% ATK increase.
I’m personally not the biggest fan of Hu Tao as a playable character (if we’re talking in terms of lore however, she’s high up there). That almost entirely boils down to preference. A berserker playstyle isn’t really my thing and I find the general Polearm Charged Attack awkward to use (even after getting the hang of it and getting Hu Tao at C1). That said, I fully acknowledge Hu Tao as a powerful unit. She’s easily Genshin’s best Pyro unit, outranking other Pyro carries in terms of power and only losing to Bennett in terms of utility and Xiangling in terms of availability and flexibility. While no 5-Star carry is really a must pull, you can’t go wrong with getting Hu Tao.
Thanks for reading!