In one-on-one combat, with one combatant using a sword, the other the aforementioned false Death, how effective would a scythe be in combat? What tactics could be utilized with it, and what tactics could be utilized against it?

This does not involve modifying the scythe in any way, and is purely out of the two combatants’ skill with their respective weapons. You can assume that both are well-versed in the usage of their weapon.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a youtube video on this. Shadversity I think. Or maybe Skallagrim or Lindyberge. The answer was not very. Scythes are designed to cut towards you, not away from you. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ It’s probably just me, but I’m not quite clear on the difference between cutting toward or away. Could you clarify what you mean? $\endgroup$
    – Bill
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ Looking around my larger hand tools, I would chose any of them as a weapon over the scythe. It's heavy and awkward....even a flimsy fan rack would have more chance of being effective! $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Just to say before voting to close as a duplicate - there might be an advantage for a scythe wealder who swings horizontally at their opponent's ankles or feet, swordsmen aren't trained to expect that. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ Unlike the proposed duplicate this question focuses specifically on a one on one fight where one side wields a sword and the other wields a scythe. This question is much more specific. It also does not allow any modifications to the scythe, unlike the proposed duplicate. @Bill I think you should edit the title of your query to reflect that you are interested in sword vs scythe fights only. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 20:50

4 Answers 4


They guy with the scythe is toast.

Yes, it does terrible damage when it connects, but the required swing is too long and the weapon too heavy to recover quickly; someone with a properly balanced sword (lighter than a full greatsword), who isn't disabled by sheer bad luck on the first scythe swing will cut the scythe wielder to pieces before they can recover for another swing.

Scythes work very well for their intended purpose: harvesting grain (a sharp scythe wielded by a practiced user can compete closely with a gasoline powered sickle bar mower with similar swath width), but it does this by doing a lot of work on each stroke, not by getting a lot of strokes in. Combat weapons, by contrast, need to generate a lot of strokes because if they don't, the opponent who does will always win.

  • $\begingroup$ Good to know. Just to be certain, you do mean the stereotypical “Grim Reaper” kind of scythe? $\endgroup$
    – Bill
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ That's the only tool correctly called a scythe. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Okay then. Good to know. $\endgroup$
    – Bill
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ There's a very good Lindybeige video on Youtube on this topic - basically scythes are good for cutting grass and people who are willing to act like a piece of grass and rubbish for everything else. Actually, he's done two videos! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ "...the weapon [is] too heavy to recover quickly" (emphasis added) — as someone who owns a scythe, I cannot emphasize enough how accurate this point is. They're also stupidly ineffective as weapons, at least in the configuration intended for cutting grass/crops. On the plus side, if wanna-be Death is at all practiced with the thing, (s)he will have impressive strength and stamina. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 2:52

The answer to this question is, sadly, not so very straight forward. There are so many variables to consider that the answer will always be up for debate. It is never a "yes/no" question, but one of probability and stacking advantages. Someone can always "get lucky" when it comes to fighting, especially when you introduce weapons into the mix.

As such I will give you a tl;dr of my answer. If it's a purpose built War Scythe, then the longer weapon has an advantage, if it's a common farming scythe then you'd be better off using a long stick. Now on to the details.

The first question you have to ask is, "what kind of scythe are they using specifically?"

If the answer is "War Scythe," then the answer I have to give is this:

The advantage will typically go to the person with the longest purpose-built weapon. The War Scythe even has a treaties featuring them. Image of a War Scythe

If you are using an unmodified Farming Scythe then I will say this:

The one using the sword will likely have the advantage because of the design and characteristics of a scythe which I will go over now. The most glaring flaw with this farming instrument is the protruding handle on the shaft. It is meant to be held and used in the fashion as demonstrated here and in the picture below. Proper Scythe Grip

This means that the majority of pole-arm techniques employed could not be used as they require free range of your hands to travel up and down the shaft of the weapon unimpeded. Here is an example using a spear. Notice the constant sliding of the hands around the shaft of the weapon, a common theme with all pole weapons/long-shafted weapons (though perhaps not to the degree of a spear, obviously).

Also note how the scythe is down low to the ground by default, assuming you are holding it proper grip. This leaves you almost totally exposed on one side, a fatal flaw if there ever was one. You also restrict yourself to the 2, 4, and 6 strikes as seen below.

Cutting Directions Chart

This means one entire side of your body is exposed to attack with no reasonable means to defend that side.

Some things that it does have going for it is that it would be easy to preform sweeps with it, that is hooking the back of someone's legs and tripping them. Also attacks to the legs, in general, would very swift and difficult to avoid.

I could go on, of course, but this article is getting lengthy enough. So my conclusion is this, the purpose-built tool typically wins. In this case the order of likely hood to succeed is as follows War Scythe>Sword>Unmodified Farming Scythe.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't disagree per se (and there's a lot of other good info here), but I'll note that longer reach weapons aren't necessarily better in a one-on-one duel. In such instances, the more maneuverable weapon may be preferred. Now, if we're talking about opposing formations... $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Mattthew This is true, as you say, necessarily, but generally, the range advantage is just that, an advantage. You still have to get around that extra length to get into your range, putting you in danger. This is where maneuverability would come into play, as a weapon that is easier to manipulate could make a faster counter attack. This is a big disadvantage to heavier weapons. This is a prime example of how there is rarely a "right" answer, but a "better within context" answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 3:17

I actually have a scythe, and used it for scything grass. It is definitely not suitable as a weapon.

The scythe has a curved blade. It is designed to slice grass off considering that it has mild resistance. Depending on the blade, it can cut through very THIN branches. It will NOT cut through bone. The blade is designed to push grass to the side as you conplete the sweep. It cannot cut straight through a thick object, because the back of the blade is angled and thick.

The blade is angled to have clearance above the ground. It is designed to cut at a very precise angle. If you try to swing it at something not utilizing the held-above-the-ground technique, you will not get the proper cutting angle. The cutting edge is also quite thin, and just cutting grass with it requires rehoning the blade in-field every couple minutes. If you attempt to combat with it, it will get dull before you can even beat one person.

So, not only will you be unable to cut through, your blade will get stuck on the first strike, and if you manage to pull it out after that, it'll also no longer be operable.


I gave your girl a scythe, bgirljungli. I hope you and she do not mind.


girl with scythe

The trick to fighting with a scythe is that you are fighting. It is a staff - use it like one. Scythe vs sword is dumb if all you are going to do is swing the scythe like you are mowing. Quarterstaff vs sword is a whole different deal. A quarterstaff is blunt but it has more reach than a sword, much more leverage, and it more effectively uses both hands of the fighter. And the quarterstaff is quicker: both ends of the quarterstaff are weapons and the attack with one end readies the attack by the other.

It cannot cut, unless your quarterstaff is a scythe. With the staff held close to the blade it can be used as a slashing sword and the point is sharp. The leverage of the staff makes cutting moves possible that would be less effective with a sword. And as pointed out the great reach of the scythe opens the possibility of devastating sweep attacks on an opponent who is backing away.

A scythe optimally used as a weapon would not be used in the same way as scythe as an agricultural tool. It could be an awesome weapon.

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    $\begingroup$ I imagine you have never actually handled a scythe. If you tried to fight as shown in the picture, you are correct it would be a very effective weapon - for injuring yourself. If you want to use a scythe as a quarter staff, leave the blade at home and just use the handle! $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ @alephzero - we scythe fighters put in long hours of practice. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ Trying to use a scythe as a staff is impractical; note Fuzzy Ferret's answer. Even if you take off the blade and handle, you're left with something excessively heavy and oddly shaped, compared to a proper quarterstaff. I have to concur with alephzero in wondering if you've ever actually handled a scythe. (Admittedly, not many people have these days...) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ I cant believe you toads are calling me out personally about the scythe! I considered one but thought it would be too scary for the neighbors and so I use a swing blade . With the sling blade you can cut on the backstroke too which is good. And there was a rusty one they let me buy for $18! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk as someone who has used both I can tell you a whip cutter uses a completely different motion, is MUCH lighter (2lbs vs 6), and has two cutting edge on a very different orientation. they are similar in purpose not usage or function. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 4:15

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