Repelling and/or Slaying Ceadeus 101

First, bring the right equipment. Potions, Megapotions, paint balls and/or shot as applicable, Armorcharm and Powercharm if you have them, Well-done Steaks, et cetera; the kind of gear you’d bring to take on anything significant.
Additionally…
1. Lightning- or Fire-element weaponry. I suck at dealing with Lagiacrus, so I’m stuck either using the single Thundacrus part I have in a bowgun, or using a Fire-element melee weapon instead. I started with Wyvern Blade “Fire”, but Red Bludgeon is probably a better option. Did you know I had more trouble getting Flintstones for an earlier stage of that weapon than the Rathalos Shells? Use whatever you can deal the most damage with; I kept failing to get Ceadeus into the third zone with a bowgun, and ammo… runs out.
Dragon-element weaponry would probably work, too, but… I don’t have any. Not sure if you can get early Dragon-element stuff through Ruststones, as they only ever give me cheap hammers and lances I’ve already made.
2. Good armour with Water and/or Dragon protection: Ceadeus’ most-damaging attack inflicts Waterblight, so I guess its water-element. It can also inflict Dragonblight with some of its other attacks. I don’t know whether they’re actually this element, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe.
3. Oxygen Up. Not completely necessary, but it saves needing to signal Cha-Cha for air, or breaking off to find one of the air points in the arena. I have a talisman that gives me all the points I need for this, at the cost of something mostly inconsequential in this fight.
5. Ancient Potion and Max Potion: some of Ceadeus’ attacks hit pretty hard, and the extra health really helps out. They’re also a nice cure for ‘oh god I’m almost dead’ situations.
4. Dragonfell Berries: Ceadeus’ charges all tend to inflict Dragonblight, which affects your Affinity. Dragonfell Berries will cure this rather cheaply.
5. Waterblock Seeds: re: waterblight. I keep forgetting I have too many of these in my chest. Due to the amount of quick-swimming you’ll need to do just to keep up with Ceadeus when he’s moving slowly, Waterblight is actually annoying and more worth getting rid of than Dragonblight, honestly.

Ceadeus starts in Area 1 on your first attempt at the quest, and you’ll get a cutscene of him swimming around in the sea whenever he starts at that area. If you successfully get him into Area 3 by dealing enough damage, he’ll spawn there until killed, whether you manage to repel him or fail after that point, and there’s a shortcut to just before Area 3’s entrance in the camp area; you can jump off into the water near the cliff, to the right of the tent.
It’s possible to fail at the end of Area 2 by not having dealt enough damage to him before he picks which tunnel to smash his way through, What the villagers say about Ceadeus retaining damage is true if you get him to Area 3 and fail to repel him, but I’m not sure about beforehand; when I was using Wyvern Blade “Fire”, I tended to fail that stage before succeeding on the next attempt, but I’m not sure whether I was just being more aggressive after the initial failure.
I’m also really not sure how the Guild tells the difference between a successful repel attempt, and ‘oops, Ceadeus swam out through the wrong tunnel and got into the ocean again’.

Ceadeus, like any monster, has a bunch of attacks it can use on you. Most actual attacks it has are hard-hitting, with large hitboxes due to Ceadeus’ size, but reasonably easy to see coming and just get out of the way in time, unless you’re right in the centre of the target area.
‘We are as ants to him’: Ceadeus’ fins are large enough and strong/fast enough to cause some damage if you come into contact with them. He’s not even trying to attack you and it hurts. His two ‘arm’ fins and his tail will catch you like this if you get too close, and it’s probably a pretty humiliating way to die, so try not to get killed by these non-attacks.
Headshake: whilst travelling to Area 3 and/or the exit, Ceadeus will occasionally pause to shake his head. He does this even when you’re not nearby. It’s more damaging than getting ‘hit’ by his fins, and since he shakes his head pretty wide, difficult to avoid if you’re hitting anything near his head at all. If he stops swimming on the way to Area 3, he’s either going to turn, or attack, and this is the most common one.
Tail-smash: Man, my names for these attacks suck. Ceadeus rears up and backwards, and lashes his tail up at where his head was. It’s fairly nasty to get hit by this, but the hitbox is strange. I’ve been at the side of Ceadeus’ head, cutting or hammering away, he’s tried to do this to hit me, and missed entirely. The affected area is pretty large, but I guess Ceadeus is larger still. Something to watch out for if you’re hitting Ceadeus’ head from ahove, below or in front. Does not inflict Deagonblight.
Twist: Lagiacrus’ twisting melee attack. If you’re below Ceadeus, you’re probably safe, but if you’re at the level of his head or higher, you risk getting hit by him or his horns. May be another Dragonblight attack; I… just don’t get hit by this one often enough to remember. You can get lucky and dodge it by just being brushed aside by Ceadeus, but the attack is pretty damaging; I wouldn’t recommend relying on that.
Snap: Ceadeus will quickly move forward, snapping at whatever happens to be in front of him. I’ve never been hit by this one, though at least one dodge was a matter of luck.
Sideswipe: Another of Lagiacrus’ attacks. Ceadeus will back away before sweeping his whole body sideways. It’s the modern version of Plesioth’s hipcheck without the obscene hitbox. Inflicts Dragonblight.
Turn: Ceadeus turns like Lagiacrus and Royal Ludroth. He doesn’t have claws, but as mentioned above, his fins are large enough and fast enough to hurt if they touch you.
Charge: Ceadeus will curl into its resting position – the one you see when you enter the area for the first time each mission – wait a second or so, and then charge forward in a corkscrew. Inflicts Dragonblight.
WATER LASER: this is the one that inflicts Waterblight. It’s also Ceadeus’ more damaging attack (…in my armour with -5 water protection, anyway). There’s a fair amount of warning that he’s about to do this attack; he’ll hold his mouth open and start sucking in water for a few seconds before showing off his answer to the tiny fireballs wyverns use. That said, it’s difficult to avoid as the ‘beam’ is very wide; I think this is where the hitbox on his tail attack went. If you’re beside his head OR behind it when the beam goes off, you’re going to get hit for a lot of damage as the beam pushes Ceadeus backwards, adding to the affected area.
Vertical WATER LASER: when Ceadeus is enraged, he can rear up before sucking in water like he normally does; this means he’s going to produce a water beam/twister/laser that sweeps vertically, whilst still dealing the same amount of damage and still inflicting Waterblight. It’s easier to dodge this one as the preparation time is slightly longer, and it’s easier to see what’s going to happen as he rears his whole body for this one. I don’t often get hit by this one, but got caught by it whilst gathering up UW Ballista shot.
…maybe I should find a new Oxygen talisman.

The first part of the fight involves getting Ceadeus into a cave rather than swimming out into the ocean again; you need to deal enough damage before he reaches the end of Area 2, at which point he’ll decide which path to open up; if you’ve dealt enough damage, he’ll break the right-hand path open, but if not, he’ll break the left-hand path open and escape. Target areas are the beard, if you brought an edged weapon, or his beard and the top of his head, if you brought a hammer. You can hit his horns, but you won’t be able to break them until Area 3.
As mentioned above, Ceadeus can hurt you somewhat without even trying; if you’re attempting to deal damage through his beard, watch out for the fins, as they’ll get closer to knocking you about whenever he moves.
This stage is really just a matter of hitting him as much as you can, whilst not taking too much incidental damage. Ceadeus will occasionally launch weaker attacks at you, but this is fairly rare; the greater dangers are the attacks Ceadeus launches to get through the path to Area 2’s end. Don’t get caught in his charges when you know he’s going to charge to break something. It’s silly.
So long as you inflict enough damage, it doesn’t really matter how much you took getting Ceadeus to go to Area 3, though; once he’s there, you start further missions from that point until he’s slain, and thus can pick up replacements for anything you used getting that far.

Within Area 3, you have either 15~ minutes, if you coerced Ceadeus to head there in the same mission, or 30~ minutes, if you started from that point, to deal enough damage to Ceadeus to either repel him or slay him. Whilst Ceadeus isn’t constantly swimming away from you any more, which means it’s easier to get more than a few hits in a row on him, he will start targeting you directly here.
The important thing is to just keep inflicting damage, though; due to how the fight works, I had less issues with Ceadeus than Lagiacrus or Barioth. Its horn can now be broken off, and can be carved twice, and you’ve got a Dragonator and two underwater ballista (plus ammo piles) nearby. The Dragonator resets approximately every ten minutes, giving you three uses if you started in Area 3, and two if you started from the beginning; the button’s the suspiciously-well-lit orange area, and the ballista are left and right of there. The ammo piles for the ballista aren’t unlimited, and will run out, but they will deal respectable damage to Ceadeus from very far range, and are usually how I break the horn off.
The dragonator… worth using. Very worth using. Not sure whether one hit alone is enough to make Ceadeus flee, but any hit you land on it using this thing will make Ceadeus hurt.

Unlike Elder Dragons from previous games, Ceadeus won’t flee until time runs out; you’ve no way of knowing whether you’ve dealt enough to force Ceadeus to flee until the fight’s ended. That said, failing to repel or slay Ceadeus just boots you out of the mission without any reward; apparently the amount of damage you did even in the failed attempt still counts against Ceadeus, and I do believe his horn stays missing if you broke it.
Maybe.
So keep trying, even if you don’t beat it the first time.

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