I personally love the Switch Axe. I've never had issues with the upswing as it lets me surgically strike any place on a monster.
Sword mode is a bonus and I often use the Inceadeus on Agnaktor to ignore his armor (for the most part).
However, I choose not to use it against the elder dragons as Ceadeus, although slow, moves around too much, Jhen is such an HP hog that I can't see myself using anything less then a GS on him, and Alatreon REQUIRES blocking or evasion to prevent his cheep tricks, and since I don't usually have an evasion suit, I go for GS power and blocking. --- "Nonsense, Bagan cannot be defeated". - Aliens: Super Godzilla Kool Frostbyte - XBL gamer tag.
I love the weapon if only for the sheer amount of attack options it gives you. not to mention that it's stylish as hell. as a GS user, the SA is a good diversion from that once in awhile. --- my game collection: http://www.gamespot.com/users/Tention/games_table?mode=own
I use the Switch Axe exclusively, and I would say that I have mastered it. My favorite thing about the switch axe is its ability to slide easily in between basically two different weapons mid-combo. It is like taking an axe and a sword on your quests. You get to choose which to use in a given situation and you can change on the fly.
A lot of people complain about the axe barrage that eats up your stamina. If you use that move in the right context, it deals a lot of damage. In fact, one of my favorite tactics with the Switch Axe is the following:
Full LR Lagiacrus armor (AUL, EAU, Razor sharp are the relevent skills), the Black Harvest SA, and Mega Dash Juice. Take this against Jhen Mohran and melee the second phase. Pop the MDJ and axe barrage Jhen's belly. You can basically Axe barrage Jhen without stopping for the full duration of the mega dash juice. This deals a ton of dragon element damage. The Axe barrage attack rate is close to 2 hits per second. If you are in a team of half-way decent players who are also doing some damage to Jhen, then you should have no problem killing Jhen easily within the time limit. You can also use MDJ and axe barrage the breakable points on Jhen's back during phase one. Just make sure no other players are attacking the break spot before you start (especially not a lancer).
The Great Inceadeus SA is basically god-tier if you use sword mode and have AUL.
Other important SA facts are (as some have mentioned) that you can reach high up monster parts, you can reach low-flying monsters while they are in the air, the forward roll into sword mode upswing comes out faster than normal, and sword mode doesn't bounce (unless your sharpness is super low).
I recommend giving the SA another try. Try to use sword mode for most of your attacks, axe mode for increased mobility, and both when you combo. For example: run toward monster, unsheathe axe mode side swing, axe mode forward lunge, switch to sword mode, vertical sword mode combo until your meter is almost empty or the monster moves, horizontal sword mode, switch to axe mode, axe mode combo (side swing, lunge, over head chop) if the monster is still there, if not then axe mode provides extra mobility, repeat.
Oh, and Evasion and Focus are awesome skills for SA. Focus lets your meter refill faster while you are not in sword mode, and Evasion let's you take advantage of the forward roll into sword upswing move to keep the damage coming right through the enemy attacks.
Hope to see lots of fellow SA users in MH3U. --- "This isn't the anger of a vampire hunter, This is the rage of all humanity!"
Focus is nice to have when you play the way I do. I switch to Axe mode often enough that Focus restores my meter so that I have Sword mode ready and available when I need it. I rarely ever have to stop to reload. I still do on occasion, but I stay on the enemy most of the time due to the Evasion skills.
You are right though. I wouldn't go out of my way to get Focus if my armor set didn't already have the skill or have points leaning toward it (mixed sets). I use Jhen+ armor a lot with Evasion gemmed in, so I usually have Focus as well. --- "This isn't the anger of a vampire hunter, This is the rage of all humanity!"