BloodTalons PVE Archer HR DPS Build
The Hunter Ranger is an excellent DPS class in Neverwinter that can provide single-target and AoE damage as well as some very nice buffs. It can be an excellent addition to any team; massacring the enemies as well as providing a lot of “behind the scenes” advantages to the whole team. Like the other Classes, it has a few different “builds” that it can do. This is my guide to one of those “builds”; the Archer Build.
Please note, it is under construction and will be updated with new information as I finish it. Also, this first half is mostly exposition. It does go into Archer strengths and weaknesses, but feel free to skip it if you just want to get right to the actual build.
WHY AN ARCHER:
Firstly, don’t let people fool you. Most DPS builds/classes in the hands of equally skilled people with equal iL are going to do about the same amount of damage. There IS some variance; some builds are slightly better than others, especially situationally. However, it isn’t enough of a difference that you should play a build you are not good at or dislike solely because someone else thinks it is at the top for DPS. Chances are that it isn’t, and chances are you will be bad at it anyway. I have seen far more HR Trappers who can’t play Trapper and did horribly in a run because of it than I have seen good Trappers. It isn’t because there is anything wrong with the build (Trappers are great), but that Trapper playstyle just doesn’t fit everyone.
So, that is the main reason to play Archer instead; if Archer playstyle fits you better than either of the other two (Trapper or Combat), then you definitely should play Archer. You will do far better on it than you will the other two.
The other reason to play Archer is because, in certain situations, they outperform the other two. Not every situation as there are times when they don’t outperform the other two, but often enough. Archers can be top DPS a good deal of the time; if played right. That last part is important; if played right. Archers are not Trappers or Combats who just attack from farther away. They play differently, and if you don’t play to their strengths, you are going to have a disappointing time. The largest mistake most people make is trying to play them exactly like they would a Trapper or Combat.
ARCHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Naturally, one of the Archer’s largest strengths is that we attack from far range. This means we completely escape much of the AoE damage other classes have to soak up, as well as having a better view and command of the battlefield. We can reposition easily if we need to, and can get away with a lot less damage mitigation. This means most of our stats get channeled into the pure damage ones (Crit chance/severity, power, armor penetration), because we can ignore the defensive ones almost completely. This makes a large difference in our stats.
Our range does have to be counted as a weakness as well. As most “anti-archer” people will note, our range means we can miss out on some party buffs. Things like Anointed Army or Aura buffs from Paladins, etc. In reality, I catch Anointed Army about as often as every other non-melee class that isn’t standing right on top of the tank, but I do miss Paladin buffs and the like. It makes a difference, but I have not found it makes as large of one as people seem to think. Even without the buffs, the Archer is still able to do equal or more DPS than the classes who do get the buffs. That is saying something.
Another strength is we are excellent in a team. We can provide buffs to everyone that have serious impact, and when someone holds aggro for us we can pour on massive damage. If that tank knows to give us the enemies back, we can outright melt things. We are team players, and we give as much to our parties as we get from them. In a party is where we excel.
This means our obvious weakness is solo play. It is actually our largest weakness. We can do most solo content just fine, but not nearly as smoothly as the other two HR builds. A Combat or Trapper is going to have an easier time solo playing. Mainly, this is because we lose a LOT of our potential damage when things are up close to us; which anything we aggro will naturally close distance and be up close. Shifting to gain distance helps a little bit, but our best option is just to one-shot things before they can close or drop AoE around us so even after they close they still get melted quickly. Just be aware, though, solo play is where we struggle at the most.
Another benefit is that we have a REALLY long range. Like, REALLY long. This allows us to almost always hit first. It also means when enemies are spawning at opposite ends of a map, we can just stand in the center, never moving, and continuously hit our targets WAY faster than others can run into range to hit them. Tiamat is a prime example. We can basically cover all 3 clerics with little effort, allowing us to apply our DPS where most needed. This is also very prominent in all of the skirmishes where others have to run across the map to get to the new spawns but we don’t. We stand outside of the battlefield, but cover it all. We are unfazed by those bosses or enemies that run or blink around, laughing as they try to escape our piercing death.
So, the best reason to play an Archer is because of its playstyle. You might be wondering what that playstyle even is. Well, basically, it is standing far back out of the mosh-pit that is typical combat and raining hell down on your targets. You command a birds-eye view of the field, and can react better to the changes because of it (seriously, I am almost always the one freeing people from Valindra’s grasp or Permafrost, etc). You are perfectly positioned to pick off high-priority targets, and are really good at switching between AoE damage and single-target depending on what you determine is needed.
It also means you will mainly use At-Will powers. This is probably the more controversial part of the guide, as well as the main reason most people fail at Archer. To put it bluntly, no Encounter or Daily power we have will equal the single-target DPS of a single Aimed Shot attack. With very few exceptions, they won’t even come close. This is the same for AoE damage and Electric Shot. Trying to use AoE Encounter powers wastes time and will do sub-par DPS to if you had just held down your mouse button and rained down a few Electric Shots. At-Wills have no cooldowns to worry about, and get extra bonuses when we use them, and do more DPS than Encounter powers.
This means, for Encounter powers, we have to be very selective of which we use and when. We typically only use either long-lasting AoE attacks that we can drop down before the fight even begins (basically giving us free DPS) or utility/buff Encounter powers. We also use them discriminately; not spamming them but choosing when they will have more effect than just using an At-Will would. Through the use of these and our At-Wills that outdamage all Encounter powers anyway, we not only rack up great DPS but contribute utility to the team at the same time.
If you are one of those players who yawns at the idea of standing outside of the battle and chunking enemy health bars with At-Will shot after At-Will shot, dropping in the occasional Encounter power strategically when it will have the most effect, then Archer is NOT for you. We do not spam Encounter powers, as doing such strips away a lot of our DPS. We watch the battle and then use them to their greatest gain.
If being the Harbinger of Ranged Death, standing on the fringe of battle and calculating when is the best time to use a power rather than just blasting them off as soon as they drop out of cooldown, then welcome to Archer. You are going to love it here.
This one doesn’t matter enough for me to make a definitive suggestion. Any that provide you Dexterity and Wisdom will work. Pick one that you like and can enjoy the aesthetic of.
Dexterity and Wisdom are your two main stats. Strength helps out a bit as it gives you Armor Penetration, but considering how easy it is to get the 60% you want (or higher, which you will want come Mod 12), it isn’t worth actually investing in Strength for it. Charisma also helps a bit too with Combat Advantage, but not as much as either Dexterity or Wisdom will. As such, stick with those two.
I would highly suggest Stormwarden. The main reason is because it gives us access to some excellent AoE options that will compliment our single-target damage. Electric Shot is a perfect At-Will pairing with Aimed Shot, allowing you to either melt a single target in a single hit or pour on constant, VERY wide AoE damage to a group. Split the Sky is a great Encounter Power solely because it lasts so long, allowing us to set it out before the enemies arrive or even spawn (making it free DPS). Twin-Blade Storm Passive is even more AoE damage for when we need it.
In comparison, Pathfinder just doesn’t have anything to offer that we would prefer. Hunters Teamwork/Careful Attack is a single-target At-Will, and using it would lower our DPS (we could have just hit the single target with Aimed Shot and done RIDICULOUSLY more damage). The Encounter Powers and Passives are equally non-useful to us, mainly concentrating on survivability which we do not need.
STATS WE CARE ABOUT (AND DON’T):
I will get into more depth on this one later, but suffice it to say there are only a handful of stats we actually care about and a lot we don’t. A lot of them are stats the other HR builds need or must have. This ability for us to not care about them means we get to stack the pure DPS providing stats even higher than they can (part of the reason we have the potential to out-DPS them).
Power – Obvious reason. More we have, more damage we do.
Critical Chance – We want a full 100% (or higher) build. Not only does landing a Crit just do more damage than a regular hit, but we also get extra procs and benefits each time we land a Crit from our feats. This means we want EVERY hit we do to crit if we can.
Critical Severity – If every hit we do is a Crit, then we want our Crits to hurt as much as possible. There is diminishing returns on this one, but even when diminished, every bit of it is more damage you will do.
Armor Penetration – Just like Critical Severity, there is a point where more of this doesn’t really help out. That magic number as of right now is 60%, but there are rumors that will change come Mod 12. We do want that 60%, as it also increases the damage we can do.
Always Useful, But Not A Priority:
Health – We don’t get hit often, but we do get hit. Especially when the tank can’t manage to hold aggro through our damage or an unescapable AoE gets used by an enemy. As such, getting HP is useful. It isn’t a priority to us, though, like it would be to some others. Take it where you can get it, but don’t focus on it. Getting enough to avoid being one-shot is really the goal.
Recovery – Considering we mainly use At-Wills (which never go on cooldown), getting Recovery doesn’t help us all that much. Even for the Encounter Powers we do have, we use them strategically instead of spamming them. Plus, one of our Archery feats basically cuts all of our cooldowns in half; so we REALLY don’t need much Recovery. If it comes attached to an item with stats you actually DO want, take it. Other than that, though, don’t seek it out.
Defense – See Health. Basically, the same thing.
Don’t Care About:
Lifesteal – We get hit so seldom, that a single potion is usually enough to fill us back up on those times we do take damage. By time we take more damage, our potion will be off of cooldown and ready to use again. Lifesteal doesn’t really do us any good except maybe save us some gold on potions. Ignore it. Doing so will allow you to increase the stats you do want.
Deflect – Same as above.
Most Everything Else – We just don’t have a lot of use for the other stats. We are outside of most of the fighting, so avoiding most of the control effects is easy. We don’t need the healing bonus or regeneration, etc. This is our secret ace; the ability to funnel our stats directly to those that increase our damage and ignore the rest.
Feats are what really distinguishes an Archer from a Trapper from a Combat. Trapper feats are a lot more about lessening cooldowns and gaining benefit from shifting stances. Combat provides some decent damage bonuses and some much-needed damage mitigation for that build. Archer feats are almost primarily about damage; especially from range. You are going to want to invest entirely in the Archer line; mainly because none of the starting feats in the other two will help an Archer out at all. Putting any points into them will be a waste.
I will break down most of the Feat choices. Many of them are obvious, but a few are up to preference.
Predatory Action – Ignore this one completely. As any HR will tell you, our Daily powers are nearly worthless.
Weapon Mastery – Worth capping, as we will want to be at 100% Crit Chance. Admittedly, this is an easy thing for us to do due to our Archer feats; but only when we are at ranged and nothing is around us. These extra Crit % will help out, especially for those times something closes with us and we lose the extra Crit due to not being at range. Plus, the only other option would be to put points in Predatory Action, and that is a complete waste.
Toughness – For the most part, Archers get to escape a lot of the damage. We can’t escape it all, though. We will want to be tough enough to absorb some punishment, so cap this one out.
Swift Footwork – We do slide/dodge a bit, but not as much as those up close. It will be seldom that you find yourself out of stamina except in fights that force you to be up close (and those are thankfully pretty rare). As such, completely skip this one.
Battlewise – A lot of our damage depends on keeping our distance from our target. As such, we absolutely do NOT want aggro. Considering we do massive damage, sometimes that is hard to avoid. This skill helps out a bit in that area. Cap it.
Agile Combatant – At first, this one seems like an obvious skip. However, it is an extra 3% damage for nothing more than switching stances. There is a nifty trick here; you can attack with Aimed Shot, switch to melee during its animation and then right back to ranged before its animation ends. Thus, you get the damage bonus and practically never leave Ranged stance. It can get old switching to melee just for a second and then back to ranged only for the bonus, but it does provide you with extra DPS. If you find you don’t want to put that effort in, then you can skip this one but it means you will have to put the points into Swift Footwork instead. I, personally, feel putting them here gives you more benefit.
Endless Assault – We do use some damaging Encounter Powers, but they are specific ones. This will help out, though. Once again, it is also a LOT better than the other options for us. Cap it.
Nature’s Enhancement – An obvious skip for us. We neither need the Deflect Severity nor will we be switching to Melee stance (unless using the Agile Combatant trick, but even then this feat doesn’t provide anything we care about).
Lucky Skirmisher – Another skip. Deflect chance is one of those stats that are fine to have if we get it for free, but not really something we care about. We won’t be getting hit often enough for it to make a difference.
Scoundrel Training – This is an excellent Feat for us. Right up our alley. It provides extra damage to our At-Wills (which we mainly use) when we aren’t targeted by our target (which we should strive for 100% of the time. Aggro is bad for us). However, we only get 5 points on this last Heroic line and Disciple of Dexterity is something we want as well. Ultimately, you will want to split the 5 points between those two. I went for two here and three in Disciple, but I don’t think it makes enough of a difference either way to say definitely one over the other.
Disciple of Dexterity – An obvious cap (or if you capped Scoundrel Training, the other two should go here). More damage is exactly what we strive for, and this gives it to us.
Extra Action – Our near-worthless Daily Powers, again. Skip, completely.
Ghostwalker – It is either this or Keen Eye. Neither one is a must-have for us, but this one I feel gives slightly more benefit to our playstyle than the other. Ultimately, though, just spend those initial 5 points that you have to spend divided any way you prefer between these two.
Keen Eye – See above.
Broadhead Arrows – A lot of our feats give us Crit Chance. This makes it very easy for us to hit 100% Crits. I recommend capping this one. At end-game you may find yourself over-capped on Crit Chance, but you would be better off leaving the points in this feat and re-adjusting elsewhere (like enchantments or boons).
Stormcaller’s Arrow – Split the Sky is one of the few Encounter powers we will regularly use, and I will get into why in the Powers section. However, one of the main reasons we like it so much is its LONG duration. To get it to stay around that long, we have to invest in this feat. As such, cap it.
Hasty Retreat – Being Archers, we like to pick our prime spot on the battlefield and rain hell from there. Getting to that spot as fast as we can, though, is a priority. Every second wasted positioning is a LOT of lost DPS. This feat gives us a constant movement bonus, plus some extra if we get hit (which is usually a sign we need to hurry up and reposition). This isn’t a necessity; you can skip it, but there isn’t a lot else you would want to put it into. Movement is useful to us. You could put it into the Trapper’s Fleet Stance instead, but that would require switching stances constantly to get the movement bonus. Hasty Retreat tends to work better.
Longshot – One of our best feats. It is easy to under-estimate this one, but it will do a lot of damage for you. The key is that the extra damage it does is Piercing, which ignores resistance. Seeing as how all of our attacks are Ranged and how we should be aiming for all of them to Crit as well, this should be applying extra damage to every hit. The amount isn’t really a lot on something like Aimed Shot (which can hit in the millions; the extra few thousand from this is just a drop in the bucket) but on things like Electric Shot, Split the Sky, or Rain of Arrows, this will do almost as much damage as the attack itself will; meaning it almost doubles the DPS on those. WELL worth capping. Combats get a similar Piercing feat, and they will tell you how nice it is to have. Trappers, don’t, though they wish they did.
Unflinching Aim – Up to 20% more damage to all Ranged powers (and, yes, this means At-Will powers as well) AND every Aimed Shot reduces all cooldowns by 1 second? What is not to love. You can use Aimed Shot about once a second, so doing so will literally cut all of your cooldowns in half. This skill is why we don’t care about Recovery. We get most of our Encounter Powers back that we use before their prior use ever wears off, and it is pretty easy to get our buffs to nearly 100% uptime because of it. Really, this feat plus a few other things help contribute to an Archer’s ability to keep up with or outperform the other builds. Of course, cap it.
Bottomless Quiver – I, personally, ignore this one. The reason is simple; all of our Encounter powers are up when we need them about 85% of the time. Occasionally, though, we might would like Fox’s Cunning or Longstriders back a bit sooner. As such, if you didn’t take Hasty Retreat (or only partially took it), then this is a good spot to put those unspent points. Just don’t expect it to make as much of a difference as you might think for us. Our At-Wills never go on cooldown, so this doesn’t help them at all. If you want to be a bit more buff oriented, then this is an okay option. Just not what I would suggest.
Rising Focus – At cap, it is +15% Crit Severity and +15% to your Power. Considering we get to put more into our Power than the other builds, this can really add up. It depends on Critical Strikes to build and sustain it, but we should be doing nothing but Crits anyway.
Stillness of the Forest – An excellent skill, and part of the reason we like to keep as much distance between us and everything else as possible. When at max range, you really notice the extra Crit (especially early on when you haven’t gotten BiS equipment) and the extra damage. The downside, though, is when something gets close, you also miss the absence of this feat. Double-edged sword but very worth capping.
Predator – This is one of the largest damage boosts on any feat. At a +50% damage increase that lasts 20 seconds, this skill is a large jump in your DPS when you get it. You do have to mark your target with an Encounter power, but you only have to do it once every 20 seconds. Even for us, that is easily doable. It is only going to help with singe-target DPS, though. In groups of trash-mobs, you will just have to put a little effort in making sure you mark the target with the most hp (or the priority target you want to insta-gib. This paired with an Aimed Shot is a beautiful sight to behold). Take it, and enjoy the start of your ability to melt things.
Like most classes/builds, there is a pretty small list of powers we actually find useful. Some are situational, which you will find yourself switching into and out of your bar as needed. Some will pretty much never leave your bar. I will break these down into a good bit of detail, only because they need to be. Using your powers effectively and at the right times in the right ways will determine whether or not you are an effective Archer or someone most teams kick out of dungeons. *As a note, I will be focusing mainly on the Ranged version of powers, with only a few exceptions. For the most part, that is all we care about. I will note the few exceptions*
Quick “Priority” Power list: These are the ones you want to rank up first and cap first (and roughly in this order), as these are the ones you will mainly use.
Rain of Arrows
Split the Sky
Aspect of the Falcon
Rapid Shot – First At-Will you get, but nothing noteworthy past that. It isn’t worth capping, and isn’t worth using once you get Electric Shot and Aimed Shot. Use it at the beginning when you have nothing else, but forget it as soon as you are able. It pales horribly in comparison to the other two mentioned.
Split Shot – This is a decent AoE At-Will (especially for starting out), but still doesn’t outperform Electric Shot or Aimed Shot. The key with Split Shot is it starts off hitting things in a wide cone, but the longer you hold it, the more damage it does but the narrower the cone gets. It does pierce targets, so technically you can hit a group of enemies with a full charge when it is at its narrowest for its max damage. The problem is this, though. In the time it takes to fully charge Split Shot, you could get off 3 or more Electric Shots (which will do more damage than the single Split Shot AND have a much larger AoE range on it so it probably hit more things, as well). Without being charged when it has its widest cone, it does about as much damage as a single Electric Shot, and you can do these uncharged Split Shots about as fast as you can Electric Shots. The place Split Shot really falls short of Electric Shot, though, is Split shot won’t hit things obstructed behind walls or just out of your line of sight. Electric Shot will. If you hit one enemy standing in a doorway to a room, Electric Shot will chain to every other enemy in its radius inside the room, whether you can see them or not. Electric Shot, at its max, also has a WAY larger AoE range than anything Split Shot can accomplish. All together, Electric Shot just outperforms it in all ways. As to Aimed Shot… it isn’t even a comparison. You can almost get off 2 Aimed Shots (at max rank) to a single full-charge Split Shot; and while Split Shot will pierce targets, it won’t even do 1/4 the damage of a single Aimed Shot. For single target damage, Aimed Shot spanks it. For AoE damage, Electric Shot spanks it. Use it early on, and it will serve you well, but just like Rapid Shot, replace it once you get the other two.
Marauder’s Escape – It does okay damage, but has the same weakness pretty much all of the Encounter powers do in that regard; in the same amount of time it takes to cast Marauder’s Escape, you could do 2 Aimed Shots or about 6 Electric Shots; both of which will do SIGNIFICANTLY more damage. Using this skill will lessen your DPS. As such, the only thing it has going for it is any utility it brings; of which it does have some as a repositioning tool. The problem is most enemies will just quickly close the distance again before you can even capitalize on it when you are solo playing, and when you are in a group you shouldn’t need to try and open up new space between you and your target. Early on when you have nothing else to put points into, it can be used. Once better options open up, though, ignore it.
Seismic Shot – Our dailies are all pretty much useless. This one is slightly less so. It can do almost as much damage as an Aimed Shot (which is the benchmark for whether we should use an Encounter power, or not. If it does less than an Aimed Shot, we should have just used the At-Will instead so we don’t lose the DPS), but is able to do it to multiple targets. It takes about the same amount of time to cast as Aimed Shot, so if you can position right and cast it at the right time, this will gain you DPS by virtue of basically being like an AoE Aimed Shot. Plus, the fact that it can group enemies together is also very useful (not only to you, but to other classes who can then employ their own AoEs more efficiently). It does have its drawbacks, though. Mainly, it isn’t a targeted attack like Aimed Shot. If the thing you were aiming for moves after you start your cast, you will completely whiff it and do no damage (meaning lost DPS). So, only use it on targets you are pretty sure are neither going anywhere any time soon or about to die (because nothing is more annoying than using this and then watching your team kill everything right before the green line reaches them). Making these types of judgment calls and making them well is what separates a good Archer from a poor one. Go ahead and put points into this Power, and even max it, but only after you have already maxed all the other high-priority ones.
Aspect of the Falcon – One of our key powers. This one lets us do more damage the further away we are from our target. It is a 1% increase for every 5′, and considering we can get a little over 100′ with this Power maxed, this grants us around a 20% increase to our damage. That is a LOT just for standing where we should be standing, anyway. It has the same double-edge as the Stillness of the Forest feat, though. When we are at max range, we REALLY do damage. When something is close, we REALLY notice that lost damage. Get at least 1 point in this, and it is worth maxing eventually, but each successive point past 1 only gives you 3′ more range. Helpful, but not game-changing.
Hindering Shot – We aren’t Trappers. Applying Grasping Roots (especially considering they last such a painfully short time for us) doesn’t do much for us. Crowd Control is not where we excel. In fact, for the most part, we completely ignore it. I wouldn’t bother with this skill at all, except you will need to put points into something as you level and this is as good of a place to dump them as anywhere. Just don’t prioritize it or cap it.
Rain of Arrows – This is one of the few Powers actually capable of out-DPSing Aimed Shot. It hits for about 13 ticks of damage that are about 1/10th that of a single Aimed Shot, and takes about the same amount of time to cast (barring the wonky aim mechanics and that you are quick enough to center it where you want it). As such, it is already going to do more damage than Aimed Shot. The thing to keep in mind, though, is Aimed Shot only applies that wonderful Feat, Longshot, once. This will apply Longshot every single tick of damage. This doesn’t mean use Rain of Arrows all the time; you still have to use it strategically to get the most out of it. This may CAST as fast as Aimed Shot, but it isn’t as quick of damage as Aimed Shot. It takes most of the LONG duration of ticks before it out-DPS Aimed Shot. If, for whatever reason, your target takes anything less than about 9 of those 13 ticks, you would have been better off not casting it and sticking with Aimed Shot. For instance, if it dies soon after you cast this, or if it moves or gets knocked out of the VERY small AoE area. That is really this Powers largest flaw. It has an incredibly small AoE range, which not only makes it an incredible pain to aim right (causing you to sometimes spend extra seconds positioning it… losing precious DPS time), but it doesn’t take much for an enemy to move out of its range. This is where that Archer judgment call comes into play. If you think your target is going to move soon, don’t cast. If you think it is pretty close to dying, don’t cast. If the terrain is all wonky and uneven, causing you to waste time trying to center it where you want it, don’t cast. Now, a lot of this applies to singe-target usage. Rain of Arrows IS an AoE (even if a small one). It is absolutely amazing for doing damage to close-packed groups. Still keep in mind whether or not the pack might move or disperse or die too quickly to get any damage out of it, but ALWAYS be on the lookout for those opportune moments when the enemies converge and then stay still. Dropping a Rain on them then will REALLY bump up your DPS. Naturally, cap this one eventually.
Forest Ghost – Same story as most of our Dailies. Barely useful. You can use it to escape mobs (though you have to be quick do to it), but past that it isn’t really good for anything. Seismic Shot will vastly out-DPS it. Put the points in it when you have to, but ignore it otherwise.
Forest Meditation – A pretty good self-heal… that also freezes you in place, which makes it of VERY minimal use. If you want to use up your AP to save a potion, then it helps, but otherwise ignore it.
Thorn Ward – This is a pretty decent power that does see some occasional use. It isn’t going to give you as much DPS as some others, but when single-target damage is called for against a hardened target (like a boss), this can do some work for you. It has all the benefits we like of a skill; can be cast ahead of time with a long duration so we can get free DPS out of it, attacks multiple times so triggers Longshot for each one, has a built-in debuff that benefits the entire team, and has a wide AoE. If only it multi-hit then it would be perfect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, so only use it for those single-target fights that you have time to switch powers going into. Get it to rank 3, but it is way low on the list for capping.
Aspect of the Lone Wolf – We are Archers. Nothing should be close to us. As such, this is pretty much of no value to us. In solo play, we might see some use out of it, but not as much as other passives we could slot. In team play, where we shine, it will be useless to us. Ignore it.
Aspect of the Pack – This kind of suffers from the same thing as Aspect of the Lone Wolf. Combat advantage is great for us, and we won’t get it often being so far back from the fight, but this won’t give it to us for exactly the same reason; being so far back from the fight. We are not likely to often have allies that close to us. You can put some points into it (especially when there is nothing else to put them into), but it won’t see much use or give us much benefit.
Aimed Shot – Our main skill, and the thing we use to rain death down on those who dare stand in our sights. Aimed Shot is capable of MASSIVE damage; more than just about any other Power. It has a very high base damage. In addition, it is an At-Will, and a lot of our other feats/powers/companions add extra damage on top of our At-Wills (the Hunting Hawk being a prime example). Once you start reaching end-game, a single Aimed Shot from max range will top out at a few million damage; which you can do every single second with no care about cooldowns. Even better, each Aimed Shot you do will lower the cooldowns of your Encounter powers by 1 second. Aimed Shot is an amazing skill for us, and should be capped first. Of note, though, it will feel sluggish and slow when you first get it. It has a long cast time which is shortened for each rank you put into it. This is why you want to cap it first, as doing so will greatly increase the DPS it provides as well as make it feel more enjoyable to use.
Constricting Arrow – Same problem as Hindering Shot. We don’t get enough benefit from our crowd control to care about it, and it definitely doesn’t do as much DPS as Aimed shot. Using it will lower our overall DPS. So, don’t use it.
Aspect of the Serpent – Great skill, just definitely not for us. We don’t use any Melee powers, so we won’t gain any stacks from it. Ignore it completely.
Boar Hide – This is an okay buff, but not a great one. We have much better, so this will hardly ever make it into your tray. Dump points into it if there is nothing else to put them into, but ignore it otherwise.
Split the Sky – Another great power we will use a lot. Split the Sky is an interesting power in that it can be amazing DPS… or just okay DPS. The thing with it is that it is an incredibly large AoE that lasts 10 seconds (with points in the appropriate feat). Meaning you can cast it over a battlefield before the fight even starts, and it will hang around for a long time doing damage to pretty much everything due to its range. The damage it does varies, though. It will strike 1 target about every second for okay damage, but if that is all it did then it wouldn’t be worth the rather long cast time. It will also strike any target that attacks you or an ally (companions included). This is where it really does its damage. In a trash-mob setting, each enemy that strikes someone gets hit in return. The more they hit, the more damage this does; plus that extra 1 hit every second. Due to this, it can really tear through a group of enemies with serious efficiency. Each hit, of course, also procs Longshot for more damage. The slow also comes in handy more often than you might think, especially when solo’ing. It is an eventual cap candidate, but not really a priority. All ranking it up does is increase the slow % (which, as stated, does actually come in use on occasion). That isn’t really enough to make it a cap priority, though.
Blade Storm – As you can guess, ignore it. Great for Combat HR; worthless for us.
Electric Shot – Our other main skill. Electric Shot is amazing for AoE damage. It casts fast (about as fast as Rapid Shot, actually, and does about the same amount of damage) and does AoE damage in an incredibly large area; especially at max rank. The damage it does is great (especially with it proc’ing Longshot) and can be improved by getting the Electric Shot artifact power on your Artifact Weapon for an additional +10% damage. The fact that it hits things behind walls or outside of your view is a bonus that cannot be overappreciated. This really makes a difference in certain dungeons (I’m looking at you, CN). This will damage things behind you, stealthed, obstructed by walls; Electric shot doesn’t care. If the enemy is within its range, it will damage them. Due to its fast cast, extremely large range, and decent damage, it out-DPS most other AoEs.
Hawk Shot/Hawkeye – One of the few powers I am actually going to talk about the Melee version of. The ranged version is just a basic damaging attack that does more damage the further you are from your target. The problem is even at maxed range, it still doesn’t do the damage Aimed Shot does (a re-occurring theme, I know). This means using it actually costs us DPS. The ranged version of this Power is useless to us. The melee power, however, has its uses. It is a damage buff to you and the entire team, but only for your Encounter powers. In addition, it is only for 15% to you (half to your party) and only for 5 seconds. All together, that makes this power pretty limited. We don’t use our Encounter powers enough to gain a lot of benefit from this. However, it is possible to switch melee, cast this, and then cast our Encounter powers for those times we DO use them. It will only net us a 15% increase to that one power’s damage, though. This increase won’t add up to the damage we would have done if we had just put a different power in its place. All in all, only useful for those rare times you would rather go pure buff for your team than do the DPS yourself. Put points in it, but you will ignore it 98% of the time.
Disruptive Shot – You can use this skill to decent effect, if your timing is good. It will cost you in DPS, though, and the gain from it isn’t that great. It has more uses in PvP, but this guide is mainly focused on PvE. It is near useless, but so are most of our Daily Powers.
Stormstep Action – This power decreases the cooldown on all of our Encounter powers by 1 second when we use a Daily power. I assume you see the problem here. We get the same thing simply by using an Aimed Shot instead; which will do more damage than our Dailies AND won’t cost us a passive slot. Ignore this one completely.
Binding Arrow/Oak Skin – The Ranged version has the same issue as the above Crowd Control Powers; less damage than Aimed Shot and not as useful to us as it is to, say, the Trapper. The Melee version is of limited use. It says increasing regeneration, but it is actually a HoT (heal over time). It also provides a bit of a defense buff. It applies to you and your allies, giving it even more utility. In general, I don’t run with this except for those times when I feel I might need the extra healing (like, say, when there is no Cleric or Paladin on our team and we are going somewhere that at least a little damage is unavoidable). It is worth putting some points into it so you have it for those rare times you need it, but 95% of the time you won’t use it.
Commanding Shot/Stag Heart – The Ranged version of this power does meager damage (better off with Aimed Shot, as usual), but does give some utility to the entire team. Basically, it debuffs your target, making them take extra damage from all sources. It isn’t a very large debuff. It has been tested at about a 15% increase to the team’s damage, though in practice it has felt more like just a 10% increase. Being that it is for the entire team, this power occasionally sees some use against certain bosses. The problem is it has a horridly long cast time. This means you lose DPS in order for the rest of the team to gain DPS; DPS they won’t even know came from you. I do have this skill and use it occasionally, but doing so you are making a conscious decision to sacrifice your own DPS for others. Make sure they will appreciate it before you do. The Melee version is a bit of decent utility, but only if you were already going to slot the Ranged version anyway. It isn’t worth using just for the Melee version, though.
Fox’s Cunning – Oh, how I love Fox. Plain and simple, Fox will allow you and your entire team to dodge one attack completely. It works for almost everything; even most insta-kill attacks. Running with a newbie team that can’t seem to avoid the fiery balls of death the Fire Scorpion Twins keep dropping in Lostmauth? Run Fox, and you will single-handedly win that fight by keeping them alive. Tired of dying to Red in Dragonflight because there just isn’t enough warning before the red circle pops up underneath you and then insta-kills you? Fox will not only save you every time, but your team as well. The list is endless for places where this skill is amazing. With that said, though, it does not have a permanent spot in my bar. The truth is, most places you don’t have a use for it. Just on very certain runs. It is AMAZING for those times, but almost useless outside of them. Get it, rank it up, but learn where it is a necessity and where it is not. Use it appropriately.
Cold Steel Hurricane – Another Daily that falls short. There are some abuse cases where you can get some decent damage out of this, but otherwise it just costs you DPS due to long cast and awkward usage. Ignore it.
Twin-Blade Storm – Excellent passive that will greatly increase your AoE DPS. While running through the trash-mobs of a dungeon, this should stay in your bar. It is a flat 16% increase to your damage any time you are hitting 3 or more targets with an attack. Electric Shot and Rain of Arrows work wonders with this passive. On bosses that don’t have a lot of constant adds, I usually remove it for Seeker’s Vengeance instead, but otherwise it stays in.
Longstrider’s Shot – One of our best Encounter Powers. Few people understand just how good this really is; especially for us Archers. It provides a 20% damage buff to EVERYONE in a very large area. Not just people on your team, but EVERYONE. It also provides a run-speed buff. Just in regular play, this thing is a game-changer. Your entire team constantly doing 20% more damage just by you using this one skill (which is a fast cast time) AND running faster is great. In places like Tiamat, Demogorgon, Dragonflight, most Hes, etc; this thing becomes godlike as it gives that bonus to everyone. They do more damage and get to the places they need to be faster. You also do 20% more damage, so even in solo play, this is worth using. It works very well with your feat, Prey, as you need some Encounter power to apply Prey. AoEs, like Rain of Arrows, will apply it but indiscriminately. You want Prey on the target you want dead first, and leading with Longstriders Shot is a great way to put it where you want it. Plus, following it up with an Aimed Shot that now does 20% more damage is a great way to insta-gib what you wanted dead. Why this works so much better on us than the other HR builds is simple… you have to be far away from your target for Longstriders to work. If you are close, it doesn’t apply the buffs. We are ALWAYS far from our target, so it ALWAYS works for us. Most smart teams will want us in them just for this one fact. Longstriders has a permanent spot on my bar.
Seeker’s Vengeance – Another great passive, but with a difficult usage. Hard to say no to +19% more damage. The issue is you have to be “behind” your target to get it. In actuality, you don’t have to be directly behind your target. You can be a bit on the side of them as well. Just don’t be in front. In multi-target trash-mob situations, Twin-Blade Storm is just easier to use and works better. In single-target situations, though, where it is easy to maneuver into position for this to proc, this is a great damage boost. Take it, cap it, and switch it in for most boss fights.
Cordon of Arrows – I consider this skill a trap for Archers. Don’t use this. It is an excellent skill for Trappers or even Combats, but NOT for us. The reason is simple; Cordon of Arrows doesn’t crit at range. It only crits if you are up close to your target, which we almost never are. This not only means no extra crit damage but no Longshot, either. It also doesn’t (I am sure you can guess what I am about to say) do as much damage as Aimed Shot, anyway, even when it does Crit. It is a multi-hit skill, but only if you drop the Cordon directly on top of multiple targets. Dropping it in front and then having them walk into it bugs out and often only hits one. Using this skill will VASTLY lower your DPS. Don’t use it. The utility it provides of bunching enemies together also isn’t useful enough for us. Our main AoEs are WIDE AoEs (Split the Sky, Electric Shot), so we don’t care if the enemies are super-bunched up or not.
Crushing Roots – Do I even need to say it? Not useful to us, at all.
With that long list and explanation of each Power out of the way, time to simplify things for everyone. Here is a few examples of my typical bar, depending on what I am doing, and why.
General Play: Use this for running general content, going through the dungeon itself, most HE’s, and against any bosses that have a consistent amount of adds being spawned
Passives (Aspect of the Falcon, Twin-Blade Storm) – Falcon is just an all-around great DPS buff and the extra range can come in handy. It never leaves the bar as there is no situation it isn’t useful. Twin-Blade Storm is 85% of the time useful, as most often combat is done against groups of mobs; whether we are playing in a dungeon, skirmish, HE, doing Boons, etc.
Dailies: (Seismic Shot, Forest Ghost) – Seismic Shot is the most useful of our Dailies, as given the right circumstances, it allows us to do an AoE version of an Aimed Shot. We have to time it right and aim carefully, but if we do, the payoff is large. That is why it stays in my bar. Forest Ghost is mainly just a filler that very rarely is useful; mostly as an oh-shit escape mechanic. Really, just about any other daily would be about as useful, though.
Encounters (Rain of Arrows, Longstriders, Split the Sky) – This setup provides the most DPS possible in general. You don’t use all of them at all times, though. If there is only one or two enemies and the fight has already started, Split the Sky is going to cost you DPS. It really only shines when it can be cast over a large group of enemies; or REALLY shines when you can cast it before the fight even starts so that its long cast time doesn’t cost you DPS (If fighting a boss, try to learn the timing for when it spawns adds, and drop Split the Sky right before it does to maximize DPS. Split the Sky won’t do enough damage on just the boss, but if adds are there, it will). Rain of Arrows should be saved for only when you are sure most of its damage will land on your target(s). Using it on an enemy that moves a lot is going to cost you DPS when they whiff most of its damage. Longstriders is about the only one that should be cast constantly, as soon as it is back up. Even then, though, if you are solo playing and everything is close to you, try to shift-dodge back to gain the distance needed for it to actually proc the buffs. If you can’t, don’t use it. Stick to the At-Wills.
At-Wills (Aimed Shot, Electric Shot) – By now, I am sure I have explained why these two are the best combination. Aimed Shot will do way more damage than any single-target Encounter Power, lower all of your cooldowns by 1 second, and has no cooldown of its own. Electric Shot has a VERY wide AoE, hits around obstacles, and casts fast enough to rack up more DPS than almost any AoE Encounter Power. These two are primarily what you will use; using your Encounters only when it would be most effective to do so.
Single-target Play: Use this for times when you need to focus damage down on a single, hardened target that doesn’t have a lot of adds. Quite a few bosses fit this category; Orcus, Demogorgon, most of the ones in FBI, SPC, etc.
Passives (Aspect of the Falcon, Seeker’s Vengeance) – Falcon should always stay. Seeker’s Vengeance is an obvious choice for single-target damage with no adds around. Twin-Blade Storm only gives you extra damage when hitting 3 or more, and is useless to you otherwise. Seeker’s Vengeance will give you the extra damage just as long as you are behind your target; which tends to be easy to do against most bosses (the damned Turtle Dragon being an obvious exception).
Dailies: (Seismic Shot, Forest Ghost) – Same reasons as before. Mainly, there just isn’t a lot of other options. You could replace Seismic shot with something else, as you don’t use it on a single target. You could just use Aimed Shot, instead, do more damage, and not have to worry about missing.
Encounters (Rain of Arrows, Longstriders, ThornWard/Commanding Shot) – Rain of Arrows is still excellent against singe-targets, but only if you can keep them in the damage for the duration. If not, as always, Aimed Shot instead. Longstriders is amazing, no matter how many enemies you are fighting. Plus, it still works great for applying Prey. Thorn Ward and Commanding Shot basically fill the same role; debuff to help the team do more damage. Thorn Ward will do more DPS for you, but considering it debuffs an enemies Resistance, if that enemy already has a low Resistance, it isn’t going to help. For most bosses, though, this isn’t a concern; they have the Resistance to warrant the debuff. Commanding Shot does pitiful damage, but also just flat increase all damage the target takes. Which you use is really up to preference and situation, but either one will work.
At-Wills (Aimed Shot, Electric Shot) – Same reasons as above.
High-Danger Play: Use this for runs where the party keeps wiping, or where you know there is a large chance of insta-death.
Passives (Aspect of the Falcon, Twin-Blade Storm/Seeker’s Vengeance) – Only thing to determine is if there are enough targets to warrant Twin-Blade or not.
Dailies: (Seismic Shot, Forest Ghost) – Same reasons as above.
Encounters (Rain of Arrows/Split the Sky, Longstriders, Fox’s Cunning/Oak Skin) – If I feel there is little chance the target(s) will stand still long enough for Rain of Arrows to do damage, then Split the Sky is usually a better choice. The slow it provides can really help in handling mobs. Fox’s Cunning is the ultimate in avoiding insta-death, and the difference it makes is easy to see. A team that was wiping before will suddenly not wipe because of it. In general, Fox’s Cunning is the way to go. However, if you know there is going to be unavoidable damage and not enough healing to compensate, Oak Skin can help. You COULD run both by replacing Rain/Split, but that is a lot of lost potential DPS. Only do this if the team just can’t seem to survive any other way. Afterwards, don’t run with that team again.
At-Wills (Aimed Shot, Electric Shot) – Always these two; always.
*UNDER CONSTRUCTION* (I will get to filling in these other categories when I have more time)
Mounts and Insignias