- 2018/10/23 - Updated for Murkmire
- 2018/07/17 - Updated weapon section (different trait/enchantments), added links to various (good) bow builds
- 2018/07/17 - Updated and rewrote several parts (sustain, classes)
- 2018/06/02 - Updated and rewrote first part of guide for Summerset patch
- 2018/01/04 - Rewrote skills and warden section.
- 2017/12/29 - Added information about Acid Spray (negative) value regarding stamina sustain
- 2017/12/24 - Rewrote Champion points setup, Stamina sustain, Racial choice and Weapon setup parts
- 2017/11/24 - Reworded weapon/trait part slightly
- 2017/11/23 - Added Dark Deal as viable skill choice on Sorc
- 2017/11/22 - Marked Imperial as good race choice. Reworded race/class choice to define better and worse options (than from best to worst)
- 2017/11/21 - Changed Warden Rotation. Added Warden parses. Added recommended gear to Warden, NB and Sorc
No information below is in any way based on experience using bow/bow setups in high level (score pushing) veteran trials. Everything said is based solely on my own experience and testing and different people can get different results. Everyone should be well aware that ranged stamina builds ( = bow/bow) lack on DPS, utility and survivability to either magicka dd, stamina melee dd or both.
In short, main point of this guide is to show how to make bow/bow work in any content and for any user.
Redguard, Imperial, Khajiit, Bosmer
All four races are viable, but Khajiit and Imperial will come slightly on top and Bosmer are noticeably worse in damage, but their sustain can be helpful if struggling.
Dubious Camoran Throne or Artaeum Takeaway Broth
Always. Sustain is the most important thing (in general and double so on bow). Dubious is cheap, Broth is better, but much more expensive version with very small difference.
Stamina+Brutality+Savagery, Stamina+Savagery+Health (must find other source for Major Brutality)
Lover or Warrior
Getting high enough penetration is important so if you are not using some sort of penetration set (spriggan, TFS), pick Lover. Otherwise Warrior.
There are several skills you will want to use on any class and most of them have no alternative. First, the most obvious backbar trio (on any stamina build) is Poison Injection
, Endless Hail
and Razor Caltrops
. These skills (and morphs) are mandatory to even attempt reaching respectable DPS. Your semi-spammable AoE skill to damage more enemies is Acid Spray
. The other morph of it, called Bombard, is useful if you are beginner or playing solo a lot, but can't compare damage wise. As for main single target spammable skills there are few options. Any morph of Snipe
for most damage, but cast time with movement slow can make the use annoying or even dangerous. In that case Psijic skill Crushing Weapon
or Warden skill Cutting Dive
can be used as instant (less damaging) spammables. To get Minor Force buff use either Fighters Guild Trap Beast
or Psijic Accelerate
. One morph of Trap Beast forces you to melee range which could be undesirable and second one either requires casting it twice in rotation or losing half the uptime. Both of these issues can be solved by using (preferable morph of Accelerate) Channeled Acceleration
to gain Minor Force buff for long time.
To survive all the punishing mechanics, slotting Vigor
is never bad choice.
For ultimates, the choices don't differ much either. If you aren't Warden you will need to have Flawless Dawnbreaker
on front bar and Ballista
on backbar, because these will give you most damage. Warden will want to have Wild Guardian
on both bars for any content that doesn't make pets useless or dangerous. For the rest, the same two ultimates as other classes.
must have skills are Relentless Focus
and Leeching Strikes
, but for some situations using Reaper's Mark or Killer's Blade can be beneficial.
will always slot Bound Armaments
on front bar (but preferably on both bars) for the amazing passives it gives. If you can or have to stand in melee range, Hurricane is very good skill that offers even useful armor and speed buff. Critical Surge for some amazing self heals is always recommended when bar space allows it or content demands it. Greater Storm Atronach can be used as alternative to Ballista, giving you less DPS, but offering powerful synergy to others and temporarily increasing your health.
skill bars will always include Subterranean Assault
and Bull Netch
. Cutting Dive
as mentioned above, if needed instant spammable, and Wild Guardian
for ultimate. There are many skills in Warden's toolbox that can offer different levels of utility. Most notably Ice Fortress to help with survivability and Green Lotus for self heals or sustain passive (when healing others), but almost any skill Warden has can be used to help dealing with difficult mechanics or when playing solo.
will always have Power of the Light
, Restoring Focus
. If there is bar space, having any Aedric Spear skill on front bar (and even back bar) for the passive is recommended too.
has no obvious must have skills. Venomous Claw or Noxious Breath can be very useful and the first one even significant DPS gain, but both limit user to melee range. Flames of Oblivion
has greater range (still not very large) so that is recommended skill to always slot and use when situations allows. If forced to melee range, ultimate Dragonknight Standard can be used as alternative to Ballista.
Primary (body) set:
Relequen, Vicious Ophidian, Twice-Fanged Serpent, Strength of the Automaton (sorcerer or templar), Hunding's Rage, War Machine (warden)
Obvious choice this patch is overperforming Relequen set, but this set is not useful in every boss situation and obviously not when clearing mobs. Interestingly enough, such situations always benefit from AoE damage or more sustain because of spamming and recasting AoE abilities making Vicious Ophidian perfect replacement for Relequen. If you can't afford to use more sets than one don't make that first choice to be Relequen.
Secondary (weapon) set:
War Machine (warden), Briarheart, Veiled Heritance, Strength of the Automaton (sorcerer or templar), Vicious Ophidian, Hunding's Rage
The best set for weapon are those that make you lose the least when swapping from it to back bar (where more preferable unique bows have place). This makes mostly War Machine and Briarheart/Heritance very good choices. But having VO or Hunding on weapons make you lose least amount of stats (compared to other primary sets) and most importantly not lose any stacked buffs (like TFS or Relequen would).
In my opinion, 99% of the time you should use Stormfist. Sustain is everything and Stormfist is one of the cheapest (damage being currency) ways to get it. Velidreth with its range still offers some usefulness. All other monster sets are noticeably worse than these two picks and should be preferably avoided (exception is Slimecraw and its usefulness in content where healers can't get good enough Combat Prayer Uptime)
Back bar weapon:
Maelstrom Bow, Master Bow, Bow of Secondary set
Your backbar is place for unique bows. There is no choice. If you don't have any, you obviously use same bow as on front to at least get your secondary set on both bars. If you can get Master bow, you put that one there, but your ultimate goal will always be to get the Maelstrom Bow, because it is the most significant DPS boosting piece of gear.
TRAITS AND ENCHANTMENTS
Divines with Stamina
Infused with Weapon Damage
Infused with Absorb Stamina (front) and Infused with Weapon Damage (back)
For armor and jewelry the choices are pretty clear. Having Infused (on armor) or Robust (on jewelry) is still pretty much good enough, your goal is to eventually farm or transmute everything to the best traits.
Armor enchants are generally stamina ones, but you can always place Tri Stat enchantments or health enchantments to gain necessary health pool values.
Jewelry, when trying to get best DPS, is without doubt always enchanted with weapon damage. But if you keep struggling with sustain (not having stamina is always bigger DPS loss than losing weapon damage) using stamina regen glyph is possible.
Weapon traits/enchantments are self-explanatory, but if you dont struggle with sustain (while not having enough to use stam/health food) you can always go for Poison enchant or Nirn/Precise trait on front.
Sustaining on bow build means everything, because heavy attacks are great loss of DPS. For that reason, you should be using every possible cost effective way to sustain.
CLASS SPECIFIC NOTES
- Dubious Camoran Throne drink or Water-Stained Psijic drink
- Having Infused Absorb Stamina enchant on weapon
- Vampire Passive for 10% stamina regen
- Stormfist Monster set for 129 stamina regen
- Vicious Ophidian set (when not using Relequen) for 8% cost reduction
- Maximum available (up to 75 - 100) CP in Mooncalf for up to 15% stamina regen
- Wearing 6 or 7 medium pieces
- Having all proper passives and sustain skills
- ... and obviously using proper potions restoring stamina with over 45s of Major Endurance
Always light attack before EVERY skill cast. Always cast ultimate when ready. Replace Channeled Acceleration with Rearming Trap Beast in melee range fights (as alternative to Acceleration). If you don't have access to Acceleration at all, use Lightweight Trap.
has some unique skills in Cutting dive, Bear ultimate and Sub Assault offering many ways to play on top of very good survivability (for the cost of damage) coming from Ice Fortress.
This allows for three different rotations dependable purely on user preference, ease of use, content or sustain. Mind the synergy between Sub assaults and various skills. Each Sub assault allows for 2 instant cast skills OR casting Channeled Acceleration OR single heavy attack cancelled by instant cast skill before allowing another cast.
Backbar: Endless Hail -> Poison Injection -> Caltrops -> (Netch if running out ->) Frontbar ->
Variant 1 (most DPS, simple):
(Channeled Acceleration if running out ->) Snipe until swap with bear ulti when ready
Variant 2 (mobile, difficult, more AoE dmg and debuff):
Sub Assault -> (Channeled Acceleration if running out OR Cutting Dive x2) -> Sub Assault -> Cutting Dive x2 -> Sub Assault -> Swap
Replace any Cutting Dive with Bear Ulti when ready
Variant 3 (mobile, simple, least DPS)
Sub Assault -> anything you need to do until it is 1s before swap (recast Channeled Acceleration or spamming Cutting Dive or using bear ultimate) -> Sub Assault -> Swap
offers the most damage possible thanks to their natural light attack based rotation and great sustain. For that reason using Crushing Weapon rotation is very beneficial tho still being slightly behind Snipe rotation.
Backbar: Endless Hail -> Poison Injection -> Caltrops -> Frontbar:
Weave Crushing Weapon or Snipe until you have something else to do. Recast Leeching Strikes when out. Recast Relentless Focus when out. Recast Channeled Acceleration when out. Shoot Relentless Focus bow proc when ready.
is in a way the most boring out of all classes, but very good thanks to strong passives and passive skills.
Backbar: Endless Hail -> Poison Injection -> Caltrops -> Frontbar:
Cast Focused Aim (preferable) or Crushing Weapon until swap. Recast Channeled Acceleration when needed. Cast Hurricane when useful (melee range, speed, survivability).
At some parts before I already briefly mentioned overall effect of long shots passive on DPS. And in short, it has noticeable, but small effect. Minimum range needed for full 12% bonus is 25m, which will almost never be worth it. First you want to be in area of effect of Combat Prayer to get Minor Berserk (not needed on NB). Second you want to be in are of effect of your healer to gain any buffs offered. So generally you will always be pretty close to enemy (10-20m), in front of the healer, usually in the same pack as other magicka casters. In some combat situations stacking on top of each other and/or going to melee range is even required. Then another important bit is the damage from long shot is low anyway. It increases just your bow skill output (usually less than 50% of your damage) and is additive with all other sources of bonus damage (hawk eye, berserks, CP, warden passives, ...) so usually it will improve the DPS of your bow skills by 3-8%. So half that if bow skills are half of your DPS. And that is usually less even less on warden. So in combat situation, prefer firstly position that can use anything healer offers without making him do stuff he would not have to do without you. Then adjust to avoid as much boss aoe as possible and then to gain as much range as possible.
Regarding overall survivability and true reason why not do veteran trials
There is simple difference between ranged magicka DD and stamina melee DD. Melee DD gets Blade Cloak with 25% AoE damage reduction. Ranged magicka gets range and shields. Bow gets only range, making your survivability big issue in fights where you can't simply outrange AoE damage. There are tools that increases your chances to survive and those commonly are Vigor, Surge (on sorc), Major Ward and Major Resolve buffs. Uncommonly you can use shields with health scaling (like Bone Shield), Warden Shimmer Shield (anti projectile shield) or sources of damage reduction (like Minor Protection on Warden's Ice Fortress). These uncommon sources are often not worth it, offering very small increase in survivability, costing resources and your DPS and giving your teammates just another reason to kick you from group. So golden rule is avoid content you can survive without these.
Closing notes I will dedicate to ZoS
Bow really really need significant changes to how heavy attacks work (or overall how much they are needed in current meta). It also needs proper spammable that is accessible to every class and is not weak like Cutting Dive. Overall DPS coming from non bow skill is lower than from other builds, because of low weapon damage on bow (so even less gained from agility passive, fighters guild passives and brutality buff) and because bow passives do not in any way increase them, except for Accuracy which for some reasons gives as much crit as just 1 dagger.
Another thing is very low survivability of medium armor in PVP and PVE. In PVE mitigated by Blade Cloak AoE reduction inaccessible without DW weapons.
Design of two handed weapons has still negative impact on DPS. Firstly by offering one less set piece (mitigated by using unique bows), then by not having better enchantments or meta traits (nirn and infused giving same value to bow that to 1 sword).
Presence of melee limited buffs is not helpful either. Notably Redguard Adrenaline Rush passive. Related to that is the overall lack of clear bow race choice. Each of 3 top racial choices (khajiit, redguard, bosmer) waste one passive on buff not useful for ranged DPS and no race choice actually offers obvious damage buffs to bow (other than obviously presence of max stamina and crit). For example race like Altmer offers both maximum stat bonus and regen like redguard does, but instead of range/skill choice limited third passive, it has clear damage bonus to everything potential DD Altmer will do.
What stamina ranged DD absolutely needs to be effective
- Damage - bow has less weapon damage than other stam builds, less of main resource than magicka builds, less crit than stam builds and less penetration than magicka builds. It heavily stacks damage done % (decrease of efficiency) and that only towards bow abilities. Either current damage done passives (longshot and hawkeye) need to affect every ability, or other parts of overall damage (wd+stam; crit; pen) needs to be increased.
- Survivability - bow lack of weapon damage makes own heals less powerful (lesser issue in PVE) it also lacks any defensive ability. Magicka builds have shield, 2H builds have (sort of) shield and DW builds have AoE damage reduction. It would be to great benefit of all (stam builds) in both modes, if AoE damage reduction was present outside of weapon tree (medium armor, Fighters guild, undaunted, ...). If that is not welcomed, then the class that was supposed to be ranged DD (warden) should have its own access to something like that.
- Sustain - heavy attacks arent balanced, enough said. DW heavy attacks are fast, do not slow down player. 2H heavy attacks proc beneficial passives. Lightning heavy attacks have splash. Resto heavy attacks offer great sustain. I guess fire/ice are bad too, but most magicka builds (in pve or pvp) either have lightning or resto with them. Bow heavy attacks go against everything by slowing player and making him vulnerable and potentially even losing hawk eye stack.
- Race - ALL stamina races for DD, except the worst one (Nord) have 1 whole passive out of 3 not usable in PVE DPS
- Skills - lack of spammable on anything but warden forcing classes to use selfsnaring cast time ability (+ for some reason DW has better ranged spammable in dagger); much weaker lightweight trap (with short duration)
My own 6M parses on PTS. Affected by my own imperfection and high PTS ping. Useful for comparison between positions and skill usage. Obviously all subjected to RNG or potential inflation from some buffs and debuffs. All done to maximize stamina used. Unless specified otherwise (in description), always Khajiit with 5TFS, 5VO, Infused Poison Frontbar, Nirn WD Backbar. Always selfbuffed
(NB - need to self cast Major Fracture every 3rd rotation; Warden - MF part of rotation; Sorc - No MF available ; DK - need to self cast MK every rotation; Templar - No MF available)
Nightblade Album Link
Warden Album Link
Also, sorry for very long text. Bet this would be much better in video form.
Alcast's Stamina Warden Bow Build “Racer”
Masel92's Stamina Nightblade Shadow Thorn Build
FearTurbo's website with several bow builds