This guide is now in maintenance mode. I will continue keeping it relevant, but I don't have time to do much of my own testing. Chances are some information might be little bit outdated or incorrect when it comes to absolute minmaxing.
- 2019/10/23 - Updated for Dragonhold
- 2019/08/15 - Updated for Scalebreaker
- 2019/06/19 - Added necessary skills for Necromancer, more small changes for new patch and rotation tips.
- 2019/05/22 - Small changes for Elsweyr
- 2019/03/06 - Total revamp guide and update for Wrathstone patch
- 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 to small or significant degree depending on content and user's capabilities.
Purpose of this guide is to tell people how to do well on bow builds and can't and is not supposed to rival min maxing builds and experience of min maxing build creators. If something in the guide is contradiction to their ideas and their ideas are well explained and tested (not always the case!) it is generally better to believe them.
Orc, Bosmer, Redguard, Khajiit, Dunmer, Imperial
All listed races are viable with very small difference. Orcs are by small margin the best. Bosmer and Redguard are the two sustain choices, Bosmer better for classes utilizing many class skills, Redguard for other (but its minor flavor, it really doesnt make much difference). Khajiit fit more higher crit chance builds, which can limit set and class options. Dunmer offer nothing interesting compared to Orc. Imperial are by small margin the weakest option.
Dubious Camoran Throne or Artaeum Takeaway Broth on damage races. Stamina+Health (blue) food on sustain races. Lava Foot Soup option on Imperial (any class) or best on Orc Necromancer.
Shadow or Lover
Getting high enough penetration is important. Lover is the easy choice and preferable on low CP. Shadow with penetration gained elsewhere (Sharpened weapon, gear or CP) is the best
Poison Injection, Arrow Barrage or Endless Hail are must have skills on all builds. Ballista (better morph of bow ultimate) is viable alternative (or the only option) for main ultimate across all classes. Minor Force buff source is crucial on all builds with Trap Beast (barbed morph preferred) being the best option, but Tzogvin set is great alternative when unable to get good uptime and Channeled Acceleration when not having either.
Acid Spray is quite useful even if costly in any situation and great addition for AoE DPS.
Regarding spammables the pool is bigger than it used to be with many choices of class or nonclass. Snipe being the best in damage dealing potential, but limiting with cast time while others spammables offer instant casts and useful passives. Notable Warden's Cutting Dive or Fighters Guild Silver Shards give access to strong passives which can make them useful to have even in current meta where there is less time to cast them.
Nightblade must have skills are Relentless Focus, Dark Shade and Leeching Strikes, but when able to go melee using Killer's Blade or Incap strike ultimate are possible (and best) options.
Sorcerer will always slot Bound Armaments on front bar (but preferably on both bars) for the passives and powerful active ability. 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 (superior) alternative to Ballista.
Warden skill bars will always include Subterranean Assault and Bull Netch. Cutting Dive as mentioned above, if needed instant spammable, and Wild Guardian as superior ultimate choice. Bird of Prey should fill empty spots as possible for good dmg boost and Growing Swarm when going solo or being in group that lacks Minor Vulnerability debuff.
Templar will always have Power of the Light, Restoring Focus, Repentance and Ritual of Retribution. Having any Aedric Spear skill on front bar (and if possible even back bar) for the passive is highly recommended too.
Dragonknight slots Venomous Claw and Noxious Breath when close enough to use them along with Flames of Oblivion and new Stonefist if wanting instant cast spammable or if noone else uses it to increase group dps. Ultimate can be Standard of Might,
Necromancer is one of richest classes skill wise. Blighted Blastones, Detonating Siphon, Skeletal Archer and Pestilent Colossus are must. Venom Skull is useful instant spammable. Other options are Necrotic Potency for ulti regen in trash heavy fights, Boneyard if you want to give someone or yourself synergy, Expunge and Modify can be slotted for slight cost decrease of abilities and access to own purge and Mortal Coil or Summoner's Armor if you want some more sustain. Reanimate ultimate is worth mentioning too for the impact it can have in difficult content (even more than any damage ultimate).
Optimal gear build for most situations is Relequen
set on body (always active) with Tooth of Lokkestiiz
on weapons (active only on front bar), Master Bow or VMA Bow
on backbar along with one of choices of monster set fitting such situation, usually Velidreth
(in order of power)
Traits and Enchantments
- Alternatives to Relequen (when missing it or doing content not suitable for relequen) are Tooth of Lokkestiiz (if not used already), War Machine (warden), Twice-Fanged Serpent, Vicious Ophidian, Strength of the Automaton (sorcerer or templar), Hunding's Rage.
- Alternatives to Lokkestiiz is Tzogvin (best) and then War Machine (warden), Briarheart, New Moon Acolyte
- Backbar bow depends on own preference or content. With bow being very close in single target potential, Master Bow is slightly better choice for single target fights and when applying Poison Injection every 10s, where VMA bow is better for AoE or when using longer volley morph Endless Hail.
- Monster sets have more than few choices. The fit for all situations Velidreth, Maarselok for most DPS if you dont mind bashing (and can sustain it), Stormfist for sustain boost and Slimecraw for Minor Berserk when lacking the buff from skills/healer. Another option is to simply slot 1 piece of Kraghs and 1 piece of Velidreth for stat boost. Another interesting option is Maw of the Infernal when missing health (instead of using enchant/changing attribute points).
- All armor traits should always be divines with Stamina enchants (unless needing more health)
- For jewelry traits generally 3 bloodthirsty wins having Infused is barely noticeable loss and can be useful in other situations.
- Weapon traits slightly depend on build choice. Backbar bow is always Infused with Weapon Damage enchant. Frontbar bow can be Precise or Sharpened with (preferably) Double DoT alchemical poisons or Absorb Stamina/Poison enchantment. Since your goal is to reach at least ~5900 penetration and thats assuming you play in groups with all necessary debuffs, your class or gear choice affects if you can afford to use Precise at all. Simple way to put it, if you aren't Necromancer and no piece of gear on you gives any penetration, go with Sharpened.
BOW MECHANICS AND OTHER DETAILS
Because of lack of time I am unable to test and look for best rotations for all types and classes. Over last 2 years bow/bow reached big enough renown to be included with various seriousness on various sites and youtube build videos. I recommend to look there for best performing rotations. I will describe only general idea of rotation you can put and adapt for any class and in some cases rotations I got used to and customized for content I am doing, classes I play and skills I like to use.
Basic Static Bow rotation for all classes
Choose if you go the 10s route with Arrow Barrage or 14s route with Endless Hail.
For 10s just make sure to cast once in every rotation Barrage, Poison Injection, Consuming Soul Trap and usually any skill of similar duration that doesnt improve with time.
Every second rotation reapply longer skills like Barbed Trap and other long lasting skills (14-25s) that need to be up.
And then just do your spammables and ulti when possible.
This means you will usually cast 9-10 skills every rotation.
For 14s you will do same (since this is static you will not want to bother casting skills like Poison Injection dynamially) with Hail, PI and Consuming Soul trap.
Then you recast Barbed Trap, and any longer duration skill too and fill rest with spammable and ulti.
This means casting 13-14 skills every rotation.
This will obviously not be best possible way to do it and recasting things as they drop off is generally better rather than early/late.
Spending the least amount of time on backbar results in more DPS, you can achieve that by always starting and ending frontbar rotation with light attack and shuffling most skills to front.
Being able to weave light attacks between skills is MANDATORY for good DPS on bow (generally tho everywhere in ESO)
Hail - Poison Injection - Consuming Trap - Swap
Blastbones (BB) - Barbed Trap - Spammable - BB - Spammable - Spammable - BB - Spammable - Archer - BB
- using Consuming Trap is optional but it helps with sustain
- Cast Siphon when it needs to be casted, but remember its out of GCD so its not meant to replace any of the skills
- Spammable choice either Venom Skull or Lethal Arrow
- Also possible to move position of Trap recast by 2 skills every rotation and then skip it for full rotation as last (or basically dynamically ^^)
- You can also slot and use Acid Spray twice on front bar if sustainable
Hail - Poison Injection - Consuming Trap - Swap
Sub Assault (SA) - Barbed Trap - Spammable - SA - Spammable - Spammable - SA - Spammable - Spammable - SA
- cast bear ulti instead of spammable when rdy, same for Netch (so preferably keep it on front bar)
- for spammable you can use Cutting Dive or Lethal Arrow
- if using Cutting Dive you can try maximizing off balance bonus to damage (stack of bleed) by noticing when off balance is active and spamming Cutting Dive instead of all other skills except Hail and (below 50% unless using Master Bow) Poison Injection
- Feel free to not use Consuming Trap or replace it with Swarm or even include Swarm as bonus instead of one cast of spammable
- You can also slot and use Acid Spray twice on front bar if sustainable
Long Shots Passive explanation
None for now. Too many things changed to link to any old source and most werent updated yet.
- It affects only bow abilities (including light attacks)
- It is additive with all other % bonuses, notably CP (and others like Hawk Eye, Minor Berserk, ...).
That means for example on build with 10% (mighty), 18% (thaumaturge), 8% (minor berserk), 25% (hawk eye) going from 0m range to 23m range (12% long shots) will increase damage of your volley by 7.5% and not 12%.
The distances in picture are measured by the last position each skill with reported distance could be used. The red lines are the last position before long shot buff gets increased by 2%.