The best builds for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

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Shadow of the Erdtree Sword of Darkness
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

You could go wandering around Elden Ring's new expansion using the same old gear you finished the new game with, but that would be something just short of a crime. Shadow of the Erdtree introduces eight new weapon categories and dozens of new weapons across its entire arsenal—there are so many new powerful, unique choices that the best Shadow of the Erdtree builds all pull from the expansion's gear set. We've been experimenting with as many different builds as we can while playing the expansion to hone in on the best new Shadow of the Erdtree weapons (and the ones that make us hoot and holler, even if they aren't ideal for a high stakes boss showdown).

Here are the deadliest, effective Shadow of the Erdtree builds we've assembled during our collective hundreds of hours in the Land of Shadow so far.

Str/Dex: Bearserker

Shadow of the Erdtree bearserker

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Weapon: Beast Claw or Red Bear's Claw
Armor: Iron Rivet set/Pelt of Ralva
Minimum stats: 13 strength, 11 dexterity
Stat priority: Strength, dexterity, vigor, endurance
Talismans: Crusade Insignia, Rotten Winged Sword Insignia, Lord of Blood's Exultation, Carian Filigreed Crest or Shard of Alexander

If you're enjoying the new Beast Claw weapon archetype, running around dressed as a murderous rune bear might appeal. The two most important parts of this build are Red Bear's Claws, which you get by defeating Red Bear in the Northern Nameless Mausoleum, and the Pelt of Ralva—the fancy bear hat—which comes from beating Ralva the Red Bear in Scadu Altus. You could also use regular Beast Claw with this build since you can change its affinity and ash of war for extra customisation.

For stats, you'll want to focus on strength and dexterity to buff the Red Bear's Claw damage, and then vigor, since you'll be lightly armored, and Endurance to ensure you keep can slashing away to build bleed and gain the talisman benefits. The new Crusade Insignia is the perfect talisman for a berserker, since it buffs your damage after you defeat an enemy. You can get this by defeating Fire Knight Queelign when he invades in Belurat. 

Winged Sword Insignia and Lord of Blood's Exultation also work well with for a wild flurry of blows, since you'll gain extra attack for consecutive hits, and gain attack when you proc bleed with the claws. For the final touch, either add Carian Filigreed Crest, reducing FP cost so you can use the Red Bear Hunt skill more, or the Shard of Alexander to boost its damage.

Int: Carian spellblade 

 Shadow of the Erdtree Carian Spellblade

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Weapon: Carian Sorcery Sword and Carian Thrusting Shield
Armor: Rellana's set
Minimum stats: 17 strength, 19 dexterity, 16 intelligence
Stat priority: Intelligence, strength, dexterity, mind
New spells: Glintstone Nails, Glintblade Trio, Gravitational Missile, Miriam's Vanishing
Talismans: Graven Mass Talisman, Beloved Stardust, Glintstone Blade, and Graven School Talisman

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The Carian Sorcery Sword is one of the flashiest new weapons for sorcerers. This thrusting blade, which you can find on top of Castle Ensis if you drop down from Scadu Altus, also counts as a staff and can cast spells when you use its heavy attack. This offers some unique possibilities in terms of throwing out spells while also keeping an intelligence-scaling weapon in your hand to stab enemies with. 

The Carian Thrusting Shield is another fun addition; one of the new 'striking shields' that deals magic damage and also scales with intelligence, though you won't find this until the Specimen Storehouse area in the Shadow Keep later on. Both weapons are perfect if you're a sorcerer who's tired of simply casting spells and wants to mix it up with some close combat, too. 

For stats, you'll want intelligence and mind for casting spells, then strength and dexterity to buff weapon damage. While Rellana's set doesn't enhance sorceries, it does look cool as hell. You can purchase this from Finger Reader Enia after you defeat the boss in Castle Ensis. You'll also want your typical sorcery talismans such as Graven Mass, Graven School, and Glintstone Blade to increase spell damage. 

Beloved Stardust is a new talisman you get through Count Ymir's quest which massively shortens cast time. You can also purchase all of the new sorceries mentioned above from the count as well, though you'll have to find him first in the big cathedral in east Scadu Altus.

Str/Dex: Courtly duelist 

 Shadow of the Erdtree Wing Stance

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Weapon: Milady with Ash of War: Wing Stance and Main-gauche
Armor: Winged Serpent Helm/Oathseeker Knight Armor
Minimum stats: 12 strength, 17 dexterity
Stat priority: Strength, dexterity, endurance, vigor
Talismans: Rellana's Cameo, Dagger Talisman, Two-Handed Sword Talisman, Carian Filigreed Crest or Shard of Alexander

This build is centered around the new light greatsword weapon archetype: in particular the Milady, and the new Ash of War: Wing Stance. You can find both of these in Castle Ensis and they function perfectly together. Wing Stance raises the blade at your side, letting you unleash either a series of quick slashes or a jumping thrust. To compliment the courtly vibes of this build, I also recommend you pick up the new Main-gauche parrying dagger from near to the Shadow Keep entrance. 

For stats you'll want strength and dexterity for weapon damage, then endurance and vigor for longer combos and more survivability. While your duelist fashion is up to you, I rate the Oathseeker Knight Armor you can get at the southern end of the Cliffroad Terminus area by the Church of Benediction, complemented by the Winged Serpent Helm you get by defeating Fire Knight Captain Kood near the top of the Shadow Keep.

Talisman-wise, I recommend the new Rellana's Cameo which you also find in Castle Ensis. This boosts attack after you hold a stance, so works perfectly with the Wing Stance ash. I'd also suggest the Dagger Talisman for increased crit damage after you parry with Main-gauche, then the new Two-Handed Sword talisman that's a straight up damage buff for two-handed weapons if you're comfortable swapping grips during the action. You can get this at the top of the Temple Town Ruins in Rauh Ruins Base. Lastly, whack on Carian Filigreed Crest for more skill use, or Shard of Alexander for more skill damage.

Dex: Monking around 

Dryleaf Monk

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Weapon: Dryleaf Arts
Armor: Anything that keeps you light on your feet
Minimum stats: 8 strength, 8 dexterity, 25 faith
Stat priority: Dexterity, vigor, endurance, faith
Ash of War: Bloodhound Step
Spells: Golden Vow, Flame Grant Me Strength
Talismans: Rotten Winged Sword Insignia, Millicent's Prosthesis, Shattered Stone Talisman, Green Turtle Talisman

Dryleaf Arts is an unarmed weapon technique that turns you into a martial arts master, battering enemies with your furious fists. The technique can be learned from Dane after you've challenged him to a fight. The above build is a pretty simple one, but there are so many ways to build a Dryleaf Arts monk: you can focus on strength, go for a bleed build, stomp around freezing everyone—it lends itself well to a bunch of different playstyles. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that you're going to be spending a lot of time getting up in monsters' faces, so you're going to have to master dodging. 

This is why I recommend picking the Bloodhound Step Ash of War initially. For a miniscule FP cost, you can dash while invisible, and you're invulnerable during the dash. It's great for repositioning and avoiding an HP-bar-demolishing attack. So you can use this Ash of War instead of dodging, letting you save stamina for relentless punches and kicks. Dryleaf Arts scales with strength and dexterity, but I recommend choosing the Keen affinity for Bloodhound Step so you can focus on dexterity. 

The technique lets you unleash a rapid barrage of blows, so you'll want talismans that take advantage of this. Both the Rotten Winged Sword Insignia and Millicent's Prosthesis are perfect, since they raise attack power with successive attacks. The latter also boosts your dexterity. To get both you'll need to be in NG+ (or ask a friend to gift you one), since you can only get one of these rewards from Millicent's quest. Your R2 attack unleashes a powerful spinning kick and you'll be using it a lot to stagger enemies, so grabbing the new Shattered Stone Talisman is also a good idea, since it empowers kicks and stomps. Green Turtle Talisman increases your stamina regeneration and reduces downtime. 

Investing in faith is a good idea—at least to 25, which means you can cast the Golden Vow incantation. Flame, Grant Me Strength will also be helpful. Together you'll get a nice attack boost. For your Wondrous Physick mix, the Stonebarb Cracked Tear is handy, enhancing your poise-breaking ability, and the Greenspill Crystal Tear will let you keep attacking for longer by boosting your stamina. If you opt for light armor, which is worth doing since a light load increases Bloodhound Step's travel distance, you're going to be squishy, so you might want to take Morgott's Great Rune for the big HP boost.

Str/Fai: Unholy knight 

Elden Ring; Shadow of the Erdtree Sword of Darkness

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Weapon: Sword of Darkness, Dryleaf Seal
Armor: Haligtree Knight Helm, Malformed Dragon Armor
Minimum stats: 14 strength, 11 dexterity, 24 faith
Stat priority: Strength, faith, endurance, vigor, mind
Spells: Lightning Spear, Golden Vow, Fortissax's Lightning Spear, Aspect of the Crucible: Thorns
Talismans: Blessed Blue Dew Talisman, Sacred Scorpion Charm, Dragoncrest Greatshield Talisman, Erdtree's Favor

One of the most involved mini questlines in Shadow of the Erdtree is finding and awakening one of its new legendary weapons, the Stone-Sheathed Sword. Follow our guide to get your hands on this blade, then take it to an altar to transform it into the Sword of Darkness, which has C strength scaling and D on dexterity and faith. This unholy knight build is all about playing up the sword's holy damage: when you trigger its unique skill Darkness, you'll raise the sword above your head and conjure a dark fog that not only deals holy damage but lowers the holy protections of any enemies it blankets. That's your cue to strike.

The Haligtree Knight Helm offers a small +2 bump to faith, while the talismans are designed around keeping you tanky while regenerating enough FP to use incantations without constantly chugging flasks. Wear whatever armor you want; the golden Malformed Dragon Armor just happens to be gold and ugly in a way that says Holy, but wrong.

A seal in your off-hand to quickly cast spells is the daring way to play, but you can also go in with a shield and focus on delivering holy damage with your blade. But incantations are just more fun: dump enough points into faith to use some higher level incantations and you can do big damage with Fortissax's Lightning Spear, buff yourself with Golden Vow and roll around like an unhinged hippo with the new Aspect of the Crucible: Thorns. Sub in your favorite faith spells or progress further into Shadow of the Erdtree to turn the Sword of Darkness into the Sword of Light, which still deals holy damage but with an entirely different unique attack. 

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).

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