Close-up of Messmer
Image via Bandai Namco

How to Plan a Build for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

Planning your perfect build in preparation for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree takes thought, patcience, and a few good tools.

Trust me when I say you don’t want to go into the Elden Ring expansion Shadow of the Erdtree unprepared. Expansions in previous FromSoftware Souls games have always been some of the hardest but most rewarding content for the game they’re connected to, so you’ll want to know how to plan a build that’s both effective and enjoyable to play.

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The Basics of Building a Character for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

Melina on fire in front of the erdtree
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Building a character in Elden Ring is a complicated, multi-step process, but there are tons of community tools and strategies you can use to make one that is both fun and efficient. Or just silly, if that’s your thing. And while a lot of little decisions will go into crafting what is, for you, the best possible build, here are the main things to consider:

  • What level do you want to be?
  • What will be your main weapon or weapons?
  • Will you use magic or not?
  • Will your weapons be Strength or Dexterity focused?
  • Will you make heavy use of Ashes of War or regular attacks?
  • Do you want your clothing/armor to be fashionable or functional?

If you can answer those six questions, even in a few words, you’ll have more than 75% of your build planned out. From there, it’s a matter of choosing your starting class (which is very important!), collecting the weapons, armor, and spells you plan to use, upgrading them as necessary, and practicing with the build itself so you’re comfortable with the playstyle.

I should mention that if you don’t have any particular level endpoint planned, then a lot of these considerations become moot points. Anyone planning to continue leveling up won’t really need to worry about attribute soft caps, weapon or spell stat requirements, or anything of the sort. At least, not by the time you reach level 300 or so. You will need to consider where to allocate your resources as you progress, but past a certain point, it hardly matters.

One final note: in Shadow of the Erdtree, we now know that there will be a progression system unique to the expansion that will keep you from overpowering the enemies and bosses by stats alone. In other words, the only way to truly become strong in the Elden Ring DLC is to defeat your foes and earn the right to be more powerful, much in the way Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice handled difficulty. The base game of Elden Ring will not follow those rules, so you can steamroll the vanilla experience, but even max-level players will be forced to engage with Shadow of the Erdtree’s content.

The Best Tools for Making a Build in Elden Ring

A tree draped in shadowy shrouds at the center of the Land of Shadow
Image via Bandai Namco

There are a host of community-built tools that can aid in crafting an Elden Ring build. The most important of them include a build planner, a best starting class finder, and a map detailing the location of every item, NPC, weapon, armor piece, and everything else in the game. There’s also a wiki you can use to look up weapon, armor, and spell stats, but I wouldn’t use it as a guide for quests, as the information is either incorrect or incomplete.

  • The Elden Ring Build Planner: This online tool is one of three incredibly important tools for planning an Elden Ring build. It allows you to simulate what a build at any level will look like, letting you see what weapons require to equip, showing what damage they do at different stat values, whether your gear will put you in light, medium, or heavy roll, and dozens of other details. You can use it to test the numbers on different setups and see where you want to go without needing to spend hours and hours in Elden Ring proper.
  • The Elden Ring Mugenmonkey Starting Class Optimizer: Mugenmonkey was once one of the keystone tools for crafting a build in the Souls series, but the creator decided not to produce a full planner for Elden Ring, instead using their skills to create something smaller but almost as important: a tool that lets you see what your best starting class is. Once you have a build in mind in the build planner, go into Mugenmonkey and input the stats you want to have. The site will provide whichever of the Elden Ring starting classes is most the efficient distribution of attribute points for your build. And no, the level one Wretch is almost never the best answer because while it does have ten points in every stat, if you aren’t going to be using two or three stats at all in your build, those extra points are wasted.
  • The Elden Ring Map Genie Site: For the most complete and accurate collection of item, NPC, and other discoverable locations in the game, there’s no better resource. The page also lets you filter for specific things, like Sites of Grace, upgrade materials, bosses, spells, or almost anything else you can find in Elden Ring. You can even mark down which items you’ve collected and which you haven’t.
  • The Elden Ring Wiki: Built by Fextralife, the Elden Ring wiki contains information on almost every aspect of Elden Ring, including quests, weapon and item stats, and more. However, some parts of it remain incorrect or incomplete after all this time since the game’s release, so I only recommend using it to see which weapons, armor, and spells you want to equip, then using Map Genie to find them.

If you use the above tools to decide on a build, the next step is getting in-game and building it. While GameSkinny has tons of guides on many Elden Ring topics, if you simply want an item, upgrade material, or source of Runes without needing to worry about spending hours grinding, there’s a really good community hub for that as well.

  • The Patches Emporium Subreddit: Never, and I repeat, never pay money for anything you need in Elden Ring. Instead, go to Patches Emporium, a still-active subreddit where you can post about items you want for a build, and then you can summon a helper to give those items to you. You’ll need to provide compensation in the form of Karma or some other free resource, but there is never any reason to pay for anything you need in Elden Ring.

Now that you’re fully equipped, the only thing left to do is play the game. We know that you need to defeat Mohg, Lord of Blood to enter the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion zone by interacting with Miquella’s egg…thing at the back of the arena, so you’ll need to be at least powerful enough to beat Mohg. If there is a new ending in Shadow of the Erdtree, you’ll also probably want to be close or at the point where you can choose your ending (that is to say, after you beat the final boss but before you interact with a certain statue).

Don’t be afraid to modify or completely retool your build as you play, either. Even the best players don’t always get it right in simulation. Sometimes the only way to know what works and what doesn’t is to use it, iterate and experiment. So long as you know how to respec in Elden Ring, you can make almost any build you desire several times over.

For more Elden Ring content, check out our guides hub.


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Author
John Schutt
John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.