A Tarnished using the new kick moveset in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree
Image via FromSoftware

Strongest Builds to Beat Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

You'll want a strong build once you're out there.

Like all of FromSoftware’s titles, beating Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree is a matter of will and a mountain you need to learn how to climb. Like the base game, however, there are several incredibly effective builds you can take in that will help you overcome even the toughest challenges the DLC has to offer. Here are a few of the best builds to use in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree.

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Build Basics to Beat Shadow of the Erdtree

First and foremost, every build going into the Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree should have as much Vigor as possible, up to the hard cap of 60. No matter how many Scadutree Fragment upgrades you have, bosses deal a borderline insulting amount of damage, and having 60 Vigor — especially with Morgott’s Great Rune — will make sure you (almost) always have the ability to learn how to deal with any attacks the bosses can throw at you.

If you’re familiar with any of the boss melting builds from the base game of Elden Ring, good news! Many of them are still very good in Shadow of the Erdtree. Buffs, magic, status effects, and other classic options can be as effective in almost every situation. The difference is how you play. The DLC bosses across the Realm of Shadow are significantly more aggressive than those in the vanilla experience, and other are fewer openings for big, high-DPS moves like Comet Azur.

Bosses are also at least somewhat resistant to most non-Physical damage types, cutting into your damage margins even more. That said, if you’re able to learn the enemies in the DLC well, you will be able to find a spot for even a full stamina bar of Comet Azur. That’s especially true if you plan to go through the content with a friend or random summons in co-op. For our purposes, I’ll assume you’re playing Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree solo, if only because that’s where my expertise lies.

Dual Bleed or Occult Weapon Build

Two Cross-Naginata spears in Elden Ring
Screenshot by GameSkinny

My choice for this build setup was the dual Cross-Naginatas, which felt a tad slow before I learned boss attack openings. Once I knew when it was my turn, I was able to make literal mincemeat out of everything, up to and including the final boss. The setup is a simple one.

  • Get 60 Vigor. Get used to this tip. It’ll be everywhere.
  • Get the base stat requirements for the weapon you want to dual wield or both weapons if you’re using two different kinds.
  • Pump Arcane to between 50 and 80 points based on what Arcane actually affects. For the Naginatas, I was using Occult, so between my desire for Dexterity scaling alongside the Arcane damage scaling, I was at 70 Arcane, though I could have gone a bit higher in the latter. Bleed setups will want 50-60 Arcane to stick within the soft and hard caps. Between the two, I found Occult to be the better option, as Bleed still went off frequently enough, and my damage was also solid.
  • Only attack twice before preparing to dodge. Even bosses with longer recovery animations following their big attacks only leave time for one or two swings of both weapons before it’s their turn to attack again. Don’t overcommit, or your health bar will disappear.

I don’t really recommend the running L1/left bumper attacks for most bosses, as they leave you too open and/or out of position. Jumping L1 attacks also have a long recovery and are liable to get you hit. Rolling and standing attacks are best, I’ve found.

Moonveil, Surprising No One

The Moonveil katana in Elden Ring
Screenshot by GameSkinny

One thing I noticed about bosses in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree is their massive stagger resistance. Sure, you can stagger every big enemy in the DLC, but you really need to work for it. Moonveil has two major things going for it: its enhanced Unsheath Ash of War in Transient Moonlight and the additional range the laser beams provide. That the weapon is so easy to use and does so much damage even after a few nerfs are just two other benefits.

As always, Moonveil builds are as unique as you want to make them. You can either:

  • Pump Intelligence for additional Sorcery casting damage.
  • Mix Intelligence and Dexterity for a more balanced approach between Physical and Magic damage on the weapon. This is my preferred choice, as split damage has never been ideal in Elden Ring, and that’s still true in Shadow of the Erdtree.
  • Go full Dexterity with minimum Intelligence requirements to expand your weapon options. A lot of Dexterity weapons in Elden Ring without the ability to change their Ash of War have little to no Intelligence scaling, and having something else in your pocket in case of emergency can be helpful.
  • Level Mind enough that you can easily use your full repertoire of spells and buffs and have enough left over for Transient Moonlight use. 35-40 Mind is a good endpoint for that.
  • Oh yeah, and level your Vigor.

You won’t always be spamming Transient Moonlight with Moonveil, though that should be a core part of your strategy here. You’ll need to mix in charged heavy attacks, light attacks, and spells as well. Which spells you weave in is up to you, but there are some fun ones in the DLC worth using.

Dual Straight Swords

Two Coded Sword straight swords in Elden Ring
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Lots of dual-weapon builds here, but my first playthrough wouldn’t have been possible without them. I was using Coded Swords for the high damage output and the stagger value in Unblockable Blade, but a lot of enemies in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree have higher-than-average Holy resist, so I recommend almost anything else.

The main advantage dual straight swords provide is their speed, low animation recovery time, and solid damage output in almost any situation. That relative safety and reliability ensures you can not only react faster and more consistently to attacks (thus learning them better) but can also reach additional phases more often. Every boss in the DLC has at least two phases, and some of the first phases can be a slot once you know them. Enemies can have just way too much HP sometimes, and it can be frustrating when it takes three minutes just to get to that one attack that always kills you.

In any event, here’s the thinking:

  • Allocate stats based on desired status effects/element/buff synergy. Faith builds with Incantations like Golden Vow and Flame Grant Me Strength remain absolutely busted in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree, meaning your stats need to not only factor in the best setup for your swords but also how your buffs synergize with it. Is fire the element you want, or would an Arcane build with the Dragon Communion Seal work better?
  • Add leftover points to Endurance, Mind, and your weapons’ secondary damage stat. Endurance will help ensure you aren’t caught with your pants down and no Stamina, plus you can wear more of the new fashion. The mind will let you use whatever spells you have and still have gas in the tank for Ashes of War. I put the secondary damage stat last because, while important, I find that utility can be more valuable than strait DPS once you’ve reached your primary stat’s hard cap.
  • That said, do level Vigor.

Those are three of the best builds you can use to beat Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree. We’re hoping to have more to discuss on this topic in the days ahead, but in the meantime, check out our dedicated Elden Ring guides hub for more on the DLC and base game, including articles on how big the Realm of Shadow actually is.

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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.