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This build is primarily intended for PvP use, though it is playable in PvE (ranged attacks, particularly Great Resonant Soul, own in PvE 99% of the time). The heart of the build is Vigor and Vitality for survivability - particularly in the early stages of PvP (and PvE, for that matter), the ability to actually survive a hit is paramount. Secondary is adaptability - it improves your mobility and defense, so it goes to the survivability theme. After that, honestly, it's more about flavor. The intent, however, is to keep a close range (if not melee) focus. Using this build means closing the distance to create opportunities to strike your opponent and, typically, waiting for them to create a vulnerability to punish. Ideally, you want to bait either a unsuccessful strike or a roll. Working in confined spaces should favor you because your defensive ability will make it hard to stand toe to toe and trade hits. Open spaces can pose a challenge, but your ADP and equipment gives you solid evasion capability for spells and slow/linear strikes as well as some margin for error if you make a mistake. Best case - you force your opponent into a mistake, punish them into a stun lock and finish.
Initial Stats (lots of flex room here depending on initial weapon and armor choices - prioritize survivability, use the Mace/Magic Mace initially):
  • VGR: 30
  • END: 20
  • VIT: 20
  • ATT: base/10 (if you want a hard slot versus a ring slot - utility heal or weapon buff)
  • STR: 28 (suggested for Greatsword - very effective weapon overall for the early game, poise break is especially valuable)
  • DEX: 18 (for Dragonrider Bow - great utility ranged weapon)
  • ADP: 20 (when you can afford it - VGR, VIT, END and weapon stats take priority in the early stages of the game)
  • INT: base/enough to talk to Straid or get Carhillion to move to Majula is desired
  • FAI: base/level to take heals/lightning spear (judgement call between advancing FAI & ATT v. ADP + weapon/armor stats)

Advanced Stats
  • VGR: 40-45+ (once you reach the point of diminishing returns on weapon/spell stats, VGR and ADP are where to spend)
  • END: 20 (leaving END low requires more care towards stamina management, but is workable)
  • VIT: 30-33+ (this is hugely dependent on the rings you wear and your desired mobility - armor should be Alonne Knight or heavier)
  • ATT: 10 (with Southern Ritual band, you can select an attack, a buff and a heal or a combination for utility and versatility)
  • STR: 30-35+ (UGS love strength, but the lighter weapons - greatsword, katana, curved greatsword - tend to be more versatile)
  • DEX: 38+ (enough to dual wield Blacksteel Katana if that's your thing, or just help scaling on DEX based damage)
  • ADP: 25+ (take it when you can afford it)
  • INT: 12+ (this allows use of Black Knight Greatsword - can be tweaked for access to buffs, utility spells, or other weapons)
  • FAI: 22-36+ (even on a NG play through, this is enough for good healing/utility miracles, helps fire/lightning bonuses)

Armor -
Go big. One of your chief challenges in the early game will be juggling armor pieces to manage your carried weight (below 70%, of course) while you gain VIT. When you're short on upgrade materials, base stats rule. I mixed Brigand, Rogue, Dark, Drangleic, Knight, Vengarl and Alonne. Eventually, I focused on the Alonne set because it is easy to obtain, upgrades with regular titanite and offers high poise (and I think it looks cool). There is a lot of fashion/style choices to be made here - Havel, Smelter, Looking Glass, etc. offer even heavier armor, but can be more difficult to upgrade and limit your other equipment choices (they require a much tighter balance between VIT, rings and weapons/shields).
Rings -
  • 2nd/3rd Dragon Ring - it's hard to turn down a bonus to every tank stat that matters
  • Royal Soldier's Ring (early game) / Defensive Utility choice (Ring of Steel Protection, Dispelling Ring, Ring of Giants, etc.)
  • Style Ring: Southern Ritual Band, Ring of Blades, Stone Ring, Old Leo Ring, etc.
  • Utility Ring: Ring of Life Protection, Covenant Ring, Silvercat Ring, Ring of Binding, Covetous Gold/Silver Serpent Ring, etc.
I spend my time swapping rings to match a specific weapon or section of the game in PvE. I will typically error with Royal Soldier's Ring for my second slot just to have the convenience of swapping between weapons and shields of vastly different weights without constantly respeccing my rings (ah, laziness). I like the Stone Ring for poise break, as well as the Ring of Blades in the 3rd slot.
Weapons - the crux, so incredibly style dependent...but, here are some with proven effectiveness when working in close -
  • Greatsword - you get it earlier than the Zweihander, and it hits harder. All Ultra Greatswords suffer from a more or less equally slow swing speed - the range of the Greatsword (or Zweihander), coupled with broad swipes do an excellent job of punishing opponents that commit to an attack or dodge that leaves them inside the huge hit box. The ability to break poise tends to leave enemies in both PvP and PvE standing there waiting for you to hit them repeatedly until you run out stamina - an upgraded and buffed/infused Greatsword leaves your enemy with very little margin for error. The main challenge is paying for the hefty weight. Lastly, crafty opponents and tight spaces can punish the UGS class, Greatsword included.
  • Black Knight Greatsword - Assuming you can survive the Smelter Demon and Belfry Sol, this is available shortly after the Zweihander. A heavy (12 unit) Greatsword, I choose this over the Zweihander for its speed and slightly better damage. That's the beauty of this sword - its damage does not require speccing a ton of points into FAI/INT - a basic investment pays you back with damage that competes with some of the Ultra Greatswords. The BKGS provides good range and has a very useful move set with sweeping and thrusting one hand attacks - the sweeping attack features a wide arc. You can two hand it for a tighter, faster swing - but, really, where it shines is letting you wear heavy armor and carry a big ass shield while providing good damage.
  • Curved Dragon Greatsword - it takes a while to lay hands on this. Bottom line up front - this weapon hits as hard as the Greatsword (with S DEX scaling), weighs less and swings faster while featuring a special attack that adds great versatility. It has similar range and it features the same wide arcing swipes and tight two hand swipes as the BKGS. In tight spaces and against unwary opponents, the special grounds enemies effectively and can connect at range. Durability can be an issue with this weapon.
  • Dragonrider Bow, Chime/Staff/Pyro Hand - these are all situational. The bow is tremendously useful in general, but you can pass on the weight if you know you won't use it and have enough INT/FAI for the Miracles/Pyro to add some ranged damage options for you. The Chime is recommend for heals/buffs if you have the desire/slots.
You can mix in a dagger, rapier (Spider's Silk, Ricard's) if you have the weight to spare and want the extra options. If you're a dual wield fiend, taking one Blacksteel Katana and pairing it with another katana of your choice (another Blacksteel, Manslayer, Darkdrift, lots of good choices here) is the way to go - great blend of damage output, decent speed and the ability to poke when required. I personally prefer a single weapon and a shield to increase survivability. The bias here is for weapons that give us a longer range, wide hit box and a decent chance to break poise while dealing good damage.
Shields - a balancing act between weapon a shield, pick the shield based on the scenario and what you can carry
  • Early Game/Medium - Drangleic/Royal Kite shield: as mentioned everywhere, a cheap, lightweight way to get 100% phys dam reduction
  • Utility 1 - Watcher's Shield. The low weight provides flexibility for your ring slots (or the option to reallocate stat points away from VIT), it makes an excellent showing against both lightning and dark damage for PvP and maintains 95+% phys dam reduction. The parry animation is rapid and can be very useful against tanks with a slow weapon. It's a late game item, but certainly worth consideration.
  • Utility 2 - Silverblack Shield / Red Rust Shield. There are a TON of great middleweight shield options by the end game. These two are available a bit earlier on. The Silverblack sacrifices phys dam reduction to cover ALL the bases on elemental damage pretty well - a decent way to hedge you bets. The Red Rust Shield is a great choice if you're confident in your ability to avoid spells and you are willing to accept risk on imbued/buffed weapons in order to get Poison/Bleed resistance.
  • Greatshield - Old Knight / Drakekeeper / Rebel. The Old Knight Greatshield is available early and provides good resistance against all status effects at the expense of poor elemental defense, a solid choice. In the late game, the Drakekeeper Greatshield gives up some status effects and weighs more, but is a better all around shield with its higher elemental resistances. The Rebel Greatshield is a great choice with it's high elemental and status resistances - it's a great way to provide you cover while you close the distance in PvP. While it, in theory, gives up physical defense, the reality of PvP is that almost every has a imbued or buffed weapon. The enhanced elemental defense is often a break even, or even come out ahead, proposition in PvP.

Specific Strategy -
  • Casters: close the distance. The right shield choice is HUGELY important. Shrugging off a Soul Spear or Great Resonant Soul if you either mistime your roll or just want to barrel in and stay free to strike is a big deal. A dedicated caster typically has low poise - get a strike to stagger/stun lock and that is usually all you need. The BKGS or CDGS are usually fast enough to beat a spell if you need to get a hit in between their casts or grab some stamina while they're stunned. They're not likely to try and melee it out with you unless they are very good and confident to match their light weapons and armor against your better defense, damage output and hit points. Late game, or in NG+ when you have the spices/stats, Profound Still is supremely useful since it essentially forces them to show up woefully under equipped to a brawl.
  • Heavy Melee: chess match. These players are likely using the same strategy you are - waiting for a chance to lay a big weapon against you for massive damage. Offensive Pyromancy, poison throwing knives, or crossbows are good choices for forcing a roll. Depending on their weapon selection, you might be able to take it off the shield and counter or use the Watcher's Shield to parry. The CDGS is useful for its combo of power, speed and special attack - particularly on ledges and in tight spaces. The Greatsword can out range most any other heavy weapon, and its two handed "light" attack is reasonably quick while hitting hard. The BKGS may not out range Great Hammers or Greatswords, but it is faster.
  • Light Melee: Pressure. There are relatively few light weapons that out range your gear or provide a competitive hit box. The right shield choice means you can chuckle while they exhaust their stamina in a futile effort (Awww...are you trying to poison me? That's cute.). More over, light weapons likely are not enough to break your poise or out damage you. If you can take their hit to deliver one of your own, you're likely going to finish on top. If they're foolish enough to use a short range weapon, you have the option of out ranging them or baiting a roll and then using a sweeping slash.
  • Hybrids: Pressure. As above - your ranged damage output isn't likely to be competitive, at all, with folks blasting Sorcery/Miracle/Hex at you. The right ring/shield/buff means that the huge INT/FAI death dealing Moonlight Greatsword, Thorned Greatsword of Defender Greatsword, etc. they were counting on to wreck you isn't hitting like it should. Trade a few hit points for their stamina, retaliate and log a clean hit or, better, a counter for bigger damage.

Notes: the equipment and hit points here mean that when you make a mistake and someone hits you for big damage, they cannot one shot kill you. You might not be in good shape or in a good position, but you should be able to walk/roll away from nearly anything once. Your ability to survive more normal hits and trade blows provides some flexibility in PvP and PvE while your poise leaves you ready to counter. The idea behind high survivability is that you have the option to trade hit points for position/opportunity and hit for proportionally bigger damage. The BKGS one-hand strong attack combo is very useful for baiting and punishing rolls - the thrust attack catch the unwary effectively and the massive 180+ degree arc on the follow up swing is excellent for catching players that roll into you past the thrust. Weapons can be imbued - cheaper, you pay once and the effect stays - or buffed at your option. There are plenty of other good weapons and, often, the damage tends to come out similar between them. Ultimately, a few points of damage one way or the other are not as important as the weapon's move set and range - that weapon you hit with is always better than the one that misses. I tend to avoid heavy weapons that don't feature a sweeping horizontal slash - slow and linear attacks are huge vulnerability and you need big skill to ensure the land without leaving you wide open.


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