Elemental Zweihander

*Note: Some information on this page is outdated and needs to be updated to reflect patch 1.06. Examples include a now lower AR rating for elemental weapons and the ability to ninja roll under 25% instead of 50% with Dark Wood Grain Ring*

Elemental weapons are incredibly powerful in Dark Souls. They offer very high Attack Rating (AR) with minimal stats, making them very useful for PvE as well as PvP.
One of the most popular choices for an elemental weapon is the Zweihander. Here's why the Zweihander is such a strong weapon:
  1. High AR - At Lightning +5, Fire +10, or Chaos +5 (with 10 humanity), the Zweihander has over 700 AR, one of the highest in the game. It's not the absolute highest, but all of the other weapons with higher AR have higher requirements.
  2. Low requirements - The Zweihander requires 24 strength and 10 dexterity, but wielding a weapon with 2 hands gives a 150% strength boost, so the Zweihander only requires 16 strength to wield 2-handed. This allows more points to be used for other stats. For this build, we will be putting as many points as possible into Vitality.
  3. Huge range - The Zweihander is a massive sword, and has a huge range, making it easier to land hits against other players.
  4. Stun lock - It takes at least 76 poise to be able to take a regular R1 hit from the Zweihander and not be stunned, and at least 152 poise to take 2 consecutive hits without being stunned. The only way to get 152 Poise is by equipping full Havel Set + Wolf Ring, which isn't practical for any build. In addition, the Zweihander swings fast enough that if you stun your opponent, you can swing and hit them again before they recover, which stuns them again, and so on until they are dead. This means that against opponents with less than 76 poise, all it takes is one hit to guarantee a full combo, which is enough to kill anyone except those with huge defense and/or more than 2100-2200 hp. Against opponents with 76 or more poise, 2 consecutive hits will guarantee a combo
  5. Moveset - The Zwei's moveset is also extremely versatile. the regular R1 swing covers most of your front and sides, making it harder for people to move in for a backstab without getting stunlocked. The Rolling R1 (RR1) is a thrust attack that has massive range. The regular R2 and lunging R2 are knockdown attacks that, when they connect, can give you time to use an item.

The build (SL125 Bandit)

Vitality – 96 (Pump Vitality as high as possible)
Attunement – 12 (extra points, 2 slots for Pyromancy)
Endurance – 44 (extra points are so that you can get up to 77 poise while still being under 50% equip load)
Strength – 16 (2H Zweihander or other 24 str weapons)
Dexterity – 10 (Zweihander)
Resistance - 11 (Base)
Intelligence - 8 (Base)
Faith - 10 (Base)

Equipment Setup

RH1: Zweihander, wielding 2-handed
RH2: Ascended Pyromancy Flame +5
LH1: Grass Crest Shield +15 (for stamina regen, very important when using a heavy weapon); Sanctus may seem attractive at first glance, but it only gives 2 hp per 2 seconds, which is so miniscule that it's basically useless.
LH2: Nothing (leaves more equip load for armor)

Armor: For the helmet, Mask of the Mother is probably the best choice, since you have maxed out your Vitality, the MotM will give you almost 350 additional health. Mask of the Father/Child are also good choices if you need more equip load (to hit a higher poise breakpoint), or you want more stamina regen; however the mother mask offers such a good health boost it is most likely the best choice.

For the other 3 pieces, it gets a bit tricky. At 40 Endurance + the equip load bonus from Ring of Favor & Protection, you have 96 equip load. Using the Dark Wood Grain Ring, this means you can go up to 48 and still move at max speed. Zweihander + Grass Crest Shield + mask is this gives you 33.8 weight for your armor. There are a few setups you can use here:
Setup 1
  • Havel's Armor/Stone Gauntlets/Hollow Soldier Waistcloth
  • This gives 77 poise with the least possible weight: 31.4; however it's defenses are lower than most combinations

Setup 2
  • Knight's Armor/Havel's Gauntlets/Havel's Leggings
  • This gives 76 poise, using 33.9 weight. Just 0.1 weight over the limit! You will have to put an additional point in endurance if you wish to use this setup

Setup 3
  • Giant's Armor/Gauntlets/Leggings
  • This gives 77 poise, using 35.8 weight. This is 2.0 weight over the limit, so you'll have to put an additional 4 points in endurance if you wish to use this setup. This is the highest defense setup in the game (assuming you are wearing a mask)

Setup 4
  • Havel's Armor/Gauntlets of Favor/Giant's Leggings
  • This gives 76 poise, using 34.2 weight. This is 0.4 weight over the limit, so you'll have to put an additional point in endurance if you wish to use this setup

Setup 5
  • Havel's Armor/Eastern Gauntlets/Havel's Leggings
  • This gives 77 poise, using 32.2 weight. I'm not sure yet if this gives more or less defense than Setup #1. However this and setup #1 are the only 2 setups that reach 76+ poise while staying at 40 endurance

Another option is to put additional points into Endurance; for this, the only worthwhile option would be putting enough in to equip Havel's Armor/Gauntlets/Leggings. To do this using the recommended setup, you'd need 113.4 equip load, which would require 55 Endurance, and would give you 103 Poise. These points would come from Vitality. The difference between 96 Vitality and 85 Vitality is ~113 hp, which isn't that much, and in certain circumstances is worth the extra poise. This could be useful if you find yourself in many 1v2 situations, for example if you constantly PvP in the forest or Dark Anor Londo areas. Additional poise can let you tank an extra hit or two if your opponents are using low poise-damaging weapons (essentially any non-great weapons).

Rings: Ring of Favor & Protection(a.k.a. ring of FaP, RoFaP, FaP ring, etc.) and Dark Wood Grain Ring(DWGR) are almost mandatory here. At max stamina (40+ endurance), the stamina boost from the FaP ring will allow you to swing the Zweihander 4 times instead of 3 before running out of stamina. The Dark Wood Grain Ring, along with the equip load boost from the FaP ring, will allow you to go up to 50% equip load while reaching 76 poise and still moving as fast as possible along with the flip.

Spells: Since you are maximizing your health with 96 Vit + MotM + RoFaP, Power Within is a possible choice, it will increase your attack and defense for 100 seconds. Unfortunately the damage is percentage-based, so without healing you will die in those 100 seconds. However if you use a fully upgraded pyromancy flame it will deal massive damage, so you need to make sure you have an unupgraded pyromancy flame if you use Power Within. Great Combustion is good for people trying to backstab you, and Fire Tempest is good for AoE damage. There's 2 different setups you can use here:
  • RH2: Ascended Pyromancy Flame +5, LH2: Pyromancy Flame, 1x Power Within, and then another spell of your choice such as Great Combusion/Fire Tempest - this lets you use Power Within, then let you switch to your Ascended Pyromancy Flame to use your other spell. You already have a free slot for an extra Pyromancy Flame, and it doesn't weigh anything, so the build doesn't suffer at all for using this (unless you are also doing a variant, see below)
  • RH2: Ascended Pyromancy Flame +5, 2x Great Combustion, or 1x Great Combustion + 1x Fire Tempest, or 2x Fire Tempest

Items: Green Blossom and Humanity are essential for extra stamina and health. Poison Throwing Knives are good for inflicting poison, Dung Pies are good for inflicting toxin (since you have maxed out your health, you will almost certainly outlast your opponent). Lloyd Talismans are good for stopping estus healing against dishonorable duelers. Depending on how dishonorable you are, estus flasks are also a good choice for fast healing.


Pop Green Blossom before every fight. 40 End + RoFaP will give you enough stamina for 4 Zwei hits, this should easily net you over 2000 damage for a full combo, which will kill almost anyone except other mass VIT builds such as yourself. Randomly throw in a RR1 after your rolls to catch your opponent off guard. Many people like to move in and attack at the end of a roll, this will let you start a combo. If anyone tries to move in and trade swings with you, you should definitely be able to take them down since you'll have more health.

One of the main weaknesses of 2h greatsword builds is that they are very susceptible to parries. If you see someone with a parrying dagger, do not just waltz in and start swinging, you will get parried and most likely die (many parry builds use hornet ring which will OHKO you with a riposte even with max health with the right weapon). Be ready to use your R2 and lunging R2 attacks, since the timing of the swings are different and will cause them to whiff their parry, then you'll faceplant them on the ground.

Using the flip with DWGR will allow you to easily dodge almost all pyromancies and sorceries. The only problem is Wrath of the Gods(WotG or WoG for short). This spell comes out almost instantly and covers a pretty large area around the caster, so always be on the lookout for players switching to a talisman while in close range.


A Mass VIT build can easily be tailored for any weapon; Zweihander is good because it allows you to have extremely high Vitality and still have one of the best unbuffed weapons in the game. This build can also be tweaked slightly for a slightly different setup, by taking points out of Vitality and putting them elsewhere. You won't be too affected since Diminishing returns kick in after 50 Vitality, so taking a few points out of Vitality won't be too noticeable.
  • 14 Dex - putting 4 more points into Dexterity still leaves you with 92 Vitality at SL125. This will give you access to Bows, most importantly the Avelyn, which is a great choice for your LH2 slot. However, be warned that the Avelyn weighs 6.0, so if you followed the build you will have to either go below 76 poise or substitute the MotF for the MotM (or put an additional 12 points into endurance; not recommended). If you go this route, equip a Lightning Avelyn +5 in your LH2 slot, along with a full stock of Lightning Bolts.
  • 12 Faith - putting 2 more points into faith will put you at 12, which gives you access to heal. Some people favor healing over pyromancy, and heal is definitely useful for Co-op play. If you do this, use the thorolund talisman instead of the pyromancy flame.
  • 30 Faith - this makes the build more of a Vitality/Faith hybrid. Going to 30 faith gives you access to most of the miracles, including Wrath of the Gods, Tranquil Walk of Peace, Vow of Silence, and Great Magic Barrier, which are all useful. However this will require a substantial decrease in Vitality, taking it down to 80. The difference in hp between 80 Vitality and 96 Vitality is about 200 factoring in the MotM and RoFaP.
  • 14/15/16 Intelligence - going to 14/15/16 Intelligence gives you access to some small utility sorceries, some of these might be good for trolling and/or confusing your opponent, or possibly helping you out a bit in PvE (such as using Remedy in blighttown, or using Resist Curse in the Great Hollow/against Seath), however most of these won't be of much use in PvP.
  • Claymore - The Claymore deserves mention because 16 Strength/10 Dexterity is just enough to use Claymore 1-handed, meaning the stats don't need to be modified. The Claymore is like a mini-Zweihander; it's not as strong as the Zwei, but it's still powerful when fully upgraded down an elemental path. It's faster than the Zweihander, but the range is a bit shorter. It also has a similar moveset to the Zwei, which includes the rolling thrust attack. It only weighs 6.0 compared to 10.0 for the Zweihander, which means you can use a heavier shield than the Grass Crest Shield. But most importantly, it can be wielded with 1 hand, which lets you use a shield. Some good choices here are:
    • Silver Knight Shield +5: best stability for a medium shield that you can parry with (76 stability), doesn't require a slab to fully upgrade, excellent all-around reduction, decent weight (5.0)
    • Balder Shield +15: Almost as high stability as Silver Knight Shield (75 stability), and weighs 1.0 less than Silver Knight Shield, but has worse all-around reduction, and requires a slab if you want to take it to +15 (however it only gains 1 stability from going to +15, not worth it, just keep it at +14)
    • Eagle Shield +15: the only greatshield that you can equip with 16 strength, offer's the highest stability possible at 16 strength (84 stability), but no parrying, reasonable weight (6.0)
    • Crest Shield +5: high magic defense (80%), good against sorcery builds
    • Black Knight Shield +5: high fire defense (95%) and good stability (74), doesn't require a slab to fully upgrade. Good against pyromancy builds. However it weighs 6.0, this is pretty heavy for a medium shield.
    • Heater Shield +15: lightest shield that offers 100% physical reduction (weighs 2.0)
    • Effigy Shield +15: high lightning defense (90%), but doesn't give 100% physical reduction (only 90%)
  • 24 Strength - going up to 24 strength allows you to wield the Zwei 1-handed, which lets you use a shield along with the Zwei. Not recommended since the 2h zwei moveset is much better than the 1h moveset.

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