Dark Souls PvP Explained

In 2009 Demon Souls laid the foundations for one of the most innovative PvP experiences ever released on console. This premise allowed players to compete against each other in an un-controlled environment. The PvP was restricted to within a certain level range in order to maintain balance. Demon Souls had enough diversity and strategy to keep the game fresh.
The PvP was not restricted to 1v1 as the host could summon up to 2 other players to help them. Although this gave the invaders a disadvantage on occasion you could be invaded by 2 players simultaneously. The meta-game in Demon Souls was comprised of 4 groups melee, magic, ranged and hybrid. Each of these groups contained various branches/routes allowing the player to shape their character the way they want, melee and magic being the most prominent.
Melee characters focused their stats into vitality, endurance and strength whereas mages focused on vitality, intelligence and endurance. Melee characters ranged from assassins equipped with light armour wielding fatal weaponry and hidden body to turtle builds wearing heavy armour using strength/faith based weapons.
One of the most overused melee builds was of the dexterity persuasion dual wielding katana swords. The other powerhouse melee build had high vitality, endurance and luck wielding the Blueblood sword and medium armour. Mages were either pure (standard) using only magic or Battle-mages equipped with moon based weapons. Just like in Demon Souls some character classes are more suited to a given play-style because they don't need as much investment to yield the same results giving you the best possible template to build upon.
The Future


Dark Souls encompasses everything Demon Souls brought to the table and expands upon it. More diversity across the board allows for a more refined PvP experience. Although Dark Souls is still in its infancy and people are still finding ways to refine their builds I have enough experience and knowledge of the game to propose a variety of characters to suit your play-style.
The principle of creating a successful character is the same as it was in Demon Souls albeit a few tweaks here and there. These characters are viable for both PvE (Player Vs Environment) and PvP (Player Vs Player). A successful PvP build should have appropriate stat distribution and equipment, for instance there is no point using a katana if you don't have the dexterity to back it up.

The majority of players in the community rely upon elemental weapons such as fire and lightning and they use these for 2 reasons. First off elemental weapons don't scale off your stats as long as you meet the requirements to use the weapon you're fine. Secondly players who use these weapons don't need to pour levels into their other stats therefore they can increase their vitality to the high 80's.

When designing a character for both PvP and PvE it can become a very arduous task there are so many choices to make everything from your stats to weapons and equipment. From there you need to choose your armour and your rings which can compliment your design. In Demon Souls the optimum PvP level was 120 therefore when creating a character you should aim for that level. However if you plan to invade in the Darkroot Forest there is no level restriction therefore you can get invaded by players who are both higher and lower than you are.

Basic Guidelines for Melee characters

  • Vitality – Depending on your choice of weapon will determine how high you should raise your vitality. If you're planning to use weapons which can be imbued (enchanted) then most players will stop around 50.

  • Attunement – If your planning to go pure melee most players will stop at 12 therefore they have 2 attunement slots which can be dedicated to the heal miracle.

  • Endurance – Regardless of your character's play-style one thing is irrefutable your endurance should always be raised to 40 to gain the maximum stamina.

  • Strength – Highly dependant on your primary weapon as long as you meet the requirements to wield your weapon effectively 1 handed and 2 handed you have no reason to increase it further.

  • Dexterity – If your not using weapons which scale off your dexterity and you don't plan on using any ranged weapons i.e. bows & arrows then you shouldn't increase it unless your weapon requires it.

  • Resistance – Arguably the most useless stat in the game under no circumstances should you waste souls into this stat.

  • Intelligence – Unless your planning to imbue your weapon with magical buffs like Crystal Magic Weapon then you shouldn't raise your intelligence.

  • Faith – The majority of players will stop raising their faith at 12 so they have access to the heal miracle. Unless you're planning to build a paladin (Faith user) then you have no reason to increase it further.

Choosing your weapons and equipment is one of the most difficult choices you have to make. With so many options to choose from you‘re spoilt for choice there is no “best” weapon it depends entirely on your stats and personal preference. Listed below are some of the most popular weapons for each type of melee character.

Assassin Build – The Bandit Knife has the highest critical attack rating of any weapon at 147. If you land a critical attack with this weapon it's going to do a lot of damage. Coupled with the Hornet's ring and the ring of fog will make this build a force to be reckoned with.
Elemental – These builds use weapons which deal elemental damage so they have in excess of 2000 health. Popular weapons include Zweihander, Great Axe, Spear, Estoc etc.

Dexterity Build - These builds use fast katana swords which can inflict a lot of damage. These weapons can deal a lot of damage per second due to their speed, plus they don't consume a lot of stamina to attack with. Popular weapons here are the Iaito and the Washing Pole.

Dual-wielders –You won't see a lot of people dual wielding in Dark Souls for a few reasons the first is they won't be able to block 100% physical defence as they have no shield. Secondly their aren't many weapons in the game recommended for this play-style. Some players will dual wield the claw weapon and will imbue 1 giving them a wolverine like play-style.

Grim Reaper Build – This build has 2 really good weapons the first is the Great scythe a befitting weapon for the bringer of death. The other is the unique weapon the Lifehunt scythe this weapon has a unique bleed property every time you hit your opponent or hit their shield a bleed meter will begin to build up. Once the meter fills your opponent will lose 50% of their health instantly. Be careful as this weapon will also fill your bleed meter some players will use the Blood Shield to increase their tolerances to bleed.

Heavy Hitter – These builds are all about damage one hit and you're going to feel the wrath of their attack. Popular weapons here include the Dragon Tooth, Dragon Great Sword, Dragon Great Axe and Demon weapons.

Hybrid –These builds sacrifice increased vitality i.e. over 50 for a more varied play-style for example higher faith or higher intelligence allowing them to imbue there weapons with Crystal Magic Weapon.

Paladin – Faith users tend to rely upon occult weapons as they scale very well with their faith stat. Most players prefer weapons like the Occult claymore for its great move set and speed.

Turtle – These builds tend to use very strong weapons for example the Black Knight Great Axe. This weapon is extremely popular online and rightly so it's both powerful and fast. These builds tend to wear heavy armour and use a shield which has a lot of stability for example Havel's Great Shield.
Equipment & Apparel
Once you have your stats and weapon sorted you will need to focus your attention on everything from armour to shields. This step will outline some of the most important choices you will need to make to compliment your build.
Shield or no shield? – There are 3 main types of shields in Dark Souls small, medium and large. Some shields will allow you to parry attacks but you will need great timing to pull it off. When searching for a shield you want something that has good stability so your guard doesn't break.

Preferably lightweight unless you're building a turtle and it must block 100% of physical attacks otherwise you're barking up the wrong tree. Some people will use either the unique weapon the Dark Hand or a Parrying Dagger in place of a shield but this is much more demanding for a player to adopt.
Catalyst and Talismans –In my opinion every build that doesn't have a lot of faith should use the Thoruland Talisman when healing as you will regenerate around 500 health which is very handy. Catalysts are only useful for players who wish to use spells like Crystal Magic Weapon.
Armour –Everyone needs armour and choosing the right armour for you is not an easy task. Some players will prefer armour which offers more poise than defence so they don't get stun locked. Looks can be deceiving in Dark Souls appearance isn't the deciding factor when it comes to armour you want something that is going to benefit your character.

Unique helmets? –There are several unique armour pieces in Dark Souls and the most useful in my opinion are the 3 masks entitled Mask of the Child, Mother and Father. Each one of these masks will raise either your health, equip burden or increase how quickly your stamina regenerates. The only downside to wearing these masks is they offer very little defences.
Rings – Rings are very character specific but some of the most popular rings are as follows: Hornet Ring very useful for backstabs and counter attacks, Havel Ring useful for players with very heavy armour and equipment, Ring Of Favor & Protection a very solid ring which grants an additional 20% to your health, stamina and equip burden.
The Darkwood Grain ring more commonly known as the “Ninja flip ring” is one of the best rings in the game. If your equip weight is 50% or less then you're able to roll and run at a normal rate. If you put this ring on it halves your equip burden, this means if your equip load is under 50% and you put the ring on your roll speed will change from normal to fast and the same applies for your running speed. Next we have the Eastwood Grain ring this is very useful for weapons which have very low durability such as curved swords and Crystal weapons. As this ring halves the rate of your weapons deterioration.

Basic Guidelines for Mages

  • Vitality – Depending on your setup your vitality could vary from build to build some mages prefer to have very low vitality and extremely high intelligence allowing them to inflict severe damage from distance.

  • Attunement – A general rule for any mage is they need magic slots without them they are useless therefore most players will raise their attunement to 28 which will grant them 6 slots.

  • Endurance – Mages don't need as much endurance as melee characters because they attack from distance. Generally speaking you shouldn't increase endurance past 30.

  • Strength – Unless you're a battle-mage you don't need a lot of strength as most mages tend to use lighter weapons. As long as you meet the stat requirements you shouldn't increase your strength further.

  • Dexterity - Generally mages don't need to use ranged weapons because they have their magic hence why you don't need to increase this stat unless your weapon demands it.

  • Resistance – Never upgrade this attribute as it is completely useless for mages and melee builds alike. Your tolerances to resistance will increase when you increase your endurance.

  • Intelligence – If you want to get the most damage out of your spells then you will need at least 32 intelligence to wield the Tin Crystallization Catalyst.

  • Faith – Once again raise your faith to 12 so you have access to the heal miracle. This is very useful for PvE and prolonging your PvP sessions.

Magic users tend to wield weapons which are elemental such as fire and lightning because most players don't have a lot of defence against elemental or magic damage. Since your endurance is only at 30 it seems logical to use weapons which are lightweight, fast and don't consume a lot of stamina. Listed below are some of the most popular weapons for magic users.
Moonlight Great Sword –When fully upgraded this is one of the best weapons a mage can use. This weapon only deals magic damage and scales at an S rating based on your intelligence stat. The Moonlight Great sword has a very fast attack due to its weight and it has a very useful R2 special attack which fires a horizontal charge at the player if it connects it will knock them down very useful for narrow spaces or cliff edges.
Claymore – You have 2 upgrade paths that you can take for a typical mage enchanted or magical regardless of your choice the damage of these weapons will be in the region of 500+ with 50 intelligence.
Paladin builds –These characters tend to use weapons upgraded via the Divine and Occult routes as they scale well with their faith stat. Notable weapons include the Crescent Axe, Halberd, Claymore, Partizan and Estoc.
Pyromancer builds – These builds tend to use weapons which inflict fire damage or can be imbued with fire. Notable weapons include Quelaag Fury Sword, Iaito, Uchigatana, Falchion, Spear etc.
Offensive spells – The most powerful spells a typical mage will use are Crystal Homing Soulmass, Crystal Soul Spear, Great Soul Arrow etc. As for faith users they will use Wrath of the Gods, Tranquil Walk of Peace, Darkmoon Blade, Sunlight Spear etc. Pyromancers on the other hand will use Great Chaos Fireball, Great Combustion, Fireballs and occasionally Power within.
Equipment & Apparel
When it comes down to equipment a magic user could have solid stats but without the right equipment the build will never reach its full potential. Listed below are some of the best equipment to suit your play-style.
Catalysts/Talismans – Mages will primarily use the aforementioned Tin Crystallization Catalyst because of its high magical adjustment. Pyromancers will use the Ascended Pyromancy Glove so they get the most damage from their fire spells. Faith users will use the Darkmoon Talisman as it has the highest magic adjustment for a faith character.
Armour – Mages and faith users alike will wear amour that is lightweight and grants them average defence. The main reason they wear light armour is so they don't receive any stamina penalties for wearing encumber-some armour. Pyromancers tend to wear a full set of Gold Hemmed armour or Crimson.
Unique Armour –A perfect example would be the Crown of the Dark Sun. This armour belongs to the Gwyndolin Moonlight set and grants the player around a 10% increase in damage to all their spells. Alternatively you can wear the Crown of Dusk helmet which belongs to the antiquated set which improves all spells by 20%.
Rings – As far as rings are concerned mages tend to wear rings which will increase the power of their spells, for example the Bellowing Dragon Crest ring which increases the damage of your spells by 20 to 26% and stacks with the Crown of Dusk.
Faith users will wear the Ring of the Sun's Firstborn which increases all miracle damage by 20% which also stacks with the Crown of Dusk and the Crown of Dark Sun. They will also wear the Ring of the Sun Princess which boosts miracle synergy, this ring stacks with both the Crowns and the Ring of the Sun for miracles like Force, Emit force and Wrath of the gods.
Miscellaneous Items
Regardless of your characters design a lot of people within the community use consumable items to aid them in battle. Some of these are worth noting some aid your stamina regeneration whilst others can temporarily buff your weapon. Listed below are some of the most popular items used.
Prism Stones – At first glance you would think how can that benefit me? Well the answer is they can be placed in such a fashion that some people will follow the trail of lights on the ground because they suspect that is where you're hiding. Therefore if they follow the trail you can sneak up behind them for an ambush.
Repair Powder Very useful for repairing you right hand weapon without the need to return to a blacksmith or a bonfire.
Humanity – Humanity is used to fully heal your character the most common use of this is when you're out of heals and you're low on Estus flasks.
Green Blossom – These items will regenerate your stamina at a faster rate until the effect wears off. This can be very helpful for players who rely on weapons which deplete their stamina at an alarming rate.
Moss Clumps – Mosses are used to heal status ailments like poison and toxic. Some players will throw poison knives which will still fill your meter even if you block so it's handy to carry them around.
Resins – Resins offer a temp buff to your right hand weapon which comes in 3 forms poison, fire and lightning. These resins will wear off after a minute so don't rely on them to much. Please note that only weapons which deal physical damage only can be buffed.
Firebombs – Firebombs are very useful because as their name suggests they deal fire damage which not many people have a lot of defence against. The Black variety being the most potent can be thrown at your opponents forcing them to evade.


Whatever build you choose whether it be melee or magic spells can play an important role when designing your character. There are over 60 spells in total some are very character specific or situational so choosing the right spells for you will benefit your play-style. Unlike its predecessor Dark Souls has 3 types of spells pyromancy, sorcery and miracles. Listed below are some of the most popular spells for each play-style.
Pyromancy is new to Dark Souls and is one of the most popular forms of magic because of one reason you don't need to invest souls levelling up your character because the stronger your catalyst is the more powerful your pyromancy spells become. There are 19 pyromancy spells in total listed below are some of the most useful.

Great Combustion – Possibly the most over-used pyromancy of them all, Great Combustion has great range and can be used defensively to stop people rushing you down. Offensively Great Combustion is very solid, if your catalyst is fully upgraded it becomes a very powerful tool.

Great Fireball – Great Fireball is great for pyromancers because it has good range and can be used from a safe distance to force your opponent to evade. Great Fireball has 8 charges but if you purchase the spell again in your next playthrough you can equip the same spell twice so you have 16 charges.

Great Chaos Fireball – This is the strongest fireball in the game hence why you only have 4 charges. Unlike most of the other pyromancies you can only learn this pyromancy once. This fireball will require 2 attunement slots which is its only downfall. Once thrown a pool of lava will emerge on the ground causing damage to anyone who gets caught by it.

Fire Tempest/Fire Storm – Fire Tempest is arguably the strongest pyromancy spell. Once used your character will begin charging fire in their hands, after a few seconds a storm of fire will erupt around you causing severe burning to anyone who gets caught by it. Then again Chaos Fire Storm is stronger in terms of damage but it requires 2 attunement slots to use whereas Fire Tempest only requires 1 slot. The only downside to using Fire Tempest in pvp is the amount of time it takes to cast therefore you are vulnerable to attack. If you are planning on using Fire Tempest to your advantage you should use it in narrow areas.

Power Within – Power Within should be used as a last resort unless your build requires it. Once activated Power Within will reduce you health by 1% for the duration of the spell which is 100 seconds. Therefore if you fail to kill your opponent within this time unless you heal you are dead. The benefits of using Power Within are your defences will be increased and your attacks will be 40% more powerful making it easier for you to inflict damage.

Undead Rapport – Not many players use Undead Rapport because it's very situational. Once activated any undead enemies in the vicinity will join forces with you for a limited amount of time. If you're all alone in the Tomb of the Giants and you're being invaded by using this pyromancy your enemies will become your friend.


Miracles are as useful as they were in Demon Souls there are over 20 miracles to find and some are more common then others. Miracles can range from defensive spells like heal to offensive spells like Wrath of the Gods. Listed below are the most common forms.

Heal – Most players won't use heal in pvp instead they prefer to pop a humanity or use a divine blessing to fully recover their life. However Heal should be considered to prolong your pvp. If you have low faith the Thoruland Talisman is the best talisman to use. Heal has 5 charges and can recover around 500 hp per time.

Wrath of the gods – What can I say about this miracle it is one f the most overused in pvp but with good reason. Providing you have a lot of faith and a strong talisman you can inflict severe damage in a single cast. Once casted a sphere will surround your character and will damage any opponents who are within range. If you use power within, Ring of the Sun's firstborn and the Crown of Dusk you can potentially 1 shot people.

Sunlight Spear/Darkmoon Blade – Both of these miracles can imbue your right hand weapon making them more powerful. The only downside is you will need high faith and a strong talisman. To use any of these buffs you will need to stay in the same covenant. As far as damage is concerned providing you are Rank 3 in the Darkwraith Covenant the Darkmoon Blade miracle is the strongest buff in the game.

Great Magic Barrier – Possibly the best defensive miracle in Dark Souls. Since a lot of players use magic to their advantage this miracle will negate magic damage by around 90% for the duration of the spell around 40 seconds. Therefore people who are casters with no form of physical damage can hurt you until your defensive spell wears off.

Tranquil Walk of Peace – Tranquil Walk of Peace is a defensive miracle which will slow your opponent's movement speed providing they are within range for a short period of time allowing you to escape and heal or rush them down.

Grave Lord Great Sword Dance – This miracle is similar to Firestorm except instead of pillars of fire you get pillars of spikes which will send your opponent flying if they get hit. This miracle requires only 1 attunement slot and has 40 charges therefore you can use this miracle twice. Unlike most miracles the Grave Lord Great Sword Dance doesn't require faith to use.


Dark Souls has more than 20 sorceries available and choosing the right one can be important. The highest attunement slots you can get is 12 which requires 50 attunement and 2 rings so if you want to get the most out of your character than you will need to consider each spell and how many slots it requires. Listed below are some of the most popular sorceries.

Homing Crystal Soulmass – Homing Crystal Soulmass is in my opinion one of the best sorceries in the game. Once casted small crystal orbs will appear over your character the amount of orbs produced depends on your intelligence stat 5 being the maximum. These orbs will automatically attack players who get too close to you. A hidden benefit of using this sorcery is that it grants you enough time to either pop a humanity or imbue your weapon because your opponent will be hesitant to approach you when the orbs are in play.

Crystal Soul Spear – Crystal Soul Spear is the most powerful sorcery in the game. It has great range and a large hitbox meaning if you roll too late you will get hit. Since no shield can block 100% magic damage you will still take damage whilst blocking. To maximise the damage you should equip the Tin Crystallization Catalyst and have at least 50 Intelligence. If you want to potentially kill people in a single hit add a Bellowing Dragon Crest Ring and the Crown of Dusk.

Crystal Magic Weapon – Crystal Magic Weapon is one of the strongest ways to imbue your right hand weapon. With high intelligence this buff can add anywhere between 350 to 450 attack to your weapon. Try not to be too dependant on imbuing your weapon because your opponent might play a keep-away game until your buff runs out.

Chameleon – Chameleon can be a great asset for players who wish to play hide and seek with their opponents. Although it doesn't inflict any damage to your enemies it can be used to great effect allowing you to ambush players. Ideally this spell is most useful for assassins blending into the environment. Placing is everything when it comes to this spell as some people will know if something is wrong.

Hidden Body/Hidden Weapon – Once again these spells can make either your right hand weapon invisible for a short period of time or your entire body therefore these are more geared towards assassins. Hidden Weapon can be very useful because if they can't see your weapon then they have no idea what to expect.
White Dragon Breath – This spell requires at least 50 intelligence before you can use it but it does have its benefits especially in narrow spaces. Once casted a trail of crystal will travel along the floor anything that touches it gets damaged. Potentially this sorcery can hit multiple enemies providing they are in-line with each other.

Weapon Types
Dark Souls has a wide range of weapons to compliment your character everything from daggers to bows and arrows. Every weapon can be upgraded via different routes some can add magic damage to your weapon whereas others will add elemental damage such as lightning or fire. Listed below are some of the most frequently used weapons in each category.

Daggers are lightweight and have a higher critical attack than any other weapon. They don't require a lot of stat investment to wield and consume very little stamina when attacking. These weapons generally have a lower damage output than most weapons but they make up for it with there critical attacks. The only drawback to these weapons is their lack of range you will need to be very close to your opponent before you can land a hit. Listed below are the pick of the litter:

Bandit Knife – The Bandit Knife is the holy grail when it comes to daggers. With a critical attack of 147 any backstab or counter attack is going to do a lot of damage. The Bandit Knife comes into its own when coupled with the Hornet's Ring and around 50 Dexterity. Some players may upgrade this weapon via the elemental paths but most will stick to the standard path.

Parrying Dagger – This weapon is mainly used in your offhand as an alternative to the shield. The Parrying Dagger has the longest time window for you to land a counter attack. Not as common as the Bandit Knife but your likely to run into it along the way.

Priscilla's Dagger – This dagger requires a lot more effort to obtain but it's worth the hardship. Priscilla's Dagger has a unique bleed property, every time you attack your opponent a bleed meter will begin to fill up even if they block it. Your meter will also fill, once the meter fills completely you or your opponent will lose half of their life instantly. One way to increase your resistance to bleed is to equip the bloodbite ring and the blood shield.

I hope this guide to character builds has been useful to you if you have any questions/feedback please send me a message on playstation network my gamertag is Phorus. This guide should only be changed by either myself or UnForseen if you would like to contribute please send me a message. Thank you for reading!
Written by Phorus & Unforseen

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