Mercenary is one of the starting classes in Dark Souls 3 and is particularly attractive to new players.
Fans of rouges and dual swordsmen in other games are going to be instantly drawn towards the class thanks to its ability to dual wield scimitars. As well as that, you can still use a shield if you want. This makes is an unusually good option for a technically proficient starting player.
Mercenaries have the highest dexterity out of all the starting classes. This lets it appeal to fans of perfect optimization builds as it allows you to build a dexterity character that out scales all of the other classes. As well as that, given that quality builds are the most recommended for new players, the mercenary is a perfect choice for your first playthrough.
How to Get Mercenary
Like we said, the mercenary is one of the starting classes in the game, so there are no requirements that you need to fulfil in order to get your hands on it. However, there are some early game nuggets of knowledge that you need to be aware of to use the class effectively.
Mercenaries start with particularly low luck which makes farming for effective weapons a pain. Make sure that you pick the gold coins as your starting gift to combat this. In particular, you should be using these to farm for the Lothric Knight Sword. This sword requires 18 dexterity to use, which is perfect for mercenaries and has a beginner-friendly move set.
The Lothric Knight Sword is one of the best swords in the game and scales fantastically with your strength and dexterity, as well as if you decide to infuse to allow it to scale with faith (more on that later).
Effective Mercenary Combat
Like any class, what kind of playstyle you should be employed with a mercenary depends on how you build it, and what stats you’re focusing on. Having said that, one of the best mercenary builds is a dexterity and faith build, so that’s what your combat playstyle should revolve around.
Focus on using long ranged lightning attacks, as well as attacking up close with a lightning buffed weapon. This combination is going to allow you to completely shred through enemy’s health bars, even as you progress into the late-game.
As you might expect, though, this playstyle sucks when you come up against enemies that have lightning resistance, so you need to be able to adapt and not just rely on that extra damage and range.
Mercenary Essential Steps
Unlike some of the techier classes in the game, there isn’t much that you have to do to make the mercenary viable. However, there are some fundamental things to be aware of.
As you’re progressing through your playthrough, make sure you’re aiming to reach the dexterity soft cap of 40. Not only is this going to make your dex scaling weapons more powerful, but it’s going to let you use a wider variety of weapons.
As well as Dex, you might want to spec into faith depending on what you’re building. A lot of mercenary setups rely on lightning buffs and spells, both of which are governed by faith. Lastly, don’t spend some points on your endurance. You’re going to be doing a lot of casting, rolling, and attacking, all of which costs stamina. And the higher your endurance the longer your stamina bar is.
If we’re talking early game loot, an alternative you have to the Lothric Knight Sword is the Katana. This blade is great for mercenary builds in the early game but can be quite a challenge for beginners to actually obtain, given that you get it by defeating the Sword Master.
This enemy is located left of the entrance to Firelink Shrine. Make sure that when fighting him, you pay attention to the position of his sword. When he holds it above his head, he is able to parry you, which can catch new players off guard.
If you persevere and defeat him, you’ll have your hands on one of the best early game mercenary weapons. That being said, the Twinblades that you start with are well useable all the way through the game, as well. Don’t feel pressured to give them up if you don’t want to.
Best Mercenary Builds
You can make any build in the game with any class. Want a mage that specializes in strength? Go for it.
That being said, the early game boost to the various stats make certain classes lean towards some builds more than others. For mercenaries, this is going to be dexterity, obviously. However, that’s not the only way you can build one. In particular, new players are better off going for a quality build, which levels dexterity and strength equally.
Mercenary Quality Build
A quality build is the best choice for a new mercenary player because it doesn’t overcommit you to one specific playstyle. If you invest solely in dexterity, you’re limited in what weapons you use and how you approach combat.
As a new player, you want to be able to experience as much as possible in your first playthrough so that you can find out what you like, and what you don’t.
Dex / Str 40 – by investing equally into both strength and dexterity, you maintain a strong damage output while also avoiding the trap of pigeonholing yourself into one specific weapon type.
That 40/40 split is the foundation of the quality build, so you do have a bit of freedom after that. However, most quality builds are made up of a 40/40/40/40 split across your two attack stats, vigor, and endurance. So if you don’t want to get experimental then this is your best bet.
Remember, as a starting player you’re going to burn through your stamina bar like paper, and enemies are going to have no problem cobbering you for all of your health. Having more of both these resources is going to make your first experience of Dark Souls 3 more fun, and a little bit more manageable.
Equipment and Armor
- Life Ring
- Ring of Favor
- Chloranthy Ring
Our quality build is focusing on the foundational elements of Dark Souls 3’s combat, being damage, stamina, and health.
Following this theme, we’re avoiding getting technical with our ring choices and going for pure stamina / health buffs. The life ring gives us +10% percent HP when at +3, which combined with the +6% percent from the Ring of Favor is going to be massive for our survivability.
The +3 Ring of Favor also comes with a stamina buff of 11.5% percent, and an equip load increase of 8% percent. Our Chloranthy Ring gives us +10 points per second for our stamina recovery speed, which allows for our three-ring combo to balance out perfectly between health and stamina.
Armor doesn’t mean all that much to most builds in Dark Souls 3, and that applies here, too. You can use whatever armor you think looks good so long as you keep your equip load below 70% percent. Any higher than that and you start doing “fat rolls,” which are slow and offer you less invincibility frames.
Given that we are investing solely into dex, str, vig, and end, we don’t have too many fancy options when it comes to spell choice. However, if you really want some spells to complement the build, your best three options are weapon buffs, Magic Barrier, and Sacred Oath.
Like the rest of the build, these spells are strictly for complementing our physical damage output and survivability. Weapon buffs are self-explanatory, giving you extra damage in the form of some kind of enchantment.
Magic Barrier is going to give you increased resistance to magic damage which can be handy for a number of fights in the game, and Sacred Oath gives us even more weapon damage, as well as absorption for extra survivability.
Mercenary Dex / Faith Build
Dexterity and Faith hybrid builds are some of the best in Dark Souls 3 in account of just how versatile they are.
You get the best of both worlds in the form of powerful miracles, as well as dealing a lot of damage with your physical weapon.
While the Knight class is generally the preferred choice for this build, you can run a mercenary just as well.
Dex 40 – 40 is the softcap for your dexterity skill, which is why we never go above it with the exception of some pure dexterity builds. 40 is going to give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to investment versus damage.
Faith 60 – Like dexterity, we raise faith up to 60 because that is the skills softcap. This skill governs our miracle casting, including how effective a miracle is and what we can cast in the first place.
You can put the rest of your points into whatever skills you deem fit. You could pump up vigor to the first softcap of 17 for some extra health, and you might consider raising strength to 16 to gain access to a range of better shields and weapons, if that’s a route you want to go down.
You should also consider raising your attunement up to 24 so that you have four spell slots, as well as having just enough FP to case three sunlight spears from one Ashtus flask.
Equipment and Armor
- Monre’s Ring
- Ring of the Sun’s First Born
- Lightning Clutch Ring
Our primary source of damage with this build is going to be from our miracles, so naturally we’re going to want rings that increase the effectiveness of those miracles.
Monre’s ring is a simple, yet powerful, damage buff. It grants a flat 12% percent increase. The Ring of the Sun’s First Born is identical in its effect, except we’re getting +20% precent instead of 12. On top of that, the Lightning Clutch Ring increases the damage of all our lightning-based attacks by 15% percent.
Altogether, these three rings are going to result in a 47% percent increase to our lightning miracles, which is absolutely massive. In terms of weapons, your best bet is to go with either the Gothard Twinswords infused with a sharp gem and lightning buffs, or a lightning Lothric Knight Sword that has been infused for faith scaling.
If you want to purely maximize your potential damage output, the Twinswords are the way to go. Not only does each attack hit like a truck, but you can dish them out at an unreasonably fast speed, too. The Lothric Knight Sword deals slightly less damage but is the safer option of the two. Given that the majority of your damage output is going to be coming from miracles, this is the better option out of the two overall.
The spells are the most important aspect of this build, so it’s important that you know what you should be using. There are six in particular that you should focus on.
Sunlight Spear is one of the bread and butter spells of miracle builds in Dark Souls 3. It has the highest potential damage output of any spell in the game, as well as dealing double lightning damage if you strike an enemy within melee range. If you time your uses right, this spell combined with this build is going to completely shred through most regular enemies in the game.
This is going to be our go-to weapon buff, for obvious reasons. Our high faith skill along with the amount of spell damage buffs we have means that lightning blade is going to be adding upwards of 300 damage to our weapons every time we buff them.
Sacred Oath is a staple of most builds in Dark Souls 3, not just the miracle-based ones. You really can’t go wrong with the weapon buff / absorption combo.
This miracle is essentially a modified version of Sacred Oath. You get less damage and absorption buffs, but it comes with an additional resistance buff. While that’s all well and good, the two miracles actually stack, which is super useful.
The Sunlight Stake is essentially a melee equivalent to Sunlight Spear. It has a longer cast time but to combat that does AoE damage. If you find that you struggle to hit your targets, particularly in PvP, this miracle might be worth looking into.
Tears of Denial
Tears of Denial is a great miracle that can come in very handy against some of the tougher bosses in the game. It allows you to survive a lethal hit with one HP, which can be all the difference between winning and losing a boss fight.
Almighty Wrath of Gods
Almighty Wrath is surprisingly powerful considering how early you can get it, but it does have a long cast time to balance that out. While it can be useful in PvP, the best application of this miracle is going to be clearing out hordes of weak enemies.
If you’re building a miracle-based mercenary, then the spells above should be your go-to options regardless of whether or not you build this specific version.
The Best Overall Options for Mercenary Builds
Unless you’re building some super-tricky mercenary build, then the fundamental miracles and items that you’re going to be using stay the same, with the exception of different infusions.
Weapon wise, you’re always going to want to be using the Twinblades or the Lothric Knight Sword. The Twinblades have a higher damage output potential, especially when scaled correctly. However, using them means that you have no shield and run out of stamina quicker, so it takes a bit more skill to master them.
The Lothric Knight Sword is a safer and more convenient option for mercenary builds. It’s still capable of very high damage outputs but plays far more down to earth then the stylish dual-wielding of the Twin blades. Plus, you get the option of using a shield with it. It has attack patterns that are easy to remember, as well as good swing speed. Combined with its scaling with dexterity, and it makes it the perfect foundational weapon for a mercenary build.
Like we mentioned briefly above, what armor you use really doesn’t matter in Dark Souls. Sure, if you’re going for some super-meta ultra-optimized builds, then you’re going to want a carefully selected armor choice. However, it’s exceedingly unlikely that any of you reading this are. Instead, just wear whatever armor you feel comfortable with and think looks cool.
The only condition you need to meet is that your armor doesn’t take your equipment load above 70% percent, otherwise you’re going to have to make some changes.
Hopefully our guide has helped you wrap your head around the fundamentals of playing a mercenary in Dark Souls 3.
While class isn’t the be all and end all of builds, you are going to get a head start with dexterity when playing a mercenary, making it a viable alternative to the knight for a lot of builds.
You get great versatility, with the option to build for quality, or to spec for faith. This along with the style points you get for playing a build that is designed to dual wield makes the mercenary one of the better starting classes in Dark Souls 3.