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 will be instantly drawn to 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 it 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, allowing you to build a dexterity character that scales out all 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.
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. One of the best mercenaries builds is a dexterity and faith build, so that’s what your combat playstyle should revolve around.
Focus on using long-ranged lightning attacks and attacking up close with a lightning-buffed weapon. This combination will allow you to completely shred through the 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 you have to do to make the mercenary viable. However, there are some fundamental things to be aware of.
As you progress through your playthrough, ensure you aim to reach the dexterity soft cap of 40. Not only will this make your dex scaling weapons more powerful, but it will also let you use a wider variety of weapons.
As well as Dex, you might want to spec into faith, depending on your building. Many mercenary setups rely on lightning buffs and spells governed by faith. Lastly, don’t spend some points on your endurance. You’ll be doing a lot of casting, rolling, and attacking, all of which cost 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 challenging for beginners, 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. He can parry you when he holds it above his head, catching 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 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 said, the early game boost to the various stats makes certain classes lean towards some builds more than others. For mercenaries, this is going to be dexterity. 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 best 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 strength and dexterity, you maintain a strong damage output while avoiding the trap of pigeonholing yourself into one specific weapon type.
That 40/40 split is the foundation of the quality build, so you have some freedom after that. However, most quality builds comprise a 40/40/40/40 split across your two attack stats, vigor, and endurance. So if you don’t want to get experimental, this is your best bet.
Remember, as a starting player, you will burn through your stamina bar like paper, and enemies will have no problem clobbering you for all your health. Having more of these resources will make your first experience of Dark Souls 3 more fun and a little more manageable.
Equipment and Armor
- Life Ring
- Ring of Favor
- Chloranthy Ring
Our quality build focuses on the foundational elements of Dark Souls 3’s combat: damage, stamina, and health.
Following this theme, we’re avoiding getting technical with our ring choices and pursuing 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, will be massive for our survivability.
The +3 Ring of Favor also has a stamina buff of 11.5% and an equip load increase of 8%. Our Chloranthy Ring gives us +10 points per second for our stamina recovery speed, allowing our three-ring combo to balance perfectly between health and stamina.
Armor doesn’t mean all that much to most builds in Dark Souls 3, which applies here, too. You can use whatever armor you think looks good if you keep your equip load below 70%. Any higher than that, you start doing “fat rolls,” which are slow and offer fewer invincibility frames.
Given that we are investing solely in dex, str, vig, and end, we don’t have too many fancy options regarding spell choice. However, if you 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 enchantment.
Magic Barrier will give you an increased resistance to magic damage, which can be handy for several fights in the game. Sacred Oath gives us even more weapon damage and absorption for extra survivability.
Mercenary Dex / Faith Build
Dexterity and Faith hybrid builds are some of the best in Dark Souls 3 because they are versatile.
You get the best of both worlds in the form of powerful miracles and 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 soft cap for your dexterity skill, so we never exceed it except for some pure dexterity builds. Forty will give you the most bang for your buck regarding investment versus damage.
Faith 60 – Like dexterity, we raise faith to 60 because that is the skills soft cap. 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 soft cap 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 to 24 so that you have four spell slots and enough FP to case three sunlight spears from one Estus flask.
Equipment and Armor
- Monre’s Ring
- Ring of the Sun’s First Born
- Lightning Clutch Ring
Our primary damage source with this build will be from our miracles, so naturally, we 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% percent 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 will result in a 47% increase in our lightning miracles, which is massive. Regarding weapons, your best bet is to go with the Gothard Twinswords infused with a sharp gem and lightning buffs or a lightning Lothric Knight Sword infused for faith scaling.
If you want to maximize your potential damage output purely, the Twinswords are the way to go. Not only does each attack hit like a truck, but you can also dish them out at an unreasonably fast speed. The Lothric Knight Sword deals slightly less damage but is the safer option. Given that most of your damage output will come from miracles, this is the better option of the two overall.
The spells are the most important aspect of this build, so you must know what you should use. 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 and deals double lightning damage if you strike an enemy within melee range.
If you time your uses right, this spell, combined with this build, will 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 and the amount of spell damage buffs we have mean that lightning blades will add 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 the Sacred Oath. You get fewer damage and absorption buffs, but it has an additional resistance buff. While that’s all well and good, the two miracles stack, which is super useful.
The Sunlight Stake is essentially a melee equivalent to Sunlight Spear. It has a longer cast time but combat that does AoE damage. If 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 helpful in PvP, the best application of this miracle will be clearing out hordes of weak enemies.
If you’re building a miracle-based mercenary, the spells above should be your go-to option 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 you will be using stay the same, with the exception of different infusions.
Weapon-wise, you’ll always want to use the Twinblades or the Lothric Knight Sword. The Twinblades have a higher damage output potential, especially when scaled correctly. However, using them means you have no shield and run out of stamina quicker, so mastering them takes a bit more skill to master them.
The Lothric Knight Sword is a safer, more convenient option for mercenary builds. It’s still capable of very high damage outputs but plays far more down-to-earth than the stylish dual-wielding of 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, it makes it the perfect foundational weapon for a mercenary build.
As mentioned briefly above, what armor you use doesn’t matter in Dark Souls. Sure, if you’re going for some super-meta ultra-optimized builds, you’ll want a carefully selected armor choice. However, it’s exceedingly unlikely that any of you reading this are. Instead, wear whatever armor you feel comfortable with and think looks cool.
The only condition you must meet is that your armor doesn’t take your equipment load above 70%. 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 will get a head start with dexterity when playing a mercenary, making it a viable alternative to the knight for many builds.
You get great versatility, with the option to build for quality or spec for faith. This, along with the style points you get for playing a build designed to dual-wield, makes the mercenary one of the better starting classes in Dark Souls 3.