The Shadow Warrior's tragic history can be traced all the way back to Aenarion, the first Phoenix King, who unleashed a powerful curse on his entire bloodline. His son would become their prince and shatter the unification of the Elves with his murderous desire to possess the crown. While most of their countrymen declared loyalty to The Witch King, eventually becoming the Dark Elves, the Shadow Warriors remained faithful to The Phoenix King. Under the circumstances it comes as little surprise that many of the High Elves questioned their true loyalty.
The Shadow Warrior paints a much darker picture of the High Elves; although they are probably the most devoted, their never ending Shadow War has left them as sinister and brutal as their Dark Elf cousins. They believe that the only way they can restore trust in the eyes of the Asur is by eradicating the Dark Elves, and they utilize any and all opportunities to fulfill their oath to do so. Far removed from the scholarly music loving High Elves, the Shadow Warriors are vengeful masters of ambush and guerilla warfare.
I'm sure you have heard dark rumors about us Shadow Warrior's; we are shunned by society to this day. I am Mystriss Freya, here to talk to you about our class and hopefully dispel some of the … misunderstandings you may have heard about us.
I have a saying when it comes to Shadow Warriors; "Trying to fit a round peg into a square hole." This statement applies to a great majority of complaints you might have heard. We are not Bright Wizards, we are not Squig Herders, and we are not Sorceress; we are Shadow Warriors, a unique hybrid class. If you expect to top damage charts all the time, you will most likely be disenchanted, if you expect to find an equal mirror on the enemy side, you will find only frustration, and if you expect to find anything even remotely resembling an easy button on our action bar, you will be disappointed.
Unfortunately for our reputation, many of the people who have quit Shadow Warrior are "trying to fit a round peg into a square hole." They jump in haphazardly, throwing their points into their trees with very little thought and experimentation, and then they attempt to button mash; and fail, repeatedly. In fact, some people's experiences are so horrible that it scar's them for life and they will rage against the class with unexpected hatred. They complain about low damage, they grumble about survivability, and they gripe about the "unavailability" of tools (silence, snares, knock downs, etc.) They say we have no group utility, insist that Bright Wizards are better, and some even claim that Shadow Warrior's are useless and should be removed from the game.
A Shadow Warrior should not be approached with pre-conceived notions of glory, for we are a more subtle class. Our strength cannot be measured by raw damage output, but rather by the efficient application of damage; quality over quantity. Our survivability cannot be measured by our ability to stand toe to toe with the enemy, but rather by our ability to outsmart the enemy; brains before brawn. Our skill set as players must rise above mere button mashing and embrace the whole of our class mechanic to be truly successful.
Shadow Warriors Come in Many Shapes and Forms
I like to think of the Shadow Warrior as a hard-core pleasure class because our mechanic allows us a flexibility that no other class can offer. At first glance Shadow Warrior's follow three basic paths; standing in the back raining death upon your enemy, running around strafing the enemy, and getting up close and personal. However, your Shadow Warrior should not be restricted to forcing yourself to play one of those three play styles; you do not have to force your round peg self into a square hole.
I have played with no less than ten successful Shadow Warriors who each had radically different play styles. Stance bonuses, the ability to stance dance on the fly, and the fact that many of our abilities can be used in multiple stances, offers a unique opportunity to customize your Shadow Warrior to suit the way you enjoy playing, rather than forcing you to modify your play style to fit the class. I can rain death down upon my enemies on the horizon and, with the simple push of a button, open up on mid-ranged targets with softening aoe, and with another push of a button, I can finish them off with my blade. No other Order class can offer such immense flexibility and be so easily molded to fit your particular play style.
This flexibility does come at a price though; the saying "Jack of all trades, master of none" might come to mind. I will not deny that a Bright Wizard has more power in his pinky finger than a Shadow Warrior has in his entire hand. However, I can honestly tell you that we have more than enough power to have a major impact on the battlefield, I can tell you that a well played Shadow Warrior can give Bright Wizards a run for their money, and I can tell you that you will be a far better player for mastering a Shadow Warrior. In fact, you may even find that no other class truly challenges you anymore, you may find that no other class truly fits you anymore, and you just might find yourself addicted to your Shadow Warrior.
The Keys to Success
I believe that one of the key skills of a successful Shadow Warrior is their willingness and desire to study and learn. It is not enough to simply push buttons in the right order; to be a competent Shadow Warrior you must also learn more subtle gaming skills like battlefield awareness, proactive playing, and reading your enemy. These are the things you will learn mostly from firsthand experience; study the ebb and flow of every battle, know your enemy and learn who must be hassled and who can be saved for last. Know the terrain around you, know your escape routes, and keep an eye on where the enemy might flank you.
These skills are useful for any class, but for a Shadow Warrior they can be the difference between being useful to your realm and being a hindrance that brings about the loss of a battle. A brief example, if a healer is rez'ing you they are unable to move and unable to heal others. This process takes an average of 3 seconds and a good healer will spend an average of 3 additional seconds healing you up, and if they are being hit it will take longer; this is an eternity on the battlefield. To put this into perspective, in 3.5 seconds I can take out nearly any light or medium armored target within 110', you give me 8 seconds and I'm libel to take out two healers. (This is one of my strategies; kill one healer then take out a second when they try to rez the first one.)
Realizing that I actually have a lower damage output than most classes on the enemy side, you can easily see how a reckless Shadow Warrior that is constantly dying becomes a hindrance to his realm. (My personal goal is to always be the last one standing.) I could write pages and pages discussing all the subtle skills you will need to be competent as a Shadow Warrior and why, but this document is supposed to be about building a Shadow Warrior rather than playing one so I will be catering the rest of this document to level 40 Shadow Warriors.
Unlike most classes in the game, there is no cookie cutter build for the Shadow Warrior. No two Shadow Warriors in my guild are the same, in either play style or build. In fact, I have little doubt that if you were to talk to every successful Shadow Warrior in the game, you would find a staggering variety of builds. Unfortunately, all this variety does make it a bit difficult to help someone else build their unique Shadow Warrior. Personally, I believe that your build should be based entirely on how you play your Shadow Warrior, rather than on anyone else's build - regardless of how successful that build might be for them.
To get started I recommend throwing all your points into each tree and playing with all the different mastery abilities and mastery tactics. You might want to have a notebook handy to keep track of the pros and cons of the different abilities, tactic sets, as well as logging the builds you try. This can be a long process, but in the end I think it is well worth the effort. I have 27 different builds in my notebook for the "mostly Scout tree" alone and I believe my last full rebuild took nearly 2 hours to complete. (I am not satisfied with simply changing my mastery tree, I also change my renown training, talis, gear, etc. to get the most out of each build.)
Once you have a good understanding of the abilities that fit into your play style you can start by putting your points into the tree that encompasses the majority of those abilities, then go back and experiment with getting other favorite abilities out of other mastery trees. Never be afraid to try out different things no matter how odd your thoughts might initially sound, you may find it fits perfectly into your play style. I do not believe there is any such thing as a "wrong" build with this class, (and yes, I do know a few awesome melee Shadow Warriors.)
The Twisted Path
When speaking to Shadow Warriors you will often hear them refer to themselves as "Scout/Skirmish," "Skirmish/Assault," "Scout/Assault," etc.; this is the language of the stance dancers. I firmly believe that if you want to get the most out of your Shadow Warrior you must learn to stance dance, for that is the only way you can fully utilize all of your available debuffs, silences, snares, etc. I highly recommend that you bind the stances you will be using to keys so you can switch back and forth as necessary; point and click stance dancing will often result in finding yourself stanceless and in serious trouble. Of course, stance dancing also means spending Mastery points in multiple trees which is where your testing of all the trees and abilities will help you decide where to put your points.
This is where my guide ends, from here out it is up to you to create the unique Shadow Warrior that fits your play style; no one else can do this for you. I shall leave you with a summary for each of the mastery trees and a few hints and tips for specializations. - May vengeance guide your arrows.
The Path of the Scout
Brought to you by Mystriss Freya of <Der Ruhmzug>
The Scout tree is your "standing in the back raining death upon your enemies" specialization. Here you will find long range, slower casting, non-mobile, abilities that can seriously hurt your victims. The Scout Shadow Warrior can fill a supportive role by debuff'ing and silencing the enemies' forces, an offensive role by focusing on single targets, or a combination of both. A couple of important things to keep in mind about the Scout Mastery is that your points in this tree will increase the effectiveness of both your armor/block debuff and your silence.
The Scout Mastery Tree
No Quarter (decreases the build time of Eagle Eye but increases the AP cost)
Enchanted Arrows (Bypasses enemies resists on Flame Arrow and Festering Arrow)
Guerrilla Training (reduces the AP cost of Scout abilities by 35%)
The Path of the Skirmisher
Brought to you by Calafalas of <Der Ruhmzug>
The Skirmisher tree is your "running around strafing the enemy" specialization. Here you will find quick casting, highly mobile, shorter-ranged abilities that will do moderate damage to your enemies. It is important to remember that as a Shadow Warrior you're a guerrilla fighter at best, but this is most important for people who spec full skirmish. Skirmish is best used to pick out the weaknesses in an enemy group and there are many abilities to soften up targets and help beat down groups; make sure you experiment with them to see which ones are best for you. I prefer to think of skirmish not as a tree that helps you do good damage, but as one that allows you to manipulate the enemy better than the other stances. I have personally had healers break from healing their tanks just to try and kill me, only to end up dead because their "guard bot" suddenly died from a lack of heals.
The Skirmisher Mastery Tree
Split Arrows (converts Spiral-Fletched arrow into an aoe that does 30% less damage)
Keen Arrowheads (increases the dot duration of Eye Shot and Takedown and increases the duration of takedowns stun by 5s)
Charge Forth (Increases the chance to critically hit with skirmish abilities by 20% but decreases their max range by 20')
The Path of Assault
Assault as a secondary tree brought to you by Calafalas of <Der Ruhmzug>
Assault as a primary tree brought to you by Mystriss Freya of <Der Ruhmzug>
The Assault tree is your "up close and personal" specialization. It is important to understand that switching into assault stance will not turn you into an mdps class. I find this tree slightly disappointing for primarily ranged Shadow Warriors; unless you are willing to fully commit to a melee Shadow Warrior you will probably find the damage sub-par, the mortality rate extremely high, and the majority of your points better spent in your ranged trees. However, if you have a good group a full melee Shadow Warrior is a viable option, though I still feel that a Shadow Warrior is far more effective with their ranged skills. (If you are interested in the results of Mystriss Freya's extensive Assault testing, feel free to visit the Assault Shadow Warrior page.)
The Assault Mastery Tree
No Respite (increases chance to parry by 10% and each time you parry your chance to critically hit increases by 10%)
Sinister Assault (Allows Brutal Assault to bypass victims armor)
Merciless Soldier (Reduces AP cost of Assault abilities by 35%)