Elden Ring Ashes of War are exceptionally potent skills that completely change the way you play the game. Ranking every one of these abilities in one place is daunting task as a result, but we’ve attempted to do just that with our Ashes of War tier list. The hope is that, by pitting them all against each other, we can give players an at-a-glance idea of what to use and why. Or at least what to set their sights on first when customizing their Elden Ring arsenal. The current end result is what you see below. The simple table includes all known Ashes of War in the game so far.
Once you take a look, you can read below the table to find a more detailed description of our process in creating this tier list.
NOTE: Reading past this point will lead to MINOR SPOILERS for Elden Ring. This is a game all about exploration and discovery. Some players might not even want a hint of a whiff of what new powers await them. If that’s you, skip this for now and come back later! Though we suspect you already know what you’re in for if you’ve read this far. With that out of the way, here’s the current Ashes of War tier list in its simplest form.
UPDATE 1.03: FromSoftware went and surprise launched a major balance update: Patch 1.03 for Elden Ring. Rankings and notes have been slightly adjusted to reflect these changes, but most of the documented changes affected Sorceries. You can read the official patch notes here. The changes were also addressed in our Sorceries tier list, Spirit Ashes tier list, and Incantations tier list, respectively.
UPDATE 1.04: Elden Ring just released another huge balance patch in the form of Update 1.04. You can read the full patch notes here while we continue testing the changes and updating our rankings. Please be aware that the update almost entirely consists of buffs, however. The only documented nerf to a weapon skill is a damage reduction on Thundercloud Form, which is a skill exclusive to the Dragon King’s Cragblade and thus not actually an Ash of War at all. Many of the weapon skill changes, in fact, seem to specifically target unique and/or boss weapons — like the Dark Moon Greatsword. Most (though not all) of the actual Ashes of War appear to be unaffected. Though FromSoft does sometimes deploy undocumented “shadow buffs/nerfs” that change things without being mentioned in the patch notes.
|Seppuku||Bloodhound’s Step||Flame of the Redmanes|
|Flaming Strike||Glintblade Phalanx||Golden Land||Raptor of the Mists||Sword Dance|
|Shield Bash||Quickstep||Shield Crash||Blood Blade||Hoarfrost Stomp|
|Bloody Slash||Square Off||Prelate’s Charge||Ice Spear||Hoarah Loux’s Earthshaker|
|Glintstone Pebble||Black Flame Tornado||Lion’s Claw|
|Piercing Fang||Prayerful Strike||Shared Order||Sacred Blade||Golden Vow|
|Sacred Ring of Light||Royal Knight’s Resolve||Rain of Arrows||Phantom Slash|
|Spinning Slash||Chilling Mist||Lightning Ram||Unsheathe||Storm Assault|
|Gravitas||Stamp: Upward Cut||Golden Parry||Carian Retaliation||Mighty Shot|
|Wild Strikes||Cragblade||Giant Hunt||Braggart’s Roar||Earthshaker|
|Lifesteal Fist||Sky Shot||Storm Wall||No Skill||Enchanted Shot|
|Golden Slam||Holy Ground||Thunderbolt||Vow of the Indomitable||Sacred Order|
|Beast’s Roar||Carian Grandeur||Carian Greatsword||Storm Stomp|
|Assassin’s Gambit||Storm Blade||Spinning Weapon||Double Slash||Charge Forth|
|Stormcaller||Thops’s Barrier||Loretta’s Slash||Impaling Thrust||Lightning Slash|
|Eruption||Poisonous Mist||Endure||Stamp: Sweep||Blood Tax|
|Determination||Barricade Shield||Kick||Barbaric Roar||War Cry|
|Parry||Barrage||Through and Through||Ground Slam||Vacuum Slice|
|White Shadow’s Lure||Spectral Lance||Poison Moth Flight||Troll’s Roar||Repeating Thrust|
|Waves of Darkness|
What is Being Ranked?
Elden Ring includes unique in-game items called Ashes of War. These can be applied to a variety of “normal” weapons throughout the game — usually limited to a certain weapon category or categories. This list does not include every skill found in the game. Some abilities (even a few very good ones) are tied to particular weapons. Since these are completely locked into particular stats and movesets, however, they can’t be totally compared to swappable Ashes of War one-to-one.
(Let’s be real, though. Sword of Night and Flame and Moonveil are still great, even after being nerfed. Icerind Hatchet and Bloodhound Claws are also excellent, since they include some great Ashes of War by default. You don’t always need a custom Ash of War to make something work.)
What Do the Rankings Mean?
Elden Ring players are pretty lucky. Weapon skills trend toward “overwhelmingly powerful” more than “completely useless.” There just aren’t very many genuine duds in the bunch. You’re sure to find some player out there who swears one unpopular skill or another works for them. Often if you “just use Bloodflame Blade first,” or “summon Mimic Tear afterwards,” or “hit the enemy during an opening.”
Well… Yes. Most skills work well with setup, prep, practice, and/or patience. That’s a good thing. That’s variety. And players should be proud of their ability to have fun and make X, Y, Z work well with a particular build. Yet accounting for every single, possible scenario in the game is not the intent behind this or any other tier list. As such, we’ve categorized most Ashes of War between S and D ranks, to acknowledge that pretty much anything can work.
Here’s what those mean at a glance:
- S – Great in nearly all situations.
- A – Good to great in most situations.
- B – Good in a wide variety of situations. Great with a particular weapon or build.
- C – Not generally recommended, but either situationally useful or broadly effective with setup.
- D – Not generally recommended: either because the benefits are too niche to matter regularly, or because other skills do the same thing but better.
We elected not to include an F tier because nearly all Ashes of War in the game seem at the very least functional. Even if that function isn’t terribly appealing to us. Getting any more granular with higher and lower tiers (or pluses and minuses) felt pedantic to the point of opaqueness, rather than informative.
You’ll probably notice an exception to this rule at the bottom of the list, as well. The asterisk (*) tier currently only represents Waves of Darkness. It seems like a fairly interesting and potentially powerful attack. The problem is that it still needs a patch — and not in a good way.
The skill’s final follow-up attack currently doesn’t work in PVE; it simply glides through enemies without hitting them. The situation is even worse in PVP, where the follow-up skill still doesn’t work, but the opening wave of the attack also clips through enemies without dealing damage. Since this is the result of an obvious glitch, rather than a balance issue, it didn’t feel right to create an F tier just for this unfortunate ash. Instead we moved it to limbo at the bottom until there’s a fix. Note that Waves of Darkness has not been fixed as of Elden Ring Patch 1.03.
You might also notice Hoarfrost Stomp has moved. This easily accessible Ash of War was a mainstay for Elden Ring speedrunners and casual players alike. It hit hard and fast, covered a large area-of-effect, and cost very little FP (the Elden Ring equivalent of mana). It also clips over and through certain surfaces unlike in-game projectiles. But we suspected, like many, that it would be affected by the first major Elden Ring balance patch. Lo and behold, everyone was right.
Patch 1.03 didn’t completely ruin the skill, though. It did at least halve the immediate damage and tack on a bit of extra animation time. It still seems like an extremely potent weapon art: capable of hitting multiple enemies at medium-range, staggering, and applying Frostbite quickly. And Frostbite is still damn good (dealing major damage on its own and applying a lengthy defense debuff to the afflicted). You just can’t sit back and treat it as your permanent main attack anymore. For now we’ve moved it down to the A tier — and abolished the special “S+” tier it previously held by itself.
How Are the Rankings Selected?
Every tier list is different. Mathematical details obviously have some impact, but different players weigh different elements — such as animation time, super armor, damage, range, status effects, etc. — differently. Much like a regular review. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. If you understand that, and still believe there is any such thing as an “objective opinion,” then go with God(wyn) my friend.
We consider both PVE and PVP applications for this list, with moderately greater emphasis placed on PVE. This is operating under the assumption that most players focus on single-player and/or cooperative play rather than invasions and duels. The logic is that the game is first and foremost an action-RPG. While there is a very dedicated competitive player base, PVP is an almost entirely optional and opt-in element of a much larger Elden Ring community, while progressing through dungeons and bosses is not.
This is of course largely inferred from anecdotal evidence. The closest thing we have to public data on the percentage of players that invade is the “Shardbearer Mohg” achievement for defeating the boss of the same name. This has a completion rate of 13.8 percent on PlayStation and 9.8 percent on Steam at the time of this writing. Mohg is only accessible for most of the game by players who invade at least three times.
This is obviously a very flawed metric. Not every play who invades — even frequently — will immediately defeat or even attempt to fight the boss. Conversely, players may also reach Mohg through a portal in one of the final areas of Elden Ring. Others still may invade the requisite three times to reach the appropriate PVE area and then stop. Everyone is simply operating under assumptions without direct specifics from FromSoftware.
These simply help us weigh other factors, though. All Ashes of War have been tested on a post-game save and compared to various online discussions. Extremely specialized and extremely generalized skills tend to fall somewhere in the middle — around the C and B tiers — for opposing reasons.
Broadly applicable skills, like Golden Vow for example, are nearly always useful. Though they may struggle to stand apart from the pack in any one regard. Hence the middle placement on the list.
The latter camp is where you find a lot of abilities that specifically excel in PVP. Competitive play is quite different from basic Elden Ring combat; it’s more about predicting and exploiting common player habits than reacting to a concrete suite of actions. This includes stunning players out of dodge rolls (a.k.a. “roll catching”) or baiting them into attacks before you quickly strike first. Since PVP is a more niche part of the game, requiring skills that don’t necessarily translate into the meat of Elden Ring, these Ashes of War instead trend toward the middle due to a lack of general application.
The higher tiers usually offer both: versatility across most common gameplay encounters in addition to something that makes them stand out. Though there are always exceptions. These same rules apply to both our Incantations tier list and our Sorceries tier list as well.
Important Notes on Specific Ashes of War
- The standard Parry is ranked D largely because it’s flatly outclassed by other, similar skills (Buckler Parry, Golden Retaliation, Carian Retaliation, etc.).
- No Skill is “C” ranked because it’s not… good. Nor is it bad. It’s literally nothing at all. However, it’s the very definition of “situational,” since there are times when you want one weapon skill to override the other (such as when using a shield).
- Seppuku is similar to Bloody Slash in that it’s simply too good at what it does to go unrecognized. Blood Loss is an exceptionally potent status effect in Elden Ring at the moment and there is almost no better source for it than the (extremely long-lasting) buff from Seppuku.
- Bloodhound’s Step is terrific all on its own. It functions as a superior dodge usable with any equip load that’s faster than running. Its value then skyrockets against Malenia — arguably the hardest boss in Elden Ring — by all but neutralizing her most dangerous attacks. You can dodge her three-hit mega-combo with ease and make the fight manageable, if not downright easy. The same goes for most fights throughout the game.
- Unsheathe is good but limited. It does what several Ashes of War do (good stagger damage at close range). Moonveil is a straight upgrade for anyone using a Katana and leveling Intelligence, however, and if you’re using Katanas anyway you might as well go for the best one.
- Square Off: Perhaps one of the most underrated Ashes of War in the game. Especially for melee purists. It functions like “Unsheathe for Straight Swords,” but provides more versatility with outstanding damage, posture damage, and range/gap-closing. Pair it with the Lordsworn’s Straight Sword for the Critical Hit bonus to take advantage of the high posture damage.
- Raptor of the Mists is exceptional, in theory, but requires you to basically retrain your brain to use properly. It reduces your hit box while providing temporary invincibility if something does hit. Then it automatically readies a jumping attack for extra posture damage. No FP is consumed if the skill doesn’t trigger and you can roll cancel out of the crouch to boot. One weird quirk is that getting hit during the invincibility period still makes the “you’ve just taken damage” sound. This can interfere with muscle memory until you practice a bit.
- Giant Hunt is good for precisely what its name implies. It lets low-swinging Colossal Weapons hit high. It also gives Colossal Weapons a fast gap-closer to punish small openings (which heavier armaments often lack). It’s somewhat niche, due to its limited choice of weapon categories, but very good on those weapons.
- Spinning Strikes is absurdly good damage and can be rolled out of neatly, after a short windup, but doesn’t provide a lot of safety or openings on its own. Use it to exploit large damage windows or attack slow enemies.
- Blood Loss once again comes in clutch with Prelate’s Charge. The skill is best used with a bleed-centric weapon for major stagger and the ability to proc multiple instances of Blood Loss in a single charge.
- Mighty Shot vs. Barrage (and other bow skills): Bows are tremendously useful. They’re also slightly finnicky and rely on ammunition that can’t be crafted mid-battle. Outside of cheesing field bosses, though, the value in bows is often applying status effects at a distance very quickly. Mighty Shot increases status buildup on its single arrow, somewhat defeating the purpose of Barrage, which burns through additional arrows. Rain of Arrows is the best of both worlds. Other bow skills have niche applications or can trip up enemy players in PVP.
- Poison Moth Flight is an interesting concept but has a strange short-range projectile that’s difficult to land. Painfully slow windup speed makes it even harder to land than it already would be and the damage proc dissipates the Poison you just applied. I’m once again sorely tempted to make an F tier just for this.
- Flame of the Redmanes has deceptively long range and does solid damage in an AoE arc. Its true power, however, lies in how it consistently staggers bosses within just 2-3 uses — leaving them consistently open to Critical Hits.
- Flaming Strike lacks the stagger power of Flame of the Redmanes, but retains its surprising range. It can also be chained with a heavy follow-up attack that catches PVP players off-guard like you wouldn’t believe. Easily the best among the “buff your weapon after an attack” skill archetype.
- Glintstone Pebble should absolutely not be overlooked. Just ignore the silly name. Its damage scales surprisingly well and staggers enemies better than you might expect. Its real value is in its follow-up thrusting attack, which also hits hard while functioning as a gap-closer, and chains very quickly. The one downside is short range on the starting projectile. This has been moved to A tier to help reflect the overall power curve of Ashes of War shifting post Patch 1.03.
- Sacred Ring of Light isn’t as exciting as the Cleanrot Knights make it seem. But it is another very spammable projectile with a confusing delay that often trips up PVPers. Like Unsheathe, however, it has a superior equivalent tied to a specific weapon: the Halo Scythe.
- Note that while Hoarah Loux’s Earthshaker has a long windup time, it staggers opponents at point black range and provides super armor before unleashing what appears to be an unblockable AoE.
- Golden Land notably triggers “on hit” effects. Attach it to the Sacred Butchering Knife, for instance, and the eventual laser bolts will heal you.
- Bloody Slash (Patch 1.03): Low range, but absolutely incredible damage for its cost. This is an example of a hyper-specific skill simply being too good at its particular function to stay out of A rank. It was already an edge case for S rank before Patch 1.03, but now with a small nerf (more HP cost, longer cast time, and slightly less damage) it sits more solidly in this tier.
- Bloody Slash (Patch 1.03): As noted above, Waves of Darkness has not been fixed as of Patch 1.03.
- Determination and Royal Knight’s Resolve (Patch 1.03): We previously noted that these skills were overvalued due to affecting spells without consuming the effect of the buff. These skills have been moved down one tier each to reflect this bug being fixed in the latest patch.
- Barricade Shield (Patch 1.03): We previously noted this was an edge case between S and A. It got the nod before Patch 1.03 due to the strength of Guard Counters in Elden Ring. Barricade Shields trivializes stamina management with heavy shields — and a good number of bosses along with it — but unlike Bloodhound’s Step it also contributes to posture damage via Guard Counters. The skill was directly nerfed with a shorter duration and higher FP cost in Patch 1.03. At the same time, shields in general were actually buffed with greater Guard Boost by default, which adjusts the curve against Barricade Shield’s favor. It’s been moved down to C tier to reflect this.
- Lightning Ram (Patch 1.03): We’ve moved this to B(leat) tier for the time being. The skill has several unique (read: wonky) traits that previously made it tough to test. They also make it exceptionally annoying in PVP: at least for the time being. Lightning Ram seems to be as fast, if not faster than, medium rolls and crucially does not drain stamina until you hit a target. The FP drain is also very light. A player with sufficiently high Mind can use this to easily outrun anyone not already using a stronger mobility skill (e.g. Bloodhound’s Step). Once they do, the attack speed and stagger are such that it’s common to stun lock the target until death. It’s possible to punish this with damage, but the skill either has very high super armor or reapplies super armor with each continued use. Meaning the player takes damage but does not rolling around at the speed of sound. The skill itself is still very awkward (try using it without lock-on for better control). But its “meme factor” could contribute to both A) more players looking for ways to exploit or enhance the skill after seeing it on social media, and B) more players looking for countermeasures if the skill grows more popular.
- Black Flame Tornado (Patch 1.04): This skill saw quite a major improvement in the latest update. The weapon itself now hits enemies during the spin attack, which is nice, but the biggest change is that the skill can now be canceled. That means it’s far less risky to use than before as you can roll out of the move and begin moving again if you start attacking at the wrong time. The damage on Black Flame Tornado was always good. Now that it’s less risky, this is a great skill for general use.
- Shield Bash and Shield Crash (Patch 1.04): In contrast to Barricade Shield, Bash and Crash both passively benefit from the added Guard Boost in Patch 1.03. Shields do deceptively high damage in Elden Ring. These skills allow you to make use of that damage — becoming effective secondary weapons — while leaving yourself largely immune to harm. The skills’ tiers have not been adjusted; this just felt like a good opportunity to provide context on why these abilities are so effective. After the latest update, the skills now also cast faster and Shield Crash uses less stamina.
- Carian Retaliation (Patch 1.04): This update fixed a glitch apparently causing Carian Retaliation’s damage to be “increased by weapon and status, and the effect was not displayed correctly during online multiplay.” If you were getting fried by the skill out there in PVP, now you know why, and the danger has passed.
General Notes & Jargon
Here are a few other concepts that go into our decision-making:
- Animation Time: Most skills have a “startup” or “windup” period before they do anything at all. Short startups are almost universally better, and we tend to weigh this pretty highly. Some skills compensate for long startup times with other benefits, like super armor, of course.
- Super Armor: Speaking of which, super armor is a concept not just found in Elden Ring but fighting games and more. When an ability provides super armor, it means the user cannot be interrupted (or is much harder to interrupt) until the move completes. This is useful but tricky to rely on since it doesn’t usually stop incoming damage — just the stagger you would otherwise suffer from preemptive attacks.
- Cancelling: Many skills can be “cancelled” midway through. Usually by dodging or performing some other common action. This allows the player to begin moving again before they normally would if they simply let the animation complete. Some skills, like Raptor of the Mists, can be cancelled much sooner than others. This is typically a desirable bonus trait. Skills with long animation times that can’t be cancelled easily are less desirable.
- Stagger and Posture Damage: Most offensive skills can stagger opponents. This causes the target to flinch and stop moving very briefly, often interrupting attacks that would otherwise hit the player. Lighter attacks are less likely to stagger while heavier armor reduces the chances of being staggered altogether. At the same time, several skills damage an invisible “posture” bar, to borrow a term from Sekiro, which leaves foes open to a Critical Hit when it depletes. Some skills do incredible posture damage and are especially desirable on builds that exploit Critical Hits.
- Spam: The ability to use an ability over and over again very quickly, before the enemy has time to respond.
- Status Effects: This refers to indirect damage types. Across Elden Ring this includes Poison, Blood Loss, Frostbite, Scarlet Rot, Madness, Instant Death, and Sleep. Blood Loss, Frostbite, and Scarlet Rot tend to be the most effective and sought-after status types — due to their fast damage, usefulness in PVP as well as PVE, and easy application.
- AoE (a.k.a. Area-of-Effect): A broadly used term that basically means any type of attack that hits in a wide area — be it a circle, a cone, etc.
- Stun Lock: When a player or character is stunned, flinched, or staggered too rapidly to react before getting stunned, flinched, or staggered again. Can repeat multiple times.