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Ultimate Cipher - Two-Handed Weapon or Dual Wielding

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I am currently attempting an Ultimate Run using a wild orlan cipher. Probably should have gone with a boreal dwarf, but I always struggle with the idea of having a dwarven MC. Just completed Act I sneaking and avoiding most fights, but where I needed to fight I used a rapier & dagger or mace & dagger (depending on the foe) and I am wearing brigandine (50% recovery penalty).
Stats are as follows:
Mig 15
Con 12
Dex 10
Per 17
Int 17
Res 7
I have upgraded my whip fully to increase focus generation and am using the typical cypher powers that one would use this stage of the game (Mental Binding & WoT). Managed to score a fair amount of crits against the foes that were hit with a mental binding, but in general I needed Mental Binding to be active for this build to really generate focus at a decent pace.
At this point in the game, I did not need to specialise in a specific weapon type, but going forward it will be needed an I am still undecided.
Some thoughts on each approach follow:
Two-handed weapon

  • Saw Boeroer's post where he mentioned using the Forgemaster's Gloves for Firebrand and getting crits of 100+ damage. This would definitely be a viable option, but I would not be able to use Gauntlets of Speed. I could use the Deadfire items and get the Cannoneer belt, but have been avoiding using them as these items were not part of the base game.
  • Alternatively, I could go for the Hours of St. Rumbalt and have annihilating (Firebrand also has this), which would mean very decent damage and therefore decent focus generation.
  • After a couple of more levels, I could go for Tidefall which almost seems like a step down from the above two options as it loses annihilation, but it would still be a decent DPS option.
  • This also prepares me for using Abydon's Hammer which would be a decent end-game weapon when finishing up the dragons and final bounties.
  • I could also use an estoc, which has some decent options, but Weapon Focus Soldier (great sword) also includes the arquebus which gives me some ranged flexibility.

Dual wielding

  1. Dual wielding with Godansthunyr and We Toki is a very decent synergy whereby opponents can be both stunned or proned. Neither has annihilating which is a bit of a bummer, but they worked extremely well in my Frozen Crown Solo run with a rogue.
  2. A surprising second combo, which is usable now, mentioned by Boeroer as well is the Sword of Daenysis and March Steel Dagger combo using Vulnerable Attack. That would have decent DR bypass and decent attack speed, but I have never used that combo in any playthrough. Not really sure how well this would stack up against the Godansthunyr and We Toki combo, but at least it only requires a single Weapon Focus.
  3. Currently I am using Gaun's Snare and Azureith's Stiletto, but this combo is not that great at generating focus although the Jolting Touch is quite a damage dealer at this point.

Any feedback on the pros and cons of the above options would be appreciated. Remember, this is not just about DPS, but other synergies as well. For instance, using Mental Binding, I already get the paralyzed affliction which is better than either prone or stun.


I am currently leaning towards a two-hander, as the damage output and focus generation would be insane at this stage of the game.


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Tidefall does higher dps than Rumbalt (wounding damage is much higher than a +25% crit). But the wounding dmg does not generate focus. Also the prone on crit can help a lot. But so does draining.


If you plan to use Time Parasite I would use a two hander then and also Belt of the Royal Deadfire Cannoneer with Firebrand (if only as backup weapon for foes who are vulnerable to fire). The belt itself is the best in the game anyways. But the 100+ dmg I frequently did was with maxed dmg bonuses (including Biting Whip and flanked bonus from survival and items, triggered by Phantom Foes). That might not be doable with a solo cipher because usually you need room for better defenses. Putting it all into dmg bonuses for Firebrand wouldn't work too well I guess.


Sword of Daenysis + March Steel Dagger (later Drawn in Spring) with Vulnerable Attack is the highest dps combo as long as you can't reach 0 recovery with a two hander I think. The advantage is that the very short recovery makes it easier to react quickly with spells and heals and stuff.


You can use Stormcaller as ranged weapon. It works with every weapon focus so you only need one of them. It's also quite good on a cipher. I'd say it's the best ranged pick if you want to spare enchanting resources for other weapons.

Edited by Boeroer
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Thank you both for the comments.


My cipher was level 5 at the time of my query. I have since done a few quests in Act II, but in order to complete Built to Last and win the fight with Dodwyna, I needed the Rotfinger Gloves. Even with my wood beetle figurine, winning that fight without the ability to spam Touch of Rot was just too high risk for my Ultimate save.


After completing that quest and subsequently buying Shod-in-Faith, my survivalibiliy has become a lot better. I went back to Act I to complete some minor quests and see how Firebrand performs in the bear cave. Dual-wielding damage hits and crits tend to be in the region of 20-30 dmg per hit when using Gaun’s Snare and Azureith’s Stiletto. Using Firebrand, I would do 40-60 depending on whether I hit or crit. This was all at level 5 with only my physic whip fully upgraded. As Boeroer mentioned above, the recovery time with a two-hander made quite a difference. With Res 7, interruptions felt like they cost me more with Firebrand than when dual-wielding.


So, what decision did I make? Well, once I reached level 6, I chose Apprentice’s Sneak Attack. Damage output has increased nicely and I now typically have the opportunity to cast other powers (rather than just Mental Binding) as I have more focus at my disposal. Gut feel tells me that a hasted 16 level cipher wielding Firebrand will destroy most foes, but at this stage of the time the quicker recovery is still crucial.


Once I reach level 8, I will need to review this decision again, and I feel that level 10 is the latest for me to make that decision.


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I have been progressing with my Ultimate Cipher quite nicely. Have completed most of Act 3, have completed White March 1, got Steadfast, Stormcaller and Unlabored Blade and used levels 2 and 3 of the Endless Paths to level all of them up. I had chosen Weapon and Shield style and use Aila Braccia and was quite content until I saw this insane cipher play -


So, I decided to test several weapons and see how they stack up against each other. Since I needed to still defeat Zolla, I chose this encounter as the first test case. My tactics evolved as I experienced this encounter more, but the basic premise stayed the same. Only use damage from weapons and not spells. My short summary is as follows:
  • Two handed weapons - Only used great swords, but Tidefall is a clear winner for me. The wounding is ok, but the draining makes this weapon truly stand out. Having a weapon that drains makes encounters easier. Firebrand did great damage, but its duration is too short. BotEP could be great as well and I may test it in the future.
  • Dual wielding - Boeroer mentioned a dual flail build and I tried that. It is decent, but did not really blow my mind. Dual wielding the Sword of Daenysis and March Steel Dagger with Vulnerable Attack (rather than Savage Attack) was a combo that surprised me a lot.
  • Weapon and Shield - Here I chose various weapons that I liked. Standouts were March Steel Dagger, Gaun's Snare and Shatterstar. Spelltongue was a little disappointing as I did not Durganise it (believe there is a bug) and its speed seemed a little slow. Steadfast and Unlabored Blade lost out from not being Durganised and the lower attack speed (vs similar weapons) felt noticeable.

All-in-all, I am happy using a Weapon and Shield, but I am not that keen to take on dragons with Steadfast...it just does not have the damage potential of some other combos and I may need to revise my strategy. However, I really wish to have Aila Braccia available for Thaos as I believe Cleansing Flame can be reflected back at him.

In any event here are the three YouTube videos highlighting this specific encounter.

Edited by grausch


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