I’ve always liked the bard classes in RPGs. The mechanics aren’t always perfect, but who can resist the allure of bringing down baddies with a jaunty tune designed to bolster allies and add a bit more bite to the end of a blade?

That said, I wandered through the tangled mess of squishy casters for far too long. I endured endless memes about charisma scores and badly-rendered musical cutscenes, always hoping and praying for a little bit of variety in my bards.

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The clouds parted in a brilliant flash of sunlight, and the voice of Monster Hunter spoke with the might of the full heavens: “What if you could have all that fun flavor and the ability to clock a dragon in the face with your cello?”

Finally,” I said, tears streaming down my face.

Enter the Hunting Horn. This kick-ass weapon is only improved by its incredible unique designs ranging from bagpipes to giant bells to bass guitars. However, I find it’s frequently misused in online multiplayer and gets a bit of a bad rap as a result.

This guide aims to change those misconceptions. This week, we’re taking a look at the Hunting Horn and all the wonderful things it brings to a hunt. We’ll cover a few of the best skills and weapons that will help any build strike the right chord (ha!), then jump into some example builds that expand on this baseline and show off the incredible variety offered by this weapon type.

Please note our Fatalis update is in progress for this guide. Stay tuned and happy hunting!

Best Hunting Horn in MHW: Baseline

Hunting Horn 1

Before we discuss anything else, I want to make it incredibly clear that the Hunting Horn is a support weapon.

It is. It’s just that support isn’t the only role it plays.

You’ll see a lot of heated arguments about this in Monster Hunter communities. The key thing to remember is that Monster Hunter has a different definition of support than other RPGs do. Rather than expecting the support class to dole out boons and buffs from a healthy distance, Monster Hunter puts them right in the thick of things and gives them a moveset that incorporates their support features directly into their attacks.

The Hunting Horn is a musical hammer that readies its songs by whacking the monster in specific combos. Once the songs are queued up, you can quickly play your tunes and jump back into battle armed with all of the benefits you just jingled into existence.

Corner horning (the “strategy” of standing off to the side and playing music while your teammates handle the monster) isn’t the most effective way to play the Hunting Horn. You have several actual combat benefits — namely, a decent unsheathed movement speed, considerable blunt damage, and innate Mind’s Eye — that are wasted if you’re not attacking. It’s part of the reason why HH mains are welcomed into online groups with a bit of trepidation.

Admittedly, it’s not the perfect weapon. The fact that its attacks correspond to specific notes means that you don’t have a lot of variety in your moveset, and it’s not exactly top-tier when it comes to overall damage or DPS. Playing the songs you’ve queued up requires standing still, so you have to watch for safe openings or risk having to cancel your performance. Still, these disadvantages aren’t difficult to play around given practice and the right equipment.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best Hunting Horns MHW: Iceborne has to offer.

Weapons

The best Hunting Horns will have both quality base stats and a well-stacked song list. Though your role in the hunt remains unchanged regardless of the songs you have available, your effectiveness in a fight will depend on which buffs you’re offering the other hunters.

That said, here are some of the better weapons you’re likely to find in-game.

WeaponRaw DamageElement/StatusAffinity
Fatalis Menace Wailer1470140 (Dragon)– 20%
Kjárr Pipes672 – 798300 – 510 (Any)5 – 15%
Safi’s Horns1134300 (Any)5%

The Fatalis HH is listed here specifically because it’s the latest and strongest endgame weapon. The song list is nothing to sniff at, and it’s got pretty impressive raw damage despite lower element damage and negative affinity. Iceborne made element and status HH builds a lot more viable, so don’t feel like raw is still the best way to play Hunting Horn.

Speaking of element and status Horns, the Kjárr Pipe series is an excellent option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of unlocking the Safi’jiiva Awakened Abilities. They may not be the best weapons out there, but there’s a decent variety to their song lists, they come with built-in Critical Element/Status, and you get a lot of variety without the need for too much customization.

That said, the customization on Safi weapons is even better with the Hunting Horn. In addition to all the usual Awakened Abilities, Safi HHs give you the option to swap out your song lists. The list you roll (out of the fifteen total options) will be random, and you might have to go through a few iterations before finding the one you want. That said, the investment is well worth it if you’re looking for a specific song list for your build and don’t want to sacrifice your other base stats.

As a quick heads up, most of the example builds below will rely on this ability. Since we’re showcasing specific builds, it helps to assume that you can customize your song list to fit your desired role.

With that in mind, let’s move on to the best Hunting Horn skills!

Skills

If you follow this particular guide series, you’ll know that I usually recommend a few must-have skills for each weapon type. The thing about the Hunting Horn is that it doesn’t require too much special attention. Beyond the usual affinity- and damage-boosting skills, there aren’t many make-or-break options.

The only skill that’s uniquely crucial to the Hunting Horn is Horn Maestro. This skill extends the duration of all your melody effects, meaning that you and your fellow hunters can enjoy the benefits of your buffs for a little longer than normal. It only takes one Level 4 decoration slot to max out, so it’s pretty easy to slot in on most endgame builds.

Beyond that, other skills are more handy than absolutely necessary. That said, the following options are among the best Hunting Horn skills for serious players.

Since the Hunting Horn does blunt damage, you can hit a little harder by slotting in Slugger, which increases your chances of stunning the monster with each level invested. Since you’ll want to aim for the monster’s head for this, you can also work with skills that’ll keep your sharpness up. Mind’s Eye is built into the Self-Improvement song that comes with every Hunting Horn and will keep you from bouncing, but you can help yourself out with skills like Protective Polish and Handicraft (though the latter is only useful in some cases).

As always, there are general skill investments that are good for any build, regardless of which weapon type you’re using. I recommend the following:

  • Agitator (increases affinity when the monster is enraged)
  • Critical Eye (increases affinity)
  • Health Boost (increases health and max health cap)
  • Weakness Exploit (increases affinity when hitting weak spots)

That takes care of our baseline build! With this as a reference, let’s now look at a few example builds that show off the Hunting Horn’s simple yet varied play styles.

Hunting Horn 3

Best Hunting Horn Build: Support (and DPS)

Like I said before, every Hunting Horn is a support build. Unless you’re entirely ignoring your songs or separating yourself from your teammates before buffing (which just makes you a rude Hammer main), you’re going to be offering support.

This isn’t the support build you’ll likely see in other guides — we’re not using Free Meal, Speed Eating, or Wide Range. You’re free to slot them in if you want, but I find that HH sheaths too slowly to make it the most effective support strategy for this weapon type. You’re better off using that time to either play your songs or hit the monster.

Instead, we’re going for a more general support strategy — buff yourself and your teammates with a variety of helpful songs and deal as much damage as you can in the meantime. The best support Hunting Horn MHW players can ask for is one that, y’know, hunts.

EquipmentArmor
Safi’s Shatterhorn (Attack 3)Rimeguard γ+
Challenger Charm VDragonhide β+
Temporal Mantle+Dragonclaws β+
Rocksteady Mantle+Dragonbarbs α+
Dragonfeet α+

I’m a big fan of the Fatalis set bonuses, if you couldn’t tell. Four pieces of Fatalis armor (which are among the best Hunting Horn armor MHW) gives us both Inheritance and Transcendence. The first unlocks all skill secrets, and the second gives us True Razor Sharp/Spare Shot and a healthy bonus to our health and stamina when beginning a fight and after fainting.

We also get a handful of useful skills from the individual armor pieces. Coalescence and Resuscitate (from the Velkhana head piece) are only situationally useful, but a few points into Evade Window, Handicraft, and WEX are definitely welcome. Combined with the Agitator points from the Challenger Charm V, our skill list (before decorations) is as follows:

  • Agitator 5
  • Coalescence 3
  • Critical Eye 3
  • Evade Window 2
  • Handicraft 2
  • Resuscitate 1
  • Weakness Exploit 3

The really nice thing about Fatalis armor is that we get a lot of decoration slots for adding additional skills. Horn Maestro is a must, and you can pretty much fill the rest with our baseline skills and a handful of other useful options. I recommend slotting in the following as you get the chance:

  • Agitator (max out)
  • Attack Boost
  • Blast Attack
  • Critical Boost
  • Critical Eye (max out)
  • Divine Blessing (max out)
  • Health Boost

Best Hunting Horn Build: Slugger

Is this the greatest and most effective build out there? Probably not. You’re likely to find better damage and support builds out there, but sometimes it’s okay to have a little fun whacking a giant monster on the head with a guitar over and over again while still doing a pretty decent amount of damage.

EquipmentArmor
Fatalis Menace Wailer (Attack 4)Rimeguard γ+
KO Charm IIIDragonhide β+
Temporal Mantle+Dragonclaws β+
Rocksteady Mantle+Dragonbarbs α+
Dragonfeet α+

You’ll notice that we’re working with pretty much the same set as last time, give or take a few details. As such, I won’t spend too much time going over the breakdown — the main thing we’re looking for is the Inheritance set bonus to unlock Slugger Secret.

From here, we get all the same skills and decoration slots from our armor and equipment. The only difference is that we’ve swapped out the Challenger Charm V for the KO Charm III. The KO Charm III is the best charm MHW for Hunting Horn Slugger builds, as it gives us three points into Slugger right out of the gate. This brings our skill list to the following:

  • Coalescence 3
  • Critical Eye 3
  • Evade Window 2
  • Handicraft 2
  • Resuscitate 1
  • Slugger 3
  • Weakness Exploit 3

Most of the fine-tuning is going to happen in the decorations. I don’t like to recommend specific jewels in these builds — the decorations you’re awarded in fights are random, and you may not have the same number or level of certain jewel types. The main goal here is to max out Slugger and slot in our baseline skills (Horn Maestro and the affinity-boosters especially, since we’re starting at -20% and don’t have the benefit of Agitator 5 before decorations) without losing out on too much damage. I recommend following this list as much as you can:

  • Agitator (max out)
  • Attack Boost
  • Critical Boost (max out)
  • Critical Eye (max out)
  • Divine Blessing (max out)
  • Health Boost
  • Horn Maestro (max out)
  • Peak Performance
  • Slugger (max out)

Best Hunting Horn Build: Healing 

Hunting Horn 2

My fiancé and I jokingly call this build “the Unkillable.” I think it’s a great example of how strong (and ridiculous) a Hunting Horn build can be. Between the recovery bonuses baked into the armor and the healing buffs in the song list, you can take a hit wearing this set and get back up with more health than when you started.

It won’t make you a tank, but it’ll give you the boosts you need to stay alive during a dicey fight. This is a helpful go-to if your party is grinding out a specific monster and keeps carting (especially if you’re the one who carts the most — not that I have any room to judge).

EquipmentArmor
Safi’s Shatterhorn (Attack 2)Dragonhead β+
Challenger Charm VFellshroud Mail β+
Temporal Mantle+Fellshroud Braces β+
Rocksteady Mantle+Dragonbarbs β+
Dragonfeet β+

The best Hunting Horn set MHW for healing builds is Vaal Hazak, which offers a fantastic bonus that will be the focal point of this build. Two pieces of Blackveil armor gives us Vaal Soulvein, activating Super Recovery and letting us regain health past the red gauge. Two pieces of Fatalis gives us Inheritance, which will be useful as we begin to slot skills in later.

The individual armor pieces are a big help as well. The Fatalis pieces give us a few useful skills, but we’re mostly interested in the points of Recovery Speed and Recovery Up in the Vaal Hazak pieces. 

As a quick sidebar, you can easily replace the Fatalis pieces with other armor types if you’re not quite up to the endgame stages yet. It’s pretty secondary to this build, so you can play around with other mixed sets and still end up with a similar end result. I recommend Gold Rathian for the set bonus — you’ll have a different skill list than what’s listed below, but Divine Blessing Secret will still be really useful.

After equipping the Challenger Charm V, our skill list (before decorations) is as follows:

  • Agitator 5
  • Critical Eye 2
  • Dragon Attack 1
  • Evade Window 1
  • Recovery Speed 2
  • Recovery Up 2
  • Stun Resistance 3

From here, there are a few other skills you’ll want to slot in. The baseline skills are obviously important, but I especially recommend the following:

  • Agitator (max out)
  • Critical Boost
  • Critical Eye (max out)
  • Divine Blessing (max out)
  • Health Boost
  • Horn Maestro
  • Recovery Speed (max out)
  • Recovery Up (max out)

In short, this is the best healing Hunting Horn MHW build because of the variety of healing buffs it offers. The armor and added skills are mostly focused on self-heals, but the sheer number of healing/recovery melodies in your song list ensures that your teammates will feel the love, too.

The Hunt Begins

That’s it for our Hunting Horn build guide — thanks for reading. If you’ve got a build that you’d like to share, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments. There are many other support styles geared more toward negating blight and abnormal status, and we’d love to hear about how you approach your setups.

Happy hunting!

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