Happy New Year, hunters!

I’ll be honest — it feels really good to tack “2021” onto the title of this build guide. Exploring the ins and outs of Monster Hunter builds was one of the highlights of a pretty rough year, and starting the new year with another guide feels like a sign of good things to come.

Looking for more Monster Hunter World tips and tricks? Click to view all our MHW guides.

Speaking of good things, the Monster Hunter Rise demo is right around the corner! We can expect it to hit the Switch later this month (if not by the time this article is published), and I’m so ready to take the leap. It feels a little bittersweet, though — with ten of the fourteen weapon types under our belt, our time with MHW is coming to a close.

Let’s finish strong, shall we? This week, we’re taking a look at one of the franchise’s original weapons, the Sword and Shield. As always, we’ll start with a baseline build that discusses a few helpful tips and tricks, along with the best weapons and skills for any SnS build you put together. From there, we’ll use a few examples to show the baseline in action, exploring the MHW best Sword and Shield builds we can put together.

Let’s get started!

Best Sword and Shield in MHW: Baseline

Sword and Shield 1
Monster Hunter World / Capcom

To begin, let’s talk about the Sword and Shield as a whole. It may not be the fastest or strongest weapon in the game, but it comes with a slew of advantages that make it a formidable force in combat. The most obvious benefit is its ability to use items without sheathing (and even while guarding). If you’re caught in a tight spot and have no time to sheath your weapon and heal, fear not — simply throw up your shield for some added protection and pop your healing item of choice.

The Sword and Shield attacks relatively quickly and has a fast recovery time, making it a versatile weapon that can easily chain attacks. This makes it adaptable to any fight — the best Sword and Shield combos MHW are often just standard attacks that flow quickly and easily into the next.

(Disclaimer: I’m not an SnS main. If a better sword-and-board hunter tells you that following your heart is for amateurs and the best way to speedrun the Fatalis is launching into Perfect Rush at every opportunity, they might have a point. This is a build guide, after all, not a “How to Play the Sword and Shield” guide.)

The Sword and Shield has pretty high raw DPS, but its faster attack speed also makes it great for dealing element and status damage. If you’re going up against a monster with a substantial element/status weakness, the SnS (alongside the Bow and Dual Blades) is a good weapon of choice.

Along with these many advantages come a few downsides. The Shield is the weakest in the game — it won’t stand up as well to some harder hits, so it’s better to evade until you have no other choice. The weapon as a whole has pretty low reach, and that fantastic attack speed means it also consumes sharpness pretty quickly. It can also be a difficult weapon to perfect, as those easily-adaptable attack patterns require you to pay close attention to the direction and timing of your button presses.

With all of this in mind, the best skills for Sword and Shield will likely depend on your intended build. We’ll get into specific skill recommendations in a bit — for now, I suggest bolstering the weapon’s pros more than correcting for its cons.

Weapons

Let’s talk weapons! At this point in the game’s lifespan, the best weapons will typically be the endgame options. If you’ve been following this guide series, you’ll recognize keywords like “Fatalis,” “Safi,” “Lightbreak,” and “Kjárr.” 

They’re meta for a reason, though, so they bear repeating. Here’s our list of the best Sword and Shields MHW: Iceborne has to offer:

WeaponRaw DamageElement/StatusAffinity
True Fatalis Sword490120 (Dragon)-30%
Safi’s Fangs37890 (Any)5%
Lightbreak Sword420180 (Blast)0%

The Fatalis SnS is an obvious choice for its raw and elemental damage alone. The tick of purple sharpness without the need for Handicraft is a pretty nice bonus, too. The only real downside is the negative affinity. That said, the weapon’s Level 4 decoration slots (and all the available slots on the corresponding armor) give you plenty of room to make up for that.

The Safi’jiiva series is yet again your best bet if you’re looking for customization. The base stats are decent on their own, but modifying your SnS with Awakened Abilities can give you an extra edge. I’ve talked about the Awakened Abilities at length — this time, I recommend the Safi series primarily for its element/status options.

As I mentioned before, the SnS is great for dealing element/status damage, so it can be an excellent weapon to have on your side if you’re going up against a monster with a specific weakness. The Safi series has an option for each element and abnormal status type, so you have your pick of the lot. There’s not a good one-size-fits-all suggestion here — the best elemental Sword and Shield MHW will depend largely on which monster you’re fighting and what its weaknesses/resistances are.

Finally, the Lightbreak Sword serves as a helpful sidegrade to the Safi’jiiva weapons, as usual. The base stats are slightly higher, but you only get access to Blast damage and no Awakened Abilities.

Skills

When it comes to skills, the Sword and Shield can be pretty conditional. There are a few generally useful options, but a lot of your optimization will revolve around fine-tuning the specific build you’re using.

That said, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when optimizing. If you’re going for a specific element/status build, investing in skills that boost that particular attack type will be a must. For example, if you’re aiming to build the best poison Sword and Shield MHW has to offer, sinking a few points into Poison Attack is a good idea. A point into Critical Element/Status pairs well with this strategy.

Since the SnS loses sharpness pretty quickly, Protective Polish can keep your weapon honed and your damage high. Handicraft is another good skill to invest in here, provided your weapon can actually use it.

Finally, I recommend investing in Evade Window and/or Evade Extender. While your shield will provide you with a bit of guard, it’s not incredibly strong. In most cases, you’re better off relying on your evasions to avoid attacks — both of these skills improve your chances at getting away unscathed.

From here, I recommend the usual list of skills that help boost your damage, affinity, and survivability: 

  • 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)

I’ll talk about the skills that serve more specific use cases once we get to our example builds. For now, these weapon and skill suggestions should serve you well as a baseline for any Sword and Shield build you put together!

With this template, let’s dive into some more complete builds that showcase the SnS in all its glory.

Sword and Shield MHW 2
Monster Hunter World / Capcom

Best Sword and Shield Build: DPS/Maximum Might

Our first example build is centered around DPS, but with a bit of a twist. Since the Sword and Shield doesn’t consume much stamina, you can potentially boost your overall damage by investing in Maximum Might for added affinity.

Are there, perhaps, more effective affinity-boosting skills? Sure. Are they as fun to put together in a build? Probably not.

EquipmentArmor
True Fatalis SwordDragonhead β+
Attack Charm VDragonhide β+
Temporal Mantle+Dragonclaws β+
Rocksteady Mantle+Dragonbarbs α+
Kulve Taroth’s Wrath α+

Overall, the best armor for Sword and Shield MHW: Iceborne is the Fatalis set. At this point, it’s pretty much the best armor for any weapon type due to the sheer number of decoration slots. It’s especially helpful for the SnS, though, as the more heavily-optimized builds will need room to slot in skills that don’t come built into the armor.

Fatalis armor also gives us some tasty set bonuses. Four pieces give us both Inheritance (which unlocks the level caps of every skill secret) and Transcendence (which gives True Razor Sharp/Spare Shot and a health and stamina boost).

The armor pieces themselves give us some useful affinity skills to counteract our initial negative from the True Fatalis Sword. With the Attack Charm V added, our skill list (before decorations) is as follows:

  • Attack Boost 5
  • Critical Boost 2
  • Critical Eye 3
  • Evade Window 1
  • Peak Performance 1
  • Stun Resistance 3
  • Weakness Exploit 3

With all of these free decoration slots, we’ll want to slot in the skills that actually make this a Maximum Might DPS build. Inheritance gives us access to both Maximum Might Secret and Agitator Secret, so maxing those out alongside a few other useful skills is a must. I recommend the following:

  • Attack Boost (max out)
  • Agitator (max out)
  • Constitution (max out)
  • Maximum Might (max out)

From here, feel free to slot in other baseline skills for comfort or add points into the skills already built into the armor.

Best Sword and Shield Build: Support

The best support Sword and Shield build MHW is one that takes advantage of the SnS’s ability to use items without sheathing. There are a few skills that capitalize on this feature, which we’ll get into below.

EquipmentArmor
True Fatalis SwordDragonhead β+
Challenger Charm VDragonhide α+
Temporal Mantle+Dragonclaws β+
Rocksteady Mantle+Dragonbarbs α+
Kulve Taroth’s Wrath α+

On the surface, this looks pretty similar to our DPS build. I’ll reiterate what I said in the Hunting Horn build guide — Monster Hunter treats support as a peripheral role, meaning that you should still spend most of your time dealing damage to the monster. This build prioritizes effective hunting first and support second.

Since we’re using the same armor set as above, we still get Inheritance and Transcendence as set bonuses, plus all the skills that the Fatalis and Kulve Taroth pieces get built in. We’re swapping the Attack Charm V for the Challenger Charm V, making our skill list (before decorations) as follows:

  • Agitator 5
  • Critical Boost 2
  • Critical Eye 3
  • Evade Window 1
  • Peak Performance 1
  • Stun Resistance 3
  • Weakness Exploit 3

The decorations are where things get a little trickier. The first skill we want to slot in is Wide-Range, which extends the effects of any items you consume to your nearby allies (with lesser returns). The more points you invest, the wider the radius of effect and the more benefit they’ll receive from your items.

Speed Eating and Free Meal are useful skills to add here, too. The first increases the speed at which you consume items (letting you get a quick heal in during smaller windows) with each point invested. The second increases your chances of getting the item’s effects without actually consuming it, maxing out at a 75% chance of a free meal.

Finally, if you really want to go hard on this build, you can invest in Mushroomancer. This skill lets you consume raw mushrooms and gain their effects without first needing to craft them into a consumable item, with each point giving you access to new types of mushrooms. This saves valuable time and resources, especially when stacked with the skills mentioned above. Who needs to bring healing potions when you can hork down a Blue Mushroom for free and heal your allies from ten feet away in less time than it takes them to say “please,” all while never putting your sword down?

On top of all this, I still recommend investing in the baseline skills mentioned above. I recommend maxing out the support skills as the decorations become available (especially if you can get dual effect decorations), along with some skills to boost your affinity and attack damage.

  • Agitator (max out)
  • Attack Boost (max out)
  • Critical Boost
  • Critical Eye (max out)

Best Sword and Shield Build: Frostcraft

Sword and Shield MHW 1
Monster Hunter World / Capcom

Our last example build is our take on the best ice Sword and Shield MHW, which will rely on Frostcraft. I know what you’re thinking — if the SnS doesn’t have to sheath often, what’s the point of using a draw skill like Frostcraft? 

The answer is bonus damage. You may not rely heavily on draw attacks during combat (like you might when playing a Frostcraft Long Sword), but there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of a damage boost when you do have to draw.

EquipmentArmor
True Fatalis SwordRimeguard Helm γ+
Challenger Charm VRimeguard Mail γ+
Temporal Mantle+Rimeguard Vambraces γ+
Rocksteady Mantle+Dragonbarbs α+
Rimeguard Greaves γ+

Since we’re moving away from a primarily Fatalis set in this build, our set bonuses and skills will look slightly different from our other examples. We instead get the Velkhana Divinity set bonus — two pieces give us Critical Element (letting critical hits deal bonus element damage). Four pieces give us Frostcraft (raises attack on the first few hits after drawing your weapon).

The Velkhana armor gives us a few helpful skills that capitalize on this build’s focus. In addition to some generally useful quality of life skills, we also get a few points into Critical Draw and Quick Sheath. Critical Draw boosts your affinity on draw attacks, and Quick Sheath increases your sheath speed (which is already pretty quick for the SnS).

Alongside the Challenger Charm V, this build gives us the following skills (before decorations):

  • Agitator 5
  • Coalescence 3
  • Critical Draw 3
  • Critical Eye 3
  • Ice Attack 6
  • Peak Performance 3
  • Quick Sheath 2
  • Recovery Up 3
  • Resuscitate 1
  • Weakness Exploit 1

We don’t have the decoration slots that we get with the Fatalis armor, so I mostly recommend using your slots to add in the baseline skills and boost your affinity as much as you can.

The Hunt Begins

That’s it for our Sword and Shield build guide — thanks for reading! We’d love to hear more about your favorite SnS builds, so feel free to drop your sets in the comments.

Happy hunting!

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