Feeling down? Feeling like the entirety of the West is out to get you, and you’ve got no way out? Or maybe you’re just looking for a new way to assert yourself on the vast dusty plain, a new way to show off your six-shooter and other miscellaneous killing implements. Plainly speaking, maybe you’re trying to figure out which combination of Red Dead Online best ability cards is right for you and yours. We’re here to help. 

Rowan Prepares for Battle in RDR2
Rowan prepares for battle / Image: Rockstar Games

First, it’s important to establish what your goal is here. Some cards are best suited for playing with a Posse, while others favor sniping, dual-wielding, melee weapons, etc. Are you frustrated because you’re being griefed by other players and want a combat edge to defend yourself? Or do you just want to be able to tackle all of the PVE content without worrying much about dying in the process? Either way, there’s the right combination for you, and we’ll set about finding it together with RDR2’s best ability cards. The following list is less a ranking between the different items and more of a list of the best combinations built towards various purposes. 

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10 Red Dead Online Best Ability Card Loadouts

Going from the lone wolf to protector of the posse, we touch on it all with our top loadouts below.

10/10

Dual-Wielding Death-Dealer

Dual-Wielding Death-Dealer RDR2
This loadout includes Paint it Black, Winning Streak, Never Without One, and Gunslinger’s Choice / Image: Rockstar Games

For those of us who enjoy busting out two pistols and filling people with their contents, there are some great abilities out there. Gunslinger’s Choice is one of the Red Dead Online best agility cards where this is concerned, boosting both your damage and accuracy with paired weapons. The next staple of this build is Winning Streak, which increases the damage of consecutive shots on the same target. Note that this combo is best used with high-capacity, high rate-of-fire pistols like the Mauser, as opposed to slower, more powerful options like the Navy Revolver or the Sawed-Off Shotgun. Tying together the offensive thrust of this build is the best Red Dead ability card, Paint it Black. This gives you back the target-marking ability in Dead Eye, allowing for quick kills, especially on other players. 

Marking Target in RDR2
Rowan marks her target for a swift execution / Image: Rockstar Games

Your last passive choice may be a matter of taste. Having tested this build in the PVP, I considered both Live for the Fight (which very slowly replenishes Dead Eye) and Never Without One (which prevents one headshot from killing you while you’re wearing a hat), the former intended to support the Dead Eye focus of the build and the latter meant to increase survivability, especially when it comes to snipers, against whom you have little defense. 

After gameplay testing the best ability cards in RDR2 Online, I concluded that getting sniped was more of a persistent issue than running out of Dead Eye. Furthermore, the replenishment is too slow to make a huge difference in multiplayer matches, and items like tonics or chewing tobacco refill the entire bar instantly. While Live for the Fight may work for longer PVE sessions where you’d rather save your items, Never Without One makes you more effective overall in a given combat and it fills out the best Red Dead Online ability cards combination when it comes to dual-wielding.  

9/10

Short-Range Shootist

Short-Range Shootist RDR2
This loadout includes Paint it Black, The Short Game, Peak Condition, and To Fight Another Day / Image: Rockstar Games

Here’s a simple build for you shotgun lovers playing Red Dead Online, featuring the best ability cards for all your buckshot bravado. The Short Game is the obvious centerpiece of this build, boosting your damage at short range. To Fight Another Day increases your survivability while running about by reducing damage from bullets while sprinting. Peak Condition, meanwhile, reduces the stamina cost of sprinting and boosts your damage proportional to how much stamina you have left. Finally, Paint it Black pairs well with the Semi-Auto Shotgun when one desires to make a clutch of nearby fools disappear before one’s very eyes. 

8/10

Mounted Marauder

Mounted Marauder RDR2
This loadout includes Paint it Black, Horseman, Ride Like the Wind, and Friends for Life / Image: Rockstar Games

If you want the best ability cards in RDR2 for riding circles around your enemies on your trusty steed while raining down bullets on their hapless heads, this is the build for you. Paint it Black allows for vicious setups when, say, rolling up on a bounty target’s caravan and marking a bunch of folks for death right off the bat. 

Rowan and Cloudy tracking down outlaws RDR2
Rowan and Cloudy assail a band of outlaws / Image: Rockstar Games

Horseman has an obvious utility, allowing you to deal a little more damage from horseback. Ride Like the Wind, meanwhile, allows you to transfer damage taken as health to your horse, and Friends for Life means that you and your horse will both take less damage overall. 

7/10

The Scoped Scoundrel

The Scoped Scoundrel RDR2
This loadout includes Slow and Steady, Sharpshooter, Hunker Down, and Never Without One / Image: Rockstar Games

The Scoped Scoundrel is designed to boost your damage while sniping, and to increase your survivability in the face of counter-sniping. Slow and Steady decreases the damage you take while Dead Eye is active. Sharpshooter increases your damage dealt and decreases damage taken while aiming through a scope. 

Hunker down, as this choice for RDR2’s best ability card loadout decreases damage taken while in cover, and Never Without One negates one headshot (so long as it actually hits the hat). The damage resistance of this build should not be taken as license to camp and let yourself get shot — rather, it serves as a buffer between you and insta-kills so that if you get hit, you can quickly relocate and continue sniping. 

6/10

Health Hunk

Health Hunk RDR2
This loadout includes Slow and Steady, Come Back Stronger, Fool Me Once, and Cold Blooded / Image: Rockstar Games

Those of you seeking to tank a bit shouldn’t pass this entry up. Slow and Steady, as mentioned above, reduces damage taken while Dead Eye is active. Additionally, it prevents headshots from killing you outright. Come Back Stronger, meanwhile, allows you to regenerate your health faster, granting speedier recoveries from tough scraps. Fool Me Once is the inverse of Winning Streak, reducing the amount of damage you take from consecutive shots. Cold Blooded, meanwhile, keeps you in the fight longer by lending you health with each kill. 

5/10

Posse Power

Posse Power RDR2
This loadout includes Focus Fire, Strength in Numbers, The Unblinking Eye, and Peak Condition / Image: Rockstar Games

The focus of this build is on teamwork. Whether you’re tackling missions with your posse or jumping into team-based multiplayer matches, this has what you need. The Dead Eye ability used here is Focus Fire, which boosts your and your allies’ damage while Dead Eye is active. Strength in Numbers is your first passive, and it reduces damage dealt to you based on how many allies are nearby. 

Rowan uses Focus Fire to give her team an edge in this gunfight / Image: Rockstar Games

Augmenting the utility of Focus Fire is The Unblinking Eye, which causes your Dead Eye to drain slower than normal. Capping things off is Peak Condition, which causes sprinting to consume less stamina — making it easier to stick to teammates and keep the bonuses rolling — and grants a damage boost proportional to your current stamina level. 

4/10

Melee Monster

Melee Monster RDR2
This loadout includes Slippery Bastard, To Fight Another Day, Of Single Purpose, and Peak Condition / Image: Rockstar Games

While we’re discussing Red Dead Online’s best ability cards, it’s worth discussing a build that’s both fun and perfectly functional for those who like to get up close and personal with the foe. Enter the Melee Monster. Your Dead Eye ability, Slippery Bastard, causes enemies to be considerably less accurate while it’s active. This gives you extra room to rush down enemies, as does To Fight Another Day, which reduces damage from bullets while you’re sprinting. Finally, Peak Condition keeps the stamina cost of sprinting down, and Of Single Purpose forms a centerpiece for the build by reducing damage taken while unarmed or wielding a melee weapon. 

3/10

Classic Gunslinger

Classic Gunslinger RDR2
This loadout includes Paint it Black, Gunslinger’s Choice, Landon’s Patience, and Peak Condition / Image: Rockstar Games

This is a simple, straightforward way to get some classic cowboy action in. If you want to focus on dual-wielding but would much rather lug around a pair of huge revolvers than some German broomhandles, the Classic Gunslinger is the build for you. Paint it Black does what it does best — paints an X on any head or chest attached to a mean son of a bitch, then puts a bullet where the X used to be. 

Ellis showing true gunmanship RDR2
Ellis demonstrates to the town of Van Horn what a real gunslinger looks like / Image: Rockstar Games

Gunslinger’s Choice still provides a damage and accuracy bonus while dual-wielding, and Peak Condition still gives you that slight damage boost proportional to your stamina level and the stamina discount on sprinting. Landon’s Patience, meanwhile, takes advantage of the relatively low rate-of-fire of the most powerful revolvers in the game, causing a wait time of up to fifteen seconds between shots to boost your damage a bit. 

2/10

Repeater Rider

Repeater Rider RDR2
This loadout includes Paint it Black, Winning Streak, Horseman, and Friends for Life / Image: Rockstar Games

This is only a slight variation on our other horseback build, trading out Ride Like the Wind for Winning Streak. The purpose behind this is to, as the name implies, focus on repeaters as the staple weapon of the build. Something like the Evans Repeater, with its twenty-six(!) round capacity, is perfect to use with this build. You’ve already got more than enough bullets to handle any single threat, and Winning Streak only makes each one of those bullets count. For those of you who want a horseback build with more pronounced offensive capabilities, look no further. 

1/10

The Medic

The Medic RDR2
This loadout includes Quite an Inspiration, Strength in Numbers, Iron Lung, and The Unblinking Eye / Image: Rockstar Games

At number one on our list of Red Dead Online best ability cards is The Medic.

The Medic caters to those of you who want to be team players and would rather skew towards the healing side of things, as opposed to buffing damage. Quite an Inspiration is the centerpiece here, which allows Dead Eye to heal you and your allies slowly over time while active. The Unblinking Eye allows you to keep this up for longer, meaning your team will be able to rack up more kills before suffering casualties. 

Strength in Numbers and Iron Lung increase your own survivability, reducing damage taken proportional to the number of allies nearby and to your current stamina, respectively. While you can swap out in favor of Take the Pain Away (perhaps more of a fitting ability for a medic, if less functional), it relies on revives in order to function. While reducing damage taken for yourself and the revivee in question is nice, the situational nature of the ability limits its effectiveness. 

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There you have it, Red Dead Online best ability card combinations! If you found this guide helpful and/or interesting, follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter for more content.

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