There have been a few questions on the forum here concerning builds for the S/D weapon set. I have assembled a few of the more common builds, and described the play style that best fits with both the build and with S/D.
These are not the only builds that “work” with S/D, and neither are these builds limited to the S/D weapon set. Also, the builds are not designed with absolute min/maxing in mind. Rather, the following offer a good mix of utility, survivability, damage, and (most important in my book) fun. My hope is to provide a resource for anyone wanting to pick up S/D, and needs a place to start.
An Introduction to Sword and Dagger
(Before I begin, I would like to thank Rachmani for his guide that both introduced me to S/D and provided the foundation of most of my experimentation with the weapon set once hitting 80. I suggest anyone looking for a good break down of S/D read through it. Much of what’s included here comes more or less from him.)
Despite is effectiveness in PvP, S/D has often been considered one of the weaker melee-range weapon sets in PvE. Unlike sets with Pistol Whip and Backstab, S/D has no one skill that dishes out spike damage. Its stealth skill is a crowd control, and its evade, up until recently, had major pathing issues.
That being said, S/D remains a very flexible weapon set—able to tackle, control, and damage multiple enemies at once. S/D has strong, inherent survivability skills, and synergizes well with several different trait lines and builds. Perhaps most importantly, you maintain S/D's base damage even when traiting for a different play style due to the hard-hitting AA. Changing builds and play styles is entirely for pacing and survival purposes.
That being said, S/D builds break down into two general categories: Stealth-based and Mobility-based. Again, this isn’t to say stealth-based builds aren’t mobile, or that mobility-based builds don’t stealth. Rather, each has its particular emphasis for survival.
On one final note, every build will take 30 points in Critical Strikes (CS). S/D is a DPS melee set, and the CS tree is far too important to not take a full 30. Trait choices are pretty straight-forward. CS III (Side Strike), CS X (Critical Haste), and CS XI (Executioner) all synergize well with S/D, but CS VI and IX can be situationally helpful.
The following builds will differ, then, in how they spend the remaining 40 points.
The Classic (Leveling Build): 0/30/25/15/0
The Hybrid: 0/30/20/20/0
Thoughts on the Stealth Builds:
The S/D weapon set synergizes well with stealth-heavy builds. You may have noticed, however, that I did not include a build that takes 30 points in SA. There is little benefit in the Grandmaster-tier SA traits, and the five points provide much more when used in Acro. Both the Classic build and the Hybrid take advantage of blind-on-stealth for survival while maintaining decent mobility through the Acro line.
I recommend anyone picking up S/D for the first time try on of these two builds to get a feel for the pace of S/D combat. If you’re used to the speed of D/D, the sword can leave you feeling awkward and vulnerable. These builds will help.
The Acrobat: 0/30/0/25/15
The Jumper: 10/30/0/0/30
Thoughts on the Mobility Builds:
The Acrobat and the Jumper builds offer a different S/D play style than the stealth builds. Their strengths lie in evasion and dodging, and simply not being there to take damage. These builds are faster-paced and more user-sensitive than the stealth-builds, but have the potential for a higher payout in the damage-realm. The traits offer good flexibility across weapon sets, and synergize well with varying on-swap sets.
Both of the mobility builds are less forgiving than the stealth-based builds, but can provide a very fun alternative. I recommend that anyone who wants to try something new or different give them a test-run.
There you have it! Four of the more common and tested S/D builds. As I said above, they aren’t meant to be the end-all-be-all of S/D, or even the thief class in general. But they offer a good place to start for anyone looking into picking up S/D for the first time, or wanting to try something new.
I encourage the other thief-users out there to give these builds a go, and let me know how you tweak them for your own play style. If additional builds rise out of these, or if I’ve missed an obvious variant, I’ll happily include them as well. Feel free to ping me in game, too: Phenn.5167.
(And thanks to Loperdos for working through the correctness of the comments/advice/descriptions!)