Before Update 11 this question had an easy answer: none of the above. No crossbow build was really useful after about level 12.* The damage potential simply wasn’t there.
* Exception – back when reducing CON to zero killed monsters, a Wounding of Puncturing repeater-based build _was_ viable all the way until Amrath.
Enter update 11. Crossbow rate of fire is dramatically improved, meaning DPS is too. Enough to remain viable at end game? Hard to say, but appearance suggests that a properly equipped and built crossbow may now be on an even keel with Arcane Archer. Some do not consider Arcane Archer to be endgame-viable but hey, can’t make everyone happy now can we?
Leaving us with the question: which is a better crossbow build? One of them is an INT class that needs to add DEX to hit anything. The other is a DEX class that needs INT to damage anything.
Let’s break it down:
- PRO: Free Rapid Reload feat at level 1
- PRO: Weapon Focus: Ranged, Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Precise Shot and Improved Precise Shot are all considered class feats
- PRO: Class enhancement available that adds +2 to attack and damage of repeaters (+4/+4 for non-repeaters)
- PRO: Still has seven feats left to support other Artificer capabilities
- PRO: Can use Insightful Strikes buff to apply INT modifier to attack if DEX is too low
- PRO: Can use Deadly Weapons buff to increase base weapon damage (although this buff can be cast on the Mechanic too)
- CON: Cannot use Insightful Strikes and Deadly Weapons at the same time. An xbow specialist is still going to need high DEX
- CON: Will be challenging to build a solid melee or caster Artificer if pumping DEX high enough to hit reliably
- PRO: INT modifier to damage
- PRO: Sneak attack modifer to hit and to damage
- PRO: Enhancements and items available to reduce or avoid agro
- PRO: High INT will also help with Search and with total number of skill points
- CON: Probably won’t be able to afford all of the ranged feats and still be top-shelf Mechanic
- CON: Will be challenging to build a solid melee Mechanic after pumping INT high enough to add very much damage
On the other hand, I don’t think many people consider either of these builds to be really strong melee candidates.
I suspect that the Mechanic has the highest DPS potential, but only if the build is really centered around crossbow capabilities. Meanwhile the Artificer is (at least) nearly as good at ranged DPS while retaining enough build flexibility to be top-shelf in other capabilities.
So, like all build questions, it becomes a trade off. Which is the best? It depends!
🙂 😀 🙂