Elden Ring Ashes of War are exceptionally potent skills that completely change the way you play the game. Ranking every one of these abilities in one place is daunting task as a result, but we’ve attempted to do just that with our Ashes of War tier list. The hope is that, by pitting them all against each other, we can give players an at-a-glance idea of what to use and why. Or at least what to set their sights on first when customizing their Elden Ring arsenal. The current end result is what you see below. The simple table includes all known Ashes of War in the game so far.
Once you take a look, you can read below the table to find a more detailed description of our process in creating this tier list.
NOTE: Reading past this point will lead to MINOR SPOILERS for Elden Ring. This is a game all about exploration and discovery. Some players might not even want a hint of a whiff of what new powers await them. If that’s you, skip this for now and come back later! Though we suspect you already know what you’re in for if you’ve read this far. With that out of the way, here’s the current Ashes of War tier list in its simplest form.
UPDATE: FromSoftware just launched patch. 1.03 for Elden Ring like five minutes after I posted this, so take the rankings with a grain of salt until the next revision!
What is Being Ranked?
Elden Ring includes unique in-game items called Ashes of War. These can be applied to a variety of “normal” weapons throughout the game — usually limited to a certain weapon category or categories. This list does not include every skill found in the game. Some abilities (even a few very good ones) are tied to particular weapons. Since these are completely locked into particular stats and movesets, however, they can’t be totally compared to swappable Ashes of War one-to-one.
(Let’s be real, though. Sword of Night and Flame and Moonveil are utterly fantastic. Icerind Hatchet and Bloodhound Claws are also excellent, since they include some of the best Ashes of War by default.)
What Do the Rankings Mean?
Elden Ring players are pretty lucky. Weapon skills trend toward “overwhelmingly powerful” more than “completely useless.” There just aren’t very many genuine duds in the bunch. You’re sure to find some player out there who swears one unpopular skill or another works for them. Often if you “just use Bloodflame Blade first,” or “summon Mimic Tear afterwards,” or “hit the enemy during an opening.”
Well… Yes. Most skills work well with setup, prep, practice, and/or patience. That’s a good thing. That’s variety. And players should be proud of their ability to have fun and make X, Y, Z work well with a particular build. Yet accounting for every single, possible scenario in the game is not the intent behind this or any other tier list. As such, we’ve categorized most Ashes of War between S and D ranks, to acknowledge that pretty much anything can work.
Here’s what those mean at a glance:
S – Great in nearly all situations.
A – Good to great in most situations.
B – Good in a wide variety of situations. Great with a particular weapon or build.
C – Not generally recommended, but either situationally useful or broadly effective with setup.
D – Not generally recommended: either because the benefits are too niche to matter regularly, or because other skills do the same thing but better.
We elected not to include an F tier because nearly all Ashes of War in the game seem at the very least functional. Even if that function isn’t terribly appealing to us. Getting any more granular with higher and lower tiers (or pluses and minuses) felt pedantic to the point of opaqueness, rather than informative.
You’ll probably notice some exceptions to this rule at the top and bottom of the list, as well. These are the “S+” an “*” ranks.
S+ currently represents Hoarfrost Stomp — alone in a league of its own. This easily accessible Ash of War is a mainstay for Elden Ring speedrunners for and casual players alike. It hits hard and fast, covers a large area-of-effect, and costs very little FP (the Elden Ring equivalent of mana). It also clips over and through certain surfaces unlike in-game projectiles.
Its speed also makes it extremely “safe.” That is to say, you can cast Hoarfrost Stomp (even multiple times) and still roll or run away almost immediately. There’s very little animation lock, which is a huge factor in what makes an effective Elden Ring weapon or skill. It’s an open secret that this makes Hoarfrost Stomp one of the best Ashes of War in the game, if not the best hands down. So much so that we suspect it will be at least slightly nerfed in the next major Elden Ring balance patch.
The asterisk, meanwhile, represents Waves of Darkness. It seems like a fairly interesting and potentially powerful attack. The problem is that it also needs a patch — and not in a good way.
The skill’s final follow-up attack currently doesn’t work in PVE; it simply glides through enemies without hitting them. The situation is even worse in PVP, where the follow-up skill still doesn’t work, but the opening wave of the attack also clips through enemies without dealing damage. Since this is the result of an obvious glitch, rather than a balance issue, it didn’t feel right to create an F tier just for this unfortunate ash. Instead, we’ve kept it in limbo at the bottom until there’s a fix.
How Are the Rankings Selected?
Every tier list is different. Mathematical details obviously have some impact, but different players weigh different elements — such as animation time, super armor, damage, range, status effects, etc. — differently. Much like a regular review. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. If you understand that, and still believe there is any such thing as an “objective opinion,” then go with God my friend.
We consider both PVE and PVP applications for this list, with moderately greater emphasis placed on PVE. This is operating under the assumption that most players focus on single-player and/or cooperative play rather than invasions and duels. The logic is that the game is first and foremost an action-RPG. While there is a very dedicated competitive player base, PVP is an almost entirely optional and opt-in element of a much larger Elden Ring community, while progressing through dungeons and bosses is not.
This is of course largely inferred from anecdotal evidence. The closest thing we have to public data on the percentage of players that invade is the “Shardbearer Mohg” achievement for defeating the boss of the same name. This has a completion rate of 13.8 percent on PlayStation and 9.8 percent on Steam at the time of this writing. Mohg is only accessible for most of the game by players who invade at least three times.
This is obviously a very flawed metric. Not every play who invades — even frequently — will immediately defeat or even attempt to fight the boss. Conversely, players may also reach Mohg through a portal in one of the final areas of Elden Ring. Others still may invade the requisite three times to reach the appropriate PVE area and then stop. Everyone is simply operating under assumptions without direct specifics from FromSoftware.
These simply help us weigh other factors, though. All Ashes of War have been tested on a post-game save and compared to various online discussions. Extremely specialized and extremely generalized skills tend to fall somewhere in the middle — around the C and B tiers — for opposing reasons.
Broadly applicable skills, like Golden Vow for example, are nearly always useful. Though they may struggle to stand apart from the pack in any one regard. Hence the middle placement on the list.
The latter camp is where you find a lot of abilities that specifically excel in PVP. Competitive play is quite different from basic Elden Ring combat; it’s more about predicting and exploiting common player habits than reacting to a concrete suite of actions. This includes stunning players out of dodge rolls (a.k.a. “roll catching”) or baiting them into attacks before you quickly strike first. Since PVP is a more niche part of the game, requiring skills that don’t necessarily translate into the meat of Elden Ring, these Ashes of War instead trend toward the middle due to a lack of general application.
The higher tiers usually offer both: versatility across most common gameplay encounters in addition to something that makes them stand out. Though there are always exceptions.
Important Notes on Specific Ashes of War
The standard Parry is ranked D largely because it’s flatly outclassed by other, similar skills (Buckler Parry, Golden Retaliation, Carian Retaliation, etc.).
No Skill is “C” ranked because it’s not… good. Nor is it bad. It’s literally nothing at all. However, it’s the very definition of “situational,” since there are times when you want one weapon skill to override the other (such as when using a shield).
Bloody Slash: Low range, but absolutely incredible damage for its cost. This is an example of a hyper-specific skill simply being too good at its particular function to stay out of A rank.
Seppuku is similar to Bloody Slash in that it’s simply too good at what it does to go unrecognized. Blood Loss is an exceptionally potent status effect in Elden Ring at the moment and there is almost no better source for it than the (extremely long-lasting) buff from Seppuku.
Bloodhound’s Step is terrific all on its own. It functions as a superior dodge usable with any equip load that’s faster than running. Its value then skyrockets against Malenia — arguably the hardest boss in Elden Ring — by all but neutralizing her most dangerous attacks. You can dodge her three-hit mega-combo with ease and make the fight manageable, if not downright easy. The same goes for most fights throughout the game.
Barricade: This is a bit of an edge case between S and A. It gets the nod for now simply due to the strength of Guard Counters in Elden Ring. Barricade trivializes stamina management with heavy shields — and a good number of bosses along with it — but unlike Bloodhound’s Step it also contributes to posture damage via Guard Counters.
Unsheathe is good but limited. It does what several Ashes of War do (good stagger damage at close range). Moonveil is a straight upgrade for anyone using a Katana and leveling Intelligence, however, and if you’re using Katanas anyway you might as well go for the best one.
Square Off: Perhaps one of the most underrated Ashes of War in the game. Especially for melee purists. It functions like “Unsheathe for Straight Swords,” but provides more versatility with outstanding damage, posture damage, and range/gap-closing. Pair it with the Lordsworn’s Straight Sword for the Critical Hit bonus to take advantage of the high posture damage.
Raptor of the Mists is exceptional, in theory, but requires you to basically retrain your brain to use properly. It reduces your hit box while providing temporary invincibility if something does hit. Then it automatically readies a jumping attack for extra posture damage. No FP is consumed if the skill doesn’t trigger and you can roll cancel out of the crouch to boot. One weird quirk is that getting hit during the invincibility period still makes the “you’ve just taken damage” sound. This can interfere with muscle memory until you practice a bit.
Determination and Royal Knight’s Resolve are currently higher than they might otherwise be. This is due to a possibly unintentional side effect where spells benefit from the buff without consuming its charge. That’s 10 seconds of 60-80% bonus spellcasting damage. Without this interaction, the skills aren’t as good, but still have some interesting applications for burst and Critical Hit builds.
Giant Hunt is good for precisely what its name implies. It lets low-swinging Colossal Weapons hit high. It also gives Colossal Weapons a fast gap-closer to punish small openings (which heavier armaments often lack).
Spinning Strikes is absurdly good damage and can be rolled out of neatly, after a short windup, but doesn’t provide a lot of safety or openings on its own. Use it to exploit large damage windows or attack slow enemies.
Blood Loss once again comes in clutch with Prelate’s Charge. The skill is best used with a bleed-centric weapon for major stagger and the ability to proc multiple instances of Blood Loss in a single charge.
Mighty Shot vs. Barrage (and other bow skills): Bows are tremendously useful. They’re also slightly finnicky and rely on ammunition that can’t be crafted mid-battle. Outside of cheesing field bosses, though, the value in bows is often applying status effects at a distance very quickly. Mighty Shot increases status buildup on its single arrow, somewhat defeating the purpose of Barrage, which burns through additional arrows. Rain of Arrows is the best of both worlds. Other bow skills have niche applications or can trip up enemy players in PVP.
Lightning Ram: I wanted to put this higher for comedy value alone, but actually trying to make it work is (just a bit) more trouble than it’s worth. Some players have reported good results in PVP.
Poison Moth Flight is an interesting concept but has a strange short-range projectile that’s difficult to land. Painfully slow windup speed makes it even harder to land than it already would be and the damage proc dissipates the Poison you just applied. I’m once again sorely tempted to make an F tier just for this.
Flaming Strike lacks the stagger power of Flame of the Redmanes, but retains its surprising range. It can also be chained with a heavy follow-up attack that catches PVP players off-guard like you wouldn’t believe. Easily the best among the “buff your weapon after an attack” skill archetype.
Glintstone Pebble should absolutely not be overlooked. Just ignore the silly name. Its damage scales surprisingly well and staggers enemies better than you might expect. Its real value is in its follow-up thrusting attack, which also hits hard while functioning as a gap-closer, and chains very quickly. The one downside is short range on the starting projectile.
Sacred Ring of Light isn’t as exciting as the Cleanrot Knights make it seem. But it is another very spammable projectile with a confusing delay that often trips up PVPers. Like Unsheathe, however, it has a superior equivalent tied to a specific weapon: the Halo Scythe.
Golden Land notably triggers “on hit” effects. Attach it to the Sacred Butchering Knife, for instance, and the eventual laser bolts will heal you.
General Notes & Jargon
Here are a few other concepts that go into our decision-making:
Animation Time: Most skills have a “startup” or “windup” period before they do anything at all. Short startups are almost universally better, and we tend to weigh this pretty highly. Some skills compensate for long startup times with other benefits, like super armor, of course.
Super Armor: Speaking of which, super armor is a concept not just found in Elden Ring but fighting games and more. When an ability provides super armor, it means the user cannot be interrupted (or is much harder to interrupt) until the move completes. This is useful but tricky to rely on since it doesn’t usually stop incoming damage — just the stagger you would otherwise suffer from preemptive attacks.
Cancelling: Many skills can be “cancelled” midway through. Usually by dodging or performing some other common action. This allows the player to begin moving again before they normally would if they simply let the animation complete. Some skills, like Raptor of the Mists, can be cancelled much sooner than others. This is typically a desirable bonus trait. Skills with long animation times that can’t be cancelled easily, like Black Flame Tornado, are less desirable.
Stagger and Posture Damage: Most offensive skills can stagger opponents. This causes the target to flinch and stop moving very briefly, often interrupting attacks that would otherwise hit the player. Lighter attacks are less likely to stagger while heavier armor reduces the chances of being staggered altogether. At the same time, several skills damage an invisible “posture” bar, to borrow a term from Sekiro, which leaves foes open to a Critical Hit when it depletes. Some skills, like Flame of the Redmanes, do incredible posture damage and are especially desirable on builds that exploit Critical Hits.
Spam: The ability to use an ability over and over again very quickly, before the enemy has time to respond.
Status Effects: This refers to indirect damage types. Across Elden Ring this includes Poison, Blood Loss, Frostbite, Scarlet Rot, Madness, Instant Death, and Sleep. Blood Loss, Frostbite, and Scarlet Rot tend to be the most effective and sought-after status types — due to their fast damage, usefulness in PVP as well as PVE, and easy application.