SO YOU WANNA BE A TANK?:
Index Code: [XATNK]
This was written for EP4. Future episodes have changed things. Regarding archer/hunter tank builds, Viper Sting Shot is a huge change. VSS is no longer AoE, so that pretty much renders "the sting that kills" strategy impossible. Nevertheless I left the text in, just in case you happen to be playing a server that is pre-EP5. Of course, not everything following is obsolete, but some specific things are.
I admit when I first heard of this build idea I wrote it off. "Yeah it could work in some situations but nobody's really gonna wanna do it." But really it has the potential to be a very fun and effective unorthodox way to play this class. Now the first question is, why would you do it?
If you like to tank why not pick the proper tanking class, Defender/Guardian? Why choose an archer/hunter and try to force them into a lesser tank? The reason would be that you want to play a standard archer/hunter but want to level up faster. You use it as a temporary build and in the end you actually rebuild your character to be a "normal" archer/hunter attacker.
In PvE the biggest draw for this type of build is simple, you can level faster as a party tank than you can as a solo archer, potentially. The lower your mode, the less stat points you have, the more that statement is true. A solo attack based archer build is not simple, it's not like a caster class who can basically go pure INT and get thousands of damage bonus from spells. It's not like a fighter/warrior who gets multiple 2x and 3x damage skills to spam. An archer/hunter with low stat quantities feels it a lot more than the other classes do; to the point where people say to skip the class altogether in Normal Mode. When you have low stats totals, your ability to pull off effective builds that use two or three stat categories is crippled and completely destroyed in many cases. A tanking build can be simplified and still be effective.
But why would you do it in PvP? Again, if you want to be a tank, why not choose a REC priest/oracle who can also heal, or a defender/guardian who can be a tougher tank? Why choose archer/hunter? Because you're weird. Seriously though it does have potential if you have the proper predisposition. If it fits your style you might find it fun, and that's what the game is all about. You won't directly kill anyone but you can be an annoyance and you eventually will get lots of skills that can help your team win. You get debuff skills and DoT skills and stun type skills. Plus you'll be like Steven Seagal. Did you get that one? But the main reason to play this kind of PvP archer/hunter would be because it's weird, it's not normal, it's fun to you. It would have use, it would have effective strategies to aid your team, it's not useless. But it's weird, so you too have to be weird to play it. Just like only the weird ones like me played LUC based defenders in EP2.
Tank based archer/hunter builds are interesting and can be very effective so they shouldn't just be written off, especially in PvE grinding. Still, they probably won't ever become normal or commonplace but they do deserve the proper recognition and their own little place in the guide. This section is new and not completely formatted. I'll tune it up when I have time.
PvE - THE BULLETPROOF VOLKSWAGEN
You won't know by appearance but you'll be one of the toughest characters of your mode and level. Archers/Hunters are not considered a tanking class and nobody will expect you to be able to do so. But remember that casters, the naturally most squishy class in the game, make tank builds that leave them practically unkillable all the time, and therefore any class, including archer/hunter, can do the same. You are naturally defensively stronger than mages/pagans to begin with so if they can do it, you can do it. We are not "meant" to be tanks, but they aren't either, and that doesn't mean you can't.
The Basic Build Points:
Remember this is for grinding, not PvP; we'll get to that later. I hate to say per level builds here. So much depends on your lapis. What you really want to think about is stat totals in the end but this is not going to be a Pure REC setup. The reason is that you are not skilled to be tank, so you don't have Taunts, you don't have skills designed specifically to hold aggro, and you don't have fixed hit rate spamable skills. To hold aggro you will be relying on actually hitting
the target with your skills/attacks and aside from one or two, they all need proper DEX to hit. So an archer/hunter tank is at least REC/DEX. Actually in terms of base build that is probably the only general option you would take. LUC and WIS have defensive qualities that would be useful but getting them in your base stats would not be the way to go. Only a UM at higher level with great gear would consider adding in significant LUC or Resist. The lower modes just won't have the points. So REC/DEX as a base or Pure REC base if you can get all your DEX efficiently from lapis instead. If you want a stock build it would either be 2 DEX per level and the rest in REC, or 1 DEX per level and the rest in REC, or Pure REC (and DEX via lapis).
If you are a Normal Mode wanting to do this build you will be hard pressed to give up base stats to DEX and in the end I feel you are going to want to be Pure REC with your DEX from lapis. It all depends on how much funds you have to make gear but even the lowest budget gear can get 150+ DEX and unless you have the funds to fill your gear with all quality REC lapis you're are going to have to put some DEX in your gear, and doing this efficiently will give you quite a bit, as I said 150+. In my opinion I would say an NM should try to skimp by with minimum accuracy because you need to have your defenses up and you'll be short on stats unless you have uber gear. Thus, pure REC and do everything you can to get some armor with DEX in it, the 1-15 PvP set, and then the 20-30 PvP set is all most people use when grinding up to 50. But if you're not going to get the 1-15 set then you're going to have to build DEX in. You can't go 30 levels as Pure REC unless your killing partner takes the mobs you pull out in one or two spells (before you lose your aggro). I hope I'm being clear enough. Saying a per level build even as a tanking archer/hunter is difficult. The lower your mode, the less room you have for diversity. This is why NM defenders/guardians just go Pure REC. But you can't really get away with that since you need DEX.
So in NM I say try to go pure REC and get gear for some DEX, but if you can't then you have to go 4 REC 1 DEX. In HM I would say go 6 REC 1 DEX regardless, and in UM 8 REC 1 DEX regardless of gear. Still, gear with more DEX and REC/DEF is going to be needed eventually. Maybe you can get to the 30 dread set without it but typically people get a 1-15 set to bridge the gap since it has resale value when they're done. That's what I recommend.
Before I go on I will list the stats and how they apply to you, the potential archer/hunter tank. They work differently than an attack build in terms of how you value them and how useful they are to you.
- For a tank build STR is worth about as much as the value of war to Edwin Starr. Putting points into this via lapis or base stats is just utter fail.
- It's always useless for a class with no magical skills at all.
- This is potentially useful because it gives MP, which some of your good tanking skills use a lot of. Resist is also good for defensive builds. But it's not more important than your other main stats and so unless it's a WIS/DEF dual or piggybacked secondary orange stats, you should not put any points into this stat. The standard tank strategy is to simply avoid magical mobs when you don't have the points to spare for resist. In any case, adding straight WIS is the most inefficient way to get these advantages. Actually, adding INT would be the most inefficient way to get resist since it gives none. But seriously it's all about dual lapis for things such as resist.
- LUC to you is useful for only one small reason, crit evasion. But at 20 to 1% it will be very small. Not worth doing anything aside from secondary bonus orange stats. Pretty much consider LUC as a non issue, don't lapis it, don't base stat is and don't sacrifice better orange stats for it either.
- Now this is important. SP helps but you should not have SP issues for the most part. If anything it would be your MP that limits you with some skills. But you need DEX to hit. Without it you will not be accurate enough and how you hold aggro depends on your ability to effectively hit the mobs with your DEX based skills and attacks.
REACTION DEFENSE (REC)
- This is you main stat. You're gonna go pure or near pure in your build and get as much from lapis and orange stats as you can.
Also remember that DEX is being used for accuracy not evasion. Especially in NM you don't have the points to get fancy, just as a NM defender/guardian doesn't. In HM or UM with great gear you have more room for diversity but the reliability of DEF is proffered over the, still not fully understood, ability of DEX evasion. In other words, don't give up significant DEF/HP to try to gain more evasion, because i've found it to be unreliable. Lower modes with lesser gear need not even think about such things.
Look at me, I'm a fancy boy!
Unless you are at leas HM and high level and with amazing gear, you're not building resist in either. I know it is common for the average player to try to balance. The problem is, this is a game with 6 useful stats and limited points. In real life I'm a "jack of all trades" but in this game you honestly cannot become such a thing. You want to specialize and do one or two things well, rather than three or four things mediocre. In NM you don't have the stat points to get fancy. Unless you're high level with amazing gear, you have to focus, tank means REC. Archer/hunter tanks means REC and accuracy DEX. Put resist and evasion aside and build a good physical defensive tank that can hold aggro, just like an NM defender/guardian would build.
If you're HM or UM again you have more wiggle room but without really amazing gear this is no longer true. In any case resist should be achieved in a "piggyback" fashion, not directly from WIS. Dual REC/resist is great, Dual WIS/DEF is good too, WIT lapis is great. These are the kinds of ways a tank gets resist. You don't waste a slot on it because you don't give up the defensive benefits that come on such lapis (besides WIT, but that is helm only and you have limited options there). Building WIS into your base stats or using straight WIS lapis is NOT recommended. An archer is not a class that gets many tank enhancing abilities so we really have to focus and force the ability in with our stats and lapis.
So no evasion and no resist. Not until your REC/DEF/HP is sufficiently high, which it never will be as an NM and only potentially as a HM or UM if you have amazing gear at high level.
Oooooh, it's so shiney!
There's not a lot of things that separate an archer/hunter from a defender/guardian in the lapis department. It's the standard tank setup with one exception, DEX. Higher stat tanks often add DEX because they have so many points that they don't know what else to use them on, so they aim for some more evasion from DEX. Archer/Hunter however needs it for basic accuracy in order to hold aggro. So you lapis in DEX as a primary stat along with REC. Up to a point they are both fairly equal in importance but after you get about 150, which is minimal accuracy in the endgame, REC starts to become more important.
REC, DEX, DEF, HP. These are your important stats. Resist and LUC are your secondary stats that only the higher level higher modes with great gear will even start to consider. UM archer/hunters get Magic Defy but that's not enough to save you as a tank. It's enough as a normal attack based archer who kills one at a time. But you can't expect to pull 7 magic casting mobs and rely on Magic Defy, which will negate only 5 magic attacks every five minute. It will run out, and you will get lit up. Like a standard tank, you are better off simply avoiding magic mobs unless you have so many points that you built up your DEF and DEX and HP and still had enough left over to build high Resist. Then Magic Defy compliments that but is not the main source of your magic defenses.
So REC is primary and DEX is also important. Duals are your best friend. You're likely not gonna waste level 6 lapis on such a build unless you plan to make this a PvP build, but don't blow them on your grinding armor. Level 5s can fill in gaps that duals can't. Here is a general list of all the great duals you would use. If you can't swing any of that, don't worry and read on.
- Dual REC/DEF - awesome of course, it's not quite as good as a level 5 REC because the 12 DEF doesn't give HP.
- Dual REC/Resist - this is great because it gives the resist in addition to the REC so you don't waste a slot for simply resist. Still, the usefulness of just "some" resist is not huge. Either you are built to tank magic or you will avoid magic. A few resist won't change that.
- Dual REC/SP - Good for the REC and SP doesn't hurt, but MP is really what can give an archer/hunter trouble. You will more often run out of MP than SP. But 9 REC is not a bad use of a slot depending on your other options which depends on your budget.
- Dual REC/ATK - The attack is useless for you but again 9 REC might be a good use of a slot on your weapon and it's typically one of the cheapest options.
- Dual DEX/HP - DEX is needed, and HP is good too.
- Dual DEX/DEF - This is even better for a tank. The DEX is needed and 12 DEF ontop of that is awesome.
- Dual DEX/SP - it's okay, but not the best. Better than a lvl 3 DEX of course, even a lvl 4 DEX maybe. Cost would be the biggest factor there because it's not much better than those other two and SP likely won't be a big concern.
- Dual STR/DEF - purely for the 12 DEF it can be okay. If you need to fill a slot and 12 DEF is the most you can afford to put on it then this would be an option.
- Dual WIS/HP - it's okay but not for a more basic tank. Unless you're the afformention high stat fancy boy you wouldn't use this really. Even if you are said fancy boy there are better options, you don't have THAT many slots to fill and with higher budgets there are tons of great choices, this is not one of them.
- Dual WIS/DEF - again this is great just for the 12 DEF, better than a forbid lvl 3 or something like that and the WIS adds MP, which you'll need, and resist, which is meh but still defensive in nature.
- Level 5 - REC, DEX, Forbid, Life, Wit. These would be the only ones you would consider if you can afford them. You can compare their efficiency based on your other options to see what is best for you.
- Level 3 and 4 - Again REC, DEX, Forbid, and Life. Wit is out at anythingless than lvl 5 because if you have the funds to get slotted helms you have the funds to get a decent level WIT lapis to put in it if you want to use WIT at all.
- Elemental Armor Lapis - Especially in PvE this is about the best thing you could do for defenses but it's insanely expensive. So yeah, it's amazing but is it worth the cost to you? Only you can answer that. High level mobs hit for 1000 or even 2000 damage so an ele would drop that by 200 to 400 per hit. From one lapis that effect is unmatched. But can you afford it and will you stay a tank long enough to justify that cost?
- Absorption Lapis - less 50 damage. It's relatively equal to 50 DEF and 25 resist. Based on how the damage formulas work that's not quite true but it's somewhat close. So yes it is a great use of a slot but again can you afford it and is it worth it to you? If you are getting these things free from drops then yeah, it's a great choice but it has resale value as well so is it better to sell it or use it. Only you have these answers for yourself.
All the rest are pretty much attack based lapises. Dual LUC/resist is not the best option. There are so many level 5s and other dual lapis to build in resist if you are in the "fancy boy" position to effectively build resist a LUC lapis will not be your first choice. Again you've got 6 slots per peice max and there are more than 6 great lapis to choose from, mostly duals.
Now, does this mean you need duals to be an effective tank? Not at all. I took an archer with 250 base stats (about level 51) in pure REC, and lapised in REC/DEX/DEF and was able to handle 3 to 5 of the hardest mobs in the game at one time, tanking and killing myself, without using potions. It doesn't get much more budget than that. You can be successful with level 3 lapised gear but you can start to be a true tank in higher modes and with dual lapis or better, though duals are so good you may not need to go better, especially if this is a temporary build for you.
Turning skills to kills.
What about skills. There's a few you'll want. I'm not going to list every skill you DON'T need, just the ones that you will want. And this is for PvE.
The initial stages: A true party boy.
- Body Training - the average archer build doesn't even take this skill but 27 more defense for no stat point cost is exactly what we want here.
- Relax Bosy - "Bosy" what's that? Yes I left my typo in so that I could make a comment about it. Relax Bosy doesn't exist in this dimension of reality, but Relax BODY is something you will want as a tanking build.
- Bow Mastery - You'll have the points and attacking faster is valuable so max the BOW mastery but skip the projectile skills unless you have the points, which you probably will but it's not crucial you have the projectile mastery. Your main weapon is likely going to be the Piku Hawk/GTC.
- Sharp Shooter - We're using DEX only for minimum accuracy and without this buff you simply make your accuracy even harder to get. No reason to not get this and keep it active ALWAYS.
- Slow - okay, here's the thing. This seems promising at first. It's fixed hit rate of 70% It's a defensive skill. But it messes with moving speed and you don't want one of your mobs moving like he's a common zombie in a group of Las Plagas. So basically you could skip it or use it selectively to mess with the last mob in the situations where they don't die evenly, which they usually won't. You can also use it to pull a rogue mob off your caster/damager.
- Long Range - whether you are trying to not reskill, or going to reskill and are worried about reskilling again after you're done with this build. In any case you get Long Range. That dot is a period.
- Big Coup - recharge time is bad but it's useful for an emergency situation. If you're about to ingest the brown crummy substance under your boots pop this, start kiting better, and hope, above all hope.
- Piercing Shot - this has value actually, by using it on the very first mob you begin your pull with, it freezes them allowing you to pull one or two more without the first even moving toward you yet. The damage is less important so you could simply go with level one to conserve SP use. That refers to when you are higher level and alone. If you are duoing/partying you would save this for stopping mobs that go rogue on your casters.
- Sustain Shot - You certainly don't need it. But you will be pulling the mobs to draw aggro rather than collecting by proximity like a defender often does. So you need to use a skill to pull them and this DoT will start killing the mob before you collect them all and start nuking or VSSing.
- Nailed Shot - another skill useful for inital pulling. 218 damage every 3 seconds is significant. Nearly 900 damage from the total skill. That's 10% of the endgame mobs' HP.
- Slump Shot - like slow, it seems to have defensive purposes, and it does. But the recharge time is an issue. But more than that, the dropping of the mobs STR and ATK speed is what is useful about this skill. lvl 3 doesn't become available until level 57 but even lvl 2 drops STR by 30. The real issue is this. It's only really useful as an inital pulling skill because it's not AoE. But the effect only lasts 15 seconds, which means by the time you acutally get your pull collected the effect will be over and thus it won't help you much if at all. It could be used to deal with the final single mob you will likely have left over but even so you'll proably either Airshot and renew VSS or Nailed Shot if it is nearly dead instead. That applies to a solo situation. For parties/duos you can use it to cripple a mob going after your caster by slowing is atk speed and STR as you get his aggro back.
- Jumping Airshot - Especially useful at lvl 3 because 1250 damage is huge to someone in your position. 500 is still good. In any case, you will use this to take care of single mobs that survive your VSS spam cycles. There's usually one leftover and if it is almost dead you can finish it with this and perhaps nailed shot, rather than VSS again. You can also pull with it.
- Viper Sting Shot - When you are solo.... THIS skill is what makes it possible to truthfully begin such a sentence as a tank archer. Without this you are just a tank, with it, you can be a one man AoE party with a countdown on your enemies life span. A countdown of 60 seconds. It has fairly high SP and more importantly MP costs. This means even my 58 UM archer couldn't use it more than three times without restoring in some form. I could actually BARELY get three off with my MP pool. But I found my reserves to be fine, combined with some blessing to restore and get the job done. There's always pots or even MP lapis, especially if you could get you hands on some slotted rings and use them strictly for MP. These rings are not cheap but they are NPC sold in the desert so you won't ever have to pay 100s of millions for them. And MP lapis is quite cheap as well.
- Evasion - This is only for archers. Last I heard and tried, this skill didn't seem to work at all. It costs no point but it uses all your MP and SP reserves. This means one thing, even if it does work. It's an emergency skill. When your spidey sense starts tingling, you pop Big Coup THEN Evasion, and then kite like you're at the PKRA World Tour. If it still doesn't work then there's no point to use it of course. If we knew for certain that it did work you could use it earlier in the pull but then you'll have to likely pot so you can use VSS properly, unless your bless and regen is very high at the moment. I just recently tried it (on december 9th, 2009) but it didn't seem to make me evade more at all.
- Battle Cry - This is only for Hunters. Last I heard it also didn't work. If it did it would be a no brainer to keep it buffed as often as physically possible. Faster HP regen for a tank, I don't even have to say anything else.
- Potentially Viable - This is something you'll want for one reason. When things do go more South than a penguin's bowel movement sliding down an iceberg, you'll appreciate the increase in movement speed to increase your kiting performance. You may also want to swing for grape ice cream, the cheapest and most useful flavor for someone in this position. You can kite just fine with normal movement speed but being faster makes it much easier and will increase your survival potential greatly.
- Absolute Attack - This is good because it can deal up to 20% damage, which is going to be around 1800 damage to these mobs. And it deals that damage even if the mob only has 1800 HP left. It can be used to finish off the trailing mob just like Jumping Airshot, only stronger. But the recharge time makes this nearly useless. You won't get to use it much at all.
- Misfortune/Blunt - Archers get the former, Hunters the latter. You could pull with it if you want, but it won't do all that much to aid you. Blunt dropping DEX is potentially better to give maybe slight boost to evasion/accuracy. LUC at best would give such minimal critical evasion that it's hardly worth the time it takes to type that. I don't understand the aggro generation system in the game fully but if you think a constant buff gets more aggro than say a normal attack you might pull with this instead.
- Shot Pointer - unless your damagers in party include archers/hunters this won't serve any benefit. Again, it's a debuff so if you think that generates more aggro then okay. Lvl 3 is AoE though so THIS then becomes something to have. If you're gonna party/duo to your best you want AoE moves.
- Wide Shot and Ballista Shot - For the times when you're a party tank you want the AoEs to hold aggro so get them both and carry a secondary crossbow/javelin. (the high level one you'll probably want is the high 40s Pando Lanhaar drop with 38 REC stats. You can even lapis it because it will cost so little to do so.) But you don't have to get the power ups or masteries, all you'll do is switch for ballista and occasionally bloody shower and then switch right back to bow.
- Shower Time and Bloody Shower - The idea behind having both weapons is to have maximum AoE potential so that you can hold aggro. These skills have massive recharge time though so if you can't get them you should still be okay because if you are relying on these, then you're screwed anyway because they spend 99% of their time on cooldown.
- Rapid Shot - This could be good for getting back rogue mobs that go for your caster. If you have a debuff lapis or two on your weapon this becomes even better because it gets three chances to proc with this one skill. Otherwise you won't NEED it.
- Mana/Stamina Shot - Mobs don't have MP/SP reserves but this skill still works and again if it's true that a debuff generates more aggro then this might have use but i don't know. If not, there is no use for this skill in PvE.
- Magic Defy - If you don't know whether a tank should have a magic immunity skill then there is nothing I can say to help you. However, it can't be your only magic defense. It only blocks 5 every 5 minutes and if you're pulling magical mobs you're gonna get hit with more than that. So basically your options are still the standard tank strategy of build resist (only high level high stat builds) or avoid magic mobs.
- Bull's Eye - it never misses but aside from that I can't think of any particular use for it. You're building the DEX to be accurate. But if you're going to try to tank red mobs you should consider that you have to actually hit to hold aggro, you're not a defender/guard so you need to adjust your strategy. Tank yellows to avoid problems and greens in the endgame if you have too much aggro loss.
Playing as an HM defender certainly made trying out a tank archer a natural fit. The standard idea is you are the tank, you pull several mobs at once, a caster nukes them all, they die, and you repeat. Whether or not you need a healer in the party as well is dependent on what mobs you pull and what mode you are and how good your gear is, as well as how fast your caster/damager kills the mobs. However, no tank needs
a healer. You can always adjust the mobs you pull to fit what you can handle with pots.
In the beginning you are just like a normal tank, you're party reliant. You can't kill the mobs yourself so you'll need someone to do it for you and you'll want someone who can do so in AoE fashion. Could be mage/pagan, battle priest/orc, or even fighter/warrior (especially after lvl 34). An archer does gain the ability to be a "one man AoE party" but only after you get Viper Sting Shot does this even become a possibility. Such as strategy does work successfully at the highest level mobs using VSS lvl 3 but still duoing with a true AoE nuker will be the fastest option for you and the only option for the first half of your leveling journey to 60.
The idea is simple. You gather the mobs either by proximity or by attacking each one. The problem with just running by them is you don't get much aggro from it. Attacking them is better. This works similar to a defender pulling with panic or curse raid. In the situation where you are just the tank, and not the damage dealer you can simply pull with normal attacks. For the most part the skills are not going to be a major help to your damager. But on the other hand they do generate enemy malice towards you. After you gather them all, you have no taunt, so what do you do to hold aggro? If you have a powerful damager on your team you may not even really have to. A caster that drops your pull in three spells won't even need you to keep the aggro because by the time the mobs are hit, go after the caster, and get to them, they will be dead.
After level 10 you use Wide Shot and Ballista Shot after gathering your pull. It would be beneficial to carry both weapon types for this purpose. You won't get many AoE skills and trying to cycle through mobs one at a time to attack them and hold their aggro, your options are limited. This is why pulling with skills such as Sustain Shot, Nailed Shot, and the like can be beneficial. Ideally, you want to take on mobs that your caster/damager can kill quickly in three skills or so. Because if you do lose aggro on the lot the caster needs to be delivering the killing blow before they start beating on them. You have enough aggro generating ability as an archer/hunter to get back rogue mobs but not multiple ones at the same time because you don't have the AoEs to do so. After you get Viper Sting Shot at level 37 then the game changes. It's spamable. It's DoT. It's awesome. So awesome in fact that you can build a solo AoE strategy around it. A technique that is powerful enough to drop pulls of near unlimited numbers of Pando/Lanhaarr non magic mobs for moderately geared HM/UMs.
What you should note is that in many cases, to maximize your tanking ability to don't act like a standing tank. Meaning you don't just pull use taunt and stand there getting beat on. If you can handle doing this then you should consider stepping up the mob difficulty. Being a kiting tank is what you will end up as in the end. Which is basically the same except after you pull them all and use your Wide shots etc. you run around and therefore you don't take many hits. You stop only to use the AoE skills again or to pull of a mob that goes rogue on your caster. When you do this, you barely get hit, and bless regenerates the HP you do lose. If things get tough you can use HP pots, but for the most party you don't NEED a healer. If you have a healer you can step the mob difficulty up even more. The limiting factor is going to be how strong your caster is. The mobs have to be appropriate so that the caster can kill them in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, it's likely faster to step it down a notch and actually get the mobs killed, and therefore kill more of them, faster.
I have to say this too, though I mentioned it already. You're not a defender/guardian. You don't have Taunt, you don't have 6 AoEs that are independent of your DEX. YOU have to hit your targets to hold aggro. Red dungeon mobs are not your ideal situation, even if you had the DEF to tank it. How are you going to hold the aggro when you can't hit them because they're 5 levels higher than you and your DEX isn't enough? Adjust your strategy. Yellow mobs, okay. Increase your EXP rate by taking on more. Easier mobs, but more of them in the same amount of time equals similar or better EXP. You don't really have a choice. Unless your caster is higher level than you and only needs you to hold the mobs for a few seconds before killing them all in three spells. The mobs don't get pissed off at you if you don't hit them and your success as a party tank relies on your mob pissing off ability.
The later stages: The sting that kills.
After you get Viper Sting Shot, a new possibility opens up. Especially at lvl 2 and 3. It deals enough damage that you can effectively kill the mobs yourself, just given enough time for the poison to work. There are no immunities to this so it will work on every single target in the game, including bosses. It's not faster than a good caster or damager but it does work if you can't find said damager. In Pando/Lanhaarr you can kill the mobs in three cycles of VSS, which is roughly 60 seconds. Your success in these harder maps depends entirely on your defensive capabilities. A NM archer with lvl 3 mediocre lapised gear can generate about 450 or so DEF as well as around 150 DEX. This is enough to handle pulls of about 3 Pando/Lanhaarr mobs relatively easily, without really even needing HP potions.
A UM with the same moderate lvl 3/4 lapised gear can raise their DEX very slightly but more importantly their DEF up to the mid 700s. Keeping DEX around 150 is the idea until you can get 1k+ DEF, then that starts being so much DEF as to make it worthwhile to put other stats, like DEX to 225 and possibly some resist, etc. 750 DEF is going to be enough to allow you to pull a near infinite number of these types of non magic mobs. The only limit is how many are in a given area. And the good news is that regardless of how many mobs you pull, they don't take longer to kill. VSS kills 10 as fast as 1, it still takes 60 seconds either way. Therefore you killing power comes from your DEF and not your ATK because you increase your EXP gain by taking on more mobs at one time. No matter what, you take around 60 seconds to kill your pulls solo.
The reason why you can tank an "unlimited" amount of these mobs is because you won't be a standing tank. With the 750 DEF UM setup I described you can stand tank for a few, about 3 or so mobs. But why do that when you can kite tank 10? And I should mention again that this is solo, no healer, and not even HP pots. Moderate, or even medium low bless is your healer (so long as it says the increased HP during rest). Because VSS is what is killing, you can just run around "at rest" the whole time and regenerate. By simply avoiding those few mob types that poison HP you've got a technique in which you will nearly never get hit. If you add grape ice cream or some equivalent of that, you are not literally going to never get hit once you learn how to kite defensively. In this sense your amount of DEF is not super important except for the fact that you want the ability to get hit because you WILL take some hits throughout the course of your gathering. Once you lock it in and Sting em though you will not be taking much damage at all.
The nice thing about this is that you can do it alone. But you can revert right back to a party/duo tank if you find another to join you. The only difference is you will again have to give thought to aggro. When you're alone it doesn't matter. You can gather by proximity and do nothing except VSS. In a group you might want to pull with skills or attacks, use VSS and the AoEs like wide/ballista shot to ensure you hold aggro. Again, preferably you want you damager to be able to kill these things fast enough. If they are taking 10 spells to finish them off and losing aggro is becoming an issue, you have a few options.
You can advise that you go to mobs they can handle better. My NM mage could drop earth Pando mobs in three or four spells with lvl 3 budget gear. A caster that is struggling in this situation means they're either not a nuke build or they are too low level for the mobs. If you don't want to go lower there is another option. Suggest they notice how much damage their main instant cast spells can do. Maybe it's 1/3 of the mobs' HP. Then have them waiting as you apply the solo VSS strategy until the mobs have 1/3 HP left, then have the caster nuke them off. Which way you choose depends on which you feel ends up in faster EXP. These are just ideas, and once you get experience and learn this style of playing you will know yourself what is best.
Yeah yeah yeah, so it works, but does it work BETTER?
I'm the first one to jump in with the "hammer speech". You can use a screwdriver handle, or a frying pan to drive in a nail, but a hammer is still better. This is often given in talks regarding LUC builds in 1-15 PvP. An archer/hunter tank is weird, but there's no doubt it works. NM archers tank with poor "lowbrid" builds and they have been since EP2. They're just not well known because they didn't really do it on purpose and they are dismissed as newbies. That is to say they have some REC but also STR, DEX, and LUC. They typically build like this just because they didn't know they weren't supposed to. Overbalancing is the technical term for it. But still they can handle kite tanking one or two of these high level mobs. My NM mage and an NM archer did just that, without realizing the true potential of what we were doing. Had I been the statistically oriented player I am now, we would have reset the archer to a full tank build until we hit 60, and we would have actually hit 60 before she quit at 58 and 1/2.
I've said before, the less stat points you have, the more a tanking build will serve you compared to your other options. An archer/hunter attack based build needs a lot of stat points to be effective. Many NM characters cannot muster enough to do this. But you can make a viable tank build with less stat points. I did so with as little as around 500 or so.
Although a UM archer can grind very fast killing one at a time with an attack Hybrid build. The potential leveling speed of a tank/caster duo, dropping 10 mobs at one time is also very high. Even soloing and taking one to two minutes to kill 10 mobs via the VSS solo strategy is good. I can't say for certain if the solo VSS would be faster than a normal high geared UM archer killing one at a time. I haven't compared them enough. But if you are duoing then your caster is going to kill your pulls very fast and this will be faster than a solo archer/hunter build. As I said, if you have budget gear, or lower mode, this means less stat points. And that means your ability to quickly kill one at a time with an attack build becomes much less, and much slower. And therefore, since the VSS strategy or duoing with a caster always takes the same 60 seconds to kill the pull, this can make it far faster.
The beauty of it is that if you are alone, you can still solo. Dead in 60 seconds is the motto of it. VSS is your artificial caster simulator, and it works well enough. So you're never screwed like a defender/guardian would be if they can't find a nuker. Also, though it will be slower, you will be alone and thus get more EXP helping to offset the lack of the casters' power.
I honestly can't say when this will be better for you and when you're better off with a standard archer/hunter attack build. But the great thing about it is that the cost is minimal. I have to stress that you can pull this all off with minimal cost in gear. So worst case scenario is you have to reset your stats and you're out the cost of lapising dread gear with some of the cheapest defensive lapis around. You're seriously talking about gear you could all buy from the auction house and lapis up for like 50 mil. That's just an estimate but it's dirt cheap, really. You can get great results with bad gear because you are getting full potential from the stats you build upon. So you're out 50 mil maybe and you have to buy a stat reset, which is more costly, but it's not like you're talking about making two uber sets of 10 billion gold gear to try out a tank. The cost is minimal and if you don't like it, you barely lose anything. And people with the most chance of not liking it are ones who can pull of a great attack based build, and to them 50 mil is the cost of a single lapis in many cases.
Does this make my butt look big?
Obviously the better your gear the better your performance. But I certainly didn't have 6 billion gold to throw around trying this technique out. In fact, I had 140 million to my name. But I used only a fraction of it to build my entire gear set. I dumped much of it on a, statistically not worth it, NM cape for 40 mil. And another 50+ mil trying to get a Lv6 Debuff to stick, just to see if I could, which I failed at lol. The amount of gold I actually spent was only a couple dozen mil maybe. That is pennies by today's standards.
The reason is multilayered. One, archer/hunter gear has always been some of the cheapest gear in the game. Two, dread gear is acceptable and again very cheap these days when everyone wants at least legend and the spotlight is on goddess. Three, gear with native defensive stats on an archer/hunter is even cheaper as everyone is trying to be an attacker, which honestly is the true point of the class. Four, Pando/Lanhaarr weapon drops are statistically some of the best you can get without spending a ton of money, and not only are they cheap, they're dirt cheap. Five, level 3 lapis is dirt cheap, and even splurging on some lvl 4 or certain dual lapis is hardly splurging when they cost less than 1 mil each. Some of the lapis you will be looking to use, forbid and life, etc. are some of the cheapest in the game.
Combining all this makes for one cheap set of gear that can serve you well enough to get the job done. All at minimal cost, so the long term risk is very low, or non existent.
I've already listed the lapis you are considering. But here is what I used. My top was dread Raffiniert, which is nearly equivalent to a dread Dragon/Python. It had 500 HP orange stats and was lapised with lvl 3 and 4 forbid, lvl 3 dex, and lvl 3 life. My pants were dread. I bought these pre-made for like 15 mil. They had 1000 HP from orange stats and dual str/def, dual dex/def, dual dex/luc, and dual luc/resist on them. Two of which, the dual luc and dual dex/luc were not so critical to my tanking build at all, but it was pre-done and i'm not gonna rip stuff off. The gloves were 5 slot but, my boots, while also 5 slot, only had 3 lapis in them so that evens it out and you could do the same with dread. The gloves had 700HP orange and 3 dex, 3 rec, 4 rec, 3 life, dual str/def lapised in. The boots had 3 dex, 3 rec, 3 life, and 3 mp (take it or leave it). All these armors had a few orange stats, some in DEX and a few in REC. I just got whatever the best that was cheapest in the auction at the time. All the duals in this setup could be effectively replaced with lvl 4 REC or even 5 Forbid. There are certainly even cheaper ways to achieve these same stats by not using duals. I only did because the armor came with them in already. So we're talking basically lvl 3 with some lvl 4 dread armor. And it was insanely cheap to get.
The weapon is the same story. If you're working with a budget, that is to say not going to use legend/goddess with level 5s or great dual lapis, then there is one choice you want for your weapon. It's the best and it's about as cheap as you can get. A less than one million gold Piku Hawk/Golden Tree Core, with +43 base DEX. The pure DEX is what you want because it gives you maximum use of stats. There are crossbows with 38 REC, there's Piku's with half REC. But the other half goes into STR or LUC and that is a waste for you. The pure DEX means you get the full use of the 43 stats and to you DEX is as important as REC up to a point. My Piku happened to have orange stats of 16 more DEX and others I don't recall, some WIS I think. I lapised it with a lvl 3 rec, lvl 3 dex, and dual rec/atk (simply for the 9 rec at a dirt cheap price). The last slot I tried to get a Curse Lv6 in which I failed after about 25 attempts. I heard that people say they are so abundant that you can afford to link them without hammers etc. I did not find that to be the case however, the active high levels likely consider 50 or 60 attempts to be acceptable, for budget players, especially those who can't farm them for themselves, this is not such a great option. 1% is tough odds.
I used cheap NPC jewelry because the lvl 55 stuff with 18 stats is nice but 5+ mil each depending on the seller. You can farm them from map 3 mobs though. 9 REC/9 STR or the 9 DEX/9 LUC is what you would be wanting (for the REC and DEX). Failing that, I used a lvl 48 or so +10 DEX amulet and the +11 REC loops from NPCs. I had no rings because STR and INT are worthless. The slotted rings have potential in that VSS is an MP hog. If you could link a worship or heroic with 3/4 Mental that would be a nice way to address the issue. I also had a +10 DEX NPC cape as I said, but at 40 mil that's not a cost effective way to get 10 stats, but it made me look cooler.
I say all this just to illustrate how bad that gear really is. It's not good. The few good things about it came on the armor when I bought it and it was still super cheap even when linked with +DEF duals. So you see we are not talking about HM/UM only running in REC/DEF and lvl 5 REC lapis here. We're not talking about spending 7 to 30 mil per lapis. We are talking 95% level 3 lapis that costs like 200k each and many under 100k and links more often than not.
Now, I'm UM and level 58, but I ran a half stat build of 250 (what an NM has at lvl 51) and it still worked extremely well. I've also talked to other NMs, and I duoed with an NM archer who tanked with an overbalanced build in EP2, so I'm familiar and confident with their performance. When I dumped my full base into REC, and boosted to 750 DEF with said dirt cheap gear and no buffs, my performance went through the roof. I died once in Calipurr (endgame Pando mobs) only because i had no potions to heal me and they hit me with un-dispellable stopping magic. Eventually the group beat on me until I went down. That's why you don't mess with such mobs that have attacks you can't cure. I would have made it aout alive if they didn't keep renewing the skill, but I can only stand so long with 7 of the hardest mobs beating on me with no HP potions and no ability to move lol. I stayed up longer than expected though. Long enough for a good caster to have killed them and saved me lol. Mobs without the un-dispellable stopping skills were just child's play.
The best part of this build is again the cost. It's just so cheap to make that gear it's ridiculous. You don't need billions, you don't even need hundred of million (yes, single tense was intentional). I can say for certain an NM with such a build and a little practice and skill could get through the endgame solo on an seriously low budget. You can get at least to 59 without facing the magic mobs in Pando, that I'm sure of because I got to 58 with a less capable build and the mobs were not white yet. By going to a better map it would be much faster as well but the point is "NM" and "archer/hunter" doesn't mean "screwed in the endgame" or "party leech". You have another option, and it may just work for you.
PvP - The armored mosquito on your TV.
You're not going to be the powerhouse one shot killer that the highest stat attack archer/hunters are. You're going to be something else entirely. An annoyance, a potential deadly annoyance. It's dark and the glow from the TV screen is the only thing illuminating the room. A mosquito becomes obsessed with it. You know what I'm talking about. Now imagine the mosquito has Malaria and is armored in reinforced steel. You're hard pressed to kill it, it annoys the **** out of you, and if you underestimate it, it could be the cause of your death. Now imagine that mosquito is not alone, but planning an assault with a polar bear and rabid mongoose. The mosquito might not be the biggest threat but as a whole you WILL feel it's presence when it bites you as you try to fend off the other threats around. This is the potential of a tank archer/hunter.
If you really go all out with this and make insane gear you can be potentially amazing. You won't be a solo killer but this has the potential to be an incredibly fun build in team PvP, which is what PvP SHOULD be anyway. The additional of the party buffs and amazing gear can take you to another level of defense, especially if you're 60 and UM. Again the idea is to be defensive, not build attack, and rely on debuffs, DoT, crippling skills. Here lv6 Debuff lapis becomes a real thing to consider rather than using your weapon for a few more stats. Adding slows, and stuns, and all kinds of debilitating potential effects to all your attacks is potentially great, when they take effect.
I'm not going to list builds or anything of that sort. Reading the PvE portion will benefit you. The idea is just simple. Go insane on your defensive measures and use your skills to hurt the enemy, and by hurt we don't simply mean HP damage. That fighter closing in on your Assassin friend is not going to do so well when you Slump, Slow, and VSS him. Your friend gets the kill but your count goes up too. You see the underestimated kind of thing you can do if you are concerned about more things than glory and damage output. The reason you build defense is simply because you decide that if you're using skills in this fashion you don't really want the attack so you pump the DEF/Resist/HP/and or DEX/LUC. What you can do depends on your mode and gear of course.
As far as skills I think you can decide for yourself. The debuffing skills and DoT skills and stunning and stopping skills, these are going to be things you want. Even utilizing a sword/dual axes with Mana Decay or Sleeper Ban become effective annoyances. Yes you can pot away most effects but that doesn't mean they are useless. The PvPers that have a core of harder density usually run with pots and know how and when to use them, but many others, "newbies" or just lazy people don't use potions. Also, someone thinking about being stopped and spamming their potions are at the very least partially distracted. This is a big deal in itself. A healer dispelling is a healer that's not healing. A caster potting back MP is a caster who, for a second, is not nuking your party for 4k damage. A warrior curing slow is a warrior who might miss the fighter DSing from behind. Your value is not in direct measure, it's a support role and even you won't know the butterfly effect your "Malaria bite" could have for your team. VSS and Piercing Shot, by the way, are not curable with a potion, only a healers' dispel skill.
It's just a unique way to play this class. Yes you'll get "60 skilled" and be the target of enemy Erasers and Syeeric Touches. But the fact that they HAVE to do this to take you down is nothing to be mad about. If they're doing it to you, they're not doing it to your DPSers. Distraction is also a deadly skill that can lead to team victory. This is definitely not for everyone but some people, the kind of people who tend to like the Ranger/Assassin class, might find it deliciously fun. And that's what everything is about in the end. As soon as you stop playing the game for reasons of entertainment and fun, you need a priority check.