Mastering MHW: My Top Skills for Dominating Hunts

As a hunter with over 500 hours of gameplay under my Dragonking Eyepatch, I‘ve slain countless beasts with every weapon type. In this guide, I‘ll be drawing from my vast experience to break down the essential offensive, defensive, and utility skills that transform good hunters into master rank slayers.

Why Skills Matter

Before we dive into the top tier skills, it‘s important to understand why they make such a big difference:

  • Skills enhance your capabilities beyond what is possible with gear alone
  • They allow you to further specialize into different playstyles
  • Certain combinations can vastly amplify your damage and defense
  • Skill effects directly scale with their level
  • Maxing out key skills can unlock incredible potential

Unlike raw attack and affinity buffs from gear, skills provide percentage increases and unique effects that compound dramatically, especially when stacked.

For example, Critical Boost directly increases critical hit damage by 40% at level 3. Pair that with Weakness Exploit‘s 50% affinity, Critical Eye‘s 40% affinity, and high raw attack – suddenly you have an incredibly hard hitting build.

Let‘s analyze the most game-changing offensive skills:

Offensive Game Changers

These skills should be prioritized by any hunter looking to improve their damage output.

Critical Boost – Essential Crit Damage

This skill is a staple in the vast majority of late game builds because it directly increases critical hit damage based on level:

LevelCrit Damage Increase

At level 3, you gain a massive 40% bonus to crit damage. To put some numbers behind that:

  • A Great Sword true charge dealing 500 damage would normally crit for 650
  • With Critical Boost 3, that same crit would hit for 700 damage instead

Critical Boost takes the inherent 25% crit damage bonus and pumps it up even further.

This synergizes tremendously well with affinity increasing skills like Weakness Exploit. MHW veterans often recommend building for 100% affinity specifically to maximize Critical Boost returns.

Prioritize fitting Critical Boost level 3 into every build. Use the Drachen armor set bonus, attack decorations, or the Teostra Technique set bonus to slot it in.

Critical Element – Empowering Elemental Crits

While Critical Boost enhances raw damage crits, Critical Element does the same for elemental damage crits. This skill is a must-have for faster attacking elemental weapon types.

LevelElemental Crit Damage Increase

As you can see, level 3 provides a gigantic 35% bonus to elemental crits!

This transforms weapons like the dual blades and bow into elemental destroying machines by juicing up their most frequent attacks.

I strongly recommend every dual blades, sword & shield, charge blade, insect glaive and bow build fit in Critical Element level 3 – the two piece Rathalos armor bonus unlocks this easily.

Maximum Might – Affinity from Stamina

Maximum Might grants a hefty affinity bonus when your stamina is full. At level 3, it provides 50% affinity – stronger than even most max level Critical Eye builds!

LevelAffinity Gained

This synergizes extremely well with Constitution, Marathon Runner and stamina management. Maintaining maximum stamina is also ideal for many weapon combos.

I utilize Maximum Might in most of my dual blades, long sword, switch axe, charge blade and insect glaive builds for massive affinity. Combining this with Weakness Exploit enables nearly perma-critting.

Fitness Charm III makes it easy to achieve Max Might level 3. Take advantage of this underrated skill for colossal affinity.

Agitator – Attack & Affinity While Enraged

Many late game event quests feature tempered enemies starting in rage mode with increased stats.

Enter Agitator – this skill further buffs attack power and affinity specifically against enraged monsters:

LevelAttack IncreaseAffinity Increase

As you can see, level 5 takes this from a good skill to a phenomenal skill – adding 20 raw attack AND 20% affinity!

I specifically use Agitator in solo speed running builds against tempered monsters. By building for max affinity, the extra 20% affinity pushes me to 100%, keeping my Critical Boost pumping out max crit damage all hunt.

If you enjoy timed event quests and tempered hunts, I highly recommend making Agitator a priority.

Artillery – Explosive Damage

Let‘s move from raw crits to explosive weapons. For my fellow gunlance, charge blade, sticky ammo and cluster bomb hunters, Artillery is mandatory for maxing out explosions:

LevelExplosive Attack Increase

Just look at that scaling! Landing those perfectly timed charge blade SAED attacks or full burst gunlance combos with Artillery 5 will annihilate monsters.

In fact, Artillery level 5 doubles your explosive damage – it‘s just that good. The Zorah armor set bonus lets you easily achieve this artillery god status too.

I have various builds fully dedicated to explosive weapons utilizing Artillery secret. It transforms these weapon types completely.

Handicraft – Sharpness Boost

Sharpness directly impacts damage dealt per attack. Handicraft allows you to increase sharpness beyond weapon limits to reach juicy purple and white damage bonuses:

LevelSharpness Bar Extension

Since sharpness enhances ALL attack damage, Handicraft paired with Master‘s Touch is a popular combination.

By achieving white sharpness plus high affinity for never bouncing off hardened monster armor, your attacks will constantly dish out amplified damage.

I use Handicraft in most of my long sword builds to unlock the true potential of each katana‘s moveset by chaining combos in white sharpness.

Challenger Charm – Attack When Enraged

Finally, let‘s examine Challenger Charm. As monsters become enraged more frequently in master rank, this skill becomes invaluable:

LevelAttack IncreaseAffinity Increase

It shares similarities with Agitator but doesn‘t require maxed out skill levels to be potent. Just one or two points will make hunting enraptured beasts much quicker.

I specifically use Challenger Charm on weapons like Hunting Horn and Hammer that really benefit from raw attack buffs. Combined with Agitator Secret, it transforms you into an enraged monster destroying machine!

Defensive Choices

Now that we‘ve covered essential attacking skills, let‘s examine defensive options:

Divine Blessing – RNG Damage Reduction

Divine Blessing provides random chances to reduce incoming damage by a percentage amount:

LevelActivation RateDamage Reduced

As you can see, higher levels both increase activation rate AND damage mitigated. This makes it phenomenally powerful in master rank.

The RNG element keeps hunts exciting – landing a 50% damage reduce Divine Blessing proc against a hard hitting attack literally saves lives.

It also activates on every attack, so expect to trigger it fairly often. I use Divine Blessing 3 in most of my vitality builds for the added safety net against devastating blows.

Health Boost – More Health

What‘s better than reducing damage taken? Having more health to absorb attacks with!

Health Boost directly increases your max health bar. At level 3, it provides a MASSIVE +50 health – more than a max potion!

LevelHealth Increase
1+15 health
2+30 health
3+50 health

This skill synergizes tremendously well with food buffs and the Vaal Hazak set bonus for even bigger life bars.

Having increased health enables facing tanking brutal attacks that would normally one-shot. It provides a buffer against combos and aggressive monsters.

I strongly believe Health Boost 3 should be slotted into every build. Use the Vitality jewel to easily achieve this.

Recovery Up – Improved Healing

To build off bigger health bars, Recovery Up improves potion and health regeneration effects by a percentage.

LevelHealing Increase

Seem like small numbers? They add up quickly, especially when combined with items like the Health Booster for amplified regen.

I use Recovery Up in any build where I can achieve level 3 for the full 20% increased healing. Being able to recover health faster and more efficiently helps against the mounting damage in master rank hunts.

Stun Resistance – Stun Immunity

There‘s nothing worse than being stun locked in place by repeated attacks. Stun Resistance provides immunity against the stun status:

LevelStun Reduction

Just 2 pieces of gear with Stun Resistance 1 will make you immune to stuns completely.

I highly recommend every hunter fit this easy-to-achieve skill into all builds. Dodging out of big attacks can be difficult. Stun Resistance provides needed insurance against chain CC combos.

Tool Specialist – Cooldown Reduction

Finally, Tool Specialist directly reduces cooldowns for vital tools like mantles and boosters:

LevelCooldown Reduction

Maintaining Temporary Mantle uptime is crucial for both offense and defense. Likewise keeping Health and Cleanser Boosters available more often enhances survival.

In coordinated teams, being able to throw out more Flash Pods faster also greatly increases hunt success rates against airborne foes.

I specifically slot in Tool Specialist to keep Rocksteady and Evasion mantles available for damaging combo chains. Don‘t underestimate tool uptime!

Must Have Utility Skills

Beyond raw damage and defense, several utility skills provide game-changing traversal and quality of life bonuses:

Marathon Runner – Dashing for Days

I‘m an extremely aggressive dual blades user. Marathon Runner reduces stamina depletion by 35% at max level – allowing endless demon mode dodges!

LevelStamina Use Reduction

Between spinning blade attacks, dashes and slides, I can stick to monsters like glue chasing tail cuts and part breaks thanks to this skill.

For any demon mode, arch shot and charged shelling fans, this is a must have quality of life skill!

Evade Window – Generous I-Frames

If Marathon Runner doesn‘t provide enough stamina sustainability already, Evade Window increases invincibility frame windows when dodging, making you near impossible to hit.

LevelInvincibility Frame Increase

I find level 3 offers the perfect sweet spot of easier dodging without becoming reliant on the skill. Level 5 allows you to roll directly through monster cores making even devastating tail swipes easy to avoid.

For my evasion-focused builds, I always fit in at least Evade Window level 3 for smoother reactive dodges.

Speed Eating – Chug Faster

Nothing leaves you more vulnerable than stopping to slowly sip a potion. Speed Eating lets you chug faster to minimize openings:

LevelPotion Use Speed Increase
125% Faster
237% Faster
350% Faster!

Cutting mega potion use down to just over 2 seconds makes all the difference when trying to heal chip damage between combos and attacks.

I fit Speed Eating into most builds simply for quality of life. Faster item usage helps everyone, even slow sheathing weapons like greatsword.

Bombardier – Boost Explosions

And what fun is hunting without blowing monsters up? Bombardier increases blast damage from weapons and item explosions like barrel bombs:

LevelExplosion Damage Increase

Stack this with Partbreaker and Felyne Pyro food skills for breaking parts and capturing easier.

I use this in any blast, sticky or cluster builds focused on KO damage rather than raw DPS. It‘s just so satisfying to send monsters flying with mega barrel bombs!

Satisfied With Your Skills?

By now you should have a good grasp on the top damaging, defensive and utility skills worth prioritizing and combining into varied builds.

Focus onCritical Boost, Critical Element, Agitator, Maximum Might or Artillery for offense.

Divine Blessing, Health Boost, Recovery Up and Stun Resistance will keep you alive.

And Marathon Runner, Evade Window, Speed Eating and more provide quality traversal improvements.

Finding the perfect balance tailored to your preferred weapon and hunt is part of Monster Hunter‘s core gameplay loop. Hopefully this guide serves as inspiration for your next amazing builds!

Let me know which skills you find most fun to play with or if you have any recommendations I should try out!

Happy hunting!

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