This guide explains all about builds in detail.
Complete Guide to Builds
This guide will list a plethora of builds for every colour, from really broad, basic builds or more complex ones focussing around a certain item, synergy or concept.
Before we dive in though, I first want to explain how the bible will be structured:
First of all I will talk about the main hand weapon(s) for the build. This is going to be your main source of damage and can either be a single weapon that the build is focused on, or a collection of weapons from the same catagory that can function in the build.
Then we will go over the options you have for your secondary supportive item, which could be something to enable a synergy with your main weapon or just a great support item that can just complements the play style of the build.
Afterwards I’ll talk about what skills you are generally looking for when using the build. .
Sometimes, specifically when we're talking about more gimmicky builds, certain mutations have solid synergies with certain with the weapons and skills used in a build.
However, there are a lot of mutations that are good regardless of what build you’re using, so I decided to put a list of those at the end of the guide since there is no use in always mentioning the same mutations for every build I talk about.
I will touch on some general usage tips for a build, like how to approach biomes, curses and bosses, as well as what route might be prefered when using the build.
Overall, personal thoughts (emphasis on the ‘personal’): I try to make the Bible as objective as possible, but I also want to at least give you an idea of how effective a build can be.
This segment could probably change a lot if they buff a certain item or if my perception changes.
With this guide, I am mainly aiming to supply the masses with ways to get through 2-5 BC difficulty, so most builds you will find here are at least decent to really good.
Don’t see these builds as the ultimate guidelines on how to play Dead Cells, these are merely just to steer you in the right direction.
RNG always plays a big role in this game, and if you stumble upon some kind of colourless turret that poisons the enemy while you are rocking a brutality melee build with a Sadist’s Stiletto, I might definitely be worth it taking that instead of your Knife Dance.
You always need to strive to optimize your run using everything you can get your hands on, and if that means altering the framework that the build your using provides, so be it.
However, I will still keep affixes and other random attributes in mind, since when using particular items, certain affixes could be required to bring the best out of them. The Heavy Crossbow is way better when it has a pierce-affix, and slow two-handed weaponry can come with special modifiers, like slowing down nearby enemies when getting a kill.
Now that that’s finally out of the way, let’s get it popping!
One of the main pillars of Brutality is close combat, so this is as pure as you can get when it comes to building with red. With this playstyle, you want to get up close and personal and eliminate enemies rather quickly, cause the best defence is a good offence, especially when you come face-to-face with the ghouls that inhabit the ever-changing island of Dead Cells.
Main hand weapon
The only thing that you really need is a solid melee weapon. The best ones are generally the ones that have a fast attack-pattern and solid DPS, preferably with a solid, consistent critical hit.
You can take particular weapons depending on whether you have a secondary weapon/skills that synergies with it in some way (Oiled Sword+Flamethrower Turret, Rapier+Frontline Shield).
Melee weapons that also scale with survival, like the Broadsword, are most of the time just better used for Survival only because the slow nature of these armaments, make them not the best suited for Brutality.
Here is a list of my personal recommendations. I am working with limited space, so I am not able to disclose why I chose these specifically, cause then I will hit my character-limit very quickly!
To add to that: it's not that because a weapon is not on the list, I think it's bad. I tried to limit this list to the weaponry I really liked the most, even though there might be other items that would do just fine in my opinion.
- Oiled Sword
- Assassin's Dagger
- Spite Sword
- Valmont's Whip
- Sadist's Stiletto
- Spiked Boots
- Hayabusa Gauntlets/Boots
- Shrapnel Axes
- Flashing Fans (still need to figure out if I really like it or not, but it should make The Giant pretty trivial)
Dead Cells streamer and god-level player Veedotme made this tier list that I generally agree with, so you can have an idea of how a real pro thinks about it:
When it comes to secondary weapons, the Hokuto’s Bow comes to mind as a great one, as you can increase your damage output, and it works well with Damage/Time, like Knife Dance.
The Frontline Shield and the Bloodthirsty shield are also decent options to consider since they can help you deal with ranged enemies like the Inquisitors or Arbiters, while your skills are on cooldown. They make facing the Giant and the Time Keeper a lot easier too.
Thanks to the new rework it received with the Legacy Update, the Frontline Shield is a lot better than it used to be and is yet another way to boost your damage.
The Bloodthirsty Shield now scales with Brutality (finally!) and can also enable bleeding synergies.
Any Brutality ranged weapon that has DOTs, like the Alchemic Carbine or Throwing Knives, can help you increase your damage with synergies and could be helpful for when you want to deal with enemies you’d rather stay away from, but they don’t offer the defensive attributes that the shields posses.
And last but not least, an honourable mention for the Boy’s Axe, which can snare enemies in place and also help you with curse relief.
Since this build is the simplest form of Brutality, pretty much all skills I will talk about here are going to be great filler for any of brutality build past this one.
Back in the ye good ol’ days, all grenades used to scale with Brutality, but now that MT changed up their ‘colouring-philosophy’, all crowd-control grenades (Ice, Stun, Root) scale with Tactics/Survival. That leaves us only with the offensive grenades, like the Powerful, Infantry, Fire and Cluster.
My favourite of the bunch in the Powerful Grenade, which has a huge area-of-effect and deals great damage. It is great for curse relief, but it does also scale with Survival, so getting two extra Brutality stats can be kind of a gamble. The Infantry grenade is weaker and has a smaller blast-radius, but it is really spammable and is pure Brutality, giving you that guaranteed +2 Brutality when S-quality
The Fire- and Oil Grenade is obviously a classic, but they do take up 2 slots, and it is relatively easy to get a Flamethrower Turret that spills oil on the ground when deployed, which is a lot more spammable and allows you to run another skill.
Knife Dance, Lacerating Aura, Lightspeed and Telluric Shock are great powers for dealing with enemies surrounding you at close range. These deal great damage and require you to participate directly in the action, which is ultimately what this build is about.
The Phaser and the Grappling Hook have to be mentioned as well since they can bring you in the direct vicinity of an enemy and work well with close-range weapons.
Vampirism isn’t necessarily something you should run around with for the whole run but is more of an item that you can pick up for a while if you are in desperate need of some healing and you don’t want to blow a flask charge.
One mutation that you might immediately think about is Killer Instinct, but it is only really useful in biomes and not really in boss fights, and you always need to have a plan for those.
These Brutality-scaling mutations are great for any build that works with red:
- Soldiers Resistance
- Vengeance is a great offensive and defensive mutation since it can help when dealing with enemies and bosses that tend to combo you to oblivion, and it greatly improves your rally potential, especially when taking it alongside Recovery.
- Soldier resistance is obviously good because having health is good.
- Berserker is not as great when you don’t need to deal with malaise, but the DR can still save you in biomes.
- Adrenaline is a solid way of healing as it works on biomes and bosses, but you do need to get those perfect dodges, which can be a hassle depending on what enemy you are facing (Rampagers attack so fast that when you dodge them, they will always proc the mutation's effect)
Frenzy is maybe easier to activate, it does not work against bosses and you need to keep killing enemies to make the most use of it.
Combo, Open Wounds and Melee are also fun to toy around with, but I feel like the other mutations have a more practical use than those. A fun combo to try out though is Impaler + Melee as it is pretty solid crowd-control and enemies in biomes get mopped up with ease.
Beware when in the Ossuary or the Arboretum, because you don’t want to unintentionally hit the back of a Thorny. The best bosses to face are the Concierge and the Giant.
The Watch and the Timekeeper can be a bit annoying to keep up with, getting in range of them to hit them with your short melee weapon can be a hassle, but with a shield and good skills, they should be easier.
It is really fun to just go pure Brutality melee, and it is really customizable, but it is obviously risky to get close to baddies because nasty things can happen, like, you know, dying and all that. Cursed can be especially annoying but with the right skills and secondary weapons, you should have that many issues. Be careful about Thorny’s though!
Damage Over Time
Staying out of range of enemies and being able to neutralise them from a safe distance is always a great method to go about tackling biomes, but when you’re standing in the shadow of a big skeleton with laser-eyes, the options for refuge are confined. In boss-scenarios, dodging attacks is going to be more important than purely out-damaging the boss. There might be cases where you have somewhat of a ‘counter-pick’ build versus a boss or you just have so much stats that your opponent can only get 3 hits off, but at some point, you will always need to dodge.
A great strategy is to carry sources of damage that nibble from the bosses health bar while you are focusing on evading attacks. And that’s where damage over time, or dots, or damage/time, comes into play. Bleeding, burning, but most importantly, poisoning helps drain the opponents HP while you can concentrate more on threading needles.
Main hand weapon
The best and the only worthwhile primary weapon for this build is the Alchemic Carbine. A good range, no ammo-limit, the fact that poison has an edge over the other dots because the ‘extra damage’ affix associated with it adds double the damage when attacking a poisoned enemy, in comparison to the +60% and +30% added by the bleeding and burning affix respectively, all make this by far the best suited for this build. The fumes the shots leave behind are really big and spreading them is child’s play, since the shots cover a lot of ground and don’t need to travel over the ground like weapons with the ‘trail of flames’ affix.
Even though there is no need to used anything besides this weapon, I will mention some alternatives you can use until you get your carbine:
The Blood Sword and the Torch can give you some dot, but you need to get close to the enemy. The Torch has the added benefit of creating flames on the ground when you swing it, and you can make the fire spread far when using it alongside and Oil Grenade, but the Alchemic Carbine’s poisoned clouds already spread like wildfire, with some more added bonuses.
Throwing Knives have great range, but they do have the ammo-restriction and blood is harder to spread to a lot of enemies faster that the poison from the Carbine. Then you also have the Firebrands and the Fire Blast, but fire is in general worse than poison, so I don’t need to waste too much time talking about those.
I tried to add some extra options for your primary weapon-slot, even though it always just boiled down to ‘it’s not as good as the Alchemic Carbine’, but for the secondary weapon am not even going to do that. The Hokuto’s Bow is the only secondary you need, period. It boosts any form of damage, including dots, and it pairs up magnificently with the Alchemic Carbine. Losing out on a shield might be tough, but with all that extra damage that just bites from the health bar of your foes while you need to do minimal work, you can spend more time on avoiding attacks.
Really not that much to say here, pretty much any skill that works with the build above is good for this one:
- Powerful Grenade
- Infantry Grenade
- Flamethrower Turret
- Knife Dance
- Lacerating Aura
- Telluric Shock
Same deal as with skills, whatever works with the generic melee build can work here. There is a nuance, however: some mutations, like Berserker and Adrenaline, don’t function with ranged weapons.
This is one of the safest builds displayed in this guide. The only thing you need to do is mark enemies with the Hokuto’s Bow and poison (or burn, or bleed) them. Kill enemies from a distance in biomes, focus on dodging in boss fights while the dots and your skills to whittle him/her down.
I will take this opportunity to talk about something I’ve noticed when looking at dots. Bleeding, burning and poisoning got different perks that distinguish them from one another.
Bleeding has a lot of different weapons that inflict the effect, and it has the most interesting affixes associated with it, like bleeding also poisons enemy, victims spread bleeding to the closest enemies and bleed on thaw for ice items.
Fire also has quite some items that inflict it, but they are outnumbered by all the bleeding items. However, most ranged items and skills are able to burn the ground, and most items can also burn the ground after killing an enemy. Then you have oil, which makes up a lot for the weak +30% damage you get on enemies with the burn-synergy affix. Oil is easy to obtain on a multitude of weapons/skills and it makes it easy to spread the flames over a large area.
And then, of course, we have poison. The best synergy-affix, easy to get a toxic cloud through affixes and a lot of items, and the fact that the clouds work in the air, whereas you can only burn the ground, at the cost of having a lot of items that actually come with poison.
You only got the Alchemic Carbine and the Corrosive Cloud, but the Alchemic Carbine is so good that it blows any other dot-inflicting items out of the water.
Going with Tactics means dying on 1 or 2 hits, so keeping enemies at bay with all kinds of artillery and spells is going to help with that. Hit enemies from far away using your main ranged weapon, turrets and your pet owl.
Main hand weapon
When it comes down to ranged weapons you got 3 types: offensive with and without ammo, and supportive ones, which are more suited of your secondary weapon.
I am definitely not going to go over every ranged weapon and talk about if they are good or not, so here is Veedotme’s 1.6 Ranged tier list video for some ideas:
Just like the Brutality melee build, I will make a list of weapons I like to use in the build personally:
- Throwing Knives
- Quick Bow
- Magic Missile
- Alchemic Carbine (even though it's better in Brutality)
- The Boy's Axe
Unlike the melee weapons list, I had a harder time choosing which ones to add. Instead of leaving out weapons that I thought were just oké for the build, I was way more friendly this time around because there aren't that many really, really good options. The Quick Bow and the Magic Missile are the only ones I think are just purely amazing, the other ones are just fine, but the rest is either more supportive, doesn't fit in with Tactics well, mediocre or just plain bad. But that is my opinion: Veedotme uses the Heavy Crossbow with Tactics all the time, while I find that less appealing, everyone has there own taste, and so do you.
That's why I encourage you to experiment as much as possible with the whole catalogue of ranged gear to see what fits your playstyle.
This is a hard one because you can, to be honest, just using another ranged weapon if you wanted.
Especially when using weapons with ammo, shields like the Parry Shield and the Thunder Shield can recover arrows from the enemies/bosses you parry, and they just offer some extra defence for when needed.
The Ice Bow works great to prevent far away enemies from attacking, so you can shoot your shot. Hokuto’s Bow is also solid for improving the damage of your attacks.
2 words: Turrets, Owl. Those are really the best options to run with this build.
The Great Owl of War is great for a playstyle where not getting hit is so important since it is a source of constant damage that racks up damage while you are busy dodging attacks from the Giant for instance. The Giant is a boss fight that requires a lot of attention to dodge some of his moves, so having a source of damage that eats from the health bar of the hands is very good.
The Double Crossb-o-Matic, Heavy Turret and the Barnacle are the most classic turrets in this game and are always a great bet for improving your build. Tactics is the easiest colour to stack up a lot of points (I’ve seen runs where people get like 40 Tactics!!) and one of the reasons why is that the best Tactics-gear is pure Tactics, so no random points in Brutality or Survival for S-qualities and these weapons are great examples.
The thing that makes turrets so good is that you are able to deal with enemies without getting in any hazardous situations and the fact that they come with great affix that help with synergies and can enhance your damage even more.
CC is always helpful too, in the same vein as that packing a shield with this build can help out as well. Ice grenade, Stun grenade, Root grenade and Wave of Denial are nice for this, but the best one by far is the Wolf Trap. It not only keeps enemies in check, but it also makes you dish out more damage, and since it is a trap, it also has those amazing affixes that I was talking about earlier, plus the added bonus of proccing the Support-mutation.
Same deal with Killer’s instinct, I think the ranged version of that, Hunter’s Instinct, is also lacklustre as it does pretty much nothing versus bosses. Support can add some decent extra DPS when using a Turret or a Wolf Trap. Tranquillity could be great, but again, it only works well on bosses if you have enough space to move, or the boss is slow enough so you can get in range for it to work, like against the Concierge, Conjonctivius or Mama Tick.
Networking might be fun to experiment with, but I’ve never felt that it adds that much more to my runs.
Tactics doesn’t really have that many great options for healing, so your best bets our Gastronomy on 3BC or lower, Recovery, and Alienation, since with ranged weapons, dealing with curses is just fine.
Disengagement/Emergency Triage can help when you take an inevitable hit, so you can easily use your flask to heal up, and Masochist is great, since on higher BC-difficulties when running Tactics, traps can get you killed easily, so that should prevent that from happening.
Try to invest as much as possible in Tactics and don’t worry too much about health, mainly be worried about your dodging skills when facing bosses and elites. Master the patterns of all boss fights or use a shield if you want to have more of a secure way of evading damage.
If you are confident in your dodging and spacing capabilities, then you can bulldoze through any difficulties with ease, of course at the cost of losing out on a lot of HP, but that’s what you’ve signed up for, so man up. It might seem as if this is the easy way out considering you don’t even need to be near any danger, but on 4BC+, any enemy can just teleport towards you ones you aggro them, so you always need to be on the look-out for that.
Glass Cannon Melee
The 14th Dead Cells update was a pretty big one when it came to defining what the 3 colours really stand for. The time where every skill except grenades had to scale with tactics is long gone now, and Motion Twin has made it clear how they perceive each playstyle for every colour. This was also the time that they started introducing a new type of build in Tactics:
“We've been thinking about making an Assassin's build (Glass Cannon with the highest damage and great mobility but the lowest tankyness of the game) viable in Dead Cells for some time now, and the recolor of some items was the perfect opportunity to try it.
The Assassin is thought to be built around skills where you need to be at the center to make the most of it (Lacerating Auras, Knife Dance) and excellent defensive options or even panic buttons (Wave of Denial, Decoy, now Lightspeed and the control grenades). We also had the weapons fitting the gameplay theme of the assassin scaled with Tactics to give a few more options for this build.”
What they essentially meant with this, is a melee Tactics build where any mistake can end up getting you killed, but you can do so much damage that you have the power to destroy everything with the right skills and mutations.
This build might seem inferior to the ranged Tactics runs, but people have figured out that this can be an extremely strong build if you build it the right way. There might be different ways to go about making melee Tactics work, but this seems to be the most solid method.
Main hand weapon
The best melee weapon suited for this build is the Assassin’s Dagger because it synergises well with the Phaser, which we will be talking about in the ‘Skill’-section. It deals crits when you hit enemies in the back, but not al enemies have a back to hit or, in the case of Thorny’s, make you take damage ones you hit their backs.
You could use other options if you pleased, like the Meat Skewer, Shrapnel Axe or Sadist’s Stilleto, to name a few, but I will be mainly focussing on the Assassin’s Dagger for the rest of this build.
Here you have some more rooms for different alternatives, but the 3 main ones we will look at for this build are the Hokuto’s Bow, the Throwing Knives and the Quick Bow.
Hokuto’s Bow, even though it is always great for every Brutality/Tactics build, doesn’t matter that much with this build because you can kills stuff so easily that you barely even noticed the extra damage late game. The Throwing Knives and the Quick Bow are great for when engaging with the enemy is out of the question, but they are also on here because of Ripper, which can finally shine with MT putting Tactics melee in the spotlight. Throwing Knives come with the added benefit of enabling bleeding-synergies.
The most important skill is Phaser, which synergises well with the Assassin’s Dagger and can increase your damage a lot, especially in combination with Ripper dealing extra damage if you pump enemies full with Quick Bow-shots. Phaser is a mandatory component for this build, which will become much more clear when getting into the Mutations.
Aura of Laceration is great for racking up more damage and rallying up your health when you get hit. Great Owl of War is yet again a phenomenal companion when rocking this build, and the Knife Dance will never disappoint either.
I do want to mention the newly introduced Smoke Bomb, which can help you escape problematic scenarios or allow you to engage combat while not needing to be close enough to the enemy, like with the Phaser.
Now we get to the most important part of the build, the mutations. MT designed certain new Tactics mutations to make this build work, some of them better than others.
In most builds there aren’t really any mutations you need to make this build work, sometimes maybe 1 or 2, but in this instance, you can pick 3 mutations that are solely here to make this build deal big amounts of damage, at the cost of losing the supportive/passive benefits some others might have.
Scheme is the biggest of them all, and maybe the most important part of this run. You get a nice damage buff after using a skill, which works absurdly well with the Phaser, as the whole purpose of that items is to attack immediately after using it. You will get crits from the Dagger + extra damage from Scheme + extra damage from the Phaser.
Combine that with the extra damage Ripper provides, and you got gold in your hands. With bows like the Quick Bow, you can easily stuff bosses full of ammo, and you can rip out 3 arrows for each hit with the Assassin’s Dagger and deal extra damage for each arrow you rip out.
The last mutation in this trio is Instinct of the Master of Arms (IotMoA), which makes the Phaser even more spammable than it already is, and also works great if you have a Lacerating Aura on you. It is the most expendable one, which you can exchange for Disengagement or Alienation in you don’t need it.
Thes list of mutations that will follow has the other Tactics-scaling mutations that work for this build, but aren’t as good as the big 3:
- Crow’s Foot
- Strategic Retreat.
For this segment, I will give an example build and discuss how it would work in biomes and bosses.
This is the example build: Assassin’s Dagger, Quick Bow, Phaser, Aura of Laceration and for mutations Scheme, Ripper and IotMoA.
In biomes, you could just use the Bow to take out enemies, but for certain scenario’s you might wanna take out the Dagger in combination with your Phaser. Killing an enemy with the Phaser+Dagger combo almost always results in the Phaser being immediately usable again. The Aura is can always be used if you please but is not mandatory for clearing biomes.
Versus bosses, you always start of shotting with your bow to get a lot of arrows stuck so you can rip them out. Then you just use the Phaser and spam the dagger and rinse and repeat. The Aura can deal damage if you are busy dodging, and because of IotMoA, you can have a lot more us for it. Think of your Phaser as a way to evade attacks aswell, smart use of the skill can get you out of hairy situations.
Even though making a mistake might be detrimental to a run, this build is fun to try out and can actually be surprisingly effective. If you are bored your regular cheesy 5BC-wins, give this a shot, will ya!
Lots of health, strong hits, but slow attacks and long skill cooldowns, that’s what you need to expect from Survival.
Melee weapons have this subcategory or Survival weapons that are slower than other weapons, but that deal great amounts of damage. A big part of these builds are obviously shields, but as you will see later on, there are some other options as well (oké, I only listed one, but that's the only one worth mentioning in my opinion).
Main hand weapon
This is the list of Survival weapons you can choose for this build:
Broadsword, Shovel, War Spears, Symmetrical Lance, Giant Killer, Seismic Strike, Flawless, Flint, Rhythm n’ Bouzouki.
I did not mention one weapon( or should I say 2 weapons) in particular, being the Scythe Claws. That is because I want to cover those guys in a separate build because they use up 2 slots, which prevents you from taking any secondary weapons, and they require some extra usage-information that is better suited for a separate segment.
Some weapons on this list are just worth taking because you can get some sweet affixes in them, mainly looking at the slowdown on enemies near you when getting a kill. The Broadsword and the Flint are a lot better when they have that affix, it helps you to get your hits off before any enemy can react.
The slow combo's of these weapons might take some time to get used to, but ones you learn the ropes of handling them, you see that you can play with enemy-teleportation and crowd control to use them at their utmost effectiveness.
Shields, shields, shields: that’s all there really is to it. Any shield is good since all of them are essentially used in the same way, to get parries for avoiding taking damage or reflecting projectiles, killing enemies in the process.
You can opt for a more offensive shield, like a Spiked Shield, Thunder Shield or Punishment, so you can kill an enemy you don’t feel confident facing with your sluggish behemoth of a weapon.
More defensive options like a Rampart, Cudgel and Ice Shield can make opportunities for you to strike with your weapon of choice. The Rampart is the best choice since bosses become immune to the frost after a while and don’t stay stunned for very long, while the force field the Rampart creates protects you from every danger around you, doesn’t mess up the timing your opponent’s attacks and always stays 3 seconds long, no matter what type of threat you face.
Just like with the melee and ranged weapons, Veedotme also made a shield tierlist you can use for reference:
If you don’t want to run a shield you can always use the Frost Blast, that can freeze any enemies directly in front of you, so you can finish them off in style with your massive sword/spear/greek mandolin, without needing to wait for your enemy to attack. You will probably encounter a lot of problems when fighting the Giant or the Timekeeper, though.
Just like in Tactics, the Wolf Trap is such a good skill, in this build being used so that you can wail on an enemy’s back, which cannot react.
But there are even more options for CC, including the Ice Grenade, Stun Grenade and Root Grenade, remember though that freezing, snaring and stunning is not as effective in a boss fight compared to in biomes.
The Ice Armor is fantastic, preventing damage is especially valuable when working with slow weapons, that can make you vulnerable when swung. Look for example at the Flawless, when using that weapon properly, blocking any damage while using it is a blessing.
Powerful Grenade, Telluric Shock, Death Orb and the Giant Whistle are great for dealing with enemies quickly, thus being great for getting rid of curses.
The Mushroom Boi! is pretty intriguing, since it essentially is both CC and a nuke like a Powerful Grenade. It knocks back enemies, and you can demand it to explode, which makes him rush to the nearest pack of enemies to make as many casualties as possible.
Tonic and Vampirism do the same thing for any colour if we keep it a hundred, you just to them, use them and sell them if you are in need of some refreshment.
The mutation I take the most by far is Necromancy. Even if I take lots of hits throughout a biome, I always end up with full HP, and when playing on 4-5BC, it can also heal your malaise when taking down a boss fight.
Gastronomy is a good alternative when on 3BC or below, where you don’t need to worry about infected food drops, but it will be useless when also taking Dead Inside, which is great even if your health pool will be big enough without it.
Blind Faith, Counter Attack, What Doesn’t Kill Me and Spite can spice up your shield-gameplay, but you are in general not going to use your shields that much that these are a necessity when using Survival melee.
Heart of Ice is a fun new CDR mutation and I suggest you try it out when you are working with a good form of CC, but in most cases, taking a more standard mutation will be better.
I do always encourage experimentation though, so go ahead and tell me how it went!
Some of these slow weapons might be challenging to get used to, so learning how to properly make the best of them should be helpful. Uses your skills or secondary weapon to deal with flying enemies, who can be annoying to face with most heavy hitters. Especially be careful with curses.
It is important that you learn the timing for parrying any enemy considering that is such a big element in this build.
If you’re looking for a good slow and steady way to beat Dead Cells, then Survival should be a good choice for you. The ability to take hits should not be understated and adding all the ways you can skip taking hits altogether, makes dying with Survival rather hard.
Managing the slow combo’s of the weapons can be pretty tough and when malaise is in play, your tanking-capabilities are a lot more limited, but all the options to stop enemies in their tracks, plus plenty of ways to keep your malaise level as low as possible, should aid you when dealing with those issues.
This one is pretty interesting because you wouldn’t think that a shield could be used as your primary source of damage. The main selling point of doing so is that your defence is also your offence at the same time. All you need to do is get parries and using skills from time to time to deal damage. Because there are supportive shields and offensive ones, you can easily take one of each for your 2 weapon-slots.
Main hand weapon
A shield, plain and simple. Good damage-dealing shields include the Spiked Shields (does great damage is you directly parry an enemy’s attack), Parry Shield (great for parrying projectiles and grenades), Bloodthirsty Shield and Punishment (those last 2 possessing some good area of effect). The Thunder Shield might be one of the best shields there is right now. It deals damage to any enemies around you after a parry, which helps to get rid of bats and you can discharge all the energy in the shield to stun enemies.
When it comes to supporting shields, the only one good for this build is the Rampart. Stunning and freezing enemies prevents them from attacking you and could mess up their timing, making enemies harder to predict, thus harder to parry. You do not have that issue with the Rampart, still prevent taking damage, and can parry to your heart’s content, without worrying about messing one up.
If you’re using a Spiked Shield as your main-hand weapon, you could opt to also take a Parry Shield. That way you can have one shield to parry melee attacks and one for ranged attacks.
Any skills that normally works well with survival could be used. Some ways to reliably deal with Kamikaze Bats is nice. You can parry them, but the timing can be difficult to get down. Powerful Grenade comes to mind. Other options for solid skills include Giant’s Whistle, Mushroom Boi! and Telluric Shock.
There are 3 mutations that work with shields that you can just take, but any other mutations that could be good for Survival works fine.
Blind Faith makes your skills more spammable, so you can deal more damage while waiting for an attack to come your way. Spite will increase the damage of reflected projectiles, so dealing with ranged enemies becomes a trivial task. And then we have What Doesn’t Kill You, which heals you up a lot, even in boss fights, but it does not come with the added benefit of malaise reduction, like Necromancy.
Just learn to parry. It’s that simple. There are a lot of things you can parry, and using this build will be a great learning experience.
This build can help with dealing with the Cavern and the Giant, which gives you an opportunity to get some good loot. Taking a route with a lot of projectile-based enemies helps you make the most out of the Spite-mutation.
If you are using the Thunder Shield, Mama Tick should be easy enough, with the crits you deal in water.
This is a good build for getting the grips with parries, but it might feel passive from time to time because you need to wait for your foes to attack. It is no secret that shields are a big part of what makes Survival so great, and this build proves that.
This list will include mutations that work great for a majority of builds, so I won't need to always mention them over and over again.
Ygar Orus Li Ox (AKA YOLO)
YOLO is always a safe bet, but ones you lose it, you cannot replace it with another mutation like back in the day. It not only gives you a second chance after being defeated, but it will also reset your malaise.
Food not healing you is a small price to pay in exchange for extra health and a bigger malaise bar. And besides, there are always alternative ways to heal.
One of those ways is Alienation. Because every Dead Cells-player forces him/herself to take any Cursed Chest they can, taking this mutation gives you more reasons to put your life on the line. On top of healing, you can also remove malaise for +4BC.
Works very well with Dead Inside and Alienation. Makes dealing with curses a lot easier and is always a solid bet for if you're not sure on what mutation you should take for the mid-game.
A great set of mutations that can help you early\mid-game, when playing 4 and 5 BC, is Dead Inside, Alienation and Acceptance. Because food curses you, you can still heal from it regardless from Dead Inside because of Alienation.
Possible end-game pick, especially nice against the spoiler boss at the end of BC5. Makes it a lot easier to heal up and might prevent you from taking damage. Try grabbing it alongside Extended Healing.
Another way to keep yourself healthy is by rallying, and this should make that somewhat easier.
When your build is more on the squishy side, taking this one should prevent you from dying in stupid ways.
Almost functions like YOLO. You can rally up/use up a flask charge while in the invincibility bubble.
Shines as a mutation around 2-3BC, before malaise ruins the fun. Do keep in mind you cannot take Dead Inside with this, and that Acceptance can also hinder this mutation's effectiveness.
Only good for the reduction of malaise when using with Brutality/Tactics.
Increased effectiveness of flask, but you need to wait a long time until you're fully healed. Pairs up well with Emergency Triage. You might also get a small change of healing some malaise when killing an elite, but that is probably not going to matter that much in most runs.