Download the ultra-lightweight Lola installer for Windows. Well, as you may or may no be aware, I did recently start a project meant to add small, short descriptions at the top of champion's pages. Run Visual Studio then Click New Project. League of Legends Video Game - A free-to-play competitive MOBA game with a large following in eSports.
It's pretty common to hear players regard the bow+HC loadout as "cheesy". Personally, I play the game we have - and also like to try fun new ways of playing. I've been having a blast running bow+HC in Beyond Light (and running up high-kill games frequently). The loadout has been working so
well that I started really thinking about it - and I've come to realize that the sandbox update, coupled with changes in game flow (due to stasis - freezetag 2020!) have cumulatively provided a significant buff to this loadout. I'll break down all the changes which have rendered this loadout (which was already strong in 6s) even stronger:
- Removal of 150rpm handcannons: The best handcannon choices for bow+HC are 140s or 120s (more impact and range for cleanup following a bow hit), thus removing 150s provides an indirect buff to bow+HC. With 150s gone, bow+HC users are no longer at a TtK disadvantage in a straight-up handcannon fight (if using a 140 - if using a 120 there is still obviously a TtK disadvantage, but it is reduced).
- Buff of 110s to 120s: High-impact handcannons have always been the optimal choice for bow+HC, due to their best-in-class range and the fact that crit/body combos from a single bow shot and handcannon shot are more likely to net the kill with higher handcannon damage. The RPM buff from 110 to 120 is a straight buff to bow+HC as it allows for faster repeat shots if you whiff the first shot following a bow hit, and it improves lethality generally if you get into an engagement with just your handcannon.
- Handcannon range buff: This is one of the most significant buffs - in the previous sandbox it was not uncommon for handcannon follow-up shots to be out of range on longer sight lines, given that bows have so much more range. The increased damage drop-off of handcannons now makes that much less likely. Equally significant is the parallel increase to handcannon aim assist (which is tied to range): this has made follow-up shots noticeably easier to pull off at range. This is particularly important for 120s, which are now almost never out-ranged and have become really noticeably "stickier".
- Auto rifle nerf: This one is straightforward: 600rpm autos killed extremely fast - occasionally too fast for a bow shot followed up by a handcannon shot. The slight nerf to autos has been noticeable in this regard.
- Sniper rifle nerf: This is a significant indirect buff to bow+HC. Snipers have always been the achilles heel to the loadout, as the main disadvantage of bow+HC is the fact that you frequently will remain grounded (aerial play is limited compared to most traditional loadouts) - this results in often being very "snipeable". The sniper nerf (reduced AA for low-zoom scopes) has reduced the prevalence of snipers generally, and reduced their effectiveness in countering bow+HC.
- Mountaintop nerf: In skilled hands, Mountaintop was a pretty hard counter to bow+HC: it fired instantly, could kill instantly without requiring nearly as much precision as bow+HC, and is basically made for in-air play. The nerf here removed one of the major barriers to using bow+HC in high-level play.
- The new seasonal artifact: This is minor, but worth mentioning. The new artifact has two mods that benefit bow+HC: Hand Cannon Targeting and Unflinching Hand Cannon Aim. These are pretty self-explanatory, and both serve to improve probability of landing follow-up handcannon shots.
- Stasis being a thing now: Stasis has largely upended the flow of the game, and overall I agree with the majority opinion that it is unbalanced and unfun generally. That said, we play the game we have - and in doing that I've noticed that the new stasis gameplay has actually benefitted bow+HC; players are more "timid" so to speak - less likely to ape/engage in CQC due to the threat of being insta-frozen by melees/grenades. This has resulted in more engagements occurring at mid-range - the ideal bow+HC range. It's now easier than ever to keep your engagement range at the ideal point, maximizing effectiveness of the loadout. Proper bow+HC play already involved managing engagement distance to stay out of CQC (no shotgun right?) - staying out of insta-freeze range is essentially the same and doesn't disadvantage the playstyle at all.
As you can see, the buffs are largely indirect small items - but cumulatively they present a truly significant overall buff to bow+HC. It was already strong (particularly in 6s) - now it's extremely
strong in skilled hands. The playstyle is completely different to conventional loadouts and a lot of fun - if you haven't tried it out, now's the time!
That's all for the main point of this post. I figured I'd also write up an overview of the bow+HC loadout, for anyone who is curious/unaware or has never tried it out and wants to know how to set it up properly.
Warning: wall of text below! Turns out there was a lot of minutiae to talk about. Most of what follows will probably seem obvious to seasoned players - this is more intended for newer players or those who haven't considered bow+HC before :)
The most essential component of the build is the ability to quickly swap to a handcannon for the follow-up. There are several ways to do this: using the hunter exotic Lucky Pants or Dragon's Shadow, the warlock exotic Ophidian Aspect, or using a handcannon with quickdraw. Pros and cons of each method are detailed below. Whichever way, it is essential that handcannon ready time be reduced as much as possible (handcannon dexterity mods are recommended). This is really the only 100% required build component; everything else is just minor tweaks to further improve the build.
Legendary bows should have either quickdraw (best), snapshot, or be equipped with Quick Access Sling.
Specific best-in-slot options for handcannons and bows are detailed below, with build recommendations.
- Armour mods/weapon mods/character stats:
Bow+HC is mostly a grounded playstyle (note: this is not the case against skilled opponents, especially outside of 6s; see below). Jumping kills bow accuracy, and you can't slide while your bow is drawn. As a result your mobility stat determines how agile you can be - to a greater extent that if you were running a regular loadout; tier 10 is the goal. Being able to quickly dip in and out of cover is essential and provides a noticeable increase in survivability. Recovery:
Bow+HC requires significant management of engagement range - often resulting in frequent disengagements when playing against skilled players (covered in depth in the Playstyle
section below). For this reason recovery is even more beneficial than usual - after mobility, maximize recovery as much as possible. Discipline:
I personally place discipline as my 3rd priority following mobility and recovery - and I firmly believe that mobility should be the highest priority. That said, there is an argument for building around discipline for high-level play: in tough lobbies, basic bow+HC play is typically not very effective (good players will not be easy picks). In these games, higher-level play is necessary to win - a major component of which is ability (grenade) use. So, if you're intending to hit Legend with bow+HC, run Trials flawless with consistency, play in challenging private matches, etc - you may want to spec into as much discipline as possible (and practice grenade/aerial play in 6s). Amour mods:
Optimal armour mods are what you'd expect them to be: dexterity, targeting, and unflinching. These mods can be for handcannons or bows - I personally prefer handcannon mods, as I seem to hit my bow shots more consistently than my handcannon crits.
Worth noting: because bow+HC is a double-primary loadout, the slots for special ammo mods are freed up for other options. Subclass choice:
Bow+HC is pleasantly subclass-agnostic for all classes; it works well with pretty much everything. That said, stasis subclasses are probably the optimal choice currently... Weapon mods:
Depending on your playstyle, handcannons benefit most from either Targeting Adjuster (or the new Adept Targeting Adjuster), the new Adept Range mod, or Icarus. Icarus
is best-in-slot for high-level play, as it goes a long way to counteracting the biggest disadvantage of bow+HC (lack of aerial play options). If you are sticking to 6s or just don't prefer an aerial playstyle, the Targeting Adjuster mods or Adept Range both increase the reliability of landing follow-up handcannon shots.
The best mod choice for bows is dependent on weapon perks and build. Adept Accuracy, either of the Targeting Adjuster mods, Icarus, and Quick Access Sling are the best options. If the bow doesn't have quickdraw (and you aren't a hunter running Dragon's Shadow), Quick Access Sling is necessary. However, this isn't optimal as you are sacrificing more accuracy/aim assist or increased aerial accuracy - whereas a bow with quickdraw needn't make a sacrifice. The best option is to run Icarus
on a bow that has quickdraw and perks for high accuracy.
This is pretty straightforward: For legendary bows, precision archetype
is the best choice. Lightweight archetype bows don't make sense for bow+HC; the only real advantages they hold are in draw time and aim assist (at the cost of significant damage and accuracy). Draw time is not highly relevant to bow+HC (given that bow shots are followed up with handcannon shots), and the increased aim assist stat of lightweight bows is entirely offset by their poor accuracy stat.
So: legendary precision bows. Three options are standouts: Subtle Calamity
(energy), Biting Winds
(kinetic, new in Beyond Light), and Accrued Redemption
(kinetic). All three can max out the accuracy stat (the roll is Tactile String/Natural String+Fibreglass Arrow Shaft+Accuracy masterwork), and all three can roll quickdraw. The god roll Biting Winds is arguable best, as it can roll quickdraw and
snapshot for maximum handling speed. If you don't have rolls on either of these bows, No Turning Back
(kinetic) is an excellent 2nd choice as it's an easily-obtained static roll with quickdraw and maxed accuracy (if you have the accuracy MW, which rolls randomly). For light-level-enabled modes, Biting Winds is the only option that is not sunset - there is no energy option with quickdraw. There is Point of the Stag
(not sunset)- it doesn't roll quickdraw, but can work with Quick Access Sling as a make-do option (sacrificing Icarus sadly).
Highest possible bow damage:
- Exotic Bows: These are obviously all unique - but in brief, Le Monarque is the only real choice for high-level play. Furthermore, the characteristics of Le Monarque that make it unique also make it arguably the best choice out of all bows:
The best-in-class damage numbers of Le Monarque speak for themselves: 175 crit/125 body
. No other bow comes close. Precision bows hit 151 crit/101 body
. Wish Ender hits 160 crit/102 body
- but has an atrocious 800ms draw time and, crucially, lacks snapshot or quickdraw. Trinity Ghoul has an exotic perk which is more or less irrelevant in PvP, has a slow draw time... and lacks quickdraw or snapshot.
Le Monarque's damage numbers enable guaranteed-kill crit/body combos that are unique among all bows: LM body+120rpm crit: 214 damage
; LM body+140rpm crit: 195 damage
. 195 kills low-resilience, 214 is guaranteed. Neither of these combos is a kill with any other bow. The importance of this really can't be overstated: although it is always preferable to land a crit with your bow shot, the flexibility of being able to secure the kill at minimum TtK with a body shot
puts Le Monarque in a league of its own. The disorienting/stressing effects that the poison DoT places on opponents (which will spread to nearby opponents if they are clustered) are just icing on the cake. Snapshot Sights:
This perk allows the player to remain in hipfire (out of ADS) before engaging - without either snapshot or quickdraw, bows enter ADS too slowly to allow this. Bow+HC users without snapshot/quickdraw will have to pre-aim before engagements - this is hugely disadvantageous because A) this is simply not always possible in the chaos of the crucible, and B) ADS time should be minimized because it has a host of obvious disadvantages - loss of radasituational awareness, promotion of passive play, etc.
One very specific build is extremely strong and worth mentioning: Le Monarque+Oathkeepers
. With legendary bows I strongly advise against running Oathkeepers - they serve little purpose, and can actively promote an excessively passive and non-aerial playstyle. With Le Monarque, that is not the case. There is a huge benefit to knowing your poison DoT damage is always guaranteed; without Oathkeepers, the window for successfully landing that poison shot is very narrow - in the chaos of the crucible, not even the best players can pull it off with absolute consistency. Oathkeepers remove that variable entirely, enabling focus to be shifted elsewhere (positioning, radar, communication, etc).
There are a few disadvantages to LM+Oathkeepers. The biggest is probably the fact that you can't run Icarus on your bow - limiting aerial play compared to legendary bows with Icarus. The other main disadvantage (which can be counteracted by conscious play) is the tendency for Oathkeepers to induce a more passive playstyle. It's easy to keep an arrow knocked at all times - but it's a terrible idea, as you become far more static (predictable), and less likely to rotate properly throughout the match. If running Oathkeepers, it is important to be aware of this tendency, and to intentionally avoid these pitfalls.
The options for legendary handcannons are pretty easy to narrow down. If you are using Lucky Pants or Dragon's Shadow, quickdraw is not necessary and any 120/140 with your preferred perks will work (120s are optimal). For warlocks/titans and hunter builds without Lucky Pants or Dragon's Shadow, there are slim options. 120s are the best-in-slot option as explained above, and there are only a few examples which can roll the requisite perk of quickdraw: Thin Line
(energy), Home For The Lost
(kinetic, also an unobtainable Y1 static roll), and the new version of The Steady Hand
(kinetic, iron banner). Thin Line is the only choice if you're running a kinetic bow. The Steady Hand
deserves a special note - it is the clear best-in-slot choice. Firstly, as the only non-sunset 120 with quickdraw, it is the only
legendary 120rpm option for Trials/IB if you aren't running Lucky Pants/Dragon's Shadow. However, beyond that it also has phenomenal base stats, perk options, and "acquirability" (it should be farmable from IB, and odds are decent for strong rolls). Optimal rolls include: quickdraw+snapshot (1/36 chance), quickdraw+iron grip (1/36 chance), and quickdraw+wellspring (1/36 chance). Snapshot would shave a few frames off optimal TtK and is obviously excellent, but not necessary like quickdraw. Iron Grip hugely boosts stability, which is severely lacking in 120s. Wellspring reduces all cooldowns on kill - great for the neutral game and likely to be highly utilized, as almost all kills with bow+HC are with the handcannon. Additionally, with the correct roll The Steady Hand can reach a massive 86 range (actually 96 if using the Adept Range mod when it is available!). Max range roll requires: range MW+sureshot+any of the 4 second-slot perks which provide +5 range. Odds for this roll are a surprisingly reasonable 1/48. The god-roll with max range and quickdraw is a 1/288 chance. The GOD god-roll of max range+quickdraw+one of the 3 optimal final perks listed above is a 1/576 chance (I want one...).
(Interesting side note on The Steady Hand: If you want a high-impact handcannon with high stability, this is the one to farm for when iron banner rolls around. The stability god-roll reaches a massive 86 stability
- far and away higher than any other 120rpm handcannon. The best part is it still maintains an impressive 71 range. Odds for getting this roll are 1/1152)
140rpm handcannons, while objectively worse than 120s for bow+HC, can still put in work. Options featuring quickdraw include: Ten Paces
(kinetic), Kindled Orchid
(energy), and The Old Fashioned
(kinetic). Of these, only The Old Fashioned is not sunset; there is no non-sunset energy 140rpm handcannon that can roll quickdraw.
- For light-level-enabled modes: note on weapon pairings/sunsetting
Due to the mess that is sunsetting, there are zero
non-sunset legendary bows OR 120/140 handcannons in the energy slot that can roll quickdraw. Point of the Stag (energy bow) can work with Quick Access Sling, but that's about it. So, for Trials/IB, the possible weapon pairings are actually vanishingly slim: either Le Monarque or Point of the Stag, with either The Steady Hand or The Old Fashioned.
Hunters running Dragon's Shadow or Lucky pants have a few more options: Le Monarque+any HC Point of the Stag+any HC, or Biting Winds+any HC. Nonetheless, sunsetting has clearly reduced the pool of potential bow+HC builds by a big margin.
Hunters have the obvious advantage in this field: Lucky Pants, Dragon's Shadow, and Oathkeepers provide unique advantages for bow+HC that are unobtainable for warlocks/titans. Lucky Pants
lend themselves well to builds that incorporate exotic handcannons (TLW+bow, Sturm+bow, Ace+bow, etc.). These builds all have inherent advantages and disadvantages that follow the unique attributes of each exotic handcannon. They also allow use of handcannons which lack quickdraw. Builds include: Le Monarque+any handcannon that lacks quickdraw, or a legendary bow+exotic handcannon. For regular crucible, Subtle Calamity
pairs best with Lucky Pants as it can roll quickdraw - for Trials/IB you are limited to Point of the Stag
+Quick Access Sling. Dragon's Shadow
provides the necessary handling boost for handcannons and allows for builds with handcannons/bows that lack quickdraw. I personally am not a huge fan, as I find losing my dodge to cooldown and needing to monitor the buff/cooldown constantly to be pretty disadvantageous (especially when simply using a handcannon with quickdraw provides the same benefit). Oathkeepers
are interesting, in that I would only recommend them when paired with Le Monarque - the advantage of a guaranteed poison hit is substantial. For legendary bows, Oathkeepers offer less benefit and may even promote an excessively passive playstyle, at the cost of your exotic slot.
The above three options are the primary exotics for bow+HC, but there is an exception: builds with a legendary handcannon w/quickdraw and legendary bow. In this case, neither Oathkeepers, Lucky Pants, or Dragon's Shadow provide a significant benefit, and exotic choice is really up to preference for specific perks. I personally would recommend Wormhusk
, because disengaging to heal is a necessary tactic with bow+HC.
Warlocks and titans have very minimal choice regarding exotics to pair with bow+HC. For warlocks, Ophidian Aspect
is a strong choice for its buff to weapon handling (important note: the handling buff from Ophidian Aspect is not enough to counteract a lack of quickdraw, especially for 120s). If using a handcannon with quickdraw, Transversive Steps
are probably best. One unique strategy for warlocks revolves around empowering rifts: if you're running Le Monarque, empowering rifts will 1-shot at any resilience. I personally don't love this strategy as you're limited by ability cooldown and it's inherently passive... but it definitely works.
For titans... I'm honestly not sure if there is any exotic that directly pairs with bow+HC. Peacekeepers could be really interesting for a closer-range bow+SMG build maybe?
The idea of bow+HC is to dramatically increase the lethality of bows by following up successful bow hits with a handcannon. Bows on their own have a hilariously non-competitive TtK (~1.34s for precision archetype bows) and can't do much beyond teamshotting - even in 6s. And relying on teammates for kills is no fun. In high-level comp bows alone are even worse - frankly they are not competitive in any way. Supplementing a bow with a handcannon changes this - following up a bow shot with a handcannon shot can be extremely fast and often catches opponents completely off-guard. This allows players to negate the inherent "passive play" characteristic of bows - on the contrary, bow+HC can and should be used very aggressively. In 6s, high-kill games should always be the target: if you're hanging back and playing super passive, you're doing it wrong. A skilled bow+HC player should always be pressuring the opposing team.
The fundamentals of the playstyle are largely the same as regular crucible loadouts: good game sense, knowing when to retreat, playing with your teammates, etc.
One very basic point is pre-drawing your bow
(this may seem obvious, but this guide is geared to players who may have zero experience with bows): the bow+HC time-to-kill is simply not competitive if you are drawing your bow once you see an enemy.
Compared to traditional loadouts (primary+shotgun, primary+sniper, etc.), the main differentiator in how to play effectively with bow+HC is engagement range
. Bow+HC lacks any insta-kill "panic buttons" in CQC (bow body shot+melee is the closest option) and similarly is at an obvious disadvantage in long range vs. snipers. While it's true that in low-level 6s lobbies you can pretty much run rampant without caring too much about engagement range (if you're decently skilled with bow+HC), things change at higher levels of competition. Against skilled players you WILL lose if they successfully force an engagement at long or short range. Maintaining the correct spacing between yourself and opponents is crucial. Consciously controlling your movement so at to engage at the correct range (midrange) as often as possible is essential to strong bow+HC play.
Following from this is knowing when to disengage
. This is important for all loadouts but is especially relevant to bow+HC. The playstyle often requires disengaging more frequently relative to normal playstyles; unlike shotgunning, you don't often need to fully commit ("ape"); unlike sniping, you won't often be securing instant kills without taking any damage. Playing in the midrange without instant-kill special weapons means that you will need to disengage more frequently to "play your life" - which is fundamental in high-level play regardless of loadout.
Snipers are a particular weakness for bow+HC (less so in Beyond Light but still significant). Bows can be thought of as ultra-low zoom snipers that don't kill on crits, have a charge time, and limit your mobility; with this mindset it's easy to see why challenging snipers at range is easily punished. Restraint is essential: skilled snipers will win every time and peeking should usually be avoided against good players
. You'll die. In 6s, the best play is often to not challenge sniper lanes and simply rotate to a new position - you will avoid a losing engagement and can enter a more favourable one quickly. In survival/trials, sacrificing your position is not usually the best option - you could be leaving your teammates at a disadvantage, surrendering heavy spawn, guarding a revive etc. Here, engagement range is critical; reducing engagement range is the only play, and it functions the same as it would with a shotgun or fusion rifle loadout (avoid sightlines and flank/pressure as best as possible). Challenging snipers can be done most safely with radar pinging tactics (applies to all loadouts) - peek from a sightline while a teammate is within radar range of the sniper and at a different angle/sightline. If you can't challenge a sniper's lane safely, play defensively and don't peek. Emotes/swords can be used 3rd-person perspective peeking - useful in extra sweaty lobbies.
In high-level lobbies, basic spacing strategies (and good aim, basic game sense, etc.) is typically inadequate to consistently win with bow+HC. Skilled opponents will exploit the weaknesses of the loadout and provide zero easy picks. In these scenarios the key is being unpredictable
. Most players haven't encountered skilled bow+HC players at high levels; they will base their play off past encounters with bow+HC in low-level lobbies. The idea is pretty simple and not unique to bow+HC: be conscious of what the enemy expects you to do, and avoid doing those things. Functionally, this mostly boils down to four things: aggressive vs. passive play, usage of abilities (specifically grenades), aerial play, and teamshotting. Aggressive vs. passive play
Deceptively simple: most players expect bow users to be highly passive - this is what they've encountered most frequently. Push aggressively to catch (most) players by surprise. Alternate aggressive pushes with baiting - fake a push, then back off from absolute close range. Mix up with grenades/aerial play. This is similar to good play with regular loadouts, but can be trickier in that you should be aware of engagement range at all times, due to your lack of instant-kill special weapons. Teamshotting
Very self-explanatory yet very important. High-level lobbies won't afford you many opportunities for clean bow-swap-to-handcannon kills. Playing intelligently with your teammates will give you the opportunity for instant kills, as opponents need only marginal damage to be vulnerable to a single bow crit - 49
for legendary bows, just 25
for Le Monarque. These damage levels are typically below the "retreat threshold" at which players will disengage to heal - leaving them open to a bow crit for the kill. Usage of abilities
Countering the inherent disadvantages of bow+HC at close range is difficult. Grenade abilities are a strong option available to all classes - due to the massive crit damage of a single bow shot (151 for legendaries, 175 for Le Monarque), even the slightest tickle from a grenade can prime an enemy for an insta-kill. If you're running LM, take note of the damage number if you tag an opponent with a grenade - anything 75 or higher
can be followed up with an LM bodyshot for a guaranteed kill. This also (obviously) works in reverse - tagging an enemy with a bow shot primes them for a grenade (depending on the bow and crit/body, grenades need only hit for a maximum of 99
down to a minimum of just 25
for a guaranteed kill).
Class abilities are useful, but not as critical to the playstyle as skilled grenade use. Dodge
is probably the best class ability for bow+HC - it is a strong tool to control engagement range and disengage. It also enhances survivability in CQC - very beneficial for bow+HC given the obvious lack of a special weapon. Following up a dodge in close quarters with a jump often allows bow+HC to avoid a shotgun/melee death, and sets up a bow bodyshot+handcannon cleanup (or bow+melee when in range). At the very least it gives you a chance to trade. Barricade
mostly functions as it would with any loadout - the one notable exception is that barricades can be particularly useful for pre-drawing a bow while maintaining sight of an opponent. Empowering Rifts
have a unique benefit in that they can allow bows to instant-kill in a single crit. Aerial Play
For good reason, aerial play is not typically seen as a strong suit of bows: they suffer from significant penalties to in-air accuracy, and missing while airborne leaves bow users highly vulnerable. However, when executed properly, aerial play with bow+HC can be highly effective - and is in fact necessary to maximize the potential of the loadout. Strong aerial play is key to higher level bow+HC.
At higher levels of play, the loadout is unlikely to be effective without it. Due to how important aerial play is, I've expanded this section to be a deep dive into every aspect of aerial play with bow+HC.
Note: "aerial play" refers to any
instance of play while non-grounded - from the smallest jump-shot to a full double-jump.
For handcannons, Icarus is absolutely essential
if you want to maximize aerial bow+HC play. Even if you are a grounded player, I would still recommend Icarus for your handcannon; regardless of playstyle, you will at times find yourself airborne. Often these will be moments of undesirable close quarters combat - a heavily disadvantaged position for bow+HC, and one in which your best play will usually involve your handcannon. Minimize this disadvantage as much as possible: run Icarus on your handcannon.
For bows, it comes down to your personal playstyle - for certain aerial playstyles, the best option is legendary bow+Icarus. The obvious sacrifice here is giving up Le Monarque. LM is arguably the best bow in the game; trading it's huge advantages for anything is a big ask. That said, strong aerial play is important enough against tough opponents that giving up LM can be worth it. Ultimately, it comes down to preference - both options have pros and cons, and suit different playstyles. Both can work equally well at high levels, where good aerial play is necessary - the difference is in the playstyle. I recommend practicing with both to see which works best for you.
With aerial play it's usually best to aim for body shots (with bows) when in close quarters
. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that bow body shots can be landed consistently in CQC from hip-fire. This is huge: hip-firing is faster, allows you to maintain situational awareness, affords instant access to your abilities, and maximizes your movement options. ADSing for a crit while in a CQC fight is clunky and highly limiting. The second reason is basic consistency: the odds of missing against slippery opponents are higher in CQC, where missing usually results in death. Targeting a crit instead of centre-of-mass is riskier. While hitting aerial crits undeniably offers better damage and potential TtK (guaranteed kill with 1 followup handcannon hit), the increased consistency of targeting body shots is usually worth the tradeoff. Bow body shots do a surprising amount of damage and can usually get the job done; if you are forced into an absolute close-range engagement and can't disengage, bow bodyshot+melee is the best "panic button" available and can kill near instantly.
At medium range and further, aiming for crits while airborne makes sense; missing is less likely to result in death, and the goal is to deal maximum damage. In these engagements, an essential aerial technique is jump-shotting at range from cover
. The keys here are range
: jump-shotting out of cover or in close/close-mid range is viable and useful, but bow+HC doesn't offer any real advantages vs. regular loadouts in such scenarios. On the other hand, the unique attributes of bows offer real advantages when jump-shotting at range (mid
+) and peeking from cover
. These include:
- Unequaled damage from a single shot (min 101, max 175).
- No need to factor in the possibility of wasting special ammo (less risk)
- Inherent high accuracy and unlimited range of bows (higher probability of success)
Cumulatively these attributes make bows very strong for this style of jump-shotting. Against skilled opponents, it's often a necessary technique; these players will reliably punish basic peeking (standing position>strafe out of cover) - and bow+HC almost never works with slide-peeking out of cover (nocking an arrow after a slide is an easy punish). This leaves jump-shotting as the only mix-up option for peeking lanes. Without strong jump-shotting skills, good teams can easily shut down aggressive bow+HC play. It's one of the most important bow techniques and is crucial for maximizing the loadout's potential.
Regardless of your build choice, clean-up kills at close range (or with the threat of snipers) should almost always be attempted with aerial play - most players will not expect this from bow users, and bow body shot damage is often enough to secure the kill with no follow-up.
Another aerial tactic worth mentioning is engaging with only your handcannon. Against particularly slippery or skilled opponents this can be more reliable - and it serves as a mix-up which they will not be expecting.
I'll wrap up this guide with a breakdown of what I personally consider to be the current best
build overall for aerial bow+HC play - and for the playstyle as a whole. It's not the strongest option in all scenarios - but it is definitely the most versatile, with fewer weaknesses than other bow+HC builds. It's also relatively simple to put together and works with all classes - although hunter probably synergizes best.
The build is (quite simply) Le Monarque+120rpm HC
. The unique attribute of this particular pairing which makes it so strong is the bow bodyshot + handcannon crit combo: a Le Monarque body shot and 120rpm crit hits for 215 - a guaranteed kill. All other bow+HC builds require a bow crit to guarantee a kill with the followup handcannon shot. This means you can secure kills at the fastest possible TtK regardless of landing the bow crit, at (nearly) any range!
The strength of this cannot be overstated; it enables plays based off intentional bow bodyshots that no other build can match - and provides superior forgiveness and flexibility in every engagement. These attributes enable a playstyle that is unique to this build. Relative to other bow+HC builds, LM+120rpm has nearly zero downsides: in close/close-mid range, it excels for aggressive aerial play (second only to legendary bow+TLW) - offering near-instantaneous kill potential without requiring high precision. This makes intentionally playing around hip-fire body-shots a competitive strategy - and Le Monarque is equipped with snapshot for rapid pivots to ADS as needed. At mid-range and further, the best-in-slot damage output of LM and best-in-slot damage+range of 120rpm handcannons offer the greatest lethality in a bow+HC loadout - and again require objectively less precision for minimum TtK. No other build is as effective at all ranges, or as forgiving. The best part is this build is relatively easy to set up: all you need is a 120rpm HC with quickdraw (or Lucky Pants/Dragon's Shadow) and Icarus.
That's all for now... way more than I intended to write haha. Hopefully this provides a useful overview of bow+HC. Try it out if you haven't before and you're looking for a totally different playstyle in the crucible!