As we stare down the Elden Ring DLC, I can't decide which of my all-time favorite builds to take into the RPG's Shadow of the Erdtree expansion

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree screenshot
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Decisions in Elden Ring are important. Often, they're the difference between success and failure. Do you circumvent an enemy horde, or take them head-on? Do you unleash your most powerful spells at the beginning of a boss fight, or do you hold fire until the final stretch when your health is low? Do you attack or defend, parry or roll, live or You Died – so many decisions made in the Lands Between can change the face of your game in an instant. 

My latest head-scratching quandary is a little more abstract in that it's not a direct moment-to-moment in-game decision, but it is one that'll affect pretty much everything moving forward. With Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree DLC gunning towards its June 20 release date, I'm torn between which of my two favorite builds to lead into the game's long-awaited and much-anticipated expansion: my hybrid Moonlight Crusader mage build, or my hybrid Executioner bleed build.

Decisions, decisions

Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Both have undeniable appeal, it must be said. And while I was certain I'd go with my mage ensemble when FromSoftware confirmed that Shadow of the Erdree will explore Miquella's story, a recent discovery on beating Mohg Lord of Blood for the second time has totally turned my head back towards my bleed set-up. 

Quick recap: Elden Ring's next steps will tell the as-yet untold story of Miquella, the twin brother of Malenia, who's been kidnapped by Mohg Lord of Blood and trapped inside a massive egg. Mohg lives in Mohgwynn Palace, a secluded nightmarescape that's swimming in rivers of blood and filled with foes who inflict blood loss – not least the towering Mohg himself. In order to access the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, you'll need to have reached the otherwise optional late gate area Mohgwynn Palance and have defeated its end-of-zone boss, Mohg Lord of Blood. Given his tendency to inflict Hemorrhage (aka blood loss), I was pretty certain offing Mohg and entering the DLC leveraging a bleed build was a non-starter – until I tested this very build in my most recent playthrough. To my surprise, Mohg is ironically (paradoxically?) pretty weak to blood build attacks, meaning I'm now faced with a conundrum ahead of the DLC. 

One thing developer FromSoftware has been clear on is that Shadow of the Erdtree will have scaled difficulty. This will serve to maintain challenging enemies and bosses for more advanced players who've spent the last two-odd years hitting super-OP levels. At almost 400 hours in, I have a few saves myself that I could lead into the incoming expansion, and it's the unprecedented gap between the base game's launch and the first slice of DLC that's responsible for me being spoiled for choice. To this end, I assume I'm far from alone in my indecision.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware; GamesRadar)

"And so I put it to you: which would you opt for?"

For what it's worth, my mage build sees me tooled up with a Lusat's Glintstone Staff and Dark Moon Greatsword. It involves me first summoning my Mimic Tear ashes. It then involves my chugging a Flask of Wondrous Physik mixed with a Hidden Cerulean Tear and a regular Cerulean Tear. After that, I cast a quick flash of Terra Magica, and then blast the absolute hell out of Comet Azur. Once my infinite MP buff wears off, I then switch to Ranni's Dark Moon, Glintstone Comet Shard and/or Stars of Ruin depending on the speed and movement of the enemy before me. 

My bleed build, on the other hand, has me wielding a Marais Executioner's Sword. Seppuku is my go-to skill, granting the Blood affinity while increasing my attack power and increasingly my chance of landing blood loss on enemies. This, partnered with Royal Knight's Resolve, is a joy to behold; while my White Mask (conveniently found in Mohgwyn Palace) raises my attack power by 10% whenever blood loss is in the vicinity. Raptor's Black Feathers and the 28-Poise Bullgoat Greaves round out my armor; with a Strength-Knot Crystal Tear and Thorny Cracked Tear combo in my Flask of Wondrous Physick tipping me over the edge. 

And so I put it to you: which would you opt for? Both have their pros and cons, but assuming the enemies in the DLC are as susceptible to blood offense as Mohg, I'm leaning towards the latter of my favored two. That said, we're still some two-and-a-half months away from Shadow of the Erdtree's release and already my indecision is killing me. Whenever I fire up my mage build, I am 100% certain this is the one. And then when I switch over to my bleed outfitting I'm sure that is the right choice. 

All of which feels very Elden Ring, doesn't it? It seems fitting that even selecting a build for its next steps is a bastard hard decision, underpinned by the fear and anxiety of choosing the 'right' or 'wrong' one. Who knows which one I'll wind up choosing come June, but with almost 400 hours under my belt in the base game, there's every chance I'll fire through it in one guise before quickly switching to the other when the credits roll.  

I've fallen in love with Elden Ring's absolute worst area – just like I did with Dark Souls and Bloodborne

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.