This Sorcery in Shadow of the Erdtree is the most broken thing I've seen since day-one Elden Ring, Intel or Faith builds can use it, and I can't believe it hasn't been nerfed

Elden Ring DLC
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Early Elden Ring players may remember the dominance of an Incantation called Swarm of Flies, which was once capable of dealing frankly absurd bleed and stagger damage. Well, there's a new Sorcery in Shadow of the Erdtree that makes pre-nerf Swarm of Flies look tame. Intelligence and Faith builds can both use it, and I truly cannot believe it wasn't nerfed in the DLC's first patch, which actually made the DLC easier with a buff to early Scadutree levels. This spell is downright oppressive and it's practically turned me into a door-to-door salesman. Friends, you need Impenetrable Thorns in your life.

Minor boss and area spoilers for Shadow of the Erdtree ahead. 

I discovered Impenetrable Thorns last night, and it has made short work of everything I've encountered since, from giant shrimps to bears to bear bosses. It deals good base damage from a far range, staggers enemies fairly quickly, and triggers hemorrhage so frequently that it's probably illegal. Melting bosses with this thing feels absolutely filthy; I needed an extra shower after recording one of the clips below. The only caveat is that Impenetrable Thorns deals a little damage and applies bleed build-up to you, but not enough to pose a major risk. 

You need 24 Faith to use this spell even though it is a Sorcery, but frankly I'd recommend almost every high-level build get at least 27 Faith anyway for buffs like Golden Vow and elemental counters like Lord's Divine Fortification. You'll find Impenetrable Thorns in the DLC's Shadow Keep legacy dungeon across from a Site of Grace on the seventh floor, not far from the entrance to Messmer's chamber. Here's a handy video from ConCon showing exactly where it is. 

If you're a Faith build rather than an Intel wizard, you'll still need a staff to cast this spell since it is a Sorcery. Look no further than the Staff of the Guilty, which drops from the Fire-Thorn Sorcerers found throughout Elden Ring. This staff scales Sorceries with Faith rather than Intelligence, letting Faith builds deal solid damage with the full spell arsenal provided they have the stats to actually use those spells. Since Impenetrable Thorns only requires Faith, this is an easy ask. You could also consider the Albinauric Staff, though I haven't tested this myself. 

This is one of those spells that deals extra damage to large enemies due to clustered, repeated hits, and because it applies bleed status and triggers the hemorrhage effect, it's also best used against enemies that are vulnerable to bleed. They don't have to be especially weak to bleed; they just have to have blood in their veins. If it bleeds, this spell can kill it, and kill it fast.

Just to show it off against normal enemies, here's me taking out a black knight with little to no effort on a non-optimized setup. I don't have Arcane leveled at all on my character, and it's entirely possible that the blood loss effect scales with Arcane, though the spell's description doesn't mention this. In all of the clips below, I'm running 30 Faith and 80 Intel with a maxed Carian Regal Scepter staff on a New Game+ run. 

Here's me racking up 30,000 damage on a sleeping Runebear in an instant: 

Finally, here's Impenetrable Thorns absolutely decimating one of the optional red bear bosses in the Land of Shadow. Just look at the bleed procs pushing the damage stack upwards of 14,000 in seconds. Half of this boss's health bar disappears in one chunk! I absolutely cannot wait to destroy a certain spiny animal boss in NG++ with this spell. 

If this spell doesn't get adjusted in the weeks or months ahead, I'll eat a Scadutree Fragment live on stream. Use it while it's obscene, and hope it survives the inevitable nerf without getting shoved into the dirt. 

Here are some more general Shadow of the Erdtree tips to help you survive the Elden Ring DLC. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.