Darkest Dungeon Best Beginner Builds For Expeditions Welcome to the Estate

Welcome to the Darkest Estate, a land plagued with unholy corruption and cosmic horrors. Your goal in Darkest Dungeon is to carry out expeditions into the evil corruption and vanquish the unholy with a band of four heroes. Managing your party’s provisions and synergizing their abilities is the key to victory, and your team’s composition is no less important. I’ve compiled the greatest Darkest Dungeon party builds so that you can be sure to collect as much loot from a dungeon and get your party out alive.

The Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based roguelike RPG developed by Red Hook Games. You will come across thousands of enemies exploring the estate and expect to encounter all kinds of gruesome and grizzly creatures.

So with the match struck, the flame lit, and the path revealed dungeon crawl our way into this!

Bottom Line-Up Front

If you need more time to read all of the article, no worries; I’ve condensed all the important information here for you!

The Usual Suspects is a beginner team composition that can only get you so far without tuning and tweaking your hero’s skills and trinkets. Nonetheless, this line-up has some of the best characters in the game. So why do so many runs end, and games end in defeat? Well, the lack of diversification is one of the biggest killers in Darkest Dungeon, and you will need many other teams on the back bench ready for an expedition.

Here are some of the best build ideas to try out:

  • Juggle Build: Shieldbreaker, Highwayman, Occultist, Grave Robber
  • Marked for Death Speed Build: Occultist, Bounty Hunter, Jester, Arbalest/Musketeer
  • Merciless Build: Hellion, Highwayman, Plague Doctor, Occultist

Notice any similarities here? The Occultist features in all three build this because he is a highly versatile support you should never second guess. He can be used to mark targets, pull targets into range, stun enemies and even heal your party.

The Marked for Death is my favorite of these builds as your team grows stronger with every round, from the Jester’s Battle Ballad and bonus damage from stunned enemies with Bounty Hunter.

If you’re looking for a DOT specialist team, then the Merciless build is the one for you. This build is surprisingly versatile. With a few changes, you can adapt this squad for many situations and locations. Remember that some locations favor Blight over Bleed and vice versa.

Selection Criteria

A rookie mistake in Darkest Dungeon is relying on one party for all your expeditions. This is a one-way trip to the graveyard, as the expedition’s location will significantly impact your party’s output.

Take the Usual Suspects ( the beginning party line-up), for instance. This line-up is fantastic for expeditions in The Ruins as the team features many Unholy counters but is less effective in The Warrens, where the Plague Doctor’s blight abilities are ineffective. Nonetheless, the builds in this guide are versatile and are strong compositions that are thousands of times better than randomly rustling up four heroes.

Darkest Dungeon is a fantastically built game with the strategist’s mind at heart. Meaning there is no one ultimate build for a hero; however, specializing them for specific dungeon expeditions with their party members in mind is a surefire way to success. Therefore, ensure that you adapt these team compositions for the dungeon you are exploring.

For example, the Merciless build focuses on DOT from Blight and Bleed skills. Dungeons such as the Ruins are best suited for Blight as there are lots of enemies with high Bleed Resistances, and vice versa in exploring the Weald. So it would be better to bring Blight skills over Bleed skills but more on that later!

This does not mean that they can’t be used for other dungeons; on the contrary, swapping up your hero’s abilities can greatly increase their performance in a dungeon. I highly recommend that you cater to the enemies that will oppose you.

There are countless Trinkets to collect, too many to cover in this article alone, so as this is a “best” build guide; I shall include only two Trinkets in each of the character’s builds. You can learn more about the best Trinket combinations in the Best Trinkets in Darkest Dungeon Guide.

The Usual Suspects Build

Darkest Dungeon Usual Suspects Build
Image from Alex Maksymiw

The Usual Suspects, as you could expect, is the original party line-up at the beginning of the game. I’ve added this build into the guide as it’s a staple party build that you can fall back on. Moreover, mastering this first build will set you off with a flying start! I decided to add this build to the list as players will have this line-up for a while early on in the game. Here is the line-up:

  • P1: Crusader – Smite, Stunning Blow, Holy Lance Bulwark of Faith/Inspiring Cry
  • P2: Highwayman – Pistol Shot, Open Vein/Point Blank Wicked Slice, Duelist’s Advance
  • P3: Plague Doctor – Embolding Vapours, Battlefield Medicine, Plague Grenade, Noxious Blast/Blinding Gas
  • P4: Vestal -Divine Grace, Divine Comfort, Dazzling Light, Judgement

This is your typical RPG line-up; you’ve got your tank up front to protect your party and ensure that your DPS (Highwayman) can dish out some deadly attacks. Followed by supports to bestow buffs and heals on your team and debuffs and status effects to your opponents.

The Ruins are filled with Unholy creatures and skeletal monsters. Many of the monsters have Bleed Resistance in this dungeon, meaning you’ll want your Highwayman to focus on his ranged attacks rather than his melee.

It would be best if you always aimed to start the battle off with the Bulwark of Faith ability, as this will mark the Crusader and raise his PROT stat to set him up to tank damage. This ability can only be used once in a battle in subsequent rounds to stun any threats with Stunning Blow and Smite down evil with your blade!

For this variation of the Usual Suspects build, I wanted to create more synergy between the Crusader and Highwayman. Holy Lance and Duelist’s Advance help both character return to their original position if an enemy has displaced their team. Duelist’s Advance applies a Riposte buff on the Highwayman, allowing him to strike at foes that attack him. At the same time, Holy Lance deals devastating damage to Unholy units. However, Holy Lance can only be used when the Crusader is sat in P3 or P4. So why on earth would you want it?

Ability Tips and Alternatives

Zealous Accusation deals bonus damage to Unholy units; however, it counts as a ranged attack and therefore doesn’t receive many damage bonuses from the best quirks and trinkets for the Crusader. Holy Lance deals a lot of damage and can reposition him back to the front or second position, his optimal location.

Open Vein and Point Blank Shot are very useful for the Highwayman in this build. Open Vein is very good against humanoid characters and the Necromancer Apprentice due to their low Bleed Resist. However, Point Blank Shot is a devastating attack that can be used in P1, so this is handy if you’ve used Duelist’s Advance. P2 and P3 of this build can be swapped so that the Highwayman can lead the round with Duelist’s Advance without entering P1.

Don’t be fooled by the Plague Doctor. She offers a lot of value on an expedition. In this build, her role is to damage buff the Highwayman with Embolding Vapours and cure the party of “Bleed” and “Blight” with Battlefield Medicine while inflicting her own deadly Blight on enemies. The Plague Doctor’s Blight abilities are strong but don’t neglect her Blinding Gas. This is invaluable for wiping out enemies before they can strike you.

Darkest Dungeon alternative
Image from Alex Maksymiw

The Vestal sits in P4, and for a good reason, she’s the team’s main source of heals. Divine Grace is your strongest healing, while Divine Comfort is a weak healing spell that targets every party member. The Vestal isn’t completely defenseless armed with Dazzling Light; she can stun enemies and slightly increase the torch light by a few points. Judgment is a great ability as it damages enemies and heals the Vestal for a small portion of health.

I prefer this ability as the Vestal’s fourth ability, as there is an increased chance of landing a critical hit to deal extra damage to your opponent and receive extra heals for your Vestal. Moreover, the Vestal gains a 20% bonus to healing abilities in subsequent rounds for landing a CRIT!

It’s imperative that the Vestal remains in P4 as she cannot use her healing spells in P1 or P2. This is another reason I added Holy Lance and Duelist’s Advance to this build. That is unless you’re using her Hand of Light and Mace Bash combo; however, you’ll most likely only use this if your party has been shuffled around. It’s possible to start her off in P2 and use Illumination to debuff an enemy before swapping Highwayman back in on round two with Duelist’s Advance.

Juggle Build

Darkest Dungeon Juggle Build
Image from Alex Maksymiw
  • P1: Shieldbreaker – Pierce, Puncture, Adder’s Kiss, Expose
  • P2: Highwayman – Duelist’s Advance, Wicked Slice, Pistol Shot, Point Blank Shot
  • P3: Occultist – Wyrd Reconstruction, Vulnerability Hex, Sacrificial Stab, Daemon’s Pull
  • P4: Grave Robber – Lunge, Shadow Fade, Pick to the Face, Thrown Dagger

This build sacrifices the tank slot for an extra DPS and is all about outpacing your opponents and dealing heavy blows. At first glance, you might think this build doesn’t have much defense. Well, you’d be right. It doesn’t support any destress abilities, and Wyrd Reconstruction will be the only heal. However, look a bit deeper; I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun with this build.

This build is fantastic at countering opponents that shuffle your party around. This is because every hero, excluding the Occultist, has a move that allows it to pivot between positions. This is why the Grave Robber is placed in P4, as you should initiate the fight with the Grave Robber’s Lunge ability. This will push the Occultist back into P4. The Occultist’s role is to support your DPS’s attacks by applying debuffs to the opponent, and remove corpses, and pulling enemies into range with Daemon’s Pull.

If you’re new to Darkest Dungeon, you may not see the Shieldbreaker’s nightmare coming! Now I remember when I first got this character, I was stoked. She has such a cool design reminding me of a Mortal Kombat fighter. However, the Shieldbreaker carries a burden on her shoulders. Traumatized by past events while camping, there’s a 50% chance that she will have a nightmare leading to a tough battle!

Any camp skill cannot avoid this nightmare, but you can prepare for it by destressing your heroes. While in the nightmare, the Shieldbreaker will be inflicted by “Horror,” You could consider adapting the team to combat this until all of the Shieldbreaker’s nightmares have been defeated. This was such a great idea for the character, and I can definitely see it being the spark for the Darkest Dungeon II hero memories mechanic.

Super Speed and Critical Hits

The Shieldbreaker lays on damage but also supports the other DPSs in this team. For example, Expose is a fantastic ability that lowers the target’s SPD and increases the chance of being CRIT by 8%, allowing the Grave Robber and Highwayman to deal some serious CRIT damage. Moreover, you can increase the damage of the Grave Robber’s Lunge by 20% by inflicting Blight on a target with Adder’s Kiss!

Ever heard of the motto the best defense is a good offense? Well, this build is the epitome of that saying. Increasing your chances of critical hits is essential in this build, as on CRIT, each class gains a unique buff:

  • Highwayman: +2 SPD
  • Shieldbreaker: +15% PROT
  • Grave Robber: +10 DODGE
  • Occultist: +25% Healing Abilities

The Grave Robber is my favorite class in the game, so I was thrilled to see her return in Darkest Dungeon II. So this is one of my favorite builds. In Darkest Dungeon, heals aren’t guaranteed one round you could get +6 the next a measly +2, and this will be the same for Wyrd Reconstruction; relying on a heal that is random between 0-13 is scary; however, this build has enough speed to take your opponents out before they can deal too much damage.

The Grave Robber and Highwayman are more the same, with high SPD and CRIT damage. You can easily focus an enemy down in round one of battle. These characters and the Shieldbreaker will be pivoting positions a lot! As a result, I’ve given the Grave Robber Pick to the Face in case all other party members die, and she’s left alone in P1.

What’s great about this team is that you can really make the most out of the Highwayman’s Point Blank Shot without worrying about him being out of position as the Shieldbreaker has Pierce and Puncture enabling her to move back into P1, while Expose and Adder’s Kiss move her back into P2.

The Occultist is a great addition to the team as his Daemon’s Pull can cleanse the board of corpses and pull an enemy out of P4 into a range of your DPS. Moreover, the Occultist’s Vulnerability Hex decreases the target’s DODGE by 15 points! Ensuring that your DPS strikes always land true.

Super Speed and Critical Hits retremol
Image from Alex Maksymiw

Mark For Death Speed Build

  • P1: Occultist – Wyrd Reconstruction, Vulnerability Hex, Hands from the Abyss, Sacrificial Stab.
  • P2: Bounty Hunter – Collect Bounty, Mark for Death, Flashbang, Finish Him
  • P3: Jester – Dirk Stab, Slice Off, Battle Ballad, Inspiring Tune
  • P4: Arbalest/Musketeer – Sniper Shot, Suppressing Fire, Battlefield Bandage, Rallying Flare

Many Marked for Death builds can be created in Darkest Dungeon, making this build extremely versatile as you won’t always be able to run the builds in this guide 100% of the time. This is because some heroes may become too stressed to take part in another expedition or need to be taken to the Sanitorium to remove negative quirks and diseases.

This build is about exploiting Mark for Death to increase target damage. If you’re familiar with the Arbalest, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t included the Sniper’s Mark ability. Mark for Death parties only need to rely on two at most “Mark” abilities, and in this build, you get way more value out of the Occultist’s Mark from Vulnerability Hex as this skill has a 5% base CRIT chance.

The Occultist synergizes with the Bounty Hunter extremely well, as his Hands from the Abyss stun enemy targets allowing the Bounty Hunter to deal bonus damage with the Finish Him skill. Bear in mind that Hands from the Abyss will decrease the torch light by

You can increase this every round by 2% with the Jester’s Battle Ballad; this builds saving grace. Battle Ballad can be used consecutively to increase ACC by 5%, CRIT by 2%, and SPD by 2 points for all party members!

This turns the Bounty Hunter and Arbalest into a killing machine! His Finish Him skill has a base CRIT chance of 5% and deals an extra 25% damage to enemies that are stunned by his Flashbang! Not to mention the Bounty Hunter gains +3 SPD for two rounds after using Mark for Death; combined with the Jester’s Battle Ballard, your Bounty Hunter will get even faster!

Super Speed and Critical Hits couci
Image from Alex Maksymiw

The Arbalest sits in an interesting spot in this build. She adds some great utility with Rallying Flare bypassing stealth enemies, clearing stuns and marking from ally heroes. Battle Bandage heals a mediocre amount of health, but her most powerful skill is yet to come. Sniper’s Shot has a base 5% CRIT chance on enemies; however, target a Marked enemy, and this attack will do 50% extra damage, and the CRIT chance will increase to 9% alone. Need I say more?

The Muskateer can be used in this build to replace the Arbalest, as these two heroes are pretty much the same hero.

How to Play the Build

In this build, it’s all about using Mark For Death and Vulnerability Hex to mark your enemies so that they receive more damage from attacks. Therefore you’ll want to start your Bounty Hunter and Occultist’s first round of combat with these abilities. It would be best if you immediately went in with damage with your Arbalest unless your enemies are hidden. Remember, the Arbalest can heal your team, but at the start of the round, you’re more likely to be in a position where you can attack.

The Jester’s main role in this composition is to buff your team with Battle Ballad and keep finger tappin’ that loot throughout the battle. By the third round, your team will be significantly buffed with faster SPD and have better damage output. This build is super fun and solid for even the toughest expeditions, as subsequent rounds only strengthen your team!

The Merciless Build

  • P1: Hellion – Iron Swan, Barbaric YAWP! Wicked Hack, If It Bleeds
  • P2: Highwayman – Point Blank Shot, Duelist’s Advance, Pistol Shot, Wicked Slice/Open Vein
  • P3: Plague Doctor – Noxious Blast, Plague Grenade, Blinding Gass, Battlefield Medicine
  • P4: Occultist – Wyrd Reconstruction, Hand from the Abyss, Vulnerability Hex, Daemon’s Pull

If you enjoyed the Juggle build, then you’ll love the Merciless Build! This build will get you out of your comfort zone, relying on taking out enemies; fast! The Highwayman needs no introduction. His high damage output alongside the Hellion can easily wipe out an enemy on round one of battle. Although this build has a weakness to stress damage as there are no stress-relieving moves other than from camping.

The copious amounts of DOT will wipe the floor with your enemies. Look at it this way the Plague Doctor can target all enemies in battle with this setup thanks to Noxious Blast covering the first two ranks and Plague Grenade focusing on the ranks in the backline. Moreover, the Plague Doctor’s Blinding Gas enables you to stun the backline, which is essential to counter enemies with high-stress damage lingering in the back.

The Hellion and Highwayman can lay on some serious damage thanks to the Occultist’s Vulnerability Hex. The Occultist is a great supporting hero for this build as he can pull enemies out of the backline with Daemon’s Pull and stun enemies with Hands from the Abyss. You will want to protect your Occultist at all costs, as he is your main healer for the build. That said, you can get a slither of health recovery from the Plague Doctor, but together they synergize well, as Wyrd Reconstruction has a chance to apply bleed-on healing.

The Merciless Build
Image from Alex Maksymiw

This is the first build starring the Hellion hero, and what an entrance! The Hellion sits in a great place between damage and debuff. You see, on CRIT, she will deal 33% more damage to an enemy if they are bleeding! Therefore her role in this build is all about laying on “Bleed” using the If It Bleeds skill and reducing enemies’ damage (20%) and SPD (-3). This is great for a team that is relying on Wyrd Reconstruction for heals.

It’s possible to switch out the Highwayman’s Wicked Slice for Open Vein sacrificing damage for the bleed effect. This will give the Hellion more of a chance to deal extra damage. Iron Swan, although a great move, isn’t as viable with this build as it only can target P4 in battle, and the Occultist can pull the enemy out of this rank with Daemon’s Pull but by that point, the Plague Doctor would have already used Plague Grenade, so this build is brilliant for taking out those pesky lurkers.

I like this build a lot because you can easily adapt it depending on the dungeon you are planning an expedition for. For example, if I were to use this build in the Warrens I’d switch out the Plague Doctor’s Blight skills.


Question: Can you Install Mods in Darkest Dungeon?

Answer: Yes, mods can be installed easily via Steam Workshop or Nexus Mods. You can install anything from new classes, locations, town events, textures, and skins. However, since the Butcher’s Circus DLC is multiplayer-orientated, you could be banned from entering PVP with mods as your game data is sent to Red Hook Games.

Question: Why Do I Start with Items in my Provisions In Darkest Dungeon?

Answer: Before taking out an expedition, the player must purchase supplies like torches and food. It’s good to note that each class will bring an item into the expedition with them for free. The item depends on the class of the hero. For example, a Crusader will grant you a free Holy Water vial, and a Grave Robber will give you a shovel.

Question: How Do I find Secret Rooms In Darkest Dungeon?

Answer: Secret Rooms are bonus rooms that contain valuable loot and even battles. The only way you can discover Secret Rooms is by scouting them. There’s a chance you can scout parts of a dungeon when entering new rooms and activating specific curios such as Discarded Packs, the bookshelf, Piles of Scrolls, and Traveler’s Tent the brighter your torch the better the chance of scouting.

Conclusion: Heroes Will Fall

In conclusion, your expeditions will suffer blows even if you follow these builds to a T. There’s a reason why “Making the best out of a bad situation” is the Darkest Dungeon motto. So please don’t be distraught when one of your heroes falls. This is why I recommend that you train up multiple parties to rotate out teams that need a bit of R&R in the Hamlet. To destress and eliminate any unwanted traits and diseases they’ve picked up on their expeditions.

Preparation and knowledge are key to surviving an expedition; knowing what enemies you’ll face in each dungeon separates the noobs from the survivors. However, from this guide, you should understand that learning the enemies you will fight is essential. So definitely experiment with team comps to find one that best suits your playstyle for each dungeon.

The magic of Darkest Dungeon is that no size fits all, and you won’t be able to get into the late game without having a list of teams that you can rotate in and out. This keeps players on their toes, maintaining their hero’s stress and quirks, ensuring that no team can blast through the game.

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