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The Witcher 3 raised the bar for RPG games and provided a beautiful, customizable experience. The story, side quests, and character growth showcased the amount of care put into this hand-crafted masterpiece. Geralt of Rivia, the game’s main protagonist, can be customized and altered to suit the players’ need for dialogue, play style, combat, and other attributes, making the game a truly personalized experience while holding on to its core identity through Geralt’s personality.
The Witchers have an array of options in their arsenal, from combat to alchemy, but magic was never their strong suit. To combat this weakness, the Witchers possess knowledge of magic signs. These glyphs utilize specific attributes to aid the Witcher in their adventures. They are considered the bottom-of-the-barrel magic. The Signs, at first glance, seem magical in nature, but their inception stems from the main physical elements of the world, not the magical formula. This allows them to be cast quickly, unlike magic. The Witcher signs are unique, each with its own use case. They serve as a vital companion while facing the world’s harsh monsters and unusual creatures. Trust me when I say these signs are beneficial, especially if you embark on a journey to be fashionable like I did early on.
When I started the game, I couldn’t find anything worthwhile to put on, and the equipment I did have was very undesirable, not to mention I was very weak. So I went on a journey away from the main storyline, and during this quest, the signs were my only ally. I know the number of options seems a bit much to handle but allow me to provide a comprehensive guide on the subject. As soon as you’re done with this, you can customize Geralt to match your style and dive into the world of the Witcher.
Magic in the Witcher universe requires deep knowledge of the Magical Formula, this would allow mages to cast spells and utilize magic, but the Witchers were not trained as such. To use magical skills, the Witchers utilize signs enabling them to cast magical effects and attacks through hand gestures and concentration. If you’ve ever wondered why Witchers aren’t two-handed, well, with one hand, they wield the sword, and with the other, they use signs. Signs are indispensable for a Witcher and allow them to turn the tide of combat. Some schools of the Witcher have strengthened certain signs to a higher degree of ability through research and practice like the Griffin school has strengthened Yrden.
The Witcher 3 introduces five signs in total, each with its unique use case. With four available upgradeable tiers, these signs’ combinations and uses can shift the tide of battle. Still, on the other hand, a bad combination against a strong enemy can easily be your downfall. Most tiers have around two to five upgradeable levels. I will explain every Sign in detail, along with their uses and alternate modes.
The Aard Sign
Aard is a telekinetic blast of energy that pushes the enemy back and throws them off balance. Sometimes, it throws the enemy prone, allowing you to execute them in one strike. It can also break wooden furniture, destroy cracked walls and extinguish fires.
I found Aard to be my most used and valuable skill in the game. It brings down flying enemies like harpies and is effective in downing enemies on horseback. It shines when you’re surrounded by large groups of bandits or creatures where you can use Aard to create openings. There’s also the aspect of using the shove to throw people off cliffs; you don’t get the loot, but it’s amusing. As you upgrade this Sign, its effectiveness increases from simple shoves to incapacitation for small durations.
Alternate Mode: The alternate version of Aard which I used in my final build is Aard Sweep. Instead of creating a push in one direction, the sweep fires the wave downward, spreading in a radius around Geralt.
- Far-Reaching Aard: One of the most effective upgrades for Aard it increases the range of Aard by one yard. It has three level-ups.
- Aard Sweep: It is the Alternate mode of Aard, allowing Aard to affect enemies in a radius but reducing the knockdown chances. It has three levels; at level 1, the knockdown chances are 21% lowered. At level 2, the chances of knocking the enemy down are 17% dropped. At level 3, the knockdown chance is no longer reduced.
- Aard Intensity: A fundamental yet significant upgrade that increases the intensity of Aard by five percent.
- Aard Shockwave: It adds damage 40 points of damage to Aard and an additional 40 for each level possessed.
I found the sweep to be the most useful one, significantly after I fully upgraded it. Upgrading Aard intensity and Far-Reaching Aard should be a priority. When coupled with a level 3 Aard Sweep throws almost all enemies down, you can land an execution blow to them all directly. Aard can also be used against Foglets; by using Aard on them, their true forms are revealed through the mist by blowing them away.
I found the Aard shockwave to be the least helpful move since I preferred attacking head-on instead of from a distance. You can couple it with the mutations introduced in the DLC, but it doesn’t do much as the enemies get stronger.
The Igni Sign
The Igni Sign allows Geralt to throw a pyro kinetic burst toward his enemies. The simplicity of the offensive Sign will enable it to be one of the most used ones. It can not only damage your foes but also has a chance to initiate a fire on them, causing them to burn. Apart from being used offensively, you can also use the embers of Igni to start torches and light up candles and campfires. One of the most valuable ways to utilize Igni is during small animal hunts; quickly go up to them and use Igni to succeed.
In many caves, dungeons, and swamps, the gasses seeping out from the services or the ground are pretty potent and harmful to Geralt. Extended exposure to these gasses can result in death. Igni can be used to throw embers into the gases to cause an explosion through their reaction. This creates an opportunity for Geralt to move through the areas safely. Still, the window for escaping the site is about ten seconds, so you have to be quick.
It is also one of the only ways to fight and get rid of a bee hive. Hitting a beehive with Igni allows you to get honey and eliminate their attack.
Alternate mode: Another way to use Aard is the fire stream; this allows Geralt to release a stream of embers from his hand. It does its damage over time and might inflict burn. Some enemies push through and still attack you, but this attack is well suited against shield-wielding enemies. The shield-wielding enemies are forced to throw their shields down after being inflicted by the barrage of embers.
- Melt Armor: In the first tier, the damage done by this Sign also affects the enemy’s armor. It has a total of five levels and works along with Sign Intensity. The damage to the enemy and armor scales up to 15%, with an additional 15% per level up.
- Fire Stream: It is the Alternate Mode of Igni and shoots a constant stream of embers onto his enemy. The stamina cost is reduced by 25% at level two, and at level 3, it is reduced by 50%.
- Igni Intensity: Increases the Igni sign intensity by 5% per level. It has a total of five levels.
- Pyromaniac: It Increases the chances of applying burn to enemies by 20% per level. It has a total of five levels.
One of the most straightforward moves, I found myself using this sign the most in the initial half of the game. It proved to be a worthy ally for beginner me. I help against enemies vulnerable to fire, especially armored humans. The best way I used Igni was through the fire stream; now, Igni is a one-and-done blast of embers, but the fire stream can target a large group of people, slowly draining away their health bar.
During my adventure for fashion, I wanted to have a cool sword, and I went out of my way to take on the Sword Master Quest. My best allies during the sword master quest were dodges and fire stream. The consistent damage takes time, but it’s practical, and enemies that direct attacks can’t damage (because of high levels) are always affected by the Fire stream. Needless to say, Igni has its moments and is a very reliable ally. I managed to use Fire Stream and free the Sword Master but alas, the sword I wanted, well, I wasn’t high enough level for it, but this just goes to show how great signs are.
The Yrden Sign
A simple magical sign used by Witchers to set up traps on the ground. Once an enemy steps into the affected area, they are damaged, slowed, and afflicted with status ailments. Its abilities, when upgraded, work well with specific builds. It is instrumental against large enemies like cyclops. The most critical and compelling use case of the Yrden Sign would be against Noonwraiths and Nightwraiths. These beings have incorporeal bodies, but upon entering the Yrden circle, their bodies become corporeal and are affected by your attacks. This allows for a strong countermeasure against powerful opponents.
If upgraded correctly with its alternate mode, the Yrden sign can become a powerhouse but requires significant grinding and a setup. You would require The Entanglement Glyphword from the Rune wright, and you need to obtain the Grandmaster Griffin Armor obtained later in the game. This armor increases the effectiveness of the Yrden Sign, and dawning it allows for a perfect trap setter build. You can slow down large groups, damage them through the circle, and even the Wraiths are auto targeted by the charges of Yrden. Inside the circle, the Sign produces charges protecting you from projectiles.
The Alternate mode sets up charges within the circle that damage the enemies and protect the player.
- Sustained Glyphs: It increases the sign duration by five seconds per level. It has a total of 2 levels. At level 1, the Yrden has two alternate mode charges and one standard trap charge. At level 2, the alternate mode charges change to 4, and standard trap charges become 2.
- Magical Trap: The alternate mode of Yrden has three levels. It damages and slows down enemies within a ten-yard radius, adding two yards for each class. The damage is increased by 25% at level two, and at level three, it is increased by 50%.
- Yrden Intensity: It increases the effectiveness of the Sign by 5% per level. It has a total of five levels.
- Supercharged Glyphs: It has a total of 5 levels. The enemies inside the radius of effect for Yrden lose ten health points per second.
I used it relatively sparsely, but I could see its effectiveness if you would like to fight the Griffin school way. It is a handy sign which is very strong in the Witcher universe. Yrden is a sign for those who wish to fight methodically and tactfully while overpowering the enemy through setups and movement.
The Quen Sign
The go-to line of defense for all Witchers is the Quen sign. It covers the Witcher in an elemental shield proving to be the barrier between life and death. The Sign usually only works for one hit, then wears off, but it works really well if you have stamina and cast it in quick succession. The intensity and life of this armor can be increased by leveling it up.
It can usually sustain powerful attacks from even the highest level of enemies. This includes the “??” levels. Quen can take at least one hit from these foes without affecting Geralt’s own strength. The Quen sign doesn’t force Geralt to stagger even if he takes a hit; instead, the shield breaks, and the combo continues. Only the strongest attacks force Geralt to stagger, which would be the one-hit KO’s from large creatures. When face to face against a strong enemy, you should use Quen in a manner where you force one hit in and back away. You will play cautiously, but it’s better than losing all your progress or not having any chances against strong enemies.
The Alternate Mode creates a yellow force field that surrounds Geralt as long as you can hold the Sign or the enemy forces it to break. You can’t attack while the force field is up, but any attacks made during this would help regain your health; you can also slowly move during the force field is up.
- Exploding Shield: It has three levels; at level 1, it pushes the opponent back when it breaks. At level 2, it pushes the opponent back and causes damage. At level 3, it pushes the opponent back, causes damage, and creates a chance for a knockdown.
- Active Shield: It is the Alternate Sign mode of Quen. It has three levels and creates an active shield that drains stamina for its maintenance. The damage taken restores vitality. At level 2, stamina usage is reduced by 50%. At level 3, the shield no longer drains stamina.
- Quen Intensity: It increases the sign intensity of Quen by 5% per level. It has a total of five levels.
- Quen Discharge: Reflects 5% of the damage taken back to the inflictor and adds 5% damage for each level. It has a total of 5 levels.
Quen might be my least used Sign in the game, but it saved me many times. Let’s get back to my quest to be fashionable; during this adventure, I came across an Earth Golem that always one shot me into oblivion. There I found the Quen to be my ally, it gave me a fighting chance against the golem, and after two hours of constant battle, I won. Quen is unique; ironically, the only move that defends allows attacking to your heart’s content. You might not use it all the time, but it’ll have your back when no one else will.
The Axii Sign
It is the magical Sign which influences humans and creatures alike. It muddles the mind and can be used in combat to either incapacitate the enemy for a while or to turn certain enemies against each other. It can be amusing to use, but the Sign shines during dialogue and confrontations. By using the Axii sign in conversation, you can attain more dialogue options, get your way and even change the course of certain events.
Some enemies can resist the effects of Axii. Still, you can strengthen your impact by investing in certain upgrades like the Delusion upgrade. You can also use it to calm animals and mounts and confuse enemies. If you’re against a strong enemy, Axii is the perfect way to stun them, get a combo in, and then back off.
- Delusion: Target stops while Geralt casts Axii. This move impacts dialogues according to the affected’s level and mental fortitude. It has a total of 3 levels.
- Puppet: It is the alternate mode of Axii. You can use it to turn enemies against one another. The damage done is increased by 20% per level and has a total of 5 levels.
- Axii Intensity: It increases the intensity of Axii by 5% per level and has a total of 5 levels.
- Domination: It allows two opponents to be impacted by Axii, but the effect is lowered by 50%. At level 2, the result is reduced by 25%, and at level 3, the effect isn’t lessened, and two opponents are affected.
The only use I found for Axii was during dialogue, which helped resolve many of the situations I was in, but with that said, I would recommend against it. The better, more colorful, and fun dialogue choices and player interactions are those in which Axii isn’t included. If you use Axii, you will get what you want, but the adventure will lose character. So do what I do, just reload the save, take various dialogue options, experience what the game offers, and enjoy. I know it’s a bit out there, but it works!
The Signs in the Witcher 3 slowly become incorporated in your Witcher ways. I realized their importance when I was trying to achieve peak coolness –Yes, I did get the Wolf School Armor and Viper Armor really early on – and along that journey, if I didn’t use the signs smartly, I would never be able to achieve what I did. The signs create various possibilities to approach battles and turn the tide on your opponents, making The Witcher 3 an even more fun Rpg to get into.
Needless to say, I was able to get the Master Swordsman, The Various schools’ armor sets, and find the Master Armor Crafter within the first 15 hours of the main story, and this was only achievable because of the signs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are there only five signs in the Witcher 3?
Answer: Yes, in the game Witcher 3, there are only five usable signs. But in the Witcher Universe, there are two other signs, Somm and Heliotrope. Somm is a sign in the books that puts the affected to sleep and makes them open to suggestions. Heliotrope is a sign which protects the Witcher against Magical and Physical attacks.
In the Witcher 2, Heliotrope is supposed to be the ultimate Sign but does not make an appearance in The Witcher 3. CD Projekt Red did this because Axii did most of what Somm could do, and Quenn covered all the bases for Heliotrope.
Question: Can anyone cast Witcher signs since they’re so simple?
Answer: There is no concrete answer, but by looking at the characters in the Witcher, not everyone can learn these signs since you require specific magical ideation to use them. Most people have small magical prowess, but some are born without it in the Witcher Universe.
You also need hand gestures to use the signs since, in The Witcher 1, we found that since Leo broke his fingers, he couldn’t use the signs. Ciri, who was trained as a Witcher but didn’t undergo mutations, couldn’t use the signs. It is said that certain potions can allow magic pathways to open up within people allowing them to use the signs for a limited amount of time.
Question: What are the best signs to use in-game?
Answer: As I mentioned above, every Sign has its use. Still, after experiencing mutation, I found Aard to be the coolest and the most useful. Igni slowly goes on the back burner as you level up, and Axii is used for fun encounters. Quen and Aard end up proving to be the best ones, Aard against a group of foes and Quen against strong enemies for long battles. Yrden is especially useful against Wraiths but to get the perfect build, and you’ll probably be at the end of the game.
To follow the upgrade path, be sure to upgrade Aard. Suppose you’re ever unsure about your upgrades. In that case, many merchants sell a reset for ability points so you can buy them and re-distribute them for a new build.
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