MH4U Bow Guide by The_Fyrefli
Part 1: Killing
A more in-depth guide series to a very unique weapon: the bow. The bow is simple in its use, but complex in its mechanics. This guide series aims to detail those mechanics in such a way to make them both comprehensible in theory and simple in practice. By the end of this series, I hope you will have a higher understanding of this deadly, elegant weapon.
Very first order of business is to direct you towards gaijinhunter’s bow tutorial. It is an excellent video, and while I will be re-covering some details, I will also go a little deeper into a few areas. In addition, there is a bow tutorial in game (as with all weapons) where you are quickly given a run-down of the basics, and then matched to test your might against a Great Jaggi in the arena.
This first part focuses on gameplay: how to quickly and efficiently slay monsters.
I have not advanced very far in MH4U yet, but have over 500 hours and 1000 quests completed with the bow in MH3U, and will be drawing some parallels from that game. While the bow has not significantly changed between these two generations, there are some new additions.
Firstly is the possible change in controls. There are now two control schemes for the bow: Type 1 and Type 2. You will find these schemes in the options menu. Type 1 controls are identical to MH3U controls: X to draw an arrow, hold R to aim. Type 2 controls are reversed: R to draw an arrow, X to toggle aim. I believe this toggle can be turned into a hold, similar to Type 1, through another setting in the options menu. If you’re coming from MH3U, you probably prefer Type 1 like myself. If you’re new to the series, Type 2 is advantageous in that it allows you to use the new directional nub on the New 3DS. In this guide, all controls will be written as if following Type 1.
The second new addition is the power shot, but more on that later.
1. The Weapon
The idea is simple: draw an arrow, shoot the arrow, arrow hits monster, repeat until one of you dies. The actual gameplay: draw an arrow, charge the arrow, circle around the monster so it doesn’t destroy you, enter critical distance, aim for a weakspot, loose the arrow, arrow hits monster, repeat until one of you dies. You want to do the part in italics all simultaneously.
2. The Draw
The majority of bows have 3 inherent charge levels. The skill Load Up unlocks the 4th charge. Your charge level is directly linked to your damage output. At a level 3 charge, you do 50% more damage. For almost every occasion, you will want to charge to level 3. It does not take long, and is a free 50% damage boost. Press X to draw your arrow, but continue holding X to charge. You can move while charging. This is key in utilizing one of the bow’s major advantages: its mobility. The level 4 charge is unnecessary for most bows; the damage increase is from 50% -> 70%. Take this skill if you consider the 10 skill points and extra time charging to be worth that increase. Also take this skill if the shot type at level 4 charge is one that suits your needs. Charging requires stamina, so watch and maintain your stamina level carefully. Attempting to draw an arrow at no stamina, or running out of stamina before you release the arrow, will result in firing immediately. This forces you to stand still, usually where you don’t want to be, and results in your face getting smashed in.
3. The Arrow
There are 3 different shot types: Rapid, Spread, and Pierce. Additionally, each shot type also has a level, from 1 to 5. A higher level means either more arrows or hits, and in turn, more damage.
- Rapid: fires 2-4 arrows, depending on the shot level, close together that fall vertically apart as they fly. The topmost arrow does the most damage. The arrows stay bunched up for a fair distance, and therefore all typically hit the same area. Useful on any size monsters, and excellent for targeting a specific part to break.
- Spread: Fires 3-5 arrows, depending on shot level, that quickly fan out horizontally. To ensure all arrows hit, you’ll need to be pretty close to the monster. The “melee style” of bows, useful for medium size monsters and up, not so much on small monsters as the arrows tend to miss.
- Pierce: Fires a single arrow that hits 2-5 times, depending on shot level. The arrow flies through the monster, hitting multiple times, and usually, multiple hitzones. Excellent for large to massive monsters, not so useful for small to medium size monsters, as the arrow will typically leave the monster before all the hits occur. This can be used to reach hitzones that are not normally accessible, especially ones that are inside the body. For example, in MH3U, this shot type can hit the interior of the Jhen Mohran’s mouth, where it takes 90% damage.
4. The Space (Critical Distance)
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF USING THE BOW. IF YOU TAKE ONLY ONE PIECE OF INFORMATION FROM THIS GUIDE, TAKE THIS ONE. There is a specific, optimal distance between you and the monster, where your arrows will do 50% more damage. This distance varies by shot type, and a little bit by shot level, but is generally 1.5 – 2.5 backhops for Spread, 2.5 – 4 backhops for Rapid, and 3.5 – 5.5 backhops for Pierce. Always, if possible, stand at this distance. gaijnhunter’s video visually demonstrates what this distance looks like. Another visual confirmation is the effect when your shots hit a monster; at critical distance the hits will appear large and bright yellow, and the screen will shake. Not standing at this distance subtracts a large amount of your damage; this is what leads to long killtimes.
5. The Target
Due to the bow being a precise, aimable range weapon, it has the advantage of exploiting a monster’s weakspot, no matter where it is located. Use this knowledge to multiply your damage output. Don’t know where a monster’s weakspots are? Kiranico will help you.
6. The Walk
As mentioned earlier, the key to damage output (and not getting killed) is to move and perform all the above steps simultaneously. Doing this usually results in two movement patterns: the loop and the circle. The loop is demonstrated in gaijinhunter’s video; after loosing an arrow, the hunter turns away from the monster, takes a few steps while drawing an arrow, charges it while continuing to walk, then turns back to face the monster. By the time he faces the monster, the arrow is fully charged and he lets it fly, and repeats the movement. What this movement does is it re-calibrates the distance between you and the monster, ensuring you remain in critical distance at all times for maximum damage output, while preparing your shots with no downtime in between. The circleinvolves the hunter drawing an arrow, start walking an arc around the monster, turning to face the monster at the same time the arrow becomes fully charged, and then releasing the arrow. What this movement does is it brings the hunter out of harm’s way of frontal attacks (which are a good majority of attacks), while forcing the monster to turn. A turning monster cannot attack. This buys you time to draw and charge the arrow. The key in these movements is to combine them; walking in a wave-like circle around the monster as it struggles to hit you while you unleash an onslaught of arrow fire.
7. The Flight
You’ve released your arrow, and pray that it hits its mark. While you’re praying however, remember to draw and charge another arrow. By the time the arrow hits the monster, you should be about halfway through your charge already. If you choose not to release your arrow, pressing B or Y while holding onto your arrow to perform an evasion without releasing your arrow, though you will lose your charge. This is key if the monster suddenly attacks and you cannot release the arrow because the animation will result in you getting hit.
You are not a support class. You are a hunter, using one of the oldest hunting weapons ever created by man. Show them what true hunters once were.
- As mentioned earlier, you can perform a backhop by pressing B without any directional input. Backhops are quick, and can be chained to each other. Likely you won’t be using them much, but it does come in handy from time to time.
- Press A to perform a melee attack by swiping with your arrow. Press A again to perform a second swipe. The second swipe has an enormous amount of animation downtime, so I do not recommend using it in a dangerous situation. The melee attack does little damage compared to your shots, but is notable for doing slash type damage instead of shot type, and thus can cut tails. The first swipe can be chained directly into an arrow draw or a backhop.
- When you initially draw an arrow, your hunter reaches over to grab an arrow before nocking it on the bow. If you follow up firing an arrow with drawing an arrow, you can cancel this grab animation and go directly into the arrow nock animation, in a single, very fluid motion. This saves about 0.2 seconds of standing still.
- Do not sheathe your bow unless you absolutely must. The bow is a folding weapon and thus takes forever to sheathe. You will stand still for a long time as you fold up your bow and store it on your back. This interval will feel like hours during a high energy fight, and you are a sitting duck for those hours. The movement speed with the bow drawn isn’t bad at all, and the ability to charge while moving is even more of an argument as to why sheathing is detrimental.
Part 2: Coating
This second part covers arrow coatings, a mechanic unique to the bow that provides various effects during a hunt.
When wielding a gunner weapon, your hunter becomes equipped with a gunner pouch, specifically for carrying arrow coatings and bowgun ammo. This is to offset the disadvantage a gunner would have vs a blademaster in terms of pouch space; a gunner would have significantly less space to carry other items if not for this pouch. There are 8 slots in the pouch and there are 8 coatings. This allows you to conveniently carry every single type of coating at once. There is a limited amount of coatings you can actually carry per type, and with the exception of two types, this number is 20.
However, though you can carry all 8 types of coatings, most likely you will not be able to use all 8 types during a hunt. The coating that can be applied is predetermined and dependent on the bow. Some bows can use nearly every coating, while some bows can use only a few. Be sure to select the correct bow for the coatings you want to use on a hunt. In addition, some bows boost the effect of a certain coating. For damage based coatings, this results in an increase in damage multiplier and for status coatings, this results in a decrease of how many shots you need to land to apply that status.
There are various skills that allow you to equip coatings your bow normally wouldn’t be able to; e.g. Posion C+. It is typically easier to just use a bow that has the coating you want rather than making an entire armor set or forging gems to use a specific coating; with one exception covered further below.
To equip your coatings, your bow must be unsheathed. Press X+A to apply coatings. Your arrows will have the effect of that coating until you switch coatings. The skill Reload decreases the time it takes to apply coatings, with Reload +2 and Reload +3 making them apply instantly. This means that you do not have to perform the apply command; whatever coating is currently selected is automatically applied. Be careful with this skill, as it may cause you to use undesired coatings. Fortunately, when selecting coatings during a quest, there is a blank slot. Have this blank slot selected to not apply any coating.
I will separate coatings into two types: damage boosters and status appliers.
1. Damage Boosters
Damage boosters do exactly that; they boost your damage. This is another source of a free damage multiplier for the bow, and in addition to the charge level multiplier and critical distance multiplier, can skyrocket your attack power.
- Power Coating – 50 Stack: This is the most important coating. This coating is so important, if you are using a bow which doesn’t natively support it, it can be well worth obtaining the skill Power C+ just to use it. Power coating increases your damage by 50%. When used in conjunction with charge level 3 and standing at critical distance, your attacks have an effective damage multiplier of 3.375. There is no bow that boosts power coatings.
- Close Range – 20 Stack: This coating has two effects. Firstly, it removes the damage penalty for attacking too close to the monster. Instead it transforms critical distance into the entire space from normal critical distance to the monster. For example: if your critical distance with the coating unequipped is 3 backhops, when you equip the coating, the critical distance becomes 3 backhops or closer. Secondly, the coating increases the power of your melee attack. Your melee attack never bounces, but has a behind the scenes value of green sharpness. Close range coating boosts this value to white sharpness. This is an increase in damage multiplier from 1.05 -> 1.32 for melee attacks only. The Seregios bow is the only bow that boosts close range coatings. The boost not only does all of the above, but also gives a damage increase of 50%. This effectively turns close range coatings into power coatings without a too-close penalty.
2. Status Appliers
Status coatings will apply their listed status after a certain amount of shots. Without going too far into numbers, each coated shot applies a certain amount of status points. The amount of arrows and charge level directly impact how many status points get applied, with greater levels of both providing an increase in points. Once you reach a monster’s point threshold for that status, the status is applied. A list of the point thresholds can be found by monster on kiranico. Typically, using the 20 coatings you bring on a quest, without extra combines, you will be able to status a monster once per different type of status. Therefore, choose wisely the time when you want this to occur. With a boosted status, you may be able to status a monster twice, depending on its initial threshold and resistance increase. It is worth noting that applying a status coating overrides any element you have on your bow.
- Poison – 20 Stack: Poisons the monster. Each monster has a fixed amount of damage done to them by poison. This value has been generally buffed since MH3U; eg. Zinogre now takes 200 damage instead of 100. Poison can be noticed by purple bubbles coming forth from the monster’s mouth and lasts a set amount of time, decided by monster type, during which it will slowly apply that damage. Posion gets a slightly higher status point boost per charge level than the other status coatings.
- Paralyze – 20 Stack: Causes the monster to become paralyzed for a few seconds, during which it cannot move or attack. Useful in solo play, invaluable in group play to allow your teammates to all out attack the monster or give them time to recover.
- Sleep – 20 Stack: causes the monster to fall asleep. It will perform a sleeping animation. While asleep, the monster very, very slowly regenerates health (not enough to make any difference, it might as well not regenerate health at all), and the first damage done to it will wake it up. The first damage is multiplied 2x for melee attacks and 3x for range attacks and bombs. Coordinate with your teammates to sleep-bomb the monster or allow a GS user to get a massive level 3 grand slam off.
- Exhaust Coating – 20 Stack: causes your arrows to also deal exhaust damage. This is useful in tiring a monster out. Do notuse this coating when the monster is in rage mode, as enraged monsters do not fatigued for that time, and typically tire themselves out as they exit rage mode anyway. Exhausted monsters stay in traps longer. This can be used to setup into an exhaust -> pitfall trap -> KO combo, where you KO the monster while it is in the pitfall trap. This causes the monster to stop moving completely and stay in the trap for an extremely long period of time.
- Blast Coating – 20 Stack: causes your arrows to apply slime status points. When the slime reaches the threshold value, it explodes for damage. With the 20 coatings you can carry, you can typically set off 2-3 explosions. This damage is not to be ignored as it can be massive, eg. Zinogre takes 100 damage per explosion; meaning 200-300 free damage during a fight.
- Paint Coating – 99 Stack: applies paint. Does exactly the same thing as a paintball, except slightly easier to aim because it’s on your arrow. I prefer to use these so I don’t have to carry paintballs around.
- A coating can only be applied when unsheathed, but the application stays on even when sheathed as long as you don’t select another coating. It is advantageous to unsheathe your weapon immediately as a quest begins, apply a coating, and resheathe it before going out to find the monster. This saves the time of applying a coating while in vicinity of the monster.
- Coordinate with your teammates on when to apply coatings. Some coatings, like Power, Close Range, and Poison are standalone, but Paralyze and Sleep work wonders when used at the exact right time.
- Blast coatings are very useful when the monster is already tired. The possibility to flinch-lock the monster with the explosions and your own arrow fire is high, as tired monsters typically stand still or move slowly, and you can concentrate firepower onto a specific area. Blast coatings also make for easy part breaking.
- The combo mentioned above; exhaust -> pitfall trap -> KO can be performed by yourself. This will be covered in a future guide, but arc shots deal KO damage when landed on the head.
- Performing melee attacks with a coating applied will apply the effects of that coating, with the exception of Power. This will not consume a coating use. However, the amount of status points applied and the rate at which you melee attack is so low, you’ll do more damage simply firing uncoated arrows than waiting for that status effect. That being said, using Close Range coatings with melee attacks is an effective way to cut tails.
- Bringing combination materials and making coatings during a quest will add to the overall amount of coatings you have. This can be useful in getting that second status effect or getting another few boosted shots.
You are not a support class. You are a hunter, using one of the oldest hunting weapons ever created by man. Show them what true hunters once were.
Part 3: Raining
This third part covers arc shots, the bow’s special attack, as well as the power shot, a new inclusion in MH4U.
All bows will have the ability to perform either an arc shot or a power shot, with arc shots generally being more common. They are both unique attacks that are designed to supplement the playstyle of the bow and therefore should not be ignored during a hunt. Note that performing either shot will lock your hunter in place for a long recovery animation. In effect, you are trading the bow’smost important asset, its mobility, to perform these attacks. Choosing when to use these attacks is 90% of actually using them.
The arc shot involves firing an arrow into the air, and depending on the type of arc shot, will either release a rain of pellets or crash into the ground and explode. Arc shots can be performed by charging an arrow normally, and then pressing Awhile holding onto X. An arc shot can only be performed at charge level 2 or higher. If you have your aiming line up while charging an arrow, you will notice a circle drawn on the ground; this is where your arc shot is expected to land as well as its hit radius. Higher charge levels cover longer distances, noticeable during the shift from level 2 charge to level 3 charge. Like normal arrows, the area where the arc shot is expected to hit can be fine-tuned using the D-pad while the aiming line is up.
Arc shots do exhaust damage. You can KO a monster with arc shots.
It should be noted that firing an arc shot in an area with something overhead, like those huge spiderweb platforms, causes the arrow to hit the platform and the attack to fail.
Arc shots are divided in three categories: Wide, Focus, and Blast.
- Wide shots fire an arrow with a package into the sky, and upon reaching the top of its arc, the package releases 5 pellets that fall down and rain on the area of effect. The area for wide arc shots is exactly that; very wide, and is generally only useful for hitting very large or very wide monsters to ensure all pellets land on target. For this reason, it is sort of ok to use this in online play, due to the space between the pellets, it is unlikely that one will hit fellow hunters.
- Focus shots are functionally identical to wide arc shots, with the exception that the area of effect is much smaller. Due to this small area, it is very possible to land all the pellets on a specific monster part, such as the head. Focus arc shots are therefore generally usable on all monsters as well as online play. Do be careful with your aiming in online play however, as missing the monster and raining on a hunter will lock them in place as they stagger from all 5 hits. Furthermore, hitting a someone who is blocking will typically force them to block all the hits and thus completely drain their stamina.
- Blast shots fire an arrow with a package into the air, but nothing happens until it hits the ground, at which point it will detonate into an explosion. This type of shot does two hits, one being the arrow itself if it pierces the monster, and the second being the explosion, with the explosion dealing the bulk of the damage. There is no need to worry about landing pellets with blast arc shots; if any part of the explosion hits, the monster takes full damage. I do not recommend using this arc shot online, as the explosion radius is quite large and will send hunters flying. However, it should be noted that this can also be used strategically, to launch fellow hunters for a mount attack, or to save them from an oncoming monster. I tend to use this shot on hunters who have been paralyzed, as it not only frees them from paralysis but also blows them out of the way from the monster’s typical follow-up attack.
While normally firing arrows will make up the great bulk of your damage in hunts, arc shots can help supplement some additional damage based on circumstances. I typically use arc shots when the monster is or runs far out of range if I have already started charging an arrow; I’d fire an arc shot when the arrow is fully charged and nock another one before running towards the monster. If the arrow fully charges and I still haven’t reached within range, I fire another arc shot and repeat until I come within arrow range. In this manner you can inflict damage while advancing on a monster out of arrow range. Another technique is to combine use of arc shots with exhaust coatings, particularly wide and focus shots. Landing headshots with these will stack up KO damage very quickly, and you’ll likely KO the monster. If there is no hammer/hunting horn user in the group and we have the monster trapped or paralyzed, I will do this in an attempt to achieve the KO. Finally, because focus and wide arc shots do 5 hits, they are excellent for applying elemental and status damage. In MH3U, I created a set specifically for hunting Silver Rathalos using Bamboo Kaguya and the Water Attack +2 skill, and spent the entire fight firing arc shots. The hunt typically lasts around 11 minutes.
Power shots are a new special attack introduced in MH4U. This fires an arrow that is one charge level higher than your current, or if you’re already at maximum charge, fires an arrow at maximum charge. There are two ways to perform one; the first way being identical to firing an arc shot in which you press A while charging an arrow. The second method is to press A immediately after firing an arrow, this will immediately fire a second arrow. Most likely, you will be performing the second method.
Because the second method immediately fires a second arrow, power shots can greatly increase your overall damage output. This is different from arc shots, where they are designed for utility and to supplement your damage, power shots are designed purely to stack massive damage on top of what you already do. They are extremely deadly, and using a bow with power shot becomes similar to using a greatsword in the theory that you must decide if it’s safe to stand in place long enough to fire a second arrow. Identifying those moments when it is safe is key to mastering the power shot, ideally, you’ll want to be firing one after at least 50% of your normal shots.
- All these special shots will also apply the element of your bow as well as whatever coating you have applied. In that regard, focus and wide arc shots apply status quickly and deal large elemental damage, and using power coating with power shots inflicts tremendous damage in a very short amount of time.
- Power shots cost a lot of stamina to perform. It would be wise to supplement with Dash Juices or their mega form, or to have the skill Stamina Recovery Up.
- You can perform a power shot even with no stamina, provided you can charge up an arrow.
- Though power shots act as if they are one charge level higher, they fire a arrow identical to the type you previously fired. This means that if you fire a Rapid 5 at charge level 3, a power shot after would also fire a Rapid 5 at charge level 3 (providing you don’t have a 4th charge level unlocked).
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