I don’t get players who skip dragon battles just because it is optional. The game is called Dragon Age for f*’s sakes!
DISCLAIMER: This is not an official game walkthrough. I’m simply sharing what I’ve learned and what worked.
I’m normally very selfish about tips but I don’t do multiplayer and won’t lose anything by sharing. Besides, there are tons of tips and walkthroughs on dragon hunting that make use of warriors because they’re tanks. I’m offering a different but almost foolproof alternative: a mage.
A lot of gamers don’t like using mages because they are seen as physically weak and are distance fighters — two characteristics that are big no-no’s when fighting dragons or any large and tough creatures like pride demons. Mages are very underrated. They are so much more powerful than some gamers think. I’ll go over on how I built my Inquisitor, the party members I brought, and a few tips on spells, weapons and armor.
This is the first time I beat Hivernal (Emprise du Lion), a level 19 dragon, during my first playthrough. I was still experimenting with weapons and party members. My Inquisitor was a Rift Mage and he and pretty much everyone else died before the dragon’s health was halfway. I had to switch to Vivienne, who was the only one alive at that point, and killed the dragon by the skin of my teeth with her alone. This is when I first discovered how deadly a Knight Enchanter can be.
Building the Inquisitor
Any race or gender will do as long as the character is a mage. Do the specializations quest as soon as the operation becomes available in the war table after moving to Skyhold. The options are: Rift Mage (like Solas), Knight Enchanter (like Vivienne), and Necromancer (like Dorian). Being a rift mage or necromancer is cool but to be a mean, green, dragon-killing machine, you need to be a Knight Enchanter. Complete the requirements ASAP and spend skill points on the Knight Enchanter abilities. Completing the whole specialization is ideal. You won’t be missing out because your other mages have all the specializations and it’s easy to experiment and play with their abilities by controlling them during quests.
What truly makes the Knight Enchanter special is the spirit sword. A souped-up staff is great for distance fighting but the spirit sword will allow you to get down and dirty in close quarters. A Knight Enchanter has wicked defense, you can take a beating and come out with barely a scratch. You’ll turn into a powerful mage with a badass stick but can fight like a tank when enemies rush you or when there is no option to fight from a distance. It’s like having the best of both worlds. Being a Knight Enchanter will also give you the ability to conjure shields that will surround your Inquisitor during a fight. Another huge advantage is the resurgence spell — this will allow you to heal your party (even the dead ones) at full health! The spirit sword is not technically a weapon, it is a spell. Make sure you’re up there when it comes to magic. Load up your weapon, armor, and wear accessories that enhance your magic. When using a controller, make the spirit sword a part of the shortcuts.
What is the difference between just having a warrior with a strong weapon? After all, they’re natural melee fighters. It’s the staff. The combination of staff and the spirit sword ensures that your attacking won’t stop even if the dragon jumps around since you can easily switch between the two. Vivienne would do the same thing if you set her up correctly. (See notes on the Dream Team below.)
The Dream Team
- Vivienne. Like the Inquisitor, Vivienne is a Knight Enchanter. Her abilities will unlock before the Inquisitor’s and spending the skill points on them is ideal. As for the “normal” specializations, choose something that is different from your Inquisitor’s. For instance, if your Inquisitor is an electricity mage, make Vivienne a fire, ice or spirit mage. When setting up the character record, make the spirit sword a preferred ability through the tactics options. Even if controlled by AI, Vivienne will still use her staff but she will rush to the dragon and join the Inquisitor in fighting close combat with her spirit sword. Don’t forget to enable resurgence, the AI will use it as well. When setting up the shortcut keys, have the spirit sword and resurgence easily available because you never know when your Inquisitor might die and you’d have to switch to Vivienne. (You would not have to worry about dying if you build your Inquisitor right.)
- Cassandra. I was dense and didn’t realize that she was dropping hints throughout our conversations in Skyhold. Cass is a princess of Nevarra and her family is famed for dragon hunting. Hell, her brother was the best of the best and he let her tag along. She also mentioned that she saved Divine Beatrix by killing a dragon. She was telling me to take her all along and I didn’t even realize it until after I killed half of the dragons in Thedas with great difficulty as a novice player. What makes Cassandra special is her Seeker powers. It’s ideal to complete this specialization. The rally ability generates guard for her and other party members (see notes on focus below). Having her around makes your party fight harder and stronger. She doesn’t die easily either.
- Solas, Varric or Iron Bull. The last member of the party depends on you. Personally, I’d rather bring Solas or Varric. Solas has awesome Rift Mage abilities that can be useful since he will be casting them from a distance. Complete his Rift Mage specialization. Make his pull of the abyss a preferred spell and don’t forget to activate firestorm. Varric’s rogue abilities are invaluable. He’s quick and compact. Complete his artificer and archer specializations. Enhance his dexterity and cunning and you’re all set. Iron Bull will be another tank and a lot of players are comfortable with using a strong tank. But I find that he dies too easily when he fights dragons.
Weapons, Armor and Accessories
Before you read the tips below, I want to reiterate that crafting is optional but is HIGHLY recommended.
Equip your mages with powerful staffs. I recommend having a stock of cold, fire, and electricity staffs on hand because there are different types of dragons and they have specific immunities and weaknesses. If what you found are not sufficient, craft a couple. This is where collecting crafting materials matters.
Powerful two handed weapons are a dime a dozen but I find swords for Cassandra harder to get. I have three powerful crafted masterwork swords for her. Two are for her regular fights and one is specifically made for dragon hunting (has a dragon-slaying rune). She also has one crafted and two picked up shields on hand.
Varric has his Bianca. I never give Varric anything else since his Bianca is upgradable. My Varric has Bianca Arms VI but his grip and aiming are both crafted from masterwork schematics. Bull is carrying a purchased weapon: Axe of the Dragon Hunter, which I bought from Bonny Sims in Skyhold. It already comes with a Master Dragon-Slaying Rune.
Speaking of runes, crafting Superb, Master or regular Dragon-Slaying Runes is ideal for you party’s dragon-slaying weapons. Having rune schematics is useful but a couple of low level dragons will drop runes, which you can use to fight high level dragons. Again, this is not a requirement but it is definitely nice to have. After all, you won’t need these runes for your other quests. The exception to this advice is Varric. Even if you’re swimming in runes, I would not recommend wasting a Dragon-Slaying Rune on his weapon since he will be using his Bianca for everything.
Armor is simpler. You don’t have to make all of them since a lot of the picked up armor already have resistance. Also, specialized resistance armor doesn’t have to be made for every dragon. You can choose the hardest one to defeat. For instance, I find the Highland Ravager to be the most difficult to beat so I crafted fire resistance armor for all my dragon hunting party members only. During my first playthrough, my two mages had 72% fire resistance each and Varric had an insane 132% fire resistance armor. I didn’t bother with crafting special armor for the other dragons as my regular ones were more than enough.
I make sure that my people are accessorized properly. For instance, I have a superb magic amulet for my Inquisitor but she carries a superb belt of focus because she will use mark of the rift and resurgence. You can also upgrade focus at the war table using your Inquisition perks. There are special resistance and ability specialization rings and belts as well.
Healing potions are default. I’d add more slots using your Inquisition perks from the war table because it will allow you to have 12 healing potions on hand. There are belts that also increase slots. I use the regular healing and regeneration potions. My husband uses the healing mist as well. Most players probably use more potions, tonics and grenades than I do. They’re definitely useful but, aside from the three mentioned, largely optional. (Strictly my personal opinion.)
If your Inquisitor is built and armed well, you won’t even need to heal and will probably use your potions for other party members. So pick up those elfroots!
Upgrading to Master Focus is definitely recommended. You can do this by spending inquisition perks at the war table. Advanced Focus is a prerequisite. Why is it important? The strongest spells and abilities are powered by focus and having Master Focus will trigger tier 3 focus effects. In dragon fighting, you will use at least three focus-based abilities: mark of the rift, resurgence, and rally. If you have Solas with you, firestorm is focus-powered as well. With Master Focus and her rally ability, Cassandra will generate 30% guard generation and stamina/mana regeneration per second plus 30% damage resistance for the entire party.
The shards are there for a reason! Collecting shards will unlock the doors in the Temple of Solasan in the Forbidden Oasis. While it is an optional side quest, it is highly recommended because you get so much resistance points from Solasan. To get the complete package of fire, cold, spirit and electricity resistance, you’d have to collect all the shards in Thedas and this is no small feat. There are a total of 108 shards in the game. There are three doors for each specialty and the last one, electricity, will only unlock if all the other doors are opened.
In my current playthrough, I only collected enough shards to get all the fire and cold resistance Solasan could offer. I did not bother with electricity because I didn’t feel like collecting a massive number of shards for spirit resistance as spirit was the least among my priorities. If you have time and are OCD when it comes to completing quests, definitely do Solasan.
My husband wanted me to add that he completed all the shards and opened all the doors during his second playthrough after I told him about Solasan. Talk about OCD mode.
Just as you’re approaching the dragon, activate the mark of the rift. Then bombard it with other spells. If your Inquisitor is an electricity mage like mine and is fighting a non-electricity dragon, static cage, barrier or chain lightning are great. Immolate is great for ice dragons. It all depends on which dragon you are fighting since they have specific immunities and weaknesses. Modify your shortcuts according to the dragon.
A lot of the dragon fighting will be done at close quarters. Most of the time, you don’t really have a choice because those things will draw you close by force. Fighting with your spirit sword can inflict more damage than a staff and you have access to weaker parts of the dragon (like its belly) and hurt it more. You can also disable a leg early on by hacking at it to no end. You will still get to use your staff when it moves around but try to get as close as you can. Vivienne will pretty much do the same thing if set up the right way (see notes on Vivienne above).
Have Vivienne as your second. Just in case you get killed, which is highly unlikely, you will automatically switch to Vivienne. She has a spirit sword and the same Knight Enchanter abilities. Most importantly, she also has resurgence, which you can use to resurrect/heal yourself and everyone else.
Each dragon is different. For example, Abyssal (The Western Approach) never flies around and is a melee fighter. I’ve beaten her using a staff alone by staying at a safe distance and I’ve also beaten her with a spirit sword. She’s one of the easiest to kill and will probably be one of the first ones you’ll fight. The Ferelden Frostback (The Hinterlands) flies around a lot and sometimes stays on elevated surfaces. This is where being a distance fighter works since you can switch between staff and spirit sword easily enough.
For more information about the high dragons, check out this guide from IGN.
This is a video of my Inquisitor fighting the Sandy Howler from the Hissing Wastes. The party members are Vivienne, Cassandra and Varric. The Sandy Howler is immune to fire and weak to cold with 246,000 health points. It’s a level 20 and is the 3rd most difficult dragon to beat. (The most challenging ones are in the Emprise du Lion.) This Inquisitor and her party uses a mix of crafted and picked up weapons and armor, nothing over the top. Cassandra instantly generates guard for everyone, which did wonders for defense. I gave her an enhanced rally ring.
My Vivienne was built to have fire magic and usually carries a unique fire staff. But for this fight, I crafted an equally strong cold staff for her and deactivated the fire spells so the AI won’t cast them.
My Inquisitor did not need to heal and the potions were used mainly by Cassandra and Varric. I think I was a level 22 when I did this. In a previous playthrough, I fought the Sandy Howler as a level 22 Rift Mage and there is a marked difference. Being a Knight Enchanter was easier. You don’t have to be a level 22 either. The Sandy Howler can be beaten a few levels lower, perhaps level 16+.
My husband said that while fighting the Highland Ravager — the most difficult dragon to beat — he walked away, had coffee, and was still at full health when he returned. All because HE TOOK MY ADVICE and built his second Inquisitor according to my guide. (Isn’t the wife always right? *smug*)
Here’s to your dragon fighting adventures. Have fun! And let me know how this works out for you.