Firstly I would like to thank Voltomey for his hard work compiling the HR Guide, this guide would not have happened without it!
With the Nature path the first thing to decide on is actually will you focus on ArP or Buffs with your gear. If you choose to focus on ArP with gear then Str 13 is fine for starting and Wood Elf, Drow and Tiefling are recommended races. If you want to focus on buffs then you need more strength and Half-Orc, Wood Elf, and Drow become the recommended races.
Recommended T2 Armor Sets:
Buffing – Forest Lord: 4 piece bonus: When you Buff a Ally you have a chance to grant them 500 Power 500 Armor Pen Crit Strike Or Recovery You always grant the stat of theirs that is highest.
ArP – Royal Guard: 4 piece bonus: when ever you deal damage there’s a chance you lower the CD on all powers by 30%
I personally prefer the Royal Guard set as it makes 24% reduction for PvE easy meaning you get 100% damage at all times and the chance to reduce cool downs puts less pressure on Recovery allowing you to build Crit and Power more.
Looking for a roll of;
ArP Gear Target Stats at 60 (without campfire);
Dex 23 (minimum)
Buff Gear target stats; (these are more balanced and are also the stats that best suit PvP for this build for the ArP gear).
Key stat effects for points above 10:
Str: 1% Defense Reduction 1% Stamina Regain 1% DoT Damage Resist
Dex: 1% Damage 1% AoE Damage Resist 0.5% Deflect
Int: 1% recharge speed
Wis: 1% crit chance 1% control bonus 1% control resist
Cha: 1% Combat Advantage damage boost 1% companion stat boost
Blood Crystal Raven Skull, Lantern of Revelation and Waters of Elah’zad with the Lantern in Primary. Gives the best stat boosts at max and the Lantern does an attack.
Get the Water’s as your freebie Artifact and grind PvP for the Raven Skull. You might get lucky on the Skirmish or one of the other sources of artifacts to get the Lantern, but in truth its the least important of the three.
These are pretty straightforward;
Hunter, Precision, Haste, Ferocity and Thistle.
These are more gear dependent than the Fey ones so;
Thirst if you are up around 1k life steal or more otherwise Regeneration
Shimmer if you have capped ArP otherwise Piercing.
Consumption if you have good life steal otherwise Bastion.
Predatory Action 2/5 – you need to invest 2 more points in something. Might as well be something that is going to boost the damage output of powers you will use regularly.
Weapon Mastery 3/3 – more crit means more chance for more damage all the time.
Toughness3/3 – because not dropping in 1 hit means more everything.
Agile Combatant 3/3 – Even if you stay mostly in ranged, as this build assumes, when you do swap stances this means you will get more damage for the few seconds after the stance switch. In epic dungeons and PvP expect to switch stance or you will fail more.
Endless Assault 3/3 – More damage for our relatively weak encounters is good, especially with Rain of Arrows, Split the Sky and Thorn Ward and their DoT like effects.
Lucky Skirmisher 3/3 – Because 3% more deflection means taking less damage. You should get deflection above 20% relatively easily, above 30% with some effort. So that means you talk 1/2 damage from 1/3 of the attacks on you. 3 feat points to make that easier is a good investment.
Disciple of Dexterity 3/3 – Because more damage on all your attacks is better than more damage on some of your attacks.
Humans: Use your three bonus feats to get Scoundrel Training 3/3.
Black Arrow 5/5 – This is one of the best blanket boosts to DPS we can access in Paragon for a Nature build, keeping in mind the goal here is not to spend much time in melee stance.
Nature’s Blessing 5/5 & Forestwalk 5/5 – These two feats are weak, however they are both better than the two tier 2 feats, mostly because the powers affected by the tier 2 feats are so bad you shouldn’t put points in them. Blessing makes healing from other sources (like the DC, Campfires and some items) work better and Forestwalk gives a little movement buff each time you buff someone – particularly funny with Into the Fray from a GF in the party.
Grace of the Fox 5/5 – 5s off the cool down of Fox’s Cunning is a complete win. Be aware most people will not even realize they are getting this buff, and it doesn’t proc Forest Walk (bug reported). Also at this time it doesn’t change your tool tip, and when you first activate the power it will look like nothing has happened, but the feat does work.
Thickness of the Stag 5/5 – A damage reduction bonus while you have the Temps from Stag Heart is a huge bonus. I ran FH recently and asked at the last boss if everyone was getting the temps and people were “oh that’s where they are coming from”. Between the 10% DR bonus and the temps people were taking a lot less actual damage. (Which is good because the only item of t1/t2 gear I had were blades and so my DPS was really bad.)
Master of Nature 1/1 – The whole point to this tree. Giving everyone the maximum benefit from your buffs is what it is all about.
At this point you have 5 points left and three choices for what to do with them. My personal preference is to run Blessing of the Oak 5/5, however the other two legitimate choices are Endurance of the Boar (because stacking it with Thickness is more goodness) and Bloodthirsty. I personally don’t choose Endurance of the Boar because adding 5 more stacks of 2% reduction that are taken off by each attack doesn’t seem as useful as more heals from Oak Heart (that said see Defense comments in post 3). Similarly I passed on Bloodthirsty because while a big buff for switching to a melee encounter is there most of my melee powers are buffs; Fox’s is the one exception here.
General Notes on Powers:
The Nature build has all its key powers above level 30, this means that during leveling you need to try and keep lower level powers at 2 as long as possible. Personally I prioritize bumping them as follows; Split Shot, Thorn Ward, Pack Wolf, Rapid then dailies then others. you can of course do it differently to your taste.
On Forest Meditation: This power is a power you run 3/3 or pass on it. Personally I pass on it, I’m happy to pop potions and stack regen, which makes it an unnecessary power for me, however other players strongly recommend it, so if you choose to invest points in it you will need to decide what to sacrifice.
Powers In Detail
Split Shot/Strike 3/3 – The bread and butter of all HRs. This will basically never be off your bar. Try to hold for at least half a bar before releasing. Be aware that it fires all the way out to its range, so if you don’t hit 5 closer targets with it, and there is another mob in the distance you will hit them and draw them into the fight, and you get their agro…
Rapid Shot/Strike 3/3 – This is a much maligned power. It does less damage than Split Shot for similar time frames but it does something else not documented in its description in PvE at least. When you hit an enemy with this they pause a moment, you can actually slow the advance of a normal movement or slow movement enemy (the charger/teleporter’s cannot be affected) long enough to make a noticeable difference. This is nearly always on my bar.
Marauder’s Escape/Rush2/3 – At low levels its a good get out of harm’s way power. By end game its a poor choice. You never want to run that far from the party as a Nature build!
Seismic Shot 3/3 – Good damage, groups enemies into a bunch and pushes them. However it uses 100% of your AP. Its situationally good, but over all I rarely use it after I get access to Disrupting Shot, and at low levels it falls off my bar once I have Forest Ghost.
Aspect of the Falcon 2/3 – 1 point you have to put in it, and due to the way you have to level the 2nd one is basically needed as well because no points go in Mediation in this build.
Hindering Shot/Strike 3/3 – solid power choice for PvP and while leveling. 3 shots is also handy. Its mostly useful while leveling however. The third point could go elsewhere.
Rain of Arrows/Swords 3/3 – I personally have a love/hate relationship with this power. When it works its amazing (think Hexers and other enemies that rarely move), the rest of the time its bad. The small AoE and the fact that only arrows that hit something do damage make it a hard power to use, but it can be used very effectively on certain enemies or in certain parties. While leveling it also combos nicely with Hindering Strike.
Forest Ghost 3/3 – This power is very useful, the current bug with Stormstep aside. It grants some stealth in PvE, letting you break agro for its duration so you can take a pot and set up a power or just plain run away (because it gives a run speed boost as well). When being used to break agro you do need to be careful to move away from things however otherwise you hit them and gain agro you will need to remove when Ghost ends, unless someone else agros them. I find it particularly useful in things like the SP end boss for getting rid of the mobs that inevitably go to you, its also handy for running in to revive a team mate in a dangerous situation (as long as the floor isn’t painted red). It is also really handy for just getting some damage on everything fast without taking much damage yourself; pop it and run through a pack of enemies and still have time to set up a power and take a pot.
Thorn Ward 3/3 This power is rarely off my bar. It hits fairly well (and you spend 3 feat points to buff it) and when it hits it debuffs whatever it hits, helping you kill things faster and generally boosting the party’s damage. The debuff will force DR into negatives so you get bonus damage when you have ArP capped.
Aspect of the Lone Wolf 3/3 – Having finally adopted this power again (after abandoning it during play test) I have it on bar regularly now. It doesn’t show up anywhere that it is working, but it is working. A DR boost of up to 25% is very handy on a squishy class like the HR. I take noticeably less damage with it slotted than without it.
Aimed Shot/Strike 3/3 It hits really hard in ranged and ok in melee with a DoT effect. In ranged it has a long cast time and is easily disrupted, but in the situations where it works (FH and SP spring to mind) it does amazing damage and is worth 3/3 just for those times. I see a lot of mention of using it in PvP but I don’t recommend it for this build.
Constricting Arrow/Steel Breeze 3/3 It has an interrupt and it does ok damage or its a good AoE melee attack (with a fairly large AoE). During leveling its a solid power, once you are at 60 its a solid PvP power just for the staggered timing of the interrupt.
Boar Hide/Charge 3/3 – This is a useful power, more during leveling than in end game, but with certain party make ups could go on bar in end game as well. Depending on how much you need to get into thing’s faces. Note that at 3/3 you have 10/8/6/4/2/0% DR bonus from this power – applying a 10% DR buff across a party is pretty handy as well. (Keep in mind while the general preference is to be at range, this build can go to melee with limited loss in effectiveness.)
Split the Sky/Throw Caution 3/3 – Very strong power when the party is confronted with a lot of adds and you have a tank. Worth 3/3 for those times (think FC and PK bosses).
Disruptive Shot 3/3 – This is an all around great power. While it doesn’t stop movement and its only a short disruption it is enough to make a big difference from time to time in both PvE and PvP. Also combos with Stormstep nicely, without a bug.
Stormstep Action 3/3 – 3s off buff cool down for using a daily is a good deal when you have encounter cool downs of 10s plus.
Binding Arrow/Oak Skin 3/3 – this is one of our most damaging ranged powers for single target that is just point and shoot. It also applies strong grasping roots to anything within 25′ that you hit along with whatever is directly behind the target. Its a solid PvE and PvP power. The buff is a heal (boosted by Power) that heals 100-200 points per tic and also a 10% Damage Reduction buff, this is handy in solo play because it reduces your need for pots. Its also a handy boost when your party is scattered all over in a dungeon, as like all our powers the range is “line of sight” (transparent walls still block them so no buffing after you die on a boss).
Commanding Shot/Stag Heart 3/3 – while it has low damage itself it does have a debuff (10-14% I haven’t done enough testing for a conclusive result) that will drive damage resistance negative causing all attacks while the debuff is in effect to do more damage. With its slow casting time and over-blown animation its a PvE only power, but in PvE on bosses and elites its a great power. The Stag Heart buff provides about 2000 temp HP (I’m guessing its 10% of target HP at 3/3, again not enough testing to be certain) and when feated also grants 10% DR. On the surface this seems kind of pointless, but with 30-60% DR (according to your feats etc) and 20-30% deflect those Temps can last a surprisingly long time. For dungeon running its a go to power.
Fox’s Cunning/Shift 3/3 Give everyone in the party a total damage dodge (but not CC) every 10s or do a strong melee attack (currently even stronger vs 1 target – hopefully never to be “fixed”) against up to 5 targets. Always on bar. The range on Cunning is Line of Sight. Shift doesn’t get used up if there are no targets in range.
Twin-blade Storm 3/3 Do 12% more damage for hitting 3 or more targets, this feature is nearly always giving you a significant damage buff. While it isn’t always on bar it is there a lot.
Power Bar Selections:
At-Wills: Split Shot and Rapid Shot are the defaults, situationally Aimed Shot is rotated in for higher burst damage for single target encounters or encounters with elites with slow build up powers. Things like the DV end boss, FH bosses, Plaguechanged Maws and similar slow moving targets can all benefit from Aimed + Split as your load out.
Party: Aspect of the Pack Wolf + Twinblade Storm/Stormstep Action.
– Pack + Twinblade gives all the party within 25′ of you CA and you bonus damage for multiple targets.
– Pack + Stormstep gives all the party within 25′ of you CA and you get faster refresh on your buffs.
On Boss: (For example in SP/FH/VT end bosses) Lone Wolf + Stormstep. – You are hitting one target and other party memebers will rarely be close enough to worry about Pack. If you have some means of coordinating well then replace Stormstep with Pack.
Solo: Lone Wolf + Twinblade.
Forest Ghost + Disruptive/Seismic
Seismic is going to be ran in any place where pushes are important, but otherwise stick with Disruptive.
Party; Thorn, Commanding, Fox’s
Single Target: Binding, Commanding, Fox’s
SP Boss (and similar low movement bosses): Thorn, Commanding, Fox’s or Thorn, Commanding, Rain
Solo: Thorn Ward, Binding, Fox’s.
For both Solo and Party play you rotate out Commanding/Binding for Split the Sky as needed for the encounters you are running and the party you are with. Typically I will trigger the temps from Commanding then swap to Split before a boss fight such as in PK where adds swarm.
General Observations on Gear:
The HR is a class that depends on its gear, a little experience with the game and you quickly learn to watch things like Power, Crit and Armor Pen, but often the damage number for weapons is overlooked (at least in conversations). With a HR dmg is a key factor in generating actual damage so if you have a choice between similar weapons for Power/Crit/ArP but one has higher damage always take the higher damage weapon.
On Aspect of the Serpent:
While I haven’t gotten much from this feat due to my playstyle I recognise that this may be an excellent alternative to Twinblade especially in dungeons when there is another HR that is hanging back and shooting. If you do want to spec into it I recommend trading points off Aspect of the Falcon (2) and Hawk Shot/Eye (1) or just dumping Hawk Shot/Eye entirely.
Dex and Damage:
23 Dex is the lowest dex you should ever have without a campfire, because you will just loose too much damage if it goes lower. See above reflection on the need for a high damage weapon set as well. Remember every point of dex above 10 is 1% damage; so if 2 HRs have identical gear the one with more dex will do more damage. You will notice this in pvp and dungeons so definitely no lower than 23 without campfire.
Vorpal: This is the obvious choice for improving your Crit based DPS, and even with this build 30% crit is relatively easy to gain.
Flaming: Not as obvious a choice for improving you DPS but with at-will AoE to spam out the DoT this will give you a clear boost in DPS as well, without you having to worry about getting crits.
Plague Fire: Probably the best enchant for this build, more base DPS and the debuff it applies works into the support side of the class this build is designed to enhance.
Terror: So you don’t want to spend a lot of AD to get a Plague Fire? Then look no further than the Terror enchant; easy to get and it boosts your DPS and debuffs all the enemies you hit, boosting every one else’s DPS. Probably the best Enchant if you went with the Forest Lord armor as well.
Soulforged: Well its arguably the most powerful armor enchant in the game atm, the only reason not to run it generally is you are a GF or GWF Tank.
Barkshield: It looks cool, its thematic to the ranger, and its actually a fairly good enchant when you consider that you will nearly always have Fox’s Cunning active so this is there to give you a few extra moments of breathing room.
Observations on Play Style:
While this is a primarily ranged build the Nature ranger isn’t going to be hanging out a million miles from everyone else in the party. You want to be fairly close to the action, you are not going to loose dps because you have no dps boosts for being further away, so you can edge around and through the battle hanging out on the edge of the DC’s blue circle and being fine. The only thing that makes you care about being back is Aspect of the Lone Wolf, and that is easy to accommodate without being so far from the party that Aspect of the Pack isn’t doing anything as well (I mean when you pull agro and need to move away to get maximum effect from Lone Wolf that’s fine). Keep moving, keep an eye on your buff timers and apply damage at-will.
More reflections will be added as they come to me.
Not my work, but a great analysis of some of our defensive buffs and how they work can be found here. The net summary is that by stacking defense and running the buffs you can set yourself up with a very high Damage Reduction making you very survivable with a Nature Build. To maximize this you do need to take Endurance of the Boar 5/5, and your bar would have Binding/Commanding/Boar’s as encounters and Lone Wolf as a feature.