This guide is to help give an idea on where it may be best to spend your points for the bow. The morphs are given a 1-5 ranking (1 poor, 5 excellent) and I try to briefly explain why the score. (Note: While I may make reference to PvP at times, the reality is I am casual at best when it comes to PvP and this guide is really done with PvE as the focus)
Bow Weapon Tree
Poison Arrow – Deals poison damage and adds a DoT for 10 seconds.
Poison Injection (5) – DoT increases on targets under 50% health. This DoT does some seriously heavy damage. If you are going for maximum DPS (for trials or big PvP damage) then this is the definite choice, but you do give up a great alternative.
Venom Arrow (4) – Interrupts spells and stuns caster for 3 seconds. Also a great morph – sacrificing DPS for utility. Being able to interrupt from range can be a lifesaver, so this morph is very tempting. Awesome for PvP and also group content PvE (Dragonstar Arena).
Note: The morph choices for Poison Arrow is probably one of the hardest to make. The first really does increase your DPS, but leaves you vulnerable to ranged attacks in PvE and PvP. Meanwhile the other sacrifices DPS for that utility. For PvE (unless you need a dedicated ranged interrupter), I would go with Poison Injection over Venom Armor. For PvP, it really depends on what you need. Most spells are instant cast so the interrupt isn’t even useful most of the time.
Volley – Ground target AoE dealing damage every 0.5s for 8 seconds.
Arrow Barrage (2) – Increases the radius of AoE. The size increase is noticeable and makes it easy to ensure every mob is being hit. I find this to be a good improvement over the base ability especially as the increased size makes it easy and quick to target the ground while still encompassing all mobs. Obviously, you will get MORE DPS out of the other morph due to the DoT lasting longer and it having a lower cost so it will help your sustain but if you have issues hitting the targets without the larger radius then go with this morph.
Endless Hail (5) – Replaces the old Scorched Earth that didn’t play well with Stamina builds. This gets a 5 for me for raw damage and is the superior choice for the skilled player. The reason I say it that way is the radius is reduced so it presents a smaller field so you have to aim better but with the extended duration and smaller stamina cost this is the morph of the skilled player who wants to push the numbers.
Scatter Shot – Deals damage, knocks target back 6 meters and disorientates targets for 5 seconds.
Draining Shot (1) – Adds in a health return after the disoriented effect ends. If you need some form of health return this may help but there are better skills that could help you with that.
Magnum Shot (5) – Deal more damage and you jump back 6m. So, no snare but now you are 12m away from your target rather than 6m, in addition your target is a bit closer to death as this morph hit harder. Bosses that are immune to cc do not prevent you from leaping back 6m so this can still be helpful when the other morph fails you – also works great when combined with a 2h weapon on weapon swap as it creates a good distance between you and the target for you to Critical Rush them.
Arrow Spray – AoE dealing damage and snaring for 40% of movement speed for 5s.
Acid Spray (4) – Damage is now poison, also deals poison DoT for 5s. With the change in Thieves Guild that the Champion Point system constellation Mighty now effects poison damage. This has become a VERY effect frontal cone AoE. Honestly, I would choose either this one or one of the morphs of Volley for your AoE option.
Bombard (3) – Increases snare to 6.5s and immobilizes for 2s (at max rank). Might be a better morph for PvP then PvE unless you need crowd control in your group.
Note: If you have a Maelstrom Bow, pick a volley morph, as the bows passive ability buffs volley immensely!
Snipe – 1.1s cast time, high damage attack
Focused Aim (4) – Applies Minor Fracture (Armor reduction) for 10s, attack range increased by 5m against marked target. Not a fan of this morph. The Fracture will mean more damage for your Stamina users which means DPS wise this is a good morph especially as it will stack with the Major Fracture debuff your tank puts on, but if you PvP much then you want the other morph…also, for champ point spending, the other morph can make maximizing your damage easier.
Lethal Arrow (5) – Damage is now poison, also reduces healing effect on target by up to 40% for 10s. For PvP this is an absolute no brainer, you will kick yourself for having the other morph whenever you are in Cyrodiil (trust me, I know). Even in PvE, there are fights where this skill is very handy (Bogdan Hard Mode in Elden Hollow).
Longshots (4) – Damage increased by 6/12% against distant targets. You are a bowman so if all goes well, you will benefit from this passive.
Accuracy (5) – Increases Crit rating. Definitely want to get this as soon as you can.
Ranger (5) – Reduce stamina cost of skills by 10/20%, As always, you want this.
Hawk Eye (5) – This has changed with Dark Brotherhood, it now increases your damage with bow attacks for 4 seconds by 5%. This stacks up to 3 times. This has helped make bows more viable!
Hasty Retreat (4) – Grants Major Expedition for 2.5/5s after a Dodge roll.
I have never been a fan of the bow, though it makes a useful secondary weapon for Stamina based builds. It has come a long way and it certainly can produce high end damage, it’s just with a stamina build you can produce more with other weapons. That said, for PvP I will always have a Bow on one of my bars as a stamina user because it is pretty awesome there.
If you are a PvP focused player, leave your thoughts in the comments below!