The Hearts of Stone DLC for CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt introduced a powerful new armor set: the Viper School Gear, from the witcher school of the same name. Of the witcher schools, the Viper tends to get the least notice. Few of its members are still alive, and fewer still play any part in the video game series. Most notable is Letho, the main antagonist of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. With the right swords, runestones, and skills equipped, it’s possible to make a The Witcher 3 Viper build, turning Geralt into an assassin that fights much like Letho would.
Witchers of the Viper School favor quick, deadly hits and a methodical, calculated use of toxins. If Letho survived The Witcher 2, players get to see his mastery of alchemy firsthand during his quest in The Witcher 3. Much like the serpent of their namesake, mobility and precision keep Viper witchers alive. Fast-acting poison does most of the work – their blades are just vehicles for getting it into opponents’ systems. They don’t strike until they know the hit will land, and when it does, the effect is devastating.
Transforming the White Wolf’s fighting style into Letho’s starts with using the right equipment. The Viper School Gear is ideal, but much of it is acquired in the game’s DLC, and completing The Witcher 3 takes a long time. Armor diagrams for the Viper steel sword and silver sword are easy, at least; both can be recovered as early as White Orchard, but the Viper venomous swords unlocked later are better in every way. They, along with the Viper armor, can only be picked up by progressing through the “Open Sesame!” questline in Hearts of Stone.
During the auction sequence in “Open Sesame!,” Geralt runs into Vesemir’s former lover, Countess Mignole. She offers Geralt the Viper armor. Though it’s not integral to this assassin build, wearing it does make Geralt look the part. The diagram for the Viper venomous steel sword can then be found in a chest near Maximilian Borsodi’s house, and the Viper venomous silver sword itself can be found during The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone’s finale, lodged in a stone in Gaunter’s world during “Whatsoever a Man Soweth…” Getting the sword can be difficult, as this sequence is on a timer.
The Viper venomous swords capitalize on the foundation of The Witcher 3’s Viper School build, dealing stacking damage per second in a single hit. By themselves, the swords have a 15% chance to poison targets – a decent start, but that chance can be doubled by slotting in three Greater Morana runestones. Each adds another 5% chance to poison, which brings each sword up to 30%. Equipping the Poisoned Blades Alchemy perk stacks yet another 15% on top of that, totaling a 45% chance to affect targets. Now, Geralt’s swords will essentially contaminate his targets with every other hit. The higher the level of the equipped oil, the more damage that poison deals. Surviving The Witcher 3‘s Death March difficulty is all about making every strike count, and the Viper School build is a surefire way to do that.
The final piece of the Viper School build is one more layer of DPS: The Crippling Strikes Combat Skill adds a bleed effect to light attacks, with any successful hit draining 125 points of Vitality per second. All of this poison and bleed damage can really add up after a flurry of blows, but The Witcher 3 players might be able to simply strike a monster once, then sit back and watch its health bar slowly melt away.