The dummies can be used for DPS testing weapons, abilities, and towers.

So, you want to be elite? You want to solo Nightmare, Harcore, Mix Mode, Survival maps? ("NMHCMM Surv" for short) This is the guide for you. Here I will answer important questions about the game and lay out proven strategies that will help you in the later maps and the hardest difficulties. Whether you are brand new or looking to take that next step and learn how an elite player tackles challenges such as Goblin Copters, Spiders, or the speed and numbers of waves 30+, this guide is designed for you!

I'd like to start by covering the meatier topic of how to build your defenses for Nightmare Survival Games, and then cover some basics that all newer players want to know.

What Classes the Elite Players Build With and Why.

I would be remiss if I did not say that most elite players have at least 1 of each class, or did at some point. The best way to test the effectiveness of a character for yourself is to make it, gear it, and see what it can do. So, it follows that elite players try out each class to see how it works and to see about the various defense's viability in their builds. You should too. Test them in the Tavern at the Test Dummy or make a game and see how their towers fair against different levels of difficulty. Want me to make your "homework" a little easier on you? Well, I'll give you my analysis below.

There are 3 essential classes for soloing NMHCMM Survival. You can and should incorporate other towers into your builds, but these 3 are the backbone of all elite player's builds.

  1. Summoner - The Summoner's Minions are the primary and most important towers in the game. The reasons why are these: 1. They can turn and target enemies behind them. 2. The archers and mages are small and can be tightly bunched. 3. They use MU rather than DU - This allows you to build more towers. 4. Mages heal the archers, making them easier to maintain and more durable than ANY other ranged towers. (Like Harpoons or Magic Missile) The only 2 towers of theirs that elite players should really be using are Archers and Mages. This is because they are ranged, can be compacted to prevent ogres from running in-between them, and won't run off to attack enemies. Of course, mages also heal.
  2. Monk - Their Auras are amazing. They slow enemies, reduce their damage, reduce their movement speed, and do large amounts of DPS to every enemy in contact with them. They also, as a byproduct of their use, protect your other towers from spiders, thin out the weakling enemies so your primary towers can focus on Ogres, and make targeting enemies much easier for your other towers. (Example: Goblin Copters in an Ensnare Aura.) However, this is only if you have great gear. If not, it's hard to see how they can be effective. The combination of Ensare, Electric, and Strength Drain Auras is so impressive that they MUST be used in all elite, late-game builds.
  3. Series EV - The Series EV won't do as much damage as a Huntress, even with exactly the same gear. Not even close. The Series EV doesn't have as many HP as a Barbarian or a Jester. Again, not even close. The things the Series EV does well are these: 1. Buff Beams, 2. Reflector Beams, and 3. Physical Beams. Depending upon the map and your build you may use one or both or neither of the Reflector/Physical Beams, but you MUST use the Buff Beams in ANY build. Every elite player has a Series EV and they use that character's Buff Beams on any challenging map. Other than that, they just go back in their hole because they are not the optimal character to have out during waves. This class is essential to maximizing DPS within the limited DU/MU players have to build their defenses with. Why? The Buff Beams increase range, damage, and fire rate of all type of towers they come in contact with - to the tune of 3x the DPS of the same tower without the beam. This is huge and much, much, much more effiecient use of DU in terms of DPS calculations than simply building more towers.

These 3 classes form the foundation of elite builds, which are typically constructed something like this:

  1. Place Auras protecting the crystal or point on the map you want to hold.
  2. Place Archer Minions at least partially within the Auras, forming a line at the point you want to hold. Place your Mages safely behind your Archers to protect the Mages, but within range to heal the Archers.
  3. Place Buff Beams under the line of minions in such a way as to also buff your Auras.
  4. Add any other defenses you feel would be beneficial - Harpoon Turrets, Proximity Mines, Inferno Traps, Gas Traps, Reflector Beams, Physical Beams, etc.

What kind of stats am I looking for?

This one is pretty simple. You're looking for Tower Damage at a ratio close to 2-to-1 compared to the other 3 tower stats. How do you know if your stats are elite? Here's a look at tiers of stats and a good way to arrange them. I've put the kind of stats you would have if you're at least mostly geared from that tier. For instance, Eternia Shards Geared means you've gotten most of your gear from Eternia Shards maps, like Aquanos. Here's the list:

  1. Winter Wonderland Geared - 5,500+ Tower damage and 3,300 to the other 3 tower stats - High end Supreme or Ultimate
  2. Enternia Shards Geared - 4,000+ and 2,400 - Low end Supreme or Transcedent
  3. Campaign Nightmare Survival Geared - 2,500+ and 1,500 - Low end Transcendent or Mythical
  4. Campaign Nightmare Maps Geared - 1,200+ and 800 - Mid tier Mythical

What is the Best _________?

I get asked this all the time. I like to play in a pub game and see how others build or run a public game doing NMHC (Nightmare, Hardcore) campaign run for levels or a dinky Insane HC Survival in Glitterhelm  - because I know newer players will join because they need the campaign or the XP and I want to help. The question inevitably comes up once players see I must have some idea of what I'm doing. I generally try to have fun when I'm asked this. (Example answer: "What is best is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!" Hopefully Conan fans appreciate that...) But, then I actually get down to the business of trying  to answer the question.

"What is the best class?"

This is a trick question, really. There is no "best" class. Do you want the best DPS (Damage Per Second) or the best towers? Do you mean to ask who's towers are MOST important? What exactly do you mean by "best"? Do you want to know the one I would prefer a player that joins my game play? The simple answer is, again, there is no "best." Most classes are extremely beneficial when used properly and which class is better really comes down to personal opinion.

The only accurate way to answer this is to define a role and choose a class that best fits that role. So, I'll list roles and give what I think is the best choice for each role. I will do a top 2 if it's really 1a and 1b, but they're both excellent.

Best DPS

First off, let's define what criteria we are looking at. Do we simply want the character capable of doing the most damage over time? Do we want to consider melee DPS-based characters? Do we want to consider survivability? Do we take into account utility? Well, I have developed a preference for ranged DPS in this game because some enemies will be flying far enough away that you can't melee them and you need to at least have the option of doing ranged damage. (Nevermind being able to kite ogres.) I also have found that Ranger/Huntress Weapons upgrade their fire rate, while monk and apprentice weapons fire at a static rate and their best damage is done at close range because you get to hit the enemies or practice dummy with all of the multiple projectiles from their staves, wands, polearms, etc.

So, I'm looking for a DPS class that is capable of dealing elite damage, primarily ranged, and doesn't have to get into close combat to reach its damage potential. Based on those criteria, who is the best?

Ranger - This is really a 1a/1b situation. The Huntress is also excellent, but I'll get into that in a moment. The Ranger has decent HP (Hit Point) potential and tremendous damage output potential. Get a Propeller Cat, a Pawn Shot, and use your special attack and you're looking at potential for 20 million+ DPS on a practice dummy. Seriously, 20,000,000 damage per second or more. The main reasons I choose to list Ranger above Huntress is HP and the fact that his special attack splits into 3 projectiles. The class is certainly situationally better.

Huntress - Like the Ranger, the Huntress can achieve 20+ million DPS. She has less HP and her special attack is a single projectile, but she moves way faster. Getting in position and getting across the map when you need to are easier with the Huntress, so there's a reason to prefer her. Again, this is a 1a/1b situation.

Best Tower Builder

Just as before, first we'll define what we're looking for. Firstly, no tower builder is the end-all-be-all of towers. In the late game, every single one needs to be complemented by towers from another class. EVERY single builder. No exceptions. But, which one can you pull yourself up by the bootstraps with? Which one can handle the most situations without support from another class? These are the questions people really seem to be looking for the answers to with the question "who is the best builder?"

The criteria are simple: 1. They have to have towers that can directly attack flying enemies. 2. They have to be versatile enough to be able to solo build with ONLY that character and beat most levels, including Nightmare difficulty. 3. They can't have many, if any at all, fatal flaws that make them incapable of handling certain enemies or situations. 4. You can start out using them and be successful solo. Who best fits the bill?

Countess - She's fast. She has Harpoon Turrets and Spike Blockades. That gives you the best ability to hold back waves of enemies and simultaneously mow them down. Read here for more info on how to use them and why they are the best. But, this is really a 1a/1b situation again. The Squire is so similar, either would get the job done.

Squire - Has more HP than the Countess, but moves slower. The choice is just personal preference. I prefer speed from the begining and don't wanna wait to get a costume. Speaking of the costumes, you can correct the speed problem for Squires with certain costumes, so you might easily say Squire is better long-term. Again, there isn't enough of a difference to definitively choose one over the other.

NOTE: I want to point out, you can be extremely successful using only the combination of Summoners, Series EV, Monk, and Ranger builders. You literally don't have to use a Countess or Squire at all. You certainly don't have to use an Adept or Apprentice. However, one common thing about most good builders that have been playing a long time: almost all have had great Squires or Countesses at one point.

Best Helper

What do I mean by "Helper?" Well, a character that can repair or upgrade defenses quickly, moves fast, has utility, and is capable of good damage. Basically, that comes down to 2 classes: Monk and Jester. Both are capable of doing both melee AND ranged. Monks have good towers. Jesters, well, they are way to likely too spawn ogres from their "presents." Monks can simultaneously repair lots of towers and buff them, they just have to get close enough to effect them with their aura. Monks are also pretty fast, so they can move from point to point easy enough. Monks are pretty low on HP compared to other classes though. Jesters move really fast and they can repair every defense on the entire map simultaneously once every 30 or so seconds. They also get TONS of HP. Monks do ok ranged damage, but Jesters can match or beat it depending upon the weapon they choose and how long the Monk can maintain his Hero Boost aura. So, final count? Jesters have more HP and can repair more towers at once, with their big drawback being that they just shouldn't be building on their own. DPS is practically a tie because Monks have Hero Boost, but can't use the highest DPS ranged weapons. Unfortunately, we're not looking for best all-around character. We want the best Helper. That means:

Jester - Good damage. Repairs everything on the map using Wheel O' Fortuna. Moves fast. Everything you need from a random player who joined your game.

Best Boss Killer

Killing a Boss on a challenging difficulty/map can be very hard. It usually entails durability, regen, and damage output. It's not just the damage or durability, but the combination of the two that makes a character an extremely effective boss killer. You could make a strong argument for Ranger, Jester, or Squire. I obviously feel different and, after several comments, I felt it important to add a section about this character.

Barbarian - Good Damage. Incredibly Durable. Has staying power to finish bosses when others would have died. Straightforward build - Hitpoints, Damage, Hawk, Turtle, and Siphon Stances. It should be noted that certain bosses make it harder for the Barbarian to be effective because of range issues, but for any boss you can consistently melee, this class is your best shot to overcome them - particularly when you're still trying to farm gear from his level and you haven't beaten that boss before.

"What is the Best Weapon for __________?"

I get asked that a LOT. There is not really a best weapon for any class. There are some that stand out as generally good, but not many weapons are CLEARLY superior to everything else. New players need to understand: this isn't WoW. You don't go raid some dungeon, kill Boss X, and get Weapon Y. It's more like Diablo 3's loot system - random gear can generate the best stats in many cases. Transcedent and Supreme weapons can reach ridiculous amounts of damage, unique or not. The weapons basically break down into 2 types: ones with high base damage and lots of upgrades and ones with lots of bonuses to tower stats.

If you want to do Damage, obviously you're looking for a high base damage weapon with a lot of upgrades. If you're ranged DPS, the Pawn Shot stands out. It's really very accessible and it can have base damage starting at 18,000 with 150-220 upgrades. Base weapon damage for that gun can exceed 100,000 when fully upgraded. I would start with that. If you want melee damage, The Light Knight is pretty good and as easy to get as a Pawn Shot. Typical base weapon damage is 3,000-6,000 with similar upgrades to the Pawn Shot. For any class but Huntress/Ranger, you might also look into an Obsidian weapon from Akatiti Jungle. Monks get ridiculous melee damage on many weapons, so you should be looking for a base melee weapon stat on any polearm above 15,000 or 6,000 for ranged. The Gambler's Polearm is a good one to use for Monks as well. The Steam Saw is also an extremely nice weapon for Barbarians, Squires, and countesses, but usually not accessible to newer players.

For pre-74 characters, the Ogre Party Hat, Blasticus, and Earth Shaper are all good weapons to have.

If you want to be a builder, really it's wide open. Anything that has good tower stats, i.e. better than what you currently have, is what you want. Obsidian weapons are probably the best unique weapons to get great tower stats, so you might look for one in a shop or farm your own. Aside from Obsidian, just look for mythical weapons with over 300 to each stat and hope to eventually find a supreme with 600 to each.

What Maps to farm?

This is a difficult question to full answer because the real answer is: the hardest one you can. That said, some maps are better for farming. By farming, I mean doing Survival for the treadmil pet and the drops or repeatedly beating the standard mode for completion rewards. I am NOT tackling Mana farming in this list; that will be just after. I will give the earliest up the latest, in that order.

Best XP and Gear Farms:

  1. Alchemical Laboratory - First tier map with a simple layout and decent drops. Good XP.
  2. Servant's Quarters - Second tier map. Ok drops. Great XP.
  3. Ramparts - Good XP, simple build, and decent mid-range myths in Nightmare Survival or lower-end myth drops and accessories on insane past wave 18 or so.
  4. Endless Spires - Again, good XP, simple build, and similar drops to Ramparts.
  5. Glitterhelm - Great XP! Best map to farm for starter Myth gear and XP on insane during 70-79 levels. On Nightmare, good drops to move on to Eternia Shards Maps.
  6. Aquanos - Good XP, fairly straight forward build, good armor drops, and Seahorse reward.
  7. Sky City - Another Eternia Shards map. Good drops and the Propeller Cat reward is awesome.
  8. King's Game - Good XP and drops, but the rewards are what is amazing. Pawn Shots, Light Knights, Gambler's Polearm are all farmed here.
  9. Tavern Defense - Great XP and great rewards for completion - Kobolds farmed here. There is an exploit for this map where you can do Nightmare Pure Strategy and not face any Ogres or Djinn, but still gives HUGE XP.
  10. Akatiti Jungle - AMAZING rewards and good drops. Obsidian weapons from this map. By this point, XP won't be an issue.
  11. Winter Wonderland - AMAZING rewards and good drops - random gear and coal, which has a huge market at the moment. And, you don't need XP when you're already level 100.

Mana Farming is a little different. There are 2 ways to mana farm: 1. get large mana after each wave for selling items or 2. sell rewards for big money in an AFK Shop.

  1. Most maps that drop good gear (Rather than primarily offering rewards) have good mana per wave, so most of the above list will do that for you on Survival. The trick is having small as possible waves so that you spend less time on each wave. I would like to highlight Glitterhelm, Alchemical Laboratory, and Aquanos for having relatively short waves and good mana per wave.
  2. King's Game weapons sell for quite a bit. Akatiti Jungle Weapons are also HUGE sellers. Winter Wonderland gives a wide assortment of items and Coal, which basically is the most sought after commodity in the game atm because it can be used to make the best tower pet in the game. Tavern Defense Pure Strategy will give you low-end Kobolds, which can quickly add up to a lot of mana from selling them in your AFK Shop. Propeller Cats from Sky City will fetch a huge sum.


This is meant to be a basic guide. I literally could spend my free time for the next year and not fully explain every aspect of advanced building and playing for this game. By then, Dungeon Defenders 2 will be out and it will be for naught. If you have direct questions, I tend to answer comments, so please leave a comment and I will try to answer you.

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