Many people are confused as to how the top endgame PvE groups can pull higher DPS than their groups in 12 man content or rather veteran Trials. While there are a plethora of factors including group organization, experience and of course numbers, perhaps one of the biggest ones we can look at are what endgame players refer to as “Prebuff Sets”.
Before we get to specific examples of prebuff sets, we can define Prebuff Sets as
“Item Sets that grant their bonuses to players for a portion or the entirety of the next fight before combat starts usually as a boss spawns in.”
Obviously prebuff sets as of 2020 automatically exclude both Playstation and Xbox ESO players as console players do not have access to addons and thus lack of access to things like Dressing Room and AlphaGear where you can assign pre-sets of both skill-bar setups and item setups allowing you to quickly swap gear and skill setups between each instance of combat.
Now probably the biggest question on your mind is “well, do I have to have prebuff sets?” Unless you’re in one of the sweatiest and remarkably scarce scorepushing groups on PC North America or Europe, the answer is no. A debate over whether prebuff sets are good or bad should probably revolve around the fact that it adds an optional layer of competitive play to maybe the 3 or 4 competitive teams of twelve people per, otherwise all groups will still get their achievements, goals and such without prebuff sets.
Perhaps the biggest sticking points of prebuff sets is that they are extremely risky and I will talk about this later and also isn’t available to 2 out of the 3 platforms you can play ESO on although that’s an entirely different matter altogether as addons like Dressing Room and Alpha Gear honestly should be mandatory base-game quality of life for itemization and play much like how Awesome Guild Store, Multicrafting and as of the Markarth DLC patch inventory management became part of the base game over the years for both PC and console players.
The following are examples of what a Pre-Buff set would be. Interestingly Moondancer's duration was nerfed in Update 27 perhaps reflecting the awareness of the developers in regards to it being used as a pre-buff set.
What would happen with these item sets if you and 11 other people were getting sweaty as of the Stonethorn DLC patch is that you have a pre-setup of Moondancer and Jorvuld’s Guidance, somebody puts out a synergy most commonly an orb, you synergize the Orb to the Shadow or Lunar blessing from Moondancer while you pop Channeled Acceleration that provides a boosted duration of Minor Force from Jorvuld’s Guidance.
Then you would gearswap to Elfbane/Arkasis’s Genius, put out your Damage Over Time Effects and Destruction Staff ulti on where the boss fight will be at which has its duration extended by Elfbane and then pop a Potion to proc the Arkasis’s Genius, of course the ultimate gain is multiplied by the other 11 people as Arkasis has no limit so you can get another huge damage ultimate back as the fight starts.
One great thing so far some of you will realize is that the traits of these pre-buff sets for the most part do no matter at all as you are simply using these to gain their five piece bonus effects and not utilizing them for the actual fight itself.
Now if you kept up well at this point in the video you will note that the Destruction Staff ultimate has a 2 second delay before it starts damaging the boss so this is what I was alluding to earlier by prebuff sets being extremely risky.
You and at least 7 other DPS in the group need to be on point in conjunction with the raid lead or countdown timer calling for when you should use your ultimate, you do it too early, you lose damage, you do it too late, well, you’re screwed because there’s one more step before you dust off your hands:
You need to gear swap a third time to your actual boss fight setup. So pulling too early can have absolutely disastrous consequences because this means people may end up with the wrong gear, no gear, the wrong weapons, or a two handed Moondancer Battle Axe or something. Prebuff sets require well practiced group discipline otherwise it’s just not worth it. And sometimes the addons themselves may not work well depending on your ping.
But wait what about Master Architect? Some of you may have noticed on some public ESOLogs that some boss fights somehow had 100% Major Slayer uptime on the entire group.
A support or a healer can also use a pre-buff setup of Master Architect and Jorvuld’s to blow their ultimates so long as they have 500 ultimate stored up. Remember that Master Architect & War Machine’s Major Slayer duration is based off of how much Ultimate is stored when you use your Ultimate and not the actual cost of your Ultimate.
Again same thing applies for the support players doing this Master Architect and Jorvuld’s setup as lack of group discipline and also poorly organized group positions will eliminate or offset the potential benefits of doing this.
You may have noticed at this point that Elfbane is a magicka-DPS centric set, so you may ask yourself, well, what about Stamina DPS?
Unfortunately while Stamina DPS can definitely do a couple prebuff sets they don’t exactly have an Elfbane equivalent although Arkasis’s Genius and perhaps Seventh Legion could be a potential combination.
Moreover, this goes into why some endgame progression groups have decided to stick with magicka DPS compositions as pre-buff sets could edge out more DPS or time as of Update 27.