This post is about armors. Armors are one of the most exciting parts of any MH game in my opinion because the armor designs are wild, colorful, and varied, and because the potential for customization is through the roof. While not quite as integral as weapon choice, armor does have a significant impact on the game, and different armors similarly work best with certain weapons and playstyles - making armor choice fairly important.
Unfortunately, armor isn’t well explained in the game, and the armor skill system, and defense system can be a little opaque for beginners. A lot of people who are just starting make the mistake of thinking that armors will primarily be purchased outright, and that they should just follow the “progression” of armors from the vendor (or later monsters), but that isn’t necessary or a good idea.
This post will hopefully demystify the ways armors work in Monster Hunter. I’ll start with basics and stats, followed by a section on how to make and upgrade armor sets, and finally a fairly robust guide on armor skills.
Armor Stats and Basics
Armors have 5 basic aspects that should be considered: Blademaster/Gunner, Armor Value, Elemental Resistances, Slots, and Armor Skills. All aspects are important and should be paid attention to, though different people will value some aspects over others.
Blademaster / Gunner
The first thing to note is that there are different armor sets intended for blademasters and gunners. Some sets don't have multiple variants (i.e. Leather) but most do have two versions, and that's because one is intended for gunners and another intended for blademasters.
You may have noticed if you’ve ever been crafting any armors that some have 1/2 the defense of others, but have increased resistances. This is because armor is divided into these two classes. Blademaster armor = more defense, Gunner armor = more resistance.
It should be noted that sometimes blademaster and gunner armor can be mixed and matched to sacrifice some armor or resistance for better armor skills, so keep an eye out. But in general also blademaster armor will have skills focused toward blademasters if not exclusively for them, particularly in the later levels, while the gunner armors similarly have skills exclusively for gunners, so it's smart to stick with armor appropriate for your weapon.
This is the most straightforward aspect of armors. Each piece has an armor value that increases your overall armor level. As mentioned in my original blog post, MH3U is the most beginner friendly MH ever because for the first time ever the game starts you off with 50 base armor, as well as a full set of leather armor (which only adds 5 to that base).
As you progress, the armor value increases, as you would expect. While each piece of leather is only 1 armor, you will notice that Hunter’s is 6, and if you get further, Great Jaggi is 10, etc.
The armor value makes a great deal of difference. While it’s relatively easier to take down a Great Jaggi and Qurupeco in Leather Armor than previous entries, the damage reduction is very noticeable when wearing Great Jaggi armor, and even more noticeable at higher defense. So, in short, don’t skimp on defenses as a new player.
Each armor also has a set of elemental resistances. You may have noticed that most bosses have some sort of “elemental” attack, even in the early levels. For example Royal Ludroth is obviously water based, Rathalos is obviously fire based, Lagiacrus is obviously lightning based. The element of the monster is essentially transposed as the elemental resistances of the armor.
For example, while Rathalos is strong against fire (positive fire resistance), a full suit of rathalos armor will be very weak against lightning (negative lightning resistance even for the gunner version).
It’s generally accepted as fine to wear a weak elemental resist armor against its counter, but in doing so you must be more careful about avoiding the monster’s elemental based attacks because they will hurt much more.
Slots (or sockets) are fairly straightforward. Like in other games, you can get Jewels (primarily from mining though also quest rewards), which can be crafted into decorations at the blacksmith. Decorations can be put into these slots to improve the armor skills you have, or add entirely new skills to armor sets.
Armor skills are one of the most important things most people consider when choosing armor. Armor skills do things like increase your stats, or reduce / increase the time spent doing various things. They really give a multitude of buffs, but it should also be noted that almost all armor skills go negative as well, and the negative skills are all detrimental.
It should also be noted that armor skills only “register” once you have at least 10 points (for some it’s 15) and this also applies for the negative skills. So keep that in mind when making armors. Generally armor sets will give you 2-4 skills at 10, and one at -10.
More on Armor Skills below, as it’s, imo, the most in depth system for armor.
Making and Upgrading Armor
So, hopefully if you’ve played a little you’ve talked to the blacksmith and noticed that he can craft things for you - weapons and armors. What shows up on his crafting list is based primarily on the items you have in your box and inventory.
In some cases, it may seem weird - like you can’t complete an armor set. An example is the Great Jaggi Armor. While the Hat, Gloves and Leggings show up pretty early, sometimes people don’t see the chest or waist piece show up. This is because often you need a specific “piece” of a monster to craft it, which you haven’t gotten yet. For Great Jaggi that piece is the “King’s Frill.” Once you get one, those two armor pieces will show up and you will be able to craft them.
This is one of the reasons some people consider Monster Hunter to be ‘grindy.’ You have to kill monsters multiple times, often, to get them to drop the items you need, and often you need to kill them in a certain way, for example with Great Jaggi you need to injure / damage his head for a shot at his King’s Frill (the best chance is to break his head and then capture him, though).
Crafting Armor is the backbone of upgrading your character, but you shouldn’t get hung up on crafting every armor set in the game, that is beyond unnecessary, particularly given the fact that you can upgrade armors as well.
Pretty early in the village (offline) mode, the blacksmith will give you 5 ‘Armor Spheres.’ The way Armor Spheres work is that they upgrade armor. Throughout the game you will get armor spheres either as quest rewards or from mining. There are multiple levels of spheres which are used to progress armor. One thing you may be worried about if you are super attentive is that you will find an armor set with skills you LOVE but may not be able to use it later because the armor value is too low. Never fear! That’s why we have armor spheres! (ugh so cheesy).
Selecting “Upgrade Armor” at the blacksmith will let you upgrade different armor with armor spheres. What this does is essentially takes the ‘level’ of the armor up. So, if you like the Great Jaggi armor, but find you are taking too much damage later, you can upgrade it with armor spheres to be more in line with stronger armor. Each sphere will increase the Armor Level of the armor by a certain amount, and you can upgrade each piece a certain number of times. Though there are limits. You can’t expect your lower rank armor to last you forever, but in general most low rank armors can be upgraded to last you more than long enough to find a new set of armor with new skills that you like.
Keeping armor upgraded is critical to keeping up with damage, so don’t forget to do it!
Activating Armor Skills
Armor skills are really the lifeblood of MH character customizeability. The way armor skills work is that each armor piece gives a number of armor skills. You can check this when looking at armor (or your character sheet). It will usually say something like: Great Jaggi Gloves - Gluttony +2, Attack +2, Stun +3, and Cold Res -2.
If you just put on one piece of Grat Jaggi Armor (like the gloves) it actually won’t do anything for you (other than giving you the defense bonus for the armor level). For these skills to “activate” all of them need to be at least at +10.
For this reason, finishing armor sets is very important for new players. In order to access the specific skills they give you, it’s critical that you finish the set (or almost finish and supplement with decorations / talismans).
Once you have 10 of an armor skill, it will give you a bonus. If you look at your character status, for Armor Skills it will have what armors have what skills on the left, and what bonuses you have on the far right column. So, for example Great Jaggi pieces each have Gluttony, Attack and Stun. Once you have the full set you will activate - Attack up (S), Gourmand, and Halve Stun. These represent the “active” skills that are benefitting your character.
Some Armor skills will also benefit from going above 10. For example with Jaggi armor, it’s possible to gem in “attack” decorations, and reach +15 for Attack up (M) which is more effective than Attack up (S). +20 gives Attack up (L). Though not all armor skills benefit from going over 10, so it may be important to ask around or do a little research on it.
Armor Skill Choices
So now that you know about armor skills, how do you choose? This is primarily up to you as a player to choose skills that synergize with the way you like to play, as well as the weapon you selected. It would be WAYYY to long to write out each armor skill, and how each one is useful. But I will list some key skills for each weapon and general use in the Early Game.
Generally Desireable Skills
Skill (Activated) - Description
Attack (Attack up (x)) - This increases your attack power. Straightforward and always useful.
Expert (Critical Eye (n)) - This gives you a chance to “crit” enemies dealing additional damage
Defense (Defense up (x)) - Increases your armor.
Evade Dist (Evasion Up) - Increases the distance your dodge rolls and/or backstep/sidesteps go
Evasion (Evasion +x) - Increases the time in which you are invincible while dodge rolling
Hearing (Earplugs) - Prevents your hunter from grabbing your ears when some loud monsters roar.
Status (Status +x) - Increases the rate at which you inflict status effects like Poison, Paralyze, and Sleep. (Only applies if your weapon is capable of those things)
Element (Element +x) - Increases the elemental damage you deal.
Handicraft (Sharpness +1) - Increases the sharpness level of your weapon.
Prefered skills by weapon
Sword and Shield Sharpener (Speed Sharpeneing) - SnS dulls quickly, so being able to sharpen it quicker is nice.
Sharpness (Razor Sharp) - Same as above but now you sharpen less instead of faster.
*multiplayer* Wide Range (Wide Area) - SnS gets to use items drawn and this lets your potions heal nearby teammates as well.
Guard (Guard Up) - makes it so you can block much bigger attacks with your tiny SnS shield
Dual Swords Sharpener and Sharpness for the same reasons as SnS.
Greatsword Critical Draw - Causes all of your unsheathe attacks to deal critical damage.
Punishing Draw - Causes all draw attacks to deal KO damage
Sheathe (Speed Sheathe) - Lets you put your weapon away more quickly
Fast Charge (Focus) - Charge more quickly to get to those big level 3 hits faster
Longsword Earplugs - Lets you start and finish spirit combos during the monster’s roar.
Hammer Hearing (Earplugs) - When monsters roar, they universally put their heads low. Since playing hammer well is all about hitting monsters in the head, this is an ideal time to hit them and earplugs lets you do that.
KO - Increases the KO damage you deal letting you knock enemies out more quickly.
Hunting Horn Maestro (Forget its name) - This gives all the performance buffs you play increased duration by 30-120 more seconds, depending on the buff. Incredibly useful.
KO - Increases KO damage
Lance and Gunlance (Generally the same armor skills are good for them) Guard Up - Lets you block almost everything.
Guard +x - reduces stamina and life lost when blocking heavy attacks.
Switch Axe Fast Charge (Focus) - lets you maintain your sword mode more often by increasing the amount ‘reloaded’ and general charge speed when not in sword mode.
Razor Sharp - Since sheathing is slow, razor sharp can avoid wasted time sheathing and drawing to sharpen.
As always, ranged weapons really deserve their own blog post. I’ve aimed this post mostly toward blademaster users, but without going into the ammo specific buffs:
Light Bowgun Rapid Fire (Bonus Shot) - Gives you another shot on your rapid fire ammos
Heavy Bowgun Evade Dist - Makes up for the slow move speed to some extent, as well as helping avoid damage when dodge rolling out of siege mode.
Sheathe - Increases the speed at which you put the bowgun away. Since HBG slows you down a lot, many players play without it drawn until they need to fire.
Bow Fast Charge (Focus) - since playing bow well is reliant on charing, Focus gets you to the big hits quicker.
Thanks for Reading!
In short, 2 points I hope stick with you if you’re a new player - 1) Remember to upgrade your armor! Armor spheres (particularly non+) are very common so don’t worry about using them up! 2) Full Armor Sets give you Skills which are very good and have a large impact on gameplay, so go for full sets whenever possible when you’re new.
I hope any new players can find this information useful and I hope it makes the game’s systems a little less daunting. Some people love digging into mechanics and finding out how stuff in games works, and for them MH is truly a wonderful game. Others just want a basic understanding so they can enjoy the game, and if that’s you, I hope these blogs have helped.