Why Armor Penetration is the Single Most Important Stat to Build Around

When I start a new character in our simulator, I follow a very distinctive pattern. The very first step is always trying to hit the Armor Penetration cap, and then do everything else. The reason for it might be obvious, but I figured it might be helpful to devote an article to the topic. Because in the end Armor Penetration for multiple reasons is the single most important stat to build around.

The Basics

Let’s start off with some basics here. I promise to not make this post too nerdy, but we won’t get around talking caps and the DPS formula a little bit. Armor Penetration (ArPen) is actually a rather simple mechanic. All opponents, players and mobs, feature Damage Resistance (DR) that shields them from a certain percentage of damage. Resistance Ignored (RI, the percentage derived from ArPen) offsets DR up to a point where 100% of your damage is applied to the target.

The Cap

Following our coverage of the “Tomb of Annihilation” you might have heard about the fact that the Armor Penetration cap was raised. What this means is simply that mobs feature a higher DR in Neverwinter’s latest module. It used to be 60% for the level 70 era, mobs in the newest dungeon “Tomb of the Nine Gods” can go as high as 85% though. Players in Mod 12 want to stack roughly 10,000 ArPen to fully pierce all content, less if you get RI from other sources like Ability Scores.

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Power vs. ArPen

Players might think that stacking ArPen and Power is essentially the same. Power adds a flat damage increase and ArPen is basically doing the same in piercing more DR. Damage from Power is still less DPS than adding additional RI if you’re operating under the cap. The reason is the way the DPS formula is set up. The damage increase from Power is lowered from not having sufficient ArPen. RI is not mitigated in any way. This shows why hitting the cap first is better for overall DPS and is not even counting in the fact that 1% damage increase from Power requires roughly four times as many stat points.

ArPen is by the way not only important for DPS. Tanks might have issues holding aggro without sufficient ArPen while support classes cut into their buffs or make it unnecessarily hard for themselves in solo content.

How to stack ArPen the best

Now that we’ve settled the theory, what’s the best way to stack ArPen? When planning a character, you gradually work towards an end goal in many areas. You can’t do that with ArPen, because you need to hit the cap relatively early in your progression. No matter whether you’re running Temple of the Spider or Fangbreaker Island, you need 60% RI. Otherwise you contribute less than you could.

Armor and Boons

That’s why I personally find it the easiest to get ArPen from armor sets and boons. Those normally remain relatively stable and are easy to switch out. If you’re relying on enchantments, artifacts or companions too much, you’ll constantly face the challenge of retooling as you level up stuff. Because you don’t want to overstack ArPen either, RI more than the cap is wasted and has no value.

Those that reside within a GH20 guild and have access to the ArPen boon are pretty much set. In that case you’ll only have to add a mount equip power or two armor pieces. The rest needs to get a little bit more creative and there are probably a lot of situations where you can’t fully avoid getting some ArPen from Bonding Runestones or enchantments. I would still advise you to pick areas that you don’t frequently upgrade to avoid the constant shuffle that I mentioned above. So planning around ArPen accordingly is important for build stability.


As always it’s a slightly different story for PVP as those players need to pierce more DR and work against the fact that ArPen is 50% less effective. Exchangeable sources of ArPen like guild boons or mount equip powers become even more important, because the amount of DR you are facing can change from situation to situation. The perfect amount of ArPen also depends on how your build does damage. Hunters and Rogues that rely on piercing damage for example don’t need ArPen at all.

No matter whether you’re PVE or PVP, ArPen is the centerpiece of any build. You should think about how much you need and the easiest way to get there relatively early in the progression. Otherwise you might face situations where you constantly have to reshuffle your build.

In case you’re interested in more theorycrafting around Armor Penetration here are some links on the topic:

How do you plan and build characters? Do you start with Armor Penetration as well or follow a completely different approach? Share your experience in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board!

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j0Shi plays the Neverwinter MMORPG since the open BETA in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the blog and the whole UN:Project. Originally a Guardian Fighter, he has built up ALTs of all classes and plays on BIS/near-BIS level.

5 thoughts on “Why Armor Penetration is the Single Most Important Stat to Build Around

  • August 2, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    As a buff/debuff tank I completely agree RI is one of the primary stats to hit cap first so I can get & hold aggro. How that doesn’t conflict with a dps in group is beyond me, but then again I don’t think on it very often anyway.

  • October 27, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    I thought arp has no effect on a clerics buff/debuff powers. It is only how much dmg the power does that is effected

  • September 11, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Hey, j0Shi, any links to info on how ArPen and Crit now work in PvP in Mod 14 and how high we should stack?


    • September 13, 2018 at 7:55 am

      No PVP expert here, but both get reduced by the environmental Tenacity. But I’m not even sure to what extend. But I generally see PVP toons run around with at least 100% RI.

  • September 13, 2018 at 9:00 am


    I’ve not really PvP’d much since Mod 7, since those nonsense SH Rings and APG/Stamina Drains. There have been a lot of changes since then. I have seen an old guide where someone said that it’s not worth stacking Crit as a Crit Hit hardly does any more damage than a normal hit. But they could just have very low Crit Severity and low ArPen.

    I think Crit and ArPen are reduced by, say, 40% effectiveness. But I am not sure if that is Crit Chance or Crit Severity. Or if your Critical Strike stat itself is reduced! I think it’s meant to be that everyone has a certain amount of resistance to other people’s Crit, ArPen and CC-resistance. So I am thinking I need to over-stack ArPen to negate the global Tenacity. So assuming the target will have 80% max mitigation, and my ArPen is reduced by 40%, I might need 120% Defences Ignored in PvP. And maybe close to 140% Crit Severity?

    Why are there no Sharpedges and Michela’s writing guides for PvP? I guess that if they were into PvP, they would not be the type of person who likes to share the knowledge!


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