If you chose Fighter for your Combat Rank 5 profession, you’d eventually hit Combat Level 10, where you get presented with the choice of Brute vs Defender. This is the classic decision of more health or power, and you might wonder which would benefit your gameplay more.
Brute is the better choice to increase your proficiency while delving into the Skull Caverns. It mostly comes down to the fact that enemies can be avoided, but they can’t avoid your attacks, making attack power a more useful buff than health. If you’d like to hear more reasoning and see some solid evidence for this, then read on.
How Much Does 25 Health Matter?
If you want my opinion, it doesn’t help much.
You start the game at 100 health, and while this profession gives a 25% increase to that, by the time you’ve hit level 10, you have at least 140, making it only an 18% increase. While you could take that as “18% is better than the 15% damage increase, I think what matters more is that damage increases are much harder to come by.
You can increase your survivability in Stardew Valley through tons of different means. Health increases, Defense increases, and stockpiling tons of food can keep you alive forever if you play your cards right. But, of course, when you eat, you pause time (or become invincible in Multiplayer), so the health increase rarely matters.
On the other hand, damage only comes in temporary buffs or accessories and enchantments, so an extra 15% matters more than 25 additional health. This would be a far more fair comparison if you had to choose between a 25% health increase or damage because you might be taking a few more hits.
The problem is that, at best, you’re getting a single extra hit in the skull caverns from this health increase. The Serpents are among the most common enemies there, dealing 23 damage. While that one extra hit could be the difference between life and death, you could often react by eating food and completely bypassing the damage.
The only notable difference the extra health makes is when you have a lot of defense, but defense in this game is also challenging. So it would be more worthwhile to go for a max defense build and take the extra 15% damage anyways because you’d have all your accessories focused on damage reduction.
How Much Does 15% Extra Damage Matter?
Given you’ve already taken the 10% increase from Fighter, you might be inclined to think that you don’t need the extra 15%, but let me tell you that 15% extra is pretty great.
First, it does stack to become 25% extra total damage from professions that don’t take up any accessories, enchantments, etc. This is pretty great when considering the maximum extra damage % you can get from using every ring, temporary buff, and enchantment slot is 70% and +5 attack.
This means you can double damage by dedicating every slot to attack power. While I think you should focus a bit more on critical hits and attack speed instead of going all in on damage, this means the Galaxy Sword can now crit for around 500 damage max, which is far more than any enemy’s health bar.
So, essentially, by taking this, you can free up all your other slots for whatever you want instead of focusing on damage. Furthermore, this has more than twice the efficacy of two ruby rings, meaning you can take no attack power foods and no attack power boosting rings and still be completely fine in the end.
This, in my opinion, is a much better and more impactful buff than the health increase you get from Defender. Since you can pretty much always just down 100 salads on any given run to the Skull Caverns (just like real life!) and defense increases are far more helpful than health, the attack increase becomes more and more appealing.
To be fair, I think it would be best if I tested this idea of being able to kill enemies faster than they can kill you. So I will do a ton of Skull Caverns runs with both professions and get an average number for the floor I got to before dying or passing out since I think it would benefit us all to have at least some metric to show which of these is better.
Testing Both Professions
I did several Skull Caverns runs for this test, teleporting to the desert in the morning and trying to be as efficient as possible.
In the interest of fairness, I used no bombs (so I couldn’t take accidental damage), no accessories that favored damage, and no healing items. This will be a bit painful, but I won’t include any runs that end too early due to terrible Luck. (Including a run where a ladder did not spawn on an infested floor.)
My setup was Space Boots, two Lucky Rings (which indirectly boost damage and survivability but are mainly to neutralize Luck as a factor), a Glowstone Ring, and a Crabshell Ring. And again, No Food, not even the Spicy Eels that the Serpents drop. This survivability test uses either damage or health to boost it.
For the control test at level 9, I managed an average of 38 floors, with a low of 31 and a high of 47. These runs mainly ended due to slimes, of all things. When you don’t have knockback or healing, the little ones that fly through your attacks get harder to deal with. Getting anywhere above 30 with no food is surprisingly good, though.
For Brute at level 10, I went down an average of 42 floors, with a high of 49 and a low of 36, and I found it quite lovely, being able to block serpents and then hit them only two times to kill them. Everything was just easier to deal with when doing extra damage, in general.
For Defender at level 10, I did an average of 39 floors, having a high of 50 and a low of 32. This upgrade overall just made everything less consistent. While I could take an extra hit, it never meant much, considering I went back to struggling against slimes and serpents.
So on average, Brute helps your gameplay out more than Defender, providing you with the damage and survivability necessary to go even further beyond.
Question: Should I go for Brute or Defender in Stardew Valley?
Answer: While it is somewhat subjective, increasing health is easing using food, whereas increasing attack is much rarer, so Brute is the better option.
Question: How do I increase health in Stardew Valley?
Answer: You can increase health by simply leveling up your combat ability, choosing certain professions at levels 5 and 10, or getting to floor 100 of the Skull Caverns.
Question: How do I increase damage in Stardew Valley?
Answer: You can increase your damage in several ways, namely with a Ruby ring or Iridium band, Ruby enchantments, or just getting a better weapon.
Brute vs Defender Stardew Valley: Conclusion
Stardew Valley’s professions are great at making players think about what aspect of the game they value more, and the Brute vs. Defender choice is no exception. While I wish Defender had more to offer (explicitly making it a % increase instead of a number), it’s still not a lousy buff.
Really, what this entire debate boils down to is that a great offense is an even better defense. So while the extra 25% damage could come off as unnecessary, it becomes vital for any Skull Caverns runs.