• ranged College of Valor bard
  • the bard has 20 Dex
  • the bard is shooting with a longbow
  • another player can consistently provide the Help action for 1 attack with advantage every turn
  • the bard has the Elven Accuracy feat

The bard is level 10, so a +4 proficiency bonus. The bonus action would generally be used to either cast Healing Word on allies or give them bardic inspiration. For the sake of this question, we can just look at raw damage.

So the comparison as I understand it is:

  • Greater Invisibility: 2 attacks with Elven Accuracy advantage, bonus action available
  • Swift Quiver: 4 attacks, 1 with Elven Accuracy advantage, no bonus action available

Which is the better use of concentration?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 25 '19 at 9:29

For the sake of argument, we're going to assume that the way this character uses Elven Accuracy (which, when a creature has Advantage, allows one of the Advantage dice to be swapped with a new die, at the user's whim—XGE 74), is that this character will always swap their lowest rolled die with the new one, which is the mathematically optimal way to use it.

Swift Quiver is always going to offer greater damage output

Unfortunately, while having Advantage, especially Advantage with Elven Accuracy, is a pretty decent boost to damage output, it's just not going to compare to having two additional attacks.

Below, I've constructed a table representing the statistically average damage output per round of this character, assuming no other buffs or expended resources than what you have specified, and assuming that with using Swift Quiver, one attack gains Advantage (and thus Elven Accuracy), and with Greater Invisibility, both attacks gain Advantage (and thus Elven Accuracy). I've also included single attacks with a longbow, using a normal roll and an EA-Advantage roll.

Name AC 0 AC 11 AC 13 AC 15 AC 17 AC 20 AC 25
Swift Quiver x4 37.891 37.891 35.010 32.043 28.935 23.879 13.934
Greater Invisibility x2 20.281 20.281 20.220 19.987 19.469 17.909 12.268
Longbow x1 9.250 9.250 8.300 7.350 6.400 4.975 2.600
Longbow W/Elven Accuracy x1 10.141 10.141 10.110 9.993 9.735 8.954 6.134

We can see that having Advantage is producing a modest, ~9.6% improvement in overall damage for an individual attack, but it's just not going to compare to a direct, +100% improvement in damage when using Swift Quiver.

Note an important fact however: this improvement becomes far less pronounced at higher ACs on the target. Indeed, I extended the array to calculate for AC 29+, and found that at that point, the difference becomes less than 1%. However, there is no point where mathematically, Swift Quiver deals less damage, no matter how high the AC goes, and no published creature in 5th Edition D&D has an AC higher than 25, which is the AC of the Tarrasque.

So ultimately, the choice this character needs to make is whether the 50-20% improvement in damage is worth losing their Bonus Action used for other purposes, like healing allies or providing Inspiration. If so, they should use Swift Quiver. If not, they should use Greater Invisibility.

Full stats for this analysis were posted here, for anyone curious.

  • \$\begingroup\$ BTW great answer. The other answer is a great explanation why Swift Quiver is always better, but since it also consumes a bonus action, knowing by how much Swift Quiver is better is very useful in practice. \$\endgroup\$ – Steven Jackson Oct 23 '19 at 17:43

Under these circumstances, Swift Quiver is always better or equal for pure damage. Since both situations involve at least one attack that has Elven Accuracy, we just need to compare the 3 normal attacks that remain in the case of using Swift Quiver to a single Elven Accuracy advantage attack for Greater Invisibility.

Having Elven Accuracy means you roll 3 d20 and take the best result. The attack then hits if the best result is enough for a hit. Doing 3 attacks is also rolling 3 d20 but then any roll that is good enough for a hit will deal damage. This is naturally strictly better than the previous case.

Let me explain what this means in more detail. Let's call the Elven Accuracy case EA and the Swift Quiver case SQ. In both situations, you are rolling 3 d20. Let's take these 3 d20 results and order them from higher to lower: let's call them r1, r2 and r3, where r1 >= r2 >= r3. In order to hit a certain target, we need a certain d20 roll result, let's call this rt. We have the following possibilities:

  • If rt > r1, then 0 attacks hit for both EA and SQ, a tie
  • If r1 >= rt > r2 >= r3, then the EA attack hits and exactly 1 of the SQ attacks hits, another tie
  • If r2 >= rt > r3, then the EA attack still hits but now 2 SQ attacks hit so SQ is clearly better
  • If r3 >= rt, then the EA attack still hits but 3 SQ attacks hit so SQ is clearly better

Even factoring in criticals, it's easy to see that the EA attack is a crit if at least one of the d20 rolls is a 20. However, when this happens, then at least one of the SQ attacks would also crit (and the other ones may or may not hit)

Of course, Swift Quiver is expending your bonus action but in terms of just looking at the damage done, Swift Quiver always wins.


Non-mathematical answer:

If the group is not dependent on your Bard's ability to do raw DPS, Greater Invisibility makes you invisible, with all the perks of that, and leaves you with Bard's bonus actions:

  • You can dispense Healing Word without affecting damage output
  • You can dispense Bardic Inspiration without affecting damage output
  • You can't be targeted by many debilitating spells, which require line of sight (this is big)
  • You can position yourself in the battlefield freely, for example to cut off enemy escape routes, use environmental features like operate doors, maintain Fireball-safe distance from allies (Healing Word is nice here), etc

So, Greater Invisibility is qualitatively better, it lets you do stuff Swift Quiver does not. It is also useful outside battle. If you can pick only one, pick this.

As a subjective side-note, in many player groups Greater Invisibility is also socially better, as there are character builds where their whole raison d'etre is doing damage. You might not want to steal that from them, but do your own (IMO more intersting) thing as a Bard. Also, you are probably more likely to use Greater Invisibility on someone else, making the game more co-operative.


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