The following may be out of date.
For version 1.1.0. This strategy is rather outdated! But still useful until it's replaced, take it with a grain of salt, however!
Archers are the embodiment of physical ranged damage. You'll want to keep your distance from monsters, and shoot them on sight. Your damage output is determined by Dexterity and Strength (for bows), or Dexterity and Cunning (for slings), your Physical power, your talents, and your ammo's base damage.
If this is your first time as an Archer, you need to learn how reloading works. You automatically recover ammo each turn that you spend NOT shooting. While firing, you recover no ammo. Be default, you'll reload 1 ammo per turn, but talent levels in Bow mastery or Sling mastery will increase the rate of reloading.
Resting or autoexploring will also refill your quiver/pouch.
- Bow/sling mastery
- This multiplies the damage of pretty much every talent you use, so it should get high priority. Increased reload speed is also a must have in early game, when quivers are tiny.
- Steady shot
- Single-target damage multiplier, 3-turn cooldown. You'll use this a lot, so you want it maxed soon. Weapons that lower its cooldown to 2 will greatly enhance your damage output.
- Rapid shot
- When maxed out, it not only gives you the highest possible damage per turn (assuming you have the accuracy and quiver to make most of the shots), but will also let you apply debilitating effects "in between" turns and will give you many more chances at dodging enemy projectiles due to the way ToME projectiles work. In most cases it's better than Aim.
- Aim is often more useful than Rapid Fire is at low levels, in part because you don't yet have the accuracy, quiver size, and damage to support rapid fire and in part because Aim doesn't need to be maxed to be effective. Note that Aim and Rapid Fire can be toggled instantly, although they go on cooldown. Rapid fire is useful for high DPS auto-attacks (especially if your weapons have damage procs), or for quickly applying status effects. However, Aim's bonus stats will maximize the impact of active skills with high damage multipliers, and enable you you make status effects stick to elite enemies. You may wish to begin combat by firing a few big attacks from Aim before switching to Rapid Fire for cleanup.
- Piercing Arrow
- Bow-using archers get this, as a beam attack. Extremely useful, but doesn't need multiple-point investment. Also remember that it can be used as a big single-target hit against heavily armored foes, since it pierces armour. Be sure to aim "through" the enemies, as it doesn't continue past your target.
- Pinning shot
- Stops stuff, but not for long. You'll want to use it before escaping, in corridors or against a wiggly enemy (snake rares).
- Scatter shot
- Scatter shot is great for stunning opponent groups, but BE CAREFUL, as you can hit yourself! Note that it uses only 1 arrow, unlike Volley of Arrows.
- At least 1 point early. You need space between you and your opponents. Problematic to use when you really want to, though.
- You need to know where they are, to stay out of their missile attacks, or to avoid them sneaking up on you. Scales nicely with cunning, not so good for bow users.
- Precise strikes
- By endgame, you can expect about 20% crit chance from this talent. Great for Rapid shot users, who take a heavy hit to both crit chance and accuracy. Aim users might be able to hit 100% crit chance even without it. Requires you to unlock a tree that you'd want anyway.
Also pick up some Combat Accuracy. You want each shot to hit, because otherwise you need to retreat, which could get you into other kinds of trouble. Add more if you lag behind ever-increasing enemy defense.
Phase door and teleport runes are pretty much required (one of them), unless you're going for Antimagic. (An antimagic build is probably not the easiest choice for this class.) A movement infusion would also be highly desirable for more reliable escapes.
Heave makes sense, but I haven't played with it yet.
Some talents that need explanation:
- Dual Arrows: Oddly, this has no stamina cost. You select a square region containing (ideally) two or more enemies. The game will select two of these and fire arrows straight at them. Prior to beta 34, you must have direct line of sight to each of them, without any "shoot past the enemy" tricks, since the game will not use them. As of beta 34, this is much more powerful, as it will pick optimal firing routes for each monster.
- If one of the enemies is occluding the other, there is a chance that the arrow intended for the rear enemy will be fired first, and will hit and kill the front enemy; then the arrow intended for the front enemy will be fired at the spot where the front enemy was, and will stop there, never reaching the rear enemy. Therefore, this talent works best if your targets are not lined up behind each other (unless you aim at the rear two out of a group of three or more).
- Dual Arrows can be targeted on yourself, for example if you are in a narrow corridor with an enemy on each side. Targeting the region that includes both enemies and yourself will cause an arrow to fire at each enemy. You'll have to say yes to the "really target yourself" confirmation prompt, but you won't hit yourself.
- Volley of Arrows works much like Dual Arrows. The arrows do not magically hop over intervening enemies/obstacles; this does not work like Fireflash or other traditional ball spells. With the firing path optimization in beta 34, this talent became way stronger; previously, a great deal of the time, most of your opponents weren't hittable because straight-line paths to them would hit obstacles.
- Scatter Shot on the other hand does jump over obstacles. It is, essentially, a ball spell that instantiates a stunning arrow/shot in each tile.