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The Arishok's Ambush
This is the grand finale for Act 2. You’ll find the city in all out war with the Qunari, and you won’t get a chance to do anything else once it starts. Make sure that you’ve completed all of your quests and stocked up on potions before you commit to the battle. Really make sure that you have a lot of health potions. It’s practically a requirement for certain paths at the end, and mages tend to die unpredictably, so you can't just depend on a healer.
When you’re ready, approach the Qunari Compound with Aveline and watch the scene play out. Even if you support the Arishok, he’ll attack the city and you. There’s no alternative path for now. As Aveline points out, your only option for the moment is to rally at the Viscount’s Keep. Rebuild your party and then get ready to go.
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Fight to the Keep - Lowtown
The first group will be a mix of Qunari, with a Saarebas. Have someone rush the Saarebas and keep him stunned so that he can’t get off a powerful electrical attack. The rest of the Qunari should fall fairly easily.
The second group should just be a perfect repeat of the first, but chances are that there will also be some Grey Wardens already fighting them. If you sent Bethany or Carver to the Grey Wardens after “The Deep Roads Expedition," then they’ll be here. Alistair may also be here, depending on your imported save.
Regardless, help them take out the Saarebas and then wipe up the rest. Talk to Stroud and then move on to the next encounter.
This one is a bit different. There’s a small group of Qunari, with a sten, and a bunch of elven supporters. The elfs are very fragile, but they have bows and can do a surprisingly amount of damage in mass. The tank needs to rush the sten and draw the rest of the party away, while a warrior and the mages focus on taking out the archers in one fell swoop. Watch for reinforcements, and just grind out the Sten to make it out of Lowtown.
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Fight to the Keep - Hightown
The next encounter will just be more Qunari. There should be a sten leading a war party. Have a tank draw the sten’s attention while someone tears through the ranged fighters on the edges. The grunts shouldn’t pose a threat once their support is down. Do be careful though, since a Saarebas will come in with the second wave. You will need to have someone rush them as soon as they spawn, or you could find your party taken out with one of its powerful spells.
Once the dust settles, you should finally get to meet Knight Commander Meredith. You may also see Carver here, if you didn’t take him with you on the expedition and he joined up with the templars.
Continue onwards to the next encounter. There’s a number of Carta thugs attacking some Qunari. I suggest that you slap a hold order on your party and let the two groups kill each other for a bit. The Carta thugs actually might win, so just keep an eye on them. The Qunari are mainly grunts. The only special units are the two assassins with the Carta. Watch out for them and gang up on the survivors once the fight is over.
The next area is the big courtyard before the keep. Just run out and engage the Qunari. This fight is basically just another repeat. A Saarebas will join in with the second wave, and the sten is very tough. It’ll be a bit of an endurance run, but if you’ve made it this far, you probably know the drill. Once the dust settles, you’ll also get to meet Orsino and potentially get to see Bethany, if she was put into the Circle.
You can make a bit of a choice here, as you can either choose to follow Orsino, follow Meredith or offer to just take command yourself. If you take command yourself, then you’ll have the option to decide how you take the Keep. Meredith’s attack is very straightforward. You charge up with her templars and stomp the Qunari outside. You get a bit more experience, but that’s about it. Note that Orsino’s “distraction" basically just involves him single handily killing the Qunari with fireballs (which is barely a distraction and really just an attack). Note that it doesn't matter at all. You'll get into the Keep with no ill effects regardless of your choice.
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Taking the Viscount's Keep
Regardless of how you get in, get into the Keep and engage the next group. Watch out for a very tough arrow trap on the stairs. If you can, lead with a rogue and disarm the trap. There will be a Saarebas in the second wave, and another tough sten. Honestly, if you’ve made it this far, it should be just more of the same. Repeat your tactics and move into the throne room to confront the Arishok.
You’ll need to face his honor guard first, but it’s not exactly difficult. Take them out, then make your decision on how you want to play this.
If Isabela comes back (either because she’s a romantic partner or a good friend), you have a few extra choices. The Arishok will demand that you turn over Isabela along with the book. You can do this if you want to make things a bit easier. Refusing should allow you to challenge the Arishok to a duel though.
If Isabela doesn’t come back, you will only be able to fight him in a duel if you have Fenris with you to cite the law. Otherwise, it will just be a battle.
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The Arishok - The Duel
Note that the battle is probably easier and more fun. The duel can be very painful for warriors and annoying for mages and rouges. You basically just have to play cat and mouse with him for the whole fight. The Arishok is slow, but he hits hard. Fall back and do as much damage from affair as you can. Warriors will actually have it the hardest, because it will basically just be an endurance battle and a matter of using lots of potions. Rogues and mages can do more with fast hit-and-run attacks along with ranged attacks and abilities.
For the most part, just watch for his big swing, fall back, give him a few taps and just rinse and repeat with plenty of health and stamina potions mixed in. He can also do a charge attack, a spinning blade attack and an impaling attack. The impalement will be hard to dodge if you’re close to him (you basically just have to do damage control). The spinning attack and charge are telegraphed well though, so just get out of the way before you take much damage. The Arishok should heal about three times during the fight, so be ready for a big grind.
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The Arishok - The Battle
If you turn down the duel, or don’t get it as an option, then you’ll have a full scale battle. There shouldn’t be any reinforcements, thankfully, but there will be a lot of men on the floor at the start. There are 2 Saarebas, one on each side of the Arishok, that need to die really quickly. Have your tank charge the Arishok and pull away as many of the fighters as they can. Have your mage try and get into a corner somewhere, and get a few AOE spells up. You’ll need to really babysit them until you can make a safe zone. Everyone else should take out the first Saarebas, and then grind down the second. The battle is much easier if you don’t have to watch for the big balls of lightning.
The rest of the battle will mainly involved grinding down ranged fighters and grunts. A lingering AOE spell, like Tempest or Firestorm, can do wonders for grinding them down while your fighters pick them off at the edges. If you can clear out some breathing room, then it gets a lot easier. The Arishok is still a pain, and he can still do the abilities that he’d do in a duel, but with the surviving members of your party, it shouldn’t be too bad. Just keep his focus on your tank, and if he focused on someone else, just have them run around the room while the rest wear away at him.
It’ll still be a long battle, but you can wear him down with abilities and possibly even get him with a combination of brittle and mighty blow, or any other cross-class combo. Once he dies, the mission will end and the third act will begin.
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All screenshots from "Dragon Age 2."
All information comes from a "hard" difficulty playthrough of Dragon Age 2.