Remember what stats you need
If you haven't already, you need to read my stat primer. The most important thing to understand before you wade into the depths of the meridian system is what stats you should be looking for in the first place.
Internal martial artists need to focus on internal meridians, with some considerations for defense and other useful stats. External martial artists should look to the external type meridians, but there are enough options there that you will have to make some choices based on personal preference.
As I mentioned in the stat primer, accuracy is the most important stat to consider. Meridians allow external martial artists to hit upwards of 250 dodge rating, and even characters without high base dexterity can have over 100. Accuracy ratings of no less than 100 should be considered the baseline. If you cannot hit over 100, you will be in trouble. Because of this limit, most players will need to make a choice about their fighting styles. Some fighters will have easy choices, such as Tangmen who have high dexterity, an external school meridian line, and an all-external martial arts set. Almost everyone else will have a tough time.
How to level meridians
In order to improve a meridian, either access it from the K (martial art skills) menu or click the little button on your character portrait between the PK mode button and the experience toggle button. If you access it from the button, click "Replace Meridians." Click the "Activate" button to enable a meridian line; this gives you the bonuses from training. You should do this even as a lowbie character for your maximum of three, as you get the benefits of level 1 meridians, which is better than nothing.
Select a meridian line you wish to learn and click "Discipline" to level it. The maximum level is determined by the level of your internal skills. All meridian lines begin with a maximum of 9 levels. In order to advance a school meridian line, you must level its internal skills. The first school internal skill raises the maximum of your meridian line to 36 if you reach level 25. The second internal skill raises the maximum to 72 if you hit level 20, and the third internal skill raises the maximum to 108 if you hit level 20. In other words, you'll need to learn other school's internal skills in order to raise the appropriate meridian lines.
The first school internal skills can be obtained by script stealing or by purchasing from players. It will generally cost about 3-4 ding to get a cap of 30, which will allow you to train to 25. You can save a bit of money by purchasing or finding scrolls to raise the level cap by 1, which lets you buy the 1-9 book and 10-18 book and skip the 19-30 book. These scrolls generally cost around 100L, but the price is fairly volatile. These scrolls drop occasionally when you're using the backstab intelligence gather during spy missions; they're fairly common, but they are sold infrequently.
Once you've progressed in the game a little (I don't know exactly when the unlock happens, as I was beyond it when meridians were enabled), your school headmaster NPC will give you a quest to unlock your fourth meridian channel, allowing you to activate four meridians instead of three.
Internal meridian choices
There are three core internal meridians. If you are an internal martial artist, you must have these three. They are Beggar (Greater Yang Small Intestine), Scholar (Reverting Yin Liver), and Wanderer (Lesser Yang Sanjiao). The Beggar meridian is the most important, as it gives the highest amount of hit rate. Scholar and Wanderer are also excellent, though, and you should level whichever one is easiest for you first. Activate these ASAP and level all of them.
The fourth meridian line is a different story. The Shaolin (Yang Brightness Stomach), Wudang (Lesser Yin Kidney), and Emei (Greater Yin Lung) meridian lines are all reasonably attractive, but none actually helps internal fighters much. If you are Wudang or Emei, this choice is basically made for you, since you are probably leveling your own school's martial arts.
Wudang gives Breath and Spirit plus a large amount of internal (and external) crit rate and is probably the best offensive option for an internal user. Shaolin gives extra resilience (crit resistance), more Stamina, and external hit rate, plus defense against Soft element skills. The Soft defense doesn't help much, unfortunately. Emei gives internal defense penetration, dodge rate, and internal defense. It also gives a large amount of external hit rate, which is useless for internal fighters. The Shaolin meridian is probably the best defensive choice, while Emei should be considered only if you are also stacking Dexterity gear to get dodge rating (probably because you capped Spirit and Stamina already) or if you are an Emei and don't have other options.
External meridian choices
For external users, there is no holy trinity as there is for internal users. There are four meridians that raise external hit rate, so you could just pick up Emei, Shaolin, Tangmen (Greater Yin Spleen) and RG (Lesser Yang Gallbladder) and max them out. If your base Dexterity/Balance/Posture is very low, this is probably the best choice.
However, you may not need four hit rate meridians. In fact, with all four of those at 72, you really don't even need Dexterity gear. Most players will probably spread themselves out to be more offensive or defensive. Wudang can be selected for the huge critical rate bonus and is probably the most desirable other option.
However, the Beggar meridian gives bonus block resistance, which is massive and amazing. Scholar gives yin defense, and a huge number of martial arts deal yin damage so that is an option. Wanderers give block penetration (reduce x% of your opponent's block resistance), so that could be good too!
Also, there's the question of which of the four hit rate meridians to drop. Tangmen gives the least hit rate, since it grants Dexterity rather than raw hit rate. It grants dodge and Yang defense, though, so it is nice for the defensively minded. It also boosts crit rate, so it should probably be a first priority to keep in most situations. Emei and Shaolin do not give crit rate, while RG does; if you're looking for offense, you probably want to pick RG. On the other hand though, Shaolin gives the most HP possible, and Emei gives bonus dodge rating. For non-Tangmen, it is hard to recommend Emei since it is hard to stack up a ton of dodge, but every little bit helps. Most of the people I've talked to on the CN servers recommend Shaolin, even for Tangmen.
This is a lot of info to digest and you guys probably just want builds anyway.
- Shaolin: Shaolin, Tangmen, Royal Guard, Wudang
- Wudang (external): Shaolin, Tangmen, Royal Guard, Wudang
- Wudang (internal): Beggar, Scholar, Wanderer, Wudang
- Emei (external): Emei, Tangmen, Shaolin, Royal Guard
- Emei (internal): Beggar, Scholar, Wanderer, Emei (replace with Wudang if possible)
- Scholar (external): Shaolin, Emei, RG, Scholar (replace Scholar with Tangmen eventually)
- Scholar (internal): Scholar, Beggar, Wanderer, Wudang
- Beggar (external): Emei, Shaolin, Royal Guard, Beggar (replace Beggar with Tangmen eventually)
- Beggar (internal): Beggar, Scholar, Wanderer, Wudang
- Tangmen: Tangmen, Royal Guard, and two of Emei, Wudang, Shaolin, Beggar
- Royal Guard: Royal Guard, Tangmen, Shaolin, Emei or Beggar
- Wanderer (external): Shaolin, Emei, Tangmen, Wanderer (replace WV with RG ASAP)
- Wanderer (internal): Wanderer, Scholar and two of Emei, Wudang, Beggar, Shaolin
Note that Tangmen have huge base Dexterity and do not need three hit rate meridians, so you could pick Wudang and Beggar in your last two slots for the absolute maximum crit rate. Likewise, internal Wanderers have huge base Spirit and do not really need the Beggar meridian, but they do need more survivability so getting more HP from Shaolin or more dodge from Emei is a great idea.
Ultimately there are quite a few choices. The builds above are pretty much the standards, though; they encompass basically every viable build option except for internal Shaolin. The meridian system is extremely convoluted, and I don't expect everyone to understand it, even after reading this and my stat guide. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I'll try to answer as best I can.
Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.