Here is my short guide to pre-Mediah ranger, hopefully some of you will find it useful.
The information below is considered to be true on Ru servers among most good rangers. We are behind KR in patches but this is probably a good thing for you because you are likely to have similar stuff on EU/NA although some of it may be different. I consider myself a min maxer, so hopefully you will find the guide useful. It's certainly not the most complete guide but it should get you rolling.
To sum it up: not much cc, squishy, scales insanely well with damage, relatively mobile and easy to get started with. In fact as the damage numbers go up being the one who can deal the damage from distance becomes more valuable. You are less prone to ping and lag issues since you kind of do damage in a huge cone in front of you, so it's harder to miss. That warrior might be able to one shot you but if you can one shot him as well you will do it before he will get to you. It’s not amazing pre-mediah but it’s fine, just expect to die a bit 1v1 vs skilled and geared opponents, you ll have your revenge in Mediah. Playing ranger at high level isn't about pressing the fanciest combinations of buttons (other classes get more of that sht) but rather having good positioning, knowing your limits and farming 24/7 to get insane ATP.
Pre-mediah BiS is: Chest + Gloves from Hebe set (2x socket, non craft able) and Helm + Boots from Zareth set (the one that gives you +stamina on boots). If you will look into it closely you will probably understand why. Having 2 sockets on gloves and chest is absolutely vital because chest gets +200hp and gloves get +4 attack speed from gems which is the only way to go. Literally. You add Zareth because stamina is vital for ranger, it might not look as such but it's your best choice nevertheless. Agery is a decent starter alternative but it's not as good.
Other parts are pretty straightforward — get stuff with more +attack and possibly some +hit. As a freshly dinged 50 get Bares +1 asap (you can afford it), and then work on BiS: witch earrings, blue cultist rings, ogre neck, tree spirit belt.
Steel offhand vs Bronze. Bronze is better in pvp when unbuffed, steel is better when buffed and in PVE. Also steel becomes the only choice once boss set is available.. Overall i recommend going steel. Having both wouldn't be terrible if you are rich. Having just bronze is probably a bad idea because it will cripple your farming (and that's what you are going to do 95% of your time in the game)
Weapon: Liverto >>>>> Yuria > Aswoll >>>>>>>> everything else.
BIS are: Chest (2x 100hp), Helm (+50hp), Gloves (2x +2atspeed), boots (+25% knockdown resist), weapon (+1ats +1crit or/and infinity extraction). Attack speed is the most vital part. Get those asap, it’s next level.
First of, there is no "skill build". 50 is hardly a soft cap since you ll get to 51 in roughly 25-30 hours of grinding and that will get you massive amount of SP. There are some priorities though, you might not be able to take it all right away but it's not a big deal, just keep working towards it. Evasive explosion shot rank 1 > (personal preference) Bow mastery max > Blasting gust max > Will of wind max > max evasive shot at 41 > Ultimate charging wind max > Spirit healing max. Around level 53 max feather or razor wind or both and consider maxing explosive shot for pvp. By that time you will figure out what to pick next (don’t forget to get Call from Sky and Flow: Kiss of wind when you have SP for it)
As a fresh 50 consider something similar to this: http://www.blackdeserttome.com/calculator/ranger/7906#
5% of hp damage on will of win, 10% slow on blasting gust, everything else i d go attack speed or slow (up to you), having crit or +attack isn't the end of the world as well. Same goes for minus enemy attack speed (it's nice to have it on something). To change skill awakening you will need a thing that looks like yellow cookie and should be called "memory fragment" and drops from relic bosses spheres. Basically you use it to get an extra roll. Potentially you might spend a lot of those before you get perfect awakenings. It's might not be your first priority but make sure you do at some point past level 51 or so.
Level explosive shot to rank 1 on level 20, max bow mastery when you have spare points. Afterwards find a bunch of mobs, hold A (D or S), RMB and keep clicking LMB. You will spend days doing just that. Go to catfish on level 46 and stay there till 53. If you have gem of infinity extraction in your weapon and explosion shot rank 1 and maxed spirit healing your farming should be sustainable (no mana pots required). At 53 you have a choice — max razor wind and go to tree spirits or max feather and stay at catfish. Catfish gives you twice or trice more exp while tree spirits might get you x1.5-x2 more money.
Note: some people do use will of wind for farming cultists — that's legit, but catfish doesn't really need Will of wind.
All purpose sustainable farm, groups of mobs: explosive shot rank 1
Single target sustainable farm: razor wind
Post level 53 weak groups fast eradication: feather
Post level 53 strong groups farm: will of wind + explosive shot
Important: One thing that would increase your farming time DRAMATICALLY is getting high grade knowledge of the mobs you are killing, aim for at least A+. You can drop the knowledge at Calpheon library for 10 labour points, keep doing it till you roll A+ or S, the difference is massive, mobs go from being tough to being paper.
This topic is covered in many video guides so here are few basics. There are three skills that you will use: Q (Blasting gust), F (Will of wind), Space (Ultimate charging wind). You unlock your combos at level 41 with learning ultimate evasive shot so make sure to learn it. Both Q and F combos into Space which is your main source of insane-wtf damage (Space is). It looks something like: Hold left/right, hold Q, hold LMB, release Q, hold Space…. drink mana pots. Same with F. Learn to do Blasting gust strafe both to the sides and forward/backwards (hold Q+side+LMB). Learn to use Call from Sky — it’s the only thing that makes you immune to damage (for half a second) while you are in the sky.
Note: damage from Q is shared among everyone who is hit so you won’t do much damage with mobs around. Space and F damage do get somewhat reduced but not that much. So your typical encounter on spot would look like Q knockdown - A-F-LMB-Space-Hold until target dies. You got the idea. If you maxed evasive shot (which you should at some point) it will stun enemies around you for a brief moment so whenever something charges into your melee do evasive shot flip + F + LMB + Space while it’s stunned. A more fancy move would be to get close to your target (jump on it's head) with call from sky and as you move forward attack it from the back with the same combo which would do more damage.
It’s all about picking the right time and right place to go all in (and being full buffed with alchemy). You do most damage with "space" which is relatively low range. So during most encounters you try to flank your enemies, unload your mana, hide your weapon and shift + run away to recover lost hp and mana. Some would do feather, but pre-median it’s relatively inefficient unless 10 archers are doing it back to back. Use Q to chase or run away, use explosive shot backwards to run away (since it stuns those around you). Use Call from Sky to avoid damage. Assist your team mates by using Q for a knockdown and Flow kiss of wind (or kill everyone). Some would say that you need to defend archers, personally i feel better when i am alone. In any case archer should only be exposed for a very brief moment of time: between he goes all in up till the point when he runs out of mana (3 seconds) so i d rather not have giant running around the woods with me to protect me.
Note: remember that your damage will be somewhat split among those who are hit with it, so the more people you hit the less damage they will take. You aim to kill rather than "deal damage" so make sure you engage 1-3 enemies at a time and kill them.
Keep as much of those as you can at the same time. Serendian treat is a must for any kind of offensive activity. Calpheon is a good defensive option and consider drinking tea (hehe) as it helps with levelling. Alchemy should be pretty self explanatory. For PVE consider putting experience, health regen on hit and whatever cheap ones you can get your hands on, faster clearing time won't hurt. For PVP absolutely nr.1 "o'sht its PVP time" is +critical damage, it's rather expensive but with this baby your power can double. Overall there are lots of good alchemy options, consider buffing it all when it's time.
Spending labour points
First priorities: trying to get liverto weapon from night trader, rolling high knowledge grades on the catfish and levelling the Kaya lake catfish node to at least 5-6. Then spend some to level alchemy, then spend leftover to afk-gather water and process it into purified water which is handy for alchemy. Then look for better ways to spend it yourself: there are plenty.
Depending on your market you might actually earn something with crafting but what you absolutely must do as soon as you have time / having a break from farming is getting at least few human workers in each town and sending them to get wood/ore from nearby nodes. Stay online 24/7 so that they never stop working. Selling whatever they gather is a good source of passive income and you will use some of those to craft things for yourself. It might not look like much but after a week or two when your workers level up you might notice that you are actually richer than you were before.
Later when you have a lot of wood you might want to start making packs which probably needs a guide on its own. To cover it briefly — you process (chop) the wood through pressing "L", and then use it to do packs through lumber processing facilities in your town. Packs are trade goods so you just carry those to the furthest connected city and sell it.
Consider switching Q and E on your keyboard and assigning middle mouse button to right mouse button and right mouse button to side mouse button (for easier forward strafing) — forward strafing requires you to turn your camera to the side then press middle button and turn camera back forward and hold it that way as you Q strafe. It's not very easy to pull out holding the fiddly mouse wheel.
Lastly, there are Diminishing returns on your control so keep track of that (it's shown next to your character)
Enjoy your ranger.
p.s. i did create an account on EU but i am not playing here actively. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.