The Little Mountain: “Peak” Performance

“No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.”

–The Emperor (from the Disney film, “Mulan”)

Over the recent months I’ve realized that each of my Monks have developed a specialty as I’ve altered their abilities to suit my fun.

Ryncletica is my only dark Monk (which may change as my only Rogue reaches 20), a Ninja Spy Water Stancer with potent Shadowdancer powers, able to infiltrate where few others dare go in Epic adventures.

Syncletica is my first Monk, a Wind Stancer Shintao Monk that is (mostly) as deadly as she is swift.

Quintessica shouts “I am the AVATAR! You better deal with it!” In her first life, she was a Grandmaster of all elements, with Whirlwind Attack and Grandmaster of Flowers. In her second life now, she returned as a Human for more healing amplification, HP, and an extra feat.

Synthetica is my first Warforged Monk and is contemplating the power of Fire.

And then there’s Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain,” the frequently bruised and bloodied Earth Stancer who is designed to tank a bit for some conditions.

With Epic levels and Destinies in place, I’ve reconsidered how best to re-train Lynn, now approaching Level 18 in her second life, to become the strongest tanking Monk that she can be. After the complete thrashing that Syn received in a recent EE quest, I want to ensure that Lynn can withstand much more damage when in Epic Elite.

The first trial to be overcome is within my own head–the same one I had with Ryncletica’s arduous but worthwhile switch from Grandmaster of Flowers training to Shadowdancer. In the case of Lynn, giving up most of Grandmaster of Flowers’s incredible attacks is very tough. But it may be worth doing to gain the protective benefits in the Legendary Dreadnought destiny.

The primary reasons to add this training are simply two: more HP to soak up damage, improved tactical difficulty checks (DC) with Stunning Fist and others, and a higher Physical Resistance Rating. In short, everything that any hardened Fighter would want to survive longer in the front line.

From Blossoms to Jagged Crags

Many attack-related abilities in destinies other than Grandmaster of Flowers are not built to work unarmed. Legendary Dreadnought is no exception, with many abilities that apply only to the use of weapons only. But LD also allows boosts to survival not possible elsewhere. Thus, Lynncletica will concentrate most of her Destiny Points into adding more CON through this training, with a few exceptions.

As Lynn completes her Heroic retraining, she’ll hopefully add at least 1 additional Toughness feat for more HP, sacrificing a Greater Two Weapon Fighting feat. Lynn gave up Rise of the Phoenix in favor of Monk Improved Recovery III and more points down the road for other things, so combined with a maxed Human Improved Recovery III and maxed Racial Toughness, her HP and healing amplification are superior at her current level. Getting back her Epic equipment will see all of these abilities leap substantially at Level 20 or so.

The first goal in Legendary Dreadnought training will be in increasing HP will be the first innate ability, Shrug Off Punishment, which will give an additional 50 HP when fully trained in the destiny.

At tier 1 training, Lynn will add points to Legendary Tactics to add higher DCs to Stunning Fist, and dump DP into another CON point.

At tier 2 training, Improved Combat Expertise will add 20 PRR. This makes up a little for the lost 15 PRR and 15 HP in the Grandmaster of Flowers tier 4 ability, Standing with Stone. It’s possible to Twist this tier 4 ability into this destiny but it would be a very harsh grind in training additional destinies to gain the many fate points needed to upgrade the slots. In her third life, maybe. CORRECTION: This is a Tier 2 ability that’s easily Twisted should I keep Lynn in Grandmaster of Flowers, stacking it with Standing with Stone and Earth Stance.

At tier 3 training, Lay Waste might still work unarmed (there’s no documentation on this), so points go to this and another 2 DP to CON.

Tier 4 will find me adding more CON, but will add points to other abiltiies here just to meet prerequisite spending for the next tier. The points will be wasted since almost none of the abilities of this tier will apply to unarmed attacks.

Tier 5 shows Advancing Blows and Devastating Critical. Not sure if the former works with unarmed attacks or if the latter stacks with Ultimate Mountain Stance’s and Improved Critical:Bludgeoning’s +1 modifiers. More CON or STR DP points expended as well.

Tier 6 should be the test. There should be a very substantial HP increase from both leveling (8 HP per level, for a total additional 40 at level 25) 6 CON (60 HP), and LD level 0 innate destiny (50 HP). She may be see a total HP level between 750 to 850, very conservatively.

Damage Mitigation

With more HP to help soak damage received, there’s always a need to prevent damage in the first place.

After some LD training, Lynn’s PRR should be: +15 (Ultimate Mountain Stance) + 20 (Improved Combat Expertise) by Level 23 or so. I’ll add in a Cloak of the Bear to add up to +9 PRR, but what I’d love to see is at least 50 PRR on Lynn.

A heated DDO Forum thread on increasing Monk PRR reminded me that Monks have several other advantages/options to avoid damage as an unarmored fighter: Evasion, Dodge, Concealment, and Incorporeality–all of which are treated independently to avoid damage. So, while more PRR would be good should any of these saving opportunities fail, it may be better for me to consider increasing Lynn’s inherent Monk defenses.

Can I make a Displacement clicky for extra concealment when her Dancing with Clouds 20% concealment finisher isn’t enough? (Answer: A Smoke II Green Steel item does that.) How much more Dodge can I add in a Earth Stance build? Should I sacrifice the Sun Soul set effects for superior fortification by using Lynn’s unlocked Fabricator’s set (25% stacking fortification to bring her to 150%) and it’s Madstone-like effect on criticals?

There’s also a consideration to train and Twist the Unyielding Sentinel passive Tier 1 ability “Brace for Impact” to bring Lynn’s total fortification (with the Fabricator’s set and its 25% stacking fortification and an Exceptional Fortification 25% necklace/ring) to 100+25+25+40. Yeah. That’s 190% fortification if the Unyielding Sentinel can be Twisted and can stack.

How much more AC can be added? I don’t see this number as significant for Monks by Epic Elite levels since we can never reach the numbers of sword-and-board players. Their high AC+PRR numbers are supposed to help damage, while, as I already mentioned, better evasive or damage avoidance abilities are inherent to Monks. Still, AC still counts, somewhere. Lynn should have at least 38 WIS for a little more AC, but 40+ is what I’d love to shoot for to improve all Stunning Fist and related DCs.

Offensively, there’s not much to add from a build point-of-view. Lynn is well-equipped (although a Seal of House Dun’Robar would be nice). Lynn should qualify for Vorpal Strikes as well for more punishing critical hits. If all of this brutal leveling goes well, Lynncletica should become the strongest, most hardy DPS Monk in my arsenal with this feat.

It will be a little while longer before Lynn is back in Epic levels and in LD training. I’ll keep you posted (and update this and my Monk guide on the results to share with everyone).

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Schooled by Shadowdancers

syniia

It was a nice evening for my guild, Tyrs Paladium, on the night before the St. Valentine’s Day Server Massacre. We were about to reach guild level 70 as we began a run in “The Portal Opens” in Epic Elite.

Our guild leader has been a little obsessed of late with generating enough Purple Dragon Knights favor to make her Spider-Spun Caparison outfit work as a Sun Soul item. (That’s what Syn is wearing in the image, above.) If you didn’t know, that takes 375 favor. You’ll need to run every Eveningstar, Underdark and Demonweb quest in Epic Elite difficulty, as well as all challenges.

Our guild’s party experiences with Epic Elites has been, frankly, painful. Toons that we’ve built as the end-all be-all of awesomeness are swatted away like drunken flies if we do the littlest thing wrong in EE quests.

But lately our guild’s reticence to accept these ultimate challenges has faded, which not only leads to a victory through persistence and (often) cunning, but definitely gives those in the quest a little more to talk about to others about the experience.

I have five Monks, two of which could handle EE quests at the moment: Syncletica, my main (above), and the dark Monk Ryncletica, who’s nearly completed her Shadowdancer training with great success. Thinking of survival as a Light Monk with self-healing and fast attack speed, I bring Syn, not Ryn, into this one.

I should’ve picked Ryncletica.

Our party was certainly light on the heavy DPS. Our guild leader was running her Light Monk as well. Two Rogues, both Shadowdancers around L23 or more, also joined in, as well as one of our guild’s most incredible players who perform miracles in keeping our parties healed with her Favored Souls and Clerics.

I figured that Syncletica and the guild leader’s Monk would be the front line, with the Rogues behind us and our Cleric behind them. In the very first fight, Syncletica is practically killed instantly, with the Rogues barely getting a scratch.

Time to switch tactics. The Rogues take point. Both are Assassins. Over the course of the quest, they begin to systematically lure and assassinate the tougher fighters and mages, while the rest of us surround “weaker” enemies.

After Syncletica was killed yet again, she switched from her Grandmaster of Wind stance (which wasn’t working at all for stunning with the venerable Grave Wrappings) to Ryncletica’s preference: Ocean Stance. I had only Greater rank at hand, but it improved my AC and Dodge and WIS just enough to allow my stunning to work so to become less of a piker in this run (you need 36 or greater with Stunning +10s in EE, folks). Syn began to emulate Ryn’s stealth tactics from here on.

Ah, Elminister, the level 54 PIKER! that stands about doing nothing to help us. Yeah. You’re TOTALLY NOT Gandolf–he’s USEFUL.

Anyway, in the rooms where the two key objects reside, our Shadowdancer Rogue Assassins do something I may have predictably done as Ryncletica if I were smarter in bringing her and not Syn into this quest.

After the orange-named leaders zerg outside of their room to attack (they always see you once opening the door), we lure them down, isolated, into the cleared hallways to eliminate them.

Then one of the Shadowdancers uses Shadow Manipulation on one of the driders. Every other enemy inside the room goes after that dominated drider, and the Rogues step up behind that mob and assassinate each of them, leaving us only to wait for the domination to lapse and for the drider to die from Shadow Manipulation’s killing effect.

The Monks earn a Legendary Victory and Impressive Trophy in the last room to bring the guild to level 70 right then and there. We were buoyed a bit at the world-announcement and “ding” that appeared over the server as we moved to the final leg.

We anticipated a hell of a time with the end fight and prepared a plan. First wave: the circle of Drow to kill. Beat up on the boss mage, then she spawns Wave 2: Animated statues of drider, drow and spider to kill us. Finally, the boss mage calls out Wave 3: Several Dretch and Dracolith demons to end us.

The guild leader and I had our Everything is Nothing “Death Blossom” charges ready. I use mine on the first wave of Drow, killing all but two. Easy-smeasy. The group has a harder time on wave 2 and the guild leader uses her Death Blossom early to dispatch the statues, fearing an imminent wipe with no shrine for us to run to for recovery and regrouping.

Then the dracolith come. The party nearly wipes, and Syncletica is the only one up with four angry and determined dracolith still about. Fortunately, I had my EiN charged up again, but I needed to kite all of those demons for a nail-biting 76 seconds before I could eliminate three of the four demons with that Death Blossom.

Some clever kiting of the last demon was needed before I had my health and ki high enough to raise our Cleric with my Rise of the Phoenix to get our party back up to finish off the last demon and complete the quest. (The next time somebody tells me that Rise of the Phoenix is a waste of points, I’m going to recall this story for them.)

But our Rogues were Absolute Masters of their Craft in this one. They were the true stars of the party who were absolutely essential in completing this quest. Nice work, Ghelli and Furhst.

I’m sure that Ryncletica would have survived far easier with her similar Shadowdancer abilities and Grandmaster of Oceans training. Self-healing, DPS or fortification didn’t matter one darned bit in this one. Evasion, Dodge, stealth, assassination and cunning did.

I was both affirmed in the Shadowdancer’s true worth while completely schooled in the grave limits of a Wind-Stancer Monk in EE all at once. I had added information on Shadowdancer training for Monks and stealth tactics in my Monk guide weeks before this run, learning and proving these very facts for myself with Ryncletica. It’s a pity and my fault that I didn’t take my own advice for this quest by using Ryn instead.